Saturday, December 27, 2008


The Crab Pulsar Wind Nebula (also known as a plerion, or synchrotron nebula.) At the heart of the Crab Nebula lies a pulsar, a spinning, stellar scale object with the density of a neutron, left over as the result of a supernova, in particular one caused by the collapse of a massive star. This Chandra X-ray image clearly shows some of the structure surrounding the Crab's pulsar. As usual, this is an APOD image. The picture here links to APOD page, and a click there will show a higher res view.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas (and goodbye Eartha Kitt)

Eartha Kitt's death was announced today. I think that's a very sad thing. I recommend staying with the video all the way through "Old Fashioned Girl" to hear "Santa Baby" sung by the first, and the best, interpreter of that song. Not to mention the little poke she takes at Madonna's ill-considered attempt at the tune.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Fomalhaut b. It's the first visible light image of an extrasolar planet. Though it's just a speck in this image, it's an incredible milestone. Fomalhaut itself is one of the brightest stars in the sky, located about twenty-five light years from earth in the constellation Piscis Austrinus. I'm not sure the toroidal dust disk surrounding Fomalhaut, imaged here, really counts as a nebula, as such; being apparently an analog of the Kuiper belt surrounding the Sun. However, this is such a cool discovery that bending the definition to be sure it's included in this feature seems perfectly justified. The sharp definition of the inner boundary of the cloud was one of the clues that led to the conclusion that there was a planet here to be found. The planet itself is thought to be three times the size of Jupiter, with a much larger ring system than Saturn - which might, in fact be what was actually imaged here.

This is an APOD image. Click away.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Just when I think the good images of galaxies are starting to dry up, this comes along. For those who aren't aware, the Hubble Space Telescope had been offline. After having been brought back online, this was one of the first images (within the first couple of days, at any rate) captured - a pair of gravitationally interacting galaxies known as ARP 147. A spectacular pair of ring-shaped galaxies, one face on, one nearly perpendicular to our viewpoint. This is an APOD image, you can click through for more explanation and a higher resolution view, as always.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I've only recent started reading Rick Moran's Right Wing Nut House. I was surprised by several judicious posts and had decided that Moran was somebody I could agreeably disagree with. However, his reaction to Erik's fit of utter lunacy is hardly reassuring. If the Republican party is going to recover, (and that's a goal for which I really do have sympathy) they're going to need to recognize the difference between partisanship and self-parody.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Operation Paranoia

Erick Erickson sure does think he's an Important Person. The anonymous McCain aids he seems so put out with are quaking in their boots, I'm sure. Malkin and Ace seem to be polishing their own batons. Jeebus. These folks need to take a breath. At least as long a K-Lo reigns at The Corner, Erik can't really be considered competitive for the title of Dumbest Political Blogger of any note. (Of course there's always plenty of competition on that score.)


Less than fifty years after the Civil Rights Act was passed. What more needs to be said?

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Ok, in an effort to broaden this feature, since distinctive pictures of galaxies aren't an infinite resource, I'm rechristening (and retiming) it as Saturnebula. Yeah, it's a slightly goofy construction, but it's distinctive, and it's probably easier to post on Saturdays anyway - plenty of Friday Galactic Blogs went up on Saturdays in any case. I'll be pretty broad in my definition of "nebula," to encompass any cool galactic photos I find, consistently with older definitions like that of Messier.

This particular beauty is a depiction of the Veil Nebula, the leftovers from a supernova in the direction of the constellation Cygnus at an approximate distance between 1400 and 2600 light years. It spans three degrees in the night sky (six times the apparent size of a full moon) but is notoriously difficult to see in visible light, despite an apparent magnitude of about seven, which nearly as bright as the dimmest naked eye stars (corresponding to an apparent magnitude of about six.)

It's an APOD image, and you know the drill.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Obamaclypse Is Upon Us!

(Posted first on - but it fits in perfectly on the blog.)

Spooky secondary effects of an election apparently leaning toward the Democrats! Mark Levin's head literally explodes!

The following pull is almost randomly selected from the gusher of a single run-on graf of stream-of-consciousness word spew. It's lucky this election is coming very soon, if only to preserve whatever sanity is left among the right-wing punditariat. Good golly.

Excerpted from The Obama Temptation:
Charles Gibson and Katie Couric sought to humiliate Palin. They would never and have never tried such an approach with Obama. But beyond the elites and the media, my greatest concern is whether this election will show a majority of the voters susceptible to the appeal of a charismatic demagogue. This may seem a harsh term to some, and no doubt will to Obama supporters, but it is a perfectly appropriate characterization. Obama's entire campaign is built on class warfare and human envy. The "change" he peddles is not new. We've seen it before. It is change that diminishes individual liberty for the soft authoritarianism of socialism. It is a populist appeal that disguises government mandated wealth redistribution as tax cuts for the middle class, falsely blames capitalism for the social policies and government corruption (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) that led to the current turmoil in our financial markets, fuels contempt for commerce and trade by stigmatizing those who run successful small and large businesses, and exploits human imperfection as a justification for a massive expansion of centralized government. Obama's appeal to the middle class is an appeal to the "the proletariat," as an infamous philosopher once described it, about which a mythology has been created.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mark Steyn Continues...

to be an ass. And, if I'm not mistaken he's just conceded the next two elections to Obama!

Stupid Corner Tricks

Does Mark Levin Imagine that Colin Powell gives a rat's ass whether or not he has Mark's "respect?" Jeeze, those guys think a lot of themselves.

Monday, October 20, 2008

While I'm at it...

At Rick Moran's apparently ironically named Right Wing Nuthouse, a commendably sane post.

Liberalism is the yin to conservatism’s yang. We need each other and can’t make America a better place without the constant tug and pull of conflict between the two ideologies. What in many countries is a source of revolution, our war of ideas with liberalism and theirs with conservatism makes us both better. It forces us to come up with new approaches to solving problems in order to compete in the marketplace of ideas. This is a free market that Obama, no matter what his proclivities, cannot shut down.

To which, I might add, nor could George W. Bush.

I haven't really followed Moran's blogging - I don't know if he always been quite this reasonable, but I'm definitely going to keep reading.

Red State of Mind

I have a masochistic streak, apparently, that compels me to spend a lot more of my blog-surfing time among the nuttier reaches of the Rightosphere than among friends and allies. I think it's easier to get a feel for the zeitgeist by reading the stuff derived from what are, to me, the most alien (but widespread) points of view. Julian Sanchez pointed out, a few days ago, the low bar set by commenters at Red State - more accurately, Sanchez was taking note of the level of paranoia - but I think it amounts to about the same thing. I commented there on the quality of Erick Erickson's posts, specifically, and the example he sets for the mob of commenters there.

All of which leads me to this crystaline example of complete disingenuousness:

Turns out, according to sources we have in Texas, that Nick Lampson's wife is not even registered to vote in Texas 22.

She lives in Beaumont, TX - at an address well outside of the district - and this is where she is registered. She's in the 2nd District, and is represented by Republican Ted Poe. The address is on Collier Road in Beaumont.

Why does this matter? Well, two weeks ago, Democrat Congressman Nick Lampson's cronies accused Pete Olson of voter fraud. They claimed he had voted improperly in a Connecticut Special Election while he was working for Texas in Washington, D.C.

Ok, that's the setup. Now for the dénouement:

Even the most basic research shut down this wacky theory. It turned out that on the day of the supposed vote, Pete Olson was traveling from Capitol Hill to Texas on Senate business in his role as Chief of Staff for Texas Senator John Cornyn. He has the airline receipt to prove it.

And as you might expect, it also turned out that Connecticut does not require a photo ID or signature from anyone casting a vote. Of course, the idea that Olson would somehow go from 1998-2005, voting like clockwork in nine different elections (according to the Democrats' own records), and interrupt it to drive up to Connecticut to participate in an unimportant special election just doesn't pass the smell test. Well, for anyone but crazy liberals who happen to be supporting Nick Lampson, like Matt Glazer and others.

Pete Olson's experience shows us why you should be required to show a government issued photo ID before voting. But let's hope Nick Lampson wasn't counting on his wife's vote - if he gets it this year, something's wrong.

So Nick Lampson's wife has a different address than he does. Somebody who might know Nick Lampson accused Pete Olsen of voter fraud. Some mumbo-jumbo about a "smell test." (Why is it that nutcase conservative demagogues insist on sniffing everything?) Et voilà an apparent opening to smear Lampson about a future event and his wife's hypothetical voting habits.

This guy makes AoS look reasonable.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Galactic Blogging

Triangulum, aka M33, is the second closest major galaxy - after the Andromeda Galaxy - at a mere three million light years. It's also generally considered the most distant object, though M81 (twkeve million light years away) has been observed by a few experienced observers, and of course there was an event earlier this year, which for a short time was a naked eye object at 7.5 billion light years. M33 is a good sized galaxy - third largest in the Local Group, which, of course, also include Andromeda and the Milky Way.

This is an APOD image. Click the picture to view the APOD page for it. Click the image on that page for a higher resolution view.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

LHC First Light

Last night a proton beam made its first lap of the Large Hadron Collider, with minimum drama, and almost no ending of the world. (Of course we did inch ever so closer to the Big Rip overnight, but that would have happened even without the LHC.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Isaac Hayes

Kathy G posted this first. But it's timely, and fits a theme: songs my band covered reluctantly despite my bullheaded enthusiasm. The bastards.

Isaac Hayes was sui generis and a sublime artist.

Ok, just for contrast

This is much closer to the orginal, though it lacks Eno's wailing, screaming, siren/synth. This is how to achieve weight and power with rock and roll. Keep control of the pace, keep the energy just a hair under a boil, and hint at letting it all just crash through to the surface. Cale is masterful when he's at his best.

Sorry Elvis...

But John Cale owns this song. Though this isn't the best recorded version by Cale. That would be the version on the Slow Dazzle album. Still this is pretty nice.

Not Every Violation of the Law Is a Crime!

Especially if the laws were broken by Bush administration employees and are being judged by same. Mukasey:

Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime. In this instance, the two joint reports found only violations of the civil service laws.

So despite the far-reaching consequences of politicizing the Justice Department, despite the obvious moral hazard in letting your boss's people off easy, despite the clear violation of the law, nobody gets prosecuted. It must be nice to be defendant, judge, and jury on the same case.

We'll see if Patrick Leahy is a hero, or is just paying lip service on this one, but he's making some good mouth noises (NYT):
Mukasey's remarks "appear premature based on the facts and evidence that congressional investigators and the inspector general have uncovered so far"

Mukasey sees no need to adjust the status of employees who were hired under the flawed process. But he does encourage those were wrongfully treated to reapply.

What a guy.

These guys can't leave soon enough.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

While I'm Complaining about McCarthy

How much bad faith does somebody need to exhibit before we just dismiss their opinions out-of-hand? Andy McCarthy:

I suppose if we are thinking about turning our country over to the second Carter term — or the first McGovern — it shouldn't surprise anyone to see Russia go into its Aghanistan mode ... or Czechoslovakia ... or Hungary ... or (as Roger reminds us) Georgia.

What purpose does this serve? He's floating a causative relationship between Obama's candidacy and post-Soviet aggression? There's a damn Democrat running for president! The Russians can see we're weak and are taking advantage! He's "joking," of course.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday Galactic Blogging

That's quite a bridge! 22,000 light years long and spanning the gap between the galaxies NGC 5216 and NGC 5218, known collectively as ARP 104. Obviously in close a gravitational relationship, these two galaxies look appear to be in the process of tearing each other up, probably to merge in the next hundred thousand years or so. They're relatively close to us at a distance of about seventeen million light years in the direction of the Big Dipper. It's an APOD image, and you know what to do.

Hamdan and McCarthy

Andy McCarthy thinks the Hamdan verdict is a disgrace. The guy only got five-and-a-half years and is getting credit for time served.

It is the worst sentence I have ever heard of. It demonstrates an unseriousness about the war and the stakes involved.

Andy hyperventilates a bit here, I think. The guy is a driver. It seems to be acknowledged that he wasn't capable of planning or leading, he's just a guy who did low level jobs. A servant, essentially. By Andy's lights Hamdan provided
material support to our enemies, [...] actually protected bin Laden and transported weapons for al Qaeda,

all of which is, I assume, literally true. But it's a silly, bad faith exaggeration of Hamdan's apparent role. Does every grunt in Bin Laden's organization deserve life behind bars? What purpose does that serve, except to feed Andy and his fellow travelers' thirst for revenge, even when it's overblown and mostly inappropriate. Get your hands on Zawahiri, then try for a life sentence. Five years in GTMO ought to be enough for a the guy who changed Bin Laden's flat tires.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

More Pandering Content

This is a perfectly expressed version of this song enhanced immeasurably by the B&W footage. It's this sort of noirish character piece - perfectly expressed by the spare quartet sound on Small Change - that first started my interest in Waits' music. That the avant-garde sensibility of his post Swordfishtrombones work has appealed as much or more ( at least to me) and if anything is even less compromised, is proof by my lights of the incandescent quality his work.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Young Tom Waits

Ok, I've been lax. Every few months, the effort of putting up blog posts begins to seem like a burden. So, in a naked attempt to make up for a complete lack of effort, here's a nice example of Tom from his maudlin period. Young Tom, Old Tom, it's all good to me.

Friday Galactic Blogging

Need visual proof of General Relativity? Today's your lucky day! The white smeary dot at the center of this image is a relatively normal seeming, distant, apparent elliptical. The partial ring surrounding it is another galaxy, lined up distantly behind the first, whose image has been lensed by the gravitation of the closer galaxy. Known as Einstein Rings such objects aren't necessarily galaxies. The phenomenon only occurs in instances where the two objects are nearly perfectly lined up. It's an APOD image and you know the drill.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Queen of Outrage

Michelle Malkin would like us to "suck it up." More particularly she'd like those facing the loss of their homes in the current housing crisis to do so. Blaming "predatory borrowers"(!) and bolstering her argument with a single anecdote about a family who after getting some help from a cable show to finance their home, then turned around and mortgaged it to help a family owned construction business. Whom of course she feels compelled to identify by name. If that family doesn't get much relief from the bailout Bush just signed, I shan't get too teary eyed. But using people whose circumstances are as atypical, not to say oddball, as those of the family she's chosen as victims, er examples, as support for her argument is just stealing bases. But of course I don't believe Malkin would know how to frame an honest argument if she tried.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Galactic Blogging

This is one of the most memorable galactic images I've seen. Two vivid spirals, obviously interacting with each other, each in its own plane. What a beautiful sight. Collectively known as Arp 271, they comprise another selection in the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies. Also designated as NGC 5426 and NGC 5427 the pair is about ninety million light years away and spans about 130,000 light years. Click the image for the APOD page, click the image there for a closer view,

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Friday Galactic Blogging

Twisted, distorted spiral NGC 3718 and its companion NGC 3729 seem to be locked in each other's gravitational embrace. Both are fairly large, somewhat peculiar spiral galaxies located relatively nearby at about 52 million light years. They're about 150,000 light years from each other, or approximately fifty percent more distant than the estimated diameter of the Milky Way. In the night sky they can be found in Ursa Major near what may a familiar sight to some visitors to this blog, the Hickson Group of galaxies, another beautiful and somewhat anomalous tableau. As usual this is an APOD image. Click once for the APOD page, click the image there for a more detailed look.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Friday Galactic Blogging

I make no apologies for finding pictures of spiral galaxies incredibly beautiful. The subject of this photo is NGC 7331, which at 40 million light years, is relatively nearby. Large spirals like this are often compared to the Milky Way, and this one particularly; but, with apparently at least three spiral arms (the Milky Way seems to have two) and lacking (at least to my eyes) a strong central bar, I think that's a bit of an exaggeration. Click the image for the APOD page, click through there for a high resolution version of the image.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Rest In Hell

Worst Senator of my lifetime. It's probably inappropriate not to note that he seemed to soften a bit after retirement, and reportedly worked hard to help control AIDS in Africa after leaving the Senate. But, nevertheless, here's the face of poisonous, bitter, racism and homophobia.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Friday Galactic Blogging

This is a composite image of the galaxy known as M81, built from data in four bands, (quoting from the APOD page)

X-ray data (blue) from the
Chandra Observatory, infrared data (pink) from the Spitzer Space Telescope, and an ultraviolet image (purple) from the GALEX satellite, with a visible light (green) Hubble image.

The inset is X-ray band data showing some detail on black holes in the central structure of the galax, located about 12 million light years away, which has been featured here before.

It is an APOD image and all the usual stuff applies.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

It Probably Oughtn't Be Called Rock Music

but, this is, in my not-so-humble opinion, among the greatest electric guitar songs of all time. Robert Fripp is so unlike anyone else playing the instrument he really belongs in a class by himself. Although ultimately it would be hard to exclude Adrian Belew from that class.

Friday Galactic Blogging

Another beautiful example of the effect of close gravitational interactions and the seemingly infinite variations in galactic structure that can result. This is AM 0644-741 (the "AM" designation is new to me.) One of a class of "ring galaxies," it is officially a lenticular galaxy. It is about 300 million light away in the southern constellation Dorado. It's an APOD image, and, as always, clicking through is rewarded with additional information and higher resolution views.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

More What's Wrong With Texas

This time via Pharyngula. Hint: more stupid religious cultists, but this time with real jobs.

Friday Galactic Blogging

Between the foreground dust clouds and diffuse gas (a bit of our own galaxy - an Integrated Flux Nebula - and the intergalactic background, this strikes me as a canonically beautiful image. The galaxies in the background compose the M81 group of galaxies. M81 (Messier 81) itself with M82 (Messier 82) are a gravitationally locked pair interacting visibly, as I've blogged in the past. This is an APOD image.

Click once for the APOD page, click through there to see the higher resolution image.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Is Wrong With Texas?

Firstly there are far too many unutterably dumb religious sects. Secondly, there are apparently state appeals court judges who aren't any brighter. In the matter involving the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), the Mormon splinter group accused of the organized statutory rape of young girls, the Texas Third Court of Appeals has ruled that the state has failed to show that the 440 children seized in a raid last month were in any immediate danger. Apparently pedophilia, as long it's based on religious beliefs, does not constitute what this judge believes to be a danger to children.

New York Times:
"Even if one views the FLDS belief system as creating a danger of sexual abuse by grooming boys to be perpetrators of sexual abuse and raising girls to be victims of sexual abuse... there is no evidence that this danger is 'immediate' or 'urgent'," the court said.

I find this ruling stunning. I think this judge shows a remarkable indifference to civilized norms, I imagine as a response to some kind of badly formed idea of religious freedom - though I'd be hard pressed to prove that last assertion. I hope this ruling is overturned on appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, and I hope that reason is found to remove the idiot judge who issued it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Huckabee Seems Like a Decent Guy

Dan Drezner makes a good point. I'm glad Huck isn't going to be the next President. I can't help feeling a lot of affection for the guy - and I'm pretty grouchy when it comes to people responsible for what I think are disingenuous anti-science rants - a sin Huck is certainly guilty of. He nonetheless comes off as a basically sane, intelligent, decent guy for the most part. It's a paradox.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Galactic Blogging

Viewed side-on a spiral galaxy can reveal an entirely different kind of view. This interesting, fat looking, edge-on spiral is NGC 3628, a member of the Leo Triplet - a small group, three galaxies, which also include the spirals M65 and M66. The long tidal tail, seems to evidence of gravitational interaction with the other members of the group. This APOD image links back to the APOD page for the image that, as always, links to a higher res version.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Spackerman Gets It Right

Spencer Ackerman:

Welcome to the next four years. These people have plunged the country into two failing/failed wars and killed hundreds of thousands of people. (Also, they pulled off a housing crisis and a healthcare crisis and an environmental crisis and when an entire city drowned the administration left the black people to die.) There’s no alibi: when conservatism had its chance to govern, this is what it yielded. If I was one of them, I’d bitch about Rajiv Chandrasekaran or Jeremiah Wright or whatever was necessary to distract people from what I did when I had the chance to do it. Get ready for years and years and years of this puerile and tiresome nonsense.

The whole post is about partisan whinging among people on the public payroll - and is worth reading in its own right. But, this paragraph stands out as a crystalline depiction of current reality.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Friday Galactic Blogging

This nicely situated galactic collision is close enough and oriented such that we have an extremely good, detailed snapshot of the ongoing interaction between two apparently merging galaxies. One hundred million light years away, it's almost in our neighborhood (the furthest visible galaxies are thirteen billion light years distant), located in the Hydra-Centaurus supercluster, the nearest supercluster except for our own.

Friday, May 2, 2008


John Derbyshire's felicitous neologism, ought to, in my opinion, be promoted to the status of permanent part of the vernacular. And since my friend bjkeefe has outed me as a cheerleader for National Review's The Corner group blog, this seems like the right time to assert this. Also I'd like to quote part of the ferocious anti-anti-science bit Derb posted there today:

One of the best reasons to be a philosemite in our time is sheer gratitude at the disproportionate contribution Jews have made to the advance of Western civilization, and to our understanding of the world, this past two hundred years. The U.S.A. dominated the 20th century in culture and technology, to the great benefit of all mankind, in part because of the work done in math and science by the great tranche of pre-WW2 immigrant Jews from Europe.

Derb has his detractors, and I've seen him accused of racism - a charge I know he'd deny despite the acidity of some of his commentary. The clarity of his declaration on this embodies a view I endorse completely.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ethanol - Left and Right

I've disagreed with David Freddoso here, in the past. I fully endorse his point of view in the following:

On many issues, Conservatives have more in common with ideological liberals than we do with the business interests that come to Washington looking for a handout. Our goal should be to persuade the Left — to use clear failures we agree on, like ethanol — to demonstrate that Big Business will always come to Washington for handouts until Washington stops giving them altogether. Each new handout is the next ethanol, the next sugar — and once you've started giving a handout, it never ends.

Read the whole thing. I may disagree with Freddoso on many things, but he's one of the reasons that reading The Corner is far from a waste of time.

Friday Galactic Blogging

The object pictured in this dramatic non-APOD view of an ongoing galactic collision is known as Arp 148. "Arp" is the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies. The object to the left is the smaller of two galaxies which is apparently just completing the process of passing through the center of the larger object, leaving a ring shaped galaxy in its wake. Spectacular!

H/T Bad Astronomy Blog. Clicking the image, will link you to the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope page for this object, and higher resolution views are offered there.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's All About Me!

I initially posted this on as a comment on, but it works here pretty well, so I'm reposting it:

The only presidential candidate I've ever voted for who actually won that election was Bill Clinton. And since his second term wasn't really much in doubt that means I've only cast one effective presidential vote in my life. My primary record is even more dismal, with a perfect zero percent success rate. I've been dithering between Obama and Hillary for months, maybe leaning slightly towards Obama, but as I've said before: I don't care who wins as long as the the winner in November isn't a Republican. So, yesterday was the primary in PA, a beautiful perfect morning to walk to my local polling place - a gentle breeze at sixty-eight degrees, chirping birds and flowering trees under blue skies - and pull the lever for Obama. At that moment Obama must have heard a thunderclap, as the skies darkened and a bony finger revealed itself among the clouds pointing his way while a low voice chuckled unpleasantly.

Ok, maybe it's not all about me. I still really only care that whoever emerges from the primary process on the Dem side is an effective candidate, and it increasingly looks like both of them are dismayingly incompetent. I would like, at some point, to feel as if my political judgment was shared by a majority of my neighbors - but right at the moment it looks to me like McCain is trending toward consensus support.

Which, getting back to my first point, is somehow appropriate - I would have strongly considered voting for him in 2000 - I wasn't a fan of Gore's at the time - so naturally he was womped by the most ridiculous opponent imaginable; this time I've decided that I couldn't vote for him under any circumstances, and right now, at this moment, it appears as if the skids are greased, his glide path to the Presidency seemingly assured.

Or maybe I'm just depressed - it's still a long way to November.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Galactic Blogging

This is a beautifully detailed image of the Sunflower Galaxy, aka Messier 63 and NGC 5055.

It's a spiral on the same scale (approximately one hundred million light years across) as the Milky Way, and its structure is so clearly seen that it was one of the first so-called "spiral nebulae" to recognized as such. The smaller image is an infrared view showing just how intricately the spiral structure of this object is revealed. Click the main image for the APOD page. Click through for the higher resolution view.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Not Much Chance Of That


ERIC MULLER UNCOVERS a truly unforgivable act by John Yoo. A Dukakis endorsement! Hell, I voted for Dukakis myself. Remember that if you find yourself starting to repose much trust in my political judgment.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

This Is Childish, I Know

bjkeefe has taken note of a truly inspired bit of snark. If you’re familiar with Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism then you might recognize the Ezra Klein blurb as a spot on parody.

The following
pull from a Daniel Gross piece that I saw through Kevin Drum:

...The proposal to give new tax breaks to homebuilders and banks is yet another example of the pernicious trend of privatizing profit and socializing losses, which is gnawing away at faith in the system. Dilute the shareholders, not the taxpayers.

and a bit more from Drum:

The lesson here is this: Republicans will never give up. No matter what the problem at hand is, the solution is a corporate tax break of some kind. They will never allow a bill to pass Congress unless there's a tax cut included, no matter how stupid or misguided. Period.

provoked the idea for this picture.

So, admittedly Jonah’s cover image is ultimately more clever than my parody. Still, Jonah’s book is about the most irritating political stunt in the past little while. A little more snark seems like just the right thing.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I'll Take Option 4 Please!

One of the infinite number of things about which I am not an expert is economics. Despite this I'm convinced that the biggest culprit in the current mortgage crisis is a combination of bad regulation, not enough regulation, and bad actors on the financial supply side, if you will. I hear plenty of clucking about how people who made bad decisions should suck it up and live with the consequences. One of the reasons I feel pretty confident that that's mostly BS is that there are people who do seem to have some expertise, and who write about these topics in a way that seems oddly independent of the players. Hint: there aren't many in that latter category writing on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.

Having gotten to the end of that long wind-up, this was nicely said.

My heart goes out to people who don't have the luxury of prudence.

Too bad those without that luxury will probably also go without the luxury of help. However, if you lend money rather than borrow it, then providence may smile on you.

Bow Shock

More cool astronomy, this time from Nasa's Image of the Day gallery. The border between the outgoing stellar wind from young star LL Ori and gas evaporating from the vast Orion Nebula (if you hold out your hand at arms length against the night sky, that's a pretty good approximation of the subjective extent of that complex from our point of view) create a shock wave at their boundary, anologous to a 3D version of the wave formed at the bow of boat when it moves independently of the current.

Friday Galactic Blogging

It looks like a Barred Spiral here. The Large Magellanic Cloud is classified an Irregular, but on longer exposures, such as this deep field exposure from APOD, its structure begins to seem a bit more ordered, as if it was once clearly a barred spiral, but its gravitational interaction with the Milky Way and the Small Magellanic Cloud has distorted that prior configuration.

Click through for the APOD page, click on the image there to see the Hi-res view.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Him Funny!

James Wolcott sums up Michelle Obama's political liabilities succinctly:

I'm afraid Michelle Obama doesn't get it. Auditioning for the role of First Lady of this great, godawful land, her task is to beam at her husband as if every day was the first page of a lifelong adventure novel unfolding like a succession of blue skies (with a few storm clouds around to build character through adversity), nod with agreement at each sage talking point, applaud metronomically at conclusion of said point, and then wave a big buh-bye to the crowd as if victorious confetti were falling.

That's how it's always been done and breaking with tradition now risks frightening punditry's pale males with retractable penises who are intimidated by strong black women such as Michelle Obama, Oprah, Aretha Franklin, Toni Morrison, and, of course, Kathy Griffin.

He goes on helpfully, providing guidance through the complexities of McCainian language and usage.

Hate Spewing Crypto-Racist...

...Michelle Malkin reliably promotes a gob-smackingly irrelevant solution to the problem of gang violence.

Any guesses?

Rescind L.A.'s sanctuary law! (Known as Special Order 40.) Got that? Since there are illegals in street gangs, more immigration enforcement will fix the problem. Heather Mac Donald concurs, unsuprisingly. I'm not calling MacDonald a racist, because she's not. Malkin, on the other hand, famously authored a tome (I neither name it nor link to it) favoring the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, with the clear implication that that would be the best strategy for dealing with Muslims in America, post 9/11. She's now been on an anti-immigrant crusade for a couple of years, blaming just about every problem she can name on the easiest targets she can find. What a charming lady. Here's a recurring motif of the pot calling the kettle... oh, never mind.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Mahavishnu Orchestra

Before jazz-fusion got to be dull and kind of snottily about how good you could play, but not about whether you could write - these guys were shredding eardrums and exhibiting astounding musicianship while simultaneously playing dynamic, compellingly listenable material. "John Mclaughlin" used to be synonymous with "guitar virtuoso," and Billy Cobham is a percussion god. Just one generation removed from Miles Davis' 1960's experiments in combining jazz and rock, this is about as good as this particular genre gets.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Identifying the Non-Trollop Vote

Sometimes doing the oppo research is almost too easy.

H/T The G-Spot.

More Power Line

While I'm complaining about Power Line, maybe conservatives could stop making weirdly false assertions about Democrats:

Current Democratic Party dogma holds that international trade is bad; or, at least, imports are bad.

Come on. At least try to approximate a plausible account of what a Democrat might believe. Sheesh.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

NYT, Hotbed of Anti-Semitism

How is it "censorship" when an a company turns down one ad, but just business as usual when the same thing happens to another ad? Ads get rejected every single day, asserting censorship and implying that the unstated reasons are related to a judgment about "the Jewish Lobby" is not particularly convincing. It just depends on whose ox has been gored. Scott Johnson:

David Harris is the executive director of the American Jewish Committee. He has posted an interesting account of the censorship of the AJC's weekly radio ad by the New York Times-owned radio station WQXR

Mickey's Mouth (As It Were)

Kevin Drum asks:

are we just making up special rules for the Clintons?

Of course we are. The context doesn't even seem to matter. In this case it's Mickey Kaus asking rhetorical questions about the Clintons' finances. Mickey - I feel entitled to refer to him on a first name basis, as a long-time fan of - asks, in part:

The press is focused on where all that money ($109 million) came from. Fair enough. But where did it all go? This seems like a genuine mystery.

except, as Drum points out:

Hillary already has to file an annual financial disclosure form with the Senate, and the 2006 form shows that the bulk of the Clinton family fortune is invested in Citibank deposit accounts and a qualified blind trust. The 2007 form will be disclosed in a couple of months. What more is there to know?

there is no mystery! It's been open season on the Clintons for a long time now. Some conservatives demonstrate absolutely no restraint in posing bad faith innuendo, or even making simple, evidence free accusations. (Why hasn't Hillary ever been arrested for Vince Foster's murder?) Mickey's a smart guy with actual journalistic credentials, you can sure if he really wanted an answer to that question he could have found it as easily as Drum.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Trace Elements

Ok, I'm no sartorial god. But between the accessory choices and the topic - plus the fact that I haven't added any content referential to Pharyngula in what seems like days - I couldn't not share this video. It doesn't hurt that it's really funny. Also, this seems like a pretty cool site.


bjkeefe encapsulates the Malkin Experience.

I have a feeling that even my clever headline won't rate me an Instapundit link.

If You Read My Blog...

... then there's a good chance you'll enjoy The G Spot. I first saw her via a link in an Ezra Klein post and she guest blogged for him a while back. It's smart, somewhat wry, and plain good writing. Recommended.

I found the "Backwards Bush" widget at her blog.

LGF, Best Friend of Tyrants

Say what you like about Charles Johnson, he's not a stupid man. What I utterly don't understand about him, and many other conservatives, is their apparent indifference to tyranny and their disdain for those, like the ACLU who try to stand between us and the creep of tyranny into our lives. Is it so hard to understand that guarantees of due process affect more than just the few people who might be denied it if nobody steps up?

And what can possibly be said about this dumbass? (Or, apparently, organized group of dumbasses.)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Petition Drive

Is there a worse pundit/blogger type than Michael Goldfarb, in terms of a complete lack of intellectual honesty? (Of course there is.) The fearless leader of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists, always willing to Support the Troops, never shy to find reasons for other people to die. Fighting for the Freedom To Argue Your Beliefs Whatever The Evidence (hereinafter known as FTAYTWE [catchy acronym, don't you think?])

In recognition of his efforts a new blog has been created: Draft Goldfarb. Go there. Sign the petition. Your country needs you.

What Can You Say About a Story Like This?

The Nation:

That dawn, naked, covered in blood and feces, bleeding from her anus, she found a US soldier she did not know lying naked in the bed next to her: his gun lay on the floor beside the bed, she could not rouse him and all she could remember of the night before was screaming and screaming as the soldier anally penetrated her while a colleague who worked for defense contractor KBR held her hand--but instead of helping her, as she had hoped, he jammed his penis in her mouth.

Over the next few weeks Smith would be told to keep quiet about the incident by a KBR supervisor. The camp's military liaison officer also told her not to speak about what had happened, she says. And she would follow these instructions. "Because then, all of a sudden, if you've done exactly what you've been instructed not to do--tell somebody--then you're in danger," Smith says.

This is what "Lisa Smith" (she's asking not to identified) reported on the record to Karen Houppert. The story goes on to describe another nightmare:

Over the next month and a half, she says, she faced a series of hurdles. She would be discouraged from reporting the incident by several KBR employees, she says. She would be confused by the lack of any written medical protocol for sexual assault (as the only medical person on site, she treated herself with doxycycline). She would wander through a tangled maze of interviews with KBR and Army investigators about the incident without any clear explanation of her rights. She would be asked to sign several documents agreeing not to publicly discuss the incident, she says. She describes having her computer--which she saw as her lifeline, her main access to the outside world--confiscated by KBR staff as "evidence" within hours of receiving her first e-mail from a stateside lawyer she had reached out to for help.

And eventually she would find herself temporarily assigned to sleeping quarters between two Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) officials, who, she says, assured her that it was for her own safety, since her alleged assailants were at the same camp for questioning; they roamed freely. When she wanted to move about the camp to get meals etc., she was escorted.

Read the whole thing. Blog it. It's all allegation, at this point, that should be remembered. But if there's no serious investigation it'll never be anything but. And why is the victim of an alleged rape being treated this way, in contrast to the alleged rapists? (Well, we know why.)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Friday Galactic Blogging

NGC 2841
. A close (50,000,000 light-years) obliquely oriented unbarred spiral, visible in Ursa Major. It's bigger than the Milky Way and only superficially similar. It is an APOD image and as such the same old stuff applies: click the image once to view the APOD information page. Click the image on that page for the higher resolution view.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Still More: BMFA

Nobody should hear about Martha Wainwright for the first time without the chance to hear the amazing, passionately profane song she wrote about her dad. (Loudon "Dead Skunk" Wainwright.)

While I'm At It

(Find it here. I've had to replace the embed link which has been removed.)

It was through this performance is that I first became aware of Martha Wainwright. The soundtrack album to this film is pretty constantly in the CD player in my car.

Martha and Adrian

That is, Martha Wainwright and Adrian Belew covering Bowie's Heroes. Who better than Adrian to perfectly cop that sustainy Robert Fripp sound? And he's not even playing a Les Paul!

Adrian has played guitar for David Bowie, and in what must be among the greatest compliments to a guitar players skills had a gig with Frank Zappa, followed by a long-standing (I assume continuing until now) seat in King Crimson - the only (non-bass) guitar player to have played with Fripp on a continuing basis.

Martha has an impressive musical lineage. Brother Rufus Wainwright and she were raised by mom Kate McGarrigle and her sister Anna McGarrigle. Dad is Loudon Wainwright III.

Lack of Preexisting Postings

Ok, I have multiple "preexisting conditions." I work as a contractor so my health insurance tenuously hangs on my wife's state of employment. I care a great deal about health care and and don't post nearly enough about the topic. In lieu of actually having said anything substantive, I offer this bit about Elizabeth Edwards, against whose health problems mine pale, somewhat.

Jennifer Oullette on the LHC

Over at Cocktail Party Physics she says a lot more than merely calling them "idiots." Unlike some.

Julian Sanchez on Hillary on "the Math"

I'll admit to a bias in favor of geek humor. My Phil 101 teacher (also the guy at the head of my introductory course in symbolic logic) had me reading Gödel, Escher, Bach when its "trade paperback" edition was initially published. (i.e., a long time ago.) I write software for a living. The only meaning behind the name of this blog is, well there is no meaning: the name just reflects my own particular amusement at self-reflexive labels. At one point in my life, I thought doing mathematical proofs was entertainment. All of this to establish that I'm not objective about this sort of thing. Still this, by Julian Sanchez, is the funniest damn thing I've read in a long time. Your mileage may vary.

What Am I Missing?

David Freddoso:

Meanwhile, the largest turbine manufacturer is...General Electric, and by a mile. They now own half the market for turbines, and nearly half of generating capacity.

So don't be surprised when you see GE lobbying for carbon-cap legislation that would effectively subsidize wind-power (even where it is already profitable). Green is also the color of money.

I don't want to put myself in the position of defending GE, of all things. But what exactly is the message here? David imagines that GE might, at some future time, begin lobbying in its own interest? Isn't that something which Republicans, particularly economic libertarian types, are in favor of? I guess if you can associate the label "Green" with something, then it's, by definition, specifically evil, and we must be, even in the context of evidence-free imaginings of the future actions of putative allies, vigilantly guarding against it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Goodbye Dith Pran

Among the most affecting movies I've ever seen, and one of the best cinematic polemics ever committed to celluloid was The Killing Fields. Roland Joffé could have stopped working at that point and been assured that his reputation had been firmly established. Everybody associated with the film was uniformly excellent - I can't praise the film highly enough.

Dith Pran, portrayed vividly by Hang S. Ngor, died today of pancreatic cancer.

Here a link to a late interview with Dith Pran.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ok, Ok I'm Reposting Too Much Stuff...

... from Pharyngula:

But it's not every day I can find a Hip-Hop video that I actually want to post.

Idiots Trying to Shut Down the LHC

In a Hawaiian court.

James Gillies, head of communications at CERN, said the laboratory as of yet had no comment on the suit. “It’s hard to see how a district court in Hawaii has jurisdiction over an intergovernmental organization in Europe,” Mr. Gillies said.

“There is nothing new to suggest that the L.H.C. is unsafe,” he said, adding that its safety had been confirmed by two reports, with a third on the way, and would be the subject of a discussion during an open house at the lab on April 6.

[Walter L. Wagner] is not mollified. "They’ve got a lot of propaganda saying it’s safe,” he said in an interview, “but basically it’s propaganda.”

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Galactic Blogging

160,000 light years away, this is a stellar nursery named LH 95 in the Large Magellanic Cloud. This Hubble image from APOD shows a great deal of previously unseen detail including a number of lower mass yellow stars much less bright than the bigger bluer monsters that are a great deal less trouble to image.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band

These guys are awesome. I wish there were better vids available - in particular their jazzification of Play That Funky Music, White Boy is about the most paradoxically rocking thing I've ever heard.

GRB 080319B

Naked eye visible (briefly and barely) gamma ray burst from a distance of 7.5 billion light-years - more than half-way across the visible universe. Just staggering.

H/T Instapundit.

Update: APOD link.

PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins Discuss PZ's Expulsion

H/T Dawkins' Site.

Non-Galactic, Non-Friday Post

Actually, in a sense this is still a galactic image, just from the interior of our galaxy; a weaselly construction I may just abuse if and when good galaxy images become too scarce for a weekly submission.

All that aside, on the left is a glorious, detailed image of the Cat's Eye (NGC 6543), a gorgeous planetary nebula half a light-year across and about three thousand light-years distant. This particular image has been created from archival Hubble data and reprocessed to accentuate details. The image on the right, from Wikipedia, shows how differently the imagery can ultimately appear, depending on how, exactly the digital data is processed. It also seems to illustrate how succesfully the details were shown in the other image, though I have no reason to assume that the two images were generated from the same source data.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Obama Slimed

Citizen Journalist Charles Johnson quoting Joel Pollak quoting Ali Abunimah quoting Barack Obama:

'Hey, I'm sorry I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I'm hoping when things calm down I can be more up front.'

Ali (of Electronic Intifada) was reporting an apparently unwitnessed conversation. Generally, people like Citizen Charles and Pollak are somewhat skeptical of assertions they find in publications like Electronic Intifada. Apparently that skepticism doesn't apply in cases where their own interests are served.

Update: I let my distaste for LGF and Charles Johnson, whom I consider a hateful, vitriolic. intellectually dishonest writer affect my opinion of Joel Pollak, about whom I actually didn't know anything. After he pretty politely mentioned a misspelling of his name in my post, I did what I should have done when I wrote the post originally. I spent some time reading his blog. I doubt that Joel and I would agree on much politically, but he seems like a pretty rational guy. If that doesn't convince you, read his blog for yourself.

Pharyngula Expelled

I happened to get to this item through Wolcott's blog. He doesn't think that any paraphrase would do the piece justice, and I see no reason to argue with that. Do click through. Nobody with a sense of humor will fail to be amused. More from Pharyngula. And another reaction. Good grief.

More links to PZ Myers' expulsion here.

And an eyewitness report.

Friday Galactic Blogging

There are very few individual stars in this image. In fact almost every object in the photograph is a galaxy, to closely paraphrase the APOD blurb. It's a picture of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies, a large, dense cluster of over one thousand galaxies, located about 320 million light years distant from us and found near the North Galactic Pole, which means that we would present as a face on spiral to an observer in any of the galaxies in this cluster.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Self Parody

Michelle Malkin apparently doesn't care how closely she approaches self-parody:

So, the “new” bin Laden tape is threatening a “reckoning” with Europe over the Mohammed Cartoons. The Religion of Perpetual Outrage strikes again:

I challenge anybody to find someone more invested in being perpetually outraged than Ms. Malkin.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Speech and Right-Wing Reaction

Reverend Wright's rhetoric is apparently boilerplate Black Liberation Theology. Most people who attend churches where this is a fairly common thread aren't going to feel as if it's particularly remarkable, and it's not. Born in the heat of the civil rights movement in the 1960's, it expresses feelings that are real enough, and, withholding judgment on whether they're still appropriate, they certainly were forty years ago.

The disingenuous screaming for apologies and timelines from right-wing bloggers is cynical nonsense being tactically deployed by the same old partisans who scream for effect in response to every triviality that comes to light regarding every Democratic candidate for high office. One easy way to measure this is to read The Corner, Malkin, et al... and compare that to reaction anywhere else, from left- to non-partisan. The phrase "right-wing noise machine" is no distortion of reality.

Sad, Sad Day

Arthur C. Clarke is gone.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Galactic Blogging

The Mice. So called because of their long tails, the result of apparent ongoing collision between these two striking galaxies. According to APOD, they are "likely members of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies," and are about 300 million light years distant.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Tear Off Your Own Head!

Elvis on Letterman.

Friday Galactic Blogging

Miss me? Judging by the referring URLs, the galaxy images are the biggest draw to this blog, my sterling prose notwithstanding.

This is M104, one of the the most recognizable, and easily seen (apparent magnitude 9.0) galaxies available to us. Also known as the Sombrero Galaxy, for obvious reasons, it is yet another gorgeous spiral - its prominent dust lanes providing a unique appearance. As is always the case with APOD links on this blog clicking the image will take you to the APOD site. Clicking on the image there will open the ful resolution version.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Taxi to the Dark Side

I've just watch the filmaker interviewed on I there's a single reason to dislike this administration and its policies, this film is the perfect encapsulation.