March 31, 2004

Arrogant Protestant Ignorance On Parade

I'm not a Roman Catholic (more a Deist Methodist), but I would think this were offensive if it weren't so laughable. (Hat tip: Fr. Jim Tucker who found it at Ship of Fools' Fruitcake Zone).

On a related note, Belle Waring at Crooked Timber links to a wicked riff by Michael Berube on the Left Behind series.

(I have to be careful not to be too scathing as I know several otherwise smart and educated friends and colleagues who have read those stories and not only liked them, but found them to be spiritually meaningful. For a more fun story about the end times, I instead would recommend this latter-day Heinlein).

Posted by JohnL at 10:30 PM | Comments (0) |

Best of Hubble

I feel like I've linked to this before, but even if I have, it's worth repeating (note well: large download; requires Shockwave plugin).

(Hat tip: Jerry Pournelle)

Posted by JohnL at 10:11 PM | Comments (0) |

Paris or Marge?

When I saw the title to this post at Transterrestrial Musings, I thought for sure that Rand had also seen the March 29 entry at Gravity Lens (probably will be archived here soon), regarding the Maxim covers that simultaneously featured both Marge Simpson and Paris Hilton. Apparently, the Marge version is selling out faster than the Paris version. Maybe there is some hope for Western Civilization.

Posted by JohnL at 09:59 PM | Comments (0) |

March 30, 2004

Musician Jokes

Got this Canonical List of Musician Jokes from the Larry Niven listserv (subscribe here).

Posted by JohnL at 12:15 AM | Comments (0) |

March 29, 2004

Ancestral Accomplishments

Looks like Alan Brain is on this earth against the odds.

His grandfather survived four years of active duty as a sniper on the front lines in World War I and lived to tell the tale to a young Mr. Brain.

I don't have a similar tale of wartime courage about either of my grandfathers, but my maternal grandfather, Joseph M. Hill, MD, did manage to save the lives of thousands in World War II thanks to a method he developed of freeze-drying blood plasma. (See pp. 44-45 of this file, and the second paragraph of this one).

I wonder what stories my hypothetical grandchildren will remember about me?

Posted by JohnL at 11:36 PM | Comments (0) |

Classical Readings

Father Jim Tucker, a libertarian Catholic priest in the diocese of Arlington, VA (where I lived during law school) points to this site, where you can hear audio clips of Greek and Latin classics with their original "classical" pronunciations (as I learned them in high school).

Posted by JohnL at 11:30 PM | Comments (0) |

Heinlein Wrote Fantasy?

It's true, the master of hard-SF wrote a few fantasy stories.

New Troy has a review by Robert Wilfred Franson of The Man Who Traveled in Elephants, one of Heinlein's fantasies (collected here and here).

Franson points to this vignette shared by Spider Robinson about the story in Requiem: and Tributes to the Grand Master:

[Says Robinson, presenting a battered old paperback for Heinlein to autograph]: "Mr. Heinlein, sir, I fetched this particular book because it contains my single personal all-time favorite story of yours of all time, sir."

He is used to people gibbering at him; he nods and waits politely. "It's called 'The Man Who Traveled in Elephants' --" and his face sags slightly and I panic oh hell what did I say wrong fix it fix it "-- I mean, hell, that's just my opinion, who am I --" and then I break off, because whatever he is doing with his face is the opposite of frowning.

"That," he says slowly, "is my personal favorite--and no one's ever had a nice word to say for it until now."

As they say, read the whole thing.

Posted by JohnL at 11:01 PM | Comments (0) |

Old Photo Blogging

While Glenn has been busy photoblogging with modern digital cameras, TangoMan at Gene Expression is blogging about the century-old color photographs of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudi-Gorskii, "Photographer to the Tsar."

I didn't even know that there was a color-photography process as early as the 1900's and 1910's. But there was, and TangoMan links to the page explaining how three different grayscale images were taken with blue, green, and red filters and then projected onto a screen using the same three filters. (Commenter Jesse also points to these links on "autochrome" technology).

Laws of physics being what they are, it shouldn't be surprising that similar filtering and combining techniques are being used to beam us color pictures from the surface of Mars one century later.

Posted by JohnL at 10:30 PM | Comments (0) |

Sunday Song Lyrics

If you're not a regular reader of the Volokh Conspiracy, you should be. Lots of smart commentary on matters of law, policy, and culture with a libertarian bent.

This year, Juan Non-Volokh has been posting a different song's lyrics each Sunday. His musical tastes seem to be as eclectic as mine. This week's selection is Prelude to a Kiss, by Duke Ellington. Go read the lyrics. If you can avoid having any sappy thoughts about someone you love or have loved as you read them, then you are hopeless.

Posted by JohnL at 10:14 PM | Comments (0) |

March 25, 2004

More Good News From Mars?

It appears that both the Mars Express orbiter and an earthbound team have independently detected Methane in Mars' atmosphere, on the order of 11 parts per billion. This is exciting news, as it points to the possibility of life, or of vulcanism (or both).

(Hat tip to Fred Kiesche at Martian Soil who turned me on to new blogroll member MainlyMartian).

Posted by JohnL at 09:30 PM | Comments (0) |

More Air Force Blue

Ted has another "boring" installment of Air Force Blue up at RocketJones. More fun stuff about security police training.

Money quote: "Big fun. Really. Like playing as kids, except we had real M16's full of blanks."

Posted by JohnL at 09:09 PM | Comments (0) |

I Wonder if Pee Wee Likes to Pluck His Twanger?

I used to like Pee Wee's playhouse, especially after staying up all Friday night on a few occasions back in college.

Now Paul Reubens (a/k/a Pee Wee) is back in the news, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor obscenity charge in exchange for dismissal of the more serious child pornography charge leveled against him because of some questionable photographs seized from his home three years ago. Under the terms of the deal, Pee Wee cannot have unsupervised contact with minors, must register as a sex offender, pay a $100 fine, and enter counseling.

That's all just background for you to watch this neat little gem of children's programming.

Posted by JohnL at 08:53 PM | Comments (0) |

March 24, 2004


I just had to use that title after seeing this at Reason's Hit and Run blog.

Posted by JohnL at 11:36 PM | Comments (0) |

March 22, 2004

Fifty-Word Fiction

Last week, Ted at RocketJones pointed to this site featuring 50-word fictional works.

Here's my entry (logging in at 49 words, including the title):

The Sixth Republic

Beautiful bodies on the beach -- the Riviera.
Then, the bomb.
Like Byzantium's Hagia Sophia, Notre Dame is now a mosque.
As with Spain (now Andalusia), we could have fought.
We didn't.
France has its sixth republic: La Republique Islamique.
Baggy burkhas on the beach -- the Riviera.

I've been trying to expand this to a novella or novel length, but to little success so far. The bracketing lines of this story come from this image contrasted with this one.

Posted by JohnL at 10:55 PM | Comments (0) |

Rapper Ice Cube Knighted

He wrote these lyrics to celebrate the momentous occasion:

Ima muthaf***in G straight out the west,
you be throwin up signs, I be throwin up my crest.

Ol' b**** in London knew I was nice,
I f***ed that b**** till she called me Sir Ice.

Comin' atcha head with my double-edged steel,
you f***ed up n****, now you gotsta kneel.

Ice Cube comin' straight out over the ocean,
now the queen b**** wants the three-wheel motion.

Used ta carry guns, now I gots a sword,
Sir Cube comin' straight out tha psycho ward.

(It's satire, people. Via McSweeney's).

Posted by JohnL at 10:14 PM | Comments (3) |

"Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tender?"

"There are some who call me. . .Timothy?"

Sorry there, er, Timothy, for calling you "Tim" in all of my previous posts. Didn't mean to presume anything, Timothy. (Though to be fair, you did have that Python quote up on your blog when I first linked).

Just please don't presume to call me "Johnny."

Posted by JohnL at 09:02 PM | Comments (0) |

It Ain't Over 'Til. . .

The London Royal Opera House recently fired Rubenesque American soprano Deborah Voigt from a role in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos that would have required her to wear a small black evening dress. This has led to some interesting but predictable hand-wringing over merit versus looks. After all, isn't opera all about the music?

Well, no, not exactly. This article cites a couple of good reasons that an opera company may legitimately exclude a plus-sized singer: if the role calls for a starving or sickly character (such as Mimi in La Boheme), or if the staging calls for active movements (say, up and down stairs on stage).

[Warning! Gratuitous name-dropping moment: please note the mention in the Miami Herald piece of my childhood friend Laura Claycomb, a rising star in the opera world, with whom I had the pleasure of singing and touring in my old church's youth choir back in the mid-1980s].

This debate calls to mind last year's blog coverage of the report that good-looking college professors score higher on course evaluations than the more homely.

Posted by JohnL at 07:54 PM | Comments (0) |

March 19, 2004

Washed Up Musicians Received Special Grammy Award

Details here.

(As you can see, the real headline is much funnier, but this is a family blog).

Looks like I just found a "news" site to go along with the Onion.

Posted by JohnL at 12:21 AM | Comments (0) |

March 18, 2004

Another Model Site

I built an Enterprise model much like this one when I was a kid.

I also had a phaser and communicator set, but not as nice as these. Wish I hadn't thrown them away.

Am I mistaken or does this Captain Kirk look a bit like President Bush?

Posted by JohnL at 11:53 PM | Comments (0) |

An Olde But Goode One

The Hokey Pokey (by W. Shakespeare(*)):

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.

Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heavens yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.

The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.

(*) Actually, by Jeff Brechlin, 2003

(Hat tip: William Gibson's archives)

Posted by JohnL at 09:55 PM | Comments (0) |

Ground Control To Professor Hall (Or, Spacecraft Oddity)

Your circuit's dead
Is there something wrong
Can you hear us Professor Hall?
Lots of interesting space-related news over the last month. Your commentary would be welcome. No pressure, of course. Just curious.

Posted by JohnL at 09:49 PM | Comments (0) |


First you take 3 chickens. Then you cook them (and, presumably, eat them).

Save the bones and make an Apatosaurus skeleton.

When you're done, cook some more chickens and build a T-Rex.

(Hat tip: Signal+Noise via Jay Manifold).

Posted by JohnL at 09:39 PM | Comments (0) |

March 17, 2004

Paper Models

Rocket Jones has collated in a single post multiple sources (including one referenced by yours truly) of aviation-and-space-themed paper models. Check it out.

Thanks for the link, Ted.

Posted by JohnL at 09:48 PM | Comments (0) |

Three Square and a Bed

Go to jail for a crime you didn't commit.

Spend 16 years behind bars.

Get released.

Get a bill.

Via Reason's Hit and Run.

Posted by JohnL at 09:37 PM | Comments (0) |

Halo for the PC Review

I have to explain one other reason for the recent sparse posting. Halo PC.

I downloaded the free version the other day to try it out (I haven't bought the full-featured game yet, and probably won't, for the reasons outlined below).

The console version of this game was one major factor in my decision to get an Xbox instead of some other platform for the family. (There were several other reasons, including research and recommendations from trusted family friends, but Halo was the deal-closer). Not to be immodest, but I'm pretty sure that I rock on the Xbox version of this game. I haven't gone against adults in multiplayer (yet), but I have beaten the game on Legendary, and have replayed most of the hardest levels on Legendary several times until I can beat them pretty readily. The chance to play online against real humans is the main reason I wanted to try out the PC version. (The Xbox version does not support XboxLive, although there is a third-party freeware program that would allow me to play head-to-head over the Internet).

I have a decent computer, only a year old: Gateway Pentium IV, 2.5 GHz, 1GB RAM, 80 and 200 GB hard drives, with an upgraded 3D-accelerated graphics card. We also have broadband. The only drawback for a game like this is that I have an LCD flat screen monitor, so the graphics look "cartoony" compared to the rendering on my TV with the console version of the game. I'm not about to invest in plasma, and I'm not about to get a huge CRT monitor just for gaming, so I'm stuck with this look. All this is to say that I can account for the decreased quality in "looks" between the PC and console versions of the game. The sound is still excellent, as is the story, which made this game so captivating to me in the first place.

Unlike James Lileks (who thinks the Mac version is superior to the Xbox one), I think the
computer version is less playable. I guess I am not a PC first-person-shooter afficionado, as I think, frankly, that the mouse-keyboard control setup sucks (for lack of a better term!) I love the feel of the Xbox force-feedback S-Controllers, the intuitive triggering for the guns and grenades, the smooth action of the dual thumbsticks, and, most importantly, the easy access of my right thumb to the critical buttons needed to reload, swap, and jump.

With the PC setup, I have to do most critical functions (including all movement!) with my clumsy left hand. Long story short, I am getting slaughtered in online play. I'm thinking about getting a decently cheap gamepad to see if the PC version would be more playable, but I am really frustrated with the awkward interface. (Hello, Microsoft? I've spent a fair amount on my computer, game console, and software with you --- seems that the least you could do would be to make my XBOX controllers compatible with my PC, especially for Microsoft games. Just a thought. . .)

I understand that Halo 2 will have Xbox live support, so come this Fall the point will be moot. I will happily be going head-to-head with other console gamers like myself!

Posted by JohnL at 09:02 PM | Comments (0) |

Lady Lex, Part 3: Blue Ghost Stories

I know I promised this yesterday. Oh well, so much for using an artificial deadline to motivate my writing. (If you missed the first two posts, here they are: part 1, part 2).

We reported to the Main Hangar Deck at 1700 hours for announcements. The Scouts, as their mandatory service project, had earlier arranged several hundred folding chairs before a raised stage. Unfortunately 7-to-11-year-old kids don't think about putting any space between chairs when lining them up. Sardines in a can would have more elbow room than we did. For those who did not read their Plan of the Day earlier, the Live Aboard program counselors summarized the rest of the evening's schedule and introduced the volunteers who would be leading tours throughout the ship later. After supper, we saw the IMAX movie Straight Up. I saw this movie last summer with my older son when we went to the Aviation Challenge Pilot/Co-pilot weekend program in Huntsville, Alabama. If you haven't seen this movie, you should check it out. I gained a much greater appreciation for the hazards
faced by Coast Guard rescue swimmers and high-tension electric power line maintainence workers. After the movie, we reported back to the Main Hangar Deck for evening colors. A LARGE United States flag (think Patton) hung from the ceiling behind the stage. Different-aged scouts from the various packs and troops presented the flags from each branch of the armed services, including the Coast Guard. We then watched a patriotic slideshow, which included Johnny Cash's Ragged Old Flag and some country version of God Bless the USA.

Now, you have to know me to really appreciate just how deep my loathing for country music runs. Being a multiple-generation native Texan, that makes me a bit of an anomaly. And if you need to know anything else about me, as a libertarian, I am normally pretty skeptical about how patriotism can be manipulated by politicians to gain and consolidate power. So believe me when I say that this show of patriotism put an authentic lump in my throat, against all odds. I thought of the men and women in our armed forces who are in daily danger trying to subdue and reform the barbarians hammering at our gates. In many ways the ceremony summoned emotions similar to my post-9-11 feelings: what would normally seem corny or a little hokey was instead just honest pride and gratitude that I was blessed to have been born here.

After the ceremony, we adjourned to roam the ship. Descending into the engineering section, we heard the first of many ghost stories of the night. Seems the volunteers have seen a few different ghosts (the same ones again and again). They even have a "ghost cam" installed in the ship so that Internet viewers can try to sight them. I didn't see anything (nor did I expect to). But based on my experiences later in the evening, I am sure that the volunteers really have seen ghosts -- or at least hallucinations resulting from suggestability, lack of sleep, and high doses of refined sugar ;-)

After exploring for an hour or so, I got my boys settled in front of Pirates of the Caribbean on a large-screen TV. We then went to the fo'c's'le, a large spookily resonant space for some ghost stories. After scaring the bejeebers out of the kids, we then turned in for the night.

As a footnote, I stood watch as a volunteer fire watchman until 0300 hours, and had an interesting adventure. But I can't divulge the details. Maybe some other time.

After Reveille at 0630, we got ready for breakfast, packed up, and had a closing ceremony. I then made the 8-hour drive back to Plano on 3-and-a-half hours of sleep. Fun.

If you live in Texas and have kids in an organized group, you should definitely look into the Live Aboard program on the Lexington. I have also heard that there are similar programs in other parts of the country on other decommissioned Navy ships. Seek out these opportunities, as they present a truly unique way to teach your kids some history and to have a really memorable experience together.

Posted by JohnL at 08:28 PM | Comments (0) |

March 15, 2004

Lady Lex, Part 2: The Blue Ghost

As mentioned last week, I took my two sons down to Corpus Christi to spend the night on the USS Lexington.

As you can read on her official website, the Lex is a WWII-vintage Essex-class aircraft carrier that was converted to carry jets in the 1950s, and then served with great distinction as a training carrier for almost thirty years from 1962 until she was decommissioned in 1991.

We have a family link to this carrier, as my wife's biological father (a Navy pilot shot down and killed in Vietnam two months before her birth) did his carrier landing training on the Lexington. The Lex accommodates Scout and Y-guide groups in a one-or-two-night "live aboard" program. We did this 2 years ago and had so much fun that we were eager to return when our Cub Scout pack planned another trip this year. (This trip also gave my younger son the chance to experience this as an official Tiger Cub Scout and to get a patch for it).

We checked in at the pier at 1000 hours (military time seems most appropriate here) on Saturday and received our orders: Find your assigned berth (enlisted quarters, three bunks high and spaced only a couple of feet apart), make your bed, get some chow (chili dogs, yum), and explore until 1700 hours. We began after lunch with the flight deck. It's amazing just how big these ships are. Even more amazing when you realize that a modern nuclear carrier like the USS Ronald Reagan is almost a third again as long and about 60 feet wider. My boys liked the F-14 and the Cobra gunship best of the aircraft on the flight deck (I was puzzled by the presence of an army helicopter there).

After touring the bridge and the rest of the conning tower, we walked down to the Texas State Aquarium. I visited it first with my younger son, while my older son continued to tour the ship with one of his buddies (and family). I then deposited the younger son with his friends and their families and got to see the aquarium a second time with my older son, who really appreciated it; he and I have discovered a mutual love for fish through our combined efforts to get his own little 10-gallon aquarium established. We got back to the ship with about 15 minutes to spare, and got ready for the evening schedule:

More tomorrow. . .

Posted by JohnL at 10:28 PM | Comments (0) |

Breaking Radio Silence

I'm sorry for the light posting for the last several days. I took Wednesday through Friday off work to spend some time with my kids during their Spring break and to get some yard work done (lots of fun around the Lanius house).

How did I spend my time? Mowing, weeding, laying brick borders, mulching, trimming. Firing up the grill. Enjoying a homemade margarita while cooking up dinner. Watching Caddyshack and The Manchurian Candidate on DVD. Playing Runaway Train (or, perhaps politically incorrectly, "Mexican Train") Dominoes with the entire family.

In short, staying away from the Internet.

Now, with my creative batteries recharged, I will return to my regular posting schedule.

Posted by JohnL at 10:13 PM | Comments (0) |

March 09, 2004

Removing the Giggle Factor

One nice thing about an article like this one is that it helps to incrementally decrease the "giggle factor" associated with discussing such outlandish notions as terraforming and colonizing Mars. For a more serious examination of the giggle factor, see this military article on planetary defense.

I literally remember an event at my high school (in Physics class, no less) in which I saw the giggle factor implemented mercilessly. In sharp contrast to the Thomistic, sophisticated, and rational priests and teachers in the vast majority of my other classes there, this class was taught be a priest whose thoughts seemed to predate Vatican II (heck, his ideas even seemed to predate Galileo!)

One day, our classroom discussion veered away from pure Physics (we were talking about Kepler, I think, and duplicating his experiment of plotting Brahe's data and discovering that Mars' orbit was elliptical) and one of the students asked about the prospects of life on Mars. Not just life that might have evolved there, but our prospects as a species living there.

I'll never forget how that ignorant ass of a priest dismissed him out of hand, essentially stating that G-d had created "Man" for this Earth and that there was no other life in the universe and no place for Man elsewhere in the universe. Of course, most of the other guys in my class were your run-of-the-mill mundanes, and they were seized by a fit of the giggles. He wouldn't hear the end of it for some time.

The poor guy. At the time I hardly knew him (although I knew him all too well, in a sense, as I had almost identical thoughts about Mars, but somehow had the sense not to chum the shark-infested waters of high school with them), but he is now one of my better friends. How ironic that after all this time, what we geeks felt intuitively back then to be possible, to be true, may finally become a reality.

Posted by JohnL at 11:43 PM | Comments (0) |

Lady Lex, Part 1: The Journey Begins

As alluded to yesterday, I had a big weekend involving the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi, Texas.

The Lexington hosts a "Live Aboard" program for youth groups (mostly Scouts and Y-guides), through which the kids and their parents get to spend one or two nights on this storied aircraft carrier. I picked up my two boys (a 9-year-old Webelos Scout and a 7-year-old Tiger Cub Scout) from school on Friday at 12:30; they got out early for Spring break. We hit the road about an hour later, leaving my lovely wife and 4-year-old daughter behind in Plano.

First thing to understand: Texas is big. No, scratch that. Texas is BIG. Our enrollment in the one night program meant that I had committed to about 16 hours of driving in exchange for 24 hours on an old warship.

Seems like a fair trade to me!

We arrived in Corpus at 9:30 PM and checked into our hotel, located in the midst of the tenderloin of Corpus Christi: strip clubs, hourly motels, shady characters. We ate a late dinner at the McDonald's in the 'hood. Interesting people-watching. Thugs, a likely hooker, a panhandler or two. Good "diversity" training for the Lanius spawn.

We made it safely to the hotel, where my kids were overjoyed to find "Spongebob" on the TV. They would have been happy just vegetating in front of the tube for the weekend. Forget spending the night on a historic aircraft carrier, let's watch bad animation on Nickelodeon! Just proves how right we are to be one of those archaic families that doesn't subscribe to cable or satellite TV.

Well, knowing we would be getting up about 7:00 AM to get breakfast and head for the ship, I decided to terminate Mr. Squarepants at around 11:15 PM. After a relaxing night's sleep and a decent hot breakfast (thanks, Drury Inn!) we set out for the ship. Installment two tomorrow.

Posted by JohnL at 11:16 PM | Comments (1) |

March 08, 2004

Too. Tired. To. Blog.

I had a busy busy weekend and am short on sleep. No real blogging tonight, even though there is a lot to write about.


The Answer.

More details tomorrow.

Posted by JohnL at 10:10 PM | Comments (0) |

Quodnam Elogium Latinum Alienum Es Tu?

If you only knew the power of the dark side.

Postatem obscuri lateris nescitis. ("You do not know the power of the Dark Side.")

There are two possibilities: you are a Star Wars geek, or you are unreasoningly scary.

Which Weird Latin Phrase Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

The best thing about this quiz is that it came from an old friend I haven't heard from in a few years.

Posted by JohnL at 09:07 PM | Comments (0) |

March 05, 2004

Commercial Space Bill Passes House

Thursday March 4, the US House of Representatives approved HR 3752, The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act.

The bill adds definitions to the existing Commercial Space Launch Act for "crew," "space flight participants," and "suborbital rockets," among others and clears the way for suborbital rocket flights with passengers, at least on an experimental basis. The Act is aimed at encouraging X-Prize participants and other similarly-situated rocket developers by removing the legal uncertainties they face, as bill sponsor Rep. Dana Rohrabacher makes clear:

"It is my sincere hope that this bill will encourage individuals like Burt Rutan and others to continue leading the way in pushing the boundaries of technology and safety by building and flight testing hardware, something NASA has yet to do. This fine piece of legislation carries forward my goal of promoting this new industry and cutting back bureaucratic red tape, while protecting the public health
and safety."

Let's hope that with some regulatory certainty, we'll see many private launches in the near future.

Posted by JohnL at 12:04 AM | Comments (0) |

March 04, 2004

Legal Writing Rant

Every now and then, I run across some really clunky contract language. I keep a running list of the worst. Today I found a truly awful one:

"Services. Supplier warrants that all Services and/or work performed under this Agreement shall be performed in a diligent, work-person like and professional manner, in compliance with industry standards, and in accordance with all specifications, drawings, instructions and or documentation as agreed upon by the Parties in this Agreement or a statement of work ("SOW") that will be attached to this Agreement or an SPA or Service Order and incorporated by reference hereof or as otherwise documented in a writing signed by both Parties."

First off, ignore the use of shall, the use of the passive voice, and the double use of and/or (a crutch for the lazy-minded lawyer who can't understand a Venn diagram). Ignore, too, that this is one run-on sentence. Focus instead on that gem of political correctness: work-person like. Compare the previous section:

"Product. Supplier warrants to Company and End User Customers that Products furnished will be new, merchantable, free from defects in material and workmanship and will conform to and perform in accordance with the specifications. These warranties extend to the future performance of the Products and shall continue for the longer of (a) [x] years after the Product is accepted by Company; or (b) such greater period as may be specified elsewhere in this Agreement including a specific project agreement ("SPA ")."

Why isn't that "free from defects in material and work-person ship?" Don't get me wrong. I strongly prefer to use gender-neutral language wherever possible, by recasting or substituting neutral words for masculine ones. (And I abhor the largely academic tendency to apply the goose/gander justice that makes all indefinite subjects feminine instead of masculine). I sometimes use the singular they, which although still not widely accepted, has a long and distinguished pedigree.

I'll even use humanity or humans in place of mankind (though I'm sure Jay Nordlinger would disapprove). But work-person like? There is no such thing.

While I would welcome comments on gender-neutral versions of workmanlike or workmanship, I think it's possible to redraft just as effective a clause without using the offending terms:

"Services. Supplier warrants that it will provide Services diligently and professionally and that they will comply with all applicable industry standards, specifications, drawings, and documentation under this Agreement." [Omit the rest; in a well-drafted agreement with tight definitions, a good amendment clause will take care of the remainder here].

That's all for the writing lesson today.

P.S. Until I get a link to my own terms of use here, I incorporate these by reference. Go read them.

Posted by JohnL at 10:55 PM | Comments (0) |

Terraforming Mars

Brian Doss at Catallarchy summarizes Robert Zubrin and Christopher McKay's ideas on terraforming Mars, linking to numerous resources regarding the technologies and timescales required.

Posted by JohnL at 09:36 PM | Comments (0) |

March 03, 2004

Dutch Treat

This Dutch website has numerous printable plans for making paper space models (rockets, satellites, and even a Mars rover).

Hours of fun for a rainy day.

(Via Hobbyspace).

Posted by JohnL at 08:37 PM | Comments (0) |

Anything But Boring

Ted at Rocket Jones has this article (number six in his "Air Force Blue" series of tales about USAF training and duty) categorized under "Boring Stories." It's anything but.

Go back through the earlier installments, too.

(Money quote from entry number 1: "San Antonio in August. Hell with an accent.")

Posted by JohnL at 07:59 PM | Comments (0) |

Neat and Tidy

James Lileks has dropped several hints over the years that he is obsessively neat. This man color-codes his recovery disks, organizes his canned foods, buys special containers from Target for his refrigerator, and so on. Still, the picture of his study in today's Bleat reveals a surprisingly spartan workplace.

My desk looks like that maybe twice a year (for the 5 minutes it takes me to dust and polish it before returning the piles of papers to their normal resting places).

Posted by JohnL at 07:45 PM | Comments (0) |

March 02, 2004

Mars "Drenched" With Water

There is a fantastic scene in one of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars books (either Red or Green, can't remember off the top of my head) in which the colonists tap an aquifer under the Martian surface, triggering a torrential flood. Is there that much water there now? We don't know.


But NASA announced today that Mars was once awash in water. Drenched, in fact (at least at the Opportunity landing site).

This is great news. If there is still an appreciable amount of water on Mars, then the costs of exploration and settlement decrease drastically. And the chances of finding current or past life increase dramatically.

Posted by JohnL at 09:49 PM | Comments (0) |

Get Religiously Fuzzy

With all the heavy-duty religion going back and forth in the newspapers, on TV, and over the 'net these days, it's fun to see some bad puns and general irreverence on the comics page.

The psychotic Siamese Bucky has invented a new religion at Get Fuzzy. Yesterday's and today's entries made me laugh out loud. Enjoy.

Posted by JohnL at 09:20 PM | Comments (0) |

Happy Birthday, Texas!

It's not my policy to blog from work, which is why you usually see late-night updates around here. But since today is an important date to commemorate, I wanted to get up an early-morning entry, especially for any out-of-state (or should that be "out-of-Republic?") readers.

On this date in 1836, several brave men assembled at Washington-on-the-Brazos and signed their names to the Texas Declaration of Independence.

Just a few short days later, many more brave men gave their lives at the Alamo, standing their ground for their cause despite almost-certain death. Following a massacre of Texans at Goliad on March 27, 1836, a small army led by Sam Houston caught Santa Ana on April 21 by surprise at the battle of San Jacinto. Crying "Remember the Alamo, Remember Goliad," the "Texians" routed the Mexicans and won their independence.

Texas remained an independent republic for the next 9 years, until it was admitted to the United States on December 29, 1845. I'm flying my Texas flag this week, in place of the usual Stars and Stripes out front. Happy Birthday, Texas.

Posted by JohnL at 08:27 AM | Comments (0) |

March 01, 2004

Beautiful Shot of Saturn

Via Adot's Notblog.

Posted by JohnL at 11:12 PM | Comments (0) |

What I Gave Up For Lent. . .

It led to civilization.

I gave up ice cream for the duration, too. More to get rid of empty calories than anything, maybe I'll gain some spiritual insight, too. It's not really a Methodist (or, more generally, Protestant) tradition to give things up for Lent, but I have been noticing many of my [Protestant] peers doing so.

Posted by JohnL at 10:53 PM | Comments (0) |

Great Picture Show

From a Marine aviator in Afghanistan. (Via Instapundit).

Posted by JohnL at 10:47 PM | Comments (0) |

Sad News

Lawyer, historian, and former librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin passed away on Sunday at the age of 89 from pneumonia. Obituaries here, here, and here.

I read (and quite enjoyed) his The Discoverers. A much better read than Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, which I am still slogging my way through. I have been meaning to read Boorstin's next two books in his intellectual history series, The Creators and The Seekers, and will now make a point of doing so. Favorite line from the New York times obit: "In the late 1960's, when antiwar protests swept the nation, he was a target of student radicals whom he denounced as 'incoherent kooks' and 'barbarians.'"

God bless him. May he rest in peace.

Posted by JohnL at 10:44 PM | Comments (0) |