Looking for the Heinlein Quote of the Month for December, I ran across this great site. Hit refresh to cycle through the 375 quotations assembled there.
I love the Internet.
(Via Gene Expression).
Between guest-blogging and Thanksgiving last week, I completely failed to tally the votes from our last poll, update the Gallery, and set a new poll up Thursday. I was getting tired of that time-slot anyway, so we'll start running this little feature every Tuesday, beginning tonight.
This week we have a trio of Vulcan lovelies from the Star Trek universe:
Results (Posted 7 December 2004):
Today's Drudge Report has a wonderful, wacky variety of news.
First up, Dan Rather talks to ghosts.
Interesting: Pat Sajak speaks truth to Hollywood about the Van Gogh murder.
And finally, it appears that ABC's housewives might pull the network into second place for this "sweeps" period, likely bumping NBC into third.
(I have to share a guilty confession, like J.T. at Wizbang: I enjoy watching that trashy show with the missus). Why? Two good reasons under the fold:
This week's featured aircraft is the aptly-named Douglas X-3 Stiletto:
I posted my take on the book and some thoughts on religion over at Freespace.
I hope all of you have had a happy, peaceful, and relaxing Thanksgiving Holiday. Last year, I posted a list of things for which I am thankful. I don't think I would change much of anything on it this year.
I have posted George Washington's original Thanksgiving proclamation from October 14, 1789 in the extended entry:
WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.
(signed) G. Washington
Via Rand Simberg (who got it from Jay Manifold), an entertaining set of satirical textbook disclaimers parodying the efforts of school boards to undermine evolutionary theory. The first "sticker," in the upper-left-hand corner, is the only real one on the page:
This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.
My favorite parody:
This textbook contains material on gravity. Gravity is a theory, not a fact, regarding a force that cannot be directly seen. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.
(Cross-posted at Freespace).
Gene Expression, a facinating site covering topics related to human biodiversity and genetics (one of my daily reads), has created a spin-off site covering science fiction. Check it out.
Robert Heinlein is, obviously, one of the unifying themes of my blog. I first became acquainted with what I would eventually come to understand as "libertarianism" through his juvenile fiction such as Between Planets, Space Cadet, and Tunnel in the Sky. Later works such as Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Friday, and Job: A Comedy of Justice all greatly informed my views on government, religion, and society.
I recently finished reading The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein. Until I ran across a review of a short story from this collection at New Troy a few months ago, I never even knew Heinlein wrote fantasies. But then these really aren't "fantasies" in the traditional elf, swords, and sorcery sense.
I ran across a real gem in this collection, entitled "Magic, Inc." I would love to see this story included in high school government class curricula since it shows the monopolization of a profession (magicians) by a large magic corporation's pushing through legislation to license the professionals. (I won't tell how the story ends).
It's well worth your time just to read the twelve-page sequence covering the protagonists' journey to the capitol to try to kill or water down the enabling legislation that would lead to licensing and professional standards for magicians. Every detail, from the underhanded inclusion of magical regulations in the agenda of the legislature's special session, to the bloviating legislators referring to Mosaic, Roman, and common law, to the defeat snatched from the jaws of victory when the original legislation is passed, unaltered, as a rider to a public works appropriations bill.
Magic, Inc. was originally copyrighted in 1940, but still remains relevant, and, most importantly for any fiction, a good read. Check the whole collection out.
(Cross-posted at Freespace).
I posted a version of this at Freespace earlier today, but thought it would fit fine here, too.
The House of Representatives' recent passage of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 marks a positive development for the fledgling commercial space tourism industry. Alan Boyle has been following this legislation and has a comprehensive article explaining the pros and cons of the bill.
Despite some shortcomings, the bill provides clearer guidance for the FAA, which has so far been working on an ad hoc basis in licensing experimental spaceships like Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne. In principle, I would prefer no regulation at all. But both the aviation and rocketry industries are already subject to onerous regulatory schemes, which could have been extended to strangle the suborbital tourism business while it is still in the cradle. So this is an improvement on the pre-existing legal framework. I might write up more on this later, but Alan Boyle's article is a good place to start.
Timothy Sandefur has kindly extended an invitation for me to be his guest-blogger at Freespace this week. I am looking forward to working on a few "think pieces," since the tone of dialogue on his blog is a bit more serious than what I usually offer up here. Who knows, maybe the change of setting will help me elevate the tone of my blog a bit, too.
Good news from Alan at Strengthen the Good: the organization is now a 503(c) non-profit organization so that donors who go through STG may obtain a tax deduction.
Alan has identified a new cause this time: an English-language library in Slovakia needs some books and has identified a wish list with many worthy titles. You can send books directly to the school identified in Alan's article, or you can send money to STG and they will purchase books for the school. As always, follow the link, read Alan's summary of the cause, and determine whether you can do anything to help.
This week's cheesecake serving is the Northrop P-61 Black Widow Night Fighter:
This week's poll takes us back to a velveetalicious Irwin Allen Sci Fi series that premiered the year I was born: The Land of the Giants.
I loved this show as a kid.
Results (Posted 30 November 2004):
|SF Babes: The Land of the Giants|
My superhero persona seems eerily appropriate:
Via The Llamabutchers (yeah, so what else is new?)
1. This Is Spinal Tap
2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show - Really. I've never seen this. Not sure I will ever see it.
4. Harold And Maude
5. Pink Flamingos - The. Grossest. Movie. Ever. I was never much of a John Waters fan, but I let a friend talk me into seeing this in college after I had pulled an all-nighter writing a history seminar paper. After being awake for about 40 hours straight and having imbibed about 4 liters of Mountain Dew and a beer, I was in a pretty strange state of mind, but quite well-suited for this film.
6. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
7. Repo Man
9. Blade Runner
10. The Shawshank Redemption
(remainder in extended entry)
11. Five Deadly Venoms
12. Plan 9 From Outer Space
14. Eraserhead - Another warped movie.
15. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
16. The Warriors
17. Dazed And Confused
19. Evil Dead II
20. The Mack
21. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
22. Un Chien Andalou
24. The Toxic Avenger
25. Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory - this movie gets much better after you've had kids. The toss-away one liners Gene Wilder utters about the various spoiled kids went completely over my head when I first saw the movie as a child.
26. Stranger Than Paradise
27. Dawn Of The Dead
28. The Wiz
30. The Harder They Come
31. Slap Shot
33. Grey Gardens
34. The Big Lebowski
35. Withnail and I
37. A Bucket Of Bood - should that be "A Bucket of Blood?"
38. They Live
39. The Best Of Everything
41. Heathers - when the movie "Mean Girls" came out recently, I thought immediately of Heathers. Good movie.
43. The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension
44. Love Streams
45. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
46. Aguirre, The Wrath of God
47. Walking And Talking Nicole Holofcener
48. The Decline Of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years
50. Faces of Death, Vol. 1
51. Monty Python and the Holy Grail - I've got the DVD.
52. A Clockwork Orange - I'm planning to get most of Kubrick on DVD (probably everything but Eyes Wide Shut)
53. Mommie Dearest
54. The Princess Bride - my kids discovered the magic of this movie last summer while we were on vacation in Colorado. A real gem.
57. Valley of the Dolls
58. Fight Club
59. Dead Alive (aka Braindead)
60. Better Off Dead
61. Donnie Darko
A small dose of politics tonight, courtesy of Rand Simberg: an open letter to our friends in Europe. Perhaps a bit triumphalist, but I cannot debate much of its content (though I am uncomfortable with excessive invocations of religion in the public square).
I have to say I best liked the line about sending people to the moon and robots to Mars in our "spare time."
About 15 years ago, when I was still a music student and not yet a corporate lawyer, I performed a full-faculty recital on the big Piet Visser organ at UT-Austin. The works I performed were Cesar Franck's Piece Heroique, Jean Langlais' Epilogue (Pedal Solo) from Hommage a Frescobaldi, and Dietrich Buxtehude's Praeludium et Fuga in g moll (BuxWV 149).
The Buxtehude piece was my favorite, perhaps because it was the most difficult to learn (and therefore the most rewarding to play). My professor had done a great deal of research on baroque ornamentation and performance practice, and we ended up playing the piece much more highly ornamented and quickly than most mainstream performers.
Although to my eternal regret I have no recordings of my live organ performances in my prime, I did create a contemporaneous "Switched on Buxtehude" version of the piece on my synthesizers which I transferred to mp3 a couple of years ago (to protect against damage or loss to the old audio cassette).
Download my recording here, and please let me know what you think. (The music is public domain, but the performance and recording are mine; please give me performance and arrangement credit if you reproduce it. Thanks!)
Last night I beat Halo 2 on the Normal setting, but I won't consider it truly "beaten" until I've completed Heroic and Legendary each in solo mode, a process that took me several months with the first Halo.
Once I've done that, I plan to venture online and try some of the XBox Live matches. One thing I've read that makes me really look forward to playing online is Bungie's matching of players with similar skills, and tracking their experience, so that they move up as they become better players.
My first experiences with online play (with the Halo for PC demo) were less-than-satisfactory due to the mismatch in skills that often left me lying in a pool of blood for the entire game as snot-nosed teenagers typed insults at me on the chat channel.
One of my favorite aircraft of all time, the P-38 Lightning:
I ran across this neat Japanese site detailing the assembly of a remote-controlled scale P-38 while looking for this week's serving of cheesecake.
"Harcourt! Harcourt Fenton Mudd!"
Ok, Ok. That quote was from the later episode I, Mudd. This week's poll pits the three lovely ladies from the fourth episode of the first season of the classic Star Trek series, Mudd's Women: Eve McHuron (Karen Steele), Ruth Bonaventure (Maggie Thrett), and Magda Kovacs (Susan Denberg).
Remember to check out previous winners at the "all new" Gallery of the SF Babes.
Results (Posted 18 November 2004):
|Star Trek: Mudd's Women|
I suppose I should be happy that I'm indirectly represented on the Commissar's latest map, at least as a member of the MuNu Confederation.
Still, Texas has a unique and pleasing outline and distinctively anchors maps of the USA. I think a more direct reference with a Texas outline would improve the map.
Red vs. Blue is a humorous animated series created using the Xbox and Halo multiplayer engine to act out the scripts. (They have some fun Halo 2 promos, too, to stay consistent with recent hype around here).
Unfortunately these days, most people associate "Red vs. Blue" with the recent election and the infamous maps going around the internet (or internets, if you're the President).
I am completely with Ted on this one. Despite the rhetoric of a nation divided, we are all Americans, and we all need to live together. Although I think several on the left have acted like moonbats (anyone who takes Michael Moore seriously goes down several notches in my opinion), I presume that the vast majority of Kerry voters are people of good faith who thought they were doing the right thing with their vote. I also assume that the most obnoxiously vocal folks bemoaning the stupidity or backwardness of Bush voters is a small minority akin to the Falwell Republicans.
(More in the extended entry).
This kind of map does nothing to help us come together as a nation:
It really is an inaccurate representation of the real story, too. It does not account for population or for percentages of support for each candidate in each region. It reflects an unhealthy "winner take all" mentality that is dangerous to our republic in the long run.
I saw this map today (here), and it really provides a nice dose of perspective:
While I think the election counts as a landslide in comparison to recent elections, we need to remember the golden rule and treat the opposition as the loyal opposition, hoping they live up to our high expectations. It is a certainty that if we don't, then they will live down to our low expectations.
Be sure to check out the first topic, We Must Colonize Space to Survive.... I love brevity in an author. After reading through the eloquent-but-wordy musings of Carl Sagan, Steven Hawking, and Gene Roddenberry, see how Heinlein expresses the same sentiment in a mere sentence. He's not considered a "grand master" of his craft for nothing.
First the macroeconomic story. Halo 2 cleared $125 million in its first 24 hours of sales. For comparison's sake, the all-time record for a movie's opening weekend was set by Spider Man in 2002, with a gross of $115 million.
Now for the microeconomics. I remember when we first bought the Xbox that I thought the $50-a-game price for the newest titles was outrageous. (And it usually is -- we typically wait for sales or special bundles, and almost always rent a game before purchasing it, to make sure it's worth owning).
While standing in line Monday night, pondering the opportunity costs of the $60 I was about to drop on a new game, I got to thinking about other forms of family entertainment. One that immediatlely leapt to mind was the few Texas Rangers baseball games I've taken my sons to see. In each case we easily dropped close to $100 on tickets, food, and parking per game in exchange for 3 hours of -- frankly -- lousy entertainment.
On the other hand, we have spent innumerable (10s, 100s?) of hours in the past 14 months playing Xbox cooperatively, and having a great time doing it. (Please note that we are not a couch-potato family, as each of my three kids is involved in sports and Scouts, we camp and bike together, and I coach two of the three soccer teams).
I've already had some fun playing the first few levels with my sons as spectators and have let them replay some of the ground I've already covered in Halo 2. I know we'll definitely be getting our money's worth out of this.
Stood in line at BestBuy last night starting at 10:30 to get my hands on a midnight-release copy of Halo 2. I was one of the small percentage of thirty-something-plus geeks in line (one or two guys may have been in their forties, but it was definitely a younger crowd). Kudos to my mega-cool wife for granting the kitchen pass for me to make the midnight run.
Got a free poster of the Master Chief (instant strife between my boys -- which one gets to put it on his wall??) and entered a drawing for a 3-foot tall statue of the Chief, but I don't think I won that. The doors opened promptly at 12:01AM and I exited the store less than 10 minutes later, probably the 50th person or so in Plano, Texas to [legally] own the game. Yay!
For the extra 5 bucks, I went ahead and got the Limited Collectors' Edition in the nifty aluminum case with the bonus DVD of extras (behind the scenes, outtakes, commentaries, concept art, etc.)
Got home in time to play it for an hour or so. The graphics are definitely several steps up from the original Halo. So far I haven't seen any ham-handed politicking, Lileks' concerns notwithstanding. The banter from the space marines is so far more varied and colorful, there are a few new species of Covenant aliens, and the new weapons (the battle rifle and SMG, esp. with the two-handed shooting option) rock.
A more objective review (not just subjective impressions) will follow in due course. If my posts are lighter than their already nigh-insubstantial form for the next couple weeks, you'll know what I'm doing.
A question for my readers, especially of the lawyerly persuasion. We are guaranteed, I think, at least one vacancy if not three or four on the court during President Bush's second term.
Putting ideology and "confirmability" aside, what would you want to see in a future Supreme Court justice? What do you think makes a good Justice? Please email me your criteria or leave a comment. I'm working on a short list of folks I would like to see on the court based on the below standards, and would be interested in some other qualifications. Names of your favorite potential nominees are welcome, too.
Here are a few quick nominees that I think meet the above (alpha order, not by preference):
Richard Epstein, Law Professor, Univ. of Chicago
Alex Kozinski, Judge, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Richard Posner, Judge, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Glenn Reynolds, Law Professor, Univ. Tennessee, Knoxville (I'm not kidding, nor am I trolling for an Instalanche here. See above criteria!)
Eugene Volokh, Law Professor, UCLA
Great Dutch website for Trek pics (including some photoshopped pics, comic strips, and fan art).
This week we leave the vast wasteland of TV and venture into the cinema house, where the classic Blade Runner is playing.
If you've got Vangelis' atmospheric synthesizer soundtrack, put it in the player and consider this week's candidates: the lithe (and deadly) Pris (Daryl Hannah), the lovely (if dim) Rachel (Sean Young), or the exotic (but deadly) Zhora (Joanna Cassidy).
Results (Posted 11 November 2004):
|SF Babes - Blade Runner|
I will of course post my impressions of the game as I defeat the Covenant and make the Universe safe for Humanity.
I think Lileks, as much as I respect his writing, is reading way too much into the comments of the producer, Joe Staten, who said, "'You could look at [the story] as a damning condemnation of the Bush administration's adventure in the Middle East.'' I don't know where he got that, since it is quite obvious that the bad guys in this story (the Covenant) are clearly the equivalent of the Islamonazis, not the augmented-human Spartan warriors or the orbital drop shock troop (ODST) Space Marines.
In the end, it's just a game, albeit what promises to be a totally kick-ass game. So I will be buying and playing it religiously (pun intended).
Not sure if this was taped in Iceland, but it is on an Icelandic site:
Flying Lawnmower to the accompaniment of Cotton Eyed Joe.
You could name this Why the West Will Win.
"You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike..."
If you recognize those words, you've probably played one of the greatest text-based computer adventure games of all time, Colossal Cave.
Wait, you say, text-based computer adventure games?
That's right. Once upon a time, back in the old days, we did not have interactive immersive environment games like today's first-person shooters. Instead, we had to read our computer games a line at a time on a monochrome monitor, using our imaginations to bring the descriptions and clues to life. We had to run around in the dark looking for different objects, using simple one or two word commands.
>There is a threatening little dwarf in the room with you! You're in Hall of Mt King. There is a small wicker cage discarded nearby. A cheerful little bird is sitting here singing. There is a little axe here.
>You killed a little dwarf. The body vanishes in a cloud of greasy black smoke.
Like the good D&D gamers we were, we meticulously mapped out the gamespace with graph paper, and kept lists of the inventory we carried, along with the properties and uses of the different items. Great fun, and whenever you solved a clue, realizing which object you needed to get across the bridge, or how to scare away the snake, or how to map the maze, you felt exhilarated. Of course, not quite the same exhilaration as blowing a flood warrior away with your shotgun in Halo for the first time, but still thrilling.
All this is a long-winded way of leading up to this über-cool Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy text-adventure game. Note that this is not a pure text game like Colossal Cave, since you can use your mouse to click on objects and directions, but playing it really brought back some fun memories of early computer gaming. Have fun!
(Via Mixolydian Mode).
Random thoughts this morning:
The President won the first popular vote majority (not plurality) since the 1988 election, with record turnout and the largest absolute number of votes ever.
The GOP apparently is picking up seats in the House, Senate, and State Governors' mansions.
The President has a statistically insurmountable lead in Ohio, New Mexico, and Iowa, which should give him a comfortable final tally in the Electoral College of 286 versus Kerry's likely
This was a landslide, in the context of where Bush started four years ago, and in the context of no popular vote majorities since 1988.
Instead of gracefully conceding at around 2:30AM, when he still had his crowd and it should have been evident that it was statistically improbable (well-nigh impossible) to win Ohio, Kerry chose to flirt with the Al-Gore Armageddon strategy.
Why didn't Kerry concede? I think it was to poison the morning news spin. Instead of focusing on the above facts, the talking heads in NY and California this morning were talking about how we are still such a closely divided country and that President Bush must govern from the center. Funny that the lefties always win a mandate, even with a mere plurality, and that there's no obligation on them to govern from the center.
Kerry is so far refusing to concede, but surely he has to be looking at the statistical likelihood of erasing the President's 150,000-vote lead in Ohio. But even if Kerry now concedes, the MSM will not be trumpeting what was an astounding show of support from a record number of the American people yesterday for the President and his policies. They will instead be focusing on the "lingering divisions."
All I can say is, way to f*ckin' go, Al. Your lack of grace four years ago continues to infect the process.
Update: Looks like Kerry is a bigger man than Al Gore, and that he has more grace than I was expecting.
As usual, Glenn and his guest bloggers are masters of the links today (and I'm not talking golf).
Steve the Llamabutcher is liveblogging all day long (seriously, he started last night after midnight). Check out his excellent visual aids.
Stephen Green, while uncharacteristically sober (hey, it's still early), notes good news in the last Rasmussen tracking poll results and is posting regular updates.
Ace promises to liveblog tonight, but is posting at his usual pace in the meantime.
I await with bated breath Martha Stewart's take on the election, as channeled by Jeff Goldstein.
Wizbang is keeping an open "breaking news" thread, so check back there throughout the day.
I won't be duplicating the efforts of the above worthy bloggers. But depending on how the election returns are playing, I may try to get something apolitical posted tonight. No promises, though.
For what it's worth, I am endorsing President Bush and the Republican Party this year. I'm concerned about two issues in this election: (1) the war on Islamic terrorism and (2) tax relief. Kerry, Nader, and the Greens are wrong on both issues. The Libertarians' Badnarik is wrong on the war. Only Bush is right on both issues. This year, mine is a cold calculus, like fellow libertarian Virginia Postrel's (who is basing her endorsement of Bush on his positions on foreign and regulatory policy, together with the fact that a President cannot reasonably influence much else with the current Congress).
I have always voted for a mix of Republicans, Libertarians, and Democrats, on the general principle that a divided government governs least (and therefore, paraphrasing Paine -- or Jefferson -- governs best). But this year, for the first time in my life, I will hold my nose and vote straight-ticket for the Republicans, as much to punish the alternatives as to support the President in the areas he has the most influence over. I plan to punish the Libertarians for nominating a self-styled "constitutional law scholar" (read: fraudulent tax-evader, in my opinion) and barking anti-war moonbat as their standard-bearer. I also plan to punish the Democrats for absolutely failing to take the war to preserve our way of life seriously. And I cannot vote for the Greens, as long as they continue to push an anti-technology, anti-market command-and-control agenda.
Fortunately, I can take some comfort from the fact that most of the libertarians whose opinions I respect such as the aforementioned Virginia Postrel and Glenn Reynolds, Stephen Green, and Timothy Sandefur have also endorsed the President for re-election. Even the first Libertarian presidential candidate, John Hospers, has endorsed President Bush. (See also Libertarians for Bush).
Now, inspired by Stephen Green, my prediction of the outcome. Expect litigation, but unless I am totally wrong, this election will not be close enough for the Democrats' voter fraud and litigation strategy to be effective. I think this election mirrors the Nixon-McGovern election of 1972 in some eerie ways, and that year the "silent majority" showed up at the polls to give Nixon a landslide. This year, I also expect the silent majority to show up and, with some help from disciplined GOP GOTV efforts in the upper Midwest and the cooperation of the weather, give Bush an Electoral Vote landslide along with at least 50% of the popular vote. My Electoral Vote map is in the extended entry: