August 31, 2008

Palin on Stevens: "I Have Great Respect for the Senator, and his Voice Needs to Be Heard Across America."

Background: 2o Minutes of Sarah Palin associating with indicted Ted Stevens in a conspiracy to do oil companies' bidding.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Into the Surreal: Sarah Palin, Sportscaster

What Question of International Relations is Sarah Palin Thinking About Today?

1. How do we deal with The Union of Communist Russians?

2. Should we attack Iranistan too?


3. What if there's another crisis in Africa?


4. What should we do if Global Warming gets really bad?

August 30, 2008

What would Rommel say?

"Men are basically smart or dumb and lazy or ambitious. The dumb and ambitious ones are dangerous and I get rid of them." --Erwin Rommel

Ready on Day One

My serving suggestion to the Obama campaign:

Don't attack her. Damn her with faint praise. Let Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jon Stewart, and SNL do your attacking for you. Then, relentlessly pound on McCain's recklessness, without even mentioning her name.

New Orleans

Three years ago, I wrote a long post based on Katrina's dangerous trajectory, which I deleted. The post basically said that I had the impression of indifference and lack of urgency on the part of the Bush government, that they didn't act like they understood the astonishing amount of energy about to hit a major american city, New Orleans. I thought it was so serious that they should immediately deploy all available military and perhaps declare martial law so people would have to leave. I deleted it because rereading it it felt extreme. Surely, I thought, they're not that incompetent.

Just yesterday they buried the last unclaimed 7 victims of the 1836 deaths from that storm, people who could have all been saved by intelligent government action.

Gustav is Cat 3, pushing 4, and in it's profile as it hits Lousianna it looks an awful lot like Katrina - which hit land as a Category 3. It's smaller, but it is also showing signs of stalling over Texas and Lousianna- the deaths were overwhelmingly from flooding. It has about a 10% chance of hitting land as a category 4. The amount of energy in a big hurricane, I have to restate, is absolutely massive, too big to really conceive of.

I can only imagine that preparations are better this time. But I don't know that. From the news, I fear that not nearly enough has changed in terms of coordinated response. In this LA Times article there is no mention of federal action at all on the first page, and the mention later on is this:

FEMA Deputy Administrator Harvey Johnson said Friday he anticipated a "huge number" of Gulf Coast residents will be told to leave the region this weekend.

Anticipated a huge number will be told? By someone else? This sounds like exactly the hands-off attitude from last time. Orders should be going out now, not suggestions. I imagine that the situation has improved - but nature does not behave. And as Gustave hits the U.S. just as the Republican convention starts, I have the fear the feds are too distracted, yet again.

UPDATE: It is now officially "an extremely dangerous" Category 4. It might get worse. Hurricanes of this size kill lots of people.

A Cynical Choice

WaPo column on McCain's cynicism in Palin's selection.

August 29, 2008

Expect to See This a Lot

National Hurricane Center Forecast Discussions

Gustav is rolling in and alarms should be sounded in New Orleans.

On a minor side note, I like the forecast discussions from the National Hurricane Center, and I read them partly just for the crisp, B.S.-free prose:


Buchanon on Obama

The Counselor, who knows this stuff, forwards this remarkable clip.

Sarah Palin Makes Dan Qualye Look Like Henry Kissenger

Left: Chippie of the Last Frontier, Gov. Sarah Palin, in 1984, with the look that says "Is it really true you can't get pregnant the first time?"

I'm sure that many of our non Alaska readers are bewildered by McCain's choice of Alaska governor Sarah Palin for Vice President of the United States. Yes, these United States.

Here's what you need to know:

1) Sarah Palin has faced the utterly corrupt Republican establishment in Alaska and severely nanny-nanny boo-booed them. Unless they're been convicted, they are however, all still there.

2) Sarah Palin is 44, has no international experience of any kind, or any record of ever having though about South Ossetia, or France for that matter, but she is able to spell the phrase "foreign relations."

3) A fairly attractive woman, she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, after serving on it's city council, where she helped keep it among the ugliest towns in America. She was able to make it slightly less ugly by shopping at Nordstrom's.

4.) She was elected by basically the same people that re-elected Senator Stevens.

5) She is all for the U.S. occupation of your uterus, if you have one.

A pleasant person, Gov. Palin is utterly, wholly, shockingly unqualified to be President of the United States. Better for us, she gives us ample opportunity to make endemic corruption of politics by Big Oil the topic of the election; because in order to explain why she got anywhere, you have to go through a long explanation of how Big Oil owns the Republican party, how indictments are falling like snowflakes, how the Republican party sold out Alaska and it's people to the Petrodictators again and again and again, and how, guess what, they've been doing that to us.

Clinton supporters should be deeply offended by John McCain's apparent belief that Palin is some kind of equivalent who would attract their vote. Palin is literally Miss Congeniality, whose primary accomplishment was annoying the people in her party who are yet indicted by not being one of them. Hillary Clinton is a national figure of outstanding skill and accomplishment, the headlights to Sarah Palin's deer.

At one stroke it eviscerates their experience argument against Obama. In the likely event of John McCain's demise, he proposes that we turn the nation over to a the political equivalent of a pet hamster. And suddenly, Obama-Biden is the indisputable choice for grown-ups.

The selection of Sarah Palin speaks to McCain's desperation and frankly bad judgment. It's such a silly move I'm waiting for the other clown shoe to drop.

Please let these rumors

Be true.

August 28, 2008

"It's time for them to own their failure."

My doubts had been building over the past few weeks as to whether Obama had the toughness and tenacity to win this election.

I will never underestimate him again.

August 27, 2008

Kerry Unloads

This is the best speech of the convention. Finally somebody gets down to the necessary business of stripping the paint off of John McCain.

And Now, More McCain Jokes

McCain supports drilling, even at the burial in Simi Valley, California, where they're going for Ronald Reagan's hair.

John McCain has a lot of houses-- he pays a guy named Luis just to carry all the keys.

John McCain gave the Geico cave man his first break in show biz, appearing for four nights at opening of the mammoth paintings of Lascaux.

Bullet Dodging

So far, a good convention, and props to Hillary Clinton for the right barn-burner at the right moment. Where was this Hillary years ago? Marks off only for the distinct whiff of personal movement maintenance.

But the sense of bullets missed continues.

Missed Bullet 1. A while back, Mark Warner was going to be the next big thing, but this speech was so tepid and cautious it became a caricature of everything the Democractic party has been doing wrong for three decades. You do not beat Rove's crypto-fascists by tossing raspberry twinkies at them. This is like tossing squirrel bits at Bears to attempt to mollify them. Running him would have been at best, Dukakisian.

Missed Bullet 2. John Edwards. I don't care if he slept with a goat on crack, instead of some chick who induced novels by both Jay McInerny AND Bret Easton Ellis. (Who is this woman, the General Sherman of Bennington chippies? ) But it was a genuine and deep character flaw to endanger our chances in November, and everything he spoke about.

Missed Bullet 3. Hillary. It was really only yesterday that Hillary Clinton put the full stop on the avoidable Democratic Party freakout, generated heavily from her camp. At most, all Obama really did in the primary was react in kind. This is wholly a self inflicted wound, stopped only in the nick of time. I am grateful it's over, but I feel vindicated in opposing her early.

August 26, 2008

Adorable kittens...

... and politics


Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montanna has my respect for a)fire and metal against big oil, and b) waking everyone up after Mark Warner.

And the phrase Petrodictators: awesome.

Brief Review: Mark Warner's Speech

When the nation needs fire and metal, Mark Warner offers toast and jam.

August 25, 2008

Stevens called Cheney to Muscle the Alaska Legislature for BP

VECO-the oil lobby's muscles- calls Senator Tubes, who calls Dick Cheney to call to lobby the Alaska Legislature. From Newsweek. Why? To push a notorious give-away deal on the gas line for BP. Every buddy wins!

The impression I get from reading the Anchorage Daily News is that many Alaskans are still missing how much the nation a) knows this story and b) is utterly aghast, and c) is looking for the people of the state to crawl out of this tar pit of corruption.

I am not concerned with what Ted Stevens did for you personally. The vile oil game he leads has endangered the Republic!

August 23, 2008

Socially Responsible Investing Oversights

NYT: "A 'socially responsible' mutual fund was found to have invested in companies involved in weapons, alcohol and tobacco. "

What were some of questionable investment strategies this investment fund made?

1. Illegal kitten farming.

2. Smith and Wesson's Guns for Tots.

3. Brazilian Rainforest Concrete and Asphault Paving Services

4. Nerf "Dissident Boffers" for the Chinese Government

5. Nike's new line of athletic jackboots.

6. Phillip Morris's controversial all nicotine candy "N and Ns."

7. Exxon Mobile's enormous Carbon Dioxide-based Fun Pacific Ocean Bubble Maker

8. Michael Vicks awkward line of Plush Puppies.

9. Shell's MurderPower Employment Services

10. Blackwater's Controversial Chain of Specialty Coffee Houses

Another Reason to Love Them

A commenter at TPM gave a link to this photo of a billboard to welcome people attending the Republican Conventions.

The Fish is Making Sense

August 22, 2008

Obama's Bad Cop

I couldn't be more pleased at Obama's choice. Though I can hardly remember back that far, I had originally supported Biden for the nomination (though I realized he didn't have a legitimate shot).

I'm especially happy that Obama refused to go along with the typical geography-based Veep selection fallacy. Biden brings exactly what Obama's campaign (and I hope his presidency) needs: a guy who's been there and back, and isn't afraid to speak his mind and use his caustic whit to destroy the enemies of the republic.

August 21, 2008

Ted Stevens Lives Up to His Nickname, "Senator Charming"

I've got to hand it to TPM for saving us a lot of bloggery.

On Alaska radio (at TPM)....

Q: Senator, regarding the criminal indictment, I understand-
A: Oh no, not again.
Q: Yeah, I'm sorry, well you have to be accountable to your constituents. You don't have to refuse to talk about these actions you took. You choose to to protect yourself. Don't you think you should be accountable to the people who elected you regardless of your legal predicament? Either you took expensive gifts from Allen and Pico or you didn't. Who would know better at whether you took a cabinet full of tools, a gas grill, or traded a 35 year old car for a $44,000 one. So did you or didn't you?
A: [host] I'm not sure we can get an answer on that.
Q: Well, how about letting the Senator answer.
A: [Stevens] Why don't you go talk to the FBI, ask them that question, will you please, thanks again. Goodbye.
Q: I think you should be accountable to us, sir.
A: Goodbye, goodbye

This Week's Fluff: Things I Like For Which There is Only a Wobbly Basis

Ahem: Val-Pack coupons. As anyone knows, I am no friend to the mass movement of culture vampires known as marketers sucking dry everything good, creative and right about American life. However, I like Val-Pack coupons. First, they aren't screaming at me. They invite themselves in politely through the mail, rather than whine for attention when I'm doing something else like talking to my friends, or breathing. Importantly, they aren't attached to anything else at all. I flip through them at leisure, amazed at the range of new teeth whitening possibilities in my own area- X-Rays required. Second, although I have no plans to go to the new Mexican restaurant, especially not while waiting for the steam cleaners to arrive, and even if I did, and there is no known method of handing over a 2nd dinner for 1/2 price coupon on a date and retaining a mote of respect from women, I am somewhat comforted by the simple fact that someone thinks enough of my neighborhood to open a new Mexican restaraunt in it. We're down two, and I appreciate the intiative. Well done, Sven!

In my authoritarian state, I am considered limiting all marketing to Val-Pack Coupon form. I think I actually used one once - or maybe I just was planning to.

2. The modest smooth jazz on the Weather Channel. Coltrane it ain't. But somehow, in the realm of smooth jazz, the people who chose this music avoided the cloying smoothness. It's not Michael Hedges or Kenny G. It is without ego. It's music so neutral, so generally acceptable, with out being noticeable so, that it's something of a minor cultural achievement. Our Undersecretary and I have long speculated that the band on the Weather Channel is playing live, forever, in shifts like Parliment, wearing sensible shirts, getting imperceptibly into the groove of the last low pressure system moving in, doomed always to soothe us into simply accepting the weather and not complain about it, even as our house washes down the Missouri to a G Major soprano sax riff.

3. The next one is credited to our President in Exile: the extremely cheap, and only the cheap, brand of twin-popsicles, which are allegedly Orange, Cherry, and Raspberry, but really have no relationship to flavors in actual food. The flavors are red, orange and blue. They celebrate their artificiality, making it a virtue rather than apologzing for it. At this price point - blue flavor is superior to actual raspberry flavor. Orange is the best- creamsicle-like, and I must make this clarification: they are not orange-flavored, they are orange-color flavored. They are $1.75 for 20 or so, and in hot weather - awesome. The freezing process is the trick: a lot of air whipped in I think, making them a little softer than others. If you like them, there are always more. Always. You can busk with the guitar for ten minutes and get enough money for red, blue and orange popsicles.

If you leave a bag of them out, though, you get a curious double bag full of tiny sub bags of bright fluid with wooden sticks in them, whose purpose seems more aesthetic than culinary.

I encourage you to add your own irrational likes here.

August 19, 2008

Join Our Merry League

I must report my utter, abject failure to kick the fantasy football habit.

I just sent out our league invites. If I'm forgetting anybody, please let me know in the comments of this post.

This time, I will crush you.

Like a bug.

-The Laird

The uncanny valley

I know that I suffer from what's called "The uncanny valley"

The uncanny valley is a hypothesis that when facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The "valley" in question is a dip in a proposed graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a robot's lifelikeness.

So movies like the Polar Express, Beowulf and even to a certain extent Shrek all creeped me out because the actors were almost human looking.

Although, for the record, Angelina Jolie transcends this for some reason.

Must be the lips.

But oddly, I find this even creepier for some reason...

August 18, 2008

SEAHAWKS: Will They Sign A Terrier?

Will the Seahawks sign Justin Forsett, the Terrier?

To fully comprehend what Justin Forsett was able to do in the second half and overtime period Saturday night, it helps to compare his numbers with the rest of the Seahawks and the entire Bears team:

All-purpose yards261367385
Rushing yards136105 51
Kickoff return yards 70 80105
Punt return yards 4 0 75

Barack to Democrats: "Seriously, Chill"

Do I worry that McCain's moved up a couple points in the tracking polls, sort of, while O was on vacation? Would I in my heart prefer Barack call for impeachment and promise sweeping war crimes trials? Do I want McCain's adultery front and center, with a endless parade of witnesses? Am I itching to have Cindy McCain face off Mothers Against Drunk Drivers? I have an impulse to all these things but that's not really the point.

"Democrats, because we've burned in the last few elections, get nervous and skittish right around this time," Obama said. "They say, 'oh no, here the Republicans come - they're so mean and they're going to be doing all these things. Obama is a funny name and who knows what they're going to do.' "

The audience laughed nervously.

"So keep your stress to a minimum," he instructed them.

Rare. O is a Democrat with a genuine ability to understand when to not twitch, kvetch, and run around waving your arms and going "meep meep meep!" like a crazy person - cool when cool counts. For once, traditional Democratic party hand-wringing is not coming from the candidate.

Which is what you call your leadership.

August 16, 2008

Repost From Commments; The Front on the B-17

Under the Wing of a B-17G at Boeing Field, June 2008.

The Front put a lot of effort into this comment on the post - also it contains praise for my project, which is yet in the FIMO stage- so I'm reposting it proper with some additional commentary.

"The effect I want in the piece is related to this image - the power, the salvation, the destruction, the intense moral complexity."

Here are some reflections on the perfect formulation quoted above:

1) It was beautiful, especially when contrasted with the insectoid German aircraft. I suggest you depict the B-17G (introduced in January 1944) which was delivered with a natural silver finish.

2) It killed a lot of people.

3) Its killing was neither random nor precise - it discriminated, but only to a limited degree, between people who were keeping the German war machine in high gear and everyone else. It had a great bombsight, the best of its day, yet bombs still landed on churches, schools, and hospitals.

- I wanted to note here that in my limited reading, this is I think true, and much to the credit of the American commanders as opposed the the British. For the early part of the campaign, the commanders and crews tried to avoid civilian targets. But late in the war, as radar became available, as Curtis LeMay gained sway, the Norden bombsight skills were left behind, and by the time the B-29 hit Japan, precision bombing was replaced by mass destruction. Note the points below.

4) The terror was not asymmetrical (this is a critical contrast with the B-29, which slaughtered with impunity). A lot of people died in the B-17, and the crews lived in fear. Gregory Peck explains ("you're already dead") here.

5) It came by day. It was not widely used in night raids. Again, a sharp contrast with the RAF's less-accurate, less-dangerous (to be in) night bombers.

6) As impressive as a single B-17 might be, it was a member of a horde - late in the war, an endless stream of angel-monsters originating over the horizon. The B-17 is best seen not as a discrete entity, any more than a single ant is a discrete entity. Their interlocking defensive fields of fire made them profoundly interdependent, especially in the gory pre-P-51 days.

It is these interlocking fields of fire - the fascinating 3-d geometry of arranging the formations, comparable to line of battle arrangements in the naval wars of sail, that provide much of the aesthetic for what I have in mind. A common loss rate for the B-17 was 6% to 10% per raid at one point , and if one fell out of formation, it was curtains. This is more or less what happened to my uncle's plane.

The Front for Dr X is absolutely right - the B-17 cannot be understood as a single entity any more than a sloop of war during Trafalgar. And 95% of the work of the sculpture, if approved, would be making these formations work in metal wire across a 150 foot span.

As the war went on, the horde got bigger, sort of like a Necromancer's horde in Heroes of Might & Magic. As the Wikipedia article on the 8th Air Force points out: "On 7 April, Eighth Air Force dispatched thirty-two B-17 and B-24 groups and fourteen Mustang groups (the sheer numbers of attacking Allied aircraft were so large in 1945 that they were now counted by the group) to targets in the small area of Germany still controlled by the Nazis..."

Stalin reputedly said: "quantity has a quality all its own."

And nothing the Germans could do, no matter how heroic or insane (and the German operations were often richly imbued with both characteristics), could stop them. From the Wikipedia article:

"The next day [March 3, 1945], the largest formation of German jets ever seen made attacks on Eighth Air Force bomber formations over Dresden and the oil targets at Essen, shooting down a total of three bombers."

7) Some planes are strongly identified with the victory phase of the war (the P-51, the Hellcat), and others are strongly identified with the ugly early years (the Devastator torpedo bomber, the Brewster Buffalo). The B-17 was in service through the entire conflict, and as such participated both in unequivocal victories, and horrific defeats.

8) From the German perspective, the B-17 can be seen as a severe ideological challenge. The Germans spent an inordinate amount of time trying to look scary ("have you looked at our caps recently? ...they have skulls on them..."). They put a siren on the Stuka to scare the people it didn't kill.

(B-17 G Boeing Field, June 2008.)

Very nice, but the B-17 wasn't designed to look scary, it was designed to work. It was really good at carrying a bunch of bombs to an oil refinery and dropping them on it. This was sort of a kneecapping for the "my vision is reality" delusions of the Nazi leadership.

(As I wrote that last sentence I thought of "shock and awe" and "the reality-based community". Hmmm.)

The B-17 made bullshit walk. It was radically materialistic and annihilated ideology. It was a big, shiny, loud, clumsy, deadly fact. And the Germans had no answer for it.

Kudos for the phrase "annihilated ideology." This is the nut of the American form of anti-fascism.

This picture of scrapped B-17s awaiting salvage also seems relevant.

My Dad, stationed as a meterologist in Frankfurt in early 1946, remembered seeing the B-17s lined up like this, for sale at $100 each. People bought them and drained the remaining gas to supply the gray market.

Good luck with this project. It is awesome.

Adorable kittens...

Thanks to modern, space-age translation technologies at last the truth can be told.

Yeah, it's a total fluff post. Sue me.

August 14, 2008

Office of Strategic Services Records Release

Julia Child. Anti-Nazi spy.

This and other amazing stories are likely to come to light with the release of the names of 24, 000 O.S.S. WWII US spies names.

Do you get the feeling that the phrase Bon, Appetit! might have originated as the last thing a Gestapo officer ever heard, as perfectly aimed kitchen knife prepped him like a braised lamb shank?

Will McCain Support Our Troops After This?

Although the totals are relatively small, political contributions from active military deployed abroad are going for Obama, 6:1.

August 13, 2008

Lushes in the Orchestra Pit

You may be surprised to discover the contemporary kerfuffle over a long overdue rejection of excessive, habitual vibrato in orchestral music.

It was not until the early 20th century that the "bleating of a goat" became a somewhat unthinking habit of orchestras, and the movement to reject it is growing.

Which is convenient for me as I make my way through learning the fiddle. Saves a step.

PS. Please note the revival of the ukelele.

It's About Time These Lazy Seals Started Helping With The Science


This elephant seal is researching sea ice formation in the Antarctic; not only did the oceanographers glue this thing to her head, and denied her a share of the grant money, but refused to offered a recommendation for her post-doc work.

August 12, 2008

Obama: Alaska, Alaska: Obama

Poll: Barack Obama leads John McCain by 5 points in the hitherto extremely Republican State of Alaska.

Thank you, Ted Stevens.

August 10, 2008

The B-17 Project Update

After about a year of fleshing out the idea and getting some interest, the WWII B-17 bomber sculpture concept reached a new point with UW lending me a small work/studio in the old metal shop to start building the large model for the sculpture, which will alone require some time to prepare: A nice leap of faith considering I am brand new to working with metal, let alone the elements of engineering.

For those new to this, the sculpture idea is to reproduce a WWII formation of 200-300 Boeing B-17 bombers "flying" four stories up over the somewhat neo-gothic School of Art building courtyard on the main campus at UW. The 3-4" planes will be designed to look they are being seen at altitude and at distance. Elements include using the original complex geometries of the aerial formation, towers which support the structure, sound, shadow and freestanding parts. If eventually approved and built it would be about 135 feet long, held up partly by the interlocking contrails, made of wire, exhausting from each bombers four engines.

It's taken a while to secure the necessary workspace, so in a few weeks its off to the studio to develop the model - I expect a lot of frustration and problems, but I've had a lot of offers of help. This model is the key to the project and I have a fairly clear idea of what I want it to look like, but lots of detailed fiddling remains. It has structural issues somewhat similar to aircraft or bridge design, and I plan to hit up the very UW aeronautical engineering school that helped with the design of the original bombers for ideas.

The project idea was reinforced by a chance meeting with a Czech man named Heinrich in his 70's who remembered his village being attacked in the war. We met because we were both admiring a flying B-17 at the Museum of Flight, its huge radial engines idling as we talked about what happened to him as a 12 year old during the war.

This was near the Czechoslovakian border with Lichtenstein, Germany, in 1944. The target was a munitions plant right over a hill in his village. He remembered two streams of silver bombers, winking in a perfect blue sky, hundreds of them, stretching from horizon to horizon, all headed essentially for him. He remembered the sound, a thundering, huge sound coming from every direction.

Suffering under the Nazi regime, which had murdered members of his family, and being 12, he was excited and cheered the Allied bombers on. He remembered his mother, who had also lost friends to Allied bombing raids, looking up at the vast streams of aircraft, each with 6000 lbs of bombs headed straight for her, looking up and saying:

"The Americans' planes are so much prettier than the Germans'."

When the bombs fell, "they sounded like logs rolling off a truck, again and again."

The effect I want in the piece is related to this image - the power, the salvation, the destruction, the intense moral complexity. And this thin, garrulous, jolly old gentleman provided me with an image of a fascist that I think will last forever: a huge, brutal Gestapo officer had collared him for finding a gallon of gas for the family car. He described watching the crew-cut officer, in the trademark high hat, sucking on a rotten tooth, the horrible smell unforgettable over 65 years.

It was a living metaphor of fascism, the rot inside the bully.

The construction and deployment of these bombers changed the world more than anything else Seattle has done- and the massive destruction and death they unleashed, and which their crews suffered, helped defeat the most evil regime in human history. Odd to think that Seattle, Washington flattened many of the major cities of both Europe and Asia.

It also set up a dangerous habit of technological, militarist solutions to political problems - a point the old Czech fellow, a former missile maker who had lived through Hitler and the Soviets and worked with a few unrepentant former Nazis making missles for the U.S. in Denver, emphasized.

I also learned from Henrich that my own obession with the B-17 was shared - its humanistic beauty as an object was not merely a romantic haze around a brutal war, but perceivable: the B-17 as a pure form is almost feminine in it's extensive, elegant, intersecting curves. It is a ship full of men with a shared, dark and difficult mission. It looks like righteous vengence, which I think, on balance, it was.

It's technologically brillant follower, the B-29, sleek and seamless, appears like a refined weapon of mass death. Which it was. The B-29 probably killed more human beings than anything else the United States ever produced, a very direct result of Seattle's ingenuity. The strategic bombing campaign of WWII is at once among the best and worst things America has ever done.

A side note: the Frye Art Museum in Seattle was a direct result of the fiery 1943 crash of a B-29 prototype into the Frye meat-packing plant- the resulting settlement and rebuild resulted eventually in the museum. This project might be the cap on the other end of time.

August 09, 2008

Repost from TPM

As delighted as I am to rage against the bastards, an anger that only deepens with every passing day that feeds this soul-killing, omnivorous and inexhaustible greed, this essay from a reader at TPM bears reading.

This year, I am not listening to the pundits or even my fellow bloggers all that much. I am listening mostly to eighteen and nineteen year olds who just want to cut the crap and finally see something get accomplished in politics. Because I am beginning to understand that they are wiser than I am.

This sense of youthful wisdom has been my general experience of college students recently. The kids are cool, the kids are all right, and it's because it's their asses on the line.

August 07, 2008

More Gorillas

There are more gorillas than we thought; a lot more.

I mention this as a rare sighting of critically endangered good news in ecology.

August 06, 2008

Memo: Regarding Vista

From: Alan Garnly, Deputy Mayor, Tilton, Washington
To: Jill Po, Microsoft Business Systems

cc: Bill and Lila's On-Time Computer Services
Tilton, Washington Volunteer Fire Brigade
King County Emergency Response
Peggy M'Butu, Federal Emergency Management Agency
Larry Mills, EPA Superfund
Senator Maria Cantwell
United Nations Disaster Relief Fund

RE: Microsoft Vista, Event, Follow-Up


Jill, in our correspondence of 6 May, we covered most of the technical and factual details as what Vista did and why, and while I am satisfied that while there is a rational explanation for the event, I cannot begin to say that speaking in the capacity of Deputy Mayor of Tilton that this customer service issue has been resolved.

As the person who initiated the centralization and computer automation of city services, I bear a part of the responsibility, especially when I reflect that against FAA advice I had the system tied into our small cargo airport. If the carnage had been limited to that alone I think I would have been able to regard this as a tragic accident.

But as we all know, the town of Tilton no longer exists, at least not in habitable form.

Even as an international tv audience watched the resulting diaspora of Tiltonians to other cities and states, even overseas, I find that Microsoft has been less than satisfactorily responsive. I must strongly object with your characterization of this as "one solution."

Experiencing the event, the networking issue, which seems to have been central, impressed me for the way it seemed to allow instructions to go out which would create such devastation and chaos, but prevented instructions which might have otherwise been averted by hand-closing one valve and tripping one breaker.

The memory I will take from this event is cowering under my desk with my Dell laptop as the explosions rolled through the area like logs falling off a truck, followed by the incomparable sounds of the screaming engines of series of a dozen light aircraft whomping into the tangled, smoking machinery, a blue green mist peppering the glass outside with an unholy toxic spray, watching the little window that said "Windows is checking online for a solution" - a window I might add that I have seen regularly for nearly two years without it once saying "Windows has found a solution."

At this of all times, as the body of Mayor Bill McMillian dissolved before my eyes in the other room, that unlikely event of Vista actually finding a solution would have been particularly welcome.

I was left fecklessly pressing F5 147 times and expecting different results. There was some reduction in the increase of the number of explosions when I tried the Task Manager to close Office 2003, but I remain spectacularly unconvinced that an Vista upgrade would have helped.

Your coupon for a free Vista upgrade yesterday was appreciated, at least in the abstract.

The Congressional hearings are scheduled for 12 Nov, and I would really hope that we can work out some kind of reasonable agreement before that time or the movie begins filming the following Spring.

August 04, 2008

Hilarious French Comedy: 1901

While he was best known for a Trip to the Moon, these very early George Melies shorts are still pretty funny - and their visual inventiveness is astounding.

Un Hommes de tetes

Melies The Melomaniac

The Conjurer

The Hilarious Posters

Satan's Cakewalk

The poignancy of very early movies only increases through time - the good-natured absurdity, the explosive dancing, the cute girls cavorting around - long after their lives, they all become deeply beautiful.

August 01, 2008

Old Jokes

I read a while back that the oldest joke was from Mesopotamia - hey it's funny enough today. This one went:

The king is about to have his hair cut, and all the while the Barber is chatting away. Then the Barber asks "how would you like your hair cut?," and the king says "In silence."
Funny I suppose, if you're standing next right next to the man with the power to disembowel you.

Which is why I enjoyed this BBC article on ancient jokes:

.Academics have compiled a list of the most ancient gags and the oldest, harking back to 1900BC, is a Sumerian proverb from what is now southern Iraq.

"Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap."

Hmm- that's not terrible. It's better than the haircut joke. And told while drunk on mead by a good friend - hilarious.

The oldest British joke dates back to the 10th Century, and uses the traditional question and answer format to suggestively poke fun at Anglo-Saxon men.

"What hangs at a man's thigh and wants to poke the hole that it's often poked before? A key."

I like this 1100 year old joke. It's format- so deep in the language that it is a little off-putting to modern ears- does not betray it's solid foundation. This is a good dirty joke, and it actually contains one of my favorite structures - setting you up for a nasty, sticky dirty joke with an adorably clean closer.

"Jokes have varied over the years, with some taking the question and answer format while others are witty proverbs or riddles," said Dr Paul McDonald, who led the study by academics at the University of Wolverhampton.

"What they all share, however, is a willingness to deal with taboos and a degree of rebellion."

As today, world leaders make good foils for ancient humour, particularly Egyptian pharaohs, as shown by this 1600BC joke:

"How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? Sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile - and urge the pharaoh to go fishing."

The problem with this joke is that the pharoah probably did that last week.

One Roman jape dating back to the 1st Century BC details the Emperor Augustus touring his realm and coming across a man who bears a striking resemblance to himself.

Intrigued, he asks the man: "Was your mother at one time in service at the palace?"

The man replies: "No your highness, but my father was."