I usually celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday.
It’s not a good time for Obama when he has to learn all this stuff on the news. It sure looks like the president is deciding to be uninformed when his people screw up.
When Jon Stewart comes after you, you’re in trouble.
Sometimes he says really weird things, and other times, like here, he just makes total sense. What I always liked about McCain is his military background and the character traits he acquired by being a prisoner of war so long – and so long ago. That earned my respect before the 2008 election – before Palin.
In the new Kindle (current generation), you can purchase another language dictionary. Although I am not quite ready for Don Quijote yet, occasionally I like to read a book in Spanish. The Kindle allows me to configure the default dictionary to be Spanish. When I then highlight a word I don’t know, it gives me the translation word in English. That is very powerful and time-saving when learning another language.
The last Spanish book I read was Once Minutos by Paulo Cuelho. What would be a good choice now? It should be an author who writes in Spanish originally. There is not much point in reading Stephen King, Alexandre Dumas or Günther Grass in Spanish.
The Republicans argue that the Obama administration should have anticipated the Benghazi attack not only because it happened on September 11, but also because officials already knew “this particular consulate was a potential threat.”
Dick Cheney, in a recent interview, agreed with that premise. He admitted that the Benghazi facility had never come under attack before, but Libya was a ”hotbed of terrorist training.”
I agree that the Benghazi attack was a very unfortunate event, and nobody is happy about it. But I do not agree that we’re still, more than six months after, getting this old news regurgitated by our government on almost a daily basis.
Let’s just recall another “hotbed of terrorist training” – Pakistan.
Muslim extremists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan in 2002. Twelve people died then. There was another attack in 2003 when two more people died. Then there was an attempt of a car bomb in 2004 that fortunately did not succeed. Finally, in 2006, the same terrorist group attacked that same facility again in 2006.
Where was the Bush administration then, when they should have been, as Cheney blames Obama, “locked and loaded, ready to go?”
Oh my, how quickly we forget history. Of course, according to Republicans now, there were no terrorist attacks during the Bush administration, since they were already “locked and loaded.”
Only 9/11, and about four attacks on Karachi.
But that’s so long ago, who would remember?
Here is another morsel of truth – took this one this morning like it was a vitamin.
This is the Dell laptop I have been using for several years. The blue arrow points to the extended battery. It sticks out from the machine as if the designer had forgotten about it at first and needed to bolt it on later.
When I turn it over and take out the battery, it looks like this. Apparently the machine comes with a regular battery that does not stick out, but nobody buys it, because it does not hold enough of a charge. Our company has several dozens of these.
Not only does it look ridiculous and ugly, Dell even had to redesign the docking station so one or the other variety of battery would fit. You’d think the designers at Dell could come up with a laptop and a battery that was integrated, fit properly and did not look like an afterthought.
Steve Jobs of Apple would never have tolerated this. I would venture to say that Apple is Apple precisely because design matters to them.
Mammalian testicles are like Dell laptop batteries. They don’t fit. They hang outside the body like a botched design. Just look at most mammals and their ugly testicles. Start with farm animals and dogs. Rats drag their testicles behind themselves on the ground. How did this happen?
It turns out that sperm production is very sensitive to temperature, which can’t be controlled very well inside a hot-blooded body cavity. Most of our mammalian ancestors eventually dropped their testicles outside the body ostensibly to give more control to temperature regulation. Male readers will know that testicles hang very loose when it’s hot, and they are pulled up close to the body to get them warm when it’s chilly. To quote Elaine in Seinfeld: “It shrinks?”
In one way, it’s a pretty good design. In another way, it’s ugly, looks like an afterthought, and leaves the jewels exposed to injury, both by attackers and by accidents.
While this is a problem for many male species of mammals, I am most familiar with humans, and therefore will illustrate here how the descent of human testicles from inside the body to the outside represents a design flaw.
The diagram above shows an outline of the male human reproductive organs as they are now. Note how the vas deferens loops over the ureter and back down to the prostate. If I were designing the male anatomy, I would not loop the vas deferens over the ureter like this. I would shorten it a great deal and bring it directly from the epididymis to the prostate. How did this happen?
Here is a version that I marked up to illustrate my point. The testicles were originally inside the abdominal cavity, somewhere up where I marked it with a blue bubble. Then they gradually, over millions of generations, dropped down. Unfortunately, rather than dropping in front of the ureter, curving down along the green line, leaving the ureter behind, they dropped behind the ureter, effectively making a wrong turn. The vas was left with no choice but get longer and longer, causing the odd design we have today.
Would an intelligent designer, a God, creating man in his own image, have built man this way? I think not. Like many other design flaws in the human body, our testicles are a remnant of our evolutionary heritage.
And now you know what human testicles and Dell laptop batteries have in common: Lousy design.
Joel Smith is a 21-year-old college student from Seattle, on a trip with a friend visiting Yellowstone in May of 2000. On the way back, outside Helena, Montana, he decides on a whim to explore an abandoned gold mine. While his impatient buddy waits at the car, he enters the mine, finds a mysteriously glowing cavern, sees a rattle snake, drops his flashlight and as he withdraws he bumps his head and passes out.
When he comes to, he walks back out of the mine and finds a different world. He soon figures out that it is May 1941. His cell phone is useless, his 2000 vintage money is funny-money, and his clothes are definitely wrong for the period.
He rides a freight train from Helena to Seattle and soon starts a new life. In his circle of friends he even meets his own grandmother as a young college girl. Eventually he falls in love with a girl named Grace, who is engaged to another man.
He does not know if his trip was one-way. But he does know his sports trivia, which enables him to gamble and win money. He also knows that on December 7, 1941, the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor and the lives of Americans would change drastically.
Joel is careful not to change the past and history, since it might affect his own existence, particularly when he is hanging around with his own grandmother.
The Mine is a romance novel. The author spends a lot of time weaving the web of the complex social lives of a group of 1941 college kids that Joel finds himself surrounded by. Those college kids have relationships, they fall in love, and in lust, and things don’t always end up clean.
The book is very well narrated, containing just the right amount of dialog versus exposition, and it moves along at a good, steady pace. The only distractions I noticed were the frequent use of trite clichés. For instance, Joel never just put on jeans. He always “threw on a pair of jeans.” Joel’s 2000 girlfriend Jana “was as good as it got.” Road signs were “small potatoes.” The author used these types of hackneyed expressions often enough that I found it distracting.
Also, Joel was a bit too much of a superman. Landing in 1941, he becomes a crack furniture salesman overnight. He seems to have a photographic memory of sports trivia and statistics. He is super good-looking so all the girls are attracted to him at first sight. He is a great fist fighter. And he is very sensitive and a great friend to everyone. He falls madly in love with Grace, but when it becomes time to leave her, it seems to not be a very difficult decision. All through the story, Joel is somewhat too good to be true.
Overall, The Mine is a very entertaining story, a well told and expertly paced time travel tale with a romantic twist, or perhaps more aptly: romance with a time travel twist.
Rating: ** 1/2
This film is a deep and emotional look inside the world of crime, its subterfuge, and its deceit. After watching The Departed, I felt glad and thankful that I had remained straight and upright all my life, and that I didn’t live in a community where thugs with baseball bats came collecting protection money from me in my business.
I don’t know how I missed watching this movie when it came out in 2006. I had thought I had seen it before.
It is a captivating story carried by a powerful cast, including Matt Damon, Leonardi DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg.
The organized crime scene in South Boston is led by ruthless syndicate head Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Frank rules with absolute brutality. He may show up in a morning robe, but he does not shy away from breaking a man’s hand with the heel of a shoe just to make a point. The police send in an undercover agent, Billi Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), to befriend and infiltrate the mafia. What they don’t know is that one of their own, Collin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is a criminal who has infiltrated the police force and is acting as a “rat” signaling their every move to the mob. The cat and mouse game between the two infiltrators, who do not know each other, becomes ever tighter. Innocent people get drawn in, and soon people start dying.
The Departed is an excellent movie, highly rated when it played in the theaters, and cliffhanger entertainment today for rental prices.
But you have to pronounce it “The Depaaated” to make it sound right for South Boston.
Here is an inspiring and informative video on galaxies, their formation, their life-cycle, their sizes. This one is about the largest known galaxy.
Why are there hundreds or sometimes thousands of inane comments from religious people overwhelming YouTube science related videos? They have a right to post their nonsense, granted, but it would be nice to have some filter to zone them out, so we can have intelligent dialog about science related to the topic.
Then again, YouTube comments seem to be overwhelmingly idiotic for pretty much most topics. I guess I am facing the yellow, pimply underbelly of the freedom of speech.
I read this book immediately after Book One, convinced by a twist at the end. Book Two was a different experience than Book One.
Jack was back in 1856, and his task was preventing the Civil War. Again he met with many of the luminaries of the period. There were battle scenes, with Jack right in the middle of them. The bad guys were really evil, Nazi style, with human experiments and torture. Through a network of spies and thugs, they stole industrial secrets, kidnapped people, and killed whenever it suited their need. Interestingly, the bad guys were also the Southerners, versus the Yankees, trying to hold on to their system of slavery pre-Civil War.
I felt that this one, like Book One, was also written somewhat awkwardly, the writing style showing some signs of immaturity. The writer often told us what was happening, rather than showing us. This means that the book could have been longer, more elaborate, and probably more enjoyable, with better dialog and better exposition.
For instance, Frances Sanger, the second most important character in the story, was a young woman who was, we think, infatuated with Jack. But the way she acted throughout the story simply didn’t make much sense. She was portrayed as very bright, helping her father and uncle in the family business, buying real estate for stores all over the country, as far away from Virginia as Chicago and New York. So she should have been an experienced traveler, negotiator and executive. However, when she saw Jack with a young girl in a restaurant, she freaked out and acted like a junior high school girl, running to her daddy and crying about it. Frances Sanger, due to behavior like this example, just didn’t appear to me as a rounded, real person, but as an accessory to move a plot along.
And the plot, finally, was what kept me reading. I loved the story, and I particularly loved the ending. I would tell the reluctant reader to keep slogging through the first 90% of the book because the last 10% make it worthwhile and now I am waiting for the third book in the series.
This brings me to my final complaint: The time change books are, apparently, a trilogy. I think this story would work better as one consolidated book, be it a thousand pages, if necessary. Time Change – Book Two, as I describe it here does not stand alone. I don’t think a reader could make much sense of it, let along like it and the plot, without reading Book One first. This disconnect between a series of books is much stronger here than in other similar works, like for instance those of S.M. Stirling, where the stories build on previous books, but each book can be read on its own.
All said and done – I am now waiting for Time Change – Book Three.
Rating: ** 1/2
Zachary Maxwell is a 4th-grade kid who snuck a camera into a his school’s lunchroom for 6 months and made a movie out of it. Here is an outtake that shows what most of our children don’t tell us. After just a few minutes I know I don’t ever want to have to eat school lunches – yet, we make our helpless kids eat them every day.
Hydraulic fracturing – colloquially known as fraccing:
Hydraulic fracturing is the fracturing of various rock layers by a pressurized liquid. Some hydraulic fractures form naturally—certain veins or dikes are examples—and can create conduits along which gas and petroleum from source rocks may migrate to reservoir rocks. Induced hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracturing, commonly known as fraccing, fraccing, or frackling, is a technique used to release petroleum, natural gas (including shale gas, tight gas, and coal seam gas), or other substances for extraction. This type of fracturing creates fractures from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations.
Steve Butler (Matt Damon) is a corporate salesman for Global, a natural gas company. His partner is Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand). Together they swoop in on a midwestern town with the objective to sign land leases with the farmers to allow Global to drill for natural gas on their land.
Steve comes from humble beginnings, growing up on a farm himself, and knows how to connect to the people. Farming towns are dying. Revenues are down. The only thing keeping the farms afloat are government subsidies. People can’t make ends meet. When Steve and Sue come in and offer big down payments and large percentages of the profits, the people see nothing but dollar signs.
Until Dustin Noble (John Krasinski) rolls into town in a pickup truck and introduces himself as an environmentalist and starts educating the people about the reality of fraccing. In a one-man battle against a billion-dollar company, he seems to make steady progress. But not all things are always what they seem.
Promised Land is an engaging film that takes on one of the central conflicts in our world where jobs are hard to find, small farming is dying, greenhouse gas concentrations in our air are shooting up, and everyone wants to reduce our dependency on foreign fossil fuels. America has more natural gas resources than any other country in the world. All we have to do is get it out safely.
I was prepared for the inevitable end – when a sudden twist gave me pause. Promised Land got me thinking.
Rating: ** 1/2