August 31, 2005

Katrina Aid Agencies

Glenn Reynolds has an extensive list of charities that will be helping with relief efforts along the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Glenn is also planning to use that post as the repository for the charity blogburst scheduled for tomorrow. If you post recommending a charity, or some other action to help, link back to the post referenced in the previous paragraph. He will use that post to list both bloggers and charities. That way, readers of any blog will have ready access to recommendations on all the blogs.

Posted by JohnL at 09:09 AM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

August 30, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

As awful as things look now, they are certain to look even worse -- at least for the short term. However, I predict that five or ten years from now, New Orleans will be restored to much like it was before.

Tying this to a SciFi theme, I feel like I have "seen" this before, in my mind's eye, while reading Lucifer's Hammer, in the descriptions of the post-impact flooding. The looting, the rapid loss of civilization.

Also, I remember David Brin (a very good, albeit leftist, SF author) writing in Earth about the futility of holding back mother nature:

...The Big Easy had class all right. In decline, there remained an air of seedy blaisance, and even the inevitable bandit types believed in courtesy.

He listened to the barge horns and thought of the manatees that had inhabited this area, back when La Salle's men first poled their way through endless marshes, trading ax heads for furs. The manatees were long gone, of course. And soon...relatively would New Orleans.

The dying of any city begins at its foundation....

Logan had inspected hundreds of kilometers of embankments, thrown up in forlorn efforts to save the doomed shore. More tall levees contained the river, whose gradient flattened over time. Suspended silt began falling out even north of Baton Rouge. Soon the sluggish current no longer held back the sea. Salinity increased.

Upstream, the Mississippi fought like an anaconda, writhing to escape. The contest was one of raw power. And Logan knew where it would be lost....

Fortunately, Claire would move away long before the Mississippi burst through the Old River Control Structure or some other weak point, spilling into that peaceful plain of cane fields and fish farms....

In effect, he could only pray the Corps' new barriers were as good as they claimed. It was possible....

But rivers see decades, even centuries, as mere trifles.

The Mississippi rolled by. And, not for the first time, Logan wondered if Daisy might be right after all. I try to find solutions that work with Earth's forces. I like to think I've learned from the mistakes of past engineers.

But didn't they, too, think they built for the ages?

He remembered what Shelley had written, about an ancient pharaoh:

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings. Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

...Can we build nothing that lasts? Nothing worth lasting?

Logan sighed. He had been away too long. He turned away from the patient river and took the rusted, creaking iron stairs back into the ancient city.

Posted by JohnL at 10:57 PM | Comments (3) | | TrackBack

Now Where's My Script?

Cary Grant
You scored 14% Tough, 19% Roguish, 28% Friendly, and 33% Charming!

You are the epitome of charm and style, the smooth operator who steals
the show with your sophisticated wit and quiet confidence. You are able
to catch any woman you want just by flashing that disarming smile. When
you walk into a room, the women are instantly intrigued and even the
men are impressed. When you find yourself in trouble, you are easily
able to charm your way out of it, or convince others to help you.
You're seen as dashing, suave and romantic. Your co-stars include
Katharine Hepburn, Irene Dunne, and Joan Fontaine, stylish women who
know a class act when they see it.

Find out what kind of classic dame you'd make by taking the
Classic Dames Test.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 15% on Tough
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 52% on Roguish
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 48% on Friendly
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 67% on Charming

Link: The Classic Leading Man Test written by gidgetgoes on Ok Cupid

(Via Clark Gable aka LDH)

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

August 29, 2005

My Cyborg Name and Logo

Transforming Xperimental Being Engineered for Sabotage, Thorough Gratification and Rational Killing

I actually love that description. I could be that bot.

(Via LDH and Owlish).

Posted by JohnL at 10:50 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

Carnival of Music #13

Even if you're triskaidekaphobic, you should find something to like at Chan's edition of the Carnival of Music this week.

Follow all of her links, and discover some new bloggers, some new musical knowledge, or both.

We need volunteers to host future carnivals. It's easy and fun! Sign up here.

Posted by JohnL at 10:26 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

August 25, 2005

AMWOC - Second Installment

Here's a few more words on my way to a million. I got bit by the bug hard last night, and I'm writing a story. I've got more than 1500 words so far, and most of the major plot mapped out.

This is intended to be a juvenile SF book, along the lines of Between Planets or Space Cadet by Heinlein. It takes place on Mars.

So far there are only two characters that I have a solid grip on: a father and a son.

I've put a snippet of dialogue in the extended entry. This is pretty rough (not heavily edited by any means), but I'm curious: does this sound like a natural conversation between a dad and a 12-year-old?

Does it make you want to learn more about these characters?

Let me know what you think.

“Just watch out for the Burroughs Burrow wights.”

“Burrow wights? What are wights?”

“Wight is an old-fashioned word for ghost.”

Jake thought about this for a few minutes. Then: “Dad?”

“Yes, son.”

“Do you believe in ghosts?”

“I … I don’t know what to believe, son. I don’t think so.”

“What about mom and Pete?”

“I’d like to think your mom and brother can see us and that they’re still with us somehow. But I’m just not sure. I believe what I can see, what I can feel. I’ve never seen a ghost. And as much as I would like to see or touch your mother again, to hug your brother … I just can’t be sure.”

“So what’s the story of the Burrow wights? Have you ever seen one?”

Paul Robinson chuckled gently. “Son, that’s just an old story the folks here tell to add some notoriety to their city. Some early Burroughs settler thought it might attract some tourists.”

Posted by JohnL at 10:52 PM | Comments (4) | | TrackBack

Wise Protein

Has anyone (other than Stephen Green) noticed that Jeff Goldstein has been on frakkin' fire recently?

He had a brief existential crisis a few months ago, but his writing over the past few months has really sharpened, becoming even more insightful and provocative.

Take these excerpts, for example:

Yesterday, to my horror, I watched as Bill O’Reilly argued what is increasingly the standard populist postition that the government needs to get involved in policing “self-destructive” behavior, if only to save “the taxpayer” down the road from the (largely illusory) set of epidemics professional nannystatists, disguised as concerned scientists, are always warning against. O’Reilly cited such behavior as over-eating (leading to obesity) and drug use (leading to addiction)—though to be fair, he was careful to point out that he wasn’t so concerned with curbing personal freedoms per se as he was with having to pay for the longterm effects of not having curbed them in some way, a distinction with a (minor) difference.

- 25 August 2005


Me, I’m willing to make the following offer: I will accept as valid the chickenhawk argument from any person who agrees to support a Constitutional Amendment making military service a prerequisite for all who presume to shape foreign policy, up to and including the President, members of both the House and Senate, and all Federal Court justices. Either that, or from those who push to pass a Constitutional Amendment disbanding the military, which makes the question moot.

Short of that, I’d ask you to save your anti-democratic impulses for, say, campus speech codes or social engineering programs driven by the idea of proportionality—and allow the grownups to make the difficult choices that arise in the course of protecting the interests of our nation. Please.

- 22 August 2005

All while remaining reliably surreal and funny.

Will someone give this man a book deal already? Or at least an opinion column at the New York Times?

Posted by JohnL at 09:54 PM | Comments (2) | | TrackBack

Surprised? I Am (Not)

Pure Nerd
86 % Nerd, 43% Geek, 26% Dork
For The Record: A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia. A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one. A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions. You scored better than half in Nerd, earning you the title of: Pure Nerd.

The times, they are a-changing. It used to be that being exceptionally smart led to being unpopular, which would ultimately lead to picking up all of the traits and tendences associated with the "dork." No-longer. Being smart isn't as socially crippling as it once was, and even more so as you get older: eventually being a Pure Nerd will likely be replaced with the following label: Purely Successful.

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

You scored higher than 94% on nerdiness

You scored higher than 47% on geekosity

You scored higher than 26% on dork

Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on Ok Cupid

And here I thought I was a geek.

(Via Nerd Owlish).

Posted by JohnL at 08:50 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

August 24, 2005

Quick Bleg

Does anyone know of a decent online archive of Martian maps, including the highest resolution scans from the most recent orbiters, organized like Google maps?

I'm thinking specifically of a draggable, clickable, zoomable Martian atlas.

I've done some googling around, but haven't found anything like this yet.

Any leads would be much appreciated.

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

August 23, 2005

Carnival of Music #12

Head on over the pond to Musicircus to check out the 12th installment of the Carnival of Music.

I especially liked the linked articles discussing programming of new music, critiquing copyright extension, and listing a huge number of jazz blogs.

Thanks, Rob, for hosting this week. Great job!

If you would like to host, we have an opening on September 5, and then a wide open schedule from September 19 on. Please let me know if you have a link to include in a future carnival, or if you would like to host.

Posted by JohnL at 08:33 AM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

August 22, 2005

Blog Facelifts

Be sure to check out Lynn's new look (she substituted Palatino Book Antiqua for Times New Roman, it seems).

Also, SciFi Ranter Girl has an awesome new banner featuring the green Orion Slave Girls of Star Trek.


Enjoy the new looks!

Posted by JohnL at 11:24 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

Kirk to Enterprise...

I want one.

(I already have a folding phone, which I have to open like a classic communicator to speak into, but still...)

(via aTypical Joe).

Posted by JohnL at 11:09 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

MST3K Artworks

Jeff at Gravity Lens points us to a nice gallery of famous paintings featuring MST3K characters.

Very funny. I loved that show.

Posted by JohnL at 11:06 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

What's Missing Here?

I read this and especially this part:

"Researchers continue to look for new ways to counteract the physical changes associated with long-term space flight whether through diet, exercise, medication or a combination of strategies."

What's missing from that list? How about, say, engineering? Why don't any of these studies ever look at testing a centrifugal/centripetal force method of creating quasi-gravity?

2001WheelStation.jpgIt's not like the concept is a new one. After all, Wernher von Braun had already dreamed of the "wheel" space station so poetically realized in 2001: A Space Odyssey as early as the 1950s.

I'm surprised there haven't been any tests of the concept yet. It seems like it would have been pretty simple to already have built a rat-scale ring that would have fit in a shuttle bay (or one of the station modules) to see how the forces would have affected the rats. Is there a certain minimum diameter needed to prevent disorienting coriolis effects?

Does anyone know of any tests along these lines? It seems a lot easier than trying to change human biology with medications.

Posted by JohnL at 11:00 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

Update on VT Separate and Unequal

Princess Cat emailed me a link to Virginia Tech's statement regarding the recent Saudi visit during which classes were segregated by sex.

Here's the nut of the statement:

Separation by gender in an instructional setting is not compatible with Virginia Tech policies and procedures. There is clearly a disconnect between our fundamental commitment to non-discrimination based on gender and our commitment to a climate for work and learning based on mutual respect and understanding.

Or, in other words, "our commitment not to discriminate based on sex conflicted with our commitment not to discriminate based upon culture."

That's the trick, isn't it? How do we maintain ourselves as an open, liberal culture in the face of backwards, closed cultures?

Posted by JohnL at 10:40 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

Two For One Special -- Or, Legal Writing

One argument that plain-English legal drafters often face when cleaning the cruft out of old contractual boilerplate is that the old language is somehow more "precise."

Take, for example, the familiar phrases "due and payable" and "null and void." They are so common that ordinary lay people bandy them about when trying to "formalize" a business arrangement.

Yet a quick look at the respective terms' definitions reveals that these are needless dualisms. The words mean basically the same thing.

Of course, give a clever lawyer two words and she'll argue that they have different shades of meaning. After long use, there will be a strong reflex against deleting "due and payable" and substituting the simple "due."

Which is why it is very refreshing to run across a legal opinion like this one every now and then. This judge not only "gets" plain English, he explains one of the reasons why legal English frequently uses two words where one will do. Here's how he smacks down a lawyer for trying to argue that there is a difference between "free and clear" and simply "clear" title.

"Monfort contends, 'Although a "clear title" is one that is not subject to any restrictions, the case at bar involved a "free and clear" title, which is the same as a marketable title.' So, according to Monfort, a free and clear title is worse than a clear title. Say what?

"Would that Harold had not lost the Battle of Hastings.

"Free and clear mean the same thing. Using both is an unnecessary lawyerism. Free is English; clear is from the French clere. After the Norman Conquest, English courts were held in French. The Normans were originally Vikings, but after they conquered the region of Normandy, they became French; then they took over England. But most people in England, surprisingly enough, still spoke English. So lawyers started using two words for one and forgot to stop for the last nine hundred years.

"So free and clear do not mean separate things; they mean, and were always meant to mean, exactly the same thing. Just as null and void and due and payable mean the same thing. All of these couplets are redundant and irritating lawyerisms. And they invite just what has happened here - an assertion that they somehow have different meanings.

"The Norman Conquest was in 1066. We can safely eliminate the couplets now....

"Nine hundred years later, courts in Ohio are still dealing with the consequences of the Norman invasion. We can only hope that some day logic will prevail over silly tradition."

Would that there were more judges like Judge Painter. And more lawyers that would think rather than merely ape what previous lawyers have always done.

Posted by JohnL at 09:52 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

Robert Moog, RIP

Robert_Moog.jpgI was saddened to read today that Robert Moog, inventor of the line of electronic synthesizers bearing his name, died yesterday of a brain tumor.moog_3c.jpg

Moog instruments play prominent roles in much of my favorite music from my childhood and teen years: from the Moog Taurus pedals and MiniMoogs that brought to life the Rush albums from 1977 through 1981, to the Moog III that Keith Emerson took on tour, to the eerie soundscapes that Wendy Carlos evoked in her soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange.Liberation.jpg

I own a Moog synthesizer, the Liberation.

Mr. Moog will be missed. I have been meaning to buy the Fjellestad biography, and will now make a point of doing so.

Posted by JohnL at 09:21 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

August 21, 2005


You know those awful tunes that stick with you, even though you loathe them?

"We Built This City" by Starship is one of those for me.

It seems that this awful bit of "music" also had an annoying enough video to have stuck with John (no relation) at SFSignal. John had trouble finding a clip of the worst part of the video. I was able to find and excerpt the wretched moment for his viewing "pleasure."

Here you go, John.

Posted by JohnL at 05:54 PM | Comments (5) | | TrackBack

August 18, 2005

Brilliant Harry Potter Parody

Having recently completed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I can endorse without any reservation whatsoever this hilarious, accurate, and spoiler-filled condensed version of the story: Part 1. Part2.

(Via GeekPress).

Posted by JohnL at 11:14 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

August 17, 2005

Fun Flash Movies

Via SFSignal, a couple of great Lord of the Rings music videos.

While you're at Albino Blacksheep's site, be sure to check out these other fine videos:


Update: And be sure to check out the Llama song. Especially you guys.

Posted by JohnL at 10:00 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

A Tale of Two Cities...

Check out this interesting play on the before-and-after meme.

Take scenes from Hitchcock's 1958 movie Vertigo and retrace them in modern-day (2003) San Francisco with camera in tow.

I've posted a representative pair of pics grabbed from the site in the extended entry. Go check out all the others.



Posted by JohnL at 09:35 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

August 16, 2005

Writer's Bleg

In case you forgot, in about a month and a half, John Scalzi will begin to accept manuscripts for potential publication in the Spring 2006 edition of Subterranean magazine.

As special guest editor of this edition, he has laid out some interesting ground rules. Namely, he wants stories of 5000 words or less that skillfully employ classic SF cliches.

I am thinking about submitting a short story or two, just for the fun of it. I have a couple of ideas for some cliches to work around. But I would also like to quiz the only non-captive audience I have yet found for my writing: what SF cliches annoy you the most, and why?

Please don't send me any plot suggestions or story ideas (write your own story for submission instead). But if there is a traditional plot device, stereotypical setting, or some other element of SF (whether in movies, TV, or written word) that annoys you through its overuse, please let me know about it.


Posted by JohnL at 11:18 PM | Comments (9) | | TrackBack

Seventh Moscow International Air Show

I know that I have been remiss in posting the regular Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake around here, and for that I apologize.

I hope to get some decent images from the reports on the just-opened MAKS 2005 (the seventh annual International Aviation and Space Salon in Moscow).

Here are several articles to get up to speed on the events for the coming week.

Just one little pic so far -- the new MiG29OVT, the first twin engine jet fighter to employ multiaxis (versus 2D) thrust vectoring. At least according to this article, from which I grabbed the pic.


Posted by JohnL at 10:52 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

The Bar at the Center of the Galaxy


The headline of this article made me think of Milliway's.

You know. Restaurant at the End of the Universe... Bar at the Center of the Milky Way. I wonder if they serve Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters there.

Posted by JohnL at 10:40 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

August 15, 2005

Carnival of Music #11

Be sure to check out the lovely job that Lynn has done with the 11th Carnival of Music.

Posted by JohnL at 10:37 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

August 11, 2005

Star Trek Business Cards

Awesome collection of business cards for characters from the original series of Star Trek.

(Via BoingBoing).

A sample below the fold:


Posted by JohnL at 11:29 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

I Bet Rob Changes the Locks...

This is very much an inside-baseball kind of post, so I apologize in advance to any casual readers...

Even though Kathy asserts that she didn't write this entertaining (and disturbing) portrayal of Rob the Llamabutcher (pointing the finger at Bill Ardolino instead), I bet Rob and Steve will take a good, hard look at their generous password policies and revoke someone's posting privileges.

I do have to admit that I'm relieved that Kathy didn't write it, as parts were just a bit, well, mean. But that's perfectly OK if it's Bill writing about the Llamas.

You know, Princess Cat recently asked about a NoVA/DC blogmeet. I think Rob, Ted, Bill, and all you other DC bloggers should get together and set up a Rob v. Bill cage match for your entertainment. Take lots of pictures for our reading enjoyment.

Bonus points if there's a vile-tempered Scottish dwarf involved.

(Seriously, Bill, was the dwarf your idea, or something Goldstein came up with??)

Posted by JohnL at 11:13 PM | Comments (4) | | TrackBack

Recommended Album

I had never heard (or even heard of) jazz pianist Ted Howe until two mornings ago.

The local University radio station plays an all-jazz format (except for Saturday morning mariachi music and some classical on Sunday). Driving into work on Tuesday I was really digging a solo piano version of It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing) by Duke Ellington. I had never heard the arrangement and was visualizing myself trying to learn it by ear. (Ha.)

Anyway, the announcer came on and, instead of blabbing about something else, immediately and helpfully shared the name of the performer and CD: Ellington, by Ted Howe.

When I got home from work that night I downloaded the song from iTunes and previewed the rest of the album. What a wonderful discovery! Excellent piano technique and original arrangements of Duke Ellington standards.

Buy this album. Here's a link to assist you (and I'll leave the link in the sidebar for a while, too):

Posted by JohnL at 10:54 PM | Comments (2) | | TrackBack

Jimmy Carter Pwned By George Will

Must read. (via Vodkapundit).

Or, for another thousand words, just look at the picture in the extended entry...


(Picture via

Posted by JohnL at 10:05 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

The Loony Academic Left

Via James Taranto, I learned that the American Political Science Association will hold its annual convention in Washington, D.C. in just a few weeks. On the program is a panel discussion entitled "Is It Time to Call It Fascism?"

Do you think the good scholars will finally take an honest look at the parallels between the Ba'ath Party in Syria and the NSDAP in Germany?

Oh, don't be silly. The email forwarding the conference announcement states:

The panel, which is cosponsored by the Conference Group on Theory, Policy, & Society, the Latino Caucus, New Political Science, and the Women's Caucus, emerged from a question that Kathy Ferguson started asking last winter-spring (at ISA and WPSA) to focus on both substantive aspects and strategic/tactical ones: is there theoretical-definitional grounding to make a claim for the present US administration as fascist, and is it useful, critically, to use that language at this point in time? One of the original intentions was also to create a teaching tool out of this discussion--a handout that presents these questions and offers relevant information to students to think about it for themselves. (Emphasis added).

I would love to get my hands on one of those handouts. I wonder just how much they will encourage students to "think about it for themselves."

Here's a political science experiment: Establish how long a culture can survive philosophical poison like this.

Too bad we live in the experimental society and not the control group.

Posted by JohnL at 09:41 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

August 10, 2005

And Now For Something Completely Different

Take the quiz: "Which Holy Grail Character Are You?"

Sir Bedevere
Well, now, uh, Launcelot, Galahad, and I, uh, wait until nightfall, and then leap out of the rabbit, taking the French, uh, by surprise. Not only by surprise, but totally unarmed!

(via the Maximum Leader, whose site has been nicely remodeled. Check it out.)

Posted by JohnL at 09:50 PM | Comments (2) | | TrackBack

Separate and Unequal

What happens when you inject a medieval culture into a modern one?

(Hat tip: Bryan).

Remember how VMI was made co-ed last decade? Why don't the same principles of law apply here? Where's NOW now?

Simple. Cowardice. An academic and political left that has become so accustomed to blaming western culture for all the ills of the world, it cannot find the indignation required to condemn a backwards, misogynistic society.

Shame on Virginia Tech. Shame.

For a lighter perspective on this dead-serious issue, check out Iowahawk.

Update: Lest you think I paint with too broad a brush, check out the words of Abd Al-Sabour Shahin, head of the Shari’a faculty at Al-Ahzar University, the most prestigious academy in Sunni Islam. He is a lecturer at Cairo University, and not some cave-dwelling terrorist firebrand.

Remember that shari'a is the legal system that our enemies want to subject us to. The same system that requires the separation of the sexes.

And note how closely the good professor's rhetoric tracks the fevered paranoia of the loony left - blame the Jews -- it's all about the oil. Do you think perhaps our cowardly leftist politicians, academics, and journalists have provided rhetorical cover for this kind of garbage? What can we do?

Just asking.

Posted by JohnL at 09:37 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

Shat on Stormtroopers


(From the latest edition of Movie Monkey, via Owlish).

Posted by JohnL at 09:22 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

August 09, 2005

Blogroll Editing

Please note that I have added a musical section to my blogroll. In addition to moving a couple of long-time residents of the general part of my blogroll, I have included several new music bloggers with whom I have become acquainted thanks to the Carnival of Music.

Please check out all of these fine bloggers:

Update: Late addition! A Monk's Musical Musings.

Posted by JohnL at 11:31 PM | Comments (3) | | TrackBack

Abortion and Brain Life, Redux

I note with some pleasure that John Hood, a contributor to National Review Online's Corner expressed exactly the idea I framed last week about "brain life" being a way to start to untangle the emotional mess around abortion.

Not surprisingly, the dynamic half of the dogmatic duo, Ramesh Ponnuru (the other half being the grammaticaly-challenged but equally dogmatic Katherine Jean Lopez) leapt into the fray to defend the life-begins-at-conception idea. He did acknowledge the possibility that there is a distinction between human "life" and human "personhood" and even gave a nod to the idea that the key issue in Hood's (and my) proposal is a functioning cortex, though he wouldn't want to go too far down that road.

An emailer to "K-Lo" then criticized the whole concept of "brain birth" as fetishization of the brain. The same mailer later stated through Lopez that (paraphrasing) defining humanity based on brain function would lead to harvesting organs from people in comas. This is typical emotionally-charged sentimentalism that the mystics use to oppose human cloning and embryonic stem cell research (e.g., likening the harvesting of stem cells from a blastocyst to carving up people for spare parts).

In any case, National Review's pundits have taken up the issue and there is a good deal of civil, well-stated discourse. Just click to Hood's original post and scroll up.

Posted by JohnL at 11:01 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

Libertarian Film Festival

I have yet to see Firefly, though it is in my Netflix queue. I would like to check it out before going to see Serenity, which is getting a great deal of buzz on SF and libertarian blogs.

Today an article about Serenity at Reason's Hit and Run led to some very interesting commentary about the libertarian themes in the original Firefly series. I am really getting psyched, and eagerly await the movie.

More fun than that, though, is this hilarious look at a fictional libertarian film festival, linked by Stevo Darkly in the comments there: Oscar Shrugged: The First Galt's Gulch Film Festival. You probably won't get it if you haven't read Atlas Shrugged.

If, however, you have. Click over there NOW. It is hilarious (and also led to me adding about 7 more movies to my queue).

Posted by JohnL at 10:38 PM | Comments (3) | | TrackBack

August 08, 2005

Cheesy Movie Posters

Another reason to love the Internet: a gallery of movie posters and video art for each of the movies lampooned by the brilliant MST3K series and movie.

Via SFSignal.

Posted by JohnL at 11:17 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

Blessing of Fonts

My oldest son is really into calligraphy. He is mastering several different types of formal script. Who knows, maybe he will design a new font someday.

Today, fonts seemed to be a recurrent theme in my blog-surfing.

God, how twee is that? “Slightly irritated by a typeface.” Put that on my tombstone.

- James Lileks, 8 August 2005 Bleat

Lynn muses about the emotional impact of fonts on a reader. She is seeking some input on what fonts you like, what color, size, style. Leave her a comment and let her know what you think.

I like sans-serif fonts the best. I use Verdana for most everything I write. It makes for wonderfully readable legal forms, not too busy and easy to fax or scan without too much clutter. For web style, I prefer dark text on light backgrounds, though there are some well-executed blogs that pull off the opposite.

If I had to use a serif font, I would choose Palatino, which is simply beautiful. I don't care for Times New Roman, as I associate it (and Courier) with poorly-drafted legalese. I see way too much lawyer work-product drafted in Times New Roman 12 pt., 1.25 inch margins (i.e. MS Word default settings).

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Lemuel reveals himself to be a sans-serif man. I would think he would be a sans-blog man by now, since he keeps threatening to delete the thing.

On a wholly-unrelated note, I wonder whether anyone can guess the source of this post's title?

Posted by JohnL at 11:06 PM | Comments (5) | | TrackBack

Cool Optical Illusions

Check out these stunning optical illusions. Number 3 is extremely tricky.

Via Zoe Brain.

Posted by JohnL at 10:46 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

Carnival of Music #10

The tenth Carnival of Music is happening at this week.

Check it out for some melodious bloggy goodness.

As always, check the archive page to visit past carnivals, to scope out future hosts, and to submit articles or volunteer to host.

Posted by JohnL at 10:35 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

August 04, 2005

I'm Going to H-E-Double Hockeysticks For This...

McSweeney's Obscenities Uttered by Jesus Christ had me laughing.

Obvious humor, but still funny.

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The Book I Will Write Someday

Could there have been any possible doubt?

SCI-FI! - Neuromancy and technical wizardy! You are
compelled to write of the Future and what might
be a thousand years from now or next week! Is
it a visit to an Alien Culture? Or a
breathtaking new form of Technology? Isaac
Asimov and William Gibson are your guides.

What Kind of Novel Should I Write?
brought to you by Quizilla

(Via The Impenetrable LDH).

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Three Rules for Happy Living

Most of the time around here, I try to avoid the sensitive issues of the day (which usually bring me little joy) and focus on the things that make my life fun to live: my family, music, science fiction, space, and many trivial little things that I find here and there on the internet. Of course, underlying all these is a strong appreciation for liberty together with the culture and legal environment that fosters my ability to enjoy these things.

One reason I really enjoy reading Stephen Green is that he seems to have a similar outlook on life as a joy to live. And, even though he tackles more political issues than I do, he does tend to avoid the hottest-button political issues. But in a late-night ramble tonight, he stakes out his position on three topics that tend to lead to holy wars: abortion, gun control, and evolution. So, lest I be dismissed as a lightweight, or at least as one too cowardly to state his views on the same subject, here are my thoughts:

Abortion: People's opinions on this issue are driven by their definition of human life. A mother has a right to liberty, which in my mind includes almost total control over her being. However, at some point before birth, a fetus becomes a human being. I tend to think "viability" is a bit of a red herring in the argument until the fetus is actually human. I believe human life begins (and ends) with a functioning (or not) human brain.

At some point around the end of the first trimester, the fetus' brain begins to exhibit steady brain-wave activity --call it "brain life" if you will. At that point, I think the the fetus' viability is more of an issue. I.e., since both the mother and fetus are now human, their rights must be protected. But the fetus is essentially parasitic on the mother's life. As long as the fetus remains non-viable, I think the scales tip heavily in favor of the mother's choice. And I believe that the balance always should tilt in favor of the mother's life (even if just a little) right up to birth. Based on the above, I also think that an anencephalic or gravely ill fetus could be terminated at any point before birth without any major ethical qualms.

Gun Control. Read the Second Amendment. Read it again. See what Steve said.

Evolution. It's just a theory. Yeah, just like special relativity or quantum mechanics. A very powerful predictive theory that underlies tremendous advances in biology and medicine. But "just a theory." Intelligent design and creationism are not theories, but beliefs. Much less powerful than a scientific theory. To be fair, I am intrigued by the anthropic principle (soft creationism, perhaps), as well as the need for an "observer" to collapse certain quantum waves (in theory), but do not think you can "prove" the existence of a creator. You have to believe.

One question for Steve, though: what about Apple versus MacPC???

Update: I made some edits to the above, which was pretty poorly-drafted in its original form. Even the title is pretty godawful, but I'll leave it as a monument to my incompetence. Just imagine that the title reads "Three Subjects to Avoid..."

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August 03, 2005

Discovery Repairs

Thankfully, it appears that today's repair mission was a complete success, and the potentially threatening gap fillers were removed with minimal effort and without causing any damage to the thermal tiles. Read about it here.

Unfortunately, it now appears that a second spacewalk may be necessary to repair a thermal quilt outside the cockpit that may have been damaged by launch debris.

I wonder how many of these kinds of issues have previously gone unnoticed or uncared-about. Since NASA added additional cameras for the return-to-flight mission, Discovery has to be the most closely-studied orbiter in the history of the program. Perhaps our earlier ignorance really was bliss. I'm just surprised that this level of scrutiny wasn't applied to the earlier shuttle missions.

It will be interesting to see whether the safety-first culture at NASA will abate any after a few successful missions. It will have to in order to ever succeed in implementing President Bush's exploration initiative. It seems that repair spacewalks should be something that every crew of every vessel in space should be prepared to do.

Posted by JohnL at 11:59 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

August 02, 2005

Swords and Guns

A couple of random, but loosely-linked posts:

Rocket Jones found (via Flea) a great video of a machine gun versus a Katana sword. The super-slow-motion of the bullets striking the blade is breathtaking.

At Troynovant, William H. Stoddard has updated an old book review of The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe. He observes the ambivalence of the residents of the 16th century toward the sword, and draws an analogy to our current culture's ambivalence toward handguns.

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SF Babes Poll (Stargate Atlantis)

Well, after more than 400 votes, it was time to close down the incredibly close Incredibles poll. Results are posted here and in the Gallery.

With our new house, we finally got standard cable TV, including the Sci Fi channel. As a consequence, I've now gotten a chance to see a few episodes of Stargate Atlantis. Decent enough SF drama featuring a couple of nice-looking ladies, who feature in the new poll:

Teyla Emmagan (portrayed by Rachel Luttrell):

Dr. Elizabeth Weir (portrayed by Torri Higginson):

Results (Posted 1 December 2005):

Teyla 139 of 350 votes for 40%
Dr. Weir 211 of 350 votes for 60% -- WINNER!

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Tastes Like Chicken of the Sea?

Yobbo, who's been chronicling his ongoing debauched journeys through Asia (women, gambling, etc.) over the last several months arrived in Tokyo a few weeks ago, and soon embarked on a mission to find some whale to eat.

Read his account of the unique gustatory experience here.

Almost makes me curious to try it. Even the "lightly roasted" dish (more like whale sashimi), which I can imagine being palatable with some wasabi and ginger, chased by a large Sapporo.

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August 01, 2005

Heinlein Quote of the Month (August 2005)

It may be that an intelligent race has to expand right up to its disaster point to achieve what is needed to break out of its planet and reach for the stars. It may always - or almost always - be a photo finish, with the outcome uncertain to the last moment. Just as it is with us. It may take endless wars and unbearable population pressure to force-feed a technology to the point where it can cope with space. In the universe, space travel may be the normal birth pangs of an otherwise dying race. A test. Some races pass, some fail.

- Jacob Salomon in I Will Fear No Evil.

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The Lost Weekend

Kathy, Rob, and the Llama Military Correspondent all recounted tales of their "Lost Weekend."

I like the sound of that: The Lost Weekend. It has a kind of mystique to it.

My weekend included the following:

Saturday - Cub Scout bike ride, three hours of yard work, swimming and dinner with family friends. Kids to bed late.

Sunday - early music rehearsal with church band, performance in church service, baking a cake for oldest son's birthday, shopping, trip to see the Fantastic 4 (much better than the bad reviews it got, btw), sleepover birthday party for oldest son.

And it spilled over into today: handyman appeared at 8:00 this morning to put in some floor tiles, I worked a full day, and had to get eldest son to a church youth activity this evening at the same time my daughter was starting her birthday party at the neighborhood pool. It is now almost 11:00PM CDT and I am finally unwinding.

This is just a sample of our summer to date.

Based on the pace we've been keeping up around here, together with the prep and fallout of the house move, I think we'll look back at this and call it The Lost Summer.

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Carnival of Music #9

Professor Scott Spiegelberg has created a nice tribute to Harry Potter with this week's Carnival of Music, the ninth installment to date. Please drop by and leave a comment.

We need some more volunteers to host. If you're interested, it's an easy and fun way to gain some exposure for your blog. Please send an email here to volunteer to host or submit a post. If you have any other questions, visit the main Carnival Page.

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