"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")

About to comment here for the very first time?
Check Where'd my Comment go?!!! to avoid losing it.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"Blogging is not writing...

...It's just graffiti with punctuation."

That's lectured to blogger Jude Law who is trying to expose a possible government cover-up in the movie Contagion (2011 - featuring yet another fine piece of work by Matt Damon, who absolutely makes me want to throw things at him whenever he opens his mouth politically, but whom I regard in awe as an actor).

(Addendum - That I use a quote for a title doe NOT mean I agree with it. :-)

I've been blogging here since October of 2009, and have posted close to 150 items during that period (including a few I later deleted).

For several years before that, I have commented on many other blogs with comments that grew into essays resulting in suggestions that I really oughta put them up in my own blog (if that was meant as "rather than cluttering up our space", I'd rather NOT know.).

I eventually did just that, even recycling some of my comments as posts here (yes. I still do that sometimes. Who better to plagiarize from than myself?  At least, I wont sue myself. :-)

I hope to God that some of my posts rise at least a little above the opinion stated in the title.

I confess here to being addicted to the site meter, and am very gratified to see that there are a few who return to see if there's anything new.

Most of my posts are reactions to something else I've read, seen or experienced.  A few have been at the back of my mind for some time, and eventually I get around to them.  They come from a "To do" list I keep to jot down ideas I'm not ready to go into immediately.

What follows is my current "Coming Attractions" list.
Black remains to be done.
One of them is stricken out as having been on the shelf too long.
Red is done.
A yellow background highlights info not in the original list, but explaining what I'm interested in for that possible post.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Two Countries.

North Korea's maximum leader (in his eyes) Kim Jong Il is dead, and replaced by his son Kim Jong Un (In Asia, family names come first).

The more things change ...

The Korean peninsula is a laboratory of economic and political systems; the South going in the direction of democracy and free market, and the North going for a centralized dictatorship of control to a degree probably not even matched under Hitler and the Gestapo.

Giving us ...
korea_night1 - from upbynoon.files.wordpress.com - Ed Driscoll

Says it all.
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Roger L. Simon makes the case for Newt.

Newt Gingrich was never my first choice.  That would have been Sarah Palin.

Without her, I would prefer Rick Perry, as he has been an excellent and successful Governor, and I truly believe would be a fine President.  But, debating just ain't his thing (although I've yet to see a correlation between debating skill and the ability to actually do the job) and at the moment it appears less and less likely that he will succeed to the nomination (although it's still early yet;  the election is eleven months away).

Roger L. Simon is doing a pretty good job of making me take a longer and harder look at Newt (in Explaining Newt), noting (emphasis mine) ...

What attracts me about the man is the very thing that Romney criticized, the part that wants to explore the moon and stars, maybe even mine them.

Sure Gingrich has an idea a minute, many of which are bad, but at least he has ideas. At least he is thinking. And — guess what — he says what he thinks. Politicians aren’t supposed to do that.

But Gingrich reminds me more of a Steve Jobs or a Richard Branson than he does of a politician, and that is a good thing because politicians these days are the kind of people that make me want to bang my forehead against the desk.

For my part, one thing I like about Newt is that he is a fighter (and not a doormat to anyone taking a cheap shot at him), responding "Bring it on!" to Nancy Pelosi's threat to release a lot of dirt about him from House investigations (she backed off when it was pointed out to her that such action would result in an investigation of her conduct), and responding in one debate to Mitt Romney's characterization of him as a "career politician", "Let's be honest; the only reason that you're not a career politician is that you lost to Ted Kennedy in 1994."

I'm quite aware that, a few months back, I said similar things about Perry (and still hope that he will try fighting again;  if you're going to run, then RUN!!!).

But, where Newt's concerned; I truly believe that he will campaign as if he's actually trying to win the office, and not just going through the motions.

And if that last part sounds like a slap at someone, then so be it!

In 2008, Sarah Palin seemed to be the only one on the GOP side actually running.  If McCain had made that kind of effort, our country would likely be a hell of a lot better off now.

If only...

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Saturday, December 03, 2011

If THIS doesn't pique your curiosity ...

... then, I am truly sorry for you;  you're already dead. :(

Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods.
Bad things happen.

That poster is from AICN Exclusive: The Long Awaited Poster for Joss Whedon & Drew Goddard's CABIN IN THE WOODS!!!  (you can click on it for a full-sized image, but be warned: It's a monster of almost 2 Megabytes.)

I absolutely love movies, and am a sucker for an imaginative grabber where posters or advertising campaigns are concerned.  If that doesn't qualify, what would?

Opening 13 Apr 2012 (A Friday, of course; what other day could it possibly be?)

See you there? :-)
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Friday, December 02, 2011

Wolf Howling is BACK ...

... with a vengeance.

After a seven and a half month absence (since May 22), one of my favorite bloggers ( Wolf Howling ) has put up five new posts in the last two days.

In a comment to one of those posts, I wondered "What happened?", and suggested that that was worthy of a post of its own.

If he picks up on that, I suspect that a quote from John Lennon would likely cover it:

   "Life is what happens while we're making other plans."

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Don't write off Rick Perry just yet.

Reports of Rick Perry's demise, over his memory lapse in Tuesday's debate, are greatly exaggerated.

Dr. Jerry Pournelle's take on the Michigan debates.  …
The Michigan Debate: Candidates 9, Moderators 0; The Cain Affair

(Emphasis mine)
As to Perry, he had a momentary fit of absentmindedness as he tried to remember the names of the Departments of the government that he would eliminate the day after his inauguration: Commerce, Education, and – and he couldn’t remember. Gov. Romney suggested EPA, and for a moment Perry accepted that, then recalled that it’s an Agency, not a Department. Given another chance to name the Department he would eliminate, he once again had a lapse of memory. Eventually he realized, as everyone who has listened to his previous speeches already knew, that it was the Department of Energy.
 ...
But when all is said and done, while the incident was embarrassing, it was hardly definitive. It doesn’t show Perry more or less qualified to be President. We know that Perry has been an effective and re-elected governor of a prosperous state. We know that candidates can be dependent on a teleprompter and get elected. We know that Perry’s lapse of memory was both temporary and unimportant.
 ...
...but my conclusion from the debate is that all the candidates are alive and well, any one of them would be capable of beating Obama, and any one of the would be infinitely superior to the current president.
...
I came away much relieved.


That's Dr. Pournelle's perspective.  Here's mine ...

I don't recall anyone ever describing Rick Perry as an ace debater, but I also have difficulty in recalling just how much help that ability is to actually getting the job done as Governor, or as President of the United States.

1600 Pennsylvania is currently occupied by one who is supposed to be a fantastic debater (although I've yet to see any evidence of that -- all the supporting praise comes from a media that drools over his every pronouncement), but going by his actual performance over the last three years, is debating skill going to be your definitive test of the man you will vote for?

Really?!!!
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Friday, October 28, 2011

CISOH

(I pronounce it "key-so".  Yes, I made it up:  I'll tell you what it means down below).

This is not a review of the new movie Anonymous (2011), but of its basic premise that William Shakespeare could not possibly have written those plays, because the son of a glove-maker simply didn't have the "education" to do so.  How could he display such knowledge of history, politics, etc.?

That is liberal elitist bullshit at its snottiest: The notion that if you didn't go to the "right" schools, weren't taught by the "right" teachers, in the "correct" prescribed manner (from which no deviation is allowed), how could you possibly be expected to know anything?

Well, if you actually read the plays, you might notice that they are more poetry than prose, and that aside from a few scattered references, don't really say all that much about the inner workings of Danish kingdoms or moneylenders in Venice.

They, in fact, say much more about the inner workings of human beings, of which he probably had a fair amount of knowledge just from observation.

Shakespeare wrote most of his stuff between 1589 and 1613.  My gut feeling is that Will was a guy who loved to read (almost anything) and was blessed by it being easy for him (see my post On Reading... ).  I suspect that he had CISOH (Curiosity, Imagination, Sense Of Humor) in spades and was probably an interesting guy and fun to be around

(As to why CISOH is important for good writing: Well the need for curiosity and imagination should be obvious. A sense of humor keeps you balanced and helps you avoid taking yourself too seriously.  A lack of CISOH can turn you into a liberal. )

Did he have much material with which to indulge his curiosity?  Gutenberg's invention of movable type had made commercial mass printing of books available for more than a century before he began writing his plays; so I would have to say, Yes!

This whole idea of the necessity of a "proper" education to be able to succeed at anything is snobbery of the worst sort, and doesn't allow for people who were largely self-taught at their professions (Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Tom Clancy, Steve Jobs, just to name a few).

Take Tom Clancy, for example (possible spoilers below).

"The Hunt for Red October" (1984) features an advanced Soviet missile submarine, a "caterpillar" drive almost undetectable by our listening devices, a way in which it is detected, naval tactics between our subs and theirs, and a lot more.

"Patriot Games" (1987) describes Irish terrorism, satellite detection of terrorist camps, anti-terrorist operations.

"The Cardinal of the Kremlin" (1988): Anti-satellite lasers and the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

"The Sum of All Fears" (1991): Recovering a lost Israeli nuke, turning that nuke into an even more powerful one, an abandoned East German nuclear weapons project.

"Debt of Honor" (1994): Japan going nuclear,  war with same,  airliner crashed into U.S. Capitol Building.

Now, how could a man who was an Insurance Broker possibly know all of that stuff?

It's simply unthinkable that he just reads a lot and could have combined CISOH with a boatload of common-sense to be able to come up with those stories.

Obviously, someone like Oliver Stone needs to get to work and direct a movie to expose who really wrote all those books with Clancy's name on the cover.

Doesn't that make as much sense as supposing that it had to be Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe and/or Edward de Vere (17th Earl of Oxford) who wrote all those plays?  After all, Clancy is a hell of a lot more detailed in what he writes than Shakespeare ever was.

What more proof do you need?

Damn!!! Tinfoil makes a lousy hat;  it's not rigid enough to hold its shape very well. :(
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Another Bumper Sticker ...

... seen this afternoon on the tailgate of a contractor's pickup:

   GOVERNMENT PHILOSOPHY
        If  it  ain't  broke,
        fix  it  until  it  is!

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

11 Dec 2011 - Update at end - Not in Houston yet, but coming soon (I hope).
26 Dec 2011 - Another update at end - Finally have a date of general release.
06 Jan 2012 19:30 - Finally saw it.  I'll sum up at the end.

Can a story that was made into a truly excellent five and a half hour mini-series be rendered into a script for a two-hour movie, without proving "rend" a very appropriate part of that verb?

(WARNING: If you have never seen the movie Aliens, it's NOT what this post is about, but I DO use a scene from it to illustrate a point; making a bit of a spoiler.)

Coming in December is a movie version of John le CarrĂ©'s "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy".  The novel was largely inspired by the Kim Philby scandal in the British Secret Service, and involves le CarrĂ©'s civil servant spy, George Smiley.

About as far from 007 as you can get, Smiley operates within a world of bureaucratic infighting wherein a memo can be as deadly as a Walther PPK.

He is brought out of retirement to look into the very real possibility that there may be a Soviet "mole" near the very top of British Intelligence, and has been for years.

A BBC mini-series, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979) was aired in 1979 ...
 Alec Guinness as George Smiley  -  from www.irishtimes.com

... starring Alec Guinness, and proved to be a superb and faithful adaptation of the novel, refuting arguments that major changes are necessary because film and print are such different mediums.  Although over five hours long (the DVD shows less running time, but that DVD has some scenes missing), that time is essential to telling the story and is gripping throughout.

The new version, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), ...
 Gary Oldman as George Smiley  -  from www.thefancarpet.com
At first, I had considered using Photoshop to brighten this picture, but then decided:
No!  It's perfect as is.  Shadows are Smiley's natural habitat.

...scheduled for December 9 in the USA, and starring Gary Oldman, is listed at 127 minutes running time.

That is my greatest concern.  I have no qualms whatsoever about Oldman;  if anyone can follow in the footsteps of Alec Guinness, I believe it is he.  I just strongly doubt that two hours are sufficient to do justice to this story.  We shall see.

So, how does one turn five and a half hours worth of story into a two-hour movie script?

One way is what I call the "Alien Queen Method" (or AQM), which will be demonstrated here by Bishop (Lance Henriksen), the android in Aliens.

(The following images from Aliens are screen-caps from the DVD)

Let Bishop stand-in for the original story ...

The Alien Queen  has volunteered to be the writer tasked with adapting that story to a more manageable length ...


And, there you have it.  Story cut down to size.  That clear things up some?

Up there, I'm showing you the optimistic version of AQM.  In that last picture, you see the half of Bishop (or the story) that still retains sentience and some functionality in its remaining limbs.  Don't forget that out there is the other half;  and in the movie business it appears to be a coin-toss as to which half will make it to the screen.

There's also the Frankenstein version of AQM: Slice up the story, as in a Ginsu Knife commercial, pick enough slices (at random) to get the necessary length, and put them together.

Add to that the practice of dumpster-diving amongst the remains of other non-related stories for parts that might seem "cool" to the one trying to stitch this monster together.

"It's ALIVE!!!" - or more probably not.

So, have I a concrete example to justify my fears about the "Tinker Tailor ..." remake?

In 1985, I was mesmerized for three straight nights watching the six-part BBC mini-series Edge of Darkness (1985) that the local PBS station aired during that period.

In it, Yorkshire Police Inspector Ronnie Craven picks up his daughter Emma from a demonstration she was part of and brings her home.  On arrival, a gunman steps out of the bushes and opens up with both barrels of a shotgun, killing Emma who has stepped in front of her father, and escapes afterward.

Bob Peck as Ronnie Craven  -  screen-cap from DVD  -  Peck is probably 
best known to American audiences as the game warden in Jurassic Park.

That picture could probably stand a bit of explanation.  At first, he thinks that he was the target and that Emma was just tragic collateral damage.  After the shooting, Craven goes through Emma's things, discovering an automatic pistol and a gadget he recognizes as a radiation counter (which later goes wild when brought near his coat pocket containing a lock of her hair which he cut before releasing her body).

A Willie Nelson record of her's is playing and while Willie is singing ("Time of the Preacher") in the background ...
  "He cried like a baby
  "He screamed like a panther in the middle of the night
  "An' he saddled his pony
  "An' he went for a ride"

... he just lays back on her bed, with her teddy bear in one hand, and that pistol in the other, staring off into nothingness, obviously wondering. "WHAT in HELL have you gotten yourself into?!!!",

This man may possibly have some answers...
Joe Don Baker as Darius Jedburgh  -  screen-cap from DVD

... U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Darius Jedburgh (A wonderful name to any familiar with the history of war, and with that of the wartime O.S.S.), apparently on indefinite loan to the CIA.  He knows that Emma was working with a protest group called GAIA that was trying to find out if a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, in a mine at a place called Northmoor, may in fact be processing weapons-grade plutonium.

He knows all this because he set up the group to spy for him, and figures that Emma was far more likely to be the target than Ronnie.

What follows is the teaming of Ronnie and Jedburgh to penetrate Northmoor and deal with this.

Peck is first-rate (as you've come to expect with British professionals) and Joe Don Baker may have done his best work ever as Jedburgh.  I'm aware that Mystery Science Theater 3000 showed absolutely no mercy to Baker when they tore into one of his lesser movies ("Mitchell"), but he actually has done some decent work (The original "Walking Tall", a TV movie called "Mongo's Back In Town", and a Walter Matthau thriller called "Charlie Varrick").

In the new movie version Edge of Darkness (2010) , you have ...
Mel Gibson as Thomas Craven (with Ray Winstone)  -  from media.theiapolis.com

... Mel Gibson as Thomas Craven, a Boston Police Detective who eventually teams up with British operative Darius Jedburgh, played here by ...
Ray Winstone as Darius Jedburgh  -  aceshowbiz.com

... Ray Winstone, yet another of those British professionals who simply don't know how to do a second-rate job.

Now, for all the flack that Gibson's taken lately, I have to say that he is just fine here; as good as I've seen him in ages.  Nothing wrong with Winstone either.

The problem is that the story is so gutted to fit within that two-hour time frame.

In the BBC version, Craven genuinely wanted to find out what it was all about, to try and make some sense out of the senseless; NOT knowing being an open wound.

The movie version can be boiled down to the last sentence I quoted from the Willie Nelson song, being entirely devoted to going "for a ride", and seeking only vengeance (about all that two hours allow for, I suppose).  All the subtlety that made the mini-series so fascinating is completely gone.

Darius Jedburgh has been reduced to such a small part that what he does, and what happens to him make almost no sense whatever.

I've long ago lost count of how many times I've seen the whole 5+ hours of the mini-series.  I watched the new movie precisely once.

I honestly cannot recall if the movie had anything at all like the gun and teddy bear scene I described above, but it's little subtle touches like that and many, many others that the mini-series had and the movie doesn't that make the difference between somebody you'd like to know, and a corpse.

That pretty well describes the difference between the two versions of "Edge of Darkness".  I'm fairly confident that the Frankenstein version of AQM, along with some dumpster-diving, is an accurate description of how the movie was conjured up.

Gary Oldman's presence guarantees that I will check out "Tinker Tailor ...", when it gets here in six and a half weeks.  I've heard a little buzz that suggests it might actually be pretty good (it's already showing in Britain), but as I said way above, we'll see.

Update - 11 Dec 2011 - It ain't here yet. :(
All of the websites I've seen on this movie showed a Dec 9 USA release date.

I've now learned that date is for a "limited" (as  in L.A. & NYC probably) showing to get the movie officially released in this country before the end of the year, to qualify for 2011 Academy Award nominations;  Gary Oldman considered almost certainly to be nominated.

An Alamo Drafthouse manager I talked to on the phone thought they might have it by the 16th.  A manager at the Regal 23 I talked to in person thought possibly sometime in the next few weeks.  Nobody appears to know for sure.

I have some confidence (and a lot of hope) that I will get the chance to see it soon.  (Hopefully not to see my worst fears realized.)

In the meantime, is there anything else worth giving a look?

Check out Hugo.  Director Martin Scorsese (who gave us "Taxi Driver") tries his hand with a family film, and delivers pure magic.  That's as big a surprise as Bob Clark (who's legacy was the raunchy "Porky's" movies) turning out a gem like A Christmas Story in 1983.

"Hugo" just might be the best movie of this year. I'm totally serious. Give it a look.

Update - 26 Dec  2011 - Have just seen commercial announcing Friday, 06 Jan 2012 as date of general release in USA.

06 Jan 2012 19:30 - Mild-mannered steel.
That's how I would sum up Gary Oldman's performance here. Having to be an inquisitor searching out clues to the possible "mole" he's searching for, he doesn't attempt to be menacing in any way, but seems to peer into your very soul.  I'm pretty confident of a "Best Actor" academy award nomination for this, and he may have a pretty good chance of actually winning it.

On the other hand, squeezing the story down to two hours doesn't leave much for the other actors and truly does hurt it.  Not nearly as bad as what happened to "Edge of Darkness";  the gist is pretty much there, but it's only a pale shadow of the mini-series.

Bottom line:  Not bad, but Oldman's performance is the only reason to watch this.  If you have the patience and attention-span, get the DVD mini-series instead.
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Friday, October 14, 2011

"The Thing" prequel - DAMN!!! - (Spoiler Warning)

I was really looking forward to this movie.  But...

Harry Knowles saw a preview screening several months ago.

Harry says THE THING prequel is the warmest load of shit on screen in ages!
and continues...

I hate the film. Hate it. Absolutely loathe it. It was my gut reaction the second it ended, but over the months I’ve had to consider the film – I’ve realized just how much I love John Carpenter’s original. I’ve rewatched it a few times since seeing the remake, and it really is a little bit of a miracle just how perfect that film is.
...
There’s a moment where he and his buddy are going to fly an injured Norwegian back to the real world. Now, we all know this character is a THING. There’s never any real suspense or mystery about who the THING is for the film, because the actors all play it like they’re The THING. Anyway, so they’re going up in the helicopter – and THE THING, who is a man. And knows this helicopter is going to take it to a populated area… well he decides to attack on the helicopter. Nevermind that this pretty much makes the THING a really stupid creature that can’t help but attack any non-THING. Something that the original THING would never have done.
...
THE THING is the exact kind of soulless bullshit that is meant to capitalize on our nostalgia – while really having no notion of how to really deliver on that. I know personally about a dozen horror filmmakers that would’ve given their last tooth to make a great THING prequel. THE THING is a marquee HORROR film to play with – and you went with a first timer that was grotesquely out of his league
...
I recommend staying home and watching the original with friends. Use your theater money wisely.


Now, let me tell you something about Harry Knowles, the creator of the Ain't It Cool News site (No! I don't know him personally, although he's just down the road in Austin).

He absolutely loves these kind of movies (horror and science-fiction);  so much so that he is far more forgiving and cuts a lot more slack than most critics.  My experience has been that when he feels something is a piece of dreck, you can pretty well take that to the bank.

So, will I check it out personally?  Don't really know. After all, I have been warned, by someone who usually knows whereof he speaks.

This is another Public Service Announcement from Paul In Houston. :(

Update - Same Day (14 Oct 2011) 20:17 - At the Murder By The Book store, here in Houston, F. Paul Wilson (one of my very favorite writers, author of "The Keep", the "Repairman JacK" series, and many others) showed up for a talk and a book signing.

I got my copy of his latest Repairman Jack ("The Dark at the End") signed and gave him my solemn  promise to be more careful about "Spoiler Warnings" when writing a post about something he may not have seen yet (especially if I had invited him to read the post in the first place :-).

Had a very good time. If you're wondering if my compliments may be because of the possibility he may come across this post, you betcha!

Oh, Wait!!! Ain't this post supposed to be about "The Thing"?

Ok, then.  I noticed that I had plenty of time to go and check it out before going to the book signing so, in a fit of curiosity and masochism, I went and did so.

Bottom line: I was fairly warned. :(
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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Obviously, we Texans haven't a clue as to how to get things done ...

... as evidenced by this from Jerry Pournelle's Steve Jobs RIP; education, space, proscription, and debt. Lots of debt.  On that page, go down a bit and look for the letter entitled "FEMA".  It's about two ladies that went out to the area where the fires were being fought and set up their own organization to help the firefighters.

...
Here are some stories about the Tricounty fire in Montgomery, Grimes, and Waller County, Labor Day week, 2011. (Just northwest of Houston)
...
Kenna moved on to the Unified Command Post at Magnolia West High school. She looked at what the fire fighters needed, and she made calls and set it up.
...
As exhausted firefighters (most of them from local VFDs with no training or experience battling wildfires) and workers came into the school after long hours of hard labor, dehydrated, hungry, covered with soot and ash, they got what they needed. They were directed through the commissary, where they got soap, eye wash and nasal spray, candy, clean socks and underwear, and then were sent off to the school locker rooms for a shower. HEB then fed them a hot meal and they got 8 hours sleep in a barracks, then another hot meal, another pass through the commissary for supplies to carry with them out to the lines, including gloves, safety glasses, dust masks and snacks, and back they went.

One of the imported crews from California came into Unified Command and asked where the FEMA Powerbars and water were. He was escorted to the commissary and started through the system. He was flabbergasted. He said FEMA never did it like this. Kenna replied, ”Well, this is the way we do it in Texas.”
...
Mind you, all of this was set up by 2 Moms, Kenna and Tara, with a staff of 20 simple volunteers, most of them women who had sons, daughters, husbands, and friends on the fire lines. Someone always knew someone who could get what they needed – beds, mechanics, food, space. Local people using local connections to mobilize local resources made this happen. No government aid. No Trained Expert.
...
FEMA came in and told those volunteers and Kenna that they had to leave, FEMA was here now. Kenna told them she worked for the firefighters, not them. They were obnoxious, bossy, got in the way, and criticized everything. The volunteers refused to back down and kept doing their job, and doing it well. Next FEMA said the HEB supplies and kitchen had to go, that was blatant commercialism. Kenna said they stayed. They stayed.
...
The upshot? A fire that the experts from California (for whom we are so grateful there are no words) said would take 2-3 weeks to get under control was 100% contained in 8 days.
...

I considered asking Dr. Pournelle for permission to reproduce the entire letter in this post, but that would be a strain on hospitality and, as it was a letter from another, that permission might not be his to grant.

Besides, some of you need practice at clicking on links anyway, and you really should click on that link I provided near the top of this post, just to fill in the ellipses.  They make for fascinating reading, and I've only pity and despair for those too lacking in curiosity to do so.

Addendum a few minutes afterward - Is this unusual for this area? Not in the least. See also MORE ON THE HURRICANE IKE AFTERMATH, from September 10, 2008. It's just the way we are.

Another addendum - Why is it "just the way we are"?
I was lucky enough to be born in Texas. But many Texans were not so blessed, although they got here as soon as they could. :-)

A lot of people down here are from somewhere else.  Houston has seen waves of emigration from other states, from time to time.

When I first moved here, in 1964, the population of Houston was a bit over half a million.  Today, it is well over two million within the city limits, and approaching five million within the metro area.

In the late 70's, when the rust-belt states (Michigan in particular) were in recession, so many came here, that a PBS special noted ...
 "over a million people poured into Houston, looking for jobs, and found them!"

During that period, it did indeed seem like the Michigan license plates outnumbered the locals.

Believe it or not, most of us did not resent that.  Some did (even we are cursed with a few complainers), but most of us saw those expatriate Michiganders as folks who, instead of moaning and whining about their lot, actually did something about it.

In the pioneer days, that was truly a big deal, as
  "the cowards never started and the weaklings died along the way".

Today's times are a bit less drastic, but even now to pull up stakes and move 1300 to 1400 miles to better your situation is very daunting to many;  downright terrifying to some.

Wimps don't do that.  To those of you who have joined us in that way, let me tell you that most us of have nothing but respect for you, are glad to have you with us, and simply can never get enough of you.  You enrich our state;  by being here and making it worth bragging about.

One result of that is a significantly higher percentage of folks who are inclined to fix their own problems instead of waiting for others to do it for them.  Thus, the fortitude and self-reliance shown in the two linked articles above are not at all surprising.  It would be far more of a surprise if they were not evident.

So, to all of you who have joined us from somewhere else:

Thank you!

Oh, by the way - I've seen a couple of other posts linking to this one, and commenting favorably about it.  Please remember, I'm mostly reporting on an original post by Dr. Jerry Pournelle (linked near the top), and all I've done is to use it as an opportunity to brag about my state.  Pournelle (or more properly the one who sent the letter to him) deserves all the credit for the points made about FEMA vs the volunteers.

Ok?

Update - 07 Oct 2011 - This post is linked at Volunteerism vs. Bureaucracy in which commenter Politicalprincess_007 takes us to task for inaccuracies in the TriCounty fire incident and provides sources refuting the impression of FEMA being the villain there. See her comments;  she makes a very good case.

As far as I can see, it in no way invalidates the main point of the post (emphasizing self-reliance and volunteerism), so I'm letting my post stand as is; with this very important clarification added.
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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thoughtcrime

The University of Wisconsin-Stout is bravely defending us against the perils of free speech and that awful 1st amendment.

See Brad Kozak's Freedom of Speech Evidently Has No Place In a University., and what got them up in arms (so to speak) ...
Poster from Brad Kozak's post (linked above)

This poster, from one of my favorite short-lived series Firefly  (sort of a live-action Cowboy Bebop), made U of Wisconsin-Stout officials go ballistic (Can I even use that word?) when a theatre professor posted it on his door.

Apparently he's posted things there for a long time, but this particular one set off the trip-wire of political correctness, which obviously trumps a 200+ year-old scrap of paper called the Constitution.

Please click on the link and give Mr. Kozak's post a look.  There's another poster in there which did not further endear the professor to the powers that be at that institution.

This is a public service announcement from Paul_In_Houston.

H/T: Instapundit

Addendum - 30 Sep 2011 - Context:  Captain Malcolm Reynolds (the dude in the poster) and his motley crew make a pretty much off-the-books living by using their "Firefly" class cargo ship to transport various and sundry items and passengers to other worlds. On learning that one of his passengers has smuggled aboard his sister (a greatly sought-after fugitive from the oppressive Alliance) and berating said passenger about them being an albatross he just doesn't really need at this point, the passenger openly wonders about being killed in his sleep, prompting Mal to clarify things a bit.
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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Your browser is no longer ...

... supported by Blogger. Some parts of Blogger will not work and you may experience problems.

For a couple of days now, I've been unable to edit or update my existing blog posts, or to create new ones.  When searching through Blogger.com to see if others were also having problems, I learned that they just recently tightened up browser requirements, hence the title and the top line.

If you are having problems, try Google Chrome

That is their recommendation.  Blogger.com is a part of Google, and they recommend using Google Chrome as a fix.  How about that?

It's vaguely reminiscent of Jimmy Breslin's Watergate book wherein he describes Nixon campaign fundraiser Herbert Kalmbach telling businessmen, "You do a lot of work with the government. You should be in with the right people".
 In other places, other men, better men than Kalmbach, tell you, "Pay, -- or die!"
    (~Jimmy Breslin - How The Good Guys Finally Won)


I've been usimg Firefox 3.03 for years now, because it's not so much of a resource hog as other browsers I've worked with.

Now, it looks as if I'm gonna have to use something else.

I'm using an HP computer that I got at the end of 2003, with Windows XP and 256 MB of RAM.

Get a new one?  Right!!!
 "I'll just walk out in back where the money tree grows.
  Grab me a handful and off to the store I'll go."
 (Slight rephrasing of an old Roger Miller song).

I've had several people recommend Chrome to me even though it comes from the evil empire of Google (as opposed, of course, to the evil empire of Microsoft :-)

Truly, a choice of evils. :(

Well, I've downloaded Chrome and am using it (this post is proof that I changed to something else, as my version of Firefox wont help me any longer.)

Biggest irritant of course is getting used to the changes in layout of some things (although, thankfully, the bookmarks menu imported from Firefox retains its general appearance even if it is on the wrong side of the page.

But I can adapt, even to changes that I truly think may have resulted from boredom on someone's part.

The early part of my engineering career was in the slide-rule days. Give one of those to modern day engineers, and I'll bet you some would be trying to figure out, "How do you turn it on?"  ("With a really interesting problem.", I would respond. :-)

That particular career (before I moved into IT) was from 1964 to 1984, and during nearly half of it, the most modern tool we had was an electric adding machine.  I truly kid you not; we had one engineer who used an abacus (and was damned good with it).

It was the late 1960's before someone tried to interest us in a four-function electronic calculator, about the size and shape of an IBM Selectric typewriter, using a bank of tubes showing 7-segment numbers for the display and costing about $600.00 (at a time when that was 1/3 third the price of a brand-new Volkswagen Beetle).  We passed on the deal, at that time.

A couple of years later, I bought a Miida calculator (still only four-function) for about $170.00 from Sears, Roebuck, making me the first in the company to have one.  It got popular very quickly.  I even worked out a three-step method of averaging to get very precise square roots from it (we used those a lot in electrical calculations) and felt pretty damned good about that (although slide-rule accuracy was actually more than sufficient for our purposes -- it was an ego thing for me, I suppose).

Of course, another year or so, and the same amount of money bought an 80-function calculator.  Since then, prices of those things have dropped so much that the only thing keeping them from becoming Cracker Jack prizes is fear of lawsuits if a kid swallows one.

Through all my careers, I have become self-taught on slide-rule, logarithms, computers and programming.

If I can figure those things out, I reckon I can somehow manage the transition from Firefox to Chrome.

I think.

(Pray for me).
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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Give this site a visit ...

,,, Astronomy Picture of the Day ... and bookmark it (or set it as one of your "favorites" (or however your particular browser lets you do it)).  Far more rewarding than most websites you'll visit.

Today's (Thu, 08 Sep 2011) entry is a low altitude pass over the site of Apollo 17's landing on the moon on  11 Dec 1972.  See Apollo 17 Site: A Sharper View  and click on the picture for an even larger one.  Rather than steal the pictures for my own use, I'm giving you that link instead. Enjoy.

To Houston residents.  Our downtown city streets appear to have been laid out 16 to the mile, making their center-to-center spacing very close to 100 meters. At the upper right of the picture is a 100 meter bar, which you can visualize as a downtown city block to give you a sense of scale.

I have a special fondness for Apollo 17, as it eventually launched me into an entirely new career trajectory and a complete change in my life, as breathtakingly chronicled in
  Adventure of a Lifetime
followed by
  The Adventure - Continued


Having lost all shame of promoting myself, I'm hoping you will take a look, and not find them too boring.

Thanks. :-)
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Before last night's GOP debate ...

... I had planned on posting about it.

But, this post ain't gonna amount to much, because I didn't see any game changers there.

The two items that were closest (to me at least) both concerned Rick Perry ...

1) When challenged about his "Ponzi Scheme" description of Social Security and Karl Rove's assertion about how "toxic" such a characterization could be, he stuck to his guns there.

2) On being attacked about his record on Capital punishment, he came out swinging on his use of the death penalty.  The cheers he got from the audience were probably not what Brian Williams expected ( I suspect that he was thinking, "Texas barbarians", perhaps forgetting that the debate was in California and one might suppose most of the audience to also be from there).

What I found most encouraging about Perry is that, as a campaigner, he most certainly will not be a doormat to anyone.  If you cross swords with him, you had better be ready to fight.  (Of course, he is a Texan. Were you inclined to actually to go after him with a sword, you might want to recall the classic scene between Indiana Jones and a huge swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)  :-)

I'm going strictly by what I saw in the debate itself.

Upon seeing that the analysis (the first half of that word being particularly appropriate) would be conducted by such worthies as Chris Matthews and Al Sharpton, I figured that watching that would be an exercise in masochism I could forgo.

So, I did.
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Sunday, September 04, 2011

Where'd my Comment go?!!!

-Yeah;  it really is "Rocket Science".

I've heard from more than a few commenters telling me of writing a long, involved comment, only to lose the entire thing  after being asked to sign in after writing it.

So, herewith a primer on how to keep that from happening ...

Friday, September 02, 2011

Apollo 18 -- The Verdict

(On 16 Apr 2011, 15:46, I originally posted this as "There is a REASON why ...")
... I'll very likely check out the new Apollo 18 movie when it eventually comes out.

And, here is that reason ...


Poster downloaded from http://apollo18movie.net/ ages ago.
The release date on it is no longer valid - see below.
Click on it for larger image.

Produced by Russian-Kazakh film director Timur Bekmambetov (best known for the vampire franchise Night Watch and Day Watch ), this promises to be at least interesting and different (as opposed to the Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay film school of "blow 'em up real good". :-)

One year ago today, I posted Adventure of a Lifetime, about my odyssey to the Cape to watch the liftoff of Apollo 16 which went up on the afternoon of 16 Apr 1972.

A couple of months ago (mid February) that post started getting an awful lot of hits.

I learned from one of the commenters that it was due to a comment I had put on the IMDB page about the movie. The movie is supposed to be about a secret mission, and a commenter there asked, in effect, "How in Hell do you manage a clandestine launch of a Saturn V?!!!"

I replied that I could personally attest that such an event is a bit conspicuous, and I included links to "Adventure" and also to its follow-up, The Adventure - Continued.

I started to put much of this in a further addendum to "Adventure", but decided that doing so would only change the focus of that post.

That poster shows an 04 Mar 2011 release date. By the time all the comments hit my post, it had changed to 22 Apr 2011, and the imminent arrival triggered an avalanche of visits to the IMDB page, and subsequently to my post. As of today, it now appears that it will be 06 Jan 2012 when it hits the theaters.

Update - 29 Jun 2011 - It now appears it will be released on Friday, 02 Sep 2011.

I have many times breathlessly anticipated upcoming movies, only to have my hopes dashed when I finally saw them.

The business of bringing a movie to life is such a combination of art (hopefully), decision by committee, pure dumb luck and often mind-boggling stupidity (Pauline Kael once described movies as "an art form, run by businessmen") that Lewis Carroll would be hard put to render it justice.

Harlan Ellison has managed it on occasion, in some of his essays, and the process ain't pretty. In truth, the fact that sometimes, something really good actually emerges from all this is a true miracle.

So, I fully realize that chances of what I'm looking forward to turning out to be indescribable dreck are fairly high.

But, honestly now, hasn't that poster piqued your curiosity, at least a little bit?

02 Sep 2011 - The Verdict - I've satisfied my curiosity today.  Is it dreck?  No.

It's sort of a "The Blair Witch Project (1999)" version of a lunar mission, and is actually quite chilling and effective in places.  In fact, if it was a Saturday night offering on The Syfy Channel, I'd consider it well above average for that venue. (Yes, that is damning with faint praise.)

I doubt that you'll be wailing about an hour and a half of your life that you'll never get back.  On the other hand, you probably wont go back for a second helping.

Now that that is out of my system, only three more weeks to go ('til September 23) to check out yet another movie I'm very curious about (see Possibly a good movie ... ).
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Ahhnold the Barbarian - version 2.0

Revised Monday 29 Aug 2011 -
In the science-fiction magazine Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact of January 1974, Robert A. Heinlein wrote a guest editorial, "Channel Markers", in which he discussed (among other things) the business in which he made a successful living -- writing.

He laid out this ...
 Five Rules for Success in Writing:
   First:  You must write.
   Second:  You must finish what you write.
   Third: You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
   Fourth:  You must place
it on the market.
   Fifth:  You must keep it on the market until sold

I've yet to make it to Fourth and Fifth, and here I am violating the Third Rule 
(because, one of my rules - not at all original with me - is that 
   "All rules have exceptions, including this one.")

So, because I happen to feel like doing so, I'm modifying (hopefully improving) this post by adding photos (the original had none) and even some more of them "word" things (which I'll highlight by giving them a yellow backgound as I'm doing here.

Ok?

(You don't have to be psychic to suspect that I checked out the new Conan movie. :-)

But this post ain't really about the new movie (of which Harry Knowles, of Ain't It Cool News, charitably said, "It doesn't entirely suck. There's some pretty cool parts"); the coolest of which is relative newcomer Jason Momoa (new to the big screen; he's done a lot of television work, most prominently in Stargate: Atlantis) as Conan.  Now, if he only had a director and writer who knew what the Hell they were doing. Here he is ...

Sadly, the glasses never made it into the movie, perhaps out of fear that people would think he was doing Conan the Librarian (Guardian of the Shelves).
  From 'Weird Al' Yankovic's UHF (1989) ...
    Timid Man: Can you tell me where I can find a book on astronomy?
    CtL: (in a thick Austrian accent while lifting the man up with his bare hands):
      "Don't you know the Dewey Decimal System?"
    Young book customer: (Whimpering before Conan slices him in half):
      "These books are a little overdue."
 
To Mr. Momoa: You may have missed an opportunity here.

At least, Arnold had John Milius for the 1982 version, as both writer and director.  Milius considers it his sacred duty to tell a tall story and to tell it well (in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972), before the opening title, the text scrolling up the screen said something to the effect of, "If this ain't the way it was, it's the way it should have been."), and in his Conan the Barbarian (1982), what he made was nothing less than a legend brought to life.

It took me a while to feel that way; the first time I saw it, I just considered it Ok.  But, over time, I've come to appreciate it more, and notice much more in it than appears on the surface.  I rather doubt that time will give me similar feelings about the remake.

But, my intent here is to focus more on Arnold Schwarzenegger, and that fact may cause a few of you to say "Adios!" right now;  his current problems with zipper-control, his love-child with a former mistress and the resulting break-up of his marriage making a lot of people ready to boycott absolutely anything that has anything whatever to do with him.

My focus is on his rise to stardom and on how consistently he has been underestimated on that journey.

In 2000, director George Butler appeared at the River Oaks theater, here in Houston, to present his new documentary, The Endurance (A retelling of Sir Ernest Shackleton 's ill-fated expedition to Antarctica in 1914-1916), and before taking any questions, he apologized to the audience for putting Arnold on the map with his earlier documentary Pumping Iron (1977),  about bodybuilders preparing for the 1975 Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe contests.

Arnold featured pretty heavily in it alright, but with all due respect to Mr. Butler, he's simply full of it.  Arnold was a force of nature, and was going to put himself on the map one way or another.  George Butler just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

But, his documentary did show the determination and single-mindedness of Arnold as a competitor, with one scene showing Arnold commenting on his focus before an event,  
"If someone was to tell me that my car had been stolen, I'd just tell my secretary to call the insurance company; I can't be bothered with that just now."

And another scene with Arnold with a bunch of girls in a modeling class, not giving a damn if anyone thought it might look funny, but learning from professionals just how to pose himself most effectively to win.

Arnold had already had a few bit parts in TV and movies for several years prior to Pumping Iron and was obviously exploring career options. 

Conan the Barbarian was his first starring role, and he actually wasn't bad at all (No. I'm never gonna suggest that he should have gotten an Academy Award nomination for it, but within the limited scope of what was required here, he did Ok.)  So, here's Arnold ...
Arnold as Conan - from www.blippitt.com

There's tons of photos showing his physique, but I liked this one because of the eyes.  Momoa plays Conan with fierce exuberance, going into battle with an attitude of "This is going to be fun!".  Arnie plays him as determined, with an attitude of "God help you, if you get in my way".  Trust me, you do not want to get in his way.

Two years later, director James Cameron became perhaps the first to work out how to really use Arnold effectively in a little sci-fi masterpiece, The Terminator (1984).

He originally wanted Arnold to be the hero soldier coming back from the future to save Sarah Conner from the terminator (meant to be played by Lance Henriksen; whom you might remember as the android Bishop in Aliens).  Cameron's original idea for the terminator was someone who could blend into the crowd and come at you from nowhere.
 Lance Henriksen as the android Bishop in Aliens - from gb93.com

He wound up in a small role in The Terminator, as Police Sgt. Hal Vuckovich.  This is the guy Cameron originally had in mind to play the terminator.

But, Arnold was savvy enough to figure, "Who the Hell watches Star Wars to see Luke Skywalker?", that the terminator was who everyone would have their eyes on, and requested that role instead.  Cameron agreed (even though it blew Hell out of "blend into the crowd";  Arnie just doesn't).
 You-know-who as you-know-what - from network.nationalpost.com

Although a robot (Ok! Get it out of your system about how this makes a perfect role for Arnold), it's actually a very interesting character.  Not at all a villain;  it just has a job to do.  If you interfere, it'll swat you like a fly, but if you get the Hell out of its way, you're no longer even in its frame of reference.

I'm not really sure, but I believe it was Arnold who added a subtle touch to the actions of the terminator.  When his eyes are scanning the area around him, his head is perfectly still while the eyes move to their limits at whatever side it's checking, then the head begins to follow; a very efficient and machine-like  quality that's a bit unsettling because it's not really obvious what it is that just doesn't seem natural.

This was two years after Conan, but Arnold was still pretty new to what this business was and what it sometimes entailed.  In the DVD commentary, Arnold and director James Cameron discuss the "guerrilla" film making involved in shooting the movie;  meaning that because of time and budgetary constraints, they were more than a bit casual about getting necessary permits to shoot on the streets in various neighborhoods.

There's a scene in the movie where the terminator acquires some necessary transportation by walking up to a parked station wagon and punching through the side window with his fist to open the door and get in.

So (according to the commentary) they are set up on a side street, watching out for police cars (being in Los Angeles, the film capital of the western hemisphere, I suspect the police pay more attention to and watch out for stuff like this) and Cameron tells Arnie, "Ok, now I want you to punch your hand through that glass.", which Arnie does, not even thinking to ask, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN, PUNCH MY HAND THROUGH THE GLASS?!!!"  I suspect Arnie knows better, by now.

He learns all the time.  Early in his movie career, Roger Ebert had an interview with him, catching him with a bunch of books from night school courses where he was working on his MBA.  When asked about that, Arnold's reply was, "What's the point of having all this money if you don't know what to do with it?".

A few years after Terminator, he was in Predator (1987).  In that one, he was mostly working with other athletes and body builders, including Jesse Ventura and Sonny Landham (a story in himself; the insurance people insisting on a 24/7 bodyguard for Landham; not for his protection, but to protect other people from him; his idea of fun being starting fights in bars.).  Here's the guy we're talking about ...
 Sonny Landham as Billy, in Predator - popstar.com

I hate to confess this, but if I was in a bar and he walked in, I'd probably do my level best to not catch his attention in any way and just quietly slip outside.  The Wikipedia entry on him makes for some very interesting reading.

The most professional actors among them were veteran character actor R. G. Armstrong (who played the General that sent the group in), and Carl Weathers (better known as Apollo Creed in the "Rocky" Movies).

In the commentary on one of the DVD issues of Predator, director John McTiernan noted that when scenes were being shot that didn't involve Arnold,  instead of lounging in his trailer, he would be at the back of the set staying out of the way and just studying Carl, watching and learning from him.
Carl Weathers as Dillon in Predator, and some guy he may have unknowingly mentored.

He has a great sense of humor and an equally great sense of comic timing, but few of his attempts at comedy did well in the theaters.  Kindergarten Cop (1990) and True Lies (1994) were probably the best (and best performing) of those attempts.

So far, his most successful forays were into science-fiction, with Total Recall (1990) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).

He was on his way to really becoming something, and then he took this detour into politics. Now that he's (hopefully) got that out of his system, he already has a few movie projects in the pipeline.

Don't ever underestimate this guy.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bumper Sticker ...

... seen in Houston this morning, on a Mazda sporting Michigan license plates ...

  In 2008, you voted to prove that you weren't racist.
  In 2012, vote to prove that you're not stupid!!!

I almost never put stickers on my car, but I'll be sorely tempted if I can find this one.
(Blue, with white lettering, if anyone's seen them for sale. :-)
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Friday, August 19, 2011

In a very dark place ...

... at the moment.

A little earlier today, I began constructing a draft post of "Death Sentence": a whine about how I felt that I wouldn't survive until the end of the year.

It got inadvertently (?) posted for a few seconds before I yanked it. But those few seconds were sufficient ot enshrine it on Google Reader.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Syfy Channel has begun to parody itself.

.. Actually, it's gone way beyond parody.

It's bad enough that it manages to get funding to produce some of the absolutely silliest and most incompetent "science-fiction" movies ever seen (the quotes are because the "science" would rattle around in a thimble), but they also fill the voids in their schedule with stuff that has no conceivable place on such a channel.

Before you reach one of the few shows I like ("Haven", for one), you are treated to "WWE Smackdown" (Wrestling, if you've never seen it - I watched wrestling on TV in the late '50s as a kid; absolutely nothing has changed - talk about remakes.).

WHAT on earth does that have to do with fantasy or science-fiction?!!!

Oh, wait.  Forget I ever asked.

Tonight, Sun 07 Aug 2011, what do I see in the lineup?

Kevin Costner's "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves".

On the Syfy Channel?!!!

(Well, for weeks now, it's been a weekend staple on BBC America;  I suppose while they're waiting for the next episodes of "Dr. Who".  Maybe that's got something to do with it.)

If this was a part of a resurrected "Mystery Science Theater 3000",  I'd be very cool with that.  The movie would be perfect source material for that crew.

But, such does not appear to be the case.  Apparently, they have a void to fill and I'm guessing this was a cheap way to do it.  They can't seriously believe that swarms of viewers will flock to it, generating enormous revenues from the commercials.

If their programming managers truly believed that, they would probably be working for the government.
-

Kinda says it all, doesn't it?

-
Seems a long time ago, but it was only back in January when Barack Obama told us that America had reached a “Sputnik moment.”  He was referring to the competition with China to be the Big Dog of the 21st century global economy,...

To encourage innovation, the government-sponsored Smithsonian Institute has launched a new blog called “Department of Innovation”.  The quote above is from their page.

As of today, Sun, 07 Aug 2001, this is their logo ...


Thank you, Michelle Malkin

Update - Sun, 14 Aug 2011 - In that version above, the gears would be completely locked up, unable to turn;  an absolutely perfect example of a government project. 

Sometime in the last few days, they fixed it by separating the two smaller gears thusly ...
 
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Friday, August 05, 2011

The recipe for making a nuke ...

... starts out the same as the recipe for "wabbit" stew.

First:  Catch your "wabbit"!!!

Hiroshima, the atomic-bombing of which occurred 66 years ago tomorrow, was the first of a one-two punch.  It is essential to understand that it took that second blow to finally convince the Japanese (at least, most of those who counted) that it was really all over.

You see, they had engineers and physicists that knew most of what was necessary to build an atomic bomb, and what they understood most was that the resources required were staggering, almost beyond imagination.

The August 6, 1945 detonation over Hiroshima didn't phase them all that much because previous fire raids involving hundreds of B-29s had already inflicted mind-numbing horror upon other cities.  Tokyo had already had the heart burned out of it, with a lot more casualties than Hiroshima suffered

That, this time, it was only one bomb didn't impress their top military people. They were positive that there was not going to be a rain of those bombs because that would simply be impossible for us.

In a way, they were right.  Almost all of the refined Uranium U-235 that the United States possessed was used in that one bomb.  Later T-shirts showing a mushroom cloud and emblazoned, "Built in the USA by stupid lazy Americans. Tested in Japan." were dead on;  we didn't have enough U-235 to test it anywhere other than over the target.

The problem with the Japanese High Command's assumptions was that there were other ways to skin that particular cat.

U-235 is desirable because it's relatively easy to detonate; usually making a cylinder of rings with a large enough hole to keep it below critical mass, making a cylindrical plug that would fill that hole, and putting said cylinder into a tube with a small explosive charge (a gun, in other words) and firing that cylinder onto the plug.

Yes, there truly is a bit more to it than that.  But it's not my intent to give detailed bomb-making instructions here, even if I did know enough of the details.  (Not that it would do a would-be terrorist any good -- remember the first part of the recipe above.)

The problem with catching the U-235 "wabbit" is that U-235 makes up less that 1% of natural Uranium (the other 99+% percent being the U-238 isotope).  Separating that by the gaseous-diffusion method takes enormous time.  Construction of the Oak Ridge facility began in Feb, 1943 and the fact that two years later there was only enough for one bomb would seem to confirm the Japanese skepticism in thinking that with Hiroshima we just may have shot our bolt.

But, there is another way.

Uranium U-238 can be used in a reactor to produce the isotope Plutonium P-239 which can also be made to fission.  Such a reactor was built in Hanford, Washington and it could crank out a lot of usable P-239, and did.

So, what's the catch?

The "gun" detonation technique worked just fine for U-235;  so well in fact that the engineers and physicists were confident that it would work and that they wouldn't be delivering a dud for the Japanese to study at their leisure.

With U-235, I believe a closure rate of around 3000 feet/second would insure a successful detonation.  That is easily achieved in a gun design as the explosives generated an expanding wave velocity of around 5000 feet/second.

With Plutonium P-239, the fission rate is so fast that the closure needs to be around 10000 feet/second or the energy from the fission would blow the pieces apart before the detonation commences, resulting in a fizzle that might release a small cloud of some of the most lethal toxins on Earth, but not the bang you were after.

So, instead of using the gun technique, they used the much more difficult implosion method by surrounding the P-239 with explosives and detonating them at the same time;  a process using klystron krytron switching and wires to each explosive element cut to the exact same length (to allow for the speed of the signal through the wire).

In short, calling it an exacting science doesn't even begin to cover it.  It took a lot of testing to perfect the technique before they used it.

Because the explosives completely surround the Plutonium core, this resulted in a problem.

When the Enola Gay took off, with the "Little Boy" Uranium bomb, it was intended to be already armed before it was loaded into the plane.  As the B-29 was to take off from an 8500 foot runway, laden with a five-ton bomb and all the fuel that could be crammed into it, there was always the possibility of a crash on take-off (the night before, four B-29's had met that fate; this was a dangerous business).  Such a crash, with an armed nuke aboard, could take out half the island.

So, the crew decided, "No F**king Way!", and had part of the bomb's detonation package removed, to be put back (arming it) while in flight.  With the "gun" design, that was possible.

The implosion design, necessary for the Plutonium bombs, was a whole 'nother story.  The "Fat Man" bomb for Nagasaki and its follow ons could only be armed prior to loading into the airplane.

According to the book "Day One: Before Hiroshima and after" (Peter Wyden - 1985), the officer in charge of that bomb was obsessing over the number 50That's how many of those bombs the top generals in the United States Army Air Force thought it might take to compel the Japanese to surrender.  And, with Hanford cranking out P-239, there was no doubt that we could deliver that many if that's what it would take.  In fact, bomb # 3 was already on its way to Tinian.

To that officer, 50 more take-offs without a crash simply wasn't in the cards, and he would be cabling his superiors emphasizing the need for a quick redesign that would allow arming in flight.

Fortunately, that second bomb taking out Nagasaki on Aug 9, 1945 was convincing enough to bring about the surrender. (It's possible that Japanese scientists may have identified Plutonium at the Nagasaki site, telling them that the situation was far worse than any of them had assumed as to our ability to continue the attacks, but that's just a guess on my part.)

To nit-pickers:  You will almost certainly find mistakes and generalizations galore in this post.  I'm only trying to express the gist of things here.  Using any of this in a dissertation will probably get you flunked.  So, be warned. :-)
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