"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Varifrank is Back!!!

Today, I wrote this as a comment to a post on neo-neocon:

You can get sent to a good blog from the unlikeliest of places.

I got hooked on blogs because of a link on MSNBC's website (of all places) directing me to Today, I was "Unprofessional"..., about the tsunami that hit Indonesia on Christmas Day, 2004.

I'm glad that's still archived and available, as its' author (Frank Martin - "Varifrank") has retired from blogging and "Gone Flyin...".

I miss him, and his analysis's

Why do I think so much of him? If clicking on that link doesn't show you, then no amount of words from me could explain it.

After posting that comment, I took another look at that page I had linked to, clicked on the "Main" link, and...

HE'S BACK!!! ( Varifrank )

I guess there's no such thing as a retired blogger.

UPDATE - 12 Mar 2010 - The "HE'S BACK!!!" may have been premature; since his new post, around New Year's eve, he appears to only be using Twitter now. Twitter (and my antipathy towards it) were the subject of a post I was considering, but neo-neocon went and beat me to it ( I’m a blogger, not a tweeter ).


Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Avatar" -- I want to see it AGAIN!

There I go, violating common sense, and Lord knows how many rules of reporting and reviewing, by putting the bottom line, not just at the top, but in the very title of this review.

So, sue me! This is how I felt like presenting it.

I've NEVER written a movie review before (as will be painfully obvious from reading this), but I'm going to speak my piece anyway.

I've seen a number of attacks on this movie (several from bloggers on my "Blogs I Like" list) accusing James Cameron of making an anti-American, pro-environmentalist, way too PC movie, with little or no originality to it..

I beg to differ.

I don't recall any countries named in the movie; the soldiers depicted are mercenaries hired by a corporation (in this future, corporations appear to be at the top of the food chain). The lead is supposed to be an ex-marine, but lots of countries have marines and it is not specified which one he is from.

Many of the plot points are not necessarily comments on our current situation, but can be found in classic science-fiction going back more than half a century.

The idea of a warrior, sent to live among a people, deciding he'd rather be a part of them is NOT a ripoff of "Dances With Wolves", but is a very human story that likely predates writing and could well be part of sagas passed down from one generation to another by word of mouth.

The one thing you could convict Cameron on is lack of originality in the story.

BUT, to the best of my recollection, he has never claimed the ideas to be original. I think he has even said that himself in interviews.

What I think counts is how well it is done, and here, he really shines.

By not tapping into the $20,000,000.00 club for his actors, you get people that are more believable as their characters, instead of trying to get past that you are looking at George Clooney, Matt Damon or Tom Cruise.

I decided to go all the way and see it in IMAX 3D. This is probably the best 3D work I've seen to date; it is used, not as a gimmick (I don't recall any cheap tricks of throwing thing at you just to make you duck), but as an integral part of the story, to heighten the feeling of reality.

I'm going to cut this off, here, for further reflection on what I've seen.

Is this the best movie of the year? No, probably not even close.

Is it the best science-fiction movie of this year?
THAT will take some more consideration; at the moment, I'm inclined towards "District 9" for that honor.

Well then, is it any damned good at all? HELL YES!!!

WHY more consideration? I can see one similarity with Titanic; during the approximately nine months it was in theaters in Houston, I saw it quite a few times. Each viewing seemed to disclose things I hadn't noticed before.

My first impression is, "Pretty Damned Good".
My gut feeling is that repeat viewings will only add to that.

See it for yourself.

(Note added Sunday morning: This is a good example of how NOT to post anything.  I was in WAY too much of a hurry to put something up, with ideas only half-formed, and boy does that show! That's why it cuts off so abruptly;  I didn't know where to go next.  I stand by what is in there, but, it's sadly incomplete and I well know it.  I hope to do better next time.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


An Air Force buddy of mine, now living in Montana, sent Christmas Greetings to me, noting...

"Winter has set in fairly quickly here, first a week of below-zero weather with no snow, then a week with lots of snow, and now just jumping back and forth across the freezing mark with mixed rain and snow. Makes driving very interesting".

I know what "interesting" can mean in those temperature ranges.

The most harrowing driving I've ever experienced was in Arkansas, one Christmas, when I left my mom's house (near Fort smith) to head to my brother's place in Little Rock.

The road was iced over (no biggie; I had handled that before), but the temperature was only around freezing, and then freezing rain fell on top of that. Absolutely the slipperiest I have EVER experienced. LOADS of fun on a two-lane road through moderately hilly country, with oncoming traffic in the other lane. I really think that if I had stopped and got out and braced myself against something, I could have pushed my truck sideways with one hand.

By the time it had started, I had been about twenty miles on the way, with another hundred or so to go. Seeing the insanity of continuing, I turned around and made it back to mom's house instead, only managing to have ANY directional control by putting the right wheels off the edge of the road, in the slush on the shoulder.

The only other experience that approached it was in 1988 when I lived in Michigan and was flying all over the place to install software for the company I was working for.

I lived in Mt. Pleasant (in the center of Michigan's lower peninsula), and flew out of Lansing (about 65 miles south), parking my truck in the lot at the airport. About Thanksgiving, coming back from one of those junkets, I had to take a commuter flight from Chicago to Lansing.

As we were in the landing approach, the plane began climbing again, just as the pilot announced that freezing rain was coming down on the Lansing airport and we would continue on to Flint instead (about 60 miles east; that freezing rain extended almost all of the way there, as well).

So, we got to Flint and I wondered, "Are they going to put us up in motels, or what?"

It turned out to be "what". They put us on a bus, to be driven back the 60 miles, most of it through freezing rain. (Normally, Michigan handles that by having trucks dump brine on the road to melt the ice. That trick works best AFTER it stops coming down. While it's still coming down, forget it!) .

That bus was sliding all over the place. I'll confess to being nervous on airplanes, particularly during the landing approach, but I don't recall EVER being so scared as on that bus trip.

After FINALLY reaching the Lansing airport, one more ordeal awaited. Try walking about a hundred yards on that kind of wet ice to reach your truck, while handling two bags, then to find an inch of ice coating the truck. Fortunately, I had a knife so I could chip away enough to be able to get the door open and get it started.

With it STILL coming down, I didn't even want to think about driving 65 miles north, at night, to get home then, but crept into Lansing instead and found a motel to wait it out.

Next morning, it had stopped, the brine trucks had done their thing, and heading the rest of the way home was uneventful.

Having grown up in San Antonio, and having lived in Arkansas for a short while, I had some experience with snow, but it's kinda rare in what would eventually be my adopted home town of Houston.

In 1984, I moved up to the aforementioned Mt. Pleasant, in Michigan, to join a seismic exploration company as a data-processing manager. That fell through in 1986, when the bottom dropped out of the petroleum industry and I eventually wound up with a software development company instead, remaining in Michigan until 1994 when that company opened an office in Houston and I didn't need all that much persuasion to come back down here.

I had spent ten years in a state where snow is sometimes measured in feet (on Jan 1, 1985, the New Year was celebrated with almost a yard of snow), usually beginning around Thanksgiving and remaining until spring.

Trust me; the novelty wears off very quickly.

Shortly after arriving in Michigan, I was given this primer on what to expect..
Dear Diary...

Aug 12 - Moved to our new home in Michigan. It is so beautiful here. The mountains are so majestic. Can hardly wait to visit them with snow covering them. I love it here.

Oct 14 - Michigan is the most beautiful place on Earth. The leaves are all turned all the colors and shades of red and orange. Went for a ride through the beautiful mountains and saw some deer. They are so graceful; certainly they are the most wonderful animal on Earth. This must be paradise. I love it here.

Nov 11 - Deer season will start soon. I can't imagine anyone wanting to kill such a gorgeous creature. Hope it will snow soon. I love it here.

Dec 2 - It snowed last night. Woke up to find everything blanketed with white. We went outside and cleaned the snow off of the steps and shoveled the driveway. We had a snowball fight (I won), and when the snow-plow came by we had to shovel the driveway again. What a beautiful place. I love it here.

Dec 12 - More snow last night. I love it. The snow-plow did his trick again to the driveway. I love it here.

Dec 19 - More snow last night. Couldn't get out of the driveway to get to work. I am exhausted from shoveling. F***ing snow-plow.

Dec 22 - More of the white s**t fell last night. I've got blisters on my hands from shoveling. I think the snow-plow hides around the curve and waits until I'm done shoveling the driveway. A**hole!

Dec 25 - Merry F***ing Christmas! More friggen snow. If I get my hands on the son-of-a-bitch who drives that snow-plow, I swear I'll kill the bastard. Don't know why they don't use more salt on the roads to melt the f***ing ice.

Dec 27 - More white s**t last night. Been inside for three days except for shoveling out the driveway after the snow-plow goes through everytime. Can't go anywhere; car's stuck in a mountain of white s**t. The weatherman says to expect another 10" of s**t tonight. Do you know how many shovels full of snow 10" is?!!!

Dec 28 - The f***ing weatherman was wrong. We got 34" of that white s**t this time. At this rate, it wont melt before next summer. The snow-plow got stuck up the road, and that bastard came to the door and asked to borrow my shovel. After I told him that I had broken six shovels already shoveling all the s**t he pushed into my driveway, I broke my last one over his f***ing head.

Jan 4 - Finally got out of the house today. Went to the store to get food, and on the way back a damned deer ran in front of the car and I hit it. Did about $3000 damage to the car. Those f***ing beasts should be killed. Wish the hunters had killed them all last November.

May 3 - Took the car to the garage in town. Would you believe the thing is rusting out from that f***ing salt they put all over the road?

May 10 - Moved to Georgia. I can't imagine why anyone in their right mind would live in that God-forsaken state of Michigan

(Author unknown. The "mountains" references suggest the upper peninsula. Many variations can be found, and while this one is for Michigan, I suspect that all snow-belt states have their versions.)

Merry Christmas, y'all :-)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dynamics of the Afghanistan War Made Simple

From Strategy Page: Murphy's Law: A Picture Is Worth Total Confusion

December 17, 2009: Dealing with the security situation in Afghanistan is explained a number of ways.
These descriptions get increasingly more complex when you get your information from American military and intelligence organizations. An example of how complex this can become is available here
: Afghan+war+diagram.jpg

Everything clear now? :-)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Profound Sadness at the Polling Station

I just voted today, in the runoff for Mayor of the City of Houston.

The sadness in the title is because of the sample ballot printed in Vietnamese that was taped to the wall.

I don't know if I can adequately describe the disservice this does to the Vietnamese, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway.

In one of my previous careers, I worked for a consulting engineering company here in Houston, evolving from an electrical draftsman to an electrical designer (much the same as an engineer, but sans license and seal; my work required approval by a registered engineer).

The drawings we cranked out had WORDS on them, and they were legal documents. A contractor makes his bids on what you SAY; not on what you might mean. You may specify items that are of better quality than the minimum required to meet code, but sloppy language gives the contractor leeway to make a bit more by substituting that minimum in lieu of what you intended.

It can be very mortifying to call him on that, only to have this "good ole boy" type contractor (who might look and sound right at home on the old "Dukes of Hazzard" TV show) display a PhD level of English comprehension as he pulls out your drawing and points to your words, accurately saying, "That ain't what it says right there!".

Guess who eats the cost of fixing it in that situation? Sloppy language can be very expensive.

In the mid-seventies, our company had people from China (both Chinas), India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and Egypt. During that same period, the only Hispanics who came in did so at night to empty the wastebaskets, because those who applied for technical positions did not have enough English comprehension to handle the employment application; victims of a "bilingual education" system that did its' best to make things easy for them instead of emphasizing mastery of English.

With, probably the best intentions in the world, they were ghetto-ized into menial jobs from which they would be too busy just surviving to be able to work on educating themselves to escape to something better.

This was in the mid-seventies, after the fall of Saigon and the subsequent arrival of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees to our shores.

Vietnamese children, barely off the boat, were winning spelling bees across the country, because their parents had this peculiar notion that the best way to make it, in a new country and a new culture, was to master the language.

So, remembering that, my reaction to seeing that poster is, "God O'Mighty! What are we doing?"


Thursday, December 10, 2009

A True Professional's Perspective on Climate Change Data...

In my very first post on this blog ( A Perspective on Man-Made Global Warming (Excuse me: "Climate Change") ) I argued how microscopic a timeline of recorded data was being used to make really long-range predictions on climate behavior, and that it was irresponsible and dangerous to mandate actions based on those predictions.

In his latest post ( How Not To Create A Historic Global Temp Index ) AJStrata goes into painful (his word; I call it "exquisite") detail about the absolute criminal stupidity of the demonstrated adjusting of temperature data to fit the desired conclusions of the alarmists.

All emphasis below is mine.

The momentum that build up behind the man-made global warming fad (and it is nothing more than an unproven hypothesis surrounded by a silly fan club) has not allowed the basic approach to be tested or challenged. You had a movement build up around an idea, which launched the idea into ‘established fact’ before the idea was validated. It probably will never be validated because the methodology is flawed to its core – as I will explain in painful detail.

To create a global temperature index for the past 30 years – and then project that back to the 1880’s (when global temp records were began) and then project it back centuries before that – is not trivial. And in my opinion the current approach is just plain wrong.

I take this position as someone who works ‘in space’ – where we have complex and interrelated models of all sorts of physical processes. And yet we have to keep refining the models to fit the data to do what we do. Climate science naively (and ignorantly in my mind) does just the opposite; it keeps adjusting the data (for no good reason) until they get the result they want!

He goes on at length, and despite his "painful" description, I think you'll find it a fascinating read. His main point is...

You DON'T adjust the data!

PLEASE, give it a look.

He makes my points with a professionalism and eloquence of which I can only dream.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

"The Dog Ate my Data"...

...is the name of a very good site devoted to AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming), and especially to the cynical manipulation of data in order to further the cause of alarmists.

Many thanks to a commenter at The Strata-Sphere for this link: The Dog Ate my Data: RAW v ADJUSTED GHCN Data showing a very nifty animated graph of raw versus adjusted temperature data for Brisbane, Australia.

I could expend thousands of words without making the point any clearer than that graph.

PLEASE, give it a look.

I'm adding this site to my Blogroll.

(Truth in advertising: From this, and other post and comments by myself, you might infer that I'm a little skeptical of the Global Warming/Climate Change agenda. Well,.. You've got me! Guilty as charged. :-)


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

"Don't forget the money angle, Paul"

Richard Mullins, in a reply to a comment of mine on Redstate (that used the "Pure naked power" quote from my previous post), is the source of the title to this one.

He noted correctly that money and power go together, and singled out Al Gore as a prime example. I have no argument whatsoever with his observation.


With the High Priests of this new religion, money is incidental.

Simple greed can be reasoned with, bargained with, and/or bought off.

Messianism cannot.

With power, you can get the money. The reverse doesn't always hold true. With real power comes control, to a degree of which money can only daydream.

I have often joked that a liberal's worst nightmare is that somebody somewhere is doing something without his permission.

I believe, to the very depths of my soul, that The Won falls into this catagory.

Just look at all of the pictures of him out there, in that head-back pose so he's looking down at you even when he's seated, with a smug all-knowing expression that almost screams, "Humility is not even in my vocabulary; What have I got to be humble about?!"

Those pictures are out there (you don't need Photoshop to produce them) because he provides countless opportunities for people to catch the true him (he is a "wysiwyg" president), and I doubt he even cares if some people see him for what he is.

This Ayatollah wannabe probably believes that the USA has been on the wrong track ever since it discarded its' fealty to the King and adopted the attitude that mere people could manage their own affairs without someone telling them what to do.

This attitude of "I was born to bring enlightenment to you" has been explored in detail in this analysis ( Understanding Obama: The Making of a Fuehrer ) that appeared months before the election.

What makes him so dangerous is this attitude makes it extremely difficult for him to compromise in the face of reality. Bill Clinton could see the writing on the wall and adapt to changing circumstances as easily as breathing. Obama simply cannot.

So, if you figure on him seeing the light anytime soon; well... don't hold your breath.

UPDATE 07 JUN 2010 - That link above no longer goes to the article.
Try this one instead:
Understanding Obama: The Making of a Fuehrer"

UPDATE 14 JUN 2010 - The original link works again (YMMV).

Sunday, December 06, 2009

What's this "Climategate" fuss all about?

A Link Worth Saving...

Understanding Climategate's Hidden Decline ...

I've mostly said my piece on Climate Change in various comments, and in my very first post here, but that was mainly about the sheer arrogance of predicting long term climate trends from the microscopic recorded history we have on the subject.

Whatever the suspicions I may have had of some of the researchers and advocates of man-made global warming, I never went so far as to accuse them of making up data out of nothing and throwing out (I mean literally "THROWING OUT") data that didn't fit the conclusions they were after.  I really was not that cynical.  From what I'm seeing lately (for really good coverage of this, check out AJStrata's  The Strata Sphere ); apparently I'm far too naive.

Almost as bad is the almost complete absence of coverage of this from any of the major networks, and only grudging mention in a few U.S. newspapers (the Brits are doing a much better job of this).

This is NOT just a scandal of a few purloined emails;  it is the perversion of science to cold-bloodily create propaganda, to justify putting the government in complete totalitarian control of our industries, our economy, nearly every detail of how we live.

This will be (and is being) fought for at the highest levels as literally BILLIONS of dollars are at stake.

What's at the bottom of all this?

Pure naked power.


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Ah, Hell!...

Yesterday, Friday, Dec 4, 2009, SNOW paid one of its' rare visits to Houston.

The motion and reflectivity make them look larger, but they were big wet flakes, a bit over postage-stamp size, that melted as soon as they hit the ground.  This was about 10:30 AM, and the temp didn't get below freezing until late in the afternoon, by which time the snow  had stopped falling in my part of town.

I so much wanted to grab the camera and go out a bit southwest of town, where there was more activity (up to 4 inches in some places), but was intercepted by a call to come into work early.  By the time I got off, it was freezing, but the snowfall was all over where I was.

So, no opportunity for winter-wonderland shots this time.


Snow is a very rare occurrence here.  Dec 4 is the earliest time on record for it to show up.  Also, we got visited last year.  This is the first ever recorded instance of it happening two years in a row.  And, winter is still over two weeks away.

Could get interesting.


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