November 26, 2008

We Know What We Like

Lileks has a meditation on modern art:

It's not the humanism that ruined art, it was humanism that divorced itself from the possibility of transcendence. Which would be bad enough if it hadn't decided to splash around in the gutters as well.

Ah, but why was it influential? It recontextualized the commonplace and made us see it as Art, a process that continues to this day every time you see a book with a title like "The Art of Bread" or "The Art of Toad Sexing" or whatever else has to be elevated to the status of marble sculpture to make the user feel they're living a rarified life. It played a joke on the Stuffy Academics, which is something the adolescent temperament never tires of doing. This is not encouraged any more, since the Academics are on the side of Truth and Modernity, however defined today. Although I once knew an architecture student who took perverse and boundless glee in shocking his teacher by putting a pointy roof on the house each student had to design. A pointed roof. In other words, a useful roof, a functional roof that didn't collect rain water. Everyone else had a flat roof, of course. Machine for Living and all that. This was just around the time Post-Modernism made it okay to quote history, as long as everyone saw you wink, or could understand that your overscaled grotesque excretions were meant ironically.

An instructor might not know what to make of a house with a point roof, but if you called it "House In The Time of Reagan" he'd understand.

Read all.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:30 AM

November 24, 2008

A User-Hostile Service

As one can surmise from the previous test posts, I've been trying (after three quarters of a year) to fix the problems with my Movable Type installation.

I went to one of the providers listed at MT as consultants, to try to get some help (unnamed, to protect the guilty). They have been somewhat helpful, in that they have eliminated possibilities of what the problem might be, but they haven't actually determined what the problem is ($150 later, and asking for more).

But that's not the point. The point is the (to me) user hostility of their system.

When I get an email from them, it comes in the following form:


[message from unnamed service...]

In my first response, I ignored it, and just replied below (as I always do, since as a long-time emailer, I bottom post to response).

The response was:



Your reply was blank. I'm assuming this is because you were trying to quote
me instead of deleting everything and then replying. Please give it a try
again by deleting all the original text.

Oh. OK.

They were serious.

They were determined to allow nothing that they emailed me to be quoted in my response. And moreover, even if I top posted, they didn't want to see their response in my response.

Is it just me, or are they nuts?

Here was my second email in response to this absurd and deliberate policy (the first was minimal, and unreplied to):

One other point. Do you realize how annoying it is to:

1) not include my response in your response and

2) make me jump through hoops to include your response in mine?

Not to mention top posting (though in this case, it's almost meaningless to distinguish between top and bottom posting).


Do you think that it enhances the customer relationship?

This alone is almost enough to make me want to write off my current investment in you as a bad one, and find someone who can help me without being such an email PITA.

The response?

Please help us understand why you feel like you should always include our response with ours? Our web based desk records everything, including our responses so we don't need to see it multiple times. This creates duplicate records.

We work with thousands of customers and didn't see this as a problem before.

Here is my response:

Please help us understand why you feel like you should always include our response with ours? Our web based desk records everything, including our responses so we don't need to see it multiple times. This creates duplicate records. ==========================================================

Yes, because bandwidth for a few lines of text is so expensive...

It is important because I would like to have some context for what I'm responding to, and you should have some context for what you're responding to, in the email to which you're responding. If I want to find out what we're talking about, I have to go back and dig into my outbox, to figure out WTF we're talking about. If you don't find this annoying, I don't frankly understand why. If you don't want excessive repetition, just delete the older stuff. That's how it worked on Usenet for years.


We work with thousands of customers and didn't see this as a problem before.

Then you must have worked with thousands of top-posting morons raised on Outlook and AOL, and who only know how to upload to blogs with FTP, thus opening themselves to attack. It drives old-timers like me, familiar with old-school email and Usenet, NUTS.
I have never before run into a system that MADE IT DIFFICULT (AND ATTEMPTED TO MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE, EVEN WARNED RESPONDENTS NOT TO DO IT) TO QUOTE AN EMAIL IN RESPONSE. This is a new, and infuriating system to me.

Can you point me to anyone else who has deliberately and maliciously set up their email responses this way, because it is a novel and off-putting approach, that has been making me angry with each exchange? I've been sort of happy with you, in that you seem to be attempting to help, even though you have made no progress whatsoever in solving my problem, other than telling me what it isn't, but you can't imagine how frustrating this is. Deliberately attempting (in futility, obviously) to make it impossible to include context of email responses is, to me, insane.

That's where it stands at this point. Who is nuts?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:20 PM

November 18, 2008

In The Deep End Of The Gene Pool

Kay Hymowitz writes about the chaos of Darwinist dating.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:19 AM

November 14, 2008

Libertarianism and SF

Katherine Mangu-Ward, in an essay on Tor Books, says that the link remains strong.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:45 PM

November 13, 2008

Too Much Self Esteem

Never before have so many been so proud of so little:

The findings, published in the November issue of Psychological Science, support the idea that the "self-esteem" movement popular among today's parents and teachers may have gone too far, the study's co-author said.

"What this shows is that confidence has crossed over into overconfidence," said Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University.

She believes that decades of relentless, uncritical boosterism by parents and school systems may be producing a generation of kids with expectations that are out of sync with the challenges of the real world.

"High school students' responses have crossed over into a really unrealistic realm, with three-fourths of them expecting performance that's effectively in the top 20 percent," Twenge said.

Don't they realize that half of them are below median intelligence? Probably not, because they got an "A" in math, even though they didn't understand it.

One of the perverse and tragic problems with incompetence is that it generally includes an inability to recognize it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:16 AM

November 12, 2008

I'd Always Wondered That Myself

Lileks has been musing on why the Three Musketeers never had muskets:

Where are their guns? They never have guns. They must have been a grave disappointment when they showed up. We are here, my liege! The Musketeers! Fine, fine, take up position on the parapet, and aim down at - say, where are your muskets? We have them not, my liege! We live life at swordpoint! All for one, and one for - Fine, you have a motto, I know, but I wanted guns. Why do you call yourselves musketeers if you don't have any bloody muskets? Tres simplisme, monsieur! We must see the whites of our foes' eyes, wide with fright! We must - Oh shut up and take these muskets and start shooting at something, for God's sake.

Other amusing pop-cultural observations as well (and as usual).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:22 AM

November 11, 2008

Cottage Cheesy Ruminations

Did you know that there were regional styles of cottage cheese?

Neither did I, until I moved to Florida (and even then it took me over four years to discover it). I've been buying the stuff for a while, and mostly, I've been buying the store generic (Publix, if you must know), which I've never been that pleased with--liquidy and runny, regardless of curd size. Recently, Patricia tried a different, name brand. Same thing. So it's not like they saved money for the store brand by adding water and/or other locally available liquids, such as alligator effluent.

But I was recently there, searching for some other kind, and I found a brand called "Friendship." And on the side of the plastic container, it said, "California style." And a light went on. That's why the local cottage cheese sucked (at least to me). I'd been spoiled by eating the real stuff back in the Golden State for the previous quarter century. I bought it. It was dry, flavorful, ricotta like. Just the way I remembered from LA. One more reason that Florida sux (at least southeast Florida), though at least I can buy the exotic import here.

So, question. Why do the locals like it runny, and do they like it that way up in New York and New Jersey (whence came their ancient ancestors)? Are there other varieties in (say) the Midwest, or Mountain states?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:54 AM

November 06, 2008

Back To The Classics

The stick has been inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame. It's got to be one of the world's oldest toys. There are very few things that encourage and nourish the imagination to the same degree.

I don't know if I've told this story before (now that this blog is seven years old last month, I'm bound to start repeating), but when I was a kid, my grandfather had a couple toys that he made. They consisted of a length of quarter-inch steel barstock, with one end bent into a handle, and the other bent sideways into a short axle, on which he put a kid's wagon wheel. We had a blast pushing them around, and me and my cousins used to fight over who got to play with them.

[Evening update]

I should note that, while sticks make great toys, we shouldn't allow NASA to play with them, if it's going to cost billions of dollars and set the program back for years.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:18 PM

November 05, 2008

Well, That Sucks

Michael Crichton has died. I guess his cancer was a well-kept secret--I was certainly unaware that he was ill. One less voice for reason in political debate on scientific issues.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:40 AM

November 04, 2008

For Those Indulging In Drinking Games

Or for those just drinking. Here are some candidate-appropriate suggestions. I hate to confess that I would prefer the Obama Mama, because I am partial to dark rum (a nasty habit acquired from too many years in the Caribbean).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:55 PM

October 31, 2008

Brain Parasites

...and mind control. A suitable scientific topic for All Hallows Eve. I wonder if this could explain the Obama cult?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:47 AM

October 28, 2008


Barack Obama may be a better dancer than John McCain, but neither of them can hold a candle to sister Sarah rockin' out to Red Neck Woman in blue jeans. No more Niemann Marcus for her.

And Elaine Lafferty (yes, the Elaine Lafferty who used to edit Ms. Magazine) thinks that Sarah Palin is a "brainiac." Really:

...these high toned and authoritative dismissals come from people who have never met or spoken with Sarah Palin. Those who know her, love her or hate her, offer no such criticism. They know what I know, and I learned it from spending just a little time traveling on the cramped campaign plane this week: Sarah Palin is very smart.

I'm a Democrat, but I've worked as a consultant with the McCain campaign since shortly after Palin's nomination. Last week, there was the thought that as a former editor-in-chief of Ms. magazine as well as a feminist activist in my pre-journalism days, I might be helpful in contributing to a speech that Palin had long wanted to give on women's rights.

Now by "smart," I don't refer to a person who is wily or calculating or nimble in the way of certain talented athletes who we admire but suspect don't really have serious brains in their skulls. I mean, instead, a mind that is thoughtful, curious, with a discernable pattern of associative thinking and insight. Palin asks questions, and probes linkages and logic that bring to mind a quirky law professor I once had. Palin is more than a "quick study"; I'd heard rumors around the campaign of her photographic memory and, frankly, I watched it in action. She sees. She processes. She questions, and only then, she acts. What is often called her "confidence" is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:35 AM

October 22, 2008

Thoughts On "Himbos'

From Dr. Helen.

I've never been one, but not because I didn't want to be (at least when I wasn't in a relationship). I am, after all, a guy. But other (attractive) women have always governed my urge for promiscuity. It might be because I was never the "bad boy."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:07 PM
Lorne Michaels

...on Sarah Palin:

I think Palin will continue to be underestimated for a while. I watched the way she connected with people, and she's powerful. Her politics aren't my politics. But you can see that she's a very powerful, very disciplined, incredibly gracious woman. This was her first time out and she's had a huge impact. People connect to her.

There's also this, on how monolingual so-called liberals are:

...something dawned on me today, and Palin crystallized it. You see, I "get" Palin. And I "get" why my liberal friends don't "get" Palin. But my liberal friends just don't "get" why I "get" Palin -- and they never will.

...John Podhoretz...once said, "All conservatives are bilingual -- we have to be. We speak both liberal and conservative. But liberals are monolingual -- they don't have to be anything else. They speak liberal, and are completely ignorant of the conservative tongue."

I'm not a conservative, but I'm bilingual as well. But I sure get a lot of monolingual commenters at this blog.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:13 AM

October 18, 2008

Don't Know If I Can Bear To Watch

...the Wolverines play Penn State today.

But I probably will, if only out of morbid fascination. And the dim hope that the team that played the second half of the Wisconsin game will show up.

[Evening update]

Well, they showed up for the first quarter, but it was all downhill from there. They couldn't even beat the point spread. It's going to be a long season.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:21 PM

October 16, 2008

Bride Of Frankenstein

More evidence that the fashion world is not mine.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:29 PM
RIP, Edie

Edie Adams has died. Those too young to remember her should check out DVDs of Ernie Kovacs' show. Or go rent It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

I met her as a child growing up in Flint. She (and, I think, Kovacs) performed in one of the A.C. Spark Plug concerts that my father produced in the sixties, and we always got to meet the stars back stage at the IMA auditorium afterward, and often went to Luigi's for pizza (still the best pizza in the universe, IMHO). The place has autographed pictures of the stars that dined there on the wall. I think hers is still there.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:25 PM

October 15, 2008

She's Come Undone

Katherine Manju Ward says that Naomi Wolf has been driven completely around the bend.

She could have walked. Based on her previous writings, it was always bound to be a short trip.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:39 AM

October 11, 2008

Well, At Least It Can't Get Any Worse

The Wolverines just lost to Toledo, at home. It's going to be an ugly season. Clearly the Wisconsin game was a fluke. And while it was expected to be a rebuilding year, I don't think that anyone expected it to be this bad. Probably alumni are already calling for Rodriguez' head.

[Update a little while later]

Unsurprisingly, it was a pretty ugly game for Michigan. And the first time they'd ever been defeated by a MAC team.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:28 PM
Is There Enough Makeup In The World?

I thought it was a gag (in multiple senses of the word) when I heard that Annette Bening was going to play Helen Thomas in a movie. But it's twue, it's twue.

On the other hand, it's probably a lot easier to make Annette Bening look like Helen Thomas than vicey versy.

[Via Driscoll]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:12 PM

October 07, 2008


Should American writers secede from the Nobel Prize for literature?

There was a brief moment, after World War II, when the Nobel Committee allowed that America might produce more sophisticated writers. No one on either side of the Atlantic would quarrel with the awards to William Faulkner in 1949 or Ernest Hemingway in 1954. But in the 32 years since Bellow won the Nobel, there has been exactly one American laureate, Toni Morrison, whose critical reputation in America is by no means secure. To judge by the Nobel roster, you would think that the last three decades have been a time of American cultural drought rather than the era when American culture and language conquered the globe.

But that, of course, is exactly the problem for the Swedes. As long as America could still be regarded as Europe's backwater--as long as a poet like T.S. Eliot had to leave America for England in order to become famous enough to win the Nobel--it was easy to give American literature the occasional pat on the head. But now that the situation is reversed, and it is Europe that looks culturally, economically, and politically dependent on the United States, European pride can be assuaged only by pretending that American literature doesn't exist. When Engdahl declares, "You can't get away from the fact that Europe still is the center of the literary world," there is a poignant echo of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard insisting that she is still big, it's the pictures that got smaller.

Nothing gives the lie to Engdahl's claim of European superiority more effectively than a glance at the Nobel Prize winners of the last decade or so. Even Austrians and Italians didn't think Elfriede Jelinek and Dario Fo deserved their prizes; Harold Pinter won the prize about 40 years after his significant work was done. To suggest that these writers are more talented or accomplished than the best Americans of the last 30 years is preposterous.

Other than that I think Hemingway is vastly overrated, and ample fodder for parody, I agree. The Peace prizes have been a joke since Arafat and Rigoberto Menchu (not to mention Jimmy Carter), and I think that the literature prizes have gone the same way, decades ago.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:10 PM
SF For Voters

I've long thought that people who don't read, or haven't read science fiction are much more ill-prepared for the future. Well, in the near future, we have a presidential election coming up. Here are some suggestions for SF to read in preparation from some notable web pundits.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:19 AM

October 06, 2008

Off To The Movies

I very rarely see a movie in a theater. I'd say it averages once or twice a year (though we did see Dark Knight a couple months ago--the last one before that was The Astronaut Farmer). But tonight Patricia and I are going out to see American Carol to boost its opening weekend ratings (plus, it looks like it should be pretty funny, and I think we can all use a good laugh right now, given current events). At this point, I'm all about promoting and encouraging alternate media/viewpoints, particularly from Hollywood. I may or may not review it tomorrow.

[Monday morning update]


It was entertaining, and a good story, but not roll-in-the-aisles funny, at least for us. Of course, I've never been that big a Zucker/slapstick fan (e.g., I've never even seen any of the Naked Gun series). It's not the sort of flick that I would normally want to see in a theater, but I was happy to help boost the first weekend ratings. Of course, unlike the previous ones, there are some emotionally affecting moments in this one (quickly broken up, of course, by more crude slapstick).

So if you want to support this sort of politically incorrect movie (always a noble goal, in my opinion), spend a couple hours and spend the ten bucks. You'll have a good time, but don't expect too much.

[Note: this post has been bumped to the top, new stuff below]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:42 AM

October 04, 2008


It's that time of year again, for the (Ig)nobel prizes.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:20 AM
Justice, At Last

O.J. Simpson is finally going to do some hard time.

[Mid-afternoon update]

No smirking at this verdict. He's been getting away with bad behavior all of his life. He must be wondering what finally went wrong.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:25 AM

September 30, 2008

No Fascism Here

Nothing to see at all. Move along, move along.

As Jonah says:

All I need to know about your politics is whether you find this creepy or not.

Get out the crayolas and color me creeped out.

[Update mid afternoon]

Die Obamajugend Singt.

Roger Simon (who knows his fascists) has more thoughts.

[Update a few minutes later]

Some great comments at the Hit'n'Run link.:

[Olympics flashback]

The worst part is that the original singers were all replaced by much cuter kids.

[/Olympics flashback]

[Update about 3:15 PM EDT]

Exurban League has more, as does Confederate Yankee. It turns out to be astroturf:

Here's a partial list of those who helped produce this "grassroots" effort:

Jeff Zucker. This generation's Leni Riefenstahl. Except without the talent.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:48 AM
Just A Fad

Many continue to disbelieve (with no obvious basis) that there really is a market for people who want to go into space; that it is "just a fad," and that after a while, folks will get bored and the demand will disappear. I of course think that's nonsense, and that word of mouth of the experience will only increase interest in it as more and more people hear about it, and want to try it themselves. Any astronaut will tell you that it was a, if not the peak experience of their lives.

Well, Space Adventures has announced today that Charles Simonyi, who flew with them previously, is going to spend millions do it again.

Man, that first time must have really sucked.

[Update mid morning]

Clark Lindsey has the press release.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:44 AM

September 29, 2008

Please, Get Well

And live a thousand years.

Only P.J. O'Rourke could write an hilarious column about his cancer diagnosis:

Why can't death -- if we must have it -- be always glorious, as in "The Iliad"? Of course death continues to be so, sometimes, with heroes in Fallouja and Kandahar. But nowadays, death more often comes drooling on the toilet seat in the nursing home, or bleeding under the crushed roof of a teen-driven SUV, or breathless in a deluxe hotel suite filled with empty drug bottles and a minor public figure whose celebrity expiration date has passed.

I have, of all the inglorious things, a malignant hemorrhoid. What color bracelet does one wear for that? And where does one wear it? And what slogan is apropos? Perhaps that slogan can be sewn in needlepoint around the ruffle on a cover for my embarrassing little doughnut buttocks pillow.

Furthermore, I am a logical, sensible, pragmatic Republican, and my diagnosis came just weeks after Teddy Kennedy's. That he should have cancer of the brain, and I should have cancer of the ass ... well, I'll say a rosary for him and hope he has a laugh at me. After all, what would I do, ask God for a more dignified cancer? Pancreatic? Liver? Lung?

I don't believe in God, but it he's there, please bless him.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:49 PM

September 27, 2008

What A Comeback


I'd kind of given up on the Wolverines in the first half. Their defense was doing a great job, but they had to, because every time they stopped the Badgers, the offense gave it back to them.

But it looks like they're going to win a big comeback, from being down 19-0 at the half, to a 27-19 win. Four straight unanswered touchdowns, and they saved a score in the last three minutes with a fumble recovery inside their own red zone. It's going to be tough for Wisconsin to come back--they need eight points with less than two minutes remaining. Maybe there's some hope for the season after all.

[Update after the game]

They took it down to the wire. Wisconsin scored another touchdown, but missed the two-point conversion needed to tie, and then put the on-side kick out of bounds, so Michigan squeaked it out. Regardless, it's still the biggest comeback in school history I think (or at least in the top five) in the 500th game in the Big House, and a good way to kick off the Big Ten season with a new head coach.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:08 PM
Death Of A Film Legend

RIP, Paul Newman.

You can't live a life much more full than he seemed to. And unlike many of his Hollywood colleagues, the one way that he didn't seem to fill it up was with promiscuity and infidelity. It's all too rare that an actor is faithful for decades. Of course, as he noted himself, it probably helps to be married to Joanne Woodward.

I hadn't realized that he was a flier in the Navy in the Pacific. It's always tempting to say that they don't make them like that any more, but I suspect that they still do. A lot of them probably served in Iraq in the last few years, and we'll be hearing from them in the future.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:43 AM

September 25, 2008

Beavers (Finally) Defeat Trojans

Sorry, couldn't resist the headline. But it's true.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:51 PM
Haven't We All, At One Time Or Another?

Robert Wagner considered killing Warren Beatty.

Too bad he couldn't work up the nerve. It would have spared humanity from both Ishtar and Bulworth.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:33 PM

September 21, 2008

I Did Not Know That

I just discovered, via the latest Carnival of Space, that Bruce Cordell and some other folks have started a web-site/blog devoted to space and space colonization, called Twenty-First Century Waves.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:56 PM
Good Old Reliable

As is often the case, I agree with Glenn. They can have my land line when they pull the phone from my cold dead fingers.

Cells are simply not reliable enough for me to use them for everything, though I put up with it on a trip (when we were with T-Mobile, my cell phone didn't even work in the house). I wonder how many kids who have grown up with cell phones for voice and texting take their idiosyncrasies and unreliability for granted, because they don't have that much experience with a reliable and clean line? Plus, during the hurricanes, when all else failed, including power, cell service was out, but I always had phone service plus DSL on my land line. It allowed me to stay on line, by using a laptop and a voltage inverter plugged into the car.

The technology may continue to improve to the point at which I no longer feel the need for a land line, but we're nowhere near it yet, in my opinion.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:36 AM

What is it with the left and its hatred of cowboys?

And they wonder why they can't pull a majority of the vote.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:26 AM

September 20, 2008

The New Hollywood Blacklist

Here's an interesting extended look at the secret lives of conservatives in tinsel town:

Zucker gave Farley the script and, concerned that Farley's agent would advise him against accepting the role because of the film's politics, told the actor not to show it to anyone. Farley, best known for his recurring role in a series of Hertz commercials, read the script and called back the next day to accept.

When he met Zucker and Sokoloff on the set as shooting on the film began, he told them that he, too, had long considered himself a conservative. "I couldn't believe it," says Sokoloff. "We were afraid that he would not want to be involved in something that was so directly taking on the left and that he would not want to play the Michael Moore character."

Farley told me this story during a break in filming at the Daniel Webster Elementary School in Pasadena, last April, with Steve McEveety, the film's producer, listening in.

"I thought that the minute we started talking about politics that would be the end," Farley recalls. "There was this dance that we did--a dance familiar to conservative actors in Hollywood. Lots of actors have done it."

"All three of you," said McEveety.

"Yeah, all three of us."

...On one of the days I was on set, McEveety had invited Vivendi Entertainment president Tom O'Malley to meet Zucker. Vivendi had just agreed to distribute the film and had promised wide release--news that had the cast and crew of An American Carol in particularly good spirits.

O'Malley and Zucker chatted about the fact that O'Malley is the nephew of Candid Camera's Tom O'Malley and that they are both from the Midwest, among other things. Zucker thanked him for picking up the movie, which will be one of the first for Vivendi's new distribution arm. O'Malley told Zucker that he was particularly interested in this film in part because he, too, leans right.

Such revelations are common occurrences at the periodic meetings of the secret society of Hollywood conservatives known as the "Friends of Abe." The group, with no official membership list and no formal mission, has been meeting under the leadership of Gary Sinise (CSI New York, Forrest Gump) for four years. Zucker had spent a year working on a film with Christopher McDonald without learning anything about his politics. Shortly after the film wrapped, he ran into McDonald, best known as Shooter McGavin from Adam Sandler's Happy Gilmore, at one of these informal meetings.

"It's almost like people who are gay, show up at the baths and say, 'Oh, I didn't know you were gay!' " Zucker says...

Let's hope that they can come out of the closet some day.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:48 AM

September 19, 2008

The Undefended City

This NRO thing seems to be becoming a regular thing for Bill Whittle. He has some thoughts on confidence in our own culture and nation in the face of those who think it unworthy of defense or preservation:

...most of what I learned about Vietnam I learned from men like Oliver Stone. This self-loathing narcissist has repeatedly tried to inculcate in me a sense of despair and outrage at my own government, my own culture, my own people and ultimately myself. He tried to convince me -- and he is a skillfull man -- that my own government murdered my own President for political gain. I am told daily in those darkened temples that rogue CIA elements run a puppet government, that the real threat to the nation comes from the generals that defend it, or from the businessmen that provide the prosperity we take for granted.

I sit with others in darkened rooms, watching films like Redacted, Stop-Loss, and In the Valley of Elah, and see our brave young soldiers depicted as murderers, rapists, broken psychotics or ignorant dupes -visions foisted upon me by bitter and isolated millionaires such as Brian de Palma and Paul Haggis and all the rest.

I've been told this story in some form or another, every day of every week of the past 30 years of my life. It wasn't always so.

But it is certainly so today. And standing against all this hypnotic power -- the power of the mythmakers in Hollywood, the power of the information peddlers in the media, the corrosive power of America-hating professors on every campus in America... against all that we find an old warrior -- a paladin if ever there was one -- an old, beat-up warhorse standing up in defense of his city one last time. And beside him: a wonder. A common person... just a regular mom who goes to work, does a difficult job with intelligence and energy and grace and every-day competence and then puts it away to go home and have dinner with the family.

Against all of that stand these two.

No wonder they must be destroyed. Because -- Sarah Palin especially -- presents a mortal threat to these people who have determined over cocktails who the next President should be and who now clearly mean to grind into metal shards the transaxle of their credibility in order to get the result they must have. Truly, they are before our eyes destroying the machine they have built in order to get their victory.

We'll see.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:18 PM

September 17, 2008

The Pixel Race

I've long thought that the resolution of most digital cameras has reached the point at which it's overkill, and there are a lot of other improvements that the camera needs. Unfortunately, the marketing people at Canon don't agree:

Canon engineers are being held back from developing new sensor technology by marketing departments in a "race for megapixels", claims an employee of the Japanese photography company.

The employee told Tech Digest that Canon have the technology to "blow the competition away" in terms of image sensors, but are instead being asked to focus on headline figures like the number of megapixels a camera has. When asked for his opinion on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, which we covered this morning, the employee said:

"I am hugely disappointed because once again Canon engineers are dictated by their marketing department and had to keep up with the megapixel race. They have the technology to blow the competition away by adapting the new 50D sensor tech in a full frame format and just easing off a little on the megapixels. Although no formal testing has been done on the new model yet, judging by the spec and technology used, it just seems to be as good or as bad as the competition - not beating them by a mile (which we used to)."

I'd rather have more speed and better S/N ratio myself.

There's an amusing discussion of this, and the perennial war between marketing and engineering, including examples from Dilbert, over at Free Republic.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:01 PM

September 14, 2008

A New Vote For Palin/McCain

You know that Tina Fey has to be hoping for a Republican victory. It's a guaranteed gig for at least four, and maybe a dozen years.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:33 AM

September 13, 2008

Where's The Smart Money?

Michigan, or Notre Dame? The real season starts today.

Also, interestingly, my current home-town university Florida Atlantic, is playing the Spartans today.

[Update late in the first quarter]

Well, so far, it looks like the smart money was on the Irish. They're up 21-zip in the first quarter, on two Wolverine turnovers. It'll be a blowout if Michigan doesn't get their act together.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:51 AM

September 10, 2008

The Top Six Heroes

...of Neal Stephenson.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:43 PM

September 09, 2008

The New Season

An interview with the creator of the Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:27 PM
Who Is Overpaid?

Not engineers.

Engineer's salaries, taking into consideration education and responsibilities, the stress of accelerated delivery schedules and their direct impact on corporate profits and overall success of the company, seem absolutely inadequate.

Well, I've known a few who were. But no, not in general.

In many of these overpaid professions, there's some kind of government-induced market failure going on (e.g., longshoremen), but in a lot of cases, it's just the occasional irrationality of the market place.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:10 AM

September 08, 2008

Building Character

Jessica Gavora, native Alaskan (and aka better half of Jonah Goldberg) has some thoughts on basketball and Sarah Palin:

We didn't play basketball to pad our college applications or fulfill some bureaucrat's notion of "gender equity." We played because the winters were long and cold and dark. There was nothing else to do. Maybe as a result, basketball was deadly serious business. Away games were played at the end of eight-hour bus rides or harrowing plane landings in frozen, remote villages. Our opponents were tough, and the fans were unforgiving. And even though the law that feminists like to credit with all female athletic success, Title IX, was then unenforced in high school sports, we girls wouldn't have dreamed of taking second place to the boys--nor did we.

Palin earned her now-famous nickname on the hardcourt--"Sarah Barracuda." Her enemies have tried to belittle her by pointing to her stint as a beauty queen, but it is clear that Palin's background in sports, more than any other experience, is what has made her the existential threat to liberal feminism (and possibly the Democratic ticket) that she is today.

I wonder how she'd do one on one with Senator Obama? Did he ever win a state championship for his team? Perhaps it's another comparison that his campaign should avoid.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:17 AM
That's Not A Man, Baby

The latest in frightening fashion.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:45 AM

August 25, 2008

Being Back In LaLa Land

...I really appreciate reading about the seven most retardedmentally-challenged ways that celebrities attempt to go green.

These were all funny at the time, but it's nice to see a well-annotated compendium.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:34 PM

August 21, 2008

Sex Is Associated With Sports?

Who knew?

Only people unfamiliar with history, going back to the original Olympic games. Or football, for that matter...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:01 PM
Sandwich Artists

Lileks explains why I rarely go to Subway.

I'd won a free 6" sub. This was timely, since I was planning to buy one for my wife. We finished our meal; I went back to the place where the Sandwich Artists labor in various degrees of surly disinterest, and presented the coupon. The Artist began to craft the meal out the chopped and processed carbclay arrayed before him - and that's when the manager walked over.

"For future reference," she said, "those are for the next visit."

I pointed to the small print on the back of the ticket. "Actually, it says for your next order."

"Well, it means visit. It's how we keep track of them in the back." She jerked a thumb towards the back of the store, where the Something wet and spiny sat in a crate, swallowing souls and dreams and crapping out rules and procedure.

If there are two things I don't like, it's someone who tells me that fine print doesn't mean what it says, and alludes to some company process that makes things simpler not for me, or for the employees, but some theoretical person on whose behalf the system was set in place years ago by a team of consultants who have already moved on to rejiggering something else that worked perfectly fine. On the other hand, after years of dealing with restaurant employees who couldn't give a fig about the job, it's difficult to carp when you find someone who does - unless, of course, that person has decided to make a point about a free sandwich for future reference.

Also, a trip to the museum.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:29 AM

August 18, 2008

Ignorance Of America

By the Brits.

Frequent commenter "Fletcher Christian" is a poster child for this phenomenon. And as one of the commenters at Glenn's post notes, the BBC is largely responsible.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:06 AM

August 14, 2008

The Jokes

...they almost write themselves. The headline itself is wonderful:

Giant inflatable turd escapes moorings and brings down electricity line

Read the last line, too.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:56 AM

August 13, 2008

You're Not The Only One, Glenn

I'm not paying any attention to the Olympics, either. I haven't seen a single competition, and didn't watch the opening ceremonies. I don't think I've watched any channel showing it for more than a few seconds.

It's not political--I'm just thoroughly uninterested. I also think that it's highly overrated as a kumbaya enhancer, and I'm more interested in people for their intellectual prowess than physical abilities. I was amused a few years ago when one of my trolls (this one from Norway, but not HH) "warned" me that if the US didn't behave better internationally, we might not be selected for future Olympics. I told him that wasn't a bug--it was a feature.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:07 PM

August 06, 2008

Dumbing Down

Peter Wood has an essay on the effects of our culture on science education.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:00 PM

August 05, 2008

Hey, Scalzi Fans

If you pre-order at Amazon, you can get a copy of his latest in the series that started with Old Man's War for less than ten bucks.

[Wednesday morning update]

Sorry, I misread the Amazon email. It's a savings of $8.48, not a price. Still a good deal, though.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:40 PM
Summer Reading

Ken Murphy has a bunch of reviews of solar fiction for kids.

Hook 'em while they're young.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:21 AM
It's That Time Of The Week Again

Lileks examines the train wreck that is Garrison Keillor's latest:

I'm sorry, but I'm just fascinated by his column. Each is nearly identical in formlessness, subject and general pointlessness. To be fair: we all write at haste and repent at leisure, unless we can somehow get it out of the Google cache. We all make inelegant remarks that seemed wonderfully writerly at the moment but curdle when exposed to another pair of eyes. It's the perils of blogging. But he has an entire week to write these things. Never does he attempt to make an argument or explore a line of thought - it's just flat assertions ladled out with nuance or shading. The sun rises, Bush is bad, life is long but also short and so you should sit outside and drink lemonade and think of the people who came before you and sat outside and drank lemonade and there is a comfort in that continuity and we need all the comfort we can get in these days when nihilists in golf pants are everywhere and the Republic lies in ruins. Also, he is given to run-on sentences. This week has perhaps the finest example yet.

If that's not enough, there is some cereal blogging, too.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:06 AM

August 04, 2008

Get Ready To Split A Gut the world's oldest jokes.

Well, OK, not so much. It says they're old jokes, not good jokes.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:34 AM

July 30, 2008

Speaking Of General Zod

At least one will be saved from the coming carbon apocalypse:

Al Gore--or, as he is known in his own language, Gore-Al--placed his son, Kal-Al, gently in the one-passenger rocket ship, his brow furrowed by the great weight he carried in preserving the sole survivor of humanity's hubristic folly.

"There is nothing left now but to ensure that my infant son does not meet the same fate as the rest of my doomed race," Gore said. "I will send him to a new planet, where he will, I hope, be raised by simple but kindly country folk and grow up to be a hero and protector to his adopted home."

Hope the poles aren't so warm there that he can't build an arctic fortress of pomposity.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:17 PM

July 29, 2008

The Era Of Carbon Craziness

Is it almost over? Let's hope so.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:30 AM

July 24, 2008

Not This Again

The "rocks have rights" crowd are worried again about vandalizing space:

Edward O Wilson has suggested that biophilia, our appreciation of Earth's biosphere, is a by-product of evolving in this environment. If he's right, we might find we don't care about other worlds in the same way. This raises the alarming prospect of rapacious lunar mining altering the view from Earth.

Maybe our biophilia will kick in here: after all, our view of the Moon is one of Earth's natural vistas. Surely we can agree that we don't want that changed? It is an awesome thing to look up and remember that human footprints once marked the Moon's surface. It's quite another to imagine the moon looking like an abandoned quarry.

No, we can't agree. Note that this was in the context of a discussion on "eco issues" on the moon.

Here's the "eco issue" on the moon (and in the rest of the universe, as far as we know right now). There is no "eco" there. There is also no "bio" for our "biophilia" to kick in about. Ecology and biology are about life, something that exists only on earth. It's one thing to want to preserve an ecosystem, but when one simply wants to preserve the entire universe in its current "pristine" state, there's something unsettling and misanthropic going on.

Why is it all right for a meteroid to slam into the lunar surface and leave a crater (which has happened billions of times throughout history, and continues today) which is how the moon got to look the way it is, but a pit for mining is verboten? Would he object to seeing the lights of a lunar city up there? Does he have any idea how far away it is and how much mining one would have to do to see it from earth, even with a telescope?

What is this worship of entropy? What is this loathing of humanity? What is this apparent loathing of life itself?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:47 AM

July 23, 2008


Victor Davis Hanson:

The distinction again is that Obama appeals to the gullible and puerile as a sort of James Dean candidate. And thus he is not to be cross-examined, but instead free to shun interviews and clarifications, and prone to avoid reporters who might be less than adulatory -- the normal stuff that so irritates the supposedly sensitive press that has now gone brain-dead.

What is fascinating about the tingly-leg press is that they are exhibiting the very symptoms of arrested development and star-struck immaturity that they always accuse America in toto of suffering. The usual critique of the elite media is that we are a nation of mindless followers, who go from one fad to another, and value looks, youth, and pizzazz over substance.

But the current spectacle suggests something worse -- that the press who claims they know better and are more sophisticated are, in fact, far more infantile than most Americans, and essentially Access Hollywood, People Magazine, and the National Enquirer dressed up with network logos and NY-DC bylines.

I think that's been clear since Katie Couric was given the anchor at the CBS Evening News.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:27 AM
The New Blacklist

Maybe in an Obama administration, the House will set up a Pro-American Activity Committee, and properly investigate these subversives out in Hollywood:

David Horowitz, another Hollywood conservative and founder of the Los Angeles-based Center for the Study of Popular Culture, said the group is serving a good purpose but he worries its members won't be aggressive enough.

"There's a kind of ... intellectual terror in this town. People are terrorized; they're afraid to say what they think. So what Gary is doing to provide aid and comfort to its victims is admirable, and I applaud him for it," he said. "But my concern is it's not going to be much more than that."

They told me that if George Bush was elected, that brave artists would live in fear of losing their livelihoods for their freedom of expression. They were right!

"Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the National Rifle Association?"

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:55 AM
Rocket Racing Meets Fashion

Over at Alan Boyle's place. I think that this is a very encouraging development.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:41 AM

July 22, 2008

Just A Rant

And probably a futile one, and one that I've even probably kvetched about before. But when did top posting become the norm for email? Was it Microsoft and AOL's fault?

And is there anything that can be done at this point? In many extended discussions, I feel like I'm driving on the wrong side of the road in my own country.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:14 PM

July 21, 2008

Baseball History In The Making?

Assuming that this is correct, the biggest shut out in history is 22-0. Detroit is currently leading the Royals 18-0 in the top of the eighth, with men on second and third, and two out.

[Update a couple minutes later]

They got one more run to end the inning. Going into the bottom of the eighth, it's 19-0. They scored ten runs in that inning. Three more in the ninth ties the record, and four breaks it. It could happen. Their bats seem pretty hot tonight, and Kansas City is deep into its bullpen. The Tigers just brought in Dolsi to preserve the shut out.

[Update a couple minutes later]

They blew it by relieving Miner. Dolsi let in a run on a wild pitch.


[One more update]

Wow, they really blew it. The Royals got four runs in the bottom of the eighth off Dolsi and Lopez. Of course, once they lost the shut out, it didn't really matter. But people are going to be asking for a long time why Leland relieved out a pitcher who was pitching a three-hit shut out, with one who had an equivalent ERA.

[Update on Tuesday morning]

I guess I'd misread the box score. Miner had been replaced the inning before, before it looked like there was a history-making shut out to preserve.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:17 PM
The Age-Old Debate Continues

Was Gotham City New York, or Chicago?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:43 AM

July 20, 2008

"'The Godfather' Of Superhero Movies"

That's the briefest review of the new Batman flick that I've seen.

I'll probably wait untll the DVD. I'm not that big a fan of dark movies.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:13 PM
I'll Try To Restrain Myself

The FDA says to not eat lobster guts:

Health officials for years have advised against eating the tomalley, the lobster liver some regard as a delicacy. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reiterated its advisory Friday, however, after some lobster livers tested positive for high levels of toxins caused by large blooms of red tide algae.

No problemo for me. I'll stick with the meat, as I always have.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:44 AM

July 17, 2008

A New Toy For Rich People

A submersible speedboat that can dive to twelve hundred feet. If there's a market for this, at a few million a pop, I'll bet that XCOR will be able so sell a few Lynx's to private owners.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:24 AM
The Science Of Batman

How plausible is he? Alan Boyle has done some research.

I agree that the getting-knocked-out-all-the-time thing is a problem. But no more so for Bruce Wayne than almost every teevee detective I watched when I was young. It seems like Mannix or Jim Rockford should have been sitting around drooling with all of the concussions they took almost every episode.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:24 AM

July 12, 2008

Another Great Newsman Gone

Condolences to friends, family and colleagues of Tony Snow. I wonder if major television news people die in threes as well? Unlike Russert, this wasn't as unexpected--he had been fighting the cancer for a long time, and his mother died of it. But I hadn't been aware that he was near the end.

[Update in the evening]

Mark Steyn has a short tribute (not to imply that many others don't, and I suspect that he'll have a longer one in due time). This is a very interesting point politically:

He had a rare temperament in today's politics, and the Administration might have been spared the vicissitudes of these last five years had he become press secretary earlier.

Yes, of the many failings of George W. Bush, one of them is loyalty to previous staff. Scott McClellan was completely out of his element as WH spokesman, yet he was allowed to blunder through during many of the worst years of the administration. Things might have gone much differently had Tony Snow been brought in earlier. He would have challenged much of the nonsense that the press was putting forward much earlier, without looking like a deer in the headlights. It just shows how important perception can be.

[Update a while later]

Here's an encomium from Rick Moran.

It's very hard to come up with anything negative about Tony Snow, though I'm sure that one or two of my regular commenters will make the attempt in the service of their vile political agendas. I hope that I'm wrong.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:19 AM

July 08, 2008

Lileks On Keillor

James takes on, once again, his fellow Minnesota scribe:

Mr. Keillor feels he has done okay in the last eight years but has a hot collar and ground-up teeth thinking about what the Current Occupant has done to the country the little girl will inherit. He's mad about spending - I'm with him there, although a bit perplexed to find Keillor coming down on the side of spending less - and he doesn't approve of the war. It ruined his Rockwell moment.

Being unable to watch a kid play baseball because you are mad at George Bush does not necessarily mean you are a better person or a person more attuned to truth and the future.It might mean, at best, you are a person who writes run-on sentences stringing together predictable assertions; at worst, it might mean you're anhedonic, and looking for scapegoats. I look at my daughter and consider her future, and I see possibility and peril as well. But that's up to us, and while I'm sure Mr. Keillor anticipates the day where he is legally required to pay the taxes he heretofore feels he is morally required to pay, we can do fine without him. We've done fine without his money so far, and I think we can keep that up. Unless he's been paying in at the pre-tax-cut level, of course. In which case: hats off! A principled man is rare in any era.

You know, I actually greatly enjoy Keillor's books, but when you let him loose on an editorial page, he seems to go completely nuts. Bush derangement is a very real thing.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:14 AM

July 07, 2008


To Tyson Homosexual.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:52 PM
Thomas Disch

B-Chan has some thoughts on the ending of his life.

I never read much by him, but by all accounts, he did seem to be an unhappy man. I'm sure that being a homosexual in the fifties and sixties didn't help. In any event, if there's a better place, here's hoping he's there now.

More links over at Instapundit.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:52 AM

July 06, 2008

Pitchers' Duel


I just happened to glance at the Tigers-Seahawks game, and they're tied 1-1, in the fourteenth inning. They need to win to keep pace with Chicago and the Twins.

[Sunday night update]

OK, they pulled it out not long after, 2-1. Though as a commenter notes, it''s a little depressing that they had to fight so hard against the Seahawks.

[Update on Monday]

OK, OK, I get it.

I'm obviously more of a Tigers fan than a baseball fan, and I don't follow Seattle sports at all. Also obviously, I meant Mariners.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:18 PM

July 04, 2008

Brush Up

There will be a test tonight. A guide to fireworks effects.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:15 AM

July 02, 2008

More WALL-E Thoughts

Lileks discusses the grief that he's gotten over the fact that he enjoyed the movie:

Shannen Coffin at the Corner notes that you never know how much hate mail you'll get until you take on a Pixar film. I'd add that the opposite is oddly true as well: I got a lot of very negative email about the review, some of which had to do with "shilling" (as one writer put it) for Disney, but most of which had to do with buying an eco-scary / anti-capitalist agenda because the characters were cute. Apparently I can write for years and demonstrate skepticism towards catastrophic doom-mongering, and it counts for nil. Ah well. Look, I think "JFK" is a pretty good piece of filmmaking. Its ideas are rubbish and its effect pernicious, but I still think it's a compelling work. Doesn't mean I believe a single frame.

Sometimes you separate the ideas from the movie, sometimes you can't, sometimes you shouldn't, and sometimes you don't want to because you approve of the ideas. Asking me to reject Wall-E because its unrealistic premise has contemporary overtones is like asking me to swear off Star Trek because Roddenberry wanted a post-religious collectivist one-world government that eschewed money and property.

He also chides Andrew Sullivan for stereotyping:

Apparently Andrew Sullivan took note of the review, and while I appreciate the patronage, this rankles a bit:

"Well Lileks loved it. Not all conservatives are stupid ideologues."

And not all liberals are stupid anti-consumerists who spaz out when someone praises the Works of Walt! Who'd have thunk it. Really, if one wants to cling, bitterly, to the notion that a believe in lower taxes and strong foreign policy and greater individual freedom re: speech and property automatically translates to a crimpled, reductive, censorious view of pop culture, go right ahead.

Last night, I watched the end of Ratatouille, and afterward was a history of Pixar. Interesting stuff. It was a great example of the powerful synergy you can get when you successfully meld C. P. Snow's two cultures and combine traditional animators with computer geeks.

As good as they're getting at this stuff, though, I don't think that it's the death of 2-D animation. I suspect that as the 3-D stuff continues to asymptotically approach verisimilitude, there will be rebellious young turks who want to draw cartoons, and so the cycle will begin anew.

In any event, the foofaraw makes me want to see the movie in the theater, something I haven't done with a Pixar movie since Toy Story (though I wanted to with Ratatouille).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:56 AM

June 30, 2008

Two Movie Reviews

Kyle Smith isn't impressed with WALL-E. Lileks loved it (though he's an admitted Disney/Pixarphile).

Guess I'll have to see for myself now.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:36 AM

June 29, 2008

Hooking Them Early

Behold, Space Camp Barbie. Maybe math isn't as hard as she thought.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:17 AM

June 26, 2008

Is Big Government A Mac?

Or a PC?

[Update in the afternoon]

Why we should want big government to be a PC:

You know I love the products, but Apple is a fascist company. I should know -- I worked there. Even got personally cussed out by Steve Jobs (may his name be praised forever).

Apple products are based on centralized command-and-control. Apple makes the hardware, software, and -- increasingly -- many key applications ("everything inside the state, nothing outside the state"). The Apple faithful believe that the computing world dominated by Microsoft is bad (if not outright evil) and must be redeemed. If only everyone changed to their way of computing, we would reach computing nirvana. And society would be changed for the better, too. If only.

The analogy may be getting a little strained.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:47 AM

June 22, 2008

Being All Judgmental

That's what Rachel Lucas is doing. Well, someone has to do it, since society at large seems to have abdicated its role.

Like her, I was struck by the stupidity of this, reported apparently completely unironically, as though it made, you know, sense:

The Gloucester baby boom is forcing this city of 30,000 to grapple with the question of providing easier access to birth control...

Well, hey folks. It's hard to see what that would do for this particular little baby boomlet.

There may be some problems that are solved by easier access to birth control, but brainless young women going out of their way to get knocked up isn't one of them. I think, for that, there will have to be some other solution (unless by "easier access," they mean tubal ligation).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:34 AM

June 21, 2008

Deep Misanthropy

Ed Driscoll has some thoughts on haters of humanity, who are now making Hollywood films to convey their views.

Hey, how about if we save the earth by migrating into space?

Somehow, I don't think they'll like that, either.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:25 PM

June 19, 2008

Cyd And The Cape

Both are discussed today over at Lileks' place. Also, judicial overreach in the Great White North.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:39 AM

June 18, 2008

A Great Dancer, Gone

Cyd Charisse has died. I hadn't realized this before, but she was about a month younger than my mother. Here's a French fan site.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:44 AM

June 12, 2008

The Top Ten

...male bashing ads.

I'm sure that the Canadian Human Rights Commission will be weighing in any minute.

[crickets chirping]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:47 PM

June 09, 2008

Obama Doesn't Have Charisma

He's glamourous. Virginia Postrel, a glamour maven, explains:

Charisma is a personal quality that inspires followers to embrace the charismatic leader's agenda (an agenda that, in the original sense of the word charisma, is seen as divinely inspired.) Glamour, by contrast, encourages the audience to project its own yearnings onto the glamorous figure. So, in this case, Sebastian Mallaby imagines that Obama will find "a way of crawling back from his embarrassing talk of reopening NAFTA." Mallaby maintains his own views about what's good for economic growth; he doesn't defer to Obama's own vision.

When voters motivated by charisma disagree with the leader they've backed, they support him anyway and possibly even change their minds about the right policy course. When voters motivated by glamour disagree, they become disillusioned and angry.

Let's hope for a peak of that come around late October.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:13 AM

June 06, 2008

More Vampire Rights

Jon Schaff, who started the subject, has what he hopes is the last word. I have to confess being a little lost in the conversation, not having been a Buffy fan.

And if it's the end of the vampire discussion, perhaps it's time we moved on. To zombies.

[Update mid-Friday afternoon]

Well, I should have Googled the subject; we could have saved ourselves a lot of discussion. Here's a Rothbardian treatise on the subject from three years ago:

In The Ethics of Liberty, his great reconciliation of Austrian economics and natural law ethics, Murray Rothbard commented that a new species of beings having "the characteristics, the nature of the legendary vampire, and [that] could only exist by feeding on human blood"(1) would not be entitled to individual rights, regardless of their intelligence, because of their status as deadly enemies of humanity. I wish to discuss this issue in more detail and argue that Rothbard, who was kind of a night owl himself, was unfair to those mysterious creatures. The libertarian theory of justice would in fact easily allow for a peaceful coexistence with vampires.

But of course. Just no non-consensual neck biting.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:00 AM
Setting The Record Straight

The commentary continues over at Clark Lindsey's place about how long it will/should take to get low-cost access into space. I probably should respond to this one comment, though, since it seems to be advancing a lot of mythology about me and weightless flights.

Rand Simberg is a right wing nutjob, but, he is a true believer in space. He went with Weaver Aerospace to sell Zero-Grav flights to Ron Howard for the Apollo 13 movie. He had the proposal, he had the aircraft, he had a credible charter operator. NASA dove in and gave the flights away for free. Sadly, Simberg then went and did the same deal for "From the Earth to the Moon" and NASA did it to him again.

Well, to start off, of course (and nothing to do with space), but I'm neither "right wing" or a "nutjob." As far as I know.

But to deal with the more substantive statements, this is mostly wrong. I did put in a proposal to Ron Howard's production company for Apollo XIII, and I did have a charterable 727 lined up. Our plan was to palletize the movie set, and use the freight doors to load and unload between shoots, so the airplane could continue to be used for other things. We weren't going to get a special type certificate for it, as Zero-G did (at a cost of millions of dollars and many years), because it was going to be flown on an experimental certificate out of Vegas or Mojave. This was all greased with the local FAA FSDO, with whom we had worked to do T-39 flights for R&D, using Al Hansen's plane in Mojave (he's Burt's next-door neighbor).

But NASA didn't "dive in and and give the flights away for free." NASA originally sent Howard's people to me, and I had a meeting with them in Century City, when they asked me for a proposal. I submitted the proposal, and was told by the executive producer that they were looking it over, but before they were going to make a commitment, they wanted to try if in the K-bird first, to see if filming was practical in that environment. I was suspicious, but there wasn't much I could do. At the same time, they were telling NASA that we couldn't do the job, and that they had fulfilled their obligation to try to find a commercial provider, so now they had to use the KC-135. So they basically lied to both me and JSC. I don't think they got free flights--I believe that JSC was reimbursed some (probably arbitrary, since NASA never knew what the Comet really cost) amount per hour.

Somewhere I actually documented the history for NASA, and sent it to June Edwards (I don't know if she's still with the agency) at Code L (legal office) at HQ, when she had to do some fact finding at the behest of Dana Rohrabacher's office. Unfortunately, I lost it in a hard disk failure a few years ago.

Anyway, NASA was not the villain. We were both lied to by people in Hollywood (I'll give you a minute to express your shock at the very thought of such a thing).

Oh, and as for "From the Earth to the Moon," I never had any involvement in it whatsoever. It was basically a lot of the same people, given that it was a Tom Hanks production, and they just went back to NASA. I saw no point in wasting my time trying to put together another proposal that would be sure to be rejected.

And of course, when Lee Weaver was killed in an auto accident, a couple weeks before 911, that was pretty much the end of any interest I had in getting a weightless flight business going, after almost a decade of struggle, and a lot of debt, with which I'm still burdened.

Peter had money lined up for Zero-G, and I didn't see any way to break in, when it was uncertain how large the market would be. Also, if I'd known what he had to go through to get the special type certificate for the airplane from the FAA, I'd have probably not even attempted it. He might even feel the same way, for all I know, but he's through the tunnel now.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:49 AM

June 05, 2008

Why Hollywood Sux (Part 34,652)

It's not bad enough that they are so deficient in creativity that they have to make flicks out of old television shows and comic books. Now they're reduced to remaking stupid schlock that should never have been made the first time. Behold, what the world has been awaiting--a new version of Capricorn One. Well, at least they won't be likely to compound the cinematic crime by including OJ, this time.

On a cheerier note, there's apparently a much better (to put it mildly--I shouldn't even be discussing them in the same post) SF movie on the way.

...what I have is a story where businessmen and engineers are the heroes, the protestors are the bad guys, people accept risk willingly and some of them die for it, where they do amazing things and go to astonishing places on their own dime, where nuclear power is good and essential and the motivation is not money or power but freedom and a love of humanity, and where America and all she stands for is a beacon in a darkening world.

It's a crazy bizarro world of science fiction!

Hollywood would never make anything like that.

Good luck, Bill--we'll be looking forward to seeing it, and ignoring the other.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:01 AM

June 02, 2008

Breakfast Cereals and Garrison Keillor

Don't miss today's Bleat, over at Lileks place. He has a proper fisking of his fellow Minnesotan scribe.

[Late morning update]

As Jay Manifold points out, the permalink is wrong--it's pointing to Friday's Bleat. For now, until it's fixed, just go to today's Bleat.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:42 AM

May 30, 2008

ISDC Eye Candy

Well, for guys, anyway.

OK, I recognize Michelle Murray (of FAA-AST) on the left, but who are the other two? Name tags are hidden. As Glenn notes, there are a lot more women (and attractive ones) at space conferences these days (compared to, say, the eighties). I think that has something to do with the excitement of the privatization activities, though the increase in the number of women engineers since then is probably a contributor as well. Not that there aren't roles for other professions in opening up the frontier.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:22 PM
Problems I Will Never Have

Eight annoying types of people you'll run into at Starbucks.

I don't frequent Starbucks, because, not being a coffee drinker, or consumer of high-glycemic carbs, they have absolutely no items that appeal to me. But those who do may find this amusing. I particularly liked the Starbucks hater. I might be him if, you know, I ever went to Starbucks. But unlike him, I practice what I preach.

[Via Geek Press]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:55 AM

May 29, 2008

Space Media Panel

Clark is blogging a panel on how the media cover space, to which it looks like Instapundit was a last-minute addition (he's not listed in the program).

[Evening update]

Clark has a new post up on the spaceport panel.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:22 PM

May 27, 2008

Alan Alda For President

Well, not really, but he did show how to beat an Obama. Unfortunately, McCain isn't the man to propound those views.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:40 AM

May 23, 2008

For A Friday Morning

Fifty stunning photos.

[Via Geek Press]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:37 AM

May 20, 2008

Irony At Epcot

A travelogue by Lileks:

The plot was hugely ironical: Timon and Roomba or whatever the warthog is named were building a resort in the jungle, and damning a stream to create a water feature. Simba showed up to demonstrate the error of their ways. The hilarity of any manifestation of the Disneyverse criticizing an artificial lake to build a resort goes without saying. And it did go without saying, of course. Simba said that Timon and Roomba or whatever were acting like another creature that did not behave in tune with nature, and that creature was . . . man.

BOO HISS, I guess. Jaysus, I tire of this. Big evil stupid man had done many stupid evil bad things, like pile abandoned cars in the river, dump chemicals into blue streams, and build factories that vomited great dark clouds into the sky. Like the People's State Lead Paint and Licensed Mickey Merchandise Factory in Shanghai Province, perhaps? Simba gave us a lecture about materialism and how it hurt the earth - cue the shot of trees actually being chopped down, and I'm surprised the sap didn't spurt like blood in a Peckinpah movie - and other horrors, like forests on fire because . . . well, because it was National Toss Glowing Coals Out the Car Window Month, I guess. I swear the footage all came from the mid-70s; it was grainy and cracked and the cars were all late-60s models. Because I'm pretty sure we're not dumping cars into the rivers as a matter of course any more. You're welcome to try to leave your car on the riverbank and see how that turns out for you.

At the end Timon and Phoomba decided to open a green resort, and everything's hakuna Montana.

Follow the link for the rest of the story.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:13 AM

May 18, 2008

Better Than The Book?

Frederica Mathewes-Green thinks that Prince Caspian is a much better film than a book. There is also a list of other films for which many think this the case.

But doesn't it matter (and quite a lot) whether one reads the book, or sees the movie first? If you like either a book or a movie when you first experience it, it seems more likely to me that you'll be disappointed when you do the other, because it may not meet your expectations, or have the features that you liked.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:31 AM

May 16, 2008

And In Plenty Of Time For Christmas

Hey, Father's Day is coming up, too. This isn't new, but it's the first time I'd come across it. Behold, the complete ACME catalog. Considering the election coming up, I could use the anti-nightmare machine. And the atom re-arranger sounds like a proto-form of nanotech and molecular assemblers.

I wonder if they have a gift registry?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:13 PM

May 14, 2008

Etymology Question

When did "kick-up" become an adjective?

I ask because I get a lot of porn spam using it that way in the subject line (e.g., "kick-up video of Mariah Carey").

Do people who are into this stuff commonly use that phrase? I've never heard of it in any other context. The only Google hit for "kick-up" that seems pertinent is this column by Mark Morford, which is basically a spam dump of his inbox. And it's not even in the top ten hits. The vast majority of them are a verb (as I would expect). I would have thought there'd be something in the Urban Dictionary, but no.

So is it some new usage that some spammer made up, and it's supposed to be obvious what it means? Anyone more hip than me (i.e., almost everyone) have any idea where this comes from?

[Update in the afternoon]

Heh. Google works fast. This post is now number seven in a search for "'kick-up' adjective."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:47 AM

May 13, 2008

Some Graduation Advice

From P. J. O'Rourke:

Don't moan. I'm not going to "pass the wisdom of one generation down to the next." I'm a member of the 1960s generation. We didn't have any wisdom.

We were the moron generation. We were the generation that believed we could stop the Vietnam War by growing our hair long and dressing like circus clowns. We believed drugs would change everything -- which they did, for John Belushi. We believed in free love. Yes, the love was free, but we paid a high price for the sex.

My generation spoiled everything for you. It has always been the special prerogative of young people to look and act weird and shock grown-ups. But my generation exhausted the Earth's resources of the weird. Weird clothes -- we wore them. Weird beards -- we grew them. Weird words and phrases -- we said them. So, when it came your turn to be original and look and act weird, all you had left was to tattoo your faces and pierce your tongues. Ouch. That must have hurt. I apologize.

So now, it's my job to give you advice. But I'm thinking: You're finishing 16 years of education, and you've heard all the conventional good advice you can stand. So, let me offer some relief.

Read on. Some of it actually is good advice.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:24 AM

May 09, 2008

Expelled Exposed

SciAm has an article on the six things that Ben Stein doesn't want you to know about the movie. Just the first one is sufficient to me to think the whole thing a contemptible fraud.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:49 AM

May 08, 2008

The Logic Of Superstition

For what it's worth, I set my watch to the destination time zone when they close the plane doors.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:06 AM

May 06, 2008

Movie Review Time

Over at Lileks' place:

Their logo looks like a deformed octopus. We get the picture, though. It's the Klan. This was still a touchy thing in '36; this must have irritated the people who thought the film ignored all the good things the Klan did, like community outreach and neighborhood suppers and the occasional potluck where a fella could get together with like-minded Americans and talk freely about the Catholics.

Gee, to what or whom could he possibly be referring?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:03 AM

May 01, 2008

The Banality Of Sedition

Some thoughts from Gerard Van der Leun, who really should be on my blog roll.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:42 PM
Civil Discourse

I probably shouldn't give him benefit of the link (it will probably up his traffic by an order of magnitude or two), but apparently we're nothing but "poo-flinging monkeys" here, because he doesn't like to lose arguments.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:00 PM
First Anniversary

Henry Cate has the anniversary edition of the Carnival of Space, with an emphasis on space and television.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:49 AM

April 28, 2008

The Future Is Leon's Oyster

Well, if not his oyster, at least his dippy dot:

"It seems the legends of 21st-century man's crude ice cream-eating habits are all true," Wolcott said. "I see the way you consume these dripping concoctions with protruding tongues, the way the dark cream dribbles down your chins, the way your workers must dig tirelessly with spherical metal 'scooping' devices to even obtain this product."

"Barbarians!" Wolcott added. "Dippin' Dots can be poured effortlessly into cups. They do not melt or make a mess, and plus they are very fun to eat."

Now, it would seem to me that this is a man after Leon Kass' heart. Not to mention, ironically, that it gives this enemy of longevity a reason to live, and see such a marvelous future, in which he will no longer have to suffer the indignity of seeing people licking cones in the street, like so many cats at bath.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:56 PM

April 26, 2008

Sports In Space


People have been speculating about this sort of thing for years, but one of the nice things about having a decent-sized orbital facility is that we can actually prototype them, and figure out if any are interesting enough to think about building inflatable stadia for them.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:19 AM

April 25, 2008

Eight Pointless Laws

...that all comic books turned into movies must follow.

[Via Geek Press]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:10 AM
A Brief Tutorial

...on centrifugal force.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:34 AM
Five Social Fallacies

...of geeks.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:28 AM

April 24, 2008

Illegal Legal Weed

What would we do without federal regulators?

Federal alcohol regulators thought differently. They have ordered Dillmann to stop selling beer bottles with caps that say "Try Legal Weed."

While reviewing the proposed label for Dillmann's latest beer, Lemurian Lager, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau said the message on the caps he has been using for his five current beers amounts to a drug reference.

In a letter explaining its decision, the agency, which regulates the brewing industry, said the wording could "mislead consumers about the characteristics of the alcoholic beverage."

Because, you know, a bottle of beer is so similar to a joint. I wonder how many bottles you'd have to drink before you really couldn't tell the difference?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:52 AM

April 21, 2008

101 Great Computer Quotes

Here ya go.

[Via Geek Press]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:15 AM

[Update a few minutes later]

Alan Boyle has a link roundup of commentary on the movie.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:31 AM

April 19, 2008

Who's Bitter?

Mark Steyn has some trenchant thoughts on guns, God and American exceptionalism:

Sen. Obama's remarks about poor dumb, bitter rural losers "clinging to" guns and God certainly testify to the instinctive snobbery of a big segment of the political class. But we shouldn't let it go by merely deploring coastal condescension toward the knuckledraggers. No, what Michelle Malkin calls Crackerquiddick (quite rightly - it's more than just another dreary "-gate") is not just snobbish nor even merely wrongheaded. It's an attack on two of the critical advantages the United States holds over most of the rest of the Western world. In the other G7 developed nations, nobody clings to God 'n' guns. The guns got taken away, and the Europeans gave up on churchgoing once they embraced Big Government as the new religion.

How's that working out? Compared with America, France and Germany have been more or less economically stagnant for the past quarter-century, living permanently with unemployment rates significantly higher than in the United States.

Has it made them any less "bitter," as Obama characterizes those Pennsylvanian crackers? No. In my book "America Alone," just out in paperback and available in all good bookstores - you'll find it in Borders propping up the wonky rear leg of the display table for the smash new CD "Michelle Obama And The San Francisco Macchiato Chorus Sing "I Pinned My Pink Slip To The Gun Rack Of My Pick-Up,' 'My Dog Done Died, My Wife Jus' Left Me, And Michael Dukakis Is Strangely Reluctant To Run Again,' Plus 'I Swung By The Economic Development Zone Business Park But The Only Two Occupied Rental Units Were Both Evangelical Churches' And Other Embittered Appalachian Favorites."

Where was I? Oh, yes. In my book "America Alone," I note a global survey on optimism: 61 percent of Americans were optimistic about the future, 29 percent of the French, 15 percent of Germans. Take it from a foreigner: In my experience, Americans are the least "bitter" people in the developed world. Secular, gun-free big-government Europe doesn't seem to have done anything for people's happiness.

Read (as usual) the whole thing.

[Update a couple minutes later]

I don't think this is unrelated:

I am going to take a bold step in a brand new direction and offer the notion that working class Americans aren't idiots. People who wonder where the Democratic vision of prosperity through higher taxes and stricter regulation would take us need look no further than Europe. And I will echo Michelle Obama by saying that in my adult lifetime I have never been proud of Europe's ability to create jobs or absorb immigrants.

Nor have I. Perhaps the Obamas are, though.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:52 PM

April 18, 2008


It will be interesting to see how how NBC (and Dan Abrams) respond to this:

As a matter of fact, I had other things to occupy my time in the White House in 2002 rather than "structuring" a campaign for an Alabama gubernatorial candidate, calling people to raise money for his race, and going through the arduous task of "putting together a strategy." And I certainly didn't meet with anyone at the Justice Department or either of the two U.S. Attorneys in Alabama about investigating or indicting Siegelman. My involvement in the campaign was to approve a request that the President appear at a Riley campaign fundraising event, one of several score fundraising events the President did that election cycle.

It boils down to this: as a journalist, do you feel you have a responsibility to dig into the claims made by your guests, seek out evidence and come to a professional judgment as to the real facts? Or do you feel if a charge is breathtaking enough, thoroughly checking it out isn't a necessity?

I know you might be concerned that asking these questions could restrict your ability to make sensational charges on the air, but don't you think you have a responsibility to provide even a shred of supporting evidence before sullying the journalistic reputations of MSNBC and NBC?

People used to believe journalists were searching for the truth. But your cable show increasingly seems to be focused on wishful thinking, hoping something is one way and diminishing the search for facts and evidence in favor of repeating your fondest desires.

So what else is new?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:28 PM
PR Stunt Delayed

If this report is true, it looks like NASA is not going to hit its milestone of the first test flight of the Potemkin RocketAres 1-X vehicle planned for a year from now:

Ares I-X now has little chance of making its April, 2009 launch date target, initially due to the delay of STS-125's flight to October.

The first Ares related test flight requires the freeing of High Bay 3 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and Pad 39B - which will first host STS-125's Launch On Need (LON) rescue shuttle (Endeavour/LON-400) - being vacated for modifications ahead of Ares I-X.

However, a new problem has now come to light with the MLP (Mobile Launch Platform) that will be handed over from Shuttle to Constellation for the test flight. This problem relates to the stability of Ares I-X during rollout to the Pad.

The modifications to the MLP initially called for Ares I-X to be placed on one set of the existing Shuttle's Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) hold down posts, with a tower to be erected on the other set of hold down posts - with support for the vehicle between the tower and the interstage level.

When NASA changed contractors for the MLP work associated with Ares I-X, the design changed, omitting the adjacent tower, instead relying on three steel cables - 120 degrees apart - to help hold the vehicle steady during rollout.

Given the projected weight of the vehicle at rollout - with a heavy dummy upper stage - additional stability is now being called for, leading to a redesign of the MLP support structure.

In combination with the projected delay to handing over Shuttle resources post STS-125, internal scheduling is showing 60 to 90 days worth of delay to Ares I-X's projected launch date.

Gee, it's always something. Guess that's what happens when you come up with a new vehicle concept with a ridiculously high aspect ratio, that makes a whip antenna look positively zaftig. Has anyone ever had to use guy wires on a rocket before, or is this another proud first for our nation's space agency?

Anyway, as it goes on to point out, this probably will waterfall down through the whole schedule, further increasing the dreaded "gap." Not that it will matter that much, once the budget gets whacked in the next administration, regardless of who is president. But then, maybe if they'd come up with an implementation that actually appeared to have some relevance to peoples' lives, instead of redoing people's grandfather's space program, they'd get more public support, instead of ever less.

It's hard to see how this ends well, at least for fans of Apollo on Steroids. But it's mostly irrelevant to those of us who want to see large-scale human expansion into space. That will have to await the private sector.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:22 AM

April 16, 2008

Remembering Slim Chipley

Most of my readers will find this of no interest at all, but I just ran across a new blog dedicated to remembering the good old days in Flint, Michigan. Nostalgic memories abound.

The population trend in the sidebar is depressing. When I was a kid it had a population of almost two hundred thousand, and there was an ongoing feud with Grand Rapids over whether it or Flint was the second largest city in the state (after Detroit, of course, which had its own hemorrhage of people). Now it's down to just a little over half that.

[Update in the evening]

OK, again, unless you're from southeast Michigan, this will be meaningless, but via the blog above, I found a coney blog. That actually understands the difference between Flint and Detroit style.

And there are those who say that it's a lost art. For many, Angelo's defined the Flint coney island, and once he died (my father was in the hospital with him at the same time, as they both had heart attacks in the late sixties), it became franchised, and lost the magic. But my mother used to tell me (and we even went there when I was young) that the original Flint Coney Island, on Saginaw, north of downtown, was the best. But it went under decades ago.

Anyway, I'm glad to hear that it's a hit in Phoenix. Maybe we can keep the brand alive.

My darling Patricia doesn't understand the appeal. But then, she's not a fan of raw onions. Nor is she a fan of me after I ingest them. But once in a while, I have to indulge, consequences be damned...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:40 PM

April 15, 2008

Bring On The Meat Factories

Hey, I'm all in favor of factory-manufactured meat, if it can be made to taste as good as the naturally grown variety, but I'm not going to stop eating meat until it happens. My criteria are basically intelligence based, and the first animal I'd give up eating, if I were going to give up any,s would be pigs, but I still occasionally have pork. I don't feel that badly about eating cattle--they just don't seem that bright to me. And the question of whether or not they're better off living a short life, and then being slaughtered, than never having existed at all is one that, as noted, is purely subjective and unresolvable in any ultimate sense. I know that I've seen some pretty happy looking cows on the hillsides overlooking the Pacific in northern California. I can think of worse lives.

By the way, Phil should be aware that marsupials are mammals. The distinction is placental versus non-placental mammals. And there are people (probably some of those "bitter," out-of-work folks) in this country who eat possum, and armadillo.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:53 AM

April 14, 2008

He's Beyond The Event Horizon

John Wheeler has died:

Unlike some colleagues who regretted their roles after bombs were dropped on Japan, Wheeler regretted that the bomb had not been made ready in time to hasten the end of the war in Europe. His brother, Joe, had been killed in combat in Italy in 1944.

Wheeler later helped Edward Teller develop the even more powerful hydrogen bomb.

The name "black hole" -- for a collapsed star so dense that even light could not escape -- came out of a conference in 1967. Wheeler made the name stick after someone else had suggested it as a replacement for the cumbersome "gravitationally completely collapsed star," he recalled.

"After you get around to saying that about 10 times, you look desperately for something better," he told the Times.

He was a giant in physics, and inspired a lot of great science fiction. RIP.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:09 PM
I Know What He Means


The Piccadilly was knocked down for the Marriott Marquis, which is really one hell of a hotel. I stayed there for a week; loved the rooms and the hotel and the location, but I absolutely hated the glass elevators. Practically had to huff a bag of laughing gas to get on the things.

It's a problem with Marriotts in general. The large atrium with the glass 'vators seems to be a trademark. I hate them. They don't seem to take into account the acrophobes among us.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:27 AM

April 13, 2008

Why Bother?

Thomas James, on the difficulty of writing post-apocalyptic survival stories about people with no interest in survival.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:34 AM

April 11, 2008

The Slow Descent Into Hell

Barack Obama showed his deft political touch today, and demonstrated his keen insight into the lives of the little people in this country, with a speech that is sure to be worth at least thirty points in Pennsylvania in the upcoming primary:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them... And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

I asked around the area, to see how his obvious compassion for Pennsylvanians was viewed. This is just one story, from one man in West Deer Township, but I'm sure that it's typical.

"By cracky, it's like the man sees into my very soul!

"Thirty years ago, I had a good job in the mill in Pittsburgh. I was bringing in a good income, going to jazz clubs, discussing Proust over white wine and brie, with my gay friends of all colors. I was all for free trade, so that we could sell the steel overseas, and I never bothered to go to church, let alone actually believe in God.

"But then, the plant closed down, and I couldn't get another job. I went on unemployment, and found odd jobs here and there, but they barely paid the rent on the loft, and the payment on the Bimmer. I couldn't afford the wine and brie any more, and had to shift over to beer and brats.

"Of course, as a result, I started hanging out with the wrong crowd--the beer drinkers.

"And it wasn't just the beer. Some of them actually went out in the woods in the fall, and shot animals. And kilt 'em. With real guns!

"I was shocked, of course. For all their diversity, none of my gay friends would have ever thought of doing anything like that. But with my job loss, and lack of money for pedicures and pommade, they didn't want to hang with me any more. So I borried a twelve gauge over'n'under, and went out with my new beer-drinking animal-killing friends in the woods. And I'll tell you what, when I shot down that eight-pointer, I felt a sense of power over the helpless in a way that I hadn't since I'd been looking down on the rednecks when I had that good job in Pittsburgh, driving around town in my 528i.

"But somehow the killing, and hating those two-timing nancy boys wasn't enough. I was still in despair. I started to search for answers, and I thought that I found them in Jesus. It started small, just church on Sunday, with prayers and a lecture from the preacher.

"But it didn't stop there. Soon I was attending Wednesday night revivals, and huzzahing and hossanahing, and babbling with the best of them. After a few months I'd graduated to juggling garter snakes, then rattlers.

"But it wasn't enough. Despite all the gun caressing, and animal killing, and hatred of people who weren't like me, and anger at the Colombians who were...doing something to me--I'm not entirely sure what, and the tongue speaking and snake handling, I still couldn't find a job.

"My social life continued to deteriorate. Not only was I no longer interested in those sensitive swishes, or literature, but I was starting to look with lust at my sister. And not just look, I'll tell you what. She'd been out of work, too, and was getting mighty interested, if you know what I mean.

"I have hit rock bottom.

"Please, help me, O Bama. Forgive me, O Bama. O Bama, my Bama, rescue me from this living hell in which Reagan, and Bush, and Clinton, and Bush, have consigned me. Restore unto me my loft and my teutonic status symbol. Give me back my poofter friends, and my pinot grigio and my baked gruyere, and lattes. Save me from the killing and the beer, and most of all, from Jesus. Save me, O my Bama, and I will commit my vote unto you.

This is just one story of the many lives that Barack Obama has touched, and blessed, this day in the benighted Keystone State. But with his obvious compassion, and ability to feel the pain of others so unlike him, he is sure to carry the state in a couple weeks.

[Late evening update]

Ace has more:

Obama To Rural Pennsylvanians: Vote For Me, You Corncob-Smokin', Banjo-Strokin' Chicken-Chokin' Cousin-Pokin' Inbred Hillbilly Racist Morons

Yeah, that's about it.

[Saturday morning update]

More from Mickey Kaus:

Excuse me? Hunting is part of working-class American culture. Does Obama really think that working-class whites in Pennsylvania were gun control liberals until their industries were downsized, whereas they all rushed to join the NRA ...

I used to think working class voters had conservative values because they were bitter about their economic circumstances--welfare and immigrants were "scapegoats," part of the false consciousness that would disappear when everyone was guaranteed a good job at good wages. Then I left college. ...

...Rather than trying to spin his way out, wouldn't it be better for Obama to forthrightly admit his identity? Let's have a national dialogue about egghead condescension!

[Mid-Saturday morning update]

This is turning out to be the Blazing Saddles election:

It's amazing how many lines from that movie work for this campaign.

The first question Obama got in Iowa

What's a dazzling urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?

Explaining the Iowa caucus to newcomers

Now, I suppose you're all wondering just what in the heck you're doing out here in the middle of a prairie in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.
Crowd: You bet your ass.

Despite setbacks, Mike Gravel stays in the race

no sidewindin bushwackin, hornswaglin, cracker croaker is gonna rouin me bishen cutter.

Obama's campaign theme

He conquered fear and he conquered hate He turned dark night into day.

Hillary rounds up her operatives

I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists.

Ezra Klein hears a speech

God use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore.

Obama after every press appearance

Ooh, baby, you are so talented! And they are so DUMB!

Obama explaining his post-racial appeal

Well, to tell the family secret, my grandmother was Dutch.

But Hispanics are skeptical of Obama and his supporters

Hast du gesehen in deine Leben? They're darker than us!

The party's new reaction to Hillary

Shut up, you Teutonic tw@t!

The anguish of the superdelegates

We've gotta protect our phoney baloney jobs, gentlemen!

and of course for the current situation

You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Oooh, oooohhh, there's more! I found Obama's Facebook page. Note that one of his favorite books is one about an obsessive hatred of a white whale.

So, is a cigar just a cigar? I report, you decide.

[Update a few minutes later]

One more (more serious) thought. When Obama talks about "clinging to religion," is he saying that his religious belief is founded in something other than economic hardship? Or is he implying that, despite his words and church attendance for the past twenty years, that he's at heart an agnostic, if not an atheist? Was the church thing all for political show (as it was with at least Bill, if not both Clintons)? And of course, if these are his true feelings (and I suspect that one is more likely to hear what he really thinks when he perceives himself to be among a friendly audience), then it's not surprising that he could sit through twenty years of Pastor Wright bigotry and hatred and find nothing exceptional or objectionable about it. He's smart enough to know that others will find it so, so he pretends to be outraged when called on it, but he wasn't smart enough to see how his remarks in this case would be viewed by those to whom he unconsciously condescends.

I think that this could be a campaign killer in the fall. That sound bite will be shown over and over again. I just regret that it came out this soon. Unfortunately, the Democrats still have a chance to eject him before he gets the nomination. But even if they do, it will still be an electoral disaster for them. The problem is that it isn't just Obama. Most of them are just smart enough not to voice their bigotry publicly, but this is how much of the party itself views rural and middle America, and it's going to hurt them all through the fall. And justly so.

[Late morning update]

Mark Steyn has further thoughts:

I had a ton of fun covering Kerry's awkwardness with Americans but, in fairness, it was essentially a consumerist snobbery: he preferred the Newburgh Yacht Club for lunch over the local Wendy's, he'd rather be windsurfing off Nantucket than rednecking at Nascar, etc. Obama's snobbery seems more culturally profound, and unlike Kerry he can't plead the crippling disadvantage of a privileged childhood. Rather, Barack's condescension reveals a man out of touch with the rhythms of American life to a degree that's hard to fathom. As Michelle says, they "chose" to "leave corporate America", and Barack became a "community organizer" and she wound up a 350-grand-a-year "diversity outreach coordinator". I've no idea what either of those careers involve, and most of us seem able to get along without them. But their remoteness from the American mainstream perhaps explains why the Obamas seem to have no clue how Americans live their lives.

And yes, I'm a foreigner. But it takes one to know one, and this guy seems weirdly disconnected from everything except neo-segregationist Afrocentric grievance politics and upscale white liberal condescension. Not much of a coalition.

But that's the modern Democrat Party. Without the media (which is as elitist as they are) in their pocket, they'd never stand a chance.

[Early afternoon update]

Was Obama's faux pas the sound of the horse beginning to clear its throat for its aria? This kind of thing is what keeps Hillary from dropping out.

[Another update a few minutes later]

And of course, Iowahawk has to pile on, with a golden oldie about rebellious youth:

Like most of their classmates, these North Shore Neckies were once bound for some of the top universities in America -- Yale, Duke, Stanford, Northwestern -- until they succumbed to the allure of the Downhome slacker lifestyle. Now some openly talk of dropping out, learning TIG welding, waiting tables at Waffle House or draining oil at Jiffy Lube; some even hint of enrolling at Iowa State. What drives privileged teens to such seemingly self-destructive behavior?

"I guess you might could say we're rebels," says Rachel 'Tyffanie' Stern, 17, lighting a Merit Menthol 100. Once destined for Vassar, Stern is now living with friends after her parents kicked her out of the house for spending her bat mitzvah money on a bass boat. Last month she became the youngest Jewish female to win an event on the Bassmasters Pro Tour.

Pausing for furtive glances, several of the teens share sniffs from a bottle of Harmon Triple Heat deer scent.

"Wooo-eee, shit howdy, that's gonna bring a mess of them whitetail bucks," says 19-year old Wei-Li 'Lamar' Cheung. A former Westinghouse Science Award winner, Cheung has devoted his chemistry and biology skill to building a fledgling hunting supply business.

A first generation Asian-American, Cheung says he was drawn to the group by their acceptance of minorities. "Hell, I kept tellin' all my family and teachers I wanna play fiddle, not violin," he explains. "The 'Necks accept me the way I am."

African-American Kwame 'Joe Don' Harris agrees. "Just because I'm black, teachers were always pushing me to go to Spellman to study Langston Hughes and Thelonius Monk," says the 17 year old. "These ol' boys here never laugh at my dream to be a crew chief for the Craftsman Truck Series."

If there is one aspiration that unites them all, it is the dream of moving to Branson, Missouri. Long famed for its laid-back attitude toward religion, country music and the military, Branson has become a Mecca for radical young Neckies seeking an escape from the stultifying conformity of their coastal hometowns.

Only Barack can save us from this ongoing tragedy.

[Late afternoon update]

Obama is doing damage control with some of the yokelocals. I'm sure that Miss Hathaway will be able to smooth things over, except maybe with Grannie.

[Update on Sunday evening]

I've quit updating have some follow-up thoughts on Obama, and what this means about his attitudes toward individualism, here.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:06 PM
The Obamunist Party

Yes, we can! But I hope we don't.

From the comments section at Frank J.'s place. Can we mock Obamamaniacs? Yes, we can!

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:35 AM

April 08, 2008

How Would They Tell?

Robert Bidinotto wants me to boycott Starbucks. It's a worthy cause, I guess, but I've been boycotting Starbucks ever since they opened their first store. I've never purchased anything there for my own personal consumption, with the possible exception of a bottle of water once.

The simple reason is that they have never offered anything for sale in which I have an interest in consuming. It's nothing but various forms of coffee, which I don't drink, and high-glycemic carbs, which I tend to avoid, particularly since there is no protein on offer to go with them (in my limited experience--I suppose it's possible that that's changed). And I'm not that into the "coffee house" experience.

So I can't really help make a dent in reducing their sales, because it's not possible for me to purchase less from them than I already do. If everyone were like me, they wouldn't exist at all to denigrate the capitalism that has made them so successful. But maybe some of my pro-free-market readers can reduce their consumption.

It occurs to me, while I'm on the subject, to write about a topic on which I've often mused, but never posted--what the world would be like if everyone were like me. Well, obviously, it would be a lot more boring place. With no s3x, other than self congress, because there's no way that I would get it on with me.

Just off the top of my head, there would be no rap music. In fact, most popular music wouldn't be popular at all. No dance clubs. There would be college football, assuming that some of me were willing and able to play (not obvious, as my athletic ability is marginal), but probably not pro. There would be baseball (again, my skills permitting), but no hockey or basketball. Or boxing or wrestling, or martial arts. There would be Formula 1, but no NASCAR. Lots of hiking trails in the mountains. No one would live in south Florida.

No coffee houses, as noted above, or coffee production, period. Same thing with tea. No tree nuts would be grown or harvested, because I'm allergic. The Asian restaurants would be much better, as would Mexican ones (they'd all be Sonoran style). No wraps or vegetarian places.

It would also be a much messier place, because I'm kind of a slob.

On the up side, though, traffic would move much faster, and much more smoothly. And we'd all get on and off airplanes extremely expeditiously. And there would be no wars, both because (I know that this will surprise some of the trolls here) I'm not that into them, and I'm not sure what we'd fight about. Oh, and we'd have a sensible space program.

So, what would the world be like if it consisted of only you?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:06 AM

April 07, 2008

Well Deserved

Michael Ramirez has won a Pulitzer.

I liked this recent one, myself.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:28 PM

April 04, 2008

Curse You, Virginia

Curse you to heck. I didn't even listen to the thing, but that stupid song is stuck in my head anyway, just from reading about it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:17 AM

April 03, 2008

Only Nine Days Left

Until Yuri's Night. It will also be the twenty-seventh anniversary of the first Shuttle launch.

Looking at the map, the only Florida party I see is up in Cocoa Beach. Between Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, you'd think that south Florida would be able to come up with something.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:35 AM

March 29, 2008

Want To Poke Anti-War Hollywood In The Eye?

Go here.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:56 PM

March 19, 2008

News You Can Use

And just in time for Easter, too. Crucifixion is bad for your health.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:15 PM
Space Visionary

I don't remember the first book I read by Arthur Clarke, or my age when I read it, but I would imagine that it was less than ten. But I do remember that, whatever book it was, it spurred me to go find more.

In the 1960s, Flint's auto industry was booming, and one of the founders of General Motors, Charles Stewart Mott, still lived there. He was worth a couple hundred million at the time (equivalent to a couple billion today), and he had established a foundation for education that had rendered the Flint public school system one of the premiere ones in the country at the time. Part and parcel of this was the public library system. I lived within walking distance (and a trivial bike ride) of the main branch. I would haunt its science fiction section daily, in hope of finding a new Clarke (or Heinlein, or Asimov) book that I hadn't read, and I recall the anticipation when I would discover an unread one that had just been returned by the previous borrower. I often wouldn't even wait to get home, instead sitting down in a chair to devour it in the library.

More than Heinlein, more than Asimov, both of whom were strong influences on me, Clarke taught me about the precision and beauty of science and engineering, and of the importance of making science fiction plausible. I liked all of his work (including the non-science fiction, such as Glide Path, a story of the development of radar during WW II), but I liked the solar fiction the best. It realistically presented me with an exciting future in space into which I could imagine growing up. When 2001 came out (sadly, he died only a month before the fortieth anniversary of its initial screening), it redefined science fiction movies in a way that no other did, before or since (and no, sorry kids, Star Wars doesn't count--despite the space ships and flying vehicles, it's fantasy, not SF). Barely a teenager, I watched, enraptured, as Clark and Kubrick took me first into earth orbit, on that spinning space station, then on to the moon, then on to Jupiter in that amazing nuclear-powered spaceship that had no fins, no streamlining--just ungainly, but realistic-looking and functional hardware that would work in the vacuum and darkness of deep space. (Sadly, as an aside, we seem much closer to Hal the talking computer today, seven years after the movie was supposed to take place, than to even the Pan Am space transport or space station, let alone moon bases and manned Jupiter missions.) It was a future that I could envision, and one toward which I could work, by studying math and science.

But it wasn't just one side of Snow's two cultures--Clarke had his spiritual and artistic side as well, and he inspired one to think deeply about the meaning of existence. One of his best books is much less hard science than most: Childhood's End, a book about how humans evolved, and where we are evolving to, a subject that becomes ever more relevant and prescient as (or if) we are truly approaching a Vingian singularity. I've always thought that it would make a great movie, if Clarke were involved, but there's no chance of that now.

He didn't just have interesting stories and themes--he was a beautiful, eloquent, emotive writer. As I mentioned in the previous Clarke post, we stole some of his words for the foreword of our space ceremony, of which he was one of the major influences that caused us to create it:

Five hundred million years ago, the moon summoned life out of its first home, the sea, and led it onto the empty land. For as it drew the tides across the barren continents of primeval earth, their daily rhythm exposed to sun and air the creatures of the shallows. Most perished -- but some adapted to the new and hostile environment. The conquest of the land had begun.

We shall never know when this happened, on the shores of what vanished sea. There were no eyes or cameras present to record so obscure, so inconspicuous an event. Now, the moon calls again -- and this time life responds with a roar that shakes earth and sky.

When the Saturn V soars spaceward on nearly four thousand tons of thrust, it signifies more than a triumph of technology. It opens the next chapter of evolution.

No wonder that the drama of a launch engages our emotions so deeply. The rising rocket appeals to instincts older than reason; the gulf it bridges is not only that between world and world -- but the deeper chasm between heart and brain.

Rarely do I get tears in my eyes from reading, but one of the most moving short stories of his that I ever read won a Nebula Award1. And justly so. It has an ending poignant and tragic, not just for an alien civilization, but for a man's faith in his God.

I only met him once, though I suppose that still makes me fortunate, in that most never got to meet him at all. It was not long after I graduated from Michigan with two engineering degrees--the product of his influence (and that of others as well, most notably Gerard O'Neill). I was working at the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California (near Los Angeles), and I had just written a paper on a concept that I'd come up with, called a "tidal web," that I presented to the Princeton Conference on Space Manufacturing in 1981. It was a geostationary structure consisting of a series of tethers in gravity gradient, connected together in a ring, to create a huge platform on which sensors and transponders could be placed. This would in theory eliminate the need for station-keeping satellites, and allow a much higher density of GEO usage, with it being limited only by spectrum and EMI interference issues, rather than physical concerns about collision. (Unfortunately for me, it later turned out, based on calculations performed by Dan Alderson for Larry Niven while researching Ringworld, that it would be orbitally unstable, and eventually fall to the earth.)

Not long afterward, Clarke gave an evening lecture at TRW in Redondo Beach, not far from where I worked and lived. I attended it, and afterward, met him briefly and, knowing of his interest in geostationary structures, gave him a copy of the paper. I later got a brief, but gracious note from him, postmarked from Colombo, Sri Lanka, indicating his interest and gratitude, and that he had added it to his collection of such things. I still have, and treasure, that letter.

I'm sure that he was disappointed, as were many of his readers, that his 2001 vision didn't come true, even without the monolith. After all, in the 1940s and 1950s, he probably would have been astonished (or incredulous) if someone had told him that we'd have landed a man on the moon in 1969. When we appeared to be doing so (which was the case while the movie was being written and produced), it was seductively easy to extrapolate it to lunar bases in the 1970s and Mars missions in the 1980s, as the space station was being constructed in earth orbit. But he'd have been even more astonished, and appalled, to think that we would never go back after 1972, and spend the proceeding decades in low earth orbit, very expensively.

While he lived a long life, it's sad that he died just as interesting and different things are happening that may finally have the prospect of turning at least some of his space stories into reality. Clarke had three well-known laws about technology (though J. Porter Clark has a good related one of his own). But one of his lesser-known ones (at least I think it's his--I can't find a link with a quick search) is that we tend to be optimistic about technological progress in the short term, and pessimistic in the long term, due to the exponential nature of technological advance. I try to use this law to temper my expectations in both directions, and (at least) be optimistic about the long term, as long as it's not long-term enough that (in the famous words of Keynes) we're all dead. The long term was too long for Sir Arthur, but if and when we do have the lunar bases, and the nuclear cruisers to Jupiter, it will be in no small part due to the role that he played in challenging minds, young and not so young, and painting vivid and credible pictures of the future in their heads that motivated them to go out and attempt to create it.

So remember him, and go reread some of the classics. And if you've never read them for the first time, I'll cast my mind back to my childhood and youth, remember the thrill I felt when I opened up a new, unread one, and envy you.

[Early evening update]

One other point about his prescience in the sixties (or at least, I hope so--it seems likely to me as a general point, if not the specific company). The clipper ship that went up to the space station in 2001 didn't have a NASA logo on it. It was Pan Am.

1. I just noticed in rereading it, a failure of imagination that wouldn't strike one reading it in the 1960s. It's interesting that, in the late fifties, he thought that a starship would be bringing data back to earth on magnetic tape and photographs. It just shows how hard it is to get the future right.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:49 AM
I'll Second That

Derb again:

At the Olympics, the Maoists will be dealing with free people from free nations, and there is only so much they can do to control them. It's not clear they understand this. They've been living for decades in a bubble of unchallenged power, and are not very imaginative. The opportunities for embarrassment are endless, and the prospect of it very delicious to anyone who loves liberty. Personally, I hope their stinking Olympics is a huge fiasco, and I see encouraging signs it may be.

I wouldn't shed a tear if there was never another Olympics. Not that I care that much, one way or the other, because I don't care about the Olympics, but I think that it demeans the event to hold it in dictatorships. But maybe that's just me. Maybe we ought to have a democratic Olympics. Any country could send a team, but it would never be hosted in a place like China. Or most countries in the Middle East (not that there's much prospect for that).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:06 AM
More Clarke Thoughts

From John Derbyshire:

It is plain from his life and his work that Clarke was deeply in love with the idea of space. In 1956 he went to live in Sri Lanka so that he could spend his spare time scuba diving, the nearest he could get to the silence, weightlessness, and mystery of space. That profound imaginative connection with the great void is one of the things that separates science fiction writers and fans from the unimaginative plodding mass of humanity -- the Muggles. Clarke had it in spades. The other thing he dreamt of, and wrote about, constantly was alien civilizations: how incomprehensibly magical they will appear to us when we encounter them, and how they will deal with us.

He mentions Bradbury in his remembrance. Some thought of them as four: Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, and Bradbury. I never did. I like Ray Bradbury, both as an author, and personally (I met him occasionally when I lived in LA), but I never considered his work science fiction, at least not hard science fiction. It was more in the realm of fantasy and poetry to me (and of course, Fahrenheit 451, which was a political dystopia).

[Late morning update]

Bruce Webster agrees:

I'm not sure I've ever met, talked to, or read of an engineer or scientist who was inspired to become such because of something Bradbury wrote. I'm not saying they're not out there -- I just think it's a very small number, especially when compared to Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein.

Yes. I enjoyed some (though not all) of Bradbury's work, but I was never inspired by it. It just seemed too far from an attainable reality to me.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Even Bradbury himself agrees:

First of all, I don't write science fiction. I've only done one science fiction book and that's Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it's fantasy. It couldn't happen, you see? That's the reason it's going to be around a long time--because it's a Greek myth, and myths have staying power.
Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:09 AM
No DiCaprio In This One


National Socialists chose the second part of their name for no particular reason - it's anti-capitalist propaganda. The movie begins not on the dock, or on board, or in a boisterous café by the quay; no, it starts off in the White Star boardroom, where the eeeevil investors are figuring out the best way to manipulate the stock. Yes, that's correct: insider trading sunk the Titanic. The head of White Star - a tall, dashing, cynical, cunning, selfish Bruce Ismay (snort) pushes the captain to reach New York in record speed to boost the stock, which had gyrated up and down prior to departure, and had been subject to large block purchases by other characters on the ship - oh, don't ask. The interiors looks nothing like the Titanic, but the special effects aren't bad, and it's impressively shot. It's just all wrong. Every frame is just saturated with a strong dose of Wrong.

Forgot the best part: the hero is a German. He's a fictional officer who tries to warn everyone about the ice. He's cool, composed, devoted to duty, and scornful of the capitalists. At least the Soviets had that Russian-soulfulness thing going, so their movies would be soaked with sloppy emotion and Slavic hymns; the Nazis were tin-eared thick-thumbed boors when it came to art. God help us if they'd won; I cannot imagine their sitcoms.

I just got my copy of Jonah's book. It's pretty good so far.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:54 AM

March 18, 2008

The Last Of The Giants

I'm hearing that Arthur C. Clarke has passed. I assume that it's true, but I'll have more thoughts later. In several ways, he was my favorite author--not just science fiction author, but author, period, growing up. Currently at a loss for words.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here's a link to the story.

Among many other things, he wrote the foreword to our July 20th ceremony (though not for that purpose--it was fair use).

[Update a couple minutes later]

Instapundit has some instathoughts.

[Update a few minutes later]

Bruce HendersonWebster already has a requiem up. He must have had it preprepared, like the MSM.

I have to dispute this, though:

The irony is that Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein would all have loved to go into space personally, but obviously were never able to.

He's joking, right? When it comes to Asimov, the man wouldn't even get on an airplane, let alone a rocket. If he had to travel long distances, it was always by train. The notion of the actual man going into space, regardless of his fantastic imagination, is ludicrous.

Meanwhile, Clark Lindsey has a link roundup.

Also, I should note that Bruce explains my post title in a way that I didn't, for those who didn't get it. And the fact that I have to explain it makes me feel old. More when I write a serious post about it.

[Update on Wednesday morning]

Sorry, wrong Bruce. It was Bruce Webster, not Bruce Henderson, who emails that Asimov would have loved to go into space, if he could do it via train. It must be a mite confusin' to have a Bruce blog. Do they sing the Australian philosopher's drinking song over there?

[Another update]

Bruce also notes that he didn't have the eulogy in the can:

I made my living as a writer for several years (see, mostly in computer journalism, and have published over 150 articles, columns, and reviews, plus a few books. Because of my tendency to, ah, wait until the last minute, I often wrote those articles, etc., the night before (or the night after) they were due. For example, during the two years I wrote a column for BYTE, I typically wrote that column -- usually 3000 to 4000 words and sometimes as much as 7000 words -- in one sitting, late at night, the day before deadline. So a 540-word post about something near and dear to my heart is hardly breaking a sweat.

Actually, being a major procrastinator myself, I can (strongly) identify with that. Apologies for the mistaken assumption.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:59 PM

March 14, 2008

Modern Socialist Realism

Gerard Vanderleun has some thoughts, with implications for the Obama campaign. As Iowahawk notes in comments, they're brutal.

Hey, somebody should write a book about this stuff.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:09 AM

March 08, 2008

What Were They Thinking?

I mean, anyone could have predicted this: John Denver Karaoke Sparks Thai Killing Spree.

But I have to admit, I would have guessed "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" would have been the tune to send him over the edge. Oh, the humanity.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:39 PM

March 06, 2008

Back To The Drawing Board


I just remembered that I called the Bob Davis show this morning to talk about the new theory re: Moses and the Ten Commandments: dude was high. Apparently a professor somewhere has suggested that the entire experience was the result of a mushroom or some such ceremonial intoxicant. I called to say I didn't believe it, because if Moses was tripping we wouldn't have ten commandments. We would have three. The first would make sense, more or less; the second, written half an hour later, would command profound respect for lizards who sit on stones and look at you, because they're freaking incredible when you think about it, and the third would be gibberish. Never mind the problem of getting the tablets down the mountain - anyone who has experience of watching stoners try to assemble pizza money when the doorbell rings doubts that Moses could have hauled stone tablets all the way down.
Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:51 AM

March 05, 2008

Super Sizing

Elizabeth Karmel has some thoughts on barbecue:

Restaurateurs don't necessarily want you to eat the whole thing; they are giving us what we've asked for. Americans don't like restaurants that serve small portions. Whether they eat it all or should eat it all is another matter; consumers vote with their dollars and like it or not, American consumers love and buy big portions.

I've discussed this before, but the reason that restaurants serve so much food is related to the reason that the Space Shuttle (and space launch in general) cost so much. How's that for a topic segue? It always comes down to marginal cost.

The Space Shuttle is expensive per flight, because they have to support all of the overhead in Houston and the Cape, but fly very few times. But the marginal cost (the cost of flying the next Shuttle flight, given that you're already flying) is probably about a hundred fifty million or so (the cost of the expended hardware, basically, and specific crew training) which is much less than that average cost (typically well over half a billion). Same thing applies to the space station. Back in the nineties (before Freedom became ISS) they were trying to cut five billion dollars out of the projected thirty-billion dollar development budget. Joe Talbot, the man at Langley who was tasked with coming up with a plan to do so, told me (in an exasperated tone), "that's the cost of the hardware." In other words, they could cut out the hardware, and only spend twenty-five billion, and have no station at all. Or they could spend a little more money (thirty-five billion instead of thirty billion) and double its size. Being a government program, the budget cutters tend to make more of the former sorts of decisions than the latter ones.

It's different for a business, even though the economic issues are exactly the same, because they're driven by actual customers.

Even if a restaurant served you no food at all, if all you did was come in and take up table space and staff time for a certain period of time, they'd still have to charge you quite a bit, because much of the cost of a restaurant meal is overhead to cover costs of rent, utilities, staff salaries, etc. The cost of the food itself (unless it's a very high-end restaurant, where you're eating lobster, and filet, and larks-tongue bisque with a truffle reduction) isn't all that much. They could cut the portions in half, but they wouldn't be able to cut the price of the meal by half. Conversely (and this is what the market drives, as Elizabeth says), they can double the portions while adding very little to the price. That's the economics behind "super sizing" soft drinks and fries--you're simply adding a little sugar and spuds, which are very cheap, to the meal whose overhead has already been covered by the basic order.

And of course, I think that one of the (many) causes of the obesity epidemic in the country is the fact that as we've grown wealthier, we go out to eat a lot more. When the portions are large, you're going to have a tendency to eat it. A lot of us would be better off simply sharing a meal with our dinner companions, but the restaurants discourage this, for obvious reasons--they don't get enough to cover their overhead costs if everyone does it. When you're cooking for yourself, you not only have a better idea of the cost of the meal, because you're using food that you purchased, but it's also easier to quit eating and just put the leftovers in the fridge, rather than have to ask for a doggie bag and hope that you get it home soon enough.

Bottom line, if you really want to lose weight (and save money) don't eat out.


There's a good point in comments:

I have these same problems cooking for myself. It's hard to buy things in quantities for one or two portions. You end up with three or four servings.... (Re: try to cook a real meal for one).

Yeah, that's another overhead problem. Unless you're making something fancy where individual items are being created (e.g., home-made ravioli) or labor intensive (peeling/deveining shrimp) it doesn't take much more effort to cook for two, or four, than for one. The basic overhead of meal preparation is the same. It takes me about half a minute to clean/cut a potato, so adding a couple more for a lot more mashed potatoes, all done in the same mixing bowl, is no big deal, and baking a chicken is baking a chicken, whether for one of four. This is one of the benefits of marriage (or at least cohabiting).

I cook dinner almost every night, but interestingly, I rarely cook breakfast, because it seems like a lot of work, (frying bacon, making coffee, sectioning grapefruit, hashing browns, frying eggs, making/buttering toast, most of which all has to come out about the same time) for not that great a meal. I would never do it just for myself, and with the two of us, I still generally reserve it for weekends.

Another good point, from the same comment:

...the combo of A and B has been sending me to fast food format restaurants. I can pay little and buy by the item (re: any portion size I want). If I only want one chicken taco... I can buy one chicken taco (probably for $1-$2)... If I want two or three, they can do that too...

I've been noticing that, too. I've never ordered a "meal" at a fast food place, because they don't have anything I want to drink (I don't do soft drinks, and don't like iced tea--in restaurants, if I don't have beer or wine, I drink water). I generally order a sandwich a la carte, and sometimes a small fry. But I've seen that Taco Bell has a lot of individual, reasonably priced items, and other places have "dollar menus" as well, so perhaps they're also trying to satisfy that end of the market. One of my favorites is Checker's (around here, anyway, also known as Rally's in some parts of the country), where they sell a double fish sandwich for a little over two bucks. There are enough customers that they can afford to sell them to those who want them without fully amortizing the overhead, or if they do, at low margin, and it expands their potential customer base.

One other point. It used to be that Mexican restaurants were one of the best ones to have for exactly this reasons. You could charge a low price for a meal with very cheap ingredients (corn meal, ground...meat, rice and beans), but still have great margins. A lot of them have started to get greedy lately, though. You used to be able to find a really cheap, decent hole-in-the-wall Mexican place, but it's getting harder and harder, at least in my experience. Of course, since moving to south Florida, I don't have as much variety to choose from as I did in LA.

[Update at 5:20 PM EST]

This is another good point from a commenter:

Cooking for one or two can be done, but it involves cooking for four and freezing for three.

Yup. I've made a big pan of lasagna for myself (used to do it a lot in college). Eat some, put some in the fridge, freeze the rest. And this was in the pre-microwave (at least for struggling students) days.

[6 PM update]

One other point, that I should have made in the original post. The things that get supersized (high-glycemic carbs) are not just the cheapest things to add to the meal, they're the worst things for us to eat, from the standpoint of weight gain, inducement of diabetes and increase in artery risk. And the things that we need more of (proteins) are relatively expensive. The basic economics of food (at least at the current state of technology) militates against a healthy diet. This is also one of the reasons that the "poor" in this country are both overweight and malnourished (scare quotes because "poor" is relative. No one in the US is truly poor, compared to much of the world).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:30 PM

March 04, 2008

New Amsterdam

I don't actually watch that much network television, but I have to admit that I probably watch more Foxfare than anything else.

Tonight, there premiered a new show, called "New Amsterdam."

It's an interesting premise. A man who was born in the early seventeenth century (or even a century before) is given eternal (or almost eternal--hang on) life in perpetual youth. He lives that long life in what was at that time New Amsterdam, but what become shortly thereafter (once the British took it from the Dutch) New York.

He sees the village evolve into a town, then into a city, then into the greatest city in the western world (if not the world itself), which is why it was attacked six and a half years ago by those to whom the western world is an anathema to their seventh-century beliefs. But I digress.

He becomes a homicide detective in that great city, and his knowledge of the past is a great aid in solving gotham crimes.

As I said, an interesting premise. I mean, given that CSI, Wherever, is one of the biggest hits on network television, how could any producer turn it down?

But there's a (supposedly) dark undercurrent to the story.

His eternal life is not viewed, by the story writers or himself, as a blessing. It is apparently a curse. He cannot end his life volitionally. The only way to put an end to this (apparent, and obvious, at least to the script writers) misery of endless youth and health is to find his true love.

Then he can die.

Just how perverse is that?

Let's parse it.

OK, so you've "suffered" through four centuries of youthful life, in perpetual health, in a world in which your chances of dying are nil, and you apparently don't even suffer any pain, though this is a world in which even dentistry is barbaric for at least the first three hundred years. And now, after having seen a little village purchased with beads on a little island at the mouth of a river, you've watched it become the most powerful city on the planet, you want to check out?

You're in the early twenty-first century, about to enter a world in which many may join you in your longevity, though without the "burden" if having to find their true love to end it.

Well, both boo, and hoo.

Here's the thing that makes this science fiction (or rather, speculative fiction).

In the real world, people who are offered the gift of living forever will also have the capability of ending that endless life, barring some sadistic fascist government that (like some perceptions of God) thinks that the individuals are the property of the state, and not of themselves. If they really get tired of life, they will check out, either legally and easily, or illegally and in a more difficult manner. But the will to die, if it is strong enough, will win out.

So to me, the real suspension of disbelief in this new series is not that a man could live for four hundred years, but rather, that he would have to live that long in misery.

Thus, it is more of a morality tale, based on unrealistic premises, than one based on anything resembling the true future.

I hope that no one decides that long life is a bad thing, and more importantly, that no one thinks that it is something that no one should have, based on this foolish, deathist premise.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:58 PM
What's The Point?

Sarah Pullman is very unhappy with Facebook's privacy policy.

OK, I got a Facebook account last fall, at the urging of several people, who told me that I simply had to have one (though they could never actually explain why). I've yet to figure it out myself. I've gotten no discernible benefit from it (of course, I haven't invested much time in it, either). Can anyone explain to me what the big deal is, and what I'm missing out on if I don't have an account, or don't use the one I have?

[Update late morning]

While we're on the subject, here's an article on which is better for business: Facebook or LinkedIn?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:07 AM
Where Have The Heros Gone?

It's not a new subject, but Lileks muses on what's happened to Hollywood (and popular culture in general):

...imagine a story conference for the Beowulf movie: you know, I see modern parallels here - not surprising, given the timelessness of the epic. But the Mead Hall is civilization itself, an outpost constructed against the elements, and Grendel is the raging force that hates the song they sing-

"They hate us for our singing!" Knowing chuckles around the table.

No seriously, he does hate them for their singing. That's the point.

He hates what they've built, what they've done, how they live their lives.

"Maybe he has reason. That's the interesting angle. What drives Grendel?"

Yes, you're right. You're absolutely right. No one's ever taken the side of the demon in the entire history of literature, especially the last 40 years. By all means, let us craft an elaborate backstory for the guy who breaks down the door and chews the heads of the townsfolk, that we may better understand how we came to this point.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:00 AM

March 02, 2008


Selena Zito writes that all of the remaining presidential candidates are Scots-Irish.

Really? This is the first I'd heard that Hillary! was of Scots-Irish descent. I'd always assumed that she was from Puritan stock. That's the way she's always acted. And Obama is obviously, at best, only half Scots-Irish.

Zito doesn't seem to quite get the concept, either:

How can there be such scant understanding of a 30 million-strong ethnic group that has produced so many leaders and swung most elections?

Perhaps because political academics and pollsters parse the Scottish half off with the WASP vote and define the Irish-Catholic half as blue-collar Democrats. They are neither.

There is no "Irish-Catholic half" of the Scots-Irish. Scots-Irish aren't Irish at all. Neither are they Scottish. They were mostly Anglo-Saxon, not Celtic. They were also a violent people with an honor culture, mercenaries from the border area between England and Scotland. As the article notes, they were sent by the English to colonize Ulster, to get them out of Britain after the war between England and Scotland was settled and they had no more need for them. The ones too violent for Ulster were shipped off to America, so they're a double distillation of the most violent culture that the British Isles produced. After they fought (mostly for the South) in the Civil War, many of them headed out west.

People who think that America is too violent blame it on the proliferation of guns. But they confuse cause and effect. We have a lot of guns because we have a lot of Scots-Irish (aka rednecks). But it comes in pretty handy during war time.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:29 AM
Proves Her Point About The Math Thing

Charlotte Allen is embarrassed to be a woman. She gets the math wrong here, though:

Women really are worse drivers than men, for example. A study published in 1998 by the Johns Hopkins schools of medicine and public health revealed that women clocked 5.7 auto accidents per million miles driven, in contrast to men's 5.1, even though men drive about 74 percent more miles a year than women.

Since the statistic is on a per-mile basis, the fact that men drive more miles a year is irrelevant. So the disparity--5.1 versus 5.7--is actually quite small, and perhaps within the statistical error.

Of course, the thing that statistics like this don't reveal is how many accidents they cause, unbeknownst to them, because they are oblivious to their surroundings. I'm always bemused by someone who I know to be a terrible driver bragging about the fact that they've never had an accident. Not to imply that men don't do this as well, of course.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:05 AM

February 28, 2008

This Will Make The Left Crazy

Or, rather, crazier. Jonah's Book is numero uno on the New York Times best seller list.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:53 AM

February 27, 2008

There Is So Much I Could Write About This Subject

What criteria should you use to put books on your bookshelves?

So much to write, so little time. The same problem with reading the books on my bookshelf.

But for now, I will say that Ezra Klein is a pompous, pretentious ass. "Poseur" is too kind a word for him. Not that this is the only evidence of this, of course...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:46 PM
Iowahawk Meets Kato Kaelin

I used to go to parties like this up in the hills. I don't recall the ninja fembot valets, though.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:08 AM

February 26, 2008

Reforming Islam?

Let's hope so:

Commentators say the very theology of Islam is being reinterpreted in order to effect a radical renewal of the religion.

Its supporters say the spirit of logic and reason inherent in Islam at its foundation 1,400 years ago are being rediscovered. Some believe it could represent the beginning of a reformation in the religion.

Turkish officials have been reticent about the revision of the Hadith until now, aware of the controversy it is likely to cause among traditionalist Muslims, but they have spoken to the BBC about the project, and their ambitious aims for it.

Well, if anyone can do it, it seems like the Turks should be able to.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:59 PM
Are Americans Stupid?

Phil Bowermaster has some thoughts:

See how deftly it's done? Stupid religious Americans, clever "heathen" Europeans. Unfortunately, in the context, this doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense. Americans are opposed to stem cell research because we're ignorant religious bigots. Okay, sure. But we're opposed to nanotechnology for the same reasons? And GM foods?

GM foods? Now wait a second...a lot of Europeans are opposed to GM foods. I bet they would even say it's on moral grounds! Yet somehow, they manage to pull that off without being either 1) religious or -- more importantly -- 2) stupid. Personally, I think being morally opposed to GM foods is kind of stupid, and being "morally" opposed to nanotechnology is idiotic. However, I don't see how American stupidity is dumber than European stupidity; one may be informed by religious belief, the other by a paranoid superstitious dread of scientific progress. Advantage: Europe? If you say so.

I just hope that Americans aren't stupid enough to fall for Obama, as the Democrats currently seem to be.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:04 AM
Fascism In America

As described by Lileks:

As for the NRA logo, it's a reminder of the happy days of FDR's attempts to revive the economy by pouring a bowl of alphabet soup over its face. The NRA, among other things, was intended to prevent the depredations of competition, and "allowed industry heads to collectively set minimum prices," as this rather scant wikipedia entry notes. (The same page relates the story of the tailor who was arrested for charging 35 cents to press a suit; the NRA rules specified the price at 40 cents. So he was arrested. Consider that the next time someone complains that liberty and civil rights have been eliminated in the last 7 years.)
Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:16 AM

February 22, 2008


Alan K. Henderson has found the reason for McCain's support of amnesty for aliens.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:45 AM

February 21, 2008

An Evolutionary Golden Oldie

In light of the decision of my current home state, Florida, to teach evolution as "only a theory" (as though there's something wrong with that), I thought that I'd repost a post from early on in the blog. You can no longer comment on it there, but you can here, if anyone is inclined. Here is the repost:


The Jury Is In

In a post last week, amidst a lot of discussion of evolution, Orrin Judd made the mistaken claim that evolution is not a falsifiable theory (in the Popperian sense), and that (even more bizarrely and egregiously) defenders of it thought that this strengthened it.

On a related note, he also added to his list of questions about evolution a twelfth one: What would it take to persuade me that evolution was not the best theory to explain life? What evidence, to me, would disprove it? I told him that it was a good question, and that I'd ponder it.

Well, I did ponder it, and here is my response.

First of all, the theory is certainly falsifiable (again, in the theoretical Popperian formulation). If I were coming to the problem fresh, with no data, and someone proposed the theory of evolution to me, I would ask things like:

Does all life seem to be related at some level?

Is there a mechanism by which small changes can occur in reproduction?

Does this mechanism allow beneficial changes?

Can these changes in turn be passed on to the offspring?

Is there sufficient time for such changes to result in the variety of phenotypes that we see today?

There are other questions that could be asked as well, but a "No" answer to any of the above would constitute a falsification of the theory. Thus the theory is indeed falsifiable, as any useful scientific theory must be.

The problem is not that the theory isn't falsifiable, but that people opposed to evolution imagine that the answer to some or all of the above questions is "No," and that the theory is indeed false.

But to answer Orrin's question, at this point, knowing the overwhelming nature of the existing evidentiary record, no, I can't imagine any new evidence that would change my mind at this point. Any anomalies are viewed as that, and an explanation for them is to be looked for within the prevailing theory.

And lest you think me close minded, consider an analogy. An ex-football player's wife is brutally murdered, with a friend. All of the evidence points to his guilt, including the DNA evidence. There is little/no evidence that points to anyone else's guilt. Had I been on the jury that decided that case, it would have at least hung. I might have even persuaded a different verdict, but that's unlikely, because I'm sure that the jury had members who were a) predisposed to acquit regardless of the evidence and/or b) incapable of critical thinking and logic, as evidenced by post-trial interviews with them.

But for me to believe that ex-football player innocent, I would have to accept the following (which was in fact the defense strategy):

"I know that some of the evidence looks bad for my client, but he was framed. And I can show that some of the evidence is faulty, therefore you should throw all of it out as suspect. I don't have an alternate theory as to who did the murders, but that's not my job--I'm just showing that there's insufficient evidence to prove that my client did it. Someone else did it--no one knows who--it doesn't matter. And that someone else, or some other someone else, also planted evidence to make it look like my client did it. It might be the most logical conclusion to believe that my client did it, but that would be wrong--the real conclusion is that it is a plot to confuse, and it just looks like he did it. Therefore you shouldn't believe the evidence."

Is this a compelling argument? It was to some of the jury members. And it apparently is to people who don't want to believe that life could evolve as a random, undirected process.

The only way that I could believe that OJ Simpson is innocent at this point would be for someone else to come forward, admit to the crime, and explain how he planted all of the abundant evidence that indicated Orenthal's guilt.

The equivalent for evolution, I guess, would be for God (or whoever) to reveal himself to me in some clear, unambiguous, and convincing fashion, and to tell me that he planted the evidence. At which point, of course, science goes right out the window.

But absent that, the evidence compels me to believe that OJ Simpson murdered his wife (as it did a later jury in the civil suit), and the evidence compels me to believe that evolution is as valid a theory as is universal gravitation.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:40 PM

February 20, 2008

Taking On McGyver

Here's a fun interview with the Mythbusters. I don't get this, though:

My favorite episode, that I think the science is the most right, is ''Bullets Fired Up'': Will a bullet that you fire directly into the air kill you when it comes back down? We tried it in several different ways, and every single way we tried it -- from a shop experiment, to a scaled outdoor experiment, to a full-size outdoor experiment where we fired a full clip of 9mm rounds into the air out in the desert -- confirmed the same results. If it's coming straight down, it won't kill you. But if you fire it on an angle of even two degrees, it stays on a ballistic trajectory and it will kill you. So when you see someone in a movie fire their automatic rifle on kind of a spray up into the sky, probably all of those bullets are actually deadly. The amount of data we collected on it was more than anybody up to that point had ever achieved on firing bullets into the air.

I don't get what they're saying here. Why would it come down any harder if it's at a slight angle? How did they determine whether or not "it would kill you"? If it's in a vacuum, it should come down with exactly the same vertical velocity component it had when it left the gun (except reversed), but the atmosphere complicates things. It seems to me that any bullet fired in the air is going to be coming down at terminal velocity, unless the potential energy is so high that it doesn't have time to get to terminal velocity before it hits the ground, but that's pretty hard to believe. When it leaves the muzzle of the gun, it's supersonic, but I would think that it won't be able to be going that fast when it falls back down, because of air drag. This seems like something that should be simulatable with CFD (it might even be possible to do it analytically, if the bullet was round).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:48 AM

February 19, 2008

Sagan Memories

I was never a big fan of Cosmos, though I think that it did a lot of good in interesting people in space. I'm listening to a rerun on the SCIHD channel, and I recall why.

Sagan's voice is too pompous, too arrogant, and the ubiquitous sonorous tone, and pauses, which lent themselves to parody ("billions and billions") are really arrogant. I wish that he had written it, and someone else narrated.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:06 PM
Get A Rooster

Lileks sets an alarm clock:

First you push the ALARM SET button, and you should get our old friend, Mr. Blinking Twelve. But no. You press SOURCE to select iPod or FM tuner. Repeatedly pressing this button just makes the iPod option flash on the display, though, and you figure you've done something wrong. So you turn the device OFF.

And the display face lights up. This is the first indication that the device was designed by the American Union of Nonintuitive Interfaces. These guys get a lot of work nowadays. You start again. SOURCE. You get the flashing iPod option. Ah hah: here's another on/off button; let's try that. It turns everything off and powers down the unit. That's an option you've never had on an alarm clock before; if we had world enough and time, we could consider the possible scenarios in which one would want to power down the alarm clock. None come to mind.

Speaking of roosters, having spent some time in tropical climes where they run around wild, I can attest that the notion that they crow at dawn is a myth that has been foisted on city slickers like me. Or rather, that they only crow at dawn. I hear them crowing at dawn, at sunset, at lunchtime, at 2 AM. They may be good at waking you up, but not at any particularly useful time.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:55 AM

February 16, 2008

Frying A Turkey Without Oil?

Not exactly, despite the claim of this post:

Deep frying is a form of convection heating. Instead of hot air, you are using hot oil to transfer the heat. Depending on the oil used in the fryer, the temperature is usually about 375 degrees to keep the food from absorbing a lot of oil.

The Big Easy uses infrared energy to "bathe" food. It excites the proteins, not the water. Thus, you are literally frying it. It's just like sitting in the sun all day. The infrared energy will "fry" your meat's skin. The Big Easy doesn't need a lid because it's better to let the hot air escape. That way your food doesn't dry out and there's no basting necessary. Unlike conventional turkey fryers there is also no warm-up period. Just drop your thawed turkey (stuffed or unstuffed, injected or not, sugar-less rubbed or not) into the chamber and turn the Big Easy on. Infrared energy starts cooking it immediately and the cooking time for 12-14-pound turkey will be cut almost in half.

Without expressing an opinion on the relative merits of cooking a turkey this way, it's not equivalent to deep-fat frying. As it says, it only radiates the skin, whereas a deep fryer gets hot oil inside the bird as well, which has to speed up the cooking time considerably. And if the oil is sufficiently hot, there's no reason that it has to make the bird greasy, or any more so than it would be naturally from its own fat.

The Big Easy™ is $165 at Amazon, whereas serviceable friers are available for less than half the price. Of course, with the former, you don't need any oil, which might save you ten bucks or so per turkey preparation, so it might pay for itself over time if you do a lot of turkeys. But considering the time value of money, I think that you'd have to be a real turkey fan to make up the difference. Of course, it might be good for other meats as well.

[Update late evening]

Contrary to Glenn's comment, I don't call "foul." The proper spelling is "fowl."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:46 PM

February 08, 2008

Size Does Matter

Half of UK men would give up sex for six months for a fifty-inch television.

You know, if that's the deal, considering the first twenty years of my life, someone owes me a screen the size of a drive-in theater.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:05 PM
Blogging The Chicago Auto Show only Iowahawk can.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:23 AM
Disappearing Art

We're losing our movies:

The report's authors state the data explosion could turn into digital movie extinction, unless the studios push the development of storage standards and data management practices that will guarantee long-term access of their content.

As the report points out, even if a 100-year black box were invented that "read data reliably without introducing any errors, required no maintenance and offered sufficient bit density at an affordable price," there would be nobody alive capable of repairing it if that box were to fail at 99 years. In the real world of data management, digital assets are stored on media with longevities much less than 100 years, vulnerable to temperature changes, humidity and static electricity. It can be misidentified, inadequately indexed and difficult to track.

Also, whereas a well-preserved 35mm negative has traditionally contained enough information to fulfill any requirement for ancillary markets, there's a question in the minds of some industry observers about whether the quality of masters archived in digital formats will be sufficient for quality duplication. In an age when home movie systems can often provide a better experience than some commercial theaters, that's not an unimportant concern.

This is a problem that cryonicists face as well. How do you preserve the data that defines your life and identity over an indefinite period of time? No static media can be relied on--they all deteriorate eventually. I know that I have lots of floppies from the eighties that are probably unreadable now.

Data is going to have to be stored dynamically, and continually moved to new systems as the technology evolves. It will also have to be stored holographically, and distributed. Fortunately, the costs of digital data storage are plunging, with terabyte drives now available for the cost of multi-megabytes twenty years ago, and that trend is likely to continue as we get into molecular storage.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:45 AM
Face(book) Value

Jay Garmon dissects a dumb statistical correlation between SAT scores and "favorite" SF&F books. I found it interesting that there were no works by Neil Stephenson on the chart.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:38 AM

February 06, 2008

One Toke Over The Line

Willie Nelson comes out as a Truther.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:18 PM

February 03, 2008

At Least It's Not Hip Hop

The producers of the Superbowl half time show have obviously confused me with a Tom Petty fan. Let's just hope there are no wardrobe malfunctions.

Though I do have to confess that, while this is the first time I've actually seen Justin Timberlake, and prior to tonight would not have recognized him, I was most gratified to see him so physically abused in that commercial.

[After-game update]

Well, some publisher made a bad bet:

19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England's Unbeatable Patriots (Paperback)

Guess they weren't as "unbeatable" as they thought. Given that the putative author was "Boston Globe," presumably they were going to publish as well.

As Nelson Muntz would say, "Ha ha."

But, you have to say, it was a hell of a game. And being a Wolverine, I did want Brady to pull it out at the end, but it was a tough call. It's too bad that only one team could win. And of course, there were Michigan players on both sides of the ball. The Giants wouldn't have won without wide receivers Plaxico Burress (a Spartan), who caught the winning touchdown, and Amani Toomer (a record-holding Wolverine, though slightly before Brady's time).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:18 PM

February 01, 2008

As If It Weren't Bad Enough

Global warming will lead to an increase in zombie attacks.

I blame George Bush.

Fortunately, some of us have been prepared for a while.

[Mid-afternoon update]

Saved by the sun:

The Canadian Space Agency's radio telescope has been reporting Flux Density Values so low they will mean a mini ice age if they continue.

Like the number of sunspots, the Flux Density Values reflect the Sun's magnetic activity, which affects the rate at which the Sun radiates energy and warmth. CSA project director Ken Tapping calls the radio telescope that supplies NASA and the rest of the world with daily values of the Sun's magnetic activity a "stethoscope on the Sun." In this case, however, it is the "doctor" whose health is directly affected by the readings.

This is because when the magnetic activity is low, the Sun is dimmer, and puts out less radiant warmth. If the Sun goes into dim mode, as it has in the past, the Earth gets much colder.

Take that, undead!

Zombies and vampires. Is there any problem the sun can't fix?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:10 AM
A Brave Man

Eating the canned cheeseburger. With pictures.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:49 AM

January 31, 2008

Ay Carumba

Nancy Cartwright gave ten megabucks to the Church of Scientology. P. T. Barnum had nothing on L. Ron Hubbard.

Like cocaine, this is life's way of telling you that you make too damn much money.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:27 AM

January 30, 2008

Another Seventies Teevee Classic

I don't know where Iowahawk finds these things. I barely remember Makaniak myself.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:26 AM

January 29, 2008

This Is Just...Wrong

A cheeseburger in a can.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:13 PM

January 24, 2008

Congratulations To Jonah

He's going to be #3 on the NYT book list, and he's been nominated for a Pulitzer:

It would be great, not to mention amazing, if he wins one.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:32 PM

January 21, 2008

"A Dark Day In Cookie History"

The cookie that sounded like a rocket fuel is no more:

"...for those of you who say, 'Get over it, it's only a cookie,' you have not lived until you have tasted a Hydrox."

I never liked either of them that much, myself. But when I ate them, I ate them. I didn't lick the filling off.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:02 AM

January 20, 2008


If Green Bay had won, the Super Bowl would have been one of the historic games in NFL history. We would have seen a team that was attempting to go undefeated throughout the season, with a hot-shot young quarterback, against the old man who led his team to the ultimate game, and was looking to a final win and retirement on a high note.

Unfortunately, it will now be just the former. No one outside of New York will care if the Giants win. It's too bad for Eli Manning and his team, but now most of the nation will be cheering against them, because there's no compelling story on the other side.

And poor Favre. He has to decide if he wants to take one more shot. As I was watching that game, it looked to me like the foremost thought of the players on both sides was, "Damn. Goddamn this is cold. When will this [bleeping] game be over?"

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:25 PM

January 14, 2008

Lost Art Found

Some news from late last week that I'd missed--a previously unheard early recording of The Beatles has been discovered.

This 15 track set was recorded at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany a short while after the Ted Taylor recordings and boast different and perhaps better takes of "A Taste of Honey" and "Hippy Hippy Shake" (using Tony Sheridan as a 5th Beatle). These are the only two songs found on the original Star Club releases with which this recording should not be confused.

This is an historical recording because it was the very first time that Ringo Starr actually played with The Beatles "live" after replacing Pete Best on the drums.

Other tracks make good use of Kingsize Taylor's Band "The Dominoes" who utilize their piano on such Beatles favorites as "Money," "Twist and Shout" and "I Saw Her Standing There" all of which were subsequently used on The Beatles' first studio recordings for E.M.I.

What makes this album truly unique are the eight songs not available on any previously released L.P.s or singles -- which include Paul McCartney singing Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues" and George Harrison vocalizing Maurice Williams' "Do You Believe." One of the most outstanding tracks on this album must be "Ask Me Why" showing just how John Lennon and Paul McCartney became such a winning combination.

Wonder how long until the download is available?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:27 PM

January 13, 2008

The Very Model Of A Modern Metrosexual

Thanks to Classical Values, I think that Brooks Brothers has found their man...or their...whatever.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:50 PM

January 12, 2008

A White Playoff Season

Man, teams must hate playing the Packers in the playoffs at home. I just turned on the game, and it looks like half an inch of snow on the field just before the half, and still coming down.

[Going to check Wisconsin radar and weather]

Yup, thirty degrees, and it looks like it's going to keep coming down all game.

I've always thought that it was kind of cool that football doesn't call games for weather. It always made baseball look kind of wimpy when they quit playing in the rain, while the pigskinners will play in a blizzard. But still, you'd think that folks in Green Bay would get tired of it, with almost everyone else indoors now (though I think that Soldier Field is still open, right?). I know that I was happy when the Lions moved into the Superdome in Pontiac.

[Update in the second half]

Wow, the flakes really look more detailed in HD. You can almost tell them apart.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:07 PM
Good Lord

What kind of nancy boys does Brooks Brothers think we are? Looks like just the thing for that all-male boarding school, complete with spankings.

Is that price the amount that they'd pay us to wear these abominations? If so, it's nowhere near enough.

[Afternoon update]

And check out this cashmere down vest with the short pants. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. In what kind of weather would one wear that ensemble?

You know, the Brits have a word for people who would wear this stuff. Though I guess we had one of our own, back in the day, the most prominent of whom was called Yankee Doodle.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:24 AM

January 08, 2008

What If?

I didn't note this at the end of the regular season, because it seemed so absurd at the time, but after seeing Michigan pummel Florida in Orlando, one has to wonder now. If Hart and Henne had been healthy in November, could Michigan have gone to the BCS Championship Game? And if so, would they have done better than the Buckeyes did last night?

I know, App State, but hear me out.

Yes, they had two losses, but they were early season losses. Particularly this season, they can be recovered from. Which is worse, losing the first game (barely) to App State, or losing badly to Stanford mid-season?

Before the Wisconsin game, Michigan was ranked 21st in the BCS. Had they beaten Wisconsin, they probably would have ridden up to the second ten, if not top ten. If they beat #5 Ohio State, then they'd certainly end up in the top five, since they only had two losses--their first of the year--and then finished off their season with ten straight wins. After all, on the same day, several teams ahead of them would have lost. With the last losses on the last day of regular season, and with one of the longest win streaks in college football at that point, they could easily have been poised to rise to the top as Ohio State did.

Which would have been amusing, since it would have meant two two-loss teams in the NC game.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:33 PM

January 03, 2008

The Death Of High Fidelity

Is the age of the audiophile over?

I still have a lot of vinyl from the seventies. I really need to get a new tonearm/cartridge for my turntable so I can hear real music again.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:57 AM

January 01, 2008

Giving The Game Away

Watching Michigan play Florida. They should be up by three touchdowns, and instead they're tied. If they lose, it will be due to all those turnovers and lost opportunities. Hard to believe that Mike Hart has fumbled twice in this game, given his overall record.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:06 PM

November 28, 2007

Moses of Space Exodus Entrepreneur of the Year

Inc. names Elon Musk Entrepreneur of the Year (via

The goal of putting people on Mars is no joke. Musk believes that over the four-and-a-half-billion-year history of planet Earth, a dozen or so events have truly mattered. Edging forward in his chair, he ticks off a few: "There was the advent of single-celled life, multicelled life, the development of plants, then animals," he says. "On this time scale, I'd put the extension of life to another planet slightly above the transition from life in the oceans to life on land."

Or in Biblical terms, Genesis, then Exodus. As Moses says, "Let my people go". Musk is putting his growing fortune and celebrity on the line to make space settlement happen. Musk's history of the world sounds like the preamble to Rand's Passover-style celebration of when we first left the planet, Evoloterra. Rand, ever thought of expanding Evoloterra into a full religion?

Posted by Sam Dinkin at 01:24 PM
Thoughts On Stephen King

...and his thoughts on waterboarding. It is hard to take these people seriously, since they seem to be so morally unserious.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:18 AM

November 26, 2007

Movie Reviews

...over at the Bleat today:

Well, the minute the movie begins you know youre in for some cyberdrama, which means people scowling and typing really fast at computers with the mysterious user interface that bears no resemblance to any computers people use:

The moviemakers think well just believe it without effort, because these are special hacker computers, I guess. Its like a WW2 movie that features unscrupulous journalists who work on strange typewriters that have split keyboards and vertical platens and a space bar you activate with your feet. Audience would have wondered what the hell that was. But were supposed to believe that these guys have extra-different machines, all of which not only have different interfaces, but can be instantly understood and commanded by kidz whose l33t hacker skilzorz enables them to cut power to 1/3rd of the nation by looking at a picture of the United States on a computer screen.

DePalma is beaten up as well. What I find interesting is that even the lefty anti-war people who really, really want to like "Redacted" think that it stinks. This may be the biggest bomb since Nagasaki, and it couldn't happen to a more worthy director.

Also, some commentary on little Miss Shaker and the misanthropes (hey, that would be a great band name).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:14 AM

November 24, 2007

I Hadn't Been Paying Much Attention To LSU

...but if Michigan doesn't end up with Les Miles as its new coach, maybe it will be lucky:

Given the job description of a college football head coach, Les Miles qualifies as a good example for his colleagues across the country. The way Miles handled this past week of questions from an aroused media corps was exemplary. The personal integrity of the man who led LSU through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is considerable. Miles is a stand-up individual who does a great job of handling a lot of the duties of a head coach. From this big-picture perspective, the man is a good coach.

However, when championships are there to be won and statements are to be made, Arkansas ambush made one thing perfectly and overwhelmingly clear: Les Miles can't strategize his way out of a paper bag.

He's a fine human being, which should count for more in the long run than one's performance when wearing a headset on the sideline. But for the record, this loss to Houston Nutt's Hogs proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Les Miles is certifiably loony as a play caller, clock manager and timeout juggler. In those three aspects of coaching (not the job description as a whole), Miles is a flunkie. Period.

Lloyd Carr made a lot of questionable play calls over the years as well. The Wolverines ought to be looking to improve in that department, not get worse.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:40 AM
Forget The Leftover Turkey

That's what Jill Hunter Pellettieri says:

Every November, magazine editors and food writers, cooking gurus and TV personalities, foist turkey leftover recipes upon us. Unless we put our tired, picked-over turkey carcass to good use, they tell us, we're wasting some precious opportunity. But don't be fooled. Do not be tempted by that recipe for turkey and leek risotto. Those stringy last bits of gristle and meat that cling to your bird are better suited to the raccoons who rummage through your garbage. Do you really want to morph the centerpiece of your most ceremonial meal of the year into turkey bundles (stuffed with turkey, cream cheese, dill weed, and water chestnuts, among other things)?

...many try to compensate for turkey's shortcomings by getting creative in the kitchen: We'll deep-fry, grill, brine, even spatchcock in an effort to zest up this bird. But I challenge you to count on more than one hand all the times you've made a turkey entre since last Thanksgiving that wasn't a sandwich or a burger. (For that matter, when was the last time you ordered turkey tetrazzini at a restaurant? How about turkey pho?)

Well, I do actually occasionally buy a turkey breast and roast it, but the leftovers almost always go to sandwiches. But we did brine our bird this year, and it did make a huge difference in terms of moistness (though not so much for leftovers--it's still dry the next day). But I actually like dry white meat for sandwiches.

My general philosophy is to have one reenactment of the Thanksgiving meal on the weekend (probably tomorrow night in this case), either with leftovers (if any) or a new batch of potatoes, but the rest of it goes into other things. We still have some stuffing left (which we had for breakfast yesterday, with eggs). This is the first year that I'm not boiling the carcass for a soup--there are only two of us, and it's just too much. And last night, we had turkey black bean nachos, which were pretty good.

I think she's a little hard on the poor bird.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:21 AM

November 20, 2007

Why Ron Paul Is Bad For Libertarianism

Ilya Somin explains.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:33 PM
Deconstructing Charmin


That he himself was rebuked for failing to stay his own desire to squeeze, some say, was proof of a Natural Law above Whipple and the society he represented, but this was seen quite correctly by critics as a reflexive sop tossed to the reactionaries, a way of undercutting the existential truths Whipples failings represented. In a society without meaning or purpose, is there anything more absurd that setting up the petty bourgeois rules that keep people from applying manual pressure to Charmin in a public setting? Here, the reactionaries pounce: Whipple did not oppose squeezing; he merely attempted to establish some sort of public standard. But the personal is the public; how can the act of squeezing be acceptable in the personal realm and transgressive in the public sphere?

Also, monorails and the Rifleman.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:40 AM

November 19, 2007

Life Imitates Art (Take 2)

Heather Mills:

Substitute rat's milk for cow's milk and you will help save the world. At least, thats what Heather Mills believes. Fat Tony: a meeting in which Quimby grants Fat Tony the contract for Springfield Elementary's milk concession, Homer is shocked to discover they will sell rat's milk to the children.

What a loon McCartney married.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:22 PM
Spacemail Act is Key to Energy Security

All things green are getting a thorough look with oil poised to bust through $100/barrel as Russia, Venezuela, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria and other major exporters view high prices as a time to reap profits and consolidate political control rather than feed the goose that is laying the golden eggs--i.e. invest. One hope for cheap clean energy (energy independence is at our fingertips if we decide to widely deploy coal-to-liquid technology used by SASOL in South Africa and is estimated to cost $35/barrel by Wikipedia) is space based solar power (SBSP). But Taylor Dinerman gets to the key roadblock to SBSP in his Space Review article today, "The chicken and the egg: RLVs and space-based solar power":

The SBSP Study Group universally acknowledged that a necessary pre-requisite for the technical and economic viability of SBSP was inexpensive and reliable access to orbit....

Phase one proposes a strategy that will Develop new, fully-reusable two-stage, rocket-powered space access systems (aerospaceplanes) for passengers and cargo transport. The mission is to Transport passengers and cargo with aircraft-like safety and operability. The report claims that for such systems the TRL is 69 [6=space tested systems, 9=debugged commercial vehicle] for a vehicle with a gross weight of 1400 tonnes with the capability of delivering a bit more than 11 tonnes of payload to LEO.

Is this the Falcon IX? At $55 million/launch or $2500/lb, it's still too expensive to be a chicken. Rand thinks that a contract for ten heavy GEO deliveries would do much much better than that using established vehicles.

If it's not the Falcon IX, then what is it? And why? If it costs $15 billion to develop the A380, wouldn't it cost that for an RLV? And what good is it if there aren't eggs aplenty to carry to GEO? Suppose the hypothetical RLV can do 40% cheaper than existing vehicles per pound (like the A380 vs. 737). It would need to carry 10 million pounds to break even. To achieve a 20% cost reduction, it would need to carry 30 million pounds ($75B in lift costs).

Two problems: A) a 20% cost reduction is not enough to set off a demand frenzy--it would just lay an egg; B) $75B in lift costs is 25 years of annual demand.

A credible commitment to want eggs delivered into space whatever the price (e.g., $15 billion/year like everyone's favorite subsidy poster child, ethanol) would spawn several competing providers to get those eggs cheaply into space. $15 billion spent on a technologically successful space plane, on the other hand would a) result in an asset that won't be able to repay its bond debt and b) even totally depreciated would not cross essential price points to make SBSP commercially viable.

And why spend a total of $300 billion to conjure $15 billion/year in demand forever? Vision. $15 billion/year is about 0.1% of GDP. It's affordable if the prize is big enough. In 1976, airmail cost $0.06/pound delivered. In 1926, it was $3.00/pound. If you adjust for inflation, that factor of 50 decrease goes to a factor of 150. That is, a modest demand would likely result in a 10.5% annual takedown rate in the price of spaceflight for the next 50 years. Taking $2500/lb as the starting price, we might end up at $20/lb. or about $3/kwh average price of orbital energy imparted to payload delivered to GEO.

Electric energy prices dropped from $4/kwh in 1892 (in 1992 dollars) to about 9 cents in 1967 so I wouldn't be surprised to see the price to impart energy for space launches drop from the current marginal price of $0.60/kwh or so (fixed costs dominate) for kerosene to less than $0.06 which is around the wholesale price of coal generated electricity today leaving room for another factor of 50 improvement for the subsequent 50 years from 2057-2107. Regenerative braking on a space elevator comes to mind, but that will probably be about as far from what we will have in 2107 as the Wright Flyer is from the A380.

If the price to orbit in 2057 is as cheap as the price to New Zealand today, we might expect to see some feature films shot there, four million people living there and an addition to space-produced GDP of $1 trillion/year (about .4% of solar system GDP in 2057). That produces a good fraction of the tax revenue to justify the investment without any vision or desire for clean energy.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at 01:15 PM

November 17, 2007

Better Luck Next Year

The game's not quite over, but barring a miracle, the Buckeyes are going to the Rose Bowl. Surprisingly, given how Michigan started the year, the defense played well enough to win. Except for that one horrible play that allowed the long touchdown, they'd be within a score of winning, and they've been shutting down Ohio State's offense in the second half. In fact, it's pretty amazing that the defense held them to two scores considering how much time they had to spend on the field.

But you can't win if you don' t score. It was the offense that let them down, particularly with all of the dropped passes.

Still Michigan's season ended a lot better than anyone might have thought it would after the first two games, when a lot of people expected them to have a losing season, and not go to a bowl game at all. It's obviously a huge disappointment for Hart, Henne and the other seniors, who have never beaten Ohio State, and now never will. The question is, will Lloyd want to go out on this note, or try at least one more time to beat Jim Tressel next year?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:57 PM

November 12, 2007

Third Time Not The Charm

So we rented Spiderman 3 on Saturday night. We were (to put it in the mildest possible terms) disappointed. Lileks explains why, so I don't have to.

I can't believe that it's impossible to tell a good story, even a superhero story, while torturing basic physics and physiology, but apparently the Hollywood types do. Of course, as he notes, that wasn't the only problem.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:53 AM

November 10, 2007

The Fire Has Gone Out

I was never much of a Norman Mailer fan. I read The Naked and the Dead as a teenager (my parents' copy), and didn't find it that impressive. Roger Kimball obviously never heard the phrase "de mortuis nil nisi bonum"--he has many not-so-good things to say of the author/cultural icon/literary thug, who died today (he had been ill for some time).

Interestingly, of all the works that Kimball mentions in his long anti-eulogy, he doesn't talk about "Of A Fire On The Moon," his book about Apollo XI.

The reviews here of it are interesting--many of the reviewers who disliked Mailer's other work liked this one, and vice versa--his traditional fans had little use for it. I've never read it myself, and based on the reviews (including one by Roger Launius), I don't know if I'll bother now. Anyway, rest in peace. He certainly didn't live that way.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:27 PM

October 31, 2007

It's That Time Of Year Again

Time for extreme pumpkins.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:36 AM

October 23, 2007

Coming Attractions

I can't wait to see this piece from the 'Hawk:

I must remain tight-lipped, but can tell you my assignment involves Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, Pancho Villa, nuclear radiation, lost treasure, Mexican carnival sideshows, Tom Wolfe, alien autopsies, satanists, tequila, John Wesley Hardin, chupacabras, Aztec blood sacrifice, Mexican outlaw biker gangs, my dad, Pershing missiles, porn shops, peyote, Billy the Kid, eating brains, and a cursed hot rod.

I am not making any of this up.

Hunter Thompson, except without the drugs (other than the tequila...well, and the peyote), and a lot funnier I'll wager.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:54 PM

October 20, 2007

An Exemplary Example Of How Crazy College Football Is This Season

The first team this season to lose to Notre Dame defeated Cal.

And the Buckeye-Spartan game was close enough to make both teams worth beating for Michigan's strength of schedule. Assuming they beat Illinois tonight, of course...

[Sunday morning update]

Sorry, I'd linked the wrong year on the Notre Dame/UCLA game--it's fixed now. The point remains, though.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:24 PM

October 19, 2007

Star Trek...


Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:08 AM
Recipe Time

It was a little weird seeing Mark Whittington link to his spaghetti sauce recipe today, because this is very similar to my own, which I just happened to have made last night for the first time in months. The only difference is that I add a general Italian seasoning, lemon juice, some honey, and mushrooms. I also use pureed and whole plum tomatoes (canned) in addition to a can of sauce and a can of paste. And I use turkey Italian sausage, hot not sweet.

It's also a good base sauce for lasagna.

[Afternoon update]

As a commenter notes, another key difference in mine is that I use fresh minced garlic, not powdered. Several cloves.

[One more update]

I also forgot bay leaves. Whole. And rosemary, fresh from the garden, if possible. We used to grow it in California (in fact, one of the residence hotels I stayed at in El Segundo last year had it growing on the hillside), but I'm not sure it does well in the Florida heat.

[Saturday afternoon update]

I just noticed that Mark writes that the sauce isn't good for someone who is dieting. I'm not sure why he thinks that--it's an excellent sauce from that standpoint--lots of protein, vegetables (in the form of onions, peppers, tomatoes) and not even a lot of fat if one has drained it off (I use olive oil to sautee things). Atkins would probably cheer it. The problem with it is not the sauce, but the pasta, which is a high-glycemic carbohydrate. I'd at least recommend whole-wheat...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:28 AM

October 18, 2007

The Art And Pleasure Of Not Writing

As someone who lived in LA for a quarter of a century and knows a lot of writers (and not writers) there, including Rob Long, I found this piece hilarious. I hope you do as well.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:03 PM

October 12, 2007

Green is the New Black

Congratulations Al Gore.

The Sun shines more energy in an hour on us than we generate as a species in a year so human heat production is not yet much of a factor in climate (but this could change if we keep doubling it). If greenhouse gases cause heating which gets reinforced by lower albedo due to the ice caps melting that would be news. Fortunately, heat radiation goes up as the fourth power of temperature according to the Stephan-Boltzmann Law. So runaway greenhouse is not in the cards.

Let's tax some coal; that would be cool. Cutting back $50 worth of gasoline use cuts back one fill up. Cutting back $50 worth of coal cuts back two tons. The Party that does it probably won't win West Virginia in the next election.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at 03:20 PM

October 03, 2007

Yeah, That's What We Need

A mortgage czar.

What is it with these big-government types and "czars"? What country do they think they live in? Yes, the Bolshevik Revolution was a disaster for Russia, but that doesn't mean that the Czar was the solution.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:17 AM

September 28, 2007

The Day Has Finally Come

It's been a long time coming, but today is Star Trek appreciation day at the Corner. Just keep scrolling. Jonah is going nuts.

[Update a few minutes later]

It's not just The Corner. It's Star Trek Weekend at National Review.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:30 AM

September 23, 2007

The Jinx Is Broken

Until yesterday, Michigan hadn't won a game since Bo Schembechler died, last November. Let's hope that the rest of the season will go much better. Mallett actually looks like a better natural quarterback than Henne ever has. It's not obvious who should start next week, even if Henne is healthy.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:20 AM

September 09, 2007

A Light Through The Clouds

Maybe this year won't be a total disaster for (southeast) Michigan football. The Lions are leading the Raiders at the half, ten zip.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:11 PM

September 08, 2007

No Fluke?

Based on the game so far, it looks like Michigan is for real. A for-real loser, that is...

[Update a few minutes later]

A comment over at

[The Wolverines] are absolutely *killing* Appalachian State's strength-of-schedule.


At the half, they're down four scores (32-7). I'd sure like to be a fly on the wall in the Michigan locker room.

Anyway, I'm glad I didn't spend twenty bucks on ESPN game plan to watch the slaughter. It's not like there were any other games there that I wanted to watch.

[Update a couple minutes later]

OK, last week, it was clear that the defense was weak. But this week, it's clear that the offense is as well. Both Henne and Hart have produced in past seasons, so I have to think it's the O-line.

Either way, I was laughing off suggestions that Lloyd would leave over this, but if it keeps up, and Michigan has a losing season (when was the last time that happened?), it could happen. Interestingly, his early years were his best.

[Update at quarter to six Eastern]

Well, it turns out that it's the local ABC game, so I don't have that excuse not to watch. Apparently, senior quarterback Henne's been injured, and replaced. It's unclear whether that's a good or a bad thing. But he can't be feeling very good about his senior season at this point...

[Update after end of game]

OK. It's pretty clear that Michigan completely sux. The question now is, what will the Athletic Department do about it?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:45 PM

September 07, 2007

Kick 'Em When They're Down

Now this is just mean:

In the wake of their embarrassing loss to Division 1-AA Appalachian State, Michigan has announced they will play the Barton Hills Blue Birds of the Ann Arbor-area under-10 youth division in next years season opener.

And then there's this:

But redemption may come soon for Hart and the Wolverines. Their opponent in two weeks will be a definite downgrade from Division 1-AA when they face the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

You know, the Buckeyes (and the rest of the conference) can marinate themselves in schadenfreude if it makes them feel better, but considering last year's bowl season, they shouldn't be thrilled about things like this. It only proves a lot of critics' point that the Big Televen isn't as big as its boosters think.

It will be very interesting to see how they do against Oregon tomorrow.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:50 AM

September 04, 2007

Well, You Can't Say They're Overrated Now

When was the last time that Michigan wasn't ranked in the top twenty-five in football? I guess the question is now, how many teams do they have to beat to get ranked again? If they go undefeated through the Wisconsin game, that seems like it should be enough. In fact, assuming that Wisconsin is undefeated at the time, it should put them back in the top ten, and Saturday's game will be viewed as a fluke. That is one advantage of an early loss. But that loss will haunt them all the way through the end of the season, in terms of what bowl they go to, even if they're undefeated from here on out. Not that I expect that, of course.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:09 PM

September 01, 2007

Hats Off To The Mountaineers

They sure deserved to win that game. It's not the end of the Wolverine's season, but it almost certainly wipes out any title hopes. It wasn't clear to me whether the defense just stank, or whether Appalachian State was that good. The coming weeks will tell.

[Update a few minutes later]

It wasn't just the defense. Special teams fell down, too, losing in the final seconds. You don't win national championships by having two field goals blocked in a game.

[Another update]

One more thought. When was the last time Michigan lost three straight games (over two seasons, of course). And it's been a long time since they lost an opener as well. They usually stumble when they play the Irish in the second or third game.

[Sunday morning update]

As I note in comments, it just occurred to me that the Wolverines haven't won a football game since Bo Schembechler died.

And Iowahawk kindly sends along this song. There ain't no freude like schadenfreude.

"Hail To The Victors" it's not.

[Update on late Sunday morning]

Should Michigan even be ranked now? I think not. Just shows the stupidity of pre-season polls. They can earn their way back into the top ten, but they have to run the table now.

[Afternoon update]

Here's a Michigan fan, drowing his sorrows in...kittens.

Well, they are cute.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:20 PM

August 26, 2007

Batboy Weeps

An entertaining history of the late Weekly World News:

Clontz, who died in 2004, legendarily instructed his reporters to stay out of the way, let the sources tell the story: ''You've got to know when to stop asking questions.'' If a guy called in and said Bigfoot stole his wife, then Bigfoot stole his wife. Why fact-check your way out of that one?

''We knew our core constituency wasn't just college kids who are laughing at everything, but many people took the stories straight up and enjoyed them for what they were,'' said former WWN managing editor Sal Ivone, proud author of the tortured-genius-demands-lobotomy classic. ``They didn't want to question it. So that was the way we played it.''

For a while, readers lapped it up. Circulation peaked at 1.2 million in 1988 with a front-page edition declaring ''ELVIS IS ALIVE -- and living in Kalamazoo.'' The tip was phoned in by a Michigan housewife.

A story would often start with a shred of truth and then a WWN writer would ''polish'' it, sometimes to brilliantly ridiculous extremes. That's why the WWN was the only media outlet to score exclusive Hubble telescope photos of Heaven.

''I always thought of it as the ultimate in wish-fulfillment,'' Ivone said.

...Ivone said running characters like Bat Boy were a byproduct of reader appetites for story arcs.

Bat Boy was one of those happy accidents that could only occur at the Weekly World News. Dick Kulpa, the WWN's graphics genius, was Photoshopping a human child's image into another alien baby.

Tired of the same-old, same-old, Kulpa gave the tyke pointy ears, fangs and huge eyes. Ivone, who was standing nearby, muttered: ''Bat Boy!'' The rest is blissful tabloid history.

It will be missed.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:02 AM

August 15, 2007

The Domino Effect

Someone had too much time on his hands (you don't need to understand French to appreciate this video).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:54 AM

August 07, 2007

Attack Of A Giant Woman

It's a classic movie, and Lileks reviews it, so you don't have to watch it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:32 AM

August 03, 2007

Wolverine Faux Pas

I'm a faithful Wolverine, but I think that the response from Lloyd Carr and the others to Jim Harbaugh's accurate comments is ridiculous. Note that none of them actually deny the allegations (because they know they're true). They're just upset because he's perceived as being "disloyal." I think that Michigan does as well to uphold academic standards as any program with their kind of record, but the notion that they don't coddle the athletes academically is ridiculous. It's unfortunate that this perception carries over to the athletes that are true scholars (and Michigan has many of those as well--I attended engineering classes with some football stars during my time there), but sometimes life isn't fair.

They would have been better off not responding at all, since he certainly didn't intend it as a specific slam at his own school, so much as the system in general. He was merely using Michigan as an example with which he was intimately familiar. In fact, you could replace the word "Michigan" in his comments with almost any other program, except perhaps Stanford, but then, they don't win nearly as many football games.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:36 PM

August 02, 2007

Stop The World, I Want To Get Off

Just in case you somehow imagined that Elton John wasn't an idiot, this should lay the matter to rest:

The internet has stopped people from going out and being with each other, creating stuff.

Instead they sit at home and make their own records, which is sometimes OK but it doesnt bode well for long-term artistic vision.

Its just a means to an end.

Were talking about things that are going to change the world and change the way people listen to music and thats not going to happen with people blogging on the internet.

I mean, get out there communicate.

Hopefully the next movement in music will tear down the internet.

Lets get out in the streets and march and protest instead of sitting at home and blogging.

I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span.

Yes, of course, because, you know, it's all about the art.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:16 AM

July 25, 2007

High-Priced Cat

OK, I love my feline overlord (or in this case, overlady), but unless you're Bill Gates, $11,000 is a bit much. I spent less than a tenth of that a few years ago, and it was more than I probably should have.


Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:17 PM

July 23, 2007

News I Can't Use

Starbucks is increasing their prices.

I don't think that I've ever given them a dime of business. If I did, I was purchasing something for someone else. I don't even drink coffee. As I've noted in the past, if I were the market, there would be no Starbucks (and the economies of several tropical countries would be devastated).

A lot of Freepers seem to agree. Even the coffee drinkers. I like this proposal:

We need a $10 federal excise tax on Starbucks lattes to pay for childrens health care. The primary payers of this will be liberals.

OK, I don't really agree (if I did, I'd be hypocritical, because I oppose all such targeted taxes, particularly federal ones), but I can sympathize with the sentiment.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:57 PM
Enough Already With The Polarity Reversing

Top ten things to hate about Star Trek.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:50 AM
Don't Take It Seriously

[Note: I originally wrote this back on March 7th, but in going through old posts, I noticed that I never published it. The movie has been out a sufficient amount of time now that there are no spoilers...]

OK, so we went and saw the Astronaut Farmer this past weekend (I should add, parenthetically, that it's the second movie I've seen in a theatre since I moved down here, two and a half years ago.

Forget about "suspension of disbelief." Think complete abandonment of disbelief. On rocketry, on combustion, on radio communications, on basic physics, on how the government works, on how people work, on...almost anything correlating to reality that you want to imagine.

But I'm not panning the movie. As long as you follow my advice, and empty your head of the notion that this is a movie about how a private citizen might actually get into space, it's an enjoyable flick, and entertaining for the whole family (well, other than a couple naughty words).

Yes, I could spend the evening disquisiting on all the things they got wrong in the flick--the notion that one could launch from a barn without it being a smoldering crater afterward; the notion that a rocket could propel itself a few feet off the ground horizontally for miles, with gravity having no effect; the notion that a Mercury capsule could survive the end of that trip, after being launched off a cliff and roll amidst the desert scrub, intact with its occupant alive; the notion that the government would assemble a team from every conceivable (and several unconceivable) government entities in a high-school gym to determine whether or not he could fly; the notion that a man and his fifteen-year-old son could single (OK, dual) handedly assemble an Atlas-Mercury from antique spare parts scrounged from NASA junkyards and have it work, and not only work, but magically have it land where it took off (even though the original landed in the ocean, and not the desert southwest) after a power failure that was fixed (as all things are fixed in movies, by banging on the equipment with a closed fist). Forget all that.

With a little consulting from people who actually understand this stuff, it could have been made a little more realistic, but realism didn't seen ti be the film makers' goal--magic was. It's a movie about dreams, and governments, and the intrinsic conflict between the two. Forget the physics and politics, and focus on the metaphor.

In fact, the movie hit very close to home for me, because I and my family have sacrificed a great deal for a similar dream for many years, with success still eluding us (though perhaps that situation is improving). But nowhere to the same extent as Charles Farmer, and I'd like to think that (despite his movie success) I understand a little more about how politics, business and even rockets work than he seemed to.

In a sense, the way that the development of space will eventually play out is somewhere in between the two cartoonish extremes depicted in the movie. It won't be done by a big-govenment program, and it won't be done by a determined man in his garage. It will be done by private entities that are already formed and forming, that will take the smart things that NASA has learned over the years (like range safety, and not launching your rocket next to the house), and try to shed a lot of the unproductive ones that are driven by pork-driven politics and institutional inertia. The minimal hope for from government, for both terrestrial and extraterrestrial endeavors, is to facilitate their dreams, rather than hinder them.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:10 AM

July 17, 2007

A Nominee?

You know, not being a fan of professional wrestling (my last experience with it was as a child, when my father took us to the IMA Auditorium in Flint, Michigan, to see "The Sheik"), I had never heard of Chris Benoit until he murdered his family and himself. But, given that he killed not only his wife, but her issue (presumably) with him, does she deserve a Darwin Award?


Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:56 PM

July 16, 2007

Happy Birthday, Taryn

I was just looking up the bio of the young woman who made the hilarious (and catchy and sexy) spoof Hillary campaign video, and she was reportedly born on July 16th.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:15 AM

July 15, 2007

Apropos My Last Entry

The one here. I thought this an appropriate topic relating to the most overrated and overpriced vacation spot in the country (in my humble opinion, of course).

Ernest Hemingway, who lived for a time in Key West as a trophy husband (and yes, he did have polydactyl cats, many of whose descendants remain there, both at his house which is now a museum, and on the island), was the most overrated writer in American literature. Note that I'm not saying the worst writer, just the most overrated one.


Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:39 PM

July 12, 2007

It's Slug Day!

John Miller explains.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:46 AM

July 07, 2007

Weekend Fun

Lileks is having a contest of suggestions for new perfume or cologne scents. I've never been one for stinkum, myself, but his readers have some interesting ones. I wonder if "Durian" would be a big seller? It has a perfumy name.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:08 AM

July 05, 2007

Why Do They Torment Us?

Lileks has thoughts on the never-ending attempts of the fops in Paris to foist retro fashions on us. It will probably go on until the last baby boomer has retired from the fashion industry (including fashion sections of newspapers).

Also, this:

In related fashion news: on this day in 1946, the bikini was introduced, a swmsuit named after an atomized Pacific atoll. Good thing they didnt test the bomb on the Spratly Atoll, because no one would want to wear a Spratly. It sounds like an amusing way to fall down. The original bikini seems modest today the bottom was about an inch below the sternum, hiked up like an old mans pants but it had the scandalous effect its designers intended. Its interesting to consider that the modern bikini cannot get any smaller; you can find website that will sell postage stamps held together by strands one micron thick. Its perhaps the sole area of human endeavor in which additional development is impossible.
Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:32 AM

July 02, 2007

Go To The Kwik-E-Mart

There may be one opening near you. Unfortunately, there aren't any in south Florida, or I'd be tempted to go check it out. Maybe even get a squishee.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:49 AM

I've seen several reviews of Ratatouille. I've not seen a bad one. Lileks was very impressed.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:29 AM

June 23, 2007

Hollywood Nitwit Alert

Is Cameron Diaz a Maoist?

Probably not. She's just an historically and politically ignorant dolt, like the kids with the "fashionable" Che teeshirts. Which would be fine, if she didn't deign to lecture us on our own lifestyles.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:02 PM
For Your Saturday Enjoyment

Stupid pop song lyrics.

Hey, this is like shooting whales in a barrel. Find some smart ones, and then get back to me.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:51 AM

June 18, 2007

My Dark Secret

I not only liked Cream of Wheat, but I would deliberately make it lumpy. The lumps were the best part. Go ahead, call me crazy. The others, who liked theirs smooth and bland (or at least disliked it the least that way) weren't shy about it.

Also, who knew that the guy on the package was a Michiganian? I'd never heard of Leslie until I read his story, despite the fact that it was less than a hundred miles away from home.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:40 AM

June 15, 2007

Still Boldly Going

Unlike the socialist French captain of the Enterprise, the original star ship captain thinks that space is important:

What's Shatner's assessment of NASA's mission to head back to the moon and Mars?

"I think the country needs a noble objective, and among the notable objectives are peace, democracy and all the political things that abound," he said. "One of the other things we need is a goal, which becomes unattainable. As soon as we go to the moon, we want to go to Mars, and as soon as we go to Mars, then it's somewhere else.

"A constant need for a goal is a human condition, almost like a dream. It's almost unattainable, but you continue to strive, and a journey through the stars will be a means of identifying this great country."

Pretty nice words, coming from a Canadian, eh?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:21 AM

May 20, 2007

Playing Outside

Ann Althouse has a post about a byegone day.

I didn't like playing outside that much myself--I'd always rather stay inside and read a book, but I did have a good time, generally, when I did.

We overtoy our kids. At the risk of sounding like a codger, or worse, Grandpa Simpson ("Let me tell you how it was in my day, sonny"), we used to go over to my grandmother and grandfather's house to visit. In the basement he had taken a steel rod, bent a handle at one end, and on the other, put a wagon wheel (a children's wagon, not a Conestoga). He made two of them. One would grip the handle end, and push it up and down the driveway, sidewalk and street, often at high speeds. One would also attempt to do it on the softer lawn, but this was a rapid education in physics.

We used to fight over them. One of them, for reasons long forgotten, was considered superior. We had a great time. And turned out all right, I think, comments from the anonymous loons here notwithstanding.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:56 PM

May 16, 2007

Magic Kingdom, Day Two

Lileks' adventure continues:

Gnat whod ridden Space Mountain without a care was slightly freaked out by the Haunted Mansion, and not without reason. It was stunning. Wonderfully creepy. We rode along, floating in the dark over a void the depths of which you could not sense, passing the desiccated corpses and cobweb-draped skeletons, observing a ballroom where everyone spun around in eternal pursuit, so focused on the dance they'd forgotten they were dead.

What an excellent metaphor for my life in newspapers.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:55 AM

May 15, 2007

You Know You've Been Waiting For This

Lileks goes to the Magic Kingdom. (Not so) shockingly, he writes about the experience:

The breakfast? The best hotel breakfast ever. They dont take your order. Theres no point in taking your order, because they know what you want so they might as well bring it. You get a big plate of eggs, bacon, potatoes and sausages, plus tiny Belgian waffles shaped like you-know-who. This is what it means to be an American: pouring syrup on Mickeys head and eating him. Its secular communion. And its delicious! Various characters come by to say hello, and as usual, you speculate whether theyre having any fun at all. Because Disney employees seem to come in two flavors: there are those are working. And theyre working for Disney. Whatever. Then there are those who are WORKING for DISNEY! And they just beam because they are having the best day at the best job in the best place ever. There might be some people like that at Microsoft, and grew up with a Bill Gates doll they took everywhere, but theyre few.
Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:55 AM

May 08, 2007

Battle Of The Century

OK, I have to admit that this is great stop-motion photography. The choreography is great. But you still have to think--don't these guys have lives? I'd be a lot more impressed if they were junior high schoolers.

[Via the Star-Trek conservative]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:25 PM

May 04, 2007

A By-God Astronaut

Lileks has (among other things) a tribute to Wally.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:44 AM

April 27, 2007

Stayin' Alive, For Three Decades

On its thirtieth anniversary (boy, does that make me feel old) John Derbyshire has a long review of Saturday Night Fever.

I learned a lot about it that I hadn't known before. But then, I've never seen the movie, for two reasons. First, it had John Travolta in it. Second, it was chock full of disco, which I've long thought a tool of the devil, and did at the time. Like rap, I've never had much interest in music in which the drums (and occasionally bass) carried the melody. Also, as many have since noted, it destroyed vibrancy of the club scene for years, when it was a lot easier and cheaper to hire a deejay with his disco records than a live band. And because
of that, despite his rave review, I think I'll continue to remain an SNF virgin.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here's an endorsement:

Disco--favorite music of the deaf!

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:28 AM

April 25, 2007

How Appropriate

A fake rock band reunites to save us from a fake crisis. I guess they figure someone turned the heat all the way up to eleven.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:37 AM

April 19, 2007

Baseball Blogging

From a world class pitcher. That's what I call disintermediation, and it's pretty cool, but I suspect that not all baseball players are articulate enough to do this. And as Joe Katzman points out, the jealousy of the sports writers, and this comment, are pretty amusing.

On a side note, I watched the Tigers blow a game against the Royals yesterday. They're doing pretty well so far this year, but they can't give up tying runs in the ninth, and then lose it in the tenth, and get back to the series. Especially against the cellar team in their division.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:41 AM

April 14, 2007

No More Tiny Bubbles

Don Ho has sung his last song.

There is no consensus on whether or not his head was nappy. After an appropriate moment of silence, let the Imus jokes commence.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:01 PM

April 10, 2007

Unprofessional Email Addresses

I'm always urging people to get their own domain, even if they don't want to have a web site, because it gives them much more flexibility and permanency in terms of their email address. Here's an article on the potential job prospects for people with "hip" email addresses.

And of course, what would a story like this be without a hilarious Freeper thread about it?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:40 PM
It's Apparently Beyond The Ken

...of the cable news channels how profoundly uninterested I am in who the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby is. They seem determined to not only tell me, but tell me that they're going to tell me, repeatedly.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:37 AM

March 30, 2007

It Would Get My Vote

On the other hand, Firefly is the only series of the ones in the poll that I have much familiarity with.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:02 AM

March 18, 2007

John Lennon Worship

Here's an amusing post. And while he wrote some beautiful songs, anyone who imagines that he was a sophisticated political analyst should simply listen to the lyrics of "Imagine," possibly the most insipid and idiotic song ever written. "Afternoon Delight" sounds profound in comparison. As Glenn says, who's got more sense--someone who'd marry Barbara Bach, or Yoko?

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'd like to see a world in which fewer people took such mindless platitudes seriously.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:37 PM

March 12, 2007

I'm Un-American, Too

Just like Megan McArdle. I don't even drink coffee, so I'm even more un-American than she is. If I were the market, Starbucks wouldn't exist. And I don't even like watching thrillers that much, let alone try to come up with them.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:34 AM

March 05, 2007

Geekiest. Tattoo. Ever.

Hard to top this.

He'll be pretty embarrassed in a couple decades, when we've evolved beyond HTML (and the thing's getting a little wrinkly). Of course, by then, tattoo removal technology should be pretty far along as well...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:53 PM

March 03, 2007

Hard To Believe

I wasn't as big a fan as many, but it's been a quarter of a century since John Belushi died.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:20 PM

March 01, 2007

Good News On The Culture Front

Is rap going the way of disco? We can only hope.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:27 AM

February 27, 2007


As a former VW mechanic, I was fascinated by these wild bug mods. I particularly like the jet-powered version.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:42 AM

February 19, 2007

Different Strokes

If ever there was a movie that didn't need to be remade (or even made in the first place), it was Capricorn One. I was living in Tucson, doing some volunteer work for the L-5 Society, when it came out, and a group of us space nuts went to see it. We were appalled.

But Dwayne Day, for some unaccountable reason, seems to have liked it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:32 AM

February 16, 2007

A New Reason To Call It Fox News

Check out their latest hire. Including the swimsuit photos...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:04 PM

February 15, 2007

The Jealous Astronaut

Well, that didn't take long. (Warning, cheesy sixties-style music.)

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:51 AM

February 02, 2007

Movie Recommendation

Matinee was playing on one of the HD channels last night. It was the first time I'd seen it in years, and I'd forgotten how great it is. It's the best movie ever made about fifties mutated-bug movies and the Cuban missile crisis.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:59 AM

January 10, 2007

Nostalgia (Part 2)

Remembering the sixties. It's sort of like the old joke--if you can remember the sixties, you probably weren't there. But as is pointed out, that was really the late sixties and early seventies (when I was in high school).

It makes me feel old--I share many of those memories, including visiting Haight Ashbury at its height (or depth, depending on your point of view).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:17 AM

January 08, 2007

Half-Time Advice For The Buckeyes

If you want to win this football game, you're going to have to score a lot more points in the second half, and not let the other team score so much.

[Update at the start of the fourth quarter, after Smith is sacked, almost a safety]

They're not following my advice, at least not the first part of it. Off to bed.

[OK, one more]

A wag over at Free Republic:

Being that it is Florida and Ohio, I can expect to see calls for a recount, no?

[Morning thoughts]

I'm asked in comments if I'll now "give Florida the credit it deserves." I'm not sure what that means. Florida was unquestionably, by far, the best football team on that field last night. Does that mean they're the best team in the country?

Who knows?

This just once again points out the absurdity of attempting to discern who is the "best team in the country" or picking a "national champion" in college football. We had two big bowl games in which the teams that were heavily favored got beaten soundly, to most peoples' amazement (perhaps even many of the fans of the winning teams). That should tell us that there's something fundamentally wrong with how we judge these things and our ability to predict them.

Let's go back to the old transitive paradox. Florida beat tOSU. Auburn beat Florida. Why isn't Auburn the "best team in the country"?

Oh, that was then, and this is now. Well, OK. So would Florida have creamed the Buckeyes back in November, before they had a seven-week layoff? Or did the Buckeyes go from being the "best team in the country" to someone lucky to stay in the top ten in the first few minutes of the game, after they lost Ginn?

Who knows?

Were the losses of tOSU and Michigan in the post season an indication that they weren't as good as people thought, or that the Big Televen conference is overrated against the SEC and Pac-10, or is it a consequence of the fact that both teams had a couple weeks longer break than their opponents, due to vagaries of the scheduling?

Who knows?

If you want to have a playoff, could there be a better lead up to it than the last two games we've seen in this stadium? After their performance in the Fiesta Bowl, shouldn't unbeaten Boise State have a shot at the Gators now?

Who knows?

Folks, there are too many teams, and too few games played to determine a college football champion at any point in time (and it's a dynamic situation), or even sensibly rank them. Live with it, and accept the old dictum that college football is the only sport in which the champion is determined by drunks arguing in bars, and doomed to remain that way. And I'd be saying that even if Michigan had played last night, and won.

[One more, after looking at the overnight AP poll results]

OK, why did the Buckeyes drop only to number two? After that performance last night, they should have plummeted to the second half of the top ten. Once again, the irrationality and intrinsic paradoxes of the process is displayed.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:57 PM

January 06, 2007

Just Wondering

...while integrating graphics into a proposal. Since phone booths seem to be disappearing with the ubiquity of cell phones, where does Superman change his duds? Did anyone see the movie? How did they handle it?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:11 PM

January 05, 2007

The Physics Of Cooling Porridge

I think that Jonah is overanalyzing the situation:

Also, I have another peeve. Aside from the talking bears living in a nice middle class house, doesn't the story defy the laws of nature? If the Papa bear's porridge is too hot, that logically should be because it's the biggest bowl and therefore would take the longest time to cool. The mama bear's porridge should be "just right" because it's the medium-sized one and the baby-bear's should be too cool. Or, as is so often the case, do I have my physics wrong?

One overanalysis deserves another. He's basically got it right, but it depends on the shape of the bowls. For any given shape, the larger the blob of porridge, the longer it will take to cool, because of the square-cube law. The volume of the porridge (which represents its heat capacity) goes up as the cube of the critical dimension (e.g., a diameter for a sphere) whereas the surface area (which is directly proportional to how fast it loses heat) goes up as the square.

For example, a cube of porridge an inch on a side will be one cubic inch of hot porridge that is cooled by six square inches of sides (assuming it's floating in, say, a space station, and can have all six sides exposed to air). A two-inch cube has eight cubic inches (eight times as much) of hot porridge, but only twenty-four square inches of cooling surface (six sides of four square inches, that is, only four times as much). So if you double the size of the critical dimension, you double the cooling time as well.

Of course, if you have a spherical blob of porridge, and a large thin pancake of it, you could have a larger amount of porridge that cooled faster in the latter case. If, for example, we took the eight cubic inches from the previous example, and spread it out to an eighth of an inch thin in a pancake shape, then you'd have something with sixty-four square inches on each side (a hundred twenty eight) plus the side area (an eighth times the circumference, which would be the square root of 64 divided by pi times 2pi, or 2 times the root of 64, or about two square inches). So now we have eight times the volume of the one-inch cube, but over twenty times the surface area, so it would cool much faster.

So if Momma Bear's porridge was in a wide flat bowl, and Baby Bear's in a higher, narrower one (perhaps with a picture of a Teddy Human on it), it's certainly conceivable hers could be colder than the baby's.

Porridge and bears aside, this is the principle employed when one pours hot tea into a saucer to cool it (the metaphorical function of the Senate, in the Founders' estimation, which would temper the urges of the House).

Why yes, I am in fact avoiding writing a proposal that's due next week. Why do you ask?

[Update mid afternoon]

Welcome, Corner readers. Just curious, though, why no comments from any of you? No one in the comments section except the regulars, so far. Does this say anything about Corner readers?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:13 AM

January 02, 2007

The Wolverines

..really need to try to avoid having major figures associated with their program die shortly before big games. First Bo and Ohio State, and then Ford and the Rose Bowl.

Hey, I'll grab my excuses wherever I can get them.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:37 PM

December 21, 2006

I Think This Calls For A Cage Match

Donald Trump versus Rosie O'Donnell.

This sort of reminds me of the Iran/Iraq War in the eighties. It's a shame they can't both lose. Unfortunately, because it's all about publicity, I suspect they both win.

And can anyone tell me how she ever got the nickname "Queen of Nice"?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:37 PM

December 07, 2006

Obligatory Pop Culture Moment

On the latest episode in the inexplicable saga of Britney Spears, in her underwearless moment:

Its also been 2 years since Ive even celebrated my birthday. Every move I make at this point has been magnified more than I expected, and I probably did take my new found freedom a little too far. Anyway, thank God for Victorias Secrets new underwear line! I look forward to a new year, new music and a new me.

Of course! How could anyone be expected to celebrate their birthday having to wear underwear when they go out in public, with paparazzis all around!

Pardon me, but I'm not a prude--I'm a libertarian--but am I crazy to think this is crazy?

[Update a couple minutes later]

Professor Althouse has related thoughts on "Crotchgate".

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:38 PM

December 04, 2006

One More BCS Thought

I have some updates on my previous post, but I have one more question. Who here really believes that Florida would have jumped Michigan, from number four to number three, if USC had won?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:21 AM

December 02, 2006

Wolverines In Glendale?

OK, UCLA has done their part (thanks, Jane!). Now, I'm watching to see if Arkansas can beat Florida, which will make any debate moot. If Florida wins, look for another debate over how screwed up the BCS is (which every year is a given...).

[Update at end of Florida-Arkansas game]

Florida won by ten points. Now the emotional debate (that will shed much more heat than light) over who is number two will begin...

[Update at quarter till five PM]

OK, it looks like Florida has been named number two. I have to think that's because of the strong desire of many to avoid a rematch, rather than an honest assessment of who's number two.

I'll be quite amused if Ohio State blows out Florida, and Michigan trounces USC. We know from an existence proof that Michigan and Ohio State are well matched (or at least as well matched as anyone's been against Ohio State), and provide an exciting game. If we have two blowouts in the Rose and Championship games, the country will know that they chose the wrong number two, and wondering if the real national championship game didn't occur on November 18th.


One more thought. I think that dual blowouts are in fact quite likely. I don't think that Florida will be able to handle Ohio State, and does anyone think that UCLA's defense is better, or even as good as Michigan's? USC has been a pretender all season.


Pete Fiutak says that the humans have taken control away from the machines:

The voters have spoken, delivering the message that they didn't want a rematch by keeping Michigan out of the national title game and putting in a good, but underwhelming, Florida team to face Ohio State in the first stand-alone BCS Championship. While many outside the Detroit and Ann Arbor metropolitan areas may be pleased about this, there's still something a bit hanging-chad slimy about the process.

I understand the arguments against a rematch, but I think that they should have lived with the rules they set up at the beginning of the season. I also think that Wisconsin was robbed by the two-team-per-conference rule.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:24 PM

December 01, 2006

Paris, Not In The Springtime

I know it's not an edifying subject, but Kay Hymowitz entertainingly dissects the cultural phenomenon that is Paris Hilton:

Now despite her fame and good fortune, for most sentient adults Hilton personifies the decadence of our cultural moment. With her nightclub brawls, her endless sexcapades, her vapid interviews, her rodentlike dog and her lack of ostensible talent, she reeks of every vice ever ascribed to our poor country. She has become a synonym for American materialism, bad manners, greed, "like" and "whatever" Valley Girl inarticulateness, parochialism, arrogance, promiscuity, antifeminism, exposed roots and navels, entitlement, cell-phone addiction, anorexia and bulimia, predilection for gas-guzzling private transportation, pornified womanhood, exhibitionism, narcissism -- you name it.

The "rodentlike dog" in particular tickled my funny bone. But as Kay points out, it's not about worship of her, but hatred. Deserved or not, she's our Marie Antoinette.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:37 AM

November 27, 2006

Close, But No Cigar
What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland
The Northeast
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

OK, they've got the general region down, but they don't seem to be able to differentiate between Michigan and Wisconsin, which is pretty weird. Just one more question (bubblers versus drinking fountains) would nail it down.

And for the record, I'm a "pop person." Soda is a thing with ice cream.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:23 PM

So sayeth Zoidberg. Behold, Futurama, the movie.

[Via tdr]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:25 PM

November 26, 2006

Here's An Interesting Idea

It doesn't follow the BCS rules, but assuming that USC beats UCLA next week, it makes the most sense. Have a playoff between the Trojans and the Wolverines in the Rose Bowl, and then let the winner play Ohio State on January 8th. Of course the Buckeyes would have an advantage in that they'd be rested for two months, but they'd also be rusty.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:20 PM

November 19, 2006

Seems Pretty Clear Cut To Me

If number one beats number two by a field goal on number one's home field, sounds like they're ranked about right. We'll see what the pollsters and computers say this afternoon.

Ohio State definitely looked like the better team, though, at least after the first quarter. Michigan's first drive was impressive, but after that they seemed to sputter somewhat. I'd say that if these teams played ten games, Ohio State would win six or seven of them.

And I was pulling for a Cal victory last night, but it wasn't to be. But if Notre Dame knocks off USC, what to do, what to do? It doesn't make sense to rank the Irish ahead of Michigan, considering the pasting the Wolverines gave them in South Bend. Perhaps, though, just to be safe, USC should beat Notre Dame, and then let UCLA knock off the Trojans. That would leave Florida, I guess.

I know that a lot of people don't want a rematch, but it looks like there's a good possibility of that happening. Of course, then, if Michigan wins, people will be demanding another, and the best two out of three. Such is the silliness of trying to assign a national championship to college football teams. There simply aren't enough games for it to be meaningful.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:00 AM

November 16, 2006

Forget The BCS

Pete Fiutak thinks that Saturday's game should be dubbed the national championship:

Not only have Ohio State and Michigan had the two best teams all year, there isn't anyone else deserving to be in the picture. In the storied history of college football's greatest rivalry, and it is college football's greatest rivalry, this will be the biggest game ever played between the two. That makes this, arguably, the biggest regular season game in the history of the sport. So let this weekend be it. Crown the winner the national champion, and let's get the talk about the 2007 season going. USC, Florida or Arkansas as the preseason No. 1 ... discuss.

That's the way it looks to me. The national championship is mythical anyway, might as well do what makes sense. But of course, that wouldn't generate all the revenue that they're expecting in Glendale in January. And of course, it's easily conceivable that the computers will decide to do a rematch, anyway.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:22 AM

November 02, 2006

A Brief History

...of rocket cars. From Iowahawk. I missed this when he posted it in April.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:41 AM

October 27, 2006

OK, History Doesn't Repeat

The good news--we won't have to stay up late this weekend watching any more baseball games. Also, Patricia, being from St. Joseph originally, and still having a lot of family in eastern Missouri, including St. Louis suburbs, is happy.

And there's not really that much bad news. No one at the beginning of the season expected the Tigers to even necessarily break .500, let alone get into the playoffs, and if you'd told anyone that they'd be in the series, they'd have thought you were nuts. But you don't win a world series with eight errors, particularly when many of them come from the pitching staff. But, all things considered, there's always next year for Motown...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:03 PM
History Repeats?

OK, so due to some sloppy defense, the Tigers are looking down the barrel of an imminent loss of baseball's championship series. They can't lose any more games, either tonight in St. Louis, or this weekend back in Detroit, if they want to win their first series in twenty two years.

But this isn't the first time they've been in this position. Thirty eight years ago, they were down three and one to the same team (well, at least a team with the same name, in the same town--at least two generations of ballplayers have come and gone since then). They came back and won it all. Here's hoping they can do it again.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:32 AM

October 21, 2006

0 For A Bunch

The wisdom of sports prognosticators. Note that not a single one predicted a series win by either of the two teams playing tonight.

I guess it's the old saying about the race to the swiftest, and battle to the strongest, and the way to bet. Or maybe it's just poor judges of who is swift and strong.

And now, of course, the conventional wisdom is a Tiger sweep, which makes me a little nervous. I suspect that the Cards will put up a good fight. But still, what a difference a few weeks makes. And I got my wish for a rematch from 1968 (not to mention 1934, which also went seven games).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:49 AM

October 10, 2006

Why Am I Unshocked?

...that Keith Olbermann is a lousy lay?

Boy, the Internet brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "kiss and tell."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:01 PM

October 09, 2006

So Much For Sports "Experts"

I'm back in Florida from Kona, and beat, after several airplane flights, some in miserable seating, since we went standby to get earlier flights. More tomorrow.

Meanwhile, marvel at the precognition of the ESPN prognosticators last week, all of whom picked New York over Detroit. Many of them did predict that New York wouldn't make it to the Series, but none of them imagined that it would be the Tigers who would knock them out.

[Update a few minutes later]

I should add that there was something poignant and weird about standing in a Honolulu airport last night watching (but not able to listen to) CNN announcing a possible nuclear weapon test by North Korea. Almost a Pearl Harborish feeling to it. Brought on partly by the fact that I'd visited the Arizona Memorial last week while talking to government folks there.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:01 PM

October 08, 2006

The Best Team Money Can Buy

And they get blown off in three straight in the playoffs by a team that lost 119 games three years ago. The Bronx Bombers got bombed.

So much for Jane Bernstein's subway series prediction.

And I suspect that, given the rampant Yankee hatred in most places outside Gotham, there was great rejoicing throughout the land last night.

[Update about 9 AM Hawaii time]

I'll be pulling for the Cards now, in addition to the Tigers. I think that it would be really cool if we could have a repeat of the 1968 series.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:03 AM

September 24, 2006


The Tigers are in the playoffs with today's win against Kansas City--they're guaranteed to at least get in as the AL wild card. But it could be a neck and neck race with the Twins down to the last game for the division title. Detroit is playing the Rangers, and then gets to beat up on the Royals again, but Minnesota gets to play the Royals for a while, then finish up with the White Sox. Detroit has an arguably easier final schedule, and they've finally started hitting again, so they've still got a good shot at the title. The good news, though, is that if they can keep hitting the way they have been (and hopefully it's not all lousy Royals pitching) they might actually be able to acquit themselves well post season.

This is a big morale boost for the Motor City, which badly needs one.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:25 PM

September 17, 2006

Oh, Well

At least there's one good football team in Michigan. Maybe the Wolverines should have played Chicago today. The Lions are already down 17-zip in the first half.

[Update with three minutes to go in the game]

Down 34-7. Hey, they can still come back. They only need one touchdown every forty-give seconds.

And the Tigers are losing to the Orioles in the bottom of the eighth, with Minnesota winning. so their lead in the Central Division will be down to one game. Looks like they're going to blow it, and they may not even make it as a wild card.

Glad we at least have the Wolverines today.

[Update a little after 4 PM EDT]

Hey, they Tigers have tied it up at eight each in the bottom of the eighth. Maybe they can pull it out.

[Update at 4:30]

They're in extra innings. Unfortunately, in the top of the tenth, the Twins have a man on second with nobody out. A single would bring in the go-ahead run.

[Couple minutes later]

Crap. The Tigers' bull pen is letting them down. Two runs in, bases loaded, with only one out. They're going to have to have a heck of an inning at the bottom of the tenth to recover.


Sigh. You know, maybe it's just as well. The way they've been playing for the last few weeks, they'd never make it through the playoffs anyway.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:30 AM

September 16, 2006


Still a lot of game to go (it's early in the second quarter) but Notre Dame is looking pretty overrated. They haven't gotten a first down.

Note, I'm not saying Michigan is that great, but at least it looks like they may get through September without a loss, if they continue like this, and that's an accomplishment in itself.

[Update a few minutes later]

27-7 with a lot of time remaining in the first half (two of the Michigan touchdowns were off turnovers). And the only reason that Notre Dame got the touchdown was a (rare) interception off Henne--they still haven't gotten a first down, I don't think. The Irish have to be in shock.

[Near the end of the half]

The Irish finally managed to put together a drive. 34-13 at the half. I have to think that the Michigan defense is letting up, because they're becoming complacent. Don't do that. You're playing God's team. Or at least they think they are.

I'd love to be a fly on the wall in both locker rooms at half time.

[Update at the end of the third quarter]

40-13, Wolverines.

Still thinking that the Irish were overranked, because they were the Irish. But I'm sure that Michigan will be overranked as a result.

Still, it's starting to look a lot like 1997...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:01 PM

September 14, 2006

Great Balls Of Fire!

Jerry Lee Lewis is the last man standing.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:02 PM

September 10, 2006


OK, here's where the Wolverines show whether they're real, or not. They'll be playing the number two team (sorry, no permalink, but it's Notre Dame) in the nation next Saturday. They're perennially overrated during past opening seasons, but in this one, so far, they haven't been.

We'll see if that motivates them. More importantly, we'll see if it motivates Lloyd Carr, whose job may be in trouble in the same way that John Cooper's was...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:51 PM

September 05, 2006


Cathy Seipp says that Futurama is coming back. Hooray!

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:09 PM

September 04, 2006

New Boss

Ron Radosh reviews Bruce Springsteen's return to musical roots. In a technological century, I am gratified to see more and more musicians unplug.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:16 AM

September 03, 2006

But Wait! There's More!

Well, actually, there is no more. Arthur Schiff has died.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:44 AM

August 31, 2006

Let's Hear It!

A previously undiscovered piece by Bach has turned up. Cool.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:33 AM

August 25, 2006


Lileks' Newhouse column is a partial replay of his earlier screed, but still entertaining. I thought this line encapsulated the nuttiness of the people who worry about theocrats in the White House, but seem indifferent to the ones who actually havea theocracy, and would impose it on us if they could: could make the case that the greatest threats to the freedoms of the West are posed by the head-choppers, plane-exploders, their many merry supporters, and the nuke-seeking state that supports them.

But don't expect the artists to make the case. They saw what happened to that Theo Van Gogh fellow. Pay no attention to that imam behind the curtain. Here's the ghost of Eisenhower. Booga-booga!

The artists seem more concerned with a culture that won't let gays marry than one that won't let them live.

And I got a dark chuckle over this:

They take the easy way out, these brave souls; they'll perform "The Diary of Anne Frank," but only because now some people think it has a happy ending.
Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:10 AM

August 20, 2006

For Those Interested

Some people, unaccountably, are curious as to how my rib barbecue turned out last night.

Pretty good, though not as tender (read, falling off the bone) as the Fourth of July version, because I was attempting to avoid that, so the meat wouldn't fall off the bone while grilling it and be wasted in the nether regions of the grill.

I made up a marinade of apple vinegar, lemon juice, a bottle of Shiner Bock (just to piss off the Texas haters in the crowd), garlic, hot sauce and other chile derivatives, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, salt, fresh-ground pepper, and whatnot (sorry, I'd provide quantities, but I didn't pay much attention--you'll have to do it to taste, and I know that novice cooks hate those words...). I put it in the bottom of the pan and slow cooked the ribs, rib side down, in the oven at 250 F for about three or four hours. Then I put the ribs on the grill (indirect heat) and continued to baste with the marinade, turning occasionally, for another hour and a half or so. I took about half the marinade, added honey and tomato sauce and paste for a sauce, and heated it on the stove. I basted this on for the last few minutes (so as not to allow the sugar to burn), then saved the rest for adding at the table.

They came out pretty good, definitely cooked, and little left but bone after eating, but they held together throughout until time to actually pull the meat off with teeth.

So I'd say it was a success.

Oh, and I should add, not to name drop or anything, that the guests were fellow and recent (though he was born and raised here) south Floridians Bob Poole and his wife Lou Villadsen, of the Reason Foundation. I may have an interview with him on the current airline security fiasco shortly, in conjunction with the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Which makes it all the better that the ribs came out well...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:26 PM

August 19, 2006

Decisions, Decisions

I'm having guests over for baby back ribs tonight, and am looking at recipes on line. I hadn't really perused them before, but there seem to be as many ways to do it as there are recipes. Some say cook on the grill, a few minutes on a side, some say on the grill for an hour and a half, some say braise in the oven first, some say dry rub, some say marinate, for a few hours or overnight.

It's almost like it's hard to do it wrong, but I'm going crazy trying to figure out which way to do it. On the Fourth, I slow cooked some in the oven for hours in a marinade, then grilled them, but the meat was falling off the bone, so while they tasted great, they were hard to handle on the grill. And those were back ribs, but not baby back. Any suggestions?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:30 AM

August 18, 2006

Creeped Out

Is it really true that a man offering a woman a seat on public transportation is creepy?

Then call me a neanderthal creep.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:35 PM

August 13, 2006


It's the bottom of the eighth, and the Tigers are about to get swept by the White Sox unless they can pick up at least three runs in the ninth. That would put Chicago only five and a half games back, with plenty of time to keep moving up. I hope this isn't the beginning of a collapse.

[A couple minutes later]

Dang, Chicago picked up another run before the end of the inning. Now Detroit needs four in the ninth to just stay alive. The way they've been batting lately, it doesn't look good.

[A few minutes later]

Whoa! One out and two men on from consecutive singles, with the tying run on deck. Can they pull it out? Probably not, but it's frustrating when they get your hopes up like this.


Dang, two outs now, with two on first and second.


And there's the third out.

They're going to have to play better ball than that if they want to hang on to the division (and major league) lead.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:17 PM

August 11, 2006

Tell Me

I hate that stupid commercial for the oil and natural gas industry, in which a bunch of people say "Tell me about this, tell me about that, tell me the truth." It makes them sound like idiots. It also makes whoever came up with the ad sound like idiots. I don't expect an industry to tell me things--I expect an industry to provide me with what I need at an affordable price.

What is the point?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:10 AM

August 06, 2006

Death Of A Burger Matriarch

I've never been a big fan of In'n'Out Burgers, but perhaps some of my readers are. And more importantly, Patricia is. She makes a point to go there whenever we go "home" to LA.

My major memory of them is all the corporate bumper stickers I used to see when I first move to LA, when many had removed the "B" and the "rs" from the name.

Anyway, one of the co-founders of the chain has died.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:19 PM

August 03, 2006

Finally, Gender Equality

DeBeers won't be happy to hear about this:

Diamonds are no longer a girl's best friend, according to a new U.S. study that found three of four women would prefer a new plasma TV to a diamond necklace.

Works for me--I think that diamonds have been one of the biggest scams ever foisted on mankind. But how about an LCD?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:56 PM

July 31, 2006

The Latest CGI Ant Movie

Lileks reviews it as only Lileks can:

The length. Any movie that seeks to immerse you in the wonderful world of insects yet makes you yearn for the exterminator to show up has gone on too long. And not just because you know thats the boss battle.

The CGI. Sometimes its good. Sometimes its okay. Sometimes the screen was obscured by the popcorn that flew out of peoples bags, so powerfully did the CGI suck.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:17 AM

July 27, 2006

Make Them Suffer

They say that artists suffer for their art.

What deranged notions would possess American actors to take part in a film like this one? What's next? A film version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, starring Barbra Streisand?

Maybe there's a good reason that these particular "artists" should suffer for their art. Help them along, and fulfill their destiny, by refusing to pay money to see it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:55 PM

July 22, 2006

Wile E.

Another conference break, for Lileks, from yesterday:

...we had a Road Runner marathon. I was heartened to see that she didnt laugh at the gags that werent funny. Many of them arent. She has sympathy for the Coyote; if he was a pup, he would be so cute. But she roots for the Road Runner. I keep telling her that the Road Runner gets by on speed alone; at least the Coyote is using his brain. On the other hand, the Coyote is often paralyzed by imminent doom, particular if its a result of something he set in motion. If he set a boulder rolling south, and a minute later it appears behind him from the north, there is always a moment of complete understanding in his face, braided with fear and horrible anticipation. He always knows whos really to blame, but it never stops him from the next invention.
Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:53 PM

July 17, 2006

Fight To The Finish

My webmaster, Bill Simon, is coach of a Chinese dragon-boat team, based in Long Beach, CA. He sends link to a video of a close race in Vancouver last month:

Here is the 500M race for the medals in the Comp C division of the 2006 Vancouver (ALCAN) Dragon Boat festival that was held on June 18, 2006. Now you can actually see how close this race was.

LARD (Los Angeles Racing Dragons, our local rivals) came in first (in the lane 4th from the top). We, the Los Angeles Killer Guppies, (in the 3rd lane from the top) came in about 3/4 boat behind them--and that put us in 9th place! We were separated by less than 2.5 second! Our time was 2:09.

I know how intense this was for us on the boat. But now I know what the crowd experienced. This is the closest Dragon Boat race I've ever seen. Awesome! Congrats to LARD! But just wait till next year...

This is my kind of multiculturalism.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:40 PM

July 15, 2006

Anticipated Clusterfarg

Just how badly will Hollywood screw up Atlas Shrugged?

As I recall, The Fountainhead wasn't bad, but those were different times.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:39 AM

July 08, 2006

Fear Of Clowns

Some amusing comments. I don't mind clowns all that much, myself. But mimes--that's a different story. I'm not a violent person, generally, but they make me want to take a bat to them.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:35 AM

July 07, 2006

Truth, Justice, and ...Ummmm...

Lileks is kind of tough on the politically correct naifs who castrated the most recent Superman film:

"We were always hesitant to include the term `American way' because the meaning of that today is somewhat uncertain," said co-writer Michael Dougherty. "I think when people say `American way,' they're actually talking about what the `American way' meant back in the '40s and '50s, which was something more noble and idealistic."

Ah. Of course. Well, in the '40s, the American Way included incinerating German cities, nuking Japan, installing occupying armies with remnants to this day, and imposing our form of government -- all the while referring to the enemy with hurtful ethnic slurs. All this plus forced relocation. If these actions are deemed noble and idealistic now, it'll be a handy sentiment the next time the U.S. gears up for total war.

But the inconstant left doesn't believe any of this is permissible in the service of a noble goal. The right, after all, can't lead the war on terror because they don't "walk the walk" on human rights: witness those POWs slaving away in the cane fields of Gitmo. Unless we lead by example, no one will choose the American Way. Never mind that the internment of the Japanese didn't keep the Germans -- or the Japanese, for that matter -- from following our example after World War II. (Note to the dense: The above is not an endorsement of internment. Just a reminder of which party has more practice.)

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:46 PM

July 01, 2006

For What It's Worth

I was a DC kind of guy. I read Marvel, but couldn't really get into it. I liked Spiderman and Fantastic Four, but that was about it.

And I quit reading comics about the time I hit puberty.

Again, for whatever it's worth.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:40 PM

June 30, 2006

Go Tigers

Baseball is a game of numbers and stats, and right now, for Detroit, they look pretty damn good:

Every Detroit fan everywhere knows what 35-5 means -- the Tigers' record after 40 games of their 1984 World Series-winning season.

That start was so good Detroit had to play just a little above .500 ball the rest of the season to cruise home in first place. In fact, the Tigers closed 69-53.

Detroit enters its Friday interleague game at Pittsburgh with a 54-25 record. If the Tigers win Friday, they will be dead even with the 1984 team's record after 80 games.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:33 PM

Just to note, for those going to see the movie this weekend, he's a good Jewish boy.

What I found fascinating, and hadn't realized, was that in the 1930s, until Hitler came along, Jews (or at least some Jews) were into Nietzsche.

[Update in the mid-afternoon]

Astrosmith has some thoughts on illegal superaliens.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:22 AM

June 29, 2006

A Blow To The SF World

Jim Baen has died. David Drake has an obit.

[Afternoon update]

Fred Kiesche has more with additional links.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:37 AM

June 26, 2006

It's Always 1932

Iowahawk has a brief history of the hot rod:

Even back then Deuces were highly collectible. Car guys started hoarding them, heeding Mark Twain's famous advice to "buy land, they're not making it anymore." Strangely, though, they did start making Deuces anymore: high demand spawned an entire industry devoted to replica and restoration parts. Body repair panels and replica fiberglass Deuce bodies began appearing in the late 1960s, and are now available from dozens of suppliers, as are reproduction 1932 Ford frames. Recently several companies - such as Brookville Roadster and Dearborn Deuce - have introduced complete steel reproduction bodies. With a big enough budget, today you can make a pretty faithful steel recreation of a real 1932 Ford out of nothing but brand new parts. The paradoxical result is that 1932 Fords are more plentiful today than they were new. A scant 275,000 Fords rolled off the assembly line in 1932; today a greater number of "1932 Fords" are currently registered just in the state of California.
Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:02 AM

June 24, 2006


About an hour ago, Detroit was tied with Chicago for the division lead. I clicked over to Fox Sports to watch the box score of their current game against St. Louis, refreshed every thirty seconds (it's surprising how well you can actually follow the game this way). When I started, they were down 6-4 in the bottom of the ninth. Through the miracle of the Internet (thanks, Al!) I watched them come back and tie it. Then after another scoreless inning, the Tigers won the game in the bottom of the tenth, 7-6 , with an RBI on a double.

In days of yore, they would have lost this game. But this year, they're playing like a team that could go all the way. I may have to waste much time of my waning life actually following games this season...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:21 PM
Aaron Spelling

...has died. You know, I can't think of a single show of his that I watched.

Well, I take that back. I watched Charlie's Angels once in a while, but usually with the sound turned down.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:19 AM

June 23, 2006

Fascism Descends On America

Lileks on the foolishness, and lack of perspective, of the intellectual class:

Quote in todays paper: The worlds least free place for making movies is the US, because it has a fixed model.

Ang Lee. Ang Lee. So hows that Saudi distribution deal for Brokeback going, eh?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:55 AM

June 19, 2006

Dix Chix Blogging

This has to be one of the weirdest blogging stories I've read in a while, if not ever.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:35 PM

June 15, 2006


It's not even to the All-Star break yet, and the Tigers have already won more games this year than they did in all of 2003 (this win today was their forty-third). They have the best record in the majors and are leading their division. I'm not a big baseball fan (or sports fan in general) but I do retain a lot of loyalty to the home-town teams of my youth (Tigers, Lions, Woverines). I may actually sit down and watch a few games this year.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:22 PM

June 14, 2006

A Nightmare

A fear of things like this potential Folgers' commercial coming true is what causes me to sleep with a belt-fed weapon and lots of ammo close at hand.

Of course, I'm not a coffee drinker.

[Via emailer Aleta Jackson]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:43 PM

June 12, 2006

The Magic Of Video Editing

...and Youtube. I give you: Star Trek vs Star Wars.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:08 AM

May 31, 2006


On the occasion of Peter Diamandis winning the Heinlein Prize, I thought some of my readers might want to reacquaint (or introduce, if they haven't had the pleasure) themselves with some of the great man's books.

And yes, if you're wondering, I do get a cut (assuming that enough people purchase some to get me to the minimum). Think of it as an alternative means of tipping me, while getting in some good SF.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:37 AM

May 30, 2006

Revenge On The Pagans

Lileks reviews the Da Vinci Code (book, not movie). He's less than impressed. One suspects that he'll leave the money in his wallet, and save himself the time out of his life that seeing the movie would involve.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:26 AM

May 27, 2006

The Scene Lucas Left

...on the cutting-room floor. Listen, as Darth Vader tries to explain to Palpatine how he lost his Death Star. Boy, talk about Worst.Boss.Ever.

What did we ever do without Youtube?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:54 AM

May 25, 2006

Mourning Douglas Adams

It's Towel Day. Do you know where yours is?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:00 PM

May 24, 2006

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Lileks reminisces about comics:

These books still have a tremendous pull, mostly for nostalgias sake. (As you may suspect, I am somewhat given to nostalgia.) I still read comics from time to time, depending on the artist, but I dont keep up on anything. I got out when the future was still the future, and the moody grim cynical nihilism that was always an inch below the surface took over and defined adult comics. (Meaning, aimed at teens.) Now the future is the present; we all have gadgets and computers, space exploration is rote and dull, and the idea of the future a place with jumpsuits and slender finned rockets and Planet Squads and men barking Come in, Space Command! to a hand-held mike seems like a false alarm. There is no future, as such; theres just more of the same. Quicker smaller better faster, but no big change. No skyscrapers with Saturnian rings around their apex, no 50th floor walkways, no interplanetary Congresses with Venusian fish-men applauding Future Superman for his exploits. In a way I envy the kid who grew up in the 50s, and read comics in the basement, confident hed live in a different world than the one his parents had made. In a way I dont envy him at all. At least I grew up to see Spider-Man swing through Manhattan in a most convincing fashion. If only on the screen.
Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:10 AM

May 13, 2006

It Makes Me Feel Old

...when people start talking about 80s nostalgia.

Late seventies, early eighties, was when I pretty much quit listening to pop music, so this is a conversation in which I can't participate. The vast majority of the songs being discussed I wouldn't recognize if I heard them. I have no idea what any of Prince's songs sounded like (though I do know Cyndi Lauper and I remember Kim Carnes "Bette Davis Eyes"). But for those of my readers who are interested, it's probably an interesting post.

Oh, and yes, I was also surprised that Callimarchus could write that with a straight face. I wonder what his wife thinks?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:27 PM

April 19, 2006

What George Lucas Should Have Done

"OM" over at has a more plausible way for Anakin to turn (long thread--search the phrase "ROTS had its good points").

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:58 PM

November 24, 2004

Alexander The Fabulous

That's what it sounds like Oliver Stone should have named his latest cinematic atrocity.

Stone gives himself much credit of "telling the truth" about Alexander's bisexuality as if it's some progressive badge of honor, but at the same time he can't get away from the cruelest, least imaginative stereotyping: His Alexander, as expressed through the weepy histrionics of Colin Farrell, is more like a desperate housewife than a soldier. He's always crying, his voice trembles, his eyes fill with tears.

Actually, he sounds like an early version of Bill Clinton. If he got the lip-biting thing down, he'd be ready to run for "Alexander The President."

The movie apparently tells us a lot more about Oliver Stone than about Alexander:

The movie lacks any convincing ideas about Alexander. Stone advances but one, the notion that Alexander was an early multiculturalist, who wanted to "unify" the globe. He seems not to recognize this as a standard agitprop of the totalitarian mind-set, always repulsive, but more so here in a movie that glosses over the boy-king's frequent massacres. Conquerors always want "unity," Stalin a unity of Russia without kulaks, Hitler a Europe without Jews, Mao a China without deviationists and wreckers. All of these boys loved to wax lyrical about unity while they were breaking human eggs in the millions, and so it was with Alexander, who wanted world unity without Persians, Egyptians, Sumerians, Turks and Indians.

Read the whole thing. It's Mark Steynian.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:22 AM

February 26, 2004

Gratuitous Violence?

I have zero, no--make that negative--desire to see Mel Gibson's latest flick, for exactly the reasons that Andrew Sullivan (as devout a Catholic as it's possible for a gay man to be) describes.

The center-piece of the movie is an absolutely disgusting and despicable piece of sadism that has no real basis in any of the Gospels. It shows a man being flayed alive - slowly, methodically and with increasing savagery. We first of all witness the use of sticks, then whips, then multiple whips with barbed glass or metal. We see flesh being torn out of a man's body. Just so that we can appreciate the pain, we see the whip first tear chunks out of a wooden table. Then we see pieces of human skin flying through the air. We see Jesus come back for more. We see blood spattering on the torturers' faces. We see muscled thugs exhausted from shredding every inch of this man's body. And then they turn him over and do it all again. It goes on for ever. And then we see his mother wiping up masses and masses of blood. It is an absolutely unforgivable, vile, disgusting scene. No human being could sruvive it. Yet for Gibson, it is the h'ors d'oeuvre for his porn movie.

I respect the faith of those who do believe and accept the story of Christ--they are clearly, for the most part, sincere. But it's one that has never had any resonance to me--it simply makes no sense, and I am bemused by the bizarre notion that I had anything to do with an event which, if it happened at all, happened two millennia ago. Sorry, no, we didn't all kill him. I accept no responsibility whatsoever.

I also have trouble getting my head around the notion that (as some have stated over at the Corner) this was "the greatest crime in history." Greater than the Holocaust? Greater than the Cultural Revolution? Greater than the deliberate starvation of the Ukrainians? Really?

Only if one accepts the premise. (And no, please don't try to persuade me, or others, of the truth of the Gospels in my comments section--there will be no sale, and it just wastes my bandwidth and disk space--in fact, I will delete any preaching or witnessing--providing a forum for others to proselytize on subjects of little interest to me is not the purpose of my web site).

It seems to me that Mr. Gibson has simply transferred his love of gory cinema to a purpose that he considers higher than money-making shoot'em ups. Perhaps if I were a believer, I might be willing to sit through such an exaggerated reenactment, but given my lack of belief about it, I see no redeeming value to the movie, at least for me, and Mr. Gibson will not be receiving any of my money for his little venture.

[Update on Friday morning]

Leon Wieseltier agrees with me, and much more eloquently (of course, he's actually seen the thing). He too, calls it a "sacred snuff film."

It will be objected that I see only pious pornography in The Passion of the Christ because I am not a believer in the Christ. This is certainly so. I do not agree that Jesus is my savior or anybody else's. I confess that I smiled when the credits to The Passion of the Christ listed "stunts." So I am not at all the person for whom Gibson made this movie. But I do not see how a belief in Jesus strengthens the case for such a film. Quite the contrary. Belief, a theory of meaning, a philosophical convenience, is rarely far away from cruelty. Torture has always been attended by explanations that vindicate it, and justify it, and even hallow it. These explanations, which are really extenuations, have been articulated in religious and in secular terms. Their purpose is to redescribe an act of inhumanity so that it no longer offends, so that it comes to seem necessary, so that it edifies. My victim of torture is your martyr.

While I'm willing to accept that a belief in Jesus strengthens the case for such a film (or at least I find the proposition no more baffling than a belief in Jesus itself), I can't imagine that it would have any influence in creating a belief in Jesus. This is a film for hard-core Christians, and it certainly won't hold any sway over people for whom there's not at least a seed of belief to begin with.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:33 AM

November 06, 2003


I'm busy, but never too busy to read Lileks' Bleat.

He has a review of "The Matrix" series. He also has a review of a particularly pathetic review of it, as well as a review of a generation that somehow thinks that the series is somehow profound, and relevant to a post-911 world.

I took away something else from the Matrix trilogy: it is a product of deeply confused people. They want it all. They want individualism and community; they want secularism and transcendence; they want the purity of committed love and the licentious fun of an S&M club; they want peace and the thrill of violence; they want God, but they want to design him on their own screens with their own programs by their own terms for their own needs, and having defined the divine on their own terms, they bristle when anyone suggests they have simply built a room with a mirror and flattering lighting. All three Matrix movies, seen in total, ache for a God. But they can?t quite go all the way. They?re like three movies about circular flat meat patties that can never quite bring themselves to say the word ?hamburger.?
Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:25 PM

October 28, 2003

Costume Tomfoolery

I don't like wearing costumes, or think it worth the time and effort to come up with anything creative. I was most gratified when invited to a party last weekend (thanks, Cathy!) to learn that it was costume optional.

I haven't cared much for Halloween since I was a little kid. Back then, we thought it was something you were supposed to outgrow. Somehow, though, many of my generation apparently didn't--it's become the biggest holiday of the year after Christmas. What is that all about?

Anyway, Robert over at has a collection of the lamest Halloween costumes ever.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:13 PM

October 26, 2003


I love Lileks' Halloween-themed bleat this week (especially the link titles at the bottom).

And his review of a classic Disney animation film. He manages to wring new insights from it (though I have to confess, I've always liked "The Rites of Spring."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:02 PM

September 18, 2003

My Own Postrel Moment

I went out last night with two delightful young ladies--sisters, nineteen and twenty years old.

OK, get your minds out of the storm sewer--they're nieces, attending USC.

It was at the Beverly Center, and afterward, with another of their uncles, we wandered the mall. There was only one store open--Victoria's Secret.

They took us in and showed us the latest thing (at least it was a latest thing to me). Custom-designed underthings. And it's not just for teeshirts any more.

You pick out the color, and then you pick out a typeface and font and style and hue and sparkle quotient of letters, fill out the form in block letters in the boxes, and they apply them to the derriere upholstery in the proper order, to convey the intended message to your amour du jour.

Has Virginia heard about this?

[Update on Friday]

I should hasten to add, in defense of their honor, that I didn't mean in any way to imply that my nieces have amours du jour. As I said, we were in that particular store only because it was the only one open at that hour.

[Another update, spurred by another comment, an hour or so later]

Sigh...I should also point out that they showed them (i.e., pointed them out to us on the shelves). They didn't model them.

Didn't I already warn you folks about the locale of your minds?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:12 AM

August 26, 2003

Idle Thought

Taking a break from space blogging (and balancing checkbook, and doing various chores around the house) I was watching a movie.

Proposition: Austin Powers (ignoring the bad teeth) is the prototypical metrosexual.


Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:54 PM

August 14, 2003

They're Number One!

Insane Clown Posse edged out many older and more venerable acts (including Michael Bolton, Kenny G. and Jefferson Starship), to be named history's worst rock band.

But what's wrong with Emerson, Lake and Palmer?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:02 PM

July 21, 2003


Via Geek Press, the ultimate grand list of overused SF cliches. This should be a mouse click away from any aspiring SF writer, if you don't want to add to the burgeoning pile of turgid and laughable dreck out there, and further decrease the percentage of non-crud in Sturgeon's Law.

I particularly enjoyed the cliched settings and characterizations:

Cities of future are depicted as though sanitation workers have been on strike from now until then.

Planets with the same exact climate planet-wide (planets without atmosphere excepted).

Alternative Earths where society is just like some society of the past, with some technodoodads added.

Bad guys who miss everything they shoot at.

Beginning warriors who hit everything they shoot at.

All genetically superior humans have an innate drive to rule, conquer, or kill everyone else.

And silly science:

A hole the size of a barn is made in the hull of a space ship; decompression of the ship's atmosphere takes a half minute or so.

A hole the size of a dime is made in the hull of a space ship; decompression of the ship's atmosphere takes a half minute or so.

A large nuclear explosion can be obtained by putting several smaller de-vices together.

The same energy beam which causes rocks, buildings and robots to violently explode produces only a puff of smoke and a bit of burnt flesh and clothing when used on a living being.

These are by no means the best--they are merely representative--go read the whole thing.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:16 AM

April 22, 2002

My Favorite Is "The Fleshy Winnebago"

And now for something completely different.

What would we do without the Internet?

This guy is collecting euphemisms for "penis." He has quite a list.

Now, all we need is an equivalent collection from Down Under for vomiting (e.g., technicolor yawn, talking to the toilet, etc.).

[Thanks to Paul Hsieh at Geek Press, who has an amazing ability to dig up wild and wacky stuff like this.]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:20 PM
Bruce Dern Would Be My Pick

They're making a biopic about John McCain.

They're talking up Ed Norton, Jr. for the lead role. My suggestion is in the title. What's yours?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:29 PM

February 26, 2002

Wild Horses Couldn't Drag Me Away

Steven den Beste has an interesting post about feral horses. It's particularly interesting to me right now, because I'm up in wild horse country.

He's right. This isn't an endangered species issue--it's more of an emotional and cultural one. We're read too many romantic stories about horses running free, unbound from bridle and fence. Wild horses are one of those "large charismatic animals" that get too much attention relative to smaller, less cute, but more endangered species.

And it's a powerful emotion, too. I still vividly recall a time, over a decade ago, that I was driving in a remote valley on the California-Nevada border, population density .0001 per square mile, and I saw a small herd off in the distance. It was a stallion with three mares and a couple colts, running with the wind. They looked as though they belonged there.

But until I read Steven's post, it hadn't occured to me that they might have an inbreeding problem, and certainly, given the finite resource of the open sage, it would make more sense to use it for animals that are not raised by the millions domestically.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:43 PM

February 12, 2002

Idiot Judges, Part Deux

The Canadian figure-skating couple was robbed at the Olympics last night. I'd be upset about this, if I wasn't so upset at the whole concept of figure skating as a sport, which is the cause of this kind of nonsense.

Figure skating is beautiful, often divinely so. It requires talent, dedication, practice, strength, focus. But it is not a sport; it is an art. If figure skating is an Olympic event, why don't we see ballet in the summer games? How about finger painting?

The problem, of course, is that for many, it's the star of the show, and to remove it would simply hasten the demise of that modern corrupt bacchanalia (though this year with less emphasis on the bacchanal, given Mormon predilections) called the Olympics. So we will continue to have people dancing on ice, winning and losing on totally subjective criteria, judged by people with political agendas.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:11 AM

February 11, 2002

Ayn Rand Fans...

Want to have a say about who will play whom in Atlas Shrugged, the movie? Go vote here.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:33 AM

January 14, 2002

Half Twain

As a non-(modern)liberal, and someone who regularly rails against PBS and NPR (and still thinks that they should receive not a dime of taxpayers' money), I have a guilty confession to make.

I like Ken Burns documentaries. Parts of "The Civil War" brought tears to my eyes.

Tonight I watched the first part of his two-part series on Mark Twain.

This is not a subject with which I'm unfamiliar--as a high-school and college student, I read every word of Clemens that I could lay my hands on, including several biographies and critiques, both by his colleagues, such as Howells, and contemporary. One winter afternoon, after class, I went up to the fifth floor of the graduate library in Ann Arbor, and dug out of the stacks an unpublished (and uncheckoutable) copy of the forbidden "1601." I started to read it there, and before I got through the first several lines, realized that I would have to spend the geld to make a copy so that I could take it back home, because I would have otherwise disturbed the other, more serious students with my uncontrollable, lachrymose laughter. (Now of course, one need not dig through musty stacks of university libraries--it can be found at web sites like this.)

But I also realized that he was not just a humorist--he was a great (in the most profound sense of that overused word) writer. I realized this not in reading his greatest work, "Huckleberry Finn," but in a more obscure passage, in "A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court." And I can't even say quite why the passage moved me, though I think that it encapsulates many of the themes of both the everyman and unhereditary nobility that made him such a universal spokesman for the American ideal. I can only offer it here, and see if it has a similar effect on others. It is from a part of the book where the Yankee is traveling with King Arthur, and they are both incognito. They have come upon a hut infected with smallpox, and despite the Yankee's warnings, the king enters the hut to try to help his subjects.

There was a slight noise from the direction of the dim corner where the ladder was. It was the king descending. I could see that he was bearing something in one arm, and assisting himself with the other. He came forward into the light; upon his breast lay a slender girl of fifteen. She was but half conscious; she was dying of smallpox. Here was heroism at its last and loftiest possibility, its utmost summit; this was challenging death in the open field unarmed, with all the odds against the challenger, no reward set upon the contest, and no admiring world in silks and cloth-of-gold to gaze and applaud; and yet the king's bearing was as serenely brave as it had always been in those cheaper contests where knight meets knight in equal fight and clothed in protecting steel. He was great now; sublimely great. The rude statues of his ancestors in his palace should have an addition--I would see to that; and it would not be a mailed king killing a giant or a dragon, like the rest, it would be a king in commoner's garb bearing death in his arms that a peasant mother might look her last upon her child and be comforted.

As I watched the program, I gained some new insights into the author and the man.

He was wholly representative of the America in which he grew up. There may have been places as good as the 1840s river town of Hannibal, Missouri to serve as a childhood home of an iconic American writer, but there were certainly none better. He matured as the country did. He was born in its adolescence, and he lost his innocence as it did, in the hellish cauldron of the war that resolved our original sin, though he spent it in the new frontier out west, avoiding the fighting itself. He lent a voice to the young nation, and with "Innocents Abroad," almost singlehandedly transformed it from an uncertain, self-conscious adulator of old-world culture, to a brash and self-confident skeptic of the ancient verities, proud of its own virtues and ready to lead the world. He truly was the first American writer, who unlike Hawthorne or Poe or Melville, had no pretensions or desires to imitate the stale Europeans. With Huck Finn, he both invented modern American literature and provided the first real black character, while setting out, (both figuratively and literally) in black and white, the moral choices that would have to be made by our nation over the next century, even as the war over slavery remained fresh in peoples' minds.

He represented the America of the nineteenth century--a mythical boy playing in bluffs and caves, on idyllic islands in a mighty river that both defined and divided the nation; a riverboat captain; a gold miner; an entrepreneur; a lecturer. He worked with deck hands and supped with kings.

The documentary focuses on the tragedies of his life, which were many, but that is also part of the character of our young nation. Few children today are familiar with death, which is why we have to bring in "grief counselors" at school shootings, or when, due to the wonder of television, they see Space Shuttles blow up, or skyscrapers fall down. But in Mark Twain's day, and even in the day of many of our parents or grandparents, depending on our age, it was not unusual to attend the funerals of many childhood friends--death was a fundamental and inescapable part of life.

But he was a man for the ages. One has a sense that if he were somehow plopped down in the year 2002, he would take no longer than an hour or so to quickly become acclimated--get a car, a cell phone, a computer, get himself booked on Larry King, set up a web site, and tear into the politicians, preachers and plutocrats with the same zeal as he did a century ago. And he would retain fully the power to make us laugh. And cry.

If you didn't see it tonight, watch the second half tomorrow, even though it's on PBS.

[Update at 11:48 PM]

De gustibus non disputandum.

Ken Layne just did his own review, and he hated it. Actually, "he hated it" is an extreme understatement. But he also seems to hate Ken Burns in general, particularly for "Jazz," which I didn't see.

So, we report, you decide...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:29 PM

January 13, 2002

The Grass Is Blue

As a break from All Enron, All The Time, time for a little culture.

As I said previously, "Rocky Top" sucks big time as a college fight song, but it's a great bluegrass song, and the genre seems to be taking off in a big way, with a new generation. Over the years, the public's exposure to bluegrass has been episodic and misleading (Beverly Hillbillies theme song, "Dueling Banjos," miscegenation, and forced sodomy from the movie "Deliverance," etc.).

With only this exposure, most people thought of it as music for barefooted southern yokels (which is ironic, since it was actually invented, developed, and celebrated in Kentucky, Chicago, and Indiana), and even the country music industry has treated it like an ugly cousin. Most music stores don't even have it as a category, burying it among folk (if they have such an aisle) or country. Few realize that it is a profound type of music, a purely American art form (with roots from both the British Isles and Africa) containing elements of jazz, blues, folk, and, done well, requiring great instrumental virtuosity. (Ironically, at least until recently, there was actually a larger following for it in large cities than in the South).

Here's an article from USA Today Weekend describing the recent bluegrass revival, partly spurred on by the Cohen Bros. movie, "O Brother, Where Art Thou," but also by the now-easy availability of a wider variety of music via the internet. Like blogging, this is another example of how the net is bypassing big media (and big "entertainment") to offer music that people might actually want, instead of what suits in towers think that they might, or should want.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:00 PM

January 07, 2002

Catch The First Flight To Rivendell

Well, it didn't take them long. The obsessive fans/geeks have already found thirty-seven mistakes in The Fellowship of the Ring. A couple examples--a moving car seen off in the distance in a field, and Frodo (who is supposed to be a barefoot hobbit) wearing a shoe in one scene.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:14 AM

October 17, 2001

Star Dreck

OK, I thought that when I saw the pilot, that this prequel to the Star Trek series had promise. Perhaps it still does. But tonite's episode sucked. I had hoped that with what happened a month ago, that all this politically-correct script nonsense from Hollywood (and Rick Berman and company) had ended, but this one was probably in the can long before the event, and they didn't think it was any big deal.

(Note to non ST watchers--if you didn't see the episode, feel free to ignore the rest of this rant--it is predicated on the assumption that the reader actually watched it.)

First of all, it really got off on the wrong foot with me when he is on the alien ship, and they offer him a bowl of something, and tell him that it's the closest they can come to water.

Water is one of the most common and simple molecules in the universe. It is very easy to make. Take two atoms of hydrogen, one atom of oxygen, and mix (shaken, not stirred, and do it somewhere that can safely contain the exothermic energy thereby released).

Then they do this goofy alien sex thing where she (and it's obvious that she's a "she" even though "she's" hairless--you can tell from the shape) and the visiting engineer put their hands in a box of packing peanuts in a holodeck of sorts.

And of course, he gets pregnant. Why am I not surprised?

Much of the rest of the episode deals with how he handles being pregnant, and they use all the stereotypes of a pregnant woman to demonstrate this. Was there some point to this? Are we supposed to now be more sensitive to how a woman in pregnancy feels because we see some redneck guy go through it?

Give me a break. Anyone who was insensitive to pregnant women before seeing this episode will remain so afterward.

Anyone who was not will find it faintly amusing, but no more than that.

I have to say, however, in redemption, that at least at the end, when the pregnant "father" caught up with the "woman" by whom he was impregnated, she found another host for the pregnancy, rather than just flushing it down a sink.

But still, my hopes for a more realistic Star Trek were somewhat diminished by this particular episode.

I probably won't be posting much in the next few days, for those two or three people who have been logging in to see what I'm raving about currently. I'll be at the Space Frontier Foundation annual conference. However, on Sunday or Monday, I'll attempt to post a report on any interesting developments that I discover in the process of attending it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:50 PM