Archive for March, 2012

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What can be done about gasoline prices? Turns out, a lot.

March 11, 2012

This article by John Merline in Investor Business Daily outlines a number of ways the price of gasoline, or at least the rapid climb in the price we’ve seen recently, could be reduced.

Some of the price increase is caused by the loss of several refineries. But most of the increases in price are due to Federal government taxes, regulations, and fines. Read the article for the full list.

My favorite: recently, according to the article, “Congress left in place a 2007 law requiring increasing amounts of ethanol (including so-called advanced biofuels) in gasoline, rising to 36 billion gallons by 2022.”

The article continues: “In any case, the law has cost refiners almost $7 million in fines this year after they failed to add 6.6 million gallons of “advanced biofuels” as required. The problem is these advanced biofuels don’t exist commercially, and nobody’s sure when they will, which means even bigger industry fines going forward as the mandated use increases.” (Italics are mine.)

I don’t use this term usually, but WTF? The Federal government is collecting fines from refiners because the advanced biofuels it has mandated don’t even exist? Am I crazy, or is this completely insane?

I’m very afraid that we as a nation are sitting at home, watching basketball on our big flat-screen TVs, while the folks in Congress run completely amuck. What has caused us to feel so disenfranchised that we do not hold these people accountable for their actions?

I suppose that is for another post, isn’t it? I’d be interested in any answers you folks out there have for my question. Come on, you have the time…at over four bucks a gallon for gas, you sure as hell ain’t goin’ anywhere!

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Oh. My. God. Time-lapse video of the earth from the ISS

March 9, 2012

You need to go to see this YouTube video of the earth as seen from the ISS. It is absolutely incredible. The mix and background music make it even better. And the green in the image above is the aurora borealis seen from above. I would so love to see this.

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“Progressive” radio talk show host mocks tornado victims

March 9, 2012

So there is a “progressive” talk show host named Mike Malloy who has a long history of saying incredibly insensitive things. On March 2 he went on a rant about the people who were victims of the recent rash of tornadoes. Among his comments:

“Their God … keeps smashing them into little grease spots on the pavement in  Alabama, and Mississippi, and Arkansas, and Georgia, and Oklahoma. You know, the Bible belt, where they ain’t gonna let no goddamned science get in the way, it says in the Bible, blah blah blah blah blah. So, according to their way of thinking, God with his omnipotent thumb reaches down here and so far tonight has smashed about 20 people into a grease spot on highway 12, or whatever the hell highway they live next to.”

He has since apologized on his web site. Okay, so he apologized. He has a history of bizarre and hateful on-air statements.

Should we all send letters to his sponsors telling them to drop him because of his speech? That’s what’s been going on with Rush Limbaugh.

I’ve already said I believe Rush got carried away and went too far. He was trying to make a point but it got out of hand. Of course the “mainstream” media has gleefully reported that many sponsors have dropped his show. According to Rush, some have, but in most cases they were local sponsors buying time on the commercial segments reserved for local advertising during his show – not the national sponsors.

Rush can be over the top. He also can be insightful. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes not – but he has always made me think. The stuff this Malloy guy said would just make me very angry. Apparently he used to be on WLS-AM, which is, ironically, where Rush is broadcast in the Chicago market. I dimly recall the name but I don’t recall hearing him.

Rush was trying to make a point about how the Administration is usurping our freedoms in yet another way. He didn’t succeed because of the direction he took the discussion and the resulting focus on the wrong things. What Malloy said can’t be justified in any way I can see.

But he’s OK, of course. I haven’t heard that the President called the tornado victims to make sure they didn’t feel bad because of Malloy’s comments. But he was very concerned about Ms. Fluke.

As is often the case, Jerry Pournelle presents a logical discussion about the issues of contraception, the Catholic Church, and freedom.

Heinlein was right, but the “Crazy Years” have been going on too long…

 

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You won’t believe this!

March 9, 2012

One of Willard Wigan's amazing micro-sculptures

Willard Wigan makes sculptures inside of the eyes of needles, or on the heads of pins. He apparently does this by hand but with the aid of a microscope. I can’t imagine how he does it. Apparently he was identified with a learning disability when he was young and he set out to prove them wrong…amazing!

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Hey Conspiracy Guys – Explain This!

March 6, 2012

Apollo 15 landing site. This image was taken from 25 miles up.

The lines shown in the image above are the lunar rover tracks. This was taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

If you’re a tinfoil-hat conspiracy nut who believes the Apollo landings were shot on a soundstage, I suppose you could believe that these images are all doctored as well. But really, all these years later – why bother?

As for me, I think it’s really cool. You want to prove it, one way or another? Let’s go back and take some more pictures, on the ground!

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“Smash” – Episode 5

March 6, 2012

Episode 5, “Let’s Be Bad,” sets up some personal conflicts and expands on some already set up and developing. However, I don’t want to get into the soap-opera aspects of the show: I would rather discuss a little something that irritates me. Since I like so very, very much about this show, the annoyances loom larger than they would probably seem otherwise.

Here’s the thing: Character Derek Wills, the show’s director, has repeatedly shown himself to be an obnoxious and egotistical, yet talented, artist. Tom, the composer, calls him “a horrible human being.” His talents are supposed to be so unbelievably great that people tend to cut him a lot of slack in both his professional and personal relationships. Okay, I’ve known some artistic types like that. Most of the time they weren’t nearly as talented as they thought themselves to be.

Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that Derek really is that good. Does that excuse the fact that he is having an affair with (or, to be more accurate, just sleeping with) the show’s star – and he has been since before she was selected for the role of Marilyn? Is this common practice in the world of today’s Broadway shows? I hope not. Perhaps it’s just a plot device, like in any other show, designed to increase the conflict between the characters.

Okay, I’ll concede that it might just be dramatic license. But his behavior in rehearsal – a professional environment – is another thing altogether. Lots of shows about musicians, actors and other entertainers have featured the stereotypical obnoxious, demanding boss: sometimes it’s done for drama, sometimes for comedic effect.

One of my pet peeves in the “Law and Order” franchises is their treatment of artists of all types. (They also consistently hate rich people – all rich people. But that’s for another day.) Temperamental, overbearing painters, orchestra conductors, architects,even novelists have usually been portrayed pretty much one-dimensional. Even murderers generally got treated better!

But I digress. In this episode, Derek not only embarrasses Ivy in front of the ensemble – repeatedly – he even forces Karen to demonstrate how he wants Ivy to sing a passage, in what I thought to be a very uncomfortable scene. (At least it was uncomfortable for me.) This is made worse by the fact that he asks her to sing “Happy Birthday, Mister President,” which Karen had sung for him the night he tried to seduce her. He even says, “I’ve heard you do it, go ahead,” or words to that effect, implying to everyone in the room that something personal had taken place between them in the past. Why does he not think this would undermine the ensemble’s respect for him?

The writers make sure we know that there are union-mandated breaks in rehearsals by creating a character who is basically just  there for that purpose. Do they really expect us to believe that Actors’ Equity is concerned about the timing of rehearsal breaks but not about harassment – in particular, pretty obvious sexual harassment?

I’ve worked with many, many musicians, students and adults, amateur and professional. It doesn’t matter what group you work with. All artists deserve to be treated with respect. Derek’s behavior would get him fired in most of the situations I’ve been in, no matter how talented he might be.

This is why I couldn’t write tv drama. I couldn’t force my own suspension of disbelief enough to set up the dramatic tension in this way. I’ll keep watching, not expecting it to be real life. The musical performances are just too much fun for me to abandon the show now. In fact, I haven’t heard a musical number in the show yet that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. But…I can hope for a little reality thrown in, though, can’t I?

Maybe not. I realize that since this a “musical about the making of a musical,” there’s not much more chance that the plot line will be realistic than that the intercuts from the rehearsals to full performances of the musical numbers really happen that way…

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Asteroid DA14…wham!

March 5, 2012

Next February we will see a close pass (probably in the nature of 16,000 miles) of asteroid DA14. Maybe we’ll get lucky. Maybe it will break up into pieces the size of “basketballs, and uh, Volkwagens, things like that.” Did I read that right? Sixteen thousand miles. Geosynchronous orbit is 22,200 miles! That’s where the communications satellites live!

All I can say is, where’s Harry Stamper?