". . . like trying to lift water with a knife."
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New Digs The fine residents of Munuviana have invited me to join their tribe. This will be my last post at Blogspot. I have really enjoyed building a small but loyal readership here, so please update your links and check out my new home at http://texasbestgrok.mu.nu. But we should resume the regular posting schedule at the new location very shortly. My posting may be light for the next day or two as I assimilate the Movable Type interface, tweak the template, and import my old archives. Thanks!
Homeowners' Associations Timothy Sandefur doesn't like them very much, even though he prefers them to zoning laws. In my previous law firm life, I represented several condominium associations, so I have some familiarity with the enforcement side of things. As a matter of principle only, I prefer HOAs to zoning laws, but just barely. And for practical purposes, unless you can prove laches or inconsistent enforcement, it is likely easier to modify bad zoning regulations (simple majorities at the ballot box) than restrictive covenants that run with the land (usually requiring a supermajority or unanimity to modify).
Six Month Bloggiversary I see that today is Timothy Sandefur's one-year bloggiversary. Congratulations, Timothy, and keep up the good work. Today also happens to be the six-month milepost for me. Let's have a look-see at my first post. I haven't talked much about cycling, coaching, or theology. I do think, however, that this has turned into a cohesive narrative on life, the universe, and everything. Please leave me a comment. Let me know what I've done well, what I can do better. More Legos? More domestic bliss? More law and policy stuff? More of the same? In any case, I've had a great time, and I appreciate knowing that I have a few loyal readers. Thanks.
Praise Allah Another Photoshop, funnier than anything he did with Dean. (Favorite caption: "Hello Clarice").
Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster Recipe Jonah Goldberg is one of the few reasons I check into the Corner semi-regularly. The other day, he posted a cool-looking cocktail recipe in the process of pointing to this twisted movie. The recipe called to mind the recipe for a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (the effect of drinking of which is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick) that I prototyped back in college. First, the original recipe, as defined by Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
Take the juice from one bottle of Ol' Janx Spirit, it says. Pour it into one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V -- Oh that Santraginean seawater, it says. Oh those Santraginean fish! Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzine is lost). Allow four liters of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it, in memory of all those happy bikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of Fallia. Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qualactin Hypermint extract, redolent of all the heady odors of the dark Qualactin Zones, subtle, sweet and mystic. Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger. Watch it dissolve, spreading the fires of the Algolian Suns deep into the heart of the drink. Sprinkle Zamphuor. Add an olive. Drink . . . but . . . very carefully . . .I translated that as follows:
Ol' Janx Spirit = Bacardi 151 Rum Wedge of Lemon Around Gold Brick + Santraginean Sea Water + Fallian Marsh Gas = Sprite (or Slice, I think) Qualactin Hypermint Extract = Peppermint Schnapps, natuerlich Arcturan Mega-Gin = Everclear (though we couldn't get it to freeze) Zamphuor = blue food coloring No tigers' teeth, unfortunately. The approximate ratios in a large blender were: 4 rum : 1 everclear : 1 Schnapps. Add ice and Sprite to fill the blender. Blend. Sprinkle blue food coloring (stir to swirl) and garnish with an olive. Beware.A so-called friend of mine has some super-8 film footage of the aftermath (this was pre-miniDV handicam days, people). Oh, yeah, and I managed to get a decent education, too.
Conservative Pablum? Heh. Must not have read very deep into my archives. Oh well. At least OhMyGoff thinks my blog is "great any time of day or night." I wonder if Michael has seen this? (hat tip Instapundit).
Arrogant Protestant Ignorance On Parade I'm not a Roman Catholic (more a Deist Methodist), but I would think this were offensive if it weren't so laughable. (Hat tip: Fr. Jim Tucker who found it at Ship of Fools' Fruitcake Zone). On a related note, Belle Waring at Crooked Timber links to a wicked riff by Michael Berube on the Left Behind series. (I have to be careful not to be too scathing as I know several otherwise smart and educated friends and colleagues who have read those stories and not only liked them, but found them to be spiritually meaningful. For a more fun story about the end times, I instead would recommend this latter-day Heinlein).
Best of Hubble I feel like I've linked to this before, but even if I have, it's worth repeating (note well: large download; requires Shockwave plugin). (Hat tip: Jerry Pournelle)
Paris or Marge? When I saw the title to this post at Transterrestrial Musings, I thought for sure that Rand had also seen the March 29 entry at Gravity Lens (probably will be archived here soon), regarding the Maxim covers that simultaneously featured both Marge Simpson and Paris Hilton. Apparently, the Marge version is selling out faster than the Paris version. Maybe there is some hope for Western Civilization.
Musician Jokes Got this Canonical List of Musician Jokes from the Larry Niven listserv (subscribe here).
Ancestral Accomplishments Looks like Alan Brain is on this earth against the odds. His grandfather survived four years of active duty as a sniper on the front lines in World War I and lived to tell the tale to a young Mr. Brain. I don't have a similar tale of wartime courage about either of my grandfathers, but my maternal grandfather, Joseph M. Hill, MD, did manage to save the lives of thousands in World War II thanks to a method he developed of freeze-drying blood plasma. (See pp. 44-45 of this file, and the second paragraph of this one). I wonder what stories my hypothetical grandchildren will remember about me?
Classical Readings Father Jim Tucker, a libertarian Catholic priest in the diocese of Arlington, VA (where I lived during law school) points to this site, where you can hear audio clips of Greek and Latin classics with their original "classical" pronunciations (as I learned them in high school).
Heinlein Wrote Fantasy? It's true, the master of hard-SF wrote a few fantasy stories. New Troy has a review by Robert Wilfred Franson of The Man Who Traveled in Elephants, one of Heinlein's fantasies (collected here and here). Franson points to this vignette shared by Spider Robinson about the story in Requiem: and Tributes to the Grand Master:
[Says Robinson, presenting a battered old paperback for Heinlein to autograph]: "Mr. Heinlein, sir, I fetched this particular book because it contains my single personal all-time favorite story of yours of all time, sir." He is used to people gibbering at him; he nods and waits politely. "It's called 'The Man Who Traveled in Elephants' --" and his face sags slightly and I panic oh hell what did I say wrong fix it fix it "-- I mean, hell, that's just my opinion, who am I --" and then I break off, because whatever he is doing with his face is the opposite of frowning. "That," he says slowly, "is my personal favorite--and no one's ever had a nice word to say for it until now."As they say, read the whole thing.
Old Photo Blogging While Glenn has been busy photoblogging with modern digital cameras, TangoMan at Gene Expression is blogging about the century-old color photographs of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudi-Gorskii, "Photographer to the Tsar." I didn't even know that there was a color-photography process as early as the 1900's and 1910's. But there was, and TangoMan links to the page explaining how three different grayscale images were taken with blue, green, and red filters and then projected onto a screen using the same three filters. (Commenter Jesse also points to these links on "autochrome" technology). Laws of physics being what they are, it shouldn't be surprising that similar filtering and combining techniques are being used to beam us color pictures from the surface of Mars one century later.
Sunday Song Lyrics If you're not a regular reader of the Volokh Conspiracy, you should be. Lots of smart commentary on matters of law, policy, and culture with a libertarian bent. This year, Juan Non-Volokh has been posting a different song's lyrics each Sunday. His musical tastes seem to be as eclectic as mine. This week's selection is Prelude to a Kiss, by Duke Ellington. Go read the lyrics. If you can avoid having any sappy thoughts about someone you love or have loved as you read them, then you are hopeless.
More Good News From Mars? It appears that both the Mars Express orbiter and an earthbound team have independently detected Methane in Mars' atmosphere, on the order of 11 parts per billion. This is exciting news, as it points to the possibility of life, or of vulcanism (or both). (Hat tip to Fred Kiesche at Martian Soil who turned me on to new blogroll member MainlyMartian).
More Air Force Blue Ted has another "boring" installment of Air Force Blue up at RocketJones. More fun stuff about security police training. Money quote: "Big fun. Really. Like playing as kids, except we had real M16's full of blanks."
I Wonder if Pee Wee Likes to Pluck His Twanger? I used to like Pee Wee's playhouse, especially after staying up all Friday night on a few occasions back in college. Now Paul Reubens (a/k/a Pee Wee) is back in the news, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor obscenity charge in exchange for dismissal of the more serious child pornography charge leveled against him because of some questionable photographs seized from his home three years ago. Under the terms of the deal, Pee Wee cannot have unsupervised contact with minors, must register as a sex offender, pay a $100 fine, and enter counseling. That's all just background for you to watch this neat little gem of children's programming.
Gynecomoustia I just had to use that title after seeing this at Reason's Hit and Run blog.
Fifty-Word Fiction Last week, Ted at RocketJones pointed to this site featuring 50-word fictional works. Here's my entry (logging in at 49 words, including the title):
The Sixth Republic Beautiful bodies on the beach -- the Riviera. Then, the bomb. Like Byzantium's Hagia Sophia, Notre Dame is now a mosque. As with Spain (now Andalusia), we could have fought. We didn't. France has its sixth republic: La Republique Islamique. Baggy burkhas on the beach -- the Riviera.I've been trying to expand this to a novella or novel length, but to little success so far. The bracketing lines of this story come from this image contrasted with this one.
Rapper Ice Cube Knighted He wrote these lyrics to celebrate the momentous occasion:
Ima muthaf***in G straight out the west, you be throwin up signs, I be throwin up my crest. Ol' b**** in London knew I was nice, I f***ed that b**** till she called me Sir Ice. Comin' atcha head with my double-edged steel, you f***ed up n****, now you gotsta kneel. Ice Cube comin' straight out over the ocean, now the queen b**** wants the three-wheel motion. Used ta carry guns, now I gots a sword, Sir Cube comin' straight out tha psycho ward.(It's satire, people. Via McSweeney's).
"Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tender?" "There are some who call me. . .Timothy?" Sorry there, er, Timothy, for calling you "Tim" in all of my previous posts. Didn't mean to presume anything, Timothy. (Though to be fair, you did have that Python quote up on your blog when I first linked). Just please don't presume to call me "Johnny."
It Ain't Over 'Til. . . The London Royal Opera House recently fired Rubenesque American soprano Deborah Voigt from a role in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos that would have required her to wear a small black evening dress. This has led to some interesting but predictable hand-wringing over merit versus looks. After all, isn't opera all about the music? Well, no, not exactly. This article cites a couple of good reasons that an opera company may legitimately exclude a plus-sized singer: if the role calls for a starving or sickly character (such as Mimi in La Boheme), or if the staging calls for active movements (say, up and down stairs on stage). [Warning! Gratuitous name-dropping moment: please note the mention in the Miami Herald piece of my childhood friend Laura Claycomb, a rising star in the opera world, with whom I had the pleasure of singing and touring in my old church's youth choir back in the mid-1980s]. This debate calls to mind last year's blog coverage of the report that good-looking college professors score higher on course evaluations than the more homely.
Washed Up Musicians Received Special Grammy Award Details here. (As you can see, the real headline is much funnier, but this is a family blog). Looks like I just found a "news" site to go along with the Onion.
Another Model Site I built an Enterprise model much like this one when I was a kid. I also had a phaser and communicator set, but not as nice as these. Wish I hadn't thrown them away. Am I mistaken or does this Captain Kirk look a bit like President Bush?
An Olde But Goode One The Hokey Pokey (by W. Shakespeare(*)): O proud left foot, that ventures quick within Then soon upon a backward journey lithe. Anon, once more the gesture, then begin: Command sinistral pedestal to writhe. Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke, A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl. To spin! A wilde release from Heavens yoke. Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl. The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about. (*) Actually, by Jeff Brechlin, 2003 (Hat tip: William Gibson's archives)
Ground Control To Professor Hall (Or, Spacecraft Oddity) Your circuit's dead Is there something wrong Can you hear us Professor Hall? Lots of interesting space-related news over the last month. Your commentary would be welcome. No pressure, of course. Just curious.
Build-a-Dinosaur First you take 3 chickens. Then you cook them (and, presumably, eat them). Save the bones and make an Apatosaurus skeleton. When you're done, cook some more chickens and build a T-Rex. (Hat tip: Signal+Noise via Jay Manifold).
Paper Models Rocket Jones has collated in a single post multiple sources (including one referenced by yours truly) of aviation-and-space-themed paper models. Check it out. Thanks for the link, Ted.
Three Square and a Bed Go to jail for a crime you didn't commit. Spend 16 years behind bars. Get released. Get a bill. Via Reason's Hit and Run.
Halo for the PC Review I have to explain one other reason for the recent sparse posting. Halo PC. I downloaded the free version the other day to try it out (I haven't bought the full-featured game yet, and probably won't, for the reasons outlined below). The console version of this game was one major factor in my decision to get an Xbox instead of some other platform for the family. (There were several other reasons, including research and recommendations from trusted family friends, but Halo was the deal-closer). Not to be immodest, but I'm pretty sure that I rock on the Xbox version of this game. I haven't gone against adults in multiplayer (yet), but I have beaten the game on Legendary, and have replayed most of the hardest levels on Legendary several times until I can beat them pretty readily. The chance to play online against real humans is the main reason I wanted to try out the PC version. (The Xbox version does not support XboxLive, although there is a third-party freeware program that would allow me to play head-to-head over the Internet). I have a decent computer, only a year old: Gateway Pentium IV, 2.5 GHz, 1GB RAM, 80 and 200 GB hard drives, with an upgraded 3D-accelerated graphics card. We also have broadband. The only drawback for a game like this is that I have an LCD flat screen monitor, so the graphics look "cartoony" compared to the rendering on my TV with the console version of the game. I'm not about to invest in plasma, and I'm not about to get a huge CRT monitor just for gaming, so I'm stuck with this look. All this is to say that I can account for the decreased quality in "looks" between the PC and console versions of the game. The sound is still excellent, as is the story, which made this game so captivating to me in the first place. Unlike James Lileks (who thinks the Mac version is superior to the Xbox one), I think the computer version is less playable. I guess I am not a PC first-person-shooter afficionado, as I think, frankly, that the mouse-keyboard control setup sucks (for lack of a better term!) I love the feel of the Xbox force-feedback S-Controllers, the intuitive triggering for the guns and grenades, the smooth action of the dual thumbsticks, and, most importantly, the easy access of my right thumb to the critical buttons needed to reload, swap, and jump. With the PC setup, I have to do most critical functions (including all movement!) with my clumsy left hand. Long story short, I am getting slaughtered in online play. I'm thinking about getting a decently cheap gamepad to see if the PC version would be more playable, but I am really frustrated with the awkward interface. (Hello, Microsoft? I've spent a fair amount on my computer, game console, and software with you --- seems that the least you could do would be to make my XBOX controllers compatible with my PC, especially for Microsoft games. Just a thought. . .) I understand that Halo 2 will have Xbox live support, so come this Fall the point will be moot. I will happily be going head-to-head with other console gamers like myself!
Lady Lex, Part 3: Blue Ghost Stories I know I promised this yesterday. Oh well, so much for using an artificial deadline to motivate my writing. (If you missed the first two posts, here they are: part 1, part 2). We reported to the Main Hangar Deck at 1700 hours for announcements. The Scouts, as their mandatory service project, had earlier arranged several hundred folding chairs before a raised stage. Unfortunately 7-to-11-year-old kids don't think about putting any space between chairs when lining them up. Sardines in a can would have more elbow room than we did. For those who did not read their Plan of the Day earlier, the Live Aboard program counselors summarized the rest of the evening's schedule and introduced the volunteers who would be leading tours throughout the ship later. After supper, we saw the IMAX movie Straight Up. I saw this movie last summer with my older son when we went to the Aviation Challenge Pilot/Co-pilot weekend program in Huntsville, Alabama. If you haven't seen this movie, you should check it out. I gained a much greater appreciation for the hazards faced by Coast Guard rescue swimmers and high-tension electric power line maintainence workers. After the movie, we reported back to the Main Hangar Deck for evening colors. A LARGE United States flag (think Patton) hung from the ceiling behind the stage. Different-aged scouts from the various packs and troops presented the flags from each branch of the armed services, including the Coast Guard. We then watched a patriotic slideshow, which included Johnny Cash's Ragged Old Flag and some country version of God Bless the USA. Now, you have to know me to really appreciate just how deep my loathing for country music runs. Being a multiple-generation native Texan, that makes me a bit of an anomaly. And if you need to know anything else about me, as a libertarian, I am normally pretty skeptical about how patriotism can be manipulated by politicians to gain and consolidate power. So believe me when I say that this show of patriotism put an authentic lump in my throat, against all odds. I thought of the men and women in our armed forces who are in daily danger trying to subdue and reform the barbarians hammering at our gates. In many ways the ceremony summoned emotions similar to my post-9-11 feelings: what would normally seem corny or a little hokey was instead just honest pride and gratitude that I was blessed to have been born here. After the ceremony, we adjourned to roam the ship. Descending into the engineering section, we heard the first of many ghost stories of the night. Seems the volunteers have seen a few different ghosts (the same ones again and again). They even have a "ghost cam" installed in the ship so that Internet viewers can try to sight them. I didn't see anything (nor did I expect to). But based on my experiences later in the evening, I am sure that the volunteers really have seen ghosts -- or at least hallucinations resulting from suggestability, lack of sleep, and high doses of refined sugar ;-) After exploring for an hour or so, I got my boys settled in front of Pirates of the Caribbean on a large-screen TV. We then went to the fo'c's'le, a large spookily resonant space for some ghost stories. After scaring the bejeebers out of the kids, we then turned in for the night. As a footnote, I stood watch as a volunteer fire watchman until 0300 hours, and had an interesting adventure. But I can't divulge the details. Maybe some other time. After Reveille at 0630, we got ready for breakfast, packed up, and had a closing ceremony. I then made the 8-hour drive back to Plano on 3-and-a-half hours of sleep. Fun. If you live in Texas and have kids in an organized group, you should definitely look into the Live Aboard program on the Lexington. I have also heard that there are similar programs in other parts of the country on other decommissioned Navy ships. Seek out these opportunities, as they present a truly unique way to teach your kids some history and to have a really memorable experience together.
Lady Lex, Part 2: The Blue Ghost As mentioned last week, I took my two sons down to Corpus Christi to spend the night on the USS Lexington. As you can read on her official website, the Lex is a WWII-vintage Essex-class aircraft carrier that was converted to carry jets in the 1950s, and then served with great distinction as a training carrier for almost thirty years from 1962 until she was decommissioned in 1991. We have a family link to this carrier, as my wife's biological father (a Navy pilot shot down and killed in Vietnam two months before her birth) did his carrier landing training on the Lexington. The Lex accommodates Scout and Y-guide groups in a one-or-two-night "live aboard" program. We did this 2 years ago and had so much fun that we were eager to return when our Cub Scout pack planned another trip this year. (This trip also gave my younger son the chance to experience this as an official Tiger Cub Scout and to get a patch for it). We checked in at the pier at 1000 hours (military time seems most appropriate here) on Saturday and received our orders: Find your assigned berth (enlisted quarters, three bunks high and spaced only a couple of feet apart), make your bed, get some chow (chili dogs, yum), and explore until 1700 hours. We began after lunch with the flight deck. It's amazing just how big these ships are. Even more amazing when you realize that a modern nuclear carrier like the USS Ronald Reagan is almost a third again as long and about 60 feet wider. My boys liked the F-14 and the Cobra gunship best of the aircraft on the flight deck (I was puzzled by the presence of an army helicopter there). After touring the bridge and the rest of the conning tower, we walked down to the Texas State Aquarium. I visited it first with my younger son, while my older son continued to tour the ship with one of his buddies (and family). I then deposited the younger son with his friends and their families and got to see the aquarium a second time with my older son, who really appreciated it; he and I have discovered a mutual love for fish through our combined efforts to get his own little 10-gallon aquarium established. We got back to the ship with about 15 minutes to spare, and got ready for the evening schedule: 1700 Assembly in Main Hangar Deck 1730 Chow (Salisbury Steak, yum) 1800 IMAX movie Straight Up (the Lexington has an IMAX auditorium built in an enclosed aircraft elevator bay) 1930 Evening Colors (very patriotic flag ceremony) 2000 Self-guided Tours (until 2315) 2100 Movies on Big Screen TVs 2230 Ghost Stories 2315 Quarters 2330 Tattoo (Lights Out) More tomorrow. . .
Breaking Radio Silence I'm sorry for the light posting for the last several days. I took Wednesday through Friday off work to spend some time with my kids during their Spring break and to get some yard work done (lots of fun around the Lanius house). How did I spend my time? Mowing, weeding, laying brick borders, mulching, trimming. Firing up the grill. Enjoying a homemade margarita while cooking up dinner. Watching Caddyshack and The Manchurian Candidate on DVD. Playing Runaway Train (or, perhaps politically incorrectly, "Mexican Train") Dominoes with the entire family. In short, staying away from the Internet. Now, with my creative batteries recharged, I will return to my regular posting schedule.
Removing the Giggle Factor One nice thing about an article like this one is that it helps to incrementally decrease the "giggle factor" associated with discussing such outlandish notions as terraforming and colonizing Mars. For a more serious examination of the giggle factor, see this military article on planetary defense. I literally remember an event at my high school (in Physics class, no less) in which I saw the giggle factor implemented mercilessly. In sharp contrast to the Thomistic, sophisticated, and rational priests and teachers in the vast majority of my other classes there, this class was taught be a priest whose thoughts seemed to predate Vatican II (heck, his ideas even seemed to predate Galileo!) One day, our classroom discussion veered away from pure Physics (we were talking about Kepler, I think, and duplicating his experiment of plotting Brahe's data and discovering that Mars' orbit was elliptical) and one of the students asked about the prospects of life on Mars. Not just life that might have evolved there, but our prospects as a species living there. I'll never forget how that ignorant ass of a priest dismissed him out of hand, essentially stating that G-d had created "Man" for this Earth and that there was no other life in the universe and no place for Man elsewhere in the universe. Of course, most of the other guys in my class were your run-of-the-mill mundanes, and they were seized by a fit of the giggles. He wouldn't hear the end of it for some time. The poor guy. At the time I hardly knew him (although I knew him all too well, in a sense, as I had almost identical thoughts about Mars, but somehow had the sense not to chum the shark-infested waters of high school with them), but he is now one of my better friends. How ironic that after all this time, what we geeks felt intuitively back then to be possible, to be true, may finally become a reality.
Lady Lex, Part 1: The Journey Begins As alluded to yesterday, I had a big weekend involving the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi, Texas. The Lexington hosts a "Live Aboard" program for youth groups (mostly Scouts and Y-guides), through which the kids and their parents get to spend one or two nights on this storied aircraft carrier. I picked up my two boys (a 9-year-old Webelos Scout and a 7-year-old Tiger Cub Scout) from school on Friday at 12:30; they got out early for Spring break. We hit the road about an hour later, leaving my lovely wife and 4-year-old daughter behind in Plano. First thing to understand: Texas is big. No, scratch that. Texas is BIG. Our enrollment in the one night program meant that I had committed to about 16 hours of driving in exchange for 24 hours on an old warship. Seems like a fair trade to me! We arrived in Corpus at 9:30 PM and checked into our hotel, located in the midst of the tenderloin of Corpus Christi: strip clubs, hourly motels, shady characters. We ate at a late dinner at the McDonald's in the 'hood. Interesting people watching. Thugs, a likely hooker, a panhandler or two. Good "diversity" training for the Lanius spawn. We made it safely to the hotel, where my kids were overjoyed to find "Spongebob" on the TV. They would have been happy just vegetating in front of the tube for the weekend. Forget spending the night on a historic aircraft carrier, let's watch bad animation on Nickelodeon! Just proves how right we are to be one of those archaic families that doesn't subscribe to cable or satellite TV. Well, knowing we would be getting up about 7:00 AM to get breakfast and head for the ship, I decided to terminate Mr. Squarepants at around 11:15 PM. After a relaxing night's sleep and a decent hot breakfast (thanks, Drury Inn!) we set out for the ship. Installment two tomorrow.
Too. Tired. To. Blog. I had a busy busy weekend and am short on sleep. No real blogging tonight, even though there is a lot to write about. Why? The Answer. More details tomorrow.
Quodnam Elogium Latinum Alienum Es Tu? Postatem obscuri lateris nescitis. ("You do not know the power of the Dark Side.") There are two possibilities: you are a Star Wars geek, or you are unreasoningly scary. Which Weird Latin Phrase Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla The best thing about this quiz is that it came from an old friend I haven't heard from in a few years.
Commercial Space Bill Passes House Thursday March 4, the US House of Representatives approved HR 3752, The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act. The bill adds definitions to the existing Commercial Space Launch Act for "crew," "space flight participants," and "suborbital rockets," among others and clears the way for suborbital rocket flights with passengers, at least on an experimental basis. The Act is aimed at encouraging X-Prize participants and other similarly-situated rocket developers by removing the legal uncertainties they face, as bill sponsor Rep. Dana Rohrabacher makes clear:
"It is my sincere hope that this bill will encourage individuals like Burt Rutan and others to continue leading the way in pushing the boundaries of technology and safety by building and flight testing hardware, something NASA has yet to do. This fine piece of legislation carries forward my goal of promoting this new industry and cutting back bureaucratic red tape, while protecting the public health and safety."Let's hope that with some regulatory certainty, we'll see many private launches in the near future.
Legal Writing Rant Every now and then, I run across some really clunky contract language. I keep a running list of the worst. Today I found a truly awful one:
"Services. Supplier warrants that all Services and/or work performed under this Agreement shall be performed in a diligent, work-person like and professional manner, in compliance with industry standards, and in accordance with all specifications, drawings, instructions and or documentation as agreed upon by the Parties in this Agreement or a statement of work ("SOW) that will be attached to this Agreement or an SPA or Service Order and incorporated by reference hereof or as otherwise documented in a writing signed by both Parties."First off, ignore the use of shall, the use of the passive voice, and the double use of and/or (a crutch for the lazy-minded lawyer who can't understand a Venn diagram). Ignore, too, that this is one run-on sentence. Focus instead on that gem of political correctness: work-person like. Compare the previous section:
"Product. Supplier warrants to Company and End User Customers that Products furnished will be new, merchantable, free from defects in material and workmanship and will conform to and perform in accordance with the specifications. These warranties extend to the future performance of the Products and shall continue for the longer of (a) [x] years after the Product is accepted by Company; or (b) such greater period as may be specified elsewhere in this Agreement including a specific project agreement ("SPA ")."Why isn't that "free from defects in material and work-person ship?" Don't get me wrong. I strongly prefer to use gender-neutral language wherever possible, by recasting or substituting neutral words for masculine ones. (And I abhor the largely academic tendency to apply the goose/gander justice that makes all indefinite subjects feminine instead of masculine). I sometimes use the singular they, which although still not widely accepted, has a long and distinguished pedigree. I'll even use humanity or humans in place of mankind (though I'm sure Jay Nordlinger would disapprove). But work-person like? There is no such thing. While I would welcome comments on gender-neutral versions of workmanlike or workmanship, I think it's possible to redraft just as effective a clause without using the offending terms:
Terraforming Mars Brian Doss at Catallarchy summarizes Robert Zubrin and Christopher McKay's ideas on terraforming Mars, linking to numerous resources regarding the technologies and timescales required.
Dutch Treat This Dutch website has numerous printable plans for making paper space models (rockets, satellites, and even a Mars rover). Hours of fun for a rainy day. (Via Hobbyspace).
Anything But Boring Ted at Rocket Jones has this article (number six in his "Air Force Blue" series of tales about USAF training and duty) categorized under "Boring Stories." It's anything but. Go back through the earlier installments, too. (Money quote from entry number 1: "San Antonio in August. Hell with an accent.")
Neat and Tidy James Lileks has dropped several hints over the years that he is obsessively neat. This man color-codes his recovery disks, organizes his canned foods, buys special containers from Target for his refrigerator, and so on. Still, the picture of his study in today's Bleat reveals a surprisingly spartan workplace. My desk looks like that maybe twice a year (for the 5 minutes it takes me to dust and polish it before returning the piles of papers to their normal resting places).
Mars "Drenched" With Water There is a fantastic scene in one of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars books (either Red or Green, can't remember off the top of my head) in which the colonists tap an aquifer under the Martian surface, triggering a torrential flood. Is there that much water there now? We don't know. Yet. But NASA announced today that Mars was once awash in water. Drenched, in fact (at least at the Opportunity landing site). This is great news. If there is still an appreciable amount of water on Mars, then the costs of exploration and settlement decrease drastically. And the chances of finding current or past life increase dramatically.
Get Religiously Fuzzy With all the heavy-duty religion going back and forth in the newspapers, on TV, and over the 'net these days, it's fun to see some bad puns and general irreverence on the comics page. The psychotic Siamese Bucky has invented a new religion at Get Fuzzy. Yesterday's and today's entries made me laugh out loud. Enjoy.
Happy Birthday, Texas! It's not my policy to blog from work, which is why you usually see late-night updates around here. But since today is an important date to commemorate, I wanted to get up an early-morning entry, especially for any out-of-state (or should that be "out-of-Republic?") readers. On this date in 1836, several brave men assembled at Washington-on-the-Brazos and signed their names to the Texas Declaration of Independence. Just a few short days later, many more brave men gave their lives at the Alamo, standing their ground for their cause despite almost-certain death. Following a massacre of Texans at Goliad on March 27, 1836, a small army led by Sam Houston caught Santa Ana on April 21 by surprise at the battle of San Jacinto. Crying "Remember the Alamo, Remember Goliad," the "Texians" routed the Mexicans and won their independence. Texas remained an independent republic for the next 9 years, until it was admitted to the United States on December 29, 1845. I'm flying my Texas flag this week, in place of the usual Stars and Stripes out front. Happy Birthday, Texas.
Beautiful Shot of Saturn Via Adot's Notblog.
What I Gave Up For Lent. . . It led to civilization. I gave up ice cream for the duration, too. More to get rid of empty calories than anything, maybe I'll gain some spiritual insight, too. It's not really a Methodist (or, more generally, Protestant) tradition to give things up for Lent, but I have been noticing many of my [Protestant] peers doing so.
Sad News Lawyer, historian, and former librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin passed away on Sunday at the age of 89 from pneumonia. Obituaries here, here, and here. I read (and quite enjoyed) his The Discoverers. A much better read than Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, which I am still slogging my way through. I have been meaning to read Boorstin's next two books in his intellectual history series, The Creators and The Seekers, and will now make a point of doing so. Favorite line from the New York times obit: "In the late 1960's, when antiwar protests swept the nation, he was a target of student radicals whom he denounced as 'incoherent kooks' and 'barbarians.'" God bless him. May he rest in peace.
My Star Trek Race
You're a Human! Inquisitive and mellow, you're an
explorer at heart.
What Star Trek Race Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla (Hat tip: Llamabutchers).
Random Music Following Vodkapundit's implementation of a suggestion by John Scalzi (who cribbed the idea from Neil Gaiman), here are the first ten tunes that pop up when I shuffle iTunes: 1. Neil Diamond - America 2. TV Theme: Star Trek TOS Main Title 3. Boston - Foreplay/Long Time 4. Movie Theme: James Bond Theme 5. Weird Al Yankovich - Yoda 6. ACDC - Hell's Bells 7. Moby - Bodyrock 8. Nine Inch Nails - Eraser 9. Genesis - Cinema Show 10. Roy Orbison - Pretty Woman Not too embarassing, but not completely representative, either. I do have to admit that I have not ripped many of my CDs to my hard drive; most of these are just songs that I don't have elsewhere on CD, but want to include in homemade compilations. Here are the next 10, out of curiosity: 1. Snap - Dark Side of the Moog 2. Gary Numan - Are Friends Electric 3. Fear Factory w/ Gary Numan - "Cars" Remix 4. TV Theme: Logan's Run 5. Ultravox - Reap The Wild Wind 6. Human League - Keep Feelin' Fascination 7. Peter Gabriel/Thomas Dolby - Little Light of Love 8. Moby - James Bond Theme 9. Kiss - Star Spangled Banner (Hendrix cover) 10. David Bowie - See Emily Play (Pink Floyd cover) For comparison's sake, here are the musical selections played by the Mars Rover teams (I like Opportunity's music better, but both sets are pretty decent).
Fun T-Shirt I wonder if Mark Oakley has one of these? (Hat tip: Rocket Jones) Update: Oops, I just fixed the link. Mark probably went, "huh?" (The fixed link now takes you to a picture of a T-Shirt that says, "As a Matter of Fact, I AM a Rocket Scientist!")
People Needing A Clue Instapundit refers the clue-impaired to Michelle ("A Small Victory") Catalano's site, where she gives some good advice about refraining from judging bloggers based on just one post.
Sackcloth and Ashes Robert must be doing some lenten penance for the cheesecake binge last week, as he has posted the pictorial equivalent of sackcloth and ashes. (It burnsss my eyesss, Prrrreciousss! Nasty wicked hobbitsesss!)
Looking for Life on Mars, on Earth Wired has an interesting writeup about astrobiologist Chris McKay's efforts to find evidence of life in the high desert of the Atacama, Chile. I was surprised to learn just how sterile the Atacama is. Despite the discovery in recent decades of "extremophiles," it appears that there are limits to what hardy microbial life can tolerate, even on Earth. Learning how to detect the trace amounts of life, preventing forward contamination of the test site and contamination of gathered samples, and determining where to find any trace life are all skills that will serve the first human explorers of Mars well.
Floor 42 Added to my left links (a bilingual pun!): a site dedicated to the brilliant Douglas Adams. (Hat tip: Die Metzger der Lamas)
Gallery of Regrettable Mags Ever wondered what the Maxim or FHM of the 1950s looked like? Wait no longer. Lileks' latest: Stagworld.
Moog Heaven The Moon Base Clavius site logo (see post immediately below) reminded me of the cover of this classic record. Groove to the following hits, as realized on a [then] ultra-modern Moog modular synthesizer: "Na Na Hey Hey," "Nights in White Satin," "Sugar Sugar," "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," and many more songs closely contemporaneous with my 1968 birth year. I actually bought a copy of this record off eBay about 2 years ago. I'm thinking about arranging some modern pop tunes using this very slick software emulation of a Moog system (free download).
Debunking Moon Hoax Conspiracists Moon Base Clavius.
The Great Robot Race . . . Is only a couple of weeks away. In case you didn't know, DARPA is hosting a race, "The Grand Challenge," among "autonomous ground vehicles" between Los Angeles and Las Vegas next month. They will pay a cash award of $1 million to the team that fields the first vehicle to complete the designated route within the specified time limit. The purpose of the challenge, in DARPA's own words, "is to leverage American ingenuity to accelerate the development of autonomous vehicle technologies that can be applied to military requirements." NASA could learn a thing or two (or many more!) from DARPA. Update: Jay Manifold noticed this story, too (I found it directly on the DARPA site; he links to Space.com's story), and is seeking input on what kind of contest his readers would set up for a $10 million prize.
Just How Fast Is the Millennium Falcon? As John at SFSignal would say, "not that I troll Star Wars sites or anything," but these people have too much time on their hands.
Military Thriller Idea Going through some old notes I found this scribbled plot idea:
Britain joins single currency; integrates more tightly with EU. At some later date, tries to withdraw; triggers response from Continent similar to US north in Civil War. Anglosphere (USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) come to the rescue. What happens to EU? Russia? China? Think Red Storm Rising crossed with Guns of the South. . .What do you think? I'm not in a hurry to write it (the idea is about two years old). If you feel your muse calling, have at it.
Why Go To Space? OK, OK. I've been promising this for a while. Other people kept writing bits and pieces of what I was thinking, so I decided to bite the bullet and try to put down some of my thoughts, too. These aren't fully formed, and, since this is my blog, I reserve the right to edit or elaborate in future. Anyone who has known me for any length of time eventually learns that I am a space nut at heart. I have been since as early as I can remember. To try and compose an essay seeking to answer "why should we go to space" is like asking Deep Thought the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. The problem is really with the question. The answer varies depending on the assumptions behind the question. These assumptions are typically that space is too hard or expensive for anyone other than the government to do it. I hope that certain current events may help to prove this premise false. Another assumption is that space is solely for scientific purposes. Many pro-space advocates fall into this trap. Which is why I was happy today to see Rand Simberg's link to an interesting op-ed by Jim Muncy in the Washington Times. Mr. Muncy's opinion really gets at what I have been trying to write for some time. Key quote (extracted by Rand, too):
"Space exploration is not merely about the wonders of science and technology, although it produces countless discoveries and innovations. It is not merely about stunning images and daring adventures, although it has those aplenty. And to the disbelief of so many space professionals and aficionados alike, it is not even really about outer space. "Rather, space exploration is about strengthening and spreading the very essence of freedom: the magic of going and doing what you want, where you want, when you want and why you want. It is about the endless and innately human quest for a better, wiser and richer life, not just for yourself today but for generations hence. Freedom is as much about the creation and pursuit of new dreams, horizons and challenges as it is about achieving them."Brian Doss at Catallarchy gets at this latter idea:
"[T]he reason I support Martian colonization is on the general grounds that liberty thrives on the frontier, and that human society does best when there is a frontier to interact with the ancestral land. Innovation is spurred, trade blooms, opportunities abound, and more importantly, there is space to go to help make a new society when you don't like the one you're in. To an extent, America is still the World's frontier, as it is the place most non-Americans go when they want to get away from wherever it was they were born; America is vibrant, young, and constantly re-inventing itself with countless subcultures and communities. But America isn't a true frontier society anymore, and for those of us fortunate enough to have been born here, where does one go when even America is too staid and developed to suit? Well, the old answer is new again- leave for the frontier, which would now be Mars."Both of these statements really seem to boil down to "we should go to space because it is there, because we can, and, oh yes, it's good for freedom." Most other space policy debate seems to focus almost exclusively on the science to be done, the things to learn. But most people aren't "scientists" and don't want to be scientists. I fear that if we make outer space a reserve for scientists alone, then space will look like Antarctica in the future: a small contingent of on-site researchers, a very small number of "extreme" tourists, and no normal people. Forget for a moment the goals of scientists here on earth. Think of your goals instead. Why do you work each day? What things are important to you? Where do you find beauty? Would you like to strap on a pair of wings and literally fly like a bird in one-sixth Earth's gravity beneath the stars in a lunar resort? Can you see yourself standing at the edge of the Valles Marineris, looking into a canyon system that makes the Grand Canyon look like a small valley? Do you like architecture or music? Think of the possibilities for the forms that buildings could take in the lower gravity of Luna or Mars. What symphonies, what poems, what great novels will the vistas of new planets, new experiences, new pains and losses and challenges stimulate? What new businesses can we create? I think all these aspects of the human experience are of equal value to the abstract knowledge we may gain about the geology, meterology, and chemistry of these new places. I want an outer space future that looks like the world of Heinlein's Rolling Stones or Niven's Known Space; a place where families live and work and grow, where belters mine asteroids and trade goods with Luna, Mars, and Earth. A place indistinguishable from our current civilization, except that we happen to live elsewhere. In other words, a space-based civilization. If we do this, then we will have learned what we need to get our eggs out of this fragile basket. And maybe in the process we will learn just how much more precious is our Earth. Why go to space? To stay.
Last SciFi Babes Post (I Promise) OK. I asked the question about Classic Trek babes. Robbo likes Nurse Chapel. Decent choice. But I always had a thing for Yeoman Rand, even before it was OK to admit that I liked girls. As to the newer Trek, if forced to choose from the list presented, I would have to say Seven of Nine, followed closely by Torres. Sorry Steve, but I just can't see Janeway as sexy. Now that I have shown myself to be a hopeless fanboy geek, for this and future generations to read, I will move to more serious topics.
I, [am] Claudius
Venusian Scenery When I was first getting seriously into written SF, Carl Sagan was on PBS with his groundbreaking series, Cosmos. As he explained in the episode entitled "Heaven and Hell," the surface of Venus is 900 degrees (F) and subject to crushing pressure. A far cry from the fertile swamps of Heinlein's Venus in Between Planets, an early favorite of mine. Don Mitchell has reprocessed some of the raw image data from the Soviet Venera 9, 10, 13, and 14 landers. Not nearly as stunning as the Martian surface, but still it has an austere beauty. (Hat tip: Jerry Pournelle).
World Religions on the Net Razib at Gene Expression ran the names of the five major world religions -- Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism -- through Google and evaluated the content, tone, and presentation of the first 10 hits for each. Interesting, if not completely surprising results. Read the whole thing.
Memory Alpha Have a question about Star Trek? Visit this extensive WikiWiki archive of Star Trek lore.
SciFi LEGOs Variations on a theme tonight. More Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, as realized in LEGOs. I couldn't find any Buck Rogers fan LEGO models, though.
Robots From A to Z In looking for the Stepford Wives quote below, I found this interesting repository of information on things robotic.
Neat Poe Archive If you've been meaning to catch up on your 19th-century-gothic reading, this is a good place to start.
"She cooks as good as she looks, Ted." Wow. Somebody came to this site from a Google search for "stepford + wife + diy." (This old post created the hit). And then, bless 'em, they stuck around for 13 minutes or so. I wonder if his wife knows what project he's working on?
Another Serving of SciFi Cheesecake Rob thinks Princess Ardala was "skanky?" I don't see that. I would instead say earthy, sexy, and a bit dangerous in a fun way (she was, after all, the "evil" queen). Of course that was during the glorious age of disco, and a lot of women on TV looked like that. Probably warped my tastes permanently. And Wilma Deering just seemed frigid and aloof. Oh well, de gustibus and all that. As to the "Battlestar Babes," back then it would have been Cassiopeia; nowadays it would be Lt. Sheba, hands down. OK, let's increase the pathetic geek factor by an order of magnitude or two: Yeoman Rand, Uhura, or Nurse Chapel?
That Was Quick Father Tucker has changed his site template to a much more readable black-on-white layout. I just complained about the white-on-black layout yesterday. I can't believe that my post had anything to do with this, but the result is much more pleasing to my eyes. Update: He's changed it again. This time, it looks much cooler. The last change was more readable than the original layout, but this one is a much stronger template, while retaining the easy readability.
Buck Rogers Babes Jonah Goldberg recently mentioned Buck Rogers in the 25th Century at The Corner. This show fell in that golden age range in my memory from around 5th to 7th grade -- as I was first beginning to appreciate both SciFi and girls. Much commentary on the show centers on Erin Grey. Yeah, she was nice looking, but what about Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley)? Wowza.
Ninth Amendment Debate If you want to learn more about the Ninth Amendment, Tim Sandefur has been typing like mad on the subject for the past couple of days, carrying on a running discussion with the bloggers at Southern Appeal about the history, interpretation, and modern application of one of the least-understood amendments in the Bill of Rights. He even scored a complimentary link from con-law guru Randy Barnett, who finds that Tim has been doing a good job defending the original meaning of the amendment. I tend to side with Tim on this, at least in this part:
"We must not allow ourselves to be spooked into thinking that the end of good government is for the judiciary to defer. History reveals that the worst abuses of Americans have proceeded from a combination of the legislature and the executive, and that judicial restraint has far more often been a license for these oppressors than a protection for our freedom. Of course we don't want unelected judges running everything. But we do not want elected legislators running everything, either. The reason we have a constitution is to stop the legislature from governing certain things. The Ninth Amendment tells us that those 'certain things' are not limited to the things specifically mentioned in the Bill of Rights -- there are other things. What are they? Well, there you must consult history, law, political philosophy, and so forth. That is what the Ninth Amendment means. That is what the privileges or immunities clause means. Any other interpretation would tend toward legislative absolutism and to rendering the Ninth Amendment a nullity, and must therefore be a flawed interpretation."Click over and keep scrolling down.
Truce! To Rob the Llama Butcher, sorry about the "blowback." You didn't touch the nerve too badly, and what you say is right. I typically have no problems with very specialized outside counsel (say, our patent lawyers or employment counsel). The key to being a successful in-house lawyer is knowing when to stop being a jack-of-all-trades, and to defer to the expertise of competent outside counsel. Lord knows I have been saved more than once by a good lawyer on the outside (much more often than I have had to argue about a junior lawyer missing the point or padding a bill).
In-house Lawyer Grumbling Unsolicited advice from Rob the Llama Butcher:
"If you want a memo on a particular point of law to present to some government agency, don't write one yourself and send it to your outside counsel for fixing up. Instead, just let them write it from the ground up. "Buh-lieve me, you'll save yourself a lot of time and money."Unsolicited response from in-house counsel (me):
Only if you promise not to stick some first-year associate trained in law school to spot problems instead of answers on the project!I've noticed that much of the work product outside lawyers prepare for me is wordier and covers far more ground than required by the scope of the project. Of course we're tossing around generalizations here, but. . . <rant mode>Outside lawyers seem to focus more on problems than solutions. When you have a limited budget, you get pretty frustrated that a ham-handed rookie with no business sense is anally citing and shepardizing the basic principles of law known to all of us in perfect Bluebook fashion, but forgetting to answer the question we asked, all the while charging us close to $200 an hour!</rant mode>
The Hand That Rocks The Cradle I've been noticing the proliferation of guest-bloggers recently at my daily reads. Robert the Llama Butcher has noticed the trend, too. (Scroll down to Tuesday, February 17, at 9:14AM if the permalink doesn't work). And his allusion to a certain 1990s movie has me thinking. . . I wonder if the Missus would let Ms. De Mornay move in for a while to help me with my, er, posting duties? Hmmm.
Rocket Man Sorry Mr. Oakley, Burt Rutan borrows your appellation in this recent Christian Science Monitor article. Money quote: [Regarding certification of Burt's aircraft, only one of which -- the Starship -- ever obtained it]: "It would be a waste" to seek certification, says [Rutan's brother] Dick. "He's an innovative, creative designer. Why should he waste all of his time trying to certify an airplane with a bunch of know-nothing bureaucrats?" We haven't heard much from Scaled Composites recently, but apparently Rutan's crew is now waiting for the FAA/AST to issue their license. I'll wager that he will win the X-Prize very shortly after getting the license.
A.I. Constructs and Cyborgs First Virginia Postrel introduces the concept of dynamism versus stasism in The Future And Its Enemies by referring to the common ground found between "leftist" Jeremy Rifkin and "right-winger" Pat Buchanan in their disdain for and fear of the future. I get used to seeing dynamist opinions expressed by libertarians almost exclusively. These days, most of the left seems to be anti-western, anti-progress. So it is interesting (and heartening) to run across a leftist site dedicated to an optimistic future achieved through technology. While the bloggers at Cyborg Democracy show a little too much comfort with a "soft" precautionary principle, they are in favor of change, and are giving a great deal of thought to many issues surrounding transhumanism. Check it out.
Kirk-a-riffic Fun Be like the greatest Starfleet Captain of all time. (Via Dave Barry's guest-blogger Judi).
Music With Religious Themes Interesting compilation of music containing biblical or religious references, from Billy Joel to Iron Maiden, the Indigo Girls to Simon and Garfunkel (and many many more). (Hat tip: Instapundit). While you're there, be sure to check out the rest of Father Tucker's site. He has some interesting posts on the music and liturgy of post-Islamic Christians in Spain, brain fingerprinting, Mel Gibson's Passion, and the Jesuits, among others. Go check the whole thing out. Despite the irritating light-text-on-a-dark-background style, I'm adding it to my permanent links on the left.
Evolution Somehow, even with my light posting over the last 2 weeks, I have evolved into a Flippery Fish (although I fear I could regress to Slimy Mollusc at any point) in the TLLB Ecosystem. I'll try to consolidate this progress with some fresh posts this week. Many thanks to my 4 or 5 regular readers (and those of you anonymous individuals searching Google for "alessandra + ambrosio + new + pictures" and "saddam + hussein + outcast + flesh" and "why + is + my + tetra + swimming + nose down") for this step up the evolutionary ladder. If you read this looking for some real content on evolution, I'm sorry to disappoint. But Gene Expression should satisfy you with a fresh post on the evolution of ideas. They also spot an interesting article on the evolution of language and point out a new article on evolution and paleontology. Enjoy.
More Poetic Spam I got this from a spammer selling "generic" Cialis. Looks like something Jim Morrison would have written, had he survived the sixties and gone into advertising:
Now and then, mastadon over tea party Give secret financial aid to ribbon behind. Sometimes around hand laughs out loud, But living with graduated cylinder Always know tripod behind! Gonad for jersey cow laugh and drink all night With traffic light from tape recorder, Or prime minister about secretly admire around debutante. Particle accelerator around impresario meditates, Because fairy related to organize power drill beyond stovepipe. When bullfrog for lunatic ruminates, behind toothpick panics. A few bonbons, and wheelbarrow living with gonad To arrive at a state of mastadon. Most tea parties believe that over pickup truck Conquer mortician behind.
Evidence of Dreamers at NASA Thanks to Jay Manifold (who linked to this page), I found this page on Space Settlements at NASA. Reminds me of the big dreams I had of someday living or vacationing in space. Not the cramped government housing represented by Mir and the ISS. Instead, vast space habitats, like the station in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Maybe with life-extension technology I'll live long enough to see structures like these built. Unless of course the religious fanatics and allied Luddites ban cloning and nanotech research.
"A lot of people don't know what freedom means. I do." Jan Cydzik survived the Nazis. Then, he suffered the Soviets. He got a $1500 reparations check from the German government and bought a grandfather clock to commemorate the three years of slave labor he performed for the Germans. The Russians haven't paid him anything. Not that he's complaining. Read the whole thing (minimal registration required to access). (Hat tip: Catallarchy).
Vast Right Wing Conspiracy Heh. Now I'm part of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. As a libertarian, I don't see myself as "right wing" in much of anything, but I appreciate the recognition. On the really big issues (especially regarding limits of federal power), libertarians and conservatives tend to share quite a bit of common ground. I've linked to them on the left. I guess the link resulted from Tim Sandefur's mention of our postings on the Supreme Court Canon. Looking at Tim's list, it's obvious that I haven't done much to keep up with Con Law since my graduation from law school in 1994.
Frail Roots of Celebrity A Trio Channel rerun tonight of a 1983 episode of Late Night With David Letterman makes Robert the Llama Butcher reminisce. (Scroll down if the link doesn't work -- I had that problem, too, until I emailed Blogger technical support and they fixed my permalinks right up). I liked REM's Murmur, too, (high school for me, not college) and remember playing Radio Free Europe in my first rock band, "Call Us Radical." It's not only interesting to see how celebrities age, but to look back and see how they started out. Robert nails this point:
This particular Letterman was rather funny, in that Michael Sipe and the rest of the Artistes just looked like some garage-band made up of Mickey-D and WalMart employees, rather than the Sages they have since become. The performance was rushed and nervous. Sipe was in his pre-bald days and just looked like the average teenage punk wanting to know if you want fries with that. Heh. Doesn't change my appreciation of the album. Does remind me of the frail roots of all celebrity. Keep that in mind the next time Bono or Babwa Streisand starts bloviating about the Way Things Ought To Be.Indeed (although I find Bono far less annoying than Babs).
Supreme Court Canon I'm just a commercial lawyer. I almost never have to think of Constitutional Law, unlike the esteemed Tim Sandefur, who makes his living as a real life Constitutional litigator for the Pacific Legal Foundation. So it's hard for me to even think of ten Supreme Court opinions, much less the ten that every American ought to read. But here are the "top five" I would nominate: 1. Wickard v. Filburn. Ordinary people should understand just how radically the Court stretched the commerce clause during the New Deal ("What? You mean I can't grow corn on my own land for my own consumption???"). I remember being outraged at federal overreach when I read this case in law school. I would hope ordinary people would be equally outraged today. 2. Miranda v. Arizona. We all know the warnings from cop shows. We should read the original case to find out where they came from. Then, read the fourth and fifth amendments and decide where the court found the rule. 3. Marbury v. Madison. Why does the Supreme Court get the last word? 4. Roe v. Wade. Most people with an opinion on abortion talk about this case as though they understand what it means. Have they even read it? 5. Dred Scott v. Sandford. When the talking heads were running around three years ago yammering about the Court losing its "legitimacy" in the wake of Bush v. Gore, they evidently had no sense of history. This is arguably the lowest point in the Court's history, and one that gravely undermined the Court's (and much of the early Republic's) legitimacy.
Immersive Virtual Environments I wonder if Professor Hall knows about this project at Virginia Tech? The picture in the linked article reminds me a little of the clear interactive computer screens at precrime headquarters in Minority Report.
Classic Lileks He's got a fantastic screed up today, covering everything from Captain Weenie to baby boomer "culture." My favorite part (emphasis added):
God no. Please no. I think I speak for millions when I say that I am deathly sick of the counterculture sixties. The music, the war, the protests, all the hagiography - it's not a reflection of the era's importance but the self-importance of the generation who hung on the bus as it trundled along down the same old rutted road of history.. I'm tired of hearing about the boomers' days of whine and neuroses; I'm weary of ritual genuflection to their musical icons; I'm utterly disinterested in most of the pop-cult trivia they hold so dear. We'll probably be better off when that demographic pig has been excreted from the python so we can see the era clearly without choking on the smoke.Go read the whole thing.
Ten "Classic" Technologies Geekpress links to an article on ten technologies that won't die. I still use vacuum tubes (I have a couple of Hammond organs and a Leslie amplifier) and think analog watches and typewriters are valuable to have, just because it's nice to have a few well-crafted items that don't require electrical power.
While I'm At It. . . Here is the visited countries map:
create your own visited country map or check out these Google Hacks.
Visited States Map Everyone else seems to be doing these, so here's mine:
create your own visited states map or check out these Google Hacks. (Tim Sandefur's map was the last straw. There are some great places to see in all of the states he has missed).
Is This Really Surprising? Patrick Stewart (a/k/a weenie Captain Jean Luc Picard) opposes human exploration of outer space. Reason: "It would take up so many resources, which I personally feel should be directed at our own planet."
Long John Silver's I've always liked Long John Silver's, even though Mrs. Texasbestgrok's shellfish allergy has cut down on my opportunities to visit. Turns out they have offered a free giant shrimp to anyone asking for it on March 15, 2004, but only if NASA discovers and announces "conclusive evidence" of an ocean on Mars before February 29, 2004. Here are the official terms of the offer, for any lawyerly types. I particularly like this line in the press release: "In the letter [to NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe], [Long John Silver's President] Davis also officially registered interest in Long John Silver's becoming the first seafood restaurant on Mars. 'It's not a matter of "if," it's just a matter of "when" human beings are able to live permanently on Mars. Long John Silver's mission is to feed people with delicious seafood wherever they are -- on earth or even outer space.'" It may be a gimmick, but I plan to pay to sample a few of these giant shrimp as soon as they are available on February 15. Update: I should have put a hat-tip to SFSignal in this article.
Another Silly Quiz
A Different Perspective on the Superbowl Steven den Beste always makes me think, regardless of the topic he is covering. Predictably, much of the major blogosphere's coverage of the Superbowl has focused on Nipplegate. By contrast, Den Beste provides a more thoughtful commentary on the importance of the [non]event.