Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Steven Hawking Fears Contacting Aleins May Be A Bad Idea

According to eminent physicist Stephen Hawking, intelligent alien life is very likely out there, somewhere in the universe, and warns that we should keep quiet and hope they don't notice us. In a new documentary for the Discovery Channel, the theoretical physicist states his concern that, were aliens to visit Earth, such space life would only abuse Earth's resources and move on.

"We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet," he said. "I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach. If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans."

To me, this reads as sensationalist nonsense. As brilliant as Hawking is, he's talking out of his field. Hawking is a a physicist, not an anthropologist or an historian or even a biologist or anything else that imply any kind of knowledge whatsoever about what an alien civilization might develop into.  Even so, Hawking's position is based upon three flawed assumptions:
  1. That intelligent life elsewhere in the universe will have biology compatible with our ecosystem.
  2. That Earth has resources that can't be found elsewhere. Even in our own star system, basic elements such as water and other resources are available in places where it would be much easier to harvest them. It would be easier to farm their own (or our) asteroid belt and Oort cloud for natural elements.
  3. That an intelligent species capable of traveling between stars would find it more expedient to enslave/exterminate the rare pocket of intelligent life they come across rather than solve their resource problems technologically. If you have the technology and the energy to traverse the gulf between stars, why aren't you smart enough to solve your resource problems?
Let us also remember that alien civilizations are, by definition ALIEN, which means we have no frame of reference with which to guess at their beliefs, motivations, or psychology. It could be that an alien species might see all intelligent life in the universe as competition, or, worse, as some sort of vile infection that needs to be exterminated. Maybe they want to impregnate our women and enslave our men because some quasi-religious direction compels them to. Maybe they'd want to devour us because we taste like space-pork. Maybe they'd want to help us grow beyond our tribal boundaries. Maybe they wouldn't even be able to recognize us as a sentient species. We don't know. We can't know until we encounter it.

Hawking's statement seems to be in direct opposition to what Carl Sagan once said. Sagan believed that advanced beings couldn't logically want to harm us, given that they'd obviously avoided killing themselves to progress to the point that they've attained space travel. I'd prefer that belief to one where intelligent life is either malevolent or indifferent to us. However, Sagan was no more or less qualified to comment on the issue than Hawking is.

Personally, I think that, if we meet intelligent life, we need to treat them with respect, not fear. After all, they've probably already been here anyway and have just been waiting for us to mature.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010

    Tired Of These Songs With Open Ended Questions

    Ever since Bary Mann asked eager listeners who put the bomp in the bomp-a, bomp-a, bomp, music fans have been inundated with songs that ask open ended questions. We're never did find out who added that magical "Bomp", and, although I assume it was the same person who put the "Ram" in the "Ramala ding dong", I really haven't been given any proof.

    The Baha Men never told us who let the dogs out.

    Blues Traveler never helped us figure out why that person wanted to give them the runaround.

    Jack Johnson never tells us where all the good people went.

    Boy George asks if someone really wants to hurt him and make him cry. I know that, when the video was all over MTV back in the 80's, my answer was a definite "Yes" to both questions, but I never found out the real answer.

    I'm simply tired of not knowing the answers. How hard is it to write a final verse which finishes the song with some closure? For example, let's take the original offender:

    George put the bomp in the bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp!
    George put the ram in the ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong!
    George put the bop in the bop sh-bop sh-bop!
    George put the dip in the dip da dip da dip!
    Yes, George was that man! I'm gonna shake his hand!
    He made my baby fall in love with me. 

    See? How tough was that? Nice, simple, complete.

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    My Droid Saves Me!

    Somehow, after attending the Peoria International Beer Festival, I ended up in the suburbs of Peoria at a pizza pub. The place was packed and was hopping with excitement. I overheard some drunken lout exclaim "Thirty minutes for a pizza? No way! I want to hear it from the pizza itself! YOU BRING THAT PIZZA OUT TO EXPLAIN IT TO ME!". I laughed uncontrollably to myself at the inanity of the comment and walked out into the rain to head back to the hotel.

    The hard rain drenched me as I walked to the corner to hail a cab. I soon realized that, since I was a good 6 miles from downtown Peoria where I was staying, I would not be able to hail a cab. Okay, no problem. I had prepared for that contingency. The cabbie who shuttled us to and from the Peoria International Beer Festival had given his cell number to everyone and told us that he would be on duty until 4 am and that we could call him for a ride. I took out my Motorola Droid. The battery indicator was on yellow. I made the call to Jimmy, but got no answer. He was probably still picking up people from the beer fest. I started to walk.

    I consulted Google Maps on my Droid. I was 5.7 miles from my hotel. I figured that, with the rain slowing me down, I could possibly hope to be back within 3 hours. I tried to take mental notes of the route the Droid was telling me to take, for I knew that I did not have enough battery life to keep the navigation up for the entire trip. I simply continued to walk.

    Some twenty minutes after calling him, I heard back from Jimmy. He wasn't sure where I was, and my description of the cross streets and nearby landmarks didn't ring any bells for him. Great. Not only was I stranded and drenched, but I was lost. Just as I was about to fall to my knees in defeat, an idea hit me. I asked Jimmy if he had an e-mail address. He did! I told him that I would get my location from Google Maps and, from there, I could e-mail him a link that would take him to a map that showed my location. Jimmy would have to go to the main office to read the e-mail, but I was convinced that it would work.

    Sure enough, I eventually got a call from Jimmy telling me that he knew exactly where I was and he'd be on his way to pick me up. He cautioned me to stay were I was because I was getting dangerously close to a sketchy neighborhood. I took shelter outside of a CVS pharmacy that was closed for the night.

    It wasn't long before I was sitting in the cab and heading back to the hotel. As we drove the rest of the route, I wondered what I would have done without the GPS and Google Maps features. I then wondered what I would have done if I hadn't had a cell phone to make a call to the cabbie for a ride. I didn't like the answer to either of those questions, so I tipped Jimmy big for getting me out of the rain and for helping me get back to civilization.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010

    Peoria International Beer Festival

    ChrisMac and Jason and I attended the Peoria International Beer Festival this past weekend. Despite the intense rain storms that kept sweeping over the area, we had a great time. For me, it was a very interesting mix because Jason isn't a huge fan of beer, while ChrisMac will happily drink just about any beer (including Stag!) and I consider myself a bit of a beer snob.

    I was impressed that Jason was able to single out some beers that he actually enjoyed sampling. He declared his favorite to be Dark Helmet Imperial Shwarzbier which was being offered by the Mississippi Unquenchable Grail Zymurgists. He was also quite fond of the Lindemans Framboise Lambic (Raspberry).

    Myself, I was quite fond of O'Hara's Irish Red and Original Sin Hard Granny Smith Apple Cider. I do have to agree with Jason that the Dark Helmet beer was really good and had quite a light, sweet taste for a stout.

    I'm not sure which beer ChrisMac enjoyed the most, but, he has never met a beer he didn't like and I never saw him dump out his cup in a fit of disgust.

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    David Kernell Goes On Trial Today

    The trial for the 22-year-old man accused of breaching Sara Palin's Yahoo account begins today. Former University of Tennessee student David Kernell faces up to 50 years in federal prison if he is convicted on all charges which include identity theft, mail fraud, intentionally accessing an account without authorization and obstruction of an FBI investigation. That an illegal act was committed the second Kernell broke into the account is indisputable. However, I have a hard time believing that anything much more than the charge of intentionally accessing an account without authorization will hold up. By all accounts, Kernell accessed the account, changed the password, and posted the results to a popular hacking website.

    What really burns me is how this case is being portrayed in the media. Headlines have been screaming about how Kernell hacked into the account mainly because the term "hacker" strikes so much fear into the minds of the average American. Let's be clear on one thing: This guy was no hacker. He gained access to Palin's account by being able to consult online sources for the answers to her security questions. That's not hacking. That's one step below social engineering.

    Because of how this story has been portrayed, the populace at large would rather dwell on the fear incited by the prospect of being hacked than the fact that an inept government official not only illegally conducted government business on a personal account in order to circumvent state record keeping laws, but did so in a manner that left the records of such business open to the sort of attack that Kernell conducted.

    You tell me: Which is the scarier crime?

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    The Battle Of The Wasps

    I was having a leisurely Sunday afternoon. My daughter wanted to go outside and play on the front lawn, and I decided to watch her from the porch. I sat there with a cup of coffee and my netbook and tried to decide what I should write about next. I was out of ideas, and, in frustration, I looked up towards the heavens for inspiration.

    It was then that I saw a wasp and a nest in the early stages of being built. I have been known to have severe reactions to bee stings and I wasn't in the mood to find out if I would have the same reaction to wasp venom. I could have run down to the hardware store to get a can of chemicals to destroy the nest, but I didn't think it would be a good idea to wait. I was thinking that this particular wasp was merely minding the fort while the others were chewing up wood somewhere else for more building material. I needed to get rid of this thing right away.

    I told my daughter to go into the house via the backyard entrance. Once she was safely indoors, I got out the garden hose, stood as far back as possible and the water on. Waves of water bombarded the nest. It hung on until I turned the power up to full blast. The water spout pushed up part of the aluminum siding that the nest had been clinging to and, when it did, a half dozen more wasps, who had apparently been hiding under there, came pouring out.

    Before they could take flight, I managed to waterlog most of them and force them to the ground. As my foot dealt final death blows to the yellow-jacketed vespinae, I couldn't help but recall that, last year, the guy who mowed my lawn was attacked by a nest of wasps near my property line. This must mean that the wasps are on the march. This might have only been a small battle in an ongoing war. Whatever happens, we will fight them.

    We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in the aluminum siding.
    We shall fight on the lawns and porches
    We shall fight in the gardens 
    We shall fight on the school grounds,
    We shall fight in the fields and in the streets
    We shall fight in the hills;
    We shall never surrender!!!!!!

    Saturday, April 17, 2010

    The Roku Delivers

    For the last several months, I've been thinking about buying a Blu-Ray DVD player. I've been reluctant because, when I converted to CD ages ago, it meant re-purchasing every beloved album in my cassette library. When I converted from VHS to DVD, it meant the same. I always said I'd rather be damned than purchase "Better Off Dead" for a third time. The re-purchasing issue has sort of been solved by the fact that Blu-Ray players are backwards compatible with the standard definition DVDs in my collection. Still, I feel that we've reached a point of diminishing returns with Blu-Ray. Do I really need to see John Cusack flail his limbs about in glorious high definition in order to fully appreciate "Better Off Dead"? The answer, of course, is No. Aside from that, I'm running out of room to store the DVDs that I have already purchased. "Almost Famous" is one of my favorite movies, but, aside from the infrequent times when I drag it out to play it, it just sits there in the case among its other seldom-watched brethren gathering dust. There has to be a better way. Can't someone else hold onto the content and deliver it to me when I want it?

    I got interested in Roku because it's just a simple box whose purpose is to push streaming media content to your television. The primary thing I use this for is to watch Netflix instant movies on my television. Yes, a number of new Blu-Ray players will also do this. However, Roku also streams other services that I subscribe to such as Pandora and Motionbox along with several other content channels such as Major League Baseball and Podcast TV. The only way this thing could be any better is if it supported Hulu, which, I am told, should be coming soon.

    But what does this do for me? For $80 (normally, $100 but I got $20 off for joining Netflix) I have a small box near my TV that outputs high definition content to my television. I have a Netflix account with plenty of streaming movies to watch, and, if I really want a DVD, I add it to my queue, it gets mailed to me the next business day and I send it back when I'm done with it. My daughter has already decided that she loves Roku because it means that she can watch episodes of SpongeBob anytime she wants. That's not quite the use I had intended for Roku, but I'll accept it as a fringe benefit.

    In the end, I know that, eventually, I'll have to buy a Blu-Ray player. The standard DVD player can only last so long before it gets destroyed by a wandering band of drunken college students or before it spontaneously combusts once its secret "expire date" is reached. For now, however, I'm happy to be able to mock Sony by telling them "This is ONE dollar you won't be getting from me.....for at least the next year or two".

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    BEHOLD! The KFC Double Down Sandwich!

    Somewhere at Kentucky Fried Chicken headquarters, some marketing executive is collecting on a bet from some shocked and disgusted coworkers. I'm referring, of course, to the new KFC Double Down sandwich. The Double Down is essentially two pieces of boneless chicken (KFC original recipe or grilled) with bacon, swiss cheese, pepper jack cheese and Colonel’s Sauce between them. There is no bun. At times, I think that this is a thing of beauty.

    I vowed that I would never eat on while sober, but, curiosity got the better of me today and I raced to the local KFC to order a Double Down of my very own. As I waited in line, I felt an anxiety that was not unlike the kind that a man feels when he is waiting in line at a gas station intending to buy the latest issue of Juggies magazine. This feeling is largely due to the backlash this sandwich has been getting from various tofu-farting nutrition activists. If the KFC Double Down had a bun, nobody would be freaking out about it. It would be just double chicken sandwich. Removing the bun freaks people out because it seems more decadent, even though it has fewer calories and carbs than a Big Mac or a footlong from Subway.

    But how does it taste? I can't lie. IT IS AWESOME! I would have to say that I like it even better than the chicken sandwich at Buffalo Wild Wings. And, although the Double Down is about half the size of a Big Mac, it's twice as filling. After finishing this thing off, I had no desire for any sides. It is, however, very unwieldy. You cannot eat this thing with your hands, so don't even try. You will fail miserably. You need a knife and fork.

    And it doesn't look a thing like the ads.

    The ad makes the KFC Double Down look like a thing of beauty. In actuality, it looks like someone microwaved a diaper full of chicken fingers. Still, as I sit here with the Double Down slowly clogging my arteries, all I can think to say in response is: OM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM!!!!!!!

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Vatican Makes Peace With The Beatles

    The official newspaper of the Vatican, L’Osservatore Romano commemorated the Beatles on the 40th anniversary of that group’s breakup. In the article, the Vatican made peace with the Beatles saying their drug use, "dissolute" lives and even Lennon's out-of-context claim that the band was bigger than Jesus are all in the past, while their music lives on. Great. It only took the Vatican 40 years to apologize. Considering it took 400 years for Galileo to get an apology, this is progress.

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    The Birds Are Back In Town

    Spring is here, and with the trend towards warmer weather comes the tendency for birds to use my wall unit air conditioner as a roost on which to build their nest. I had a look around earlier this morning and found a pair of mourning doves fornicating on the air conditioner. Once they left, I took the picture below.

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    Geocaching With The Kids

    I don't often get to see my daughter's half-sister anymore. Once her mom and I split up, I lost all parental rights to her because we're not biologically related. Still, we managed to remain somewhat close over the years and I've settled into the role of something akin to being an eccentric uncle to her. I've taken to calling her Squirt. When she asked if she could spend some time with my daughter and I this week, I, of course, readily accepted.

    While taking the kids out to dinner, I was running through some ideas for fun activities. I thought about the three of us playing Mario Party on the Wii or perhaps flying the kite or the Havoc Heli. I just happened to click on my Geocaching app on my phone and found that there was a geocache a mere 200 feet from where we were having dinner. Geocaching is an outdoor activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System receiver techniques to hide and seek containers that usually hold a log boog (to record your visit) and perhaps some small trinkets. It's basically a high tech game of hide and seek.

    The girls seemed very interested in hunting down this high tech treasure and we set off across the parking lot to find it. When we arrived at the co-ordinates, I was dumbfounded. According to the online listing, the cache had last been found two days before, yet a hiding place was not immediately obvious. Frustrated, I stepped back, thinking that perhaps I needed to re-configure my GPS device. It was then that Squirt matter-of-factly turned and lifted the base protector on the street light, thus making the cache fall out. This was a breakthrough. Thanks to her little maneuver, I finally realized why I had been unable to find a number of caches. The girls were excited at finding their first geocache and asked if we could go and find some more.

    We drove to a spot that had a lot of micro-caches nearby, and as we walked from geocache to geocache, I had an opportunity to talk to Squirt.

    "When your Mother and I got married, I made a commitment to you. I promised that I would always look out for you. That promise doesn't end just because your mom and I split up". She told me that she knew that, and that I had constantly told her that family doesn't abandon family. Still, I think she needed to hear it. And that is the great thing about geocaching. Not only do you get to have a fun little adventure, but you get good exercise, and you get a chance to spend some quality time with someone who is important to you.

    When it comes to geocaching, it's not about the treasure. It's about the hunt and everything that goes with it.

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Available On DVD

    This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Alvin and the Chipmunks. All opinions are 100% mine.

    I took my daughter to see Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel back when it was first released in the theater. She loved it, especially because it featured the Chipettes. For me, it Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel reminded me of the Saturday morning cartoon series from the 80's so it was a nice slice of nostalgia. And I was happy because it was a very family friendly film. After the film, I told her about how I used to get up every morning to watch the TV show and we even tried to pitch shift our own voice so we could sound like The Chipmunks.

    The movie recently came out on DVD so you can go out and buy it now. It would be a great addition to your home DVD collection. There's also a pretty cool deal available if you buy the Double DVD Pack. It comes with  "The Squeak Along" Bonus Disc which has more music, more mayhem and some all-new singalongs!

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    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    Scooby Doo! Where Are You?

    On our way to see Clash Of The Titans the other night, my friends and I got lost on the back roads near the movie theater. It was then that we happened upon a custom van made up to look like the Mystery Machine driven by the Scooby Doo gang. I've seen a few of these custom jobs over the years, mainly at car shows, but, before now, I've never seen one with the spare tire on the front, thus making it a closer representation of the original.

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    The Old, Reliable Coffee Machine

    Regular readers of this site are well aware of my love for coffee and my ongoing struggle with the neurotic gourmet coffee machine from Hell. I had a dollar in change this morning and decided to pop over to the machine to see if it might smile upon me and grant me some delicious Coffea arabica goodness. Cautiously, I plunked my quarters into the machine. The third quarter didn't register. Somewhat miffed, I hit the coin return button and resolved to start the payment process again. Only two quarters dropped out. The coffee machine seemed to taunt me. Enraged, I fought the urge to beat the machine down in order to make it surrender a frothy French Vanilla beverage. I calmed myself down by reminding myself that this was probably due to the negative coffee karma I had recently incurred by ninja-ing coffee from Steve's brewing station twice last week. Okay, three times.

    Dejected, and with only 75 cents now in my pocket, I schlepped to the vending lounge to reconsider my options. Amid the glossy soda machines and the hip looking snack machines sits a machine that appears to be an anachronism. Over the years, as the other machines have been updated, this poor little coffee vending machine sat there neglected. Whenever I walk by it, part of me wonders if it doesn't exist in some sort of time warp, localized in that specific location in the vending lounge.

    The old coffee vending machine may not be as flashy looking as the gourmet coffee machine I usually use. However, a cup of coffee costs just 50 cents for a beverage that's about 2/3 the size of what is offered in the newer machine. I plunked my money into machine and it whirred to life. It sounded like a rusty pneumatic drill tearing up a slab of concrete. After the grinding and the hissing subsided, I was presented with a steaming hot cup of coffee.

    I've used the old coffee vending machine a number of times over the years. Often, I will approach the machine and find that it is in a brewing cycle and is unable to dispense coffee. However, whenever I find it online, I never have an issue with it. It has never stolen my money, it has never dispensed the wrong product and it has never pulled the old "sorry, out of cups, here's your coffee anyway" trick. What I've learned from this machine is that, while new technologies are certainly fun and intriguing, old technologies still have their place.

    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    Studio Apartment Hunting With

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    Thursday, April 1, 2010

    Visiting The Drive Through Convenience Store

    Dave and Jason and I visited a convenience store that you can drive your car through. You pull your vehicle into this drive-through convenience store and a clerk comes out, takes your order, and retrieves it from one of the many fridges lining the store.