Thursday, November 29, 2007

New Job

I'll start Monday at TreeStar in Ashland, writing Flow Cytometry Analysis Software. Don't feel bad—I too have only the vaguest idea what that means. That's how we stave off Alzheimer's; by learning new things.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hix Nix Flix

Los Angeles -
Despite critical acclaim and massive promotional budgets, a wave of anti-Santa holiday pictures floundered at the box office over the Thanksgiving opening weekend, leading some entertainment industry analysts to question whether Hollywood had overestimated the American public's loathing for the Claus administration and a seemingly endless shopping season.
Or maybe it's dateline Iowa.

Forty Thou A Year

Via Marginal Revolution:
Linda started her online business, the Prairie Tumbleweed Farm, as a joke. It was 1994 and she wanted to teach herself how to design a website. Since she lived on the prairie in southwest Kansas, where rolling tumbleweeds are sometimes the only dynamic feature of an endless flat horizon, she invented a farm that sold tumbleweeds, listing prices at $15 for a small one, $20 for a medium and $25 for large.

Lucky for her, some people didn't get the joke....
Full story here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Anton Raphael Mengs

One of my favorite nativity paintings is this one by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728 - 1779). The Adoration of the Shepherds.

Up at the top we have the usual cherubim and seraphim, one of whom appears to be looking straight at us. But the rest of the group seems caught up in the drama.

This old patriarch, shepherd by trade, looks like one of the prophets himself, come to check that what's come to pass has really come to pass.

But what's with this guy in the sou'wester? I don't remember any sailors taking liberty in Bethlehem. Clearly a portent.

The heart of the picture is this guy in the blaze orange and wolf skins, very excited. "Wow, man, he's so big!"

And then there's Joseph engaged in animated conversation with the shepherd. "Yeah, man, we been riding this donkey all day. And there's like no room. So I make a deal for this stable and then wham! There he is. It's so cool!" Very excited; new poppa.

There's Mary. Redhead. It figures. And the child, wide awake naturally, little smirk on his face. Think this is cool? Just wait.

But this guy over on the left. He always got to me. Looking straight at us. Gesturing at the dark. Something about him doesn't quite fit. What's his point?

"See that blank spot?" he says, "See that empty space?"

Yeah. So, what?

Go to Wikipedia and look up Anton Raphael Mengs. There's his self-portrait. Go back and look at the Adoration.

There he is.

The artist is in his own picture.

"See that nothing?" he says, "I filled it."

Merry Christmas.

Distressingly Clear Language

Mickey Kaus's words. stupid were the gun-controllers in the D.C government to persist in their cause? The result may be a ruling that after 200 years actually gives meaning to the distressingly clear language of the Amendment. Couldn't gun-controllers from the rest of the country have talked them out of it?

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Decline of Black Friday

Michael Kanellos takes note of a disturbing trend.
Police and security guards reported only sporadic conflicts and violence between shoppers on "Black Friday" and this past Thanksgiving weekend.

My god, what's happened to us?

Just a year ago, police had to subdue a crowd with pepper spray at a Target in Tysons Corner, Va., that had been waiting in line to buy a PlayStation 3. Meanwhile, Wii mania gripped shoppers elsewhere. Early shoppers tried to sell their places in line and then hawk their consoles for excessive prices on eBay.

And for the past three years, Wal-Mart has offered super cheap laptops as bait to shoppers, who responded by trampling each other in the predawn light of store parking lots....

Personally, I blame the electronics industry. For the last few years, they have enticed buyers into stores with large flat-screen TVs and consumers have responded in turn by snapping them up.

The big items this year so far have been the Kindle, an electronic book from, and the new version of the Sony Reader. Both are beautiful products. Unfortunately, both are books. Don't you people read the news?
Hat tip to Joe for noticing this.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is an amazing photo of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse by Tyler Westcott.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gas Bag on the Campaign Trail

Ron Paul BlimpI must have been channeling the Ron Paul for President campaign yesterday. Today we met with the news that they want to tour the country in a blimp.

Here's how he could really make it work.

Attach a bannister to the gondola, cruise at an altitude of about 50 feet AGL, and make whistle stop campaign speeches in every little town along the way. The media would not be able to resist the spectacle, and the resulting publicity would be enormous. Never mind that he would look like a cross between Robur the Conqueror and the Wizard of Oz. He couldn't look more silly than Robert Taft.

And that's a lot less silly than the rest of the field right now.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Cruise San Francisco in a Zeppelin.
Flying at 500 to 1000 ft above the ground, you will have a bird's-eye view of famous landmarks (such as the Golden Gate bridge, Coit Tower, Alcatraz, etc in the San Francisco Area). You will be able to look down upon traffic jams, industrial parks and shopping malls and you will also see wildlife, geology, the water and get to know about the weather.
Airship Ventures hopes to begin flying next year. Company blog here. Zeppelin-NT site here.

Think Ahead

Tam makes a very good point about girlie guns.
It's a free country and people can do with their stuff what they want, but I'm not sure I'd want a pink revolver with "The Pink Bitch" laser-etched on the barrel entered as Exhibit A in a civil case following a self-defense shooting; I think of the arguments I could build around that and I shudder, and I don't have post-grad training in making someone look like a deranged psycho in front of a jury.

No Comment

William Hughes Mearns (1875-1965):
Yesterday upon the stair
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today
Oh how I wish he'd go away.
If you like to comment on articles, you may feel at times like the man on the stair. You add a comment, you can see your comment in the thread, and yet it's like no one else can see it.

JimJams has unmasked their nefarious plot.
If you make a comment on an article posted at SFGate, and if the site moderators then subsequently delete your comment for whatever reason, it will only appear as deleted to the other readers. HOWEVER, your comment will NOT appear to be deleted if viewed from your own computer! The Chronicle's goal is to trick deleted commenters into not knowing their comments were in fact deleted. I'll give evidence below showing how they do this....
He does, it's true, they do, and in fact the author of the commenting software touts this as a feature.

Thanks to Instapundit.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Extinct Humans

The proprietress of The Thinking Meat Project, one of the more interesting blogs I've run across lately, recommends The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans by G. J. Sawyer and Viktor Deak. Looks interesting.

And speaking of extinction, which hopefully is forever, ponder for a moment the fate of Homo Environmentalcases. This blog wishes them the very best of luck in their present endeavors.

Populist Fad-Following Do-Gooder

Jonah Goldberg, no fan of libertarians, finds Ron Paul less scary than Mike Huckabee:
Huckabee's a populist on economics, a fad-follower on the environment and an all-around do-gooder who believes that the biblical obligation to do "good works" extends to using government — and your tax dollars — to bring us closer to the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

For example, Huckabee would support a nationwide ban on public smoking. Why? Because he's on a health kick, thinks smoking is bad and believes the government should do the right thing.

And therein lies the chief difference between Paul and Huckabee. One is a culturally conservative libertarian. The other is a right-wing progressive.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


"Refugee Thanksgiving" by Norman Rockwell, November 27, 1943.
If ever you start to wonder, amid your day-to-day frustrations and annoyances, what you have to be thankful for, pick up a book and read a little history.

This year I read Clash of the Carriers by Barett Tillman, The Fall of Fortresses by Elmer Bendiner, First Into Nagasaki by George Weller, and The Second World War by John Keegan.

What have you got to be thankful for? Take a look at the cover of The Saturday Evening Post from November, 1943. What has she got to be thankful for?

Well, she's alive, for one thing. And she's got something to eat, although it's probably getting cold while she takes a moment to pray. Let your eye wander a bit through the allegorical details of Rockwell's drawing—the broken chains, the ruins of classical civilization, the coat... where'd that coat come from? Borrowed from some American army sergeant, I guess. He probably didn't need it any more.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Bird With a Hebrew Name

Herb Geduld in JWR:
In describing King Solomon's fabulous wealth, the Bible (I Kings 10:22 and II Chronicle 9:21) speaks of a ship that Solomon had in Tarshish on the Spanish southern coast which brought "zahav, v'kesef, shenabim, v'kofim, v'TIKKUYIM." — Gold, silver, ivory, apes and peacocks — to his palaces.

We now take an almost 2,500 year historical leap to 1492 and Columbus' discovery of America. Despite the fanciful speculation to the contrary, most historians now agree that there was only one person of known Jewish birth on Columbus' First Voyage, but he was a very significant one.

Luis de Torres, a Jew baptized shortly before Columbus' fleet sailed, was the interpreter of the expedition. He is described in Columbus' diaries as a man "who had been a Jew and knew Hebrew and Chaldean and a little Arabic," and Columbus brought him along in case he met the "grand Khan."

Luis de Torres did not meet Khan, but among the many wonders he and his exploration parties did discover was a large wild bird with a head and body very similar to the peacock. The male even had a feather display which, while not as spectacular, resembled the peacocks. De Torres, with his background of Biblical Hebrew but poor ornithological knowledge, called this bird a tukki, which over the centuries has been corrupted into our "turkey."

Which is why, tomorrow, we eat a bird with a Hebrew name on Thanksgiving.

Rex Research

According to the web site:
REX RESEARCH was established in 1982 by Robert A. Nelson to archive and distribute information about "unconventional", suppressed, dormant, or emerging sciences, technologies, inventions, theories, therapies, and miscellaneous alternatives that offer real hope of liberating humanity. Little has changed for the better since then...
And down at the bottom of the page:
Rex Research, PO Box 19250, Jean, NV 89019 USA
Jean, Nevada? Where the heck is Jean, Nevada?

According to Wikipedia
Jean is a small community in Clark County, Nevada, located approximately 12 miles north of the Nevada-California state line along Interstate 15....

As of 2006, Jean contains a total of 2 permanent residents. The community's racial makeup is 100.0% White.
Sounds like a company town.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Baghdad By Night

Baghdad (AFP):
The gaudy orange, green and purple electronic palm trees flashing in the dark alert you that you're getting close to one of Baghdad's bustling nightspots.

The palms, like a mirage, can be seen from way down the darkened streets, lighting up the night and giving a promise of normality in the otherwise bleak and deserted capital, ravaged by four years of insurgency and sectarian strife.

And then, suddenly, you've arrived and the mirage has become an oasis of generator-driven light; a colourful jumble of trendy juice bars, cosy restaurants, fruit shops, roadside eateries and fish vendors, where children play, families dine and lovers meet.

"Even two or three months ago we would have been afraid to come here at night," said 20-year-old Hussein Salah, an off-duty soldier, slurping a milkshake with his wife, Shihad, at the Mishmesha (apricot) juice bar in Baghdad's relatively safe Karrada suburb.

"Now we sometimes sit outside here till one or two in the morning. It is quite safe. The security situation is vastly improved," said Salah, the orange light from a nearby flashing palm alternatively brightening and dimming his clean-shaven face.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Rhetorical Cage Match

Greg sends a link to an upcoming event.
In this debate on what are arguably two of the most important questions in the culture wars today — Is Religion a Force for Good or Evil? and Can you be Good without God? — the conservative Christian author and cultural scholar Dinesh D'Souza and the libertarian skeptic writer and social scientist Michael Shermer, square off to resolve these and related issues...
A debate? I don't think so. In the classic sense of the term a debate centers around a single, limited, proposition, such as
Resolved: The Catholic church was a force for good in the 16th century.
One side defends the proposition and the other side attacks it. In college contests you must be prepared to both attack and defend; they typically choose sides with the flip of a coin. It's a display of rhetorical skill, not advocacy.

Here we don't have propositions, we have questions:
Is Religion a Force for Good or Evil?
Can you be Good without God?
A reasonable person would answer them yes and no, it depends, or maybe. But that's not what we expect here. We want a fight. To turn this opinion exchange into a debate they will have to pick and choose their propositions on the fly, defend some and abandon others, encourage their opponent to defend his weaker positions while evading his more dangerous challenges. Rhetorically it will be more of a cage fight than the Olympic wrestling match for which their academic background has prepared them.

Pure entertainment, in other words. But not a debate.


Christopher Hitchens in Slate:
I am not at all certain that any of this apparently good news is really genuine or will be really lasting. However, I am quite sure both that it could be true and that it would be wonderful if it were to be true. What worries me about the reaction of liberals and Democrats is not the skepticism, which is pardonable, but the dank and sinister impression they give that the worse the tidings, the better they would be pleased. The latter mentality isn't pardonable and ought not to be pardoned, either.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Random Range

Leslie informed me tonight at dinner—and I really don't know how the subject came up—that our new kitchen range has a Sabbath Feature.

"A what?"

"Sabbath Feature."

"What's a Sabbath Feature?"

"Well, you set the Sabbath Feature, and then after a random amount of time, the oven comes on."

"What? Let me see the manual."

Sure enough, that's what it does. But why? The manual didn't say, so I googled it. Friendly Grizzly's blog had part of the answer:
Jewish days run from sundown to sundown. Our Sabbath (Shabbos or Shabbat) starts Friday sundown, and ends Saturday sundown. In that time frame, no work is to be performed, no writing, no riding in mechanical conveyances, and opertion of things mechanical or electrical are prohibited. Jews walk to schul (literally "school", or the synagogue) for services.

Facing the realities of modern day life, it was a tradition over the years for the observant to hire a gentile child to do things like turn lights on and off and do other such tasks. They were called shabbos goyim. Practicality was addressed, a child might earn a bit of money, and everyone was pleased with the situation.

Many, in order to cook, did not use a Shabbos Goy but instead turned on an oven in advance. This way, they could heat food on the Sabbath without actually working the controls. In recent years, however, makers of stoves put in safety devices to shut down an oven after 12 hours. Noontime on Saturday would come to pass, and you had a cold stove.
Wired magazine picks it up from there.
That's where Jonah Ottensoser comes in. He doesn't hack the fridges so much as work with manufacturers to give appliances a kosher seal of approval....

One of the hardest parts of Ottensoser's job is explaining to engineers the intricacies of Jewish law. He starts by focusing on the concept of indirect action. Sabbath law prohibits Jews from performing actions that cause a direct reaction; that would qualify as forbidden work. But indirect reactions are, well, kosher. In Hebrew, this concept is called the gramma. There are two types of grammas, Ottensoser tells me. Say you hit a light switch, but it doesn't come on immediately — that's a time delay, a time gramma. There's also a gramma of mechanical indirectness, like a Rube Goldberg contraption in which a mouse turns a wheel that swings a hammer that turns a key that launches a rocket. You can't claim the mouse actually launches the rocket.

Ottensoser gets manufacturers to build the easier time gramma into their products. Rabbis differ on how much of a delay is required; the Star-K rabbinical authority, Moshe Heinemann, authorizes a 5-second lag. To be on the safe side, Ottensoser increased the delay to 15 seconds and a random wait of as much as 10 seconds. Why? "An indirect action is one where you can't predict what's going to happen," he says.
So you didn't actually turn the oven on. Not legally, anyway. But hey, so long as it's already on, you might as well slip a casserole in there. If it cooks, it cooks. Not your fault.

Nice feature. I can't wait to use it.

"When's dinner going to be ready?"

"Hard to say."

Zeta Woof Banned In China!

According to this web site, this blog is censored banned strictly verboten in China.

I'm so proud.

Update: Not true; more's the shame. I pinged Joe in Suzhou. He says my site is still up.
Most are down. Just make sure you say nothing unfavourable about the great country in which I serve and live (wink wink).

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Deep Fried Neon

This probably falls into the category of don't try this at home but really, if you can't build a megawatt Tesla coil in your mom's garage, where can you build it?

Deep Fried Neon has complete instructions, well written and profusely illustrated.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Einstein Hangs Ten

The Telegraph, London:
Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything

An impoverished surfer has drawn up a new theory of the universe, seen by some as the Holy Grail of physics, which has received rave reviews from scientists.
Well, a surfer dude with a PhD in physics, actually.
Garrett Lisi, 39, has a doctorate but no university affiliation and spends most of the year surfing in Hawaii, where he has also been a hiking guide and bridge builder (when he slept in a jungle yurt).
He titled the paper An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything and it's a thing of beauty to behold, although I understand it about as well as a chipmunk understands Beethoven.

“The nightmare is ending.”

Michael Yon in Iraq:
It's been a long time since I've seen any fighting. I can't remember my last shootout: it's been months. The nightmare is ending. Al Qaeda is being crushed. The Sunni tribes are awakening all across Iraq and foreswearing violence for negotiation. Many of the Shia are ready to stop the fighting that undermines their ability to forge and manage a new government. This is a complex and still delicate denouement, and the war may not be over yet. But the Muslims are saying it's time to come home. And the Christians are saying it's time to come home. They are weary, and there is much work to be done.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

1. Unknown; 2. Skimmed; 3. Heard Of; 4. gotten

The Economist reviews How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard. In answer to the obvious question: No, I don't think so—she just skimmed it.

Oldest P-38 Lightning Discovered

Wales (exact location undisclosed):
In the summer of 2007, a Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft, presumed to be USAAF serial number 41-7677, emerged from the sand of a beach in Wales where it crash landed in 1942. The aircraft, largely intact and remarkably free of corrosion, is one of the most significant WWII-related archaeological discoveries in recent history.
AP story here.

Web site here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bush Affective Disorder

Bush derangement syndrome (BDS), or as my friend Vinnie called it today, Bush affective disorder (BAD) seems to describe the affliction of a good many otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people today. Peter Berkowitz considers the subject in Opinion Journal.
To get the conversation rolling at that D.C. dinner--and perhaps mischievously--I wondered aloud whether Bush hatred had not made rational discussion of politics in Washington all but impossible. One guest responded in a loud, seething, in-your-face voice, "What's irrational about hating George W. Bush?" His vehemence caused his fellow progressives to gather around and lean in, like kids on a playground who see a fight brewing.

Reluctant to see the dinner fall apart before drinks had been served, I sought to ease the tension. I said, gently, that I rarely found hatred a rational force in politics, but, who knows, perhaps this was a special case. And then I tried to change the subject.

But my dinner companion wouldn't allow it. "No," he said, angrily. "You started it. You make the case that it's not rational to hate Bush." I looked around the table for help. Instead, I found faces keen for my response. So, for several minutes, I held forth, suggesting that however wrongheaded or harmful to the national interest the president's policies may have seemed to my progressive colleagues, hatred tended to cloud judgment, and therefore was a passion that a citizen should not be proud of being in the grips of and should avoid bringing to public debate. Propositions, one might have thought, that would not be controversial among intellectuals devoted to thinking and writing about politics.

But controversial they were....
It's worth reading in its entirety.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Benson, Arizona

OK, I usually don't do this, because I personally don't have Flash installed and I don't want to push it on anybody else, but this song's been running through my head for the last hour and maybe if I pass it on to my readers it will leave me alone for a while. Kind of like an exorcism. It's called "Benson, Arizona" and it was the theme to the cult classic movie Dark Star.

If you don't have Flash installed either, you can just download the mp3 file and play it yourself.

But don't get it stuck in your head:

Thanks to Greg for that one.

Punkin' Chunkin' Report

Via John Derbyshire at The Corner, an ESPN report from the World Championships of Punkin' Chunkin'.
The specs on the gun, he won't discuss. The angle of trajectory, usually ideal at 35 degrees, he says, is also a trade secret in today's high winds. Even the pumpkins are secret — he doesn't want to reveal where he got them or who grows them. It seems a safe bet that they're white — much sturdier than the orange variety, less likely to vaporize right out of the air lock. But that's all he'll say.

"Where we picked 'em up," Josh says, "the guy ran 'em over with a tractor. They didn't crack. Just pushed 'em into the ground."

"It might be the mile pumpkin," Michael says. That would be a vegetable of such density and spheroidal sublimity that a machine could launch it a horizontal mile. The record at the World Championships — virtually at sea level — is a shot of 4,434 feet, by a team called The Second Amendment that wields a gun the size of a construction crane. It's said to be a quarter-million-dollar cannon, supported by generous corporate sponsors. The pumpkin leaves so fast, by the time you hear the explosion of air from the tube, the squash is a speck against the clouds, then a poof of dust and corn cobs somewhere on the horizon.
Update: From, the World's Most Dangerous Slingshot.

Being Pervez Musharraf

Bret Stephens tries a rhetorical twist: imagine yourself, he asks his readers, as Pervez Musharraf.
In recent days, you have declared a state of emergency, imprisoned thousands of lawyers and civil society types, fired the Supreme Court and put its chief justice under house arrest, and shut down much of the independent media. You have done all this to keep your grip on power, all the while insisting you have "no personal ego and ambitions to guard."

Abroad, the conventional wisdom is that you have shredded what little legitimacy you had and that your days, politically or otherwise, are numbered. You think they're wrong. You're probably right.
It's a different way of looking at things, and I think it works; just this once, anyway.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Polar Bears In Danger?

James Delingpole asks: Is this some kind of joke?
First there came the computer-generated polar bear in Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth; then that heartrending photo, syndicated everywhere, of the bears apparently stranded on a melting ice floe; then the story of those four polar bears drowned by global warming (actually, they'd perished in a storm).

Now, in a new cinema release called Earth — a magnificent, feature-length nature documentary from the makers of the BBC's Planet Earth series — comes the most sob-inducing "evidence" of all: a poor male polar bear filmed starving to death as a result, the quaveringly emotional Patrick Stewart voiceover suggests, of global warming.

Never mind that what actually happens is that the bear stupidly has a go at a colony of walruses and ends up being gored to death.

Tribalism vs. Modernity

Two worth reading: How They Did It: Executing the winning strategy in Iraq, by Kimberly Kagan in The Weekly Standard, and Tribes of Terror: Books by Akbar S. Ahmed, discussed by Stanley Kurtz in the Claremont Review of Books.
The Islamist revolution is a conscious choice—an act of cultural self-defense against the intrusions and seductions of an alien world. Although the social foundations of the traditional Muslim way of life have been shaken, they are far from broken. So long as these social foundations cohere, advancing globalization will provoke more rebellion, not less—whatever America decides to do in Iraq and beyond. The root of the problem is neither domestic poverty nor American foreign policy, but the tension between Muslim social life and globalizing modernity itself.

Advice for the Hard of Reading

Sue Shellenbarger, the agony aunt at, guides the perplexed:
Question: When is the right time to tell an employer about a learning disability such as dyslexia or ADHD?
--L.J., New York

Lawyers often advise clients with such so-called hidden disabilities not to disclose them unless they need some help in the workplace because of a disability, says Brian East, an attorney with Advocacy Inc., an Austin, Texas, nonprofit disability-rights organization. If your disability isn't hampering your work, "you may not want to disclose it because of the possibility of discrimination."

However, if your disability is causing job problems, it may be in your own best interest to disclose it, says Mr. East, who is also co-chairman of the disability rights committee of the National Employment Lawyers Association....
Wrong answer, at least from an ethical standpoint.

The right time to tell your employer you're disable to do your job is at the interview, or better yet, in the cover letter accompanying your resume. That way he can file your paperwork where it belongs and give the job to someone who can handle it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day

Bill Miller has a nice write-up of Cecil Claflin's WWII experiences in today's Mail Tribune.

Millions For Defense

Peter H. Odegard and Alan Barth, 1941:
More than a million Americans have loaned money to their Government since the Defense Savings Bond program was inaugurated last May. They have loaned, in aggregate, well over a billion and a half dollars. They have loaned this money on a wholly voluntary basis—in response to appeals to their prudence and patriotism—without any resort whatever to coercion, intimidation or social pressure.

The campaign which is promoting the sale of Defense Savings Bonds is unique in the history of the United States. It is, moreover, a kind of campaign which could be undertaken in no other country in the world—a kind of campaign peculiarly adapted to the democratic pattern of American life, simultaneously exploiting and extolling American traditions and institutions.

This campaign has by now succeeded in bringing a knowledge of the Defense Savings program to virtually every resident of the United States; it can be fairly sad today that almost all Americans know what Defense Stamps and Bonds are, know where they can be bought, why they should be bought, what they cost and what they give.
What they cost, and what they give.

Don't miss Iowahawk's scan of Munro Leaf's My Book to Help America.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Yo' Mama!

I don't care what the story is; that AP photo of John McCain and his Momma is worth a thousand words. If she were on the ballot, by golly, she'd have my vote. What about you, Fred? Let's see yo' mama!

Friday, November 09, 2007

You'd Think They'd Know Better

This is interesting.
In the early days of the Internet, hackers broke into large computer systems just to prove they could. Later, mischief-makers created and blasted "virus" software world-wide, rapidly infecting millions of terminals within hours and slowing legitimate Internet traffic.

Over the years, Americans also became acquainted with the email scam, such as a sender posing as a bank and asking for account information. Such scams often were loaded with grammatical and spelling errors and lacked details tailored to the recipient. They were sent far and wide in hopes of hooking a few naïve victims.

But in the past two years, law-enforcement officials and Internet security experts say the global growth of broadband has fed a dramatic jump not only in the quantity but also the quality of cyber-attacks.

MessageLabs, a New York-based Internet security firm, says the number of hoax emails addressing recipients by their names and including their professional affiliation, among other personal details, has soared in recent months. In mid-September, the company discovered more than 1,100 such emails over a 16-hour period, and in late June more than 500 over two hours. Last year, it rarely saw more than one of these emails a day.
And they're hooking, not just naïve victims, but top executives at Fortune 500 firms.

Tribes Trump Religion

Michael Ledeen links to an article at noting this:
The structure of Iraqi tribes overlaps sectarian divisions in Iraq.

Certain powerful tribes in Anbar for example have their largest following among Iraqi Shiites. Shiites and Sunnis can be members of the same tribe and fight under its banner and vow allegiance to the same tribal chieftain regardless of sect.
I think Bernard Lewis has mentioned this too, but, like Mr. Ledeen, "at my age, I can't remember all this stuff" either.

You Take That Back!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Prelapsarian Conviction Demolished

William Voegeli in yesterday's Wall Street Journal analyzed the prospects of limited government. They are not good.
The main impediment to the New Deal was the "legitimacy barrier," the prelapsarian conviction held by many jurists and citizens that government had no rightful business undertaking a whole range of social improvements, no matter how gratifying the beneficiaries might find them. The New Deal overcame--demolished, really--that barrier, and with it the constitutional and political impediments to building the welfare state. That victory, according to James Q. Wilson, guaranteed not only the permanent existence but the permanent growth of Big Government:
New programs need not await the advent of a crisis or an extraordinary majority, because no program is any longer "new"--it is seen, rather, as an extension, a modification, or an enlargement of something the government is already doing.... Since there is virtually nothing the government has not tried to do, there is little it cannot be asked to do.
What can conservatives do?
Liberals sell the welfare state one brick at a time, deflecting inquiries about the size and cost of the palace they're building. Citizens are encouraged to regard the government as a rich uncle, who needs constant hectoring to become ever more generous. Conservatives need to make the macro-question the central one, and to insist that limited government is inseparable from self-government. To govern is to choose. To deliberate about the legitimate and desirable extent of the welfare state presupposes that we the people should choose the size and nature of government programs, rather than have them be chosen for us by entitlements misconstrued as inviolable rights.

No political strategy can guarantee success. Under no foreseeable set of circumstances will liberals fear giving voters their spiel: We want the government to give things to you and do things for you. Conservatives can only reply that single-entry bookkeeping doesn't work; every benefit the government confers will correspond to a burden it has to impose. A government that respects citizens as adults will level with them about the benefits and the costs. A conservatism that labors to reverse liberalism's displacement of Americans' rights as citizens with their "rights" as welfare recipients may not achieve victory, but it will at least deserve it.
Stand on principle, in other words, and get used to losing.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Cheering Words

Dave Hunnicutt, President of Oregonians In Action, addresses the troops:
Don't get down — remember, ten years ago the same groups that just spent $5,000,000 to pass Measure 49 would have spent $5,000,000 to defeat it. But because of our combined efforts and the success of Measure 56, Measure 7, Measure 37, and Measure 39, the battle is now being fought on our terms, and we have universal recognition that property owners should be compensated when their property is taken, and that our land use system needs immediate repair and major adjustment. We lost a battle last night, but we are winning the war.
Part of me wants to believe him.

The Himmler Brothers

The Wall Street Journal:
As a young girl, Katrin Himmler asked her grandmother about the man in a black suit in a photograph hanging on her living-room wall. Her grandmother didn't say much, but she cried.

The man in the picture was Ms. Himmler's grandfather Ernst, a brother of Nazi SS chief Heinrich Himmler. The little that Katrin's family did tell her about her grandfather, who disappeared during fierce fighting in Berlin in 1945, was that he was apolitical.

Decades later, Ms. Himmler discovered that her family's story was untrue. Her father, long suspicious, encouraged her in 1997 to go dig in wartime archives that the U.S. had recently returned to Germany. Ernst Himmler, she learned, joined Hitler's National Socialist German Workers' party as early as 1931. Two years later, he joined the SS guard, the special unit responsible for carrying out many of the Nazi regime's worst atrocities.

Now 40 years old and married to an Israeli Jew, Ms. Himmler says she was shocked when she found out that Ernst was in the SS. "It might sound strange, but I never considered this possibility," she says.

Ms. Himmler investigated further. She unearthed records of Heinrich's elder brother, Gebhard, and coaxed his children into sharing memories and letters. She wrote a book, "The Himmler Brothers," about her family's history -- and the trauma involved in uncovering it.
The Himmler Brothers is available at Amazon.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Treatise of Equivocation

Via Instapundit, Dave Kopel has thoughts on Guy Fawkes, equivocation, and jury nullification.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Guy Fawkes Night

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
Gunpowder, Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

John Derbyshire remembers:
Around this time of year, my American friends ask me about Guy Fawkes night. What's that all about, they want to know? Is it really a big thing over there in England?

Well, I am totally out of touch, but when I was a kid, Guy Fawkes Night — November Fifth — was a huge thing, second only to Christmas on the fun scale. There were fireworks; there was a bonfire; on top of the bonfire was a Guy — a dummy, of course, not an actual person — who got burned up when you lit the bonfire. In the days prior to the Fifth, you trundled your Guy around the neighborhood in a wheelbarrow for the appreciation of passersby, appreciation expressed by the giving of "pennies for the Guy."
So who was Guy Fawkes? Short answer: terrorist. A Roman Catholic terrorist. He and his gang were dealt with rather harshly, which may be why we don't hear much about Catholic terrorists any more, at least for the last four hundred years or so.

A Cold Civil War

In 1989 the wall crumbled and over the course of the next two years the Soviet empire collapsed. The cold war was over, they said. I looked around at the continuing struggle between liberty and socialism, in Washington and Salem, in county courthouses and city halls, and said to myself, "Oh no it's not. Not by a long shot."

Mark Steyn has similar thoughts:
William Gibson, South Carolinian by birth, British Columbian by choice, is famous for inventing the word "cyberspace," way back in 1982. His latest novel, Spook Country, offers another interesting coinage:
Alejandro looked over his knees. "Carlito said there is a war in America."

"A war?"

"A civil war."

"There is no war, Alejandro, in America."

"When grandfather helped found the DGI, in Havana, were the Americans at war with the Russians?"

"That was the 'cold war.' "

Alejandro nodded, his hands coming up to grip his knees. "A cold civil war."

Tito heard a sharp click from the direction of Ochun's vase, but thought instead of Eleggua, He Who Opens And Closes The Roads. He looked back at Alejandro.

"You don't follow politics, Tito."
That's quite a concept: "A cold civil war."...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Boycott Golden Compass

My little sister forwarded an email to me asking me to boycott a new movie called The Golden Compass.

You can count on me! I've boycotted every movie so far this year, and unless my arm is severely and painfully twisted, I will continue to boycott everything that comes out from now until the new year.

This particular film will be especially easy for me to skip because it stars Nicole Kidman, who appears on my own personal blacklist of Hollywood Scum Whose Movies I Refuse To Watch. (Just offhand, I can't remember how she got on the list, but once you're on it, you're on it for life—no rehabilitation.)

Follow up: "Golden Compass" disappoints at box office.

Awwww... Toooo Baaad.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Blankets from the Sky

First I dreamed that I was up at Lake of the Woods and there was a wolf and I was shooting rocks at him with a slingshot and it made him mad. Not a good idea, shooting a wolf with a slingshot, I thought as I woke up.

Almost immediately I fell back asleep and dreamed that blankets were falling from the sky. It was due to some sort of poorly understood meteorological process related to the way that lint collects on the inside of a dryer screen. The blankets were rectangular and had geometric patterns on them and they were as soft and warm as you could hope for but they tore about as easily as paper towels, so you had to be careful it you wanted to collect a whole one.

We gathered a few nice ones and took them to show to Mom. She smiled condescendingly the way mothers do when children bring them wildflowers and thistles. Oh, yes. Blankets from the sky. Happens every year about this time. Aren't they nice?

Thursday, November 01, 2007


This blog does not traffic in rumors but is not above commenting on them. The rumor currently traversing the blogosphere is that the woman at right is Hillary's girlfriend, and what is more, that she is a practicing Muslim.

This is prima facie ludicrous on both counts.

Let us take the second count first. If she is a practicing Muslim, she had better practice a little harder, because that burqa definitely isn't working. Wowsa. Yo. Ahem.

The first count depends on the presumption that Hillary is homosexual, whereas I personally doubt that she is sexual at all. If sex even appears on her list of priorities, it's not near the top. Besides, what would a babe like this want with her? Money, status, power? It doesn't make sense. Bill and Monica might have been soul mates; not so, these two.

No, no, no. More likely this rumor was deliberately set as bait for the right wing blogs. Someone's hoping they'll take it and make fools of themselves. Someone's probably right.

Don't do it, guys. Don't take the bait. No matter how tasty it looks.

Signed, Outraged in October

John Derbyshire is in fine form:
Cold Spring Harbor lab, which owes all its present prominence, not to mention most of its endowment, to Watson's efforts, has led the hyena pack, forcing Watson to resign from his position as Director. The Federation of American Invertebrates Scientists has pronounced anathema on him. He's had to cancel all his speaking engagements for fear the gibbering Morlocks of Political Correctness would show up and throw things at him. It is a horrible, shameful story, one of the ugliest to come out of the world of science for many years.

What did the old boy do? Bilk widows out of their life savings? Deliberately spread horrid diseases? Molest children? Strangle his wife and chop her up for a barbecue? Raid the poor box at St. Patrick's Cathedral?
I too commented, although very obliquely, on the Watson affair. I might have said more but I have less time than Derbyshire, and feel that James Watson is quite capable of defending himself if he should want to do so, and if he would rather grovel, that is his business too.

The X-Fingers

From this morning's Mail Tribune:
Jerry Zickrick lost the two middle fingers on his left hand, but he found the next best thing on the World Wide Web.

An accident with a table saw 18 months ago left the Jacksonville man with two short stubs that ended just below the first knuckle. Therapists had told him he could be fitted with fingers that looked real, but wouldn't bend on their own. Zickrick wanted something that would curl and grip like the digits he lost....

The search eventually led him to Dan Didrick in Naples, Fla. Didrick was just going public with a sleek plastic-and-steel prosthetic digit that flexed at the joints like the real thing. Covered with a thin sheath of flesh-toned plastic, Didrick's "X-Finger" looked real, too.

"They're probably as close to natural as you're going to get," Zickrick said.

Zickrick arranged to have Didrick send him some prototype fingers, and he was so impressed that he decided to invest in Didrick's fledgling enterprise....
They're not robotic—purely mechanical; an ingenious combination of levers and cams, powered by the stump itself:

To see it in action check out the video clip on Didrick Medical's web site. It's amazing.

It's Not Really Science

Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories, on John Tierney's blog:
If public health research functioned like some of the harder sciences — high energy physics being the one I know best — then researchers would be ridiculed and perhaps even run out of the field for over-interpreting their evidence or publicly presenting the results of sloppy experiments or basing claims on premature evidence and none of this would have happened....

You can think of this kind of brutal response to bad science as an immune system that serves to protect reliable knowledge from infection by the infinite number of bogus but compelling ideas that are out there. The last place you want a science to find itself is where obesity research is today, with hypotheses of causation that can explain none of the pertinent observations, but yet are believed so fervently that no one can challenge them without being ostracized or declared a quack.