Wednesday, February 27, 2008

WWW: Wonderful World of Webbiness; part the first

Four weeks have passed of the six dark ones that that darned rodent in Pennsylvania cursed upon us, and so, what with the high price of broadband and gasoline, and the length of the writer's strike, the residents of Penguin Hall have become more introspect and brooding. While this may make the younger set seem deep and romantic, to Mrs. H., it merely reminds her of how much she longs for a larger library. The personal home computer (of which there are many in Penguin Hall) and the internet, however slow, has become the refuge of choice in their quest for novelty and knowledge. Here are some of the nuggets uncovered recently:

For the crowd that believes there is nothing new under the sun:
LoveToKnow 1911 This Classic Encyclopedia project works to bring to you the renowned 1911 Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (Ed. note: Interesting facts with a historical spin, though this editor admits to being baffled how 'diamond" was placed into the chemistry element catagory)

This one has a fun feature that allows you to make comparison charts, pitting one city against another:

More wacky webfun to come, as the Monitor comes across it! Stay tuned!

WWW: Wonderful World of Webbiness; part the second

In olden days, all one needed to rally the crowd was a soapbox and a hearty set of lungs. A few decades ago, a Mister Microphone and a cheap reliable source of batteries were all that was required to annoy several hundred shoppers on a daily basis. But now, a new age has dawned. There is no end to the audience a creative malcontent can reach, because, thanks to the efficacy and the ready availability of webcams, you too can be a virtual Curmudgeon to the Millions.
Today, all any crackpot with a complaint needs is a modem and a motive, and he (or she)'s in business. Once dominated by the younger crowd, Youtube is seeing a surge of seniors upon whom, apparently, time weighs heavily. They seek not their own fifteen minutes of fame, but rather fifteen seconds, since most of the geriactic grumps are still clinging defiantly to dial-up.
Some examples from the web:

Job has nothing on this gal: One Woman's Story; I Can't Open It is the story of Millie and her sunny disposition despite an obvious life of constant frustration and impediments. (This editor wasted an entire hour the other morning watching videos of Millie's consumer product epiphanies, along with her ever-patient videographer, Steve.)

Big Daddy Malcontent:
Whose complete profile is "I am unhappy with the way things are". 'Nuff said.

Curmudgeons of the World, Unite! In a favorite post: "Then there is Lee Siegel’s “Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob,” which inveighs against the Internet for encouraging solipsism, debased discourse and arrant commercialization. Mr. Siegel, one might remember, was suspended by The New Republic for using a fake online persona in order to trash critics of his blog (“you couldn’t tie Siegel’s shoelaces”) and to praise himself (“brave, brilliant”)."

Send any new finds to the Penguin Hall Monitor for future reference; and remember: If you saw it on the web, it must be true!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Off to the Carrier Dome to watch Ian dribble

March Madness is very nearly upon us, so when the Explorer's Post (the mentoring arm of Lockheed Martin in Syracuse) offered a tour of the Carrier Dome to the first 26 explorers to reply, the Halls were right there in line. Mrs. H. joined Masters Chris and Ian for the tour Monday, as they wandered the great white arena.
The tour started out in the pressbox, and offered a great view of the playing field. The Carrier Dome just finished installing their new artificial turf and everything looked lush and green. A short walk from the pressbox were the luxury suites, with their private boxes and elegant bars. Then, peeling off shoes and boots, the crowd descended to the actual courts, and for fifteen minutes or so, indulging in some Walter Mitty moments, pretended to be athletic. Considering all the hours Mr. and Mrs. H. have spent yelling at the players down on the field, it was a real change of pace to be looking up at the stands instead. On to the locker rooms and finally, a visit to the supervisor in charge of maintenance and engineering, for a discourse on the hard facts and figures of running a huge sports facility.
Chris and Ian have both participated in the Explorer's Post programs for some time; through the mentoring programs provided by Lockheed Martin, they have enjoyed an early education in programming, electronics and mechanical problem solving. Usually, in the spring, the post sponsors a series of tours and this was the second in the series. Next month: Channel 10 and the Time Warner building, and coming soon in May; the tour Ian has been waiting for: 174th Fighter Wing. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Winter Doldrums

There are only so many times one can shovel the driveway, check out the frost patterns on the garage window and knock the ice off the wheel wells of one's car, before winter begins to close in and feel oppressive. So, to beat the icy blues, Mr. and Mrs. Hall, accompanied by Master Ian, de-iced the Cadillac and headed for the Syracuse Car Show. Once inside the glittery confines of the OnCenter, with all the flash of chrome and steel that Detroit could muster, the heart warms and the pulse quickens, and suddenly we are all Mr. Toad again, in blissful awe of the majesty and menace of the Motor Car.
There were a few concept cars present; it's always fun to see what designers think will be the "next big trend", but it was the interactive vehicles that were catching the crowd's attention. Mrs. H. took a turn at one of Ford's new "Sync" sedans, a vehicle that was supposed to behave like "Hal" in 2001, by responding to vocal commands. Unfortunately, it behaved just like Hal; much to the demonstrator's consternation. It steadfastly refused to obey any of the voiced commands that anyone gave it, and continued to play the selections it chose instead.
Ian looked dashing in the Hummer H2, but his heart was wrapped around owning a muscle car, and the new Mustang Bullet was his muscle of choice. It was all Mr. H. could do to get him to move on and relinquish the driver’s seat to another; and this was only accomplished by the promise of entering him in the new virtual reality race car competition that was going on in the ballroom. After several laps however, Master Ian consoled himself with the thought that while he wasn’t able to place in the money, he was able to knock a considerable number of contestants off the track.
It is the custom of the Halls, on car show visits, to acquire every brochure imaginable, then retire after the show to Doc’s for a late night snack, and spread the booklets all over the booth; happily, this year was no exception. And even though, later on that night, the winter snows were swirling about Penguin Hall; as Master Ian closed his eyes, the warm sunshine shone down, the heavenly purr of the massive DOHC V-8 engines propelled him forward as he gripped the wheel, and the road opened wide ahead of him….

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Hoppin' Hall Around

Another weekend and another round of appearances for the Halls! Saturday was wet and drizzly, but the Cadillac hardly had time to cool down. A recuperating Mrs. Nutting was present for this week’s OES meeting, and it was indeed a pleasure to see her in the East. Mrs. Hall had presided over the last meeting in her absence, and was happy to hand back the gavel. However, the good deeds of the past did not afford her any immunity in the present; Mrs. H. was tapped again to chair the Rummage Sale in June. Mrs. Hall was quoted as saying, she was glad to do it; the work was well worth the effort. Anything to get the basement emptied- cleaning out the catacombs at Penguin Hall, she remarked, could have qualified as one of the labors of Hercules; and given the age of some of the collections down there, it might very well have been one.
The meeting was a short, but interesting one. Mr. Avery Weedlock, of Weedlock Amusements, gave a fascinating lecture on the history of the Ferris Wheel in America. Any speech that begins with the declaration, “I’m a Carny, my father was a carny, and his father before him was a carny,” is sure to be a colorful story. The Halls would have loved to listen all day, but were off as soon as Mr. Weedlock took his bow, and straight into town for the next fĂȘte.
The parishioners of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were having a birthday party for Monsignor Gleba Saturday night, and it was quite a turnout. Approximately 120 or so guests were treated to Ernie’s Lakeland CafĂ© catering in the lunchroom of the old Sacred Heart School. The Halls were seated next to Fr. Dudciewicz and Fr. Matula, along with the other usual suspects from church. The good monsignor turned 81 last week and the boisterous crowd regaled him with toasts, songs and stories, both in English and Polish. He is a powerful presence at the basilica and a fierce defender of its heritage in Syracuse. The Halls dragged themselves home late; weary and fat from the hearty provisions of the evening.
Easter is scheduled early this year, and that means Lent will be likewise; so Transfiguration Church was having its Mardi Gras luncheon on Sunday. Actually, the holiday is really irrelevant; the luncheons at Transfiguration always have the same fare whether it is St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween: pierogies, kielbasa, kraut, pickles, black rye and a jelly filled donut for dessert. All washed down to the tune of an accordion player and several spritely polkas. There was quite a crowd there, but despite the fact that the Halls were held in a holding pattern for several minutes in the parking lot, they still managed to stay on their flight plan and made their scheduled stopover at Digger’s for the Superbowl!
“Digger” used to be the sextant and grave digger over at the old Sacred Heart Cemetery in Geddes, but a series of health issues led to his taking his leave from the position. His wonderful family, however, remains prominent at Sacred Heart and happily for the Halls, counts them as friends and perennial guests at his football blowout. Entrance to the party, as the regulars all know, is through the garage, affording easy access to his rec room downstairs. Every available space on the wall, that hasn’t already been given to either a nostalgic bar sign or a sports memorabilia, is taped over with gambling grids. The twenty-five or so guests (and countless other outside gamblers) have bet on everything from the scores from every conceivable stop, to appreciation of the commercials and half time show, to the level of nudity the network will allow since the “wardrobe malfunction” incident three years ago.
Dropping off some bottled beverages and store-bought drollery to contribute to his collection, the Halls took their usual perches at the bar and joined the raucous throng. This year, the Hall’s bets all went to “the good of the order”, but Digger himself (shades of a “fix”??) won big on some of the hundred dollar boards at the Polish Home, and in a surprise entry, Sister Melanie won twenty five dollars on the halftime squares. Mrs. H would have rather seen the Packers in the game instead of the Giants, but she didn’t care who it was, as long as they beat the Patriots; so the house was positively shaking with cheers when the Giants managed to pull a miracle out of their hats and take the championship. (Mr. Hall said he was only marginally interested in the outcome of the contest, but was there primarily for Henry’s horseradish-laced deviled eggs.) Hugs and handshakes and not a little money changing all around, and it was time to point the big black car towards home.

Tell your friends!