Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Coolest Movie that Never Was

This poster is all that ever became of this movie from the Hammer studios. They brought us such screen gems as Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, and When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth, and put Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing on the map. What a shame it was never realized.

Harry Potter

I'm just over half way through the book. I'll be back as soon as I've finished it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

More Stuff You Need To Know: Mercs in Iraq

The other day my mother and I forgot our unspoken rule to not discuss politics, since she's so screamingly wrong about most of it.(just kidding, Mom) And, of course, the subject of The Shrub Prince's little skirmish came up. To her credit, she admits that the war was a mistake, but we disagree on what to do now. Personally I'm beginning to think that an immediate, albeit phased, withdrawal cannot possibly make matters worse over there, and might just remove the major rallying point around which all two dozen factions are gathered...namely us. She said that a US pull-out would leave the area in shambles, and I said that there are more than enough mercenaries there to take care of things for quite some time. She looked at me like I had just said that Scooby Doo and a battalion of muppets were on duty there, and asked me just where I had heard that particular bit of BS. Unfortunately my main source for that was The Daily Show, but only those of us who watch it know that it's not all jokes. So, in all fairness to fairness, here is some actual research into the merc situation.

In March, 2004, The Age.com reported that the Pentagon hired the Blackwater company, whose antics in post-Katrina New Orleans were less than thrilling, to hire commandos to augment the security around oil fields in Iraq, and add to the nearly 10,000 private soldiers already in the country.

In January of 2007, Jeremy Scahill, author of "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army." wrote in the LA Times that there were approximately 100,000 'civilian contractors' in Iraq, 48,000 of whom were working as 'private soldiers.' The going rate for a merc in Iraq can be as high as $1,000 per day, which is a great deal more than PFC John Q. Public makes.

On June 4, 2007, Commondreams.org reported that Britain had 21,000 mercs working in Iraq, and that Paul Bremer, upon leaving the post of Coalition Provisional Authority enacted Order 17 which effectively exempts anyone but Iraqis from prosecution under Iraqi laws. This has given the mercs wide latitude in their actions, some of which have been less than honorable. In fact, some would call them war crimes.

Ok, here's the part where I tell you my opinion of this whole mess. Regular visitors here know that I have been against this war since long before it began. In my opinion Saddam Hussein was never a threat to anyone but his own people, and maybe Kuwait, and we had no business going into Iraq in the first place. That being said, however, since we are now up to our eyeballs in this dung heap Bush has created, I say let the professionals fight it out, and bring our soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors home. Mercenaries have been around since Og the Tiny offered Tonda the Hirsute and extra mammoth haunch to hit Eegah the Obnoxious with a rock that night after sundown. I know our military is all volunteer now, and they know what they are getting into when they enlist, but many do so out of a sense of patriotic idealism, and it is patently unfair to ask them to die in a war that, rather than increase US security, actually diminishes it. Granted Order 17 does make oversight of the mercs difficult to the point of impossible, and that needs to be addressed, but these men and women know full well the dangers they face, and since their only allegiance is to cash, let them get well paid for the risk. I can tell you from personal experience, no enlisted personnel below the rank of E-6 is making squat for the privilege of catching a bullet for Uncle Sam. And if you have been paying attention to the news lately you'll know that the Bush administration cares less for wounded soldiers than it does for frozen embryos. Bring our people home, and let those who kill for a living blow the crap out of each other.

Y'all have great weekend.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What You Need To Know, But Aren't Allowed To Know

This is and article written by Marc Fisher in Washingtonpost.com. It is yet another example of the idiotic extremes the Department of Homeland Paranoia are going to create the illusion of protection.

Secret Buildings You May Not Photograph, Part 643
If you happen by 3701 N. Fairfax Drive in Arlington and decide you have a sudden craving for a photograph of a generic suburban office building, and you point your camera at said structure, you will rather quickly be greeted by uniformed security folks who will demand that you delete the image and require that you give up various personal information.

When Keith McCammon unwittingly took a picture of that building, he was launched on an odyssey that has so far involved an Arlington police officer, the chief of police and the defense of the United States of America.

McCammon could not have been expected to know when he wandered by the building that it houses the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a low-profile wing of the Defense Department that conducts all manner of high-tech research that evolves into weapons systems and high-order strategery.

DARPA's presence at 3701 N. Fairfax is hardly a government secret--Google finds nearly 10,000 pages listing the agency's use of the building. But there's no big fat sign on the building, so how was McCammon to know that this was a building he dared not photograph? And why would the government care if anyone took a picture of the exterior of an office building? This is as silly and hypersensitive as the now-common harassment of people who innocently take pictures of random federal buildings in the District.

McCammon decided to fight back. He demanded to know why he had been stopped, why the government needed his personal information, and why any record of the incident should be kept in government records. He got quick, polite responses from Arlington officials.

"I hope that you would agree that the security of any such building is of great importance and every law enforcement officer is duty bound to investigate all suspicious activity," wrote Arlington Acting Police Chief Daniel Murray. "I am certainly not implying that a person taking photographs is inherently 'suspicious,' but when the appearance is that the subject of a photograph is a government installation, officers have a duty to ensure the safety of the occupants of this structure."

Hmmm. Any government installation? This overly broad approach to security is why we end up with ridiculous horror stories about innocent tourists getting hassled for taking photos of the Lincoln Memorial or the Department of the Interior. The good news here is that Arlington police didn't take a report or create a file on McCammon. The bad news is that they did pass his information along to "the internal security agency for this installation." Which means that somewhere in the vast security apparatus that we have constructed since 9/11--utterly ignoring the fact that the Soviet empire collapsed under the weight of its own paranoid security apparatus--there is now a report on Keith McCammon, photographer.

The bottom line is that McCammon was caught in a classic logical trap. If he had only known the building was off-limits to photographers, he would have avoided it. But he was not allowed to know that fact. "Reasonable, law-abiding people tend to avoid these types of things when it can be helped," McCammon wrote. "Thus, my request for a list of locations within Arlington County that are unmarked, but at which photography is either prohibited or discouraged according to some (public or private) policy. Of course, such a list does not exist. Catch-22."

The only antidote to this security mania is sunshine. Only when more and more Americans do as McCammon has done and take the time and effort to chronicle these excesses and insist on answers from authorities will we stand a chance of restoring balance and sanity to the blend of liberty and security that we are madly remixing in these confused times.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

Ok, so I've been a bit gloomy of late, so here's an all smiles edition of The Corner. As you may know, my new job won't start for another month, so I've been working at a friend's uniform sales company in South Florida. I'm really enjoying the job. The work itself is simple...mostly packing shirts in boxes and shipping them all over the US and Canada...but the people I work with are wonderful. "A" is an older Puerto Rican lady with a million stories and some very strong opinions. She's a blast, although sometimes her conversational momentum is a bit difficult to deflect. She's the kind of person who will move the moon and stars for the people close to her, but Heaven help you if you arouse her ire.
My other coworker is "M". She's a younger woman in her late 20's who has had, to say the least, a rough life, but she is one of the most cheerful people I've ever worked with. She's funny and very good at teaching me the ropes. I think that she is unused to people being nice to her because she keeps telling me what a good person I am. She has a young son that she thinks the world of, and is very easy to talk to.

My boss, "R", is the father of my dear friend "J" in Holland, which is how I got this gig, and he has always had my deepest respect and admiration. It's a pleasure to watch him in action. His is an old-fashioned work ethic where he deals with as many of his customers and subcontractors in person as he can, and it's obvious that most, if not all of his clients deal with him as much out of loyalty as financial expedience. Unfortunately the possibility of making enough money there isn't feasible, or I'd consider a career change.

This next grin comes from overseas. I have a dear friend/pen pal in England named Susie. We corresponded by mail years ago, but I am a terrible letter writer, and she is always busy with the local council, town's women's guild, community theatre, and her not small family, so our communications were sporadic but always heartfelt. A few months ago I received a lengthy email from her detailing her exploits, and, in her oh-so-British way, apologizing profusely for her laxity of writing. I responded gleefully and assured her that no offense was taken and that I was always glad to hear from her. Then some time passed, and a mutual friend here in the states forwarded an email he received saying that she had been moved to a different hospital. Now I had not heard of her being in the hospital at all, let alone being moved, so I was quite concerned. "P", the mutual friend, did his best to find out what was going on, and finally got an answer from someone over there who said that she had cancer of the spine and pelvis, and that she didn't have much time left. It was like a blow to the gut. I pondered what to do, and finally sent her an email asking her to send me her phone number. P had tried to call them, but only got the voice mail. I wasn't expecting an answer to my email, then Thursday I got an uncharacteristically short message with the number and a quick request that I do, indeed, call. This did not ease my fears, and this morning, with great trepidation, I called. Susie answered and was bright, and cheerful, and very much alive. Yes, she has a tumor on her lower spine, and had it gone untreated much longer this story would not have a happy ending, but she is responding to chemo, and if they can get the tumor small enough it will be operable. She's not having fun, but the morphine is helping, and she hopes to make an almost complete recovery. And there was much rejoicing.

Ok, I'm home for a couple of days, so Mrs. Marius and I are off to the movies. May your weekend be filled with smiles.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mea Culpa

A while back I commented that one of my former student's father told her not to read my blog. My reaction to that was inappropriate, and Loki called me out on that. I posted a bit of a retraction, but was not really as out front as it could have been. Here is a comment her dad posted today:(note that I have removed names)

Don't believe everything a 16 year old girl tells you. especially one who has a grudge to bear against her old man.

first of all, i do not disagree with your political point of view. for the most part i am right in line with you (other than all the hate and cynicism), although you are a little more left than myself.

second, i never told z that she couldn't visit your site because of the political views. i told her that i didn't agree with the language you used. you are a school teacher and yet you use profanity on a site that you know your students visit. nice.

my job is to protect my daughter, mr t. you have incredibly huge influence on z. what she needs are positive influences, not so much with the hate stuff. she needs to know ALL sides of whatever political issues are occuring and try to keep an open mind instead of closing it to just one person's view.

lose the profanity and scale back on the hate and she has my permission. but i think we all know that she will be here anyway. i'm not stupid and there's nothing i can do to keep her off this site.

you have your job and i have mine. let's be responsible.

I am putting this out here so I can answer to it in full view. Firstly, D, let me thank you for taking such an interest in your daughter's actions. I admit that my first reaction was inappropriate, and as it was pointed out to me, there are far too many parents whose apathy only empowers their teenagers' misbehavior. I am very relieved to find that my political views were not the problem. Unfortunately that is what I zeroed in on, and was the crux of my reaction. As for the language, I have backed off quite a bit on it since I started this blog, but the fact that I am not exactly ready for prime time is one of many reasons I left the high school. I am much better suited to the collegiat atmosphere, where the students are old enough to make up their own minds about things. I never expected any of my students to visit The Corner, and was shocked when Z posted her first comment. However, having spent a year amongst her peers, I can assure you that, sadly, the occasional 'f-bomb' and other profanities that find their way into my prose pale in comparison to the casual conversation in the classrooms and hallways of the school. Just as you cannot, should she choose to disobey, keep her totally from this site, I cannot control who comes here. I don't think that my posts are that offensive, even to a 16-year-old, but I will make an effort to consider such things in the future. As for the negativity, you are not the first to point this out to me, and I am working on it. Lastly please know that Z means a great deal to me. She has a lot of talent, and could go far in the creative arts, but when she told me of your decision I did not suggest that she do anything other than obey. As you say I am only hearing her side of things, so rather than inspire her to rebel, I recommended that she do as you asked. I, too, am a father, and I know that I would not want anyone, even a teacher, telling my daughter otherwise.

Again, I thank you for your concern, and welcome your input at any time.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sick, Sad World

Here are some tidbits from stuff you won't see on CNN.

The Huston Chronicle reports that in May, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock was killed in a car wreck. He was reportedly drunk, speeding, not wearing a seat belt, and talking on his cell phone when he plowed into a parked tow truck that was in the process of helping another motorist on I-64 that night. Seems pretty clear that Hancock himself was at fault, but his father is now suing the tow truck company, the motorist who was being helped, and the restaurant that sold Hancock the booze.

The Kentucky Enquirer reports, again from May, that 20 year old Andres Vasquez, of Verona Kentucky, called 911 to report that someone had 'thrown' his truck on top of him. It took a while for the operator to finally get Vasquez to admit that he had been drinking, and flipped his truck on his own. He was suspended, upside-down, and kept passing out. The operator wanted to send help, but when asked where he was his only response was 'under the *%$!ing truck!' Eventually she got him to give her some more useful information, and he was rescued.

And finally, in the 'here's another reason to avoid this stuff' category, a woman was killed at a Christian music festival yesterday when the Air Glory ride, a bungee-based ride that pulls riders hanging from a harness up a couple of hundred feet in the air then releases them, broke and dropped her 45 feet to her death. The festival continued, but with 'more mellow worship songs' after the accident.

Have a happy Sunday, y'all.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Back I Go

I have been trying to find out the exact start date for my new job for a while now, since most of the people I talked to suspected that it would be at the beginning of July, but the true date has finally been confirmed. September 1. So Sunday I head back to South Florida where I will once again take up the mantle as chief muscle for Uniform Sales, Inc. Call me, we'll party.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Five is the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be five. Hi, folks and welcome to a pentasmagoric edition of The Corner. Why all the fiveness? Two reasons. 1. We just saw the fifth Harry Potter movie, 2. (and most importantly) today is Mrs. Marius' and my fifth wedding anniversary. Hard to believe it's been five years already, and it's also hard to believe that it's only been five. That is, I'll admit, somewhat Dickensian, but not outside the realm of the believable. We've been through quite a bit since tying the knot in 'Ought-Two', but we're still going strong. I know that it took us both a while to settle in to sharing our lives, especially me since I had essentially been on my own for 30+ years, but I think we are finally used to the idea that this marriage is here to stay. I'm not quite sure what we are going to do to celebrate, but I'm sure we'll think of something.

Oh, that reminds me. Here is a vital difference between cats and dogs. Say, for example, that you are dog sitting for a friend. And that friend has a large Roman bathtub, and your wife that you haven't seen for nearly a month comes to stay the night, and in the midst of 'relaxing' together in said tub you see a pointy, red-furred face resting on the edge of the tub all wide-eyed and interested. You figure that the dog will get bored once she sees that she's being ignored and will go away. But no such luck. The dog's eyes seem to be saying, 'Whatcha doing? How 'bout now? And now? Whatcha doin now?' Kinda kills the mood. On the other hand, if you are at home, sans child, and you decide to get frisky on the couch, and you look over and see a feline face staring at you, you know that the cat is thinking, 'What on Earth are you doing? Does it involve feeding me? No? I'll be in the window, then.' Mood salvaged. I like dogs, but I love cats.

Ok, back to Harry Potter. There is a catch 22 to Order of the Phoenix. If you have not read the book, you will spend a great deal of the movie wondering who people are, and what is going on. If, however, you have read the book, and managed to retain much of the detail, then you will be frustrated by how much was left out, and how much was changed. Your best bet is to be like me. I read the book, but it was so long ago, and it was my least favorite of the bunch, that I didn't notice most of the changes, and even approve of the ones I did notice. I really liked this one. It moves quickly, it has some genuinely funny moments, and the final struggle twixt Dumbledore and Voldemort is everything a wizard battle should be. I have given up on lamenting a lack of detail since Rowling crams so much into her books that it would take a Peter Jacksonian trilogy to fully capture any one of them, but there is a disturbing lack of depth to this film. The eponymous Order are seen rarely, and never really explained, and several of the peripheral characters come and go so quickly you might not even notice they were there at all.(i.e. Percey and Ginny Weasely) But all the principals do a great job(though it does strain the willing suspension of disbelief to think of Daniel Radcliff as 14 years old), and the main villainess, Dolores Umbridge played by Imelda Staunton, is every bit the power-hungry shark in sheep's clothing. Most of the cast of professors are back, although I lament the brevity of Emma Thompson's presence in the film, and the climax is exciting and flashy, and just a tad scary. Overall I enjoyed it, but if you are a Potter purist it might just bug you too much.

Ok, off to celebrate. TTFN.


That's Artemis hiding amongst the stuffed critters.

I dream of Djinn...

You are walking along the beach, and you find a curiously shaped bottle. Intrigued, you remove the stopper. The bottle begins to vibrate and smoke, and before you can hurl the thing away a huge djinn appears.

"Greetings, Master!" the djinn rumbles. "A thousand thanks for releasing me from my prison. This is, indeed, the luckiest day for us both. I have gained my freedom, and you have gained three wishes."

You open your mouth to fire off the wishes you have waited your whole life to utter, when a large, grey-skinned hand presses your lips closed.

"Forgive me, Master, but in my gratitude and joy at being released, I forgot to tell you the rules. Firstly, you may not wish for more wishes. Three is the number,and the number shall be three. Secondly, your wish may not directly affect the normal course of history, so do not wish to go back in time to kill a ruthless dictator, nor wish away a world-wide plague. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, know that I am a slave to my nature. We are a capricious and mischevious breed, and the wording of your wishes, should it give me room to do so, may just bring about unwanted results. Wish wisely, oh Master, and we will both be happy."

What do you wish?

Monday, July 09, 2007

KSC Concluded

This was the coolest part of the tour. We got to see actual modules for the International Space Station being constructed. This is Columbus, a flexible science lab funded by the European Space Agency. The area it's in is a clean room, so most of the scientists and engineers working on it are wearing masks and disposable suits.

Here are some of the scientists at work.

Hmmm, just a tiny bit Freudian?

While the KSC is situated in the middle of one of the world's largest wildlife preserves, this flock of vultures hanging out behind one of the exhibit buildings seems a bit...ominous.

And there you have it. We had a great time, and I was exhausted by the end of the day. But we both felt a bit let down, and it took a while to figure out why. Then it crystallized in my mind. The majority of the information, and exhibits available at the center are aimed at average folks who wouldn't know a vernier from a CO2 scrubber. But if you already know more than what you can read on the back of a Cocoa Beach Burger King bag you will leave with a very hungry brain. With the exception of the glimpse of the clean room for the ISS, the entire tour was all show, and no substance.

But it was still totally cool. ;-)

Marius the Nerd.


Here is the business end of the Saturn V. The nozzles are so big I almost couldn't get back far enough to get them completely in the picture. An incredible piece of equipment, especially when you consider it was guided by computers that had less thinking power than your average gaming console.

Random tourist, or Soviet spy sent back in time to steal Apollo secrets?

Lunar module. Imagine two men spending three to five days in a capsule smaller than a VW Bug.

Who's that dashing space rogue?

(to be continued)

Kennedy Space Center, Part I

So, as you know, Rico and I went to KSC on Friday. We spent the whole day immersed in the space program. I took some pics, and came to some conclusions, and here they are.

This is what you see from the road entering the park, and in front of the new shuttle launch simulator. They are full scale mock-ups of the shuttle and it's engines/external fuel tank. Hard to imagine that much hardware flying, isn't it?

This is what it looks like inside the shuttle launch simulator. It's a motion simulator, but in order to get the most realistic feeling possible while not leaving the planet, the whole ride rotates 90 degrees so that you are facing the ceiling. It's really cool.

One of the coolest parts of the trip were seeing the Endeavour's external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters in the Vehicle Assembly Building waiting for the orbiter to arrive.

(to be continued)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Ghost Rider

In a world where comic book films have risen to the highest of art, such as X-Men 1 & 2, Spiderman 2, and even Batman returns, and sunk to the depths of crapitude, such as Catwoman, and Batman and Robin, Ghost Rider leans a bit toward the bottom of the scale, but manages to just barely avoid the fall. We finished watching it about twenty minutes ago, and I was hoping that this would be one of those movies that lots of people hated, but was still fun to watch as a rental. No such luck. The effects were pretty cool, and they didn't screw with the origin too much, but the writing, editing, and acting were all pretty weak. Even Nicholas Cage, who is such a Ghost Rider fan that he reportedly sports a tattoo of the dude, seemed to have given up by the third act. I am not a fan of Mr. Cage, but I know he can do better than that. Did it suck? Not quite, but unless you have a burning(hee hee) desire to see it, you really aren't missing much. Maybe a sequel would be better, but I rather doubt there will be one.

And now a mea culpa. Loki, you are one hundred percent correct that I was missing the point with my student in my previous post. It is good that her parents are paying attention to what she is doing, and even if it seems that they are overdoing it a bit, I don't know what the situation is at home, and given how scary the world is out there, it is probably better to err on the side of caution. I stand chastised.

Ok, I'm off to Paragon City. Adios.



Hi Honey, I'm home! Whew, what a long strange trip it was, but I'm back home for good now. So, what's that picture about? Well, I'll tell you. Yesterday, around 11:30am in Camino Ruiz, California, police were called to a Wells Fargo bank for a reported robbery in progress. Jacob Johnson, 24, and his friend Jeffrey Russell went into the bank so Jacob could open an account. But upon their exit they found several police officers, guns drawn, surrounding them and putting them under arrest. The cause of the kerfuffle...a realistic, life-sized belt buckle that looked like Jacob had a semi-automatic handgun stuck in his pants. Eventually the cops realized the truth of the situation, and released the men after pointing out to Jacob what an 'idiot' he was for wearing that thing. I have to agree with the cops on that one. Even if it's a cool belt buckle, not that I think it is, but to wear something like that into a bank is just plain stupid. I wonder if he's the type to wear a turban to the airport as a lark.

In local news, I have had my first instance of censorship. One of my students from the high school, one of the good ones, has been visiting The Corner for a few months now, but last night she informed me that her father feels that I'm too political for her. 'Too political' translates into 'I don't agree with his politics', plus he doesn't care for some of my language choices. I am truly sorry that she can't visit at will anymore, and I'm even sorrier that such parochial attitudes still exist in this day and age. Trying to keep ideas away from children, by the way she is 16 years old, is like trying to keep the waves away from the shore. However I told her that since he is her father, and she must abide by his rules while she lives in his house, I won't attempt to circumvent them. But, ZoZo (should you get to read this) you are always welcome here.

Finally I went to the Kennedy Space Center on Friday and spent a wonderful day there. I have many pics that I'll post later today.

TTFN. :-)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

You have got to see this.


Ok, the other day I was looking in the cupboard here at C's place for a Motrin, when I found this bottle marked Pet Relaxant. Hmmm, thinks I, the Kitties-O-The-Apocalypse tend to freak out mightily whenever a car trip becomes necessary, and the vet supplied tranqs lean toward the expensive. Mayhap an OTC remedy herein rests. So I further perused the bottle. It contains valarian root, chamomile, kava kava, and St. John's wort. Alas, thought I, snake oil. But then I got to the most amusing part of the label. In a grand gesture to misplaced tree-hugging Green Party political correctness, this bottle of pet tranquilizers bears the legend, "NO ANIMAL TESTING".

Have a great 4th, kiddies!!

Marius the Incredulous

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

And Justice for...Some

Well, well, well. What a wonderful thing to wake up to. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby won't have to worry about his nickname becoming uncomfortably literal after all. The shrub prince waved his magic wand and made the jail time disappear. A federal appeals panel had ruled that Libby could not delay his sentence, and a scant five hours later there was no jail time to appeal. Libby is still convicted, and has to pay $250,000, and is on probation for two years, but if Paris Hilton can get busted twice for driving on a suspended license while on probation before going to jail for a couple of weeks, I don't think Scooter has much to worry about. Shrub, in one of his usual self-contradictory statements, released a written statement saying, "I respect the jury's verdict but I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend 30 months in prison." I didn't realize that presidents had the power to mostly pardon people. So I am forced to wonder if our mighty leader will look into any other cases of excessive sentencing. I'm sure that every place of incarceration has numerous residents who, by virtue of having a bit more melanin than most on Capitol Hill, are serving more than their fair share of jail time. Whaddya say, Bushie? Get out that jurisprudential White-out and show us just how much you care for the people you so love to bone.