Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Martians, Part II

Here's my second attempt at the Martians.
Click it to enlarge.
I'm maybe 90% happy with the cartooning.
I wanted more detail inside the ship, but found it too distracting.
I like science, but haven't read much on science fiction. I hope the gag isn't a cliche from the genre.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Scam a Star after You (part One)

That "Name a Star after a Loved One" add on the radio annoys me.

Here's why.

The company,(which I'll call International AstroFraud Registry) probably chose their name because it sounds like the International Astronomical Union. The later determines the official star names, recognized by scientists around the world. AstroFraud's names are only recognized by AstroFraud.

Here's how Astrofraud works. You pay them some dough, give them a name, and they pick some faint star which

  1. Already has a name (which won't be replaced by yours)

  2. Is usually too faint to see with the naked eye

They give you a star map with "your" star circled on it, and the name is stored in a self-published book they crank out. For some extra money, you can buy the book. They have the nerve to brag:

"Because these star names are copyrighted with their telescopic coordinates in the book, [Our Self-Published AstroFraud Directory], future generations may identify the star name in [Our Self-Published AstroFraud Directory]and, using a telescope, locate the actual star in the sky."

As you probably guessed, no astronomer uses their book for a reference. You won't find it an any bookstore or planetarium gift shop either.

"So?" people tell me. "Why are you getting your binocular strap in a twist for? It's just for fun."

Here's why it bugs me.

  1. It's misleading. People think they're really naming the star when they're not
  2. It promotes ignorance. O.K., maybe it's not as stupid as Bigfoot or the Bermuda Triangle, but people shouldn't have bogus ideas about how stars are named.
  3. It's awkward for planetarium workers.

As this source explains:

Most observatories and planetaria, for example, get calls or visits from people wanting to see the star they "named". Of course, the institution could refuse to help them and just tell the truth, ("Sorry, this certificate is in no way valid. No private company has the authority to name stars.") but what if the star was "named" for a dead child? Suddenly, one is placed in the position of either telling them the truth and breaking their hearts, or going along with their request, showing them the star, not saying anything, and becoming silent partners with the star-namers. Many see this as an ethical dilemma. It can be quite upsetting to the astronomer who has to deal with it.
Sometimes the people who pay to have a star "named" think that astronomers or planetarians are somehow obligated to show them these stars, and become angry if they cannot be found. After all, if the star name is really "official," then the astronomer should be able to show it to you, right? Then one is placed in a different sort of uncomfortable situation. Sometimes nothing can be said or done to mollify such a deceived individual. See
this personal website for one such story.

There's another reason International AstroFraud Registry annoys me, but that's for another post.

In the meantime, maybe I'll start a "Rename a Celebrety for a Loved one" scheme. You'll get an 8x10 glossy of some B-list celebrity and your chosen name will be copyrighted along with his agent's fax number in our self-published directory...

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Martians

For variety I'm going to post a comic strip about Martians now and then.
I'm not 100% satisfied with how this turned out- it's doesn't look professional to me.
Then agian, I'm not getting paid for this and maybe I'll get better with practice.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Disqualifying the Positive

In logic it's known as the "Special Pleading Fallacy". In cognitive psychology it's called "Disqualifying the positive". I don't know the Latin name, but Argumentum YouCan'tBeFreakingSeriousum would suffice.

Ever have a conversation like this?

Details have been changed, the attitudes have not.

Ingrate: Ya know Lassie? That dog is out to get me.

Me: Huh? She just rescued you when you fell through the ice.

Ingrate: She should have rescued me before I fell in the ice.

Me: How was she supposed to know it would break? It didn't help that you were jumping up and down on the cracked part right before you broke through.

Ingrate: She ruined my new scarf when she pulled me out of the water.

Me: Was she supposed to leave you? What did you expect ?

Ingrate: She could have found a St. Bernard or something.

Me:What?! Lassie risked her life to save yours and you're complaining?

Ingrate: Why do you always stick up for Lassie? You're on Lassie's side!


While I'm at it I might as well ram a cocktail fork in my ear and argue politics on the Internet.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ever have this Conversation?

Ever have this conversation? Details have been changed. The fear and frustration remains.
Me: Your chair! It's smoldering!
Someone I Care About: No it isn't.
Me: I see flames! Don't you see them? Can't you smell it? Get up! Quick!
Someone I Care About: It's nothing.
Me: Nothing!? Your chair is on fire! Get up!
Someone I Care About: It'll go out by itself.
Me: Are you nuts? You'll get burned! You'll asphyxiate! Get up!
Someone I Care About: Now you're calling me nuts? Thanks a lot! Some friend you are!
When did my life turn into a crash between a bad soap opera and a Monty Python skit?

Thursday, May 17, 2007


"Blog" is a funny word. It sounds purple, slimy, possibly contagious.
If, twenty years ago, someone said I'd have a blog by 2007, I'd want to know whether the surgeons were able to remove it all.
"Blogging" is a funny word too. Out of context it sounds crude, perhaps illegal. Something involving blunt equipment and substance abuse. Like playing polo in a swamp with a bowling ball under the influence of yak tranquillizers. As in "Police have busted a blogging ring in Florida..."
Blogging ring. While looking for one I found The Link and Blog Challenge. It's a clever idea. Instead of just collecting and sorting blogs, it encourages users to interact and link to each other.
Here's an example on how it works: Suppose I discover a Challenge member who writes about his job as a crocodile wrangler. His blog inspires me to write blog about croc wrangling (and how I'd probably get killed if I dabbled in it. )It's win-win. I get material, he gets publicity. My first challenge? Write an entry about blogging.
Why do I blog? Many reasons. I like to write and draw. Someone with similar interests (or experiences) may enjoy it. My friends claim it's amusing. The blog itself is a friend, listening to my rants, opinions, and ideas.

Finally, blogging feeds my inner narcissist- that shameless "Hey everybody! Look at me!" slice of my ego. But that's just me...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Words Appear, Words Vanish

My last entry mentioned a "possessed" kid whom I thought was faking. I (and others before me) thought he was jiggling the bed, throwing things, tipping furniture, and doing the bad language bit. No supernatural assistance required.
But, what about the witnesses who saw words appear on his skin?
How could he fake that?
It's easy.
Scratched skin takes twenty to forty seconds to turn pink.
I originally included some tips on how to etch a short lived note on your palm (without causing an injury). This was followed with instructions on how to use this schtick to freak out your friends.
Then I feared they would be misconstrued by some idiot as instructions for carving himself up like a scored ham and I'd get blamed.
I can hear the prosecuting attorney now:
"This monster, Namowal, deliberately lures innocent children with cute pictures, then leads the poor lambs down the road to satanic mutilation..." Bleh.
I removed the instructions and replaced them with an idiot proof plan:
If you want to have a message appear on your skin, buy a tube of "mood" lipstick at the drug store and use it as your pen. It goes on clear then turns pink as it reacts to the pH of your skin.
Good luck with washing it off.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Exorcism! Booga Booga!

I don't believe in demonic possession, but I can understand why people dreamed up the notion. Before we knew about mental illness, Tourette's , epilepsy, sleep disorders (and in some cases, acting out for attention), it seemed the best explanation. Fred is cursing, talking nonsense and being unFredlike? Some other entity must be manipulating him.
Science has sniffed out non-supernatural explanations for weird and obnoxious behavior, but some people still believe.
Peter Blatty's famous book, The Exorcist, boasts: "Based on a True Story."
Was it? Sorta.
There was an exorcism or two performed on a boy in 1949. The operative word here is "performed," as I don't think any demons got the boot. Details can be found here, but in a nutshell it seems the kid was scratching walls, shaking the bed, throwing things and acting nasty. On his own.
It's interesting that demons or "Satan Himself" get credit for possessions. Satan's a bad guy, right? Evil personified. So when he takes over a kid's body, is he killing people? Lighting fires? Robbing banks? Blowing up buildings?
No, he's busy scratching a wall and shouting bad words. Amateur.
My two theories on this.
1. Satan is, in fact, a bratty preschooler.
2. (More likely) Demonic possession is hooey.
Note: Ironically, as I drew the Captain Howdy in Diapers pic, a radio show I was listening to unexpectedly jumped into a segment with music from the famous movie. Coincidence? Probably. I'd be more impressed if the computor monitor started spinning.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Customer Service

The plan was to spend my vacation sipping tea and watching finches and jays.
I bought bird feeder. Online. It came equipped with a squirrel deterrent that zapped them with a mild shock. Except the shocker didn't work. I switched batteries, reread the instructions, tinkered and swore. No shock.
I called customer service. That, like the feeder, didn't work.
For clarity I'll rewrite the conversation as if the item in question was a blender.

Namowal: The SuperBlend2000 isn't working. I flip the switch and the blades don't move

Next Available Service Representative: Did you plug it in?

Namowal: Yes

Next Available Service Representative: Did you turn it on?

Namowal: Yes

Next Available Service Representative: Did you charge the battery for twelve hours? Did you extend the antenna?

Namowal: It doesn't come with a battery charger or an antenna.

Next Available Service Representative: Did you chop a cup of strawberries in it?

Namowal: Of course not. The blades don't move. The moter doesn't run.

Next Available Service Representative: Try chopping up a cup of strawberries.

Namowal: That won't work. The blades don't move.

Next Available Service Representative: Maybe it looks like they don't move but if you threw some strawberries in there they'd blend up into a smoothie...

Why I didn't get snippy with her (or start screaming) I'll never know.
I do know that I have an expensive appliance that doesn't work from a company that insults my intelligence when I complain.
The new plan is to spend my vacation sipping tea and watching squirrels

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Amoeba Schoolteacher

Some coworkers have a bulletin board inviting others to make a drawing based on the theme "Amoeba Schoolteacher".
Here's my offering. Had to make it grey scale for printing purposes, as this was done on a tablet pc.
I need more grey scale practice. It looked good to me last night. Now it looks flat. Not enough contrast.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Goat & Monkey Eviction

My friends swear by astrology. I think it's hooey. Stars and planets are neat, but I can't see them calling the shots. How could they? Some say that we are affected by their gravitational force. I suppose if Jupiter were three feet away, said gravitational force (and radiation, temperature and chemical issues) would alter my day. But it's way the heck out there. 500+ million miles away. I bet my keyboard stronger gravitational tug on me.
It bothered me that my blogger profile had not only my astrological sign (Capricorn), but my Chinese astrological sign (Monkey). Anyone clicking my profile gets a "Hi I'm Namowal! I'm a Capricorn! I'm born in the Year of the Monkey! I take this stuff seriously!" message.
The other day I discovered I could lose the hocus pocus elements if I removed my birthday from my profile.
Bye Monkey. Bye Freaky Water Goat. Don't let the delete button hit you on the way out.

Friday, May 04, 2007

On the Floor Again

It happened again.
I was chatting with a coworker when the blood left my heed like water in a fleshing toilet (complete with the "whoosh! "noise). The room faded, as did my friend's voice...
"Hold it, I need to sit down," I interrupted.
"Exactly!" said my friend, "I was telling them that I really needed to sit down and... hey? You O.K. there?"
Everything went black- like I was yanked into a hole. I don't think I was completely out because I could still talk. Sorta. I gave them a rambling version of my "don't worry this happens all the time" speech. My friend and another coworker had put me on the floor so I wouldn't fall and smack my head. Seconds later I was fine. Funny how one can go from normal to a blob of Jell-O and back so quickly.
What's going on? Why is my brain pulling stupid tricks like this? It's embarrassing!
Note- since I wrote this post I had a chance to visit a doctor (who was nice enough to bill me at a discount since I'm not insured). The verdict: It's probably harmless since
1. It has been going on for 20 years without getting worse
2. It only happens when I'm standing up.
Yay! No medical tests! Whoohoo!
Wait, I still have this dumb problem. Oh well.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Luck is wasted on the Lucky.

I have a Threepenny Opera CD.
It was recorded in the early thirties.
To my horror, I did some research and found that one of the main singers had a terrible fate.
  1. He was a popular entertainer in Germany in the 20s and 30s*
  2. He was offered work in Hollywood but chose to stay home
  3. He fled to the Netherlands to escape the Nazis, who soon snatched him there
  4. At the concentration camp, the Nazis forced him to direct a shameless propaganda film about what a swell place it was. Cooperate or you and your family will be killed, the told him.
  5. When the film wrapped, they sent him and his family to the gas chamber anyway

Whoa! I told myself. That's ghastly! Cruel! Unfair!
And to think
you get unglued when you're stuck in traffic the computer freezes. Put things in perspective!
You're not in a death camp,aboard a slave ship, inside a burning building or under a bomb! Remember that, you self-absorbed jerk!

This should have been a profound moment, yet...

Luck is wasted on the lucky.

*I've kept his name and picture off the blog so I don't tarnish his image/memory with cartoons of me whining about the phone not working.