Archive for October, 2010
I’ve really been stretched this weekend. One big distraction is upgrading the family’s main computer from Windows XP to Windows 7. The new product is well-rated, but the upgrade can take many (as in more than 12) hours. I’m working on many ideas, but I haven’t had a chance to write them up yet. Therefore, I will turn once again to the terrific quote collection of on of our readers, Mike Baker:
“Do not save your loving speeches, For your friends till they are dead;
Do not write them on their tombstones, Speak them rather now instead.” Anna Cummins
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
“He who is greedy is always in want.”
“The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference.”
~ British historian Ian Kershaw
“The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear—fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants beyond everything else is safety.”
~ H. L. Mencken, American journalist and humorist (1880-1956)
“With numbing regularity good people were seen to knuckle under the demands of authority and perform actions that were callous and severe. Men who are in everyday life responsible and decent were seduced by the trappings of authority, by the control of their perceptions, and by the uncritical acceptance of the experimenter’s definition of the situation, into performing harsh acts. A substantial proportion of people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without limitations of conscience, so long as they perceive that the command comes from a legitimate authority.”
~ Stanley Milgram , 1965
“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance — it is the illusion of knowledge.”
“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”
~ Galileo Italian astronomer & physicist (1564 – 1642)
“Long experience has taught me this about the status of mankind with regard to matters requiring thought: the less people know and understand about them, the more positively they attempt to argue concerning them, while on the other hand to know and understand a multitude of things renders men cautious in passing judgment upon anything new.
[More . . . ]
I try to ignore Glenn Beck. I think he’s pathetic. All he can do is whine about things he quite often doesn’t understand. For instance, his latest peeve has to do with being bumped out of line by science fiction. Yeah, that’s right. Glenn Beck’s book Broke has been number 1 on Amazon for a while and it apparently got beat out finally by a science fiction anthology.
His complaint that this is from “the left” is telling. First off he’s trying to make it sound like some profound philosophical issue, that a science fiction collection outsold his book on Amazon. (He also noted that the Keith Richards autobiography bumped him as well and please note the twist he gives that.)
Why the Left? Is science fiction a left-wing thing? I know a lot of SF writers who style themselves right-wing, libertarian, conservative, etc. Some of them are very good, too, and I have read some of their work with pleasure. Unless they were writing from an overtly political stance, I found no reason to call them on their “rightishness” because they outsold another writer’s work that might have been a bit leftish. This is just a silly complaint and displays an obsession with partisan politics or just immaturity. This is, of course, Glenn Beck we’re talking about, who seems to find more reasons to evoke Nazi similes than any other pundit I know of and has occasionally shed tears over the abuse he sees our great country enduring from the left.
But this is ridiculous. Because isn’t this…I mean, Glenn, isn’t this just the free market making itself heard? Your book can’t stay number one because that would belie the whole principle of competition you claim to believe in. Everybody who works hard and honestly should have their shot at being number one for a little while and this anthology is a poster-child for hard work and perseverance because, well, it’s self-published! It doesn’t even have a major (or minor) publishing house behind it! It got there all on its own, man! This is the flower of the free market! David whupping Goliath’s ass! This should make you proud!
No, he berates it because it has to do with death or the culture of death, which he equates with left-wing politics somehow. And for good measure drags Keith Richards into the whole death equation.
[More . . . ]
When I’m finished with the difficult parts writing a long legal brief, when I’m the only one still at the office and all that remains is tidying things up and cite-checking, I am only then able to listen to music while working. At these my very late night sessions at the office, I often crave tight driving jazz/rock with excellent musicians. Steely Dan fits the bill, especially when I crank up my modest little office stereo. I’m referring to the music of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, of course. If you haven’t heard the two “new” CD’s of Steely Dan, (“Two Against Nature” and “Everything Must Go”), you’re in for a treat.
This tune, “Kid Charlemagne,” is from one of the group’s earlier works, but this is a terrific performance in a studio-like setting. And speaking of excellent musicians, check out the guitar playing:
Today I found a 2006 unread issue of National Geographic in my pile of things-to-read, and I was floored by the incredible photos of Saturn taken in 2004 by the Cassini spacecraft. Don’t forget the look at the entire gallery, including the photo of Saturn’s icy moon Dione, profiled with Saturn’s rings on edge (they are only 150 feet thick). Amazing photos! Galileo discovered Saturn’s rings in 1610, but one is tempted to imagine what Galileo would have said had he seen these photos. Saturn, as big as 700 Earths, and orbited by at least 56 moons. One of those moons, Titan, was visited by “Huygens, a probe launched from Cassini.
If that is not enough excitement for you, consider a second article in the same issue, this one called “Earth in the Beginning.” It was a harsh environment, but we are survivors. Check out the gallery here, too, as well as the animations. Admittedly, these are reconstructions, but such a context it all brings home. . .
Edge.org is featuring a wonderful collection of maps, including this Flavor Network by Yong-Yeol_Ahn, a postdoctoral researcher for the Center for Complex Network Research at Northeastern University (click for a high res view that will allow you to explore).
Or consider this map of the oldest words in our lexicon, by Mark Pagel, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Reading University, England.
And consider this map illustrating path dependence, a 1901 map of the Internet.
Many more maps to see here, courtesy of Edge.
Keith Olbermann puts the spotlight on various Tea Party members. When you see the positions they are taking one after an other, you’ll wonder whether you are having a bad dream:
Charles Ferguson is the director of the new documentary, “Inside Job”, which is generating a lot of buzz. It is narrated by Matt Damon, and explains the financial crisis that began in 2008 and continues to this day. Ferguson has contributed an article to the War Room blog at Salon.com, and it’s a stunningly clear indictment of the plutocracy that has taken over both the American economy and its political system. Please, do yourself a favor, and read the entire thing.
Did you read it? Good, now we’re ready to continue. Here’s the part that I’d really like to draw your attention to (emphasis mine):
It is, in short, overwhelmingly clear that President Obama and his administration decided to side with the oligarchs — or at least not to challenge them. This raises the question of why they have made this choice, and whether it is a correct (in the sense of rationally self-interested) calculation on their part.
As to the “why,” several explanations have been proposed. One is that the president, as a matter of individual psychology, is extremely conflict-averse, preferring to avoid fights no matter how important. A second hypothesis is that the president is simply doing the most he can, given the political climate and the furious lobbying effort with which he is confronted. This explanation, however, is belied by the personnel appointments, among other evidence.
A more disturbing possibility is that the Obama administration has simply codified a new strategic equilibrium in American politics, one first devised by the Clinton administration, in which both parties are supine with regard to the financial sector and the wealthy.
[More . . . ]