Monthly Archives: March 2012

You’d Think So-Called Educators

WOULD KNOW THIS ONE. You can add all the feathers you can harvest (please make sure they’re not from endangered species). You can stick them on with wax. You can flap until your arms are tired. If the system isn’t engineered for flight from the ground up, it’ll have all the aerodynamic qualities of a brick.

It’s almost as though they’d all been paying attention to irrelevant stuff (such as fallacious theories of pedagogy) and ignored — you know — the actual subject matter.

Now, why would you do that?

It’s About Freakin’ Time

HEADLINE AT THE HILL.COM reads, GOP Shifts to Offense in Highway Bill Fight.

You know, you could just write, “GOP Shifts to Offense” — full stop — and consider that a feelgood news piece. Really doesn’t matter what the subject is. Just that the GOP in Congress were to show some spine would be good news.

And then there’s this:

If an extension is not passed before Saturday, the government’s authority to collect the 18.4 cent-per-gallon gasoline tax would expire.

Which excites two responses. A) “You say that like it’s a BAD thing.” And 2) “Only 18.4 cents? Damn! We need to work on that!”

So Monoculture Is

BY THE ENVIRO-WACKOS a bad thing. And I’m not sayin’ they’re wrong. Still and all look at Washington, DC. Talk about your company town. Except it’s not the workers who owe their souls to the company store, but the customer. How wack is that?

Worse, Baby Doll. We’re not the customer; we’re the — as Ross Perot put it — the owners of the country. And the employees have taken over and maxxed out the credit cards on stuff we don’t need, don’t want, and surely can’t afford. And they’re living large on our dime. And when you say they ought to be prosecuted for it, they look at you like you’re head’s on backwards. As Nancy Pelosi famously said, “Are you serious?”

Serious as a heart attack, honey. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Sad News

OUR CURMUDGEON has announced that he will be shutting down Eternity Road as of the first of next month. It’s a shame it has to end — like many, I got a lot of pleasure out of reading there daily. But all good things come to an end, and — when you think about it, between ER and the Palace of Reason, Fran has had an incredible string of hits. Anybody can get tired and frustrated, wanting to do other things, but feeling burdened by the blog. I completely understand. But I also know we’ll miss it, here at BTB, and will keep an eye out for Fran and his alter ego to pop up around the Intertubes and sure to delight. And, as one of the reasons Fran has given for shutting down ER is so he can pay more attention to his fictioneering, here’s hoping we’ll have occasion down the road to cheer the decision as ultimately a wise one.

All the best in your endeavors, Fran. You’ll be in our thoughts always.

Quote of the Day

You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.

–C.S. Lewis

Trayvon Martin

IN ORDER TO PROTEST the apparently killing of a hooded yoot’ by a putative vigilante, the New Black Panther Party, et al, propose …

And people wonder why the rest of the country — including a good many black folk of my acquaintance — view black race hustlers somewhat askance. (Just listen to the tone and the words when the talk turns to the behavior of “Jesse” (no last name — everybody knows who you mean).)

I mean, it’s possible the kid himself was acting in self-defense, although repeated curbings of Zimmerman’s skull makes me tend toward skepticism, but we don’t know. And leaping into the abyss of conclusions serves no one except those bent on invidious bad faith acts.

And it’s a wonder that the black proponents of a lynching aren’t having their heads asplode from the dissonance.

::wanders off humming Lady Day’s Strange Fruit.::

Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, they had a march Tuesday to support Trayvon Martin, who’s been dead and — one presumes — buried for a month, now. One hopes Mr. Martin has taken note of it.

And nobody — in my hearing at least — has a thought for the unseemliness of that.

Say It Out Loud

ANYONE WHO RESISTS voter ID laws is bent on electoral mischief and vote fraud. Such resistance must be taken as prima facie evidence of bad faith intent.

The idea that minorities (read: blacks) somehow cannot get a photo ID solely on account of their being minorities is demeaning and racist.

Man, It Makes Me So Mad

MAKES ME SO ANGRY when I hear people arguing about the so-called Affordable Care Act. (In an aside, have you ever known any name any legislature has given to any bill to accurately reflect either the intent or the actual effect of the law that eventuated?) Everybody seems to miss the point. It’s not whether the fine is a tax or a fine. It’s not whether the individual mandate is constitutional or not (though, still, it’s not). It’s that Congress does not now nor has it ever had the lawful authority to legislate in the matter at all. That it has nevertheless done so in the past is no good reason to allow this outrage to stand. That’s not prudence or modesty, it’s dumb obstinance in error. Pure fallacy. The solution is not to add insult to injury, but rather to pull Congress back out of the realm where it has no brief to go. No legislation in the matter of private arrangments between citizens — in any matter.

Good luck with that.

So… what? You just throw your hands up and surrender? Well, I don’t accept that, Dolly. You don’t get to waive my rights. It doesn’t work that way.

Actually, I think it does. At least, that’s the way it looks from here.

You’re not helping.

Is Property a Civil Right

SURE SEEMS LIKE IT ought to be, which — I guess — in this day and age means the government will tell you it’s not, it’s a privilege granted or witheld at the whim of the Federal bureaucracy. But at one time, the Founders thought it ought to be. In fact, the famous phrase, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” originally read, “Life, Liberty, and Property.” Not that you have the right to have property given to you, or to a specific piece of property, but that the right to own property is a fundamental condition of a free state.

Glenn Beck, on radio last Thursday in the 10:00 hour, was retailing the horror story of a property owner denied free exercise of proeprty rights by the EPA. The story popped up elsewhere in the news and on the Web during the day.

In my opinion, the immediate individual officer(s) of the EPA are liable for civil rights violation, of a right to and in private property, protected by the Ninth Amendment and by the absolute absence of any enabling clause in Article One. Further, the latter condition affirmatively prohibits Congress from legislating in the matter.

And, yes, a finding for a plaintiff in such a case would necessarily define the EPA as an unconsitutional agency. That is a feature, not a bug.

Obama Makes a Trenchant

OBSERVATION ABOUT Stalinist North Korea, but fails to apprehend that, staring through binoculars across the DMZ, he’s looking into his own future.

People Talk About Institutions

OF HIGHER LEARNING owing their graduates rebates, if not full refunds, for misrepresentation of the value of a sheepskin, let alone the merchantability of their education itself. And they’re not wrong.

But me, being all contrapuntal and stuff, I wonder how long it’s going to take Harvard (and Columbia) to demand the President stop representing himself as a graduate — that he’s devaluing their brands, as it were. I mean, what smartest person in the room would pull some of the boners he has?

Examples? You want examples? Have you not been paying attention for the last three years?

So the Human Wave

MY… I GUESS YOU COULD CALL IT my political awakening came at just-barely-ten, in the summer of 1964. Prior to that time, I knew that my mom preferred Nixon to Kennedy — claimed special knowledge of the sins of the Kennedies due to having lived in Boston at the time of JFK’s first run for national office and seen firsthand the hamfisted tactics of the Democrat machine — and that Barry Goldwater was somehow special because his name could be rendered AUH20. After that, I had a label for myself and the beginnings of an understanding of the nature and desiderata of human interactions.

My at-the-time best (well, only) friend, (Hey, Aroother, wherever you are), in the middle of one of those perfect Tom Sawyer days, taken at his grandparents’ farm, asked me what political strip I considered myself. Now, given that our parents were cut of the same conservative cloth and saw it meet for us to associate, it was a pretty good bet we weren’t that far apart. But Art was a precocious kid. Then between fourth and fifth grades, he was already an accomplished radio amateur, and in a year, he’d skip six grade and go straight into Walnut Hills High School, Cincinnati’s high-ranking yuppie brat academy. (Full disclosure: I went there, too, only a year later, so, being an insider, I get to snark about it.) I tell you that to tell you this: he was politically advanced on me. But his question, as perspicacious as it was, nailed the point in one.

“Do you,” he asked when I admitted to my essential cluelessness on the subject, “Believe in Live and Let Live?”

It was a phrase I’d heard before. Not given it much thought, but it did resonate with me as being “right.” As in correct. I had no notion then of Left and Right in the political sense. So I answered, “Yes.” And, in that moment, it became truth. I really did believe in Live and Let Live. It seemed to me an excellent guiding principle to live by, and I have tried to ever since.

“You,” he informed me as only a precocious ten-year-old can do, “Are a libertarian.”

First I’d heard of it. But I immediately grokked the term, though I didn’t hear the word “grok” for awhile, yet.

So, imagine the ‘splosion inside my little skull-full-of-mush when, two years later, here came Robert Heinlein — already my favorite science fiction author — with The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Which showed an entire generation — if they would appropriate the lesson — the full implications of living by that simple phrase and touchstone — Live and Let Live.

And that, sometimes, you have to fight for it.

It may have been that Heinlein’s writing resonated so loudly with my parents that his books were ubiquitous in our house. It may have been that his entire oeuvre-to-date was in print throughout my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood — while so few others’ were. It may have just been that he was the most popular single science fiction author of the 20th Century and everybody read him. Whatever it was, I read his entire works as were in print — many of them as they first appeared in public. (Yes, that is intended to make you young whippersnappers envious.)

And, it may have been that ubiquity and completeness, or it may have been that Heinlein was so very good at heinleining — and not just engineering and futuristic concepts, but also political and moral ones as well — but I absorbed a great deal of my world view from him, by osmosis, and largely unawares — in the manner of a fish absorbing oxygen from the water passing over its gills.

At about the same time, enrolled at Walnut Hills, which — for your reference — proudly counts among its alumni both Jerry Rubin and Elisabeth Bumiller, I encountered any number of liberals, socialists, and red diaper babies. I hung out with members of the Unitarian Church’s Liberal Religious Youth organization. Some of my best friends were yippies, communists, members of SDS — and later, I’m sure — the Weather Underground. The school hosted sit-ins almost before the wider community had ever heard of them. Students participated in left wing agitprop and demonstrations. One of the biggest I recall was for the first Earth Day in 1970.

My senior year I had a course called Socio-Economics. At the time, I thought it was similar to social studies, which was purported to be a mashup of history and geography. These days, it should be very easy to spot the rat in the trashheap there. My Sosh-Ec teacher refused to allow me to read Heinlein’s Channel Markers (from Analog) to the class. (That was 1972, which was why I thought for sure the thing had to have appeared the latest in 1971, not ’74, like everybody says.) He said it was a fascist tract. I guess that was when the mask began to slip.

All during my six years at Walnut, various folks of liberal stripes tried to persuade me that, as a libertarian, I really belonged in their camp. And they sold it so prettily, too. My Ancient and Medieval History teacher said more than once that, in that day and age, a true conservative had to be a liberal. He may have been right: someone wishing to conserve the values of the American founding should consider himself to be a classica liberal. But, of course, that’s not what my teacher meant. My LRY friends called me a fellow traveler, said they wanted the same things — self-determination, respect for individuals.

Only the communists were really honest. “Come the revolution…” they said, and they didn’t sugar-coat it.

But, even then, for those with the eyes to see, the American Left was already in the thrall of international revolutionary Marxism. And they were following the Gramscian prescription of the long march through the institutions. There was an “of course” about all of the cultural marxism — television, radio, music, the movies… and, of course, literature. Back then, reading Atlas Shrugged was a pretty bold move. Reading it in public was practically looking for a fight. Starship Troopers was another. Funnily enough, though, an alum who’d been to Israel, worked on a kibbutz, and joined the IDF for the ’67 war wasn’t so adamant about it. He’d seen the elephant. He knew what Heinlein was talking about.

And, pondering the issue now, the Left’s almost knee-jerk reaction to Starship Troopers was an early case (for my generation at least) of a derangement syndrome that also had leftists reacting to any strong figure from the Right like vampires to garlic. One thing that threw some of us off was Nixon. Nixon really was a bad guy, or so it seemed. G. Gordon Liddy in the ’90s made a strong case that the real bad guy in Watergate was the odidous John Dean, and that the crime was committed for rather tawdry reasons. But we didn’t know any of that at the time. And Nixon resigned in disgrace. So, when the Left started frothing at the mouth and doing their very best St. Vitus’ Dance at the mere mention of Nixon’s name, it was to some extent understandable.

But Robert Heinlein? Did they know he’d supported communists in the ’30s? (But then, everybody did.) The cognitive dissonance of calling the author of Stranger in a Strange Land a fascist just didn’t register with anyone. They were simply deranged on the subject. Some of them still are.

Long about the same time as Art and I had our proto-political discussion, a “movement” in science fiction that had its roots, according to some, in the same period that gave us Heinlein (and Asimov and myriad others) — the New Wave. Whether it was Merrill or Moorcock or Harlan Ellison that gave us the term, there were many authors who gave us the fiction. In a sort of a manifesto at the time, (1962), J.G. Ballard (who has many other sins to answer for as well) was read to utter:

… I think science fiction should turn its back on space, on interstellar travel, extra-terrestrial life forms, galactic wars and the overlap of these ideas that spreads across the margins of nine-tenths of magazine s-f. Great writer though he was, I’m convinced H. G. Wells has had a disastrous influence on the subsequent course of science fiction … similarly, I think, science fiction must jettison its present narrative forms and plots.

I read this then — and read it now — as saying that mankind should turn its back on the possibility of space exploration and the rest, as well as an optimistic view of “the” future — of any possible future — in favor of Ballard’s preferences.

Quelle reactionary. Quelle dirigisme.

And, yes, I enjoyed Moorcock’s Corum stories and Elric of Melnibone [sic], and Harlan Ellison’s lyrical way with titles, if nothing else, and Samuel Delaney’s — well, everything except Dahlgren — and Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions and Dangerous Visions 3D (I keed, I keed).

But the relentless pessimism was a drag. I was so glad that, when the Campbell awards were initiated, the first few winners had a generally affirmational view of humanity and the future. It seemed a counter to the otherwise omnipresent negativity of the field in the late ’60s and ’70s. It seemed to presage a positive direction for the field.

In the years between school and the beginning of my present career, I took a stab at writing for realsies. I’d done the usual pastiches and cris de coeur poetry in high school and gone nowhere with it. By my mid-20s, I had a small trunk of juevnalia I kept hauling around and polishing. Polishing a turd, as somebody said. I had a brief correspondence with Ben Bova when he was editor at Analog after John Campbell died. He’s a Facebook friend now, but I doubt he remembers one particular starry-eyed kid who could never get the science right from the ’70s. Then I had to earn a living and the writing got stuffed in a file drawer and forgotten for twenty years.

I kept reading speculative fiction. But none of it had the same impact on me that the Tarzan books I’d red in a hot attic from the original pulp editions with the WWI notices about saving paper for the war effort. Or the Barsoom books, or Have Spacesuit Will Travel or Podkayne. None of it made me tear up like: Oh, Bog. Is a computer one of your creatures?

Oh, sure, there were good books in there — gold among the dross. I still buy every book that C.J. Cherryh puts out. Emma Bull, Spider Robinson, Orson Scott Card… But there were so many — too damned many — who got one book published, then disappeared. For the longest time, I thought it was me. I’ve always been short of pocket money. There have been long stretches when I didn’t have money to buy new books. I figured those works came out and went out of print in those intervals. And, shamefully, I never missed a lot of them.

Little did I know political correctness had taken hold and clung for dear life around the throat of FSF. The muscular, no fear, open-eyed literature of ideas I had so loved in my youth had turned into yet another fever swamp of the Left. Editors and publishers, post modern lit crit majors burrowed into the publishing houses and hollowed them out. And the new conglomerates who bought up the old houses didn’t care so long as the bottom line was in black.

Still and all, there remained an optimistic core. Or cadre, if you will.

Yeah, there were the technocrats who couldn’t comprehend the flaw of their premise that, if we could only elect the right smart people, all our problems would be solved, or if the smartest people could somehow become benevolent dictators — and you know they’d be benevolent — or if the right race of space aliens could come and save us from all the myriad sins of humanity. And they seemed to occupy ever more of the nice neighborhoods in utopian cities. And their aliens never came and asked, “Why didn’t you kill all the tyrants?” “When will you people learn not to trust those who seek power?” “What happened to all your individuals?”

But in the ghettos of those utopias, subsisting on the leavings of those arrogant enough to think themselves our betters, we lovers of liberty and the essential promise of Man lurked and plotted. And our core belief was that we wanted to take power to abdicate it. We wanted to get the reins of government to leave the people alone, to force the government to leave US alone. To force the establishment to get out of the way of the only true human progress — that of the individual.

It started in radio, with the ending of the Fairness Doctrine. It has flowed through the culture, at about twice the pace as the leftists marched, and now it threatens the Left’s hegemony, and they’re starting to panic. They believe the old wheeze about the pendulum of politics and its supposed swing from left to right and back again. But it’s much, much worse. Because we in the Right — and in the Human Wave (to the extent the two are not entirely congruent) — know this about human progress.

True human progress trends toward the maximization of the ability of the individual human being to realize his full potential. Anything which contributes to that is good, anything that detracts from that is evil. And collectivism — of any stripe — does not enhance the freedom of the individual to be his best. And more and more human individuals are coming to realize this.

And, folks, mark my words: there’s no pendulum swing on that. There’s only one way to go: the more people realize the benefits of freedom, the more will want it. And the only reason to even slow that progress is with lies. Lies that are far too easy to expose.

In the last decade or so, I have taken the pen back up to write again. I have a pocketful of stories to tell, and the time and energy to tell them. And, though I don’t intend to suffuse them with the scandals of the day, there are eternal verities, such as that basic truth about individuals, that are unavoidable. You will come to know my characters as individuals, each and every one of them struggling in his or her own way to be free.

And that, my friends, is why I am a Human Waver. I believe in progress — true progress. I write to expose the lies.

There are other reasons to be a Waver, of course, but those are mine. The Other Side will fight us tooth and nail. Doesn’t matter. We’re right. We’re in the majority. We will win. As Chip Delaney put it in Babel 17, This war will be over in six weeks. Well, maybe a touch longer, but the outcome is not really in doubt.

Bush v. Gore Did Not

— SCORN QUOTES — “change history”, but not for the reasons Althouse adduces. (Although she’s not wrong in her own context.) Folks, this has broader implications than con-law inside baseball. And remember this when you’re calibrating your BS meter. Very rarely does it take inside knowledge to throw the bright yellow bollocks flag. Most of the time, all you need is basic understanding of how the world works.

Take this case, frex. Nothing that happened in the past — no matter how epochal its effects — can properly be said to have “changed history.” And all you need to know to realize that is the definition of history. History is a recording of past events. By definition you cannot change that. Oh, you can learn new facts and change the recording, but that’s not the usage here. The usage is claiming that past events changed past events.

Just sitting here watching your head wobbita, boss.

Certain epochal events could be said to have made history, but just saying that should let you realize how silly the contention is. Historical events made history. Well… DUH.

Oh, and…

On Gore v Bush

It was my opinion at the time and remains so today that the contretemps in Florida during the 2000 Presidential election was the tip of the iceberg of the Democrat party trying to steal an election. And, if you remember the recordings of the preppy Republican mob calling for an honest count in Dade County, I was not alone in that assumption. I seem to recall that one left-leaning friend of mine agreed as well. Gore got caught and had to defend the indefensible. And, yes, it may very well have unhinged him, but he was on the CAGW hobbyhorse long before that (read: Earth in the Lurch (1992)).

(H/T: Insty.)

You Mean You Can

CALL YOURSELF A COMEDIAN without a government-issued license? Doesn’t truth in advertising hold sway here? How can Bill Maher call himself a comedian when he isn’t funny? Shouldn’t the FTC investigate?


Pity you have to label it.

Yeah, well. Back in the ’60s, I was amazed that somebody could sue a property owner for an injury sustained while trespassing — and not be thrown out of court on his ear. So you can tell I come by my neanderthalitanism honestly.

Is Survival Ethical

IN A SPEECH BEFORE THE graduating class of midshipmen at Anapolis (which I could swear was printed in Analog in 1971, but everybody says it was 1974), later given the title “Channel Markers,” (and then was printed in Expanded Universe as The Pragmatics of Patriotism in 1980-ish), Robert Heinlein exposited his thesis that patriotism is the highest ethical behavior possible for a human being — ethical being defined as that behavior which tends to promote the survival of the species.
And he took a troop of baboons as his — so to speak — text, pointing out the facets of their division of labor in aid of the security of the troop in illustration.

The New York Times wants you to defend the eating of meat as ethical.

Well, Dolly, if it were me, I’d accept their premise — that it’s not — and the consequence — starvation — and tell them “You first.” But that’s just me.

Yes. It is, innit? And this is moi: they obviously have mistaken me for someone who actually believes there is no such thing as a stupid question. I also wonder what they think of Heinlein’s thesis.

And, by the way, I did not know that totse (Temple of the Screaming Electron) was still online. I would have thought the site would fall victim to PATRIOT act suppression of “dangerous” knowledge. Apropos of almost nothing at all.

Being an Autodidact

I’VE HAD CONSIDERABLE opportunity to observe myself learning things. Though I know better than to generalize from my singular experience, I can’t help wondering how universal it might be nonetheless.

For example, I say often that I learn best and fastest by breaking something and then fixing it. The urgency of needing to get a system or object back into working order has some bearing on this, I’m sure, as does the “muscle memory” of having done something — even only once — as opposed to merely reading about it. And then I read how many really smart and inventive people got their start exploring the universe by taking things apart as a kid. My mental metaphor is that of an alarm clock: fairly large-scale, relatively simple, albeit incredibly sophisticated, and filled with lessons on mechanics, materials, and the rest. And filled with myriad tiny parts which, when spread out across a working surface (and thus subject to loss and disturbance of ad hoc order), can provide a motivating spur similar to having a long suffering mother waiting for you to put her oven back together so she can fix dinner.

Which all makes this quite interesting. I’ve always had more trouble learning from online texts than from printed ones, although I’ve put it down to the scattered, unfocused, and nonlinear aspects of hypertext more than anything. Maybe there’s another cause — a difference in comprehension.

Hmm. Have to watch that and see where it leads.

Wait Just a Minute

IF JP MORGAN CHASE can freeze the Vatican’s bank accounts on suspicion of money laundering — presumably at the behest of the United States government —

Since the Vatican is a sovereign state…

Is that not an act of war? Unalloyed aggression by one state against another?

A Teacher Gave Me

A GENTLE DRESSING DOWN for writing in the present tense. Not nearly as virulent, I must say, as those I count as idiots sounding off in their spendid vaccums who question the intelligence, perspicacity, ancestry, and hygiene habits of anyone who dared to do so. But enough to give me pause. After all, I chose to listen to this teacher for the wisdom on the subject of writing I hoped to imbibe. But part of being an artist, I have learned in my career as one, is having the arrogance to think yourself better than everybody around you, and to know your way is right, even when somebody you think wiser than yourself says you nay.

Me, I don’t see getting het up about the choices artists make. They are what they are, and in the end, merely matters of taste — not holy writ. I don’t much care for rap — scorn quotes — “music.” I was taught that music requires at minimum melody and rhythm. Rap seems almost to eschew melody even more than Johnny Mathis’ “Johnny One Note,” even though it has rhythm and aplenty. But there are any number of practitioners of the art I actually like, including — strangely enough — Eminem. The guitar riff from his Eight Mile is impresssive as all get out. After all, Chrysler’s ad agency thought enough of it to rip it off for their “Imported from Detroit” commercials. And the spoken word has a long tradition in bardic/troubadourian performance history. So, who am I to criticize those who roll a little anger at perceived oppression and injustice into their work. It seems clear they are working at it and not just fronting. De gustibus and all that.

I’m not a big fan of interstitial poetry in novels, either. Standalone, fine. The pop song as poetry — outstanding. I greatly admire Paul Simon and Justin Hayward to name but two from a long list. I just have a problem with a hero bursting into song like George M. Cohan as they paddle down the river. I skipped most of the poetry in Lord of the Rings for example. So I’m going to call Prof. Tolkien an idiot for including it in his magnum opus? How silly of me if I did. Especially since I, hypocrite I, have a recurring theme and meme in Geppetto’s Log in which the characters keep quoting Joni Mitchell’s “Carey.” Go figure.

Some of the same people (although — I’m glad to say — not my teacher mentioned above) who object to the present tense also object to prologues and preludes, which strikes me as errant silliness. It’s as though the packaging of an item should determine its suitability to its task. The cardboard strap used to hang a hammer in the hardware store’s pegboarded display is a just determinant of whether you ought to buy the thing. Just… silly. After all, what is a prologue but a chapter under a different name? A rose by any other name…?

Speaking in the present tense is not blasphemy. It’s not forbidden by God, or even Gotama. It’s a choice an artist makes. To me, resistance to it out of hand is … well, slightly north of silly. Try it. See if the work can sustain the unusual methods. It is, after all, the artist’s task to muster not only his subject matter, but his medium, and technique and meld them into a whole work. Give him the benefit of the doubt and partake of the work in toto first. After all, is it really any more distracting than a tale told in the first person? Unusual, perhaps. But do we not seek out novelty for that reason alone — that we want something unusual?

When I was first composing Geppetto’s Log, back in the early Oughts, Greg Bear’s Slant came out in mass market paperback. It is, as should surprise no one, written in the present tense. I took it as a sign from the publishing gods that at least some of them didn’t object to the present tense for telling tales as did some of my compatriots on the Online Writers’ Workshop. All that said, I ask you, my loyal readers: what do you think? Especially those who’ve beta’d on Geppetto’s Log or Armed Citizen.

The Caturday Post

MEGAPIXELS is all you hear about a camera. And, to a certain extent, as digital cameras get better and cheaper, it is all about that elusive image size to be hunted on the wide savannahs of imaging. But, as I learned decades ago, you can’t live out there on bad optics. And the reason that Nikon cameras were the brand that Paul Simon mentioned in his lament to the now-vanished film brand, “Kodachrome” is optics. Easily the right-hand bookend to the sage career advice from The Graduate, “Plastics.” Plastics and optics.

The best optics are made of glass. It is, however, at least theoretically possible to make lenses — good lenses, even — of plastics. After all, camera lenses are all about the indices of refraction and the shape of the interface. Any transparent material with an IoR above 1.0 (the IoR of water) will do. Glass, frex, ranges between about 1.3 and 2.

But I suspect the lens of the iPhone camera is made of plastic — probably polycarbonate — and not very well.

Of course, that a pocket phone should have a 5 megapixel camera in it at all is one of those dancing bear things. It’s not how gracefully the thing dips and twirls, it’s that it dances at all — miraculous.

And, so, I shouldn’t be surprised that my brand-new, just-out-of-the-box, “insanely great” iPhone’s camera should be outperformed by my almost-ten-year-old, beat up, dirty, 3Mpx Nikon CoolPix. It’s all about the optics.

The first picture I took on purpose of something I was deliberately pointing the camera at was of Karma, sitting atop a wheeled, plastic, drawer bin in the study. What was neat to me in that moment was that… THERE WAS NO FLASH!. How cool is that? It took a picture in low light, thus no flash, thus the cat’s eyes were neither shut nor lazors-engaged.

Then I struggled with the whole download-the-photograph-to-my-computer thing. (Can you believe that the best solution APPLE can offer is to email the picture to yourself? And then they offer to make the image smaller. Like I want that.) I finally ended up with the brute-force approach of opening the phone in the Windows Explorer and copying the files over. (But that doesn’t work with music, by the bye.) And I opened the picture up in my default JPEG viewer*. Imagine my dismay to perceive 1) motion blur and B) compression artifacts.

Now, the motion blur I could understand. My hands are not rock steady in the first place and the iPhone is not the best platform for steady photography. The way you have to hold it to press the shutter button contradicts everything you ever learned camera ergonomics. But if they put the shutter button in the right place, there would go your all-glass controls, so I get that.

But the compression artifacts are just a sin against God and everybody. They make Baby Michelangelo cry. There’s no need for them. You can get clean images and a 10:1 compression ratio out of the JPEG format if you really care about image quality. This stuff of making fur look like feathers in order to simplify your image is just rid-freakin’-dick-you-luss.

::tout le sigh::

That was Thursday evening. Friday morning, I mentioned my disappointment with the camera to one of the artists at the Patch Factory (the inimitable Becks), who advised me that there’s an app for that.

I should have known.

And those of you unaware of this and yet finding yourself in just this particular predicament, pay heed. The app is called Camera Awesome! and it is — awesome. !. It’s free, for starters, it allows you to focus in one place in your image and expose according to the light in a wholly other place in the scene. AND — and… It features image stabilization.

I haven’t had a chance to really wring it out. But here’s a picture taken using the zone features.

Here’s a picture of Earnie taken WITH Camera Awesome, but NOT with image stabilization. (At the time, I wasn’t aware that you have to explicitly turn image stabilization ON.)

And, in the field of learning that “There’s an app for that” is no joke — well, it is, but not yet tinged with the bitter irony of FAIL — a recent article in PC Magazine hints at even greater riches.

And I’m sure I’ll have a great time exploring all that — but later. Today, I have to rebuild my desk. One of our kittens ::coughjanecough:: appears to think that thin wires are like Vines — the candy — and loves to chew on them. To date, the little stinker has ruined at least one computer mouse, a phone charger, a set of powered speakers, a pair of $40 headphones (thank God they weren’t the $200 variety), and my Wacom tablet. So I’m going to tear down my desk (still the temporary one of milk-crate file boxes, furniture dollies, and a sheet of 1/2″ MDF) and rebuild it so all the wires are INSIDE, where chewy kitties can’t make chewy kitty toys out of them.

Bad kitty! If you weren’t so cute and cuddly, I’d… I’d… Nothing.

*(IrfanView, BTW, which I heartily recommend as a lightweight file manipulator for anyone who does a lot with image files.)

It Just Works—My Ass

OR: “IT JUST WORKS my ass.”

As I announced yesterday, I went with the iPhone. Like all such decisions, there’s good and bad come of it.

Following the setup instructions, I plugged it in and fired up iTunes. I had my trepidations, which turned out to be justified, albeit not for my reasons.

Oh, life never allows your pessimism to be fulfilled as you imagine it will. Where would the fun be in that? No. While I was concerned that Apple would try to take over my life and lock up all my original work out of some mistaken notion of piracy, simply because none of it carries DRM code. But no. Apple tried to take over my life because it’s an arrogant, paternalistic — I dare say “leftist” — company whose self-satisfied, elitist executives think they know better than I how I should run my life and organized my files on my computing devices. I’ve always thought that about Apple, and whereas the various companies that made up the Wintel cartel might have been different species of arrogant bastards, at least their methods tended to leave users alone in freedom to enjoy their devices as they see fit.

But I’m far too familiar with Apple’s products to swallow the “it just works” wheeze. Murphy is too equal-opportunity to allow that to pass.

So I plugged the iPhone into the computer via the handy-dandy (proprietary) USB connector. It said, “We’re gonna download an iOS update, Boss. It’ll take 25 minutes.” Cool, thinks I. I’ll go take a nap. Apparently, it took nowhere near that to dl the OS update. And then it attempted to fire up iTunes.

Which promptly froze. Version required: two dot releases more recent than what I had installed. Of course. I probably should have seen that coming, but you’d also think that the genii in Cupertino could anticipate it. (BTW, how much longer is Apple going to be in Cupertino? Recent news of a shift to Tejas makes me wonder if they’re just one more in the long line of objects lessons about leftist politicians, the innumeracy of the bureaucracy, and the original sin of the nanny state, and how you really do have a use for all that math they tried to pound into your thick skull-full-of-mush in high school.)

Obama: we have a math problem. The man was born without an elbow. He’s got an irony bone in place of his humerus.

Thursday night was not pleasant around here. It never is when you’re fighting with new tech.

But eventually, things got sorted. And, while I haven’t yet made a single phone call (I have sent a text message and about five emails, though, so that’s something.), things progress.

It’s bedtime, now. But in the morning, I have some comments about photography and why optics are more important than megapixels. I think.

Just Being My Usual Contrapuntal Self, Here, Boss

PEOPLE ARE TALKING about whether or not the country can survive another four years of Obama. They may be missing the point. Me, I wonder whether Obama would survive another four years of Obama.

Remember, he’s not a lone operator. He’s got the whole Marxist/Leninist/Maoist front working with him. And making sure he doesn’t backslide.

It’s a Friday Tradition

KRIS RUSCH has written a thoughtful and well-informed post on the ongoing change in the publishing world. Well worth the RTWT.

As Insty Says

FASTER, please.

Found at Good Shit

My First Smart Phone

SO HERE’S HOW YOU START a dogpile in your blog comments. Mac vs Windows.

I have a choice to take between an iPhone 4s and a Windows phone — a Samsung Focus.

I think the criteria pro and con come down to this: does the computer interface with the iPhone require an Apple computer to — frex: program the address book, or up- or download music or ebook files?

As I am of the opinion that Apple is no friend to creatives — taking the stand they do on the DCMA and DRM, and their collusion in restraint of trade with the Big 6 publishing houses in the whole agency-pricing-model-slash-price-fixing scandal, I will not now or ever in the future use iTunes or iBooks, so those features of the iPhone do not entice me in that direction. And, if iTunes is the only way that MP3s can be played on the iPhone, that may turn out to be a dispositive negative. (I am aware that there is a Kindle app for the iPhone.) But, if there are other reasons pro the iPhone, I’m open to persuasion.

Speak your minds in comments. As always, play nice.

Update: went with the iPhone.

Oh. I Was Wondering

OG ‘SPLAINS why Punxatawney Phil was a scosh off. (Six weeks (42 days) from Groundhog Day is … today.)

The Halls of Justice

WHERE THE ONLY JUSTICE is in the halls. Or something like that.

So the FedGov sues Texas to overturn the state’s voter ID law. (I still want to know where the DOJ gets off suing anybody — EVER. If it’s illegal and you have evidence of a crime, file charges. If it’s not, STFU. It’s that “Right to Liberty” thing.)

And it’s slam-dunked because, as it’s said, the state didn’t show that voter fraud due to lack of an ID is a problem.

And the FedGov adduces as its rationalization for the suit? The voter ID might — MIGHT — discriminate against Hispanics.

From Spain?

No, Dolly. When leftist bigots say “Hispanic” that’s code word for Mexican. They don’t even show the same concern for Cubans or Puerto Ricans. Or Chileans.


But… “Might?” “MIGHT”?

Somebody’s head should be asplodin’ from the disonnance.

Watchoo Mean “We,” Paleface

MY BIG PROBLEM is that **I’M** getting the government **YOU** deserve.

Instead of a Quote of the Day,

HERE’S A WORD PROBLEM (remember those?).

…[M]ost authors will never earn out their advance. Hmm. Let’s think this one through, as we know that advances are pretty blooming low anyway, and have dropped from 5K to 4K and falling…. (if this reminds you of the improbability drive, that’s because that is what is.) Let me run this one past your logic circuits: If the buyer of patented new mousetrap offers you a royalty of 5% and advance of $4000… and somehow you never earn back that $4000 in royalties, let alone any additional royalties, and the mousetrap manufacturer has shall we say opaque accounting practices… But when you offer him your newest mousetrap design, he sighs and says that out of the kindness of his heart he’ll take that off you for $3500… and that he’s bought seven other new mousetraps and none of them ever earned his advance… do little warning lights come up? Does the circuit that alerts you to improbable events say that the chances of someone paying MORE than the item is actually worth, repeatedly, are several million to one, against?

Dave Freer

Just For The Record


You Know, the Main Problem I Have

WITH BILL MAHER isn’t that he’s rude, crude, and unattractive. It’s that he’s a fraud. He tries to sell himself as a comedian, to which he’s entitled, but, really, he’s not funny. What’s a comedian worth who’s not funny? I axe ya!

Quote of the Week

“We shall lose the West unless we can restore the use of reason to pre-eminence in our institutions of what was once learning. It was the age of reason that built the West and made it prosperous and free. The age of reason gave you your great Constitution of liberty. It is the power of reason, the second of the three great powers of the soul in Christian theology, that marks our species out from the rest of the visible creation, and makes us closest to the image and likeness of our Creator. I cannot stand by and let the forces of darkness drive us unprotesting into a new Dark Age.”

–Lord Christopher Walter Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley

(Found at Watts Up With That.)

It Occurs to Me

(WHICH IS A REALLY BAD headline, because it’s also the post title and the URL, but WTF, it’s almost my bedtime.)

It occurs to me, as it does from time-to-time, that most really BAD — epically bad — political ideas are born of impatience. It’s like Silent Cal was purported to have said on his from-time-to-time occasions, if five problems are rolling down the road at you (and I always picture wild automobile tires doing this — steel-belted radials, not on rims, or a car, just the tires), four of them are going to bounce off into the ditch before they get to you. So if you get all steamy in the silks for the problem — really horny to (you know) don’t just stand there; do something: anything, even if it’s wrong — the chances are you’re really, really gonna fuck it up, and they get worse (or better, depending) the earlier you spot the problem and act on it.

And it strikes me that the contention “We’re not gonna vote our way out of this” and its corrollary, “The only solution [I can see] is armed sectarian conflict in the streets,” are born of both impatience and a very short conceptual timeline. Political change takes time. We didn’t get into this mess in one election cycle, we’re not getting out of it in one — or even four. It’s gonna take at least the same century it took to get here to get back.

But you sure as hell ain’t gonna win if you quit at the start.

Just Because I Didn’t Doesn’t

MEAN I WOULDN’T HAVE if I had had the notion — say I told you so. Simon says of the destruction of both the timber industry and the habitat of the northern spotted owl:

By destroying the forestry industry in the Pacific Northwest the government also destroyed the habitat for the bird it was trying to protect.
The reality of government in action.

Now, I am always willing to stipulate that there may be a place for government action. However, on close examination of particular cases, I am almost always forced to admit that … not so much in this particular case.


Well, Dolly… It’s an attempt at precision. Or honesty, at least. I don’t know of a countervailing case, but sensible consideration demands that the possibility exists that there may be one. Which is why all the stats don’t add up to 100%. Y’know?

Something your tendentiously mendacious leftist will never stipulate.

Never say, “Never.”


That This is a Possibility

MAKES ME EVER MORE glad each time I hear of such things that I have chosen the independent route to publication, as fraught as it is. After all, what would you do if the rights to your work were to be an acquisition in a bankruptcy?

Makes one shiver to think.

I Tend to Question Everything

ALTHOUGH I DON’T always speak up. But I firmly believe that the first freedom is the freedom to be left alone. Activist or proactive government is an aggressor government, and how much the greater ill to aggress against one’s own citizens than a foreign nation? So I question the truism that “We get the government we deserve” and its corollary that, because we prefer to vote by not voting — selecting, as it were, “None of the above”, we are thereby somehow derelict in our civic duty.

You’re using “we” in the collective sense, because you can’t mean yourself — you vote.

Yes, Dolly. We is plural and, by default, collects all those present into a single object or group. Your point?

Just sayin’s, all.

Eh-heh. Right.

So I don’t accept that a citizen should be required to involve himself in politics. I do, however, believe, that those who do involve themselves in politics should always put themselves at risk of life and limb. You want to meddle in the affairs of your neighbors, be prepared for them to say — and for you to accept as dispositive — “NO!” Or even, “Oh, HELL no!”

While it is true that all it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing, it should be taken as axiomatic that evil may not like what good men do in defense of their own liberty. And that, when the state no longer supports and defends those actions of good men in defense of liberty, the state has ceased to be a legitimate governor of mens actions and should —
read: must — be replaced.

Remind Me Again Why

WE HAVE THE FEDERAL CIVIL SERVICE? Oh, yeah. Right. Because the spoils system it superceded was so bad.

Mm-hmm. Ri-i-i-i-ight.

Sher. You keep thinking that.

A Little Chatter Out There, Please

SO THERE ARE OVER 500 of you who stop in here at some interval or other and have bothered to sign up. Now that you’ve gone to all that trouble, how about commenting once in awhile.

Consider this an open thread. Maybe comment. Maybe request. Maybe suggest. Play nice, though. I’ll be watching.

The Problem with Political Ecumenism

IS THAT THE IMPULSE TOWARD comity makes fools of everyone. Take Charles Lane for example. Insty’s pull quote voices this fatuous nonsense:

Democrats and liberals are fond of calling their conservative and Republican adversaries “anti-science.” To the extent that the right espouses “creation science,” or disputes established facts about environmental degradation, it’s an appropriate label.

That’s right. Go right for the lone countervailing example, but mention nothing about the Left’s embrace of lysenkoism, eugenics, acid rain, ozone depletion, coral reef die-offs, endangered species, the “fragility” of a desert environment, old-growth deforestation, the supposed dangers of DDT, hormone-based contraceptives, and the current big wheeze, catastrophic anthropogenic global warming — sorry (scorn quotes) “climate change”.

The real fact of the matter (But when would a news organization ever report “just the facts, ma’am”?) is that, whenever a Leftist (or a Democrat, but I repeat myself) accuses someone of being anti-[anything] what he’s really saying is that his defendant is actually opposed to the leftist’s misappropriation of the facts for political ends.

The Right isn’t opposed to women’s having access to contraception (per se). Just having to pay for it.

The Right isn’t anti-woman when it argues that forcing a religious institution to violate one of its principle tenets (which, BTW, the Right also argues is just plain good sense for humanity at large) is, perhaps, a violation of one of the tenets of the foundation of the state.

Nor is the Right anti-woman, or anti-choice when it observes that, once a woman is pregnant, the choice has been made — long before — and argues that, for the species, rampant termination of pregnancies is both murderous and suicidal. Nor is it anti-science to observe that, with the advent of ultrasound and intrauterine micro-photography (i.e., the advancement of science), we have a finer-grained appreciation of the instantiation of human life than the old Spartan, If it survives exposure on the mountainside, it’s a person.

The Right isn’t engaged in a war on science when it insists on proof of global warming before dislocating the entire global political and economic infrastructure, resulting in millions — or, perhaps even billions — of deaths.

The Right isn’t engaged in a war on women when it suggests that, maybe, interrupting a natural process with major surgery or radical hormone “therapy” might not be a good thing for the woman involved.

The Right isn’t engaged in a war on the poor when it observes that coerced charity (read: state welfare programs) is corrosive for both the giver and the recipient, and perhaps the state oughtn’t be in the charity business. (And, given the role that religion has historically played in charity, isn’t the welfare state an establishment issue?)

And the Right isn’t anti-science when it points out that electric cars were abandoned over a century ago in favor of the hydrocarbon-fueled internal combustion engine because the one works and the other doesn’t, and nothing substantial has changed in the interim; that wind power died out with the clipper ships for approximately the same reason. Yes, sail power works, but it doesn’t scale. Who’s ignoring the established facts now?

People, you have to resist the otherwise laudable impulse to grant the Left the benefit of the doubt. They start from operating in bad faith; they have no principles they will not abandon — those objects leftists hold which you might see as principles are infinitely mutable depending on the situation. They not only won’t give you the benefit of the doubt, they will lie about you and distort your positions to put you in the worst possible light.

And, yes, in reply to Mrs. Bush (41), compromise with these people is a dirty word.

Fifty Acres Isn’t an Estate

TEN THOUSAND ACRES is an estate. Fifty acres is a big front yard.

These people getting all hysterical

ABOUT CONTRACEPTION funding are actually making the Right’s arguments for us. They keep wittering about “What about when medical costs are incurred; should the rest of us have to pay for that?” The implication being that, when cost shifting occurs, cost containment becomes an excuse for oppressive state behavior, then anything goes.

Or, as my old gran said, “When needs must, the Devil drives.”

‘Splain to me again why “we” are paying for anybody’s medical care in the first place?

Political Name-Calling

(I’M FOR IT.) As the saying goes, when you have named a thing… you have named it.

We (by which I mean Rush) need to stop calling FLOTUS Moochelle and start calling her Michelle Antoinette.



I Keep Telling You

DEMOCRATS START OUT acting in bad faith. And Attorney General Eric Holder is one of the most egregious.

And you keep supporting them.

Shame on you.

If you are a good-hearted person, concerned for the well-being of your fellow man, the Left is not your ally. You should give no support whatsoever — not your vote, not your signature on petititions, not your pennies in the jar: none of it — to Democrats.

Not sure who you SHOULD support, given that a lot of Republicans are just Democrats Lite, but… do some research for God’s sake. For the country’s sake.


ARE YOU SERIOUSLY contending that, because the Constitution only prohibits the GOVERNMENT from infringing on civil rights, it is impossible for private individuals and corporations to infringe upon those rights?


Oh, Goody.



But of Course You Know

BIG 6 PUBLICATION IS A guarantee of quality. Because they’ve vetted the authors, you know. And they spend so much time and money on the editing process. And they take ebooks seriously.

Yeah, it’s a single datapoint — a.k.a. an anecdote. But, still and all, you read a lot. I know you do. Can you honestly say that books are as well-made as they used to be? In any format?

I Haven’t Thought Much of David Frum

FOR A VERY LONG TIME. He’s stricken me too much as a self-aggrandizing opportunist and too little the Buckley-like man of the Right. I don’t usually draw much from a person’s physical shortcomings, because it seems so petty to do so, but with Frum, it fits. He is, in the end, a very small man.


ANDREW BREITBART was born in 1969. Stop and think about that. Just for the sake of comparison, the picture of me at upper left was taken in 1970. I was 16. That makes me approximately 15 years older than Breitbart.

The popular (in the ’60s) musical humorist, Harvard mathemetician Tom Lehrer used to say in his introduction to the song “Alma” that he was rather depressed to realize that, “…by the time Mozart was my age, he’d been dead five years.” To say the least, the comparison could get a little invidious at times.

Another popular phrase at the time was (after a movie title), “What did you do in the war, Daddy?”

Breitbart was a happy warrior for what’s good and right in the world and a tilter at the windmills of evil. (Don Quixote: there’s a left-romantic metaphor for you — hopeless, insane, ineffectual, wrong on the facts, and thereby enobled. Everything Breitbart was not — except that last.) What he did in the war — Daddy — was to change the paradigm. In the words of Mythbuster Adam Savage, “I reject your reality and substitute for it my own.” And, yeah, he was enobled in his efforts to save the world from its own stupidity.

What did you do in the culture war, Daddy?

By the time Andrew Breitbart was my age, he’d been dead 15 years.

Wow! Did you know? Andrew Breitbart was born in 1969? Stop and think about that.

Sauce for the Goose Department

PROPOSED EXCEPTIONS to the Obamacare First Amendment violation (read: contraception mandate), Harry Reid bleats, “Will allow any employer to deny any coverage for any reason” (OWTTE).

Sort of like allowing the camel’s nose of Obamacare under the tent flap of constitutional limits on government will allow the government to “require the citizens to [buy any product|pay any tax|conform to any regulation|accept any limit on freedom] for any reason at any time.


So the Women of the Left

HAVE THEIR PANTIES in a wad and jammed up their buttcracks over what Rush said about that poor Georgetown Law student who testified before Congress the other day. And the situation reminds me of nothing so much as that old joke:

Q (outraged): What kind of girl do you think I am!?

A: We’ve already established that. Now we’re haggling over price.

Of course, the Left — lying as usual — is obfuscating the fact that the objection is not to the use of or access to, but that the young idiots want to use the state monopoly on lethal force to coerce their fellow citizens into PAYING THEM TO HAVE SEX! So, yes. In answer to your question, I do think you’re a pro-slavery statist git.

And then there was the poor benighted law student who died of embarrassment when told at the pharmacy counter that her insurance didn’t cover contraceptives. A law student who didn’t read her insurance policy. Mm-hmm. That one should have THAT point entered in her permanent record.

Conservatives Argue It Isn’t Really Censorship

WHEN A BUSINESS RESTRICTS WHO it will do business with on the basis of the content of goods and services. Such as what the idiot bluenoses at PayPal are attempting with their ban on funds transfer relating to erotica. They reason that the First Amendment is a proscription lain solely on Congress (and not even on other agencies of the Federal State, let alone the United States or municipal governments — or private actors) and therefor nobody but Congress — or agencies empowered by laws passed in Congress — can engage in censorship. It’s censorship when the Army cuts your letters home to ribbons, but not when a private business refuses to sell a DVD of Behind the Green Door.

But I say, “Nazzo fast, Guido!”

The Constitution is a charter of limits on the Federal Government. It does not pretend to be an exhaustive list of all of the protected rights of the citizen. In fact, the Framers — and those who understand this subject more than a little — would argue that, since rights descend from God, no charter of government can possibly list them all, or place any reasonable limits on their free exercise — with the one proviso that no right can include the right to initiate harm to others.

But PayPal, as a business, is vulnerable to antitrust provisions (to the extent that those laws themselves are not unconstitutional). And, due to the nature of its business, it must act as a common carrier, and accept all comers who can pay the freight. (I argue this is also the case for internet service providers, which would imply that they cannot act as content cops — the bluenoses’ current death grip on power notwithstanding.) And, as such, their discrimination is invidious, is, indeed, a violation of civil rights — without regard to those rights’ being enshrined or protected explicitly under the constitution. The right of free expression, as it inheres to the individual must be inviolate. The First Amendment to the Constitution enshrines that principle, even though it only bears a writ pertaining to Congress. It therefor follows, as the light of morning burns off a predawn fog, that no actor may vitiate the right, and that those attempting should bear not only society’s opprobrium, but that of the state as well — as agent for the People, in defense of liberty.

If smart lawyers can’t see a solution to this already extant in statutes, then perhaps one ought to be encoded. As “there ought to be a…” laws go, it’s less odious than most.