Saturday, March 24, 2007

Going to the movies

I've really slacked off since the invasion of Netflix. I don't care for people in bulk at the best of times, and the stupid pre-pre-movie quasi-TV nonsense irritates the hell out of me. Previews are mostly fodder for my cynical "spot the target demographic" instincts. Judging from what I saw, the suits in Hollywood think people going to see 300 like fart jokes and movies about biblical end times. Yippee.

The movie, though, was great. I can see why all the usual suspects have their panties in a wad about it. One scene in particular stood out for me. The Quasimodo-like quasi-Spartan pleads with Leonidas for permission to fight with the 300. Leonidas gives him a hearing. If this were a Disney after-school special, that's all it would take. Give him a chance, he saves the team, everybody cheers and wonders why they ever were so mean to him.

But not in the world the Spartans inhabit. Leonidas praises his strength with a spear, but points out the guy cannot lift his shield high enough--and the Spartans fight *together*. In a phalanx. If you can't raise your shield, you endanger the man next to you. There are things Quasi can do to help, but no, that's not good enough for him and he goes and betrays all of Greece because someone has pointed out he really isn't like the other kids. It's brutal, but it's the truth (another Spartan specialty).

I also really liked Queen Gorgo's method of dealing with dishonest politicians. (Honest ones *stay* bought.) There is little chance of recidivism, especially with the medical technology of the day.

Just in case you were wondering ...

... if you should take the time to dig that hole to the center of the earth, Live Physics has a handy little app that shows you where you would end up if you did. My plans have been put on hold until I get a submarine, alas.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


It must be moonbat migration season or something. We have been promised the delights of not one, but two protest marches in downtown Seattle on Monday. Fortunately I can work from home that day, because I can tell already this is going to be a massive, um, fustercluck.

Interestingly, I wasn't the only one muttering curses in the office when the news hit Friday, and my place of employment has many vocal exemplars of the rabid liberal. Does it really help your cause if your political sympathizers now think of you as a major pain in the neck? Monday is already such a festival of joy and delight and now lunara chiropteria vulgaris is going to make it even better! Every person you guys make late for work, or delay getting home to the kids, will see those Bush=Hitler signs and connect THEIR frustration with YOU.

Heh heh heh. Rove, you magnificent bastard!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Idle Snarkage

- It occurs to me to wonder if some of the shrill hysteria eminating from the Run Away Now crowd has its subconscious origin in terror. Terror because if we win all of their efforts to "Vietnamize" the Iraq war will backfire and people will start questioning the official narrative of that war too. Would make being a '70s protester/draft dodger more something to hide than brag about.

-Another awkward question: All these Democrats now claiming they were misled by the president into voting to authorize the war. This would be the president they pretty much daily insinuate is dumber than dirt? He fooled THEM? And we should do what they say ... why???

-Now for my favorite, Anthrogenic Global Warming (translation: humans are bad). My question for the AGW folks is the following. Is there any evidence you would consider, if it existed, as proof your theory is NOT correct? Because really, a scientific theory should be falsifiable. This is a safety feature that helps prevent infestations of Flying Spaghetti Monsters.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Well isn't this interesting

via Physics Today, the magazine of the American Physics Society, I learn that there must have been a rash of mutant spiders or cosmic rays or some kind of DNA-changing event, because high school physics students are now nearly half female. I thought we weren't supposed to be interested or capable of science, because of this thing called a "brain." Evidently ours (assuming we have them) are so different there is no point in asking why there are so few women in the higher reaches of science, and it would certainly be a waste of time to, you know, encourage them. They'll be demanding the vote next.

Yes, I'm referring to (former) Harvard president Larry Sommers, and he was an idiot for several reasons for making his remarks. For one thing, any senior academic with connections with science would know you can't hire people who aren't there. The problem (known as the pipeline issue) is well known. Except to Larry Sommers. You have to have a certain number of high school girls taking math and science to survive college and grad school to even begin to have a reasonable number of candidates to select from for professor gigs. (Note that the same is true for black scientists of either gender, but nobody is claiming race means lack of mental ability. And yet black scientists are even more rare than female ones.)

My contention, as a female scientist, is that you have to increase the number of girls at the OTHER end of the pipeline. According to this study, the numbers started increasing about ten years ago. Seems that a combination of increased science graduation requirements and higher standards of colleges provided the needed impetus. I don't think it will shock anyone that teenagers like to do the minimum amount of work required for a particular outcome. Perhaps when more of them are "forced" to take and do well in science courses, some will actually like it. And want to do more. It could take years, but then we are trying to change a cultural meme that has been around for millennia. I hope so, anyway.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

History as Rorschach Ink Blot

Via Castle Argghhh!, a most interesting (and I mean that in a clinical observational kind of sense) article on the newly released movie 300. As a refreshing change this particular movie titled as a number is not about homicidal maniacs per se, but history. Which is different. Mostly because there is no ominous theme music to inform the randy teenage lovers they picked a bad time to investigate the noise in the basement ... but I digress. You see, evidently Karl Rove (with the assistance of some Venusian mind-masters disguised as filing cabinets) went back to ancient Greece and set up the battle of Thermopylae just so that Frank Miller (cleverly, in 1998 instead of 2001 to throw conspiracy nuts off the scent) would write a comic book about it and then someone else would want to adapt the vaguely historically-flavored comic book to film to justify our quote completely trumped up and illegal war in Iraq unquote since *everyone* would naturally look at the actor playing Leonidas and think "yep, that's George Bush!" and (shudder) wave a flag or something.

Not that I'm against buff Spartans wearing leather Speedos but it gets damn cold in DC in the winter. (On second thought, maybe it would weed out the weak and the whiny applicants for the position.)

My point (and I do have one, I *heard* that from the back of the room) is Thermopylae is HISTORY. It is messy and inconvenient and has pointy bits sticking out. That's how you know it is true. Always be suspicious of a smooth and uniform narrative, that is a classic sign of fiction. Yes, the elite of Sparta really did voluntarily sacrifice themselves for principle. Yes, Xerxes really did invade for no good reason other than he could. No, nobody tried diplomacy ("surrender or die" doesn't count as negotiation.) On the other hand, the film-Leonidas speaks very passionately of a freedom the helots of Sparta never saw. When Leonidas died (I do hope that isn't a spoiler for anyone) and the emergency backup Spartan king was empowered (the Spartans had a strange dual kingship that nobody but them really understood), said backup king Pausanias tried to "make arrangements" with the Persians! He got kicked for it, of course, but I think it illustrates the whole death-or-freedom thing wasn't as universal in Sparta as it could have been. And also that Bronze Age Greeks understood quite well you have no leverage for negotiating with people who think they can TAKE what they want from you, and will. And have.

Anyway, I strongly recommend that any hyperventilating movie reviewer who "questions the timing" read up on ancient Greek history. It's quite interesting. Especially the part where the Greeks end up getting conquered because they focused on their own internal rivalries instead of banding together against a common enemy.

Let's not repeat that part, shall we?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

That's not something you see everyday ...

Nearly a hundred dumptrucks just went by near my house. I'm guessing it was a funeral procession, since one truck had a banner on the side with "In loving memory of (name not caught in time)". Every truck was spotlessly clean. And as they went past the local construction site, they sounded their horns.

I wonder who it was. Beyond a dumptruck driver with lots of friends.

Weekend Funnies

The glaciers have receded -- for now. I'm going to see if I can't get Al Gore's Gulfstream FAA ID banned from my airspace so we can have spring. No more solid water, please.

And just as a note, I saw a very fat and happy bald eagle this morning. It was having roadkill for breakfast. Probably an omen or something.

- At last a conspiracy theory with some truth to it! I was always a bit suspicious of how conveniently everything worked out. I mean, come on--young moisture farmer's nephew just HAPPENS to find his previously unsuspected sister on the run from their unsuspectedly alive father who just HAPPENS to be the Supreme Enforcement Baddie of the Empire? On a desert backwater planet?? Suuuure. On the other hand, there does seem to be some evidence that Vader was framed for an alleged war crime that was just a domestic dispute gone wrong. He's still evil, though.
- Given that a) Earth's polar ice is supposedly melting due to human action, b) Mars' polar caps (of frozen CO2, but never mind that) are also melting, c) the only human devices on Mars are little rovers and such powered by solar panels and clean living .... Doesn't that imply that solar panels cause global warming? Why don't we ban them and see if that helps?
- If all else fails, try a Daily Kitten.