Southern Man

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

While Southern Man is (for various reasons) a bit down right now, he does indeed realize that he and his family are supremely blessed and have so much to be thankful for that we can't begin to list it all. So here's a "Happy Thanksgiving" to all and hope that you have many blessings to count as well.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Muppet Rhapsody

Southern Man isn't much for the offerings of the entertainment media, but there are certain...entities within that sphere that achieve such soaring heights of either insanity or just plain good humor that they are worthy of mention. Some (but by no means all, or even much) British comedy: Monty Python's Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers come to mind. The European game show Jeux Sans Frontières and any number of really kooky Japanese game shows. All incarnations of Whose Line Is It Anyway (The American edition with Drew Carey is a favorite of both Southern Man and teen son).

And the

So without further ado here are The Muppets with what may be the greatest cover of
Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody ever recorded.

ADDED LATER: This video has so much win that it went around the world like fifty times at the speed of light and got nominated for two Webbys and they release a version with commentary.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gore vs. Quayle

The High Priest of Gaia was on Conan the other day and coughed up this amazing factoid:

Whew. The core of the Sun has a temperature of millions of degrees, but Earth sits at about five thousand degrees, so he's only off by three orders of magnitude or so. For you liberal readers, that's science lingo for "a lot." And most geothermal systems work with a temperature difference of less than a hundred degrees (and do so with remarkable efficiency; Southern Man is considering geothermal for his yet-to-be-constructed home out on The Land). But Southern Man is not surprised by such a mis-statement. In science-and-society courses Professor Southern Man routinely mined examples of pseudoscience, junk science, and twisted logic from his much-highlighted copy of Gore's Earth In The Balance, a thoroughly unscientific tome that has been shredded to bits by far smarter folk than he. And he is not surprised that this gaffe has gone entirely unreported other than on a handful of blogs. Lessee here:
Dan Quayle can misspell "potatoe" and it's front-page news (mainly because a reporter was assigned by his editor to specifically watch for Quayle to commit an error, any error at all, so that it could be reported); Tina Fey can utter quips in a SNL skit that are later attibuted by "serious" journalists to Sarah Palin, but Gore can spout nonsense for decades and remain the darling of the mainstream media.

Here's a challenge for you. Google "
Dan Quayle dumb quotes" and "Al Gore dumb quotes." The difference is...educational.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Want to know where all that "stimulus" money is going? Surf over to and check out your state. Southern Man did so and found that the feds have apparently spent about $19 million dollars and created fifteen (!) jobs in nine "congressional districts" that don't actually exist in his state. Southern Man would happily have taken his cut and created one more ($1.3 million is more than enough to endow a professorship at his university) but did not have the foresight to live in a fictitious district.

Sure, it's probably just data entry errors and less than twenty million is chump change to the government, but let this be another reminder that these are the folks who want to manage your health care.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Our First Pacific President

Another recent comment, this time by President Barack Obama while speaking in Japan: "As America's first Pacific President, I promise you that this Pacific nation will strengthen and sustain our leadership in this vitally important part of the world.”

One wonders what the qualifications might be to be a "Pacific President." Southern Man nominates the following:

Before he was President, William H. Taft was Governor-General of the Phillipines for four years. That makes him a Pacific Governor-General, doesn't it?

Herbert Hoover worked extensively as a mining engineer in Australia and learned Mandarin while posted to China (he and his wife chatted in Mandarin to foil eavesdroppers in the White House).

Richard M. Nixon was born in California and spent far more time in the Pacific region than has Glorious Leader.

Ronald W. Reagan moved to the West Coast as a young man and spent most of his lengthy and successful career there.

Numerous former presidents -
Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, and George H. W. Bush - served in the Pacific during WWII. And Southern Man thought that DDE was merely an Atlantic President.

The One was born in Hawaii, lived in Indonesia for a few years as a child, and went back to Hawaii for prep school before launching his law career in the Pacific state of Illinois.

You make the call.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Concert Review - Student Film, Euclid Crash, and Smarty Pants

Smarty Pants was a popular local indie-rock band comprised of science nerds; they broke up about five years ago when some of the members moved out of town. They released a handful of albums on a local label but Southern Man first took note from their performance of Has-Been Heroes, a Devo-like tune written for a local UHF channel's fondly-remembered midnight movie show (hosted by Captain Nightowl and the Wonder Kid, with their trusty robot sidekick Socket and their nemesis, the evil Black Haggis). Being a former nerd himself, Southern Man has a soft spot for nerd bands and when he found that all of the Smarty Pants members were back in town to throw a reunion concert, he just had to see the show.

Southern Man knew he'd made the right choice when arrived at the venue (a small club 'way up on the north side of town) and was greeted by a smiling hostess who handed him a free shrinkwrapped "best of" CD. And at the merchandise table it appeared that Smarty Pants was in the process of unloading their remaining goodies - all CDs and LPs were a buck each, so Southern Man was able to acquire most of the Smarty Pants discography and have change back from a five. And the final courtesy were the free foam earplugs for those of us who exceeded our high-volume concert quota decades ago and were keen on retaining what little hearing we had remaining. The demographic that evening was significantly younger than Southern Man; mostly the expected teen- and early-twenties crowd, but with a fair number of older fans. Southern Man found a chair and ended up next to a woman of about his age there to see her daughter sing with the opening act and we had a great time trading stories about the musical aspirations of and various excesses of our teens.

Student Film was that opening act. Southern Man admits that they didn't really hold his interest; "languid rock" is how he might describe their music, but your mileage may vary. Euclid Crash was a considerably more energetic power-pop band and gave us a more musically varied performance. And then the fun began with Smarty Pants, who were clearly there as much to have a good time and see old friends as to play a concert. They did twenty-odd tunes and it is a tribute to their former popularity that a number of fans knew all the words and sang along.

It was a tremendously fun evening that didn't end until the wee hours of the morning (Southern Man backdates his review posts so they reflect the date of the event) and the total outlay (ticket, CDs, and adult beverages) totaled less than it cost to park at U2. Southern Man intends to keep his eye on the local indie scene and enjoy many more evenings like this.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

One cannot let this day pass without a heartfelt Southern Man "Thank You!" to the rough men and women who stand on the wall ready to do violence on our behalf. We'll sleep soundly tonight.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Best Prolog Program EVER

As part of a few lectures on Prolog (an obscure but interesting logic-based programming language) Southern Man assigned his students to download SWI-Prolog and write a simple program. One submitted this gem. You don't have to be a computer science geek to appreciate it.
witch(X) :- burns(X), female(X).
burns(X) :- madeOfWood(X).
madeOfWood(X) :- floats(X).
floats(X) :- sameWeight(duck, X).

sameWeight(duck, girl).

-? witch(girl)

It's a fair cop...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Encyclopedias, Then and Now

The previous post reminded me of the long, wonderous East Texas afternoons that Southern Boy spent poring through his great-grandmother's 1962 World Book Encyclopedias. He probably read (or at least skimmed) the whole set, cover to cover, two or three times before he was twelve (but, unlike Britannica Guy, failed to write a book about it). Some of the articles still stand out pretty sharply in his mind; the entry under "Bomb," in particular, was quite extensive, with lots of diagrams of how various types of air-dropped muitions destroyed buildings, and has (not surprisingly) been watered down considerably over the years. Indeed, Southern Man would like to find an old set (or at least Volume "B") and see how accurate his childhood memory actually is of that and a few other articles actually is.

The real beauty of the encyclopedia was the juxtaposition of utterly unrelated articles. You would fall from an article on a particular venemous Austrailian snake (taipan) right into a well-known breakaway Chinese state (Taiwan) or from orchestra to Ordovician. The print dictionary has something of the same charm, and it's something that modern online resources lack.

On the other hand, online resources like
Wikipedia (a Southern Man favorite) are extensive and usually quite accurate and often surprisingly well written and the extensive hyperlinking gives them a charm all their own. Try playing "Six Degrees of Wikipedia" someday - select two entirely unrelated topics, start with one, and try to get to the other in only five clicks. You meet some of the most interesting articles along the way. Or just start with a random article and follow links. Southern Man will often while away a few idle hours doing just that...just as he did at great-grandmother's house so many years ago.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Music, Then and Now

When Southern Man listens to the radio on the way to work, he wants to hear music, not commercials or morning shows. But occasionally the local DJs bring up a topic that catches his attention and this morning it was "stuff that we remember from childhood but don't have anymore" with examples like multivolume encyclopedia sets and CB radios and full service gas stations - and record stores. So Southern Man called in (ten-year-old daughter was most impressed with the ease with which dad could dial a phone and get on the radio, just like that) and chatted a bit about the joys of browsing the record-store cut-out bins for obscure LPs. The DJs went with that and talked for quite a bit about the now lost (according to them) joys of finding hidden treasures in the old record stores.

Southern Man disagrees. Never in the history of mankind has so much music and video and knowledge been so easily available to so many people. Especially music. Sure, there were occasional gems to be found back in the day, but thanks to the 'net Southern Man has been exposed to more new music in the last few months than in all of high school. Teen son follows an amazing number of unknown bands who have few releases and get no airplay but reach their fans through their
MySpace pages. Pandora and Live365 provides an unending stream of new blues and jazz at work. Heck, if Southern Man has a yen to hear a little-played track from, say, the third Boston album, he can pull it up on the 'net in less time that it takes to walk into the next room and lay vinyl on the turntable. Sure, it's low quality (especially compared to Southern Man's audiophile rig) but it's usually good enough for the moment.

So don't shed too many tears for what we once had. What we have now is different but 'way better.