Monday, October 22, 2012

Morning Balloons

Dawn Patrol, Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, October 2012.

Dawn Patrol is gorgeous. These are the unfuzziest pics of my collection. My camera and I have not yet learned how to do focus in dim light yet.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Prep For Flight

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, October 2012.

I finally got some pics up from this year's Balloon Fiesta. Not too many days of flying, as the winds were strong this year. "My" balloon only flew twice, as the balloon is quite tall. A few years back, a sudden gust blew the balloon into an olive orchard, and it spent four days in the shop getting sewn back together.
Take off is optional
Landing is not.

The camera auto adjusts the light, but at this point, the sun is still behind the mountains, and it's just light enough to see what we're doing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thoughts on Education

Education is a state-controlled manufactory of echoes.
    ~Norman Douglas

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.
    ~Albert Einstein

If you want to see what children can do, you must stop giving them things.
    ~Norman Douglas

Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.
    ~B. F. Skinner

Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.
    ~Malcolm Forbes

I think everyone should go to college and get a degree and then spend six months as a bartender and six months as a cabdriver. Then they would really be educated.
    ~Al McGuire

Education: the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty.
    ~Mark Twain

If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library.
    ~Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa for the win

Monday, September 03, 2012

Teaching kids

"[Kids] don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are."
—  Jim Henson,  It's Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Advertising? Oy

You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.
    ~Norman Douglas, South Wind, 1917

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fly High, Neil

"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."
Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012
Fly high, Neil.
The Apollo 11 Flight Journal

Lies... and Truth

I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them.

    ~ Adlai Stevenson, campaign statement in Fresno, California (10 September 1952)

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Small Dichotomy Here.

A small dichotomy here. On one hand, there are people who say certain things don't exist, or don't happen often. On the other hand, there are groups making advertising campaigns covering those issues that "don't don't happen often", or create websites to cover issues around things that "don't happen often". With all the issues in the world that need dealing with, why would people create stuff about things that "don't happen often". Unless, of course, they happen a lot. United Way's campaign on teen pregnancy caused by rape or incest, which according to some, rarely happens.

Makes as much sense as any other explanation

Abbott and Costello explain Unemployment! COSTELLO: I want to talk about the unemployment rate in America. ABBOTT: Good Subject. Terrible Times. It's 8.3% COSTELLO: That many people are out of work? ABBOTT: No, that's 16%. COSTELLO: You just said 8.3%. ABBOTT: 8.3% Unemployed. COSTELLO: Right 8.3% out of work. ABBOTT: No, that's 16%. COSTELLO: Okay, so it's 16% unemployed. ABBOTT: No, that's 8.3%... COSTELLO: WAIT A MINUTE. Is it 8.3% or 16%? ABBOTT: 8.3% are unemployed. 16% are out of work. COSTELLO: IF you are out of work you are unemployed. ABBOTT: No, you can't count the "Out of Work" as the unemployed. You have to look for work to be unemployed. COSTELLO: BUT THEY ARE OUT OF WORK!!! ABBOTT: No, you miss my point. COSTELLO: What point? ABBOTT: Someone who doesn't look for work, can't be counted with those who look for work. It wouldn't be fair. COSTELLO: To whom? ABBOTT: The unemployed. COSTELLO: But they are ALL out of work. ABBOTT: No, the unemployed are actively looking for work. Those who are out of work stopped looking. They gave up. And, if you give up, you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed. COSTELLO: So if you're off the unemployment roles, that would count as less unemployment? ABBOTT: Unemployment would go down. Absolutely! COSTELLO: The unemployment just goes down because you don't look for work? ABBOTT: Absolutely it goes down. That's how you get to 8.3%. Otherwise it would be 16%. You don't want to read about 16% unemployment, do ya? COSTELLO: That would be frightening. ABBOTT: Absolutely. COSTELLO: Wait, I got a question for you. That means there are two ways to bring down the unemployment number? ABBOTT: Two ways is correct. COSTELLO: Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job? ABBOTT: Correct. COSTELLO: And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job? ABBOTT: Bingo. COSTELLO: So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the easier of the two is to just stop looking for work. ABBOTT: Now you're thinking like an economist. COSTELLO: I don't even know what the hell I just said! ABBOTT: Now you're thinking like a politician.

Monday, August 20, 2012

I wish it were that easy.

Rep. Todd Akin, on pregnancy due to rape:

"I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."

uh, and what is the raped woman in this scenario? Besides inconvenient.

Rep. Todd Akin, on selective fact finding:

"First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,..."

A 1996 study by the American Journal of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found "rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency" and is "a cause of many unwanted pregnancies" — an estimated "32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year."

Rep. Todd Akin, on raped women getting pregnant:

"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Dude, if it were that easy to not get pregnant, we wouldn't need to have conversations about birth control and abortions

War on women? Nah. just screaming abysmal ignorance of how things really work. Which just turns out to look like a war on women. Or, to quote my late father in law, "that difference which makes no difference is no difference."

Read the article on Rep. Todd Akin's views on rape.

Monday, August 13, 2012


I made a pilgrimage to the University of Vermont Middlebury's Morgan horse farm on 8 August. It was just a bit hot and humid, so I didn't stand outside much. And the pictures in the barn didn't come out too well. Gee, I guess I'll have to go back.

Morgan Statute At UVM

Statute of Morgan, given in memory of Justin Morgan










Monday, August 06, 2012

The Summer of 2012 -- Too Hot to Handle?

That's the caption on an article from NASA Science News.
Stealing the first few paragraphs:
August 3, 2012: This past June more than 170 all-time US heat records were tied or broken--many of them originally set in the historically hotter months of July and August. And with a drought plaguing much of the country, the ground is as dry and crispy as a saltine cracker.
By early July, 56% of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing drought. That's the largest percentage in the 12-year record of the U.S. Drought Monitor. Fires scorched over 1.3 million acres across the US in June, reducing hundreds of homes to ashes in the West.
Just imagining prospects for the rest of the summer is enough to bring sweat to your brow. And last winter is partly to blame.
"799 daytime heat records were broken in the first five days of January in the US," says Jake Crouch, a climate scientist from the NOAA National Climatic Data Center. "Last year's was the fourth warmest winter since 1895. And it was dry, with a dearth of snowfall in many places. During most of this past winter and spring, a positive North Atlantic Oscillation pressure pattern kept the jet stream further north and the US warmer and drier than normal."

At the end of the article, a climatologist from NASA and a scientist from the University of Alabama Hunstville, disagreeing on whether we have global warming, both agree we need better models.

An interesting look at the problem, without a lot of nasty adjectives.
Summer of 2012

Friday, August 03, 2012

Easing A Burden For Vets?

Really. That's what the article says.

According to the July/August 2012 AARP bulletin, "the Department of Veterans Affairs is making it easier for vets to provide medical information supporting their disability claims. Veterans' medical care providers can now download any of 71 forms for specific conditions..."

WaitWhat? 71 forms? Good grief! I supposed allowing the forms to be downloaded is an easing, but really... 71? Checking out a few of them, they seem to run 4 to 8 pages each, and ask extremely detailed questions. They remind me of the questions asked by outsourced tech support who really have no clue what's going on, but want you to go away.

For arthritis for example, does the veteran have pain? Uh, no, we thought we'd tie up the medical system with stupid visits.  This question and checkbox is followed by "If yes, indicate affected joints (check all that apply):" and a detailed list of the joints available to be arthritic, incl a list for each of the left and right sides. This is followed by a substantial box "For all checked joints, describe involvement (brief summary). Also complete a questionnaire for each affected joint, if indicated."

The next question is "does the veteran have any limitation of joint movement attributable to this arthritic condition?" See sarcasm above. Again we have "If yes..." and a list of boxes to be checked for "all that apply" and a substantial box "For all checked joints, describe limitation of movement (brief summary). Also complete a questionnaire for each affected joint, if indicated."

This goes on for 5 pages,  and includes sections for "systemic involvement other than joints", "incapacitating and non-incapacitating exacerbations", "other pertinent findings, complications, conditions, signs and/or symptoms", "assistive devices", "diagnostic testing" and lots more. For each and every question, there is a box for details, and in some cases a requirement for additional questionnaires to be filled out.

Looking at all this, I realized the problem is not getting care to vets, or getting vets in to see a doctor. It's processing the damned paperwork.

If you want to see the list, go here: Disability Benefit Questionaire.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Tips for Birders

In reply to a request for comments about birding, I wrote this on someone else's blog. I thought you, my voracious reader... readers, might find it fun.

Keep in mind that "comfortable clothing" for birding means stuff you can hike in, go thru shrubbery in, wade a creek in. Story I read/heard years ago had a young woman arrive in low-heeled office shoes. For her, those were "comfortable".

Keep a sense of humor. Bird names are daft. Early on, bird names were given by people who only had a dead bird to look at. Orange-crowned warblers are green.

Keep a sense of humor. Birders are daft. We have our own local names for things. Getting hung up on correct names is likely to cause the group to find every nickname for every bird on the local list. We did that to one poor fussy "perfect namer". 'Bout drove him nuts. Birders will translate, if you look puzzled.

Keep a sense of humor. The minute you bring up your binoculars, the bird will fly off. And just because everybody else can see the bird does not mean you're either blind or stupid. Half a dozen of us were admiring a yellow-breasted chat, including me for whom most birds have an invisibility cloak. The walk leader, a man of some 30 years' birding, couldn't see it. We spent 15 minutes pointing out branches, and "left at the split, then out two feet", and he still never saw the chat. It happens.

Birding will change how you view the world. Going out early in the morning, I don't hear amorphous bird sounds. I hear the different voices, the jays, the finches, the warblers. I see trees and bushes not as green stuff planted in a yard, but as something the robins like, the hummers will feed from, the mockers will nest in. I was talking with a friend on the phone. I suddenly asked, "Did you just walk outside?" "Yes... why?" "Because I can hear the woodpecker."

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Great soul and vast views

Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak.
John Adams, Second US President

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The man who tries to make the flag an object of a single party is a greater traitor to that flag than any man who fires at it.
— Lloyd George)

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Life's requirements

We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.
Charles Kingsley

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I don’t want politicians who are 'above politics,' any more then I want a plumber who's 'above toilets'.'
— Ta-Nahesi Coates

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why yes, you can video police

From this article: U.S. Department of Justice Slaps Baltimore Police Over Right to Record Issue

"On Monday, the Department of Justice slapped the Baltimore Police Department with another letter, condemning it for writing such a vague general order and for allowing the harassment to continue.

"It is a very impressive read. Eleven pages of case citations and Constitutional clarifications. One of the most solid efforts from the federal government in protecting the rights of citizens to record police."

From the Letter from the U.S. Attorney General comes these tidbits, as quoted in the article above:

No individual is required to display 'press credentials' in order to exercise his/her right to observe, photograph, or video record police activity taking place in an area accessible to, or within view of, the general public.
And this:
In addition, policies should prohibit more subtle actions that may nonetheless infringe upon individuals’ First Amendment rights. Officers should be advised not to threaten, intimidate, or otherwise discourage an individual from recording police officer enforcement activities or intentionally block or obstruct cameras or recording devices.
The millstones of the gods grind slowly
but they grind exceeding fine.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What does the economy look like?

"Markets do everything best – managing business and systemic risk, innovating, investing, organising executive reward – without the intervention of the supposed dead hand of the state and without any acknowledgement of wider social obligations." — A quote from The Guardian as part of an article that answers the second question.

Two questions:

1) If it works, what is it supposed to look like? How does the economy look and function?
2) Does that in any way match what the economy looks like right now?

Sunday, May 20, 2012


The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.
— G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday

Friday, May 11, 2012

When there is fear, there is tyranny

Found on a survivalist blog:
When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.

When the government fears the people, there is tyranny. DHS/TSA for example.

Tyranny comes when there is fear in a relationship. Liberty comes when both sides have a clear understanding of each other, and agree to compromises necessary. Tyranny comes from fear, as one side, either the government or the people, tries to bludgeon the other side into submission.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
And the vigilance must also include a mirror.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

WTF? Workers = Consumers?

Pundits have an incredible ability to segment information, separating out bits of data into separate categories. They see people or events as discreet bits of information, to be categorized and sorted. This is useful for many things. Scholarly analysis is one of them.

However, not for a lot of real life analysis. For example:

It was with much astonishment on my part to watch a selection of economic pundits discuss their personal confusion over the fact that consumer confidence was down. Those pundits were completely and totally flabbergasted, their eyes wide or eyebrows up with astonishment, their words spoken in tones of shock and disbelief. What piece of information caused this mental shakeup?

The statement that workers and consumers were one and the same, and the loss of jobs meant the loss of ability to consume.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

You cannot get someone to understand a foreign language by shouting.

A friend sent me a link to a marvelous article: What if a collapse happened and nobody noticed? I agree with the beginning, about what a collapse looks like. It's awesome. You should read it. I stopped agreeing when the author started blaming Peak Oil. It's easy to blame an outside force. It's easy to blame "others". It's a method used by leaders for millenia: when internal troubles can't be solved, attack someone "outside", someone "not us". Change the focus, at least until the leaders are out of power, or dead. Reminds me of Louis Whatsizname of France, and "after me, the deluge."

What I see as the current political/economic problem is an inability to see that a program doesn't work. I don't care if it's a low-level after school program started by the local women's club, or international economic policy. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. There are those who still claim trickle-down works, except for those nasty people who get in its way. In other words, in real life, it *does* *not* *work*. Get over it and move on. Austerity programs are not working. So what will? There are a lot of ideas getting tossed around. Some ideas work locally, some in larger regions, some internationally. No one idea works for all things, although people in power try to make it so. "Don't force it. Use a bigger hammer."

Unfortunately, far too many people are emotionally invested in their own ideas, and will *not* change, even in the face of creeping collapse. Too many people invested in the belief that the unemployed are lazy, no-good, and all they have to do is find a job. These true believers can't seem to see there are no jobs. They point to "see, that one company is hiring 50 people" and miss the fact that *500* people applied. People complain about "all that money being spent on space" and fail to see that the jobs, the manufacturing of equipment and parts, are *here* on this planet. There are no piles of Franklins on the Moon, Cassini does not carry gold as cargo. The area around Cape Canaveral is facing severely increasing unemployment, now that those who worked on Space Shuttle launches are unemployed. Those in charge cut that program as an austerity measure, thus decreasing those paying taxes: those no longer working for NASA, those families no longer buying at local stores, those stores that close because few are buying, those who used to be store employees in their turn not buying at other stores. None of them are now paying taxes, thus increasing the need for more austerity. Sounds like a nasty spiral down, doesn't it?

The article's statement "Of course they could just as easily come clean with all this..." Dude! What world are you living in? You seem to think all people in positions of power even recognize there's a problem. You assume they are all deliberately withholding information, when in fact they are blindly hanging on to beliefs that do not reflect the real world. It falls in the "all you have to do is..." thinking, which is just as bad as "of course it works, if people would stop interfering." It's not malice, at least not for most of them. It's just plain old ordinary willful blindness. We all suffer from it in various forms.

I have blind spots that I'm willing to have exposed, but only if the person exposing them shows me the numbers/data as they are *in* *real* *life*, not what they should be under ideal circumstances. We are humans, not ideals.

You cannot get someone to understand a foreign language by shouting.
You cannot solve a problem if you won't see the current "solution" doesn't work.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Political perspective? True then, true now

I created this post in 2010, and then forgot to publish it. I find the arguments as appropriate now as they were two years ago.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I have added a certain amount of emphasis

There are a number things the public "knows" as we head into the election that are just false. If people elect leaders based on false information, the things those leaders do in office will not be what the public expects or needs.
Here are eight of the biggest myths that are out there:
  1. President Obama tripled the deficit.
    Reality: Bush's last budget had a $1.416 trillion deficit. Obama's first reduced that to $1.29 trillion.
  2. President Obama raised taxes, which hurt the economy.
    Reality: Obama cut taxes. 40% of the "stimulus" was wasted on tax cuts which only create debt, which is why it was so much less effective than it could have been.
  3. President Obama bailed out the banks.
    Reality: While many people conflate the "stimulus" with the bank bailouts, the bank bailouts were requested by President Bush and his Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson. (Paulson also wanted the bailouts to be "non-reviewable by any court or any agency.") The bailouts passed and began before the 2008 election of President Obama.
  4. The stimulus didn't work.
    Reality: The stimulus worked, but was not enough. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus raised employment by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs.
  5. Businesses will hire if they get tax cuts.
    Reality: A business hires the right number of employees to meet demand. Having extra cash does not cause a business to hire, but a business that has a demand for what it does will find the money to hire. Businesses want customers, not tax cuts.
  6. Health care reform costs $1 trillion.
    Reality: The health care reform reduces government deficits by $138 billion.
  7. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, is "going broke," people live longer, fewer workers per retiree, etc.
    Reality: Social Security has run a surplus since it began, has a trust fund in the trillions, is completely sound for at least 25 more years and cannot legally borrow so cannot contribute to the deficit (compare that to the military budget!) Life expectancy is only longer because fewer babies die; people who reach 65 live about the same number of years as they used to.
  8. Government spending takes money out of the economy.
    Reality: Government is We, the People and the money it spends is on We, the People. Many people do not know that it is government that builds the roads, airports, ports, courts, schools and other things that are the soil in which business thrives. Many people think that all government spending is on "welfare" and "foreign aid" when that is only a small part of the government's budget.
This stuff really matters.
If the public votes in a new Congress because a majority of voters think this one tripled the deficit, and as a result the new people follow the policies that actually tripled the deficit, the country could go broke.
If the public votes in a new Congress that rejects the idea of helping to create demand in the economy because they think it didn't work, then the new Congress could do things that cause a depression.
If the public votes in a new Congress because they think the health care reform will increase the deficit when it is actually projected to reduce the deficit, then the new Congress could repeal health care reform and thereby make the deficit worse. And on it goes.

Sunday, January 08, 2012


How hard it is, sometimes, to trust the evidence of one's senses! How reluctantly the mind consents to reality.
   —Norman Douglas

How some things never change.