The second time across

Yep, this describes me:

Some of you are old enough to remember the Cosmos 1.0 where Carl Sagan fawned at billllions and billlions of stars from the vantage point of what looked, for all the world, like a cathedral without the stained glass.

It was a fascinating series, revealing to the commoner what science had discovered about the greatest WHERE of them all — the universe in which we are embedded and “live and move and have our being.”

The universe, of course, is constantly changing, and the new Cosmos perhaps needs to be different too:

I hope, this time around, the pride of what we know with our science and can do with our technology will be balanced by humility. There is much we don’t know, and some would say much we cannot learn through science — one important way of knowing, but not the only way.

There is much we have failed to do on Earth to the least of our kind (not to mention those other kinds at the margins of our vision and care) even while we’ve sent our surrogate eyes unimaginably far, looking for the physics and chemistry of WHY, WHO and WHAT we are.

Members of this small-c cosmos have certain responsibilities, and while there’s room for debate on what those responsibilities should be, I believe that the moment you decide there are no more questions worth asking is the very moment you give up your soul to whatever lies beyond.

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Time took a faster flight

Did you notice that Dakota Fanning just turned 20 a couple of weeks ago? I didn’t.

Still, it’s not like the poor girl is aging or anything like that:

Dakota Fanning in March 2014 Jalouse

In between things like posing for the French mag Jalouse, she’s still doing film work: Every Secret Thing, based on the Laura Lippman novel, will debut at Tribeca next month. Fanning is billed third (tentatively), behind Diane Lane and Elizabeth Banks.

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Quote of the week

And should Crimea fall into the Russian orbit once more? Swell, says Josh:

“Illegitimate”, huh? Illegitimate my arse. Do you even know the meaning of illegitimate, my dear European leaders? Something that is legitimate is something that is supported by the people. The referendum is supported by the people. Today, the people of Sevastopol, an autonomous town withing the autonomous republic of Crimea, have proposed a similar referendum. There are protests that BBC doesn’t show, of thousands of people waving Russian flags in Crimea, eager not to support, I’m quoting, “The Nazi Bandera government” reigning in Kiev. The referendum, my dear EU leaders, who have addled their minds with “liberal values” and oil, is legitimate. And guess what? Here’s a tenner saying the people of Crimea will vote for reuniting with Russia. Because it has always been Russian. Even after the 60s, up until 1992, it was pretty much Russian. So, after twenty years of being under Kiev’s yoke, Crimea wants back to Russia, to officially speak the Russian language, and pay Russian taxes. (Which are sweet, by the way. Hence my making business here.) The referendum is legitimate, and everyone who thinks otherwise, can unfollow me right now because I don’t have anything to say to you, even if I’ve known you for years. To you, I say, good-bye.

You must have meant, “illegal”, my dear European leaders. Of course, fighting for negro rights in France and gay marriage in the UK is far more important than actually learning how to speak. (No, it’s not.) Was the revolution in Ukraine legal? Nooo. Was the President’s impeachment legal, according to the Constitution? Noooo. Is there a President in the country to sign, or contr-assignate the laws the Parliament has passed? Noooo. Is the current “government” legal? No. But, here’s the thing, it’s only semi-legitimate. No part of Ukraine in the East supports them. The West does. Well, rule the West then. Good riddance. There’s nothing worth investing in there, anyway.

Now, I’m waiting eagerly for the referendum to pass and for Crimea to reunite with Russia once more. Then, I’ll celebrate not only St Paddy’s Day, but also a new open market. Which is very very good. And I swear, if the UK decides to deploy fucking troops in Crimea after its reunion with Russia, and I’m made to choose, I’m applying for Russian citizenship. My country, Scotland, is about to go downhill in September anyway. And Russia is one of the few countries that still holds the conservative values dear to my heart and is not fucking insane or high on liberal shit. After every high, there’s a cold turkey. Just reminding you.

I have every reason to believe he’s serious.

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Ed. in excelsis

Ed., as he (I suspect it’s a he, but there’s no evidence one way or another at the moment) has always styled himself, delivers the occasionally laughing, occasionally lacerating responses to reader letters in Car and Driver. (I owe my present-day subscription, which began in 1978, to Ed.’s tenderizing ministrations.)

In the April issue, a reader complained about a comparison:

[Y]ou lost me when you stated that Maserati wishes it had a sedan as beautiful in its stable. Mazda’s sedans don’t hold a candle to either the Quattroporte or the new Ghibli. Look, the 6 is an attractive car, but you’ve done what my ex-wife does all the time — exaggerate to make a point. Never a good tactic when you really want to make a point that someone will actually believe instead of causing a massive eyeroll.

Said Ed.:

I can’t imagine why you’re not still married.

Incidentally, I will apparently get a chance to evaluate this comparison for myself: Bob Moore, who owns the Mazda dealership in town — and from whom I bought my current Infiniti — is getting a Maserati store.

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Could have been a real clusterbox

There is such a thing as discretion. This isn’t it:

Oklahoma City police arrested a man after several children reported seeing him walking to his mailbox naked.

The fellow wasn’t exactly contrite:

When officers arrived at the scene, they spoke with the suspect, 68-year-old Hillard Stallings, at his house. Stallings told officers that he was a registered sex offender, but he refused to give them his ID.

According to the report, officers then contacted the Sex Crimes Unit, and they stated that if Stallings came outside, the officers could arrest him. However, police said Stallings was very rude and did not want to talk to the officers.

He then escalated to Pervcon 3:

About five minutes after they spoke to Stallings, the officer said he saw a 14-year-old boy standing in front of Stallings’ house, looking toward the front door.

When the officer got closer, he said he saw Stallings outside his house, “shaking his penis and thrusting his hips out” towards the boy, according to the report.

If you insist on retrieving your mail in your birthday suit, you probably need to live in an older part of town: my mail, for instance, is shoved through a slot in the garage door.

And the time to discover that you fancy 14-year-olds is not when you’re pushing seventy.

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Metaphor, when the idiots prate

A lot of words have fallen into desuetude over the years, such as, well, “desuetude”; the Friar proposes to bring back their concepts, if not the words themselves, in the manner of the Children of Tama. Try this out for size:

Instead of saying, for example, “ultracrepidarian,” which is supposed to mean “someone who gives opinions on subjects they know nothing about,” we might say, “Chris Matthews, his mouth open.”

It’s a shame that term fell into disuse, inasmuch as we now find ourselves with a surfeit of such individuals.

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I suppose juice is out of the question

Still, this seems pretty remarkable in its own right:

Oscar Mayer is giving meat fans the chance to wake up to the sound — and smell — of bacon every morning.

The company’s Wake Up and Smell the Bacon app and iPhone dongle, which unfortunately contains no actual bacon, is a complete bacon-themed overhaul of your iPhone’s alarm.

The dongle plugs into the iPhone’s headphone jack and, when paired with the accompanying iOS app, releases the smell of bacon as the alarm sounds.

Unfortunately, they’re not selling this package just yet: it’s being given away to lucky winners, and, as they say of contests advertised on kids’ shows, many will enter, few will win.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Not a puff piece

Mr Truman, having experimented with e-cigarettes and found them to be an improvement over the burning-leaf variety, now wonders if maybe these, too, will be taken away in the name of safety:

[B]y god I have found something that works for me. Not just because I don’t smoke anymore, but because it allows me the ability to continue to do the things that drew me to smoking in the first place. I may quit the ecigarettes or I may not. But I have finally found myself not having to obsess over this question. Do you know how amazing that is? A world has been lifted from my shoulders. The monkey that has been on my back for years and years is gone. At worse, replaced by something by all measures benign by comparison. It makes me want to kiss the skies. And it makes me furious at those who see this as some nefarious new threat to the public health.

Right now I am just waiting to find out how bad it’s going to be. Whether the thing that right now costs me twenty-five cents a milliliter will shoot up to seventy-five cents (a very real possibility). Whether the people I get my supply from will be allowed to remain in business. Whether I am going to have to throw everything out and start all over with an FDA-approved device. I’m concerned about the number of people out there who could take the same path as I did to recovery, but as much as anything I just want to keep doing the thing that has put more distance between me and cigarettes than I have had in over ten years. Or whether it will be made more complicated and disrupted with right-now unthinkable consequences. In the name of public health. In the name of my own well-being.

In matters of government, all consequences are unthinkable: lawmakers — and people assuming the role of lawmakers in contravention of the Constitution — insist that their solutions are not only correct, but inevitable. To this day we have people defending Bolshevism; in 2100 we’ll still have people defending ObamaCare. It might be prudent to expect the worst.

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Be there!

“Eighty percent of success,” said Woody Allen, “is showing up.” Motivated perhaps partly by this, and definitely by Nicole’s plan for Olympia Detroit (cited here), we now have a scheme for education reform:

We eliminate all the actual course work. All the student must do to graduate is show up. On time, every time.

For elementary school, the child must be at the library at 8:00 a.m. every weekday for the whole school year except holidays. Once there, he may read, color, or turn around and go back home. But that’s it. Everything else is up to the parents to require.* Show up every day for the school year, and he can advance to the next grade. Do it eight times and he can start high school.

As for the asterisk:

* This part is actually pretty important.

And perhaps the hardest to pull off.

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The Suns persist in rising

This game can be summed up in a single Telltale Statistic: with 3:47 left in the third quarter, the Thunder were up 96-80. When the horn sounded to end the quarter, Phoenix was leading 101-98.

But what else could you expect? The Suns are not even slightly comfortable in 8th place in the West, with the Grizzlies on their heels and twenty games to play: they’ve got to go full tilt, full time. Two and a half minutes later, the Suns had opened up a seven-point lead; Russell Westbrook, who’d already done 20 minutes and scored 23 points, was called back in and basically took over the joint. Three minutes later, it was tied and Westbrook had 36. But nothing was going to stop the Suns on a night when Gerald Green had a career-high 41 points, when Goran Dragić knocked down six points in a minute and a half, when the Morris brothers combined for 39 of 41 Phoenix bench points. The final was 128-122, and hey, how often do you get to see 250 points scored in a 48-minute game?

The Suns were proficient with the long ball, sinking 15 of 27 — Green made eight of 13 himself — and outrebounded the Thunder 44-33. And you have to do things like that when the Thunder shoot 50 percent and don’t miss a free throw all night.

Both Westbrook and Kevin Durant put up three-pointers on that last OKC possession; neither of them connected. Durant finished the night with 34. And Westbrook came awfully close to another triple-double (36 points, nine rebounds, nine assists.) But this is basketball, not horseshoes or grenades, so “awfully close” might as well have been out in the farging desert somewhere. We did get to see more of Caron Butler, who played 29 minutes and led the bench with 14, including four of eight treys. (The Thunder were 13-33 from Way Out There.) Reggie Williams, called up on a 10-day from Tulsa, drew a DNP-CD, but perhaps that was to be expected.

There are the Lakers to be disposed of Sunday, and then a visit from the reliably scary Houston Rockets on Tuesday.

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And unto dust

I suppose this sums it up as well as it can be summed up:

“Never liked” is putting it mildly: one of Draper’s dreams was to have the structure entirely hidden by foliage, if not actual camouflage.

But Stan, who died in 1976, would likely have been equally delighted to see what actually will happen to Stage Center, now that the Downtown Design Review Committee has decided it’s not worth saving.

Then again, Cash for Gold, west of May on 39th, is flourishing.

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Forget the Motor City

Let’s imagine that this fallen metropolis might be destined for a Higher Purpose:

Why don’t we just make Detroit a permanent Olympics zone? Level the whole thing and put in permanent hotels, permanent stadiums, permanent facilities, housing for event workers, etc. But no one lives there any other time. Install a huge, secure dome over it with an artificial snow generator for the winter Olympics (hey, they do it in Dubai — surely we can do it here).

Average snowfall in Detroit is about 44 inches a year, or about half what they’ve gotten this year. There will presumably have to be a skeleton crew on hand 24/7/1461, but not necessarily a large one.

Though that’s not the problem. This is:

[N]o one has to bribe the IOC, no one country or city would stand to make millions (or billions) in graft and corruption. Yeah, that right there is the main reason why it would never happen. Not enough of the usual suspects making obscene amounts of money off of something that should be about the athletes.

On the other hand, you have to figure that Detroit knows something about graft.

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Harry, the feckless Senate runner

Smitty turns a Warren Zevon song into an ode to, or at least about, Harry Reid. And it’s not “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” either.

(Working title for this piece, for the minute and a half it had a working title, was “Werewolves of Searchlight.”)

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Only the dreggiest

I had mentioned earlier that I was unable to reinstall Adobe Photoshop Elements on the new Win7 box because, well, I couldn’t find the install disk, which wasn’t in its box and wasn’t in my Small Stack O’ Disks. (Adobe recommends against this sort of thing anyway.) So I went further into the stacks and found some horrifying things that should have been consigned to Sheol long before:

  • Windows 98 (retail version)
  • Sony SonicStage CP 4.1
  • Win95 drivers for a Umax parallel-port scanner (no XP drivers were ever issued, and I don’t even have a parallel port anymore)
  • Nero Burning ROM 5.5
  • America Online 6.0 (with 1000 hours free!)
  • America Online 8.0 (with 1045 hours free!)
  • Microsoft Works 8.5

I should probably blowtorch the whole drawer; there are also a couple of dozen unlabeled CD-Rs in there.

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Are they ill-tempered?

The scientists had one simple request, and that was to have sharks with frickin’ cameras attached to their heads:

The footage from 14 tiger sharks, six Galapagos sharks, five sandbar sharks, five bluntnose sixgill sharks and a prickly shark is the first to be taken of sharks, by sharks in their natural environment.

One clip from a camera attached to a male sandbar shark show the pursuit of a female; another shows its wearer’s point of view as it meets up with dozens of other sharks in a mixed group — including sandbars, oceanic blacktips and scalloped hammerheads — and swimming together for most of the day.

This is, you may be certain, a Serious Scientific Inquiry:

Sharks are among the top predators in the world’s oceans, and so where they go and what they eat can have huge effects that reverberate through their ecosystem’s food web. Scientists have attached sensors to sharks before to get an idea of their movements, but until recently they haven’t had the technology necessary to get good video footage — or to get their cameras back.

Did this cost one million dollars? Maybe, maybe not.

(Tweeted at me, complete with Austin Powers references, by just another prof.)

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The non-nuclear option

Mitch McConnell is making noises about reinstating the filibuster should the GOP recapture the Senate, an idea which does not sit well with Bill Quick:

How about this: Remove the filibuster entirely. It is an artifact of political operators, not of the Constitution. And Congress doesn’t need “more restraint.” The Framers deliberately designed it to be the most powerful, by far, of the three branches of government.

The notion that Congress should to make rules to “restrain itself” is, at bottom, an argument that Congress should not exist — because if doing less is desirable, doing nothing at all is most desirable.

And there’s always the question of why anyone thinks the Republicans will somehow ride their imagined Senate results into some sort of Chuck Norris mode, given the presence of squishes like, well, Mitch McConnell.

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