A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, June 29, 2007

A 40,000 Ton Tourist Attraction

An accidental tourist attraction. The Pasha Bulker, a huge coal hauling ship, was beached near New Castle, Australia earlier this month. Sitting in roughly two-feet of water, the monster ship has resisted all efforts to return it to the sea. Tim Blair has a round up of posts on the marooned vessel, and some of the pictures on other blogs are really quite spectacular.

There is also a live feed available here.


Things We Got Wrong...

in the theater of the War on Terror that is the debacle in Iraq. There are many, but one of the biggest things, imho, was Donald Rumsfeld who was completely unwilling to commit sufficient troops to the conflict and resistant to listening to most of the commanders in Iraq. Part of that blame lies with the president, as he should have fired Rumsfeld much earlier and instead gave him a medal. Loyalty trumped competence.

But I think another huge problem was the complete bungling of the media. President Bush's inability to look anything but stilted and uncomfortable in front of the cameras compounded his near total incapacity to effectively explain his vision and plan. The media needs to take some, likely much, blame on its own shoulders here as well. They revelled at times in the misery of some Iraqi's after the U.S. liberation, they rarely if ever talked to actual U.S. soldiers, and they covered Abu Ghraib extensively while showing very little of the improvements in living that followed the fall of Saddam.

Here's an interesting bit from a U.S. War College instructor and expert on terrorism and counter-terrorism:
Because terrorists know that killings and kidnappings will capture the media's attention, Buse said, most high-level plans about how to deal with a terrorist situation include discussions about what to do with the media.

"The key terrain on the battleground is the TV screen," he [Buse] said. "I would never want the press not to print something, but they need to be careful."
The most interesting bit about those comments? They were written in a newspaper article in 1986. Perhaps the easy times of the '90's caused us to forget, but we knew better what we needed to do against a terrorist enemy in 1986 than it seems we do in the 21st century. How odd, considering many of Bush's closest advisors cut their teeth during Reagan's presidency in the 1980's.

How soon we forget.

I'll end this post with another nugget from the 1986 interview with Colonel Buse:
He [Buse] said the United States has three ways to deal with international terrorism.

The U.S. can infiltrate organizations-- which is nearly impossbile he said-- and pre-empt the strikes, stop the acts as they happen, or retaliate.

Without some sort of response, which can also include political and economic sanctions, the attacks will continue, he said.

"But (with retaliation) you have to accept the deaths of some innocent people, the destruction of non-governmental property, possible loss of your allies' support and risk future reprisals by terrorists," he said.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Vacation Blogging

Actually, my vacation was last week, but it's taken me until Thursday to catch up. So, here are a couple of pics from our time up in beautiful Door County, Wisconsin:

The picture on the left is from some fireworks I shot off over Lake Michigan on one of our evenings up there. They turned out pretty nice-- scared the ever loving crap (possibly literally) out of the seagulls and geese that hang out near the shore. The one on the right are my two kiddies-- yikes they are growing up too fast-- wading ashore. Though Lake Michigan is quite deep, there is a shelf that goes out quite a ways before a rapid dropoff, so you can wade out 100 feet or more with the water only coming up to your waist or thereabouts.

One last pic-- my wife fulfills a longtime dream of hers with the arrival of this beauty:

She has named this lovely Harley Davidson Sportster, Sally. I have been assured that there is even a possibility of my being able to ride Sally at some unspecified point in the future.


It is a really sweet bike, and now I can say I'm married to a biker chick, so that's very cool.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Approaching the Half Way Poll

Of the ridiculously long baseball season. 162 games is patently absurd. But I digress. After 75 games (roughly 45% of the season), my Milwaukee Brewers are 11 games over .500 at 43-32. They also have a 7 1/2 game lead over the 2nd place Cubs, despite having less than half the payroll of the Really Not At All Loveable Losers. They are playing really well at home (27-13) and decent on the road (16-19), and the coolest thing of all is that the players that are propelling them this year-- Prince Fielder, JJ Hardy, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Billy Hall are all young, talented, and under contract for the next few years. The pitching staff is very deep, and Ben Sheets is finally showing signs of being the dominant ace he's shown flashes of in the past 5 years.

Some minor concerns are the struggles of prize free agent pitcher Jeff Suppan, who has not pitched well in his last half dozen or so starts, and the continuing injury problems of Hardy and Weeks. But over all, the future looks very, very bright and the present looks pretty darn appealing as well. Particularly since the Brewers' division is the worst in baseball. Granted, they don't have as cool a name as the UC-Irvine Anteaters, but the Brewers are still pretty good. Much better than boring old mascots like the Cardinals, Reds, Tigers, or the like.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

We're All Anteaters Now

UC-Irvine has the coolest mascot in the world, the Anteaters. A small, public school in Orange County, UCI has no baseball tradition, no rich alumni, no public notoriety. They are currently playing in the College World Series, a stage normally reserved for the Arizona State's, Miami's and Texas's of the college world. They have already accomplished something no other team in CWS history has managed-- winning two extra inning games in two consecutive days.

Now the upstart Eaters must beat the Oregon State Beavers today, and again tomorrow, to make it to the championships of the CWS. Having played Saturday, Monday (14 innings) and yesterday (10 innings), I don't know what UCI has left for pitchers, but I know I'll be pulling for them today at 5 pm CT.

BTW, should you wish to make an Anteater of your own while watching the game on ESPN, you can. Hold your index and little finger up (anteater ears) while sticking your two middle fingers straight out (anteater nose) and putting your thumb between the undersides of the two middle fingers (rest of anteater head). Kinda like doing the rock n' roll "devil" sign except with the middle fingers extended instead of curled.

Go Eaters!


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

People With Lots of Time

And a fair amount of creativity can come up with some really funny bits. A colleague of mine passed along this gem, and I now forward it on to you my readers. All four of you. Give it a look-- but be careful watching it at work as you very well may wind up laughing out loud.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Few Reviews

Batman Begins (yes, I'm waaaayyyy behind) is a fabulous movie. Superbly written, brilliantly acted, and a feast for the eyes. The Tim Burton re-imagining of the Dark Knight (with the outstanding casting of Jack Nicholson as the Joker) was excellent, in a comic book sense, and a lot of fun, but this.... This is as close as you could ever get to believing Batman could actually exist in our world.

Christian Bale is spot on as Bruce Wayne, Michael Caine was an inspired choice as Alfred, Liam Neeson surprisingly good as the mysterious stranger who starts Bruce Wayne on his path to becoming Batman, and Cillian Murphy makes for a very creepy Scarecrow. Morgan Freeman, Rutger Hauer and Gary Oldman are all very good in supporting roles. The only weak spot in the cast is Katie Holmes as an incorruptible DA, but her performance is weak only relative to the excellence of the rest of the cast.

The plot is rock solid, tying together all of the various and disparate Batman bits seemingly effortlessly--no small accomplishment. There is almost no cheesiness in the plot or the script-- also no small accomplishment-- but there are moments of wry humor that ring true precisely because they aren't contrived or standard issue action movie wisecracks. And finally, the music is superb. As fresh as Danny Elfman's driving percussion lines were in the Burton film, they seem old and tired now-- not so the haunting woodwind heavy score of Batman Begins. It does not beat you over the head, and it mixes East and West with great facility. Highly recommended!

Not so the Odd Couple, now being resurrected at The Fireside Theater in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. Actually, I haven't seen it, so take this with a large grain of salt, but the advertisements for it are sooooo lame that I'm pretty sure the production is awful. Seriously, though, if the bits they have in the radio ads are the funniest parts... well, there may need to be a suicide watch for the audience because every single line we hear is contrived, dated, and-- most tellingly-- painfully unfunny. The ad also has "testimonials" in it from people who purportedly loved the show. I can't tell for sure-- since it's radio-- but I suspect that the Fireside people put a gun to the heads of the poor saps, because I have rarely heard laughter and commentary sound so completely forced.

Mixed review for Orson Scott Card's Shadow series of novels. These four books are a sequel of sorts to Card's classic Ender's Game novel. They detail the efforts of Ender's brother, Peter, to unite the world as well as showing us what happens to the children that were in battle school with Ender during the war between humanity and the alien Hive Queens. Overall, the four books are entertaining and worth a read if you are a science fiction or OSC fan. Be prepared, however, for a bit of preachiness while you are reading because OSC has his soap box out and he isn't afraid to pontificate.

In particular, Card is surprisingly heavy handed in his use of plot devices to drive home his belief that: 1) Even embryos are people and deserving of protection, 2) Pre-emptive war/violence is sometimes necessary, and 3) Gay marriage is an abomination and gay people should be happy being either single or married to a member of the opposite sex and pretending that they are heterosexual. Of those three, I mostly agree with him on #2, but not so much with #1, and I find his position on #3 completely indefensible.

For the most part, however, Card remembers the old writing dictum "show, don't tell" and his pet topics detract minimally from the overall flow and depth of the novels. And his vision for how unity on earth will finally be achieved is fascinating, as is his treatment of possible futures for China, India, Islam, and the world in general. The books are good, but not great, and there will be lecturing from time to time.

Last review, and something which I've been meaning to comment on for quite a while now but keep forgetting about-- are the "I'm a Mac... and I'm a PC" ads not the most brilliant advertisements to come out in a long time? They are consistently fresh, inventive, funny AND they actually tell you the strengths of the product. I love the one where the PC is inflated like the Blueberry Girl in Willy Wonka and can barely walk around. This one is pretty good, too. Ah heck, they are all good.

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It's Good to be Rich

Apparently if you're rich, you only have to serve 10% of your prison sentence. Or perhaps you have to be rich, famous, and a complete skank like Paris Hilton. Any way you slice it, it's a crock of... well, unsavory substances. IF it is true. Some questions about the veracity of the TMZ report remain, starting with the fact that it is sourced by TMZ.com.

Regardless of whether it is true or not, this "prison diary" of Paris' time in jail is hilarious. Sample:
Day 18:
This "Jesus Christ" was an amazing guy. It's so sad he died so young.

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Monday, June 04, 2007


Dennis the Peasant absolutely eviscerates Amanda Marcotte in a recent post. Brilliant, amusing and very thorough. It does make you wonder what it's like wandering through life with the general mindset that men are vile dogs with only a very limited capacity for reason and thought. Doesn't seem like it can be much fun, does it?


Doyle's Tax Folly

He claims his budget, which assesses a 2.5% tax on gas companies, is a win-win for the state and its residents. Nearly everyone else (except the Journal Sentinal, the paper BP accuses of drifting waaayyy far right, and even they have their doubts) is confident it is a lose-lose, and maybe even unconstitutional. Who do I believe? Well, given the title of this post I don't think it is too hard to figure out-- I've seen too much Jim Doyle preening about non-existent tax freezes and "balanced" budgets that merely push the pain off for a few years to have any faith in the man's "vision".

But, at least he's being open about his efforts to tax us. Unlike the Dems in the U.S. Congress. I had hopes for a few months there that the new Congress would actually follow through on their promises of fiscal sanity. Oh, and it's Wisconsin's own David Obey leading the charge for obfuscation (what a great word).

I'm so proud.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Warning: May Include Themes

I was looking at some videos here at the library today, trying to find some material for weekend viewing if it rains a lot. Which it appears likely to do given the huge green, yellow and red blobs currently moving across Iowa and northern Illinois. Quite a few of the available titles were intriguing, but not half as interesting as the Rating label explanations. G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17 are straight-forward enough, but the "explanations" for the given ratings are just bizarre.

I settled on Batman Begins, which I've heard very good things about, which is rated PG-13. The given reasons? "Intense Action Violence, Disturbing Images and Some Thematic Elements." Why all of the words is capitalized is beyond me, but let us set that aside as a minor irritant. "Intense Action Violence." As opposed to... "Placid Action Violence"? And what exactly is "Action Violence"? Can you be violent without action? I guess there can be action without violence, though the former seems most often to be connected to the latter, but I really don't think there can be any other type of violence than action violence.

Moving on. "Disturbing Images". More understandable, and less redundant, than "Intense Action Violence" but really what does it tell us? Disturbing how? To whom? Would any of these count? Not really all that helpful, but at least you got the gist of what they were attempting to warn you about.

Not so much with "Some Thematic Elements". Huh? Don't all movies have thematic elements? If there were no thematic elements, all you would have is a bunch of random scenes strung together for 90 minutes. You know, like a Jerry Bruckheimer movie-- rimshot! Seriously, is the warning that there are only SOME thematic elements as opposed to an entire movie filled with a coherent, well-established and developed theme? Somehow I don't think that is what the MPAA had in mind when they appended that particular phrase to their rating.

Parents strongly cautioned because of "Some Thematic Elements". That means nothing. Zip, zero, nada. This movie, for example, contains "Some Thematic Elements" but I doubt they'd earn the movie a PG-13. Though you could argue that parents should not allow their children to watch it under any circumstances.

Heck, the stupid rating explanations aren't even consistent. Here's the explanation for the R rating of Saw-- the violent, sadistic, horror flick that has inspired so many recent violent, sadistic, horror flicks: "Rated R for strong grisly violence and language." No weak grisly violence here. Here's the explanation for Saw II's R rating: "Rated R for grisly violence and gore, terror, language and drug content." So, the grisly violence is no longer strong, but there is gore and terror? But... ummm... I'm pretty sure there was a fair amount of gore and terror in the original, too. Ok, ok, how about Saw III? "Rated R for strong grisly violence and gore, sequences of terror and torture, nudity and language." Ah... so, the grisly violence has once more been working out, the gore has returned from #2 (pity there was no actual gore in #1), and now there are sequences of terror AND torture. Guess all those poor saps that bit it in the first two movies from sawing their leg off, dying of blood loss in the razor wire maze, having a bear trap snap shut on their head, being burned to death in a furnace, slowing drowning under huge quantities of pig intestines, freezing to death, etc., etc. weren't actually tortured.

Phah. Phah I say. Rate if you must, but let's stop with the preposterous "explanations".

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