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    an idyllwild weather clam!

    Our gal, The Idyllwild Weather Clam thinks that it will rain again today.

    Friday 23 June 2017
    Currently at 5:03 AM 60°


    Up to the minute now-casting provided by: Idyllwild Weather Clam Mega-Skyview Ultra-Precision Doppler 160000 Super Computron Forecast in Full Spectrum HD
    Wednesday
    Jan162013

    It's Time To Talk About Coughing

    A lovely centered picture of an advertisement.
    Friends,

    I've been pretty ill over the last few days with a weedy, grating cough that has left my voice a squeaky mess. It's going around, of course. We're in the middle of AN EPIDEMIC!!! after all. Some who passed on the flu vaccine (which has proven to be wildly effective, actually) are getting hit with a fairly brutal strain of the virus. Folks are missing work. There's sniffling and wheezing everywhere. My fake cold is a pale imitation of this. It's annoying, my throat hurts, but I haven't joined the growing group of people planning bathroom remodels because they've recently had the opportunity to spend significant amounts of time analyzing the wallpaper patterns.

    Clearly I've been so irresponsible that I've felt compelled to go to work every day during this illness. The volunteers aren't going to deploy those computers themselves! Amirite? (they've been doing a fine job deploying computers themselves. you're like a mother hen hovering over them. please. -ed)

    Your best pal in the whole world,

    - bob
    Wednesday
    Jan092013

    It's Time To Think About People

    A lovely centered picture of a conference room.

    Friends,

    I attended the American Advertising Federation (Desert Cities, don't you know) luncheon this afternoon and it was a head-scratching affair. After meeting the advertising bigwigs in the desert, who were all very kind and welcoming, we sat down for lunch and listened to a panel of experts in marketing to the LBGT community. Granted that community isn't a protected class in the Coachella Valley by the most fanciful stretch of the imagination, but I still have questions. Two big questions…

    The lesser of the two, which is the most immediately important to me in my position as the spokesmodel (don't judge) for the Far Eastern Outpost of San Diego's Omnipresent Charitable Organization seems unanswerable. Presuming that the LBGT community is as highly political and willing to punish companies that aren't as LBGT-friendly as the panel claimed this afternoon, how do I as the message crafter for a charity that is only loosely connected to the Catholic church and its dictums against homosexuality appeal to the LBGT community in a meaningful way? (whew! what an annoyingly long, run-on sentence! tighten it up, won't you? - ed) This question leads to the next question, but stay with me for a second.

    The wrinkle here is that if I wanted to try to appeal to the LBGT folks, which I do in a way that I'll explain in a bit, would that offend the powers that might not appreciate that discussion? Is there a contingent at my workplace that might consider an appeal to people they might consider to be evil (or sinful or damned or the latest epithet) in itself evil?

    The statistics trotted out at the luncheon were compelling: more disposable income, more cocktails and less beer (file that away for later), more technologically savvy, more brand loyalty. Some of these statistics are easy to explain while others like the cocktail thing are more difficult, but it's easy to see why the room was packed with ad guys hoping to glean some insight. They want to sell stuff and need to know that the shirtless plumber ad is too transparent and that the community absolutely doesn't appreciate pandering.

    This is all fine, but it leads me neatly to my second question: When might we not have to tiptoe around everyone all the time? Like every group of people on the planet, there are nice gay people and terrible gay people. Friendly gay people and hateful gay people. Black, white, brown, beige, and pink. There are the same pockets of this and that in every discernible segment of the population, so I really actually don't get why the "LBGT market" needs any special treatment. "Don't pander," the panelists warned. I couldn't agree more.

    Will I get resistance for advertising in Gannett's Desert Outlook magazine or any of the other on- or off-line LBGT publications from the far-right donors? I imagine so but I'm not sure that I care. I think a lot of people are interested in the story of the Far Eastern Outpost, not just those whose ethical outlook is proscribed by a smaller world view (that I happen to find infuriating, but that's another post). It's just people, everybody. Some people will choose to be donors and some won't. Some will find the things happening at the charity are worth supporting with their time or with their cash and some won't. I don't think it has too much to do with who someone chooses to sleep with, do you?

    I didn't think so.

    Your pal,

    - bob

    POSTSCRIPT: Since I'm my own editor (i don't have the time. i'm working on payroll and we need to have a talk about your lunch penalties. -ed) I've been reading this over and making edits for clarity. After pouring over each word, I'm annoyed by the labels. The panelists at the luncheon referred to those of us straight people who advocate and demand basic human rights like equal treatment for everyone no matter who they choose to love as "allies." Like we're a special class too. Protecting and supporting our fellows should be the baseline, not special. I'm not sure what's more annoying; the label or the perceived need for one.
    Wednesday
    Jan022013

    It's Time To Think About The Future

    A lovely and inexplicable centered picture.
    Friends,

    I think that your future is very likely to be confusing. Don't worry, the writers will explain it by the third act.

    We're professionals.

    You're welcome.

    - bob

    UPDATE: You have no idea how you're changing over time and how much you're changing history. You're frightening the timeline. Good for you!
    Monday
    Dec312012

    Say Goodnight, Time

    A lovely centered picture of a time meddler.
    Friends,

    Thanks for an incredibly odd and frustrating year. I hope that you and the ones you love have a much better 2013.

    Much, much better.

    Your best friend in the whole wide world,

    - bob
    Saturday
    Dec292012

    The Time Stealer

    A lovely centered picture of a silly costumed man.
    Friends,

    It's the interstitial between THE CHRISTMASTIME and THE NEWYEARTIME and I had many grand plans for this weekend. So I wake up late, as you do on the weekend, and realize that my rat fink traitorous lower back betrays me and thwarts any plans to walk, install brilliant gifts on my slab-sided pickup, or even carry laundry to the washer. Dammit.

    You're surely thinking, "Well then, why are you sitting in a chair writing this instead of laying down?" Because this is the only comfortable place and position to be in at the moment. Even then, it's not great, but I really do love Ikea's jesus chair (that they don't sell anymore, but is kinda like this one) at the moment since it's very nearly the right height.

    Is it the cold, snowy weather? A dog huddling up into my lower back overnight? The fates? Broken osteothings? Maybe something else entirely?

    Surely yes.

    More tomorrow on the thrilling consequences of these circumstances!

    Your best pal in the world,

    - bob
    Thursday
    Dec272012

    Terror of The Ice People

    A lovely centered picture of ice warriors.
    Friends,

    The winter storms have passed through and while roads are slippery there isn't enough snow on the ground in this alpine wonderland to assuage fears about drought. All of the danger, without enough benefit.

    It's impossible to remove all danger from life, of course. Sometimes, you and your buddy waiting at the gas station, might be attacked or your store might be broken into. My hope is that I'll receive a call from a local institution very soon asking me to write for them. Can this remove all the danger of driving to work? Removing 95 miles from the round trip is a great start.

    Please take a moment to employ whatever arcane rituals you think will help. Thanks!

    Your best pal ever,

    - bob
    Friday
    Dec212012

    Happy Christmastime!

    A lovely centered picture of a Christmas pudding.

    Friends,

    I say Happy Christmas. This doesn't ring right to American ears, which is the intended result. When I'm extending a cheerful greeting during this season, I would like people to notice, stop for a second and think. The dissonance makes people notice.

    I don't hear a whole lot about Americans being merry. It's not a description that's used very often and I really can't tell you why. It's not that we're moping around, far from it. Visitors from other countries will usually remark that Americans are an amiable people. Affable, friendly, warm, but not merry. Jolly? Save that for our vision of a certain heavyset and hirsute gentleman in a crimson suit. Happy sits there on the upbeat spectrum somewhere between giddy and satisfied for me. A spot where a warm hearth, the golden winter sunset streaming through the windows, and little kids full of too much sugar giggling with delight resides. Happy.

    While in the Apple store down near the Festival of Dirt purchasing shiny things for a cute girl I know, the young guy taking my money wasn't sure what to make of me. I asked an overworked and over-asked woman in the back of the store if she would process my payment and was referred to the table up front with the young guy. "They're faster," she suggested. I shared that praise with the young guy, rolling him back a bit. After the gizmos were bagged and my receipt bleep-blorped into my phone, he thanked me with some tenuous corporate approved "Happy holidays!" "Thank you, and Happy Christmas!" I replied. He stopped for a beat and asked, "Hey, that's English!" "I suppose it is, isn't it?" as I headed out the door.

    I wish you and the people you love a very happy Christmas.

    You've been through a lot this year and you deserve it.

    Your best pal in the world,

    - bob

    P.S. In other Christmas news, is Mercedes-Benz's commercial guy…

    A lovely centered picture of Mercedes-Benz Santa.

    …supposed to remind us of this guy?

    A lovely centered picture of Jerry.

    I think the demographics point to yes.
    Wednesday
    Dec052012

    Waiting

    A lovely centered picture that illustrates the point.
    Friends,

    I'm waiting for a phone call. The phone was supposed to ring three weeks ago, then two weeks ago. Now I hope that the email I sent a week ago will encourage a particular caller to call with good news this week.

    What sort of good news? I'm glad you asked!

    Your pal,

    - bob
    Sunday
    Nov252012

    Seven Seconds of Fame



    Friends,

    I was challenged at a meeting a couple weeks ago by the idea that I didn't have a lot of experience with the media. Still don't, but I took on the spokesman duties for a little event put on by the Far Eastern outpost of San Diego's Omnipresent Charitable Organization. Didn't get a mention in the lower third in the video package above, but neither did the county supervisor who wrote a big check, so I'm not too disturbed by the snub.

    With this appearance, I've been in a few minutes of teevee interviews and seven seconds or so of airtime. Total. Ever. Okay, there was that time sitting in the audience at Bozo's Circus in the old KMIR studios…

    Your pal,

    - bob
    Thursday
    Nov152012

    The Early Bird Special

    A lovely centered picture of a sextagenarian at his job.
    Friends,

    This is the time of year when our monied elders come out from their summer hiding places in Idaho and Canada and migrate to the Coachella Valley. Actually, the annual migration may serve to empower some who never left the desert. People in the service sector aren't happy, like the checkers at the upscale supermarket I stopped at yesterday…

    A woman who looked like Iggy Pop if he'd stopped working out decided that she'd let everybody in the checkout line wait while she took off to pick out flowers. Her food purchase was pending in the register, so everyone in the queue surely wouldn't mind waiting out her pokey and painfully deliberative decision-making process. Once she picked her poinsettia, Princess Jerky Treat shoved me aside to figure out how to work the payment terminal.

    The checkout clerks looked at me and offered a wan smile and a little shrug that told me all I needed to know—"Sorry about that, but we've got to deal with these fragile monsters for the next four months."

    Rich, entitled, poor spacial awareness. I feel for the service industry. They're gonna hear "be a dear" and will have to comp a lot of soup and breadsticks through March.

    Keep a kind thought in your hearts for the poor kids down there who can't get a job writing reverse mortgages, won't you?

    Your pal,

    - bob
    Monday
    Nov052012

    The Jeep Election

     

    Friends,

    This may be the second election in United States history decided by Jeeps. Let that sink in for a second.

    If America's foremost mink hubcap salesman hadn't flubbed a news story about Jeep expanding back into China rather than saying at a rally in OHIO that Jeep was moving production to China, the state of the race would be very different. Partisans can talk about all of the other ways external forces have sabotaged his campaign, but this was an unforced error. In fact, it was the result of a lack of basic reading comprehension.

    Shouldn't that disqualify you from the presidency all by itself?

    I'll be up all night tomorrow hoping to find out...

    Your best pal in the whole wide world,

    - bob

    Thursday
    Oct182012

    Smile.

    A lovely centered picture of a dog.
    Friends,

    The way the day started was perfectly fine, save the alarm going off at 4:00. Cozy flannel sheets, breakfast with Mme. Puppy Dog, getting on the road a little late but making up the deficit and getting to work on time. I wasn't even too concerned when my first press release went out with bizarre characters mucking up the formatting. At least I was ticking off boxes on my bloated end of the year task list.

    It's a poorly kept secret that I applied for the newly relaunched automobile columnist position at the Orange County Register a few months ago. This is my dream job, the sort of gig you'd drop everything to do. I dreamed about it. I wrote stories in my head about taking an Aventador to Albertson's. Stories about canyon carving in a Corolla. And stories like the distributor post from a few days ago to explain why these may be the best times so far for reliability and economy in our cars and trucks.

    I found out today that I didn't get the job over the internet.

    Then the phones at work went down.

    Then the live Verizon tech support lady told me in a chat window over the internet that I'd need to file a report over the internet.

    A lovely centered picture of another dog.

    Then my colleagues forgot how to work stuff. A global, universal tech stroke, if you will.

    So what do you do with a plate of late-afternoon picnic potato salad like that? Do you smile in the host's direction while choking it down? How much worse could the stomach ache get?

    I took a different tack and wrote jokes about moon monsters instead.

    It's therapeutic.

    - bob
    Tuesday
    Oct092012

    An Ideal

    A lovely centered picture that made me think about the state of things.
    Friends,

    This is a shot of the sign on the new Idyllwild Public Library. Built with donations and government money, the new facility is a massive reimagining of the old Coronet dime store and even the facade contains a message: it's modern, it's weathered and rustic, and is sited in our little alpine village without being overwhelming. There has been some controversy about staffing, but we love our skirmishes in the letters section of the local paper.

    There are no other buildings in this town willing to take such an architectural stand, so it's doubly important that it's a library. We'll have to wait and see if the rustic modernism motif takes off up here, especially since we've recently created a historical district designation for most of the core of the town to preserve and protect cabins and tiny shops constructed in the 1940s. Not a lot of chrome to be found except in the hairdryers at the beauty salon.

    I'll snap more pictures when the library officially opens. Aren't you excited?

    Of course you are.

    - bob
    Tuesday
    Oct022012

    A Hot Rodder's Lament: Rebel Without An API Edition

    A lovely centered picture of a coffee mug.
    Friends,

    I'll cede the argument that modern cars are cleaner and more efficient than they've ever been. Sure, there have been many marques through our history that have been stingy with a gallon of gas, and some that have produced fewer emissions, but the entire fleet currently on sale beats those outliers by every measure. Why? We asked the robots to help out and they've agreed.

    Is this a problem? Of course it is. And it isn't, or at least wouldn't be, if lawyers weren't involved. Here's a short example:

    Back in the olden times of a decade or so ago, when you wanted electricity to light a spark plug to cause an explosion in an engine's cylinder, you'd rely on a spinning top called a distributor.

    A lovely left-aligned picture of a sparky gizmo.
    Through a gear meshed with the camshaft, a shaft spins a piece of metal that makes contact with a post that sends electricity to a wire leading to a spark plug. It's simple until you start thinking about how an engine in a car is used. As engines speed up and slow down, you want the spark to occur earlier or later, so maybe you add weights to the spinning top that move a plate forward a bit when the engine spins faster. This is lovely and elegant, you think. But you don't want that advancement to go too far or else the spark comes too soon—even before the cylinder is full of the fuel mixture. Detonation, knocking and other badness ensues. How do you control the advance?

    Specially tuned tiny springs.

    Hold on, there's more alchemy. When you mash the gas pedal to the floor (How quaint! More on that in a sec.) in your Curved Dash Oldsmobile, engine vacuum drops and if you send that signal to a vacuum motor attached to that plate, you can further advance the spark timing to catch up.

    With me so far? Sucking and springs and centrifugal forces are changing when the spark is happening. Archaic with a capital arc. (I crack myself up sometimes.)

    So what's changed? Sure, computers, but what's really changed has been the quality and number of sensors in a modern engine. An engine management computer cannot only know vacuum, and engine speed, but also atmospheric temperature and pressure, overall system voltage, throttle position at the throttle pedal, fuel quality, and a lot more.

    A lovely right-aligned picture of sparky bits.
    What this means, simply, is that you can throw away distributors and let the computer tell individual plugs exactly (well, sort of exactly, hold on) when to fire. You put high-tension ignition coils directly on top of the plugs and the computer just turns them on and off. Easy, right? The computer can look at all the inputs, decide what's going on and how much power is needed, and let 'er burn.

    But it's not that easy.

    For instance, you could theoretically make more power with more spark advance over a longer period of time, but the implications are many. For instance, if your, ahem, 285 horsepower engine could make 305 horsepower or more with a simple software change from the manufacturer, will your insurance rates go up? Is that too hot for the engine block over time, increasing warranty repair costs? When the home mechanic could change a couple springs and gain power, the manufacturers aren't on the hook.

    Here's where this gets weird.

    Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs, if you will) don't release the code that drives engine management computers. Some don't even release service manuals to the public. What this means is that backyard mechanics, hot rodders, and aftermarket equipment manufacturers are left to make educated guesses about how the engines in the vehicles they've purchased actually work. What signals come from where to make which thing work the way it does? After all, your gas pedal isn't connected to the engine anymore. It's just another sensor, but this one measures the angle of your ankle to represent how fast you think you want to go. If I want to make a widget that adjusts the power my engine produces and make an incorrect guess at how this affects all of the other systems, I guess this makes me that much more liable for my error, but wouldn't it be much better if I got it right the first time? More later...

    Your pal,

    - bob
    Sunday
    Sep232012

    I've Got A Headache

    A lovely centered picture of a rollercoaster.
    Friends,

    I really will get back to the science and the future and whatnot, but please allow a moment for this public service announcement:

    When you go to Knott's Berry Farm to have a lot of fun with people whose company you enjoy and you'd like to not be a wet blanket, I strongly recommend that you not ride the Boomerang. It will beat your brains out. First, I'm too tall and didn't fit in the seat. Second, because I didn't fit, I had to sit up too high which moved my head above the cushions on the restraint hoop. Third, riders pull 5.2 g* going forward AND in reverse. Fourth, I have an ungainly and too large head with not enough strength in my neck to keep this melon from bouncing around at 5.2 g. Fifth, this really isn't anybody's fault but my own.

    Also, I had something to write here, but I can remember what it might've been.

    Your pal,

    - bob

    * The unit of measure for g-force is styled with a lowercase g. Uppercase G is for the gravitational constant. You're welcome!
    Monday
    Sep102012

    Short Hiatus Alert!

    A lovely centered picture that's not safe for your mother.
    Friends,

    No, really, I have a very painful bit of something in my eye that's preventing me from posting a great big article on THE FUTURE! I'm going to see if I can irrigate whatever it is out, but please know I haven't forgot about both of my beloved readers.

    The future, everybody.

    Your pal,

    - bob
    Thursday
    Aug302012

    If You Say Something Often Enough

    A lovely centered picture borrowed from a nice person.
    Friends,

    What? The Republican nominee for president of the United States just said in his acceptance speech at his party's convention that, among other nonsense, gas prices have doubled since President Obama has taken office. This is among the many things that the partisans have said over the last couple days that are demonstrably false. The fact that these people are spending so much time lying about stuff is really very stunning. These kids can't win with facts? Well, I guess they can't win anyway, but they can't be proud of how they'd spun reality into some weird netherworld that even Peter Jackson wouldn't touch.

    To our suffering friends at the Republican National Convention,

    You guys must cry yourselves to sleep with the terror of your terrible nightmare world bearing down. We can help you. There are meds available. They will be affordable for you once the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. It's time for us as a nation to eliminate the stigma of mental illness, and we're here to help you.

    Good night, GOP.

    - bob
    Friday
    Aug242012

    Somebody's Trying To Tell You Something

    A lovely centered picture of near devastation.
    Friends,

    It's Friday and I know it should be a magical time where the paycheck faeries gently press their sugar-dusted lips to your filthy foreheads, grimy from the sweat and toil of a week picking at the wisps of salt veins down in the mines, but by the gods themselves, I must say that this particular day stunk to the ends of your earth and the next one as well. I'll tell you how in a moment, but it's important to note something that should be very obvious and might be casually missed. This writing exercise is largely about me, so what follows may seem self-centered, which is how this works. Stick with it though, because eventually it stops sounding like whinging and more like a weird string of happenstances coming together as an unsubtle note from the fates that my time working in the desert has come to an end.

    Exhibit 1)

    I had been listening to the On The Media podcast (which I encourage you to download and support) Thursday night and plopped the iPod into the clock radio. 0400 rolls around and the "Ayn Rand's influence on the GOP" story is blaring. Hit the button to stop the alarm, proceed with the morning ritual.

    Exhibit 2)

    I check the Facebook app on my phone during breakfast. One of my coworkers Likes Mitt Romney's page. "Damn," through a milky bite, "And she was one of the good ones, too. I'll miss her." Like real zombies, she's been infected and has self-identified as one of them. Data point. Moving on.

    Exhibit 3)

    The drive down the hill to work was as easy as any. Slowpokes pulled out right away, people dipped their high beams quickly and courteously, and the stoplights all the way to the Festival of Dirt were obligingly green. I take Highway 111 all the way across the valley because when it's quick, it can be very quick and I had four minutes to make up. The timing is really working out and I've made up two of the four minutes when I see the flashing gumballs in the distance. Getting closer, the plume of smoke is evident and Indio Police have the highway blocked off. I take the detour, but what could be on fire? Starbucks? Game Stop? It's hard to tell and I've lost three minutes. Now I'm on the hairy edge of being late.

    Exhibit 4)

    Arriving at work I have a minute to spare, so I rush around the building to my favorite shady parking space. The one now dominated by the fallen foliage in the photo at the top. The clicking in my head isn't the normal clicking that always clicks (don't ask. i think one of the gears has lost a tooth, but he'll argue the point. - ed) but another click that starts analyzing all of the events of the morning. What's the connection? What's going on here?

    Exhibit 5)

    Logged on to the various computers in the office after clocking in successfully within the seven minute window, but the biometric time clock gives me a score of 90. Single-digit scores mean that it really believes that the picture it's just taken of the back of my hand is really me. Higher scores mean that it's not so sure. A score of 90 means that it's giving me a pass, but stop being creepy, okay?

    The Twitter feed starts buzzing (aw, c'mon. we've been through this. it's twittering. - ed) with news about the fire. It's this…

    A lovely centered picture of devastation.

    If you'll notice the second business from the left, it's my favorite taco shop. The only one I know of in the valley that makes a decent potato taco.

    A lovely centered picture of the inside of Don Jose's Taco Shop.
    …or used to. They're all gone. The owner of the building promises to rebuild, but will the rents be too high for the previous tenants, as is often the case? I'm very sorry for their losses but the clicking continues.

    Exhibit 6)

    I had hoped that the teleconference that was scheduled for the late morning would include video so I could see who I was talking to in America's Third or Fourth Finest City for Border Violence, but I got an email that they didn't even have a phone. The solution was to put a cell phone on the center of the table in their meeting room and call me at my remote location. This made my blood sugar drop, so I ducked out to grab a late fast food breakfast. I've got fifteen minutes for my federally mandated fifteen minute break, so why not?

    I pull in the parking lot and spy my coworker's car. It's unmistakable and I'm a little perplexed. This coworker should've arrived at the office hours ago, but the car is here. What gives? Then I see the windscreen sun shield pressed up against the passenger side door glass, impressions of hands from the interior to prevent my view inside. Fair enough! I back into the adjacent space, head into the joint and power down a greasy egg sandwich and box of orange juice (to prevent scurvy, as you do). Back out to the Jeep and the sun shield is hurriedly rearranged and mashed up to the window. What's going on in there?

    Exhibit 7)

    Cell phone teleconference goes better than expected. I put my phone on mute and just listen, but send stupid jokes to my colleagues over SMS. No response.

    Exhibit 8)

    I violate my rule about working on coworker's personal computers due to tears. Hers, not mine.

    Exhibit 9)

    I get my first speeding ticket in two years on the way home. My Jeep was clocked at 69 MPH heading up a hill with the A/C on in 4th gear while next to a car that was overtaking. If I was going 69 MPH in 4th gear, I would've had to rev the engine up to over 4,000 RPM, so I'm thinking that the Lidar was, once again, lying. If I can't do traffic school, I'm going to contest this one.

    So, in the words of the prophet, how was your day?

    Your pal,

    bob
    Friday
    Aug102012

    Jaunty Summer Vacation Guide

    A lovely centered map.
    Friends,

    It's easy to get to Idyllwild for your summer vacation, as you see here in this helpful map. Click on the thumbnail above to see a giant version (and remember to pick your time carefully to head up the control road).

    See you here!

    - bob
    Monday
    Aug062012

    The Most Joyous Night

    A lovely centered picture of a lovely landing.
    Friends,

    I'm woozy. I stayed up way past my bed time to watch NASA drop the most expensive compact car on a planet 140 million miles away and I'm still trying to wrap my head around the feat. The landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars represents the triumph of screwy ideas that help me feel better about the dumb crap we all cook up every day…

    • Okay, so you're going to enter orbit with a pie plate on top of a saucer that you need to steer. How about putting a bunch of weights on one end, then spinning the thing around so the wobbly end shifts from side to side, like a wakeboard on the atmosphere?
    • Rockets are cool and everything, but we've gotta slow down. I know! How about the biggest damn parachute ever?
    • Man, that heat shield is still pretty hot. Too hot for cameras, but we need to see the ground. Blow the bottom off with explosives and let the rover look at stuff!
    • Crap! Still too fast! Now how about some rockets? Throw the whole pie tin away and fly the rover with a rocket pack on its back!
    • Rockets? They're gonna leave an awful lot of mess around. How about dropping the rover from the rockets on cables? (And by the way, I will be peppering my daily speech with, "initiating Sky Crane maneuver" from now on.)
    • Rover's on the ground, so that's nice, but won't the rocket pack crash down on the thing? Nope! We're going to sever the cables with explosives! Then we're going to crash the rocket pack over there. Where? Oh, you know, over there. Safely over there.

    And there you have it. Exquisite madness to gently drop a ton of car on another planet. I believe it was Archimedes who said, "Give me a lever long enough and I can move a mountain, give me a big box of explosives and I'll put a robot on Mars." Here's to the lunatics at JPL for a job well done.

    Your pal,

    - bob

    P.S. Next, let's talk about the implications for us here on this planet if Curiosity finds life on that other planet. Should be fun!
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