Saturday, December 30, 2006

String Theory not new

I've been a bit of closet scientist ever since I watched that Nova special on PBS called The Elegant Universe. That string theory explains a lot to me, even of my limited conceptual basis. I may not be a Stephen Hawking, but I am intelligent. Conceptualizing the universe has been something this Star Trek-Star Wars-Doctor Who-Dune-comic book-time travel geek has done for a long, long time.

String theory opens the door easily for parellel universes. Star Trek had the mirror universes. Doctor Who had E-space. And this comic panel from an early Justice League of America comic book explains in a nutshell the comic book concept of parallel universes, thus defining 65+ years of history and the 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths and the recent Infinite Crisis.

What I am debating with myself here is:
Is string theory all that diabolically new or are they just proving past theories right?
I may not know enough here to truly answer this question. Just talking out loud.
(Also, I love how string theory also proves right the ancient theory of a "music of the spheres."

Friday, December 29, 2006

Back order #2

Then my other back order is the Star Wars Jedi Training on Dagobah Battle Pack. This is one of my favorite parts of all the movies. The mysticism of the Force was in full play and Yoda was just so awesome to a seven year-old-kid.

I keep thinking that if they made a full Cantina scene action figure pack from A New Hope, I'd be all over that one too.

Back order #1

I was just checking out my items on back order at cool online toy store Entertainment Earth.

This one has been on backorder since September, as it is not to be released until February 2007. It is the Star Wars Imperial Death Star Briefing Action Figure Set.
It includes Grand Moff Tarkin, General Tagge, Admiral Motti, Chief Bast, Colonel Wullf Yularen, Officer Cass, and of course Darth Vader armed with his trademark red lightsaber. I didn't even know these characters had names. What makes this a bonus is that one of the families living the floor below, the Mrs. has a Star Wars buff. We were trying to stump each other and she asked for the name of Grand Moff Tarkin, one that I did know, but then we stumped each other thinking about the others in the room at that time. Who exactly was it that said, "You don't frighten us with your sorcerous ways, Lord Vader," only to then be choked via the Force?

Was it General Tagge?

Check it out for yourself. Star Wars Imperial Death Star Briefing Action Figure Set

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Blogger vs Word Press

All right, I already like the ease of Word Press on my Ambrosia comics blog better than the Blogger interface.

It's not too late to change over completely, but I like having one site. You should have seen how tempermental I became over losing my aol email address. Same first part, mjb0123, but losing that seemed to be changing everything. That's why I like my Yahoo address. It doesn't matter how I access the internet, the address is the same and that's the way it should be.

I do like segregating my comics geek-dom to my Ambrosia blog. Those that like the comics stuff don't want to read about my life (probably not) and those that know me don't want to read about the comics stuff (probably not). They are two different worlds. Granted, comics are a big part of my life and always have been. However, like any closet geek, I try to keep that stuff below the surface.

I say "try to" because I know I can't. I'm proud of the knowledge I've accumulated, whether it be in the comics field or not. The comics field has simply been a boon, especially recently, to bigger and better things, like blockbuster movies. Spider-Man, X-Men, Superman, Batman, and countless other movies that you wouldn't think were first comic books unless you knew like A History of Violence, Road to Perdition, V for Vendetta, etc. I feel like I just know what the true stories are. They were all first told simply to tell a story. Comics was their medium, a very visual one. Others liked it, optioned it, and they became movies, especially in the wake of the technological advances of recent years to make Spider-Man really swing on that web.

Ultimate dream? I mean, ULTIMATE dream? I would be the Roger Ebert of comic books.

It's starting, bit by bit. Creators mail me comics straight up now for review. I get electronic files too. I've been quoted on other websites. Maybe it's a bit much, but I know this medium. There was one point as I was graduating high school to a couple of years after, when I even subscribed to and read the weekly Comics Buyer's Guide when it was still in newsprint form, that I pretty much knew everything about comic books. I could tell you who the inker was before seeing the credits. I could tell you who the letterer was, for Pete's sake, the person who just wrote the words in the dialogue balloons.

I just want to use this accumulated knowledge. If it helps a real creator get exposed, wonderful. If it helps someone simply find a decent read, terrific. It's my hobby so it gives me a creative outlet too.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

New blog at Ambrosia

My new comics blog is up and running at Ambrosia Digicomics. It too is called The Butcher Shop. This could be the next big thing. Now all I have to do is get used to Word Press.

Anyway, if you like comics or a good read, go there. Support us!

Happy Break

Boy, was it COLD this morning here in Nome. Negative 16 degrees, with a wind chill that is still currently -26.

Other than that, we've been playing a lot of "Brarbies," as Madison says Barbies. I became very good at removing all her new Barbies from the packaging, which includes a ton of twisties and other things that hold the doll up in the box. I've also become pretty good at dressing a Barbie doll, something I've never done before. Action figures never had much clothing changes. The girls also received a new Barbie doll house from Santa. That means a ton of fun picking up all these new Barbie accessories!

Personally, I must have been very good this year. I received the Complete The Thin Man Collection (all the Thin Man movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles--I LOVE these movies) and the Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection featuring all the cool later movies of his career. I think now I have most of Hitch's stuff.

Amy received her really nice slippers from Maruskiya's downtown, made of sealskin, caribou and beaver. They're really nice and warm, almost too warm, she says.

Morgan received her new 1GB iPod. Amy and I are now fighting over her Shuffle.
And we are enjoying a break that lasts until January 8th. Ahhh.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Morning After...Xmas

We always dress up the kids in similar outfits for Christmas Eve. That's their one Christmas Eve present. They looked so cute together!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Big News, at least for me...

Independent Propaganda, the place I have been reviewing independent comics and webcomics, recently announced an off-shoot company website. It's called Ambrosia Digicomics and it will be a host for comics creators and webcomics. The amazing part for me is that I will be able to have a comics-related blog on the site because of my affiliation with IP since the beginning. I will be able to do little posts on comics, mainly to get them off The Butcher Shop here ('cuz no one reads them here anyway) and to do little posts in conjunction with full-on reviews at IP.

However, the big news here is that big-time fan favorite comic author WARREN ELLIS will also be publishing webcomics and a blog at the site. Anyone that knows comics has read this author of Transmetropolitan, Planetary, Fell, some Hellblazer, and multiple other comics from Marvel, DC, and indy publishers. This is a major coup for IP editor Wesley Green. Also, this means that my stuff may be seen and read more. That's all I want: a little dialogue and discussion about this crazy medium of comics.

I know I will never be able to quit my job to write comic reviews. I know that I will never be able to quit my job do any writing. Nevertheless, maybe it can become supplemental. No, I don't make any money right now but I do get a ton of free comics, print and electronic. It's what I love, dammit. I love this medium so much that I want to write about it and talk about it with others. It's what I know, especially after 25 years of reading comics. That's right, 25 years, one-quarter of a century, because I remember specifically getting several DC and Marvel comics back in the early 1980s. If others will read my column, that's all I want.

I, Matt Butcher, will be featured on the same site as Warren Ellis. This is a break. This means bigger and better things are coming.


iTunes turns out to be a really cool little company.

My computer crashed recently. Went out. Gone. Couldn’t even boot. I had to use the restore discs and completely reformat it, sending it all back to its original specifications. This problem, which we still don’t exactly know what happened, caused us to lose any and all files that were on the computer that weren’t backed up.

This also meant all our music files. While I do have a great portion of my CDs backed up onto five DVD-ROM discs, and was able to burn a few of the iTunes songs onto CD-Rs, we bought roughly 125 songs (and albums) over the past couple of years that simply were not backed up. I bought the new Bob Dylan album this year and unfortunately never backed it up. I bought a bunch of singles that we have heard off and on that were never backed up. While it definitely was my fault for not backing up, this raised a question to me about buying songs.

When I bought from iTunes, was I buying a one-time mp3 download, or was I buying the rights to the song?

As I looked through the Apple iTunes faqs, I began to feel downtrodden. It appeared, from everything that I read, that I was buying a one-time download. Darn, I thought to myself. I’m out 125 songs. I thought I would have to re-purchase songs like “Evil” by Interpol that I never burned but listened to as I typed out my comic reviews.

I emailed iTunes support anyway. I explained the situation, wondering if there was anything I could do. No harm in asking, right?

Turns out, iTunes emailed me back. They asked first if I had already synced the songs into an iPod and then I could just reverse-sync them back to the computer. No, I explained. I don’t even have an iPod. My daughter has an iPod Shuffle but I really don’t care whether she gets her Crazy Frog or Disney songs back. I wanted my copy of “Almost” by Bowling for Soup, “Kiss This Thing Goodbye” by Del Amitri, and “Remind Me” by Royksopp (that Geico caveman commercial).

Being super cool, and admitting that this was a one-time only exception, they put the 125 songs back into my account for re-download. They expressly told me to make sure to back up and continue to do so on a regular basis.

Oh, I will! Even though by all respects, accounts, and agreements that I checked off as I used the iTunes software, the company permitted me a second chance after my foul up.

I still want to debate the ethical conundrum of downloading songs or downloading the rights to songs, though.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Quyanamiik Krismisik ilitnun
Quyasunmi suli
Nutaanmi uqiunmila!

(Merry Christmas to you and a Happy New Year!)
Mr. Welch and I did a door decoration for the contest among the staff, or sort of an anti-decoration. You'll note our used socks, complete with coal coming out of the holes, along with candy canes fixed with duct tape and a half-destroyed piece of garland. We won an award for "Most Pity-full" and we're afraid that they spelled it that way for lack of knowing the actual spelling.

One of the counselors put together this map of the staff and where the graduated from, both high school and college, from around the states.
The Native Youth Organization then put on a little skit. They brought it in under a sheet so no one could see. Then in the fashion of Tim Conway's "Dorf," they put on a mini-holiday skit, actually performing classic native dancing in these little guises. Kind of funny, especially if you know them all.

Nome assembly

Nome had a holiday program today. Here is our student council president as host, in her kuspuk.
Then we had the pleasure of listening to the Inupiaq Choir and heard "Joy to the World" in Inupiaq.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Shortest day of the year

For anybody out there complaining about the amount of sunlight today on the winter solstice:

Nome, Alaska

Sunrise: 12:03 pm

Sunset: 3:57 pm

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Morgan's Christmas Concert

The elementary school had their Christmas concert, or probably called Holiday Program, tonight. I couldn't take visible pictures with the lighting that was in there but I did manage to get a couple of the atmosphere.

Morgan participated with her flute in the rest of the sixth grade class. She also strummed on a guitar during the special song with several other students. She and her friend Cecilia were also chosen to do a special duet together on their flutes, just the two of them.

Underdog: The Movie. This could be interesting. I loved loved loved the cartoon as a kid, where I would run home after school to catch it. I even bought that Underdog vinyal figure from Entertainment Earth earlier this year. From this poster, it appears to look like those Garfield movies. Madison and Morgan will love this (and I will too).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Author comes to Nome

I had the pleasure of having Jim Burnett, author of Hey Ranger!, come and talk to my second hour senior class. Since that class is actually called English IV Writing, I thought it would be neat to have a real author talk about getting published and that what we learning in class was really valuable after high school.

He was incredibly informative and interesting to listen to. The main point was that hopefully some of the kids would start writing NOW as opposed to waiting until years and years later.

Thanks, Jim.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I will become Van Gogh

I want to take a knife and carve this thing out of my right ear!

I still have this ear infection and am on amoxicillin. The problem is that it does not seem to be getting any better and my hearing is very poor. I feel like I have a big wad of cotton inside my ear, or I'm lying on the ground with a heavy pillow over my head. I can't hear very well at all and it is bugging the hell out of me.

I am not one for ear infections. In fact, I don't think I have ever had one before in my whole life (that I know of). So I want to be just like Vincent Van Gogh and cut off the offending ear.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Virus or what?

We don't know what the hell happened but our computer got sick Saturday afternoon. I was actually with the kids trying to put together our gingerbread house kit (which failed miserably and now we have chunks of gingerbread to just eat), and the screen on the computer went to some strange blue screen. It simply would not boot up anymore to Windows after repeated attempts and we scoured the apartment looking for the Recovery Disks. With a heavy heart, I went through the Recovery Disks, even though they were giving me a problem and I thought the entire computer crashed and burned. They went through, basically reformatting the entire system and deleting any and all stuff we had on the hard drive. All the pictures, gone. All our documents, gone. All the music, gone.

Stop right now and back up files on your hard drive. Do whatever you need to do, system recovery disks, move docs and files to a CD-R, whatever. Do it now.

Imagine everything on your computer being gone right now.

That was our Saturday night.

Luckily, we have most of our programs on hard copy CDs. I have a bunch of stuff saved to my other Yahoo email address (all I do is email myself files every so often--you get one GB of space, so why not? I think I am even going to open up a third Yahoo address).

Saturday, December 16, 2006

When I saw the video last night for Weird Al Yankovic's "White and Nerdy," you wouldn't believe how hard I laughed at this spot. He goes into a back alley and buys from a seedy character a brown bag filled with a bootleg copy of the Star Wars Holiday Special from 1977. Ahh, apparently, I am the epitome of this song. I remember buying a copy of this same bootleg, minus the homegrown video sleeve, at the 1992 Comicon with my buddies Scott and Brian. We thought it was such a cool find, especially when it has the first appearance of Boba Fett in a cartoon, well before he was seen in Empire Strikes Back. Yes, we cringed at the singing Bea Arthur, but I think we were trying to be completists. I guess I am just "White and Nerdy." Now I have documentation of this. For Weird Al to put this in here is just the funniest and most appropriate thing ever. Absolutely classic. See the whole video at
Cold here in Nome right now, a real cold snap that is lucky to get up past positive five degrees. I still have this massive cotton-wad feeling in my right ear. I am on amoxicillin, the first antibiotics I have been on in at least fifteen years. Hopefully it works fast because I can barely hear students at school. And thank goodness today is Friday once again. Nearing the end of the semester too, with a couple weeks of Christmas break thrown in the middle. That's another nice bonus of being a teacher--the Christmas break!

I will be showing my senior English class the Dead Poets Society movie next week, my way of showing that theme permeates all stories, not just written literature. Bunch of ulterior motives abound, especially the fact that this movie helped me make the decision to become an English teacher--it solidified that love of literature and ideas, especially the one line Robin Williams says: "We let the poems drip from our tongues, like honey." The other day, I showed them that clip from Saturday Night Live of Rev. Jesse Jackson reading Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham, from right after Theodore Geisel passed away. I think I pleasantly shocked a bunch of them into understanding that even Dr. Seuss may contain a great message. You may just have to look beneath it a bit. That was a pretty awesome mini-lesson.

The sophomore English sections, however, are nearing that inevitable time where we will be reading plenty of short pieces and answering questions, in preparation of the Alaska state test called the HSGQE (High School Graduation Qualifying Exam). They have to pass it to graduate nowadays, just like the WASL in Washington. We will also be doing some on-demand writing to get them ready for that too. (Never become an English teacher--there is entirely way too much reading of drafts and essays to do. When the due date comes, I cringe because it is like assigning myself a book to read, sometimes one I don't even want to read: 70 sophomores times 1-2 page essays--it's a book!)

Personally, I have a ton of comic reviews to write. Viper Comics and Goodbum Studios just sent me packages to review and I got on the Dark Horse Comics ftp for them to send me pdf files of books to read and review. All pretty cool but a lot of work. One day, I may get paid for this gig. One day. Right now, it is just free comics, which nowadays is nothing to sneer at, price-wise.

Christmas is almost here. I have Amy all squared away, but her package hasn't arrived yet and it has me worried. I better go track it.

And we are having entirely too much fun right now telling Madison to be good or we'll call Santa.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Fred Hembeck takes bad puns to a whole new level.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Brisk below zero

Ah, we woke up to a brisk negative 15 degrees. You wouldn't want to stay outside too long today in Nome, Alaska.

I still have that horrible sinus buildup pressure in my right ear and it is bugging the hell out of me. I am going to have to go to the doctor after school today because it is simply irritating to no end.

Gotta go teach!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Final volleyball post

By the way...

Barrow won their second straight state championship on Saturday night. So we lost to the eventual state champs. Some consolation anyway.

Sick, ill

I have been out of it for a few days. Friday, I couldn't wait for the school day to be over, to come home and crash. I had that bone weary head cold that caught up to me. I even came home an hour early on Friday.

The rest of the weekend was not terrible but it was not good. I just couldn't shake it and didn't want to move too much. Good thing there was nothing going on this weekend to miss. I had, and still have, this horrible pressure in my ear and sinus area that feels like I flew somewhere and could never pop my ears.

Feeling no better at 6:30 am today, I made a decision that I couldn't do a full day at work. I called in for a sub. I was right because I felt horrible again about 10:00 am, actually sleeping straight through until 1:00 pm.

Hope to be better tomorrow. It was a good day today because the sophomores just started their new Inside Writing workbook called "Sentences and Paragraphs." The seniors are just working this week on a perfectly MLA-formatted essay on A Midsummer Night's Dream. So I would have been doing just a bunch of watching students today anyway.

Maybe I should have gotten that flu shot last month...


(To be published by Independent Propaganda:) Arcana Studio has been finding some phenomenal talent lately. I had the pleasure to converse with Joe Martino of JGM Comics and his upcoming book SHADOWFLAME.

First of all, please tell a little about the history of JGM Comics and some previous successes.

JGM Comics is a company I started back in 1995 to publish some comics with my characters. The first book I published was Shadowflame. It was a 4 issue mini-series that the current one is based on. I got in right after the speculator boom and number 1 issues weren’t selling like they did a year before that. I honestly think that if it came out a year earlier it would have sold much better. I put out 3 issues through JGM and one through CFD Productions. The last book was put out in 1997. That was around the time I started on Ripperman, which was released through Chanting Monks Press in October 2004. I have done some various pinups and covers for indy books. I also had a piece in the Dave Cockrum Tribute book which was a great surprise. We sent it just as a get-well type thing and Dave, Paty and Clifford Meth were nice enough to include it in the book.

What is different about Shadowflame that will make today’s comic reader pick it up?

It is a great story of redemption. Here you have a man who has lost everything he held dear in his life and is about to end it all. He finds out he is the last in a chosen line and is the Earth’s last and only hope. He has to put away his personal issues and become a champion of an entire planet. This gives him not only fantastic power but a reason to live.

How have you been selling your comics? I see the website mentions How did you get into Diamond Previews with the recent minimum solicitation?

The first Mini-series I did went through all the major distributors at the time. David Davidson and I put out an anthology type book through Comixpress called “New Age Tales of Alternate Adventures” around the same time Ripperman was published. My story revolved around 2 characters Crimson and Caress, who were sisters on the run from a government agency who are creating a team of Super Soldiers. They are also in issue 4 of the Shadowflame mini-series when Shadowflame fights Maldestrak to save the Earth. I try and sell on my site and through anyway possible. As for the Diamond solicitation, Sean (Arcana) handled that, which is great by me. It gives me the time to write, draw and talk with the fans.

What does JGM Comics mean by “comics like you used to read?”

My comic reading experience is based heavily from around 1983 to around 1989. But I am a big fan of 70’s comics as well. I still read comics, but to me, comics have lost a little bit of that magic
they used to have. Maybe I am getting to old but the stories don’t grab me like they used to. My comics are like comics that I used to read. Comics that I enjoyed and can still read and have that sense of wonder.

I see a lot of mention of Dave Cockrum on your site. What else has influenced you, either in the realm of comics or outside it?

Lots. Movies, comics, even music. I remember writing issue 4 of Shadowflame with the song “Raining Blood” from Slayer in my head. It was appropriate because Shadowflame was getting the snot beat out of him and I think it helps to set the mood, at least in my mind. I take inspiration from wherever I can. I am a huge Superman fan. When I was younger my main influences were Dave, John Byrne, George Perez, Neal Adams, Curt Swan and a bunch of others. I also watch a lot of movies. Dave was supposed to do a cover for Shadowflame #1. Unfortunately, since his passing, that will never happen. He was a great talent and although I didn’t know him personally, he was always a nice guy over email. His wife Paty as well. Very nice people.

What else does JGM have coming down the line?

I am working on finishing the 3rd issue script on Ripperman: Fates Warning. It is a 3 issue mini-series that takes place about a month after the Ripperman Graphic Novel. There will also be a few crossover one-shots that I am putting together now with Shadowflame and other indy characters. I’ll have more info on that soon.

I saw on the website that Ben Templesmith (of FELL fame) did a cover for your graphic novel RIPPERMAN. How did you score that?

I was a semi-frequent poster on Ben’s message board after Steven Perkins (Pacify) showed me some of his paintings. I emailed Ben and asked him. Ben is another great guy. That cover made the book for me. I was really excited when I saw the cover for the first time.

Also, please take a look at the phenomenal bust that is being made of SHADOWFLAME. Contact JGM COMICS at to order the comic book and/or the bust!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Eskimo nativitiy

Morgan bought this Eskimo nativity scene last week in downtown Nome. First of all, it is in an igloo. Then there are also not your average sheep and cows in the stable but a polar bear and a moose. It is such a neat piece.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Whitman begins as I re-begin

} Beginning My Studies
Beginning my studies the first step pleas'd me so much,
The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion,
The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love,
The first step I say awed me and pleas'd me so much,
I have hardly gone and hardly wish'd to go any farther,
But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic songs.

} Beginners
How they are provided for upon the earth, (appearing at intervals,)
How dear and dreadful they are to the earth,
How they inure to themselves as much as to any--what a paradox appears their age,
How people respond to them, yet know them not,
How there is something relentless in their fate all times,
How all times mischoose the objects of their adulation and reward,
And how the same inexorable price must still be paid for the same great purchase.

Another bad Freed Hembeck pun on the DC Universe, this one on the old DC Batman title called "The Brave and the Bold." I always thought it sounded like a soap opera...

I have found my gadget of the future. The Sony Portable Reader System PRS-500. Book-like quality to read on the go. At $350, still a bit pricey yet affordable. Don't know if I'll ever get one, but I want one. I have wanted a "toy" like this for a few years but with the new technology it has, this is the one. Maybe I can wish for one for my birthday next month, Nahhh, way too expensive right now. This is the future though, man.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Planetary Society

I recently joined the Planetary Society and have loved reading about the new astronomical issues. I am for more and more space exploration and think we need to put efforts towards it. I know it is hard to think about the money when Earth itself needs such work, but I find it to be of intellectual and human developmental importance. (Plus, Stephen Hawking said last year that mankind may not survive the century without finding other planets to live on--it's true that he said that!) This is an email I received that asks for more help to further space exploration.

Dear Member,

The disastrous anti-science, anti-exploration agenda
being foisted on NASA and Space Science has become more
dangerous than we ever imagined possible.

And the chief architect of this alarming trend is the
U.S. Administration.

Today, I am personally asking you to help fend off
these attackers.

Once you've read about these outrageous new assaults on
Space Science and on Exploration, I'm sure you'll want
to do everything you can to help fight back.

First, the Administration made devastating cuts to
the Space Science budget. This gave Congress and NASA
head Mike Griffin the clear message that science -
and the great adventure of robotic space exploration -
must no longer be an important part of NASA's mission.

In order to keep its supposed promise of "pay-as-you-go"
for its Vision for Space Exploration, the Administration
chose to slash funds and cancel planetary exploration
missions already in the works. Funds earmarked for
science research at universities and laboratories across
the United States were reallocated to pay back Shuttle
repair and recovery expenses that the Bush Administration
was unwilling to budget for.

What's ironic is that the Vision for Space Exploration
(which The Planetary Society still supports) specifically
slated the Shuttle for retirement in just a few short
years and mandated a new launch vehicle to replace it.
But now, the Administration is refusing to fund
its own Vision adequately. They would rather cancel
missions from the very part of NASA that
has been succeeding so gloriously -- the programs that
have brought us Mars Exploration Rovers, Cassini, Stardust,
Deep Impact and, of course, the Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA actually rewrote -- most likely under pressure from
the Administration -- NASA's long-standing Mission Statement,
the very foundation of everything the agency has strived,
and today strives, to achieve.

They had the audacity to remove the words "to understand
and protect the Earth" as one of NASA's primary goals.
This may, at first hearing, sound like a small change,
but its true import is astonishing in its flagrant
misunderstanding of science and of our own planet!From
global warming, hurricanes, tsunamis and other
devastating weather phenomena, to deforestation, the
plunder of our oceans, and the opening of the ozone hole,
among many other crucial research programs...NASA's
scientists -- Earth and other planetary scientists alike --
are there working. Much of the knowledge of these subjects
has been helped by our exploration of other worlds.

What's more, vital knowledge about our Earth is directly
applied to the space program -- to the exploration of the
cosmos, to missions in near-Earth orbit, to the dangers
of asteroids and comets, to the existence of black holes,
and to the impact of the Sun on Earth and other planets.

Now, in yet another slap at the value and future of Space
Science and Exploration, NASA head Mike Griffin unceremoniously
requested the resignations of two distinguished scientists
from the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). A third resigned
immediately thereafter. These are seasoned veterans with
long records of, and a dedication to, working with NASA.
They are also vocal supporters of Space Science, bold
individuals who objected to the Administration's mandate
that is forcing NASA to dramatically scale down a host of
science projects.

The scientists asked to resign were Eugene Levy, Rice
University Provost and Planetary Society President Wesley T.
Huntress Jr., former chief of science at NASA and now an
astrochemist at the Carnegie Institution. Charles Kennel,
highly respected Director of the Scripps Institute of
Oceanography and former chief of Earth sciences at NASA,
was the third to resign.

Whether these actions were political, or "merely" designed
to limit advice to that which was already decided by the
Bush Administration, they do not bode well for the future of
science at NASA. NASA head Mike Griffin is clearly between
a rock and a hard place.

How can we stand by and let Space Science
and Exploration die?

None of us can afford to retreat into the comfort of
silence and apathy. We do that at our own peril. For the
obliteration of science and missions of discovery will
surely affect all of us and future generations.

This is not just about NASA, it's about us, the Members
of The Planetary Society. You, me, all of us Society
Members around the world are the beacon of hope here.
We are the ones with the clout to reverse this threatened
decline of science. And we are the ones with the tools
and the power to fight back.

Together, we will make it happen!
To help, these are the first steps you must take:

First, sign a petition to President George W. Bush.
By signing this petition, you will be sending President
Bush your strong message that his attempt to obliterate
science and exploration is a failed policy,
and a dangerous one.
Sign the petition at:

Second, send an emergency contribution to the Society.
We're going to make noise, big noise -- through petitions
like the one you're signing today, through ads in major
newspapers and magazines, press conferences, direct mail
and the Internet.
Donate online at:

We have the support of scientists and other respected
experts all over the world who are lending their names and
voices to the Society's Save Our Science Campaign. But it will
take money - a lot of money - to make this Campaign a success.

We have some funds, but we're a bare-bones non-profit
that tries to keep our expenses as low as possible. That's
why we must rely on Members like you and other generous
supporters to help us foot the bill for all the critical
actions I've just described.

The more we raise, the more successful we'll be. We'll use
every gift wisely to fight these attacks, stop the
obliteration of science and exploration, and, hopefully,
get NASA back on the right track.

Will you help? We're really counting on you. Thanks.


Louis Friedman

P.S. If you haven't received it already, you will
probably be getting a letter about this campaign in
the mail. If you have already sent in your donation
and signed the petition, we thank you.


My review of the webcomic entitled BRAIN FIST is up at Independent Propaganda. Check it out!

Nibarger and high school sports

This article may seem out there when it comes to high school sports, but coaches field these things all the time. Yes, we do. I could tell stories...

Castro Valley hoops coach can't win
Angry parents get a panel to pick team, cry foul when daughters don't make cut
- C.W. Nevius
Thursday, November 30, 2006

The results are in at Castro Valley High School. That's where a group of parents were in an uproar over girls varsity basketball coach Nancy Nibarger and demanded that her team be picked by a six-person panel. This week the team roster was posted.

None of the disgruntled parents' daughters made it.

If you think that's poetic justice and the end of things, you clearly haven't been following the situation. The parents are not going to let this go.

"The panel was a joke,'' Patty Goodman, the wife of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman, who has been in the vanguard of the angry parents, wrote in an e-mail exchange with me on Wednesday.

Really? Wasn't the panel their idea?

"The bottom line is that the parents got what they wanted,'' says Clay Kallam, a veteran East Bay women's basketball coach. "But they didn't like how it turned out.''

Sadly, the accusations and innuendo continue to fly. Patty Goodman, for example, wrote to me that "There has been a letter written by one of the panel members stating that the coach was displaying inappropriate behavior during tryouts. Nibarger even got in his face.''

"That absolutely never happened,'' says Bob Oates, who was appointed "ombudsman" by the school board to attend and oversee all the team's practices this season. Oates, who retired as principal at San Leandro High 11 years ago, says he did not know Nibarger when he took the job.

Not only that, he said this week, "I was going to look for anything" to confirm the behavior the parents were complaining about. "And if it had happened, I am sure I would have seen it.''

But try to convince the parents of that. On Internet bulletin boards, they rage that the panel was stacked with Nibarger supporters and that she ran the process. In fact, Nibarger says not only had she never met the panelists before, but "to this day I don't know their names.''

Assistant Principal Marci Plummer, who joined Castro Valley High in August, says she chose one of the panelists from a list submitted by the parents' group and then chose two longtime, "equitable and fair basketball experts whose reputation precedes them.''

And, in case there is any doubt, Plummer adds that the final decisions on cuts were "consensus-based and supported by the vast majority of the group.''

Nope, the parents continue to insist. It was a conspiracy. They wanted Nibarger fired this year, and if they couldn't get that (and they couldn't after formal complaints to the principal, district and school board), they were going to make her life miserable.

After a 12-hour meeting with the school board in August, Nibarger was ordered to have an ombudsman watching her during practices. Nor would she be allowed to pick her own team. The six-person panel -- which included Nibarger and her two assistants, each of whom had one vote -- would do that.

The restrictions seemed so unreasonable that coaches around the Bay Area expressed their outrage, and the entire 12-person football staff at Castro Valley eventually resigned. But Nibarger stayed and hopes the worst is over.

"We don't need any more war,'' Nibarger says. "Everybody loses in a war.''

Oates, who was a high school athletic director in Southern California before moving to the East Bay, and whose daughters graduated from Castro Valley High and played sports there, might have the best perspective.

"I believe the Goodmans and the other parents are fabulous people,'' he says. "And I think they honestly believe what they have heard. But I think what we will find is that when it is our children that we believe have been treated unfairly, we will go to the ends of the Earth.''

The elusive part of the story is what it is that Nibarger has done. Jay-Marie Hill, a co-captain on last year's team who is now a student at Stanford University, says Nibarger barked at her when she wanted to go to a church event instead of a basketball tournament. Although Hill had a sprained ankle and couldn't play, Nibarger wanted her there as a team leader. The two had words and, depending on whom you speak to, one of them hung up on the other.

"I told her two weeks later that I felt very disrespected by that,'' says Hill, who elected to come to the game after all but was hurt by the fact that Nibarger didn't say hello. "To me, that just shows a lack of character.''

Frankly, it sounds as if Nibarger could work on her communication skills. That's what the school board said after its meeting. But at least Hill had the maturity to go to Nibarger and speak to her personally instead of hiring an attorney.

Still, that incident was all it took to fracture their relationship. Hill, who once spent lunch hours in Nibarger's office chatting, and got a glowing letter of recommendation from her coach, now says she supports the unhappy parents. There's even talk of a lawsuit for "violation of civil rights.''

You think you have a civil right to be on the basketball team?

The season began Tuesday night at the Castro Valley gym, where Nibarger's Trojans were clobbered by powerhouse Foothill High of Pleasanton. But despite the drama swirling around, at that moment it looked like nothing more than a high school girls basketball game.

About 130 parents and friends sat in the bleachers as girls sprinted up and down the court. It isn't hard to imagine that this is how it will be next year. The unhappy seniors will be gone, their parents will be on to other things, and we'll be back to the game -- maybe a little older and wiser.

"There's a lesson here for everybody,'' says Mark Neal, an assistant principal at Creekside Middle School in Castro Valley and one of Nibarger's assistants. "But nobody is listening, because everybody is so upset about what happened to them.''

C.W. Nevius' column appears Thursdays and Saturdays in the Bay Area section. His blog, C.W., can be found at E-mail him at

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©2006 San Francisco Chronicle

Can Hilary Clinton win the presidency? Can she even win her party's nomination? I say give her a shot, but will America at large pander to that idea? I just don't think the general American population would elect anyone but a white male for a long time to come, even if the candidate was perfect. I would hope that America and humanity as a whole could look past such things as gender and race, but I don't think they can. I would hope so. Maybe that is why Hilary needs to run, to shake those ideas up. Also in the running may be Illinois senator Barack Obama, a very decent candidate who would push past the idea of race. This could be a very interesting election race coming up.

It may be almost twenty years away, but NASA has unveiled plans to set up a lunar base. It may not be everything science fiction expects yet, but it is a start in the right direction. More, NASA, more.

A real snowman spotted recently in downtown Nome. Oh, and yes, those are real antlers.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The New Era

So nice to sleep in to 6 am today. Ahhh. No more volleyball sucking up hours of my day. I love it, but, man, does it take up a lot of time.

I am finishing up Romeo and Juliet with the sophomores. They are also writing their personal narratives this week, and most of them are really into it. It is nice to write something, a story, that you yourself really want to tell the world about. I am also finishing up A Midsummer Night's Dream with the seniors. Then we are going to write an easy essay but concentrate wholly on the construction and MLA format of the essay, in preparation of college.

So I am looking to start something new and exciting. Something that is me. I plan on writing more comic reviews. One guy at Dark Horse Comics actually responded to my email, saying that if anything ever caught my interest to just let him know. That is super cool. I have also started reading Dante's The Inferno, part one of The (Divine) Comedy, and I am really rengrossed by it. I have been thinking to myself to get into more of the subtle backstory and notes of The Lord of the Rings and the rest of Tolkien's world, but then I got to thinking that that is a made up world. Let me explore my own world's back story and important derivative works. Next up will be the whole Paradise Lost by Milton that I have always wanted to read as a whole. Then I may get into some late 19th century novels that I have always wanted to read. That will keep me busy and learning.

Here's to learning. Here's to fun. Here's to only 14 school days before my two-week Christmas vacation!

The sunrise over the Arctic Circle as seen from a 1900 Bering Air plane from about 20,000 feet. We made it home today from Kotzebue after our Far North Conference regional tournament. We took second place, falling short of beating Barrow. The girls played so tough though. Everyone said so, even the coaches of the Mixed 6 teams that were also in Kotzebue for their Arctic Conference regional tournament. If it weren't for Barrow, last year's state champs and most probably repeating state champs this year, we'd probably be heading to State in Anchorage later this week. But we're not. I think we were shortchanged this year by not playing Barrow during the regular season in order to feel them out. Point Hope coach Glenn said that the second game we played against them was leaps and bounds better than the first game and if we could play them a third time, we'd probably take them. The season is over. I get to sleep in a bit tomorrow with no practice at 6 am to go to. I get to put in my request for stipend payment! I will miss these girls.