44 Years of Stuff: Illustrated Mythology Cards

I love mythology and I love card decks, so it was a no-brainer to pick this up at an antique show in Ohio about 10 years ago for a cool 10 bucks. The Cincinnati Game Company was cranking out a lot of themed educational sets around the turn of the century. An ad card inside mentions almost two dozen others, including “Strange People,” “In Castle Land” (famous castles of the Old World), “The Mayflower” and “Yellowstone.”


Ada Lovelace Day

Since so much of the tech world is dominated by men, and I am raising a daughter with dreams of a future in which women can not only compete in male-dominated fields but eventually supplant them, I looked forward to participating in Ada Lovelace Day. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that in considering the day’s challenge--to write about a pioneering woman in technology--no names immediately sprang to mind.

The Ada Project changed that. Dedicated to providing information and resources related to women in computing, the site served up 17 names from the 19th-21st centuries. These included folks ranging from Ada herself, whose plan in the 1840s for a “calculating engine” that would work with Bernoulli numbers led to what is now regarded as the first computer program (she also anticipated a machine that would be used to produce graphics and compose music), to modern tech company CEOs like Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina.

I ended up choosing a woman whose surname happens to be similar to mine. Rósa Péter was born in 1905 and studied mathematics at Loránd Eötvös University in Budapest. After abandoning her initial interest in number theory when she discovered her early results had already been proven, Rósa ditched the field entirely to write poetry.

She re-entered the math fray in 1930 when a colleague suggested that she examine the work of Gödel, and later became a founder of recursive function theory. She wrote two books and over 50 papers on the subject, and continued to apply her theory to computers until she passed away in 1977, a year after the release of her seminal book, “Recursive Functions in Computer Theory.”

Péter is also noted for her dedication to making the public more aware of mathematics. She was especially concerned about the education of female students. It’s hard to say what such pioneers would think about our world of laptops, cell phones and iPods. But thanks to the solid mathematical foundations these things were built upon and a growing contingent of female mathematicians, my daughter will know and participate in a future that only visionaries like Péter dare to dream of.


Blowin' in the Wind: Bob Dylan's Outhouse Set List

From the Bizarre Habits of the Rich & Famous Department comes a tale of freewheelin' Bob Dylan stinking up the air around his posh Point Dume estates in Malibu. According to a story in today's L.A. Times, Mr. Zimmerman has refused neighbors' requests to take care of an odiferous outhouse that they say has been wafting the smell of waste their way for over six months. A city code enforcement officer looking into the matter was reportedly threatened with trespassing charges and turned away by Dylan's security staff.

Residents are doing what they can to repel the redolence, but the efforts of neighbors like David Emminger, who put five industrial-sized fans in his front yard to send the stench back to the singer/songwriter, are apparently no match for the ocean breeze. "It's a scandal." Emminger told the Times. "'Mr. Civil Rights' is killing our civil rights."

Malibu municipal officials are currently looking into the matter and can't comment during a pending investigation. In the meantime, here's a special Dylan sewage set list that says it all:

"Only a Hobo"
"If You Gotta Go, Go Now"
"Step it Up and Go"
"Nothing was Delivered"
"Open the Door, Homer"
"Blowin' in the Wind"
"Down Along the Cove"
"Rank Strangers to Me"
"Baby Stop Cryin'"
"Got My Mind Made Up"
"Ain't Talkin'"
"Outlaw Blues"


Tora Tora: Memphis Rocks Tonight

If I were to write my own metal magazine version of "Almost Famous," Tora Tora would figure large in the main act. They were one of the first "next generation" hard rock bands that I really liked, and when I was sent to Memphis to join them on the set of their first video in 1989 we quickly became friends. They were as excited to have a rock journalist who was into them as I was about being in on a local secret that I felt was going to be big.

Over the course of two trips to Memphis I got to visit the famous Ardent Studios, join the band for another shoot in one of the most run-down areas of Tennessee, sit with them on the banks of the Mississippi River, and try frog legs with them in a Hollywood, Mississippi restaurant that we drove through swampland to get to. To this day those experiences mark the best sense I have of what I consider the authentic South.

Tora Tora's first album "Surprise Attack" was a hit (it eventually went gold) and they left home for some extensive touring. We saw each other in Hollywood, California when they were in town, and when their second album "Wild America" came out in 1992. But a planned third album got lost in a corporate shuffle and as the guys neared their 30s they settled down with families and more conventional jobs.

I was happy as hell when I heard that the four of them had gotten together for Rocklahoma 2008, an annual five-day festival in Pryor, Oklahoma that draws about 30,000 fans a day. And when I found out that they were playing tonight at the New Daisy Theater, one of the old haunts of four old friends who decided it might be fun to hook up and rock again as old farts, I was seriously tempted to try to get myself out there somehow. Then the daddy and husband in me reminded me it wasn't quite realistic. But for those who do make it into the sold-out show, Memphis will be surely rocking tonight.


Reviving Sarah Silverman

So it's come to this. When news surfaced that Comedy Central was in a standoff against "The Sarah Silverman Program" because they wanted to cut the show's budget by over 20%, it gave me a better idea of how dire things are. Budget cuts have already resulted in one friend of mine getting a pay decrease and another having his Blackberry taken away. But trying to cut back on one of your most successful shows in an industry where hot sitcoms are perennially rewarded with increased budgets is telling, as is the fact that Comedy Central had to go to gay-oriented sister cable net Logo for co-financing.

Granted, everything is relative; the $1.1 million the show spends per episode is still more than most independent feature films. And you could almost hear Sarah Silverman in character as she played it humble after the deal was announced. "All we ever wanted was just to make our show," she told THR. "Nothing fancy--just our show."

(Photo: Joan Garvin)