Saturday, August 14, 2010


Not a surgical procedure for weight loss, but "Grand Unified Theory of Palinisms." Jacob Weisberg, who you may remember as the archivist who collected eight-plus years of Bushisms, is still at it, but with a new collection. Following is an excerpt from his book Palinisms: The Accidental Wit and Wisdom of Sarah Palin, due out in a couple of days, and previewed at Slate:
But the best Palinisms of all result when the huntress encounters something she wasn't hunting for—that is, when Sarah Palin comes into contact with most anything to do with domestic, foreign, or economic policy. It is this situation that generates those priceless let me tap-dance and, also, sing for you a little song while you think of a different question moments. One such was the juncture in her mind-boggling 2008 interview when Katie Couric asked Palin to name a Supreme Court decision she disagreed with, other than Roe v. Wade. Surrounded by hostile forces, out of cartridges for her Remington, she bravely held her ground and kept pulling the trigger, to no effect:
Palin: Well, let's see. There's—of course in the great history of America there have been rulings that there's never going to be absolute consensus by every American, and there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So, you know, going through the history of America, there would be others. But, um.

Couric: Can you think of any?

Palin: Well, I would think of any again that could best be dealt with on a more local level maybe I would take issue with. But, um, you know as a mayor and then as a governor and even as a vice president, if I am so privileged to serve, I would be in a position of changing those things, but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.
Weisberg's Bushisms were (and are-Shrub's limited public appearances mean fewer misunderstatementisms, but Weisberg has kept the site up to date) often side-splitting, and I much appreciate his work in putting together the definitive collection. Likewise, while the Palinisms project seems a little limited at this point, I expect it will be expanded after the book makes its initial run.

However, I think that simply listing all these strange quotes (and they are strange) for the LOLs misses the point. First, it gets old pretty quick. Second, it overlooks, even obscures, the strange phenomenon of Palin: here is a person who apparently cannot tack together an intelligible sentence in the English language without a prompt, and even then it's iffy. Yet people are paying her hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, for her writing and speeches. What does that say about the media, and what does it say about us? That is the book I'd like to read.

For me, the definitive compilation of Bushisms, and what it says about our culture, is Mark Crispin Miller's The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on A National Disorder. Oh sure, there's lots of yucks in the book, some tear-inducing. But it's placing them in context, and showing how and why Bush was a perfect match for modern TV, while Gore was a poor fit indeed, that makes it such a compelling read. For people who weren't paying attention pre-9/11, I still highly recommend it (here's a good review, and here's the Amazon Page), and though I haven't read any reviews of Weisberg's book yet, I hope he has tried to do a little of this needed contextualization of Palin's malapropisms. Yeah, such stuff is funny to a point, but it won't be if Caribou Barbie decides to run for POTUS and we let the media play us for suckers yet again.

Temperature Extremes

According to NWS/NOAA, we just reached 100 degrees a little while ago. I don't cope with 90+ happily, and the centennial mark feels like a stake in the heart to me. On the other hand, it's a dry heat. With a dew point of 47, the relative humidity is 17%, and there's a bit of a breeze. So it's more of a convection oven feeling rather than being pressure cooked. I'm thinking I may go home and take a nap and a cold bath at the same time. As I mentioned to someone a few minutes ago, it's days like this that make me appreciate February. Could be worse, I suppose, and Monday, it looks like it might be. But we're nowhere near our all time records. This chart from Bits and Pieces is pretty wild. If I had thought about it, I might have guessed our record range was in the neighborhood of 160 degrees, but both the record high and record low are more extreme than I would have assumed.

Caturday Sweet Story

From CSM a few days ago; click over to read the whole thing.
A few benches from my own I saw a middle-aged man whose face betrayed the buckeye-colored hue of someone who spent long hours outdoors.

Was he unemployed? Homeless? Or did he simply like to spend time in the park? I was pondering these questions when a movement behind the man caught my eye.

From beneath a bush an orange cat appeared. The cat took a few tentative steps into the light, looked at the man briefly, then walked purposefully to a spot on the path just a few feet in front of his bench.

The cat plopped down on her side and gazed at the man expectantly. The man responded by smiling and speaking a few words of Japanese, which, from his tone and attitude, I took to be something like, "You're a little late today." It seemed obvious that these two had met before.


Billy Idol, White Wedding

Guadalcanal Diary, Litany (Life Goes On)

The Call, The Walls Came Down

This is a sound-impaired live version from 97; the original is, of course, embedding-disabled. I love love the lines, "I don't think there are any Russians, and there ain't no Yanks. Just corporate criminals, playing with tanks."

Warning Labels

Can't imagine I'd need this one too often...
...nor this one. A very fun article at Tom Scott: Making Stuff Happen provides PDF formats for printing both UK and US warning stickers to denote bad journalism. Sadly, since I do almost all of my reading online these days, they'd merely clutter up my screen. In fact, given that I'd go through several sheets per day, they'd completely obscure my screen within an hour or so. On the other hand, that would prevent me from being exposed to further bad journalism.

Friday, August 13, 2010


The Astronomy Picture of the Day editors seem to have realized that to move beyond just "Wow! That's awesome!" to truly heart-stopping photos, they need to bring in a little geology- earthly or otherwise. They've really been on a rip the last couple of weeks, with some very memorable images; I thought I'd go back and point out a few that dropped my jaw. These will get bigger if you click on them, and most have larger still versions by clicking the links, then clicking on the image for full-size. Also at the links are more complete descriptions.APOD 7/27: The Milky Way over Bryce Canyon National Park.
APOD 8/01: Thought to be volcanic domes on Venus, reconstructed from radar data (color not natural).
APOD 8/03: Fish eye view of the ground, stitched together with three panoramic views of the horizon and sky recreates the planet of The Little Prince. Click over and move your cursor over the photo for labels on various astronomical features.
APOD 8/04: Eclipse shadow cone over Patagonia, Andes Mountains in the distance.
APOD 8/10 Below, dune field in Namibia. Above, dune fields on- get this: Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Some of the similarities of Titan's geomorphology to Earth's are, well, unearthly. The description doesn't say what the composition of the sand is ("sand" specifies a grain size, not a composition); I suspect it's water ice. Ice appears to make up an important lithological component of Titan's surface. What we think of as "water" here would be considered lava to a Titan native, and "groundwater" would be the equivalent of magma.

Oh How I Love Teh Innerwebz

I might have forgotten today was Friday the 13th. (Nedroid Comics)So now I need to go find a black cat and get it to cross my path, or a ladder to walk under. If nothing else, I can go home and smash my bathroom mirror. It's like in grammar: double negatives cancel out.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Humility Is Not A Prerequisite

I'm sure you've heard that Wasilla Hillbilly hanger-on Levi Johnston will either have his run for mayor filmed as a reality TV series, or run for mayor as a stunt for a reality TV series. Several points:
  • What does this have to do with "reality?"
  • Is Levi actually literate enough to fill out the relevant forms, or will the producers help him out there?
  • Just when you thought it would be impossible to make American politics any more trivial, laughable and undignified...
This story has been all over the place, and really wouldn't be worth remarking on if I hadn't seen this:
Jones says Johnston is serious about a run, either for mayor or City Council.

Asked whether he believes people will take the run seriously, with TV cameras rolling, Jones said: "People questioned Jesus Christ, so I definitely don't care about these mere mortals questioning Levi Johnston."
So all you mere mortals out there, Levi Johnston deserves to be taken as seriously as Jesus. I guess that's pretty serious.

Kitteh Can Has A Musical

Other kitteh has a puzzlement.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Slo-Mo PNW Earthquake

I've been reading about these critters for some years, and I find them confusing.
So-called "tremor-and-slip" events have occurred about every 15 months since they were first detected in 2002. The latest was found early Sunday north of Olympia and west of Tacoma, and is expected to travel north under the peninsula toward Vancouver Island. UW scientists say it can't be felt at the surface, but over the course of several weeks can release as much energy as a magnitude 6 earthquake.
I doubt I'm alone in that. The amount of seismic energy released is surprising to me: I would have guessed it was in the range of four to five, much smaller by a factor of 30 to 1000.

Comments like this, "Vidale said better understanding the changing slow-slip patterns may provide clues in advance of the next Cascadia mega-quake," should always be regarded carefully. Yes, it may, but on the other hand, it may not. In either case, without supporting information, theoretical framework and evidence, the alert reader should assume there's no reason to believe that X is likely to lead to Y. It's simply a possibility.

One other thing I should point out: The energy released in this quake is tiny compared to the amount anticipated in a major Cascadia subduction quake, typically discussed as a magnitude 9 (+/-). The difference between the former and the latter is a factor of 32,000, so this event is not dissipating any significant fraction of the region's latent seismic energy.

Interesting article overall; I'm left curious as to the apparent periodicity of these events, and why they're apparently restricted to the northern end of the subduction zone.

How The Internet Works

according to the late Ted Stevens. I'm sure we'll all miss his wisdom, and I know a whole state full of people who really resent paying taxes will miss his ability to get hundreds of millions of federal dollars for bridges to nowhere. (Senor Gif)

Wednesday Wednesday

From Mademoiselle Minx

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday Tits

Crested Tit, Lophophanes cristatus (formerly Parus cristatus), from ebirder.