Thursday, September 29, 2011

Months of Challenger

According to the CBC, Airshow has used the RCAF Challenger executive jets for a total of 417 hours since 2009. FOUR HUNDRED AND SEVENTEEN.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay has spent hundreds of hours and millions of dollars on Challenger jets since 2009, according to flight logs, with one trip costing more than $200,000.
An analysis of the logs by CBC News shows between January 2009 and June 2011 MacKay used a Challenger for more than 471 hours.
An hour on the Challenger in 2009 cost $10,104, including maintenance and the pilot's salary.
MacKay has spent days defending himself over accusations he's abusing the VIP planes. He says he uses them only for government business, particularly to travel to repatriation ceremonies when Canadian soldiers are killed in Afghanistan.
The logs show the cost of that.
In July 2009, a Challenger flew empty from Ottawa to Tofino, B.C., to pick up MacKay and fly him to Trenton, Ont., for one of the repatriation ceremonies.
It also returned him to Tofino an hour after the ceremony to continue his holiday, and flew back empty to Ottawa from the West Coast.
The Challenger spent more than 20 hours in the air, at a cost of $205,111.20.
Had he flown on a commercial airline, leaving the day before and returning the day after, an executive class ticket would have cost about $5,600.
In November 2009, MacKay was at a Canadian Forces appreciation night at an Ottawa Senators game. He got on a Challenger at 11:02 p.m. ET to fly to Halifax, arriving at 1:34 a.m. ET. The next morning, he announced infrastructure funding, then left on the Challenger again at 9 a.m. to fly to Toronto, landing at 10:47 a.m.
The plane spent 4.9 hours in the air at a cost of $49,509.60.
John Baird, then the public works minister, flew commercial. That cost $1,032.66.

At a forty hour work week, that's close to three months in the air, or one month per year since 2009.

Between that and his little uniform fetish, he's pathologically using the Canadian Forces, and the Canadian taxpayer, as his personal playground and private aircraft provider. 

And a quick note on the repatriation. Speaking for myself, I find it insulting that he uses the jet to cross the country at great expense to attend a repatriation ceremony for an hour before flying a holiday TOFINO! If he's really committed to the troops in that way, then he might visibly attempt to make some personal sacrifice in solidarity with military at war. Leaders of soldiers (or those who play at it) tend not to take vacations until the job is done. When emergencies happen, they cut their vacations short.

The sense of fucking entitlement this man and his prime minister harbour is truly without limits. Hold on kids, we've got years more of this shit. Watch them, next these wannabe banana republic despots will be giving themselves 2000% raises as the Canadian economy follows the rest of the world down the drain.

Sometimes, the rabbit gets lucky . . .

CAP'N CRUNCH. He won't be purse snatching any more, methinks. Amazing video, too bad there's no sound. Violence against women, children, anybody (weaker men get targeted too), remains an eternal cultural blight, diminishing with glacial speed. Once had a student who had survived being stabbed 70+ times. The point is, especially if you are female, unless you were so ugly as a child your parents had to tie a pork chop around your neck to get the dog to play with you, learning how to fight for real is a depressingly desirable skill. The particular style is unimportant, quality of instruction (access to 1-on-1 instruction as needed) and full-contact sparring are. Without the quality, you won't stay at it.

Goodwill . . .

The wife has been missing a week now.

Police said to prepare for the worst.

So, I went to the thrift shop to get all of her clothes back.

Aryan neck-biters . . .

THE ISRAELIS ARE NOT HAPPY, because some 7-11's in Taiwan were selling stuff with what appears to be Adolf Hitler as a vampire. Really. According to Cyriaque (great moniker) Lamar at io9, "Vampire Hitler banned from Taiwanese 7-Elevens". Apparently, Asians are not as conscious of the odious aspects of der Grösser Aryan as the Israelis would wish. A decade ago, according to Laurence Eyton at the Asia Times, ol' Adolf was even chosen for politicking:

That young people tend to be more liberal than their parents is probably a truism. That liberal-leaning political parties should therefore assiduously court the votes of young people is simply common sense. But Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has chosen a rather strange new icon in its campaign for the youth vote in legislative elections this December - Adolf Hitler. Cases of cross-cultural misunderstanding rarely come richer than this.

But as Cyriaque notes, it could be sillier, like a Bin Laden zombie movie, with the renowned actor, Lorem Ipsum, himself. Now, that's silly. Maybe they'll put out a fatwa on poor ol' Lorem, wherever he might be; Wiki isn't too sure, as the page indicates.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Brains . . .

WHILE WE WAIT ON THE US AND ISRAEL TO SCREW-UP, here's a fine little article from the New Scientist by David Robson, "A brief history of the brain". It's a good overview of how the brain evolved from single-cell creatures.

IT IS 30,000 years ago. A man enters a narrow cave in what is now the south of France. By the flickering light of a tallow lamp, he eases his way through to the furthest chamber. On one of the stone overhangs, he sketches in charcoal a picture of the head of a bison looming above a woman's naked body.

In 1933, Pablo Picasso creates a strikingly similar image, called Minotaur Assaulting Girl.

That two artists, separated by 30 millennia, should produce such similar work seems astonishing. But perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised. Anatomically at least, our brains differ little from those of the people who painted the walls of the Chauvet cave all those years ago. Their art, part of the "creative explosion" of that time, is further evidence that they had brains just like ours.

How did we acquire our beautiful brains? How did the savage struggle for survival produce such an extraordinary object? This is a difficult question to answer, not least because brains do not fossilise. Thanks to the latest technologies, though, we can now trace the brain's evolution in unprecedented detail, from a time before the very first nerve cells right up to the age of cave art and cubism.

Ah, cave art to Cubism. A fine start on the path to Starfleet graphics. As Buzz would say, "To infinity ... and beyond!"

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Not so positive"...

...that'd be the world economic outlook as opined by the economist Stephen Harper.

This dude says it a little more bluntly.

Simon's Cat . . .

IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN SIMON'S CAT, or if it's been a while, enjoy. Think of it as a Stevie antidote. Love that puddy-tat.

Reading comprehension . . .

WORDS MEAN DIFFERENT THINGS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE, and sometimes, comprehension gets lost in the reptilian knee-jerk. According to Charlie Jane Anders at io9, University of Wisconsin-Stout theater professor James Miller put a poster on his office door, showing the likeness of Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds, and one of Mal's many fine quotes from Joss Whedon's Firefly.

And somebody with a shoe-size IQ got upset.

And this poster, with its reference killing, caused such a stir, the campus police were called in to tear it down. And Miller was warned that any further such posters would be deemed "disorderly conduct" and there might be criminal charges.

Charlie concludes:

In case it's not clear, part of what's so great about that quote is that it doesn't endorse wanton killing. It actually says that killing unarmed people is wrong, which is a good stance to take.

The upset becomes more ridiculous when you ponder that this is a theater arts school, and the Firefly series was/is a delightful inspiration, along with its movie sequel, Serenity, with the awesome River Tam. However, the sanctimonious pecksniffs are eternal. As is the theater's fascination with aspects of war, because = duh = it's great DRAMA. As Willie wrote in Big Julie, in 1601:

Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.

Seems that a lot of playwrights love that violence thing.

Always liked Joss Whedon's attention to detail. Notice Summer Glau's wheel-kick from Serenity? See how she has her torso cranked into the kick? Beautiful form, that'll loosen a few fillings. Also seen in Buffy, as Sarah Michelle Gellar does her thing with fine style, just turn the sound off and see.

Monday, September 26, 2011

dickhead Comes to Vancouver . . . .

dickhead cheney came to The Vancouver Club tonight to promote his book.

Of course I participated to see Vancouverites welcome him in style.

To the best of my knowledge, he signed no autographs for the crowd outside the facility . . . .

Sheep look up . . .

BACK IN THE 1990's there was a local Toronto band called "Sheep Look Up", always loved that name. Well, now there's an interesting web site to help keep track of orbiting stuff. REAL TIME SATELLITE TRACKING is a fascinating site that lists most of the orbiting satellites, military and civilian. The map above is a screen capture of a real-time plot of a Chinese spy satellite, Yaogan 10.

Launch date: August 9, 2010
Source: People's Republic of China (PRC)
Comments: YAOGAN 10 is a secret Chinese reconnaissance satellite. The state-run Xinhua news agency reported Yaogan 10 will conduct scientific experiments, carry out land surveys, estimate crop yields and help respond to natural disasters. But the Yaogan satellite is likely a military asset with a synthetic aperture radar system designed to observe locations in all weather and lighting conditions. Observers believe the Yaogan series, which began launching in 2006, is a new fleet of high-resolution optical and radar reconaissance satellites. Alternating launches from Taiyuan and the Jiuquan space base in northwestern China have orbited radar and electro-optical spy satellites. The most recent Yaogan launch in March included three spacecraft that are believed to be naval observation satellites. China announced Monday's launch about 24 hours in advance, a typical policy for most Chinese military payloads.

Check out the OTV-2 (aka USA 226) flight tracks. It's not your normal military satellite. It's 'deep black', an unmanned space plane with remarkable ability to change orbit, that has the Chinese and the Russians really worried, because they are years away from developing anything similar. Just check the welds and general fabrication levels of Soyuz and Shenzhou if you ever get a chance to see one of 'em up close and personal. Reminds me of the fabrication levels of WW2 T-34's. Woof.

Launch date: March 5, 2011
Source: United States (US)
Comments: The launch marks the start of the X-37 B programme's second space mission. The air force's other X-37B plane, known as OTV-1 , returned to Earth in December 2010 after a similarly mysterious seven-month maiden mission. This is a classified mission.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Race/class/gender fail

In California, Campus Republicans are trying to make a point, apparently about the woes of being white middle-class males in today's society. 
Campus Republicans at the University of California, Berkeley say critics have overreacted to their event planned for this week, which they insist is a protest over affirmative action. The group's Facebook page lists the price of baked goods at the sale according to race: $2 for whites, $1.50 for Asians, $1 for Hispanics, $0.75 for blacks and $0.25 for Native Americans.

"$0.25 FOR ALL WOMEN!" it added.
Campus Republican President Shawn Lewis said the idea of the "Increase Diversity Bake Sale" was to highlight a legislative bill to let California public universities consider race and gender in their admissions process.

They might as well have donned white sheets and conical hats. Unfortunately, they are not alone. In appalling seriousness or fun, these kids sure like to layer-on the 'isms.

Next time someones mentions the mask slipping when it comes to things like this, ask them, "what mask?"

Friday, September 23, 2011

New Tar Sands book

Well-timed with the emergence of the mucoid Alykhan Velshi and his monstrous bedfellows with their apparently female-friendly 'ethical oil' narrative, comes a new book on the Tar Sands. In the provocatively titled "Challenging Legitimacy at the Precipice of Energy Calamity," Debra Davidson and Mike Gismondi engage in a deep and rigorous unpacking of discourses that have allowed the Tar Sands come to be, remain, and what this might mean for our future.* From the abstract:

Two intersecting moments of the Twenty-first Century define our politics, economies, and future prospects for civilization: the mounting evidence for global climate change, now unequivocally attributed to socio-economic activities, and its de-stabilizing effects on our biosphere, combined with the end of easy oil and the easy wealth it generates. On the energy question, non-conventional fossil fuels have been promoted by political elites as the next most attractive development option. The development of nonconventional fuels, however, does nothing to alleviate either climate change or the falling rate of energy supply, and generates multiple social and environmental consequences. The largest endeavour marking this historic nexus—indeed the largest industrial project in history, is the extraction and processing of the Athabasca tar sands in Alberta, Canada. The social, environmental, and most importantly political outcomes of this grand experiment will reverberate throughout the global polity, and either encourage or caution against increasing our dependence on such non-conventional fuels and assuming the multiple costs such dependence will entail. Planning for reflexive societal change requires that we first ask how such giga-projects are legitimated, and who is challenging this legitimacy? In this book we trace how language and visual representations are used to reinforce or challenge the legitimacy of development of the Athabasca tar sands, and draw on our insights to contemplate likely energy and climate futures.

I have not yet had time to give it a thorough going-over, but I can tell you that this a new book. It is departure from the hard science about monitoring and downstream effects and popular journalistic non-fiction aimed at making the Fort Mac problem accessible to lay audience. It is certainly not published hackery by the odiously bankrupt Levant or Kenney. These items have fuelled much of the public conversation on the Athabasca project.

No, this is a very readable academic text that takes a step back, situating the Tar Sands in the larger context of the end of oil, and looking at how we talk about it and represent it across scales of time and space. Do not, however, think the authors are unbiased. They have a very clear position regarding the utter toxicity of the tar-sands to planet and people. Their discourse analysis is meant to understand what might need to happen to move us to a different, better, energy future.

Unfortunately Springer is an ivory tower press with prices to match at $129 a copy. If you're lucky enough to have access to a university library, you can probably get a .pdf copy for free, or paper at a discounted academic rate of about $25. This is shame because kicking the conversation up a level, especially when the oil gluttons are doing their best to drag it into the gutter, is desperately needed. Limiting public access to solid material is not the way to save the world.  

* Davidson, Debra and Mike Gismondi. 2011. "Challenging Legitimacy at the Precipice of Energy Calamity." Springer. XV, 232 p., 80 illus. (47 in colour). ISBN 978-1-4614-0286-2 DOI:10.1007/978-1-4614-0287-9

Saving the first world

A tranche of creativity . . .

OF OTTO ROHWEDDER'S invention, it could not be said, “This is the greatest invention since sliced bread!” Why? Because Otto invented sliced bread, back in 1928. Really: U.S. Patent 1867377. By 1933, only five years after its introduction, American bakeries were turning out more sliced than unsliced bread.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Right in line with Airshow's private use of a RCAF Cormorant search and rescue helicopter for his fishing trip, Harper turns out to be one of the few international leaders exclusively using publicly owned aircraft for travel.

The British Prime Minister, surely someone with much more serious security concerns than Harper, is using commercial flights to fly internationally. Indeed, according the CBC, so do the heads of many governments and countries.

Given that the air staff were completely willing to re-task a key SAR asset to pick up the defence minister on holiday, I might suggest that they change their name to Royal Conservative Air Force. You know, just to formalise their new job as purveyors of fine charter aircraft to the Conservative cabinet.

Oh the suck-ulence. Helicopter to plane, Salmon to Airshow to Lobster MacKay. He really is a Domestic Man of Mystery.

It's really something to watch...

...a strangle-government guy like Jim Flaherty prattle on about the need for governments to do something already about the savagery that letting capital off the reigns has inflicted upon the market (not people mind you, but at least he's concerned about something).  

Location, location, location . . .

WHILE THE US SCREWS UP ON PALESTINE, it appears that the Pentagon is continuing its pilotless aircraft (drone) program and expanding into the Indian Ocean. According to WIRED's David Axe,

Washington is quietly setting up at least two new East African drone bases, plus one on the Arabian Peninsula, to support the expanding U.S. shadow war against Islamic militants in Somalia and Yemen. An apparently new facility has been built in Ethiopia. In the island nation of Seychelles, a defunct airfield is being reactivated. A third base is being set up in or near Yemen.

The news, first reported by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, should come as no surprise to close observers of America’s shadow war on the borders of the Indian Ocean. But the base expansion could be met with outrage by the people most directly affected, especially Africans themselves. For years, Washington has insisted that it wouldn’t build new bases in Africa.

And that's why they are setting up in the Seychelles, in case mainland operations prove difficult. That's the "A" on the map below. The Reaper, shown above, can cover a circle roughly 2,000 km in diameter, and other RPV's have longer range. It's a major merchant marine area with local, coastal traffic and international carriers, with increasing interest and presence of players like India and China which is a major reason the US wants to keep an eye on things with more than satellites.

It is curious to see how history repeats: a hundred years ago, the Royal Navy kept a world-wide network of coaling stations for the replenishment of the fleet; today, the Americans are building a world-wide network of surveillance stations. Adm. Alfred Thayer Mahan would be so pleased. As I have mentioned before, this is technology that we need for the Arctic, for patrol and surveillance: you lose an RPV up over the Arctic ocean, it's only money, no pilot and crew members to worry about. Beats toasted subs.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Lazy Greek, Spanish and Italian workers"

According to my Northern European seatmate on the flight across the pond, it is the apparent lethargy of Mediterranean workers that is to blame for the economic calamity befalling Europe. "They shouldn't be taking their afternoons off!" Easy enough to say when your afternoons aren't 35 C in the shade.

I wonder if this racist and ignorant sentiment is in someway motivating the austerity measures currently being saddled on Greece and Italy.

The F-36?

ACTUALLY, ROWLAND EMETT'S S.S. Pussiewillow II, a prized part of the Smithsonian. A long, long time ago, the Park Plaza in Toronto had a nice little bar featuring one of his sculptures whirring away, a man-in-the-moon dustman. The creator of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, below, with his Lunacycle.


Imagine you have a parent born in the US. You weren't born there, have never lived there, but hold US citizenship through that parent. Somewhere along the way you picked up a US passport because it makes it easier to visit your ailing grandparent and who knows, maybe one day you might like to live there. You don't pay it much bother at all. I should mention that you've been a student most of your adult life, and therefore have very little money saved anywhere because most of your income has been through scholarships and bursaries which give you just enough to survive.

Then one day the IRS decides to go after wealthy Americans hiding undeclared income in offshore accounts. You're technically American, but wealthy? Definitely not. But you get caught in the sweep all the same. There's a grace period, but you actually have to know about it to take advantage of it. You do become aware of it, but a week after it ends. You begin to get a little worried.

So you dig further and your life falls apart.

You find out your three bank-accounts are considered a tax-shelters by the IRS meaning you pay three times the penalties than if you had just one bank account. Your 'foreign' scholarships are considered taxable income, made worse because if you've had over $10 000 in any account, or in aggregate across all accounts, at any given time, you're in deeper trouble. Scholarships are lump-sum payments meant to last the whole year meaning that for a brief time in a given year, you've crossed that particular penalty line.

You find yourself on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in penalties alone, even before they work out whether you owe the US government any taxes. In just a couple of days you go from financially secure, life is looking bright, to the very real likelihood of declaring personal bankruptcy.

It is likely a stretch to hope that Jim Flaherty might find some diplomatic channel to resolve an issue that is likely impacting thousands of Canadians and others holding dual citizenship.


Delightfully simple.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Master of Science

Finally, smack on the departmental average for males masters completion (3 years) and still jet-lagged from the 25 hour (40 if you count the lack of sleep due to the Chianti and pasta the night before) return trip from a conference in Europe, I managed to pass my thesis defence with only a few small revisions assigned. 

Regular posting will shortly recommence.

Funny money . . .

IT APPEARS SOMEONE at the Canadian Mint has a sense of humour. Really. Only $24.95 CAD. The Sasquatch is cool. Then there's the latest Liz on our slugs . . . ewww.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Maybe . . .

WHEN THERE'S THIS MUCH DOO-DOO, there's got to be a pony around someplace. I'm not a conspiracy wacko, but there are way, way too many unanswered questions, kinda like the Warren Commission, the Magic Bullet and the Grassy Knoll.

Play for progress . . .

A screengrab of online protein-folding game, Foldit

THE REGISTER has a positive report on an aspect of the effort to develop an effective HIV vaccine. According to Anna Leach's article, "Online gamers strike major blow in battle against AIDS", non-science types have been of great assistance in the development of proteonomic science, the science of protein chemistry, which is the next great medical revolution. If proteonomics were compared to the history of flight, currently, we are at WW1-era level of competence.

Why should you care? Well, besides the warm, fuzzy idea of an HIV vaccine, those of you under thirty will live long enough to see proteonomics really take hold as therapy, with the benefit of treatment without the ghastly side-effects of pill-medicine. Needless to say, Big Pharma are concerned — especially when a bunch of gamers can provide the key to solving sumbitch-difficult analysis.

A bunch of gamers have untangled the structure of a key protein in the virus that causes AIDS, a mystery that has left scientists stumped for decades.

It took just three weeks for players of online game Foldit to predict an accurate model for the protein – a type of enzyme called a retroviral protease that has a critical role in how the HI virus grows and spreads.

The game Foldit was specially designed to help work out the structure of proteins. It combines computer intelligence with human spatial abilities by asking players to tweak and tug 3D models, a task that computers find hard to do.

The gamers – most of whom have no background in biochemistry – generated models good enough for the researchers to refine and, within a few days, determine the enzyme's structure. In the research published yesterday in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, lead authors biochemists Firas Khatib and Frank DiMaio gave gamers equal billing with the rest of their biochemist co-authors.

Maybe there's an alternative to Angry Birds?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Them what has, gets . . .

POVERTY ABOUNDS in the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free, as this Doonesbury oeuvre illustrates. Consciousness of this problem has even reached the Indian press, as Sudheendra Kulkarni's article "Poverty in America", posted at discusses the ramifications.

New York: People in India have traditionally viewed the United States of America as a synonym for prosperity. The allure of the American Dream had made many educated and aspiring Indians believe that it was a land of ever-expanding opportunities for wealth creation. The dream survived for several decades. It cannot any longer.

America is getting poorer. And it’s official. The US Census Bureau reported on Tuesday that joblessness and economic stagnation have pushed as many as 46.2 million—almost one in six Americans—below poverty line. Last year alone, the number of those living in poverty swelled by 2.6 million, the largest increase seen since the government began calculating poverty figures in 1959. The worst affected are children. Nearly one in four of those under 18 years are now living in poverty. Over 20 million American children depend on school meal programmes to escape hunger.

Of course, the poor in America do not suffer the same kind of deprivation as the poor in India. US poverty line means an income of $11,139 for one person and $22,314 for a family of four. Convert that into rupees, and one is tempted to think that people with so much income cannot really be considered poor. Many poor families in America have air-conditioning, microwaves, cable or satellite TV, etc. However, measured on the basis of their access to three critical requirements of life—food, education and healthcare—their pain becomes palpable. One in six Americans does not have enough food to eat, and lives on food stamps. Fifty million Americans do not have any health insurance. For such people, a single incidence of major illness could easily wreck their finances. Privately run schools, colleges and universities in America are the envy of the world. However, they are so expensive that poor students cannot even dream of going to these institutions. Scholarships are getting harder to get. Meanwhile, as in India, the quality of education in government-funded schools is so poor that students from low-income families cannot compete with their rich counterparts in the market for high-paying jobs.

America will do itself and the world a lot of good by redefining the path and purpose of economic growth. Specifically, it should move away from its consumerism-driven, debt-enhancing, utterly unsustainable and spiritually impoverishing growth model to one that is savings-driven and need-based. In making this transition, it will certainly undergo much pain.

Progressive sites are aware of these challenges; they are not new, but it is interesting to read a 3rd world viewpoint of American social discord and economic problems. Pain is weakness leaving the body, they say.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

That's a raptor . . .

Kissy the Kestrel

WOW: no foolin' — watch the last 2 seconds carefully. 'Checkers' the owl, 1000fps 1920x1080 resolution. Shot by SlowMo. Apparently, 'Checkers' is to be found at the Turberry Woods Owl and Bird Sanctuary, which proclaims to offer a unique collection of over 90 birds of prey including eagles, hawks, falcons, owls and more unusual species. Turbary Woods Owl & Bird of Prey Sanctuary is based in Preston, Lancashire. Neat site, check it out.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Wacko from Wasilla . . .

WACKO, INDEED. SLATE has a fascinating article by David Weigel, "Rogue Author", which describes aspects of and the controversy over Joe McGinniss' new book on the life and times of Mama Grizzly, aka Sarah Palin. Conservatives are upset, but the author is unrepentant. Adding to the fun is the appearance of the book on Doonesbury.

Joe McGinniss is no longer surprised at the hate engendered by his new biography, The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin. "Did you see this crazy blogger, Stacy McCain, saying he's starting a legal fund for Todd Palin?" he asks. The blog post appeals for $25 donations to SarahPAC to "help defray Todd's legal expenses when he shows up at McGinniss's first book signing and pounds that scurvy worm into a bloody pulp."

• • • •

Palin won office in Wasilla with the help of evangelical Christians. "On her first day in office, Sarah changed the screen saver on the mayor's official computer to read GOD LOVES YOU SARAH PALIN." Phil Munger, whose band played at a commencement for homeschoolers that Palin spoke at, reports on her creationist views, saying she spoke of seeing "pictures that showed human footprints inside dinosaur tracks."

• • • •

This story pales before the already infamous Glen Rice anecdote. In 1987, according to McGinniss, Palin slept with the University of Michigan basketball star while she was a reporter for Anchorage's KTUU-TV and told friends that it was a mistake. "The thing that people remember is her freak-out," says an anonymous friend, "[and] how completely crazy she got: I fucked a black man! She was just horrified." Rice confirms the story to McGinniss, but he's puzzled by the secondhand report of regret. "Even after I left Alaska, we talked a lot on the phone."

What a sociopathic douchebag. Anyway, it's a great excuse to insert this wonderful song by the late, great Johnny Horton, who died way too soon. Although better known as a country/honky-tonk blues singer, Johnny had 3 huge pop hits, and they all went into the Top 10 within a six month period beginning with "Battle of New Orleans" in late '59, "Sink The Bismarck" in early '60 and the title song to the John Wayne film "North To Alaska" which peaked at #4 in October of 1960. Johnny died in an auto accident in November of 1960, killed by a drunk driver, while "North To Alaska" was still high on the charts.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Back to the salt mine . . .

KURIOSITAS IS A SITE FOR THE CURIOUS, and it has a display of pictures of the Wieliczka Salt Mine in southern Poland, and as the page proclaims – An Astounding Subterranean Salt Cathedral. No shit, Sherlock.

Situated in the Krakow area, Wieliczka is a small town of close to twenty thousand inhabitants. It was founded in the twelfth century by a local Duke to mine the rich deposits of salt that lie beneath. Until 1996 it did just that but the generations of miners did more than just extract. They left behind them a breathtaking record of their time underground in the shape of statues of mythic, historical and religious figures. They even created their own chapels in which to pray. Perhaps their most astonishing legacy is the huge underground cathedral they left behind for posterity.

These and more were taken by magro_kr who has a fine Flickr photo stream.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ideas abound . . .

BRANDS OF THE WORLD is a neat site, where one can find company logos in various formats, for use in printing and web sites. They have posted the winning entries in their 2010 Logo Design Contest, and the entries are entertaining. Some, like the winner, below, are excellent. Take a minute, and check 'em out. Sometimes, finding a font can be frustrating. For the intrepid, there is Font Yukle.

Logo created for Circus of Magazines™, an online marketplace for magazines.
The challenge consisted in avoiding the clichés that such a name can lead to while keeping in mind the client desire to incorporate a classic circus feature in the mark.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Portrait of power . . .

IF YOU'VE NEVER WATCHED CITIZEN KANE, now's a great time. According to Slate's Fred Kaplan, the new Blu-Ray DVD of Citizen Kane is superb:

In September 2008, I wrote a Slate column urging all film-lovers to go buy a Blu-ray player so they could watch the new digital restorations of The Godfather and The Godfather Part II in a format that looked—in clarity, color, and detail—remarkably close to the original 35 mm prints.

If you didn't take my suggestion then, it's time to reconsider. This week, the American film classic, Citizen Kane, comes out on Blu-ray, and the difference between this disc and any other version you've seen—on TCM, at a repertory movie theater, or on the DVD released nine years ago—is stunning.

This is the second time Kane has been digitized; in 2002 the first iteration was "overdone", and visually somewhat "brittle". This time 'round, three different source copies (the "master" has disappeared) were scanned at 4,000 dpi, sharp enough to preserve the film grain and character.

It's an amazing effort, and as more films get discovered in old filing cabinets and trunks, we may reacquire some lost treasures.

If you haven't seen it, or if it's been a long time, I truly recommend it if only to give some perspective to the cluster-fuck of American politics and the coming American Presidential election. What a story.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 . . .

TEN YEARS ON, AND HERE WE ARE. It's a different world, with a different future. And what will that be? My opinion, my guess, is that, 300 years from now, historians will say that 9/11's prime importance was that the resultant fixation on internal security delayed the advent of the Second American Revolution by some 75 years. I hope I am wrong, that Revolt in 2100 will become reality — a lot sooner.

Did you know . . .

Marijuana harvesting in Kyrgyzstan sometimes involves naked horseback riding? According to io9, it does.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

THE FETUS FREAKS JUST KEEP AT IT. Liberty Counsel is a site run by hard-core evangelicals. According to them, "Mississippi Supreme Court Rules that Citizens May Vote on the Personhood Amendment". Which means?

If passed, the law would amend the Mississippi Constitution to include an unborn child in Mississippi as a “person” and thus protected under the Constitution. Liberty Counsel represents Personhood Mississippi and expects that this Amendment could ultimately go to the United States Supreme Court and overturn Roe v. Wade, making abortion illegal nationwide.

Now, I've never been to Mississippi, but the concept of a "Supreme" court in the Land of Bubba is, well, silly. That being said, these are dangerous people, because they know their imaginary buddy wants what they want.

OMG . . .

Cherokees expel slaves’ descendants from tribe, cutting medical care, housing, other services.

According to the Washington Post —

The tribe never owned black slaves, but some individual members did. They were freed after the Civil War, in which the tribe allied with the Confederacy. An 1866 treaty between the tribe and the federal government gave the freedmen and their descendants “all the rights of native Cherokees.”

But more than 76 percent of Cherokee voters approved the amendment stripping the descendants of their citizenship. Tribal leaders who backed the amendment, including then-Principal Chief Chad Smith, said the vote was about the fundamental right of every government to determine its citizens, not about racial exclusion.

The freedmen’s descendants disagree.

How we learn . . .

McChrystal outlines the terrorist and insurgent networks in Afghanistan. Photo: ISAF

A LOT OF PROGRESSIVES get into an automatic negative knee-jerk about Americans and their government. Indeed, mentioning anything that might be seen as "positive" gets lots of sincere progressives foaming at the mouth. That's unfortunate, because the knee-jerk can prevent the perception of change. While the America seems to be sliding into a 3rd world oligarchical fascist nightmare, there is competence to be found, even in this decadent juggernaut. And some of this competence is making some big changes that will affect your future — whether you happen to like the progenitors or not.

As well, I have pointed out another capability of Americans that a lot of progressives find absolutely infuriating: Americans can learn really quickly. Consider how the green American Army got its ass totally kicked by Rommel's Afrika Korps: it was like the Keystone Cops vs The Terminator. Yet 2 years later, Creighton Abrams (they named a tank after him) moved American armor over 125 miles in 24 hours through German resistance to relieve Bastogne. Erwin and Heinz never came close to matching this on their best days, nor Georgi Zhukov, either, come to think of it.

According to WIRED, the Americans learned from their enemy this time 'round, too. Spencer Ackerman has a fascinating article, "How Special Ops Copied al-Qaida to Kill It".

One of the greatest ironies of the 9/11 Era: while politicians, generals and journalists lined up to denounce al-Qaida as a brutal band of fanatics, one commander thought its organizational structure was kind of brilliant. He set to work rebuilding an obscure military entity into a lethal, agile, secretive and highly networked command — essentially, the United States’ very own al-Qaida. It became the most potent weapon the U.S. has against another terrorist attack.

That was the work of Stanley McChrystal. He is best known as the general who lost his command in Afghanistan after his staff shit-talked the Obama administration to Rolling Stone.

Inescapable as that public profile may be, it doesn’t begin to capture the impact he made on the military. McChrystal’s fingerprints are all over the Joint Special Operations Command, the elite force that eventually killed Osama bin Laden. As the war on terrorism evolves into a series of global shadow wars, JSOC and its partners — the network McChrystal painstakingly constructed — are the ones who wage it.

You may not like Americans, fine. I don't happen to like their politics, either. But stay current with their capabilities.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Perspective . . .

TRUTHOUT is a fine political site. There is a marvelous article by Mike Lofgren, "Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult". It sums up the current US situation so well.

Barbara Stanwyck: "We're both rotten!"

Fred MacMurray: "Yeah - only you're a little more rotten."

-"Double Indemnity" (1944)

Those lines of dialogue from a classic film noir sum up the state of the two political parties in contemporary America. Both parties are rotten - how could they not be, given the complete infestation of the political system by corporate money on a scale that now requires a presidential candidate to raise upwards of a billion dollars to be competitive in the general election? Both parties are captives to corporate loot.

• • • •

But both parties are not rotten in quite the same way. The Democrats have their share of machine politicians, careerists, corporate bagmen, egomaniacs and kooks. Nothing, however, quite matches the modern GOP.

To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.

It was this cast of characters and the pernicious ideas they represent that impelled me to end a nearly 30-year career as a professional staff member on Capitol Hill.

This is from FABIUS MAXIMUS, one of the finer political/military blogs around. Fabius also has an interesting post, also worthy of your consideration: "Hear the cattle bellowing in the chutes. Will they revolt?" It's a consideration of an article in The Atlantic that ponders a citizen revolt in the US, by James Fallows, 'People Are Close to Revolt'.

So people bitch and complain all the time. Why should you care? Well, because we may just be hitting a tipping-point — or not. IMHO, my guess, is that the US is more resilient than you might suppose, but there are going to be some political surprises. People are fed up, but now, it's not just The Tea Party and the GOP idiots, but, the "lamestream" are now figuring out that the sumbitch's broke. From The Atlantic:

A university librarian in the Midwest responds:

>>I've never actually written to a journalist before, but I was one of the 1,252 people arrested this weekend in front of the White House. I also live in the rural Midwest and your source is right. People are close to revolt. I think it will be a five year process of movement building, but even my very conservative staff of library assistants all cheered me on when I told them what I was doing. The people I interact with here and the ones I met in DC are all fed-up at a deep and fundamental level.

All of the people I know who are capable of rational thought also understand that the combination of (we're rural so pretty much everyone gets climate change) climate change and energy issues, lack of jobs, and the refusal of government to provide us with basic services means that a new revolutionary social movement is needed. Food prices are soaring, gas prices are making it hard for people to get to low paying jobs, and the amount of suffering because of lack of access to medical care is dire.

I sent a staff person home today (without pay since she's part-time) with a draining ear infection and a high fever. She also has a mass in her abdomen. She has no insurance and she's divorced with children and her ex also has no money. She is paying her bills with what I would call scam student loans that will eventually ruin her. These people are getting closer and closer to the point where we will have fundamental break-down of law and order.

How far does Congress think they can push before they get pushed back?<<

The problem with that, according to Fabius, is that it gives up on changing process. When you consider the obesity epidemic today, maybe most people are too lazy.

This dreaming about revolt is especially nauseating in a Republic. We elect our representatives every two years. Fantasizing about revolt is the opiate of people too lazy to work the political machinery designed by the Founders.

Revolts occur when people have political grievances and see regime change as a solution. There is nothing pointing to a solution in most of the political whining that passes for political analysis in 21st America. Nor the basis for a broad revolt in the Left’s panic about climate change and the Right’s crusade against taxes and social security.

What will the American people do?

The most likely response of the America people is nothing. How did the Romans respond to the death of the Republic? Passively, with irony, detachment, or resignation.

Progressive 1st person shooter . . .

TEA PARTY ZOMBIES MUST DIE! Really. Pretty good, too. Not like Quake, or Halo, but decent. Maybe somebody will re-write the code, and we can replace all the GOP zombies with Stevie zombies . . .

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Arctic aviation . . .

ACCORDING TO WIRED, airships are coming to the Arctic. Might help with the logistics in a big way.

British airship manufacturer Hybrid Air Vehicles has announced a major contract with Canada’s Discovery Air Innovations to build airships capable of lifting as much as 50 tons, delivering freight at one-quarter the cost of other alternatives. Though various militaries have expressed interest in airships, this is HAV’s first commercial contract. The first ship is expected by 2014.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Pictures . . .

Two American Nazis in uniform stand in the doorway of their New York City office, on April 1, 1932, when the headquarters opened. "NSDAP" stands for Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or, in English, National Socialist German Workers' Party, normally shortened to just "Nazi Party". (AP Photo)

THE ATLANTIC has a fine collection of photos of the run-up to WW2, as well as pictures of the war as time passed. Some you may have seen, but there appear to be a lot of new images.

World War II is the story of the 20th Century. The war officially lasted from 1939 until 1945, but the causes of the conflict and its horrible aftermath reverberated for decades in either direction. While feats of bravery and technological breakthroughs still inspire awe today, the majority of the war was dominated by unimaginable misery and destruction. In the late 1930s, the world's population was approximately 2 billion. In less than a decade, the war between the nations of the Axis Powers and the Allies resulted in some 80 million deaths -- killing off about 4 percent of the whole world.

In Spain, loyalist soldiers teach target practice to women who are learning to defend the city of Barcelona against fascist rebel troops of general Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War, on June 2, 1937. (AP Photo)

Monday, September 05, 2011


h/t Pale

Why we don't torture

Because it figuratively and literally puts us in bed with the bad-guys.

The CIA worked closely with Moammar Gadhafi's intelligence services in the rendition of terror suspects to Libya for interrogation, according to documents seen Saturday by the Associated Press, co-operation that could spark tensions between Washington and Libya's new rulers.

Canada-US efforts had Maher Arar rendered to a regime that now massacres its own people. Abousfian Abdelrazik was rendered to a Sudanese dungeon.  Somehow, however, the staggering hypocrisy of it all will be lost on our wingnuts and morally deficient politicians.

Funny how these big league despots work. Osama bin Ladin, the current government of Iran, Gaddafi, Idi Amin all enjoy(ed) popularity because they stood in opposition to the West's support of oppressive regimes. Of course, in practice this often translated they overthrew the Western backed regime and replaced it with their own brand of oppressive thuggery.  Whether its Bush or Blair, Khomenei or Gaddafi, the end result is the same and as we see now: declared enemies are not always enemies and these great liberal democracies are happy to have the Assads or the Gaddafis do their dirty work. Separated at birth, ours and theirs.

The problem isn't one ideology or another, it's that class of amoral and vainglorious bastards who seem to find themselves heads of governments, states and social movements. Humanity will have actually progressed when we once and for all cast adrift these poisonous personalities.

Sparks . . .

LOOKS LIKE GOD DOESN'T LIKE ROB FORD. Then again, I might be biased. Check out the rest of the pictures at blogTO.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Drones . . .

Check out the mission symbols.

WIRED has an article by Spencer Ackerman, "How the CIA Became ‘One Hell of a Killing Machine’". It's an account of how the CIA got up to speed with its efforts to attack al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to Spencer, the CIA started from zero.

On April 14, 2004, CIA Director George Tenet looked so impotent he might have starred in a Viagra commercial. Tenet had come before the 9/11 Commission for what was sure to be a public flogging. In response, he alternately apologized for the agency’s failure to stop 9/11 and explained it away. Finally, the exhausted panelists posed him a bottom-line question: how long would it take Tenet to get the CIA in a position to counterattack al-Qaida?

“It’s going to take another five years,” Tenet confessed, ”to build the clandestine service the way the human intelligence capability of this country needs to be run.”

Seven years later, no one views the CIA as anything resembling impotent. The drone strikes it operates are the most important counterterrorism tool the Obama administration uses, battering a relatively small section of Pakistan so intensely that in 2010 they struck an average of once every three days. Osama bin Laden is dead as the result of a military operation the CIA commanded, highlighting the unprecedented coordination between CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). In the words of the head of CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, its central nervous system for counterterrorism: “We are killing these sons of bitches faster than they can grow them now.”

CIA’s fleet of 30 Predators and Reapers — the Post gives the total — get the most attention, and understandably so. But it’s easy to forget that the drones are a lagging indicator. Every intelligence operation, even the ones that go wrong and kill civilians, is the result of the CIA’s cultivation of a network of spies it didn’t possess back during Tenet’s testimony. Drone strikes need spotters; the CIA has them in a group of Pashtun informants who cross the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with news of militant activity.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Stuff . . .

GEORGE CARLIN was very perceptive about our stuff. You know, all the artifacts of life we seem to assiduously acquire.

How all that stuff gets made and distributed has shaped how we live for well over a thousand years. From Greek amphorae of antiquity to the 2-litre pop bottle of today.

TXCHNOLOGIST is an interesting site devoted to technology and science, paid for by one of my less favored corporations, General Electric. With that caveat, I detect no sign of corporate editorializing. And there is a fascinating article, worthy of your attention: "10 Factories That Changed the World". From the Venice Arsenal of 1104, below,

to 2011's Foxconn contract factory, below, very much the descendant of those dark, satanic mills of yesteryear.

Employing 500,000 workers and producing everything from toys to Apple’s iPad, Foxconn’s Shenzhen network of factories has leveraged low labor costs – like many factories around China – and attracted business from the world’s leading multinationals. But if this gargantuan plant symbolizes China’s industrial might, it also symbolizes China’s problems: some 13 workers committed suicide at the Shenzhen plant since 2007, sparking labor unrest and criticism of “hellish conditions” from human rights advocates.