Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Stunning: Sets the Bar to a New Level

I've seen Avatar twice now and each time I was blown away by the sheer creative energy that went into the movie. I think the story line is trite and somewhat predictable, especially the mean nasty techo-soldiers from earth against the noble savages and the rain-forest, super-green eco-nonsense which passes for wisdom these days. But those disadvantages pale into insignificance beside the sheer creative beauty, realism, and vigor of the visuals, the imagined future, and the 3D computer graphics which create a planet so powerfully beautiful and inspiring and a native population entirely computer generated that is convincing and characterizations that seem authentic from the seasoned former recon colonel to the Hispanic helicopter pilot who does what she thinks is right, to the avatars themselves and the natives. Wow! What an accomplishment. This movie is easily the best science fiction movie for a long time and should win a lot of Oscars.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

NaNoWriMo Winner: A little late reporting this.

I probably should mention how NaNoWriMo came out ... I won! Of course all that means is that I wrote 50,000 words in November on a novel and reported it to NaNoWriMo and got my name listed as one of the NaNo winner. I also got the image posted here.

I now have about half a novel which was jammed out in 30 days. Since then I've been contemplating my navel instead of working on polishing or continuing the novel. On the other hand I did just finish grading all my student's work for the Fall semester and I'm now languishing in the glorious fact that I can schedule my own work for a while until school starts again.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Game Maker Tutorial

Check out Tile Studio HERE
Check out a Game Maker Tutorial HERE
You can download Game Maker from HERE

Friday, October 23, 2009

NaNoWriMo Is Coming!

A NaNoWriMo person put me onto this interesting little on-line application which measures such things as your typing speed and gives you a little added stimulus as you WriMo away. Check it out HERE You don't know what NaNoWriMo is ... hmmmm... well if you're a frustrated writer you definitely need to check out NaNoWriMo HERE You just gotta do it, right!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Touch of Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman is one of my heros. I have quite a few of them, but they all share one major property: They are clear thinkers in some capacity. They are not saints or even necessarily noble people, but they are always people who in some capacity think particularly clearly. Richard Feynman is a particularly interesting person whose thinking in the realm of Physics is essentially paradigmatic. He is the Physicist's Physicist. My generation of Physicists grew up knowing we wanted to be like Feynman, as clear, as essentially thoughtful, and hopefully as creative.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tools of the Writing Craft

Don't know how much help this screen shot is but this is what it looks like when yWriter5 comes up. There are tabs for such things as Location, Items, Scenes, Descriptions, and on and on so that you can sort out various background elements as you are writing. I'm planning to fool with it during this year's NaNoWriMo. Click on the image for a better view.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

This is a 50 minute video, a visit with Richard Feynman. Richard Feynman was one of the heroes of my early maturity. I was a Physics undergraduate at St. Joseph's College in the years 1962-1966. Those were the days when Richard Feynman was creating the Feynman Lecture Series on Physics. But that wasn't really the draw. I think the draw was that Richard Feynman was a unique individual with an incredibly enquiring mind. The core of intellectual development is a penetrating curiosity, not merely an idle curiosity. A penetrating curiosity is not satisfied to merely observe. A penetrating curiosity seeks to explore and understand deeply. Spend 50 minutes with Richard Feynman, but turn on your "penetrating curiosity" before you do it and enjoy this fascinating gentleman.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Raymond John Schneider — Dad

Ray's first ship was USS DETROIT, which was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. DETROIT subsequently transported the Philippine Government's gold and silver monetary reserve, which had been removed from Corregidor by submarine, from Honolulu to San Francisco. Detached from DETROIT in December, 1942, he went to flight training. Designated Naval Aviator in 1943, he was ordered to NAS Melbourne, where he completed fighter training and carrier qualification, and later served as an Assistant Instructor in fighters. In 1944, he was a student in aeronautical engineering (armament) at the Naval PG School, Annapolis. Ordered to MIT, he received the degree of Master of Science (aeronautical engineering) in August, 1946. Ray next went to BuAer, in the Armament Division. In 1947, he was designated AEDO, and in 1949 he reported to the Naval Air Development Center, Johnsville, PA, and in 1952 became BuAer Rep, Cleveland. Returning to BuAer in 1955, he served in the Armament and Avionics Divisions. After attending the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in 1960, he returned to Johnsville as Director of the Aeronautical Electronic and Electrical Laboratory. From 1964 to 1965, he was BuWeps Rep at Westinghouse, Baltimore, after which he served as Missile Development Officer in BuWeps. In May, 1966, he assumed duty as Executive Director and Acting Assistant Commander for Research and Technology, NAVAIR. In 1968, after being promoted to Rear Admiral, he was assigned as Assistant Commander for Research and Technology in NAVAIR. In 1971, Ray became Vice Commander of NAVELEX, and in 1972, he became the Commander, where he served until retirement, June 30, 1975.

In 1968, he was awarded the Legion of Merit for the development of research and technology management in NAVAIR. He received a second Legion of Merit in 1972, for weapon systems advances, a new air- to-air weapon system for joint service use, and other technological innovations. He received a third Legion of Merit upon retirement, presented by classmate Admiral Mike Michaelis.

Ray died on July 5, 1985, and is buried in the Naval Academy Cemetery. He and his wife, the former Margaret Grace Croke of Lakewood, OH, had ten children, Raymond John, Jr., Thomas Edward, Jeanne Marie, Mary Ann, Margaret Grace, Carol Louise, Susan Joyce, John Michael, Laura Ellen, and Robert Lawrence. As of 1989, there were 33 grandchildren. Margaret continues to live in Elkridge, MD.

Ray was an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics; a Trustee of the Naval Historical Foundation; a member of the U.S. Naval Institute; Army Navy Club, Washington, DC; Pearl Harbor Survivors Association; the National Rifle Association; American Radio Relay League; and The Quarter Century Wireless Association. He was also a Registered Professional Engineer in Washington, DC.
(Scarfed from the Naval Academy Site SEE HERE)
My sister's blog post honoring our mom is HERE

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Liberty and Tyranny; Restore the Heritage of the West

I'm reading Mark Levin's book "Liberty and Tyranny" as well as a fascinating book called "The Last Superstition." Both are about ideas that seem to have been forgotten. The heritage of the West is embodied in ancient Athens, ancient Jerusalem, ancient Rome, and the emergence of representative democracy in the New World embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. We need to restore an understanding of this heritage before we sink into oblivion and insignificance as we let the stink of the swamp of socialism rise and suffocate us.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Peek At The Past: BBS's

Here's a peek into the past. This is sometime in the mid-1980's during the BBS (Bulletin Board System) days in the Twin Cities. Our family lived in Apple Valley, Minnesota (Isn't that a great name?). The character in the background is me and the young fellow in the foreground is my oldest son Ray who is sitting at an Apple ][ + working a BBS.
A BBS, for those not in the know, was a telephone based computer system that you could call and communicate with. It was a little like a Yahoo Group is today or a blog or even a website. They were also sometimes called message boards since mostly people signed on and read messages and left messages. It was great fun.
My BBS was called "Terminal Station" and it ran on some CPM software called "Citadel" and the metaphor was a set of rooms you could go to and leave messages. Each room was a topic and so many different conversations could be going on at the same time. Frankly I think Yahoo Groups could learn something about organizing a message board from some of those early systems.
The Apple ][+ had some Applesoft software that implemented a message board and my son Ray was working on that software to optimize it for a BBS he was running. Since we only had two phone lines and we reserved one for old fashioned things like telephone calls, Ray and I shared the other line. This no doubt confused some of our callers since when you called the number you were not really sure if you would get Terminal Station or Ray's BBS whose name he'd have to refresh me on. It was all great fun. Of course it was single threaded. Only one person could be on-line with the system at a time.
I had a friend who was running a bunch of modems and his system which was a multi-threaded form of the Citadel software would run as many as I think 20 users at a time. That was a big improvement of course over just a single line. The Internet has long since replaced all of that early activity.
The picture is from a story that ran in the local newspaper. Just a little trivia from the early days of personal computers. Nostalgia anyone?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Murray Leinster: An American Original

Will F. Jenkins wrote under his given name and under the pen name of Murray Leinster. I missed the fact that Virginia had honored him by naming June 27, 2009, Murray Leinster day. I never met him in person. But Murray Leinster was my companion on many an adventure when I was a boy. He was born on June 16, 1896 a couple of years before one of my other heros, C.S. Lewis. But I met Murray Leinster long before I read C.S. Lewis. I never passed up a book by Leinster. It was a license to adventure. He and Robert Heinlein's juveniles did more than anything else to get me interested in science.

I've been laying around the house recovering from a surgery performed on June 17, 2009 with not a lot to do. So I started reacquainting myself with many of the stories that I had first read long years ago in the 1950s when I was about twelve. I remember Willy Ley and Warner von Braun's books about exploring space. They were science fact, in fact NASA would have done well to follow their blue print for the space program instead of a race to the moon with the Soviet Union. But that's water over the dam.

Leinster's science fiction was full of clever ideas most of them at least partly rooted in fact. Leinster himself was an inventor as well as a writer. So what I did is turn on my Kindle, tune to the Amazon Kindle store and downloaded pretty much all the Leinster they had. Some of my favorites were not available at the Kindle store, so I'm waiting for them to come in the Big Brown Truck that has the location of my house memorized. Leinster was a writer who wrote very entertaining stories. They were not particularly profound, although they were deeper than a twelve year old could fully appreciate. I'm having a lot of fun getting reacquainted with my old friend Murray. Will F. Jenkins died June 8, 1975. His science fiction is a little dated here and there, but it's still a romp.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Does C.S. Lewis float your boat? ...

I'm a big C.S. Lewis fan and if you've not read the Oxford don who wrote the Chronicles of Narnia, the Screwtape Letters, the Great Divorce, and many others, who was a friend and great encouragement to J.R.R. Tolkien whose Lord of the Rings started a genre.well then you've missed out on a wonderful treat and need to start doing some homework.

The New York C.S. Lewis Society is having a weekend symposium All Things Considered from August 7th to August 9th 2009 at The Immaculate Conception Conference Center, Douglaston, Queens, NY. Check it out at their WEB SITE

Monday, June 22, 2009

Using and Losing: Phoney Marriage in America

Too bad really. It looks like all sorts of excuses for failing to rise to the challenge of family have torpedoed Jon and Kate. I think they both are being selfish and kids will pay the price. They both look like they are not focusing on what would help but only themselves and their own hurts. That is not sacrificial love. It isn't love at all. "Love is a Decision" was another of those Marriage Encounter mantras. It's a decision when you rise above your own hurt feelings and your own personal sense of outrage and decide to reach out and be healing in the presence of your own hurts... "I have to do what's best for me and for my kids" said Jon. They're both using the kids as an excuse not to reach out to each other. Sad, predictable and not at all heroic, and not love. Too bad. Now for a season of hypocrisy pictured as heroic endurance. Save me from such television and such a culture.

God Doesn't Make Junk

Jessica and I went on a Marriage Encounter long ago. At that weekend marriage enrichment experience one of the sloganized summaries was "God doesn't make junk." It was really focused on improving self-image. We live in a society that turns everything into a commodity to be bought and sold, including self-worth and human goodness. This video which my sister had put up on her blog is inspiring for its simple directness. We value the wrong things in this world and that is the problem. What people think of as success is an illusion.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Thought for the Day

Psalm 37:7-8 (New International Version)

7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Happiness Isn't About "Me"

"Playing, Working, Loving ... Happiness is Life." Worth a look and some thought, especially the next time that you see the bumper sticker, "The one who dies with the most toys wins!"

Happiness is being who you were meant to be, and loving all the way.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Quality ... the name of the game

I was at a Japanese Steak House yesterday. I love good Teppanyaki. That's what they call the style of cooking and serving with the chef cooking your meal on a grill along with various performance elements like the smiley face in oil that is set on fire, or the flaming onion volcano. It is all great fun. It creates a convivial, highly social, and entertaining dining experience. In short: Quality.

Christopher Alexander discusses in his inspiring work "A Pattern Language" the idea of QWAN (the Quality Without a Name). This can be thought of, to some degree, as the Greek idea of arete which means excellence. But QWAN means more, at least to me, since it embraces the whole person and the idea of rightness and comfort zone and tranquility. When something has QWAN you know it because it is really and totally there and you're at peace with it all.

In conversation I do a schtick about the cocktail party that is going on at the gates of heaven. It's a reception where the new souls are welcomed and it is a very joyful party. You can only serve the best of the best at that party and I ask people what is being served? Whatever it is, it possesses for them QWAN.

I have a couple of candidates: 1) Horton's Raspberry Wine (don't worry, you don't have to agree. You may have your own choices.), and 2) Takara Plum Wine.

In whatever you do, you should seek always to achieve the QWAN.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Classics ... Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Today's Delancey Place points to a video/audio clip of Sister Rosetta Tharpe playing "Up Above My Head."
"Sister Rosetta Tharpe, viewed by some as the first rock and roll guitarist. Tharpe first gained widespread attention performing in Barney Josephson's Café Society, a New York City nightclub, in the late 1930s and early 1940s."

excerpt from
Barney Josephson with Terry Trilling-Josephson, Café Society, University of Illinois Press, Copyright 2009 by Terry Trilling-Josephson, pp. 113-114.

Check out Delancey Place for interesting daily excerpts from emerging books and other tidbits.

Monday, June 1, 2009

BASE Jumping ... Proof there are crazy people

The English translation of St. Jerome's translation of the bible called the Vulgate has an interesting rendering of Ecclesiastes 1:15 that finishes "... the number of fools is infinite." Since that is so, there are plenty of idiots available to occupy the various activities that require them like base jumping.

Susan Boyle's Finale Performance

Friday, May 22, 2009

Will Vaus on C.S. Lewis

Will Vaus is the founder and moderator of the C. S. Lewis Society of Harrisonburg, Virginia which meets at the Barnes and Noble on the second Thursday of every month at 7:30 p.m. and the meetings usually run until about 9:00 p.m. To find out what book is being discussed on any given meeting you should visit Will's web site at Will is also the author of several books, notably:
Please come join us. You'll have a lot of fun!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Wonder of Life



Dark GDK Tutorials

Dark GDK Intro and Promo

Getting Started with Dark GDK Installation

Dark GDK Tutorial #2

Dark GDK Terrains

Demo Self-made Counterstrike in Dark GDK

Dark GDK Tutorial Texture a Box

Dark GDK Tutorial Multiple Objects

Dark GDK 2D Sprites

Game Physics a DBPro App Transitioned to Dark GDK

Checkersgame in Dark GDK

Dark Voices

Newtonian Physics in Dark GDK a Demo with Music

An attempt of making a space sim in VC++ with DarkGDK, planet Earth and Moon made at a realistic scale 1:1, you nav your camera with mouselook and changing speed with keys 1-7. I wanted to replicate a well known space sim (most realistic one named Orbiter). Earth made at its realistic scale, really gives you a perspective on how its like to 'fly' around it with different speeds.(Newton laws,collision detection are not implemented yet, also the position of the moon may not be correct one, i'm not an astrologist). Enjoy the music  and waiting for comments. You can download the application here

Location of The Game Creator's Tutorials

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Drat ... double drat ...

Well I went to the Star Trek movie again to see if I could see Randy Pausch and I missed him but Jessica (my wife) thinks she may have seen him. Apparently he has a line, "Captain we have a visual." or something like that ... scroll down to about December 1st, 2007 on the LINK at his blog. Above is the check he got for being an extra. Kind of cool! He donated it to charity! Randy is a class act and the good Lord loves him.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Randy Pausch

I just discovered on the internet that Randy Pausch has a bit part in the new Star Trek movie which I went to yesterday. SEE HERE Randy died 25 July 2008 of pancreatic cancer. He is survived by his wife and his three children. Randy is now famous for his Last Lecture, an inspiring address he gave at Carnegie Mellon University where he was a professor of Computer Science. His Last Lecture found traction for many reasons I think. Perhaps foremost was the positive way he handled his terminal disease. His Last Lecture summarized his efforts to acheive his childhood dreams and in so-doing Randy communicated a host of principles and values for living a successful and positive life. Among his childhood dreams is one about Star Trek. Randy wanted to be Captain Kirk. In his lecture he crossed out "be" and put in "meet" and he met William Shatner. A bit part in the Star Trek movie is particularly nice. Randy's larger legacy may well be the Alice Project which he founded and which keyed into another of his dreams, to be a Disney "imagineer." If you have not seen Randy's Last Lecture then you've missed something important.
Now I have to go back and see the movie again because I want to see Randy achieving one of those childhood dreams ...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

May 8th ... The Adventure Begins Anew

I admit it ... I'm a Trekkie!! I can't wait for May 8th — I know it comes out May 7th in the wee hours of the morning, but I can wait a day. Everything I've heard is that it's going to be awesome. I'm ready for the adventure to begin again.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Awesome Songbird

Must be seen and heard to be believed!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Netbook computing ...

I've been looking at these really little computers in the under 3# class called Netbooks. They don't have a CD/DVD but otherwise they have a lot of capability. They have USB ports, built-in camera, the usual awful mousepad (I hate those!) and a reasonable sized screen and keyboard with 1 GB of memory and in my case, a Dell Inspiron iM10-2634, a 160 GB harddrive and of course wireless internet. This one came in at $399 and came with Microsoft Works and a few other minor utilities. I downloaded Firefox and Open Office to get started fooling with it. So far with just an hour or so under my belt I'm pretty happy. I have not done too much with it yet, but that will change pretty quickly. One thing I really like is how light it is — 2 pounds 9.5 ounces. More later.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Return to Sizzle ...

OK OK I know that Spitzenpopper has been really political and I didn't start it with that in mind so I apologize. It's supposed to be about neat ideas that pop up and get you thinking and not all about politics all the time. So I need a place to talk about politics since I'm keyboard addicted ... and I created one where the political stuff will go.

Chesterton and Shaw were once guests on a BBC show. When told they could discuss anything they wished except religion and politics both walked out. They contended that there was nothing else worth talking about.

Obviously that is a bit of hyperbole ... but among the most important things to talk about are Religion and Politics. Religions is about ultimate ends, and Politics is about the material ends of man in society. There can hardly be two more important things. So I've created a special blog to conduct the political stuff called Political Brambles with Brer Rabbit as its mascot. Come and visit and comment if you like.

Where Have You Gone Mr. Jefferson

Hard to add much to this. The Congress has forgotten that they serve the people and the executive would be kind. We need Washington and Jefferson back, not to mention Madison.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Semper Fi

My family is a military family. I am proud of my father, career U.S. Navy, Annapolis class of 1940 who retired as a Rear Admiral (AEDO #1). I am proud that I served, even though it was only two years in the Army and that all three of my sons have served, one in the Marine Corps, one in the Army, and one currently in the Navy.

Like Robert Hall (image is of Bob in 1965) whose site you should visit, "I'm Tired" too of all the phoney baloney we are fed daily by our press, our leaders, our spin-doctors. The United States was built on hard work, integrity, dedication, and commitment. Those are all things in very short supply these day. I encourage you to read "I'm Tired".

To encourage you I'd like to include a little excerpt below:

I’m tired of being told that Islam is a “Religion of Peace,” when every day I can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters, wives and daughters for their family “honor;” of Muslims rioting over some slight offense; of Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because they aren’t “believers;” of Muslims burning schools for girls; of Muslims stoning teenage rape victims to death for “adultery;” of Muslims mutilating the genitals of little girls; all in the name of Allah, because the Qur’an and Shari’a law tells them to.

There's a lot of very plain common sense in Hall's essay. We need more people to stand up and speak up for a restoration of common sense before there is nothing left to save.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Politics as Usual ...

I'm not sure what exactly is happening in Virginia in the Virginia Republican Party whose Central Committee voted yesterday to depose the Chairman Jeff Frederick who was only elected last September. All sorts of charges have been floated, so many really that they all end up looking like trial balloons to see what will stick and gain traction. The Washington Post story had this little clip:

After six hours of debate behind closed doors, the party's governing board, the State Central Committee, voted 57 to 18 to remove Frederick, 33, a conservative delegate from Prince William County.

"I ran for chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia with the hope of changing our party so we could once again be a major party in Virginia [and] so we could achieve real progress for our state and our families,'' Frederick said after the vote. "Unfortunately, the headwinds to change course were just too great. . . . Too many are still invested in doing things the old top-down way. I'm sad for our party and for our grass roots."

First Vice Chairman Mike Thomas, a leader in the movement to remove Frederick, took over as interim party chairman, a post he has held three times since 2003. The committee will select a chairman May 2.

Now frankly I don't know if Frederick did anything worthy of removal. The whole thing smells like a railroad job by the moderate wing of the party to oust a conservative. Transparency this is not, at least so far. The cost in grass roots support is hard to gauge but may be significant if they can't get a better story together than they have floated so far. The next calibration point will come on May 2nd when we see who the committee selects as a chairman. If it looks like a real conservative then maybe they'll weather the storm at the convention. If not, there will likely be hell to pay.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Return of the Ghouls

The death tax is back. Apparently for Democrats the hard-earned property of the dead is fair game for government. The Bush administration had the death-tax on the way out. The politics of greed and envy favored by the Democrats is back. I'm sure that will do wonders for the incentive of the segment of the population that already pays far and away the most taxes. I personally think that if you don't pay at least 10% of your income in taxes you should not be allowed to vote. You're not contributing enough. Certainly those who pay no taxes ought not to be able to overrule those who do.

Getting Started ...

Sometimes it's just hard to get started and that's when you say things like "I'll do it when I get around to it!" So in honor of getting started, here's a complimentary round TUIT for each and every one who stops by Spitzenpopper.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Pied Piper and His Rats

The freedom of the press has been abused beyond all belief by the run up to Obama's election. One has to wonder what has happened to the alleged media's rugged independence and zeal for the truth.

The truth is that we have elected the most callow, self-absorbed, poorly equipped person in history to be the president of the United States. What is scarier is that his philosophy of government can be summed up as "fear and exploitation" for a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. We can look forward to one manufactured crisis after another interspersed of course among the real ones that he is inducing now with his profligate policies. When the smoke clears, who will clean up the wreakage?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Government of Thieves

Walter Williams, like Thomas Sowell, is one of my favorite economists. He's a direct no-nonsense, straight from the shoulder kind of guy when it comes to cutting to the chase. In his column yesterday which you can read at Investor's Business Daily he asks the rather obvious questions:
Do you believe that it is moral and just for one person to be forcibly used to serve the purposes of another? And, if that person does not peaceably submit to being so used, do you believe that there should be the initiation of some kind of force against him?

He goes on to answer a resounding "No" to each. Somehow we seem to have forgotten that just because the gubment does it, doesn't make it right. Stealing is no less stealing when done by the government. Indeed, done by the government it is the rankest form of tyranny. A citizen has a chance against a brigand. He can possibly defend himself. But against the force of the government the citizen can rarely do more than submit. We have travelled a long way down the path toward tyranny and in steps that individually seem small, but collectively have brought us to this point.

The scary fact as Williams goes on to point out is:
Unfortunately, there is no way out of our immoral quagmire. The reason is that now that the U.S. Congress has established the principle that one American has a right to live at the expense of another American, it no longer pays to be moral.

Williams makes a clear and powerful point. We have long gone over the brink and we are far gone. It is not clear that there is a recovery from this point. Perhaps collapse is all we can look forward to and perhaps in the far future another free state will arise. This one was once a city on a hill, a great hope for freedom. If we work at turning back the tempest, perhaps it can be again.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I couldn't resist. After yesterday's post the cartoon on IBD was just too big a temptation. It captures my sentiments exactly. What has the government done that should give us confidence that they can handle any crisis? Regardless of whether it is the Republicans or the Democrats, the politicians that run the show give the appearance of a bunch of squabbling, spoiled children that should be spanked, not given the keys to the cookie jar. But then the cookie jar is pretty much empty now, so we are down to promises of future cookies. But as my mother used to say, "Tomorrow never comes." Obama will still be talking at his teleprompter when hell freezes over.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Beginning of the End ...

So now the gubment is taking over the automakers. Yup, that'll work all right! Where exactly is that in the constitution? This growing intrusion on the private sector that goes beyond all precedent and is just invented as they go along is already the beginning of the end. Where are the checks and balances when we need them?

Why does anyone think the government knows what it is doing? Bad businesses need to die and then perhaps something will rise from the ashes. The automakers have been raped for years by big labor as they make less and less appealing cars on the whole as witness the economic problems they have. What is the government doing that will improve anything? Prolonging the pain at great expense will only make the final collapse worse. Shoring up failure by robbing the taxpayer is not a way forward, but a recipe for economic collapse. The people who will pay the highest price are those on fixed incomes as the dollar inflates away their hard earned savings. It will likely make the Carter administration look like statesmanship, a towering, if distressing, achievement.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Get a Stiff Drink Before you Watch This

This ought to scare the hell out of you. The question is what to do about it? If we do have this kind of economic collapse there will certainly be hell to pay. Well there's two hells in three sentences. I'm beginning to sound like an alarmist. I'm definitely more scared of this than global warming. We'll see how long it takes before some of the early warning indicators start tripping the alarm buttons so everyone starts to get it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Is There Something Wrong With This Picture?

No it's not the famous global warming hockey stick! This is your life savings being put down a rat hole. Welcome to change that sinks hope. The culmination of American fiscal irresponsibility is in the immediate offing it would seem. You can't spend your way to prosperity by increasing your debt indefinitely. The emperor has no clothes and naked people are cold in the Winter time. So hunker down. It's going to be a long four years. Keynesianism didn't work back when Keynes was alive. It's based on false assumptions. We are not "All Keynesians now!" as Nixon said, we are all dupes.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

It Ain't Over 'til It's Over

My favorite market analyst is Peter Navarro who wrote a couple of good books and has a great audio course on investing called something like "Big Picture Investing." Peter has a newsletter he sends out to folks which is one of the best things for a great perspective on what's going on and the question he's asking this week is the one that has the market buzzing:"Has the bottom been put in?"

The short answer is probably not. We're likely still moving sideways. Perhaps a question that ought to concern us more is whether when we get finished moving sideways will we break out up or down. The general competence of the current occupants of Washington doesn't make one too confident that we know the answer. Peter makes the following comment about the Fed:
" Let's start with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke -- the Princeton guy. Loyal readers will also remember that when he got appointed, I predicted, quite presciently as it would turn out, that Helicopter Ben would wind up to be the biggest fall guy in history for Alan Greenspan. When I failed to anticipate is just how bad Bernanke would be in his own right."
He goes on to make a few more less than charitable but no doubt deserved criticisms of Bernanke.
Not only did the Princeton guy help create the massive housing bubble with his easy money policies. He has now set the stage for the most comprehensive debasing of our currency the United States has ever witnessed. The even bigger problem with the debasing of our currency is it's "beggar thy neighbor" nature.
He goes on to develop this idea of "beggar thy neighbor" but the bottom line is that it won't make us any friends and Navarro characterizes our policy as "insanity." That's probably high praise. It may well be worse. Meanwhile, the American people, not always the sharpest chisels in the chiselbox are getting a little torqued at the government's favorite remedy for everything ... tax more and blow the money on any crazy scheme that someone thinks up. Maybe insanity is exactly right. The T.E.A. parties are only just beginning. The question is still when the sideways travel ends will the market continue to collapse or not? Nothing gives me much confidence that I know the answer. Meanwhile perhaps we should not be creating more debt so fast.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dynabook: The Future Awaits

In 1968 Alan Kay first wrote about Dynabook. I remember reading about it and being quite excited about the concept. Since then I've watched as a number of what I call "Vision Projects" formed the basis for generations of dreamers. Among the early things I'd identify as vision projects would be the orbiting space station which was so beautifully conceptualized in Warner von Braun and Willy Ley's books in the 1950's. We didn't do it that way. It would have been better if we had. Perhaps we'd have the Space Colonies envisioned by Gerald O'Neill. O'Neill's vision project is the O'Neill Space Colony often referred to as L5.

Yet another vision project is Eric Drexler's nanotechnology as well as the Xanadu vision of Ted Nelson. Each of these is a dramatic goal, likely to only be achieved in the relatively far future. Dynabook is 40 years old and not quite here for example. But the Kindle 2, for example, and some of the notebook PCs that are out there are getting amazingly close even if we have not yet acquired the social infrastructure to make full use of the technology.

It isn't enough to have a vision though. You have to find stepping stones that move you towards the vision. I call those stepping stones Focus Projects. Each plays a role as a component, one more small step for man culminating over time in a giant leap for mankind.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Building the Future

The Heritage Foundation Interns

The future begins with the young. The child is father and mother to the man or woman.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tea Party Anyone?

March 15th there was a Tea Party in Cincinnati. Check it out! Among my favorites is the Debt Star using the Star Wars Death Star to symbolize it. It is time for the productive sector to demand their rights, which include not being forced to constantly fund the stupidity of others, especially the stupidity of government.

Do You Wonder What's Going On?

Wonder No Longer

The bottom line is simple: You're being robbed and lied to.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Kindle 2 Rocks!

Well I broke down and bought a Kindle 2. I was thinking about waiting for a color display, but I figured that would probably be a very long wait so I ordered it from Amazon on Monday or so and yesterday it arrived. I had it charged up in no time and was downloading books to practice with it. So far I have a zillion works by G.K. Chesterton, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickenson, Walt Whitman, a couple of computer books which I uploaded as pdf files for the Kindle folks to convert to Kindle format and send back to me at ten cents a book. I also downloaded a copy of the Douay-Rheims Bible. Just all kinds of stuff out there if you're into classics. More contemporary stuff is more expensive but still cheaper than hardcover.

So far I'm thrilled with it. It is easy to read. I'd like a little more contrast but it's good enough. The Whispernet that lets you connect with the web is fascinating and adequately fast to do reasonable things. I think the pricing for newspapers is way too high given that they are much harder to read well in the Kindle format, especially the kinds of things that would interest me which would be financial data and graphs and things like that.

As a lark I uploaded one of my shroud papers but the transformation killed a lot of the pictures leaving them black blots -- so the conversion isn't perfect.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Be of Good Cheer!

Sometimes I think that I'm really a downer as I look over this blog. I suppose it's because I'm having some difficulty in figuring out what I should be cheerful about. By disposition I'm a very cheerful person. I believe in the absolute Divine Providence of God and the counsel received by Julian of Norwich that "All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." I don't suppose that means all the time though or that there won't be travails between now and eternity.

I'm currently reading C.S. Lewis's The Allegory of Love which is not his most approachable book since it is one of those written in his capacity as a scholar of Medieval Literature, especially the 16th century. It's fun to read Lewis because he has such a clear mind and in everything he writes that clarity of thought seems to come through.

Today the stock market bounced 379 points on the DOW and that's nice. The pundits are always explaining why the market moves the way it does, but in general they really don't know. It goes up when more buyers show up than sellers and goes down for the opposite reason. There are lots of reasons to be depressed about the economy and the state of the nation. For me the biggest reason to be depressed about the nation is the lack of coherence.

I like clarity which is why I like Lewis. I like principles that hew to what Plato might call The Good and not the merely convenient or current advantage. I want my country to be good and principled and sound and a great many other things that I think it is not. The older I get the more I become convinced that most people vote only their selfish personal advantage. 40% pay no taxes but can vote. That's a travesty which will shorty end the American experiment if it continues. When the majority can just vote to take the goods of the minority which we're already doing to a large extent then it is over. It killed all the societies of the past and will kill ours too. A lack of wisdom is one of our besetting sins as a nation. We have no principles any more. It is all empty rhetoric and we have a rhetorician at the helm whose rhetoric is emptier than most.

But that brings me to my faith in Divine Providence. God will not be mocked, nor does a sparrow fall that He does not attend. He loves all of His creation and brings good out of evil. My confidence in that makes me an eternal optimist. "For all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

Monday, March 9, 2009

How Long Do We Have?

Fiat money is only as valuable as the trust on which it is based. Trust is based ultimately on honesty and integrity. Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. It might be sobering to reflect on the German hyperinflation of 1923 and ask how they got that way and whether the track we are on is really any different?

The problem is not so much that we are using paper money that is unbacked by anything but promises. That is not as different from gold or other precious metal backed currency as some might think, for that is also based on promises, the promise to exchange a certain amount of precious metal for a certain amount of paper. There is never really enough gold or silver to exchange for all the paper so it's still based on trust that the promises will be fulfilled.

What if you live in a society which increasingly celebrates liars and cheaters where integrity is scoffed at and honor is an empty word? What then?

What if the banks are told to ignore the ability to pay back loans and instead loan money to people who are poor credit risks so that they can buy houses that they can't afford? Suppose that banks that drag their feet are picketed and trashed by goons and hooligans until they submit? What if people who don't know very much economics (Why is that? The schools are dominated by a single politically correct perspective. Economics doesn't fit the mold.) and they are told that housing always goes up? It isn't true of course. A big balloon develops of worthless credit and the loans come due. What happens then?

Do you let all that bad credit and those who sustained it fail? or do you throw good money after bad and swell the problem with more promises from more people whose promises have been shown to be no good in the past? Where does it end? How far is down? Who pays in the end?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Papers from the Coumbus Conference

As a member of the Shroud Science Group I'm pleased to point you at the site where the papers given at the conference are available. The Shroud Science Group is a group of scientists, historians, archeologists and other sindonologists (students of the shroud) who are trying to understand this remarkable object.

The members of the Shroud Science Group hold various opinions about the authenticity of the shroud, about the processes by which the image and blood came to be on the shroud. Many favor authenticity, others are neutral on the subject and some no doubt believe the shroud is a clever human artifact. What unites the group is a commitment to scientific study of the shroud and not agenda driven bias.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Global Warming Mantra

Well the beat goes on ... The mindless character of the climate change debate is evidenced by the fact that new data that disagrees with the alledged consensus is ignored. This is, of course, not only not science, it is not even sane.

CNS describes the openminded response of our legislators to new data NOT:
"The study, released on Jan. 28 by Kyle L. Swanson and Anastasios A. Tsonis, who are professors in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, found that the Earth has been cooling since 2001 and projected that due to “global variation” the climate would continue to cool for the next 20 to 30 years."

Now of course one article does not a tidal wave make. But notice is it an article about data. Data is what science is about, not opinion, not policy. "My mind's made up, don't bother me with facts" is the behavior that characterizes our legislators. The very fact of the data calls into question the fact of global warming. After a decade of global cooling the chicken littles will likely shift to global cooling and the imminent ice age. Who knows if that will make any more sense than the current mantra?
The short version: We don't know enough about weather to make all this noise. What we do know is that we've had multiple ice ages in the past and we've also had periods with much higher carbon dioxide levels than are here currently long before man was a factor. This suggests that all the current brouhaha is simply hooey.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Blunders on the Cheap

Human Events has done us all a favor by summarizing the top ten blunders that the Obama Administration has made in just the first month. I don't know if that is an all time record for rate of blunders, but if it isn't it is sure close.

The overwhelming impression is of an amateurish petulant child in a big hurry when what we need is something like careful thought and analysis. Obama seems to take relatively little counsel and none from those who don't already agree with him. The stimulus package looks like nothing but a debacle. His appointees are certainly not "change" — more like more of the same 'ole same 'ole. The policies are regurgitated New Deal which if they work as well as they did the first time will tank the economy and keep it tanked for a long long time. What we are not getting and what it increasingly is looking like we won't get is anything that plows any new ground. The change is all backward looking and a fast-track to extreme socialism. It hasn't worked in the past and nothing has changed. Check out Einstein's quote from the post two back. I think it applies.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Taking Your Mind Off It All

One of the fascinating things to me is the way the internet keeps getting more and more information content and more and more dynamic. Social Networking software for example like Facebook and MySpace are taking off. Twitter, about as mindless a piece of software as I've seen is even ticking along.('s video about Twitter) Then there is YouTube and Yahoo and all the Blogs. None of these things were even around just a few years ago.

Now as more and more information gets out there it becomes more and more difficult to tell the good stuff from the not-so-good stuff and certainly the reliable stuff from the unreliable stuff. It all just reminds me of the George Carlin bit about having a place to keep your stuff.

One site I ran into because someone sent me a link was I don't know who is running this site but it's a pretty simple site. It has about fifteen or so videos a day that are just shown as links with a mouseover action that gives a slightly extended hint about what the link it about. Most of their videos are exceptionally interesting, which is the whole point. I watched a long one yesterday about the rise of the Linux operating system and there were some others on optical illusions. It's just a terrible time waster because you get hooked on the good videos. So if you have a moment or two or ten wander over to and check it out. By the way, if you click on Ben Franklin there you'll get a great video from on government.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Stimulated by the Insanity of it all

Well this stimulus package has certainly been stimulating everyone. I've yet to see any positive press on it. Today my mailbox was full of messages about the number of Americans that are against it. One internet poll was running 50 to 1 against it.

It's a huge expenditure which seems likely to single handedly jack up the national debt appreciably. Currently the U.S. Gross Domestic Product is a bit less than 15 Trillion dollars, that's a lot, but the debt is about 9 Trillion and with the 800 billion or so of stimulus adjusted for interest we're looking at something like a 33% rise in the national debt from the long term effects of this one action. This is not fiscal responsibility. It isn't even fiscal irresponsibility. What it is is sheer reckless disregard for the health of the economy.

Apparently the Democrats are drunk with their newly found power and bent on making up for all the profligate spending they never had a chance to do. It is positively scary, especially in the aftermath of the stock market collapse. Your 401K may be different from mine but my IRA's and my 401K's have all tanked and now they want to spend money they don't have in huge quantities? Have they collectively lost their marbles? This is positively crazy.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Review Surfing the Bimodals

Review surfing at is a hoot sometimes. I was doing that today since I've been reading Henry Hazlitt's book "Economics in One Lesson" mainly to remind myself of how economically illiterate most people are and what is scarier most politicians. So in that frame of mind I found a few books on Amazon dealing with the recent and past lunatic economic behaviors. The two books I found were Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse by Thomas E. Woods Jr. which has 10 reviews and New Deal or Raw Deal?: How FDR's Economic Legacy Has Damaged America by Burton W., Jr. Folsom which has 22 reviews.

I virtually always check out the reviews, especially the negative ones. The positive ones are going to have a few prompted by friendship with the author or the point of view, but the negative ones are always either 1) mindless, or 2) full of venom and hence often more informative. Amazon reviews are from 1 to 5, sort of a Likert scale. Books with no very ideological flavor and which stir no great passions will have a range of reviews 5's 4's 3's 2's and an occasional 1.

They might look like a little bar chart.
3 XX
1 X
while the ideological ones are always bimodal having a lot of high grades and a lot of low grades and nothing much in between. That was the case with these two books.

Meltdown had 9 5* and 1 1* reviews.
New Deal or Raw Deal? had 15 5*, 2 2* and 5 1*
You can go look at them yourself. I think it is self-evident along with Henry Hazlitt that government spending is money displaced from it's proper role as the resources of those who earned it. Government has proper roles, but one of them is not taking people's money so the government can spend it indiscriminantly as they please. That is ultimately tyranny.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Just Who Is Stimulated?

The stimulus package is an incoherent and ultimately fruitless exercise in government wastefulness and a power grab of monumental proportions. This is a policy with no precedent whatsoever that suggests it will be effective. The Investment Business Daily today had a few choice words to say on the subject in an article titled: Taxing the Truth which points out that the policies currently being pursued have never been successful. You know "never" "nada" or maybe "What part of The Great Depression was it that you didn't understand?"

So if objectively there is no reason to expect this stuff to work, and let's assume these guys have more than two neurons, so we can't simply ascribe it to idiocy, then there must be another reason. Sherlock Holmes would hit on it right away. It fits in perfectly with "a crisis is a terrible thing to waste" — this is just the biggest earmark opportunity ever. If you miss the boat on this one you're really a bozo so they all lined up.

One wonders how long Obama's honeymoon will be. So far it's hard to see anything he's done particularly right. It's going to be a long four years.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Money isn't real! Let me say that again: "Money isn't real." I don't mean that it's not real in the sense of being useless, but only in the very specific sense of being both intangible and ephemeral. Money is an acknowledgment of value owed, it's like a promise or a debt token. What it stands for is either a promise to reimburse someone for work they have already done, or a promise of restitution when it is money borrowed against future work.

Work has to produce something worth the promise. One of the problems with government is that most of what they do we could get along very well without but we have to promise them quite a bit for doing not much worthwhile. In fact much of what they do makes the rest of us less effective. I don't know how much time you spend preparing your income tax, but I spend way too much quality time filling out meaningless forms of great complexity so that I can give too much of my hard earned income to a bunch of idiots to waste. Does that sound like whining? Well maybe it is. I don't think there is much government does except national defense that couldn't be done a good deal better by the private sector or not done at all.

This latest stimulous package is over the top. A huge amount of money is going to simply be wasted with the claim (unproven and largely unprovable) that it is necessary to save the economy. Well (surprise, surprise) the government's primary effect on the economy is as a drag. More government meddling will make it more of a drag, so don't expect much stimulus from the stimulus package. It's just a big payoff to the Democratic constituencies. Better they give the people's money back to the people who can spend it efficiently on things that are really needed.

In a few years when they've made a total shambles of the economy maybe we'll be able to salvage something from the pieces. Maybe not.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Advantage: Principles, Disadvantage: Lack of Courage

Thomas Sowell's editorial yesterday which I cited concluded with this telling passage about Principles:

Too many Republicans seem to think that being "inclusive" means selling out your principles to try to attract votes. It never seems to occur to them that you can attract a wider range of voters by explaining your principles in a way that more people understand.

That is precisely what Reagan did and what Gingrich did in 1994. Most Americans' principles are closer to those of the Republicans than to those of the Democrats.

It is the only advantage the Republicans have. The Democrats have the media, the unions, the environmental extremists and the tort lawyers on their side. Why should Republicans throw away their one advantage by becoming imitation Democrats?

Joseph Sobran calls the Republicans "the stupid party" because while they have the right principles, at least better than the Democrats, they are forever showing the lack of courage of their convictions. They too have the "win at any price" syndrome which typifies either lack of principle or lack of courage. Most often I think it is the latter.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Politicians are just nuts!

If you want to find the source of total cluelessness, just go to Washington. It seems to be an illness that is contageous since if you send a representative to Washington they tend to catch it after a while regardless of the political party. Occasionally there are rare moments of lucidity as when the Republicans united against the so-called stimulous package. But the romance of government with failed economic policies continues unabated. See Thomas Sowell's column today.

Did these people ever take any economics? Oh yeah, I forgot, they're all lawyers. That might explain it. We seem poised to revisit depression era economics all over again. The New Deal didn't work! Let me repeat that. The programs much heralded by the left in the New Deal didn't work. The lessons of history suggest instead that they delayed economic recovery by a decade at least. If we work it right we can learn that all over again. Help!! The lunatics are running the asylum.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The World of the Clueless

Sometimes it is downright 'pathetic' as well as hilariously funny how clueless the new president can be. He probably needs a keeper now that he can pop off whenever he wants. Amir Taheri concluded his column in The New York Post titled PATHETIC 'MESSAGE'—OBAMA'S ODD ISLAMIC OUTREACH with:
"CASTING himself in the role of a "bridge" and dreaming of a return to an illusionary past, Obama appeared unsure of his own identity and confused about the role that America should play in global politics. And that is bad news for those who believe that the United States should use its moral, economic and political clout in support of democratic forces throughout the world."

Our new president on Al-Arabiya TV presented a view of the past that was simply imaginary. In short order Iran, in effect demanded that the U.S. withdraw from the Middle East leaving Israel at the mercy of those who would destroy her. I don't think the president is ready to play hard ball; he's probably not ready for little league.

Friday, January 30, 2009

La La Land

Posted today, Charles Krauthammer in a column in IBD makes the undeniable point that Barack Obama is operating in his own contrived and deluded pseudo-reality. There is something totally bizarre about reading Kruathammer's editorial in Investor's Business Daily column which details the sacrifices Americans have made for Islamic peoples and the tolerance we have shown in the face of their intolerance.

The president doesn't get it I guess. He, like many liberals, thinks that when people are mad at us it must be our fault. Krauthammer points out how much of reality that view, totally uninformed by real events, simply ignores. If Obama's posture is the kind of distorted response to reality we can expect, then the next four years are going to be a very strange ride indeed.

Our new president shows very little grasp of history, philosophy, morality or much of anything else. So far he's done nothing that gives me much confidence that he's more than a good looking suit with a resonant voice making a good impression when well scripted. I keep waiting to find out who is pulling his strings. Frankly he doesn't come across to me as his own man. No-one can be as successful as he has been and simultaneously as clueless. He must be a shell or is that shill?