In the presence of greatness

About a year ago, [Stephen Hawking]( was supposed to come to Seattle, and I got tickets. I was excited; not many times do you have a chance to be in the presence of such awesome knowledge.

Unfortunately, he fell ill and wasn’t able to make the lecture. I fought TicketMaster to get my ticket refunded, which they eventually did.

Tonight, Hawking came back to Seattle, and I snatched up my ticket about three months ago. Dan & I showed up at McCaw Hall at about 7:15pm for the 7:30pm lecture. The setup was amazing; the host introduced Dr. Hawking, and talked a little bit about his communications methods (via a “blink switch”):

> The computer system attached to his wheelchair is operated by Hawking via an infra-red ‘blink switch’ clipped onto his glasses. By scrunching his right cheek up, he is able to talk, compose speeches, research papers, browse the World Wide Web, and write e-mails. The system also uses radio transmission to provide control over doors in his home and office.

Now, this posed an interesting problem. Apparently, camera flashes in the crowd were interfering with the blink switch! Dr. Hawking’s assistant asked the crowd to not use camera flashes, and I’ve never seen a place get so dark, so quick. It was amazing — most crowds would still have one pop up here and there, but not this crowd.

Overall, the talk was great — I didn’t understand quite a bit of it, but what I was most amazed by is Dr. Hawking’s sense of humor. This is a guy who has been through a lot, and he’s still cracking jokes every few minutes. He introduced an equation for entropy in black holes, commented that it’s a simple equation (it was) with all three fundamental physics constants (c, G, and h-bar). His next comment: “I want that on my tombstone.” He also commented that when he introduced concepts of time having a beginning and an end (alluding to the Big Bang), he said that “the church seems to have taken note of that.” He referenced the “old-school general relativity theorists” and said that they “just plug numbers into equations and hope it works.” When talking about solving the [black hole paradox](, he said it’s an amazing feeling to realize that you’ve come up with an equation that no one else knows, and no one else has ever known. He said he can’t compare it to sex, but “that the feeling does last longer.” Classic!

He was amazing to listen to, and “spoke” for two solid hours. Go see him if you get a chance!

Why George Carlin Rules

So I was reading up on CNN about George Carlin going into rehab and it mentioned some quotes from his last appearance at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas:

In his last performance at the MGM Grand after four years before 700 paying customers, he reportedly said: “People who go to Las Vegas, you've got to question their f—-g intellect – traveling hundreds and thousands of miles to essentially give your money to a large corporation is kind of f—-g moronic. That's why what I'm always getting here is these kind of f—-g people with very limited intellects.”

A woman shouted, “Stop degrading us.” Carlin replied by inviting her, in two words, to perform a sexual act upon him.

He said he was eager to get out of “this (bad word) hotel” and back east “where the real people are.”

Anyway, that's one of the reasons I really admire George Carlin. He's not afraid to call it like it is.

Good luck in rehab, George. Can't wait for you to get out.

Update: While visiting Barnes & Noble this evening, I stumbled across the new book, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops (ISBN: 1401301347) and bought it. More gems by George.


Background: One of Diann's classmates is getting married soon, and they're having a lingerie party for her. Now, if you knew this classmate, you would also know that she wouldn't be shocked by your average tacky gift — you have to go way overboard to shock her. We're trying our damnedest.

Diann & I had some Christmas shopping to do for the family in Norway, so we figured we'd combine these two shopping needs into one goliath day of shopping. We'd hit up the Woodlands and maybe a few other non-local places. So, Saturday morning at 10:30am we hop in the car and make the drive to the Woodlands, 80 miles away from home. Places like Victoria's Secret probably just won't do searching for tacky lingerie, but we make a go at it anyway. Nothing there. Off to Spencer's because they've always got terrible stuff. No luck there either. So, we do some Christmas shopping at Foley's and the like, and we pile back into the car and head to the Galleria, 40 miles away.

Now, if you've never been to the Galleria in Houston, it's in the ritzy part of town. Likely if there's something tacky here we probably can't afford it, but what the heck. We hit up the VS here with less luck than we had in the Woodlands and at home (which is really disappointing), then we find some Italian store that I don't recall the name of. It, too, was pretty disappointing.

Back out into Houston we go, and we head over to “Condom Sense”. It's a pretty tacky gag-gift supply store, but we're disappointed yet again. Then I recall that there was a Frederick's of Hollywood opening in Katy Mills Mall — 30 miles later, we arrive. Frederick's of all places should have something to fit the bill, but I can say honestly that this store is smaller than my living room. You guessed it, nothing there either.

So, back to the south side of Houston we go to our first of two really seedy places — Eros 1207 (45 more miles). We saw this place on a billboard while driving into Houston. It can't be that bad, right? I mean, it's got a website, a couple of billboards, etc. Well, we got ID'd going into the store. They had their share of tacky stuff (chain mail bra anyone?), but most “items” were packaged in plastic blister packaging. That was slightly disturbing. Back onto the road.

A few exits down was a place called “Fun Wear”. The short of it: this, too, was pretty disappointing. We made the 2 hour drive back home (140 more miles) and got home at 9:30pm at night.

11 hours of shopping for tacky lingerie, and we bought NOTHING! The state of brick-and-mortar tacky lingerie stores is very, very, sad.