Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday Funnies

-Lackadaisy has THREE new pages (one a little short, but still).
-Lawn Darts forgot that BillT's hair is white, not brown, but other than that ...
-Schock Mercenary and combat lawyering.
-Girl Genius and why relatives should never be bodyguards ...
-Rummage bin: Two Lumps, xkcd
-Argghhh-onauts is still playing hooky, Dresden Codak is resting, and Gone With the Blastwave is lethargic.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Curiouser and Curiouser

The solar wind has died down. The article chirps cheerily that this will mean satellites stay up longer. What they haven't mentioned is the satellites could be doorstops while they are orbiting longer since they will be more exposed to damaging cosmic radiation. I swear ... when are these people going to either get scientists on staff or at least on call to point out stuff like this?

More importantly, this is putting a HUGE CRIMP in my plan to go to Alaska and see the Aurora Borealis. Fooey.

Vegas AAR

I think I've sobered up by now. Your Humble Snarkatron is sadly out of practice at the whole party-hearty thing, and it appears to be a Las Vegas bylaw that all drinks shall be the size of your head.

I traveled with fellow Castle Denizenne Barb, which is much nicer than wandering around all alone in the infinite void. Many of the Castle Crewe were there, including John and Beth, Dbie, Maggie, and FuzzyBear. Evidently the Security Agreement the milbloggers signed with the Las Vegas Authority precluded the presence of Dusty or BillT. There's always next year ...

The Blackfive party at the Penthouse Club wins the "Decadence" prize. Starting with the shuttle buses that had not one, but *two* poles for dancing, and then on to the private party room with the giant photo that turned out to be, after much puzzled 3-D mental realignment, to be a nekkid ladies torso (I guess I'm not wired to instantly recognize things like that, especially when it's an odd camera angle). I'm happy to report everybody else was wearing clothes. On the other hand, the lighting was so dim^H^H^H atmospheric nudity would have probably escaped unnoticed. This would not have troubled me if I was not trying to identify many people I had never actually met before. Next year, I will suggest fluorescent Braille name badges. The booze was free and flowed in copious amounts, probably leading to the Mass Blackfive PoleDance. (With guest appearances by Chuck Z and Greyhawk). Guys, I love ya to death but pole dancing is NOT a squad-level activity, OK? We need to be able to see you in all your glory. Take turns. And Jimbo, yes a tie is an article of clothing but taking it, and only it off is not stripping, it is TEASING. But overall, an A for effort and Chuck gets a gold star for sheer enthusiasm and creativity. And for the ultimate prize, I successfully tracked down Allen, commenter at (a division of the Moronosphere) , to say hi. He is such a sweetheart and gentleman I remain convinced he was glad to meet me ;-) Pictures! We gots pictures!

Then we staggered home to our "Moroccan Tacky" hotel, the Sahara, in preparation for the actual Milblog conference. This was my first and very informative. Again, wonderful to finally put faces to names of all the people I have been reading for years. Interspersed with panels were visits to the main Blogworld convention exhibit floor, where many amusing plastic tchotchkes were found and more Famous People sighted. Pajamas Media was doing video interviews!

Sunday was given up to pure decadence (again), tagging along with John and Beth as they explored the desert, specifically the Valley of Fire. In addition to much geologic niftiness there were vast swaths of petroglyphs to admire. Then we went back to Vegas, ingested drinks the size of our heads and much delicious food, and went to a fancy show.

All this, and nobody got arrested. We'll have to try harder next time.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Four-footed Physical Therapy

I ride for fun about once a week. I don't have my own horse -- the place where I ride has horses owned by other people I'm allowed to use. One of these is a big, large-boned horse that went dead lame several months ago. The talk was he might be done for, at least would never be ridden again. But as time passed he seemed to get better. Finally it was decided to try riding him again, and I was asked to do it. I'm not a super, Olympic-level rider but I do have experience riding older horses that have physical issues and might need some stretching-out, or extra care in how they are ridden. The horse was used to being ridden by me too, which would help.

It's a nice feeling, being trusted. By humans and by animals. The horse knew I wasn't going to ask him to do something he couldn't do yet without pain. The humans knew I could gently urge him to start using the muscles and tendons that had been injured earlier, just enough to loosen them up but not enough to damage the healing that had taken place.

Horses can't say thank you. But you can feel their mood, and when stiffness and soreness change and it feels good to move, when they want to go fast again, I feel happy too. This horse will need a lot of work. He's lost muscle and strength during his recuperation. But I can help him with that, and we will both benefit.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Remember This for Later

Flexible nanotube transistor sheets. I did research on carbon nanotubes back in the day, even helped build a prototype of embedded nanotubes in a polymer matrix (not flexible, like this.) The idea was you could find the kind of circuit you needed in the random arrangement of the tubes, instead of trying to manufacture it in. They are getting very close now to usable devices for nanotube circuits. Plus, flat and flexible is just plain cool ...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday Funnies

-Lackadaisy has updated! The difficulties inherent in a cousin with morals.
-More fun from the Lawn Darts crew. (This would be more funny if I hadn't myself found a crucial part after much profane reassembly of a complex piece of machinery. )
-Argghhh-onauts has multiple updates since the author is playing hooky for two weeks. I say we dock his pay ... Episode #5, Episode #6, Episode # 7.
-Schock Mercenary revels in someone else screwing up for a change.
-Dresden Codak concludes the very strange Hob saga. With giant posthuman AI feathered snake robots. Or possibly the effects of huffing glue, it's hard to tell the difference sometimes.
-Girl Genius has serious housecleaning to do. Not to mention routing the multiple boyfriend candidates past each other ...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Color-blind Ethics

I was absolutely gobsmacked by this article on the Kwame Kilpatrick scandal. Not because I agreed with it, but because of who wrote it. I had thought Mr. Pitts was a typical liberal of color, forever and only seeing the mote in his (white) neighbor's eye. I am delighted to be proven wrong. I also appreciate the exasperated tone of his writing. He's fed up, and rightfully so.

We should stop falling into the easy trap of believing every black man in trouble is a victim of racial malfeasance. Sometimes, a black man in trouble is a victim of his own malfeasance. If more black folks in Motown had understood this, the city might not have spent the last year embarrassing itself.

For centuries, African Americans have struggled to teach white people that black does not mean guilt. Frankly, it's high time we ourselves learned a corresponding truth.

It doesn't mean innocence, either.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Neolithic Global Warming?

I blame goat flatulence. Melting glaciers have revealed artifacts over 5,000 years old. This is older than Oetzi the Iceman, even, meaning these guys were polluting an awful lot to keep the global warming up for centuries. Unless they were members of an obscure cult that liked to dig deep shafts into glaciers and leave stuff (and bodies of cult members who hadn't paid their yearly dues) for future generations to marvel at, this means 5,000 years ago those glaciers were just as melted as they are now. Neat trick, eh?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

I blame Global Warming

That hard landing of a 777 in London back in January? Apparently caused by ice in the fuel lines. "Unusually cold weather" blamed. Gee, wonder how that happened? The Boeing 777 has been in service for 13 years, and this is the first time the issue has shown up. Sure am glad the planet is overheating so this won't happen again.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Innnnteresting ...

I have a moderately long commute by bus into Seattle. Usually my fellow commuters are a silent, studious bunch; now and then neighbors have a quiet chat about traffic or the last baseball game, but not very often. So I was surprised when two crochety older ladies struck up a lively, quite audible discussion about, get this, the Republican convention and Sarah Palin. First, our sober and sensible commuter regulars Just Don't Discuss Politics. Nobody wants an ulcer first thing in the morning. Second, I was fascinated with what they said. If they are typical of Seattle (usually liberal) voters, Obama is in a world of hurt.

Pronouncements of the Bus Ladies:
-Sarah Palin is "amazing"
-"17 year old girls get pregnant? *That's* never happened before!" (said with heavy scorn)
-They feel great sympathy for Bristol Palin and uniformly blame the media for the whole mess. Not, mind you, Sarah.
-"What he said was very interesting" (I gathered this was some speaker at the convention, but missed the name.)

And I didn't notice anyone on the bus giving them the hairy eyeball, either.

Small Towns: a political primer

Oh, my, the elevated noses in evidence among the members of the "working-man's party", a.k.a. the Democrats, at Sarah Palin's credentials. Governor of Alaska? Do people, you know, actually live there? Of course someone has to be on hand to service all the ecotourist cruises, but they go away when the ships leave just like all the staff at Disneyworld after 6pm and they aren't really real. Of course only some of the more honest types are mentioning she's currently a state governor. Some seem stuck on the fact she was once mayor of Wasilla. A little podunk town in Alaska. Probably doesn't even have a Starbucks, ha ha.

Having lived in a very small rural town at one point in my misspent youth, I feel a certain responsibility to explain to those deprived of that scintillating experience. There isn't much to do in places like that (and where I lived there weren't even cows to tip, so we were *really* bored). Entertainment is provided by gossip and politics driven by emotional fury inversely proportionate to the stakes. The drama attendant on the Clam Inspector election would have inspired Homer. Plus, the majority of the inhabitants are related to one another in a complex web that usually takes several years to truly master. In a big city it is fairly easy to castigate Joe Numbnuts for being a corrupt nincompoop. Only his immediate family cares, and they are maybe 6 votes, tops. If Joe was born and raised in North Cowpat, scion of a long line of Numbnuts back to the Revolutionary War, you have just alienated 60% of eligible voters and a few dogs will go out of their way to bite you. This is *completely* unconnected to whether or not you have videotape of him singing the "Corrupt Nincompoop" song in a pink tutu whilst accepting fifty dollar bills tucked in the waistband by Snidely Whiplash lookalikes. Sarah Palin not only managed to get elected mayor in a small town AND clean it up in a major way, she was re-elected. That gets a 10 even from the Russian judge. It means she managed to make major changes in how things were done (small towns hate change, they have to redo the forms) without stepping on a multitude of sensitive toes. International negotiations will be quite a letdown for her. I mean, Putin isn't even a distant cousin!

Likewise, it is really, really hard to keep a secret or hide your incompetence in a small town. People know your flaws and your virtues. Your "character", in the Jane Austen sense, matters. In a small town in a harsh environment, like Alaska, lazy slackers are the lowest of the low. You can't "spin" the fact that you didn't chop enough wood and now your family is cold. You can't sue the ocean for insufficient accommodation of disabilities out on a commercial fishing boat. Can't hack it? You die. It develops a core honesty in people, the ones that survive anyway. You might be able to fool other people, but you know you can't fool nature. I get the sense that Sarah Palin is not in the habit of lying to herself or anyone else. No wonder the pundits hate her.