Friday, December 31, 2010

404: year not found

Best wishes to everyone for a Happy 2011.  And be sure to check out the greatest 404 error messages, evah!  My favorites:

1337/h4x0rj00 f001, 7|-|47 p4g3 d0|\|'7 eXi57! y0u sux0rz.
American SouthAh cain't find th' page y'all are lookin' foah. (note: I edited this one)
GlaswegianYur page izznae here.
Be sure to read them all.

The Wasteland

2010 ended with a bang, intellectually speaking.  Coleman McCarthy shrieked that ROTC on campus would undermine intellectual purity, and Ezra Kline said that nobody could possibly understand the Constitution because it was written a hundred years ago.  Or 200.  Or something.

For double-plus extra crazy style points, one of Insty's commenters offers a 2500 year old quote from Thucydides back at McCarthy: The state that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.  Since this is more than 100 years old, can someone please explain this to Ezra?

It's easy to snark at the idiocy on display from the Chattering Class, but this springs from a particular source, and logically leads to a particular destination.  The source is, frankly, poisoned and the destination a wasteland.  Literally.

Peter Berkowitz looks at the political philosophy of the progressive left, and offers a summation that will surprise nobody:

But progressivism went astray owing to a defect in its basic orientation. It rejected the sound principles of government embodied in the Constitution, because of a critical difference of opinion about human nature. Progressives believed that great improvements in the moral character of humanity and in the scientific understanding of society had rendered the Constitution’s scheme of checks and balances — or better its separation, balancing, and blending of power — unnecessary to prevent majority tyranny and the abuse of power by officeholders. Whereas the makers of the American Constitution believed that the imperfections of human nature and the tendency of people to develop competing interests and aims were permanent features of moral and political life, progressives insisted that progress allowed human beings, or at least the most talented and best educated human beings, to rise above these limitations and converge in their understanding of what was true and right. Indeed, according to the progressives the Constitution’s obsolete and cumbersome institutional design was a primary hindrance to democratic reforms to which all reasonable people could agree and which upright and impartial administrators would implement. It is a short step from the original progressives’ belief that developments in morals and science had obviated reasonable disagreements about law and public policy and dissolved concerns about the impartiality of administrators to the new progressives’ belief that in domestic affairs disagreement is indefensible and intolerable.
I would suggest that the problem is not, as Berkowitz says, that Progressivism is now intentionally deceptive.  Rather, the problem is that Progressivism leads to a left that is simply unable to think clearly.  Obama is perhaps the greatest example of this.

The source is poisoned.  It springs from a feeling that society can be reformed, at least by the right sort of people.  That scientific advances will lead to moral advances.  However plausible this might have seemed in 1880, the subsequent 130 years have led inexorably to a disaster for the left.

Progressivism runs on a moral imperative - moral reform of society.  Progressives are, eo ipso, moral creatures.  It's but a short step sideways into tribalism, and suddenly their opponents are immoral.  A study of the Wilson Administration will show that this root runs deep.

The logical conclusion of this is Gramsci's Long March Through The Institutions.  Since the Universities are essentially run as a Medieval Guild - tenure can be denied for any reason by any member, in secret - a long selection process has turned the Academy into a reliable bastion of leftist thought.  As conservative (or even centrist) ideas get squeezed from the curriculum, generations of new journalists, film makers, and writers turn those industries into reliable bastions of leftist thought.

Note that this isn't opinion, it's observation.  Offered as a proof point is that many prominent conservative intellectuals started out as run-of-the-mill leftists.  I myself am an example of this.  Over time, they realized that their education was filled with gaps, and they started filling those gaps in on their own.  Suddenly, they found that they weren't leftists anymore.

And here's the problem for the left: if its philosophy were healthy, you'd see a lot of this happen in reverse, i.e. former conservatives becoming progressives.  In fact, you did used to see exactly this sort of thing, in the early Progressive era (say, through the 1920s).  You don't today.  What thinking person today would voluntarily choose to turn off part of their reasoning capacity?

And so we see the recent Progressive love of suppression.  Campus speech codes, labels like "denier" for people skeptical of Global Warming, and most interestingly the hysterical reaction to Sarah Palin.  She's supposed to be dumb.  So incredibly dumb.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Oooooh kaaaaay.  But it seems to me that she never said that the Constitution was incomprehensible because it was 100 years old.  She never said that ROTC would corrupt the Campus.  Both of those statements seem to me to be unarguably, objectively stupid.

And here we enter into the Progressive's collapse.  They rationalize their obvious failings - human as we all are - because of their "higher" moral imperative.  Palin is "dumb" and Ezra Klein is "smart" because of the tribes they chose, and Progressive intellectuals will square any circle to come up with justifications.  But this separation of action from consequence leads the Progressive to the Wasteland:
SACRAMENTO, Calif.— A cap-and-trade program approved Thursday by the California Air Resources Board includes damaging loopholes that would incentivize clearcutting in the name of reducing carbon emissions. The program — adopted as part of California’s effort to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions — would allow industrial polluters to purchase carbon “offset credits” instead of reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions. Among the options is buying offset credits from forest clearcutting.
Environmental Progressives are literally turning the Golden State into a wasteland.  Their policy recommendations are so clearly counter to their stated goals as to strike one dumb.  They are objectively stupid.  And this isn't cherry picking; we see this all the time.  Save the planet by starving the children, save the planet by killing pets, save the planet by banning grass.  The Wasteland.

The left has collapsed into a self-contained bubble where its Moral Imperative suppresses dissent as being against the interests of the Tribe.  It suppresses people who say "Are you really sure it's a good idea to propose childhood malnutrition"?  And so the inhabitants of this bubble become objectively stupid.  They never have to defend even the most absurd ideas.  In fact, they cannot - they'll be purged:
Rectification is not an electrical term. On the Left it means “power struggle” or purge. In the beginning it will take exactly the form we are witnessing now:  a signaling exercise on the Left ostensibly directed at the mythical right but essentially aimed at sending a message to leftist politicians and semi-respectable activists that they haven’t been militant enough.

And so the policy proposals are a disaster of unintended consequences.  Obamacare leading to people losing their children's insurance is only the latest sad example of the Wasteland.  Ignoring the objectively stupid we need to vote for it so we can see what's in it, who could possibly not seen what's coming?

A Progressive, that's who.  Their Moral Imperative prevents it.
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
- T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland

Comment of the year

People are doing retrospectives.  OK, me, too.

In this post, I comment on getting my first gun, and of the psychological journey that ends in fully exercising your rights as a citizen, not a subject.  Guard Duck offers:
Oh great, we spend years telling people that guns are inanimate objects and here comes BP imbuing a lowly little .22 with the power to turn a serf into a freeman.

It's amazing how the most base of objects can be the 'philosopher's stone' of liberty.
There is no spoon.

Sitemeter lost its mind

I like hosted services, like blogspot.  Someone else does the heavy lifting about security patches and availability, so I don't have to.  Sitemeter is one of those, and has been really reliable the whole 2 1/2 years I've been using it.

Until a week ago.

That's what an outage looks like.  They bounced, and bounced hard - not "We're sorry, you can't get to the administrative portal", but the whole thing was down and lost data.

Not that it's a huge deal for me - while I agree with JayG that Sitemeter == Crack, it doesn't have the pull that it used to.  But if this were an ecommerce site - say, the UK's PC World - going hard down loses you real cash money.  For PC World, going down on one of the busiest shopping days of they year loses you even more cash money.

Maybe the new IT team at PC World will do better.  Hopefully, the old IT team from PC World won't go to work at Sitemeter.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Attention all Wordpress bloggers

You need to upgrade Wordpress to fix a critical security bug:

Version 3.0.4 of WordPress, available immediately through the update page in your dashboard or for download here, is a very important update to apply to your sites as soon as possible because it fixes a core security bug in our HTML sanitation library, called KSES. I would rate this release as “critical.”

I realize an update during the holidays is no fun, but this one is worth putting down the eggnog for. In the spirit of the holidays, consider helping your friends as well.

If you are a security researcher, we’d appreciate you taking a look over this changeset as well to review our update. We’ve given it a lot of thought and review but since this is so core we want as many brains on it as possible. Thanks to Mauro Gentile and Jon Cave (duck_) who discovered and alerted us to these XSS vulnerabilities first.
It seems that if you don't update, Bad Guys can break into your blog.  Probably the best that would could expect is tons of comment spam.

What is the real state of the climate?

The Czar of Muscovy has a very thought provoking post up about what's going on in Climate Science.  You should go RTWT, as it has triggered the thoughts I'm jotting down here.  It's really quite moderate, and covers the high points exceptionally well.

It made me think that I should drop the snark for a moment and do a survey of my best guess as to what the climate is up to, and whether Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) - warming due to man's release of carbon dioxide - is real.  So as near as I can offer a straight up Climate Science 101, here it is.

Disclaimer: I'm not a Climate Scientist; nor do I play one on TV.  An Electrical Engineering/Economics/History background has given me some analytical tools that I rely on in my more serious posts, but I don't try to follow the climate statisticians.  Treat this as an educated layman's view.

1. Is the climate changing?

It sure is.  Nobody (pro-AGW or skeptic) disputes that we've recently emerged from the Little Ice Age, which ended maybe 150 years ago.  The historical record is indisputable that it was much colder 200 years ago - stories of frozen Dutch canals and winter carnivals held on the Thames ice are easy to find.  It simply doesn't get that cold these days.

Going back a little further, nobody really disputes the Medieval Warm Period, which seems to have been as warm or warmer than things are today.  The MWP was entirely uncontroversial in the 1990s until Michael Mann's 1998 "Hockey Stick" graph seemed to say that it wasn't all that warm.  Lots of subsequent research shows that Mann et al were wrong on that bit, and even Mann's new 2009 paper has the MWP back.

So on a scale of two or three centuries, there's no dispute at all that things are significantly warmer than they used to be.  There are also shorter term changes, most notably the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which switches between warmer and cooler on a roughly 30 year interval.  Note that there are other, less significant cycles as well, which makes climate reconstruction pretty chaotic and non-linear.

2. What about the last century?

Looking at things over 200 years is not really very interesting.  So what about the last 100 years?  After all, the temperature data that we have is pretty spotty if you go back 150 years; we're on much firmer ground if we look at the period starting around 1880 (or even better, 1910).  This is more of a mixed picture.

2a. What data do we have?

There are three major historical temperature databases:
1. The Global Historical Data Network (GHCN), maintained by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).  GHCN contains records from many hundred (1600 or more) US weather stations and more from other countries.

2. GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP), maintained by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.  It has been providing climate analysis since the 1970s.

3. The (UK) University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) provides both land surface temperatures(CRUTEM) and combined land and sea surface temperatures (HadCRUT). The CRU data is the data set relied on by the UN IPCC.
There seems to be considerable data sharing between these data sets.

2b. How complete is the data?

This is where we enter our first controversy.  Everyone agrees that the data is incomplete.  Weather station data has gaps (perhaps someone was sick one day, and didn't read the thermometer), stations are sometimes relocated (is the new site the same as the old one vis a vis temperature?), equipment gets upgraded (does the new equipment read the same as the old?).  Nobody disputes this.

What is controversial is how these gaps and discontinuities are treated.  Each of the major data sets has a method to "homogenize" the data, where the data is adjusted to (hopefully) address problems.  Some skeptics (full disclosure: including me) think that adjustments are excessively aggressive, and have led to a notable mismatch between "raw" data and "adjusted" data.  The CRU announced in 2009 that they have lost the raw data, so it's not possible to check whether adjustments were made properly or not.  It is claimed that the data could be reconstructed, but as far as I know, nobody has done this yet.

Another problem area that doesn't get much attention (but should) is that each of the data sets strives to provide a global view of temperature.  We simply don't have very good global coverage by weather stations.  Europe and North America in particular are over-represented in the data, and the oceans are very under-represented.  To deal with this, the globe is divided into areas called "grids" roughly 1200 km square.  Weather stations within a grid are averaged ("homogenized"); grids without any station data are interpolated from nearby grids that have stations.

A skeptic argument that refuses to go away is that arctic areas are under-represented, and data is interpolated from grids further south.  This is a problem for trend analysis when you realize that the number of stations used in the data sets has changed.  For example, GHCN dropped from around 5000 stations to 1500 or so.  If stations at higher latitudes or higher elevations were removed, then a spurious warming trend would appear.

2c. What can be done about the data problems?

Automated data collection has been implemented in the last two decades or so, removing the need for manual thermometer reading by weather station personnel.  Some (perhaps many) thermometers were relocated during this upgrade process, which seems to have introduced some discontinuities.  Long term trending data from these new automated stations, however, should be more accurate.  Whether you can easily compare data from station XYZ before and after the move is an area of some controversy.

New data collection types have come online as well.  Satellites (UAH) now collect air temperature (technically the temperature of the tops of low level clouds) for the entire globe.  These records go back to 1979, and frankly are an improvement if only due to the real global coverage.

Sea temperatures are now measured by the ARGO network of floating robot sensors.  This is exciting because the oceans can store much, much more heat than the air, and ARGO now can comprehensively measure this worldwide.  The system is still brand new, only reaching full operational capability in 2007.

3. What about older data?

Proxies are use to get an idea of temperatures in pre-thermometer eras.  Tree rings, ice cores drilled from glaciers, and pollen counts from bogs are all used.  The action, though, is really around the questions "what's been happening since 1910?" and "why?".  If we can resolve questions about the existing data, we don't need proxies; if we can't, proxies might not help.

4. How much confidence do we have in the data?

This is probably the question.  One of the good things that we've seen in the climate science debates during 2010 is a renewed focus on the uncertainties of the calculations.  Dr. Judith Curry from Georgia Tech is perhaps the most prominent non-skeptic scientists on this topic.  There isn't yet a consensus on how to approach this, or how it should be reported in the press.

5. What about Carbon Dioxide?

It is indeed a greenhouse gas, and the planet would likely be frozen without the greenhouse effect (maybe 15°C).  90% of this effect comes from water vapor, about 8% from carbon dioxide, and the rest from other trace gases.

6. Why the focus on carbon dioxide, if 90% of the effect comes from water vapor?

The hypothesis is that "positive forcings" (feedback loops) mean that small increases in CO2 will result in large increases in temperature.  This is extremely controversial, and is largely based on computer model simulations rather than on experimental observation.  Different values for the feedbacks give wildly different values of temperature increase from a doubling of CO2, from less that 1°C to over 5°C.

7. Does all the increased CO2 come from us?

No.  Most comes from natural sources; the biggest of these is likely out-gasing from the oceans as their temperature rises.  Ice core data suggests that CO2 increases several hundred years after temperature rises (approximately 800 years later).

That is a quick survey of the key climate science issues, presented as neutrally as I can.  I've left a huge amount out, but this is probably what an educated layman absolutely has to know to follow the debate closely. 

The Czar is correct that the politics of the debate have gone beyond crazy:
The second part of our opinion falls on the politicization of climatology. This is pretty bad; in fact, it is as bad as we have ever seen it. Some scientist in Jakarta reports that yesterday’s noon temperature was a degree hotter than it was a year ago, and within days some governmental agency is demanding that all profitable American industries shut down, and billions of American dollars be dumped on a Nigerian ex-secretary of the treasury who is certain he can get his gold back and split it with you. The paranoia and hysteria is incredible. Be worried about if A then Z logic. Ask to see the letters in between.

Worse, if you express any doubts about the logic here, liberal noise makers start screaming at you that you fail to understand the science! And, frankly, the Czar has a pretty good background in climatology and meteorology (the Mandarin, too, by the way), and finds the scientific arguments pretty unconvincing, or extrapolated past sanity. Especially on the anthropogenic part.
My personal feeling here is that a major politicization 10 years ago seized on the then warmer temperatures (1998 was a "super El Nino" event) to get press and public attention.  This seems to be cutting both ways now, as a series of three cold winters in a row have undermined public confidence in the climate predictions.  But that's just opinion.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned ...

We're told that envy is one of the Deadly Sins.

I've never posted 500 words where 1000 would do.  Or a thousand, where 3,000 would fit.  So how do you take a video, and amplify its meaning a thousandfold, without adding a single word of your own?

This is how.

Bless me, Father.  I envy my brother's talent.

I've said before that if there were schools of blogging, they would teach him.  Not me.  Not a thousand words, but where five exquisitely chosen ones would do.

Envy.  A touch, I do confess it ...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Film recommendation: The Other Guys

I have to say that I'm not a Will Farrell fan, at least since SNL's version of Jeopardy..  I also have to confess that when it comes to Mark Wahlberg, my tastes run to Mark L. Wahlberg and Russian Roulette.

But this was the funniest Will Farrell film ever.  Predictable, sure.  But funny and well done even when I sort of saw what was coming.  That's a solid, journeymanlike return on my entertainment dollar, and that's something that catches my respect.

Yeah, it's dumb, but I watched it and belly-laughed through it with #1 Son.  That's a return on my entertainment dollar, one that doesn't happen often.  And a TARP-is-bogus cameo at the end - that doesn't happen very often, either ...

And it has my favorite Derek Jeter cameo, ever.  Very, very funny.  And Eva Mendes does a credible job with what must have been a difficult part to make, err, stand out.  She was really funny, too.  Very, very funny (and PG-13, too!).

It's not often that I recommend your typical Hollywood drivel, but this is quality Hollywood drivel.  Since other people do "thumbs up", I guess I need something different.  Two, err, high power cartridges, or something ...

And here's the obligatory trailer:

Emergency Override

It seems that this place is only a couple miles from my house. 

It's getting dark.  I'll be back later.

These are not the Climate Model predictions that you're looking for

One of the NASA climate science team was asked about predictions made by the climate models, and whether any had come true.  He obligingly gave an example.  The skeptic community ran the numbers.

Hilarity ensues.

Heh.  Statisticians use the term "Confidence Interval" as a way to measure the validity of results.  If you look in the Climate Science Dictionary, you find out what it really means.

Good analysis of the long-term impact of Wikileaks

Kings Of War looks at who wins and who loses:

Gone for the press is the last element of control. We have no need of middle men to interpret reality. We also have no need for ‘old hands’ full of rolodexes or Blackberries that can talk to the right guy and in this department or that staff and get the juicy detail. Any old joker with an axe to grind can now go direct to the masses. Whatever happens to Mr. Assange, he has changed the world in that regard. Mr. Assange no doubt knows the great Aussie idiom ‘Cut down the tall poppies’. His moment is at hand, his attempt to set up a cult with him at the helm won’t last in a democratized age: just as the leakers don’t need the media, they don’t need him, or wikileaks, or anybody. They just need you.
He ties several threads together into something that is very interesting indeed.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why Obama won't triangulate effectively

There's all sorts of speculation in the Lame Stream Media that Obama will "pull a Clinton", triangulating his way to a second term.  After all, Clinton lost big in the 1994 Mid-Term Elections, and he turned things around, right?  He left office more popular than when he entered it.  So why not Obama?

A picture is worth a thousand words:

While Clinton grew the size of government, he actually shrank it as a percent of GDP.  Sure, Newt Gengrich forced this (that's why it's called "triangulation"), but there's simply no doubt that government was less financially intrusive at the end of Clinton's second term.  With a majority of the population thinking that the Fed.Gov screws up whatever it touches, people were comfortable with the trajectory of things.

Does anyone think that Obama is going to shrink the Fed.Gov's share of GDP?  Never mind that what his Agencies are doing - for example, the EPA enforcing Cap And Trade by regulation - is putting a big break on economic growth.  Does anyone seriously think that Obama and his Cabinet Secretaries accept the "grow the economy to fund new programs" view that Clinton had?

And so the line will continue to slope upwards, and the population will get increasingly uncomfortable.  Even with a modest economic recovery, and with the media desperately spinning for them, the Administration will look like they're on the wrong side of history.  These people combine arrogance and cluelessness in equal measures.  Convinced that they're the brightest people in the room, they'll think that they can tweak their way out of the mess until summer 2012.  By then, it will be clear that they've failed miserably, and they'll panic.

Really, the only question is whether the Stupid Republican Party can blow things.

Original picture from a very interesting post at Disloyal Opposition.

What happens when you decriminalize drugs?

In Portugal, addiction rates go down:

Now, the United States, which has waged a 40-year, $1 trillion war on drugs, is looking for answers in tiny Portugal, which is reaping the benefits of what once looked like a dangerous gamble. White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske visited Portugal in September to learn about its drug reforms, and other countries - including Norway, Denmark, Australia and Peru - have taken interest, too.

"The disasters that were predicted by critics didn't happen," said University of Kent professor Alex Stevens, who has studied Portugal's program. "The answer was simple: Provide treatment."

Given that the Fed.Gov is broke, and that we're spending more than $70B a year is this clearly failing "War On Drugs", maybe we should look at a Plan B.

Quote of the day year

From the Czar of Muscovy, commenting on the whole Global Warming brouhaha:
Hey, don't touch my junk science.
Heh.  And double heh.  It would be triple heh if our Autocrat would turn his cold, dread eye towards, say, the Climate Science establishment.  His cold, dread eye, and some sharp implements for impaling ...

And in grateful homage, here is offered a celebration of one of the Czar's great victories over a generational foe.

Of course, this one is performed by his Generals Keith, Greg, and Carl.  They did virtuoso work on impaling pikes.  Although from the end of this (4:30), it does appear that they could use some help tuning their instruments.

ChatRoulette Magic!

The magic trick, of course, is that the entire ChatRoulette video is G-Rated!  Srlsy!


The only mystery is how he found that many people on ChatRoulette willing to take time out from their search for more penises ...

Via #2 Son, who assures me that he doesn't go onto ChatRoulette.  Just Youtube.

"What he didn't know until then, and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal."

OldNFO has the story.

God speed, Cpl. Yale and LCpl. Haerter.  The Lord himself only knows where we get such men to protect us.
A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Or in this case, six seconds.

Via ASM826.

Monday, December 27, 2010

There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair

Even when it's cold in Atlanta, it's not cold like in Massachusetts.  Of course, we'd take the dogs out for a walk anyway, but here in Atlanta other people take their dogs for a walk, too.  Admittedly, most are - like us - transplants from the frozen north.  But you meet them, at the Dog Park.

In Massachusetts, there was no Dog Park.  Rather than control by the County, each town ran its own show.  In general, I like that, but it meant we had to find our own place to take the four footed beasts for their Daily Constitutional.  Here, the County has put up a couple of fenced Dog Parks, where the dogs can run together, and the people can talk together.

He was married for 44 years.  They moved here from Connecticut, into a big house.  Then she died, unexpectedly.  He was cheerful, but somehow the conversation kept coming back to her, and how his dogs just didn't keep the Big New House from echoing.

But life goes on, and remembers.

Gerard van der Leun, riffing off a post from The Anchoress, posts a song by Lorena McKennitt.  We like her quite a bit, but this made me stop and think about the unexpected.  About him, trying to rebuild a life which after 44 years was suddenly upended.

I stayed there to forget.
There on my lover, face to face, I lay.
All ended, and I let
My cares all fall away
Forgotten in the lilies on that day.

It's hard being fully human; experiencing - and understanding - the full range of this life we find ourselves leading.  Many have gone before us, who give us clues, if we're wise enough to see.  Most only see when they stand on that hallowed ground.


The curious case of the planet Uranus and its connection to the price of tea in China

William Herschel was a polymath in an age of polymaths.  A self-taught astronomer - who made his own telescopes, including the monster 40 foot one shown here - he is best known for his discovery of the planet Uranus in 1781.  He is (fortunately) not known for the name he gave it: Georgium Sidus (George's Star) after King George III.  We can thank the French, who would have none of that sort of shameless sucking up (to a British Sovereign), and so we're left with Uranus, the source of amusement to Middle School boys ever since.

One name of his that did stick was asteroid.

Herschel is less known as a composer, which is where in fact he got his start.  One of many German immigrants to England in the period, he is overshadowed by fellow transplant Handel.  Rather a pity.

One very curious product of this polymath mind was an observation he made in 1801.  He spent a considerable time studying the Sun, and specifically sunspots.  He found a very close correlation between the number of sunspots and the price of wheat.  He observed that Solar Cycles with low numbers of sun spots were correlated with high wheat prices, and vice versa.

And while this sounds implausible, it seems to hold up to repeated scrutiny:

Since I first looked at the matter there's been a lot of research and it appears the correlation may not be as spurious as I thought. The wheat price series is one of the longest we have, it extends back to 1250, I've got a paper chart that starts in 1300 (although some of the prices are dubious).

The CBOT has a wheat chart that starts in 1477. [Dead link updated. - Borepatch]
Google Scholar has 285 ref's to Herschel and wheat prices. Gregory Yom Din of the Israel Cosmic Ray Center, Tel Aviv University and Israel Space Agency, seems particularly interested, here, here, here, ...
We have excellent records of both sunspot activity and wheat prices back to at least the middle of the eighteenth century.  We have less thorough records extending nearly 150 years beyond that:

If you look in the middle of the graph (around 1800), you'll see a 40 year period of low sunspot activity called the "Dalton Minimum".  Significant cooling occurred during this period - up to 2°C in 20 years at Oberlach, Germany - and it included 1816 (known as "the year without a summer") and 1817 when New York Harbor froze solid enough for horse traffic.  The price of food quadrupled.

It seems plausible that the Sun would effect the temperature of the Earth, but much recent research has failed to establish a link between solar luminosity and global temperature.More interesting is a proposal from Henrik Svensmark, that it's the variation in the strength of the Sun's magnetic field, not the luminosity, that counts.  A weaker magnetic field allows more Cosmic Rays to reach the Earth.  The Cosmic Rays ionize the lower atmosphere, seeding increased cloud cover.  Higher levels of low level clouds reflect more light back to space, resulting in a cooler planet.

Nigel Calder has an excellent overview of the Svensmark hypothesis, as well as the controversy surrounding it.  As you'd expect, the controversy contains much of what we've come to expect from Climate Science: Science-by-Press-Release from the warming enthusiasts, difficulty in getting responses published in peer-reviewed journals, and arguments over the proper use of statistics.

Ah, peer-review.  It's interesting if you look that up in the Climate Science dictionary.

Quite frankly, this goes beyond my depth, and beyond the depth of what I can expect to understand while doing this as a hobby.  And so I'll drop back from the science to the history:
  • We have very good records of sunspot activity, records that go back much further than good global coverage of historical temperature.  
  • We have very good records of grain prices, records that go back much further than good global coverage of historical temperature. 
  • There is a striking correlation between these two.
And it's not just these records.  Just look out your window.  The Sun went spotless last week, and this has been only the latest example of reduced Solar magnetic activity that we've had for a number of years.  The last three years in particular have been very quiet, and this is the third very cold and snowy winter we've seen in a row.

Yes, I know, correlation does not imply causation.  However, this is a microcosm of all that is wrong with Climate Science today.  Strong evidence against AGW "can't be right", and weak evidence in support "must be right".

People cared about the price of food.  Money could be made or lost (not to mention millions whose lives were at stake).  The data here is very good indeed.  The data hasn't been manipulated "homogenized" and "gridded".  It's easy to count sunspots - so easy that we've been doing it for nearly 400 years.  There's even decent proxy data extending back millennia that lets us track Solar Flux.  The correlation appears to hold over very, very long periods.
Direct observations of sunspot numbers are available for the past
four centuries1,2, but longer time series are required, for example,
for the identification of a possible solar influence on climate and
for testing models of the solar dynamo. Here we report a
reconstruction of the sunspot number covering the past 11,400
years, based on dendrochronologically dated radiocarbon concentrations.

And the correlation is laying on my lawn right now, for the first time since 1882. Excuse me while I go light a fire in the fireplace.  Maybe a little CO2 will melt all this controversy away.

So just what does explain Global Warming?

Hang around the debate between proponents and opponents of Anthropogenic Global Warming for a while, and you'll hear this question tossed out to the opponents by the proponents.  OK, smartypants.  If it's not Carbon Dioxide, just what it it?

There's a very interesting post over at Roger Pielke, Sr.'s blog, about precisely this.

Thus the rate of temperature rise during the last 200 years is about +1°C/200 years,  + 0.5°C/100 years, which is about 5/6 of the rate of increase (+0.6°C/100 years) during the last century. Therefore, it may be inferred that the CO2 contribution was about +0.1°C during the last century. There was no obvious break in the rate of temperature rise during the last 150~200 years, so it is likely that the recovery from the LIA is continuing to the present. Sea level rise is approximately linear (1.7mm/year or less) from about 1850, to the present. The retreat of many glaciers in the world began from about 1800-1850, not after 1946, when CO2 began to increase rapidly. When discussing the present warming, we should not ignore the LIA and its recovery.

The only complication is that the multi-decadal oscillation, of the amplitude  ~0.2°C and a period of about 60 years, is superposed on the linear change. It peaked in about 1940 and 2000. After 1940, the temperature change was negative until 1975, so a similar negative trend may continue until about 2030. This may explain the present halting of the temperature rise. The inferred temperature increase by 2100 is about + 0.5°C±0.2°C, depending on the phase of the multi-decadal oscillation.
If climate chage is your bag, baby, RTWT.

Tagged with "junk science" because I don't have a tag for "non-junk science".

Better book titles

They have 'em here.

Via #1 Son.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Xbox Kinect is seriously cool

It's also surprisingly cheap, assuming you already have an Xbox 360.  Kinect is, of course, Microsoft's new hands-free adapter for the Xbox console.  The kids simply love it, and since I can't get any time on it to try it myself, I'll post about it instead.

I'll present my observations in layers - like Ogres or parfaits.  It'll take a couple of layers to get to why this is so seriously cool, not not just an "Xbox Wii".

Layer 1.  The Microsoft Wii.

The Kinect comes with Kinect Sports, just like the Wii comes with Wii Sports.  It has a selection of games - bowling, boxing, golf, and the like - that you play sort of as mini-games.  The selection seems bigger in Kinect Sports, with Track and Field, knock-down-the-blocks, and other stuff that I'm sure would be just dandy if I could get any time on it to play.  Here's a demo of ping pong (warning: anoying advert at the beginning).

But other than the you-don't-need-a-wiimote, it's more or less just like the Wii.

Layer 2.  The video capture makes it way more than a Wii.

You don't need a remote, because the Kinect has a camera that watches you, analyzes your movements, and translates that into actions for your on-screen avatar.  This is a lot cooler in practice than it sounds, and is best shown, not described.  This video is from the Dance Central game which sounded completely stupid to me, but which the kids simply love.  Think Dance Dance Revolution, but with no pad to step on, and with arm gestures.

Remember, it's figuring this out by watching you with its camera.  It even plays back a quick series of frame grabs of you at the end of the dance, which is often laugh out loud funny.  As I said, my first impression was that this game would be 100% stupid.  I was wrong - way wrong.

Layer 3.  The secret sauce of video analysis is very cool indeed

Microsoft has a really innovative technology here, and has made a very shrewed move by opening up the API, which people are already taking and running with.  This means that you'll have a lot more stuff in 6 or 12 months, so there will be a continuous wave of cool washing over the market.  Smart.

And just how much can you get with the API?  Lots.  Here's how it works, which is a combination of annoyingly basic (wavelength vs. frequency, duh) and very cool indeed (Infrared depth resolution).

Layer 4.  It's personal.

When the Kinect breaks down your image to its component parts, it can recognize you, and tell you apart from other people who use the same system.  It can even log you in to Xbox Live when you step in front of it.  This seamless personalization is an example of the sort of thing that the depth and breadth of the API will allow.  I expect much more of this sort of thing, but it is simply insanely cool.

Layer 5.  HAL, open the pod bay door.

There's quite a good voice command capability.  The kids had this set up by the time I went to look at it, so I'm not sure what this video is getting at when it talks about setup.  But you can not only use voice commands for games, but for watching movies (say, Netflix via Xbox Live).

Still, I'm not sure that I'll hook the Xbox up to Camp Borepatch's main gate:
Borepatch: HAL Xbox, open the main gate.

Xbox: I'm afraid I can't do that, Borepatch.
This strikes me as the Media Center of the future.  With cameras and microphones in different rooms communicating over WiFi, with access to your MP3 library and playlists, with a decent text-to-voice to read you recipes for roast leg of lamb, you have something very, very compelling.

I have to hand it to Microsoft for coming out with something that starts with a "Wii-alike", but takes it to a whole new level. 

So are they on the "Naughty"or "Nice" list?

The irony of Santa leaving stockings of coal at Greenpeace is even more delicious than last night's lamb dinner.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

I'm sorry, Atlanta

I think I brought this with us when we moved here from Yankeeland.

The view from the kitchen of Camp Borepatch, at the accumulation of Global Warming.

Tip #4: Give your children guns

From Toaster at Green Mountains Homesteading, we get some important holiday tips:

Tip #4 is one which we took to heart, and #2 Son received something in a box labeled with this:

Expect a GunPr0n post next week.  And it's true that ammo makes a great stocking stuffer!

What's better than a Flash Mob singing the "Hallelujah" Chorus?

A Flash Mob singing the "Hallelujah" Chorus accompanied by the largest pipe organ in the world, Philadelphia's Wanamaker Organ with its almost 30,000 pipes.

Although I have to confess to a greater fondness for "Worthy Is The Lamb", which would be awesome accompanied by the Wanamaker Organ.

Alabama - Christmas In Dixie

This is a special song for us, having just moved back south after eight years in New England.  Alabama needs no introduction to most readers.  Said to be the most successful commercial Country band of the 1980s with their fusion of Country and Southern Rock, they had 30 #1 songs and sold over 70 Million records.

Long time readers will recall that I was a big Southern Rock fan, and so it's no surprise that I listened to my share of Alabama.  But you also know that I have a bit of a sentimental streak.  While this might normally be a bit too sentimental even for me, on this first Christmas back in Dixie, it hits just the right note.

Christmas In Dixie (Songwriters: Jeff Cook, Teddy Gentry, Mark Herndon, Randy Owen)
By now in New York City.
There's snow on the ground.
And out in California.
The sunshines' falling down.
And maybe down in Memphis, Graceland's all in lights.
And in Atlanta, Georgia, there's peace on earth tonight.

Christmas in Dixie, its snowing in the pines.
Merry Christmas from Dixie to everyone tonight.

Its windy in Chicago.
The kids are out of school.
There's magic in Motown.
The city's on the move.
In Jackson, Mississippi to Charlotte, Caroline.
And all across the Nation, its a peaceful Christmas time.

Christmas in Dixie, its snowing in the pines.
Merry Christmas from Dixie, to everyone tonight.
And from Fort Payne, Alabama..Merry Christmas tonight.
Merry Christmas, everybody.

Friday, December 24, 2010

To my readers: Have a Merry Christmas, and an expressive New Year

Even if it has 40,000 lights ...

Of course, SHeDAISY is always a festive touch!

You know how someone can spot the guy with the concealed gun?

Don't be that guy.

Hat tip: TJIC.

The TSA's recruitment program

JayG discovered it.

All right, your Christmas lights are better than mine ... (v3.0)

God Bless (Frisco) Texas - the Carbon emissions from the power needed to run this are the only thing keeping snow from the heart of Dixie.

And this is a horribly obnoxious song, but it uses 65,000 lights (!):

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cool but geeky party tricks

'Tis the season for parties.  Here are some ideas to get your geek on.  Some are pretty cool.

What I want for Christmas

Is for the Blogging muse to come back to Bob Evans and inspire him to want to blog again.

Bob's been a daily read for me for a long time, and his retirement will leave a big hole.

For Dad and Mom

If this isn't the most beautiful piece of music ever written, I don't know what is.

Astonishingly, I never would have heard this, except I went to a concert with them a few months ago.  Married these 56 years, Dad is Tristan to Mom's Isolde, and an inspiration on how to live a life that means something.

If I can just make one (hesitant) correction to Herr Wagner, this isn't the liebestod - the Love's Death.  It didn't, and won't die.  We're still listening to it.

All right, your Christmas lights are better than mine ... (v2.0)

What do you get when you cross a sound system, 20,000 Christmas lights, Guitar Hero, and Eric Johnson's masterful Cliffs Of Dover?  This:

This is exhibit CXVII in why we won the Cold War.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cats: the perfect gift for Christmas

Just make sure to gift wrap it.


This is pretty different from your typical Christmas fare: Nightmare Before Christmas with a Rammstein soundtrack.  It's very well done indeed:

Quote of the Day - Alcoholic Beverages edition

From Sonic Charmer, on not getting it:
Russ Roberts, What’s Wrong With Keynes. Worth a read, but do we really need to delve so deeply into it? One may as well be asking in 2010: What’s wrong with phlogiston? What’s wrong with the luminiferous ether? What’s wrong with phrenology? The main thing that’s wrong with ‘Keynesianism’ is that (unlike these others) it’s still with us.
I think that you could make some outstanding cocktail names from these.  For example, a Phlogiston would be 1 part sparkling Reisling*, 1 part schnappes, and Baccari 151 floated (and ignited) on the top.  When the 151 burns off, the cocktail is considered dephlogisticated.

Leave your own recipes for a Luminiferous Aether (please, no actual ether) or a Phrenology in the comments.  Or for a Keynesian Crash, for that matter.

* the originator of the theory of Phlogiston, J.J. Becher, was from the Rhineland-Palatinate area of Germany, a major producer of sparkling wines.

All right, your Christmas lights are better than mine ...

Note to the Trela family: a grateful Internet thanks you.  Especially for the reindeer in the hula skirts.

Say the name

Brigid remembers her mother.  Go read it.  And remember the song of life, and living, and being human.
Those unable to grieve,
or to speak of their love,
or to be grateful, those
who can't remember God
as the source of everything,

might be described as a vacant wind,
or a cold anvil, or a group
of frightened old people.

Say the Name. Moisten your tongue
with praise, and be the spring ground,
waking. Let your mouth be given
its gold-yellow stamen like the wild rose's.

As you fill with wisdom,
and your heart with love,
there's no more thirst.

There's only unselfed patience
waiting on the doorsill, a silence
which doesn't listen to advice
from people passing in the street.
- Sufi mystic Sanai
Brigid will never be described as a cold wind.  She remembers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Greg Lake in concert.  And they say that the Bass player isn't as talented as the guitarist ...

Remember, Christmas should be for other people ...

As a Christmas present for Pistolero, here's my favorite Rascal Flatts song:

Heh.  And it's serious Dr. Who inside baseball, for you Dr. Who fans.

The lyrics are simply delicious:
Shedaisy: I sold your Rolex
To buy that gold Versace dress
Rascal Flatts: I set free your whiny French poodle
So you could get your beauty rest

And I did it all for you
I did it all (I did it all) for you
This Christmas (This Christmas)
All your dreams (All your dreams)
Will come true

Rascal Flatts:
I put your mother on a greyhound (You did what??!)
You always hoped she'd have the chance to see the world - now she can!
Shedaisy: I torched your Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues (No, no, no,no)
So I could be your only girl (And now I am!)

And I did it all for you
I did it all (I did it all) for you
This Christmas (This Christmas)
All your dreams (All your dreams)
Will come true

Shedaisy: How can I forget
All you've done for me
I'll get you yet
Rascal Flatts: This is the season to give
But I can never forgive the damage that you've done
(Damage that you've done)
This must be love

Shedaisy: I sank your bass boat (Not my bass boat, no, no, no!)
So you'd have more time to spend with me
Rascal Flatts: I hocked your grandma's diamond earrings (AHHHHH!)
For the down payment on my SUV
Shedaisy: Fully loaded, heated seats, in hunter green-is this for me?

And I did it all for you
I did it all (I did it all) for you
This Christmas (This Christmas)
All your dreams (All your dreams)
Will come true
Ah, the spirit of giving!

What does Mid-Winter's Day look like?

Something like this:

So what's noteworthy about this picture?  It's from Australia, where today is Mid-Summer's Day:
Snow and ice covering buildings and cars on December 19, 2010 at Mount Hotham,Victoria, as snow fell in Australia. The usual hot and summery December weather was replaced in parts by icy gusts sweeping up from the Southern Ocean, giving the country a taste of a white Christmas. Snow has fallen in parts of east coast states New South Wales and Victoria.
That's like snow falling in the Poconos on June 20.

Yeah, yeah - weather, climate, yadda yadda.  Does anyone think for a minute that six days of record heat in the summer wouldn't be front page news, with the Usual Suspects bloviating about the crisis in Global Warming Climate Change whatever the politically correct term is these days?

I didn't think so.  It's the hypocrisy that stinks.  That and the lousy science.

How about waiting until you catch a terrorist?

Just One?  Rick emails to point out what the Department of Homeland Security is doing rather than catch the Bad Guys:
At an all-day White House conference on "environmental justice," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that her department is creating a new task force to battle the effects of climate change on domestic security operations.
Sheesh.  Not only do they say that guys like me are terrorists (look at the logo in the upper right hand side of the blog.  Click on it for the story).  Not only are they frisking nuns, 3 year old girls, and foreign ambassadors at the airports instead of actual, you know, security stuff.  Now they're putting scarce resources on a politically-driven, junk science power grab.

The best that you can say is that this demonstrates a massive inability to prioritize.  The worst you can say is that they have an outstanding ability to prioritize power-grabbing schemes.

De-fund the DHS.  Hey Stupid Republican Party: this was your baby.  It's turned into a monster.

Kill it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Censuses have consequences

Via TJIC, we find that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts expects to lose a congressional seat due to the last census.

Maybe if they didn't keep enacting obnoxious laws, insane taxation schemes, and all around treating everyone like a child, guys like might still live there (and they might not be losing a seat).

Then again, if we had some ham, we could make ham and eggs. If we had some eggs.

Climate Science Reasoned Discourse™ breaks out!

An Anonymous Coward stopped by this post, and left a comment I reproduce here in its entirety:
hey dumbass, that is why it is called weather (conditions over a short period of time) and not climate (conditions over a long period of time)

how quickly the deniers try to move light away from the reality that 2010 was the warmest year on record (long period of time, get it?)

but to your ignorant point, as the oceans become warmer more moisture is evaporated into the atmosphere, that leads, inevitably, to heavier rains in the summer and more snow in the winter.

you and inhofe need t service each, and quick, to deal with this latent bloviation you have bottled up inside

Whew! Glad for the constructive engagement!

Let's look at the science briefly, and then move on to the more interesting part.

1. The "2010 is the warmest year EVAH" is based on satellite measurements, which only go back 31 years. That's some righteous "long term" right there.

2. The 2010 figure does not include November or December, which have seen widespread record cold in the northern hemisphere. You're counting chickens that haven't hatched, AC.

But here's the interesting part. When skeptics like me use precisely the same tactics that the warmists use ("It's a record heat wave! ZOMG!"), folks like AC pop up with his Reasoned Discourse™: "dumbass", "ignorant", "bloviation".

Why people like this think they're great Defenders Of Science like this is quite frankly mystifying.

But thanks for providing the plucky comic relief, AC! Stop back soon!

Monday morning links

I'm traveling today, so I'll leave you with some posts that are worth your while.

The Kings Of War write on Al Qaeda's self-inflicted wounds:
The findings are sharp, counter-intuitive and they face head-on the almost paradoxical nature of the threat — to put it bluntly: al-Qaeda became stronger and weaker at the same time. The report should raise a humbling question for the objectives in the war in Afghanistan. What can actually be achieved there against jihadist militancy?  – The authors add a note of caution at the end. Recognizing internal divisions enables weakening jihadi groups, they write, but it will not lead to “a grand solution” to the problem of Islamist militancy.
Radiation scientists question safety of TSA PervScan™:

The news about the potential health dangers of the TSA's naked body scanners just keeps getting worse. An increasing number of doctors and scientists are going public with their warnings about the health implications of subjecting yourself to naked body scanners. These include Dr Russell Blaylock (see below) as well as several professors from the University of California who are experts in X-ray imaging.
Their argument is that while the total dosage from the scanners is low if distributed across the entire body, that's not what the scanners do.  Rather, the entire dosage is concentrated on the skin and tissues immediately below, resulting in a far higher dose.  Orders of magnitude higher.  Keep your eye on this story.

The shift from IP version 4 to the new IP version 6 remains controversial.  ISPs simply don't want to do it, because it will cost them a lot of money, and their subscribers won't notice any difference.  As a result, the ISPs are doing more NAT (Network Address Translation) to save IP addresses.  It looks like this will help spammers.  Slashdot has a good article, with some very interesting comments.  This is techno-geeky stuff, but good techno-geeky stuff.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I'm told that grief has several well-defined stages. One of these is anger.

I can testify that this is true. This disease is cruel in what it does to the body; any military organization that did even a fraction of this to a prisoner would be guilty of war crimes.

Anger is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, deserving an entire ring of Hell in The Inferno.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned ...

Blogroll update

I keep asking people to let me know if they've blogrolled me, and this last week it worked!  David emailed to tell me that he has me on his blogroll over at his plave, Vote For David.  He's another one of those Gun Nuts, so you've been warned.

Plus, he describes why it's not exactly a great idea to send text messages from your phone asking for work.  It's sort of a do you have Prince Albert in a can meets SMS.  Hilarious, but modestly NSFW.

Summa Conscientia

The early fifth century saw the accelerating fragmentation of the Roman Empire.  The Goths sacked the Eternal City itself in 410 A.D., by which time it was obvious that the end of the Civilized world was nigh.  It's arguable that Martianus Capella, a proconsul in the Roman province of Carthage, saved western civilization.  He caused the Roman educational curriculum to be condensed into nine volumes.  Everything that a Roman governmental official needed to know was captured there, and was preserved in Medieval monasteries by generations of monks.

Rhetoric, grammar, argument, music, geometry, arithmetic, and astronomy were quite simply saved from extinction, at least in the West.  It was, you could say, the ultimate collection of knowledge.  A Summa Conscientia.

Kevin Baker has just channeled Martianus, producing a Summa Conscientia for the RKBA community.  It deserves generations of monks to lovingly copy and preserve it, or at least the entire gunblogger community to see that a New Dark Ages can never extinguish its light.

Go now, and bookmark.  This is the curriculum that must be studied, and learned, and preserved, and propagated.  Unlike the fifth century, we have the Goths on the run, but we must ever remember Euripides: All is change; all yields its place and goes.  The Goths may yet turn and press the fight.

The battle is joined, the game afoot.  Go, read, and read again.  Credo.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Lay of Three-Fingered Admin and the Ring0 of Doom

ASM826 opines on how to speed up your Windows system, in a post worthy of Homer.  Get thee hence to listen to the bard, and learn of great battles with CPU thieving system services, and how to slay the Performance Dragon*.

Well played, sir.  So very, very well played.

And heed his exhortation to back up your data.  It is as true about data as it is about concealed carry firearms, that two is one and one is none.  A man with but a single copy of his data is soon called "dataless".  Don't be that man.

* I'd never heard of the Indexing Service, or realized what a deep pit of suck it is.  Yech.

266 vs. 521

What stands out the most to me about Bob Feller, the great pitcher who just died at 92, is how like Ted Williams he was.  Consider:
  • Williams is arguable the greatest hitter who ever played Baseball; Feller is arguably the greatest pitcher olf all time.
  • Feller played his entire career in Cleveland, and then remained in the city as a pillar of the Indians organization.  Williams played his entire career in Boston, and then remained in New England as a pillar of the Red Sox organization.
  • Feller won "only" 266 games because he enlisted in the Navy after Pearl Harbor.  Rather than a cushy morale boosting post playing baseball, he insisted on a combat posting, and served as a Gunnery Mate on the battleship Alabama.  Williams hit "only" 521 home runs because he enlisted in the Navy after Pearl Harbor.  While he spent World War II training Marine fighter pilots, he returned to service in the Korean War, this time flying combat sorties.
In New England, one of the perennial subjects for chewing the fat is how many home runs Williams would have hit had war not taken his greatest years.  The same question can be asked on Bob Feller - just how many games would he have won had war not taken his prime years?

We don't see this type any more.  God speed, Mr. Feller.  I hope that the good Lord lets you pitch to Teddy Ballgame once again.

Patty Loveless - How Can I Help You Say Goodbye?

Dad is being stalked by an old foe, and when I flew out to see him this time, I wondered if this might be the last time.  It may be.

He's quite a man.  I haven't heard him complain even once.  He's not focused inward; on the contrary, he's spending his days helping his family.  Just like he's always done.

There's a country music song for that, one that I never much liked when it came out.  It was too maudlin, too direct, not subtle enough.  Now I find that it's hitting like a ton of bricks.

I usually try to write more about the singer, and the song.  Today, my heart's just not in it.  All I can offer is a quote from the ancient world, to pair with a "redneck" song:
Nothing happens to any man which he is not formed by nature to bear.
- Marcus Aurelius
My father's quite a man, still teaching his children.  It is, though, a hard lesson.

How Can I Help You Say Goodbye? (Songwriters: Burton Banks Collins, Karen Taylor-Good)
Through the back window of a '59 wagon
I watched my best friend Jamie slippin' further away
I kept on waving 'till I couldn't see her
And through my tears, I asked again why we couldn't stay
Mama whispered softly, Time will ease your pain
Life's about changing, nothing ever stays the same

And she said, How can I help you to say goodbye?
It's OK to hurt, and it's OK to cry
Come, let me hold you and I will try
How can I help you to say goodbye?

I sat on our bed, he packed his suitcase
I held a picture of our wedding day
His hands were trembling, we both were crying
He kissed me gently and then he quickly walked away
I called up Mama, she said, Time will ease your pain
Life's about changing, nothing ever stays the same

And she said, How can I help you to say goodbye?
It's OK to hurt, and it's OK to cry
Come, let me hold you and I will try
How can I help you to say goodbye?

Sitting with Mama alone in her bedroom
She opened her eyes, and then squeezed my hand
She said, I have to go now, my time here is over
And with her final word, she tried to help me understand
Mama whispered softly, Time will ease your pain
Life's about changing, nothing ever stays the same

And she said, How can I help you to say goodbye?
It's OK to hurt, and it's OK to cry
Come, let me hold you and I will try
How can I help you to say goodbye?

How can I help you to say goodbye?

Friday, December 17, 2010

I don't know, Calvin

I just don't know.

But I sure wish I did.

UPDATE 17 December 2010 22:19: Changed picture from link to direct embed.

I need one of these for Christmas

I so need one of these.

Of course, it would have been better if I'd had one 20 years ago ...

Via Theo Spark.

Now go away, or I shall mock you a second time

The biggest fallout from last year's ClimateGate science scandal is that Global Warming has increasingly become an object of mockery.  Some of this is obvious, as in I just had to shovel another six inches of Global Warming.  But increasingly, it's about the environmental movement's totalitarian approach to dissent.

And it's coming from everywhere.  This is brilliant:

When I was a wee lad, the '60s radicals used mockery to withering effect.  Now, all those radicals have become the Establishment, and find to their dismay that The Man is still a ripe target.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The kids are all right

G4 is a TV channel devoted to all things videogame.  X-Box, Halo, that sort of thing.  As you'd expect, it's wildly popular with the youngsters.

Well a G4 announcer babe went to the range to try out some shooty goodness.  What happened next was, well, exactly what you'd expect.  After all, shooting things is fun!

What makes this interesting (other than the obligatory Chicks 'N' Guns thing) is that G4 aims at the under 30 demographic.  These are the kids who grew up in a world that told them that Guns are bad, mkay?  They didn't have the positive examples that kids of my generation had.

And still you get a very positive segment.  We're winning, where it counts - the new generation.

Big brass ones

The Boeing 707 is as old as I am, having received it's FAA certification when I was a month old or so.  That's a long time ago, and it means that a couple things are important to know.

1. It was designed by slide rules, not computers.

2. There weren't any computers on board, because computers of the day filled a room.

That meant that the bird was flown by the pilot.  This is some sort of flying:

That's a roll test for the 707.  Yikes.  They were Giants, in those days.

Via Theo Spark.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blogging will be sporadic

I'm in Albuquerque, visiting Mom and Dad.  Each of these visits is a gift, but I want to be helpful while I'm here, so they're increasingly busy.

Yesterday was a bit of a whirlwind, and today looks to be no different.  Blogging will unpredictable for a couple days.

The Dragon

The brave king,
gold-friend of the Geats,
sat down on the headland
and talked with his companions.
He was sad, restless,
and ready to die.
That fate was near
which the old man
would greet.
He would seek his reward,
life from body parted;
not for long
would the soul of the prince
stay wrapped in flesh.

- Beowulf

Beowulf is the most ancient story in a plausibly English language.  It is so old that it's actually in Old English - Anglo-Saxon, really - the still Germanic root of our current tongue.  It's the lay of a great king, and his deeds which lived long beyond his days.

Beowulf ensured his fame by defeating and killing the monster Grendel, who was preying on his people.  This he did as a young man, a King in his prime.  Great deeds are the province of a young man, who aims to make his mark in the world.

Less well known are Beowulf's final deeds as an old man.  A Dragon had descended on his realm, awoken from his sleep by the theft of a portion of his golden horde.  Yes, J. R. R. Tolkien stole this story, and used it in The Hobbit.  Tolkien was a scholar of Old English, so we can excuse this literary appropriation.

Beowulf took eleven companions with him, but insisted on fighting the Dragon alone.  He became the Dragon's Bane, killing the beast with his broken sword, Nægling, but at the cost of his own life, poisoned by the Dragon's bite.  His final words sum up what perhaps every man hopes to be his own final moments:

"For this treasure I give thanks to the Lord of All. Not in vain have I given my life, for it shall be of great good to my people in need. And now leave me, for on this earth longer I may not stay. Say to my warriors that they shall raise a mound upon the rocky point which jutteth seaward. High shall it stand as a memorial to my people. Let it soar upward so that they who steer their slender barks over the tossing waves shall call it Beowulf's mound."

But we can't all die of poison from a dragon, dead by our hands.  And we can't all die a quick death, ending our lives in a blaze of glory - especially a blaze that saves our loved ones.  For some, the end comes like a candle, consumed by a relentless flame that devours the body from within.

I have been blessed thrice in my relationship with my father.  Three, we are told, is a lucky number.

In the days of my youth, I was lucky enough to become friends with my father.  Many - perhaps most - don't.  In a dark, evil part of my life, I cut myself off from my father, my friend.  I was lucky enough to reconcile with him, getting past my foolish, foolish pride.  Many don't.   In the last year, I've been to visit him many times.  Each day is a gift, and these visits are something that I cherish.  Many don't get that chance.

This visit is a meditation, on life, and the living of it, and the leaving of it.  He does not find himself in Beowulf's enviable position of a quick end.  But I find myself lucky once again, as I watch him apply Seneca's dictum about the end that faces us all: There's nothing bad about it at all except the thing that comes before it - the fear of it.

I find myself wondering how I would choose to go.  Would it be quick, hopefully heroically, like Beowulf?  Leaving his kingdom safer by his sacrifice?  Or would it be the slow but stoic way, with one last chance to pass on wisdom and comfort to my sons?  I know which takes more courage, and my heart trembles at the thought.

But I find myself lucky once again.  I see an example before me, one where the easy path is not chosen.  An example where the Candle willingly approaches the flame, for the sake of its sons.  Again, my heart trembles at the sight.

It's said that if we see far, it's because we stand on the shoulders of Giants.  I find myself lucky yet once again, perched high on the shoulders of my Father.
The brave in battle arose then,
bore his shield and mail,
trusting his strength
under the stone cliffs.
(This is not the coward's way).

This is not the coward's way.  My heart trembles when I think that one day, my time will also come.  I am thrice lucky, and thrice lucky again.  Three, we are told, is a lucky number.  I pray that on that day, my Father's example will once again inspire me, and that I will find that once again, I am a lucky man.