Sunday, February 28, 2010

Things Always Seem the Darkest...

Now the darkness truly falls.  The olympics provided a rare couple weeks of relief, but the reality is back upon us, more ponderous and debilitating than ever.  I speak of that meaningless, dark period between the Super Bowl and Opening Day.  Nothing, just NHL hockey and college basketball, along with diversions akin to self-flagellation such as NASCAR and Golf.

So, we'll read books.  We'll watch movies.  We'll organize our silverware drawer, and sharpen all our knives.  We'll tinker with the network, with the radios, with the music collection.  Things will get broken, and frustration shall be our lot.  And let me just say that every year I truly look forward to "March Madness", not because I enjoy it, no, truth to tell it's painful and stupid, much like it's poster boy Dick Vitale, but because in all it's loud pointlessness it signals the end of the great dark period, with baseball just around the corner.

The Giants open up in Houston on April fifth, just what, like thirty six days from now?  Just be strong.  Now, where'd I put those ethernet patches?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

For All It's Misery, NOW is a Pretty Amazing Time to be Here

At the center of all large galaxies, including, of course, our own, there is a supermassive black hole. In the case of the galaxy our solar system calls home, it is about 4 million solar masses. Now studying black holes is hard, because, well, they're BLACK. Nothing gets out, not even light or radiation, so they cannot be observed directly.

Andrea Ghez has been observing the stars trapped in orbit around this huge black hole for about ten years. And she has produced a little video of the results. Now mind you, this is not an animation of some guesses - this is the actual movement of actual stars around the actual supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. It happened in our time, while we were here. What could be more awe inspiring?

Every Silver Lining has a Touch of Grey

From the 'be careful what you wish for' file, it seems the nexus of modern data networks and post 9/11 security protocols have made the use of good old fashion forged passports and travel documents impossible.  When Israeli intelligence wanted to infiltrate a hit team into Dubai to kill Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, they knew they had fewer options than they would have even just ten years ago.  Because the target was in Dubai, they couldn't effectively use Israeli passports because of the scrutiny and suspicion they would cause in an Arab nation, and they couldn't just forge a passport with false names anymore, because the linked databases would instantly show the travel documents to be fraudulent.

So what did they do?  Simple, if horrifically cold-blooded and arrogant.  They took the information from the passports of foreign nationals residing in Israel and forged passports from their native countries using the actual data and pictures of the assassins.  Sure, this had all the potential to ruin the lives of the people who's identities they stole, if not put their lives at risk in retaliation hits, but the Mossad can't be bothered with niceties like that when there's extra-judicial killing to be done on foreign sovereign soil.

So, can one hope that this will cause governments around the world to rethink kinetic actions on foreign soil?  To some extent, it certainly will.  I suspect that many international intelligence agencies have seen the firestorm this set off and have already initiated a program to create a library of false identities and populate the international databases with forged travel documents that don't point back at actual living persons.  You know, just for contingencies.  But in the meantime, for all the ultimate harm done by a global surveillance state, here's something of a benefit to regular people - actual restraint from even the most brutal governments.

Hey, at least it's something.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Jim Bunning Hates Me

Unemployment Insurance in the US comes in five distinct stages.  The first is through the state, that's the account that was "paid into" and is funded by the former employer.  Thereafter, there are four discrete stages of federal unemployment support provided for by various bits of federal legislation including the stimulus.  At the end of this month, the laws providing for those programs expire.  Congress would like to make some comprehensive adjustments to the federal unemployment system, but first they need to extend the current legislation for thirty days to prevent over a million people (including ME!) from losing their benefits.

Jim Bunning, the right-wing extremist wingnut bigot Senator from Kentucky and hall of fame pitcher has other ideas.  You see, HE'S not suffering, he has a paycheck and a pension and thus, in the inhuman, compassionless manner of most so-called American 'Conservatives' can't understand the urgency.  So he refuses to allow a vote.

In the meantime, of course, millions stand to lose even the minimal safety net the US grudgingly provides.  Let's hope this doesn't last very long, shall we?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fill your hands, you sunnuvabitch!

I just read where they're about to start shooting a new "True Grit", with Jeff Bridges in the John Wayne/Rooster Cogburn role.  I'm of two minds on this.  It's hard to imagine anyone else playing Rooster, JW owned that role in a way very few actors ever own a role.  I suspect it was mostly just John Wayne, with an antiquated cadence.

But then again, the Coen brothers have already promised they would hew much closer to the original Charles Portis novel, which would make it both more intense and more humerous at the same time.  Also, the novel was more violent, and, well, grittier than the 1969 film.

I'm pretty sure this is a movie I'll see.  Given my, er, difficulties with movie theaters, I'll probably download it and watch it at home, but I unlike many remakes of classic films, this is one I have hopes for...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Deep Questions

If it's Bob's Sled, why does he keep letting all these other idiots borrow it?  His insurance rates must be truly astronomical.

And why does a bobsled look so much like a squid?  All I wanna do is turn it inside out and fry it...

Sled Macabre

I must admit I was quite excited when I saw on the TeeVee listings that we would be treated to an Olympic event called "Skeleton".  With no idea what it might be, I was pretty sure that it would be at LEAST macabre, and quite possibly horrifying.

What a disappointment.  I'm not sure how it's different from an event called "Luge", which we were already saddened to discover is NOT a spitting contest.  The high point of the whole thing was the great "helmet controversy".

Helmets?  Srsly?  We don' need no steenkeen helmets.  It's called "Skeleton" fer gawds sake.  It's a BADASS sport.

Or maybe not.

Let's head back to the Curling venue. See if Shuster's still riding the pine...

Friday, February 19, 2010

I'm Confused...

I know. What a shock, huh.  Anyway, I just read where a Focus on the Family spokesman at CPAC railed against:

"government [that] has grown way outside its proper sphere by getting into moral and spiritual realms, such as redefining marriage, such as encouraging women to leave their children at home and go into the work force."
But I find this utterly confusing.  How come they do not approve of government getting into moral and spiritual realms by allowing all people to marry, but they INSIST that government get into moral and spiritual realms by PREVENTING all people to marry?   How is one different from the other?  Why is one unacceptable, while the other is mandatory?

Over and over again, we find that when people try to overlay religious beliefs on secular legal and governance practices, the best you can hope for is blatant hypocrisy.  The more common outcome is tyranny...


Go Get 'em, Tiger!

As near as I can tell, the only "mistake" Tiger Woods ever made was getting married in the first place.  Otherwise, he's just a young, handsome rich guy having the time of his life, banging, boinking and putting his way through an extraordinary existence.

Let's be clear.  He didn't "let anybody down" except his wife.  Oooppsss, sorry, y'know?  But the rest of the time?   I'd say he had it pretty much nailed.  He didn't get screwed up with drugs or anything that could wreck his life, he just liked doing it with hot chicks.

And who doesn't?


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Time to Grow Up

The arbitrary notion that taxes are always too high is not just childish, magical thinking but is deeply detrimental to society in general.  Think of it like this - you need to buy a new TV.  Do you have enough money?  Obviously, you cannot answer that question until you determine what TV you are going to buy.  Similarly, you cannot determine an appropriate level of taxation until you reach a conclusion about the level of government services you expect.  To demand tax cuts while simultaneously demanding infrastructure, education, law enforcement and it's handmaiden incarceration, a massive military and benefits for the veterans it produces is simply stupid.  Until we are willing to decide on a level of government services we'll accept, we CANNOT know how much taxation will be required to fund them.  Until I hear that discussion taking place, it's all just the buzz and drone of thoughtless anger...

American Taliban?

Now that the Teabaggers have deployed their own suicide bomber in desperate emulation of Mohammed Atta, it's time for them to drop any remaining pretense that their concern is their nation or it's constitution. They are now Jihadis, and outside of the comparative religion arguments have no real differences from al Quaeda or the Taliban...

Curling, Bitchez!

One of the primary reasons curling is such a cool sport is that it is one of the very few forms of athletic competition where the competitors can wear makeup and jewelry. Hey, any sport in which you never actually SWEAT is inherently superior. Other reasons to like Curling include the jargon (Shot Rock, Lying Two, The HAMMER!), participation in street clothes and SWEEPING!

Of course, it's possible there might be some dispute over the definition of the term "Street Clothes". But c'mon. You know what I mean...

I'm Baaack...

Because you gotta start with something, I'm going to start with this. I stole it from John Cole. But don't think it means anything about anything, 'cause it's just funny.