31 October 2009

Bye-Bye Daylight Savings Time, Kimosavee


Republic of Lakotah site relates:

"When told the reason for daylight savings time the Old Indian said: 'Only the Government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom and have a longer blanket.' ”

Liu Bolin, The Invisible Man

30 October 2009

Zoom! Zoom! Zoom!


Atomic goodie for you. How big is small? How small is big? As I sat here in my cell, this I found illuminating (work the slider): http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/begin/cells/scale/

27 October 2009

Who Wears Short Shorts? - Or - Decadence Alert!


Two things Belgium invented: "French" fries and...the Famous Underwear Museum.


Why not go to Saks or Bonwit, or what have you, and see the damn skivvies for free before the famous buy them?

Let's look on the bright side: the museum's debut may vex the crowd that denounce the Shroud of Turin as a fetish.

Neather World


A public statement by former Labour speechwriter Andrew Neather reveals that Britain's Labour party (the liberals over there) determined secretly, without so much as a by-your-leave to British voters, the deliberate immigration policy of forced multiculturalism to alter willfully the makeup of the UK population.

20 October 2009

Ever Wonder Why...?


So how come the British drive (or motor) on the left but ride their underground escalators on the right?

18 October 2009

Flying Down To Rio

What was this - Brazil's Olympic anti-aircraft trials? No, just another turf war among drug gangs.

13 October 2009

Another Iraqi Our Boys Will Have To Go Back To Winkle Out Of A Hole?


UPI reports Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has been up to some clever democratic tricks in behalf of himself and his party. Perhaps President Obama might suggest to Maliki that he take a Ba’ath?

12 October 2009

A Leonardo Found


By a fingerprint in its media (surrounded by the white box) a hitherto misattributed Leonardo is found. How marvelous it is to look upon a so splendid a work from that superlative, nonpareil genius.

10 October 2009

COP Keating (Kamdesh), follow-up


To buttress the conclusions I drew in my previous post, this from a 9 January 2009 Jason Motlagh report on combat outpost Keating (Kamdesh):

“Given their low-lying position at the base of a ravine carved by the Landay River, members of B Troop, 6-4 Cavalry train their weapons at a 45-degree angle during firefights, shooting up into the trees where insurgents creep almost unseen.”

09 October 2009

Little Dienbienphu


George Santayana's epigram needs repeating (again, dammnit): "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

The recent Taliban assault which breached the outer perimeter of the US-ANA outpost at Kamdesh, Afghanistan, seems to be the fault, the responsibility of someone, or many someones, in the US armed forces who did not bother to study the French Union Forces 1954 defeat by the Viet Minh at Dienbienphu.

Kamdesh invited enemy assault before the Taliban attack on it began. Kamdesh repeated all the errors the French made at Dienbienphu, and the officers who chose it actually made worse errors than the French made. Both Dienbienphu and Kamdesh lie in low ground, in the middle of valleys. The main French base at Dienbienphu was at least a short distance from the mountains that ringed it - so it was like being at the bottom of bowl; but the outpost at Kamdesh is like the bottom of a test tube - it's in a tight valley, not just surrounded but hemmed tightly in by precipitous peaks which gave the Taliban terrain even more advantageous than that enjoyed by the Viet Minh around Dienbienphu.

Both battles were also intelligence failures: in both cases the defenders' intrinsic and higher command intelligence operatives failed to detect the long, slow enemy buildup of positions, weapons, and troops that came to surround and assault the outposts.

In both battles the enemy assault forces could and did shoot down, not just at the troops holding those outposts but also down at the aircraft upon which both of those posts depended for resupply and casualty evacuation.

I've nothing but the highest praise and eternal respect for our US soldiers' expertise, grit, and bravery, and I have - perhaps - praise also for some of the ANA soldiers (our US troops themselves will tell you that ANA units' loyalties are not to be trusted, and about a dozen or so of the ANA defenders of Kamdesh seem to have gone missing - captured or killed by the Taliban, or...?). Yet direct comparison of superior officers' choice of Kamdesh with that of the French high command's choice of Dienbienphu cannot, must not be ignored or dismissed. Given the experience of the French Union Forces at Dienbiephu the best I can say about the US choice of Kamdesh is: you can't make this stuff up.

Lose Olympic Games, Win Consolation Nobel Peace Prize

The Marx Brothers - or, for those of you whose cultural depth goes only so deep as the sophomorics of Saturday Night Live or Jon Stewart's Daily Show - could not have concocted so outrageous, so absurd a farce as the Nobel Committee committed has performed by its award to President Obama of the Peace Prize - for his just showing up.

After all. Yassir Arafat had to devote years of his life to studying revolution in the Soviet Union, mass-murder a few thousand Jews and Moslems, incite millions of Moslems and morally bankrupt Westerners to anti-semitic fervor, and embezzle millions of dollars of Moslem contributions and Western aid into his private Swiss bank accounts to merit his Nobel Peace Prize. I suspect that in voting for the award to Obama the Nobel Committee members simply agreed to say to one another: "Yes, We Can."

Words, on this Nobel Committee award, nearly failed me. The best I can, at this provocation of further loss of faith in what little remains of self-crumbling Western Civilization, come up with right now is: Ours too often dependably proves itself a ludicrous species.

07 October 2009

Press My Hot Buttons


First there was barter. You manually hauled your stuff to meet with someone who'd hauled their stuff to the meeting spot. Cumbersome system this barter thing was. Hard on the back too. Even harder when the barter was interrupted by brigands who'd just swooped in and scooped up everything that you and everyone else had come to barter. Barter's User Friendly Rating: 2.

Next came money. It was common currency - everyone in the same country used the same money. Supermarket checkout - no problem. User Friendly Rating: 10.

Then came checks. Same as money, except you have to write this money yourself. At the supermarket you could pay by check, but only if you’d first trooped to the Discourtesy Desk and filled out forms, jumped through a bureaucratic hoop or two, to get a Store Card which entitled you to pay by check at checkout. Unfortunately...stores did not disallow pay-by-check in the Express Lane. Thus nullifying the meaning of the word "Express" - and too often turning that lane into Gridlock Alley. Checks' User Friendly Rating: 4.

Consumer Convenience History was next made by grocers’ introduction of the Universal Product Code bar code (UPC), which sped checkout like substance abuse grease sped countless crappy actors down the Jan Michael Vincent-Gary Busey Career Slide Into Oblivion. Way to go, UPC! User Friendly Rating: 10.

Now we have Debit Cards. Wonderful invention they are, too, because when in possession of a Debit Card, backed by a positive balance in the bank account to which you’d linked your Debit Card, you feel relieved of having to carry loads of cash all over the place, thus mugger-proofing your money. However several glitches with Debit Cards emerged.

First, in the checkout lane there’s the customer in front of you who apparently created a unique PIN for each card in the assortment of plastic cards that she possesses: credit cards (x 4); debit cards (x ??); Best Buy card; Breast Cancer Donor Platinum Card; NORML Gold Visa; Veterans Of Foreign Time-Share Weekends Card; the It'sForTheChildrenUNICEF Silver card; Frequent Preferred Log Jam Card; and more such what have you.

So you stand there, your ice cream bricks melting on the rubber checkout belt all over your bag of thawing jumbo shrimp, while Miss Cards Of A Thousand PINs at the Debit Card Keypad does her best impression of genius codebreaker Alan Turing as she tries keying, one after another, every possible four-digit combination until she finally lucky-guesses the one that triggers TRANSCATION APPROVED. Two nights later when you go to spoon ice cream from your home freezer-refrozen ice cream brick you discover that its peripheral contents have turned into something resembling fossilized mastodon tissue - and, just your luck, Ron Popeil has yet to invent the Kitchen Jackhammer. Then your next evening’s supper tastes funny - I don’t know much about Darwin, but are shrimp supposed to have angora-like pulpy-fuzzy coats?


Second, for you to use your Debit Card each store has its unique adventure-packed Unfamiliar Customer-Interface Check-Out Keypad - known by the industry insiders' acronym UC-IC-OK.

Unlike the wonderfully standardized UPC-barcoded product packages which scan on every supermarket’s and retailer’s scanner ever invented, each store’s UC-IC-OK keypad is uniquely configured to bewilder customers and slow the hell out of the checkout lane: function buttons in different places; different buttons on each keypad; differently colored buttons on each one; different DO YOU WANT CASH BACK? arrangements and “standard” amounts; and so on and so forth (as they say on all those New York Cop shows). And, just to make things evermore jolly and Customer-Convenient, each UC-IC-OK keypad has a different, store-unique keying-and-customer-approval procedure - just to keep us Information Age-Fluent consumers high up in the Computer Literacy Anti-Migraine Census.

But some of these UC-IC-OK keypads so cunningly hide the CLEAR and the BACKSPACE buttons that, as you stand there at the keypad with nine customers in line behind you, you think you’re on TV with Howie Mandel, under enormous pressure to pick’n’press the right button before the customers behind you in the checkout line start making tempting Banker Offers to buy you the hell out of their way before their ice cream bricks melt and their thawing shrimp grow their fuzzy-pulpy Darwin angora-coats. But then the bewildering assortment of store-unique UC-IC-OK devices are, after all, just one more Modern Convenience manifestation of the Information Age’s innumerable inventive examples of The Great Leap Sideways.

There’s another NFL-Time-Out-seven-commercial-long hold-up with the IC-UC-OK checkout keypads. Some people - narcissists, sadists, misanthropes, perverts - use the keypad-swiper to swipe not their Debit Card, but one or more of their credit cards. This is a whole new ball game. Because - here you go again - each store’s unique IC-UC-OK keypad has, of course, a unique procedure for credit card transactions. The endless assortment of Special Education learning curves for each store’s different IC-UC-OK keypads are time-gobbling bad enough for Debit Card transactions. But their learning curve for credit card customers can only be surmounted if you’re lucky that the credit card customer in front of you has prepared for this Close Encounter with this store’s unique IC-UC-OK keypad by her having taken the precaution to have earned a Higher Mathematics magna cum laude diploma, with a minor in Sumerian petroglyphs, from MIT.

So, UC-IC-OK keypads’ User Friendly Rating: Oh, wait, we’re not there yet because... 

Each unique IC-UC-OK keypad has - of course! a unique LCD display screen. Many of these are the wishfully-named "touch"-screens. Unfortunately the Government Mandated Customer Abuse Testing Protocol for touch-screen devices seems to have omitted actual customer testers. Which means that the little touch-digit-squares on the millions of assorted touch-screens that have been customer-abused for more than ten thousand transactions each don’t activate when you touch them with that Special Inkless Touch-Screen Stylus-Wand that’s tethered to the UC-IC-OK keypad.

If, that is, one of those Wands - or Magic Styluses, or Styl-O-Wands - or whatever the hell they’re called - is actually still tethered to the IC-UC-OK keypad.

And - you saw this one coming, didn’t you? - even when you find a Styl-O-Wand tethered to the keypad, it’s tether is made of the most incorrigible, most vexing Self-Tangling-Self-Knotting Plast-O-Cord™ ever invented. So that from your life-span you now deduct the half-life of the Uranium 235 atom, because that's how long it takes for you to disentangle the frikking Plast-O-Cord so you can, you know, wield the Wand the way the Wand was - supposedly - designed to have been wielded. Quite involuntarily you find yourself thinking, “Good thing Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother’s wand wasn’t made by the forward-thinking designers and wand-tether-purchasing-agents over at Self-Tangling Plast-O-Cord™ Corporation.”

So you give up on the Wand and instead you poke the touch-screen digital-squares with your finger (and probably your finger comes away with your brand-new very own perfectly aggressive Swine Flu culture - or with a minute particle of some previous customer’s cart back-seated, touch-to-learn-about-the-world, playful toddler’s booger donor sample). But your finger’s efficiency for this keypad function doesn’t match that of the Styl-O-Wand. So you stand there, fingering-in LCD-flat screen digits in their proper order. But because the touch-screen was not designed for Human Booger-Finger Interface, but instead for Wand-Held-Only Activation (WHOA), the screen doesn’t register one, or several, of the digits from your finger-touches. So...you have to start all over again from LCD Swine Flu-Booger Digit Square One. But only after - yep, you guessed it! - you’ve found the cleverly, mysteriously located CLEAR button.

So let’s see. UC-IC-OK keypad User Friendly Rating: -273 degrees Kelvin.

Except, of course, when it comes to your semi-fossilized ice cream brick and your suddenly sweater-fashion-conscious shrimp.

So now you’re done here at checkout. Right? Oh, no. Wait. Wait. Because before you trundle - or as your already pushing like Sisyphus - your cart from the World’s Greatest Avoidable Unique Digital Keypad Procedure Bottleneck, you have to...Stop. Right. There. Because you can't leave without your having heard and obeyed your checkout clerk's Magic Words:

“Hit ‘OK’."

Low Man On the Totem Pole

06 October 2009

The US, The West, Lost The Moment Iraq & Afghanistan Made Their Constitutions Subordinate To Sharia


Concerned about Iraqis’ persecution and murder with impunity of Iraqi religious minorities and homosexuals despite the sacrifices made by US and coalition troops and vast expenditures from the US treasury? You might want have a gander at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, USCIRF Annual Report 2009.

We - the US, the West - lost the Iraq and the Afghanistan campaigns the moment Iraq's and Afghanistan’s elect made their constitutions subordinate to sharia.

Iraq's constitutional delegates also asserted in their constitution the Moslem "identity of the majority," and they made no requirement for the civil legal scholarship of judges while they stipulated preference be given to selection of judges schooled in sharia.

It's for the same root reason - Islam’s adamantine supremacy - that NATO is losing in Afghanistan; and no increased amount or degree of General McChrystal's No-See-Islam "hearts and minds" nonsense of a "strategy" is going to reverse the ongoing Afghanistan débâcle.

Clouds Got In My Way


A new cloud type, undulus asperatus, has been identified and recognized. To me - I'm a veteran of the Naval Weather Service - this a proper marvel!

To see more images of undulus asperatus click on the hypertext above the photo.
(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

04 October 2009

Prescription For Our United States


Walter Rodgers' sensible Christian Science Monitor essay opposes US stay in Afghanistan, proposes civil conduct of affairs should characterize domestic "nation-building."

Money quote: "Members of Congress must see themselves as colleagues, not enemies, and the public must not let buffoons with megaphones shape the debate at the expense of serious-minded observers."

With that quote I concur; but I must say that for so long as mass media behave as mass media have come to behave - which is as mass cheerleaders instead of as responsible reporters, I don't hold onto much hope of its prescription taking effect. Thank God, then, for the blogosphere.

(Hat tip: my old good friend John K. Ryan)

Literary Hate Crimes


Enjoy this Times review of Poisoned Pens, Gary Dexter's book on authors disparaging other writers' works.

The review lacks, to my faint dismay, Truman Capote's splendid, accurate, apt execration of Jack Kerouac's monotonous, dismal On The Road: "This isn't writing. This is typing."

02 October 2009

Iran's Nukes

Am I alone in grasping that the real danger from a nuke WMD Iran is not Iran launching IRBM's/ICBM's at the targets of its ruler's rhetoric? The actual danger consists in Iran sneaking nukes to proxy, stealthy terrorists who, unlike Iran's despots, have no state to rule and who, singularly, demonstrate no attachment to their personal longevity.

Can you you say dirty bomb? - a device whose suicidal delivery system would give Iran plausible denial of its having been the bomb's source. Even if a post-detonation forensic fingerprint of a dirty bomb revealed Iran's nuke stash as the source, then Iran can policy-deny sponsorhip of the dirty bomb team, and announce that a "rogue extremist" on Iran's nuclear energy staff - no doubt a rogue who "misunderstands Islam," or who is "mentally unstable" - spirited the offending hot rocks to the bomb's delivery team.

And - can anyone having even rudimentary knowledge of the post-Shah behavior of Iran's poobahs expect that Iran will agree to turn over its uranium hoard to another power? Okay, let's say that Iran shifts uranium to another country for processing: does no one imagine that its rulers wouldn't have - quite intelligently - first squirreled-away a fall-back glow stash?