The Occasional Joke

Nurse: Patient's name?

Centurion: Marcus Licinius Crassus

Nurse: And his date of birth?

Centurion: 115 BC.

Nurse: All right. And what is he here for?

Centurion: Cataphract surgery.

Friday, May 6, 2011

TFS suffers kitchen fire

But never fear, Ann Arbor's prime spot for grease is back on line today, according to

TFS is, of course, the Parthenon Restaurant, one of the last great Greek artery-clogging establishments left in downtown A2. Along with a few other places, we used to go there on Friday nights, after the Old Town, simply because you could always walk in with a crowd and get seated -- I don't think the management had ever heard of reservations.

One night, as we were consuming our gyros, pastitsio, dolmades, etc., there came one of those pauses in the conversation that sometimes happen, not just at our table but all over the restaurant. Into the middle of this silence came the comment, spoken in a normal tone of voice by a gentleman at a nearby table, "This food sucks." Ever since then, the Parthenon has been known to we few, we happy few, we band of brothers as TFS.

God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for molecular gastronomy,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet pounded lamb in pita wrapp'd,
With tzadziki lapp'd,
I am the most offending soul alive.

Here endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

More scientific flaps

This weekend, we hope to see Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams, filmed under extreme conditions within Chauvet cave. Besides the remarkable images themselves there is the equally remarkable claim that they are in the realm of 30,000 years old, twice the age of other dated cave paintings. This is being hotly disputed by at least one expert who says, in effect, "no they ain't!" He criticizes the dating work (C14 dating of organics in the cave walls.) The original researchers countered with DNA analysis of cave bear skulls found in situ and compared with the believed extinction date of said bears. They now argue that a) some of the images in Chauvet are of cave bears and b) the latest possible date for live cave bears is 24,000 years back, so there. The other side of the debate calls this analysis "sloppy" and says the images are brown bears, not cave bears, anyway.

Me, I don't have an opinion. Maybe I will after I see the movie.

More interesting (to me, probably alone) is a controversy over the authenticity of some lead flippy-card documents found in Jordan, the so-called lead codices. Like the extra-terrestrial life claim of a couple months back, the media picked up on one press release and ran with it, without, apparently, looking very closely into the background of the person who released it. "The 'British archaeologist' who is named as apparently trying to get these things into a Jordanian museum and who is one of the few who has actually seen them, one David Elkington, is not an archaeologist ... He doesn't seem to occupy any post or other academic position, and his writings on how acoustic resonance is responsible for major world religions wouldn't be accepted by any academic or scholar I know ..."

Here we go again.

2011 5 9: Wikipedia has an entry for this nonsense, which seems to be doing a good job of collecting the links as they accumulate. Jordan appears to be agitating about getting the so-called codices back, since they are alleged to have been found there. The general attitude of others seems to be that Jordan is welcome to them.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Interesting week

Since Thursday, April 28th, we have seen:
  • The long-anticipated birth of my grandson, Orion James
  • The unexpected death of an old, old college friend of mine
  • The rendering for hog fat of Donald Trump at the White House Correspondent's Dinner
  • Followed by an encore: the long-anticipated death of Osama Bin Laden
Mixed emotions would seem to be the order of the day. Orion James is (as far as pictures can demonstrate) a miniature version of his father, who, God help him, owes some of his genotype to me. Just as my parents certainly never thought, "Gosh, I hope he grows up to be a software manager(1)," so none of us can imagine what a boy born in 2011 might grow up to be. Organic cheese monger? Backwoods guide (in twenty years, nobody will live in the country anymore -- you'll need a Leatherstocking to show you the way through the woods.) CEO of the first social networking company to promulgate messages in iambic pentameter (pentwitameter?) If he can manage to grow up to be happy, I'll be satisfied. (Although he could be in the minority.)

My friend Mike was from the Upper Peninsula, a musician, occasional radio host, and a man with a combined cynicism and big-heartedness that exceeded anything I'd encountered. He was helping one of his daughters with a move and had a heart attack. There is a group of us, friends from the appalling seventies, who have stayed in touch; Mike is the first direct loss. What a shame.

As far as the Correspondents' Dinner goes, you can see the videos all over the internet. Obama has some damned good writers working for him, and his comedic timing has improved. If you haven't seen any of it, it's worth looking up the highlights, just as an demonstration of brains versus money. If the Trump bubble isn't burst by now, then I weep for my country.

And then, almost the next day, we announce that we got Osama. And we got him with special operations, JSOC, specifically SEAL Team Six, not with Rolling Thunder, Shock n' Awe, or drone strikes. Some individual (forever anonymous, I hope, for his or her sake) hit Bin Laden with a pair of small arms rounds. The operation, as it's being reported, was classic special operations work; a small force, trained to the maximum, inserted and recovered by helicopter. No Ospreys. No tanks. In and out and gone, all conducted far inside the borders of a country we're not at war with.

It was a needful thing. You can't perpetrate something like 9/11 and not reap personal consequences. It's a very important message for the world to hear: we can find you, and we can come and get you. It may take a while ... But far more than just removing bin Laden himself, the assault demonstrates a waning of al-Qaida's influence with Pakistan. It seems very unlikely that we could have brought the attacking force as deeply into the country as Abbottabad without their agreement.

It does, I admit, make the uprisings in the Middle East a bit more concerning -- if al-Qaida has to go looking for a new home, a country that has just ousted a western-backed dictator makes a good starting point. Of course, our old pals the Russkies, wouldn't be unhappy to have a bit more distance between al-Qaida and, say, Chechnya. That should be worth something.

Anyway, a mixed week. Congratulations to Pat and Charlotte (proud parents.) Condolences to Mike's daughters. No condolences to Trump. And congratulations to the special operations community; regardless of the circumstances, they pulled it off.
(1) That's as specific as I can be, without slashes, commas, or semicolons, about what I've spent my career doing.