Steely-Eyed Missile Man

My favorite guy in all of NASA history is someone you've likely never heard of - John Aaron, the engineer they called the "Steely-Eyed Missile Man." I've been crazy about the space program since I was a kid, but oddly it has never been the astronauts that captured my fancy. I love the guys like... Continue Reading →

A Foggy Day

I've always loved foggy afternoons - the way everything in the distance seems to not matter anymore, the feeling of seclusion in open spaces. Everything looks like one of those Gothic British novels that everybody knows but no one has read. Once, in my college days, I was hanging out with friends on such an... Continue Reading →

Why I Blog

I've always thought of myself as a writer. Unfortunately, that means people expect you to write. It isn't that I don't enjoy the process of writing, but it's hard to stay motivated enough to keep at the same novel for months and years at a time. Every published novelist I know gives the same advice:... Continue Reading →

Erwin Schrödinger, Cat Killer

Schrodinger was a sick puppy. If you really look at his experiment, it's very disturbing. In fact, if you stop to look at it in detail, you'll find a number of things that the common public gets wrong about it. 1. That cat's gonna die. There's no getting around it, the cat is going to... Continue Reading →

Defending Leia

Growing up in the women's lib 70s, my female teachers constantly would ask us kids whether we thought there were any girls in TV or movies that were positive role models. I never had a good answer for that. It took me a long time to realize that's because I never thought of Princess Leia... Continue Reading →

The Christmas Millionaire

Twenty-six years ago today, a crazy thing happened. My dad won the lottery. Yep, no kidding. The real deal. All six numbers. Jackpot. I can still picture the scene: I was standing behind him, peeking over his shoulder as he compared the official numbers to his list. He got to the matching numbers before I... Continue Reading →

I was just sitting there …

As an IT manager, I'm constantly summoned to coworkers' desks when things unexpectedly go wrong. Roughly 90% of the time, their saga begins with, "I was just sitting there and all of a sudden it did this ..." I usually sigh, give them a long look, and remind myself that they  believe this is true.... Continue Reading →

Subliminal Advertising

The thing you should know about subliminal advertising is ... absolutely nothing. Why waste brain cells on something that doesn't exist? And, unlike other silly sciences like, say, alchemy, nobody ever seriously thought it did exist. Why do we all talk about it, then? Advertising. The whole concept was a Hail Mary move by a... Continue Reading →

Marty McFly’s Second Chance

In one week, Marty McFly is going to visit from 1985. Hill Valley, wherever it is, will get a quick touch-down from him and the Doc. They'll snag a sports almanac, and -- whoosh -- they'll be off again. The last chapter (chronologically) in the trilogy will be finished. That's a rather melancholy thought until... Continue Reading →

Homecoming

Whenever I visit my hometown, I like to stop by the school, just to see the grounds. Which school? The school.  There was only one in my little town, a complex of buildings that housed all of grades kindergarten through 12th. My kids have a hard time conceptualizing that I only had 60-some kids in... Continue Reading →

Evil Tim Curry

Tim Curry has the perfect voice for evil. The other day, someone in my family posed the question of whether he ever plays anything except the villain. It seemed like a joke at first, but when I looked him up on IMDB, I was aghast at his resume. If you're not familiar with IMDB.com, it's... Continue Reading →

Best Books 2015

Whenever I read a book that I fall in love with, it becomes my goal to pass it along. I look for just one person in my life who enjoys that type of book, and I insist that he/she read it. If that person loves it to, it becomes a shared experience that makes me... Continue Reading →

Box, Wheel, and Book

I'm going to lose my cool the next time someone in a meeting tells me, "We need more out of the box thinking." Look, that phrase was innovative once upon a time. It was a new way of saying that you should strive to be original, go against the flow, look at things a different... Continue Reading →

Braving the Canyon

All world explorers have great stories to tell - of braving the unknown, facing incredible odds, possibly never to return. Even the preparation for these journeys amazes me; I simply can't fathom how you even begin to pack for a trip that doesn't allow for stopping at a Wal-Mart when you realize you've forgotten something... Continue Reading →

Astronauts are Boring

Astronauts are boring. There, I said it. The real reason that nobody cares about the space program these days isn't just the lame-sounding studies they are always doing; it's that we no longer have people to root for. Back in the 60s you had the Right Stuff team, the boys of legend, the guys we still... Continue Reading →

Get your head down!

My brother won so many blue ribbons from swimming that my folks had to keep buying new bulletin boards for him to pin them on. I, meanwhile, despite eight years of mandatory swim classes in school, managed exactly one feat: not drowning. If I ever commit treason and get set to Gitmo, you can tell... Continue Reading →

Pretty, sexy, and smart

One misstep of modern feminism is that we keep trying to make women choose between being smart and being pretty; we've all but stopped acknowledging that someone can be both. I'd like to present a new role model for today's young ladies: Hedy Lamarr. If you're under 50, you've probably never heard of her, but... Continue Reading →

The Easy Research Paper

From 3rd to 7th grade, I was in a special program that, among other things, required us to write several research papers each year. I've never minded that sort of work, so at first I threw myself into the task. By 7th grade, though, the one thing I had truly learned was this: small town... Continue Reading →

Leap Months

Tonight we're getting a leap second, though nobody will much notice it. Leap days are boring. But once upon a time there was a leap month ... England clung to the Julian calendar until 1752, when George II finally realized it made no sense to be on a completely different time scheme than all its... Continue Reading →

Loving the Enigma

It's not like I'm pro-Nazi, please understand, but I am an unabashed supporter of their Enigma machine. It should have worked. It would have been infallible, if only ... The Enigma was their name for the message-encoding device that they created, and it was a cryptographer's dream - slick, fast, and mesmerizingly complex. Anyone who... Continue Reading →

The Banana Blight

Hey, remember when that botanical pandemic wiped out all the world's bananas back in the 1950s? Neither do I, but apparently it happened. Without any of us realizing it, the world's banana crops were killed off by a fungus known as Panama Disease. Killed like the dodo birds. Utterly extinct. Seriously. So how are we... Continue Reading →

Digital Languages

I like to tell people that I'm semi-fluent in several languages (Hang on, don't be too impressed - the sentence isn't finished yet), if you count computer codes. I lost you there, didn't I? I've never been able to convince anyone that "speaking" a computer language is the same as any other. My Spanish IV... Continue Reading →

The Electric Donut

Long after all the other 80s phrases (your "gag me"s, your "tubular"s) have faded from my vernacular, there is one innately 80s saying that I still try to inject into conversation: "I've got my quarter up." Guys within 5 years above or below my age will give me a sly grin of recognition; from everyone... Continue Reading →

Nicer in Iowa

Big city people won't ever believe you when you say that small-town folk are nicer, but it's true. It isn't that they aren't worldly enough to be savvy, it's that they spend a bit more time looking at people and getting to know them than most of the world does. When I lived in Southeast... Continue Reading →

Dot the i’s with circles

My sister had a book on handwriting analysis that I stumbled across in 4th grade. Being a gullible kid, I believed every word -- that my aggressively-crossed t's indicated that I was a braggart, while the backward slant of my l's said I was introverted and shy. I'm not denying that I was all those... Continue Reading →

Spam and Gouda, part 2

Monty Python doesn't get much credit for their contribution to technology, but geeks have always loved the Flying Circus. Beyond their help in christening e-mail spam, they (or, rather, the game developers who adored them) also took the first steps to anti-pirating software. Today when you buy a new game (assuming you're still purchasing DVDs... Continue Reading →

Spam and Gouda, part 1

I often hear people ask why unwanted e-mail is called spam. Nobody ever gives the right answer to this. How do I know? Because I was there, kiddies. I remember. Pull up a chair and I'll tell you a story ... a story of a lamer time, when many of us had heard of this... Continue Reading →

Dot-Matrix Fortunetelling

When I was in junior high, my school unveiled this state-of-the-art program to help us determine what career paths we were suited for. This being the mid-80s, what they gave us was an MS-DOS program that asked 50 questions, each of which we had to answer on a scale of 1-5. Bo-ring! We all dreaded... Continue Reading →

Gangstas of the 16th Century

In the contest for "Most Baller Astronomer," I present for your consideration: Tycho Brahe. Man, this cat was the Charlie Sheen of The Renaissance! You've never heard of him? That's not surprising. Most people know Johannes Kepler, who proved via mathematics that the sun was at the center of our galaxy, rather than everything revolving... Continue Reading →

The Darkest Ages

My third grade social studies book went out of its way to explain that, "Contrary to its name, the Dark Ages were no darker than what we see today." Even as a 10-year-old, this seemed like a stupid thing to tell a kid. Who would ever have gotten in to their heads that the world... Continue Reading →

Creative Passwords

Swordfish was never clever. Nor was "ABC123" or "LetMeIn." I've talked about the common pitfalls most people fall into when making passwords, and the need to keep just a few distinct passwords going at any time. Now let's talk about creativity. With the need for stronger passwords, we are now forced to use combinations of... Continue Reading →

Chicks Don’t Synch

Another myth we need to stop spreading: Women who live together eventually have their menstrual cycles synch up. Of course they don't! Think about it. Have you ever lived with even two women who were perfectly aligned? If this myth were true, wouldn't we all have at least one instance of witnessing this happen? I'd... Continue Reading →

Spam Prank

I live for April Fool's Day. I make a vow each and every year to find a new way to mess with my coworkers. Sometimes it's way too easy. This isn't strictly an April Fool's prank, but I thought I'd share it. Remember how I told you not to trust IT people? I've known some... Continue Reading →

4 Levels of Passwords

As an IT manager, I store other people's passwords the way a more social person might remember birthdays or phone numbers. This affords me a bit of notoriety as a computer genius whenever the people I work with forget their passwords and have to call me to help them log in once again. Truthfully, though,... Continue Reading →

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