November 28, 2010

Good question

"We're talking about a major political party, which will control much of Congress next year, possibly undermining the strength of the country -- on purpose, in public, without apology or shame -- for no other reason than to give themselves a campaign advantage in 2012.

"Maybe now would be a good time to pause and ask a straightforward question: are Americans O.K. with this?"

Good-night, funnyman

A favorite Wodehousian sentence - it was the pie

One of the rummy things about Jeeves is that, unless you watch like a hawk, you very seldom see him come into a room. He's like one of those weird chappies in India who dissolve themselves into thin air and nip through space in a sort of disembodied way and assemble the parts again just where they want them. I've got a cousin who's what they call a Theosophist, and he says he's often nearly worked the thing himself, but couldn't quite bring it off, probably owing to having fed in his boyhood on the flesh of animals slain in anger and pie.

The Baddest of Them All

"The earth will tremble when I have my revenge!"
―Von Nebula

My younger son has, in the space of 24 hours, obtained and assembled a Lego Von Nebula action figure, part of Lego's exciting Hero Factory story line, which succeeds the beloved but played out Bionicle story arc.

In an age of me-too super-villains ("he's an evil genius, totally crazy, and he plans to destroy the world!"), I appreciate some of the nuance that went into Von Nebula.  He used to be a good guy, but pulled an Anakin, possibly for similar reasons.  He was on a failed mission that ended up getting a city destroyed and his team leader killed, reportedly because of his cowardice.  But of course the "good guys" would say that, wouldn't they?

They call him "Von Nutcase", but he is seriously badass.  He wields an orb staff that generates black holes.  Let's see your spider sense deal with that.

By the way, Von Nebula is voiced by Mark Hamill.

Wake up

Dr. Kapital posts this from the Pi Project:

It is to be expected of politicians, I suppose, but  talk of austerity that barely addresses the primary problem, while gutting education, will just wreck your country.  I suggest your friends "use their influence" to avoid this outcome.  Talk of shared pain makes no sense when discussing education - it is an investment, not a cost.  Reducing it simply reduces future wealth.  University of Chicago economist Raghuram G. Rajan:
Recent technological advances now require many workers to have a college degree to carry out their tasks. But the supply of college-educated workers has not kept pace with demand—indeed, the fraction of high school graduates in every age cohort has stopped rising, having fallen slightly since the 1970s. Those who are fortunate enough to have bachelor’s and advanced degrees have seen their incomes grow rapidly as the demand for graduates exceeds supply. But those who don’t—seven out of ten Americans, according to the 2008 census—have seen relatively stagnant or even falling incomes.

Education plays a far greater role than simply improving an individual’s income and career prospects: it has intrinsic worth of its own, allowing us to make use of our finer faculties. In addition, studies show that the educated typically take better care of their own health, are less prone to indulging in criminal activities, and are more likely to participate in civic and political activities. Moreover, they influence their children to do the same, so that their education has beneficial effects on future generations also. So as it falls behind in education, America is diminishing the quality of its society.

All the talk in politics is about "wake-up calls".  But there will be no "wake-up call" in education.  The country will just get dumber and poorer.  This organization should be listened to, preferably before you elect any more entertainment industry figures to run your state.

Lego Space Needle

For that someone special in your life.

November 25, 2010

A Cafe del Mar Thanksgiving

A word from our sponsor

By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are a sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.  

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

November 24, 2010

Let's start by sending a bouquet of flowers

"Twice she claimed that the US must stand firm alongside Kim Jong-il's Democratic People's Republic of Korea."

Do the math

Before you leave California...
California's a basket case? The state has one of the highest living standards in the country, yet over the past 10 years the economy has still grown much faster, per person, than the national average. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, it's up 15% — compared to 8.9% for the U.S. overall.

It's grown faster than low tax neighbors like Arizona, Utah or New Mexico. It's grown three times faster than Texas.
And this was from 1999 through 2009: In other words from the peak of the dot-com years through the depths of the recession. It managed this growth despite the double blows of the tech and housing busts.

November 22, 2010

Proposing a new title for the blog

Let's call it WTF Rick Perry?

Oh, as for social security wrecking the country, here is some analysis from the Last Sane Man suggesting it won't.

November 21, 2010

For general use

The Price is Right losing horn.

I was kind of excited for the Raiders today.  What an opportunity for them, building on a three game winning streak, going back to face off against their ancient rivals the Steelers, getting ready for the first Oakland game to actually mean something since the Rich Gannon era.  A win would give them a winning record, the same record as the arrogant dynasty with the creepy quarterback.

They felt ready:  "I feel like one of the main things going for us right now is that a lot of guys are playing with confidence," [Darren] McFadden said. "We believe we can run and pass against anybody."

Anybody, that is, but the Pittburgh Steelers, who won the game 35-3.

Better luck next time, kid.

Because Rick Perry would be so much better...

Babs the Elder denounces our home state's most famous citizen.  I, for one, am sick of this transparent shilling for a man who can't decide which larger country he wishes to lead his state into a disastrous war with.

November 20, 2010

Make up your mind

2009 - We'll secede!
2010 - We need Federal troops!

November 19, 2010

The game doesn't need you

No-Person Shooter?

November 18, 2010

Bush succeeded

Bananas anyone?

November 14, 2010

In heavy rotation at our house

Lawyers or rats?

I think they are comparable leading indicators, which is bad...for Joe Miller.

"With each passing day that election workers here in the state capital manually count write-in votes cast for Senator Lisa Murkowski, it appears increasingly likely that Alaskans spell too well for Mr. Miller’s math to work."


November 12, 2010

Scariest film

If you haven't seen it, the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is free to watch on Netflix for the next few days.  If you have, there's a nice article (with spoilers) here.

What makes the movie so scary is that it highlights the vulnerabilities of human society.  We're pretty tough to beat in a frontal attack.  Once engaged, humans are tenacious, ingenious, and remorseless enemies.  Other animals know to stay away from us.

But we're not so good at dealing with stealth.  And our high-trust societies are constantly vulnerable to betrayal.  And we have to sleep at night, a moment of supreme vulnerability.  And we reproduce slowly.  A stealthy enemy, capable of infiltration and unencumbered by the need to sleep - with a high reproductive rate - could exterminate us in pretty short order.

Oh well, time for bed...

November 11, 2010

Last chance to see

On TV, Stephen Fry visits endangered parrots.  I worry about Stephen...I'm glad to see him outdoors, walking about, meeting wholesome New Zealanders, and socializing with parrots.

November 10, 2010

Who says America's lost its edge?

Details on the Architect Southwest zombie safe house design competition, here.

November 07, 2010

Brief taxonomy of WW II celebrities who spent the war out-of-country

Traitor:  Ezra Pound
Collaborator:  PG Wodehouse
Straight-Up Hero:  Marlene Dietrich

When asked why she had traveled to war zones to entertain and comfort Allied troops, she famously and simply replied, "aus Anstand." "It was the decent thing to do."

20 untranslatable words

Here...hoping FSL will supply a sentence using all 20...

November 04, 2010

Deep thought

The last time Sarah Palin won an election:  November, 2006.

A socialist hell on earth

The horror that is Norway.

A new era of civility begins...

...AFTER Craig Ferguson gets done making fun Boehner (2:35-4:05):

November 03, 2010

What a long, strange trip it's been

Source:  Wikipedia

Morning in America...the sweet smell of gridlock

Dr. Kapital posts this from a Bonus-Anticipation Party at Goldman:

Americans are fickle in their political tastes, but maybe that isn't such a bad thing.  This chart suggests a trading strategy.  When one party gets to run the country for four years in a row, SELL, you are headed for an historic train wreck:
  • Dems '77-'80 followed by runaway inflation, double-recession, worst unemployment since the 30s
  • GOP '03-'06 followed by subprime crisis, credit crisis, global deflation, worst unemployment since the 30s
If it's any comfort to your friends, I would concede that, when it was their turn, the Democrats wrecked the country in a notably more compassionate and egalitarian manner. 

Anyway we are all inflationists now.

November 02, 2010

Oh, that Renteria

Nevertheless, Washington blundered and it decided this game. You just don't pitch to Renteria with men on second and third, two outs and No. 9 hitter Aaron Rowand on deck, a rusty vet who has barely played in a month. With first base open, you walk him. Period. When the count gets to 2-0, it's like the gods are giving you a second chance to put up four fingers and point to first base.

Why fear Edgar? This is the same Renteria that had the game-winning walk-off single to win the '97 Series at age 22. This is the same Renteria whose homer broke a scoreless tie in Matt Cain's Game 2 win. The same Renteria who had three hits on Sunday. And, most of all, the same Renteria who has a career .333 World Series batting average (21 for 63), the 10th-best in history, and a .417 average with six RBI to become the MVP of this Series.

But Washington, who was outmanaged by Bruce Bochy throughout this Series, decided to pitch to a man who was famous for his Series deeds over a 13-year period. "Going to hit it out," Renteria told teammate Andres Torres before he went to the plate.

- Thomas Boswell

Only three others in history have a game-winning RBI in two clinching games: Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio.

- Scott Ostler

November 01, 2010

Those zany misfits

It is a truism that the Giants, with the lowest ERA and highest number of strikeouts in baseball, won their championship with pitching.  With four young starters (aged 26, 26, 27, and 21) and a deep and experienced bullpen, it is small wonder that the everyday players have gotten short shrift. 

To the degree they have been recognized, the Giants regulars have been noted for their personal quirks, their anemic offensive output (average in the National League), and the sheer improbability of their success.  Who are the men who make up this band of misfits and castaways?  What evidence did we have that they could reach such heights?

Let's walk through tonight's lineup card and revel in the sheer impossibility of what these lovable bums have achieved.

c - Buster Posey.  Crippled in a horrible skateboard accident in elementary school, Posey's status slipped so severely that he was only the fifth man chosen in the 2008 Major League draft.  Making the most of a lucky shot at the Majors, he somehow slapped and bunted his way to a .305 batting average with 18 home runs.  He also played a key defensive position and called pitches for the best pitching staff in baseball.  Who knew?

1b - Aubrey Huff.  Barely capable of speech, some have questioned Huff's intellectual credentials.  Madge Pressler of the Edmonton Star-Democrat has called him "a scary Jethro Clampitt."  A career designated hitter, his National League prospects were called into doubt when, presented with a baseball glove, he attempted to wear it like a hat.  So it is utterly shocking that the former Silver Slugger (2008) of the American League was able, through hard work, determination, and yes, a little bit of luck, to hit 7 points above his lifetime .283 batting average this year.  Incredible!

2b - Freddie Sanchez.  Rumor is Sanchez killed a guy.  Anyway, who would have thought that the National League batting champion of 2006 could play like this?

3b - Juan Uribe.  Apart from starting for the Chicago White Sox in their World Championship 2005 season and division winning 2008, there really wasn't much evidence that he was capable of playing Major League Baseball.  This month, he showed the doubters he could handle the pressure of a big game.

ss - Edgar Renteria.  Cheerful and lighthearted, many openly wondered if his .287 career batting average and 207 career post-season at bats qualified him to be a San Francisco Giant.  After tonight's championship-winning home run, manager Bruce Bochy has indicated that Renteria may see more playing time.

lf - Cody Ross.  Who is this guy?  Who knew he had such power?  Apart from his 22 home runs in 2008 and his 24 in 2009, there was very little evidence that he was capable of hitting at the Major League level.

cf - Aaron Rowand.  Why was he even on the field?  All he's ever done was to start in center field for the 2005 World Champion Chicago White Sox and 2007 Division-winning Philadelphia Phillies. And win the 2007 Gold Glove.  And be an All-Star.  But he fits perfectly into this lovable band of misfits.

rf - Andres Torres. Well, yeah, that one kind of snuck up on me, but once he got on his medication you knew he was going to be unstoppable. 8^)

"His name is Tim Lincecum!"

No shutout, but two World Series wins gets you an Eisengeiste shout-out.

Deep thought

How do these Texas and east coast media types know what marijuana smells like?

"I'm given to understand it has a pungent, herbal odor, sir..."

Presentation of Work at the University of Washington

Speaking to the University of Washington MFA Painting graduate students on Friday.

I'll be presenting my own work, and thinking about the contemporary intellectual role of painting: a living digestions of 70,000 years of visual symbolism and expression, sophisticated sensory engagment - the feedback loop of hand to eye to mind - with the phenomenology of material and illusion; careful observation and direct tracing - rather than technologically negotiatied- of the external and internal visual forms of experience, the uncovering of specifc social, cultural, intellectual and even spirtual realities, presaging and still engaging sciences, but always idosyncratic in origin, still communicatable, all of which are usually inaccessible to other processes.

Painting skills - especially and above all direct observation- enhance this process, and like science, the methodology, the grammar of your question, is crucial.

Many good artists think as painters but without paint, and lots of people certainly paint without thinking. But it is driving, ambitious inquiry that characterizes advanced art making, the kind of art that changes what human beings are capable of thinking. Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Van Gogh - they changed and explanded what we can know.

 - Jamie Bollenbach