February 28, 2015

So long as you've got orders, you don't care what you do to people

The Dalai Lama on Truth

“We Buddhists think that truth is ineffable—but not very ineffable.”


Oppenheimer on Einstein

Einstein is often blamed or praised or credited with these miserable bombs. It is not in my opinion true. The special theory of relativity might not have been beautiful without Einstein; but it would have been a tool for physicists, and by 1932 the experimental evidence for the inter-convertibility of matter and energy which he had predicted was overwhelming. The feasibility of doing anything with this in such a massive way was not clear until seven years later, and then almost by accident. This was not what Einstein really was after. His part was that of creating an intellectual revolution, and discovering more than any scientist of our time how profound were the errors made by men before then. He did write a letter to Roosevelt about atomic energy. I think this was in part his agony at the evil of the Nazis, in part not wanting to harm any one in any way; but I ought to report that that letter had very little effect, and that Einstein himself is really not answerable for all that came later. I believe he so understood it himself.


Monet on wheat


February 27, 2015

Sound like we'll need some Federal oversight here

[T]he State Ethics Commission determined that in a “general and largely hypothetical context,” sexual encounters between legislators and registered lobbyists do not have to be reported as expenditures.


io9 Nimoy roundup


Too soon?

February 23, 2015

Crying for the Carolines- Spooney Melodies, 1930

A dark and wonderful bit from the Looney Tunes folks.

February 22, 2015

Skiffle on steroids

Can't get enough of this:



  • Donegan's original, slow, version (link)
  • Sensational Nightingales better at the more measured pace (link)
  • Shelby Gospel Four (link)
  • Willie Williams (link)
  • ? from Early Field Recordings (link)

News that stays news

The dunk contest was LaVine’s birthday, bar mitzvah, World Series, Super Bowl, All-Valley Karate Tournament, and Wimbledon rolled into one.  (link)

The Space Jam dunk, from 10 different angles:

Not a tough call for the judges (man on the right gets two votes, btw):

February 21, 2015

This just in

Council abandons plans to name path Hitlers Walk

James Mustoe, Cornwall councillor for Mevagissey:  "The timing of the whole thing was very poor."


February 20, 2015

Davies '73

Q:  Do you still feel that harshly about the critics, that they don’t really…I’ve forgotten the phrase you used now, but it’s a very strong one, almost to suggest that you think that, well, the general newspaper critics are pretty useless, and that the academic critics, the very best ones, are interesting because they themselves have imaginations, and the rest are people who just write rather bad books...?

A:  Yes. Well, I do think that.

Early in this interview, Davies talks about the odd problem of being a young reader in a remote place - how as a child he lived in Canada, but was learning about boyhood from British and American books.
If you read anything, you were always conscious of the fact that you were always reading about some place other than the place you were.  And when I was a boy I read a very great deal, and I read both American books and English books about boys, and what boys did...  Always you were reading about someplace else and another way of life.  You were reading about English schoolboys who went to boarding school, and were taught solely by men, whereas I went to a school where we were taught almost exclusively by women.  And it was all very puzzling - you didn't seem to be like anybody that you ever read about.

Someone can count...pitchforks

Comment Not Even Theoretically Possible

A record of ordinary American dentist, Dr. Gay Hitler.

February 19, 2015

The Dagger of Yglesias

"[I]n some hypothetical universe in which Congress was interested in working constructively on real problems, this is what they would be thinking about."


February 18, 2015

What every schoolchild knows

  • [...is familiar with] Lincoln's speech at Cooper Union.  (link)
  • July 5th marks the anniversary of the Olive Branch Petition, the letter sent by the Continental Congress to the King in 1775, advising him to chill and stop being whack, and stuff.  (link)
  • [I]n March 1861 [Alexander Stephens] sought to explain the reasons for the secession of the southern states in an extemporaneous oration known as the Cornerstone Speech.  (link)
  • [The Song Dynasty] roughly coincides with the accession of Edgar the Peaceful to the throne of England, although it very slightly predates his murder of Æthelwald. (link)
  • [The Varda bridge] was built by the Germans in 1912 as part of the Berlin-Basra railway.  (link)

  • Martin Hayes...is one of the two or three finest Irish fiddle players.  (link)
  • [Al] Stewart got his start in the big skiffle craze, which was led by Lonnie Donegan, also known as The King of Skiffle.  (link)
  • Two piece bands are a la mode [2006].  (link)

Military History
  • [E]very schoolchild is well-versed in the Quasi-War nowadays.  (link)
  • [Ernst Udet] killed himself in 1941 for reasons of love, disappointment, or possibly because he'd been caught sleeping with a diplomat's wife who was working for the Russians.  (link)
  • [A] portion of the [USS San Francisco's] bridge, removed during repairs, resides at Lands End in San Francisco, California.  (link)
  • [T]he Battle Off Samar was not only the windup to the largest sea battle ever fought (the Battle of Leyte Gulf), it was one of the greatest moments in U.S. naval history, as a small squadron of light U.S. ships drove off the main battle fleet of the Japanese Navy.  (link)
  • Collingwood was one of the leading naval men of his day. He was in the thick of things at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent, and first into action at Trafalgar.  (link)
  • [T]he Poles saved the German people from annihilation at the Battle of Vienna when the estimable John III Sobieski routed the Turks at the head of 20,000 lancers, the Largest Cavalry Charge in the History of the World. (link)
  • [T]he 4th Armored was the pointy end of Patton's stick, leading Operation Cobra (the breakout from St. Lo), running amok through the German rear areas, and later liberating Bastogne as an encore.  (link)
  • [T]he British retreat from Tobruk might have turned into a complete rout, but for the heroic stand of the Free French at Bir Hakim.  (link)

  • [Max] Beerbohm was a renowned caricaturist.  (link)
  • [T]he 1960s television series, Jonny Quest owed a significant, albeit uncredited debt to the Rick Brant books, a series of 23 juvenile adventure novels published between 1947 and 1968, beginning with The Rocket's Shadow and concluding with Danger Below! (link)
  • [T]he fallout of this behavior [putting gum on a painting by Helen Frankenthaler] is best described by a Python sketch... (link)
  • [T]he Kalevala...is a compilation of ancient Finnish rune-songs.  (link)
  • "There Are Wheels Within Wheels" ... is the mantra of [P.G.] Wodehouse's scheming and witless, but also unsinkable Monty Bodkin, borrowed from verses in Ezekiel that describe an extraterrestrial visit (or not).  (link)
  • Fletcher Pratt was an American original, a prolific author who, after writing a series comprehensive histories of the American military, went on to a career as one of the pioneer American science fiction writers.  (link)
  • G.K. Chesterton was a popular author and raconteur in early 20th-century England, a close friend of the estimable Hillaire Belloc.  (link)

The World of Sport
  • [T]he greatest pennant race collapse was the epic implosion of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1964 National League race.  (link)
  • [George] Sisler was not only a devastating hitter, but the finest defensive first baseman of his generation.  (link)
  • Alexander Alexandrovich Alekhine was the model European 20th Century Man.  He survived the Russian Revolution and World War I, lived in France, dominated world chess in the 1930s, collaborated with the Nazis, married four times, defeated the immortal Capablanca, fathered a bastard child with a Baroness, lost to Euwe but then won his title back, died under mysterious circumstances, and drank too much and was a lawyer.  The Russians idolize him.  (link)

  • [P]ower sharpeners are all very well and good for the pencil laity, but the professional pencil technician will generally stand by the precision and superiority of a high quality hand-cranked sharpener model, which like shoes, are generally better the older they are.  (link)
  • E8 is the 248 variable symmetrical mathematical object that has stumped mathematicians for oodles of decades.  (link)
  • [T]he Seattle fireboat Duwamish was designed with a built-in ram to use as a last resort.  (link)
  • “Every contact leaves traces” ([is from] Edmond Locard’s 1923 Manuel de Technique Policiere).  (link)
  • [W]hen you want to know whether the world is round or flat, the truth is obviously exactly in the middle: a giant lozenge.  (link)

Addendum:  What schoolchildren arguably do not know well enough
  • [N]ot one schoolchild in five can tell you what a hitter Turkey Mike Donlin was, or remember the name of the The Peerless Leader.  (link)
  • [O]n this day and age, I'm not sure every schoolchild knows about the Battle of Monmouth (1778).  (link)

No way to go through life, Bristol


Norm M explains about Eddie Murphy

February 14, 2015

You'll be amazed when you see this new video of pets greeting returning soldiers


February 13, 2015

It only takes one to create a real distraction

(Reuters) - A Belarusian delegate at a United Nations disarmament forum warned fellow diplomats about an unusual type of weapon: jars of mayonnaise being thrown by topless women during discussions about war and peace. 

The delegate issued a statement of concern during the Geneva-based U.N. Conference on Disarmament's discussion on Tuesday about improving its transparency. Belarus asked whether there was a plan to open up the meetings to members of the general public. 

According to the official record of the session, the delegate said such a policy could create difficulties for security and support staff. 

"What if there were topless ladies screaming from the public gallery throwing bottles of mayonnaise, asked Belarus," the official summary said. The record added that the president of the Conference on Disarmament, a diplomat from Mexico, replied that "members of the public were already entitled to attend plenary meetings of the conference and sit in the public gallery, and so in theory could already drop mayonnaise onto delegates." 

The Mexican said it was unlikely the gallery would ever be flooded with thousands of people, noting that there were only two people in the public gallery during Tuesday's meeting.


Gotta watch 'em every minute

February 08, 2015

The will to planetvernichten

I noticed this image while riffling through an excellent report about the Mars Attacks trading cards of 1962:

As a neo-quasi-post-Jungian, it seems to me that there is a strong sense of human destiny around this image (so good Lucas used it twice), a strong shared sense of urgency around the idea that at some point we will need to attack a planet-sized thing, deliver a payload from manned craft, and get out of Dodge before it blows into bazillion pieces.  And that the future of our species will depend upon success.

I wonder what that's all about.

February 07, 2015

Worth noting

He goes by many names

February 06, 2015

You are CORRECT, sir

[A]ny good ranking of quarterbacks should also give credit for performance in the playoffs, and Brady’s trump card over Manning has always been the postseason. But here’s where the twist comes in: After crediting playoff passing value over average (according to the same formula described above) with weight given to each game according to how much it changes a team’s probability of winning the Super Bowl relative to the average regular season game — a form of leverage index for the importance of football games — Brady passes Manning but is surpassed by two others: Joe Montana and our old friend Kurt Warner...


February 04, 2015

Wong With Good Stuff

David Wong on the scoreboard of violence, driving war and horror: if you look at the score, you've lost.
They do what they do, because they know we're too weak to resist striking back.
Our knee-jerk, bomb-dropping reflex is our weakness.

February 02, 2015

February 01, 2015

The summit remains secure

A good, but not great game from Mr. Brady, passer rating of 101.1...4 TDs, but 2 INTs.  Brady's Super Bowl passer rating is far below the threshold of 112.0 needed to classify his performance as "immortal".  The Immortality Screen - playoff performances with passer rating > 112 - remains the sole possession of one man:
  • Joe Montana, 6
  • Tom Brady, 5
  • Peyton Manning, 5
  • Troy Aikman, 5
  • Joe Flacco, 5 (will not be ignored, moves up a notch on 114.0 vs. Steelers)
  • Bret Favre, 4
  • Eli Manning, 4
  • Kurt Warner, 4
  • Aaron Rodgers, 4 (moves up a notch this year on the 125.4 vs. Dallas)
  • Drew Brees, 3
  • Jeff Hostetler, 3
  • Jim Kelly, 3
  • Joe Theisman, 3
  • Philip Rivers, 3
  • Terry Bradshaw, 3

One other point on Brady vs. Montana...Super Bowl passer ratings:
  • Brady - 86.2, 100.5, 110.2, 82.5, 91.1, 101.1 --> 0 immortal performances
  • Montana - 100.0, 127.2, 115.2, 147.6 --> three immortal performances

Still taking Montana.  


This is like the highlight reel from Ragnarök...


I'm just going to assume that was inadvertent


Looking forward to someone bringing this up at the Presidential debates


Education situation resolved via Sugar Daddies.  Sound the all-clear.

January 31, 2015

Push poll blues

It's been quite a while since I've been selected to respond to a serious-looking push poll from the dodgy weasels at Congressional Monitor.  It's been even longer since I actually responded, in fact, I have never responded to one...except here.  But it's interesting, and to me a bit sad, that these minions of the plutocrats lead on well-meaning fellow citizens with this stuff.  Let's see what they're up to (the inconsistent capitalization and punctuation of the original are faithfully preserved here).


1.  Which of the four items below do you feel is the most important issue for Congress to act on at this time?

(A) Deficit reduction
(B) Veterans' Healthcare
(C) Economic Recovery
(D) Securing our National Borders, Immigration Reform
Ah, well, hmm.  We're already off to a bad start.  The most important issue for Congress to act on at this time is the institutional brutality of our society toward its weakest members.  The awful combination of bad healthcare for the non-rich, shoot-first law enforcement, shameful and even hateful treatment of the mentally ill, lack of proper resources for drug treatment, and inadequate affordable housing makes the U.S. one of the least compassionate rich societies of modern times.   
But if I had to single out one issue, I would say Congress should take up the problem of equality of education.  I grew up in a country where a decent public school student could earn a place at a good university and have good prospects for their career.  Those days are long gone, and Congress is making the problem worse 
Krugman: "What has been cut? It’s a complex picture, but the most obvious cuts have been in education, infrastructure, research, and conservation. While the Recovery Act (the Obama stimulus) was in effect, the federal government provided significant aid to state and local education. Then the aid went away, and local governments began letting go of hundreds of thousands of teachers."

2.  Are you in favor of raising the eligibility age for Medicare?
(A) Yes
(B) No
(C) Undecided
No, I would prefer if you reduced it to zero.

3.  How pleased are you with the present course of the current administration?
(A) Very Satisfied
(B) Satisfied
(C) Dissatisfied
(D) Very Dissatisfied
I could not be more pleased with our President's management of the challenges presented by you meretricious and avaricious jackals.

4.  What is the best solution for reducing the national deficit?
(A)  Cut discretionary spending
(B)  Reduce Farm subsidies
(C)  Reduce Defense Spending
(D)  Enact the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson Plan.
The best strategy would be to grow the economy such that the national debt shrinks in proportion to our ability to repay it, while avoiding policies likely to tip the economy back into recession.   This strategy would require that you abandon your German theory that the patient will breathe better if you strangle him.  There are a lot of German theories you should give up on, but that one should be a priority.

5.  What is the best course for immigration reform?
(A)  Add the National Guard to supplement Border Patrol efforts.
(B)  Return unaccompanied minors to their home countries.
(C)  Legislate that the FAA allow drones to monitor the border.
(D)  All of the above.
I would say (D).  Let's have the National Guard use drones to return unaccompanied minors to their home countries.

6.  In light of the recent televised gun violence do you think Congress should:
(A)  Increase mental health care and treatment of mental illness
(B)  Ban high capacity magazines
(C)  Let the states and communities decide what action is best
(D)  Do nothing
In all seriousness, (A) would do a lot of good.  Why does it never happen?

7.  Do you agree with the Administration's request for housing expenses for illegal underage immigrants?
(A)  Agree
(B)  Disagree
(C)  Undecided
You guys are scum.

8.  Do you feel Congress should continue efforts to make changes to the 2nd Amendment?
(A)  Yes
(B)  No
(C)  Undecided
Don't bother me with this stuff, just have Scalia put something together for you.

9.  Do you favor tax incentives for small oil and gas companies to expand domestic drilling?
(A)  Yes
(B)  No
(C)  Undecided
No, with Chevron committing 105% of operating cash flows to capex over the past four quarters, and other major operators making similar commitments, I think oil and gas industry capacity is a solved problem.  People of goodwill can disagree, but I view the 60% fall in the price of oil since June as a possible sign that the market may have more gas and oil than it actually wants.

10.  Do you think Congress should adopt a National Energy Policy?
(A)  Yes
(B)  No
(C)  Undecided
If this were 1979 I'd say yes, but at this point I think you'd better get to work on how you're going to run Saudi Arabia, because that problem is not going to take care of itself.

Oh, and my phone number?  Just get it from the NSA, you fuckwits, what are you paying them for?

January 30, 2015

As a child chimney sweep I could only dream of such things

Dice that flash when you get a critical hit.


First sensible thing on blogging I've read

Links from other bloggers — the original currency of the blogosphere, and the one that drove its collaborative, conversational nature — just don't deliver the numbers that Facebook does. But blogging is a conversation, and conversations don't go viral. People share things their friends will understand, not things that you need to have read six other posts to understand.


With all the handwringing over scale and business models, I think the real value of blogging has been missed.  Mass communication is not actual conversation - there are no conversations at scale, only monologues (possibly with annotation or heckling).  Krugman has mastered this medium.

But conversation is much more important.  Facebook has nothing to do with conversation, because it is basically your high school reunion, over and over again.  Twitter is fun, but shallow by design.  I'm happy to catch a Steve Martin bon mot or participate in one of Espenson's writing sprints (those are awesome), but I don't imagine I know these people, or ever can.

But a long term blog with multiple contributors who otherwise could not regularly share thoughts or feelings - that's pretty cool.

'Cause, you know, Rilke - “at bottom, and just in the deepest and most important things, we are unutterably alone, and for one person to be able to advise or even help another, a lot must happen, a lot must go well, a whole constellation of things must come right in order once to succeed.”

Superficiality can take you far, but only so far.  And, certainly, I would welcome the opportunity to sample further the rewards that superficiality can bring.

But this eisengeiste thing is deep, the real shit, an actual conversation among friends.  If I may speak frankly - from one unutterably alone fictional character to others - thanks for that.

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