Thursday, August 31, 2017

Meanwhile, in the Bloggerhood

A careful perusal of my blogroll will reveal that it adheres to Canadian Content standards. Among the Canadians in the blogroll is Interrobang, who does some great quote roundups from the snarkiest blogs out there... and some serious journalistic sources. Scanning her blog invariably leads to some fantastic reads, and she is a great snarker as well in numerous comment threads.

A longtime reader, I have been aware that she has had a run of bad luck for a while, as she describes in her latest post. She set up a Gofundme campaign to buy some new hardware for a job search. The campaign funded, but I figured I'd get the word out so she can get some more funds to provide a safety net for her as she searches for a new job. Interrobang is good people, and her misfortunes pretty much show that the concept of karma is pretty much just wishful thinking. While the universe is a cruel place, the bloggerhood is a place where kindness prevails. If you've got a few simoleons to spare, sending them to Interrobang would do a lot to make sure that she keeps this particular corner of the internet interesting.

As others have said, here's hoping that this marks a change in fortune for you, !?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

On Draining Swamps

I am a lover of swamps, as longtime readers will know, so the Trump slogan 'Drain the Swamp' was always a non-starter with me. Swamps, marshes, and other wetlands serve a vital ecological function, being hotbeds of biodiversity, breeding grounds for all sorts of terrestrial and marine life. Draining swamps negatively impacts regions... especially when those swamps are drained for the development of low-lying infrastructure.

On today's Brian Lehrer Show, Harvey took central stage. In my estimation, Harvey is the perfect 'Republican' storm, a stormy brew of anthropogenic climate-change fueled atmospheric moisture and a lack of zoning regulations that allowed real-estate development in low-lying areas, and a paved-over sprawl which prevented the absorption of water, exacerbating the flooding.

Harvey is basically the result of literal Swamp-Draining, which is just as bad as the figurative swamp-draining that this froggy fellow claims to be accomplishing.

UPDATE: As usual, Charles Pierce has a must-read post about Harvey and the upcoming non-natural disasters in its wake.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

From NY to Texas, We Love You, Stop Voting for Assholes

I have expressed anger at Texas' senators for holding up relief funds for New York and New Jersey post-Sandy, but, not being a monster, I have to hold myself to a better standard than those assholes... I can't sit by and do nothing for the people of Southeast Texas in the face of Hurricane Harvey. I am not a believer in big charities- I have seen too much about even seemingly reputable charities using funds to pay unreasonable executive compensation and fundraising costs. Accordingly, I have donated by dollars to local groups- the Central Texas Food Bank and the San Antonio Food Bank. These organizations will be handling the care and feeding of evacuees for the foreseeable future, so I figure they are two of the best bets for money actually getting to the needy.

Being a New Yorker, therefore someone who forgets nothing, I will never forgive the Texas congressional Republican coterie for holding up post-Sandy aid, and I will especially never forgive these assholes for making me think 'screw those people, they didn't come out to help us when we needed them' for even one second. If I am to claim that I am a better person than Cruz et al., I have to be, you know, a better person.

Now, my Texan friends, please take some time to perhaps consider not electing total assholes to represent you?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

My Noggin, Your Canvas

Today has been a busy day for me... since summer is rapidly drawing to a close, I decided that I would actually go about doing things before heading off to work, rather than sleeping in all morning. At one point in my travels, I went to an event at which a young woman was creating 'glitter tattoos' for children. She insisted on giving me a glitter tattoo on my big, bald noggin. Since I was wearing a Secret Science Club T-shirt, I decided to get a purple octopus glitter tattoo:

Hey, it's not like I had a choice in the matter... it's impossible to say no to a cute girl dressed as a pirate. I did have some explaining to do when I arrived on the job, but telling everybody that a cute pirate lass was giving out glitter tattoos was sufficient.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Trump's First Major Natural Disaster

It was bound to happen, a natural disaster occurring on Vulgarmort's watch, as a monster category 4 hurricane slammed into Texas' gulf coast. While Harvey has been downgraded to a tropical storm, it is still dumping fucktons of rain on Texas. I am reminded of Hurricane Irene, a slow-moving storm which dumped buckets and buckets of rain, being particularly devastating to New England.

Trump's response to Hurricane Harvey will be fascinating to watch- the man is an incompetent boob, but the storm hit 'Trump Country', so I suspect he will make a big show of sending help, even if it's ineffectual. Trump's FEMA head, Brock Long, seems to be marginally competent... it's not like his sole organizational experience has been running a horse-fanciers' club. I also have to note that Trump has been gutting NOAA's budget, which will negatively impact future tropical storm modeling.

Being a New Yorker, by which I mean someone who never forgets anything, I have to note that Texas Senators Cornyn and Cruz, shitbags both, voted against Hurricane Sandy relief five years ago. While I would never wish Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to vote against hurricane relief for Texas, I sure hope they name any legislation to that effect the 'Ted Cruz and John Cornyn Are Worthless Pieces of Trash' bill.

Stay safe, Texans, by which I mean Nasreen and family. Stay safe.

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Local Triumph

It's been a while since I have written about infrastructure. The conventional wisdom is that American infrastructure is subpar. The big local infrastructure story in my neck of the woods, which I have devoted multiple blog posts to, was the deterioration of the Tappan Zee Bridge, which spans the Hudson River, and the construction of a new bridge. Yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo cut the ribbon on the westbound span of the bridge, which has been named after his father, the late Governor Mario Cuomo. While a fan of the late governor, I really don't think that the bridge should have been named after anyone- the old name honors both the original indigenous people and the Dutch settlers of the Hudson Valley, so I will stick with calling it the 'Tapp'.

The eastbound span of the bridge should open to traffic in the fall, just in time for the main upstate Autumn foliage tourism. It's nice to see a local infrastructure project come to fruition. My one beef with the new bridge design is the failure to incorporate a light rail line into the structure to connect the I-287 Corridor to the three lines of the Metro North railway system, thereby linking New Jersey to Connecticut via rail. Oh, well, that's me, ever the curmudgeon... at any rate, at least something has been accomplished.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Another Genre Titan Gone

Another of the great science-fiction auteurs of the 20th century is gone- Brian Aldiss passed away at the age of ninety-two. Brian Aldiss, besides being the author of 80-odd (and I mean odd) books, was the editor of forty anthologies. Perhaps Aldiss' best-known story was Supertoys Last All Summer Long, which inspired the Kubrick/Spielberg vehicle A.I. Out of Aldiss' novels, the Helliconia trilogy, a sprawling planetary romance, is perhaps most familiar to the American reading public.

Aldiss tended to avoid optimistic space operas, with square-jawed heroes and whiz-bang technology. My favorite works by Aldiss were outré stories, with the science taking a backseat to the somewhat zany plots. He had a knack for portraying humanity in decline, his human protagonists are just another part of the food chain, concerned more with survival than conquest. His first novel, 1958's Non-Stop, a tale of a primitive tribe's exploration of its environs, has a couple of huge twists... so as not to spoil the fun of the book, I won't even give a small recap of the plot. At any rate, it is a fun read, with Aldiss messing with the readers' expectations on a recurring basis.

1962's Hothouse is a tour-de-force of bizarro biology, with plant life run amok on a rotationally locked Earth tethered to the moon by the kilometers-long strands of the massive vegetable entities which traverse the distance between the two heavenly bodies:

The traverser drifted very high above the Tips, safe from its enemies. All about it, space was indigo, and the invisible rays of space bathed it and nourished it. Yet the traverser was still dependent on the earth for nourishment. After many hours of vegetative dreaming, it swung itself over and climbed down a cable.

Other traversers hung motionless nearby. Occasionally one would blow a globe of oxygen or hitch a leg to try and dislodge a troublesome parasite. Theirs was a leisureliness never attained before. Time was not for them; the sun was theirs, and would ever be until it became unstable, turned nova, and burnt both them and itself out.

The traverser fell, its feet twinkling, hardly touching its cable. It fell straight to the forest, it plunged towards the leafy cathedrals of the forest. Here in the air lived its enemies, enemies many times smaller, many times more vicious, many times more clever. Traversers were prey to one of the last families of insect, the tigerflies.

Only tigerflies could kill traversers - in their own insidious, invincible way.

Over the long slow eons as the sun's radiation increased, vegetation had evolved to undisputed supremacy. The wasps had developed too, keeping pace with the new developments. They grew in number and size as the animal kingdom fell into eclipse and dwindled into the rising tide of green. In time they became the chief enemies of the spider-like traversers. Attacking in packs, they could paralyse the primitive nerve centres, leaving the traversers to stagger to their own destruction. The tigerflies also laid their eggs in tunnels bored into the stuff of their enemies' bodies; when the eggs hatched, the larvae fed happily on living flesh.

This threat it was, more than anything, that had driven the traversers farther and farther into space many millennia past. In this seemingly inhospitable region, they reached their full and monstrous flowering.

Hard radiation became a necessity for them. Nature's first astronauts, they changed the face of the firmament. Long after man had rolled up his affairs and retired to the trees from whence he came, the traversers reconquered that vacant pathway he had lost. Long after intelligence had died from its peak of dominance, the traversers linked the green globe and the white indissolubly - with that antique symbol of neglect, a spider's web.

The traverser scrambled down among foliage of the Tips, erecting the hairs on its back, where patchy green and black afforded it natural camouflage. On its way down it had collected several creatures caught fluttering in its cables. It sucked them peacefully. When the soupy noises stopped, it vegetated.

Buzzing roused it from its doze. Yellow and black stripes zoomed before its crude eyes. A pair of tigerflies had found it.

With great alacrity, the traverser moved. Its massive bulk, contracted in the atmosphere, had an overall length of over a mile, yet it moved lightly as pollen, scuttling up a cable back to the safety of vacuum.

As it retreated, its legs brushing the web, it picked up various spores, burrs, and tiny creatures that adhered there. It also picked up six burnurns, each containing an insensible human, which swung unregarded from its shin.

Several miles up, the traverser paused. Recovering from its fright, it ejected a globe of oxygen, attaching it gently to a cable. It paused. Its palps trembled. Then it headed out towards deep space, expanding all the time as pressure dropped.

Its speed increased. Folding its legs, the traverser began to eject fresh web from the spinnerets under its abdomen. So it propelled itself , a vast vegetable almost without feeling, rotating slowly to stabilize its temperature.

Hard radiations bathed it. The traverser basked in them. It was in its element.

The imagery of the novel is gorgeous, but the plot, involving the peregrinations of a not-too-smart human descendant, is goofy... it really doesn't do justice to the grandeur of the setting. It's an entertaining read, a weird picaresque interlude before the destruction of Earth by a terrific solar flare.

My favorite work by Aldiss is The Saliva Tree, which simultaneously manages to be a tribute to H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds and a pastiche of H.P. Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space. The similarity to the latter story is such that even the details are similar, with an alien presence lending a grotesque vitality to nearby terrestrial life, before consuming it... The Saliva Tree adds the element of pastoral class drama and a romantic subplot. The aliens are also slightly more active in their malevolence than Lovecraft's mysterious 'colour':

They were safe, but the safety was not permanent. Through the din and dust, they could see that the gigantic beasts were wedged tightly in both entrances. In the middle was a sort of battlefield, where the animals fought to reach the opposite end of the building; they were gradually tearing each other to pieces but the sties too were threatened with demolition.

"I had to follow you," Nancy gasped. "But Father, I don't think he even recognized me!"

At least, Gregory thought, she had not seen her father trampled underfoot. Involuntarily glancing in that direction, he saw the shotgun that Grendon had never managed to reach still lying across a bracket on the wall. By crawling along a traverse beam, he could reach it easily. Bidding Nancy sit where she was, he wriggled along the beam, only a foot or two above the heaving backs of the swine. At least the gun should afford them some protection: the Aurigan, despite all its ghastly differences from humanity, would hardly be immune to lead.

As he grasped the old-fashioned weapon and pulled it up, Gregory was suddenly filled with an intense desire to kill one of the invisible monsters. In that instant, he recalled an earlier hope he had had of them: that they might be superior beings, beings of wisdom and enlightened power, coming from a
better society where higher moral codes directed the activities of its citizens. He had thought that only to such a civilization would the divine gift of traveling through interplanetary space be granted. But perhaps the opposite held true: perhaps such a great objective could be gained only by species ruthless enough to disregard more humane ends. As soon as he thought it, his mind was overpowered with a vast diseased vision of the universe, where such races as dealt in love and kindness and intellect cowered forever on their little globes, while all about them went the slayers of the universe, sailing where they would to satisfy their cruelties and their endless appetites.

He heaved his way back to Nancy above the bloody porcine fray.

Aldiss was a one-of-a-kind talent, his particular brand of Science-Fiction was nonconformist, unheroic. The one other author I can recall who mined the same lodes as Aldiss is the long-silend Doris Piserchia, whose oeuvre might be even zanier than Aldiss'. At any rate, Brian Aldiss' unique voice is now stilled, and I, a fan, feel a certain diminution because of it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The War of Northam Aggression

The Virginia GOP has decided to say the quiet parts out loud post-Charlottesville, claiming that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam has turned his back on his heritage by stating that he supports the removal of monuments that glorify the Confederacy. I can't really say that I have any predecessors that I would be ashamed of- my people have been largely scrappy peasant types who have overcome adversity and gained middle class success, with a couple of upper-middle class types who fled their stultifying lives in the old country thrown into the mix. The 'crimes' of my ancestors have all been ones that I find to be colorful, nothing to be ashamed of- one of my great-grandfathers was reputed to belong to an absinthe-smuggling ring, one of my great-grandmothers had a still blow up in the house during Prohibition... I consider my ancestors to have been scoffing a stupid laws, laws which were eventually repealed. Northam's family, though, engaged in activities which Northam does not countenance. He is repudiating the aspects of his heritage for which he cannot be proud:

The Virginia GOP has deleted its tweets calling out Northam as a traitor to the treasonous 'lost cause', but the wags won't let this go away:

By deleting that tweet you are erasing history.

The GOP emblem should be a mayfly, rather than an elephant- they have a knack for flushing facts down the memory hole.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Two Picnics

Today is the day of our company picnic, which is a wonderful opportunity for me, a person who works alone at night about seventy percent of the time, to hang out with my co-workers, who are awesome people. This year, like last year, there is a 'casino' theme- each attendee gets five hundred dollars worth of 'funny money' to gamble with, the prizes being vouchers which can be redeemed for items from our gift shop. There are also lawn games set up, such as horseshoes and bocce, a particular favorite of mine. I always have a good time, it's like a reunion for me, and it is the staff's one last breather before the utter madness of Fall Fundraiser season begins.

The other picnic of the title is Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic, a 1971 science-fiction novel, the release of which was delayed by the Soviet authorities. The novel was published in translation in the U.S. in 1977. To my chagrin, I had not read the novel previously, though it is a landmark in the genre, which I claim to be a fan of.

Roadside Picnic involves the aftermath of an alien visitation, a visitation in which the aliens, technologically superior to humans, didn't even bother to interact with the natives... hence the title:

"Imagine a picnic. Picture a forest, a country road, a meadow. A car drives off the country road into the meadow, a group of young people get out of the car carrying bottles, baskets of food, transistor radios, and cameras. They light fires, pitch tents, turn on the music. In the morning they leave. The animals, birds and insects that watched in horror through the long night creep out from their hiding places. And what do they see? Gas and oil spilled on the grass. Old spark plugs and old filters strewn around. Rags, burn out bulbs, and a monkey wrench left behind. Oil slicks on the pond. And of course, the usual mess — apple cores, candy wrappers, charred remains of the campfire cans, bottles, somebody's handkerchief, somebody's penknife, torn newspapers, comic, faded flowers picked in another meadow."

"I see. A roadside picnic."

"Precisely. A roadside picnic, on some road in the cosmos."

The 'usual mess' in the six Visitation Zones consists of inexplicable objects and effects- there are deadly concentrated gravity pockets, drifts of burning fluff that incinerates native flora, 'witches' jelly' which can dissolve the bones of anyone unfortunate enough to come in contact. There are also sufficiently advanced treasures- hoops which suggest that perpetual motion might be possible, wonderful batteries which aren't depleted, and most common of all, 'empties':

He had loaded, locked, and sealed one safe and was loading up the other one -- taking the empties from the transporter, examining each one from every angle (and they’re heavy little bastards, by the way, fifteen pounds each), and carefully replacing them on the shelf.

He had been struggling with those empties forever, and the way I see it, without any benefit to humanity or himself. In his shoes, I would have said screw it long ago and gone to work on something else for the same money. Of course, on the other hand, if you think about it, an empty really is something mysterious and maybe even incomprehensible. I’ve handled quite a few of them, but I’m still surprised every time I see one. They’re just two copper disks the size of a saucer --about a quarter inch thick, with a space of a foot and a half between.

There’s nothing else. I mean absolutely nothing, just empty space. You can stick your hand in them, or even your head, if you’re so knocked out by the whole thing -- just emptiness and more emptiness, thin air. And for all that, of course, there is some force between them, as I understand it, because you can’t press them together, and no one’s been able to pull them apart, either.

No, friends, it’s hard to describe them to someone who hasn’t seen them. They’re too simple, especially when you look close and finally believe your eyes. It’s like trying to describe a glass to someone: you end up wriggling your fingers and cursing in frustration. OK, let’s say you’ve got it, and those of you who haven’t get hold of a copy of the institute’s Reports -- every issue has an article on the empties with photos.

Kirill had been beating his brains out over the empties for almost a year. I’d been with him from the start, but I still wasn’t quite sure what it was he wanted to learn from them, and, to tell the truth, I wasn’t trying very hard to find out. Let him figure it out for himself first, and then maybe I’d have a listen. For now, I understood only one thing: he had to figure out, at any cost, what made one of those empties tick -- eat through one with acid, squash it under a press, or melt it in an oven. And then he would understand everything and be hailed and honored, and world science would shiver with ecstasy. For now, as I saw it, he had a long way to go. He hadn’t gotten anywhere yet, and he was worn out. He was sort of gray and silent, and his eyes looked like a sick dog’s-they even watered. If it had been anyone else, I would have gotten him roaring drunk and taken him over to some hard-working girl to unwind. And in the morning I’d have boozed him up again and taken him to another broad, and in a week he would have been as good as new -- bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Only that wasn’t the medicine for Kirill.

There was no point in even suggesting it -- he wasn’t the type.

So there we were in the repository. I was watching him and seeing what had happened to him, how his eyes were sunken, and I felt sorrier for him than I ever had for anyone. And that’s when I decided. I didn’t exactly decide, it was like somebody opened my mouth and made me talk.

"Listen," I said. "Kirill."

And he stood there with his last empty on the scales, looking like he was ready to climb into it.

"Listen," I said, "Kirill! What if you had a full empty, huh?"

The protagonist of the novel, Redrick "Red" Schuhart, skirts the legal divide, at times working for the Institute which studies the Visitation Zone, at times working as a 'Stalker', an unauthorized treasure-hunter who enters the zone seeking alien artifacts for the black market. The novel is set in a remote area of western Canada, and takes place over the course of a number of years. As the years progress, there are hints of the Zone exploration bearing fruits- cars powered with alien 'So-Sos' replace petroleum dependent ones. Those individuals exposed to the Zone often bear mutant children, and as the suburbs 'plagued' by proximity are abandoned by civilians, a city populated largely by scientists and security forces grows nearby. The primary conflict in the narrative is the tension between the legal explorers of the zone and the 'Stalkers', with figures such as Red straddling the fence.

The aliens remain a mysterious offstage influence, their technology is never explained, and some of it is probably legendary- the tall tales of the 'Stalkers'. The novel really does seem to have a 'Soviet' vibe- the secrecy necessary for functioning in a morally gray milieu, the thriving black market, the lionization of noble scientists, the paranoia inherent to a security state in which 'shoot to kill' orders are in place... this isn't the typically optimistic American 'Sci-Fi' novel.

So, those are the two picnics that will occupy my time today- one a sunny, cheerful event, full of good fellowship, the other a dark, brooding tale of moral ambiguity. Me being me, I love them both... though I do prefer sunshine and friendship to 'grimdark' amorality.

Monday, August 21, 2017

It's a Total Eclipse of the Sun

Wow, everybody in the States seems to have eclipse fever. Here in the NYC metro area, we will get a 70% eclipse. I am planning on rigging a pinhole projection setup to observe the eclipse. Three of my friends are traveling to South Carolina to view the eclipse, and one friend is traveling to Kentucky to view it in its totality.

For my traveling friends and my family members living in the Southerly climes, I am dedicating a video segment from one of my favorite concert films, the 1982 release Urgh! A Music War. One of the high points of the film is the otherworldly Klaus Nomi performance of Total Eclipse:

In 2004, The Nomi Song, a documentary about the singer's life and career, was released to critical acclaim. It's a fascinating film, a 'close encounters' tale about an alien who graced our planet for a tragically short time.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some cardboard to hunt down before heading out for some eclipse observation.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Peculiar Sort of Genius

Another legend gone... Jerry Lewis left us at the age of 91. I have to confess that I always found much of his schtick to be grating:

Lewis was best when he played a dweeby counterpart to the effortlessly cool Dean Martin:

I am most familiar with Jerry Lewis' longstanding fundraising for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, through his annual telethon. One particularly nice poignant of the telethon was Dean Martin's appearance on the show in 1976:

In some of the obituaries floating around, Mr Lewis is credited with the invention of video assist, but the patents don't bear this out. Nevertheless, he was a pioneering user of the technology, having been a director as well as an actor.

Jerry Lewis had a peculiar sort of genius... it taking a smart peson to convincingly play a fool. I recognize this genius, even if I don't exactly appreciate it, which is odd because I am one-quarter French. I also recognize that Jerry Lewis was beloved of millions, and that he accomplished some good during his time on Earth. Bon soir, bon déconneur. Bon soir, Jerry.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Make Way for Cucklings

Well, another weekend, another rightie-rally, this one was supposed to be a 'free speech' rally, though even the mainstream media is using scare quotes. The rally ended before it began, drowned out by a sea of 40,000 counter-protestors. It just goes to show you that the government isn't allowed to bar you from speaking freely, but nobody has to listen to your bullshit.

The real joke here is that internet tough guys were crying about being surrounded, and were escorted out of the vicinity by an African-American antifascism activist... someone they wouldn't have extended the same courtesy to. I picture the white right flight as something similar to the iconic Boston narrative Make Way for Ducklings, a perennial favorite of mine since childhood, with the police escorting the cucklings in a manner similar to that depicted in Robert McCloskey's charming illustration:

Of course, Boston is a liberal town in a liberal state, so it's not a Trump down either:

The idea that a bunch of Confederate apologists thought that they could take over the Commons for their little hatenanny was ridiculous from the get-go... Northern Aggression is real, and it's glorious.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Trump der Zorn Gottes

Once again, things got weird in the Trump White House, this time with the firing of Steve Bannon, the raging id to Donald Trump's... uhhh... raging id. ID ID ID ID ID! My suspicion is that Bannon's interview with Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect was the final nail in the coffin- Donald Trump doesn't like being upstaged by 'the help'.

Now, with Breitbart declaring #WAR on Donald Trump, things are really getting interesting, though Breitbart declares #WAR on Cheerios and retail outfits. It remains to be seen if Breitbart's possible insurgency against Dear Leader will hurt him, especially given that Breitbart's traffic and advertising revenue have tanked. This is a battle between two unpopular entities, sorta like a conflict between a tapeworm and a leech- nobody really wants to see a victor.

Meanwhile, the normal people have abondoned ship- the Manufacturing Council and Arts Council both disbanded. How soon before everybody but the dead-enders and family members bail out, leaving Trump adrift? I am reminded of the ending of one of my favorite films, Werner Herzog's beautiful-but-harrowing Aguirre, the Wrath of God, with Trump in the Klaus Kinski role. Trump even embodies the same creepy incestuous vibe.

NOTE: Youtube won't let me embed a video of the final scene, but if you haven't watched the movie, do so now. The scenery is gorgeous, the acting superb, and the theme of power-madness is, tragically, timeless. You will thank me. Then go out and get Fitzcarraldo AND Burden of Dreams.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Neo-Nazis Need Not Apply

In the wake of the Charlottesville Emo-Boy Nazi riot, and the murder of Heather Heyer, there has been a movement to name and shame the Nazis who attended. Now, we have the firings- Nazis working in a Minnesota diner, a Nazi hotdog boy was fired, a Nazi chain-pizzeria cook was fired... it's pretty clear that a lot of employers do not wish to deal with the public outcry against Nazi employees.

The real sad joke is that most of these guys seem to be in low-level service industry jobs- they are hardly emblematic of the 'superior race' they claim to represent. Meanwhile, the public face of the current neo-Nazi movement is a trust-fund kid, the son of a wealthy cotton heiress. This is a guy who probably won't have to work a day in his life, a guy who doesn't have to face the prospect of being fired for his shitbaggery. He reminds me of a Confederate plantation owner who was exempted from conscription precisely because of his wealth, while poor boys were expected to jump into the meat grinder for him.

I have no sympathy for the Nazi-morons who have lost their jobs, and find this tweet hilarious:

That being said, these young alt-right scrotes really need to realize that they are being exploited by creeps like Spencer, lest they face consequences that they aren't equipped to face... that sort of thing is no fun. These idiots should have learned that by reading about Pickett's Charge.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Secret Science Club Post-Lecture Recap: Fabulous Fins

Last night, I headed down to the beautiful Bell House, in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, for this month's Secret Science Club lecture, featuring Dr Brooke Flammang, director of the Fluid Locomotion Lab at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Dr Flammang began the lecture by noting that her field is comparative biomechanics, a field for which there is no specific degree because it combines anatomy and physiology, evolutionary biology, engineering, computer modeling and robotics... Dr Flammang characterized her work by quoting Alfred North Whitehead: “It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.” She advised us, be curious, make observations, ask questions.

Dr Flammang then asked the question, why study fish? Fish are diverse, with many morphologies, including a variety of different fin types. There are fins adapted for swimming, fins adapted for walking, and fins adapted for adhesion. Dr Flammang's particular interest in fins was born out of boredom- while sitting in a lab dissecting a spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias), she decided to investigate more than the usual face muscles and flanks of the little shark, and cut into the tail. In the tail, she found a bright red muscle which was not described in the literature. She dubbed this muscle the radialis muscle, and it is found in all shark species and in the torpedo rays. Certain sharks use their tails for different purposes besides swimming- thresher sharks use their extended upper fin to stun prey with a cavitation effect. Fast sharks, slow sharks- all have a radialis muscle.

To study the radialis muscle, Dr Flammang needed to make sharks swim, using a pool with a flowing current, much like a 'treadmill for sharks' with variable speed settings. Dr Flammang showed a video of a swimming shark, noting that there is little movement, small amplitude, near the shark's head and high amplitude near the tail, which moves a lot. As the sharks swam, the action of their muscles was measured using electromyography, and live recordings of muscle activity were obtained. Older models of shark fluid dynamics were two-dimensional, but Dr Flammang created a three-dimensional model to obtain a more complete understanding of what was occurring. Dr Flammang joked that previous researchers' lasers weren't as cool as hers- pulses of light from the lasers illuminated particles in the water and the movement of the particles was recorded. The typical bony fish creates a donut-shaped vortex, a ring of rotating fluid around the 'jet' of water, with its tail action (vortices like these are also produced by a duck's feet, or a piece of plastic used as a paddle). A shark, using its centralis muscle to regulate the stiffness of its tail, produces a double-vortex. Bu changing the stiffness of its tail, a shark produces thrust very efficiently- Dr Flammang joked that it is important to be stiff, and its important to be flexible.

Dr Flammang then went on to describe the bony fishes, using the bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) as a good example- bluegill are prime test subjects, being easily kept in a lab, and being the subject of a large existing body of literature. In a typical ray-finned bony fish, there are a few spiny supporting elements giving structure to a thin membrane. There are no muscles in the fin itself, but the movement of muscles at the base of fins can alter the fin shape. The rays are flexible bones, segmented at the distal end, more rigid at the proximal end. If a fish's fins were too flexible, they would be unable to push water.

Fish live in complex habitats, and many bony fish evolved to inhabit small spaces. The rapid speciation of the bony fishes coincided with rise of corals- when corals became common, new niches opened up for the bony fish, which evolved new ways to move, find food, escape from predators, and protect their young. The Permian/Triassic mass extinction ended up being very good for ray-finned fishes.

In order to test the maneuverability of a bluegill, Dr Flammang set up an obstacle course for the fish. To impede vision, obstacle trials can be held in low light conditions. To interfere with the fish's ability to sense fluid perturbations, the fish's lateral line can be numbed. Under conditions of sensory deprivation, the fish will touch the obstacles with its fins as it navigates the course:

Fins are sensors as well as propulsion devices.

Dr Flammang then brought up a hypothetical request from the Navy in which someone, hypothetically, wished to have a device which could, hypothetically, navigate a harbor filled with obstacles, what would this hypothetical device be based on. Dr Flammang then discussed a couple of robot-fish models-a speedy 'robo-tuna' which could deliver payloads on a straightaway course, or an ocean glider which would be effective in picking up underwater samples. For harbor navigation, though, the bluegill would be the best model on which to base this hypothetical robot. Such a robot would have flexible pectoral fins and transducers to mimic the lateral line. Hovering in the water is a hard effect to achieve, thou, so more information is needed.

Dr Flammang then talked about the use of fins for walking, using the recently discovered Cryptotora thamicola, a blind cave fish which can climb up waterfalls. Dr Flammang was introduced to this fish by her colleague Daphne Soares, who was studying the loss of visual senses in cave-dwelling organisms. Dr Flammang joked that the fish had a strange way of swimming- walking on its fins with its back out of the water:

While mudskippers use their pectoral fins as crutches on land, the blind climbing cave fish moves like a tetrapod:

When the fish swims, it undulates in a typical wave-form, but when it climbs, it exhibits the lateral-sequence, diagonal-couplet gait (PDF) used by salamanders, lizards, or dogs. The fishes are too rare to be taken from the caves they inhabit, so they were scanned in the cave using equipment from a local dental school. A typical bony fish pelvis is a rudimentary basipterygium which supports the pelvic fins- the pelvic fins don't exert much force, acting as a keel, so there is no need for a rigid connection to the vertebral column. The vertebra of a typical marine bony fish doesn't have to support the fish's weight, so the individual bones don't interlock. In a salamander, the hip bones, the ilium, ischium, and pubis are fused to the vertebral column, which is interconnected by zygapophyses in order to allow it to bear the animal's weight without buckling. In Cryptotora thamicola, a flare of bone mimics the ilium. It is not known where these bones originated, whether the process was pelvis-to-spine or spine-to-pelvis. Fish do possess Hox genes which can provide a genetic underpinning for limb development.

The tetrapods evolved from fishes during the Devonian period, with lobe-finned fish like Eusthenopteron giving rise to such basal tetrapods as Tiktaalik and Acanthostega:

Dr Flammang stressed the need for more fossils of basal tetrapods in order to analyze their pelvises... we need more fossils of things that could walk on land. Physics don't change, but there are multiple strategies to move on land. We have understanding of the mechanical needs for locomotion, we just need more specimens- basal tetrapod trackways are a good source of information.

The last subject of Dr Flammang's lecture concerned fins used for adhesion- specifically the specialized fins of remoras. There are eight species of remoras, some of which have specific hosts. Remoras, which attach themselves to other denizens of the sea, gain great monbility advantages- they can attach themselves to white marlins, which can attain a speed of 40mph. Dr Flammang noted that nobody had looked at the remora's adhesive disc, which has a fabled strength. Pliny attributed Mark Antony's defeat at the battle of Actium to a remora interfering with the movement of his vessel. Remora's have been used to catch sea turtles- a line is attached to the remora, and the turtle is pulled up with the fish attached. It was largely believed that the remora's adhesive disk was a glorified suction cup. Suction cups are often used to attach sensors to whales in order to study their behavior. The remora, with its ability to adhere to a host despite changes of pressure, velocity, drag, and temperature, would be a good model for marine adhesives. Remora's closest relatives are cobias, which look like remoras without 'hats'. The remora disk evolved from the dorsal fin spines of a cobia-like ancestor. The spines migrated forward onto the head and spread into plates with spinules. The adhesive requirements of remoras are stringent- a remora attached to a blue whale travels at 50km/hr, about three-hundred times the remora's own speed, yet the remoras don't slide down the whale's body. The whales can dive hundreds of meters with seconds, exposing the remora to vast temperature and pressure changes.

NOTE... I will finish this post tomorrow... gotta go drink beer now, again.

CONTINUATION: Dr Flammang then went on to discuss the functional morphology of the remora disc- there is a fleshy lip around the lamellar array, and the spinules are of different lengths... Dr Flammang likened them to 'a bad comb'. Each lamella has individual muscular control, and the lamellae can move in order to engage the toothy spinules in order to create negative pressure and enough friction to overcome drag. The friction creating mechanism acts in a ratcheting fashion to lock the remora in place. In order to minimize drag, remoras will seek an optimal placement on a host. In order to prevent detachment through fluid seep caused by pressure differentials, the fleshy lip around the remora disc has viscoelastic properties, and mucus to help create a seal. Dr Flammang advised us that the performance of suction cups can be improved by applying mayonnaise or KY jelly to the suction cup to improve the seal.

When Dr Flammang dissected a remora, she found a series of blood vessels, a 'balloon of blood' under the disc. Remoras evolved to have anterior cardinal veins on top of their heads rather than inside their crania. By standing up, the lamellae press down on the anterior cardinal vein in order to create passive hydraulic control to prevent seep and improve suction.

Dr Flammang noted that no artificial products can minic remora adhesion... yet. Being able to mimic remora adhesion would improve the attachment of sensors to subjects' bodies- glue or sutures can cause tissue necrosis. There are medical applications- people have different degrees of hairness and moistness, so an EKG electrode able to adhere like a remora disc would be an improvement over current models.

After the lecture, Dr Flammang conducted a question-and-answer session. The first question involved marine mammals swimming abilities, and Dr Flammang noted that cetaceans are secondarily aquatic, so their tetrapod morphology is imposed on their swimming style- it's easier for mammals to flex their spines back and forth rather than side-to-side. A wag asked Dr Flammang if punching a shark in the nose will stun it, and Dr Flammang noted that it is difficult to punch things underwater, so she doesn't sugggest it... she did offer the advice that sharks are attracted to the scent of urine, so try not to pee in the sea. Regarding a question about fish in space, Dr Flammang noted that their locomotion hasn't been studied in any detail, but she totally wants to try it. Some Bastard in the audience asked her if the locomotion of flatfish has been studied, and she noted that one of her colleagues has begun to study them, and one avenue of inquiry involves the fishes' ability to stiffen their skins- the most important locomotor activities that flatfish have adapted to excel at seem to be attaining lift, and burrowing.

Once again, the Secret Science Club delivered an amazing lecture- kudos to Dr Flammang, Margaret and Dorian, and the staff of the beautiful Bell House. I have often said that I am most interested in biological topics, so this lecture was particularly suited to me. Dr Flammang knocked it out of the park, hitting that 'Secret Science Sweet Spot' with her combination of humor (I'm still chuckling about her discovery of the centralis muscle), description of methodology, richness of information, and great video footage. Here's a hearty high five to the good doctor.

After the lecture, Dr Flammang hung out with us for a while, but was unable to join us in a drink because she's expecting twins in November- another high five! Talking about designing robots, she mentioned that she knows Dr John Long of Vassar who lectured on the evolving swimming robot... there's an effect I call 'Secret Science Synergy', the cumulative effect of attending multiple lectures improves each lecture.

Here's a video of Dr Flammang discussing modeling robots on marine animals:

Pour yourself a libation, and soak in that SCIENCE!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Beauty and the Beast

I figured today would be a good day to decompress, to step away from political topics for a while. I will be heading down to Brooklyn to drink some beer and attend this month's Secret Science Club lecture. As a break from the seemingly continuous horror-show, I figured I'd post a picture of my beloved Ginger, who I haven't blogged about since the death of her brother Fred, who I still miss terribly. Last night, Ginger was in an especially affectionate mood, and I got a picture of the two of us playing around:

I'll leave it to my readers to determine which one of us is the beauty and which is the beast.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Heather Heyer, Killed by a Nazi

Today, as is typical of this year, has been a bizarre blend of a fantastic personal life and an existential shitshow... On the job, I had two friends who I met on the job stop by specifically to see me. I met them four years ago, shortly after they first met, and now they are married and living in Connecticut. They promised to contact me before stopping by the next time, so we can hang out longer. I was heartened by their visit, just the fact that I have become friends with a bunch of 'regulars', people who just happened to stop by the place, is heartening to me.

On an existential level, I can't help but be angered by the senseless death of Heather Heyer at the hands of a Nazi cretin. There was a local rally in support of the Charlottesville victims, but my work schedule conflicted with my ability to attend. It's important to acknowledge Ms. Heyer's life, and to make sure that her activism was not in vain.

I sincerely hope that the aftermath of the Charlottesville rally marks a turning point, when all but the most incorrigible of the 'deplorables' realizes that this whole neo-Nazi thing has gone too far. I'm not holding my breath, though.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Tiki Khaki Nazi Rally

Today has been pretty surreal. As is typical on a summer Saturday, I got back from work around 5AM, went to bed, and woke up at 11AM to listen to Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me and Ask Me Another, and went back to sleep for another hour. When I finally woke up to prepare for the workday, I put on the local CBS news radio affiliate to check out the coverage of the Unite the Right rally. As is typical these days, the media reports trailed the on-the-ground social media coverage.

It wasn't until I got to work that I learned that one counterprotestor was killed and nineteen injured in a vehicular assault, and that two police officers were killed in a helicopter crash in the vicinity. Honestly, I thought the rally would be more violent, and hope that the attendees disperse back to their lairs.

The optics of the demonstration were surreal, from the pro-Confederate tiki torch-lit rally last night (insert Traitor Vic's quip here) to the khakis-and-polo business casual look accented with homemade shields. The whole thing smacked of the dumbest LARP ever until this asshole plowed into a crowd, ISIS extremist style.

The whole affair was, as Hillary Clinton would put it, deplorable, but it could have been so much worse. I sincerely hope that any of the attendees who showed up merely for the keks reconsiders the path on which they have been treading.

Friday, August 11, 2017


Last month, a European far-right group decided to obtain a boat in order to disrupt the marine passage of refugees fleeing to Europe. So far, things haven't been going well for them- they were deported from Cyprus for human-trafficking and have been discouraged from entering ports from Greece to Tunisia.

The ill-starred voyage of the right-wingers' boat continues to deteriorate, as the vessel has experienced a malfunction, prompting one of the NGO's the crew has vowed to oppose to offer assistance, according to maritime law. The righties declined the aid, but it remains to be seen if they will need succor in the future, because the boat they chartered seems to be not-seaworthy.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Your Neurotic Ladybrains Can't Handle High-Stress Jobs!

I haven't had time to wade through the MoRAss that is now-fired Google employee James Damore's manifestbro, but a cursory scan of the document reveals this little tidbit of absolute bullshit:

Women, on average, have more:

Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance).This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.

Lower number of women is high stress jobs, eh? Let's look at the statistics for nurses, who perform some of the most high-stress jobs there are, involving triage, exposure to trauma victims and decedents, the possibility of assault, exposure to pathogens... you get the drift- approximately 91% of nurses in the United States are women. Now, I understand that the average tech-bro is under a lot of stress, but that's nothing compared to the pressure that a nurse at, say, Lincoln Medical Center or Bellvue Hospital faces.

Something weird happens when these alt-right tech bros run up against women in STEM fields, something I posted about five months ago... sexism is rampant in Silicon Valley, and people who should know better are taken in by sexist evo-psych bafflegab.

Of course, the firing of Damore isn't merely due to his manifesto, the fact that he lied about his academic credentials plays into the matter as well. I'm sure he'll blame some woman for this deception, because feminism hurts mendacity.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Embodiment of Nuclear Fears

This has been a weird week... the very week of the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing has seen an escalation of fears that North Korea will join the 'nuclear club', and the death of Haruo Nakajima, the actor who played the monster in the 1954 film Gojira. The eponymous monster played an embodiment of the national post-traumatic stress disorder felt by the Japanese populace after World War 2, especially the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Mr Nakajima's portray of the hulking villain of the movie was nothing short of heroic, as the suit he wore weighed more than two-hundred pounds:

"Since materials were so rare, things like rubber were not available. Instead, they used ready-mixed concrete, so it weighed about 100kg. It was so heavy and hot, and with the lighting, it was even hot just to touch it. I was sweating all over my face, but I did the best I could."

Being perfectly suited to the role of Gojira, Mr Nakajima continued to play the role of the monster throughout the transition of kaiju movies from horror to science-fantasy to camp until 1972, when he played the monster in his throwdown with Gigan:

The 'kaiju vs kaiju' movies which featured the formerly villainous Gojira as a hero form the greatest 'professional wrestling' act in entertainment history, with the horror of destruction undercut by the 'moves' of the outrageous monster combatants. The tragedy of the 1954 film transitioned into farce... which brings us to our current nuclear kerfuffle. The Trump vs Kim rhetorical rumble is an outlandish one... a fight between two spoiled narcissists with bad haircuts who never could have succeeded on their own merits. It's like Trumpzilla:

Versus Kim Ghidorah:

Of course, while farcical, this conflict is also deadly serious, and potentially tragic. The last thing we need is a Commander in Chief who ad-libs nuclear threats while the U.S. diplomatic corps is being hollowed out. Trump sounds as loony as Kim Jong Un, being as bellicose and ignorant of consequences as North Korea's boy wonder.

I really feel bad for the people of Guam, Japan, and especially South Korea (Seoul being vulnerable to artillery strikes). For a reasoned analysis of the Korea issue, I recommend reading mikey's take. In the meantime, I really can't freak out over this issue... I'd like to think that cooler heads will prevail while the two kaiju-in-chiefs confine their conflict to a war of words. In the meantime, I think I will honor the life and career of Mr Nakajima by listening to Akira Ifukube's glorious theme to the Gojira movies:

Mr Nakajima's turn in the suit ranged from 'figure of nuclear horror' to 'big green defender of the planet'. I don't expect a heel-face turn from either Trump or Kim, neither of them has the brains of a radioactive dinosaur.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Orange Moron, Purple Heart

This being the anniversary of the creation of the Purple Heart, Vulgarmort is tweeting about his awarding of the Purple Heart to First Sergeant Alvaro Barrientos, who lost part of his right leg fighting in Afghanistan:

Being someone who enjoys the use of language, I am pissed as hell at Trump's offer of 'congratulations' to Sgt Barrientos. Thank the man for his service, talk about his valor, his sacrifice, reassure him that he will be taken care of by the government and people he sacrificed so much for... but congratulations? The man was maimed for life, that's no cause for congratulations.

The problem with Donald Trump is that he has never experienced privation, never chosen a path of service, never sacrificed a blessed thing for the good of his fellow human beings. He has no concept of sacrifice, so he can glibly congratulate an individual on the loss of a leg. He is the sort of individual who can unthinkingly say that he always wanted a Purple Heart:

He got it 'the easy way', when a decent human being would have respectfully refused such stolen valor. Speaking of stolen valor, here is Trump criticizing Senator Richard Blumenthal for prevaricating about his military career, despite the flippant attitude that Trump has displayed regarding his own conduct during that era.

The last word on Trump's statements regarding the Purple Heart was Tammy Duckworth's statement: "this is how one usually looks when you are awarded the Purple Heart. Nothing easy about it."

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Fight to Unite the Right

From the cartoon froggy swamps of the new Right comes a Unite the Right rally scheduled to take place this coming Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, a 'do-over' of this Spring's hairdo-fascist rally to prevent a statue of traitor Robert E. Lee from being removed from a park.

In the runup to the rally, which even organizers (not gonna link) only expect under a thousand emo-boy Nazis to attend, the alt-right is beset by bickering. In late June, there were two opposed 'right-wing' rallies in DC, neither of which was attended by more than one-hundred righties... the 'alt-right' contingent disparages the insufficiently anti-semitic contigent as 'alt-lite'.

Last week, one of the leading loons of the 'alt-lite', in a sort of 'Brokeback Bro' moment, decided that he was going to give up Trump in order to pursue his 'MRA' grift. Another alt-lite figure, one of the participants in the stupid Shakespeare fauxtrage, claimed that her old, rotten tire had been slashed, drew derision from wags both left and right, including some extremely anti-semitic abuse from the Anime-Nazi crowd.

The broader right-wing coalition is pretty much done, even if it ever truly existed. I believe that a sizable subset of the Trump coalition is merely motivated by trolling, and that the three percenters and the 4channers don't mix well. I don't see the upcoming rally as something which will go well for the righties. I guess we'll see what sort of shitstorm results next Saturday.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Somewhat Shitty Day

Today, the shit went down at work... literally. In the early morning, thankfully after I left, and before the site opened up to the public, a brief-yet-torrential downpour hit the area. The site is in the valley of a minor tributary of the mighty Hudson, the vicinity basically acts as a funnel, with our site near the bottom. The building is mid 20th Century vintage, and apparently the storm sewers for the building and the town come together in such a manner that our pipes get overwhelmed during heavy storms. This also throws our sewage line out of whack.

Needless to say, the basement was flooded with some not-too-clean water... very not-too-clean water. My first indication that something was amiss when I arrived a five in the afternoon was the amount of sediment and debris deposited in our parking lot- sand, gravel, twigs, trash forming a small embankment against the curb. The second indication was the fact that our shop staff wasn't looking too happy. Luckily, our weekend cleaning contractors were doing yeomen's work- our two usual cleaners were working hard, and the owner of the company, to his credit, was downstairs running a wet-vac, spraying disinfectant, and setting up large industrial fans to dry the basement. The last time I saw him was under similar circumstances, a previous flood, after which he stayed until midnight doing clean-up duty. This afternoon, I joked, "We've got to stop meeting like this."

These occurrences are taking place about twice a year now. My boss, who is an architect, pored over the plans of the building and figured that running new sewer lines would have a six-figure price tag. Reading between the lines, I figured that nothing is going to be done about this situation. My office (such as it is, I am pretty much all over the place, indoors and out) is on the ground floor, so I can deal with the aftermath of these unpleasant episodes, but certain co-workers of mine have basement offices. As is usual, I can't complain about my work situation, I don't have it as shitty as others do.

Friday, August 4, 2017

An Instant Favorite in the Culinary Canon

I guess this is purslane obsession week for me, two posts about the stuff in one sennight... am I going crazy? Crazy for purslane! In this comment thread at Cooking with EL CHAVO!, I found this comment to be interesting:

The traditional Mexicano recipe for verdolagas is with pork, but years ago a Mexicano I used to work in construction with showed my a good way to eat it fresh.
He took a bunch of fresh verdolagas and put it in a hot flour tortilla with some slices of avocado, some slices of queso fresco, and one or two green onions. Then he dripped on some El Pato salsa and voila a tasty and fast burrrito de verduras.

While I didn't have green onions, I came across a nice purslane patch, picked the tips off the stalks, and served it on a corn tortilla with some avocado, queso fresco, a squeeze of lime, and a judicious amount of hot sauce:

It was a nice balance of tart purslane and lime juice, salty queso, creamy avocado, and a touch of heat... a perfect no-cook summer snack. Having the store-bought ingredients in the office fridge, and a bumper crop of purslane on the grounds, it looks like I've got my work-meals taken care of for a week. I might even open up a concession stand on site: Calvo Loco Taco.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Why Couldn't He Be Like Endicott?

One of the strangest local stories today was hip-hop pioneer Kidd Creole's fatal stabbing of a homeless man. Creole, born Nathaniel Glover, was pushed while he was close to the edge and lost his head. The report is that Glover stabbed the victim because he thought the guy was hitting on him, which is a pretty crappy reason to shank a guy. Protip: If you are carrying a steak knife up your sleeve, you need to reconsider your life choices. The victim was a level 2 sex offender, so if Glover hadn't fled the scene of the crime, he probably would have been able to make a self-defense claim.

New York City actually had a Kid Creole, August Darnell, as well as a Kidd Creole. Kid Creole's music had a bit of a Latin/Caribbean flair. The post title refers to a song by Kid Creole, which describes a character that Kidd Creole should have emulated:

Endicott wouldn't shank a man,
Endicott won't land in the can.

At any rate, it looks like Kidd Creole stands a good chance of ending up in the pokey, but when he gets out he may very well become a stool pigeon, in a process that Kid Creole described:

Ha-cha-cha-cha, indeed.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Purty Purslane

It's been a busy day for me- I left Virginia around noontime and drove to the vicinity of my workplace rather than to my home. I had enough time to do a little grocery shopping and then hit a local Korean restaurant for some bibimbap before clocking in. When I got the work, I called mom to let her know that I had arrived safely. The drive home wasn't too bad, though I did pass through occasional bands of heavy rain, and at times it looked like apocalyptic thunderstorms were pounding the regions to the sides of the highway.

Needless to say, I was blissfully ignorant of current events until I reached the outskirts of the New York metro area, where I could pick up the local CBS radio affiliate. I still have some catching up to do. I figure I'll put up a quick post, and then get to the business of catching up...

One of the ornamental potted plants my mom has is a fancy Portulaca, which longtime readers will recognize as an old friend:

I must say, those are some pretty flowers- this is a much showier plant than its scrappy cousins growing up through the cracks in the sidewalk... its leaves are every bit as delicious, though.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Story of the Week

I roll my eyes every time a media outlet heaps encomium on Elon Musk. I mean, this guy is not going to single-handedly save humanity from itself. It is with this attitude that I present this tale.

My sister and her husband are both bona fide rocket scientists- my sister put in her time in the Ait Force, got a masters in chemical engineering, and started working on satellite battery systems when her obligation was fulfilled. She still works for a company which designs satellites for the private sector.

Her husband recently retired from the Air Force, and holds a PhD in aeronautical/astronautical engineering. Atone point, he was the "space guy", advising a general on all matters orbital and beyond. As his career was winding down, he was looking for a job which would put his formidable-yet-esoteric skills to use. Almost inevitably, he interviewed with SpaceX, even though he also finds Musk annoying.

In the course of the interview process, he is speaking with the man himself, and Musk asks him how he would go about drastically reducing the cost of putting payloads in orbit. After talking about the limits of material science and the difficulty in formulating more powerful rocket fuels, my brother-in-law, being a science-fiction nerd as well as a science fact nerd, asks Musk if he has considered building a space elevator. At this, Musk gets miffed and starts on a tirade about how stupid the concept of a space elevator is, and the two of them get into a spirited back-and-forth for the rest of the time.

A couple of days later, my brother-in-law's contact at SpaceX calls him and says, "Mr Musk is interested in hiring you."

My brother-in-law replied, "That's funny, all we did is argue for forty-five minutes."

"If he wasn't interested, he would have ended the interview after five minutes."

I know you ruin a joke by going on after the punchline, but the Air Force wouldn't release him early to take the job, but he landed a prestigious wonk job afterwards, and he doesn't have to argue with an overrated tech bro these days.