Thursday, September 22, 2005

"In Neptune's Court" or "Who Owns Davy Jones's Locker?"

Wow, has it been so long since my last post? Syndicated columnists must face this problem, but it messes around with their whole money flow if they fail to complete a writing assignment on time. Luckily bloggers face no such interruption, only the conscience-tweaking recognition of failure.

As such, to rectify this deficiency, I post. As the title of this entry suggests, there's a watery theme to this post. Do you remember Ursula the Sea Hag in The Little Mermaid? Her two pets were named Flotsam and Jetsam. I always thought that these words just referred to different types of sea garbage, natural or man-made, and that the distinction lay in whether one was "floating" on the surface, or carried suspended in the water. Yeah. Pretty dorky.

What's even dorkier is actually looking up the meanings. Apparently flotsam and jetsam are not distinguished by any physical differences; rather, they are distinguished by their origin. Flotsam is equipment or goods left over from a shipwreck or sinking. Jetsam is equipment or goods that have been thrown overboard by a vessel in distress (i.e., jettisoned), whether or not the ship subsequently wrecks. Thus, the distinction lies in the intent that resulted in the particular piece of garbaggio di mare.

The reason the distinction exists is apparently from Admiralty Law where I assume the possession of a certain piece of salvage might depend on whether it was intentionally thrown overboard or if it was overboard only as a result of a wreck. I can imagine the salty crew of some fine vessel mutinying and hanging a "sea lawyer" because of an adverse decision that affected their share of the booty. Yarrr. (Monday was "Talk Like a Pirate Day"!!)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Google extends its reach

I already got all excited about Google Earth, but frankly that was just a fun toy. Imagine that satellite technology now crossed with a fully functional direction-providing service. Too good to be true? Begin weeping for joy now. Google Maps has arrived (in beta format).

See my former morning commute when I was living in DC (although it's not 100% the route I would have chosen...). Try dragging the map around (no more click-re-centering!) and checking the zoom functions. Click map, satellite or hybrid. Unless other map websites incorporate this information, I don't think they will be able to compete.

Bush "takes" responsibility

Hey Bush, you can't "take responsibility." It was already given to you 5 years ago when you were sworn into office. What an ass.

Instead of "Bush takes responsibility," the news articles' headlines should be "Second Term President Receives Political Consultant OK to Take Hit on Failures of His Party."

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Cheese is a good word. It makes you smile, literally, to say cheese. Plus, cheese is tasty. If you can't tell, my week has been pretty boring. Nothing really spurred me to write anything in my 'blog this week, so I will expound on the minor fixation I had earlier today.

People brought in snacks for the project I'm working on right now (kind of as reward for coming in on the weekend - I'd rather they just give me the money), and someone was inventive enough to buy individually wrapped string cheese!

I don't eat cheese by itself very often, but string cheese really is a very enticing snack. As I was eating it, however, I began to puzzle how string cheese was actually made. Cheese isn't exactly like a plant or a tree or a muscle, which often grow with fibers aligned one way. And yet, that is precisely the analogy that first popped to mind (perhaps because another snack which I was "enjoying" was beef jerky). I began to wonder whether string cheese was cultivated with some weird bacteria, or whether the milk was placed in a strange matrix that would encourage the proteins to form into strands.

Boy, I was way off base. Apparently string cheese forms strings because the curds are pulled during processing (think pulled noodles) and then pressed together while aligned together. See, if one is curious, one learns something new every day! I learn new information about things as familiar as the string cheese I ate as a child (and apparently still eat as an adult).


Sunday, September 04, 2005

More fun with creationism

Foxtrot's punchline today involves creationism. IMO, it's not particularly funny, but as the subject keeps popping up, I feel compelled to post.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Righteous Indignation - I am SOOO pissed

I've been fuming for the last couple days about the slow federal response to Katrina. I've been keeping quiet, as my knowledge about this disaster and the efforts undertaken are relatively shallow.

No longer. I read a transcript of New Orlean's Mayor Nagin being interviewed by CNN, and the efforts and pleas he has been engaged in trying to get some help to his flooded city. In that interview, CNN relays that Bush's people say they have been slow because they haven't been asked to help by the proper people (what about the Governor of Louisiana or the Mayor of New Orleans?!): "Because apparently there's a section of our citizenry out there that thinks because of a law that says the federal government can't come in unless requested by the proper people, that everything that's going on to this point has been done as good as it can possibly be."

I call bull$hit on that. Absolute poppycock. You show me a law that says that the federal government can't intervene in emergency situations and I'll show you the Haymaker riots in Chicago in 1886, the National Guard mobilizations during the Civil Rights era to integrate segregated States. In each of those cases, the federal government moved in spite of State protests to stay out. Lives are being lost and Bush makes excuses and hides behind some "law" his lawyers have dug up.

Yet again Bush is hiding behind partial truths to mask his incompetence.

I used to think that Bush's failure to get the FEC breathing down the colluding (as good as admitted because of the billions in settlement money, and conveniently avoided by impeccably-timed bankruptcy filings) energy companies' necks during the California energy crisis was due to some political motivation to get a Republican in the governator's office, or due to his being essentially bribed by the energy companies. It was the only way I could see a president failing to act while a State which represents 1/8 of the GDP of the entire country was being violated during a nationwide recession. I see now that it was merely an extension of his general policy of enforced incompetence in all affairs, foreign and domestic.

New Orleans residents are feeling the storm front between the reality of our federal system and the Republicans' illusions of Jeffersonian confederacy. State sovereignty is not inviolable, and especially not when FEMA has been very specific about the danger to New Orleans for years. Paul Krugman's NY Times Op-Ed piece "A Can't Do Government": "Before 9/11 the Federal Emergency Management Agency listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans."

The response necessary was completely foreseeable, and completely feasible. A hurricane is a predictable event (within a week or so) - the federal government knew about the potential scope of the disaster and should have been ready.

Now two of the three major disasters listed by FEMA have happened. I can only hope that Americans put a non-moronic administration in before the third happens.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Falling, Rethought.

As a follow-up to my "Elevation of Creationism" entry on August 15, please find for your edification, enlightenment, and enjoyment the following article from The Onion:

"Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity with New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory"

It's like butter.

Google hegemony

Google offers a dazzling array of products - some of which are rather useful and some of which are free! Picasa (a photo organizer and modifier) is really kinda nifty for those with little patience for traditional photo-finishing programs. But the program I've been playing around with, to my vast glee, is Google Earth.

If you have a supported 3D capable video card (and who doesn't these days?), you can install this nifty little program that downloads a satellite image of the earth and allows you to zoom in to startling precision. For instance, the picture attached to this blog is a screen capture from the program of my high school (upper left) and junior high school (lower right)! I think it's © 2005 Digital Globe, by the way. Anyway, the point is, you can zoom into any part of the world, slant the view, see the topology, you name it! And, in certain areas, usually well-populated industrialized countries, you can get images so detailed you can make out individual people!

You haven't lived until you've flown through the Grand Canyon with Google Earth. Well, ok, maybe it's not that great... But it's wicked cool.