31 December 2006


Death Penalty Thougths

Saddam's execution gives me excuse to foist my latest thinking on capital punishment on my few readers. It's a pretty simple syllogism:

  1. There are crimes -- e.g., murder, treason, genocide -- where the perpetrator, by nature of his or her acts, relinquishes their right to existence.
  2. Determining whether or not such has occurred is difficult and always involves the risk of error. The error can be minimized but not eliminated.
  3. It is within the purview of governments, as legitimate representations of the individuals living collectively in communities, to impose the death penalty for the crimes mentioned above, even though such can't be done with certainty.
  4. Communities that acknowledge the reality of capital crimes, deserving of death, yet practice mercy, by commuting death sentences to life imprisonment, are the ones I'd rather live in.

So that last one seems a cop out? Maybe. But I prefer it to the beliefs that capital crimes don't exist, that judicial systems are intrinsically so unfair that capital punishment is never justly meted out, and that imposition of capital punishment by whatever means doesn't coarsen all of us a little bit.

Some, like Saddam, clearly (to this one) deserve to die, but not killing is likely (in my opinion) a better path.


Entertainment Trifecta: James Brown! Michael Jackson!! Prince!!!

From Matt Welch:
Remember that time when James Brown was playing that one song, and he pulled Michael Jackson up on stage to dance and sing, then he pulled Prince up to play guitar and do a striptease? You don't? I don't either! But it happened:

Dig James Brown's tight, tight band, vamping groovily throughout the duration.

27 December 2006


He Was Delicious

Let me be among the last to offer condolences to the family of former President Ford. And to make sure we all remember this television highlight:

Google Video link via Solonor.

26 December 2006


Stormy Christmas Monday

SECOND UPDATE: Todd says he didn't take the pictures. He just posted them. I'll try to find out who took them.

UPDATE: Todd Sherman, ERAU BSCE (Computer Engineering) alumnus (and all around great guy), has pics up at his Flickr site.

The pic above was appropriated from there.

We had severe weather in this area yesterday, but I didn't find out about it until talking to one of my brothers back in Tennessee who asked if we'd gotten blown away. A system blew through and did damage across the northern and central portions of Florida, as close as Deland, about 10 miles from us.

Of a more personal impact, what they're calling an F2 tornado ripped through my school, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Here's the text of the e-mail employees got yesterday evening that's also the current content of the University's web site:
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Daytona Beach campus suffered extensive damage from the severe Christmas Day storm that hit the Daytona area. There is substantial damage to several buildings on campus including the administration building, Spruance Hall, and the Student Center. The maintenance hangar was destroyed and there was damage to a high percentage of the fleet of planes.

The recovery is already underway and every effort is being made to have everything operational when classes resume in January - including using rental planes for the flight line.

In the meantime, people are asked not to visit the campus until it is declared safe by the authorities. At that time, there will be an advisory noting that the campus is again open.
Stories with pictures (as of now) from the News-Journal here and here. The online version fails to note that the banner headline on the print edition of the N-J is "TWISTMAS". Groan.

As far as I know now, everyone I work with and the facilities I work in, both office and hangar, are fine. It was good it was Christmas, and that no one was around. Still, getting things back up and running for the spring semester, including coming up with replacement planes, will be a major chore for University leadership. Good look to 'em. I'm sure all will do what is necessary to help.

25 December 2006


Around teh Internets: Christmas 2006

From Kenneth Quinell at T. Rex's Guide to Life
Something a lot of people seem to be leaving out when they discuss plans for winning in Iraq is that George W. Bush is still our president. Just because the Democrats won the mid-term elections doesn't mean that somehow our president is now competent or will be honest. If we send more troops, they are just more troops that will get killed by the incompetence and lies of the administration.

From Joe. My. God.:
An elderly transvestite wearing a stunning jewel-encrusted gown vehemently spoke against gay marriage today, saying, "If I can't happily nail the sweet, sweet can of any prepubescent boy that I want, then nobody else deserves to be happy either." And with that, he broke into a tortured lip-sync performance of Kim Weston's It Should Have Been Me.
Post comes complete with a picture of il Papa.


James Brown

Rest in peace, Mister Please Please. Rest in peace.

24 December 2006


Merry Christmas

Christmas greetings from Florida, where we had cuban subs from 7-Eleven for dinner and are currently watching Alien. In HD on the big teevee. With the home theater cranked up. The dog is unhappy about all this rumbling and these explosions.

The Jerry Goldsmith score is one of my favorites. Atonal and minimal. The main theme is sublime.

Our Christmas plans are minimal and simple. This is about as low-key of a Christmas as we have had in years. No travel, and simple gifts for each other.

For those of you who read this, Merry Christmas to you. May you and yours have wonderful holidays. As the late Mr. Zevon suggested, "Enjoy every sandwich."

Update: Sigourney Weaver is gratuitously semi-naked! "Lucky star. Lucky lucky lucky star."

19 December 2006


Student Comment of the Semester

From my course evaluation comments for EGR 101, Intro to Engineering, this semester: "My only complaint is that asking for help is like milking a squirrel for butter." WTF?

My best evaluation comment ever, again from EGR 101, but in summer 2004: "Teacher smokes an excesive amount of crack."

I love my job.

18 December 2006


More Cattle Drive

Today's Lakeland Ledger has a nice wrap-up piece about the recent Great Florida Cattle Drive.

I'm not nostalgic that the past was better, but I do think there's better value in recognizing change, its impact, than in ignoring same.

A way of life will be lost to this locale. That is a change of note.

When Mack's folks were here a week or so ago, I bought some clementines for munching. From Spain. There doesn't seem to be a lot of local citrus available anymore.

Of course, citrus growing was bigger than ranching back in the day. Near Clermont, the Citrus Tower stood over orange groves (orange and whatever) that spread as far as the eye could see. Now, given the view from its observation deck, it might better be called the suburbia tower.


Question of Usage

When did "overpass" become "flyover?"

To me, a "flyover" is something that acrobatic pilots do at an airshow. But twice in the last fifteen minutes I've seen the word used to refer to a piece of roadway crossing another roadway.

Any civil-engineering usage types out there?

16 December 2006


Militia -> Police, But Who Goes to the Army?

The stick-figure PowerPoint presentation making its way around seems to explain very well the military situation in Iraq (well, al Anbar province, at least). It even seems to hint at a way out, but it also seems to lack a critical component. (The link is a .pdf version. It's very informative, and if you haven't already checked it out elsewhere, I encourage you to take a look at it.)

I guess I would summarize it as follows

What the slides don't state is who will then join the Iraqi army, which it seems to me is necessary to have to deter Iranian aggression. Maybe I missed it. Maybe it's implicit that as local and regional security increases, there will be more men available to join the Iraqi national army. Maybe that's just not sufficiently critical compared to the troubles with the insurgents.

It goes without saying that building local partnerships is among the things that the Bush (43) administration should've done in the first place. That would've been after securing Baghdad, preventing the looting of Iraqi treasures and pre-war information, and securing the oil production facilities. I can almost hear him, Cheney, and Rumsfled saying, "But that's exactly what they expect us to do! We'll show them!"

09 December 2006


Night Launch!

Mack's folks and two of his sisters are visiting. Due to fortuitous timing, we were able to take them over to Titusville tonight, so we all could watch the launch of STS 116, Shuttle Discovery. What a treat!


The set of images at our Flickr site are unprocessed. Some of them need some noise reduction efforts, but I wanted to get them online, because who knows when I'll get around to fixing them up.

08 December 2006


Jeane Kirkpatrick, R. I. P.

Former U. N. ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick passed away yesterday. A. P. obit here. Of all those who came to power with Reagan, I liked her the best. I thought she had a no-nonsense sensibility that was welcome at the time.

It would be welcome today, too. Her certitude about how to view the Soviet Union, about how to correctly identify its little red fingers in much of the violence of the world, was right on. Contrast that with the inability of the Bush (43) administration to identify and lead the containment of non-state threats like militant Islamism. We will pay dearly for the loss of credibility resulting from the allowed confusion of Saddam with al Qaeda. It affects our ability to deal effectively with the threats we face, from other nations and from non-state groups.

I always loved it when she would be on the Sunday morning Brinkley show. She reminded me of friends my mom had over the years: Tough attitude with an acerbic wit voiced from a throat that had probably smoked way too many Chesterfields. Non-filter. I think she was someone you would want on your side in a fight, whether in an Irish pub, a world threatened by thermonuclear devastation, or a world in which suicidal religious whackos think they should take non-believers down with themselves.

07 December 2006


Florida Cattle Drive

As previously noted, I'm of sufficient age to recall a time when there were less people and more cattle in Florida. There are still ranchers and cattle left in Florida, just fewer of them.

The Florida Cattle Drive is happening right now. Organizers anticipate it will be the last one. The Orlando Sentinel has special coverage here.

04 December 2006



"[Gerry] helped Americans understand that they really aren't homophobic, they just thought they were supposed to be." -- Barney Frank at the Gerry Studds memorial service. Here, via Towleroad.

Recall, Dean Hara, Studds's partner, like every other surviving partner in a same-sex long-term relationship, doesn't get survivors benefits from the Federal government, not even Studds's pension. At least some of us have that through our employers! Ugh.


What Gives?

In Okeechobee, a young woman is fighting, via a lawsuit, to create a gay-straight alliance in the public schools there. Story here at the Orlando Sentinel.

Meanwhile at Riddle, the GLBT group I was advising has fallen apart. As one of the officers put it, it was because of a mix of apathy and fear.

I don't know how to get the few who were involved to display the kind of leadership the young woman in Okeechobee is showing.

Any thoughts or advice?

(This may get revised. It's early, but I wanted to get something down.)

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