Saturday, March 31, 2007


From Human Iterations

I just slapped up a listserv to clear up communications between those of us looking into and planning some sort of anarchist presence in Low Earth Orbit. I've fired off invites to most of the folks involved in the email discussion so far, but if you're even tangentially interested in building a microsatellite for hactivist uses we'd love to have you sign on. Right now we're just testing the waters in a very preliminary fashion. We could use more folks of technical inclination, but experience with linux servers, cryptography, electronics and orbital mechanics isn't necessary by any means, the technical details look pretty easily surmountable. Ultimately the only real constraint is one of interest.

So if you're interested, join the discussion!

Once upon a time, space programs were solely the endeavor of nation states. Lately, however, prices have fallen. Nowadays, making and launching an artificial satellite is the stuff of university student projects with budgets of circa USD $60,000-$85,000 if we're talking about a cubesat -- a micro-satellite standard for small projects. Cubesat kits are available for approximately USD $5000.
Interesting. It's tempting to dismiss them out of hand but the idea of course. Yet .. even if they don't pull it off I think we're seeing a glimpse of the future; Space as just another place to do your thing. Make a political statement, do business, make a fortune, fly to the moon .. it's a tantalizing future.

How long have you been standing there?

Novell does a few knock-off commercials. Mac - PC - Linux.

Linux is played by a cute young lady, proving that someone at Novell knows their market.

Watergate Salad

It's tasty
Watergate salad is a sweet-tasting dessert made from combining
pistachio flavoured instant pudding, whipped topping, crushed
pineapple, and small marshmallows although there are many slight
variations with additional ingredients.
But why is it called 'Watergate salad'? Was it called something else before 1972?

All (known) bodies in the solar system larger than 200 miles in diameter.

Everyone but everyone is linking to this today - and if all the cool kids are doing something well by gum I'm going to do it as well.

All (known) bodies in the solar system larger than 200 miles in diameter.

It's big. You know that. But the lateral layout is darn nifty and quite striking.

Friday, March 30, 2007

It Takes Who by Luke Ski

Luke Ski is busting out with a Dr. Who song.

"It Takes Who" (To the tune of "It Takes Two" by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock).

It takes Who to make a thing go right!
It takes Who to make it out of sight! [Hit it!]

I am the Doc right now.
[“Doctor Who?”] Exactly! I get down!
I am intergalacticly known
From my home, on back to ancient Rome,
To Alpha Centauri, then back to Cardiff.
Come along with me, inside the TARDIS
Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.
I’ll take a Dalek, and put him in his place.
I’m the Time Wars’ last survivor
With my psychic paper and sonic screwdriver.
See deep space, the future and past,
Other dimensions, it’s a blast!
It’s fantastic!

Down it from The FuMP before time runs out. It's a pretty kick-ass parody.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Greg Easterbook - As the World Warms

Excellent interview in The Atlantic with Greg Easterbrook who authored 'Global Warming: Who Loses - and Who Wins?" The entire thing is worth reading, I'm simply ripping the following out of context because they tickled me.
Why shouldn’t the government, with all its resources, take a much more active role in finding a solution—like, say, funding a research scheme along the lines of the Manhattan project, as many commentators have suggested?

Oh, God, the last thing you want is for the government to try to figure out a solution! What the government needs to do is price the problem. In economics, greenhouse gases are a free good, there’s no cost involved in emitting them, so no one has any profit incentive to reduce the emissions. Government needs to create a framework in which a price is attached to the emission of greenhouse gases. The creation of a price will in turn allow people to make a profit by finding the solution. And once people have a profit incentive you’re going to find a huge outpouring of creativity on the part of engineers coming up with technical ideas and business people coming up with entrepreneurial ideas. But the last thing you want is for government to try to pick winners and losers in an industry.

I’d like to read you a quote. “Oh, so Mother Nature needs a favor? Well maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys. Nature started the fight for survival, and now she wants to quit because she’s losing. Well I say, hard cheese.” That’s from Montgomery Burns, on The Simpsons. I’m inclined to agree with him: don’t you think it’s about time Mother Nature got a taste of her own medicine?

Well, it’s a common fallacy in modern thought to romanticize the natural condition as one that’s benign and blissful. My 1994 book, A Moment on the Earth, has a couple of chapters on the fallacies of our romanticization of nature. Nature is physically beautiful. There are a lot of glorious places in the world that are wonderful to hike and just stand in awe. But from our standpoint and our ancestors’ standpoint, nature is a killing machine that we’ve spent thousands of years trying to defeat. Especially disease, which kills far more human beings than war and violence combined. But not just disease—natural disasters also have killed far more human beings than war and violence combined ever have. We’ve seen them recently in the Indonesian tsunami, but also all kinds of other natural disasters, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions et cetera, and climate change itself—which wiped out most of the life on earth at the beginning of the most recent ice age.

It is nothing but amusing coincidence that Vachel from Chris Baldwin's Little Dee is raising an army to combat Mother Nature.

Mmm .. cake.

If I have a political philosophy it's best described as pragmatic: It might be against your personal philosophy or your notions of 'the right way of doing things' but ... do what works. If evidence shows that the government is lousy at something then it's really dumb to insist that it Really Should Do Something because it's the Right Thing To Do.

So, yes, set up incentives and then get out of the way. Please.

By your command

I bet my wife a dollar that Starbuck is not a Cylon.

Which is - after a moment's thought - proof that Starbuck is. My wife never bets unless she knows she is right.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It's easier

Highlight from an otherwise horrible week, a few months ago. Said my 82-year old step-father in-law
We're Reform. It's easier.
You have no idea how much that tickled me.

The Cylons are back

Haw - Five-Minute Battlestar Galactica: The Miniseries
Gaeta: Commander, we've just received a message: the Cylons are back. And they've got nukes.
Adama: Make a note for the ship's record: sucks to be humanity.


Tomorrow we have a minor task to perform - halt a service, move the database to another server, crank things back up again.

I drafted a checklist for this - the resulting spreadsheet is a 6x81 matrix of steps to accomplish and people to notify. Yet it's pretty rote - I could just do the job and would have 30 minutes of my life back. Why did I do this? Well ...
Development continued on the Boeing Model 299, and on 30 October 1935, the Army Air Corps test-pilots Ployer, Hill, and Tower, took the Model 299 on a second evaluation flight. The crew forgot to disengage the airplane's "gust lock," a device that held the bomber's movable control surfaces in place while the plane was parked on the ground, and having taken off, the aircraft entered a steep climb, stalled, nosed over and crashed, killing the crew.[18][19]

Those guys weren't using a checklist. That's why I use one. I like my systems maintenance drama free.


From Dan "Get off my lawn you damn kids" Savage - using the power of the State to regulate manners
The Federal Communications Commission will give up on the idea of allowing cellphone use on airplanes, the chairman said, because it was not clear whether the network on the ground could handle the calls.

While the chairman, Kevin Martin, cited a technical reason on Thursday, thousands of air passengers have written to the FCC, urging rejection of the proposal because of the potential for irritating passengers.

Wait a minute… the potential for irritating passengers?

(141 word-long cranky snit snipped)

Thanks, FCC. A decision like that could almost restore a person’s faith in the federal government.

Because using the power of the State to regulate manners and morals is a good thing and never ever never has any unintended consequences.

TED Talks

This appears promising - TED Talks
Each year, TED hosts some of the world's most fascinating people: Trusted voices and convention-breaking mavericks, icons and geniuses. The talks they deliver have had had such a great impact, we thought they deserved a wider audience. So now - with our sponsor BMW and production partner WNYC/New York Public Radio we're sharing some of the most remarkable TED talks with the world at large. Each week, we'll release a new talk, in audio and video, to download or watch online. For best effect, plan to listen to at least three, start to finish. They have a cumulative effect..
There is an ITunes subscription link from that page as well. As if I don't have enough interesting stuff in podcast format as it is.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Your Jesuit mind-tricks ...

Buckethead goes on a tear about Star Wars and ends up - logically enough with this
What color light sabers would the Jesuits use? Ignatius Loyola would
have done a better job than goofy, half-pint, inside-out speaking Yoda,
especially if he had light sabers and the Force to go along with his
fanatical devotion to the Pope. (Among our chief weapons are such
diverse elements as fear, terror, a near fanatical devotion to the
Pope, light sabers and the Jesuit mind-trick…)

Space Exploration 2007 and Second Biennial Space Elevator Workshop

Add this

Space Exploration 2007 and Second Biennial Space Elevator Workshop

to the list of events I'd like to attend. See Ted Semon's Space Elevator Blog for a blogger perspective, Patrick Boake is the official press guy, his take is at the Space Elevator Journal.

Also in attendance is LiftPort's Tom Nugent who will be providing a report (nudge nudge) when he returns.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Weight .. removed

You know when you're carrying around a huge weight and you've gotten so used to it you that you don't even realize it's there?

"The doctor called with the results. I don't need a bypass."

Like that ... it's gone.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

My life - in four panels

This is the story of my life.

Except I'm not nearly as smooth as Hawk is.

Sexual Consent

Jason Reitman's take on the legal ramifications of love.

Sexual Consent

Like Marc said - 'too dang funny'. Not safe for work. Not smutty, but does include tasteful mature adult humor.


Blog Carnival

I was goosed by Travis about a blog carnival and LO there is a handy tutorial on the what, how and where. As it happens there does not seem to be a "carnival of space enthusiasts" which might indicate a niche waiting to be exploited.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

A modest proposal

"Be it enacted by the Congress of the United States:

"The Congress has determined that it is in the national interest of the United States to build and operate an American owed permanent base on the Moon.

"The Treasurer is directed to pay the sum of $20 billion to the first American owned corporation or firm to establish a base on the Moon and continuously to keep there in good health at least 31 Americans for a period of not less than three years and a day"

It would work, or it wouldn't. At the end of the day we'd know if a private enterprise could do it or if space must remain the domain of the State. If it does not work it won't cost the taxpayer a dime. If it does we'll have - in some way or another - a manned presence in space and a way of making it all work.

The X-prize proved (again) that this kind of thing works - SS1 cost double the amount the prize was worth. You can argue against theory but this kind of thing works.

Hat tip to JEP for the idea and the verbage.

Update: Balkonur replied to my LJ post
I want to see a permanent presence on the moon too, but I'm not sure this is such a great idea. Doesn't there need to be an economic/policy incentive beyond the prize to justify this? I mean, the X-prize was laudable because it was a private effort and private funds were on the line. Other than the bragging rights, what is at the moon that is worth the government spending $20 billion? Couldn't the prize be a $20 billion contract to continue operating a moonbase and related infrastructure for government use, or maintenance of the infrastructure with common carrier status, or some other type of arrangement in which taxpayers are actually receiving some value for their money?

The problem with a prize like this is that it doesn't prove that a private enterprise can 'do' the moon- in fact it proves just the opposite. A private enterprise shouldn't have to rely on government subsidies to justify its existence. Much of the existing aerospace industry operates in exactly this way already- Lockheed and Boeing, to put it tamely, rely on government contracts. The 'new space' scene seems to want to set itself apart from this sort of business model, which is why I'm surprised to see this proposal.

My reply is here.

How Beautiful We Were

I think it's too soon to call it a day, but for an epitaph ... 'How Beautiful We Were' is not so bad.

A short list. In no particular order.

We had car shows, boat shows, beauty shows and dog shows.

We ran robots on the surface of Mars by remote control.

Our women came from all over the world in all shapes and sizes hues and scents.

We actually believed that all men are created equal and tried to make it come true.

Everybody liked our movies and loved our television shows.

We tried to educate everybody, whether they wanted it or not. Sometimes we succeeded.

We did Levis.

We held the torch high and hundreds of millions came. No matter what the cost.

We saved Europe twice and liberated it once.

We believed so deeply and so abidingly in free speech that we
protected and even honored and in some cases even elected traitors.

We let you be as freaky as you wanted to be.

We paid you not to plant crops and not to work.

We died in the hundreds of thousands to end slavery here and around the world.

We invented Jazz.

We wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysberg address.

We went to the moon to see how far we could hit a golf ball.

We lifted a telescope into orbit that could see to the edge of the universe.

When people snuck into the country against our laws, we made parking
lots and food stands off to the side of the road so they wouldn't get
hurt, and we let them use our hospitals for free, and we made their
children citizens.

We didn't care what God you worshipped as long as we could worship ours.

We let the People arm themselves at will. Just to make sure.

We gave everybody the vote.

We built Disneyworld. Just for fun.

We had a revolution so successful it was still going strong two and a quarter centuries later.

We had so many heroes, even at the end, that we felt free to hate them and burn them in effigy.

We electrified the guitar.

We invented a music so compelling that it rocked the world.

We had some middling novelists.

We had some interesting painters.

We had some pretty good poets.

We had better songwriters.

We ran our farms so well we fed the globe.

We made the automobile and the airplane.

We let you get rich. Really, really rich. And we didn't care who you
were or what you were or where you came from or who your parents were.
We just cared about what you made or what you did.

We had poor people who, even at their most wretched, were richer than any other poor people on the face of the planet.

Even towards the end, as we dissolved in petty bickering and the
idle entertainments that come with having far too much leisure and
money, we were trying to make it higher, finer, brighter, better and
more beautiful.

Even towards the end, the best of us declined to give up and pressed on. "Where to? What next?

Info War

Ah - Information Warfare.
Islamic terrorists are encouraging
their supporters, who can write in English, to get on American web sites and
pretend to be friends or family members of American soldiers or marines. The
"media jehadis" are instructed to tell stories in line with the anti-war tone
of American and European media. Things like soldiers committing suicide because
they were forced to take part in atrocities in Iraq. Or wounded soldiers
suffering, or killing themselves, because of the poor care and abuse they have
received from the army. The media jihadis are told to make it sound like they
are simply passing on what a soldier said, not to pretend to be a soldier or
marine. Media jihadis are told not to discuss anything from the Moslems side,
and Moslems should only be referred to as innocent victims. Never mention the
Sunni-Shia conflict or Islamic terrorism. Posters should not stick around for
discussions, lest they be found out. Care should be taken to select screen
names similar to other English speaking posters. Keep messages simple, so as
not to betray the fact that you are not a native English speaker.

I know no more than this. But consider than not so very long ago terrorists crashing jet planes into building was the stuff of fiction. If I were waging war against the West this would be an easy tactic I'd use.

Yea Government

Yea Government!
The government's estimate of the number of Americans without health insurance fell by nearly 2 million yesterday, but not because anyone got health coverage.

The Census Bureau said it has been overstating the number of people without health insurance since 1995.

The bureau attributed the inflated numbers to a 12-year-old computer programming error.

The bureau reissued figures for 2005 and 2004 yesterday.
2 million today, how many in August (when the 2006 numbers will be released) and later when the revised numbers are released for the years from 1995 - 2003? We dunno. It's not a huge percentage wise number but it's damn these numbers affected a presidential election and years of debate. And they're wrong.

Yea government.

Space Access 07

Space Access 07 is going on right now. If you're at home reading this, you're missing it. I know that no one there is reading THIS because they're too busy setting boundaries for the future.

Someone has prevailed upon Jerry Pournelle to .. well it's not live blogging, really because Chaos Manor is a daybook. But this is pretty good ...
I'm listening to a pitch on getting gamers to play games with space prizes. The Man Who Sold The Moon becomes a text book. But the games and lotteries have to be free and get revenue from advertisements. State lotteries want no competition...

Win a trip to space by playing StarCraft?

Speaker: Barbara Morgan who graduated from high school the year I was born has been selected as an astronaut and has been waiting 22 years for a mission. Maybe the lottery system has a higher expected value of payoff than the government model.
Which is saying something. Twenty two years is a long time to wait.

Um, I think Jerry meant 'born the year I graduated high school'.

Also blogging the event are

The latter is a new blog for me - wonder if he's got his kids along. That's not a bad idea. Granted it's not an event 'for' kids but exposing your kids to an environment like that has got to be good for them.

There is a lot of blogging going on - some bits that have stood out. From Hobbyspace
Space Access ' 07: Day 2 - update 8
8:35 pm: Jerry Pournelle gives his "irreverent" views on space development.
- When he and friend heard about payload Getaway Specials
when the Shuttles began to fly they tried to propose a space burial
business with them. NASA was "horrified" both for the purpose and the
commercial aspect of it.
Capitalists! The horror.
Proposal: Congress would pledge $10B to the first company to put 31 people on the Moon for three years and return them safely.
Capitalists! The horror.
- NASA always wants to do everything with 40 year old PhD's. E.g.
Stations and Moon bases should be built by 18 year old construction
workers. Need to develop spacesuits that allow someone work in it for
18 hours.
Your typical 18 year old construction worker is not going to wait around on payroll for 22 years waiting to get to work. Clearly NASA is not the right organization to actually build stuff.

The question could be - is there a 'right' organization and what would it look like?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Banyan VINES

Your first nerdly love is so bittersweet, eighteen years on.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


My wife is smart and pretty
I don't think that people should give up their dreams. Even in difficult times we hold on to that dream for all it's worth. We are trying to be in it for the long haul. Being able to do this with my daughter is amazing and worth all the time and energy that I have invested. But when do we say "I can't do it anymore?" I don't know. i hope to never find out. But when you have someone come in and say to you before they leave, "You don't know how much better you have made me feel," it makes you pause and think that maybe you are doing something worth while. It makes you more determined and ready to face the next day.

My advice to the next entrepreneur? Go for it. There are worse things in life than failing - never trying is much worse.
I'm a lucky guy.


Fascinating is a photo blog about what life a hundred years ago was like: How people looked and what they did for a living, back when not having a job usually meant not eating. We’re starting with a collection of photographs taken in the early 1900s by Lewis Wickes Hine as part of a decade-long field survey for the National Child Labor Committee. One of his subjects, a young coal miner named Shorpy Higginbotham, is the site’s namesake.
Shorpy was a greaser at a mine in Alabama. He claimed to be fourteen but the photographer noted this was doubtful.

Ya - look at that face and tell me times have not changed for the better.

Freedom Fighters

"A Terrorist is another man's Freedom Fighter while a Freedom Fighter is another man's Terrorist"

"To desire the end is to desire the means; if you are not prepared to do what is necessary to achieve it, you never wanted it at all."

The general said it was the first time he had seen a report of insurgents using children in suicide bombings.

That sentence alone should make you retch.  Barbarians.

Things I Did Not Know This Morning

Fainting goat.
A fainting goat is a breed of domestic goat whose external muscles freeze for roughly 10 seconds when the goat is startled. Though painless, this generally results in the animal collapsing on its side. The characteristic is caused by a hereditary genetic disorder called myotonia congenita. Older goats sometimes learn to lean against something to prevent their falling over, and often they continue to run about in an awkward, stiff-legged shuffle.

Slightly smaller than standard breeds of goat, fainting goats are generally 17 to 25 inches tall and can weigh anywhere from 50 to 165 pounds. They have large, prominent eyes in high sockets, and exist in as many colors as standard breeds do. Hair can be short or long, with certain individuals producing a great deal of cashmere during colder months. There appears to be no angora strain of the fainting goat.
Via LiftPort alum Jodi Davis

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Things I Did Not Know This Morning

Shiloh Shepherd
The Shiloh Shepherd was developed in the 1970s and 1980s to highlight some traits particular breeders perceived to be represented (and over time, lost) in the original German Shepherd Dog (GSD). They are much larger, on average, than both original and modern German Shepherd Dogs. They are generally good family companions, considered intelligent and confident.

Handsome dogs.

Puppies are always cute.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

You can't go home again

Lileks on protest rallies.
There are serious, reasonable critics of the war whose arguments deserve attention and consideration. You generally don’t find them at protest rallies.
... as soon as enough people had assembled, they limbered up with a few basic slogans: Hell no, we won’t go, we won’t die for Texaco. To which one wants to respond, well, then don’t.
I know the man is not everyone's cup of tea - but since I've become a regular listener of The Diner I hear his voice reading The Bleat which makes it all so much more interesting.


And who knows? Maybe someday I'll find Lileks as annoying as I now find Garrison Keillor. I used to think his shtick was charming - but it wore out for me a few years ago. Dan Savage neatly sums it up
Oh, the world is more complicated today—and that’s a dang shame,
Keillor argues. Garrison pines for the days when life was simpler—when
straight people stay married for life, when kids were always in the
foreground, and when no one had to keep track of a gay relative’s
current partner, to say nothing of his ex, because back in the good
“confirmed bachelors” weren’t so rude as to bring their “roommates”
‘round for dinner.
Or not - James Lileks so far demonstrates a willingness to change - document the past, acknowledge the good bits and move on. Keillor's thing - his act - is to wish for an America that never was. That gets old after a while.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Silly Place

... 'tis a silly place.

Like Star Trek? Monty Python? Click the link. You know you want to.

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Space Show

David “Dr. Space” Livingston sent this around

Tuesday, March 20, 2007, 10:00-11:30 AM PDT: Dr. Neil
deGrasse Tyson, author of the new book, “Death By Black Hole”. Dr.
Tyson is also the Astrophysicist and Frederick P. Rose Director of the
Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History and the
Research Associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the American
Museum of Natural History.

Which is, all kinds of cool. The Space Show is a great resource, and
it goes on at great length. Plus .. you can call in. You can IM
questions for David and Neil if you - like me - will be at work.

I confess to a minor amount of awe - Neil is clearly a brain and
he’s good at explaining what’s going on in ways that everyone can

Kaboom - not

Speaking of that quality public school education, our local high school had a bomb threat today.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Toast Floats

Via Protected Static - an interesting blog - Toast Floats. They home school their kids AND live on a boat - two adventures for the price of one?
But what they are really asking is some variation of “Don’t they have to go to school?” Actually, the answer to that question is “No. They don’t.” There is this persistent urban myth in the United States that our choices for educating our children are: Bad (e.g. Expensive Private Schools) or Worse (e.g. Lousy Public Schools). And for many, this is true. Economically, you may not be able to afford any other possibility, and you may have no ability to influence the quality of the public school choice available. (Though as an aside, I have an unfair share of public school principles in my immediate family who would argue that public schools are not as bad as most folks think.)

Having said all that, a bit of research and a willingness to completely overturn the natural order of things reveals that there is a third choice which is neither bad nor worse, though it may be insane. You can homeschool your children.

In fact, the homeschool movement is growing rapidly as parents increasingly choose to opt out of this system and take their children with them. It depends on whom you read whether this trend originated in the 1960’s with a bunch of granola-eating commune hippies or has been around much longer under the banner of Christian fundamentalism liberally dashed with a peculiarly American brand of libertarianism. In any case, homeschool families have gained a reputation for complete lunacy, their offspring shunned as the spawn of whackos raised in an atmosphere of insulated mono-ideology. Public school couldn’t possibly be worse than homeschoolers.

Of course it can. While Columbine and the like might be the exception, they prove the rule. Public schools are not precisely the bastion of moral rectitude, quality education, and the relentless pursuit of social norms that everyone supposes
But it's Toast's sense of humor tha makes it worth reading
The priority became clear. The girls received a crash course in how to use matches in combination with the propane stove. At every possible opportunity, we used them to open the valves, turn on the solenoid, and start the stove burners or oven. Matches matches matches! Tea candles are the ideal testing ground for good match manners. Scatter them around the salon and you not only learn how to avoid burning bitty fingers, but you also create a charming atmosphere for yourselves and all distant observers watching your boat bob at anchor lit up like an old fashioned Christmas tree.

Electricity follows the same pattern. Though, frankly, the real problem with electricity and children is not the high voltage lines running everywhere, the exposed plugs in every room, or the enormous batteries in the foot of their bed. The real problem is that they never turn out the damn lights. I’m far more concerned with teaching the little twits to conserve energy then I am about them electrocuting themselves.

Misirlou for the obsessive

Misirlou - 15 different versions of it. Interesting but you may be tired of the song by the time it's over.


scroll to 61:00


Video flyovers of Spirit and Opportunity rover work areas.

Cool - but they need a soundtrack.


Sarb-Ox: Does anyone like it?

Hmm ...

Today, it is much harder to get in on the firms that could be the next Home Depot, unless you are a super-wealthy investor that can participate in private equity deals. According to BusinessWeek, the median market cap of a company going public was $52 million in the mid-1990s. Today, it's $227 million. This means that average investors are increasingly shut out of a company's emerging growth stages, where they would, yes, take the most risks, but also could reap the biggest returns.
Is there anyone who thinks that Sarb-Ox was a good idea? No - it's a serious question. Anyone .. Bueller?

Save Internet Radio

A petition to save internet radio. 25, 125 signatures to date.

To: Internet Radio Listeners

To my Congressional representatives, and to Congress as a whole,

As a fan of Internet radio, I was alarmed to learn that music royalty rates were recently determined by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) which, if enacted, would certainly silence most or all of my favorite online listening services. For most webcasters, this royalty rate represents more than 100% of their total revenues!

The shuttering of the webcasting industry would be a loss for not only independent business owners, but also for musical artists, for copyright owners, and for listeners like me who enjoy the wide variety of choices available via Internet radio.

I respectfully request that Congress look into this matter and initiate action to prevent it. As the CRB rate decision is retroactive to January 1, 2006, please understand that time is of the essence — as the immediate impact of this decision could silence many free Internet radio stations forever.


The Undersigned

I have no objection to rules, or paying for content - but a level playing field would be nice.


Things I Did Not Know This Morning

The song was first performed by the Michalis Patrinos rebetiko band in Athens, Greece in 1927. As with almost all early rebetika songs (a style that originated with the Greek refugees from Asia Minor), the song's actual composer was never identified, and its ownership rested with the band leader. The melody was most likely composed collaboratively by the group, as was often the case at the time; the initial lyrics were almost certainly by Patrinos himself. Patrinos, being a Smyrniot, pronounced the song's title [musurlu], approximately similar to the Turkish pronunciation, [mɯsɯrlɯ].
The song was rearranged as a solo guitar piece by Dick Dale in the 1960s. It was Dale's version of the piece that introduced "Misirlou" to a wider audience in the United States. Dale was of partially Lebanese background, and often credited Armenian music as the inspiration for his guitar style, and perhaps for this reason the tune has at times been mistakenly described as a Lebanese or Armenian folk song. The song's oriental melody has been so popular for so long that many people, from Morocco to Iran, will sometimes claim it to be a folk song from their own country.
The Surf Coasters - Misirlou

Anna Vissi - Misirlou

I'm torn - 'The Surf Coasters' are clearly tearing that song all up (in a good way) but hearing words with the music is pretty cool. Which one do you like?


Fandom thoughts by yourbob

So, I'm sitting here watching some of "For the Love of Dolly", a documentary on Dolly Parton fandom, and I'm thinking how weird and obsessive some of these people are and how totally bizarre it is to have such a total devotion to something.

Let me start again.

So, I'm sitting here in my Star Trek uniform.....

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Top Ten Signs That You’re Being Stalked By A Leprechaun

From Sgt Mom at 'The Daily Brief'.
Generic-looking green van parked across the street with Notre Dame bumper sticker.

Every time you turn around the pitter-pattering stops and that green fire hydrant seems to have gotten a little closer.

Green lipstick marks on the butt of your Dockers.

You’re being followed by a large woman with a sultry voice and a dying career. (Oops! That’s a sign you’re being stalked by Chaka Khan.)

You don’t recall owning an anatomically correct lawn gnome.

Card delivered with the bouquet of 4-leaf clovers reads, “I bet you’re magically delicious!”

When you come home from work, the potatoes are missing from the cupboard and your parrot is singing “Danny Boy.”

Prank caller has a really corny Irish accent, and Richard Gere has an airtight alibi.

Those tiny green hairs on your toilet seat.

Sultry voice from shower soap dish asks, “Is that your shillelagh, or are you just happy to see me?”

Pink hearts, yellow moons, blue diamonds scratched on your car at knee-level, and Ross Perot is nowhere to be found.

Them little green pellets in the litter box ain’t M&M’s, Chester.

Every day this week you’ve noticed the same buckle shoes dangling just above the floor in the stall next to you.

John Varley - Mammoth

Picked up John Varley's Mammoth yesterday on a whim - another book to add to the already too large pile.

Could .. not .. put .. it .. down and finished it this afternoon. He's certainly got a deft way of moving the action along - a plot device was introduced in the first chapter, not mentioned again until near the end of the book and when it was I smacked my head - three hundred pages and I never even wondered what happened to X?

Now that is entertainment.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Update from Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families

Email Update from Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families

March 15, 2007

For more than two years now the Coalition has been keeping you informed about a lawsuit that the state teachers' union (WEAC) brought against the Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA). The Legal battle to keep WIVA open, and to protect both parental involvement and educational reform from a dangerous assault, is still in a critical stage. Although WIVA, with assistance from the Coalition, succeeded in the Trial Court in stopping WEAC and DPI from closing the school, the case is still under appeal.

The Court of Appeals could reverse the Trial Court, so WIVA could still be
in jeopardy, and the rights of all parents to participate in their
child's education are still under attack. The arguments advanced by
WEAC and DPI to close WIVA could dramatically impact not only other
virtual schools, but the rights of all Wisconsin parents to be involved
in the public education of their children.

Our attorney, Christopher Mohrman of the law firm Michael Best and Friedrich, has provided us with the following update:

On December 27, 2006, the Coalition submitted its non-party (amicus)
brief, which was our opportunity to provide the Court with our current
perspective on this case. In their briefing, WEAC maintains that
parents may conduct no teaching functions whatsoever if those functions
are part of a public schools' curriculum. The State Department of
Public Instruction (DPI) says that WIVA's parents are too involved, but
avoid giving any kind of definitive answer to where the line is. A
major point of the Coalition's brief is that both WEAC and DPI are
simply seeking to do in this case what they have not been able to get
the Legislature and Governor to do. The Coalition's brief is only 13
pages long, and well worth your time to review to understand what is at
stake in this litigation.

Read the brief here.

With all the filings before the Court of Appeals, now, we wait. The next
step will be for the Court to decide if it wants to take oral argument
or not. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals only hears oral argument in
about 10% of the cases. If it wants oral argument that signals that at
least some of the judges are struggling with questions in the case
after reading all the submissions. If oral argument is ordered, it
would probably occur this summer or late fall. A decision generally
takes about a year to receive, with or without oral argument. Of
course, these are generalities and different cases can be handled

While nothing is certain in litigation, the fact
that open enrollment has been completed would give us strong arguments
in support of a stay of any adverse order, at least for a complete
school year. A stay would be strongly supported by the fundamental
unfairness of closing a school after state law has foreclosed any other
options for the families choosing that school. While staying the
impact of a judgment is a discretionary decision of the Court, those
strong arguments could be advanced in the event of a negative decision
anytime in the next 12 months.

Our Coalition will keep you posted as this case proceeds.

So nice to read that the teacher's union doesn't want you involved with your child's education unless it's on their terms.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

We are being cheated

I think Chris has a point
Centauri Dreams has a great post about the decline of the science fiction magazine, and its migration to digital media. I think the scifi community is losing part of its soul in exchange for... well for nothing, really. Nothing that's even close to the value of what we're losing because we're too lazy to get off our asses and walk to the nearest magazine store, or wait a few weeks for the mail.

If we lose the last of the scifi pulps and magazines, we're going to lose our heritage. We'll lose the magnificent cover art for starters. That cover art helped define the shared identity of whole generations of scifi fans. I'm not as eager to cheer the end of that era as some people. And we're going to lose the collections, the nostalgia factor, the sense of being connected to tradition, the sense of being part of a culture that is esthetically distinct from all the other niches out there. It'd be a shame if the online descendants of Wonder Tales all end up looking as soulless and procedural as Digg.
My first real SF was a copy of Analog that a first class passenger left on his seat on a flight to Portland, Oregon in 1976. I was nine. I read that thing cover to cover.

A few years later I discovered a huge stash of Asimovs at the Salvation Army in Salem, Oregon. Dime a copy? Maybe a whole quarter. I spent fifteen bucks and had my reading needs for the summer taken care of.

Times change and there is no going back - but I still look at the news stand and wish I'd find a copy of Analog there.

This is the cover of the Analog I found on the plane. Tell me that isn't cool.

5 questions

I'm not one to post memes and so on - tagging someone else feels pushy. However when Amber wrote this it felt like a fun enough game to play.

This is voluntary; you're selecting yourself to be bugged, which is fine with me.
  • Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
  • I respond by asking you five personal questions so I can get to know you better. If I already know you well, expect the questions may be a little more intimate!
  • You WILL update your journal/bloggy thing/whatever with the answers to the questions.
  • You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the post.
  • When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
My answers to Amber's questions

1. Who are you, anyway? How'd you find my blog?

I'm not really sure how I found our blog - I think it was a link from Joseph G. at

I'm me - just a guy from Wisconsin. I've got probably the most boring life possible. Work, home, walk the dog, rassle with the kids. If I'd seen this twenty years ago as a callow youth I'd gag but .. it's about the nicest possible life I could have.

Aubrey deGrey is a fellow who is working on radical life extension. When asked what he'd do if he could live two, three or four-hundred years he replied along the lines of 'Do what I do now. Drink a pint in the evening, walk with my wife, enjoy life. I like this life - I'd like more of it' which seems like a fine thing to me.

2. So, about LiftPort... are you really going to build a freakin' space elevator??

The Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise, yes.

Hey, someone is going to do it - why not us?

3. For that matter, what made you decide that you wanted to be involved in building a space elevator?

I was bored one day and decided ... 'why not'?

But, no. And yes. I was working for a really large telecom in Dallas (no, not that one) and realized that I really really didn't like working for really large companies that were (if you will) making widgets. Anyone can make widgets.

Plus the telco was clearly about to downsize the division I worked for. The best time to find a job is when you've got one.

So I looked around for companies that were a) in Dallas and b) doing unique stuff and changing the world.

LiftPort wasn't on my short list, of course; they didn't exist at the time. But while I was researching my short list and networking I ran across the precursor organization to LiftPort, sent them my resume in a 'what-the-hell' email. Later the next year when LiftPort did form, Michael Laine called me up and said "I can't pay you, but the job will be fun; want to sign up?" Clearly Michael is one persuasive son-of-a-gun.

And here I am.

Oh my shortlist? I had five companies on it. Four of them are extinct. I networked well enough that my resume landed in a hiring manager's hands for one (just before it went under), I discovered a guy who knew the founder of another who said he'd be happy to introduce me .. the week AFTER they closed their door. I interviewed at a third but they wanted someone with more expertise than I have at programming. They're still in business. Networking pays off, and the bleeding edge bleeds hard, baby.

4. Why do you sign all your blog posts "Respectfully submitted"?

Respectfully Submitted is what Marines sign in log books a the end of the duty period when they are duty NCO for the barracks, battalion, armory guard and so on.

It's a touchstone to something I used to do and who I used to be.

5. What's your caffeinated beverage of choice?

Coffee, black, little sugar.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Blogger @ Walter Reed - what is the deal?

This puts a different light on this post

I saw the post about @WR and couldn't believe my eyes. I wouldn't put up any such post, as it could be viewed as aiding and abetting someone to disobey a direct order. Personally, I think that such an order to silence a person from keeping what amounts to a public diary is unlawful, as it serves no purpose other than to restrict that person's first-amendment guaranteed right, which, as we all know, the constitution ensures the gummint can't touch, (infringe) and an Army officer, being a de facto government representative, issuing said order would be a perfect example of gummint incursion onto that right.

I understand the need for OPSEC both at home and abroad, and of course there is a need for discretion, where operational and even strategic information is relayed, but that isn't the case here. Simple embarrassment of the chain of command is (probably) the issue.

That being said, as an Army officer, I am not the one who would make this ruling of legality of the order itself, that duty belongs to a JAG judge. I can decide for myself whether or not to follow an order, and face said consequences. However, I cannot to assist someone else in breaking an order (unless it is blatantly unlawful/illegal/immoral) especially without knowing the exact limits of said order.

Regardless, I must state plainly that I didn't post the piece about @WR. It wasn't until this morning that I even visited Like I have previously stated in the disclaimer at the bottom of this page from day -1 this site has most likely been hacked.

In my mind it sorta calls into question the veracity of @Walter Reed. And the competence of said officer if he can't keep his blog secure.

Bearing and Posture

From Cryptonomicon
It had been a standing joke among her male offspring that Mom could walk unescorted into any biker bar in the world and simply by her bearing and appearance cause all ongoing fistfights to be instantly suspended, all grubby elbows to be removed from the bar, postures to straighten, salty language to be choked off. The bikers would climb over one another's backs to take her coat, pull her chair back, address her as ma'am, etc.
I mentioned this to my wife the other day and said that described her mother. She agreed. I'm a lucky guy to have such a great mother-in-law.

Dr. Helen Caldicott - Delay Fish

Listened to the last five minutes of this show in the car
For Program On: Tuesday, March 13, 2007 at 5:00 PM
Ben Merens' guest warns against the dangers of using weapons in space. Guest: Helen Caldicott, co-founder, Physicians for Social Responsibility. President, Nuclear Policy Research Institute. Author, "War in Heaven: the Arms Race in Outer Space."
I'm still not certain if Dr. Caldicott is as whacked out as she sounded. Maybe she was tired.  But ... not terribly logical, came across as, frankly, a bit flighty.  And boy could she not answer a question ..
Caller: What is to keep terrorists or rogue nations from sending up missiles and destroying our satellites in orbit with fléchettes they could run into?
Dr. Caldicott (long ramble paraphrased): Well dear boy there is already a lot of man-made debris we've put up there already and things are working just fine we've got GPS and satellite TV ...
At that point my drive was done.  I think the point was going to be that things are just fine the way they are now this kind of thinking is just foolish talk.

God help me I may have to listen to their audio stream when it becomes available, to see if my ears have deceived me.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

New Blogger

A new blogger, 'Walter Reed'.
I may not ever be able to change anything. But maybe I will be able to change me. Maybe this will give me a place to scream into the void when my screams fall on deaf ears.

I need to write. I need to tell my story. I need to let go of all of this.
By a soldier at Walter Reed. Don't read it because you feel sorry for him - read it because he's good.


300 Reviews

300 review come trickling into my RSS feeder. Guys I know from their blogs?  Thumbs up.

Garfield Ridge
And after last night, I can say that my lowered expectations were blown out of the water-- 300 is the real deal, a seriously kick-ass movie. It's bloody and violent and entertaining as all hell, with large chunks of red meat tossed at the audience.

Mike the Marine
Just got back from "300." Awesome. I would write a better review, but Ragnar apparently wrote it yesterday for me. Very thoughtful of him.

What did Ragnar think of it?
Went to see it yesterday. Of course, the action sequences were nothing short of awesome. It was just a kick-ass movie, as you can thoroughly gather from the previews. This movie had pretty much everything--hundreds of Spartans, millions of Persians, swords, blood, a giant wolf, gold, severed heads, hot chicks, killer elephants, more blood, explosions, bare boobs, a dude with saws for arms, naked lesbians, even more blood, lots of hand grenades and at least one pissed-off rhinoceros. The fact that the squishy ones don't like it speaks volumes. If not for the unfortunate shortage of zombies, chainsaws, shotguns and Bruce Campbell, "300" would probably be considered the most perfect action movie in the history of mankind. It may be anyway. It kicks that much ass.

Pans?  Squishy ones? Film critics.  Thumbs down.

"If 300, the new battle epic based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, had been made in Germany in the mid-1930s, it would be studied today alongside The Eternal Jew as a textbook example of how race-baiting fantasy and nationalist myth can serve as an incitement to total war." -- Dana Stevens, Slate (very first sentence!)

"Keeping in mind Slate's Mickey Kaus' Hitler Rule - never compare anything to Hitler - it isn't a stretch to imagine Adolf's boys at a 300 screening, heil-fiving each other throughout and then lining up to see it again." -- Kyle Smith, NY Post

"It may be worth pointing out that unlike their mostly black and brown foes, the Spartans and their fellow Greeks are white." -- A.O. Scott, NY Times

"At least in the short run, 300 is something to see, but unless you love violence as much as a Spartan, Quentin Tarantino or a video-game-playing teenage boy, you will not be endlessly fascinated." -- Kenneth Turan, LA Times

"It really is like a gay fetish movie. There are so many pecs and chests and rips and tears and nipples..." -- David Poland, Movie City News (before pausing to wipe his brow)

" militaristic and single-minded that it's like a CGI-heavy blockbuster version of Triumph of the Will. It's brutal, it's painful, it's mind-numbing and, most disturbingly, it's a rallying cry for the testosterone-heavy that posits 'no mercy' as the most noble sentiment in the world. The U.S. Army needs to pick this up as a recruiting film, stat." -- Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly

Interesting, and sadly predictable.  The pros seem to miss the point of the film. Or so I gather - I won't be seeing it for a few weeks.

OneCare considered harmful

Now that's a jaw-dropper.
I received this distress call from a remote user today. I wondered how she had managed to uninstall Outlook, but, in fact, it was Outlook.PST which was utterly missing from her machine. After some head scratching and log diving, we found that OneCare had quarantined it--not as part of a tune-up, but just routine operation in the evening while the owner was nowhere near the machine.
OneCare being the Microsoft all-in-one security and performance doohicky.

Outlook.PST is the file where your mail is. Not 'a' message but the entire shooting match.

More users chime in with 'hey that happened to me' and there are hints for keeping it from happening. Again.

Aparently, upon finding a virus in a downloaded e-mail, OneCare decided to quarantine not the single message, but the entire Outlook Express file that contained the infected attachment, whatever small nuisance it was. When for some reason it was not able to quarantine (probably because Outlook Express is running 24/7), it decided it better erase the whole file that includes my entire 4 months of business transactions (and the damage would have been years' worth had I not backed up). Yeah, I mean, why not, if you cannot extract one single message, better delete the entire 4000 of them?!

As if it's normal for your computer to just delete email - it happens all the time! - it's a feature! - and you have to be a brain dead moron to not tell your AV software "hey don't nuke the important stuff".


Dylan Hears A Who!

This isn't good but it's entertaining. Somewhat. Dylan Hears A Who!

I think my eardrums are bleeding.


Cultural Direction

I'm linking to this not because I think he's right or wrong - I'm not sure how I feel about this.
I drove home listening to Bob Davis on KSTP; he was revisiting one of his favorite topics, one that mirrors exactly something I’ve felt for some time: the lack of any prominent cultural direction, and the strange incoherent sense of anticipation that lack produces. It’s as if the culture is treading water, with nothing truly new to give it focus and purpose. That’s not exactly a good thing when you’re competing with cultures that have both, in large quantities, and a sense of historical momentum the West has lost. I grapple with this from time to time, usually in the morning; it’s the odd suspicion that the West is exhausted. Not done or over or dead or resigned, but simply exhausted. We live in the end stages of the application of the Enlightenment, at least as applied to our own culture; what now? If you’ve ended debate on the great issues, you’re left with smaller ones, like 720 vs. 1080i; you concern yourself with indistinct dreads and assign to them a moral component; you luxuriate in the hot springs of partisan politics and redefine the issues so the gap between left and right looks like Gog v. Magog territory.
At the very least 'blogging' it gets it out of my attention buffer.


Dave captured these pictures of tech manuals that were found in Galactica's CIC during his set visit.

Hope he doesn't get escorted out the nearest airlock for publishing these.

You get the impression that you need only crack open a pub locker, haul out the docs and you'll be able to drive and fight the ship. You gotta like a show that goes to such lengths to dress the set. Given that no one would ever see anything but the covers I wondered why they'd go to such lengths.

* Gives the crew a sense of depth for the play acting. I have read that the really good writers will fully imagine (say) a given room the character inhabits, even if the text never refers to it. Might this be the same thing?

* Screencaps. Fan boys are going to screen cap and enhance everything, eventually. How nifty for the fans if the caps reveal a 'genuine' pub and not (say) a photocopy of a take-out menu from the Chinese place down the road.

Saturday, March 10, 2007



Man once landed on the moon.
Now the moon is landing on us.

I don't demand complete reality from my TV but this is .. this is pretty bad. We're talking complete howler. Show this at a con and they'd turn it into a drinking game - hoist a shot for every science goof or dumb-ass plot device - and everyone would be blotto by the end of the first hour.

Home School

Mom and Dad divorce - it happens. Dad sues the mom to send their seven kids to parochial school because they are not receiving an adequate education while being home schooled. This smells just a bit - they'd been home schooled before the couple split - but who knows what happened behind closed doors. I am not even that interested.

What irks me is the Honorable Thomas Zampino, who presided over the case.
"This is shocking to the court. In this day and age where we seek to protect children from harm and sexual predators, so many children are left unsupervised."
Except by, you know, the parents?

Full PDF of the ruling is here.

The private war of women soldiers

This is pretty bad - but a perhaps not unexpected unanticipated effect of integrating women into the armed forces.
I have talked to more than 20 female veterans of the Iraq war
in the past few months, interviewing them for up to 10 hours each for a
book I am writing on the topic, and every one of them said the danger
of rape by other soldiers is so widely recognized in Iraq that their
officers routinely told them not to go to the latrines or showers
without another woman for protection.
The article goes in in some detail. As I read I couldn't help but think "failure of leadership". When the troops know that the C.O. is firmly against crap like this .. it just doesn't happen.
I am not claiming that sexual persecution is universal in the military,
or that it is inevitable. Several soldiers I interviewed told me that
if a commander won't tolerate the mistreatment of women, it will not
happen, and studies back this up. Jennifer Hogg, 25, who was a sergeant
in the Army's National Guard, said her company treated her well because
she had a commander who wouldn't permit the mistreatment of women.
This is true for an amazing amount of shenanigans, not just rape or sexual harassment.

Structural Vulnerabilities of Networked Insurgencies: Adapting to the New Adversary

Good Stuff from Parameters - Structural Vulnerabilities of Networked Insurgencies: Adapting to the New Adversary

Sun Tzu said, “Know your enemy.” The structure of a movement, meaning its organization and methods, is the key to understanding it. Modern and Maoist insurgencies are structurally different. In order to be effective, those conducting counterinsurgencies must take into consideration these differences and adapt their methods to the structure of modern adversaries.

On Call in Hell

Once in a great while Fresh Air has a really good segment on.  This is one of them.

Fresh Air from WHYY, March 7, 2007 · Navy Cmdr. Richard Jadick earned a Bronze Star with a "V" for valor for his service as a doctor during the Battle of Fallujah, which featured some of the worst street fighting seen by Americans since Vietnam. His new memoir, written with Thomas Hayden, is On Call in Hell: A Doctor's Iraq War Story.

Jadick volunteered to go to Iraq and in November 2004. He accompanied the First Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment.

As a battalion surgeon, Jadick led 54 navy medical corpsmen. He and other doctors developed the concept of forward-aid stations to care for casualties on the front lines, instead of having to transport the wounded for miles to aid stations away from the fighting.


We've got a dog like that.
I used to be able to get thru a spot in my old fence, but the mean ol' neighbor complained. I really didn't mean to scare his little girls ... I just wanted to play with them. One is big, and the other is about my size. They're very sweet, but when I barked " HI! " and gave them my best happy smile, they ran into their house! I was a little sad, because little people give the best tummy-rubs. And they're dependable ... I don't think the big people give enough tummy-rubs, and they seem awfully busy.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Luck favors the prepared.  Still ..
Long promised, finally here: my posting recounting my visit to the Vancouver set of Battlestar Galactica back on November 30th and December 1st, 2006.
I'm emoting severe jealously waves now.  I hate you Dave.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Words fail me
Was Oxley aware, his questioners asked, that the law that he and Senator Paul Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat, rushed onto the books five years ago after the collapse of Enron and WorldCom had contributed to a sharp decline in listings on U.S. stock exchanges? And, knowing what he knows now about the cost and effects of the law, would Oxley — who retired in January after 25 years in Congress — have done it any differently?

"Absolutely," Oxley answered. "Frankly, I would have written it differently, and he would have written it differently," he added, referring to Sarbanes. "But it was not normal times." [. . .]
Can you sue a legislator for malpractice?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

You spent that money on a comic book?

Mom - as my mother has always done and no doubt always will do - sent a modest amount of cash with my birthday card. Which was certainly appreciated then - living in a town far from home with a new wife. It wasn't that the cash was needed but the thought was. Went down to the local bookstore and found a hardback leather bound edition of this novel.

I had to have it. I bought it, was savoring how good the story looked between hard covers, was relishing the story and my first wife looked at it with disgust and said "You spent all that money on a comic book?"

In retrospect this was an early sign that the marriage was doomed.


I wasn't sure about the 300. The trailers looked cool, sure, and while I don't spend much time reading funny books graphic novels I really dug Frank Miller's 'Dark Knight' novel and 'Sin City' (the movie).

But then I read this ..
There is irony here. Oliver Stone's mega-production Alexander spent tens of millions in an effort to recapture the actual career of Alexander the Great, with top actors like Collin Farrel, Anthony Hopkins, and Angelina Joilie. But because this was a realist endeavor, we immediately were bothered by the Transylvanian accent of Olympias, Stone's predictable brushing aside of facts, along with the distortions, and the inordinate attention given to Alexander's supposed proclivities. But the "300" dispenses with realism at the very beginning, and thus shoulders no such burdens. If characters sometimes sound black-and-white as cut-out superheroes, it is not because they are badly-scripted Greeks, as was true in Stone's film, but because they reflect the parameters of the convention of graphic novels, comic books, and surrealistic cinematography.
Alexander was a bit of crap, true. Any film that is (as it were) the anti-Alexander is going to be good.
. . . but what was not conventionalized was the martial spirit of Sparta that comes through the film. Many of the most famous lines in the film come directly either from Herodotus or Plutarch's Moralia, and they capture well, in the historical sense, the collective Spartan martial ethic, honor, glory, and ancestor reverence.
"Come and take them!"
"Then we'll have our battle in the shade."

Those are the words of men who know what they're doing and what the cost will be.
Why—beside the blood-spattering violence and often one-dimensional characterizations—will some critics not like this, despite the above caveats?

Ultimately the film takes a moral stance, Herodotean in nature: there is a difference, an unapologetic difference between free citizens who fight for eleutheria and imperial subjects who give obeisance. We are not left with the usual postmodern quandary 'who are the good guys' in a battle in which the lust for violence plagues both sides. In the end, the defending Spartans are better, not perfect, just better than the invading Persians, and that proves good enough in the end. And to suggest that ambiguously these days has perhaps become a revolutionary thing in itself.
A movie that drives a stake in the ground and says 'this is a good and right thing to do"? Sign me up.


To The People of Texas and All Americans In The World

Travis wrote this as the seige was pressed around the Alamo. It used to be studied and memorized by school children, or so I have read. All I learned about the Alamo in school was that it happened.

Commandancy of the Alamo-
Bejar, Feby. 24th, 1836

To The People of Texas and All Americans In The World --
February 24, 1836

Fellow citizens compatriots --

I am beseiged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna -- I have sustained a continual Bombardment cannonade for 24 hours have not lost a man -- The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken -- I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, our flag still waves proudly from the walls -- I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, every thing dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch -- The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor that of his country --


William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comdt.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Realtime weather map.

Amazing times we live in.

Precision weapon

I've had this in my .sig file for a long time.
Gluing a sight to your plasma cannon does not make it a precision weapon.
Admiral Breya, Sclock Mercenary
Time to give that entry a re-think

A good suit

At a certain point in your life you realize that you need several good suits and a dressy overcoat not for job interviews or dressing up for dinner but so you don't look like a complete hick at funerals.

Which is not as depressing as it might sound - more matter-of-fact.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Because wearing a parka to the graveside is practical but tacky.

Three ring circus

If this is any indication, the 2008 elections have the promise to be entertaining. Some bright kid edited the 1984 Apple 'Big Brother' commercial with Senator Hillary Clinton in the role of Big Brother.

Rock on

Hey, Brother Wretchard

Now the inevitable consequence of "limits to growth" environmentalism would be to hope, indeed to wager, that human intelligence is alone in the universe. Because any extraterrestrial life we may encounter will likely be a high Type I or greater. To be a "limits to growth" environmentalist is to conciously remain an Aborigine awaiting the arrival of the First Fleet. Onward then and don't look back. We have been cast out of Paradise.

You're preaching to the choir. But please, do continue with a hearty 'amen' from the back pew.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Mass Transit

Lileks quoting Thomas Fisher on mass transit and urban design
“The reality in this new era is that innovation come from opportunities to have face-to-face conversations to stimulate one another with new ideas. But by separating ourselves from that experience so we can live in our suburban house, get in our car, go to the office, then go back again and never encounter anybody, what you prevent is the unexpected experience that might get you to think about something in a new way.”
Forgive me for being thick, but what in the name of Corbu is he talking about? Is he really suggesting that a society’s intellectual vitality is dependant on everyone sitting in the same light-rail train car having face-to-face conversations? What if I want to tune everyone out with, say, an iPod? What if I choose to read a book on the way in?
If your own experience argues that someone is full of poo is it polite to say so?

I've done mass transit in D.C., Dallas and San Francisco. People don't talk and have conversations - they just don't. You get on, you ride along for awhile and get off. iPods, books and magazines are the rule. If there is an unexpected experience it's because one of your fellow riders hasn't bathed in a while or keeps talking to the people residing in his head.

The man must not get out much.


He's seven.

"Mozzlefox won't run on mommy's computer."
We shared a look. What?
"You know - the fox you click on."
Oh, Mozilla Firefox.

Only seven and he's learning how to talk to tech support.

The Good Old Days weren't

Someone - give Fred a shot of hope, follow that up with a hearty dose of optimisim. He's wishing for things that never were. Again.
I might have preferred Greek times, when humanity was a small speck in a large world. Or perhaps Rome of the first century, with more order but man still not a spreading uncontrolled blight. Those horrible mid-eastern religions had not yet raised their grim and censorious heads, and one might still worship a sacred grove, or the statue of a goddess, or the moon. Capri was yet a lovely place, with misted peaks on a blue bay, not yet carpeted in tour buses and fat people from Rhode Island.
The good old days weren't. Dirty, brutish, life was short, the hours long and if you thing your boss now is a slave driver .. well he's not, literally a slave driver. In short, unless you were a privleged minority, you were nothing.

Fred wishes he could ride the plains as a free man, alone with nature and communing with diety. Which is fine. Perfect, more power to him.

But the odds are reasonably good he's be just another schlub, chained to the land and his lord, working until he drops dead at the ripe age of 30. He wouldn't get the benefits of Greek or 1st century Roman civilization, his betters would.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Google does lyrics

And artist, track, duration ..


When the heck did this happen? Ahem. I, for one, welcome our new Google Overlords and wish them ..

James Burke - Connections

From 'Connections 2' - Revolutions. You'll have to imagine Burke's learned English accent that makes it sound so damned smart.
.. That's all it takes to get you back to the late 18th century. Three grandfather's lifetimes. That's how close we are to it. And, yet, that world has disappeared so totally, it's like fairyland. Thatched cottages, meadows, happy peasants. A golden age. Garbage, all that. Nasty, brutish, and short - that's what life was all about. And dirty. And boring. And it had been like that for thousands of years! And then, suddenly, the whole complex polluted overpopulated phrenetic nonstop stressful high tech rat race that is the modern world... Life was suddenly no longer as simple as it had been. And the extraordinary thing is, none of that was planned.
Streaming video from Connections - here.

Probably not the single best television series ever - you've got to like that kind of thing to get into it. But it's pretty damned good.

to be a martyr

to be a martyr
by kelly zen-yie tsai
you must believe
in something
so unmistakably

that the flesh
falls away from
the skeleton

bones crumble
into air

all you are
left with
is spirit
pure spirit

you let go
of resurrections
rebirths, mad-
dash escapes

you accept

the blinding
of the light

you are
truly committed

and for
the newspapers
that paint you
as a madwoman

and all the
who could not

how heartless
and cruel this
foreign woman
was (and isn’t it
always a foreign

how she didn’t
love the child
she held in
her arms

carried in
her belly 9
months before

how she would
just as soon
blow the child to bits
as guide her nipple
into its mouth

how she filled
the baby bottle
with lotion
fit for explosion

and they and the
plane would have
gone down in
charred flames

the mystery
wafting over
the atlantic

of how this
woman could
have ever loved
this child

to kill in the
name of jihad

but i say
it was not
quite that

it’s never anything
so impersonal

no, i say
it was right there

under her shirt
along the breast

tucked into
her baby’s mouth

as clean as
the milk that
leaked from
her chest

as natural
as the baby’s
skull against her

as close as this
made her do it



this life
this way
was not worth living
for all

Friday, March 02, 2007

Stairway to Heaven

Buckethead, from The Ministry of Minor Perfidy, posted Part Two of his interview titled 'Stairway to Heaven' with LiftPort System Administrator, Brian Dunbar. Part One is titled 'Rockets are Wrong'.

As always, feel free to tell me what I got wrong.

She's got a ticket to ride

And she don't care. Except that we hope you do.

You can't use them - you might never get to use them. In the end it might end in tears and heartbreak .. or we might win big. You never know.

Call it foolish optimism then. We're selling tickets. Lift Tickets, for a clever play on our name and snow skiing.

Why? Revenue is the obvious reason - this train don't run on good wishes and hope. Publicity is the real reason - we hope you'll like this idea and decide that it's not a foolish stunt but an attempt to start a conversation. That ol' marketing thing again.

The ticket is done in an old train style, commemorating the last time a major infrastructure project connected a new frontier. The picture is the Mir Space Station, the station that still holds the record for the longest continuous human presence in space. Mir also represented the earliest foray of private industry to bringing paying individuals to an orbital facility, lighting the spark for the x-prize and the myriad of commercial ventures attempting to enter that frontier.

These collectible lift tickets are numbered in gold foil, printed on secure paper and employ several patented anti- counterfeiting methods. The ticket is attached to a custom image designed by Nyein Aung in a protective mount designed for collectibles.

Because, really, having nifty technology isn't enough. You gotta build a business.

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Those are pretty, aren't they?

Respectfully Submitted,
Brian Dunbar