Octopodial Chrome

Stuff that Made Sense at the Time

The Personal Weblog of Bob Uhl


Monday, 31 October 2005

Baptist Electrocuted

A Baptist pastor was electrocuted whilst baptising when his microphone got wet. This raises two issues: first of all, why was he using a microphone in church; and secondly, why use a microphone in a baptism?

Somehow for nearly two millennia we Christians managed to worship our God without the use of microphones. It’s not difficult to get sound to carry; it merely requires some forethought by the architects.

And baptism is—or should be—something which requires no loud noise at all. I don’t require ever seeing my father bellow at a baptism loudly enough for the entire city block to hear him; why would this fellow see the need?

One does feel sorry for his widow and their children, but this was an eminently preventable accident. Rather surprising that a microphone carries enough voltage to kill, though; I’d have thought it would be fairly weak.

Saturday, 29 October 2005

Douglas Adams on Whisky

The late Douglas Adams once wrote on whisky:

I love whisky in every way. I love the way it looks in the bottle, that rich golden colour. I love the labels arranged on the shelf—the kilts and claymores and slighly out-of-focus sheep. I love the sense that it's a drink that—unlike, for instance, vodka from Warrington—is rich in the culture and history of the place where it is distilled. I love particularly the smoky, peaty aromas of the single malts. In fact the only thing I don't like about whisky is that if I take the merest sip of the stuff it sends a sharp pain from the back of my left eyeball down to the tip of my right elbow, and I begin to walk in a very special way, bumping into people and snarling at the furniture…

He wrote me once, when I had written him to congratulate him on the birth of his daughter, whom I remember was named something absurd like Polly Rocket Adams or somesuch. The man was an atheist, but a smart fellow otherwise. I do hope that when his heart gave out—at far too early an age—he had enough time to repent sufficiently. The thought of heaven without Adams is nearly unbearable.

Tobaccos That Never Were, Part III

From Tim Daneliuk on alt.smokers.pipes:

Blends That Never Were - Part III

My Own Jihad
A Blend of 72 Different Virginias. You'll Be in Heaven!
Baathist Blend
Syrian Latakia and Sand Combine for a Taste You Won't Live to Remember.
Chalk and Awe
An English Style Blend Made in America. Noteworthy for Its Casing of Cordite, Gunpowder, and Nitro-Toluene. (Primarily for Export)
Axioms of Evil
Dark Kentucky and Black Twist Are Combined Against the Backdrop of Machine Shop Oil and Chroming Residues. For the Philosophically Minded Dictator.
Sauerbratten Flake
A Muscular Tobacco Cased in Sauerkraut Juice. For Smokers with Dreams of Empire.
Commie Kake
Red Virginias Topped with the Bitter Residue of Failed Ambition.
Montgoobery
A Luxuriant Blend of Virginia Leaf Topped with Peanut Butter.
Lombeard
An Interesting Combination of Virginias, Orientals, and Alaskan Latakia. Gently Dusted with Our Secret Ingredient from Al the Pet Barber. An Entirely New Take on Hair Of The Dog.Our Worst Blend
Sawdust, Floor Sweepings, and Rat Droppings Adorn a Base of Cigar Ash and Used Nasal Snuff. A Gift for Treasured In-Laws.
Crown Revilement
Straight Perique Cased in a Paste of Refried Beans, Prune Juice, And Tabasco. Terrific When You Really Need To Get Going.

This perhaps makes the most sense when one understand pipe tobaccos—trust me, it’s actually quite hilarious.

Friday, 28 October 2005

Lisp Blosxom

As some of y’all may know, this blog is powered by Blosxom, a neat little file-based blogging engine. Well, it's written in Perl and is not the fastest program in the world; I decided to practise my Lisp skills and port Blosxom to ANSI Common Lisp. Right now Lisp Blosxom isn’t really usable, but every day it improves just a tad.

Thursday, 27 October 2005

Goldberg on Conservatism

Jonah Goldberg offers a short history of American conservatism. One tends to forget when reading his oft-times flippant columns that he’s actually a deeply-intelligent, well-educated man. This particular piece is highly interesting, noting that the American conservative movement is in large part the creation of William F. Buckley. Read & enjoy.

Does Visual Studio Rot the Mind?

Just came across Does Visual Studio Rot the Mind?, a presentation by Charles Petzold on the process of programming. Very good points about the rhythm of coding and how we can come to over-rely on tools—as well as how that over-reliance can translate into much more complex (and hence brittle) systems. Anyone with an interest in human-computer interactions should take a look.

Wednesday, 26 October 2005

Berlinward Ho!

Well, it’s official: my kid brother & I are heading to Berlin in a few weeks. While there we hope to meet up with the third of us brothers, who has been spending a semester in Rhodes, Greece. The second of our number is off serving his country, and we will be certain to razz him for approximately the rest of our natural lives for not coming along…

It should be a cool trip. Over a decade ago I took a bit of German, but I’ve never been to the land. Stephen has no German, but we’ve gotten a couple of phrasebooks and he is, after all, a Uhl: he should have no problem. It’s an interesting nation, and we’ll have a good time. I can hardly wait!

Tuesday, 25 October 2005

Rosa Parks Passes Away

Rosa Parks died yesterday. While certainly much of her fame was stage-managed (less mediagenic blacks who did the same as she did were ignored), one must admit that the incident in which she was arrested for refusing to give her bus seat to a white man was instrumental in ending the abominable practise of segregation.

Hypocrisy on the Left

We’re all familiar with hypocrisy on the Right: the senator who waves the banner of morality whilst cheating on his wife & so on; indeed, the mainstream media make sure we know all about that. But what about hypocrisy on the Left? Peter Schweizer has written a new book Do As I Say [Not As I Do]: Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy which points out, among other things, that:

  • Nancy Pelosi accepts union awards but won’t hire union members in her vineyard or hotels
  • Michael Moore invests in oil, military & HMO stocks
  • Barbara Streisand spends $20,000 a year on watering her lawn
  • Noam Chomsky castigates the rich for using tax shelters—but uses them himself

A most interesting-sounding tome.

Friday, 21 October 2005

Trafalgar Day

Today is the 200th anniversary of the defeat of the French at the hands of Vice Admiral of the White The Right Honourable Horatio, Viscount Nelson, Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath. Let us all drink a toast to the immortal memory of Nelson and those who fell with him.

The Gender Genie

The Gender Genie attempts to guess the gender of an author from snippets of his writing. Oddly enough, it found my beer plaque story feminine but my missing Texas bit masculine. I remain…unconvinced.

What Ads Sell

Max Barry notices what ads really feature. Too true.

Sports Fan Demands Extra Three Years of Prison

A Larry Bird fan demanded that his sentence be increased from 30 to 33 years, in honour of Larry bird, whose jersey was 33. This demonstrates everything I’ve been saying about sports for years. Healthy mind in a healthy body, certainly—but this man’s mind is by no means healthy!

Wednesday, 19 October 2005

My Plaque

While at Cellarman’s Pub, I’d the chance to take a photo of my plaque. There’s an interesting story behind it: you see, I had been a member of the Mug Club (24 oz. mug filled for the 16 oz. price) for a few years, but had never heard of the around-the-world club. One merely had to drink every beer they offered, and then the owner would erect a plaque in one’s honour above the bar. Unfortunately, there were 99 beers and I had just three weeks left in college. I wanted to show my plaque to my folks, and it would take a week to make; this left me two weeks to drink 99 beers—7 per day. Not really very doable.

So I struck a deal with the owner: he knew I was once of his best customers, and he knew that I’m an honest man; so he let me strike off the names of those beers I’d already had at his fine establishment. That managed to eliminate a great number of them. I forget now how many were left, but almost every day after class (I still had to worry about finishing my senior year!) I’d head on down to Cellarman’s to do my homework and try to strike a few more beers from the list. Finally, after the hardest two weeks in recorded history, I finished my labour in what I hoped might be time enough for the plaque to arrive and be installed. Unfortunately, it didn’t arrive until after graduation, and so my family was never able to see it.

But this year I took a photo, and while blurry it is proof before the entire world of my feat:

Robert Uhl Plaque at Cellarman’s Pub

Marvel before me, all ye nations.

Missing Texas, Maybe

The week that I spent in Dallas really got me to thinking that there’d be several advantages to moving in that direction. My very best friends from college are there; indeed, I get the feeling that the last five years might have been altogether better had I stayed in the area. And of course the majority of my extended family are there as well, and I should like to spend much more time with them all. And Texans are pleasant, outgoing sorts; it might be easier to meet girls in such an environment.

On the other hand, there are things to dislike about the place. It is miserably, intolerably, abominably, atrociously hot, for one thing. While I was there, everyone commented on how much it had cooled down. If that’s cool, I don’t want to know heat! For another thing, there are way too many laws. There are even little signs everywhere reminding one of what those laws are! And the beer selection is just sad—and the prices angering. Also, I’m not certain about the food culture; it doesn’t seem as well developed down there.

I really don’t know what my preferences are. It’s keeping me up at night.

Monday, 17 October 2005

Old Flames

During the past several days I’ve run into many gals I used to know: some I had chased; some I had never cared for. It was odd to see how my reactions differed in each case: for quite a few it was relief (there but for the grace of God go I); for most, just a profound neutrality; and in one notable case the sneaking suspicion that she was the one that got away. It just goes to show that it’s deucedly impossible to predict the future. The girl who seems so pleasant and lovely today may be quite the opposite in a few years. This is among the advantages of bachelorhood: dealing with known quantities.

Sunday, 16 October 2005

The Reunion

Well, I must say that our five-year reunion was more than a little disappointing. Not nearly as many folks showed up as I had expected (or had registered, apparently). I’ve no official figures, but there probably weren’t more than 32 or so. Out of a graduating class of approx. 250, that’s pretty damned disappointing. One factor may have been that the party was held at the house of the fellow who had headed up Student Life during our tenure—in other words, the Gestapo chief. He’s actually a decent enough fellow now, but we spent four long years evading his minions (smuggling girls & drinks into the dorms, mostly). I was fairly certain that someone would drop a fish in one of his hot-air registers, or take a leak in his flowerpots, but so far as I could tell nought like that happened.

But quite a few folks said that they knew of many who had gone elsewhere rather than attend a party at his house. Surely our reunion committee should have arranged for an off-campus venue, a DJ and such. I guess that can go into the Lessons Learnt for our 10 year reunion.

The big problem, of course, is that this was the reunion most likely to be well-attended (heck, one gal flew in with her husband from Baiku, Azerbaijan for that very reason): most of us are still relatively unattached, with no kids or other hindrances; those children which do exist are so young that they are not in school, and so small that they can be taken most anywhere. But given another five years that will no longer be the case; additionally, many of us will have much more demanding schedules, and will have moved on in the world and emotionally: there will be more reasons to stay at home and fewer to return to Austin College. It’s a real shame that this reunion wasn’t better run. Perhaps next time I’ll have to take charge.

Nostalgia

I mentioned earlier how much like home AC felt on my arrival; it felt just as much like leaving home to depart. I spent the day on campus, touring the hallowed halls and walking the greens. This past evening in the full moonlight I retraced a path I trod many an evening, from Baker Hall (my dorm of three years) to Clyce Hall (the dorm many of the gals I knew lived in)—only now there was no girl to walk to the door; no Baker room to return to; no future, but only past.

I drove by the house I once lived in—a terrible, run-down place now, but dear to me then. I went through downtown Sherman, that den of land agents and lawyers—the downtown I used to walk to that wondrous summer. I saw professors, now older and greyer; I saw friends and acquaintances, also older and greyer. I saw the empty lot where a once-great hall stood, another empty lot which had been a cafeteria and gathering-place, and yet another lot which was the site of many a fine party. The accumulated memories of the four best years of my life returned in force.

There is a photo in the Tri-Gam 1996–1997 album which shows a young man smiling with his friends. He’s hardly more than a boy (just beginning to grow the traces of a beard), with limitless options and nothing but bright expectations. He’s happy and cheerful; the very world itself lay at his feet. He died five years ago.

Saturday, 15 October 2005

Cellarman's

I was able to revisit Cellarman's Pub yesterday. It is an absolutely wonderful place; before it was built, Sherman was a sad place for a beer lover, but now it is home to a pub which outshines every bar in Dallas and all but one bar in Denver (the one superior bar is, of course, the Falling Rock Taphouse). I actually have my name on a plaque above the bar, commemorating the fact that I drank at least one of every single beer they offered at the time (the hardest two weeks of my life, getting that done in time for graduation). The bartender/owner still remembered me, which was very nice.

They’ve expanded, again, which is great news. One always worries that a good place will shut down—particularly a place that nice in a town as sad as Sherman. But business seemed to be booming, and I believe that I can anticipate many happy homecoming weekends spent in the warm embrace of that fine pub.

A Dad Thing?!?

So I’m up at AC’s homecoming carnival getting a cotton candy when the young lady serving them calls me sir. I laughingly tell her, Oh, I’m not a sir and she replies, Sorry, it’s a dad thing. I’m only 27, for Pete’s sake! You know, this dad business is getting really old. As, apparently, am I.

Gamma Gamma Gamma

I went to my first Tri-Gam party in four years last night—it was a blast. The guys this year are a wonderful lot. One even invited me to sing their song with them, although I had to refuse (that honour is only for real Tri-Gams, not for mere hangers-on). One of my great regrets in life is never having tried to pledge Gamma Gamma Gamma; it was a great frat and most of my good friends were there. It’s not the things one does that one regrets nearly so much as the things one doesn’t do.

Going Back

They say that you can never go back home—but they’re wrong. Yesterday I drove on up to Sherman, Tx. for my homecoming (apt name) and five-year reunion, and when I got to Sherman and stood on the Austin College campus, it was as though I’d never left. Yes, the campus has changed; yes, many excellent buildings were torn down by the ravenous administration—but despite all that, it feels as though I’d never left, and as though I could still be living there.

You can go back, and it’s worth it.

Thursday, 13 October 2005

A Dad?!?

Last night I went over to my cousin Craig’s place to hang out for a bit. We walked into his flat and there were some of his friends there—one girl says, quite excitedly, Oh, Craig, is this your dad? I’m barely seven years older than he is, for Pete’s sake!

War on Drugs Tortures Army Veteran

A US Army veteran was taken out of a hospital and dragged to the border for prosecution because he had grown marijuana to help alleviate the pain resulting from a failed parachute jump. When will this madness end?

Wednesday, 12 October 2005

Back in Texas Again!

Well, I’m down in Texas after a too-long absence. It’s homecoming season, and my five-year reunion is in a few short days, so it seemed meet to make the journey down here and see all my old friends once again. Incidentally, don’t get any bright ideas now that I’m away—my kid brother is house-watching, and has full access to my magazine. Breaking in is not a bright idea, although it’s likely to be one of the last…

I’m staying with my old friends Phil & Jess Forshee. To tell the truth, I was a bit nervous that we’d end up sitting across a table from one another & realise that we really don’t have anything in common any longer; after all, a good amount of friendship is due to close proximity. Despite a few misgivings at lunch, it turns out I needn’t have worried—we’re the same pals we were once upon a time, just quite a bit older than in 1996–2000.

Today should be fun: going to see my grandparents for lunch, then dinner with my aunt, uncle & cousins.

Sunday, 09 October 2005

More on Fainting

Well, after I fainted I did some reading up on the whole thing. My symptoms match something called postural hypotension—in layman’s terms it means that standing up can cause my blood pressure to drop too low; this fits in with the fact that several nurses have been shocked by how low my blood pressure is: it’s not beyond belief, then, that the differential applied by standing suddenly could be more than desired in my case. Interestingly, it appears that I’ve naturally gravitated towards things which are good remedies to low blood pressure. For example, the suggested remedies are to eat a high salt diet; to exercise the lower extremities; and to wear special socks. Well, I love salt (although I don’t eat as much as I’d like—something I shall change), I ride a bike and I’ve always loved wearing good high & tight woollen socks. Also, I enjoy tobacco, which raises blood pressure by constricting the blood vessels. In short, my body has been telling me to do exactly those things which are good for it. To be honest, I wonder what might have happened had I not been living as I do—I might have died of low blood pressure. Thank God for salt, cycling, socks & smoking.

This fits in perfectly with a theory I’ve held for a long time: if we only listen to what our bodies tell us, our health will be better. There is the example of a pregnant woman: her body suffers a deficiency in something-or-other, and thus she orders up ice cream topped with shrimp and spinach—and a medical examination would reveal that those foods contain exactly what she needed. There is also the fact that we are, among other things, animals, and that our Lord gave even the lowliest beast the ability to discern what it needs to survive. To ignore our better instincts is to ignore what is best for us (of course, there are other instincts and appetites which need to be suppressed).

It’s obvious from my appetite that what my health requires is more grease, more salt, more fried foods and more beer—who am I to deny Nature?

Saturday, 08 October 2005

Fainted!

Tonight I had a very curious experience: I fainted. I was in my bathroom when suddenly my vision went grey—which has happened maybe a dozen times in as many years, generally when standing up too fast—and the next thing I knew I heard singing, then was lying in my bathtub with the shower door atop me and a nasty gash on my right ear. I was out for less than a minute (I know ’cause I’d looked at the clock before I’d entered the room). Very strange business. Next time the old vision goes grey I’ll be sure to lie down. Guess I need to get more salt in my diet.

Friday, 07 October 2005

Spies Like Us and 1980s Film Tropes

Just finished watching Spies Like Us, which was a very funny film from the 1980s—funny, anyway, until it invented a ridiculous plot by a couple of high-ranking military officers to start a nuclear war between Russia & the US. It’s quite amazing that in the midst of the Cold War (the end-game, even) that such dross would be tossed about. And yet it was. The film industry was obviously well in the pocket of the Communists, as General Ion Pacepa (formerly chief of the Romanian espionage service), who has documented how thoroughly the Warsaw Pact took advantage of Western dupes and fellow-travellers to spread its lies. It came close to ruining the film, but fortunately the presence of Vanessa Angel & Donna Dixon managed to get me by:-)

Pandora and the Music Genome Project

Some years back the Music Genome Project was started in an attempt to classify as many songs as possible; Pandora is the culmination of that effort. One simply tells it a few musicians or songs one likes, and it uses fairly significant human analysis of the songs in its database (over 300,000, I believe) to predict some more in the same style which you might like. Pretty cool—cool enough to get me to spring $36 for a year’s membership.

How I Hate Clothes Shopping

Today I went to the mall to find some new clothes, it being a few years since I’ve bought any winter wear. I’m reminded why it’s been so long: there is absolutely nothing good about shopping for clothes. There’s no rhyme or reason to what looks good and what doesn’t; indeed, the only discernible rule is that if one’s a fashion model then one can wear anything, and if one’s not the one might as well give up.

I envy married fellows: a married man can simply say, Darling, when I return I’d like to have some nice-looking new clothes, and when he gets back home the Clothes Gnomes have left him a nice new wardrobe. A man with a girlfriend can go shopping with her; even a guy with a sister has an advantage. But I am completely forlorn, since my parents failed to provide me a sister and I have thus far been and utter failure with the fair sex.

You know, I really loved it back in college when I was wearing coat & tie—yeah, I stuck out like a sore thumb, but I was a happy sore thumb. I understand coat & tie; I can buy shirts and suits and blazers and ties without worry. Maybe I should just write off this experiment in dressing like a normal chap my age, give in and return to my element.

Thursday, 06 October 2005

First Frost of the Season

Yesterday morning I went to my car (driving in to work this week rather than cycling) and discovered that the windscreen was covered in ice: the first frost of the season has struck, and soon the cold will be upon us. This morning I wore a sweater for the first time; soon it will be long coats and scarves. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, 05 October 2005

National Review Online Digs Serenity

NRO gives Serenity high marks. Told ya it was good…

Tuesday, 04 October 2005

Commander in Chief

Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women’s Forum takes on the insipid Commander in Chief, pointing out that its world of sexism and such quite simply doesn’t exist.

Monday, 03 October 2005

More Bikes than Cars

Apparently more bikes than cars have been bought over the last year. Woo-hoo! Maybe someday motorcar culture will be a bit attenuated. I don’t want it to go away—cars are useful and good—but it’d be nice for it to be less of a factor.

Saturday, 01 October 2005

The Life of Nikola Tesla's Father

I just found a life of Nikola Tesla’s father Milutin. Tesla, of course, was the inventor of radio amongst many other things, and was the quintessential 19th century mad scientist. His father, though, was a Serbian Orthodox priest who fought for the rights of the Orthodox when they were under Austrian Catholic rule. The postscript to the story is sobering:

There are no surviving sermons of Milutin Tesla. His birth house in Raduc was burnt down in 1941. The Serbian villages in the Medak pocket were burnt down in 1993. The Church of St. George the Martyr in Gospic was demolished in 1992. The house and church in Smiljan, extensively renovated in the years after 1863, were burnt down in 1941; rebuilt in the 1980s; partially burnt down, and vandalized, in 1992; and now stand empty, subject to hatefilled political spinning. 590 Smiljan Serbs were massacred in 1941; and the remainder, said to be only eleven people, were ethnically cleansed in 1995.

Note that the destruction under the Nazis was not so bad as under the Croats.


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