Books

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Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens

Many years ago, someone at work noticed that I was reading David Copperfield.

He asked, “Are you being punished for something?”

Another person in the room overheard this. Entirely by coincidence, that person was reading the same book at the same time.

The two of us said, almost in unison, “Oh, you don’t know…”

The great Charles Dickens was born 200 years ago today.

I thank his hovering spirit for Nicholas Nickleby, for A Christmas Carol, for A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, and especially for his greatest novel, David Copperfield.

There are other Dickens books I haven’t yet read. I should get busy and read them, before someone says to me, “Oh, you don’t know…”

Airy Persiflage

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Personal History

Thirty-eight years ago today, at 10:00 PM, I started work at my first full-time job at the Ohio State University.

I was a custodial worker. I spent a long time last night trying to remember dozens of people I worked with back then.

It was my intention to work there for a few years to pay my way through school, but things don’t always turn out as we imagine.

Thirty years and twenty-five days after I started, I retired from Ohio State. Happily, I had moved up the employment ladder in the meantime. I retired with a job title of “Senior Systems Programmer.”

As it happens, retirement is the career I was born for.

Politics

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Fat Cat

One year from today will be Inauguration Day. President Obama will begin his second term, if we’re lucky.

Here’s Vice President Joe Biden shaking hands with a Democratic fat cat at a fundraiser here in Columbus, Ohio, last Thursday:

Joe Biden and Me

I’m the fat cat.

(I wonder if a girdle would help…)

Music

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R.I.P. Etta James

Etta James has passed away. Yet she is immortal:

Politics

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Divorced from Reality

Rob Reiner, on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher:

Jon Huntsman is the only candidate in that whole group that believes when an apple falls from a tree, it hits the ground.

Actually, I think Mitt Romney secretly believes that, too. But he would never dare to say it out loud.

Update: Three days after Reiner made this observation, Huntsman dropped out of the race. A man with his views has no place in the modern Republican Party.

Music

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Hallelujah

In keeping with the season, here’s an a capella version of the Hallelujah Chorus:

Airy Persiflage
Computers

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RIP, Steve Jobs

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has died.

He shared life lessons:

Update:

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams wrote:

I once thought his success was mostly a matter of luck. Anyone can be at the right place at the right time.

But then he did it again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

He was my only hero.

Links to many more tributes in the comments at TidBITS.

Movies
Quotes

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Good Movies

Filmmaker Mike Nichols, in a DVD commentary track:

A good movie is about something, and also about something else.

And a great movie can be enjoyed even if you only get part of what it’s about.

Airy Persiflage

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Emmett Till’s 70th Birthday

Emmett TillToday would have been Emmett Till’s 70th birthday.

Would have been, but Emmett Till was murdered when he was 14 years old.

A negro boy from Chicago visiting relatives in Mississippi, he may not have known that there were places in 20th-Century America still untouched by civilization. He carelessly violated one of the countless “unwritten rules” of the savage Mississippi culture, and for that he was kidnapped and brutally tortured to death.

His body was found three days later, horribly mutilated. His mother insisted on an open-casket funeral. She said, “There was just no way I could describe what was in that box. No way. And I just wanted the world to see.” Photos of the body were published in JET magazine (Warning: the photos are extremely disturbing) and other publications around the country.

In retrospect, it seems that the photos opened a lot of eyes to the nature of race relations in the American South. It was no longer possible to be blind. It was no longer possible to look away.

A little more than three months after Emmett Till was killed, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began, launching the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

It seems to me that the Civil Rights Movement is bookended with the murders of children: Emmett Till in 1955, and four little girls in 1963.

It wasn’t all that long ago. Emmett Till would be just 70 now.

Airy Persiflage
Politics

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Happy Birthday, John Glenn

One day in the autumn of 1970, I was given a ticket to an Ohio Democratic Party fundraising event at Veteran’s Memorial here in Columbus.

I was seated way back, at a table far from the podium. I was close enough that when a well-known statewide official or candidate rose to speak, I could say, “Ooh, that’s really him!” but distant enough that I felt like a spectator rather than a participant.

As I made my way out at the end of the event, I found myself walking right past John Glenn, one of the first American astronauts. I eagerly shook his hand. He said something like, “How are you?” but I couldn’t say anything in reply. I was in awe.

Today is John Glenn’s 90th birthday.

Since my first encounter with him, he became a U.S. Senator from Ohio. After he retired from the Senate, he flew on the Space Shuttle and became the oldest human being to go into space.

Happy Birthday, Senator Glenn. I’m still in awe.

Funnies
Science

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Final Visit

The Joy of Tech has summarized how a lot of us feel about the end of the Space Shuttle.

Space Shuttle's Final Visit to the International Space Station

Click the image or the link for the full cartoon.

Politics
Quotes
Science

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Reality Grabs Your Attention

That Tom Tomorrow fella sure has a way with words. He says:

It doesn’t matter if you believe in global warming.

Global warming believes in you.

Reality always seems to have a way of grabbing your attention, even if it’s not always in time to allow you to alter reality.

Airy Persiflage

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Channeling Pat Robertson

The BBC has an astonishing silent video of a huge dust storm in Arizona.

After watching it, I feel compelled to channel the spirit of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson:

Maybe God is saying, “You know, I made Mexicans, too.”

I think I do a pretty good impression of those guys, not because I have the same message, but because I use the same methodology.

I have a political bone to pick with Arizona, so when a disaster strikes there, I seize upon it to say, “God agrees with me. Therefore, I’m right! Congratulations, me!”

Funnies

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Thurber Speaks

The great American humorist, James Thurber, grew up right here in Columbus, Ohio. He became famous for his stories and cartoons published in The New Yorker.

I’ve read a lot of Thurber stories, and seen a lot of his cartoons, but until now, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the sound of his voice. Here he explains the origin of one of his more baffling cartoons to Alastair Cooke:

(Via New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff.)

Science

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Yii Cloud

Volcano lightning

Apple electrified the tech industry this week with its iCloud announcement.

This photo has nothing to do with that.

Boston.com has a collection of photos documenting an eruption of the Puyehue volcano in Chile. Pretty amazing stuff, including a couple views from space.