Monday, November 12, 2007
Well, recently an anonymous bard, using the nom-de-pixels "Cuttlefish," has taken to contributing his (or her?) comments in verse. At first it seemed just a novelty, but it's grown to a full-fledged poetry blog, touching on the themes found at Pharyngula and like-minded blogs: Promoting science, attacking anti-science, and always celebrating cephalopods. I'm adding the Digital Cuttlefish to my blogroll, and I encourage you to check it out on a regular basis. For starters, I particularly enjoyed this ditty, while my daughter (an aspiring poet herself) is partial to the double-dactyl at the end of this entry.
Friday, November 09, 2007
The fact that my side lost matters to me, not mainly because of competitive pride or partisanship, but because I genuinely think Democratic government would've been better for the town. Ellen Marmer has accomplished wonderful things here, despite dealing with a majority Republican town council and a determined anti-budget (which is to say, anti-government) advocacy group. At a time in her life when she really didn't have to, Ellen put herself squarely in the path of a whole lot of tsuris, solely because she cared about making Vernon a better place to live.
Community First was Ellen's motto, and it's instructive that new mayor Jason McCoy's first act was reportedly to remove a sign in Town Hall proclaiming that noble sentiment. As a political matter, it would be easy to hope McCoy and his new council would fail miserably, so we could beat them in the next election... but I can't indulge myself in hoping for that, because I believe in Community First, too, and I can't hope for anything that would harm my community.
I'll have more to say about my hopes (and fears) for our town's future in the coming days and weeks; in the meantime, I urge any Vernonites (or Rockvillians) reading this to keep a weather eye on the new administration: If they can keep their "free lunch" promises, so be it... but let's not let them get away with mortgaging the town's future to do so!
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Today I was rewarded for this very modest casting of bread upon the waters in a way I can only describe as wicked awesome:
That's right: I got to attend ALCS Game 6 in Fenway Park! I just got home and I'm fried and wired and tired, but the short version of the story is... Sox Win!
I took a bunch of pictures, which I'll post when I get a chance, but now I'm going to bed. If the Sox win tomorrow, and if the World Series goes at least six games, I'll have an even more ecstatic post in a week and a half... because the same friend has tickets reserved for Game 6!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Even large numbers of Republicans (though, sadly, apparently not quite enough to override the veto) saw the human necessity of this measure, and in any case, I wouldn't have thought the lives of our children (actual children, that is, as opposed to the just-barely-not-children we're sending to die in Iraq) would be beyond political posturing. But Eric Alterman saw the issue more clearly than I did. He understands that "Bush's argument is explicitly ideological. He wants children to get sick and die in order to prevent what he believes will be a slide toward what he calls 'socialized medicine.'" At some level, I know the right is all about ideology, but it's hard for me to hold in my head just how important ideological purity is to them. It's because I'm a liberal, I suppose, and somewhere in my heart is the ineradicable notion that my counterparts on the other side are more or less like me, and have merely somehow (innocently, no doubt) ended up believing differently than I about public policy. I think I fall into this trap &mdash and other liberals and progressives do, too &mdash because, as Alterman points out, liberalism itself is not "self-consciously ideological" in the way conservatism is:
Liberals are often understood to be "pro-government" or even "pro-taxation" but this reflects a fundamental confusion between ends and means. Liberals believe in "government" only insofar as it is necessary to achieve necessary goals, including public welfare, investment, redistribution, defense etc. Conservatives, on the other hand, argue against government as a matter of principle: the less government involved, the better, period.
Even, it seems, when less government translates directly into less health care for children who need it.
Of course, even a cursory look at the Bush (or Reagan or Bush 41) budgets will instantly reveals that the right doesn't really want less government; they just want less of the parts of government that actually help people. That stuff is socialism, don't you know? But when government spends untold billions in support of policies that kill people or rape the environment, that's just good old-fashioned American capitalism.
Please, if you're reading this and you're represented by a Republican member of the House, call them and ask them to vote to override the president's veto. Surely some of them still have some shame.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I competed representing my NAR team, The Tappet Brothers (yes, named after the Car Talk guys!), which consists of me and my buddy Andy Jackson, who runs his own small rocket kit company, Aerospace Speciality Products... but since we were the only team represented, we were (which is to say I was) combined into the division for individual adult competitors. Here's what I think our results were:
- Open Spot Landing: Last I checked, I was in second place... but there were other flights after that point, so who knows. Interestingly, the target spot was marked by a life-size cutout of Austin Powers, which randomly blurted out digitized Powers-isms like "Do I make you horny, baby?" Too cool!
- 1/4A Parachute Duration: These models are very small, and the trick is to get the parachute to open after having been jammed into such a tight space. I didn't master that trick: Both flight attempts came down with partially wadded up 'chutes. Even so, I think my total time was good enough for second place, or at least third.
- 1/2A Streamer Duration: I had two solid flights here, and I'm pretty sure I won this event.
- A Rocket Glider: The trick here is that what makes a rocket stable during boost is not the same as what makes a glider fly well... so the model has to change inflight to transition from stable rocket boost to good gliding flight. I used a model called the Xebec IIIA, designed by long-time competitor George Gassaway, in which an elevator tab pops up after the rocket motor burns out. I had one good flight (little over a minute) with this model, and needed only the shortest possible qualified flight on my second attempt to win the event. The second flight was great -- it disappeared out of sight after flying for over 5 minutes, and it was still up in a thermal (rising warm air), not coming down. But there was a problem: Because the second flight behaved differently in flight than the first, observers on the ground thought the motor might have been ejected from the model, which is grounds to disqualify the flight. In such cases, procedure is that contest officials request the model be returned to the judges for inspection. Since my model flew away (otherwise perfectly legal), I couldn't return it for inspection, and the flight was disqualified. I had to settle for second place.
Monday, September 24, 2007
I understand the tactical politics involved: Evangelicals are quite correctly disenchanted with the Republican frontrunners such as Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mit Romney, none of whom truly embodies evangelical values. Even the folksy Fred Thompson has a racy history, and is none to reliable (from the evangelical point of view) on abortion. So perhaps, with the right approach, Democrats can, if not win over evangelicals outright, at least persuade them to stay home in November. I get it.
But at what price is this tactical advantage gained? The alliance forged between evangelical Christians and secular conservatives since the Reagan administration is arguably what got us into the mess we're in... the mess some of us hope to at least begin reversing by sending a Democrat to the White House. However disaffected they may be with their erstwhile secular partners, it seems unlikely that evangelicals will suddenly align themselves with the public policies favored by most Democrats. Almost as an inherent consequence of their beliefs, it seems to me that evangelicals lean toward authoritarianism and away from personal liberty.
I understand that America is a religious country; I'm not suggesting it's possible (even if it were desirable) to run a completely secular political campaign. But if we must appeal to people of faith, let's appeal to those whose doctrines emphasize charity and social justice &mdash values that harmonize with those of liberals and progressives &mdash rather than people whose religious beliefs deemphasize "good works" in favor of biblical inerrancy, divine authority, and enforcement of Old Testament mores.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Update: Someone who read this post asked me if the singer was me. Would t'were I was that talented! No, that's Roy Zimmerman, whose work I've posted here before, and who I learned of through Pharyngula. I should've included a hat-tip in when I first posted this.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
I guess since I'm referencing Wednesday's posting, this is probably a good time to make a bit of a disclaimer: I mentioned that I'm involved in the ongoing municipal election campaign in Vernon. Well, I want to make it clear that this is my personal blog, and is in no way connected to the campaign. I'm going to generally avoid talking about the Vernon elections here directly, but in any case I want to make it clear that whatever I do say here is strictly my own thoughts and words. You won't find campaign announcements here, or press releases, and I will never use this space to speak for the campaign or the Democratic Town Committee. (I will, however, add some links to the DTC website, Mayor Marmer's site, and any candidates' blogs to my blogroll, or the convenience of any readers who might be interested.)
Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I'm going to get ready for tomorrow's rocket contest!
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I'm going to have some things to write about: After laying off model rockets for a year or two, I plan to make my return next week at a contest being held my old club, CATO. This is in preparation for going to NARAM-50 next year, the national competition that marks the half-century anniversary of model rocketry as an organized hobby.
In addition, I've gotten involved in local politics in my hometown of Vernon, CT, trying to re-elect our excellent mayor and elect a Democratic Town Council and Board of Education... which should provide me with one or two things to say.
That's all for tonight... this time 'round I'm going to try again to master the art of the frequent short posting, as opposed to waiting until I have the time (and inspiration) to write long essays.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
As an icebreaker, here's my "music video" iMovie from the 2004 National Finals of the Team America Rocketry Challenge:
Cosponsored by the Aerospace Industry Association (AIA) and the National Association of Rocketry (NAR), TARC is an annual contest intended to get students excited about careers in aerospace. It's also a heck of a lot of fun. I volunteered for the range crew in 2004 and 2005 (I couldn't make it last year), and I'm going back in May of this year. Maybe I'll bring back another movie.
Strictly speaking, you should celebrate π Day at exactly 1 minute before 2:00 (am or pm will do, unless you're on a 24-hour clock).
Do check out the link to CosmicLog; in addition to linking the official Pi Day site, there are a plethora of interesting π-related links to dig through. One I found especially interesting was this one (though linking it from a π Day post rather gives away the puzzle).
Anyone want to help me organize a π-mile run next year (see #5 here)?
In the stories and discussion over the last few days, much has been made over the fact that U.S. Attorneys "serve at the pleasure of the president." Well, a West Wing fan like me can't help but have a soft spot for that phraseology...
"At the end of another episode, the young staffers sipped beer on the stoop of a D.C. brownstone and marveled at the honor of working in the White House. One by one they repeated, with hushed reverence, their swearing-in pledge: 'I serve at the pleasure of the president.'"...and I do understand that when the people vote for the president, they are, in part, voting for the people they expect him to appoint. Any president must, of course, have the ability to bring in his (or, someday, her) "own people." But staffing up at the beginning of an administration or a term with people dedicated to supporting administation policies is a whole 'nother kettle of horses of another color from purging your "own people" either because you want to open up resume' buffing slots for unqualified cronies (the marginally least awful of the various reasons suggested) or because they've prosecuted members of your own party or because they've (in your view) failed to prosecute members of the opposition party vigorously enough.
I'm not naive: I know that the executive branch is political, and that even the position of U.S. Attorney is a political one. Using the tools of office to vigorously pursue the policies on which he campaigned is not only a president's right; it is his duty. But there's a difference between pursuing legitimate policies and turning the nation's law enforcement agencies into political enforcers for the party in (executive) power. So far, the president has been happy to let Gonzales and Sen. Pete Domenici (who, along with Rep. Heather Wilson, made pressuring phone calls to former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias regarding prosecutions of Democrats) take the heat for the purge scandal, and FBI Director Robert Mueller has taken responsibility for the Patriot Act abuse (not that the Patriot Act itself isn't abuse), but anyone who doesn't believe this stuff is coming right from the White House just hasn't been paying attention for the last 6 years.
20 January 2009 can't some soon enough!
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Of course, you didn't need to wait to hear Gonzales to know that Bush is the new Nixon: The president himself sounded the same note in his January speech on the Iraq surge, and the U.S. Attorney purge is just one more piece of evidence -- on top of the Plame case, the NSA spying, FBI abuses under the Patriot Act... Hell, the Patriot Act itself -- that this president and his minions have no shame when it comes to using the instrumentalities of government to reward cronies, punish enemies, and spank those insufficiently vigilant in the pursuit of the administration's political aims.
Nixon famously said "when the president does it that means that it is not illegal," and no president since -- maybe not all the presidents since, combined -- has done as much to convert that bit of arrogance into actual policy than George W. Bush.
I wonder if those Nixon-era tape recorders are still in the Oval Office? But no... surely W has his own Rose Mary Woods.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
My mind immediately flashed to the Julie Amero case when I read this story of 10 Indiana sixth-graders watching as two of their classmates performed a live sex show ("completed the act of intercourse," in the quaint language of a "disturbed resident" who reported the case to a local TV station) while their teacher was in the room!
If Amero's students were so terrifyingly endangered by a mere glimpse of digital porn that their unfortunate teacher is guilty of multiple felony counts, surely this teacher is ticketed for lethal injection, right? Well, not so much: Apparently "Warren Township School Police were not aware of the incident and say no report was made even though the children were recommended for expulsion." Hmmm... expel the preteens, but as for the teacher... no harm, no foul, I suppose. No need to even bother the cops with a report. Move along, folks; nothing to see here.
Mind you, I'm not after the teacher's scalp: Apparently the students conspired to hide this illicit activity, and the teacher took action as soon as he (or she; the news story studiously avoids "outing" the teacher's identity in any way) discovered something inappropriate was going on. But what kind of upside-down, inside-out world is it when Amero sits branded a sex offender and waiting to learn how much time she'll spend in prison while this teacher is happily making up next week's lesson plans?
Monday, February 19, 2007
Alright, I don't know whether to be more discouraged by the idea that people who care enough about politics to look up vote totals actually want to know about legislators' signs, or by the fact that WaPo would cater to their bizarre superstition. Either way, I think I have to make this a short post, so I can go pour cool water over my steaming brain....
 If this reference is too ancient/obscure for you, look here.
UPDATE: I e-mailed PZ Myers, Rationalist-in-Chief at Pharyngula, about this and he very flatteringly linked to this entry. A couple of commenters noted that the intention was just to have some lighthearted fun and attract readers to the (admittedly very cool) Votes Database. Well, that makes me feel better... but only a little bit better. I used to be firmly in the it's-harmless-fun-as-long-as-you-don't-believe-it camp regarding astrology and such, but I'm increasingly concerned that even such benign bemusement gives aid and comfort to the all-too-numerous inhabitants of the demon-haunted world we live in.
Besides, are astrology believers really the voters we want to be enabling?
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
I have contacted the campaign to find out what out-of-staters can do to help; I'll let y'all know what I find out.
When I posted an earlier version of the above as a diary at the Connecticut progressive blog My Left Nutmeg, a commenter quickly replied that Al Franken "is pro-war," and that progressives should hope for a better Democratic candidate, linking to two articles (here and here) by one John Walsh, posting at CounterPunch, a self-described "bi-weekly muckraking newsletter."
I admit I'm not familiar with John Walsh, but a quick scan of the articles to reveals an extreme POV: Anyone who thinks Sam Seder, Janeane Garafalo, Randi Rhodes, and Rachel Maddow are insufficiently antiwar, or that the network that put them all on the air is "little more than a mouthpiece for the DNC" is just not going to be satisfied with any feasible candidate!
I've listened to virtually every Franken show for more than 2 years, and I can say without hesitation that Al is the polar opposite of pro-war! I defy anyone to listen to the show (at least some of the podcasts are still archived, though you may need to join Air America Premium to get them) with anything even vaguely approaching an open mind and conclude that Franken can be fairly called "pro-war."
John Murtha, whom Walsh claims Franken doesn't support, is actually something of a hero to Franken... so much so that he almost had an on-air falling out with regular guest Melanie Sloan when she called Murtha on his ethics issues. I've never heard him say anything bad about Murtha. Al supports the "soft partition"/redeployment-to-Kurdistan plan advanced by Peter Galbraith, et al., which may not be identical to what Murtha proposes, but it's similar in spirit... and certainly not a stay-the-course position. One thing about Franken is that he's willing to listen to other people's ideas (are we to believe this is a bad trait in a legislator??)... but I've never heard him agree with, or express support for, anything that could be called pro-war or pro-escalation.
It's also true, as Walsh notes, that Franken has covered corruption, fraud, and incompetence in Iraq contracting: Tom Ricks' Fiasco, which Franken calls "indispensible" is something of a bible for the show. Does this make him pro-war? Because the war itself is immoral and evil, we're supposed to give crooks and war profiteers a free pass? The mind boggles!
Franken has also covered veterans' issues and troop equipment issues (e.g., the founder of Operation Helmet has been a frequent guest), and every year he goes on USO tour in the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres. Do these things make him "pro-war"? Many, if not most, liberals and progressives have taken the position that they oppose the war but support the troops; few... perhaps none... have honored both ends of that proposition as completely as Al Franken.
And the Al Franken show has also covered issues not related (or at least not directly related) to the war (e.g., the DeLay, Cunningham, et al., scandals). Does this make him an unacceptable candidate for Senate in 2008? think about it for a moment: If elected, Franken won't finish his first term until 2014. I pray to all that's holy that the Iraq war won't still be the primary issue of the day by then; if it is, we're doomed in any case. Among all the other tragedies of this war, one is that it's distracting us from all the other ways in which the right-wing regime has hosed up our government. While the war is clearly the most critical moral challenge of our time, it is not the only challenge facing our government; we elect representatives who focus on the war to the exclusion of all else at our peril.
You may be able to think of reasons (though personally I cannot) not to support Al Franken... but the notion that he's pro-war is not one of them.
IMHO, of course... ;)
Thursday, February 08, 2007
In the Fall of 2001, my daughter was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. Through the miracle of modern medicine -- including 14 hours of surgery and more than a year of chemo and radiotherapy -- the wonderful doctors and nurses at Connecticut Children's Medical Center saved her life, and today she's happy and healthy.
I can't say exactly how directly federally funded research contributed to her recovery, but I'm sure it was instrumental. One organization that was a tireless advocate for children with cancer was the National Childhood Cancer Foundation, now called CureSearch.
CureSearch has put out an alert regarding threats to federal cancer research funding. If you feel so moved, I urge you to use their online tool to send letters to our members of Congress, and then follow up with a personal e-mail to your representative.
We're all concerned with the war, of course, but even in the midst of crisis, life -- and the hard work of saving lives -- goes on.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
...and this one just tonight:
Sunday, February 04, 2007
I apologize for the silence.
When I was (much) younger, I played tennis... but I found that, owing to the busy life of a young college student, sometimes weeks or even months would go by without me finding time to hit the courts. This frustrated me because I really wanted to play regularly. One summer I went out and spent $100 dollars -- a lot of money in those days, for me at least -- on a top-quality racquet. It wasn't so much that I needed a fancy racquet -- I was never that good anyway -- but that I wanted to make some act -- in this case a nontrivial monetary investment -- that would force me to take the activity more seriously. Now I've done something similar: I've started including a link to this page in my profile at other online sites, including my Facebook page, my My Left Nutmeg profile, and, most recently, on the newly refurbished 2nd Congressional District blog.
I hesitate to promise any set frequency of posts. I'm going to try to post something short fairly often, even when I don't have a full-length rant in me (or don't have time to do it justice). In any case, I won't abandon this blog again, so please keep checking back!
(BTW, the Unit of the Day will no longer be a feature of every post... but I'll still post one whenever I see a unit that strikes me as engagingly peculiar.)