Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Testing out my new computer & DSL modem... so far so good. Insanely non-problematic, in fact.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, everybody! I'm up in suburban Boston, visiting with family. Newton Highlands reminds me a lot of the nicer parts of Bellefonte. Lots of Victorians, well-maintained like Bellefonte's Curtin Hill neighborhood. Everything's a lot more cramped, and there's no room for the carriage houses, which means that parking's at a premium.

Milos is cheerful but rambuctious and a little hard to keep up with. He reminds me a lot of little Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, and I'd go out & get my sister a copy of Barrayar if I thought she had enough time to read with an infant and a toddler in the house. Alex, on the other hand, is in the midst of his "eat, sleep, and yell" phase of his life, not that some folk ever grow out of that one. But give him time, he's not much more than two weeks old! ^_^

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Who knew there were any actual Dixiecrats left in the Democratic Party, let alone any who'd still be willing to turn GOP? I thought all the professional Dixiecrats bailed back in the first Clinton term.

Of course, if you believe what people will tell political cold-callers, there's still a lot of "Rockefeller Republicans" in Pennsylvania, albeit ones who haven't voted Republican since the Ford administration.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

So we probably lost another building this morning, just down Allegheny from my place. I didn't notice the hub-bub until I tried to drive in to work & found a ton of road-blocks all over the place & water-hoses stretching out for two blocks in all directions. The Cadillac Building was half a block from the Undine Fire Company house, and yet it still was gutted.

Bellefonte, wattaya gonna do? Our state representative's office was in that building, btw. Benninghoff's had pretty bad luck the last few years.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Reading things like this, makes me think that for the people who think "global governance" is a legitimate goal, the UN/NGO political class are a sort of Heian aristocracy, performing obstentiously their stylized roles in the Emperor's court at Nara or Kyoto. Meanwhile, out in the real world, the grotty samurai class runs actual matters, keeping the peace, fighting the enemies of the realm, making the tax money flow to support the court in far-off, fairy-land Kyoto.

The Onin War is the inevitable result of this sort of division between actual governance and legitimacy, if you ask me.

Apparently Secretary Clinton's been trying to bribe the Chinese with their own borrowed money.

Yeah, that'll go well. Schmucks, we're governed by schmucks.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Yeah, I'm sorry. If you're preferring Pluto over 20th Century Boys in the 2009 Urasawa sweepstakes, you're something of a tool. Pluto is pompous, derivative, overwrought, joyless, and telegraphs like nobody's business. 20th Century Boys, on the other hand, is rooted, spritely, active, agile, and cleverly telegraphed a complete and utter lie so convincingly that I had been prepared to be disappointed in advance of the development - and then was blown away when Urasawa yanked it all out from under us with an old-fashioned narrative time-jump.

Oh, and that critic pulled the usual boner of confusing "dark and gritty" for "mature". Maturity is a mind-set, a willingness to recognize the childishness of the artifacts of childhood, and to set them aside as illusions. 20th Century Boys is about the illusions of childhood, and the complex interaction of nostalgia with illusions, but the villain of the story is a monster of nostalgia, and childish fantasies are the weapons with which he corrupts, subverts, and conquers.

Pluto, on the other hand, is a glossy re-write of the old Tezuka chestnut, with a lot of pious anti-war posturing and tedious, unoriginal rehashing of the hoary "Androids Dreaming of Electric Sheep" theme, with a heavy ladling of Three Laws of Robotics utopian cheese. There was a couple solid chapters at the beginning about a British robot with survivor's guilt, but everything since then has been running in place, with a very annoying detour through Fantastic Racism and an expy anti-robotic sort of Klu Klux Klan organization, complete with white hoods. Bah.
"Because that’s what socialized medicine does: it turns each of us into a little fascist." As the argument goes, once we all have to pay the bill, we have to leave our libertarian inclinations to not care what others do "if it only hurts themselves". Once some perfect little snowflake harms him or her self, we all have to pay for the repairs. Nothing can be private when the state picks up the tab for the damage.

Fair warning on that link, though - some of the accompanying photos are a little not-safe-for-family-viewing.

I finally got around to watching the end of Mahoromatic last night. I've been duped! It wasn't nearly as bad as rumor has it. Yeah, the last episode is out of left field, but I didn't find it as repulsive and off-tone as the "Gainax Ending" people insisted. Also, now that I've re-watched the first season & those parts of the second that I'd seen before, it's another one of these Gainax/Shaft co-productions which in retrospect feel a lot more Shaft than Gainax.

And boy howdy, there's a lot of nudity in that thar TV show. You don't see nearly that much skin in recent anime, anything made in the last ten years or so.

Monday, December 14, 2009

This is precious. A "Hooverville"-style homeless community with the monnicker "Obamaville". I told you last year, you PSU leftie dipwads.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Oh, this is grand. Half or more of the concern-trolling, misery-pimping display at Senator Casey's "public health care forum" in Lock Haven last August was a dog-and-pony show about the evils of lifetime coverage limits & how the public-option crusaders were going to slay the evil insurance dragons who were tormenting long-term catastrophic-case victims of the system with this exact device. They had a wife of some poor sod and a nurse of some sort, both with sob stories about the people victimized by this evil practice.

Guess what Reid's Senate bill slipped back to the insurance companies, either as a "stuffing their mouths with gold" measure, or in an attempt to actually "bend the curve" in a significant way? That's right, lifetime coverage limits. Don't you leftist universal-health-care paladins feel stupid, now? Especially that one oleaginous butterball who sat up on Casey's stage, nodding piously over a microphone doing his best "I-feel-your-pain" Bill Clinton impersonation during the wife's sad recitation of the tale of her family's illness-driven demolition.

Now, I'm not saying this particular infidelity affects my opinion on the subject in the least - it doesn't make me happy, nor does it particularly infuriate me. The subject doesn't matter to me in the slightest, except insofar as those who do care like to irritate me in attempts to extract pity or sympathy by holding it over my head as some sort of passive-aggressive Weeping-Rag of Damocles. But here's hoping it breaks the Democratic shield-wall. We could use a weak spot right now, send 'em howling off the field in a fratricidal rout.

h/t, as it usually is, to the good professor.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Welcome to the world, Aleksandar. I've been waiting until your parents named you, and this morning your paternal grandparents sent out the announcement. I hope your brother Milos will take care of you, and please don't be too hard on him - it can sometimes be a little hard to live up to the expectations of a younger sibling. ^_^

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Megan McCardle can't abide talk of fraud and conspiracy, because, well, why would scientists commit their careers to fraud and conspiracy? Then she talks about the incremental corruption of the data, and looks at the Darwin example on Watts Up With That, and thinks *that* sort of fudging-to-stay-with-the-pack thing is going on.

Not fraud & conspiracy, but an accumulation of many little white lies.

Apparently she believes in the malevolent boardroom conspiracy of guys in masks calmly plotting bald-faced falsehood under indirect, dramatic lighting, with a guy at the head of the table resting his masked chin on his folded hands, going 'kukuku just as I planned'.


All big frauds originate in cluttered midnight offices with the customers screaming over the phone for results and missed deadlines, and corners cut *just this once* to meet quarterly figures, and we'll make it up next quarter, or the next, or the next, and each corner cut is cut a little deeper, a little farther into the meat of the work, until there's nothing legit left, just a floor littered with disorderly piles of papers and the discarded shavings of propriety and probity, driftpiles of rubbish which used to belong to someone's integrity.

Fraud is committed in a breathless distressed hurry. Conspiracies consist of harried fraudsters each covering up each others' complicity in each other's accumulated little cut corners. There's no dramatically lit boardroom of conspiracy, no masks, no secret society, no guy in the shadows. Just compromised closed circles of friends.
It's snowfalls like this week's which has reminded me why snow-country architects use gables. They're not ornamental up here in the north, they're vitally useful for keeping the heaps of snow which comes tumbling off the roof from piling up in front of doors and all over walkways and steps! I *should* have gone out & cleared it as it fell, but no, I had to put it off until the morning, when it had all re-frozen into an impenetrable icy mass. The back of a rake & a lot of salt seems to have taken care of the mess, though.

Meh. I guess next season's tax credit won't be enough to pay for a roof re-design, will it? Eh, I suppose messing with roof design is a good way to create potential roof-leaks, anyways.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

This is the best argument for Palin the politician I've seen since her July resignation. I guess I'm going to have to read the [expletive deleted] book, after all.
Since this used to be a bad poetry blog, I thought I ought to join the crowd pointing and laughing at Al Gore's rotten scansion. Especially since I once wrote my own global-warming poetical panic attack.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A certain alumni friend of mine who went on to become a drone for one of the Commonwealth's environmental nudge organizations replied angrily this morning to another, more conservative alumin friend's round-robin "ha-ha!" about Professor Mann's CRUhack problems with an angry counter-rant. Said eco-alumni friend is also violently hostile to Scientology, having grown up in Clearwater, Florida, which the Scientologists treat as a sort of Provo, Utah, or Vatican City. That is, if the Mormons or Catholics were a conspiratorial mafia-like pseudo-religious Ponzi scam.

So you see why I find it hilarious to see that somebody has dubbed the Hockey Team crowd "Climate Scientology".

Thanks to the Gormogons commune for cross-linking me the other day, BTW. They're a little hyper, but entertaining in a fashion I don't have the energy for these days. Like a room full of the Allahpundit, before he got all stodgy and turned into the elder statesman of Hot Air.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The batchelor cooking show.

Me, I think I've almost got this fish business down. I marinated way too much tilapia in a muck made of equal parts store-bought ginger/garlic marinade and canola oil, with another big hock of ginger and a couple cloves of garlic diced up and left to sit in the fridge for half a day. The muck & fish were chucked into a frying pan to simmer while I added a can of sliced mushrooms, half a can of bean sprouts, another half a can of sliced carrots, and a handful of green onions, properly cleaned & chopped up. Nuked a bag of pre-seasoned noodles in the meantime to give the concoction some grains, and dumped everything into a big honking bowl and ate it.

It was way too much food for one person, but fairly edible, and cooking it killed nearly forty minutes of a Thanksgiving otherwise occupied with dvd-watching.

On that front, the Dead Zone kind of went to heck after Michael Piller died. It's not a terrible show afterwards, but a lot of the moral core of the story was lost. It turns into yet another why-heartland-religious-folk-suck homily of the sort that TV types adore. One of the charms of the Dead Zone's first few seasons was its capacity for mostly avoiding that pitfall.

Later in the evening I started in on my new Sarah Connor Chronicles DVDs. About the same time that the Dead Zone and Battlestar Galactica lost their religious-moral plots, Sarah Connor found its voice. I had forgotten just how explicitly Christian the text got in the second season, and how earnest it was. The creator-writer was saying on a commentary how his father was giving him grief for going so New Testament when the family was observant Jewish, but that this was where the story went.

I had missed their intention that Cameron was running on free will from the end of the first episode of the second season onwards; I had just accepted the explicit text that her protect-John programming had rebooted properly; apparently the Terminator-vision "Terminate/override" display was *not* supposed to be the future-John hack, but rather the machine "choosing to cross the street against the light". It's a much cooler interpretation, and deepens the impact of the rest of the season. It's a crying shame the show got cancelled. Can't say I'm surprised, though. Watching it on DVD, you really get reminded of how they're filming in southern California. It must have been an extortionately expensive production.

Monday, November 23, 2009

On the plus side, another of my blind-purchases this month was the Tower of Druaga: Aegis of Uruk, and it turned out to be a really nice little show. It was well-animated, sweet-tempered, funny, and had a moral core inside of its faintly-preposterous RPG-style fantasy setting. I especially liked how the protagonist was a "Guardian", a type of warrior trained as a shieldwall specialist, someone whose whole purpose was to protect his fellows with a specialized shield-based tactical system.

I've been noticing the absence of the 'shield' as a physical metaphor in anime - it no doubt has something to do with cultural factors, but the Tower of Druaga definitely avoids that particular issue. The usual empty shounen declarations of desires to "protect" suddenly have substance when the boaster's whole deal is to be an immovable shield. What is ironic when spoken by the typical offensive-minded "sword-spirited" Japanese hero is sheer common-sense heroic when stated by a simple-minded guy with a big heavy shield and a desire to stand like a wall.
I'm a worse person than I was Sunday morning, and I blame Quentin Tarantino for it. I went to see Inglourious Basterds at the dollar theater yesterday afternoon, and came out of it angry, upset, and feeling deeply uncharitable to my fellow man. Tarantino movies have always shown a strong streak of nihilistic sadism in the past, but his ability to tie the meanness and viciousness back into a valid and occasionally sublime artistic summation has let me excuse that streak as part of his aesthetic creative engine. I'm thinking of material like the "Mr. Blonde w/ ear" scene in Reservoir Dogs, the Buck business in the first Kill Bill movie, the "eye" scenes in the second, and basically the whole script for Natural Born Killers. But he never really turned that sadistic nihilism against the viewing audience before like he has in Inglourious Basterds. (Well, I say that, but I've never gotten around to watching his contribution to the Grindhouse double-feature, so maybe it's in that.)

It's an ugly movie, a soul-eroding movie. It reminds me of nothing so much as the Blair Witch Project, but whereas that experiment turned its sadism, hatred, and fury against the film-maker as a class - message: stop looking! stop filming! leave evil be! - Tarantino's movie is a diatribe against the potential viewing audience. It's a film made with a burning rage against those who enjoy war pictures, especially those which fixate upon combat action footage. I'd apologize for spoiling, except that I honestly don't want anyone to see this movie, so I'll come out and describe what upset me:

Tarantino presents the film climax as the symbolic murder of the viewing audience. The set-piece is a three-fold terrorist assault upon a movie theatre filled with the National Socialist elite, complete with the "big four", Hitler, Goebbels et al. They're gathered together in a Paris theatre to watch the 1944 premiere of a high-budget propaganda piece about a German sniper's heroic one-man stand, filmed with the actual sniper a la Audie Murphy's autobiographical post-war film, To Hell and Back. In the build-up to the climatic bloodletting, we're repeatedly assaulted with snips and cuts from the propaganda piece, filmed in a cinema verite style with repeated on-screen killings of American soldiers. It's a brutal, ugly piece, and we're conditioned to hate the audience as they applaud every cleverly filmed death.

At the end, as the sniper-hero turns to the camera to deliver his propagandistic message to the audience, the doctored in-story film cuts out to the piece created by the actual film's heroine. She introduces herself as the Jew who is going to kill them all, in a presentation rather like the Apple 1984 commercial. At the end of the filmed clip, she gives the order to her awaiting accomplice, who starts a fire behind the screen, with an enormous pile of spilled-open nitrate film reels. The resulting cacophony is dominated by her posthumous maniacal laughing face, floating horribly over the smoke and fire and the brutal, gleefully filmed mass death.

Supposedly the whole picture was designed as an experiment in testing the hypothesis, "there isn't anything too terrible you can do to a Nazi in a film". I very much believe it. But the thing is, he's set it up so that there is no moral center to the film. The titular Basterds are murderous, animalistic clowns, with no dignity or humanity to them. The Germans are, well, Nazis - and unstintingly portrayed as such. Even the Marlene Dietrichesque double-agent actress is shown to be duplicitous and murderous. The Jewish heroine - a young woman who survives the murder of her family by the primary antagonist, Col. Landa - is never given an actual positive personality trait. She's as humorless and murderous as the hero of a third-rate Jacobean revenge tragedy; her only putative virtue is her victimhood.

The film ends with the scalping, torturing clown Lt. Raine gleefully proclaiming of one last, pointless mutilation that "I think this might just be my masterpiece." There is no escape from the sadism of this picture. I left the theatre sickened and ashamed to have participated in it by having sat through the whole show. Because the awful thing is, it was a "show", and a horribly gripping one, worse than a train-wreck, because train-wrecks are accidents and every last second of this film was planned. Even the clownishness, the ahistoricality, the bizarre mis-casting of Mike Myers as a British general, the buffoonery of the Hitler portrayal, the random anachronistic rock music and the sheer ludicrousness of the plot don't keep it from being compelling, doesn't keep it from being a coherent filmwatching experience.

But it is, quite simply, a dehumanizing movie. It seems to have been made to demoralize, to derange the moral sense. The film's view of war is a series of atrocities unconstrained by law, purpose, justice, discipline, or morality. But I can't say that it's an honestl anti-war film - the core message is too wrathful, consuming, hateful. The final image, of American soldiers mutilating a Nazi war criminal so that he can't ever take off the uniform, is calculated. The idea of never letting them take off their uniforms is a device which breaks down the bounds between the atrocity of war and the securities of peace which ought to be the concern of a proper anti-war, pacifistic message-picture. This device, and the way that it was placed just prior to the credits, rips open the war-atrocities the picture presents us & spills it into our safe-zones, like a bullet-punctured intestine leaking into a peritoneal sac.

Incidentally, I was the only person in the theater, barring only the occasional usher shuffling through. That theater's days are numbered, if they can't get an audience at a dollar a show, they're doomed.

Friday, November 20, 2009

From: Phil Jones
To: “Michael E. Mann”
Subject: IPCC & FOI
Date: Thu May 29 11:04:11 2008


Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4?
Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment – minor family crisis.
Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t
have his new email address.
We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.
I see that CA claim they discovered the 1945 problem in the Nature paper!!

Prof. Phil Jones
Climatic Research Unit Telephone +
School of Environmental Sciences Fax +
University of East Anglia
Norwich Email

Source, comment at 09:56:00

Somebody leaked a massive document dump from the British Climate Research Unit, including a dozen years' worth of email spool, via a Russian ftp server in Tomask. There's still the chance that some of it might have been "salted" with faked emails, but CRU is talking to the media as if *they* think it's real, which suggests that their servers have been locked down by the authorities. The above email isn't even the most egregious example of conspiracy to commit fraud against Freedom of Information requests, it's just the one which implicates Dr. Mann of my alma mater, PSU. There are other emails showing members of CRU conspiring to blackball a journal editor who wasn't playng ball, and explicitly manipulating data to produce desired outcomes.

So far, only their pet website is hitting on Google. Keep in mind, RealClimate is actually *hosted* at CRU. It's their house organ. Full story here. BBC limited hang-out here.

A useful index of "hot" emails. I'm going to go ahead and say that this much dirt couldn't have been 'salted'. The sample's almost five carats!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I had a difficult conversation with a conservative co-worker this morning about Sarah Palin's new book. I'm getting kind of tired of the Alaskan merry-go-round. The over-educated fools freak out about her, she goes tabloid on them, they freak out some more, the soc-cons dump on the fools, the fools freak out at *them*, and then the populist right rallies 'round the flag & everyone gets dragged into a cult-of-celebrity policy-free zone.

The thing is, I like most of Palin's principles. Her heart seems to be in the right place, and she has the right policy instincts. But she keeps *engaging* with her detractors. There's too much of the reality-show about her whole scene. I want a politician who can talk like a statesman while spending most of her time in the trenches, working like a dog. The Alaska success story was a big selling point for me - until that appalling July 4th melodramatic resignation display. I worry about Palin being all short-winded flash and surface and cheerful pugnacity.

Worse, I worry about her propensity for opening up fissures, for whittling away at potential governing coalitions. There's a positive blizzard of shavings floating around these days. What we need is coalitional glue - the sort of figures who can get people who honestly can't stand each other to slouch sullenly in close enough proximity to build an approximation of a winning majority.

In short, we need someone who can lure all of you overbred, arrogant twits on the Main Line and in New England back to the GOP. Someone who won't bring out your class resentments and can calm your irrational status anxieties. I'm almost positive that ain't Sarah, and it should now be blindingly obvious it won't be me or anyone who thinks *like* me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The mirrorball was on Fox News yesterday, advertising for a bipartisan partner to stave off a double-dip recession by massively raising taxes to pay for his obscenely profligate spending spree. Maybe Libby Dole might be interested? Being the Republican tax collector for Democratic welfare states is a Dole family tradition.

Suggestion, office-holding Republicans: don't. They have the majorities. They incurred the debts. They can pay the political price for the necessary taxes. Offer a minority bill repealing the stimulus acts & laying off large chunks of the domestic federal work force instead. Push the Republican health reform bill. Let them own their own irresponsibilities; increased taxes are more likely to cause a double-dip than "loss of public confidence", anyways. The difference between a probability and a near-certainty, admittedly, but still a distinction nonetheless.

Friday, November 13, 2009

"And now, we're going to become absolute tyrants..." sez President Mirrorball. The wonders of the ellipsis, no?

I've been marathoning Dead Zone, which I mostly missed when it was actually on TV & I actually had cable. It's much, much better than I had given it credit for back then. Some of the episodes strongly resemble that old joke about a supposed conundrum offered to philosophy students.

I've also been watching Tears to Tiara, which I bought blind. It's not as good. A bland action-fantasy harem anime, with no sexual tension, placed in a Celtic/Ancient British setting by writers who have never seen anything Celtic or Roman, and have severely stunted imaginative capacity. The show's warriors have never heard of shields, for instance.

The characters constantly kevetch about their lack of weapons, but everybody has swords, and in general are better-armed than the imperial enemy. They hunt *boar* with *longswords*, for the love of mike. Everybody has one set of elaborate-formal clothing, and they wear all of it in every circumstance - from hunting boar to milking a cow to fighting animate skeletons.

Galleys operate themselves, without any apparent crew or effort made by the protagonists to row, sail, or otherwise acknowledge that there's a ship to be run. The central nakama does everything, from hunting expedition to spying trip to forest ambush. Nevermind that said group of protagonists includes a cute, harmless little seeress with no apparent fighting skills. The imperials wear full armor at all times and in all occasions, except for the one chick who is clearly being set up for a heel face turn. Said armor never protects the wearer from being quickly disemboweled by the merciless protagonists, who lead a scrappy band of leathery hillbillies who never die on-screen.

Because of the way that the companies release shows in half-season "coers" these days, I now own half of this show. It's not badly-animated, and it isn't actively offensive. A mild case of OCD demands that I finish out the series, but we're not talking Heroic Age or Romeo+Juliet here. Those two weren't really brilliant shows by any objective measure, but they were highly-animated, clever at times, and very, very pretty. This is more... eh. For a show about a resurrected Great Demon King and his increasing collection of nubile young wives, it's moderately... dull. It's not even entertainingly sketchy.

Friday, November 06, 2009

I'm starting to fear that those people who say that the Large Hadron Collider's failures are due to its capacity for destroying existence - by collapsing the probability array & only allowing those possibilities in which it *doesn't* work - might be on to something. In short, we few possible futures have been spared by the operation of the Weak Anthropic Principle upon a Doomsday Device. Every future in which the LHC *worked* either the first or the second time has been obliterated, allowing only those possible futures where the device was thwarted by the accidents of fate or malice aforethought.

Maybe we ought to destroy the damn thing, if we want to be among the futures spared by the next attempted operation of Europe's Kreation Killing Kontraption.

OK, that's it. NPR was burbling about how the apparent fact that yesterday's Fort Hood shootings were the result of Sudden Jihad Syndrome was yet another excuse for the CAIR crowd to cringe and snivel and cower behind the cowl of conditional victimhood. Spokesflacks all swearing on a stack of korans that it had *nothing* to do with religion, please report any anti-Muslim activity to your local law enforcement authority, yadda yadda snivel yadda.

Horsecrap. I don't want to goddamn hear it any more. It's time for the American "Muslim community" to either make a show of active renunciation of jihadis, not just "violence" or "indiscriminate violence", but the actual, real, Islam-espousing fanatics and radicals who have their own stack of Saudi-printed koranic commentary tellin' em to do exactly what that [expletive deleted] down in Texas did.

Some [expletive deleted] on this morning's radio actually said that - "indiscriminate violence", as if the guy had only shot a couple veterans who had actually killed members of al Queda or the Taliban in open warfare then the shooting rampage at Fort Hood would have been *justified* in this [expletive deleted]'s opinion.

Hell, I want to see bonfires. I want to see ceremonial, officious bonfires of Saudi-printed and sponsored Wahhabi propaganda in front of mosques, fed by the congregations of those mosques. I want to see a tangible, open demonstration of renunciation. I want a Bonfire of the Jihadi Vanities.

Because cowering behind a facade of fake victimhood this time ain't gonna cut it. It's your umma, I want to see some maniacs read out of it. The imams in Iraq are capable of explicitly throwing the killers out of the Community of God, of calling them the devil-worshipping death-idolizing monsters they are.

No more cringing in fear of your fellow Americans. Show some proof of cultural solidarity this time, or I'm calling it taqiyya.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Was out looking at computers & ended up buying and watching House of Flying Daggers. Strange movie, at the same time less obnoxiously political than Zhang Yimou's Hero, and much less well-put-together. Eyelines are crossed, fights are botched, actors aren't quite on their marks, etc. Technically weaker, and less polished. It still has moments of that unearthly painterly composition which made Hero so monstrously watchable, but the connective tissue is weak. The beginning, especially, is very stagy, mannerly in an old-fashioned way, like an old 40s Olivier film production. Then you hit the musical dance number, and suddenly it comes together for one of those set-pieces which make this sort of modern wuxia worth watching.

I think part of the problem might have been Yimou acting as his own cinematographer, to judge from that part of the making-of featurette I was able to stay awake through. There was a cinematographer listed, but his other work as one prior to this movie was on non-action titles, and it isn't the same guy who did Hero, who was an old gwailo pro named Doyle with a list of credits longer than my arm.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Wow. What a thing to say about your own mother. Corzine is just all class, isn't he?
Meh, pretty much everyone I voted for except for the judge slates lost. That's perverse - it includes *all* of the Democrats I voted for.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

There was a meme going around - what are your top five anime, and what does that say about you? After somebody got me thinking about it from the view-point of "worst five", I buckled down & figured out my five most favorite:

Princess Tutu
Full Metal Panic Fumoffu!/Second Raid
Macross Plus
Maison Ikkoku
Gurren Lagann

I don't know what that means. Maybe I'm political-minded? Trying to balance out the magical girls/shoujo artsy crap with Tutu, the fanboy eye-candy with KyoAni FMP, respectable mecha with the Macross Plus oavs, old-school (and the best Takahashi anime by far) with MI, and the new kids stuff with Lagann? Maybe I'm trying to be *respectable*?

That I'm a bit of a cheat for trying to squeeze both KyoAni FMP series onto a single line?

Monday, November 02, 2009

Has somebody been drugging the Secretary of State? There are things that are true and obvious which cannot be said by a minister of foreign affairs - such as telling the Pakistanis to their faces that they're drunk-rolling whores who play both sides of the street. Which Secretary Clinton effectively did last week.

Look, I voted for her in the 2008 primaries. I *thought* she was more composed than this. I even agree with most of what she said. But the President *has* to sack her after this. It was worse than a crime - it was a mistake.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

So, local elections coming up next week. I've moved to a new precinct - Bellefonte South. The real estate boosters call most of the precinct "Rainbow's End" - a neighborhood of neat, aging, well-kept ranches and Cape Cods - but I'm pretty sure my slice of town's still Downtown, which is noticeably lower-class, decrepit, and mostly tumble-down Victorian.

As for the ballot, well... There's no choices to speak of for mayor, tax collector, or the school directors. That last one - the system's set up to only deliver four choices for four seats - is sort of annoying, as our school district has a nasty habit of jumping at Cadillac solutions to problems & driving our school property taxes to county highs. Especially since they've been sniveling about insufficient classroom space for the primary school kids, which suggests they're getting ready to go on another construction binge.

I'm voting straight Republican on the judges, I think. I haven't noticed any serious beefs about any of the choices in that section, and Republicans are heuristically preferable to Democrats or anyone who would run for a judge's seat on the Libertarian ticket. Absent, of course, credible and convincing testimony to the contrary in individual cases.

The big local race is for District Attorney. The Republican incumbent has gotten caught up in a scandal over an assistant district attorney's inability to keep his private life and his job separate - there are a couple of lawsuits or somesuch ongoing, and a case or two got overturned because of the scandal. That's bad, but the Democratic opponent (whom I voted for in the Democratic primary, mind you) isn't really a very attractive alternative. She's a classic squishy soft-on-crime Clintonite faker, and I hate her signs - very liberal-fascist "smiley face on the sole of our jackboots" creepy. I'll probably hold my nose and vote for the guy who needs to keep a better eye on his jerkass subordinates. I will probably vote for the incumbents in the other county offices.

Lastly, borough council & the precinct offices. Council's a "race" between a Democratic "facilities manager" (I think that means janitorial super?) and a Republican who didn't even bother to respond to the local paper's request for information. Some research shows that he's an older DJ who's heavily involved in all the festivals and events-planning in the borough - all that crap that the Curtin Hill toffs live for, which clutters up Downtown for those sods who actually live there. Just based on my impressions of those two, I'm going to go with the Democrat - he seems less likely to waste my property taxes on the festival chrome, and more likely to waste it on guys leaning on shovels. Eh, a bit of a trade-off.

The Judge of Election and so forth are all "write-in". What the heck's up with that? Is there anybody running things in this precinct?
If any population in the United States deserves this sort of treatment, it's the government-happy employees of the federal government who drive to and through the District of Columbia and the deep-blue inhabitants of that fair territory. They won't learn the lesson, though. They'll just fume "If Comrade Obama only knew! He'd put it right!"

Monday, October 26, 2009

If you've never heard of shad planking as an extreme example of political "sign war" excess, this is absolutely gob-smacking.
Well, isn't this lovely. There's a Star Chamber in Great Britain which exists to find elderly individuals incompetent (because of Alzheimers, dementia or mental illness), seize their assets, and presumably lock them away in a facility. I'd call it enslavement except people generally make slaves of those whom they might find of use. This is rather that sort of slavery where the benefit to the slaver is entirely of a moral cast: the beneficial glow of having done a good work, of having saved these old dears from the exploitations of their grasping, depraved parasite spawn, of having put them into a gentle, soothing trajectory towards the Great Recycling Box in the Turf.

All great evils are done by those who think highly of their moral certitudes.
"If Rachel’s people are 'nothing,' what does that say about mine?"

A link encountered in a comment thread on the rise of the English neo-Fascist BNP.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Some poor schmuck in town bought a 2010 Nissan Cube; it was parked on High Street Saturday morning. I was astounded and revolted. After a bit of staring in horrified fascination, I called a friend to share the revulsion.

It is quite honestly the worst-looking car I've ever seen. Some might offer the Aztek as a rival, but you can kind of see where they were going with the Aztek - it's just a streamlined, cubist variant on the minivan aesthetic, one that goes terribly, eye-slicingly wrong. The Cube is a whole different class of 'orrible.

To start off with, it's a cube, a box on wheels - but it's a cube defined entirely with curves, not a single straight edge that I could identify in ten minutes of awe-struck examination. Every curve takes away from all the others, and the whole is much, much less than the parts.

The Cube isn't much bigger than my Aveo, but it's slightly taller, and has to have twice the air-resistence, because the front window is the closest thing to a straight line on the vehicle. It's at about a 65 to 70 degree slope, perfectly calculated to suck airflow downwards into the scoop under the hood & devour forward momentum. The only way it could be worse is if it had a Jeep-style perfect vertical sheet of glass.

Said scoop is the next abomination in this parade of horrible. It's about five-six inches wide, and four inches deep, a great little pit for slush, ice, and snow to accumulate in bad weather, and mess with the thermal balance and weight of the car. It's an utterly, formlessly worthless aesthetic touch which will just make life miserable for the owner in winter weather. The interior is bedeviled with a bizarre ripple ridging effect cast into the ceiling around the dome light, as if it were a rock tossed into a pond. Why? Damned if I know.

Lastly, the hatch door opens sidewise, like a RAV4 or a CR-V. This car is too small and close to the ground to compete with those mini-SUVs - it's *not* a crossover, far as I can tell. It's more in the way of a competitor to the HHC, as if someone would actually want to compete with a half-car, half-stationwagon like that. The main thing accomplished by making the hatch open sidewise, is to greatly increase the required opening radius, and to render the layout of the vehicle irrepairably unbalanced - distressingly asymmetric, like a vehicle designed by that aesthetic vandal, Frank Gehry.

Someone once accused the Chrysler K-Car of not being a car, but rather the box the car came in. Likewise, the Nissan Cube isn't so much a car, as the vacuum-sealed clamshell it was shipped in: the sort of clamshell which takes a pair of scissors, a boxcutter, and a lighter to get open. The sort of packaging which hates the purchaser.

This car is an aesthetic offense against the gods of design. The designers ought to be tarred and feathered, and run out of Nishi-ku on a rail.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Article on Steven Vincent Benet and John Brown's Body. I almost said that it's my favorite poem, but to be strictly honest, Benet is my favorite poet. It's true that there are long stretches of John Brown's Body that are kind of precious and others which are too much of their time. There are long stretches of John Brown's Body which I think count among the greatest things written in English, especially his summation of John Brown the man, and some scene-setting sections at the beginning. Other passages, especially the western stuff set after Shiloh, are... kind of Narmish. I think his best work was probably the Burning City, which included the superlative "Litany for Dictatorships" and "Nightmare, with Angels", as well as "Ode to the Austrian Socialists" and a lot of harrowing, doomful premonitions of the apocalyptic coming war which Benet wouldn't survive.
I've been playing around in the kitchen the last week or so, mostly with garlic, cooking oil, and green onions. I kind of went overboard with the garlic last night. Everything tasted like really overconcentrated garlic juice for the rest of the evening, including diet Mountain Dew and cups of water.
Heavy, heavy snowfall. About two and a half inches off the top of my car this morning, and there was a small tree down over the fence at the back of the condo association property - didn't look like it caused any damage, except maybe to that guy's bird feeding apparatus.

Radio reports say that the southeast section of the county got hit monstrous hard - six inches of sodden October snow around Port Matilda. Rightwing Prof lives down that way, on this side of Skytop. Hopefully Gray's Woods didn't get too badly hammered.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

We're losing another employee here at work. Middle of the worst recession of my lifetime, and everybody's jumping ship.

Anybody need work as a system administrator with experience in CentOS & Red Hat Linux management? There's a list of requirements as long as my arm.

BTW, so much for "no snow accumulation". There's a half-inch on the boardwalk outside my office-closet window.
I *so* know what I'm giving *somebody* for Christmas this year.

I just have to figure out who's the lucky relative.

To be honest, I'll probably buy it for myself & then push it on somebody else after I'm done with it. It looks cheap enough.

Aigh! Snow tonight through Sunday! They're talking about *accumulation*, even down here in the bellybutton of the valley! (Admittedly not until Friday evening, but still!)

Damnit, I used to joke, but please - please! Bring back global warming!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The first hard frost of the season. Had to go dig my ice scraper out of the closet I had tossed it into during the moving process. At least I got the bulbs into the garden-box a week and a half ago, so that's taken care of.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Figured out how to start up & light the pilot light on my propane space-heater yesterday, and in the process also found my propane supplier. Apparently I do *not* own that big honking tank under my porch, and the supplier was quite wroth to find that the previous owner had moved without notifying them of this fact. They were willing to transfer the contract to me easily enough, and the cost seems reasonable for the first tank & rental. We'll see how much I end up using in a year. Wonder if I'm responsible for maintenance on that tank? It's starting to look a bit rusty, and when I thought I owned it, I had been contemplating giving it a new coat of paint.

I was fiddling with my propane furnace/space-heater/what-have-you because I had been talking with my friend Jason earlier that day, who had lost two propane tanks to their actual owners from his new house last week. Apparently the previous owners were renting their propane tanks, and hadn't bothered to inform the new owners of this. The tanks just disappeared from behind his garage one morning, taken by the propane supplier without so much as a by-your-leave. So he bought a replacement tank & was getting it filled at a station down the road from his new place. For him, the purchase-price of the tank was an improvement over the rental cost, long-term. I don't know, we'll see how I fare. I've got a much bigger tank, and the terms aren't horrible.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Damn straight, Lech. Buncha obsequious lap-dogs, apologizing for the misbehavior of their degenerate corrupt brothers in the Olympic oligarchy, a way for them to say "it's not you, God-Emperor Barack, it's America!"

Let's just hope the God-Emperor's post-Nobel career isn't as ill-starred as fellow recipients Arafat, el Baradei, Carter, Rabin, Gorbachev, or Aung San Suu Kyi. Maybe the God-Emperor can demonstrate some grace by actually deigning to meet with fellow Nobel laureate the Dalai Lama the next time he's in town, instead of crudely snubbing him like he did last week.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

There's an independent trying to get to the right of the Republican candidate in the New Jersey gubernatorial race. He's proposing extensive property and corporate tax cuts to be replaced with what sounds like a vigorous VAT - he calls it a sales tax, but a "sales tax" that's applicable to things outside of retail sales - sounds like services, etc, from what he's talking about - is more of a value-added tax if you ask me.

It *sounds* good, but VATs require a pretty hefty social contract to work right. Once you put the whole of the small business community into the position of reporting their revenue in detail to the government and impose a significant surtax, there's a heck of an incentive for cheating. New Jersey is rather infamous for a, how should I put it, less-than-world-class social contract.

Monday, October 05, 2009

So, Starship Operators had a fairly dire first three episodes. Oh, not in terms of animation, but there were way too many characters, they didn't spend much time establishing the setting or backstory, and the framing conceit is more, well, conceited than usual.

Said conceit: when their home planet in the galactic sticks is overrun by the neighborhood militaristic alliance - "the Kingdom" - a shipful of military cadets on a long-range training cruise arrange a "deal" with a powerful media network based off of Earth - the Galactic Network will finance their rebellion in exchange for broadcast rights. It's Survivor: Doomed Intergalactic War! This is a bit high-concept for my usual tastes, and when it was getting fansubbed, I never got past those three initial episodes. They were killing people off I hadn't even identified as individuals yet, and the nominal heroine didn't seem to be doing much of anything heroic, or even particularly distinctive.

I was buying pretty much anything I wouldn't be embarrassed to have on my shelves last summer, so this ended up in my "to-watch" stack, even though it hadn't been good enough to watch *free* the last time 'round. Luckily for me, it got better. Fast.

The version of war the writers and animators handed us - once things settled down & all the goofy adolescent bushwalla had been disposed of - was actually pretty nifty. It bears more resemblance to Walter Jon Williams' Praxis trilogy than Legend of Galactic Heroes, Star Wars, or most other supposed space operas. It really does feel like real fighting - hours and days of suspenseful boredom punctuated by seconds of screaming terror. Range and reaction arcs introduce actual tactics and operational art into the fighting, and logistics & strategy do their proper jobs of framing the respective pace and purpose of the fighting, concepts that probably will be alien to someone fed solely upon TV and film SF.

Furthermore, the heroine justifies her existence, and visibly & coherently demonstrates operational planning & wargaming, while not actually being the captain of the ship. We have an actual G-3, people! Although they call her "deputy captain", so points off for that.

Characters die in unnecessary and tragic fashion, and likable characters' failures cause those tragedies. Youth's idealism is used by the avuncular cynics who could be characterized as the cinders left by the ambitious idealism of earlier generations. Losing battles are resolved by unrelated, well-foreshadowed political developments. In the end, our protagonists don't so much triumph, as survive. For the most part.

In short, Spaceship Operators is an excellent little space opera. Shame it stumbled so badly getting out of the gate.
We were sitting around watching the Penn State game on Saturday after helping a friend move, and as usual, I paid more attention to the commercials than the football. Lots and lots of advertising for Big Ten universities - wonder if they think of football as a loss-leader for recruiting students these days?

The most interesting ad was for an "office F-150" from Ford. Internet ready! Ten years ago I'd have scoffed at the idea of an "office edition" pickup truck. Not anymore. I took one look at that, and said "the farmers and field reps will love the hell out of that thing". Sure enough, I was talking to a location manager this morning, and she had seen the same ad, and was thinking about getting them the next time her office's leases were up on their current vehicles. She was also talking about taking wifi'd tablet PCs into the field for recordkeeping real-time with our system. Wi-fi. In cropland.

It's a strange world, and getting stranger by the day. Here's hoping the Singularity saves us from our political idiocies before those idiocies starve us out.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dear Professor Mankiw: please learn the difference between "reign" and "rein". Here's a hint: don't use "reign" unless you're making fun of somebody's monarchical pretensions, or discussing the Who's discography. You'll almost always be wanting to say "rein".

I'd have emailed you, but you don't seem to have an email address on your blog anymore.

[Update: somebody pointed it out to him since I first squawked. No point in removing the post, but it's no longer incorrect.]
Damn, it's chilly out this morning. I was just out testing an update on our PDA application, which requires walking around until the GPS fires up & stablizes. Somehow I always choose to do this just as it's getting ready to drizzle, never fails. The monocloud is overhead, the cold rain is starting, and coat weather is definitely in effect.


Monday, September 28, 2009

I'd be more impressed with Palin and her new whatever-the-hell-it-is-she's-doing, if she got herself elected to the House in 2010. I was utterly Not Amused by the July resignation. I'm not fond of quitters, and we have enough chatterboxes and speakers-for-hire in the wings right now.

Get a job, Sarah. Hell, same goes for J.C. Watts and Newt Gingrich.
With the FDP in coalition with the Christian Democrats, Germany's officially and de facto to the right of the US. It's odd that economic disaster made Europe as a whole turn right, while the idiots at home go left. Maybe it's a function of who's in charge when "rocks fall, everybody dies"?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Huh. I had no idea there were so many blacks at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco.
Hah! This is funny. The anarchist thugs tried to storm the G-20 summit at the convention center, on the north side of Downtown. They apparently started out in Oakland, rallied in a park in Lawrenceville, and tried to march through the Strip District, where the cops kicked their collective asses back into Lawrenceville. Then they tried again, apparently through Bloomsfield and back into Oakland. See what they *didn't* try? The Hill District.

White boys too scared to go roistering through the Hill? I don't know, it's been fifteen years since I lived in Pittsburgh, maybe the Hill's become a series of tony gated communities since then.

I see that the AP thinks that Lower Lawrenceville is an outlying neighborhood. Here's a hint: no, it isn't. Edgewood is outlying. Swissvale and Wilkinsburg are so outlying they aren't even in the city. But Lawrenceville's pretty much the heart of the city. The only actual residential district closer to Downtown is the Hill.

Well, and Polish Hill, I suppose. But that's a cul-de-sac. You can't get to Downtown from Polish Hill.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

When I saw Fafner in fansubs a few years back, it didn't impress me. It was yet another Evangelion/Rahxephon clone with a horribly confusing mass of in-media-res unexplained technobabble & a swarm of interchangeable characters made indistinguishable by a particularly poor implementation of Hisashi Hirai's usual polished but identical character designs. I only got about five or six episodes in before giving it up as impenetrable and gnostic. Despite all that, I bought the Geneon DVDs in a recent 25-for-$100 sale anyways. I just got around to watching them.

Boy, did *that* show improve wildly in the second half. The first half's a terrible slog, full of difficult-to-understand characters & outright unlikeable characters. The writing's also kind of slap-dash and unhelpful right up to episode fourteen or so. By that point, however, they've killed off, exiled, or otherwise banished all the annoying characters, and explained the motivations of the confusing characters. More importantly, I think, I could finally remember everybody's names.

Suddenly, everything falls into place, and Fafner goes from dull giant robot knock-off to full-caps AWESOME. The philosophy stops being gnomic, and settles into a thoughtful, non-denominational Shinto vs. nihilistic Buddhist groove. Deaths and battles stop being pointless, and gain resonance and tragic depth. Everybody takes a level in charisma, and the token chick suddenly turns into a cold-blooded godlike sniping killing machine. The Girl in a Box climbs out of her box and turns into a Card-Carrying Deity - to the point that there's an objection during a court-martial that "you can't let God testify in court!' She has at least three distinct Crowning Moments of Awesome by my count. Tsubaki basically steals the show away from the yaoi-bait protagonists.

Even the ending rocked. Fafner's a classic instance of Growing the Beard.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I was in a meeting this morning; we were making fun of a co-worker whose script had produced a phantasmic 17 trillion acres of soybeans in cultivation, and I made some crack about a "Norman Borlaug Memorial database" in passing. After the meeting, another co-worker asked me what I knew about Borlaug and it came out that he had worked with him in the Seventies. In fact, he had been at the famous banquet where Borlaug had came in to accept his Nobel Peace Prize still covered in dirt from the Mexican fields he had been working in. My co-worker insisted it had actually happened, and wasn't theatre or urban legend. He described Borlaug's successes as a combination of building on prior foundations, a lot of work, and more than a little luck.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I am couched. They're a lot bigger than they looked on the showroom floor. The delivery guys did a hell of a job getting those beasts into my split-level townhouse with the awkwardly placed screen doors and ballisters all over the place.

The place looks a lot smaller with huge new couches eating up the floorspace. Maybe I won't go crazy with the side-tables and coffee tables after all...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Finally watched the end of Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex 2nd GiG - I watched about half of that season when the fansubs were coming out, and bounced *hard* off of the Full Metal Jacket knockoff episode. (Incidentally, it wasn't the obnoxious anti-Americanism of that episode that riled me - it was the preposterous poker hands that the writer used as a framing device. I never, ever want to see a straight flush take a four-of-a-kind in a no-wilds five-card game in fiction ever again.)

Question for anybody who remembers the ending: who the heck did Prime Minister Kayabuki appeal to, off-screen, to resolve the "secret coup d'etat" part of the crisis? She's been cut off from control over the military by her Cabinet Secretary, and she does *something* which he thinks is unwarranted and foolish which checkmates him, but I couldn't figure out what it was. Did she somehow appeal to the populace? Unlikely - the series is deeply contemptuous of Japanese popular sovereignty. The General Staff? The Emperor?

*Is* there an Emperor in the GitS:SAC future? It's hard to tell in almost all anime if the Imperial apparatus "exists", because of the clutch of taboos which would leave someone who only knew Japan from its popular culture to assume that it was a bureaucratic republic without any trace of monarchy. The wall is so high and strong and sturdy that I often forget about that aspect of things political, and the only reason I'm even thinking about this now is because that last episode of GitS:SAC was named "the Return of Patriotism", and the High Modern definition of Japanese patriotism is, after all, State Shinto & Emperor-worship.

All that business about Silvestre and his taxonomy of revolutions and whether to count the original "Individual Eleven" as revolutionaries is kind of bizarre divorced of any mention of the actual ideology of the prewar militarist terrorists - namely, the classic Appeal to the Emperor, and the liquidation of his erring ministers. Assassination attempts against figurehead prime ministers like Kayabuki don't make real-world sense without that ideological structure providing the explanation. It's like talking about twentieth century terrorism without discussing Marxism, or twenty-first century terrorism without mentioning Islam.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Norman Borlaug has died. If you don't know the name of the man whose work saved more human lives than were taken from us by Mao, Stalin, and Hitler and all their followers put together, then correct your ignorance, for god's sake. We should make our heroes better-known than our villains, and Borlaug should be held up to every schoolchild as the very best exemplar of the scientist-hero. I have very few heroes - Norman Borlaug was one of them.

"Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world."


Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering September 2001 is sort of odd. The thing was, I was openly contemptuous of the president at the time. I hadn't voted for him, and didn't like him all that much. I thought he was small, and unworthy, and an embarrassment. He was going to be a nobody, another Ford. His response to the attacks made him. Our collective response to the attacks made a lot of little people hate him. Some clung to the president and to the flag in hysterics, producing embarrassing spectacles which made them look like fools in later years when they turned on him. I wonder whether Andrew Sullivan wishes for a memory hole, or is he big enough of an Orwell fan to recognize that bit of hypocrisy? Others immediately began constructing conspiracy theories, and thus are incapable of embarrassment.

I don't know, at the time, I just hoped that the idiot in the Oval Office wouldn't make things too much worse. I had little faith that any real recovery was in the offing. It seemed like the end of the American Century.

But he put our remaining weight into the problem. He set Rumsfeld into the field, and the watch-word was "lean forward". Instead of Imperial Chaos Trumphant, the response to the attacks smothered a lot of long-smouldering brushfires. There were fewer wars, fewer deaths, but we were involved in more of them. Prosperity returned for a brief, if, in retrospect, rather false, flowering. I had hopes in the spring year of 2005 that all might be right with the world, that we were on the long upward slope of "the Long Now".

No, it didn't last. First the democracy bubble burst, then the economic bubble. Nowadays, I just worry that all of his efforts only delayed that end a few years, that despite everything, the decline was only postponed.

Would disaster make anything of the current president? Does he have any hidden depths?

I hope we don't find out.
I never knew that the anonymous Allah had been living a few blocks from the towers. I don't read him as much as I ought to...
There are people who want to make this day a "Day of Service". That sounds an awful lot like "Servitude" to me. These people sometimes seem as if they think of men as chattel in bondage to the benevolent State. The heck with that.

There are people who want to call today "Patriot Day". Jingoism may be a healthier response to attack than supine surrender, but I find it difficult to embrace bluster, and I carry Gramscian damage of my own.

Personally, I prefer to think of 9/11 as a day of warning, a reminder that civilization is fragile and life is brief. Those terrible, oppressively empty blue skies weighed heavy in the week after the fall of the towers, like the devil's own mono no aware:
Gion shouja no kane no koe
shogyou mujou no hibiki ari.
Shara souju no hana no iro
jousha hissui no kotowari o arawasu.
Ogoreru hito mo hisashikarazu,
Tada haru no yo no yume no gotoshi.
Takeki mono mo tsui ni horobinu.
Hitoe ni kaze no mae no chiri ni onaji.

The song of the bells of the cloister of Gion
Sings of the impermanence of all things.
The split-souled four-limbed sala bush
Her flowers' hue showeth one truth:
That to flourish is to fall
That proud men are so but a while
That pride passeth like a dream of a spring's night
That the valiant are so only to be destroyed
That all shall be blown like dust in the wind.

This is kind of ugly. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I've read neither Fiasco nor the Gamble, although I've read a ton of reviews and analysis of both books. After reading that both the positive portrayal of a particular officer & his unit in Fiasco and the harshly negative one in the Gamble are based on the exact same five-day period of time Ricks spent with that officer & his men, I'm not sure I'll get around to it. That information is, frankly, damning. Especially in conjunction with Ricks' admission that the difference is based entirely on the officer's post-Fiasco public opposition to Ricks' favored strategies. It suggests to me that Ricks is incapable of processing information in a semi-objective manner: doesn't this mean that his analysis is highly colorable by personal factors?

I recognize the glass-houses character of that observation, but nonetheless, I'm a little tired of COIN pieties this month. I can't help but feel that there are good Marines like Sgt. Bill Cahir dying in Afghanistan while wearing ideological shackles forged by Ricks' beloved counter-insurgency specialists.

H/T Jason van Steenwyk
Neil Gaiman has recently deigned to inform fandom that George R.R. Martin is not our [expletive deleted].

Yeah, you know what? There's a fanfic writer who drives me batty because she keeps starting new stories while leaving a major novel-length work half-undone. Worse, most of the new stories are based on a fairly serious spoiler for the *unwritten portion* of the unfinished work. I've gotten to the point where I'm willing to tolerate it because:

A) She's not a professional, she does this in her spare time
B) I'm not paying a dime for it - it's free ice cream
C) I'm still getting the occasionally interesting bit of prose out of her

While I concede that neither George R.R. Martin nor Neil Gaiman are my "[expletive deleted]", they are supposed to be compensated professionals. Martin's increasing indiscipline and inability to deliver a conclusion to his "A Song of Ice and Fire" serial is, in point of fact, an infraction of promise. I've paid a fair amount of money for his door-stoppers - hard-cover prices, in point of fact. Heck, I've imported the British edition in a couple of cases - I still get spam from because of those purchases. This isn't free ice-cream. I'm not a free rider, I'm not an entitled, pirating brat. I'm someone who expects a story that bloody well ends.

If anything, Martin's fans are peeved that he's contracted Epic Fantasitisis - producing an undisciplined, bloated, cancerous mess of a story which refuses to end. It was supposed to be a four-book series. Then five. Now six? And he refuses to deliver the fifth. Each book takes an exponentially longer period of time to deliver than the last. At the current rate, we may get the fifth book before Martin dies. We're not likely to get the sixth book before *I* die!

So bite me, Gaiman. Martin promises books on deadlines. He fails to deliver said books anywhere near the promised date. We are entitled to expect the fulfillment of promises, even if they're not enforced by the legalities of contract. Neither artists nor writers are classes protected from the consequences of their infidelities. If your word should be worth squat, redeem it.

H/T Glenn, who I think gives the both of them too much credit. Instapundit is also free ice cream - and he's far, far FAR more reliable than the alleged compensated professional Martin.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

For anybody out there who hasn't twigged to it in the last thirty years of public demonstration, Yoshiyuki Tomino is a pompous moron.

If you're not going to let somebody produce another Overman King Gainer under your name, then shut up and retire, you old fool.

Update: OK, maybe the old fool gets a bye for hosting a Gundam-themed wedding under the life-size Gundam. Well played, old man.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

This post on the latest press abomination inadvertently reminded me of the Fighting Red Onion Head by mentioning the iconic photograph which was the inspiration of Penn State's most reviled piece of monumental lawn sculpture. Igael Tumarkin, hah?

Tempting, but I have my couches scheduled for delivery on Saturday. Politics is politics, but interior decorating is Serious Business.

BTW, Specter bragged at his State College town hall that his father had been part of the Bonus March. Wonder if he'll connect that particular bit of personal history with the descent of pissed-off lumpenproles in vast numbers next weekend upon his natural hometown, Inside The Beltway?

Friday, September 04, 2009

To expand on yesterday's thoughts:

The goal of progressive societal reforms should be the more effective use of the cumulative attention of the masses, and the more parsimonious usage of the attention of the elite. The qualities of these reforms should be simplification, dispersion, and stabilization.

The core insight of social neoconservative thought was that the dispersal of liberal attitudes - cultural libertarianism & hedonism - from the elites to the masses, resulted in a societal catastrophe as indulgences of the avante garde, rich in social capital, spread to the working and lower classes with their corresponding poverty in said cushion of social capital. The familial and pharmacological affectations which a single female lawyer can handle, destroys the woman who takes in the lawyer's wash.

As this is generally true for the social and cultural spheres, so, I suggest, it might be true for economic spheres, with a slightly different cause. While cultural elites are rich in social capital, the meritocratic elite is rich in cleverness: the ability to make sense of fiscal and legal complexity, and a generally superior capacity for finding the cracks in increasingly legalized and complicated webs of options, rules, regulations and prohibitions. The fiendishly complex legal code under which a trained business lawyer can make a killing, traps the merely average in a distracting, time-wasting wilderness of opaque options, most of which can entangle the simple in accidental illegalities. The simple are forced to apply to the clever and well-trained to do what would be simple absent the interference of increasing layers of contradicting regulation. All of this is a drag on economic behavior, from grand decisions down to the details of daily life.

Legalization is poison to the general masses. It introduces cleverness into everything it touches, upgrades every task affected such that mere common understanding no longer suffices. An army of lawyers and para-lawyers and accountants spread out, flowing into every crack opened by each new wave of regulation, eating up the substance of the land, so to speak.

This is not to say that more complex instruments and options should be legislated out of existence: that's the "tyranny of choice" crowd, and they're a bunch of goddamn fascists. But the web of legalities, of regulation and petty statutory obligation which force the simple into complexity - this is an active evil. It's the legal community reproducing, lawyers writing increasingly complicated code for producing more opportunities for lawyers interpreting the growing thicket of complex code. In programming, these sorts of spaghetti codebases are sometimes written accidentally, by inept hacks, and sometimes written intentionally, to pad somebody's long-term employment security, but it always results in an intractable mess of barely-functional trash which isn't expandable, maintainable, or alterable without tossing the whole damn thing out & re-writing from scratch.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

I commented on this account of a Steny Hoyer public forum, and since I do have some intellectual vanity, I'm going to replicate some of it here:

...Personally, I'm of the opinion that there's no large-scale social problem which is addressable by centralized rationality - which is to say, technocratic approaches. Science and engineering are the fortes of the technological approach. Once you get into macroeconomic affairs, human rationality reaches its limits.

Health care is a *fiendishly* macroeconomic complex, and the more technocrats attempt to centralize and rationalize the systems involved, the worse the situation will get. Any reforms essayed *have* to put their emphasis on decentralization, simplification, and reducing centralized oversight, or else it will just make things worse. A crowd isn't smarter than a single genius, but the crowd can manage its collective affairs better *in the aggregate* than the genius could for them.

It's a simple matter of economy of attention. Even the most brilliant of men can only concentrate on a few things at a time, no matter how excellently or effectively or quickly he organizes his thought. Even the dimmest member of the crowd has a significant fraction of the capacity for attention that the would-be technocrat has for that dimmest member's individual situation.

Yes, I know it's basically rote Hayek orthodoxy, but just because it's a truism, doesn't mean it isn't important. The world's full of brilliant people who aren't smart enough to run both their lives *and* mine. Full disclosure: I'm not a member of Mensa like the author of that post, nor would I be qualified for membership; at my best, I'm high-end normal on the IQ scale, and what little intelligence I have, is in verbal rather than rational or mathematical intelligence.

It's a matter of high irony that I ended up in a position where they have me helping write equations for custom fertilizer prescriptions, and proofing financial planner calculations. The president of the company is probably a genius, with a PhD in meteorology who works 16 hour days, at least seventy hours a week. He is *painfully* bright, and works way harder than I ever do, but he has a reputation for making messes because he tries to think through every project that comes to his attention - and then after he gets distracted by the next problem, others have to come along & work out what *supposed* to come next. It used to drive me batty when he'd do his own book-keeping chores, wasting *hours* on searches for a fifty-cent error - in essence, doing my job for me back when I was his receptionist & book-keeper. That was a long time ago, hopefully the people who replaced me in that job have long since broken him of that habit.

But what I'm saying, here, is that attention is the bottleneck of the technocratic economy, the one truly scarce resource. Centralizing economic decisions takes the precious attention of the truly brilliant, and uses it to replace the much more copious attention of the rest of society. It's a misallocation, wherein a monstrously expensive scarce resource is used to substitute for a dirt-cheap, technically inferior resource which is so ubiquitous as to be unworthy of valuation.
Skimming this article, I just realized something. Politically-cynical people like to call the two major American political parties the "stupid party" and the "evil party". Partisans like to say that's because Republicans are actively unsophisticated, undereducated, and generally ignorant, while Democrats hate the country, are contemptuous of morality and codes of honor, and are in favor of theft (taxes), murder (abortion), and debauchery (sex & drugs). But it occurs to me, reading the reasons that various pompous liberal pundits loved the president, and are now disappointed in his performance, that perhaps these distinctions aren't so much positive as negative.

That is, it isn't that Republicans are stupid - they're just less worried about being thought stupid. Their value system, on average & in the mass aggregate, doesn't put much weight on knowledge and sophistication. Some studies I've seen suggested that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to have a bachelor degree, but less likely to have any postgraduate education - that is, it's important to go to college, but there isn't that extra push into a masters or PhD or JD or whatever. Meanwhile, it isn't that Democrats are actively malevolent, they're just less worried about explicitly moral judgments. They're concerned more with practical ethics and situational evaluations of human situations than they are with foundational moralities - the verities. Democrats tend to be malleable in a moral sense because they don't take seriously the idea of moral permanence.

But beyond those two tendencies, the Democrat cares passionately about being thought knowledgeable and well-informed - Huffington's admiration for Obama's ability to "communicate complex ideas". Meanwhile the Republican is passionate about being judged righteous: Lincoln's "prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side" & Palin's paraphrase of that prayer.

Republicans are "stupid" because their priority is righteousness, and Democrats are "evil" because their priority is intelligence. Would you rather be thought a fool, or be damned to perdition?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Yay, my first mortgage payment. One down, 359 to go.

My parents were visiting, looking the place over, and helping getting it cleaned up & aiding in some repairs. It's not quite there yet, but it's getting closer. My dad discovered that the reason the icemaker/water tap on the fridge didn't work was because somebody had connected it with the hot water, which obviously was turned off by the prior owner.

Still haven't figured out how to turn off the outside water spigot for the season. Hopefully one of the other condo owners will know.

Thanks, Mon and Dad, for all the help this week, and for the housewarming gifts. Aunt Bobby, thanks for the dishes.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Upon hearing that Michael Dukakis might be given the Kennedy ancestral Senate seat if the planned corrupt bargain is concluded, I wondered what had happened to the loser of the '88 presidential election. Apparently, he's been serving on the board of directors of Amtrak, of all blasted things. Other than that, he's been teaching college students at undistinguished universities, and pushing for the re-introduction of hoary old political machine tactics in Democratic electioneering. At first, I marveled that a former Democratic candidate for president had been reduced to stirrup-holding for the Kennedy clan until they can get their affairs in order & reclaim the family Senate seat. Now I'm just glad that somebody's doing something to keep Mike out of the gutter.
You know, I kind of think Glenn Beck's a little unhinged. Hard to take in large doses - paranoid, over-the-top, more than a little strident. Since I don't bother with cable, I don't even watch the show, although I listen to him on the radio when I'm out and about.

But this is rubbish, and actively wicked public behavior on the part of the activists & the gutless companies. I see Applebee's is on that list; I was thinking of taking my parents out to there this weekend.

I won't now.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stuff like this is nauseating. It's a classic example of what I was talking about earlier about the channels of communication external to rhetoric. The student was speaking the *words*, the rhetoric which he personally had chosen, but unbeknownst to him, an alien and satirical non-verbal framing was being used against him by the interview team to undermine and negate his message, his idea. He was made a mockery of - completely, totally and entirely without recourse to any sort of overt rhetoric.
One of the more irritating offhand comments from an older woman in the line for the Specter town hall earlier this month was something to the effect that she could change my mind if I only went to her meetings for a sustained period of time - the insinuation was of weeks of discussion, as if her stance was so sophisticated and well-substantiated that it couldn't be grasped without long hours of detailed explanation. I'm willing to bet that she was some sort of instructor, and probably in the education department. Some of these folks seem to think that the only thing lacking in our enlightenment is a proper period of enforced indoctrination, of the proper hours spent in the pews listening from the first exordium to the last peroration. These guys. They just don't seem to get that their facts are, perhaps, not facts at all, but rather, framing devices, elaborately and tediously disguised rhetoric.

Ironically enough, I also talked to said evangelical of the single-payer faith about rhetoric, words, and ideas, and whether there was something in politics beyond rhetoric, and whether rhetoric held primacy. I suggested that the ideas behind the words were more important than the words themselves, and that there was not a single channel of communication. She thought I was talking about violence, but what I meant was comportment - those nonverbal expressions of intent and ideals. Ah, well.
Well, I guess I'm back in harness with the Scrantonites and Ronulans. I finally got around to all the bureaucratic nonsense I'd been putting off, including moving my voter's registration. I asked Big Dave if I was a Republican or a Democrat, and he said "Republican". Good enough for me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ways in which this little remembrance day for the Abomination Which Walked Like A Kennedy reminds me that I should count our blessings:

Obama could have been a drunken, entitled serial philanderer with a predilection for public sexual assaults. He hasn't been swiving press nymphets in the White House pool, no matter how much they'd probably appreciate it.

Obama could have been a man who embodied the worst sort of incestuous political oligarchy. He isn't a child of privileged, aristocratic wealth.

Obama could have harnessed an actual talent for legislative affairs to his abhorrent political beliefs and goals. His demonstrable parliamentary mediocrity is a blessing, really.

Obama hasn't abandoned allies to a terrible death in Communist concentration camps, or financed leftist groups to kill and terrorize members of an ethnic group which he has a personal hatred for. Yet. But best to keep an eye on Honduras and the rest of the Caribbean, I suppose.

So congrats, Edward! Your timely death has gone a small distance in reconciling me with President Obama.
Obama used the phase "bold, persistent experimentation" in re-nominating Bernanke? I wonder if Bernanke grimaced? You know a crock of liquid feces is about to fall on your head whenever a pundit or politician pulls that one out of the mothballs. Some quick googling shows that even conservative types have foolishly the phrase, so it isn't as if it's a partisan thing... it's just a marker that the speaker hasn't bothered to read the Forgotten Man, or any other useful book on the era.
And another thing: what's this rubbish about saying nothing bad about the deceased? What's the societal value in this? Making the bereaved feel better? The only reason I can think of is the avoidance of blood feuds, wherein maligning Cletus's late, drunken clod of an uncle will cause Cletus and all of his mean-tempered kin come knocking on your door to club in your pointed skull. I'm not sure I feel the need to buy into that kind of clannish customary law.

Grace? Grace is how political losers demonstrate moral superiority. Nobody ever lauds grace in a winner, and in the rare cases where they do, it's the sort of lordly grace where the serf is allowed his "dignity", to crawl away in silence and solitude to recoup what hath been taken from him. No winner is owed a demonstration of "grace", and the last Senator Kennedy was nothing if not life's winner - a drunken, treacherous slob who reveled in familial privilege, a shake-and-bake aristocrat with his own political fiefdom, a senatorial seat left to him in entailment by his brother's political will, held by a family retainer in wardship until the advent of the young lord's majority.

Edward Kennedy was aristocratic swine. The legacy of the Kennedy family is an abomination, a living insult against the honor of the Republic.

Good men have bled and died to kill the idea of inherited power in this nation. Be damned to those who celebrate it with officious funerary rites!

Be damned to his bereaved, who are a pack of trust-fund parasites, no doubt squabbling sotto voce over his political legacy as they do their best to look solemn and miserable for the cameras!

Be damned to his mourners, who are the half of them slavish worshipers of oligarchy, and the rest idolaters of the State, and neither of them worthy of the franchise won for them by their ancestors and preserved for them by too few of their peers!
Steven Den Beste opines that the late Ted Kennedy loved his country, and did his best to serve it, and thus we should render unto his memory respect. If such was ever the case, I've never seen the evidence. That man conspired with the Soviets, supported ultranationalist and leftist terrorism in Northern Ireland, was instrumental in the deliberate betrayal of our allies in Indochina, and personally killed an innocent woman. If there is a hell, Edward Kennedy is burning in it tonight.

Note I say nothing of domestic affairs. I spit on his memory not because of political differences, but because I believe the man was the exact and perfect opposite of a patriot. So far as I can tell, he placed person, clan and ideology first, second, and third; his only allegiances to the nation were completely rhetorical in nature.

OK, OK. At least he wasn't a Trotsky.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

While I was walking home from the Dollar General with a couple two-liters, I had some kid in a sedan stop me looking for directions. He said he'd just moved into the neighborhood, and needed directions to the nearest Walmart. This was at the corner of Spring Street and Crawford Lane, way the heck up a hill way the heck away from any major roads, so either he was really lost or really had just moved.

I tried repeatedly to give him said directions, while avoiding the construction down on Water Street, but he was apparently so utterly new to town that he didn't even know what the Benner Pike was, and barely seemed cognizant of the existence of I-99. I suppose it didn't help that I couldn't remember the name on the sign for the mall exit for I-99 - Benner something or other, I thought.

BTW, don't believe this website - while it *is* Shiloh Road, that's not what's on the exit signs.

(google google google)

Dale Summit! Nobody I'm aware of considers this to be a real place, but it's there on the I-99 interchange's exit signs.

I was kind of tempted to ask him how he had gotten *into* town, as he didn't seem to know any of the roads leading into it.
Quote of the day:
When the leader of the free world is complaining about a posting on the former governor of Alaska’s Facebook page, he’s got problems.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Deutschland uber Alles? Is that a joke? Who the hell uses something like that in any context outside of a war documentary?
OK, that wasn't my finest hour, or four hours as it turned out.

Upon reflection I remembered that I had the evening shift today, so I could make that "public forum" Sen. Casey was holding in Lock Haven. I took the shortest route from Bellefonte to Lock Haven, only to find out the bridge on Rt. 150 between Mill Hall and Lock Haven was closed. That took a heck of a lot of searching around to find an alternate route - I'm not that familiar with Clinton County. I eventually found my way to the hall - a small-to-mid-size auditorium on the campus of Lock Haven University.

I got there about 8 AM, with the doors to open at 8:45, in expectation of a line. Instead, I found a small gaggle of aging and potbellied AFSCME members in t-shirts with armfuls of posters: "In America, Health Care Should be A Right" or something like that. A few actual people showed up, but there was never more than a hundred or so throughout the event, including staffers, press, activists, union members, and uniformed security. Pretty much a bust, but that's the kind of turnout you get when your advance notice is an email twenty-some hours before the event, and a small notice in the local paper. Who the heck reads the Lock Haven Express outside of southern Clinton County?

The senator wasn't there when it was time to start, so they hemmed and hawed and eventually put on his advance man & the "panel" of hard-luck storytellers who were supposed to soften us up & get us all weepy and open-pocketed. Did I ever mention how much I hate emotional blackmail? Even if it comes in the package of a somewhat young, attractive woman with a husband with Lou Gehrig's Disease. Hard cases make for bad law, and that goes double for health care law. Nerts to that.

It turned out that the senator had foolishly flown from Scranton to Lock Haven, only to find out that fog had socked in the field at Lock Haven. They wasted time and fuel circling, and eventually landed in Williamsport & drove to the event from there. They would have made better time if they had just driven from Scranton. Fools.

I hadn't realized how tall Casey is. He's thinner and taller than I'd expected. He's apparently on the Senate Health Committee, and is miserably proud of his bill. It's possible it's a radically different bill than the 1200-page House version which has been making the rounds, the binder he brandished didn't look nearly big enough to hold the House version. From what the man said over an hour of allegedly random questions from the audience, it's blindingly obvious that he doesn't take the CBO seriously, and has little to no understanding of economics, supply and demand, or basic cause and effect. He's not pushing single-payer like Specter is, but I think he's owned the current version of the bill more than Specter. Casey is unpersuadable, because he's invested in his pixy-dust fantasies of free health care, and apparently has a case of cognitive dissonance when it comes to the contradiction between cutting costs & expanding coverage.

I was a lot more quiet than I was last time with Specter, because the questions submitted before the senator arrived & the format suggested that there was at least a chance of my question coming up. Also, the room wasn't simpatico to my sentiments, and context is important, I guess. I did say some things, and caught a couple glares from the guy a couple rows ahead of me. Eventually, things had gotten too late for me to justify blowing off work, and I was starting to get mentally out the door.

That's when the senator started bragging about how wonderful Geisinger Health System was, how it was such a model of efficiency and effective cost-cutting, and how his bill had taken a bunch of lessons from Geisinger & was going to force those lessons on the rest of the industry. I got madder the longer I thought about that. If this private concern had done so well in fashioning solutions under the current system - why the hell shouldn't we just let Geisinger & their private imitators proceed? Why shouldn't we let the profit incentive give those innovators the success their innovations offer - lower costs, better service, popularity in the market? Senator Casey doesn't seem to conceive of a large-scale success which isn't predicated upon extensive intervention by the government.

Then some idiot started waxing poetic about the wonders of Canadian socialized medicine & how his wife's experience in a Montreal emergency room refuted all claims of rationing - this in response to a guy who said he had family in Canada & was worried about importing that model somewhere down the line. And the crowd of aging leftist sheep loudly approved the old fool's meaningless anecdote with a round of enthusiastic applause.

That was it.
I stormed out.
And not quietly, I sadly confess.

I'm ashamed of my behavior. Not that Casey doesn't deserve disrespect - he's a callow, ignorant empty suit who is where he is solely by family connection. But I should have just left, without loudly telling him to enjoy his echo chamber. It was... unproductive.

BTW, this analysis of the House version of the bill is a significant part of why I'm pissed about the prospect of passage today.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hmm. Senator Casey's holding "public forums" in Lock Haven & Johnstown tomorrow. That's a hell of a short notice. I sure as heck can't make those. Here's the details for anybody googling:
On Thursday, August 20th, I will be hosting two public forums to discuss the Affordable Health Choices Act, the Senate's Health Care Bill. Details for each forum are below. Please plan to come early. Doors will open an hour before each event and seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

Public Forum #1:

Thursday, August 20 at 9:45 am
Lock Haven University
Price Performance Center
Lock Haven, Pennsylvania
Doors open to the public at 8:45 am.
Seating is first-come, first-served.

Public Forum #2:

Thursday, August 20 at 2:00 pm
The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Living and Learning Center
Heritage Hall
Johnstown, Pennsylvania
Doors open to the public at 1:00 pm.
Seating is first-come, first-served.