Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Island

Finally! A movie with an idea, a plot, plausible and interesting characters, and, so help me, an actual bonafide non-nuanced moral theme. Since the TV ads apparently don't even remotely hint at what that moral theme is, I'll tell you: the sanctity of human life. This ought to resonate with religious types out there. But marketing execs must have figured morals aren't very chic these days (unless it's "save the planet!"), and having learned absolutely nothing from the recent huge success of The Passion of the Christ, they decided to market the film as yet another generic futuristic action CGI-fest. Big mistake. The film isn't doing well at the box office, but could have been saved if the ad campaign had been aimed at the same folks who made The Passion such a phenomenal money-maker.


I won't divulge anything about the plot here, but a few comments...

- The movie suffers a little bit from multiple-personality syndrome. The first third is thought-oriented, and sets up the plot. The second third is all-out action, though very good action. The third third (heh) is a hybrid of the first two, but ties things together nicely.

- F/X are superb, but don't overwhelm the story. Think Minority Report in terms of style and effectiveness.

- Nice little surprise near the end.

- Is it just me or is Sean Bean playing the egotistical jerkface a lot lately?

It's late, and I'm tired, so that's all you get for this review. Go see the movie.

Update! Libertas notes that conservatives are starting to catch on to The Island's pro-life message. A bit too late to save Dreamworks, but maybe other studios will figure out that there's money to be made in conservative-themed films.

Why Did My Mom Get Liver Cancer But Teddy Kennedy Still Lives?

Yeah, Teddy, why is that? And why are you still spouting this drivel (paraphrased at The High Road):
It's preposterous to call this bill Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. If we were honest, we'd call it Protection of Unlawful commerce. It's blatant special interest bill protecting those who would supply arms to criminals and terrorists. It's difficult to believe that the Bush Admin would push aside major Def bill for this. Bush called for clean bill, without AWB, etc. Instead of considering this, we should be considering the regulation of .50 cal rifles. These guns can shoot down airplanes, and penetrate several inches of steel. In ‘95, Rand Corp IDed these rifles as serious threat. Snipers love them. A study by Dept Homeland IDed these weapon as serious threat to aviation. Mfgs advertise these guns as capable to destroying multi-mil aircraft. Every round sold threatens our troops. Instead, we are guaranteeing those who sell these guns will not be held liable. The NRA could care less they are interrupting the Def bill. They're willing to let mfgs and dealers put powerful killing machines in the hands of terrorists and criminals. Bush and Repubs will do what it takes to give NRA what it wants. For years courts have been the only place where negligent and conspiring dealers can be challenged.
Speaking of powerful killing machines, Teddy, how about your car?

Now shut your fat face. Asshole.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Russian Spammer Dead

Via Solarvoid comes this story
Vardan Kushnir, notorious for sending spam to each and every citizen of Russia who appeared to have an e-mail, was found dead in his Moscow apartment on Sunday, Interfax reported Monday. He died after suffering repeated blows to the head.


[he] remained sure of his right to spam, saying it was what e-mails were for.
I dunno about the rest of you, but when I got my first e-mail account, I was just hoping beyond hope that someone would find a way to cram my inbox full of advertisements for products I'm not even remotely interested in buying.

Well, that's a pretty harsh fate for Mr. Kushnir, but it appears that the murder was not connected to his Internet activity. Still, I think it would be fitting to have his epitaph chiseled out spam-style:




Tuesday, July 26, 2005

What's On Your Nightstand?

Mr. Completely tagged Carnaby and me for this blog meme, and, as always, we're happy to oblige.

What's On Stickwick's Nightstand

As they say, a picture's worth a thousand words, so here's a picture (followed by a thousand words).

Fig 1.--Top shelf: a photo of my hubby, in case I'm too lazy to roll over and look at him; bottled water, 'cuz I'm always thirsty in the middle of the night; an IKEA ice-cube lamp; several books (I'm usually reading three or four books at a time). Middle shelf: a Bible; more assorted books; my Springfield 1911 (loaded with Hydrashok JHP); my cell-phone charger. Bottom shelf: an old issue of Military History magazine that I keep mostly to look at the photo of the statue on the back (a Special Forces soldier on horseback in Afghanistan -- I'm obsessed with it). Next to the nightstand: our Mossberg 12 ga., which is usually on hubby's side of the bed, but goes on my side whenever he's away.

Stay tuned for the contents of Carnaby's nightstand, followed by a list of the lucky five who get tagged to carry this on...


What's On Carnaby's Nightstand

Top: an alarm clock radio and a snazzy lamp of some sort; occasionally whatever book I'm reading, which ain't often, except for my NIV Bible. Top Drawer: my wife's understuff. Bottom drawer: my understuff and my Kimber Ultra Carry II (need some dang nightsights on the thing). On the wall behind the nightstand: a picture of my wife beside our son just after he was born and all swaddled up. Best picture I ever took.

OK, so we're gonna tag...

Kevin at The Smallest Minority (even though he's on hiatus)

Rusticus at Solarvoid

aaaaannnnddd... since everyone else in the blogosphere's been tagged for this already, we also pick Arianna Huffington (har har).

Edu-Jargon Drinking Game

The title is shamelessly stolen from Michelle Malkin's post, because it's the most apt at describing this bit of fun from Eduwonk. The gist of it is, every time you hear some piece of educratic jargon, you take a drink of your favorite whatever.

A few examples:
Authentic learning
Reminds me of a class I took on Media and Culture as an undergrad, and what a jargony barf-fest it was. The two words I heard most:
The drinking game would have made that class a lot more tolerable. Drink up before you throw up!

(BTW, unrelated trivium: the textbook for this class had a whole chapter devoted to proving, logically, how capitalism is evil, because Ayn Rand's female characters like rough sex. Wrap your noodle around that one.)

Hollywood Nitwitism vs. $$$

I adore movies, especially on the big screen. Going to the theater is a transcendent experience for me, and there was a time when I would go to the theater to see every single release of the summer. But something changed, and I now go to the theater with about 20% of the frequency I used to. Coincidentally, that's about the current frequency with which Hollywood produces anything that isn't a half-assed remake, TV show adaptation, tired sequel, in-your-face political propaganda, or just plain gross, sleazy, or dumb off-the-shelf assembly-line junk. Goodness knows, I've watched my share of dreck just for the experience of being in a theater, but it was all pretty much inocuous, apolitical, dreck.

Now, sadly, the entire movie-going experience is tainted for me. My beloved Star Wars has become a parable about the evils of Republican administrations; I can't watch anything with Jennifer Aniston without thinking of this; the fabulous Lethal Weapon movies are forever tarnished by Danny Glover's nitwit politics; and, heaven help me, I used to adore Barbra Streisand movies, but egads.

I can't be the only person who feels this way. Take a look at Michael Medved's latest column about Hollywood denial and the current box-office slump [hat tip: Libertas].
Tinseltown's recent setbacks suggest a crisis of major proportions, with a May USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll showing 48% of adults going to movies less often than in 2000.
Apparently, there are a lot of us who feel this way. Maybe I'm just being specious here, but America is approximately equally divided between red and blue voters, and with Hollywood becoming more vocal about its liberalism after the 2000 election -- decidedly so right before the 2004 election -- is it possible that Hollywood has managed to alienate about half of its audience?
Despite efforts by entertainer activists, a majority of voters cast their ballots for Bush. If even a minority of those 62 million GOP voters — say, 20% — reacted to Hollywood's electioneering by shunning the multiplex, it could easily account for the sharp decline in ticket sales after Bush's re-election.
Maybe it's not so specious.

Medved goes on to explain that many of us don't bother with the box-office, because we don't see our values reflected in movies anymore. Our dad, who has lived in Canada for quite sometime, tells Canadians that if they want to understand Americans they should watch High Noon. But where are the modern equivalents to High Noon? Is there anything in the last five years that you could proudly point to and say "That's America. That's me"? I can't think of any. But it's not bad enough that our core values are missing from films, now they are often denigrated and ridiculed. Well, sorry, but I'm not going to pay $8.25 + $15 in snacks to sit through a two-hour lecture on how I am responsible for all the evils in the world.

So. It comes down to this: either Hollywood execs are so steeped in their dogma that they would rather self-destruct than produce conservative films in sufficient quantity to survive or else, eventually, the film industry "will evolve to where the money is," as Carnaby says. I hope it's the latter.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Unprincipled Principal

I saw this on Brit Hume's Grapevine earlier today. So far, is one of the few news sources on Google News that has picked up this story
A New York grade school teacher says she was forced to quit for hanging a portrait of President George W. Bush in her classroom along with other U.S. leaders.
Has New York officially entered an alternate reality universe where it is a dismissable offense to acknowledge the existence of your nation's leader? The teacher, Jillian Caruso, was also involved in GOP activities outside the classroom, which might have had something to do with her forced resignation
She told the New York Post she was forced to resign by Principal Joyce Becker-Seddio, wife of Democratic Brooklyn Assemblyman Frank Seddio, who threatened to write a poor performance review if she did not leave voluntarily.
The principal ought to be fired over this, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Things That Make You Go "Hmm"

Our dad is a high school math and logic teacher, and every now and then he gets some interesting insights from his students.

To get discussions going, he likes the question, Does God exist? At the end of the last semester, Dad puts forth the idea that the Universe is all code. For instance, in astrophysics it's all binary -- hydrogen on/hydrogen off. In biology, you have DNA, which is nothing more than information in the form of a base-four code. And so on. So, Dad says, maybe God is simply the Master Programmer. Then one of his student asks, "What if the Big Bang was God turning his computer on?"

Hmm. Maybe the kid has seen The Thirteenth Floor.


Rusticus comments:
The OS He's running seems to be very stable, too!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Subscriptions for Soldiers

As seen on Mr. Completely: use your spare $$ to donate a subscription to a soldier. Thousands of soldiers have requested subscriptions to magazines, and this is a nice way for the folks back home to help boost morale. Participating magazines include: Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Shotgun News, Bowhunter, Florida Sportsman, Fly Fisherman, and many other fine publications. Subscriptions are an amazingly affordable $10 each, so why not send a couple or three?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Bumpersticker Wisdom

Image hosted by

Via the Analog Kid comes this entertaining account of what happens when you travel through hippy-land with one of these stickers on your vehicle. [Hat tip: Kevin at The Smallest Minority.]
She went into a rant about how violence creates violence, war is for people who don’t know how to negotiate (or some such BS) and I was waiting for the famous “You can’t hug a child with nuclear arms” drivel, but it never arrived. It probably would have except that as she got a couple sentences into her rant, I started unfolding my Shotgun News and that really made her mad.

Her last line something like “And stupid stickers like that one and stupid people like you will never understand and that really pisses me off!” and it was at full volume, so that folks still sitting in their vehicles around us were able to take notice.

I calmly folded my my Shotgun News back up and asked if it made her pissed off enough to try and hit me.

She said, and I quote “No, because you probably have a gun with you right now.”
RTWT and bask in the irony. 'Tis a thing of beauty.

Though not nearly as funny, this reminded me of an encounter I had with a roommate's boyfriend when I was at UC-San Diego several years ago. He was a sociology grad student who claimed to be a Quaker and was opposed to violence in all forms, yadda yadda. We were all at Denny's one afternoon having an interesting chat, wherein, among other things, he informed me that America has no culture of its own, so you can see what kind of person I was dealing with, but anyway... when the subject of guns came up I said I was all for them. Being a chick -- and someone who tends to wear stuff like linen skirts, which throws pacifists off -- he assumed I was kidding and laughed. I told him I was a member of the NRA. He laughed. I opened my wallet, took my NRA card out and showed him. In about 1.3 seconds the smile disappeared, his face turned purple with rage, and he lunged at me. He couldn't get to me from across the table, so instead he let loose with a litany of curse words that would have made a sailor blush, and I'm thinking this isn't a very peaceful person. I don't know if he was going to hit me or grab the card and tear it up or what, but either way it didn't strike me as very Quakerly behavior and I had no idea what to make of it. I was young and inexperienced, and this was the first time I had ever encountered a person who acted in total contradiction to what he said he was. Taught me a valuable lesson. Incidentally, years later, I would encounter another screaming Quaker -- this time a faculty member who was piqued over the 2000 election. But, you know, I can sort of sympathize. I might be inclined to scream a bit, too, if my worship services consisted of sitting in silence for an hour. Yeeearrrggghhh!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Adventures in Googling

You know, the Internet is a funny place. Try looking for something like "Thor" using Google Image Search, and this is what you get

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Find Your Viking Name!

My Viking name is...
Sæuðr Stronggoat

(Well, actually, that wouldn't really be your name -- since you're female, your name would be something like "Sæuðr Björnsdottir". But this is the twenty-first century, and you want to be known for who you are, not for who your father was, right? Right.)

Your Viking Personality: You're a fearsome Viking, but you aren't completely uncivilized. The other Vikings make fun of you for that. You are strong and tireless, frequently shouldering burdens that would tire lesser women. You might be able to hold your own on the battlefield, but you're no "berserker".

A long sea voyage aboard a Viking longboat would be difficult for you, but you might be able to manage it. Other Vikings tolerate your presence, though they're not quite sure if they can trust you to fight dirty.

You have a fairly pragmatic attitude towards life, and tend not to expend effort in areas where it would be wasted. You sometimes come off as a bit of a snob. Vikings are not snobbish people -- they either like you, or they kill you. Try to be more like a Viking.
Totally. Why bother with weak-tea stuff like, You are either with us or against us? How about, You are either with us OR WE KILL YOU! ARRRRRHHH!!!

So, what's your Viking name?

When Egyptians play Spanish guitar...

... it sounds like this (realplayer). Wow. You can download Aly's music for free here.

He's Dead, Jim*

Scotty has beamed up to that great big transporter pad in the sky.
James Doohan, the burly chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise in the original "Star Trek" TV series and motion pictures who responded to the apocryphal command "Beam me up, Scotty," died early Wednesday. He was 85.
Well, shoot.

Apparently, there was a lot more to Mr. Doohan than most people realize. Carnaby and I are huge Star Trek fans (primarily of the original series), but even we did not know these interesting tidbits: Born in Vancouver, B.C. (where Carnaby and I lived for many a year), served in WWII as a Captain in the Royal Canadian Artillery, lost one of his middle fingers in Normandy on D-Day, was a linguist, and fathered his last child in 2000 at the age of 80!

That bit about Normandy is particularly interesting when you consider how he lost his finger
[He] was machine-gunned, taking six hits: one that took off his middle right finger (he managed to hide the missing finger on the screen), four in his leg and one in the chest. Fortunately the chest bullet was stopped by his silver cigarette case.
Geez. You won't find too many Hollywood folks like that. Nor so gentlemanly. I will always remember Doohan as a man of grace and kindness, both on and off the screen. If you ever listened to him speak, it was obvious that he had a lot of fondness for his fans. This story, which he relayed in the documentary, Trekkies, was particularly touching
[He] spoke movingly of a woman who wrote him a suicide note. He called her and told her there was a Star Trek convention in two weeks and he wanted to see her there. She went, they talked and he told her about the next convention, and he wanted to see her there. She went to that one, too. And the next, and the next—for about two or three years. Then silence. He didn’t hear from her, and didn’t know what had happened.

Eight years later, she wrote him a letter, thanking him for taking the time to help her. His kindness and attention had lifted her spirits and given her the will to go on. She was writing to tell him that he had inspired her to get her degree in electrical engineering. He had tears in his eyes as he spoke of it.
And he was very good-natured about that infamous line

In a 1998 interview, Doohan was asked if he ever got tired of hearing the line "Beam me up, Scotty" -- a line that, reportedly, was never actually spoken on the TV show.

"I'm not tired of it at all," he replied. "Good gracious, it's been said to me for just about 31 years. It's been said to me at 70 miles an hour across four lanes on the freeway. I hear it from just about everybody. It's been fun."

It certainly has. R.I.P. Scotty...

James Doohan
1920 - 2005

[*Forgive me. I couldn't help myself.]

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Where Will It End?

From an interview at with Atta's father
Speaking to CNN producer Ayman Mohyeldin Tuesday in his apartment in the upper-middle-class Cairo suburb of Giza, Mohamed el-Amir said he would like to see more attacks like the July 7 bombings of three London subway trains and a bus that killed 52 people, plus the four bombers.

Displayed prominently in the apartment were pictures of el-Amir's son, Mohamed Atta, the man who is believed to have piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the north tower of the World Trade Center as part of the attacks on the United States.

El-Amir said the attacks in the United States and the July 7 attacks in London were the beginning of what would be a 50-year religious war, in which there would be many more fighters like his son.

and then there's this

An al-Qaeda-linked group that claimed responsibility for the London bombings has threatened to launch “a bloody war” on the capitals of European countries that do not remove their troops from Iraq within a month.

“This is the last message we send to the European countries. We are giving you one month for your soldiers to leave the Land of the Two Rivers,” the group called Abu Hafs al Masri Brigades said in a statement.

“Then there will be no other messages, but actions, and the words will be engraved in the heart of Europe.”

The “two rivers” in the statement refer to Iraq’s Euphrates and Tigris rivers. ...

“It is time for you to understand that the Mujahideen (holy warriors) will not leave their nation suffering under the stigma of humiliation and the killings by American fire which you allied with,” the statement said.

It vowed to launch “a bloody war, God willing”, against Denmark, Holland, Britain, Italy and other countries “whose soldiers are roving and having fun in Iraq.”


We assure to you that we are men who adore death as much as you love life,” the statement said. “Jihad (holy war) for God’s sake will go on until the end of days, to defeat the infidels, the dictators, and their followers everywhere.”

and so on and so on and so on.

Since the West is so much stronger than the radical Islamist element, and the Muslim world in general, if the bullshit doesn't end on the Muslim side, I can't see this ending anywhere but here

It certainly isn't my desired outcome, and I would not be the one to do it, but this sort of action, perpetuated ad nauseam, is the sort of thing that can turn ordinary folks into ruthless bastards who will end the bullshit. I hope it doesn't come to this.

Well, I don't think it can happen here. Europe will probably be pushed over the edge someday, but not here. No matter how bad things get, there will always be Americans with rifles who will defend those who are innocent. People must be judged on an individual basis, and that's all there is to the story. There will always be Muslims who do not tow the Islamist line, and who are peaceful. I, for one, and many like me will always stand up to evil on any side. As long as we still have our rifles, there will be no Holocaust in the United States.

If it ain't baroque...

...don't fix it!

Well, I found it -- the most beautiful baroque piece ever. Vivaldi's Concerto da Camera in G, RV 107 - III (Allegro). If you have Windows Media Player, you can listen to a snippet here. (If the link takes you to the page for the CD, you want track #27.)

Update: I found the Presto version of this piece (which Carnaby likes better). You can listen to the whole thing if you have a Real player, courtesy of Vitaminic Music Club. Lotsa good stuff there, BTW.

The Difference Between Us and Them

In a word: Mercy.

I got a link to this from a few people already, so it must be making the rounds. From
After tracking down the now-wounded sniper with a team from B Company, 4th Battalion, 1st Iraqi Army Brigade, Tschiderer secured the terrorist with a pair of handcuffs and gave medical aid to the terrorist who’d tried to kill him just minutes before.
Does anyone think that would have happened the other way around? Not a chance. Tschiderer's headless corpse have been found in a ditch two days later.

There's a link at the bottom of the article to the video of Tschiderer being hit (taken by the terrorists). It's amazing how he springs back up almost instantaneously after being hit in the chest.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Recycling Old Posts

I'm recycling an old post, but it seems hardly anyone read it. I think it's important, so I'm posting it again. Here we go...

So it turns out that Jeff Weise, the Minnesota school shooter, was in fact on Prozac (hat tip: Drudge Report). I thought this would turn out to be the case when I first heard of the school shooting. I've read that many young school shooters were on anti-depressent medication in including Eric Harris of Columbine infamy. This is not surprising. Kevin, at Smallest Minority, notes that school shootings are a relatively new phenomenon. Well, Prozac and similar anti-depresents are also a relatively (on the same timescale no less) new phenomenon. Of course, this in itself does not prove a causal relationship. However, I am convinced that a causal relationship does exist.

To start, let's look at what's different -- and what's the same -- about today compared to days-gone-by (call it BPZ and APZ for Before Prozac and After Prozac). BPZ, kids certainly suffered from depression, anxiety, and all sorts of other bad feelings brought on by various things. APZ, none of that has changed. But, BPZ, they didn't go on shooting rampages.

What do Prozac and the other SRIs (seratonin reuptake inhibitors) do? Do they treat the cause of the depression or other bad feelings, or do they simply treat the symptoms? Let's suppose they simply suppress the symptoms. Given that mental health practitioners don't really know the cause of depression -- making it impossible for them to treat the cause -- is it good or bad to simply treat the symptoms?

I submit that it is not only bad, but a complete and total (redundancy alert) disaster, for one very simple reason. The normally functioning human organism, like any other organism, is a system in a state of remarkably stable equilibrium. In order to stay in this equilibrium, any input to the system that disturbs the equilibrium state must necessarily be counteracted by the organism to restore normalcy (where normalcy = equilibrium). That's what stable equilibrium is.

The point, one that very serious and missed by the mental health experts, is that bad feelings, depression, anxiety, and so on, are caused by the organism counteracting disturbance from equilibrium in an effort to return to normalcy. It is a colossal mistake to remove these bad feelings with drugs, because it interferes with a natural process and does nothing to return the organism to equilibrium.

Generally, any disturbance from normalcy resulting in bad feelings is itself caused by some behavior that resulted in immediate feelings of pleasure. In other words, pleasant feelings were the initial disturbance from equilibrium. The bad feelings are the reaction that motivates the organism to change its behavior and remove the cause of the disturbance. Don't get me wrong, this is not to say that pleasant feelings are themselves bad, but healthy pleasant feelings have to be earned, ususally through hard work. Pleasant feelings achieved "for free" inevitably result in depression. For example, I remember reading about a mental health expert who coined the term afluenza to refer to the phenomenon that is unusually common and predictable amongst lottery winners. The initial unearned pleasant euphoric state is inevitably replaced by depression. It's textbook.

So here is the key point. If the bad feelings are removed directly and artificially by drugs, the behavior that caused the bad feelings, because it is initially pleasant, can, and will be, continued. Obviously, this leads to a deepening of organic condition, that is, an increase in the disturbance from normalcy. Inevitably, the treatment is always more drugs. (The philosophy can't be wrong, so do it more, only harder!). And so we have the VICIOUS CYCLE WORSENING that results in the psychotic state required for these kids to go on shooting sprees.

This is a crude explanation of a profound and fundamental truth of human behavior. If you would like to start from the beginning you must read The Key to the Sciences of Man by D.G. Garan. The book is out of print, but most university libraries will have it, and you can get it used for cheap online.

Update: Hmmm, I used the term "equilibrium" an awful lot. So much for style.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Will Saddam Get a Fair Trial?

So asks the latest poll on Ungh! I think a better poll would ask:

Before they have Saddam shot in the face, do you think he should have his eyes gouged out and the empty sockets filled with pig excrement, or should he have his johnson sliced off and fed to wild pigs?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Late-Nite Kitty Pr0n

It's Take Your Cat to the Office Day. Kitty loves to sit in my laptop case. She also likes to perch on freshly folded towels, inside boxes (see here), and just generally any place where her furry little body is an inconvenience. Her name is Freyja, but she thinks her name is Kissa Perkele (Finnish; loosely translated as "Dammit, cat!"), because she hears it so often. She's a bit of a dumb-dumb, but she's also the best kitty in the world -- how many other kitties actually come when you call them and like to play fetch? (She's saying "Meow!" for the photo.)


This is old stuff, but I just rediscovered Shoutcast (streaming audio system, i.e. internet radio). Back in my undergrad days I used to listen to the old Star Wars radio programs on one of its stations, but that's long gone. Now I listen to a station called Mostly Classical, and it's divine. Whoever puts together the playlist has impeccable taste. And the best part is... NO commercials! Shoutcast has something for everyone. Give it a try.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Jake the Army Takes Aim

Grandma got the boy his own M16. The fire selector includes the full auto option. And it was only a dollar! Image hosted by

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Spaced-Out, Part I

Last week my folks flew down from Canada for a visit, and I wanted to do something extra-special for the parental units while they were in Texas -- I pulled a few strings with a friend at NASA, and he generously arranged for us and a couple of friends to go on a special tour of the Johnson Space Center last Saturday.

For the first half of the tour we were guided by a man named Tom, who trains the shuttle astronauts. Just a terrific guy. (He personally trained the seven astronauts on the doomed Columbia mission, which is understandably a sore subject with him.) Tom would end up giving us personal insight into what the astronauts go through, both during training and during the missions.

OK, let's get this tour started!

Our first stop was the facility where astronauts train aboard STS mockups...

Here we are at the Shuttle Mission Simulator. "The Untouchables" are the latest crew, who were scheduled for yesterday's scrubbed Discovery launch. Presumably they are untouchable, because nobody wants to make the crew sick before a launch. NASA makes a big deal about germs and bugs in the training facilities, and there are signs everywhere. I liked the one that says if you are feeling even remotely crummy, stay home. That's one heckuva sick-day policy.

The simulation center feeds the shuttle simulator and command center with problems during the simulated missions to see how well the crew deals with them. The runs are scripted, but the simulator guys get pretty devilish and like to throw in a few unscripted problems, as well. Tom tells us that once they start feeding problems to the crew, they just keep 'em coming one after the other. Yikes! Oh, and for you geeks out there, NASA uses IRIX. Who knew?

Next is the mockup of the shuttle cockpit. It's a high-fidelity representation of the interior of the shuttle. Lemme tell you something -- the habitable part of the shuttle is tiny. Claustrophobics need not apply. Also, you'd better really like your fellow astronauts. Tom tells us that the crew spends quite a bit of time training together before a mission, so they are practically family by the time they go up.

Here's the exterior of the simulator

And the interior. That's Commander Stapers at the controls. Actually, I think he's in the pilot's position. (Factoid: the commander flies the shuttle, not the pilot. Go figure.)

During shuttle missions, the crew spends virtually every second doing work. Each crew member gets a total of 10 hours of "off" time during a mission (which is usually 10 days in duration), and the astronauts spend all of that time looking out one of the windows at the earth. It must be the mother of all views.

Some controls

The crew really does use all of those little timers. Every single operation is timed to the second, so there are no surprises. There are also procedure manuals everywhere -- one of them is sitting next to the flashlight.

More switches 'n' stuff, which we were asked not to touch.

Here's Kfir of Protest Warrior fame at the controls. I like the idea of Protest Warriors in space.

I had to turn the flash off the camera in order to get a photo of how cool the cockpit looked with the monitors.

The next thing we got to do was check out the toilet facilities on the shuttles. Scary stuff. You strap yourself onto the toilet, and then there is something like an in-the-bowl cam (no lie) so you can check to make sure your derriere has made a good seal with the toilet seat. You really don't want anything escaping from the toilet in zero-g. For going potty, both male and female crew have to use that scary-looking suction tube thingie in front. (Fun fact: the Mercury astronauts just wore diapers. The cabin must have smelled pretty bad after seven days of a grown man sweating and soiling himself. Which is probably why NASA had the capsules land in the ocean. They could just dunk the smelly astronaut in the drink. Har har!) Here's Tom showing what a fun experience it is to relieve yourself in the shuttle lavatory.

Next up was the shuttle motion simulator. The astronauts use this to practice landing the shuttle. Here Mr. Stapers and Kfir alternate commanding the shuttle as it lands in Florida. Mr. Stapers' first attempt got us lost over the ocean (not his fault -- the simulator went kinda wonky), but all subsequent attempts were successful. Tom told us that the technology exists to have the auto-pilot land the shuttle all by itself, but the higher-ups at NASA prefer humans to do it -- something about the machismo factor.

Here's a view of the simulated graphics while somebody's bringing the shuttle in for a safe landing. Normally the simulator moves around to give the crew a realistic sensation of flight, but we couldn't find anyone who was checked out to do the motion stuff. Nevertheless, the simulation graphics were realistic enough to make me a little dizzy.

Thus concludes Part I of our tour. Next time, I'll show photos from the full-size shuttle mockups and my favorite part of the tour, Mission Control.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Via Alphecca. Turns out I am...

E.E. "Doc" Smith

The inventor of space opera. His purple space war tales remain well-read generations later.
I'm rather operatic, so it seems fitting. Now, the interesting thing is that if I change my answers to two questions I was kinda indecisive about -- #5 (Are you a total dork when dealing with the opposite sex?) and #9 (Are you a blabbermouth?) -- then I become...

Robert A. Heinlein

Beginning with technological action stories and progressing to epics with religious overtones, this take-no-prisoners writer racked up some huge sales numbers.
Ha. I knew it.

(Carnaby, are you gonna weigh in here?)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Review of Fantastic Four

Meh. Craptastic Four. Don't bother.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Taking the Plunge

I did it. Yesterday, I was baptized into Christ, and it's the best thing I've ever done.

FWIW, I belong to this church. [What did you expect? Mr. Stapers and I are Scandinavian. ;-)]

Thanks go to a few very special people for helping me get here, one of whom is Rusticus at Solarvoid, who was kind enough to answer some tough questions about Christianity. If anyone wants to know what got me on this road in the first place, check this out.

Friday, July 08, 2005

War of the Worlds

Went to see War of the Worlds with hubby tonight. Wow. Just wow. It's been a long time since I felt awed by a movie. There was also fear, disgust, and shock -- everything a movie like this should provide. Bravo, Mr. Spielberg.

Incidentally, am I the only one who thinks Ebert has lost his marbles?

"War of the Worlds" is a big, clunky movie containing some sensational sights but lacking the zest and joyous energy we expect from Steven Spielberg.

I'll admit the movie was a little short on narrative, but is a movie about the earth being razed by murderous aliens supposed to be zesty and joyous? And only two stars?! What's the deal? The f/x alone are worth 2.5 stars. Ebert didn't like the tripods, but they were my favorite part of the movie. I haven't felt that kind of amazement looking at alien hardware since Star Wars.

Tom Cruise's acting was serviceable. The kids bugged me a little. Dakota Fanning's precociousness and screaming bugged me a lot, actually. But a whacked-out Tim Robbins with a shotgun was priceless.

So, stingy reviews by fussy old movie critics notwithstanding, the movie was worth every penny of the admission price. Go see it.

We're Not Afraid

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We're not afraid. We stand by you, Britain.

[Hat tip: Michelle Malkin]

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Blog Poll: Tinnitus

OK, this is a blog poll. Who out there with a gunblog has tinnitus? I've got it, it sucks, and I've had it for about 12 years or so. I didn't get it from guns either, I got it from playing guitar in a band and from Tool concerts. Damn. Used to be it didn't bother me much, but lately it's gotten much worse and I don't know why.

Sometimes it's rough being a biological organism.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Canadian Firearms Safety Sample Exam... Post Your Scores!

Go here and have a laugh at the exam. It's pretty sinch. The only questions you might screw up are on their "safety" acronyms or Canadian stupid storage laws. I got 17/20 on the "unrestricted" exam and 19/20 on the "restricted" (i.e. handguns) exam. I missed the one asking if it is safe to store ammo in a tightly sealed metal container (as I do at home). Naturally, this perfectly safe practice is not safe in Canada. You have to lock the stuff up, I guess.


Also, if you want, take the exams once, and email me your score! I'll post scores here. Rules: honor system, take it once and let me know your scores. Tell me any fun snafus you felt you were wronged by if you like. Send scores to: carnaby_fudge AAAAAATTTTT HOTmail.youknowwhat. That underscore in carnaby_fudge is really there, don't forget it!

Note: you have to register for the exam, but it's a snap, no nead to provide any sensitive info (first name minimum). Also, you only get 16 questions (and 20 minutes!! who the hell is that slow?) to take the exam, but you can select different categories to be included to get more questions on, say, ammo, and less on general gun stuff and so on.

UPDATE: Come on now, at the minimum I expect to see Kevin, SayUncle and Jed in on this.

Friday, July 01, 2005


CNN reports (actually an AP story) here on Bush saying that he will make his Supreme Court nomination in a timely manner. Bush is quoted
"I have directed my staff, in cooperation with the Department of Justice, to compile information and recommend for my review potential nominees who meet a high standard of legal ability, judgment and integrity, and who will faithfully interpret the Constitution and laws of our country," he said.
Fine, but then there's this a couple paragraphs later, all by itself, at the very end of the article
Bush said he would recommend a replacement who will "faithfully interpret" the laws.
WTF?? Is that some sort of a dig at Bush? Is the AP reporter just stupid and likes to repeat himself? What gives?

Carnaby Fudge on Global Warming

I used to be a global warming "skeptic" but now I'm not. Now I'm just a global warming skeptic. I have questions that have not been adequately answered. Part of the problem is that I don't have the time to read up on the current science involved, but my questions are straight forward and have received no answers (by which I mean nobody has come up to me and stapled a paper to my forehead that shows me the light. I admit I should look harder). That and I'm always uneasy about things strongly supported by so-called environmental groups, you know. I'm also especially skeptical about gloom and doom predictions over the 0.116 deg/C per decade warming that we might be seeing. So now, I'm taking the second easiest route to doing nothing, I'm appealing to people who might know something to tell me about it!

Anyway, one of my questions involves the following scenario:

  1. Global warming should lead to increased water vapor in the atmosphere, which should lead to more global warming, as water vapor is a green house gas (GHG). This in turn should lead to more warming which should lead to more water vapor which should lead to more warming which should lead to more water vapor which should lead to...

    A system that behaves in this way is termed unstable, which, from our known geographic history the earth's climate is not. So how does the earth respond, and on what time frame, to warming influences? This leads naturally to my second question.

  2. See all that water vapor being brought into the atmosphere by global warming? Doesn't it take energy to put it there? Shouldn't the energy transfer required for the phase transition lead to a reduction in global temperature?

  3. The work I see about climate change never seems to consider the funny climate dynamics we call weather. Why not? Does it rain more or less when the earth heats up and there's more water vapor, the phase transition of which consequently cools the earth?

What is it exactly about our climate system that maintains climate stability, and how does that figure into the figuring about global warming? I'd sure appreciate anyone in the know pointing me to some info that addresses these concerns, if any such info in fact exists.

Supreme Court Suggestion

Since I know President Bush reads my blog somewhat regularly, I would like to offer him this advice: Don't choose a justice based on the abortion issue. You cannot win. And you will be squandering an opportunity to protect the individual rights and liberties of the citizens you serve. Don't do it! Don't even think about it! Stop it now! I know what you're thinking, so knock it off! Don't make me furl my brow at you.

Instead, choose a strong supporter of individual rights and constitutional originalism (if I'm using that term correctly). Basically, we want a justice who will support the first, second and fourth amendments (and, um, all the other ones...) from an individual rights point of view. And please punch the congress in the face when they step on the fifth amdendment also.

There once was a Learned Hand and his name was neat. What we need now is a Smacking Hand, to smack the government around a fair bit when it gets out of line.

In fact, just nominate Kozinski now and be done with it. And have him change his name to Smacking Hand.

And Kevin, you picked a bad time to Screw it! No?