Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Saguaro Question

I'm heading out to the Phoenix area for the latter half of this week, and I can't remember if there is much in the way of saguaro cactus in the area. I last drove across Arizona about five years ago, and I definitely remember big swaths of saguaros down near Tucson, but I can't remember seeing many near Phoenix. If I check the various web pages on the saguaro, they show its distribution continuing up around the Phoenix area, but they don't really say how abundant it is there. Are there just isolated stands around Phoenix, or are there any big forests of them within an hour's drive or so? How about any big forests of them near other sights worth seeing?Photo from http://www.azwild.org/newsletter/2003_02_shortakes.shtml
UPDATE: I didn't see any saguaro forests as thick as the ones farther south in Arizona, but there are a lot of saguaros around town, and when I headed northeast of Scottsdale along AZ-87, there were a pretty good number of them as the elevation rose from maybe about the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation to a few miles before Sunflower, where they stopped abruptly.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Chrysler to be Ruled by Fiat?

So, what do you folks think about the various plans for the American auto industry? Today's news says that Chrysler has reached a deal with the UAW and is nearing a deal with Fiat, while meanwhile GM will undergo a major restructuring where it'll be mostly owned by the UAW and the government, phase out the Pontiac brand, and sell or phase out Saturn, Hummer, and Saab.

I don't make any pretense about having any kind of expertise on this subject, just a few thoughts to bounce off of the rest of you to get your input. If a company (or bank) is too big to fail, they're too big to exist. Split them up instead of merging them. GM currently sells cars in the U.S. under the Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Cadillac, GMC, Saturn, Hummer, and Saab marques, while internationally they also sell as Vauxhall, Opel, Daewoo, and Holden. That's way too many and just screams "bloat" to me. It seems to me that we'd have a healthier manufacturing sector if we had many smaller auto manufacturers rather than three big ones. Here's why:
  1. Fewer layers of management between the top and the design, sales, and labor side would make for more responsive companies,
  2. More companies in the market would allow for more real specialization toward different niches, and more competition between companies,
  3. Failure by one company would not create such an industrywide collapse, and
  4. Barriers to entry by start-up companies would be lower.
Another point is that if the federal government is to be a big owner of GM, then GM needs to act in the taxpayers' interests. And part of that would be that GM needs to prioritize making cars that aren't as bad for the environment, ones that use less gas and/or alternative energy sources, create fewer harmful emissions, and are made from raw materials extracted using more environmentally sound methods. And hey, how about retooling some of the car-building factories and retraining some of the car-building workers to making buses or mass-transit systems?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amusing Lists

Cracked.com seems to have read my mind and determined that I'll read any online article as long as it's presented in the form of a numbered list. My favorites, thus far, are (not really in order):
  1. The 7 Most Impressive (and Depressing) Geek Collections
  2. 17 More Images You Won't Believe Aren't Photoshopped
  3. 5 Real-Life Soldiers Who Make Rambo Look Like a Pussy
  4. 5 Things You Think Will Make You Happy (But Won't)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Not Available on Amazon

1. You can find DVDs of Don Hertzfeldt's great animated films on his own website, along with T-shirts, etc. Amazon only has used copies for much more money.2. This MySpace page features several unreleased Oingo Boingo songs as well as several video clips of the band.
MORE: Dig that 1982 clip of Boingo miming performances of "Nothing to Fear" and "Grey Matter" on MV3. MV3 was a local show that ran on Channel 9, featuring people dancing in a studio while bands performed and videos played. I didn't have MTV but would watch this just about every afternoon after school. Notably, it had more local music and a much stronger New Wave bent than was popular nationwide. The lineup of videos from the day of Boingo's performance, as seen in the credits:
  1. Calling All Girls by Hilly Michaels,
  2. Destination Unknown by Missing Persons,
  3. White Wedding by Billy Idol,
  4. Mental Hopscotch by Missing Persons,
  5. Genius of Love by the Tom Tom Club,
  6. Shock the Monkey by Peter Gabriel,
  7. Talk to Ya Later by the Tubes, and
  8. Only the Lonely by the Motels.

ALSO: The same guy with the clips above has more stuff available here.

Against hypocrisy

Lawrence O'Donnell takes on Pat Buchanan over the opposition to Obama speaking at Notre Dame that didn't appear when George W. Bush spoke there.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

R.I.P., Dave Arneson

Just a little over a year ago, Gary Gygax died. And now we learn, via BoingBoing, that Dave Arneson, the other co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons, has passed away as well. Arneson wasn't as famous as Gygax and didn't popularize the game the way he did, but from all reports he was just as instrumental in developing the basic rules of D&D as Gygax was. That's understating things, though: he was just as instrumental in developing the entire concept of role-playing games as Gygax was. That's a pretty remarkable feat, if you think about it. Here's a nice cartoon tribute.

Another tribute to Arneson is that back in 2007 when I was collecting old D&D products off of eBay, I never did manage to win an auction for the DA ("Dave Arneson") series of modules; they were consistently some of the most sought-after (and, hence, expensive) titles out there.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

In the news

1. Johann Hari visits Dubai and writes about how it is a dictatorship built on slave labor.

2. Chimpanzees exchange meat for sex.

3. Parking guru Donald Shoup talks about Los Angeles.

4. Sasha Frere-Jones discusses differences between the American and British music scenes.

5. The Wyoming State Library promoted its online database of Chilton auto-repair manuals by distributing stickers and posters to auto-repair shops of the mudflap silhouette lady reading a book.

ALSO (4/9/09): 6. An old racist who used to burn crosses and beat up civil rights advocates is apologizing for his past.