31 July 2006


Quick Update: Back from Travel

We've just gotten back from our weekend in Kemmerer, Wyoming, where we visited with Mack's sister Valerie and her husband Kendall, went to the Oyster Ridge Music Festival, saw the Fossil Butte National Monument, and went four-wheelin' in the Bridger-Teaton National Forest.

I took a buttload of photos that I need to go through, check out, crop, adjust, etc., before posting to our Flickr site. It may take a few days.

I'll have some things to say about some of the bands at the music fest. And about good beer. But that will have to wait until a time not too distant.

Four-wheelin' was a blast.

We had a great time. Valerie and Kendall are great folks, and their little corner of Wyoming is beautiful. Good people, good food, good beer, good music, and great outdoors -- who could ask for more?

27 July 2006


More Stevie; More Zappa

Compare Too High with Charley's Enormous Mouth. Same story.

p.s. Yeah, I had the sequencing on Innervisions slightly screwed up. My bad.


Breaking Eggs, Omelettes, and All That

Today's Writer's Almanac reminds us that on this day in 1793, Robespierre became head of the Committee of Public Saftey of revolutionary France.
And so, a man who had fought for constitutional democracy and universal citizenship found himself helping to organize a military dictatorship. On this day in 1793, he took his place on the Committee of Public Safety, which would rule France for the next year. And in order to keep French citizens in line, Robespierre advocated the use of the guillotine, a new machine that was supposed to make all executions efficient and humane. The guillotine was set up in the Place de la Révolution, which later became the Place de la Concorde, and over the next year more than 2,000 people were beheaded for having opposed the Revolution.

At first Robespierre executed people who had supported the monarchy. But then he began to execute revolutionaries who were too moderate. And finally, he began to execute people who had merely opposed him on one issue or another. Eventually, members of the National Convention began to realize that no one was safe, and even they could be the next victims. So they turned on Robespierre. Exactly one year, to the day, after he had taken control of the Committee of Public Safety, he was arrested, and the day after his arrest he went to the guillotine himself.

For more than a year Robespierre had been executing people in the public square to cheering crowds. When Robespierre went to his own death at the guillotine, onlookers said the crowd cheered just as loudly as ever.
There's little evidence, hence little reason to beliver, that any other cadre of revolutionaries ends up any less likely to resort to such bloodlettings if/when they assume power. This applies, of course, not only to revolutionaries of the left like the Jacobins of France or Bolsheviks of Russia, but also to those of the right like the theocrats of Iran. Breaking eggs, omelettes, and all that.

26 July 2006


Dumb All Over

It's a Zappa trifecta here at Son of Timatollah tonight. Forgive me this ramble. I had intended to write about what near perfection Stevie Wonder's "Innervisions" is -- No, this ramble: There are almost no missteps on the whole album. Its use of synth bass was groundbreaking, at least for mass market acceptance, and when the first bass notes of "Higher Ground" hit, you know you are in for something thick, deep, gooey, funky. Wonder played almost everything on the record. The production values are superior. The sequencing, how one song just flows into another with crossfades made in Heaven, is divine. "Higher Ground" to "Visions; "Visions" to "Living for the City"; "Living for the City" to "Golden Lady" to "Too High" (which ended side one of the vinyl). The words are outstanding, and the way the words and music fit together is amazing. I still remember the first time I heard "Living for the City," in my mom's car with a friend out riding around near Christmastime in 1973, during the days of "Album Oriented Rock" when the DJs would play anything and everything, including long versions of songs, like "City," complete with black country boy gets his butt arrested, then sentenced, then "get in the cell nigger, gawd" for running drugs after only moments in NYC. When the song kicks back in after the audio theater segment, the growl in Stevie's voice shows the changes the song's character has been through: "If we don't change // pretty soon the world'll be over." "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" is magic -- Stevie was all over the Iraq, Iran thing way back then. "Jesus Children of America" is spiritual: "You'd better tell your story." Someday, I'll get back to truth and freedom, I promise, but that song always makes me think about 'em. How describing reality as it is as best we can is just about the only true freedom, a freedom that can exist under all but the most extreme physical duress. The freedom of the mind. The freedom of love. The kind of freedom that kept Nelson Mandela going for years in jail. The "The truth shall set you free" free. And then,... "All In Love Is Fair." I'm in a happy long-term relationship, but the heartbreak of that song brings tears to my eyes nonetheless. The loss is real, the loss is tragic. The only track that stands out as not being quite the same caliber is "He's Mistra Know It All," which runs a little long and pointlessly. Or maybe it's just that the sheer intensity of quality of the rest of the album is exhausting so that by the time you get to the end, it's like, whoa, I'm cooked. "Innervisions": an N best album, N < 50 -- but then first ran across the Crossfire episode, which made me think of the WARNING / GUARANTEE, which brings me back to "Dumb All Over" from 1981's "You Are What You Is."

Appropriate for the times. Has been for a while.

From St. Alphonzo's Pancake Homepage (please, no margarine stealing):

Whoever we are
Wherever we're from
We shoulda noticed by now
Our behavior is dumb
And if our chances
Expect to improve
It's gonna take a lot more
Than tryin' to remove
The other race
Or the other whatever
From the face
Of the planet altogether

They call it THE EARTH
Which is a dumb kinda name
But they named it right
'Cause we behave the same...
We are dumb all over
Dumb all over,
Yes we are
Dumb all over,
Near 'n far
Dumb all over,
Black 'n white
People, we is not wrapped tight

Nurds on the left
Nurds on the right
Religous fanatics
On the air every night
Sayin' the Bible
Tells the story
Makes the details
Sound real gory
'Bout what to do
If the geeks over there
Don't believe in the book
We got over here

You can't run a race
Without no feet
'N pretty soon
There won't be no street
For dummies to jog on
Or doggies to dog on
Religous fanatics
Can make it be all gone
(I mean it won't blow up
'N disappear
It'll just look ugly
For a thousand years...)

You can't run a country
By a book of religion
Not by a heap
Or a lump or a smidgeon
Of foolish rules
Of ancient date
Designed to make
You all feel great
While you fold, spindle
And mutilate
Those unbelievers
From a neighboring state

Hooray! That's great
Two legs ain't bad
Unless there's a crate
They ship the parts
To mama in
For souvenirs: two ears (Get Down!)
Not his, not hers, (but what the hey?)
The Good Book says:
("It gotta be that way!")
But their book says:
With whips 'n chains
'N hand grenades..."

Have another and another
Our God says:
"There ain't no other!"
Our God says
"It's all okay!"
Our God says
"This is the way!"

It says in the book:
"Burn 'n destroy...
'N repent, 'n redeem
'N revenge, 'n deploy
'N rumble thee forth
To the land of the unbelieving scum on the other side
'Cause they don't go for what's in the book
'N that makes 'em BAD
So verily we must choppeth them up
And stompeth them down
Or rent a nice French bomb
To poof them out of existance
While leaving their real estate just where we need it
To use again
For temples in which to praise OUR GOD
("Cause he can really take care of business!")

And when his humble TV servant
With humble white hair
And humble glasses
And a nice brown suit
And maybe a blond wife who takes phone calls
Tells us our God says
It's okay to do this stuff
Then we gotta do it,
'Cause if we don't do it,
We ain't gwine up to hebbin!
(Depending on which book you're using at the
time...Can't use theirs... it don't work
...it's all lies...Gotta use mine...)
Ain't that right?
That's what they say
Every night...
Every day...
Hey, we can't really be dumb
If we're just following God's Orders
Hey, let's get serious...
God knows what he's doin'
He wrote this book here
An' the book says:
He made us all to be just like Him,"

If we're dumb...
Then God is dumb...
(An' maybe even a little ugly on the side)

Again, real freedom comes from describing things, to oneself first and then to others, as they are, as best one can. No rented French bomb can guarantee that.



More Zappa.... From the "Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention" shrink wrap, a "warning" label.
This album contains material which a truly free society would neither fear nor surpress.

In some socially retarded areas, religious fanatics and ultra-conservative political organizations violate your First Amendment Rights by attempting to censor rock & roll albums. We feel that this is un-Constitutional and un-American.

As an alternative to these government-supported programs (designed to keep you docile and ignorant), Barking Pumpkin is pleased to provide stimulating digital audio entertainment for those of you who have outgrown -the ordinary-.


This guarantee is as real as the threats of the video fundamentalists who use attacks on rock music in their attempt to transform America into a nation of check-mailing nincompoops (in the name of Jesus Christ).

If there is a hell, its fires wait for them, not us.


Blast From the Past

Through the magic of YouTube, it's Mr. Frank Zappa on Crossfire in 1986 discussing censorship.

25 July 2006


Submitted for Your Amusement...

More photos from the 50s and 60s. Featuring my brothers and myself. With more to come.

Dan and Ray and Santa:

Dan, Ray, and Santa, 1958?

Dan and Ray and the Easter Bunny:

Dan, Ray, and Easter Bunny, 1956?

Me on my very first day of school in 1961:

Tim, 1st Day of School, 1st Grade, 1962

Check 'em all out at our Flickr site.


ERAU Tech Blog

I converted the old ERAU Robotics blog to the new ERAU Tech blog. It's primarily a place to put links to interesting aerospace/aviation tech related items that might be of interest to ERAU students, faculty, staff, etc.

24 July 2006


Scanned Pics

I was looking for pictures of the gopher tortise that used to live in the empty lot next to where we lived on the beachside (here's a couple of phone cam pics of one I ran across last week), when I came across some family pictures I'd been looking for on background for a while. They're on our Flickr site, but here's a sampling (click to go to the Flickr page):

My dad:

Kenneth M. Wilson

His mom:

Mama Wilson

Me in the 1st grade:

1st Grade

Me in 1991 at the Boston AIDS walk:

Boston Walk for Life 1991

Etc. Check 'em all out!

23 July 2006


One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

(a) World-class fencer.
(b) Commercial air pilot.
(c) 12th-ranked chess player in the world.
(d) Rescued refugees from current Lebanese conflict.
(e) BBC radio host.
(f) Lead singer in world-famous heavy-metal band.

The answer here, from Sploid.


Speaking of Old Farthood

Not even 50 until November and already getting discounts!


Small Moments

Mr. Fripp discusses, here, "the short & ephemeral nature of our visit here," and its implication for artists (all the living?).

On this day, in 1993, my Mother flew away.

“Living with death on our shoulder”, not as gloomy presentiment but as reminder of the short & ephemeral nature of our visit here, is a bracing experience. When we are in the presence of dying, of someone close to us, our experiencing acquires an intensity, a sharp edge. If this were how we experienced all of our everyday living, how very different the quality of our lives might be. Small moments hold our attention, suffused with meaning, value & significance.

In recent weeks, much of my life has been reappearing & representing itself, unbidden, of the entire period I have been drawing breath. Memory – what is memory? Many memories have been appearing, as if emerging from hiding behind protective barriers. The day spent with Sister yesterday, celebrating our Mother’s Second Birthday of today – reinforces the poignancy of knowing that, when opportunities were available, how few were fully seized. Not guilt, not sadness, but perhaps time to allow & even encourage, remorse. Remorse of conscience: how easy the words; yet a powerful shoulder on the door to a finer world.

Also recently, Robert has often been appearing & looking out through Fripp’s eyes. This is an experience I associate more with childhood.

But, Fripp misses his Mother. His good fortune is that, as an aspirant musician, in music he may find words to express this more fully. This is, after all, part of the function of our artists: they give voice to what is most deeply personal, and utterly impersonal, in all of us. We are the same person.

How dangerous, then, that we might demand of our musicians that they play the songs we want to hear, justifying this with a claim to own consumer rights. Certainly, let us give our artists what they need to support their lives, their independence, and the strength to tell us what is true. Let us also heckle & boo where they fail their calling, believing themselves to be the source of their talent & their art.

I never feel like see the complete picture he's telling: Too much mystic framework I'm not privy to. But I like the gist.

Maybe more on truth -- truth and freedom -- soon. Cogitating. Ideas congealing soon, I hope.


Aside to Mike

Your boys, Gnarls Barkley, get a mention and a link at Achewood.

And explained:
Later we will explain that Gnarls Barkley is a tiny French Bulldog the size of a Coke can, and that he can get on an airplane without showing any identification to anyone.
It's in the Current Toddler Status box, so it could be gone before you ever get there.


Aside to Sam

I know I told you I had reached old farthood, but I can't believe you didn't tell me that there was a new New York Dolls.

I am so clueless. I am so embarrassed.

Link is New York Times: registration -- or workaround -- required.

20 July 2006


Barney Frank on the W. Presidency

You want some more politics? You want some more analysis of the W. presidency? I knew you did.

Here's Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank's analysis, direct (not, er, "straight"!) from the Congressional Record.

Frank's thesis is the Bush/Cheney think that once the election is over, the President gets all the power. Like they never heard of -- or read -- the Constitution of the United States. And that the Republican-majority Congress is rolling over and playing dead about it.

I'm reading Henry Adams's history of the Madison presidency right now. There have been equally dysfunctional Congresses: Certainly that of the lead up to the War of 1812 would give this one a run for the money. But not in the same department. Not in the area of abdicating their Congressional responsibilities and giving the President carte blanche.


The W. Decade Deconstructed

Over at TPMCafe, Stirling Newberry has this long, rambling, somewhat incoherent analysis of what he doesn't call but implies is "The W. Decade." For all its faults -- and the analysis has faults aplenty as you can see in the comments -- it's a thought-provoking thesis on the broad strokes, the symphonic gestures, of the Bush (43) administration.

He takes apart its What, How, and Who: "What" is to flood the world with cheap dollars, so the monied interests (worldwide, apparently) can make a quick buck. If in the process it puts governments in a position where they have less influence, all the better.
Bush promised to give financial elites a huge hit of money, and promised, more or less, that this would bankrupt the state that was capable of regulating them. Neo-gilded age economics would return, and he surrounded himself with advisors who were intended to ressurect that period. It is why I knew in 2001 that Bernanke would be made Federal Reserve Chair after Greenspan, his academic work is about how that world could have saved itself, and his answer was that it could have suspended the rules long enough to get over the temporary disequilibrium, and then there would have been no Great Depression, and therefore, no FDR, and therefore, no New Deal. This was done – massive revenue reductions created a growing federal deficit wave, and the promise of the bankrupting of Medicare and Social Security. Interest rates were dropped through the floor. Money at the top, became very easy to come by fairly quickly, as "the carry trade" – borrow short and lend long, became the escalator that dragged the wealthy out of the pit that a falling stock market was threatening to hurl them into.

Even on its face one can see why global elites would accept this project, because even if it went badly, they would be the winners of it while it lasted. Against the backdrop of the 2000-2002 stock market crash, a no strings attached bail out of the very people that had blown the dot com bubble was going to be almost irresistible. The rich went along, because nothing looks as good during a crash, as free money.

"How" is to use military force to prevent an abundance of cheap money from being able to harm the interests of the USA. Instead of using military action to destroy excess production capability, military action would be used as a threat to excess purchasing power.

But once they are running long enough, there are well known effects: resource nationalism, rising autonomy of the peripheral states, socialism in Latin America, Islamic militancy becomes a more open force. When people are parched for money, they dance to the tune that comes from Washington DC. When they are fat with it, they begin to want to call their own shots. And many of them are with live rounds.

Thus Bush promised that the second part of his dollar gusher would be the United States using aggressive military force – let us not try and find circumlocutions like "preventative" – to nip any place where the dollar glut was threatening to rattle loose. The Cowboy Diplomacy which Time just declared an end to, was credible in the face of 9/11, but it found its expression in the invasion of Iraq.

Iraq was invaded not because Saddam had WMD, but because he did not. It was to be an example to all of the states who wished to acquire them. In the days of dollar drought, the US could buy the atomic aspirations, or at least rent their manifestations. In the days of dollar glut, this would be untenable. The second part of the product that Bush sold was that an aggressive America could restrain the centripetal forces that a dollar glut would unleash. Despite academic and financial misgivings about his policies, 9/11 and Saddam seemed to argue the other direction: everyone knew that even if he had nothing, Saddam would reacquire WMD ambitions as soon as he had the money to do so. And with oil marching upwards in price, everyone who thought about it knew that day would come.

"Who" is instead of the Republican operatives of the Nixon-Ford-Reagan years ("strong jawed ex-military men combined with sleazebag greasy arrogant used car salesmen" -- a great turn of phrase), a corp of Christianist yahoos who will fix the books rather than use honest measurements of status and progress or the lack thereof.

And this is why there has been, from America's technocrats, meritocrats and ground level intellectuals, such a ferocious and visceral hatred of George Bush and his ism – because Bush intended, deliberately, to replace the meritocratic technocracy – the very class whose rise defines the rise of the West – with true believing fanatics, who believe that ideology is definitive, while reality is frequently inaccurate. It manifested in obvious ways – such as the NASA appointee who edited releases to conform to Creationism. It showed up in the Air Force Academy, where fanatics have driven others out of the hierarchy. It showed up, most importantly, in Iraq, where biblicalist functionaries would rewrite wholesale technical reports to conform with the revealed world of an entire counter universe of counter-fact which has been created to fill the empty minds of the fundamentalist wing of American society.

There has been, in otherwords, the creation of a whole parallel world, filled with parallels to science, popular culture and scholarship. In no small part it has been funded by the loose dollars created by 37 years of reactionary government – give crazy rich people money, and they will start funding other crazy people to create a tapestry that conforms to their tastes of the world. The Medici's state built cathedrals and funded the resurrection of the West, along with the beginnings of what we now call "physics", but the work of art of the Bushite state is Left Behind and "Intelligent Design" and biblical literal reading of the history of the Fertile Crescent.

Consider, if you will, that the first veto of Bush's tenure – after having gone longer than any modern President in wielding the veto pen – is of money for stem cell research.

Since I spent a short period of my life in the company of Pentacostal "Full Gospel Business Men's Association" types, as well as a few just plain old old-fashioned redneck Holy Rollers, I've felt like I know these Bush people for a while. To the degree that they are not tempered by simple love of their families, friends, communities, and nation, their zeal towards obeying what they take to be God's instructions is a matter of concern. Fanatics are not to be trusted, whether Islamist, Christianist, Atheistist, etc. Their belief-based self righteousness makes them a threat to all.

The piece finishes with an homage to The Net as some kind of reality-based corrective, something too many bloggers are all too happy to buy into, because they believe themselves reality-based, a statement made by many as much in the mode of the Bushite believers as because of true self-reflection, self-criticism, and self-awareness: A self-fulfilling prophecy of Netroots Power as much as cooking the books on Iraq. It would've been better off without this sucking up to its readership. But, then, the author probably blieves it.

Still, for its problems -- long, directionless, lack of evidence, homage to the web -- the piece is challenging. I think it deserves some thoughtful reads, analysis, and response. Check it out when you've got a few minutes.

16 July 2006



I wrote below about supporting Israel, thoughtlessly neglecting the presence of several hundred thousand Americans, military and civilian, in Iraq.

This doesn't mean I don't support Israel in their attempts to have the Lebanese government secure control over southern Lebanon and to stop the "government" in Gaza from allowing military actions from that space. It means I trust they will take the security of our personnel into account in making decisions about how to proceed. That may necessarily require them to be a little less gung-ho than I had first thought desirable.

Just another example of why it is good that I am not the king.


Ranchers Leaving Central Florida

I started coming to Florida before there was a Disney World -- maybe late 1950s, before I can remember. First my family went to Daytona Beach for the beach and the races, then my folks got involved in the golf scene and started going to a hotel in Sebring during the winter to play golf and hang out with my dad's friends from the rag business. From that, my dad got involved in a golf course development in Polk County, what started as Arrowhead Lakes Golf and Country Club but evolved into Grenelefe Resort (sorry, the best I can come up with is this 2004 Orlando Business Journal story - doesn't sound good). My folks ended up with homes down here as well as our real home in Tennessee. After my dad died, my mom lived at Grenelefe, then after she remarried, moved to Daytona Beach.

I went to a prep school, now non-existent, in Lake County near Mt. Plymouth for the 8th and 9th grades (1969-1971). I ended up living in Central Florida -- Polk County, Orange County, Osceola County -- for a while during 1977-1978, and Mack and I have been in Volusia County now since 2000.

Cattle, ranching, and beef had been part of the Central Florida equation from the first times we started coming down here. When I was in school here, some of the other kids were from cattle ranches in Polk County. Where I lived in Osceola County was within eyesight of the Silver Spurs Rodeo.

Now, cattle familes are pulling out of Central Florida. They've been beat by accelerating land values that leave them land rich but cash -- i.e., tax -- poor and by encroaching development. Today's Orlando Sentinel has a special feature -- story, photos, narrated photo essay, "in their own words" videos, etc., here on one Osceola County family's move to Texas so they can continue raising cattle. (I don't think there's a registration involved. If there is, I can e-mail you a PDF of the story.)

Addendum: When I visited the Black Hills last year, I met a guy, about my age, who lived and worked on his parents ranch near Spearfish Sundance, Wyoming. They were dealing with similar issues: Accelerating property values due to the subdivision of larger ranches into "mini ranches" for people retiring from Colorado, Arizona, and California. His concern was that increasing property values leading to increasing property tax bills would eventually force them to sell their own ranch. My point: This isn't just a local Central Florida issue. The impact of changing development patterns on previously rural lives is a nationwide issue and impacts many.

13 July 2006


Why Support Israel?

First, I've been down this road before. Earlier writings along these lines here.

Because Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorists?

Because no matter how justified they might be in terms of the rights of Palestinians -- and Palestinians are humans and have rights the same way that Israelis do -- those responsible for those organizations and many if not most of their followers want more than that: They want the destruction of Western Civilization as we know it.

They (qualified as above) are anti women.

They (etc.) are anti homo.

They applauded when the World Trade Centers came down.

They are Leninist at best in terms of their political organizations. They may have had elections in the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority, but they weren't elections as you and I know them. (Neither were the Iraqi elections. Mexico is getting close, though.)

The Palestinians had the option of a two-state solution almost a decade ago. The corrupt, venal, arrogant Arafat was suffiently cowardly to turn that down. If only he had been the lion that Sadat was. That Begin was. That Rabin was. But he was a liar and a thief.

Do I have to continue?

If Hamas and the Hezbollah were only concerned with a state for the Palestinians, it would be one thing. But they are hellbent on the destruction of Israel itself. I believe Israel, for any wrongs it has done, still deserves to exist. I believe the Jews have, in the long run, been shit on sufficiently that their stand in their own self-defense deserves commendation, not denigration.

If they take out Hamas and the Hezbollah, the world owes them a favor. If they take out the Iranian nuclear program like they did the Iraqi one, we owe them a larger favor.

Stand with Israel.

12 July 2006


The Middle East

Stand with Israel.


Abnormal Works

Japanese artist Moritomo's Abnormal Works site features beautiful images of men, drawn in a simple comic-book/cartoon style. They are simultaneously homoerotic and innocent.

Check 'em out here. Note: Some of the images have links in the lower left corner that bring up alternate forms of the same work. (Link here via Bill at A Bear in the City.)

11 July 2006


The Other Tim Wilson

That's Mack's sister Tammy's husband, Tim Wilson (no relation). Click here for the Bartlesville (Oklahoma) Bassmasters web site.

What? There are other Tim Wilsons? Oh, all right.

09 July 2006


Seeing Patterns in Randomness

(1) Mark Lane at Flablog extols the virtues of slack. In a slack kind of way.

(2) After several years of creating PaperFrog, one of my daily reads -- I mean, where else do you get the lowdown on the Dalai Lama's birthday party? -- Kit is moving on to new challenges . Good luck, Kit!

(3) Agenda Bender makes the "no one wishes they had spent more time at the office" call.

07 July 2006


An Unexpected Letter

Dear Tim,

I'm not sure I would want to dance at any revolution put on by those bastards, even if they claimed it was allowed.

Yours in anarchy,

Emma G.


Department of Individualism Department

"Everybody's got their own thumbprint, and that leads them to their own weirdo, winding road of experiences." -- Robert Downey, Jr., at the end of this interview over at The Onion's AV Club.

04 July 2006


Shuttle Discovery -- 04 July 2006

Here's Space Shuttle Discovery, as seen from Debary, Florida, shortly after liftoff today.

Good luck to the crew and to the NASA engineers and managers.


Old Glory (in Miniature)

Thanks to our neighbors who provided all of those in our neighborhood without flag displays these little flags for the Fourth of July weekend.

Update: The flag was provided not by neighbors, but by some area real estate company whose name and phone number were on the flag pole. I learned this as I was bringing this little flag in from yesterday's rain. It can now join my little rainbow flag from pride parades past in the paperclip holder on my physical desktop. I would put it on my virtual desktop, but I don't have that cool Tron machine yet.


Is This A Great Country or What?

YouTube link via Andrew Sullivan (here).


Two Hundred Thirty and Counting

It would be really cute -- and ridiculously time consuming -- if I could offer you 230 licks links "and one to grow on" to celebrate the 230th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Instead, I offer a sampling of what the personal-sized blogs I regularly read are saying about the event:

Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof offers the text of the document itself (here -- I think I may still have the 5th Dimension record that put the excerpt below to song):
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Mike Silverman at Red Letter Day lays down much of the current scope (here):
I'm openly gay and openly Jewish. I live in Kansas (f*cking Kansas!) and I can read whatever I choose to read, openly express my opinion that our President is the dumbest and most corrupt leader of a world power since Caligula (although replacing my Senator with a horse would be an improvement), read what I want, listen to what I want, download practically whatever I want, learn how evolution works, worship God (or decide not to worship God) any damn way I want, marry another man (whatever the backwards State might think about it), and in spite of many obstacles thrown my way by a government forgetful of her founding principles, still enjoy Independence Day in the United States of America! We beat Hitler, threw the USSR into the dustbin of history, and put a man on the Moon. Does anyone think Osama Bin Laden or Pat Robertson stands a chance?

And Mike Hollihan at Half-Bakered quotes The Tubes and sees the USA as the world's party animal (here):
Britain was our mother, and she's still one happenin' babe. Our sister France is still a little difficult, and sometimes she's a bit slutty, and she's a tad too obsessed with her own comfort and leisure. But we love her just the same. Our cousins across the world? Well, they all drive Audis and Beetles, worry about mortgages and such. They're not as well off as they pretend they are. They say things about us when we're not there.

But America roars up at the family get-togther in our Prowler with the top down and stereo blasting. Probably rap music. We're loud, sure, but we're fun. We'll get drunk, knock something over and probably feel up Hong Kong. The Junior League matrons-to-be like Canada and New Zealand will tut-tut, but their children will watch us enviously, and ask us where to buy those pants. And yeah, the neighbors will probably crash the party to have a run at the buffet table. Everyone secretly wants to be us, but no one has the guts to go for it.
Happy Independence Day.

02 July 2006


LGBT Engineers Yahoo Group

If you are an engineer or engineering student who is lesiban, bi, gay, or transgendered, please consider signing up for the new Yahoo mailing list / group lgbt_engineers that I just created. The purpose? To discuss...
...workplace and employment issues and questions related to being a lesbian, bi, gay, transgendered, etc. engineer:
* How out to be in the workplace.
* How to deal with HR issues.
* How to secure domestic partnership benefits.
* Dealing with homophobic and/or clueless supervisors.
* Perception issues related to being LBGT and an engineer.
* Issues regarding engineering education for LBGT students.
* And all the rest....
You can use the textbox form near the bottom of the sidebar on this page.

For what it's worth, people who design systems that depend on shoving information around -- i.e., software engineers and computer hardware engineers -- are just as much engineers in my book as people who design systems that depend on the shoving of matter and/or energy (it's all the same, right?) around.

01 July 2006


Let's Hear It for Canada

It's Canada Day. Happy birthday, Canada!

Our neighbors to the north have existed in their current political form since 1868 (hence the 1968 World's Fair celebrating the centenial, that I had the pleasure to attend). Thanks to Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof for the reminder. (Go there: there's an "Oh, Canada!" audio link.)

Hopefully, all Americans are willing to stand on guard for and with our closest ally. If you're not, then get with the program!

Also, a commenter there reminds us that two male RCMP officers are getting married today. More info here from Towleroad.

(In the Superman post below, I could've mentioned that there was a time when Superman got moved to the afternoon, and Sgt. Preston of the Yukon was on early in the mornings. Yes, I had a mountie outfit, okay? No pics of that, either.)

One. More. Time. Let's hear it for Canada! All together now: Oh, Canada! Our home and natve land....


If Depression Were Cancer

From Flatland, some thoughts on depression and Denise Denton, if depression is what led Denise Denton to commit suicide. (My rememberance of Denise is below.)
Imagine having cancer with a good rate of remission, whose cure you could not seek without people concluding "Yeah, she just couldn't handle the job," or even "Yeah, women just can't handle that sort of job." "You know how women get -- when things get stressful, they always go running for cancer treatments. Put them in a position of this sort, they'll get cancer." And then, even the most compassionate among your advocates thinking "Well, maybe people with cancer just shouldn't be put in a position like that. It's too much for them, poor dears." When all you needed was a few months of treatment before resuming a job for which you were uniquely suited.

And that's what killed Denise Denton. Not the stress of the job, but the cultural assumptions that go with mental illness, combined with the cultural assumptions that women can only go so far in the academy. And who among us could say we would have been braver in the face of those assumptions?
I think that's a great framing. I know I'm only repeating what's above, but think about it. Since depression often does go away without explicit action, and since treatment of depression -- and just about every other form of mental illness -- is often looked upon as a sign of weakness, think about what things would be like if the disease in question were physical.

It would be nice if we could create a cultural situation that would allow more people who are afflicted with mental illnesses to receive treatments that are effective for those conditions instead of the dark-ages like attitudes that seem to persist. We may be wired to make that difficult, but we've got enough wiring and the ability to construct cultural situations to make it possible, too.

Update: I'm ignoring the gender / gender bias / gender discrimination issue, just like Flatland ignored the sexuality / homophobia issue. They're relevant, important, certainly factors. But depression, even if it has different likelihoods of incidence in different gender or sexuality categories -- for reason from genetics as soup to culture as nuts (heh, it's like I'm chanelling Agenda Bender. I flatter myself) -- is widespread enough regardless of category to consider it alone first. Your mileage may vary, and I might could be educated on this.


Superman Returns: Quickie Review

Confession time: When I was a little kid, I would have my mom get me up a half-hour earlier than I actually had to in order to get to school on time so I could sit in my pajamas and eat my bowl of cereal while watching syndicated reruns of George Reeves in the Adventures of Superman. I got her to make me a Superman costume, meaning she made a cape for me, sewed some buttons on the shoulders of an old blue sweatshirt to hold the cape, and sewed a big Red 'S' to the front of the sweatshirt. I'd wear read swim trunks over a pair of blue jeans, and I had a pair of red rubber boots, too. (If I could find a picture, you know I'd post it.)

My infatuation with Superman lasted until the 1960s Batman teevee show started running. Somewhere in that same time frame, I started subscribing to DC comics and reading Marvel ones when I could get them. (There was one little grocery store -- Tilley's -- in my home town that carried comic books, so I'd have to beg to get taken out there just to buy "funny books," as my grandma would say. Trips to Nashville were another opportunity to buy comics.)

Superman Returns? Not bad. I'll pass on a story summary. You can get those anywhere. It's definitely a sequel to the Richard Donner Superman and the Richard Lester Superman II. (Will it break anyone's heart to know that I never saw the next two?) I went through an initial reaction of "this kid is too young to play Superman" during the first little while of the movie, but I have to admit that when Superman and Lois make eye contact after the first big action / special-effects sequence, I bought it all: Brandon Routh as Superman, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, etc.

The Lex Luthor character was a reversion in some ways (not quite as smarmy) to that earlier movie continuity: there was nothing from the Smallville storyline there, which I think was a missed opportunity. Kevin Spacey was creepy as one with no regard for life other than his own. Parker Posey was good, too, as his moll, but it wasn't really clear why Luthor had to have a moll, except to fill some comic book / movie staffing requirement. (Maybe it's in the comic book characters' union rules or something.) Again, she was good, but not well motivated in the larger story arc.

I'll pass on the issue being discussed about whether Superman in this movie is a Christ character. There's material pointing to that, done tastefully and thought provokingly, but it's not what you take away at the end. You take away the story about the characters: about love lost and maybe won again, about creations of love maybe outlasting love, maybe recreating it.

It is long, and there are a lot of water scenes -- not as much as The Perfect Storm, but plenty still -- so you can expect to be straining at the end if you get the large drink to go with the large popcorn. (I also think it had the longest credits sequence I've ever seen at a movie.) Still, I think it holds its own in the continuity it exists in.


Mr. Koizumi Goes to Memphis

You've likely already read, with some degree of amusement, how President Bush took Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi to Graceland in Memphis, Tennesee, yesterday. Okay, that was cool, although you have to believe it would've been a lot more fun for Koizumi if he had had the chance to do that while Bubba -- I mean Bill Clinton -- was still President. (Image of Koizumi wearing Elvis's shades, right, by Mike Maple of the Commerical Appeal.)

(If you've never been to Graceland, it defined the idea of "white trash with money," at a time when Toby Keith and Confederate Railroad were still candy bars in their daddys' back pockets. (For what it's worth: Mack's in OKC as I type, and he had lunch at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill.))

What you might've missed, however -- and I haven't seen this reported at any of the Big Journalism usual suspects -- is that Bush and Koizumi went to the National Civil Rights Museum which occupies the site of the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King was shot in 1968. One can argue that that, too, would've benefited by Clinton as host and tour guide moreso than Bush. Still, it is good to know that Bush or his handlers at least have the good sense to go through the motions of honoring more than just Big E while in Memphis.

The motorcade surprised those in the South Main area -- and the hungry media -- by making an unexpected stop at the National Civil Rights Museum. Bush greeted several stunned children with handshakes and shoulder taps.

The president and prime minister took a quick tour and later stood on the Lorraine Motel's balcony with former NAACP president Dr. Benjamin Hooks and AutoZone founder Pitt Hyde.

Standing behind the wreath that marks the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in 1968, Hyde and Hooks pointed across the street to the former boarding house from where James Earl Ray fired the fatal shots. That building, now part of the museum, was not cleared, and people were crowded up to the windows to watch.

Complete story here from the Memphis Commercial Appeal (all together now: "More commercial than appealing!"). Registration required.

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