Wednesday, April 21, 2010


That's the volcano in Iceland that's causing so much havoc. Looks like this:

They are saying it may erupt again. This, you see, is geoengineering, as done on the large scale, by Gaia herself. Piddling plans of self-styled climatologists to launch particles into the atmosphere to raise the Earth's albedo, to block those deadly warming rays from the Sun, are shown up as the silliness they always were. If we get another Tambora event ("eighteen hundred and froze to death") out of this volcano, will the cap 'n' traders and greenies finally realize that warmer is better? I expect not. There's too much money already invested in the contrary view.

Waco, Reno, Clinton

So the Waco massacre of the Branch Davidian children was not entirely Janet Reno's doing, after all. She ran the notion past President Bill Clinton, first. There's a fairly vigorous discussion going on at Althouse.

Morgan Freeberg makes one of those non-obvious connections

Warning to Young People. Go, listen, read. And get off my lawn!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

QuickTime is a pain in the neck. What do you do?

Sooner or later you find this page: How do I stop QuickTime from playing audio files in my browser? Follow the instructions, and then, ahhh, the sigh of relief.

I was about ready to go to California, find Steve Jobs, and, well, I won't continue with that. Programs should not highjack file associations. I say that unequivocally. Furthermore, QuickTime is not a good player of mp3 files. It stutters too much. And what good is that, I ask you?

Apple, mend your ways. And your software.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday afternoon concert: Katie

I suppose you'd want to imagine a man singing this, since it was written by Jimmy McCarthy. Yet this version by Mary Black is the canonical one, to my mind anyway. Lyrics. Lit-crit explication is beyond me, as with much of the modern Irish pop music. Too densely personal, too obscure, for easy comprehension. I like the sound of it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Obama surrenders the high ground, without a fight

Three things.

An open letter from Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan, and 25 other astronauts, about Obama's new direction for NASA. They don't like it.

Charles Krauthammer says,

We are seeing the abolition of the manned space program.

When Neil Armstrong speaks out, that’s an event. This is a guy who is the most self-effacing American hero in our history. He could have been Lindbergh and he became J.D. Salinger.

And now he speaks out in an open letter together with [Eugene] Cernan, the last guy that walked on the moon, and James Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13. And they are saying that the program that Obama has abolished — has cancelled — is essentially the end of man in space. It turns NASA into an R&D agency for pie-in-the-sky ideas like having humans on asteroids and ends its role as the agency that actually gets us into space, even low-Earth orbit and back.

Obama spoke about — we’ve done the moon, so we are going to do asteroids and Mars. This is total pie in the sky. On what rocket? With what space capsule? With what simulators? With what training program? There’s nothing here of substance.

And when Kennedy committed us "in this decade," as he said, he meant it within his presidency. He intended to be — he expected he’d be — president until January 1969. Obama is talking about 2025, 2030. All of this is total speculation.

And what it does is it ends our human dominance in space, which we had for 50 years. We have no way to get into earth orbit. We’re going to have to hitch a ride on the Russians who are charging us extraordinary rates and are only going to increase that.…

All the private stuff [launching humans into space] is complete speculation. What we’re doing is we're ceding the certainty of access into space. We are not going to have it. The Russians will have it. The Chinese will have it.

We spent tens of billions on the space station and spent three decades in constructing it. We're not going to have any way to get there....

And we'll look up in a decade and there’s going to be a lunar base ... [there are] not going to be Americans on it.

Sarah Palin, on Facebook, asks,
"Mr. President, is a strong America a problem?"
Asked this week about his faltering efforts to advance the Middle East peace process, President Obama did something remarkable. In front of some 47 foreign leaders and hundreds of reporters from all over the world, President Obama said that “whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower.”

Whether we like it or not? Most Americans do like it. America’s military may be one of the greatest forces for good the world has ever seen, liberating countless millions from tyranny, slavery, and oppression over the last 234 years. As a dominant superpower, the United States has won wars hot and cold; our military has advanced the cause of freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan and kept authoritarian powers like Russia and China in check.

It is in America’s and the world’s interests for our country to remain a dominant military superpower, but under our great country’s new leadership that dominance seems to be slipping away. President Obama has ended production of the F-22, the most advanced fighter jet this country has ever built. He’s gutted our missile defense program by eliminating shield resources in strategic places including Alaska. And he’s ended the program to build a new generation of nuclear weapons that would have ensured the reliability of our nuclear deterrent well into the future. All this is in the context of the country’s unsustainable debt that could further limit defense spending. As one defense expert recently explained:

The president is looking to eliminate the last vestiges of the Reagan-era buildup. Once the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are “ended” (not “won”), the arms control treaties signed, and defense budgets held at historic lows while social entitlements and debt service rise to near-European levels, the era of American superpower will have passed.

The truth is this: by his actions we see a president who seems to be much more comfortable with an American military that isn’t quite so dominant and who feels the need to apologize for America when he travels overseas. Could it be a lack of faith in American exceptionalism? The fact is that America and our allies are safer when we are a dominant military superpower – whether President Obama likes it or not.
And the question is, Are the first two things related to the third thing?

Private space development would be great. But what Krauthammer says about ceding the certainty of space is not speculative.

Will NASA and the FAA and the rest of the government get out of the way of private space efforts? Encouragement would be too much to ask for.

Update: Harrison Schmitt, astronaut and US Senator, has more to say:
“I am very much of the mind that America can’t afford to be second-best in space. It’s the new ocean. It would be as if the United States decided in the last 200 years or so not to have a Navy. The oceans were where the competition between nations existed, and now that competition has moved into space. We should not be afraid of it. We should embrace it.”
Via Althouse. One of the commenters at the linked CapTimes article says,
"Wait, so here's an area where Obama would just as soon not spend $230 billion (likely more, because, remember, the shuttle program ultimately came in at a 55% cost over-run), and the same people who scream about the exploding deficit are saying we need the program, we need to spend the money? This just proves that nothing Obama could do would appease these people."
This is the kind of thinking that comes from someone who would eat the seed corn, or skip the oil changes to buy spinner hubcaps and mag wheels. Speaking of wheels, I'm inclined to agree that NASA has been spinning its wheels for years, as a result of being run by pork-minded bureaucrats who have lost sight of the mission, but what's called for is not abandonment of the mission, but a return to it. As I said in an earlier post, "Men will go to space; but no law of nature requires that they be Western, or free."

There are a couple of fairly zingy comments by yours truly on that Althouse thread.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hope you like your house the way it is

Remodeling will become much more expensive, starting April 22. Small contractors might as well close up shop now. Neo-neocon has the story, and the comments: Next on Obama’s hit list: small contractors.

I can't recall another American President who thought that prosperity was a Bad Thing, and worked so actively against it.

I think I have finally found the W.C. Fields movie I was looking for — and its name is "Poppy"

Cascading absurdities, grandiloquent orotundity (or should that be "orotund grandiloquence"), a "talking" dog, a shell game, a fair amount of booze, "Purple Bark Sarsaparilla," without which "this mundane sphere of ours would be barren, bleak, and dank," a pretty girl and a romance, a highly unlikely plot device, a carnival, a certain amount of conniving, not too much bitterness, and the closing line, a bit of fatherly advice to the dear adopted daughter who is about to go straight, "Never give a sucker an even break."

I do not seem to be in agreement with the reviewers at IMDB, who regard this as a minor Fields flicker. The ones they cite as superior seem to me to suffer from excessive bitterness and cynicism. This one is sweet almost all the way through, with just enough bitter to make it tangy.

And the bit with the cigar-box cello and the hat:

Oh dear!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday afternoon concert, second set

A couple of Henry Lawson's poems, set to music. Get out your hankies.

Priscilla Herdman sings "Do You Think That I Do Not Know." Sometimes I allude to this as if everyone else knew it, too. If you hear me say "in the days when our hair was brown," I am referring to this.

Another: Walter McDonough sings "The Outside Track." No video for this. I looked all over Youtube for a version I liked at least as much as this, but could not find one. Full text here, including some bits that Walter does not sing. I love the phrase, "the last of the careless men."

Sunday afternoon concert

Today, ladies and gents, Victoria Jackson!

Do you remember Victoria Jackson from Saturday Night Live? Here she is, to sing for you again. This is a poignant little ditty called "There's a Communist Living in the White House." Let's hear it for Victoria, folks!

Thanks, Victoria!

Potatoes come from Sycasuse

Speaking of potatoes. It was a big deal when Dan Quayle put an "e" on a potato. And why did he do that? He was "working from an inaccurate flash card prepared by a teacher," that's why. What a situation. Embarrass the teacher? Ask the student to add a letter? He should have embarrassed the teacher, we know that now.

But no teacher handed Barack Obama a flash card when he tried to spell "Syracuse" and failed. He did that all on his own.

I am the egg man ...

… and I'm hungry! Watch out, potatoes!
Sort of like the man in the crescent moon, only hungry. Looking at those taters with that big yellow eye, mouth wide open. You see it or you don't.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Klavan introduces a much-needed innovation

An actual BS detector that rings an alarm bell. He calls it the "crap alarm." Here it is in action, applied to Obama speaking. Oh, did I need to say more? Speaking about his "health care reform." Which, as you no doubt recall, has nothing to do with health care, but much to do with insurance, and the IRS, which is going to withhold the refunds of people who do not comply with its unConstitutional mandate.

I must look up Klavan's books, one of these days.

Animals that live without oxygen

"It's life, but not as we know it, Jim!"

"O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!"
"There are more things in Heaven and earth …"

Deep under the Mediterranean Sea small animals have been discovered that live their entire lives without oxygen and surrounded by 'poisonous' sulphides. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Biology report the existence of multicellular organisms (new members of the group Loricifera), showing that they are alive, metabolically active, and apparently reproducing in spite of a complete absence of oxygen.
Rand Simberg says, "Pretty cool. What does this say about prospects for extraterrestrial life?"

Could these be survivors from the Archaean, before photosynthesizing plants gave Earth its oxygen-rich atmosphere? (Not likely, but considering the next paragraph …)

This month's Analog has a related story, "At Last the Sun" by Richard Foss. It must have been written before this discovery was announced.

Update: Author Richard Foss has stopped by to comment that he did indeed write the story months before the discovery was announced. It's a good 'un, so go ye forth and buy that Analog.

Stossel on Hayek's Road

The Road to Serfdom, that is. One of the necessary books. At Amazon in text, or on the web, illustrated and condensed. John Stossel discussed it for an hour — television hour, that is, about 44 minutes. UK Libertarian has the whole thing, in parts.

A couple of petty domestic gripes

Gripe number one:

The kitchen sink would not stop smelling of mold. Washing the dishcloths, liberal applications of bleach, nothing helped. Months of this. Finally nailed it down:
Do you see that knurled cap on the bottom? It's made of some kind of soft plastic that mold loves to grow on. This pic is of a Scotch-Brite dishwand, but I have seen the same thing marketed under the O-Cel-O name, also. (Both from 3M, so no surprise there.) It never occurred to me that mold would be growing on plastic. Replaced it with another brand with a hard plastic endcap, and no more mold stink in the sink.

Gripe number two:

I do like a big, shallow skillet. A 12" or 12.5" skillet is just right for a three-egg omelet, which can then be split between oneself and one's companion, at about 1.75 egg for one and 1.25 egg for the other. A French company called T-fal, or Tefal, makes skillets that seem like they would really fill the bill for this job. I have owned three of them. Why three? Because they start to warp right away. They get high in the center, so that if what you are cooking is more or less liquid, it takes on a ring shape, like this:

I dropped that egg in the middle of the skillet. It did not stay there. If you do omelets the right way, with the back-and-forth shake to distribute the egg, this warp produces voids in the middle, so that you have to turn the skillet so far on its side that you risk spilling the whole thing on the cooktop. The next big, shallow skillet will not be a T-fal.

Disclaimer: I have not been paid in cash or in kind to endorse these products.