Thursday, December 31, 2009
From the people who brought you collective farming, Chernobyl and the near-destruction of the Aral Sea...
Russia's space agency chief said Wednesday a spacecraft may be dispatched to knock a large asteroid off course and reduce the chances of earth impact, even though U.S. scientists say such a scenario is unlikely.
Anatoly Perminov told Golos Rossii radio the space agency would hold a meeting soon to assess a mission to Apophis. He said his agency might eventually invite NASA, the European Space Agency, the Chinese space agency and others to join the project.
When the 270-meter (885-foot) asteroid was first discovered in 2004, astronomers estimated its chances of smashing into Earth in its first flyby, in 2029, at 1-in-37.
The plan itself is actually pretty sensible. I just have my doubts about the guys offering to do it. Russia's historical "HULK SMASH!" approach to various problems has been fraught with unintended consequences from the beginning.
In an interesting follow-up to this story, French scientists unveiled a back-up plan: offering Apophis our unconditional surrender.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
We had a mostly good one. CM made his annual pilgrimage to the Burrow and unnecessarily rained gifts upon all of us, the kids being especially fond of Carnival Games for the Wii. "Life skills," the Much Better Half says. "For careers as carnies."
I say mostly good because my pet cat of 15 years, Molly, died early December 27th. She'd been fading badly over the past week, but didn't seem to be in much pain. Also, it made me a distracted and out-of-it host, so apologies for that. In a remarkable moment, Molly curled up with the kittens (yes, we still have two) for a nap on Christmas Day, pretty much the last time she moved. The kittens didn't object, and didn't try to play.
Still and all, it was a blessed time, well spent with family and friends. I have no complaints.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
But to a growing group of Christians, this focus on the commercial aspect of Christmas is itself the greatest threat to one of Christianity's holiest days. "It's the shopping, the going into debt, the worrying that if I don't spend enough money, someone will think I don't love them," says Portland pastor Rick McKinley. "Christians get all bent out of shape over the fact that someone didn't say 'Merry Christmas' when I walked into the store. But why are we expecting the store to tell our story? That's just ridiculous."
McKinley is one of the leaders of an effort to do away with the frenzied activity and extravagant gift-giving of a commercial Christmas. Through a savvy viral video and marketing effort, the so-called Advent Conspiracy movement has exploded. Hundreds of churches on four continents and in at least 17 countries have signed up to participate. The Advent Conspiracy video has been viewed more than a million times on YouTube and the movement boasts nearly 45,000 fans on Facebook. Baseball superstar Albert Pujols is a supporter - he spoke at a church event in St. Louis to endorse the effort.
In the past four years, Advent Conspiracy churches have donated millions of dollars to dig wells in developing countries through Living Water International and other organizations. McKinley likes to point out that a fraction of the money Americans spend at retailers in the month of December could supply the entire world with clean water. If more Christians changed how they thought about giving at Christmas, he argues, the holiday could be transformative in a religious and practical sense.
I'm happy to say the Christmas shopping is almost done, and we didn't overdo it this year. The kids should be happy, and not drowned in stuff, and we didn't develop a case of homicidal fury trying to be good consumer drones.
Jeffrey Smith has a magnificent pictorial post up about one of my favorite places on Earth, the island of Torcello in the Venetian lagoon.
Once home to 20,000 people, it is now inhabited by less than 100. Hemingway loved it, too, and rightfully so.
Jeffrey's pictures focus on the Basilica, which confirmed my love for all things Byzantine, as I've pointed out ad nauseum.
Here are a few more, which emphasize just how quiet the island has become over the last millenium:
A view from the Basilica. [Credit.]
Walking up to the piazza. [Credit.]
And, finally, the bridge over the canal. Those aren't handrails--the bridge isn't that big. A bit more of a precarious walk than depicted. [Credit.]
Friends went to visit Aunt Margie at the hospital yesterday evening.
She greeted them with a chipper "How are ya doin'?"
We're all a little flattened, but in a good way.
She's scheduled for a couple more weeks of observation/rehab, but she's raring to get home.
Christmas came a bit early, thanks be to God.
Monday, December 14, 2009
To reiterate, here is the scale for certain popular/notorious themes. I've slightly altered it to balance out the numbers (1 is now 0):
Occult/Dark Magical Themes
0: James Randi
5: David Copperfield
The Dumbledore Gaydar Detector
0: Stacy Keach
5: Rupert Everett
Clancyitis Infection Level (this metric measures the extent to which responsible editors have become afraid of a blockbuster author and have allowed logorrhea to take the reins)
0: Hunt for Red October
5: Red Storm Rising
10: Debt of Honor
With that in mind, here's the review of Harry Potter and the Philos/orceror's Stone.
At the outset, I have to say that, by and large, I don't understand the outcry against the books. That's not a criticism of those who decry them, much less a critique of motives. However, I simply don't see what they are seeing, with the exceptions as to the behavior of the heroes.
Thus, the Occultometer isn't going to move much throughout the reviews of the seven books.
As another aside, I admit to being very, very impressed with Rowling's ability to write humorous dialogue and scenes. She is consistently funny, and often laugh-out-loud funny. That's not easy, and she pulls it off with aplomb. Also impressive is the word play and use of names as symbolic, all of which is worthy of the best Inkling tradition. Also, it's nice to see Latin, even bowdlerized, get the nods it does.
With that in mind, on to Book One.
Occult/Dark Magical Themes: 2. It is a very "light" book, as are all of the first four. Evil magic is portrayed firmly as *evil.* Even magic that can be bent to evil ends is renounced, which is significant.
Dumbledore Gaydar: 1 (he wears a holly wreath in one scene. Yeah, I'm stretching. So's Ms. Rowling.)
Clancyitis: 0. Very tightly written, and crisply plotted.
I enjoyed it, and very much so. It moves quickly, characters are introduced deftly (if not fully, keeping the demands of the overall story arc in mind) and the framework of a world is erected convincingly enough. The last is rather important, given that she's creating something of a "secret history," which is easy to do badly. The light touch helps.
Two consistent problems, including a nod of agreement with the critics. First, if there is a hole in her writing, it is with respect to fighting sequences. Yes, things are happening, but they are harder to picture than, say, a trip to Diagon Alley. Things get slightly better as the books progress, but she never quite gets Tolkien's knack for such things, and he was pretty spare in his descriptions of such things himself.
Second, yeah, truth-telling takes it in the shorts. The good guys can lie with impunity, which is the most troubling thing about the series from a moral standpoint. While a consistent theme of the books is the need to wear masks and to hide the truth from those who have no right to it, lying for its own sake is free of consequences.
Overall, I have no problem recommending the first book, and to properly formed youngsters (10 ish) at that.
Feel free to flame me for my lack of perspicuity in the comments.
She's suffering from congestive heart failure and is currently non-responsive.
Friday, December 11, 2009
I know who we are.
We're the bloody Weasleys.
Welcome to the Burrow!
Bishop Flores is leaving Detroit to head up the Diocese of Brownsville. Actually, he's going home.
He's a great one, and Brownsville's in the best of hands.
Now just let us be briefly bitter here in Motown as we deal with our loss. He was scheduled to speak at our parish in January. Looks like that's off....
Monday, December 07, 2009
Navy Lieutenant John William Finn, 100 years old and the last living Medal of Honor winner from Pearl Harbor. I saw an interview with him in a recent History Channel documentary about Pearl Harbor. Basically, he just set up a .50 caliber machine gun and blazed away for two hours, getting multiple wounds in the process. "They kept bringing ammo out to me. I'd have kept firing for six months!"
For extraordinary heroism distinguished service, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty. During the first attack by Japanese airplanes on the Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, on 7 December 1941, Lt. Finn promptly secured and manned a .50-caliber machinegun mounted on an instruction stand in a completely exposed section of the parking ramp, which was under heavy enemy machinegun strafing fire.
Although painfully wounded many times, he continued to man this gun and to return the enemy's fire vigorously and with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks and with complete disregard for his own personal safety. It was only by specific orders that he was persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention.
Following first aid treatment, although obviously suffering much pain and moving with great difficulty, he returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. His extraordinary heroism and conduct in this action were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
2. And the dead, dying on November 20, 2009, Lt. Col. Lewis Millett, another Medal of Honor winner and the last man in the American armed services to lead a bayonet charge. Successfully, I might add:
Millet received the Medal of Honor for his actions Feb. 7, 1951. He led the 25th Infantry Division’s Company E, 27th Infantry, in a bayonet charge up Hill 180 near Soam-Ni, Korea. A captain at the time, Millet was leading his company in an attack against a strongly held position when he noticed that a platoon was pinned down by small-arms, automatic, and antitank fire.
Millett placed himself at the head of two other platoons, ordered fixed bayonets, and led an assault up the fire-swept hill. In the fierce charge, Millett bayoneted two enemy soldiers and continued on, throwing grenades, clubbing and bayoneting the enemy, while urging his men forward by shouting encouragement, according to his Medal of Honor citation.
"Despite vicious opposing fire, the whirlwind hand-to-hand assault carried to the crest of the hill," the citation states. "His dauntless leadership and personal courage so inspired his men that they stormed into the hostile position and used their bayonets with such lethal effect that the enemy fled in wild disorder."
Millett was wounded by grenade fragments during the attack, but he refused evacuation until the objective was firmly secured. He recovered, and attended Ranger School after the war.
Thanks to you both.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Elizabeth is doing well, inflating as we speak. She's on the brink of smiling, too, and is even jabbering slightly. I'm not surprised as to the latter--she has to start early, otherwise she'll never get a word in.
We haven't managed to get the tree up yet, though this weekend should do the trick. Still, we had a nice early Christmas with my parents, who abscond to their "camper" [think air conditioning, cable, full sized bathroom, bigger than my first apartment, etc.] in Arizona after Thanksgiving every year.
Mom and Dad are currently winding their way westward, so prayers for a safe journey are welcome.
If you are stumped for ideas, I'd like to propose the following: an adorable kitten, free of charge.
We've found homes for three of the five, and will be keeping one of them, which leaves one little charmer for the asking. Yes, I deliver.
S.M. Stirling | Homepage | 11.28.09 - 9:01 pm
I propose that the helicopter in question hover at precisely 1,368 feet off the ground.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Jewish and Muslim scholars protest English city's deletion of "Christmas" from city Christmas light display.
Executive Director of the from the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths, Dr Edward Kessler, who is Jewish, said: "'people of all faiths in this country should recognise that such developments are a curb on all our religious freedoms. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. If Christmas lights cannot be named as such how can the religious festivals celebrated by Muslims, Jews, Hindus and so on be openly celebrated? If restrictions are only imposed on Christian festivals (for the time being), the interfaith endeavour is threatened."
Prof. Kessler's Muslim counterpart is downright acidic:
Muslim colleague Dawud Bone, Stone Ashdown Director of the Centre for the Study of Muslim – Jewish Relations at the Woolf Institute said: "To call this political correctness would be to flatter those who have arrived at this policy. I am unaware of any academic research that suggests anyone of any faith is offended by Christmas lights. They are therefore responding to a problem that almost certainly does not exist and in doing so they are creating a greater problem. I believe actions such as this can only damage community cohesion and reduce the respect individuals have for each other's faiths."
A hat-tip and thanks to you both!
[H/t to the incomparable Mark Steyn.]
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The man gets his shoulder separated and still comes back in on the next play to throw the winning touchdown (thanks, Eric Mangini!).
The latest in a line of would-be franchise saviors, Stafford is faced with the unenviable task of cleaning up after the Millen-ium, eight years of Peter Principle-confirming horror which culminated in numbers which need no further explanation: 0-16.
He looks like he's game to try.
Yeah, I know it was against the Browns, a strikingly awful team in its own right. I mean, who the hell blows a three touchdown lead against the Lions?
But it's much easier being a Lions fan than a Dawg-Pounder this week. I'll take it.
I'd also take the chance to actually see them in a game they could theoretically win, if it's not too much trouble in a farging economy featuring 30% unemployment downtown and 18% in the metro area. Big Al Beaton, the dean of Lions blogging, was rather more direct in his critique of the blackout rules, culminating in the memorable "Die in a fire, [Roger] Goodell!" A more restrained approach can be seen at his new gig here.
Is Sunday's win a turning point? Nah, probably not--turning points involve beating good teams, rivals. And we've seen plenty of fool's gold draft choices with flashy games, then nothing, over the past decade. But now, at least, there's some evidence that both the coaching staff and front office are capable of processing clues. That's a start.
[Eventually, I'll get around to my Michigan Wolverines post-mortem. It will involve repeated uses of the word "purgatorial."]
Monday, November 23, 2009
I forgot the "Effin" in the middle.
The five men facing trial in the Sept. 11 attacks will plead not guilty so that they can air their criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, the lawyer for one of the defendants said Sunday.
Scott Fenstermaker, the lawyer for accused terrorist Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, said the men would not deny their role in the 2001 attacks but "would explain what happened and why they did it."
A great moment for our nation, the opportunity to listen to mass murderers lecture us from the stand.
A shameful decision.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Nevertheless, I'd be remiss if I didn't note the unveiling of yet another joint blog I'm joining,
"Almost Chosen People." It covers the history of America from the first explorers to the end of Reconstruction, featuring such knowledgable bloggers as Donald McClarey and Paul Zummo.
Oh, and I'm going to slightly amend my review of The Sword of the Lady: God used astrology to achieve his purposes, so that gives some wiggle room to the visions vouchsafed to Rudi. Feel free to discuss, as well as to set forth what you did and did not like about the book, per the author's express encouragement.
The marquee read:
Thanks for 40 years.
Pray for our families.
Heart-rending doesn't being to say it.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
With The Sword of the Lady, the Changeverse series makes a gradual transformation into the Artosian Mythos. And I use the Arthurian paraphrase deliberately.
The second series has focused on Rudi Mackenzie and his companions' quest for the titular Sword to battle against the malignant supernatural evil embodied by the Church Universal and Triumphant, which has to date destroyed the powerful LDS state of Deseret and co-opted the equally powerful United States of Boise.
The close of previous book The Scourge of God saw Rudi and Edain crossing the Mississippi on a difficult quest: to retrieve the looted art collected by the orders of the hereditary Governor of Iowa, Anthony Heasleroad. Which is held in several wagons without horses, a tricky task for two men, no matter how gifted.
In the course of resolving that task, Rudi also comes to grips with the cancerous power of the CUT, literally coming to blows with one of its possessed adepts. From there, pursued by the dauntless CUT troopers bent on stopping him, the action gallops across the country from Iowa to Wisconsin to Maine and finally Nantucket, surveying the wrecked and not-so-wrecked parts of the Sunrise Lands along the way. Not, alas, including Michigan, fellow Peninsulares. But we do see the good, the evil and the downright ugly of the survivors east of the Mississippi. We also see a famous ship whose fate proved different in this world, too. Blink and you'll miss it. New allies are also collected, new cultures growing in the ashes (this time, Norse Aesirtru), crucial alliances formed and, sadly, a perspective character dies, albeit an heroic, redemptive and hope-filled death.
At the very end, we do see the Sword, and we get a strong hint of the Arthurian end awaiting Rudi/Artos at life's close.
The good: It flies. A breakneck pace, and yet the detail does not suffer. Far from it--Steve's mastery of landscape description remains unmatched. I wrote him after I received the draft of a scene where the heroes enter the Wisconsin farm country in October, and I told him I could smell the autumn air and see the way the sunlight shone off the trees. It captured it that well.
Also good: battle scenes, including the "supernatural" ones featuring Fr. Ignatius and Rudi battling the CUT adept. You might think there's nothing remarkable about the latter two holding their own in a sword fight, but you have to remember the adept usually doesn't have to draw his own weapon. The characterization also remains strong, with, as could be hoped, more depth to the characters as they move along. Even Sandra Arminger continues to show glimmers of genuine humanity, despite her ruthless practicality and lack of allegiance to any ideals larger than the survival of House Arminger.
Rudi and Mathilda move closer together (not in *that* way, to Rudi's emotional and physical discomfort), but how close I'm not going to tell you, to quote Monty Python.
Continuing to be good: the Catholic bits. Again, as I feel compelled to do, I am just the advisor/sounding board on this particular aspect. 99% of the time, Steve presents something to me and I say the equivalent of "Yep, looks good!" in an uneconomical thirty-plus words.
And yes, Sean, I hear your objection. I'll address it momentarily.
Evil here is evil. Not misunderstood, or the product of a broken home, but stench-of-the-pit evil. You can admire the virtues of a Peter Graber, raised to fight for an awful cause, but you are left wanting him to lose at every second.
The usual pop-culture references are dropped into the text, and nods to other authors appear like Easter eggs, sometimes only on the second reading.
The bad: lack of space means relatively short shrift to the allies battling the bad guys out west, though it does adequately convey that it is going badly. It jumps from the shores of Lake Superior to northern Maine with just a bare reference. I understand why--the publisher's not giving him another 100 pages until his last name changes to "King." But it's still a bit jarring. Also jarring is Fred Thurston's newly-declared religious allegiance. Yes, there were signs it was going that way, but it's still a bit abrupt.
Finally, to what I *think* are Sean's objections: the Norse oracle and the respective visions of Fr. Ignatius and Rudi at Nantucket. Yeah, it's a bit pluralistic, to use the trendy theological term. To which I reply, yes, but (1) it's not a Catholic novel by a Catholic writer, (2) it's as palatably presented as pluralism could be from an orthodox standpoint, and (3) Fr. Ignatius gets an explicitly Christian vision and explanation for what the others are seeing. Added together, yes, I know, that means it's not orthodox. But we don't usually get this favorable a hearing/presentation in the first place, so I'm disinclined to complain. If I want to, I can write my own.
And I knew Brooks and Dunn had called it quits a couple months back.
What's more disturbing is that country is pretty much all Heather listens to on "live" radio these days. Had you told me twenty years ago in college she'd be listening to country music, I'd have responded "Steer clear of the brown acid next time."
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Lord, grant me the grace that I always remember there's someone else at the other end of my responses, and that not every season under Heaven is open season.
Bob operates Bob's PC Pro, LLC, and he was able to remotely access our badly-infected computer and remove the "full-featured" virus that was threatening it. He was remarkably patient with the technically-impaired gent he was working with, and successfully outfoxed the ugly thing that was making our computer unusable. He also made some recommendations for upgrading our computer, removed the ineffective name-brand virus "protection" software, replaced it with something effective and downloaded some useful protective surfing software which will help us well into the future. All at a fair price.
As a very, very happy customer, I can recommend him without hesitation!
Friday, November 06, 2009
However, it sure doesn't excuse murder.
If there was any group of Americans with grounds to snap at the hateful policies of the government and military, it would have been the Nisei living in the continental U.S. after Pearl Harbor. Rounded up en masse and sent into camps by Executive Order simply because they shared the same ancestry as one of our enemies, Japanese Americans had ample reason to be bitter and vengeful toward the country that turned on them.
Instead, they responded by volunteering to serve that country. The rest, as they say, is history--21 Medals of Honor worth.
Just something to ponder over the next few days.
"It was an amazing and an aggressive performance by this police officer," [Base Commander Lt. General Bob] Cone said.
Munley was only a few feet from Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan when she opened fire.
Wounded in the exchange of bullets, the 34-year-old Munley was reported in stable condition at a local hospital.
The diminutive Munley - she stands 5-foot-4 and weighs about 120 pounds - served as a cop in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., before she moved to Texas to enlist in the military, friends said.
She is married with two daughters and is no longer in the armed forces.
"She's the happiest, sweetest, most fun-loving girl you'd ever want to be friends with - and never want to cross," Peterson said.
Munley could not be reached Friday. In a posting on her Twitter page, she wrote: "I live a good life....a hard one, but I go to sleep peacefully @ night knowing that I may have made a difference in someone's life."
The hero cop spent Thursday night phoning fellow officers to let them know she was fine and to find out about casualties in the attack - the deadliest ever on a military base in the U.S., Cone said.
Yes, the jihadi was taken down by a woman. Given his disdain for the fair sex, that's an ironic delight.
The bigger question is why nobody intervened to address the man's obvious problems. The fellow pulled the pin on the grenade a long time ago. [Reynolds' SNL reference is absolutely perfect.]
Actually, the question answers itself: PC. And now it comes with a body count.
One last thing, a bit of unsolicited advice: cancel the pity party. The actual victims are in the morgue or the hospital right now, along with their families.
For future reference, the proper response is "How can we help?"
Thursday, November 05, 2009
"Your challenge is to write crossover fanfiction combining Three's Company and Beastmaster. The story should use amnesia as a plot device."
Ok, it's not really mine, but you'll despair nonetheless.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Leaving the political subtext aside, I found this part about the religious angle interesting:
A handful of dissidents holds out against the rapturous reception given the Vs. Some are simply uneasy, such as the youthful priest Father Jack, who sharply criticizes the Vatican's embrace of the Vs as divine creations: "Rattlesnakes are God's creatures, too."
Unless they were machine life/generated, they'd have to be part of the divine creative order, correct? I'm a little nervous about the Vatican part potentially devolving into a "Visitors' Pope" plot thread, but I'll hold fire until it happens.
[Oh, and one more thing: it's nice to see that they preserved that part of the original, which featured a Catholic priest as a member of the resistance, one determined to convert the aliens, to boot. The Sci-Fi Channel re-broadcast the original two series over the weekend. It held up OK, but shows its age in spots. The main problem is the acting, which, apart from the ever-reliable Michael Ironside as the cynical mercenary-turned-resistance mastermind and Robert Englund as the naifish friendly (!) alien, was generally flat.
Memo to producers of sci-fi series: forget the effects budget. If you want it to work, get a good cast. That will save you even when you lose the thread of the plot. See, e.g., Galactica (2004), Battlestar.]
Friday, October 30, 2009
But that didn't stop our DRE from press-ganging Elizabeth, Heather and me to be the Holy Family in our parish's Nativity Play.
Let's see--I have a beard...and far more importantly, an infant.
Dale III heard about the possibility of being one of the angels and wanted to know if he could be in "the sword fight." It took a second, until I confirmed he was referring to the Archangel Michael expelling Satan from heaven.
I mean, Dude. Wrong scene, wrong book, and waaay too Michael Bay-ish for our restrained suburban congregants.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Frankly, him doing anything productive in a skill position role is slightly suspicious, given that his paternal genetics would suggest a "Hulk SMASH!" role on the defensive line, perhaps linebacker, at best. The pigskin is to be swatted at or fallen on, not carried.
Must get it from his mom's side.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Which is why he wrote 400 words about it and called people who disagree with his secular hard leftist worldview segregationists and whatnot.
Both of these church leaders seem to me to be lost in the fog of antiquity. For that reason it matters little to me or to most of the world that they continue to play their ecclesiastical kindergarten games. I am quite simply not interested in this debate.
Untruer words were never spoken. *Sure* you don't care, John. I mean, *everyone* cranks out 400 words about something they could care less about, flinging the schoolyard insults all the while.
Don't worry, though--I have every confidence you'll be called for comment when the Episcopalians consecrate a Playstation as Bishop. Then you can wax flatulent about how the "truly enlightened" jettisoned such "obsolete" notions as "organicentrism" *ages* ago...
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
That belly churning howl you heard last night in the US was the collective wailing of the English/Welsh Catholic bishops as Papa Benny ground their lib noses under his bright red shoes. What a satisfying crunch that was, is, and will be forever and forever. Amen.
That is the flip side, and strikes me as the unspoken, and deliberate, second impact from this announcement--namely, a boot to the collective backside of the British Catholic episcopate. As bad as things can be in the U.S., they have been immeasurably worse in England and Wales since the closing of the Second Vatican Council. Imagine an episcopate of Mahonys and Weaklands from Land's End to the River Tweed, and that's pretty much Catholic Britain, with a handful of exceptions. It would take decades of patient episcopal replacement to change the conditions on the ground there. Unless, of course, you were able to do something like inject a brand new ecclesial structure into the mix, independent of the local bishops, along with tens of thousands of newly-minted Catholics with zero patience for bureaucratic prog-speak.
That might tilt the playing field in a landslide hurry.
Under the circumstances, it seems likely to have been goal 1b all along.
Just my tuppence.
A *median* of $50,000.
We should have stayed in that apartment, hon.
Nah, not really. It's nice to say you own a home. We've built something together, have a lot of good memories, and we've met a many good friends and neighbors. Can't put a price tag on that.
But we can put a price tag on the home. And it's a lot smaller than the mortgage statement...
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Pictures later, when the bleary goes away.
Thanks for the prayers and good wishes.
We are going in this morning. Elizabeth will be born today, the only question being the same way as her sisters and brothers or via c-section.
If I could trouble you for prayers/thoughts that she has flipped back out of breech...well, we'd appreciate them.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Friday, October 09, 2009
Note the Paypal donation button. If you don't like Paypal, ask Peony for information on how to mail something.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
It's lonely here on Skullcrusher Mountain.
Update--for your delectation, the lyrics:
Welcome to my secret lair on Skullcrusher Mountain
I hope that you've enjoyed your stay so far
I see you've met my assistant Scarface
His appearance is quite disturbing
But I assure you he's harmless enough
He's a sweetheart, calls me master
And he has a way of finding pretty things and bringing them to me
I'm so into you
But I'm way too smart for you
Even my henchmen think I'm crazy
I'm not surprised that you agree
If you could find some way to be
A little bit less afraid of me
You'd see the voices that control me from inside my head
Say I shouldn't kill you yet
I made this half-pony half-monkey monster to please you
But I get the feeling that you don't like it
What's with all the screaming?
You like monkeys, you like ponies
Maybe you don't like monsters so much
Maybe I used too many monkeys
Isn't it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?
I'm so into you
But I'm way too smart for you
Even my henchmen think I'm crazy
I'm not surprised that you agree
If you could find some way to be
A little bit less afraid of me
You'd see the voices that control me from inside my head
Say I shouldn't kill you yet
Picture the two of us alone inside my golden submarine
While up above the waves my doomsday squad ignites the atmosphere
And all the fools who live their foolish lives may find it quite explosive
But it won't mean half as much to me if I don't have you here
You know it isn't easy living here on Skullcrusher Mountain
Maybe you could cut me just a little slack
Would it kill you to be civil?
I've been patient, I've been gracious
And this mountain is covered with wolves
Hear them howling, my hungry children
Maybe you should stay and have another drink and think about me and you
I'm so into you
But I'm way too smart for you
Even my henchmen think I'm crazy
I'm not surprised that you agree
If you could find some way to be
A little bit less afraid of me
You'd see the voices that control me from inside my head
Say I shouldn't kill you yet
I shouldn't kill you yet
I shouldn't kill you yet
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
We drove to the hospital last night to begin the induction process. The initial ultrasound revealed that Elizabeth was being very uncooperative: she has shifted from a head-down position into breech mode. Thus, they won't begin induction without proof that she's shifted back. That's possible, but far from a given. If she hasn't shifted this morning, they'll probably send Heather home, as the circumstances don't warrant a c-section.
I guess we'll see.
Friday, October 02, 2009
Take as given that, unlike the Terri Schiavo matter, the patient in question is in full possession of mental faculties.
Citation of authoritative documents is not just welcome, but encouraged.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
The ChiComs have racked up a body count that would have made Tamerlane blanch.
Buy this, read, and re-read until it either sinks in or your guttering excuse for an "intellect" gives up the ghost. In any event, it's hard to make stupid comments while reading. Even if your lips are moving.
And if for some reason you don't give a rat's ass about the people, note well that China is doing what all communist regimes have done, namely, a superb job of making a desert of itself. Not to mention the neat trick of changing rainfall patterns through air pollution.
Contra noted blithering idiot Tom "Red China is Really Green!" Friedman.
[As an aside, Friedman's choice of Sputnik is ironic, given that China is rapidly heading the way of Soviet Russia, in economic and demographic terms. The Chinese just do a better job of selling the stats. Actually, Sputnik is a clear case study in how not to respond to potential threats--all of the screaming and yelling about the orbiting transistor radio/erector set ended up with a pointless race to the moon. Which has done what exactly? Don't get me wrong--I love the story of the American space program, but we haven't done a lot with it lately--it's kinda like owning a vintage Corvette you take out of the garage for a couple of weeks in July.]
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
A record 7.58 percent of U.S. homeowners with mortgages were at least 30 days late on payments in August, says Equifax, up from 7.32 percent in July. Delinquencies are not only rising from month to month, but rising at a faster pace. More than 41 percent of subprime mortgages are delinquent. (That's quite an increase from 2007, when I took heart from the fact that only 10 percent of subprime mortgages were in default. But, well, at least the glass is still more than half full, right?)
• About 1.2 million loans out there are in limbo: The borrower is in serious default yet the bank has not started the foreclosure process. Another 1.5 million are in early stages of the foreclosure process but the bank hasn't yet taken possession of the home. Counting these and loans that are highly likely to end up in default, one analyst estimates three million to four million foreclosed homes will come on the market over the next few years. And don't believe the freshwater economists when they tell you there's no such thing as a free lunch: Some 217,000 Americans have not made a mortgage payment in one full calendar year, but their lenders have yet to begin the foreclosure process.
• Option ARM recasts (not resets, as Calculated Risk explains) are as much of a time bomb as ever, with nearly all borrowers in this class making only minimum payments and negatively amortizing their mortgages.
• Something called the National Consumer Law Center criticizes state mortgage-mediation schemes as well as the Obama Administration's Home Affordable Modification Program, which at last count had managed to prevent 235,247 homes from coming onto the market. However, data from the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency indicate that even when these programs succeed, about half of all the renegotiated loans end up back in default soon afterward.
Credit card companies, the next bailout frontier? Of course, that presumes we'll still have a leaky bucket for bailing by then.
According to Hollywood, Paul Shanley's real sin was that he didn't make "Chinatown" or "The Pianist."
I'm pleased to note the French public--and a growing number of public figures--are less solicitous of rapists than Les People are.
The Archdiocese of Detroit will be the first in the United States to display a relic of the Rev. Damien de Veuster, the unofficial patron saint of HIV and AIDS patients.
Pope Benedict XVI will name Damien a saint on Oct. 11 at the Vatican.
The relic, a heel of the soon-to-be saint, will be displayed at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit on Oct. 13-14, said archdiocese spokesman Joe Kohn.
In Catholicism, a relic is anything associated with a saint, including a body part or something used or touched by the saint. Damien's heel was selected because it was kept out of his tomb when his body was transferred from Hawaii to Belgium in 1936, according to the Most Rev. Clarence Silva, bishop of Honolulu.
The relic will stop in Detroit and San Francisco on its way back to Hawaii, where Damien served in a settlement for patients with Hansen's disease on the Molokai peninsula of Kalaupapa. He is already considered the unofficial patron saint of sufferers of Hansen's disease, or leprosy.
The Detroit stop is a favor to Archbishop Allen Vigneron, who while serving as the bishop of Oakland, Calif., worked closely with Silva, who at the time was Oakland's vicar general.
The public is invited to attend the Detroit veneration at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13.
Try to avoid the comments box at the story--it's guaranteed to be a cavalcade of monumental ignorance and tired fundamentalist thundering at the paganized Roman Whore (a quick refutation here). In other words, a gassy reprise of the same blather that accompanied the visit of the relics of St. Therese to Royal Oak a few years back.
I know that won't stop some of you, but hey--I warned you.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Oh, and one of those stories that sends a chill: two weeks ago, Grandma Jo was visiting her sister. Her sister, hearing some activity in the kitchen, came in and found Grandma there.
Grandma said, very calmly, that she'd had a dream. "I can't sleep. Bob said he's ready for me."
"Bob" is my late grandfather.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Let's repeat that--the victorious Detroit Lions. For the first time in nearly two full calendar years.
For the past eight years, I have been like Pacino in Godfather III--"Just when I thought I was out, THEY PULL ME BACK IN!"
Who am I kidding? I listened to the last quarter and a half on the radio.
Today, they rewarded me.
It's too early for hope, but not too early to enjoy the moment.
Hopefully I'll be able to get up to see her later this week.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
The next 24-48 hours will be crucial to determine how much she has lost to the stroke.
Also, say a prayer of thanks for her "nosy" neighbors, who noticed she hadn't parked her car in the pole barn and went in through the window to find her when she didn't answer the door.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Thamail Morgan took the kickoff and headed up the field.
He was at the 20 ... 30 ... 40
He had been avoiding, dodging or just simply running through tacklers on the way. Football always had come easily for Morgan. This game was no different. By the time he hit midfield, only open space was ahead of him. The two-time Arkansas all-state selection was headed for a touchdown.
40 ... 30 ... 20
He glanced at the clock and saw the final seconds ticking away. He realized his team, Cave City, was on the way to a victory over Yellville-Summit, comfortably ahead, 34-16. He also realized two other things: This wasn't an ordinary game. And he wasn't the same Thamail Morgan.
When he reached the 2, he stopped. He took a few steps back and took a knee at the 5-yard line.
Read the whole thing.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
It's been 89 days since Manuel Zelaya was booted from power. He's sleeping on chairs, and he claims his throat is sore from toxic gases and "Israeli mercenaries'' are torturing him with high-frequency radiation.
We are being threatened with death,'' he said in an interview with The Miami Herald, adding that mercenaries were likely to storm the embassy where he has been holed up since Monday and assassinate him.
"I prefer to march on my feet than to live on my knees before a military dictatorship,'' Zelaya said in a series of back-to-back interviews.
Zelaya was deposed at gunpoint on June 28 and slipped back into his country on Monday, just two days before he was scheduled to speak before the United Nations. He sought refuge at the Brazilian Embassy, where Zelaya said he is being subjected to toxic gases and radiation that alter his physical and mental state.
His Brazilian hosts are none too pleased with his shtick:
Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told CNN en Español that his government asked Zelaya to tone down his rhetoric while he remains an embassy guest.
"The word `death' should not even be mentioned,'' he said.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The Lions have had many coaches during the disastrous ownership tenure of William Clay Ford, but all of them since Don McCafferty died in the offseason of 1974 share one thing in common: they all acquire Lions Coach Look.
It doesn't matter what talent level or resume they bring with them, from good (Steve Mariucci, Bobby Ross) to passable (Wayne Fontes, the late Monte Clark, God rest his soul) to out of his depth (Rick Forzano, Darryl Rogers) to epic-godawful-FAILFAILFAIL-a-deceased-parakeet-is-better-with-Xs-and-Os-not-to-mention-a-cannier-judge-of-talent (Rod Marinelli). They all get The Look.
It's kinda like the 1000 yard stare meets Who activated the Infinite Improbability Drive?
Imagine the look on the face of a coach who is trying to calmly process the fact that a touchdown was negated by a zeppelin landing at the 50 yard line and disgorging a couple dozen midgets dressed like the Village People who then proceed to play air guitar to Space Truckin'.
That's what Lions Coach Look is like. It's watching the same stupid mistakes over and over, coupled with fresh-hell ways of losing. It's watching the game plan come apart in new and varied ways. It's the dawning realization that the job of coaching this hopeless few (regardless of the names on the backs of the jerseys0, this band of strangers, is a Sisyphean, not Herculean, task.
So, I'm saying next season, barring dramatic improvement. But I'll move it up to this season if they can't beat the Rams.
On the other hand, the Wolverines are roaring toward respectability at a gratifying clip, so I have that going for me.
Since we are practically all believers, what is the sense of holding up business to remind ourselves about the things we believe?
Well, I think the most important answer is this -- you have to come to Mass to worship God, and that means worshipping God with your whole being, not just with bits of it. Worship doesn't mean merely letting your feelings go out to God, telling him how good he is and getting all worked up about your sins; doesn't mean merely letting your will go out to God, resolving that you are going to live for him and resigning yourself to all the uncomfortable things he may ask you to suffer for him.
It also means letting your intellect go out to God, telling him that he exists, that he is utterly above your comprehension, and that he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ so as to make it possible for you to comprehend him a little. That is why I have taken my text from that passage we all know, but don't always reflect on, in St. John.
The reason why I was born, our Lord tells Pilate, was--what? So as to save the world? So as to heal the sick and give sight to the blind? So as to comfort people who were unhappy? No, so as to tell the truth, so as to bear witness to the truth. That is man's first need; he is a reasonable animal, and he must know what he is and where he stands before he can sit down and be satisfied. And that is man's first duty; to think, and to think right. As part of your worship of him, God demands that you should let your intellect travel on the right lines in thinking about him. Very likely it is not much of an intellect, and shews strong signs of throwing up the sponge when it gets to recurring decimals. But it's the best intellect you've got, and it is all meant to be put at God's disposal.
--Ronald Knox, The Mass in Slow Motion, Sheed & Ward 1948, pp. 46-47.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
No, we're not ready. She'll arrive no later than October 7 (the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary and the 438th anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto/Curzolaris). Doc's big on keeping the birth size below 9 pounds.
After this weekend, however, we'll be more ready, getting clothes out of storage and whatnot.
More updates: Brennen and Molly are doing well, probably better than can be expected. The assigned prosecutor is energetic and unafraid of trial, two virtues which can't be overestimated. Legal help on the civil side of the ball is also being arranged, Dale says with a chuckle which suggests it's coming from a mouth with fangs.
The five kittens are thriving, and are starting to open their eyes. They're still blind as bats, though. The good news is they are desperately cute (much less rat-like) and Gladys has no problems with us gently handling them. Homes have also been arranged for all of them, which is a relief.
We also have two superb pumpkins harvested and ready for either (1) pies (my vote) or (2) jack-o-lanterns (perhaps the majority position). I suspect I'm going to win, given the early harvest. The good news for the majority is that we have four more likely suspects which may be good candidates for All Hallows Eve. How do you fry up the flowers again, Danby?
The tomato plants are winding down, but have rendered noble and prolific service. I'm also about to harvest the sunflower seeds (second try, and hopefully much more successful).
I also have photos from my trip to Ground Zero. I haven't forgotten, and will get them up soon.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
My eleven year old nephew was attacked by a group of teenagers last Sunday. In addition to outnumbering him by up to 12 to 1, they thought it would be hilarious to film it on their camera phones--"Youtube!" they said. Oh, and my nephew's little sister was a witness, too.
There are many words that have come to mind over the past few days--reiver, reprisal, let them hate so long as they fear.... Those words are not models of Christianity, no. But they are certainly in the human (and definitely the Celtic) DNA.
Turns out that filming it was a bad idea, as this constitutes something called "evidence" and tends to make a lie out of your statements to the police that your victim was the attacker.
As does a history of similar violence for one of the assailants.
My nephew is out of the hospital, but returned to school yesterday, which can't have been easy, given that he's facing the thugs there. But he's keeping his head high.
Prayers for my family would be appreciated.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Moreover, "Nazi death camp guard" is not a colorful adjective--Johann Leprich was an actual Nazi, the worst of the worst, a member of the SS Death's Head unit, tasked with operating the extermination camps. Leprich was at Mauthausen, which practiced "extermination through labor."
Rather like Eddie Murphy's Buckwheat assassin, Leprich wasn't shy about telling folks, either:
The feds did not pursue Leprich -- choosing to believe his wife and neighbors who said he had fled to Windsor. But if Leprich did indeed go to Canada, he did not go for long. His neighbors said they saw him taking walks under the cover of darkness over the years. He renewed his driver's license in person. His Social Security check was sent to his Clinton Township home. He even told his neighbors he was a Nazi.
"I knew he was in the SS and worked at a camp," said Ike Sonntag, who lives directly across Capper Drive. "But why go after him now? To me it's a big fat waste of money because I think the guy's going to die."
LeDuff helpfully illustrates why Leprich should be sent out of the country via the next available catapult:
Sam Offen cannot forget about it. He is a survivor of Mauthausen, a young Jew who was interned there from June 1944 through May 5, 1945, when American forces liberated him. Though Offen does not remember Leprich, he does remember men like him who stood sentry on the perimeter of the camp and the quarry where Offen was forced to work at slave labor. Offen lives just 30 miles from Leprich.
"There were 180 steps in the quarry," remembered Offen, now 88. "Run down. Pick up a big stone, put it on your shoulder. All day long. Run down. Run up. Run down and up with that heavy stone on your shoulders. The Nazis were so cruel they did not even have to use bullets to kill us. All they did was push us down to our death, from the top of the quarry to the floor of the quarry.
"I know Leprich's neighbors probably claim he is such a nice person. But how can they claim these people are not murderers?" Offen asked. "If we survivors never get justice, then how can we say anything will change?"
Read the whole thing, which includes the sketch of the investigative efforts of the impossibly named Nazi hunter Steve Rambam.
Eulls and his three younger sisters were among 22 passengers on a school bus bound for Yazoo County High School in western Mississippi until a 14-year old female student boarded the bus armed with a .380 semi-automatic handgun threatening to shoot and ordering the bus driver to pull over.
Eulls had fallen asleep at the back of the bus listening to his mp3 player and did not realize what was happening until one of his sisters woke him up.
"My sister that was in front of me woke up and told me that the girl had a gun," Eulls said. "She was pointing it back and forth at other people and the little kids that were sitting at the back. I just thought real quick and tried to grab her attention before she pointed the gun at anybody else. I wanted her to point it at me so she wouldn't point it at anybody else."
Eulls then opened up the emergency door located in the back and began evacuating as many students as he could from the rear of the bus while trying to reason with the armed female.
"I just tried to talk to her and calm her down," said the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Eulls. "She was just getting louder and louder. I guess for a quick second she looked out the window and when she did that I just sprung at her. I just knocked her down and got the gun away from her. When I got the gun I ran out the back door and disarmed it."
Astonishing for both the courage and the level-headedness. Bravo to Mr. Eulls and his parents.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
I want to see everyone have medical coverage. Oh, and I'm not alone on that one.
And I'm definitely curious to see if he'll actually commit to the application of the Hyde Amendment to his proposal--instead of merely describing the Amendment as a tradition analogous to Black Friday shopping sprees. Oh, and I'm not alone on that one, either.
The Free Press report prompted a rare intervention in the sports world from a political pundit, The New Republic's Jonathan Chait. What Chait does to the Free Press sports editors is amusing, if fit for a slasher pic.
The key concept behind his allegations of rule-breaking is "involuntary." Players can work out as long as they want. It only breaks the rules if the players are being forced to work out beyond the allotted time. Rosenberg filled his article with quotes from Michigan players describing how hard they work. It's meaningless. It's as if he set out to expose an epidemic of rape, and came back with an article mainly describing the conjugal relations of happily married couples.
Now, the concept of "voluntary" is pretty hard to pin down. The Free Press would have done college athletes a great service by exploring whether it's actually possible for players to make voluntary decisions. After all, college coaches have enormous power over their players, and the players usually see the coach's desire as a command. When I played high school football twenty years ago, I did not consider offseason workouts to be voluntary. Neither did the players who, having missed such sessions, "decided" to stay after practice and run wind sprints until they puked.
A few years ago, USA Today did a good piece on offseason workouts in college, questioning whether such activities could truly be voluntary. The article quoted one Georgia football player scoffing at the notion. ("It's mandatory to us," he confessed.) But that sort of comprehensive approach didn't advance Rosenberg's goal.
Rosenberg made only a farcical effort to compare Michigan's program to that run elsewhere. He solicited a few on-the-record quotes from former Michigan State players, who told him with a straight face that no, sir, we only condition for an hour or two a day. Maybe this claim is worth verifying.
Now, I'm no Bob Woodward. But I did manage to dig up an obscure source confirming that Michigan State football players work just as hard as the Wolverines. My secret source is a publication called the Detroit News. It printed an article on July 29, 2008, reporting:
MSU says it has a strong weight coach, too
The Detroit News
Much has been made about the intense workouts at Michigan under Mike Barwis, the new strength and conditioning coach.
The Michigan State Spartans would like everyone to know they're working pretty hard, too.
"I don't think they're working harder than us anyway," MSU running back Javon Ringer said. "I'm pretty sure they're working tremendously hard, but the things we go through with our weight-training coach -- coach (Ken) Mannie -- are unbelievable."
Big Ten players know each other pretty well - especially players from the same state, who often share hometowns. I think they probably have a good sense of how often they work out.
Read the whole thing, and the links at Mgoblog. Sure, I'm only slightly more objective toward Wolverines football than I am toward Maddie, Dale, Rachel and Louis. But that still makes me more objective than the Free Press story.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Cent number 1: In our house, Eunice Kennedy Shriver is going to be pointed to as the model of how a Catholic public figure should behave.
Cent number 2: It's not Ted, it's his hagiographers. First one's free, eh, Ms. Oates?
Cent number 3: May God grant him the mercy I beg for myself.
That, and having a NY Times Bestselling author call your blog "entertaining" in his newest volume is a bit of a motivator to try to entertain.
So, expect two reviews this week. The first is Death of a Pope, and the second is The Sword of the Lady.
One more thing this week, rather more personal: I have a CT scan scheduled for my rebellious lungs, so any prayers/good thoughts you have on that one would be greatly appreciated. A specialist reviewing your x-rays and telling you it's "probably nothing" lacks that certain certainty in the reassurance department.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
I finished William Forstchen's One Second After about a week ago, and it's stuck with me since.
Barring the development of a marked smartening and sense of civic-mindedness by our current awful political class, it will probably haunt me to my grave.
Sadly, this is one of those books which make you wonder how close you are to having dirt shovelled on your coffin.
Actually, OSA makes you think you would be lucky to get a coffin of your very own.
[Warning: Slightly spoilery, but nothing big.]
The premise is simple, and timely: someone--terrorist, rogue state or false flag operation by a more "responsible" state actor--detonates a thermonuclear weapon high above the continental United States. It's not a whodunnit because that's irrelevant.
What is relevant is that in a matter of seconds, the electrical grid, computer networks, telecommunications, and almost all modern vehicles are disabled. "Fried," in a quite literal sense. All over North America.
Ponder that for a moment. The proper response is "despair."
Forstchen sets OSA in his hometown of Black Mountain, North Carolina, just to the west of Asheville. He even includes his current employer, Montreat College, in the tapestry. And a tapestry it is. One of the great strengths of this book is Forstchen's deep love for his adopted home, its people and their culture. While he doesn't whitewash anyone's prejudices or limitations, his affection for the area hooks you in. You not only want to root for these people, you probably would enjoy living among them.
Which makes the book all the more wrenching. Without giving too much away, Forstchen says that two inspirations for his book were Pat Frank's brilliant Alas, Babylon and the crushing film Testament. Thus, I was forewarned to expect downbeat. Good thing.
OSA focuses on John Matherson, a retired Army Colonel and history professor at Montreat College. Matherson has two daughters, the youngest of whom is an insulin-dependent diabetic.
In a nod to Alas, Babylon, Matherson is speaking with a good friend at the Pentagon when his phone and lights go dead. He soon learns his car won't start and he quickly realizes he can't hear motor vehicle traffic or see any planes overhead.
The horror dawns, and he quickly warns the local government, which acts with remarkable vigor and foresight. As do the resilient locals. The book follows the community as it struggles with everything from dwindling medications, the disintegration of regional law and order, the spread of disease, the plight of helpless refugees, the rise of a local warlord and a desperate battle against a cult-army which is led by a man who claims God has abandoned America to the hands of Satan--and the cult leader has Lucifer's direct dial.
It is a quick, but difficult read. Each small inventive triumph by the locals (who are better placed than most on the Eastern Seaboard to survive, complete with access to ancient "redneck" vehicles and parts which are impervious to the pulse) is followed by a half-dozen new problems, at least two of which are frankly insoluble, no matter how clever you are and how determinedly you band together and work at them.
The books ends one year to the day of the attack with another nod to Alas, Babylon: the (mechanized) cavalry rides into town. With the same news delivered to the surviving Floridians in Frank's masterwork: the world as they knew it has ended, never to return.
The little details show the care Forstchen put into the work, such as the effect of tens of millions of people having to go cold turkey off their anti-depressants (and anti-psychotics). That was an element I hadn't considered, but Forstchen did. (Hint: the effect is not good.)
It's a book that you must read, even if I have a hard time "recommending" it. It helps if you have a taste for the dystopic and/or post-apocalyptic.
To their eternal discredit, the Bush Administration and Republican Congress did little to address this problem through 2006, and the divided and Democratic governments which followed did exactly the same.
A pox on all of them if they don't act. One second after an EMP attack is one second too late to do anything about it. Here's hoping OSA helps people think about and work to prevent this horror in the same way works like Alas, Babylon and Testament helped people think about and work to prevent nuclear war.
Maddie seemed somewhat interested.
Fine, she feigned polite interest.
OK, she didn't do a facepalm.
Monday, August 10, 2009
I double-took, and recognized exactly what period of history it depicted.
How about you--from what almost universally forgotten event in history is this painting based upon? Here's a hint: look carefully at the sign being sewn on his jacket.It's a spectacular work in person. Hovenden was a great one--he's also responsible for the powerful and more-famous Last Moments of John Brown.
Update--Here is the insignia being stitched to the man's vest:
Answer: The Revolt of the Vendee, and the subsequent genocide, the first of the modern era, done in the name of a secular ideology. The first of a very, very horrific string.
I can't recommend coughing until you black out. Not at all. Especially with a hard floor beneath you.
And yes, I have been to the doctor. Thrice. Getting tired of medicine that sorta works. I just spent a week in New York, and it didn't get better, so it's not environmental, which is a slight reassurance while I hear everyone else except Rachel have sporadic hacking fits.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Which is why my eldest is going to be tested today. Contrary to all previous experience, my bronchitis has spread, first to Heather, now to Maddie. Which, coupled with the nasty persistence of this bug (two weeks and counting), leads us to think that it isn't actually bronchitis.
The good news is that it's treated the same way--antibiotics. The bad news is that it's much more contagious and dangerous. Especially to the little ones. The kids are up on their immunizations, but I'm not clear that they have had pertussis shots yet.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tiresome, and I'm coughing like a clown's "ah-ooga" horn.
With that in mind, I'm just giving you a blog recommendation today: Surprised By Time. SBT is a blog by Diana G. Wright, a historian who specializes in the 15th Century Mediterranean. Lots of fascinating stuff there, including melancholy stories about Byzantium just before the lights went out forever.
Great stuff, and material you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else without mortgaging your house.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Actually, there was a lot I liked in the legislation, starting with the actual tangible infrastructure benefits. If you're going to run a deficit, have something to show for it at the end of the day. There was also the necessary assistance to those in crisis:
On humanitarian grounds, hardly anyone should object to parts of the stimulus package: longer and (slightly) higher unemployment benefits; subsidies for job losers to extend their health insurance; expanded food stamps. Obama was politically obligated to enact a campaign proposal providing tax cuts to most workers -- up to $400 for individuals and $800 for married couples. But beyond these basics, the stimulus plan became an orgy of politically appealing spending increases and tax breaks.
And, as has been noted, things like food stamps aren't just humanitarian, they are also an immediate boost to the economy as they get spent right away, and locally. Doing the right thing actually does the right thing for the economy.
More than 50 million retirees and veterans got $250 checks (cost: $14 billion). Businesses received liberalized depreciation allowances ($5 billion). Health-care information technology was promoted ($19 billion). High-speed rail was encouraged ($8 billion). Whatever the virtues of these programs, the effects are diluted and delayed. The CBO estimated that nearly 30 percent of the economic effects would occur after 2010. Ignored was any concerted effort to improve consumer and business confidence by resuscitating the most distressed economic sectors.
Vehicle sales are running 35 percent behind year-earlier levels; frightened consumers recoil from big-ticket purchases. Falling house prices deter home buying. Why buy today if the price will be lower tomorrow? States suffer from steep drops in tax revenue and face legal requirements to balance their budgets. This means raising taxes or cutting spending -- precisely the wrong steps in a severe slump. Yet the stimulus package barely addressed these problems.
To promote car sales and home buying, Congress could have provided temporary but generous tax breaks. It didn't. The housing tax credit applied to a fraction of first-time buyers; the car tax break permitted federal tax deductions for state sales and excise taxes on vehicle purchases. The effects are trivial. The recently signed "cash for clunkers" tax credit is similarly stunted; Macroeconomic Advisers estimates it might advance a mere 130,000 vehicle sales. States fared better. They received $135 billion in largely unfettered funds. But even with this money, economists at Goldman Sachs estimate that states face up to a $100 billion budget gap in the next year. Already, 28 states have increased taxes and 40 have reduced spending, reports the Office of Management and Budget.
There are growing demands for another Obama "stimulus" on the grounds that the first was too small. Wrong. The problem with the first stimulus was more its composition than its size. With budget deficits for 2009 and 2010 estimated by the CBO at $1.8 trillion and $1.4 trillion (respectively, 13 and 9.9 percent of gross domestic product), it's hard to argue they're too tiny. Obama and congressional Democrats sacrificed real economic stimulus to promote parochial political interests. Any new "stimulus" should be financed by culling some of the old.
Exactly--pullback the promised non-stimulating funds that haven't been provided and pour them into infrastructure construction now. It won't happen, but it would constitute an actual, you know, stimulus.
The lessons the administration should have learned from this outsized failure:
(1) Spending cash by the wheelbarrow doesn't equal Keynesianism, and
(2) Don't delegate your responsibilities to Harry and Nan, who are giants of political infighting but lilliputians when it comes to sustained thought beyond soundbites and Pavlovian reward/punish imperatives.