Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Shame, son, is a gateway to grace." I say this as a Penn State grad who still lives up the valley from the university: shaming has educational, social and moral functions. Nothing and no-one ever changes without someone who's capable of it feeling ashamed of the way things are, the way they are, and doing something hard and real that might relieve them of that mortifying sensation of having done something shameful, or have allowed something shameful to continue.

It's not a guarantee, and many's the man who weaseled his way out of that discomfiting inner conversation through sophistry, cheap justification or mere rationalization, but shame, naked shame, is salvation to those willing to listen to that hectoring, mocking, damning sound.

We've all lived in this valley, and known that there was something unnatural about the position of power the football program was allowed. It was a snowball rolling down the slope of our acquiescence, and it was bound to hurt someone downslope, in some way or fashion. It could have been petty corruption, as at Ohio State, or student misbehavior, but for our sins, it was something worse. They're painting over murals downtown and bringing in retired FBI bureaucrats to whitewash the less tangible things, but it's all the same - a twisting away from an ugly set of facts, and a disinclination to see how far the rot has gone.

You don't fix dry-rot by painting it over, it must be dug out, and the planks too far-gone must be torn up, thrown away, and replaced. But before the replacement, listen to that shaming sound and tell me, what was it that allowed this rot to take hold? There must be no unanswerable icons, no secret, sunless gardens of privilege. Consider removing the policing power from the university as a step in the right direction - when the university's toy security detail answered to the administration instead of independently of the power-structure which itself was at fault, that, itself, was an obstruction. The police and the university ought to be, in some non-destructive fashion, at odds with each other, if the watchmen are to be properly watched.

But this can't be placed entirely at the feet of faceless bureaucracy. The football program was too beloved of the general public, too protected by sentiment, for a proper sense of shame to make any sort of impression upon those with wickedness brewing rot in their hearts. Sports should not occupy such a ritualized , pseudo-religious niche in the folkways of a healthy society. Is it because there's a lack of public religion in this college environment? Honestly, I don't know - I'm such an agnostic, I'm seriously detached from the religious life of the community. The football game pilgrimage was the one thing that united the increasingly-leftwing university/student community and the middle-of-the-road nonpolitical-sort-of-conservative alumni and county communities outside of the Centre Region townships and the borough.

Where do we find the social discipline to make right what men's crooked natures inevitably make wrong? A scourging may be necessary, some sort of bonfire of our vanities. It's easy enough, for one such as I, who never cared for the football program, to propose or endorse notions of a suspension of that program for a period of years. That's *easy*, and this should be hard - for everyone, not just the football people. What other solutions are on offer?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Welcome to the new aristocracy, as the New Class morphs into the second coming of the Whiggish gentry, entitled and arrogant. Except that the Adamses and their ilk put in decades of work in governance and diplomacy to back up their pretensions to the "natural aristocracy", with John Adams, his son John Quincy Adams, and *his* son Charles Adams between them logging more cross-Atlantic diplomatic travel time than anyone else until the advent of Kissinger's "shuttle diplomacy".

It wasn't until the effete fourth generation and Henry Adams' endless self-education that we even *approximate* the self-regarding uselessness of the modern "little princelings". What has Chelsea Clinton done in her life, other than follow in the train of her mother, who herself caught power like an STD from her ex-President husband? This dynastic crap is the reason I voted against Bush in 2000.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Ah, the joys of root canals. The anesthetic hasn't worn off yet, and I keep trying to answer the phone sounding like a Down's Syndrome kid.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

There were scads of new people at last night's Otto's get-together. Two of them turned out to be a couple who had been in New York with the "Occupy Wall Street" mob getting arrested on Brooklyn Bridge. The guy was infuriated that I kept snickering at his righteous difference-making revolutionary status; apparently it makes up for his nowhere non-union job with the university. Funny thing is, he's being forced to work part-time because he won't join the union, and somehow that's the fault of The Man instead of the Teamsters. Real sense of cognitive dissonance there.

He's pissed about Obama too, and kept going on about not wanting "the lesser of two evils", and was yammering about how the Obamabots were trying to take over the Wall Street neo-commie campaign. Towards the end of the night, I said something about how I was a firm believer in the least of presented evils. One of the other new people asked in anticipatory horror who I'd vote for, and I admitted as how I'm still looking at Rick Perry. Apparently the WIC thing is a big to-do in Democratic circles. I got dragged into the discussion, but at the end I pointed out that in conservative new media, people are much more agitated about Green corporate welfare like Solyndra than actual welfare scamming, O'Keefe showboating about ACORN and similar organizations aside.

I should be more sympathetic to Joe Protester, because I had a rough late Nineties stuck in nowhere jobs, and I was pretty pissed and radical (for me, at least) about it. But the sympathy bleeds away when you start rambling starry-eyed about the wonderful "non-profit, non-profit" farming communes in Burlington, VT and how they give food away to the homeless and spend their free time taking care of the elderly and blah, blah, anarcho-commie blah. His wife/girlfriend was pretty quiet, and seemed to have a grad-student job with the Agriculture College with prospects.

The rest of the new people were law-clerk buddies of a friend of a friend. Wasn't able to talk much with them, I hate our usual table at Otto's, it's an echoing, exposed, cramped pen of a booth. You can't hear what somebody's saying three or four people over unless they're yelling across the table like Joe Protester.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Michael Yon has been on the front lines for the better part of a decade, but he still has an eye for truly beautiful, mad photography. I've never heard of kishmesh khana before, nor even that Afghanistan had any vineyards to speak of, let alone beautiful, fertile ones like the one Yon was photographing in the middle of a violent, close-quarters infantry campaign. The vineyards sound like the bocage in miniature.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Holy crap! Documentary evidence that the linear no-threshold model of radiation exposure ("no level of radiation exposure is harmless") was established upon systemic & deliberate suppression of contrary experimental results by a Nobel Prize recipient! That there was contrary evidence is not, today, surprising - actual experimental results have demonstrated otherwise since then - but the initial prestige-established no-threshold rule is enshrined by radiation paranoia and institutional inertia.

And the good people wonder why the rest of us are less and less willing to take the scientifically credentialed at their naked word!

h/t Ace of Spades headlines.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

While I agree entirely with Ace's point about this really irritating anti-Stewart piece, it's hard to take
That's true but that is a rather minor problem compared to the first. And, in the scheme of things, someone might be justified in noting that both are comparatively minor problems to obsess about; that media criticism is, necessarily, a relatively trivial pursuit. Add into that that among the various ways one could engage this relatively minor topic, Stewart's chosen the least important way, and that means that for all his influence, his mission itself concerns the most trivial critique in a field that is already rather trivial.

from a guy who spent two obsessive weeks delivering hub-to-hub, time-on-target saturation shelling on the head of a minority-party congressman for using twitter to send pictures of his junk to female admirers. I can't think of a more trivial display by a major right-wing blogger, at least not this year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pennsylvania going Nebraska/Maine in the Electoral College? Stupid idea, and it reeks of cowardice on the part of the state GOP- an admission that they're never going to take the state again in a presidential year.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

There's a lot of chatter this week about the post office going bankrupt. By my count, there are as many as twenty-one unnecessary and excess post offices in Centre County. Every little burg in the hills doesn't need its own staffed office, and there are way too many branch offices in State College. Most of those are probably buildings with one to three walls of post office boxes and a bored staffer holding down a desk. I've never even heard about some of the branch offices in State College. They could easily consolidate those PO boxes into existing structures.
Barack Obama is not unaware of this game. He gets to play elbows out while his opposition has to be doubly careful to avoid anything that is remotely seems racist. In the short term, it is a pain in the ass, but in the long run, it forces conservatives to argue facts, logic and reason — and it actually is quite liberating to be unable to attack the person.

- Don Surber

A pretty sentiment, but I don't know how true it is.

Just a place-holder, to let people know I still live, and haven't been washed downhill.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

I watched the first Eden of the East movie last evening, King of Eden. The Eden of the East TV series was a typical noitaminA show - eleven episodes, no guaranteed ending. The idea was that they'd provide the ending in two theatrical films, of which King of Eden was the first. The TV series was kind of cleverly confusing, a little bit like Total Recall in the sense that the male lead erased his memory just before the first episode starts, and there's the whole mystery behind why he did so, what the savior game is about, and all that. By the end of the series, you can almost forgive them for never really paying off on that mystery, as there's a lot of fun weirdness on the way to that non-ending.

The TV ending is suitably spectacular and has an air of completion about it, even though nothing really is solved in the end. Since the goal of the savior's game is to rescue Japan and its NEETs from economic and demographic damnation, you can see why it's easy to not pay off on the promise. If somebody actually had an answer to Japan's demographic doom which even made narrative sense, let alone real-world sense, people would be all over it like white on rice.

So, the first movie - time to start paying off, right? Not so much.

Instead of picking up where we left, we find ourselves with the heroine, traveling to the irrelevant Americas once again, this time New York City. It's six months after the TV climax, wherein everybody got arrested for... well, I'm not sure what - apparently saving Japan from blowing itself to oblivion? The protagonist disappeared, the Eden of the East kids managed to set up as a real social-media corporation, profiting from the mother of all publicity stunts, and our heroine... goes chasing after the missing protagonist. Her logic for how she's going to find him doesn't even make narrative sense, the Game people are still manipulating things in nonsensical fashion, they're still screwing around with the poor, much-put-upon mayfly prime ministers of Japan, and the writers are still trying to wring humor out of Japanese kids with illegal firearms bumbling around iconic American cityscapes.

The male lead has wiped his memory *again*, and he's still getting chased by various Game people. Rockets rain down on trucks, tedious startup office humor is indulged in, and I damn near fell asleep from the boredom of it all. The whole movie was just an indulgent animation crew chasing its tail on the big screen. It wasn't offensive, but it also wasn't really a worthy use of an hour and a half of my time, or my money. What the hell, Production IG?

I probably won't bother with the final movie. The ending of the TV series, as incomplete as it was, was at least some sort of ending. Bah.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I've been favoring Perry the last couple of weeks, ever since Gingrich imploded and it suddenly looked like Perry was a probability in the race. Before that? Maybe Daniels, but he turned out to have the opposite of a Midas Touch, just wading into every gopher hole and barbwire tangle he could find between points A and B on any particular topic.

But I fully admit I don't know Perry that well. The fact that he's never lost a race is... a bit troubling. That tends to breed arrogance. The Aggie thing is going to make him a real punching-bag among the culture snobs who up to this point have occupied their time calling Palin and Bachmann "crazy" and other words starting in "c".

Bush the younger sort of turned himself into a Texan, a play-acting, theatrical version of a Texan. It was mostly real, at least as real as Reagan's cowboy act, but it was sort of an act - he was a Yale man, from a family of Yale men. Perry is, apparently, the son of hard-scrabble dryland cotton farmers. I'm not sure whether the "tenant farmer" label means that they were actual impoverished sharecropper types, or that they operated an agribusiness which rented land on an industrial scale. Given that a bit of googling shows that Perry's father was a county commissioner suggests the latter, I think.

The article sells the idea that Perry's a hardass. Look around the news this month, and I ask you - do we want a hard man in 2012, or another softly-softly "crusty but lovable" type like McCain?

Oh, well, we'll see how he operates once he's all the way into the race. He's still only toe-deep into the campaign muck.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Marshall MacLuhan was a devout Catholic his entire life? My mind is officially blown.

Combine that with Jack Kerouac's reported Catholicism and I have this bizarre mental image of

The twinkling lights of stubborn faith
Swimming serenely between the organic flakes of
Plankton, diatoms and
The dying oceanic masses
The algeaic snow that float slowly
Falling from those teeming sun-lit shallows
Into the godless depths of the deep

I don't disagree with the writer's assessment of MacLuhan, I read one of MacLuhan's books about ten years back, or at least the first third or so. It was interesting, but so very muddle-headed and arbitrary and riddled with intrinsic contradictions that I dropped him as a charlatan part-way through. I suppose you could classify him as a writer whose manifest and extensive errors are challenging to the intelligent reader, sort of like Karl Marx. Although likewise, he's a serious danger to the hard-charging would-be believer looking for a doctrine and a faith.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

“For his own good, they ought to take him into the woodshed and say, ‘if you want to survive in this work environment, you’ve got to keep your word, you’ve got to be cordial and congenial and civil even when you’re disagreeing,” said Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) “It makes for a very hard career otherwise.”

You know, talking about taking an adult black male - Allen West, an army colonel & freshman US Representative from Florida - "into the woodshed" - isn't just play-act political-kabuki-pretense fake-racism, I kind of think it may be actual working-definition racism. And seeing as how the email Rep. Moore is having kittens over was in response to an intemperate speech in the well of the House, I can't say as how I can see why the Dems have any grounds for crying "congeniality" or "civility".

h/t, although for a change, Insty's actually down-playing the offensiveness behind his link.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My parents were in town this weekend on their yearly northern progession, visiting friends and relatives in four states. I took them to Arts Fest in State College on Saturday, and a Spikes game on Sunday. Arts Fest was crowded, and hot. We did a quick circuit of the booths, and marveled at the amazingly high-priced art. I ran into a couple co-workers and out-of-town friends while we were walking around the festival. It's the week for running into people, everyone comes into town!

It was the first time I went to a Spikes game. The field was beautiful - perfectly manicured, everything new and shiny. The team was... not very good. They got three runners on base in both the eighth and ninth innings and just couldn't get anyone home. The other team wasn't much better, but they were good enough. The field's staff ran around like maniacs entertaining the crowd with frat-boy-type games & distractions, doing their best to keep the crowd from paying too much attention to how bad the team was playing. It ended with a really nice fireworks display. I have to wonder how much my company pays for the season tickets I used - there was a cranky season-ticket holder sitting next to my dad complaining about the team & talking about how much season tickets cost; it isn't cheap.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Ugh, I managed to get rootkitted by a stubborn set of trojans early this morning, and it took seven hours to clean up the mess. I *think* I'm in the clear, but it took three additional malware programs on top of my installed McAfee, and I managed to burke my relationship with the various Google/gmail/blogger interlocking web-applications. I'm mostly posting this to see if I can get it to work.

There some sections of the internet which just aren't safe, no matter what prophylactics you keep on hand. Firewall, paid-up & up-to-date paid antivirals, using a low-trust dummy account, and it *still* slipped on through as if it was strolling in the front door. Manga scanslation sites are the modern-day equivalent of a 19th century San Francisco coolie whorehouse - you'll catch a virtual STD just walking the sidewalk outside it.

Update: and just as I start making jokes about STDs, I lay eyes on this. I dunno that this untreatable gonorrhea business is particularly new, though. We've had untreatable STDs - from the ugly-embarrassing (herpes) to the lethal (AIDS) for decades. But we really, really need new antibiotics, and the morons in charge are too busy harassing the drug companies to be bothered with things like public hygiene.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I could not believe the abject display of tongue-bathing NPR and CNN was giving the Huntsman campaign announcement yesterday evening. Are they capable of this sort of calculated sabotage, or are they so utterly detached from the attitudes and emotional temperament of the conservative side of the country that they honestly can't anticipate the reactions of the average GOP primary voter, and think that a disloyal former ambassador - whose main policy positions in the Obama era (cap & trade, the stimulus) are vehemently despised by libertarians and TEA Party types - will somehow find a constituency?

Look, his social conservative credentials - pro-life, pro-gun rights - are going to be crippled by two other factors:

1) *Everybody* is pro-life this time 'round, unless Giuliani makes another pass at being rejected.
2) *Everybody* is pro-gun rights this time 'round. It's not as if this is policy rocket-science, especially with the Gunwalker scandal brewing.

He'll split the anti-war, isolationist vote with Ron Paul. At this point, the way to distinguish yourself from the pack is to be *pro* interventionist - I'm not saying that there's a vast majority of primary voters who *aren't* tired of the Terror War, but everybody else seems to have been flirting with war-fatigued voters.

He *won't* attract religious social conservatives because of the whole Mormon thing - I'm not saying that it's a dealbreaker, but it isn't exactly a selling point, either. They'd fall in behind the nominee, Mormon or not, but they've got their own tribal candidates - Bachmann, Cain, Pawlenty, Santorum, or maybe Perry. Romney is supposed to bring in the secular fiscal conservatives, except that the RomneyCare thing has pretty much crippled him among those who pay attention. Which basically leaves the Rockefeller liberal rump, if there are any remaining above ground... I guess Huntsman is the Rockefeller Republican candidate. That gets him, what, a dozen or so primary voters?

Friday, June 17, 2011

And now that it's a "Democratic" amendment, most of the non-farm Democratic Senators piled on & brought the Coburn anti-ethanol-subsidy measure past cloture. This article is pretty muddle-headed, as far as I can tell, they actually *lost* one Republican on this vote - Chambliss apparently went squirrelly on the second vote. And our pet imbecile, Casey, went and voted with Chambliss. But anyways, the exact same set of corn-belt Republicans voted against the measure as earlier in the week, it was just the coastal Democrats finally voting their constituents' interest that brought it over the hurdle. But the Hill is bound and determined to sell the Democratic spin that it was the Republicans that came around, rather than themselves. In reality, this was a straight-up regional vote, the corn belt against the rest of the country, with Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and the Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kentucky delegations falling in with the majority.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sigh. On the plus side, the only Republican votes for this were from the Greater Corn Belt, if you include Mississippi, which since the advent of the Great Ethanol Subsidy, has been increasingly shifting from cotton cultivation to growing corn for ethanol. Although Arkansas should technically be making the same move as Mississippi, and yet both senators, the Democratic Pryor *and* the new Republican Boozman, voted for the Coburn amendment. Kentucky's a minor member of the corn belt as well, and yet both of Kentucky's Republican senators piled into the "yes" column; if Rand Paul had voted against this, he probably would have been eaten alive by his supporters. The Maine Sisters, the Alabama Porkbarrellers, the Republican West - they all went anti-ethanol. Hell, even Brown kept to the straight and narrow.

So, in short, what we have here is a *corn belt* Republican problem, not a whole-party problem.


Update: apparently this was the fruit of Grover Norquist's demented anti-genius. He's so petrified of the spectre of anything anyone could possibly characterize as a "tax increase" that he's stomping about, defending distortive corporate-welfare abominations like the ethanol "tax credit". Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform is an abscess on the conservative movement, a corruption. The best construction to place upon his organization's activities is that they've slid from pro-capitalist tax reform to pro-big-business tax-credit farming. A more likely construction is that he was always in this for the lobbying opportunities, and that his little cottage industry is built upon lobbying and rent-seeking under the color of "tax reform".

Anyways, his obnoxious insistence on characterizing the elimination of subsidies as "tax increases" gave most of the corn-belt Republicans enough cover to do the locally expedient thing instead of the principled thing. Damn him, anyways.

Friday, June 10, 2011

If the idiots in charge provoke a second Falklands War, I want their heads on pikes along the National Mall. But you don't always get what you want, and it is amazing what they can do without actually producing legal cause for impeachment. Actual war-mongering against a stalwart ally not being technically a violation of oath or established law, to my knowledge...

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

I’m more disgusted by a congressman’s unpaid parking tickets than I am by his sexual fetishes.

- Bob Turner, the Republican challenger Rep. Anthony Weiner defeated in the 2010 congressional elections, in his response to Weiner's disgrace. He's surprisingly eloquent for a defeated candidate in a no-hope congressional district. And you can't help but love a guy who uses Animal Farm to discuss a sordid political sort-of-sex scandal.
There was some talk a while back about whether high student debt was a factor in whether you'd want to date someone.

Appropos of nothing in particular, did anyone know that the Department of Education has a SWAT team?

I just got around to reading Walter Jon William's newish novel, Deep State, a sequel to his This Is Not A Game. Basically, it's a novel about someone provoking an Arab Spring-style social-media revolution in a post-coup Turkey written just before the Arab Spring broke out. I spent part of the book arguing with his Turkish politics and history - he seems to buy into the "evil drug-running Kurd-slaughtering Military" narrative of Turkish politics. The AKP doesn't even seem to exist in his world-construction; even more weirdly, some off-the-cuff details here and there strongly suggests that the entire war on terror never happened - there's some suggestion that there was never an invasion of Iraq, given some of the geographical and basing details of the CIA or Company-like organization sponsoring the revolution.

Still and all, Williams can build a functioning political universe, even if I have to re-classify it as an alternate-present story in order to get over some details. I wonder if he was irritated to have the Arab Spring disorders so closely mimic his story, or delighted?
I suppose I should unpack that: anyone who aspires to the possession of a "cathedral-like personality" is a walking case of malignant, intellectual narcissism. And I wasn't joking about the man's post being too damn long; I indeed, did not read it all. It read like the standard war-cry of the disinherited intellectual: Respect Mah Authoritah!


Thursday, June 02, 2011

Add this to the pile of "unexpected anti-Green screeds from nonintuitive sources". Although Michael Lind isn't a movement Greenie like Monbriot, Salon is certainly part of the old-guard bien pensant Left - the Nation on Internet Time, rendered sclerotic and irrelevant inside of a decade instead of the generations it took that hoary old publication of the red-diapered left. Hell, this Lind article declaring an end to Peal Carbon Fuel is actually to *my* right - I'm not 99% certain the way he seems to be on the subject.

Found this in the Ace of Spades news sidebar which is unlinkable, still.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Important post-Memorial Day reading.

Note the bit about how the defunding of the NGO development projects by the global recession and an Arab Spring-inspired collapse in jihadi funding has done more to knock the insurgency in the head than years of red-handed war. Especially note how we were funding both sides of the war by letting Taliban facilitators sleaze their way into subcontracting both NGO and military development projects, and then claiming the benefits as Talib-provided. So much for "soft power projection", eh?

Via the usual source.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I just asked the office manager what happened to the milk I had bought Monday morning before work & hadn't been able to take home until last night. She said she threw it out - "It expired May 22nd!"

Jodi, I said - it's May 11th.

Apparently she thought it had been sitting in there since *last* May.

Oh, well. ^_^

Monday, May 02, 2011

OK, I just had a conversation with a non-political co-worker who didn't believe that they actually killed bin Laden. This "burial at sea" BS is going to seriously bite us in the ass. When *I'm* the guy defending the current imbeciles against charges of conspiratorial fraud & "wag-the-dog"ism... that ain't good. And it started off with me laughing at some reporter doofus accidentally reporting the death of "Obama", in a typo that's bound to haunt that guy's career from here on out.
This, on the other hand, is shameful. Death, even of a devil or a monster, should never be celebrated.

Good weapons are instruments of fear; all creatures hate them.
Therefore followers of the Tao never used them.
The wise man prefers the left.
The man of war prefers the right.

Weapons are instruments of fear; they are not a wise man's tools.
He uses them only when he has no choice.
Peace and quiet are dear to his heart.
And victory no cause for rejoicing.
If you rejoice in victory, then you delight in killing;
If you delight in killing, you cannot fulfill yourself.

On happy occasions precedence is given to the left,
On sad occasions to the right.
In the army the general stands on the left,
The commander-in-chief on the right.
This means that war is conducted like a funeral.
When many people are being killed,
They should be mourned in heartfelt sorrow.
That is why a victory must be observed like a funeral.

Man, I haven't read the Dao De Jing in years.

I went out yesterday to see the "May flowers" our prolific April showers have foretold.

I got rained on.
Hmm. So they finally got him. And he wasn't in a brick border fortress in Waziristan or a cave in Nuristan, but a McMansion in an Islamabad suburb, living among the families of ISI bureaucrats.

Are we going to just pretend that our nation's greatest enemy wasn't being protected by the intelligence ministry of an alleged ally whom we've been giving billions yearly in military aid? We have the body. Next time you meet a Pakistani, ask them what their government would have done, if they were in our shoes.

I have difficulty expressing myself in an even and non-incendiary tone right now.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

It was an April Fool's joke, but I like the idea of moving back to the old "Hardee Hat" Stetsons of the Civil War and Frontier days. It just has a better feel to it than the black berets.

h/t Ace of Spades sidebar - dunno how to direct-link those, sadly.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Man, I'd never think to see George "Moonbat" Monbriot write something like this. It could be an old Gregg Easterbrook column in the Marty Peretz-edited salad days of The New Republic. When you have ol' Moonbat telling the panicky MSM to calm the hell down about an environmental catastrophe...

Heck, I was even yelling at some perverse paleocons to stop sniveling about Obama's allegedly unconstitutional Libyan adventure the other day over on Rantburg.

Strange days indeed. Everything's upside down, and it could turn back rightside up again at any moment.

Insty h/t.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I saw this link in the Althouse comments today. A real panacea for today's ration of panic about the Fukushima plants, which have even infected most of the conservative, pro-nuclear blogs and sites.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Man, Ishihara can be uncomfortably close to Hitler in temperament. Please don't call the man a "conservative", he's a fascist, capitalism-hating, racist, will-to-power extremist. And maybe Yamakan might want to think about getting into politics and giving up on anime - he's not much of an artist, and seems to love controversy and fighting things out in the media when he should be concentrating on current projects.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lucid, clear explanation of the Fukushima partial meltdown. Long story short, it was ugly, but a forty-year old reactor at a troubled plant with a spotty maintenance history took two beyond-design-specification disasters in close succession & didn't kill anybody or poison its environs. It sounds like all the radiation casualties will be plant employees.

Frankly, the horrible damage done by the tsunami tearing through the grease, oil, and lubricant-contaminated environs of every port on the Tohoku coast & depositing all of those industrial poisons and toxic wreckage over the once-fruitful coastal plains is the actual environmental disaster to consider in this catastrophe. Those were beautiful fields being submerged under that black, foul hell-tide. They aren't beautiful anymore, and I'm not sure anybody should be eating food grown off of them for the next couple seasons at least.

We need nukes, damnit. The more of them we can build in safe locales (and yes, if nothing else, putting our nuclear power plants in places where we don't have to use design tolerances keyed to survival from a 9.0 earthquake and inundation by a 30-foot tsunami strikes me as *cheaper*, cheaper to build and cheaper to maintain), the better. A modern economy won't be run from power-plants burning unicorn farts and pixy dust, it's either nukes, coal, or gas - and the more of each, the fewer little old ladies get to freeze to death in the depths of winter when it comes down to the limitations. There are bureaucrats in Japan right now, cold-bloodedly plotting rolling blackouts in order to stretch the torn ends of their shredded power infrastructure around the Fukushima-shaped-hole torn in their power net. Redundancy is life.

Explanation link from Rand Simberg; youtube link from the Brickmuppet.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Yesterday was another busy day on the pumpkin catapult front. We finished assembling the devices and tested them in Jason's back yard while he kept an eye on a smoldering pile of crop refuse and brush which he was burning in order to try and kill off a late-blight infestation in his tomato patch in preparation for the new season.

My direct-fire spring-pull ballista was kind of a damp squib. It fired, reliably, but no further than about twenty-five feet - about the same range as a high-end SuperSoaker. It wasn't really designed to be adjustable, so that was it, boom, 25 ft. So, the finished device works, but isn't much more than a bulky, wonky-looking toy. At least the spring didn't fail - we had padded it out with a series of rubber sheets around the pull-axle, which was enough to keep it from self-destructing. Speaking of which...

Jason's spring-torsion trebuchet started out brillantly, destroying the sweet onion we had been using as a pumpkin-substitute (we managed to directly smack into a branch of the big maple behind Jason's house, which pretty much put paid to that object as a throwable payload), and firing for another two-dozen pulls with a light obsidian-pumicy rock about the right size and shape. After changing the angle of attack on the throwing arm, and modifying the base to add a trigger and a shelf for the sling and projectile, we got it up to throwing small rocks about 80-90 ft across Jason's yard - just shy of his property line. Then the spring failed.

Happily, since the spring was in a protective sleeve (actually, the leg of a pair of blue-jean trousers) and it wasn't really under explosive outward pressure, it didn't hurt anybody. When we took it apart to see what happened, we found that one of the mounting pegs had also snapped, which explained one of the earlier "SPRONG!" noises the machine had made on an earlier cranking. So, we had been putting a lot of stresses on this device. The spring failed just above the welds holding it to the octogonal plate holding the mounting pegs; best guess is that the heat from the welding process weakened the aged spring (to remind y'all, this had been taken out of a trashed automotive shock-absorber) enough that it eventually failed under pressure. The mounting peg was a separate issue, and the design group concluded that having used drillcore for the mounting peg had been a mistake - it was too hard and rigid for the horizontal sheer force being placed upon it by the design. We should have used mild steel instead.

They went back to the drawing table, and quickly banged out a replacement design based on a completely different principle, which would allow the salvaging of as many parts of the wrecked device as possible. The new device would use the second salvaged shock-absorber spring in a compression device - playing to the actual design usage of the original manufacturing process. The spring was mounted in a box on the base, with a bottom-plunger on braided steel cord threaded through the spring, so as to pull directly upwards, distributed through the body of the device by the construction of the box. The steel cord will be wrapped around a pulley-cam on a moving axle, which will be welded to the salvaged throwing arm. This retains the torsion motion, while avoiding any weld-work on the surviving reserve spring. We spent yesterday afternoon and evening putting together the new base & welding together the pulley-cam & modifying the original three-quarters-inch bar, which had been a non-moving support element in the old device & which had to be reworked to turn it into a smoothly-turning axle in some brass bushings.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Spent a few more hours in Jason G's basement yesterday, until the snow got too alarming for me to be out and about. We (well, mostly Jason) came up with a welded double-hook for the draw/catch/release on my device's shuttle. After fighting with some basic hooks I bought at Triangle Supply, Jason got an evil look in his eye and declared that he'd make his own. So he did, out of a bit of steel barstock he had on hand, reaming out an end, tapping it for a 1/4 screw socket, and then bending out two hooks with wrench, hammer, anvil, and cutter. Then he shaped the ends with a metal-grinder and used his welding rig to mate the parts together. Doublehook!

We drove a simple bar-based pull through the side of the device, and test-fired it in the garage, with nothing on the shuttle. That was probably a mistake. The light, store-bought spring was powerful enough to damage itself without any weight on the shuttle to bleed off energy. Jason had talked me into wrapping some rubber around the top axle, which probably kept the spring from shattering entirely, but after one dry-fire, the spring had herniated visibly. We talked about inserting a compression-spring ahead of the pull-spring to absorb some of that recoil shock, and he thought that we could probably just snip off the herniated section & re-bend a new hook to replace the removed section, but by then we had noticed that the weathe had dropped an inch and a half of snow while we had been mucking around with drilling and testing.

Meanwhile, he's still working on his welded-steel monster, and we built the wood frame for the base. He also started in on drilling out the plates for holding his fulcrum axle, but none of his proper drills were large enough to drive the holes needed to hold the 3/4ths inch steel bar he's using for his axle. So he drilled out as big as he could go, and then started setting up the plates on his power lathe with a four-corner chock and a, I don't know what you call it, lathe arm? After a couple minutes of this, he sighed, said it would take hours, and put it aside for when I wasn't there.

So there we are, Jason's device is coming along slowly, and mine got to its first partial-build test fire, and is going back for some re-design. And we got at least three-four inches of heavy snow last night - I haven't been outside yet to see what damage the night left us.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

I had a busy Saturday. Jason G, who has a big workshop in his basement & garage, wanted to try building pumpkin-throwing devices for Jessica's little event in the fall, and his girlfriend was out of town for the weekend. So we spent the morning with Dan W, digging through piles of scrap at a junkyard in the ruins of a quarry facility outside of Pleasant Gap. We ended buying about fifty pounds of aluminum and iron bars, springs and the like, then hit a tractor supply shop and Triangle Lumber over near Jason's house. We met a couple of university folk back at Jason's place - Antonios whom I know from Otto's Tuesdays, and a guy named Jim who I think was at Jason's Superbowl party this year.

I was going for a simple spring-pull ballista, while Jason had this idea for a torsion-axle trebuchet design. I really just banged about without much estimation, calculation, or design, building a wooden frame around a nicely-formed piece of aluminum scrap. The frame and shuttle was mostly done by yesterday evening, although there's a lot of work & thought required in figuring out the exact nature and details of the pull and latch mechanism. I'm thinking a simple latch hanging off of the shuttle, and a cross-bar just before the full extent of the spring, so that the latch can simply "drop" onto the bar when pulled back across the locking cross-bar during cocking. When the device is inverted and placed into firing position, the latch can easily be yanked down by cord, triggering the device.

Dan W and I *tried* to assemble the device so that the formed-aluminum slot at the core was properly aligned so that the latch would be placed at the rear of the aluminum core, but I'm not sure if it'll do so or no. If not, we can always set up a bar across the top of the device instead, although that'll be yet another failure point. At least we went with a cheap and new heavy-duty door spring instead of the ancient and far-too-strong car-shock-absorber springs which we bought at the scrapyard. To be honest, this device doesn't feel like it'll throw a pumpkin all that far, if it works at all. But what the hey.

Jason's device is much more elaborate, and looking kind of steampunkish. He and Antonios and Jim were working all afternoon and evening on a lot of grinding, metal-cutting, and welding tasks, modifying one of the shock-absorber springs and building a delicate, cross-supported throwing arm out of little strips of steel. The in-process result I looked at at the end of the evening was about five-six pounds, I guess. Most of the mass of the device will be in the fulcrum cross-arm and the base of the device, I guess. My machine has most of its mass already - the only thing to be added is the latching mechanism, a detachable pull-stirrup, and another cross-bar.

Antonios is some sort of chemistry PhD, a professor I think, and he spent much of the afternoon filabustering, trying to come up with rules-lawyering ways around the "mechanical advantage only" design requirements. Talking about water-pressure rockets, gunpowder, dynamite, air-pressure - but mostly going on about a preposterous Mentos and Diet Pepsi driven device. I told him about the dry-ice and water in a two-liter toy we had made back at the Witch House which destroyed a garbage can.

But anyrate, yesterday, we tinkered, and made a heck of a mess in Jason's garage and workshop.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Jeez, I've been woken at intervals all night by intermittent crashes as big curls of snow and ice come smashing down off the steel roof & gutters onto my landing & the nearby pavement. Good thing I didn't park my car in the usual nook between the neighbor's planter and my front steps, because I'd probably have a nasty series of dents in the roof of my orange clown car by now. Rain, rain, rain.

No point in going back to sleep again today.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Back when I was a kid and Pittsburgh's papers used to make a fuss whenever it got named most livable city in the US (and this happened on average every two to three years), I was young and ill-informed and under the impression that this actually meant something. I wonder if Detroit was in the same position on those livable-city lists of my childhood? Were we always being made fools of, or is this a new game?

Detroit, #7 most livable city in America! If you're a twenty-something Patti Smith looking for a nicely grotty replacement for the Alphabet City of 1978, maybe. The best guess offered as to what's screwy with the metrics has to do with an inordinate weight placed on low-density housing and health services - which will tend to favor blasted industrial cities emptied out by imploded economies, yet still retaining the hospitals and alleged stocks of housing from the salad days of heavy industrialization.

h/t Instapundit. I'm starting to wonder how much he reads some of these links he's been passing along...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This is sad. Dwayne McDuffie had been for the DCAU in the Oughts what Bruce Timm had been for it in the Nineties - a centrally important writer, animator, and director. His Crisis on Two Earths was a pretty damn good OAV, he did a lot of good work on the Justice League TV series, and there's been a lot of positive buzz about his new All-Star Superman OAV which is being released this week. It's been a bad year for animation, between this and the death of Satoshi Kon.
Up until today, I had been kind of favorable-trending-towards-supportive of a Mitch Daniels presidential bid. Phlegmatic, conservative in an nonthreatening manner, exemplary experience as the governor of a middle-rank state, a real fiscal conservative - he's good on paper. Of course, he kept kicking 'own goals' by unnecessarily cheesing off the social conservatives, but I'm not a social conservative, so it wasn't a dealbreaker.

This is a dealbreaker. The proper response to an antidemocratic act full of contempt for law, order, and civility on the part of a minority is an iron-bound refusal to back down - especially when one is not in desparate straits. No lives are on the line here, just policy. There's no downside to smacking around a coterie of cowardly state legislators who've just lit out for the territories. It was a cheap and easy opportunity to show some backbone. What the hell is wrong with Daniels? It's as if he's afraid of the Overton Window shifting our way for a change.

On the plus side, Thune is bowing out of the 2012 campaign. Won't have to deal with his hypocritical High Plains embrace of the ethanol abomination.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What the heck? The Libyan regime collapsed? Overnight? And it is all over except for the bloodshed - it sounds like Gaddafi escaped a Ceaușescu fate by the skin of his teeth. If he's running for his home hamlet, he's finished. If he's using foreign mercenaries to butcher protesters, that means that he can't trust the military. You can't hire enough mercenaries, or pay them enough, to face off against your own army, unless your country's a lot poorer than Libya.

And seriously, when they're fighting pitched battles in the street with snipers and militiamen, I think it's safe to call them armed rebels rather than "protesters". Libya's a totalitarian state, if the party's lost control of their second city, then they won't take it back without a full-on Hama assault. I don't think Gaddafi's army is big enough to pull of a Hama, even if he could trust it enough to lead it into battle.

I'm not sure what to think of the politicians complaining about Gaddafi's forces' treatment of the protesters/rebels/street-fighters. What, were these people born yesterday? He's a scorpion, a bloody-handed vicious pocket Stalin. You think he was going to go "hi, sou desu ne" to street protests? Of course he'd try to slaughter them, that's what thugs like him do. What's interesting is that he tried it - and failed. Assad the Younger must be [censored] a brick right now. The Algerians must be absolutely panicked. I betcha they're cutting deals with anyone who might possibly lead a populist revolt, because Gaddafi's a heck of a negative example right now.

And before anyone gets too high on street theatre, Gaddafi's police state won't be replaced by a European social democracy. The ideas laying about prior to a crisis are what are used to resolve the crisis, and the alternative in Libya is your basic Islamic Republic toolkit. It's going to be ugly, mark my words.

I just finished reading Ending Day by Day. This is the fourth and fifth books in the Full Metal Panic light novel series which the three anime series were based on, specifically, the second Kyoto Animation series, The Second Raid.

It's a little interesting seeing what they pulled out of the book and what they added for the TV series - a little flashback during the Gauron scene got expanded into a major filler arc (if that isn't total jibberish) during the original Gonzo series, Gauron's pocket dragons got turned into women for the killer-moe factor, and an entire mini-arc complete with additional missions and underground firefights were inserted into the middle of the story to fill out the anime version of The Second Raid. The books flow more organically and make a more perfect whole, but I can see how a TV series can't back-load the majority of the fight scenes in the last five-ten minutes of the production. You could say that the structure of light novels lends itself to one big fight every two hundred pages, whereas a TV series better have some action every two to three episodes before the sponsors and the fans go postal.

We were lucky to get these two volumes in North American publication at all, as the series was canceled by TokyoPop the other year, and then tenatively revived. Light novels don't sell for peanuts in the American market - they're too fanboy and short for the mass paperback market, and too wordy and ancillary for the otaku market. But I do know that I'm eager for the next book in the series. We didn't get anything more from the animation studios, and word is that at least one reason is that the novels go off on a somewhat grim and gloomy tangent which could alienate the anime audience.

Nevertheless, I want to read Dancing Very Merry Christmas, as Japlish and goofy a title as that may be. Hold it together, TokyoPop! Keep on publishing!

Friday, February 11, 2011

I gotta wonder if meme-humor is what is left when postmodernism finishes the generational, Nietzschean work of killing God. No, seriously. Nietzsche originally started out railing against pietism, and a core element of that was encoded art - artwork built around shared cultural, ideological cues. A lot of classical art is mildly opaque to a modern audience, and it has to be explained because all of the biblical, allegorical, or pagan references assume a belief and education context which isn't present in the viewing audience.

When did "art appreciation" become a goal of education? Sometime in Victorian times? Dimitri Rotov used to go off on rants about the kitschy folk-music krep which reinactors and documentarians like to use to "signify" the ACW period; he insisted that the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac were highly cultured, and fond of highbrow opera music as a matter of course. It wasn't opaque, it wasn't difficult, it was popular culture, because everybody shared the right set of references, mostly religious.

The early Twentieth Century, all those religious references fell out of high-culture favor in the west, and were replaced by first Marxist, then Freudian signifiers. Those both burned out by the Seventies, although Freudian lasted longer in culture than Marxism, far as I can tell.

But people want and need signifiers, meta-content. To a certain extent, it's a need for meaning, no matter how nonsensical. Once you as a culture accept absurdity, madness becomes your meaning. Thus, Mario in a stained glass window.

[Deleted and re-posted after I discovered the purpose of that "harmless" comment spam - I'm pretty sure now that it's a marker for spambots to discover active blog comment sections. Pests.]

Sunday, January 30, 2011

OK, it was a con, same as always, I guess. They're skewing older than they used to, and there were a lot of people, a little under a thousand, I think? Saturday morning and afternoon saw some significant snow squalls, and there was a bunch of furries running around in the snow playing around. Who knew that fursuits made for pretty good winter weather wear?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Geez, I almost forgot - there's an anime con in State College this weekend. I guess I'll do the one-day thing; I've no other plans today.

Friday, January 28, 2011

So I'm watching two completely unrelated and noncontemporary shows: the second season of Alias, and the last cour of Soul Eater. Alias is an early-Oughts J.J. Abrams big-budget spy-action-SF TV series affectionately known as "Spy Barbie". Soul Eater is a moderately well-budgeted two-season, four-cour shounen fantasy anime about meisters (sort of grim reapers, roughly speaking) fighting witches. They're both shows that rely heavily on stylistic flash & convoluted plotting and nested conspiracies, but you'd think they were otherwise unrelated.

Imagine my surprise when I suddenly found myself watching pretty much the same story:

1) a three-sided war between three organizations, at least one of which is unaware of the participation of the third in the fight -
the DWMA, Arachnophobia, and Medusa's coven

SD-6, Irina Derevko's clique, and the CIA

2) the war consists of a series of fights over semi-magical tchotkes, literal mcguffins created by a long-dead, legendary da Vinci figure -
Eibon and his Magic Tools

Milo Rambaldi and his deranged series of artifacts

3) a horrible, Medea-like harridan of a mother, murderous, vicious, sociopathic and dreadfully manipulative, walks into the figurative front-office of the "good guys" faction, and surrenders, in order to embody the Hannibal in a cage trope -
Medusa the Younger, having survived her own evisceration & possessed a random child, thus protecting herself from the whole "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" thing the DWMA has going by hiding inside her body-hostage; this after a half-dozen episodes of manipulating her seriously disturbed woobie of a son Crona from the shadows into betraying that faction

Irina Derevko, who after shooting her estranged daughter and then her own Dragon in the opening episode of the season, apparently decides that it'd be more fun to screw with the CIA from inside of a deeply buried jail cell than from within the nominally safe confines of her own faction

They both have peculiar, attraction-repulsion relationships with core figures within the "good guys" organizations, Medusa with the hanging-onto-sanity-with-his-fingertips Dr. Stein, and Irina with her estranged husband, Jack Bristow.

These are terrifying mother-figures - unloving, unblinking and menacing. Medusa had a child for the express purpose of moulding it into a science experiment, denying it love and affirmation & infecting it with a species of madness to see if she could breed a "Kishin" - sort of an evil god. Irina had a child for the sole purpose of cementing her role as a loving wife & mother to a CIA agent and his child, and seems entranced by the strange creature from her long-past stint as a sleeper agent & assassin; the first thing she does upon being reunited with her daughter is to muse about how easily she could have killed her in infancy. Both characters are expressions of the vulnerability of children in the hands of their mothers, and the potential for what some wags have called "retroactive abortion". They're avatars of Kali - the killing-mother who brought you into this world and could quite easily take you out of it again.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ouch. January was not a cheap month for electricity. 2/3rds to twice again as much as last year's bill for January. I guess this is what happens when you try to heat a place the size of my condo with only electric baseboard heat. Oh, well, my propane heater is back online, hopefully the rest of the winter won't be nearly as bad.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I'm watching the first season of Justified today, and I was thinking that their version of eastern Kentucky looks an awful lot like Armstrong and Clarion Counties of western Pennsylvania. I apparently was off, but not by much - it was elsewhere in Murtha's old district, little Washington & other locales in shooting distance of Pittsburgh. Apparently film crews use convention centers to double as airports these days - I was watching the commentaries for the first season of Alias the other day, and they mentioned that not long after, Homeland Security cracked down on crews filming at actual airports, and sure enough, the commentary on the pilot of Justified identified the "airport" that the protagonist transits through on the way to Lexington as actually the new Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.

I like the show so far, but then, I've always been a sucker for Elmore Leonard adaptations.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oh, btw - Star Driver continues to be gorgeously, giddily nuts. Episode 15 went full-Groundhog Day. At this point, I don't care if it ever goes anywhere, the journey's too damn neat to worry about destinations.
I don't know why, but sometimes I'm more eloquent in other people's comments sections than I am on my own, nominal site. Maybe it's a species of unoriginality, maybe it's just basic bone laziness, but there it is. A day rarely goes by without my having left a comment on Rantburg, but I usually don't bother to bring it back to here.

But no, I didn't think that much of the first episode of Fractale. You can have ideas without having a story, and a story without having a show. The writer definitely has ideas, but the connection between those ideas and the execution isn't exactly setting my monitor on fire.

Now, Dream Eater Merry, on the other hand, isn't exactly a radical bundle of innovation. It's your standard magical-girlfriend show, of the serious fighting-fantasy sort. Think Shana meets Soul Eater, and you've got the feel to a first approximation. But it's well-constructed, it flows, it appeals to the eye, and it has a personality. It *works*. Anime is a medium for professional hacks, and Dream Eater Merry is obviously the product of some nameless coven of highly professional hacks; Fractale is the child of would-be artistes. I'm willing to bet that this will make all of the difference.

My hypothesis: great art is made when inspired artistes are trapped safely and securely under the iron control of highly professional hacks. This basic fact is why artists are generally inclined towards fascistic and authoritarian politics - they know, at a subconscious level, that they need a sort of führerprinzip to realize their potential. They either find a führer, or make one of themselves, by a sort of division of self. The latter path tends to kill their heart.

Or not; but it would explain the personality issues of individuals like Salvador Dali...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

So, a significant snowfall last evening. I was out-and-about, and there was some fun driving to be had, especially in my narrow wheel-base putt-putt. Managed to stay out of ditches, so I win at winter driving. Well, this time anyways.

When I got back, one of the neighbors was clearing her usual parking stall, so I parked to the side, and started clearing mine. Another neighbor showed up while I was trying to dispose of the excess snow, and we started clearing the space in front of his house, and then a third neighbor came out, and in the end we cleared the whole lot & access road. It was like painting Tom Sawyer's fence without an actual, you know, Tom Sawyer. Spontaneous whitewashing.

The irony here is that we technically have a contract with a private snowplow guy. We didn't *have* to do that. When I got back in, I found that I had a full-lion's-beard of icicles, from my mustache to my beard up through sideburns to my forelock. If anyone could actually see anything in the half-light of the dimly-lit parking lot, I must have looked preposterous.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Meh. My section supervisor's two-weeks ran out today. I'm reporting directly to the head of operations. He's going to work for a competitor run by former employees, ones I'm not on good terms with. Not thrilled with that. This is the third supervisor I've lost in the last four years. Is it something I'm doing wrong?

In personal news, my house's propane heater was on the fritz, and I got a repairman in to look it over. Replaced some parts, got it working again. Wasn't cheap. But at least now if the power goes out, my place won't be an icebox.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Years, everybody!

I feel like I ought to be going to the shrine on hatsumode. Or playing badminton. My usual New-Years activities - going down to Norristown to see the college crowd, play nerd games & watch the fireworks, wasn't going to happen this year. I guess I'm "rusticating" this year. Or maybe just rusting?

Happy New Year, may it be better than the last two or three.

I want to work harder, talk to people more, and get out more often. I need a new hobby, something organized and group-oriented. Something in volunteering? I need something to fill the social void, the space which convention-organizing used to occupy in my life.