Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday glamor shot

A little shot of Pixel basking in the bar of morning light that comes into our bedroom (and often attracts an array of flopped felines)...

Pixel in light and shadow
Have a good weekend, y'all!

Strange product of the day

Simultaneously hilarious and creepy -- the ultimate hand soap...

(via boing boing)

Invisible money-suck

gas nozzleA dailyKos diarist has an interesting way of looking at the real price of gas, factoring in the amount that we spend for defense and security related to the Mideast sources, not to mention the loss of the more productive ways those dollars might have been spent. Looks like we're paying an amazingly steep tax, but it's just not applied at the pump.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Kyl-Lieberman amendment

TPM TV has really become a great resource for keeping track of complicated stories developing on the national scene, with Josh Marshall laying out the sequence of events, summarizing documents, showing clips of testimony. Not every episode has that focus, but yesterday's was a great completion to my Tuesday rant about whether we were going to roll our way into Iran via amendments to other legislation. Turns out that the offending amendment received some substantial revisions, taking out some of the worst parts, but the final version, passed overwhelmingly, still raises some concerns. Watch the summary here.

Best of pals

BAGnewsNotes does a great job of unraveling a picture and story in the Washington Post which attempts to help establish Hillary Clinton as the inevitable Democratic nominee and recipient of George Bush's blessing. Most critical here is that the photo accompanying the (odd) piece was six years old -- totally mislead your readers much?


Adventures in produce VIII: Strange mix of seasons

Ok, I've been getting a sense of the seasonality of produce from this undertaking. That is, until this time...

daikon, sweet potatoes, et al.
Ok, we start with sweet potatoes (in the bag) and daikon radish (white). A smattering of small ("stuffing") peppers. But wait, Swiss chard? Didn't we get that in week 1?

tomatoes and watermelon
More tomatoes (regular in bag, and heirloom out of it), redleaf lettuce, another watermelon. (Isn't it September? Well, some folks got apples...) We also got a bag of potatoes, which I guess I couldn't be bothered to photograph this week.


How many years into this Iraq war business are we? Four? Apparently nobody ever told military commanders how to handle contracters working with/for/against them, especially when they misbehave. Military rules? Civilian justice? Pure Wild West no-holds-barred shoot-em-up ok? (I think the answer speaks for itself.)

Democratic parade

donkeys go head to headFor anybody who, like me, missed last night's Democratic candidates' debate, TPM has a pithy roundup of the highs and lows.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wow -- just... wow

Springwater companies, not content with selling us rebottled tap water at high prices and environmental cost, take a leap into the surreal by selling pre-packaged ice cubes -- that is, their magic water in little ice trays, that you can freeze for yourself. Because that $1 ice tray is just too much to face. Capitalism at its finest, folks.

(via Alas, a blog)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Headed down that same %$#@! road . . .

That is, apparently an amendment today (co-sponsored by Lieberman, of course) is the first step in laying the groundwork for intervention in Iran. EEeeesh. Has no one the spine to say, Not again?!

Well, Jim Webb stepped up. I'm not clear whether the vote has happened yet though.

Due to be kept back a year...

A little video report card on the Bush Administration's job performance with respect to "homeland" security -- after all, they've had six years to put everything right, right?


Another reason not to rely on cell phones

Big Brother's all-seeing eyeThe government can now get a retroactive warrant for all of your movements, using your cellphone as a tracking device, and the standard of evidence for such a warrant is lower than usual because this is "historic" not "live" tracking. I'm sure that will make us all sleep much better at night.

(via boing boing)

Stupid kids

Well, the first big veto showdown is likely to come over the renewal of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which is widely popular in Congress (and the nation) but apparently stands in the way of Bush's larger plans to further wreck the national health system get adults to use more private insurance. There might just be enough umph to override a veto on this one, but the pressure is likely to be heavy. (Insurance-industry funders might be even more important to the Bushies than military contractors!)

Meanwhile, below the radar, the White House is up to other rape-the-nation games, this time requesting that the Everglades be removed from the endangered list of UN World Heritage sites (see also here). NPR speculated that Bushies were trying to "erase a black eye" from the nation's conservation record, but surely that's a wishful explanation. I'd guess that hungry developers or nearby farmers would like more leave to trample the wetlands for their own benefit.

These guys sure know how to look after the country's needs, eh?

Update: wow! even the health/insurance industry backs this bill! Bush is really off in the deep end on this one!

Wait, maybe things *aren't* going swell in Iraq?

Thomas Friedman, famous (and widely mocked) for saying over and over that "these next six months" (measured from any current moment) would determine the future of Iraq, now says we're out of time. Welcome to reality space-time, Thomas!!

(via Atrios)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sure, we live in a post-racist world

racesLatest RNC attack is that Obama is too intellectually lazy to be President. Lazy black folk, always laying around the porch... wait, who's that current feller setting records for vacation taken in office (during a war, no less)? Oh yes, it's ok if you're (white and) a Republican!

Not a pretty sight.

Friday, September 21, 2007

In case you're wondering what it's all about

Seen the coverage of demonstrations in support of "the Jena 6"? Heard they were accused of murder, which was then lowered to battery, and unsure why this is a civil rights cause? MissLaura at dailyKos does a good job of summarizing the background to these arrests, in which white students using racial intimidation were given wrist-slaps while the reponding black students were charged with crimes...
What took place in Jena is not aberrant; it's consistent. The details are a local disgrace. The broader themes are a national scandal. Jim Crow Jr. travels well--unencumbered by historical baggage.
Worth a read just to realize that we're not all operating in the same century all the time...

Rudy iffy on First Amendment

Thinks that "there are lines that shouldn't be crossed" in speaking one's opinion of politics and political figures. And, you know, those lines are just this side of thought or criticism.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Forget the poor and tired; we don't even want the talented and harmless

This story makes me feel a bit ill -- a UK citizen, longtime US resident, and college music professor is detained after a research trip, has her visa ripped up, and is sent "home" with no explanation of why she was considered a Person of Concern.
"They told me I was nobody, I was nowhere and I had no rights," she said. "For the first time, I understood what the deprivation of liberty means."
The passage of over a year, the intervention of the British consulate, and the pleas of her professional society (and her fiance) have all done nothing to advance her case. America, the walled fortress; makes one so proud...

(via boing boing)

Today's pithy quote

gender mash
Interviewer: Do you see the world through the prism of gender?

Gloria Steinem: No, the world looks at me through the prism of gender.
(via Echidne of the Snakes)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Getting to the heart of books?

A wonderful take on books, via artistic defacement: Brian Dettmer's Book Autopsies. Fantastic, both those that reveal illustrations and those showcasing mostly text -- I want one! wow.

(via boing boing)

Ohmygoodness -- addictive and educational!

snip from start screenI am almost speechless in the face of this brilliance: Statetris, a variant of Tetris that involves dropping the states into their correct locations (more difficult = having to rotate them too, or having no labels). Inspired, inspired. Need more torment? try other parts of the world . . .

(via kottke)

Sometimes the nicest people surprise you

That is, who knew there was deep civil strife in Belgium?? Enough that there's serious talk about partition, which might already be underway except for the difficult question of who gets Brussels. No, really.

Shiny new leaves

For anyone who's nervously contemplating a career change, Bob Harris has some reassurance...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cat kabuki

Our cats have all kinds of ritualized interactions, which often involve full minutes of gradual paw raising, sometimes ending with that (and a back-down) and other times proceeding into a mutual head-whap fest (the last recourse of fierce but clawless cats). It looks like dominance behavior, although there's little question anymore about who rules the roost, so there must be more to it. I wish I could get video to show how slowly the early steps go by . . .

the first raised paw

Here Pixel approaches with *slowly* raising paw.
Yogi waits to see whether that's the end of it.

Yogi whapping

As you can see, Pixel proceeded to put a foot on the tree, and Yogi responds with some whapping from her superior position.

Pixel prepares a return whap

Now we're past kabuki into mutual whapping. Yogi is a premium hisser, but she's liable to back down when it's no longer worth the hassle . . .

Monday, September 17, 2007


There have been some awkward political self-revelations this summer, but the most painful thing I've seen is this video of John McCain denying reality, contradicting testimony he elicited, and generally showing either a huge detachment from the real world or an immersion in spin so deep that he no longer knows where he stands. Either way, I hope he gets out of this race -- I, for one, can't take anymore...

Fighting back

This sort of story gives me hope: after bullies beat up a kid for wearing a pink shirt, two classmates initiated a counter-campaign in which some half of the student body showed up in pink tank tops. The bullies were furious, but the message got through. Pretty impressive for highschool students; I hope their parents are proud as heck.


Friday, September 14, 2007

The next front

This writer speaks a lot for me, and how I hope that our children (mine and those of my peers) can be raised to be thoughtful and creative individuals, unconstrained by the narrow expectations of their (or my) grandparents' era. I anticipate that my having such a goal will lead to a nontrivial degree of conflict with the expectations of family, school, and the broader society, but change can only happen where one lives . . .

Quote of the day

If you are going through hell, keep going.
Winston Churchill
(on the back of the label of my bottle of Honest Tea)

Edwards interview(s)

For those still weighing their options among the Democratic Presidential candidates (and I count myself as one), I recommend this two-part interview with John Edwards conducted over at Talking Points Memo. It is largely focused on foreign policy and Iraq, and Edwards says some good things about the need for long-term international cooperation in controlling terrorism, about how the Senate should be handling Bush's funding requests ("no timetable, no funding"), and about his analysis of the situation on the ground in Iraq (present and looking ahead). The interview is interspersed with some clips from Edwards' speech given the same day, to flesh out his views on some of these points, and he also ruminates a bit on how his candidacy is different from the other candidates' and from his own in 2004. Good information; I hope that the TPM folks will try to track down Obama and Clinton as well.

Update: it's also worth reading this post at dailyKos, which compares some foreign policy white papers written by Edwards and Obama (and also, so far, by Guiliani and Romney). Heartening flashes of reality there, and even some inspiration. Some of my favorite quotes:
In the Islamic world and beyond, combating the terrorists' prophets of fear will require more than lectures on democracy. We need to deepen our knowledge of the circumstances and beliefs that underpin extremism. (Obama)

Rather than alienating the rest of the world through assertions of infallibility and demands of obedience, as the current administration has done, U.S. foreign policy must be driven by a strategy of reengagement.(Edwards)
Again, will be interesting to see Hillary's contribution to this discussion.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Intriguing mystery

a metal barThe "reference kilogram" kept in Paris for standardization of weights and measures is gradually losing mass when compared with other copies:
"The mystery is that they were all made of the same material, and many were made at the same time and kept under the same conditions, and yet the masses among them are slowly drifting apart," he said. "We don't really have a good hypothesis for it."
I can't imagine a chemical explanation -- perhaps we're not meant to have a perfect representation of mass . . .

Exposing the absurdity of The Surge

An odd advertising-like campaign makes fun of the surge as an answer to all your prayers:
First installment

Second installment
Clever stuff, in that familiar frustrating way...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Line of the week

Goes to Barak Obama, as part of his strong new speech on Iraq:
The bar for success is so low that it is almost buried in the sand.
Indeed. Am impressed that he's coming out with a not-later-but-now position on this; had feared that all the Top Candidates would shy away from such leadership (Edwards is being treated as almost second tier, and thus a bit of a lonely voice). If nothing else, perhaps this will push Clinton to notice that the American public is developing a high degree of unanimity behind rational action . . .

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Some thoughts for quailing Democrats

Why they're so focused on "compromise" when the American people want us out of Iraq now I cannot say, but if they need some infusion of spine, perhaps these analogous quotes will help them think again. We're not fooled by the Dance of the September Reports, and if you can't act with the nation behind you, why are we still paying you guys?

Poem of the day

the death of a soldier

life contracts and death is expected,
as in a season of autumn.
the soldier falls.

he does not become a three-days personage,
imposing his separation,
calling for pomp.

death is absolute and without memorial,
as in a season of autumn,
when the wind stops,

when the wind stops and, over the heavens,
the clouds go, nevertheless,
in their direction.
wallace stevens
(from collected poetry & prose, p. 81)
(via The Dao of Wallace Stevens)

Adventures in produce VII: Some fall bounty

Actually a couple weeks behind here, but here's the last heap of veggies from our farm-share:

peppers, squash, watermelon
Red bell peppers, a small watermelon, two delicata squash, and a spaghetti squash.
(Unfortunately, I don't really love squash. Luckily, the delicatas made some great curried soup!)

tomatoes and eggplants
Those pale things on the left are eggplants; the rest are tomatoes (heirloom in the bowl).

corn, onions, potatoes
Probably the last of the corn, along with a bag each of onions and potatoes.

We get some more veggies this week; not sure how many more weeks there will be. This healthy stuff has been well timed for our little cloning project . . .

Monday, September 10, 2007

Two birds with one . . .

Get Your War On has another great recent strip, pulling together the high points of our recent foreign and domestic policies.

Update: a little older, but still funny (both topically and for injections of randomness) here.

Role model

What Bush is teaching our youth . . .

(via Follow Me Here)

Bending reality

I like to consider myself a master image-tweaker -- I've Photoshopped people out of photos, fixed blemishes and creases, and recast images for use as logo-like art. But this video just blew my mind -- they've found a way to encode which parts of an image include content (say, the mountains and trees, as opposed to the open sky), so that you can scale the image without distorting the main features. Essentially, instead of removing uniform bands of the image, as cropping would, it removes "seams" of low-content pixels one at a time (or adds them, when you're scaling up) so that you have the effect of less change to the main features of the image. Their software also allows certain features to be tagged for either protection (i.e., faces, where a little distortion can be hugely disruptive) or removal (time for that embarassing uncle to disappear from the beach!). I can't convey the degree to which this feels like a revolution in image... sanctity, I guess. You gotta watch it.

(via Follow Me Here)

Friday, September 07, 2007

The passing of a great soul

photo of L'EngleCaught off-guard by the news that Madeleine L’Engle passed away yesterday. She was an amazing writer, of fiction (and not just for children; the broken characters in A Severed Wasp still haunt me), of nonfiction, of spiritual explorations -- I feel very lucky to have had the chance to meet her at a "Master's tea" while in college, and to have found her just as thoughtful and gracious in person as in her writing.
"Why does anybody tell a story?" Ms. L’Engle once asked, even though she knew the answer.

"It does indeed have something to do with faith," she said, "faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically."
I think your words mattered to a lot of people, Ms. L'Engle. Thanks for sharing all great stories, and all the searches for meaning, high and low. We only wish there could have been more.

(via boing boing)

"Incomplete" by my standards

Apparently General Petraeus will testify before Congress, but no written report will be presented by him to either Congress or the White House. Will the White House present nothing, then? Perhaps the GAO report already said it all, and they're hoping to say a lot less . . .

How exactly to measure progress on benchmarks in the absence of both a report and any agreed-upon facts? Or are we giving up that pretense too? Sigh.

(via Talking Points Memo)

Daily snark

TPM brings it to Fred Thompson . . .

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The fear and torture brigade

For anybody who didn't watch the GOP debate in NH last night, TPM has a 12-minute highlight reel that captures the sense of it, some great (and painful) quotes, and personal and policy statements of various sorts whose veracity you can probably judge for yourself. elephantelephantelephant No commentary added.


The DCCC gets all catty about its opponents...

I picked the wrong day to give up sniffing glue...

Things you don't really want to hear from your airline crew: your plane had some technical problems, but they were fixed by our sacrificing a goat. Enjoy your trip!

(via boing boing)

Today's cool science finding

test tubesTwo things are cool about this story: first, that an animal that we've been familiar with for ages (the moray eel) turns out to have a whole anatomical feature/function we previously knew nothing about, and second, that any creature would have this particular feature -- a second set of jaws that hang out in the throat region until they are needed to leap forward and drag large prey down into the gullet. The abstract for the paper makes it sound like throat-jaws, in and of themselves, are something common in fish, which is also something I never knew, and leads to fascinating ruminations about the evolutionary duplication that could have generated such an arrangement. Spiff!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Idiots claiming seriousness

This is a bit of a meta piece, since it's about skewering the pundits. But really, it's about how the groundwork is being laid for military action in Iran, the early steps being to define those who support such lunacy as Right-Minded Serious Folks.
Thus, Hiatt's attack on [IAEA Head] EdBaredei begins with the complaint that he "was lionized by opponents of the Iraq war" for being right. That's because in Hiatt's world, having been right on Iraq -- and being "lionized" by war opponents -- are actually hallmarks of unseriousness.
Really, the loops of logic documented here (not only denying the facts but reversing their own positions and actions over decades) are enough to make your brain quiver. Also clear, the script that's being peddled is depressingly identical to that used to justify the Iraq war. Will our media (and Congress!) be so credulous as to allow us to instigate another disaster in the name of, um, Seriousness?

(via Atrios)

Make the most of the last hot summery days!

Inspired: a method for baking cookies in your hot car in the sun -- requires some patience, and doesn't brown the cookies, but still, cookies baked in your car! (plus, imagine the great smell!)

(via boing boing)

Thoughtful feller, our President

two faces of BushI don't know the tenor of this forthcoming Bush biography (although a title like "Dead Certain" leaves room for quite a bit of color), but the excerpts say it all pretty well... Yeesh.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Grim humor is all we have left to us

Bush Refuses to Set Timetable for Withdrawal from Crawford:
President George W. Bush said today that he understands and respects the views of those who are calling for him to cut short his summer vacation, but warned that an immediate withdrawal from Crawford, Texas would "send a terrible signal to the enemy."
And so forth . . .

(via Follow Me Here)

Quote of the day

How many minutes of the war do you think you'd have to divert funds from to rebuild New Orleans as a fucking stately pleasure dome? ... Five minutes?
- Jick (Zach Johnson) on KoL radio, 8/30/2007