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This is the archive for June 2007

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It's seemed for a while that the up and coming theory of solar output driving earth's climate might be enough to cool the ardor of the Chicken Littles who want us all to start taking rikshaws to work and using hamsters in wheels to power our computers in order to prevent the earth from turning into a faintly glowing cinder. Well, never fear, Mr and Mrs. Little, your hopes of leveraging impending calamity into a world Luddite Renaissence and weekend music festival need never suffer for lack of remote possiblities that simply must be acted on before it's too late.

Meet global cooling, back for a whirlwind reunion tour after being written off as a has-been in the 1970's. All concert proceeds will be donated to the "Planets not People" foundation, and "Progressives Against Progress." Note: appearance dates and venues subject to change due to scheduling conflicts and poorly tested hypotheses.
Solar scientists predict that, by 2020, the sun will be starting into its weakest Schwabe solar cycle of the past two centuries, likely leading to unusually cool conditions on Earth. Beginning to plan for adaptation to such a cool period, one which may continue well beyond one 11-year cycle, as did the Little Ice Age, should be a priority for governments.
Now, should you think that our government has the capabilities required to judge such things, remember your judgement is always better than theirs. Here's a test to prove it.

Suppose you are a police officer, whose duty it is to protect the public, and incidentally, to subdue and apprehend those who might be a danger to themselves or others in the safest way possible. You encounter a man who has poured gasoline all over himself, and is threatening to burn himself alive. He is not a threat to anyone but himself (and his house), and so deadly force should be ruled out. After all, protecting a man from himself by killing him is usually an ineffective deterrent.

What then, is the least safe way to subdue this subject?

  • A: Wait until he gets tired and falls asleep, you can convince him to come along peacefully, or the gasoline evaporates.
  • B: Shoot him with (usually) non-lethal beanbags until he doubles over in pain and can be handcuffed and doused with water or foam, or the gasoline otherwise rendered somewhat non flammable
  • C: Throw a net over him and drag him to the ground where he can be detained as in B.
  • D: Leave him the hell alone, since he's not threatening anyone but himself.
  • E: Disable him with a device that indroduces a very high voltage electrical current, and gives off sparks in the process. This device is remarkably similar to a spark plug, several of which are included in every gasoline powered car, and are used to ignite the gasoline and provide power to the engine.

  • Did you choose (E)? If so, then yes, your judgement is better than the fine members of the Texas State Police.
    "We don't know what ignited the fire," police said.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Thanks to Billy for this link, a rare feel-good bright spot in the whole sordid morass that passes for culture these days.

So, imagine you're Simon Cowell, and it's the first round of the British version of American Idol, in Cardiff, Wales. This dumpy cell phone store manager with a bad haircut, bad suit, bad teeth and a cleft palate comes on stage and announces that he's going to 'sing opera'. You'd roll your eyes, too - or at least barely stop yourself from visibly doing so.

Then he opens his mouth...

I'm no expert, and not very familiar with the either the form or the specific piece, but it looks to me like he blew a high note at the end there. Can you blame him? That's his life's dream about to smack him full in the face, right there in front of the TV cameras, thousands of people in the audience, one judge whose breath is coming in hitches, and Simon sitting there like he doesn't know what just hit him. I know I wouldn't be able to hold it together that well.

UPDATE: In the least surprising news of the day. He won.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Needless to say, there's spoilers in here. If you've been waiting to see the Sopranos final episode on PPV, then stop reading now.

First, a lot of people are saying the ending was crap. I thought so too, but it's been growing on me, and now I think it just might be the best ending since "Hi, Bob!" - which was just about at the theoretical maximum for how good a series ending can be.

The Sopranos ending wasn't as good as that, but it got in the ballpark, and in a sense, it was a similar kind of ending.

One thing the show was about was futility. These people lived massively dysfunctional lives, on many, many levels. And for all they went through, nothing really changed - except for one thing. Their sphere of influence is shrinking. Hell, starting in Little Italy, you can't even finish a walking phone call without ending up in Chinatown. Even the FBI doesn't really care anymore, except for the office betting pool. They have bigger fish to fry.

It's a small and shrinking world Tony inhabits. And within that world, for all the Machiavellian maneuvering, all the blood, all the fear, not only does nothing change, but they can't even see out.

Sure, Tony worries about terrorism, but in the end, his "help" to the FBI on that score was just a bargaining chip. Let his son join the army, try to make things better? No, too dangerous. After all, there's a war going on. Safer to remain at home in separate safe houses while his family fights their own war of their own making.

In the last ten minutes, you're sure something has got to happen. Tony sits in a diner as he and we watch the crowd. That guy there, he looks suspicious. Now Carmella comes in and the tension heghtens. Will she get caught up in the looming hail of bullets? Another guy looks really suspicious, and now AJ is in the line of fire. Meadow, the one least affected throughout the series by all the psychopathy around her, is delayed getting into the diner. Maybe she'll escape the carnage. If anyone deserves to, it's her. Anothe suspicious guy goes into the bathroom, surely something must be up now. Two black guys walk in, and they look a little thuggish. Maybe they're the ones. And now Meadow is inside, too.

Fade to black.

It doesn't matter if they all got whacked while the credits were rolling. It doesn't matter, because none of it mattered. The climax of the series was no climax for Tony. It was just another in an infinite series for him. Not the end, but the beginning of a new cycle of paranoia and watching his back. But for Tony, many of the familiar people gone, replaced with new interchangable people, it's a brand new day.

The song says "don't stop believing", but believing in what? Tony's got his life for another day, maybe, but what for? Never mind, it doesn't matter.