THIS IS IT! It's been done. We've done it. Congratulations everyone.

Studs Terkel, 1912 - 2008

Sad news: Studs Terkel died today. A broadcaster, writer, and oral historian, Terkel is best know by many people for his book "Working:
People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do
", which consists of a series of interviews with people about the frank realities of their working lives. Interviewees include a receptionist, a farmer, a miner, a garbage truck driver, and a prostitute. That last one would have got this book banned from my high-school had not a group of parents insisted that the reality of the interviews, including that of the prostitute, provided a startling reality not seen in most more heavily-edited publications. The prostitute's interview does not glamorize the profession; it simply provides a honest look at the working life of one woman. I think that's the ultimate value of
. Lots of people are doing a lot of things all day without having their stories told, and therefore do not get recognition that their lives are valuable and part of what makes our society what it is. Terkel understood that giving these people voices to tell their stories, and giving others their stories to read, increases our understanding of our fellow citizens, and thereby adds to harmony in our society. Thank you Mr. Terkel, you'll be missed.


Awesome news to break at 9pm eastern time on a Friday... Just when everyone's paying the most attention to national headlines. Gawd. Anyway, the investigator in "Troopergate" has found that that Palin abused her power in firing Alaska
Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, and the Legislative Council which commissioned the report has adopted it. What's next? Nothing, probably. It's Friday night, and America's out for a drink.


Good Lord...

Just look at this picture CNN is using of Anderson Cooper.

...Can we just be clear how ridiculous it is to have a photo like this taken of yourself? Is there anyone who can look at this and not laugh? Who would possibly allow this to be used publicly? Anderson Cooper, the greatest man alive, that's who.

The best part is I found it on CNN's "Heros" section. I know who my hero is...

Space Elevator!

So, the space elevator will happen, it's just a matter of when. As Arthur C Clark famously said, it'll be "probably about 50 years after everybody quits laughing." Well, scientists, particularly those who are working on carbon nano-tubes, quit laughing some time ago, but that's far from fulfilling "everybody" in Clark's quote. However, having an article on discussing it in a fairly non-laughing tone is getting considerably closer, even if it's in the European side of the World Edition. Come on, space elevator!

Also, please note the existence of The Space Elevator Blog.

Sarah Palin for President!

Wow, this is great.  This is Sarah Palin cutting funding for a program that provided housing to teen mothers in Alaska (note her initials, SP by the big cut on the top line).  Gotta love Republicans... They got theirs, and that's all they care about.



Apologies to whoever I stole this from, but here's a great infographic, if you're into that kind of thing:

Getting Closer...

Further evidence for the previous post. I'm aware that this could just be election politics for the Iraqi officials as well, but we haven't seen this before, and it's disharmonious with what Bush/McCain has been and is still saying.

Over Before It Started

What a difference four months makes. Since my last post, a lot has changed in this election, first and foremost being the Democrats just dodging a horrible mistake and getting behind Obama. This week, the most important thing that's happened in this election so far, in my opinion, has unfolded: The Iraqi government has gotten behind Obama's plan for withdrawing American troops by 2010, a long time before McCain's timetable...

While I realize that this is largely a political decision by Al-Maliki, who needs to publicly oppose a continued occupation as often as possible, this still changes the calculous of this war, and this election, considerably. I've always assumed that the US disengagement from Iraq will be under the political cover of the Iraqi government asking us to leave: it's clear that a) the "we've got to finish the job" crowd is never going to go away, and b) we're never going to "finish the job." Thus, the only way where hawks and the military won't lose face is to reluctantly leave under the demand of the Iraqi's, thus nobly appearing to give in to the will of the Iraqis. Anyway, this week's news essentially opens the door to this exit. All we have to do now is elect Obama and we're out.

This does to major things to the election: First, it makes it clear that a vote for Obama is a vote to end the war, period. Second, it also makes McCain's standpoint look out of sync with the "liberation not occupation" rhetoric that has been used so often. Frankly, I think this is the beginning of the end of this war, finally.


In case you're reading this in the post-apocolyptic future of a McCain presidency, today was the day we lost the 2008 election:


Snake Oil

The false promise of class mobility, defined:


Later, Tony


I read the almost daily. I do so for two reasons: First, I think it's an interesting way to get news, or at least an interesting way to learn about what the White House is thinking. Second, I think it's neat (and disgusting) to see how issues are over-analyzed, skated around, and ultimately forgotten by both the press and the White House (although in the latter camp, they're usually the ones trying to make the former forget), and that this is an important window into why "mainstream" journalism and media is so bad in this country. Personally, if I had the power, I'd shut the whole thing down to make reporters do some real work, but while it's here and important, I'll keep reading.

Anyway, Tony Snow, former FOX pundit, stepped down as Press Secretary today. In a job that essentially consists of creative non-answers, he did the dance quite well in a time in which it was pretty hard to keep a straight face while saying the administration is anything less than a dismal failure. Tony, I both despise you for your sliminess and admire you for your quick mind. And I sincerely hope you're in good health.

PS, what's with ? That just makes him look like a spoiled fool. Jeez, won't you just say you want to spend more time with your family ?

190,000 Guns

Holy lord. Reuters is reporting today that the Pentagon cannot account for 190,000 AK-47s distributed to the Iraqi police/military between 2004 and 2005.

Think about that for a second. One-hundred-ninety thousand guns. That means almost 200k people other than official military walking around with machine guns. This alone almost outnumbers US and Iraqi government troops on the ground.

And the days go by...

Clear Channel Go Home

So as of August 1st, the Tacoma City Council is supposedly going to start enforcing a decade old ordinance on billboard restrictions within the city. In response, Clear Channel changed a large number of their billboards (they have around 150 total in the city) to say "Constitutions Matter" as some kind of desperate shot at appealing directly to the citizens of Tacoma. Three problems:

1) Nobody associates "Constitutions Matter" with anything other than Bush these days.
2) They didn't even have the $4.95 to buy, and google doesn't place the phrase as having anything to do with their little tirade. Viral marketing failed.
3) Everyone hates billboards. You can't appeal to the public about that. That's like running a "Save Parking Cops" campaign. You can't win this.

However, I can't sum it up better than the guy who spray painted "Death To Clear Channel" Across one of the billboards up north. You appealed to the mob, and the mob has spoken. Go home.

Control of Language

Has anyone else noticed the distinct lack of the word "fillibuster" since Democrats gained control of congress? With all that talk from Republicans about "the nuclear option" in 2006 and how blocking votes with extended debate was the end of democracy, you would think folks would be making hay with with the past few Iraq (non)votes.

Hmm... Let's see... Here's the AP:
Earlier this month, the House voted 223-201 to order troops out of Iraq beginning in 120 days. But the bill stalled in the Senate, where Democrats hold a thinner majority and Republicans blocked the measure from advancing.
How did they block the measure from advancing? Could it be a fi- fil- fi-... Oh, who even remembers? Crap.

Lies, damn dirty lies

Check out this conversation on the White House kids page:

"Q: Fran from Cave City, KY writes:
I and several other of my friends would like to write a note of support and thanks to President Bush for all he has done and continues to do on behalf of our nation.

A: Andy Card, White House Chief of Staff:
Dear Fran:

On behalf of President Bush, thank you for your email and for your kind words of support. The President is always encouraged to hear from Americans across the country like you and your friends, and he is grateful for all of the people who think of him and pray for him every day. Thank you, again. I will make sure that the President gets your message. Andy Card"

Yeah right. Look White House, I can make shit up too!

Q: Billy from Carbondale, Illinois writes:
Dear Elliot: I think you're really great and I like reading your blog. Your photography is top-of-the-line. All my classmates agree. Your friend, Billy.

A: John Frankenbrown, Spokesperson for Elliot Levin:
On behalf of Elliot Levin, thanks for your email. Keep praying for Elliot, and have a fun and safe summer. Stay away from drugs and people who are different from you. Thanks again, and I'll make sure Elliot gets the gist of your message. John Frenkenbrown.

See? Anyone can do that, you don't need no fancy oval office, or dog named Boots or something like that.

Ready and Wait...

Remember Hurricane Katrina? Remember when we spent millions of dollars and countless man-hours fixing the infrastructure of the city after the storm to prevent catastrophic flooding from happening again? Remember when Bush and the federal government made it a priority to make sure an American city wasn't destroyed a second time by the same mistakes that caused it's first devastation?

Today the NYT is reporting on an Army document that shows that New Orleans is still prone to widespread flooding during large storms.

Priorities, people. The argument that we don't have the money or resources to fix these problems is completely mute when considering the amount of money we throw at certain other programs. Make no bones about it, the US has the ability to end hunger and homelessness, provide decent health care and education to all our children, and provide folks safety from natural disasters. We just don't choose to.

War President



Speaking of race in America, one of the most amazing and heartbreaking things I've seen recently is Jill Leovy's Homicide Report over at the LA Times. Essentially, Jill has taken it upon herself to blog every homicide in the city each day. Often details are slim when only police reports are present, but often she conducts interviews and tells stories that are incredible testaments to the violence and destitution that oppresses the lives of so many people of color in America today. Today's post is a pretty shocking example of what it means to to say that the problems of racism and poverty are ignored in this country. The truth is, we could fix all of this if we cared. It's often said that the first step is admitting you have a problem. In this case, they first step is admitting that we're at fault.

It's Institutional

I want to take a moment to expand on my post from yesterday. What I mean when I say the race issue is going to be interesting to dig up is this:

I'm a firm believer in the old adage that the biggest race problem in the United States today is the fact that white people don't believe there's a race problem in the United States today. The logic that leads to this conclusion is that today racism is not so much overt discrimination (although that still definitely happens) but institutional discrimination, whereby deeply ingrained systems and institutions behave to reproduce class and cultural stratification based on ethnicity. Thereby, it's not that folks are starting their day to say "I'm going to be a big racist and discriminate," it's more that not enough people are waking up and saying "I'm going to tear down the structures of institutionalized discrimination." Complacency caused by the idea that "we solved racism with civil rights in the 60's" is a great way to end up in this situation.

Yesterday, I read an article in the business section of CNN by a woman who was arguing against legislation to encourage employers to narrow the income gap between men and women. You can read the article if you like, but here's a synopsis: women these days aren't overtly discriminated against, but instead make less because they choose to major in English and take career breaks to have kids.

Now, this is a fine logical argument, except for the fact that it completely ignores the concept of institutional discrimination. The very idea that we would arrange society to reward less people who major in English and choose to spend time with their kids, which are two traits found disproportionately among women (her assumption, not mine) is in and of itself INSTITUTIONAL DISCRIMINATION. Just the same way that mortgage brokers lend at worse rates to people looking to buy a house in neighborhoods with higher crime rates, that just happen to be black community centers (for example) is also discriminator to black folks.

My point of all this is that upon reading that article yesterday, it struck me that we haven't just forgotten about race as a real issue in this country, we've forgotten about a whole concept of methods of discrimination. Or maybe we never learned.

It it just me...

...Or did they flatten the midtones on this picture (from to make Clinton and Obama have more similar skin tones than in reality? Note how Clinton looks distinctly grey, which is contrary to the super warm tone look networks usually go with for folks with light skin. Gah, I'm already looking forward to this race...

In all seriousness, though, I think the most interesting thing that's going to happen is that we might actually have a conversation about race in America for the first time since, well, the Johnson administration. That's probably a good thing, though I'm a little scared to see what's going to come out of it...

Ridiculous HDR

One of my favorite flickr contacts, tendril , has been doing some ridiculous HDR stuff lately. For those of you outside the know, high dynamic range (HDR) photography is essentially combining multiple exposures to extend the dynamic range of digital camera sensors. Thus, by over and under exposing a shot, you can combine them to get well exposed areas from both the light and dark regions of a scene. The problem is, it's easy to make this look really bad, and flickr is littered with bad attempts. tendril, on the other hand, makes it look like magic. Anyway, check this shot and his other's out, he's rad.

Link to his HDR tagged shots: |<->-<->-<->-<->-<->-<->|


Not the way you planned...

Here's a good one from the White House Press Briefing today:

"MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, but the President is not the kind of guy who says, tell me what I want to hear. As a matter of fact, you sit in a meeting and you try to do that, you're not going to get very far. What the President wants and demands of his people is -- are their best opinions and their best advice, and that's the way it operates. So --

Q He got a lot of lousy advice, didn't he?

MR. SNOW: Well, he got some advice that -- you know, it's interesting, Bill, you can say about any war that Commanders-in-Chief got lousy advice, because wars never work out quite the way you planned."

Yeah, four years later and no end in sight isn't really what you planned, was it? Oh well, I guess that's just the way it goes!

Welcome back, Tony.

Oh Jeez...

Here's a quote from the reddit comments that really cuts:

"I think you lost your right to "benefit of the doubt" when Bush got re-elected - it was a tacit democratic approval of his actions by (supposedly) the majority of the country.

I think your next president will have to do a lot more than "just change direction" to get people back on-side. One of the worst things about Bush's tenure has been not just his actions, but the fact that from outside the USA a sizeable portion of your population has been right alongside him, cheering him on and constructing apologist excuses for his excesses.

The take-home lesson hasn't been "Bush was an evil man" - it's been "Americans can and will elect brainless vicious egomaniacs, and then often side with them for no better reason than a false understanding of patriotism and a herd mentality".

FWIW I know plenty of very cool Americans, and I'm well aware that there was a determined (but ultimately pretty ineffectual) resistance to many of his policies.

That's a very nuanced position though, and in the cartoon-vision most people think in it just looks like the majority of you were either right alongside him, encouraging and egging him on as he invaded other countries, abducted innocent civilians and tortured people simply because he could... or you were too fat, lazy and apathetic to do anything other than whinge about it on web comments pages.

As I said, I disagree with this unfair perception, but it is the perception you've created for yourselves that you now have to disprove."


Here's a good interchange at today's WHPB (White H...

Here's a good interchange at today's WHPB (White House Press Briefing, natch):

"Q: Does the President risk using the troops when this morning he talked about if this does not go the way he wants, those troops and their families may have to wait longer for them to come home?

MS. PERINO: The President takes great pains not to politicize the troops. But what he was repeating was what the military -- Department of Defense has told him they are going to have to do, since they don't have this money."

Um, ok.


They had writing!

As much as I hate to take things out of context, sometimes it's more fun when you do. Here's Tony Snow responding to the question on why, under the proposed White House rules, there would be no transcript of interviews with senior officials:

"MR. SNOW: No, here's the point, is we've set up a situation in which we think members of Congress and staffers -- this is open to members and staff, who are able to take notes, and we also believe that writing goes back to the inception of Western civilization, and the ability -- I'm not sure that they had recordings or transcripts, but they did have writing. There was writing."
Comments (2)


I was going to comment on the subject of the recent 911/Pearle terror confession, but this guy said exactly what I would have:

"I believe Mohammed is a terrorist, although I have only the U.S. government's word for it. But let's face it, we picked this guy up four years ago, we've held him in secret detention centers for years, he has no access to counsel, and we've subjected him to who knows what treatment. After all that, I'd confess to shooting the Pope.

If we're going to abandon our ideals of justice in pursuit of the war against terror, we have to accept that confessions we obtain will have limited credibility. Maybe Mohammed did plan 9-11, but I don't believe it because of his confession. I want some real evidence."



This just in:

Chiquita Bananas finance terrorism.

Choose your produce carefully, patriots. And jeez, everyone knows only wusses pay protection money.


Microlending is rad. Hell, rad enough to win (half) a Nobel. Anyway, meet Kiva. These guys are doing something real cool to promote microlending involvement from your computer-bound life. It's a little bit Sally Struthers-ish, but web-wisdom says it's legit. Check it out.

Oh, and you can use Paypal, so you don't even have to take out your wallet.


A couple weeks ago, the AP did a little experiment whereby they stopped covering the antics of Paris Hilton to see whether anyone cared about the lack of ink devoted to the subject. Turned out, no one complained, thus proving that AP's distributors or their customers really don't give a flying fuck about Paris Hilton. Having proved this important fact, they assumably returned to devoting an absurd about of mental energy to some blonde girl and her money (it was only an experiment, after all. God forbid they take lasting action).

Anyway, I'm proposing the same treatment for Ann Coulter. She's just as un-newsworthy as Ms. Hilton, except for the fact that she gets to crack jokes in front of the potential leaders of the free world. By all means, the press should be chasing down all the guys laughing and clapping when she makes bigoted jokes. They deserve political crucifixion. But as for her, well, she's just an idiot with opinions. There are lots of those.

I'm going to set a positive example for the AP by starting this blackout. So, without feeling the need to call her bigoted, unbalanced, stupid, or ugly, I'm just going to stop. Any. Coverage. Now.

Get your vote in!

Maakies this week is holding an election for the joke next week (presumably in the mini-comic at the bottom). I'm campaigning for Option 1: A Pile of Beer. Vote Option One!

Shameless cross posting

Shameless cross posting for the purposes of my Google ranking:

Oh boy...

For folks like me that like glass, this represents something... I don't know, like some kind of holy grail, except not quite so good. More like if getting the holy grail also meant you'd have to carry around around a thirty pound lens all the time. Anyway, here's Sigma's new 200-500mm f2.8. Note the camera on the right for scale.

Read Sigma's .

Hey everyone...

New Comments format. Just thought you'd like to know.


Photo Credit: AP


Site Overhaul

Ok, so that's just an excuse to use the word overhaul, which sounds like I might be rebuilding an engine or something. Like these fine chaps:


In any case, I think you'll find the site a little sleeker, a little more dynamic for aeros, and above all, higher in the coefficient of "lean and mean".


Picture of the Day

I'm changing the front page to a sort of picture of the day. We'll see how that goes. I'm also going to try to set it up the be an RSS feed. That working is even less likely.

Picture of the Day

I'm changing the front page to a sort of picture of the day. We'll see how that goes. I'm also going to try to set it up the be an RSS feed. That working is even less likely.
Comments (1)

Israel Pictures

Hey, watch for a boatload of Israel pictures going up in the next few days, I'm almost done. That's all. Oh, and this funny picture:

Comments (1)

Israel Pictures

Hey, watch for a boatload of Israel pictures going up in the next few days, I'm almost done. That's all. Oh, and this funny picture:


Still here.

Yep, the good 'ol blog is still here, just relegated to a non-frontpage location. Maybe I'll even start posting again! Mystery, suspense, and fun! Also, duty and responsibility. Eat vegetables and quiet down.

Still here.

Yep, the good 'ol blog is still here, just relegated to a non-frontpage location. Maybe I'll even start posting again! Mystery, suspense, and fun! Also, duty and responsibility. Eat vegetables and quiet down.