Thursday, December 31, 2009
Stage and Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart has received a knighthood in the New Year Honours list for his services to drama.BBC. Since I do think of Patrick Stewart in terms of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Dune," "Excalibur," and the X-Men series, I tend to forget that he is a very talented Shakespearean actor. I offer my congratulations, meaningless as they might be from someone who knows him from his portrayal of Gurney Halleck rather than Macbeth or Prospero.
This past year has seen an enormous increase in visits; my non-rigorous skimming of the sitemeter stats suggests most of those are coming from Google's image search. But I have quite a number of followers, and I know quite a few others subscribe in RSS. I don't know how to get a tally of the latter, but the point is, there are a number of people who read my blog, but don't necessarily get counted.
It's sort of mind boggling to me that 4000 to 5000 people a month, maybe more, stop by this place to pay attention to me laughing and griping in roughly equal proportion.
I'm flattered and proud. Thanks folks, for making a cynical, morose old curmudgeon feel like he's a part of peoples' lives.
So I'm a cynic. Sue me.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Maybe I'm a wuss, but stuff like this does make me cry. It's a little embarrassing, but only a little. And I'd hate to think I'm the kind of person who wouldn't shed a tear at a bird determined to fly if it was the last thing it did.
In the fall of 2003, the new commander of American forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, decided on a new strategy. Known as counterinsurgency, the approach required coalition forces to work closely with Afghan leaders to stabilize entire regions, rather than simply attacking insurgent cells.Afghanistan really hurts. I felt then, and still do, that the invasion of that country was justified. I felt then, but no longer do, that we could really do some good for that country's people. Now our strategy seems to be "have Nintendo graduates based here in the US fly drones around and blow up weddings."
But there was a major drawback, a new unpublished Army history of the war concludes. Because the Pentagon insisted on maintaining a “small footprint” in Afghanistan and because Iraq was drawing away resources, General Barno commanded fewer than 20,000 troops.
As a result, battalions with 800 soldiers were trying to secure provinces the size of Vermont. “Coalition forces remained thinly spread across Afghanistan,” the historians write. “Much of the country remained vulnerable to enemy force increasingly willing to reassert their power."
Doesn't seem to be working, but maybe it's just me.
All that is a long-winded preface to pointing out a flash animation of the rise and fall of empires over the last 6000 years in the "middle east." I put the name in quotes, because the map animation zooms and pans to cover much of the Old World during its course. Very Cool! Hat Tip to blogger buddy Pygalgia.
In his memoir, "Against All Enemies", Clarke wrote that when he first briefed Rice on Al-Qaeda, in a January 2001 meeting, "her facial expression gave me the impression she had never heard the term before." He also stated that Rice made a decision that the position of National Coordinator for Counterterrorism should be downgraded. By demoting the office, the Administration sent a signal through the national security bureaucracy about the salience they assigned to terrorism. No longer would Clarke's memos go to the President; instead they had to pass though a chain of command of National Security Advisor Rice and her deputy Stephen Hadley, who bounced every one of them back.If you haven't, you should read Against All Enemies. Clarke has, with some justification in my opinion, been criticized as being self-aggrandizing in this book, but that's beside the point. He paints a portrait of an administration obsessed with Iraq and the previous administration. If Clinton felt Al-Qaeda was a threat, then obviously it wasn't.
06 August 2001: George Bush is on vacation in Texas, and is given a briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." Bush is reported to have heard the briefer out, then responded, "All right. You've covered your ass, now."
03-04 September: George Bush ends his vacation and returns to Washington.
11 September 2001: 'Nuff said? Maybe not... here's Mary Matalin on CNN Sunday. Yes, three days ago:
"I was there [in the Bush White House]. We inherited a recession from President Clinton and we inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation's history. And President Bush dealt with it."And here's Dana Perino a month ago:
Dana Perino's status as an almost member of Team Obama isn't keeping her from bashing the White House. Last night she told Fox News' Sean Hannity that she thought the President was playing politics by refusing to describe the massacre at Fort Hood as a terrorist attack. Perino then decided to get extra Fox News-y by mangling some facts when she said, "We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term."Yeah. Right. Never Forget. Also too, by the way,
The NBER's Business Cycle Dating Committee has determined that a peak in business activity occurred in the U.S. economy in March 2001. A peak marks the end of an expansion and the beginning of a recession. The determination of a peak date in March is thus a determination that the expansion that began in March 1991 ended in March 2001 and a recession began.18 September 2001: 80's Thrash Metal rears its ugly head.
The 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, also known as Amerithrax from its Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) case name, occurred over the course of several weeks beginning on September 18, 2001. Letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and two Democratic U.S. Senators, killing five people and infecting 17 others. (A 2004 study however, has shown that the total number of harmed people should be raised to 68)12 November 2001: AA Flight 587 crashes in Queens, New York. After being told over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over by NTSB representatives that there was no evidence of terrorist involvement, but that an investigation was underway, all the little newshounds dutifully report that this was probably another terrorist attack.
Lockwood quits watching TV news.
And the final outcome:
Nonetheless, terrorism was officially ruled out as the cause by the National Transportation Safety Board, which instead attributed the disaster to the first officer's overuse of rudder controls.22 December 2001: Richard Reid (AKA Abdul Raheem and Tariq Raja) is overpowered by flight attendants and other passengers after attempting to detonate PETN explosives hidden in his shoes. He was screened on French soil and was traveling from Charles De Gaulle International Airport (Paris) to Miami International Airport.
Obama's record for his first year:
05 November, 2009: An Islamic Army psychiatrist kills 13 and wounds 30 others, at Fort Hood Texas. Hopefully, it will become clearer during the trial as to the degree of fanatic involvement in this act. It has been reported that
Hasan attended the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, in 2001, at the same time as Nawaf al-Hazmi and Hani Hanjour, two of the hijackers in the September 11 attacks. A law enforcement official said that the FBI will probably look into whether Hasan associated with the hijackers. A review of Hasan's computer and his multiple e-mail accounts has revealed visits to websites espousing radical Islamist ideas, a senior law enforcement official said.However,
Hasan is an American-born Muslim of Palestinian descent, who had on a number of occasions expressed radical beliefs, and had communicated by e-mail with Anwar al-Awlaki, but FBI terrorism task forces had determined him not to be a threat prior to the shooting.As far as I'm concerned, the jury hasn't even been in yet, so it can't be out. This may be a terrorist action, or it may be the action of a single deranged man pushed over the edge. I don't know, but I'm willing to be convinced either way as the trial unfolds.
(In an attempt to be fair, I've looked over a number of articles to try to determine whether Obama received any briefings prior to Christmas regarding heightened terrorism concerns. I presume that major travel holidays are routinely treated as periods of heightened concern and that Obama is routinely filled in regarding those concerns and related procedures. But I find no clear indication that he was given any warning or indication of a particular risk.)
25 December 2009: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is overpowered by flight attendants and other passengers after attempting to detonate PETN explosives hidden in his underpants. He was screened on Dutch soil and was traveling from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.
Clearly, the problem is that those danged dems just want to coddle the terrorists and ignore the danger. I mean, it's obvious to anybody who watches Fox News.
"They just don't get it," Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee, wrote in a fundraising letter for his gubernatorial campaign. "These are the same weak-kneed liberals who have recently tried to bring Guantanamo Bay terrorists right here to Michigan!"Just like Bill Clinton, who personally trained all 'leventy-seven 9/11 terrists to fly jets, and the complete opposite of dubya, who kept us safe and free for every single day of his eight-year reign.
Monday, December 28, 2009
I've been sitting on this one for a while; if you make a habit of following science news, there's a good chance you've already seen it. But I have to say, the issue here is not so much fascinating science (though it is), but my initial reaction.
The mental image of a fanged turkey swooping out of a tree and biting me on the shoulder just cracks me up; even more so when I try to picture the turkey as a velociraptor. From The NYT (Came in RSS today, I think it'll be published tomorrow):
While the NYT article is current, this news has been popping up for about a week.
Nat. Geo. 12/21
The Guardian 12/21 (This article has a lovely photo of the prepped pair of jaws)
New York Daily News 12/22 (Wouldn't have to my attention but for two intermediaries: Matt at DinoGoss, who posted an amusing bit of snark on the incompetence of the author of the article in NYDN, and ReBecca, who put this post in her shared items, where I read it.)
The first four links all say pretty much the same thing, and it does sound like a great creature to add the dinosaur pantheon, but still... "OMG! That goddamned turkey just bit me!" Ah, Ha, Ha! We'll just cook it up for dinner. That'll learn'em.
Dave Hone, in his blog Archosaur Musings, offers some pointed insight into why professionally trained scientists have a jaundiced view towards pop media's (especially TV's) idea of "documentaries," and offers some comments on ways the producers of such shows could try to get it better. I heartily support the popularization of science, but it is frustrating and infuriating when they (again, television, I'm looking at you particularly) get simple things just plain wrong. The instance that probably led to the post is described by Dave here, but the problem is rampant and egregious; this is just one of the worst offenses.
As I was assembling this post and getting ready to move on to Mayon, Nat. Geo. posted a nice gallery of photos of current and recent activity at this Philippine volcano. As always, the most up-to-date and authoritative sources are the two volcano bloggers, Eruptions (here's today's Mayon Update, and the link to posts with the Mayon tag, which will pick up past and future posts on this volcano), and The Volcanism Blog, which I just realized has been on break since last week. The author says in his last post that he'll be back tomorrow, so again, this link will pick up future and past posts on this beautiful, but dangerous, peak.Above is an image from NASA's image of the day gallery (click the pic to double up, or follow the link for more info and other size formats), acquired on 12/15 and posted on 12/23. You can see a small plume of gas and ash drifting toward the WNW, but more important to note are the densely populated areas at the mountain's foot. This will be a case study in the difficulties of eruption forecasting. It was recognized early that the mountain posed a terrible danger, and roughly 50,000 nearby residents were evacuated. As time goes on without a major eruption, the evacuees are getting frustrated and returning to their homes... and idiotic tourists are trying to get in for that "once in a lifetime" photo op. Which could well end up with a "last of a lifetime" photo op.
Speaking of eruptions, an Oregon State University researcher was in the group that captured video footage of the deep sea eruption I mentioned a while back. I'm not terribly surprised; OSU has a world class College of Oceanography, and as you might guess, quite a number of skilled volcanologists. However, I find this interesting for a couple of reasons: first, as I mentioned before, I have seen quite a few outcrops of rock similar to that (texturally, not compositionally) created in this eruption, and it's a thrill to see that the eruption is quite similar to what I had envisioned. Second, this is, to me, so much more valid a reason to be proud of one's Alma Mater, than, oh, let's say, its football team. I always get a little bit of a boost in my self esteem from stories like this.
Followup, 12/29: Another lovely photo of Mayon in today's online edition of Der Spiegel.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Over the past decade, according to BTS, there have been 99,320,309 commercial airline departures that either originated or landed within the United States. Dividing by six, we get one terrorist incident per 16,553,385 departures.On the other hand, what are the odds that the insecure folks at Homeland Security are going to make you so miserable you wish you could explode just to spite them? I guess you can't have a probability higher than 100%, but they're working on it over there.
These departures flew a collective 69,415,786,000 miles. That means there has been one terrorist incident per 11,569,297,667 mles flown. This distance is equivalent to 1,459,664 trips around the diameter of the Earth, 24,218 round trips to the Moon, or two round trips to Neptune.
Assuming an average airborne speed of 425 miles per hour, these airplanes were aloft for a total of 163,331,261 hours. Therefore, there has been one terrorist incident per 27,221,877 hours airborne. This can also be expressed as one incident per 1,134,245 days airborne, or one incident per 3,105 years airborne.
There were a total of 674 passengers, not counting crew or the terrorists themselves, on the flights on which these incidents occurred. By contrast, there have been 7,015,630,000 passenger enplanements over the past decade. Therefore, the odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning.
For the last hour of the flight, you now have to sit in your seat with your hands folded in your lap. No food, no computer, no nothing. And if you think you might have to use the bathroom, expect to be arrested and charged with failure to obey a cabin Nazi, or some other felony beef, so you might as well wear one of those homicidal-astronaut diapers.This is gonna work real well with kids. And elderly. And many with health problems. I've read elsewhere that EB Misfit's "no nothing" includes books and magazines. As she points out in a later post,
The purpose of terrorism is to terrorize. So what has the Underwear Bomber managed to do?...
Think of the sheer stupidity of "Sit In Your Seats With Your Laps Empty For the Last Hour of the Flight (Or the Air Marshal Will Shoot You in the Head)" rule. What is so magical about the last hour of the flight? Anyone who smuggled a bomb or an Insane Chemist Bomb-Making Kit(tm) on board could try to blow the thing up at any point of the flight. (Don't expect the DBP to figure that one out, by the way.)
All of this without doing much more than scorching the terrorist. I'd rate the attack as "very successful".Yes, as Silver points out, flying has become such a dangerous, terrorism-vulnerable undertaking, that we should all just stay on the ground.
Fine. I'm there.
Followup, 3:50 PM: Oh, joy. Here's a big surprise.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an Independent who aligns with the Democrats, has promised hearings when Congress returns for its break.(CS Monitor) I'm sure Traitor Joe is all over making sure people are safe and healthy. This isn't about him, nosirree.
I need a button, four inches in diameter, with this picture. I'd wear it every single day. From Pygalgia
Strive for your dreams... via Epicponyz
It's such a relief when they play together nicely. Blackadder
Beautiful picture, hilarious caption... Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Never would have guessed... Criggo
see more Engrish. No thanks. I'll go use your alley.
Best. Name. Evar! Epic Win
Oh, how can you be in four places at one, when you're not anywhere at all? Oddly Specific
Only the freshest ingredients for this fine young cannibal. I Hate My Parents
Probably Bad News
Oh, man, that would've been so cool! Partially Clips
Via The Daily What
Cyanide and Happiness
Amazing Super Powers
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
I think all sex toys should be labeled, "Keep away from children." Probably Bad News
Ugliest Tattoos... the most horrifying of three in a post that's pretty horrifying, titled "Eye Don't See the Problem Here." I'm officially satisfied with two, even if they sometimes don't work all that well.
Regretsy... with the caption (which is what cracked me up), "I hate it when I fall asleep with gum in my mouth."
see more Funny Graphs
I never thought a dish called "soybean paste pot stew" might be my first choice... Engrish Funny.
Probably Bad News... perhaps if you stay at home and hide in the closet, they won't find you. Their title to this was pretty funny too, FYI.
Cyanide and Happiness
Via Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
From Ads of the World via The Daily What (Click the first link for the full-size picture: an absolutely awesome anaconda!)
Criggo- but was it the defendant or the litigant?
Probably Bad News... now I have to figure out where I can get refried dog food and refried cereal.
Engrish Funny(Epicponyz) Aaaannnd, one more Christmas picture to wind up this year's Sunday Funnies. Until next week and next year, I'll see you in the funnies. (Also, if you missed yesterday's bonus Christmas Funnies, there's the link)
Saturday, December 26, 2009
English Beat, Tears of a Clown:
UB40, Red, Red Wine:
Trivia: Two members of the second group, Andy Cox (guitar) and David Steele (bass guitar), went on to form the first group. The third song was originally written and recorded by Neil Diamond in 1968.
see more Funny Graphs
The Saturday Bulletin
The true meaning of the Holidays, via Criggo.
Christmas is ruined. The terrorists have won. Via BuzzFeed
“I have nothing against the little drummer boy. I just wish he’d learn a new song.”From Shoebox
This is my life... via The Daily What.
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
I skip more videoclips than I watch, but the "engineers with cats" series is almost always worth the time; this one is no exception. (Spoiler: Pew-Pew-Pew) Via The Daily What.Amazing Super Powers (click for readable)
Tree Lobsters... finally, an explanation that makes sense.
Luke Surl's Surveillance Santa Society
I'm planning on being very, very naughty so I can get a sample of coal next year. (Anthracite, please) Criggo
From Not Always Right, a compendium of anecdotes demonstrating that the customer isn't. Poor kid. I can relate.
(Mall | London, UK)
(I am the elf at a Santa’s Grotto display in a shopping centre. A very well-dressed, eloquent boy, no older than 5, sits on Santa’s lap.)
Santa: “Merry Christmas, young sir! Have you been a good boy this year?”
Boy: “Oh yes, Santa! I’ve been extra good all this year because mummy and daddy said if I am extra good, I can have whatever I want!”
(Santa looks up to the smiling parents, who are nodding approvingly.)
Santa: “Well, it does seem you have been EXTRA good this year! What would you like?”
Boy: “Angelina Jolie.”
(Santa looks again at the parents, who continue to smile and nod like this is a standard request.)
Santa:“You’d like Angelina Jolie for Christmas?”
Boy: “Because I’ve been extra good!”
Santa: “I’m sorry little guy, I don’t think she would fit in my sack.”
Boy: “Oh don’t worry, I don’t want Brad Pitt. You can give him to someone else!”
Fellow Oregon blogger Fran posted this clip of a kitteh getting the scare of the season... I've already watched this a half dozen times, giggling at each jump. In a similar vein...
And finally, not so much funny as whimsical (but I laughed), The Big Picture has 42 snowy scenes that warmed the cockles of my heart down to my frozen toes.