Monday, May 26

Observing Memorial Day

I think holidays are tricky to observe. Memorial Day is one of the harder ones for me. I was thinking of linking to some appropriate remembrances around the web. But then I had another idea.

I'm currently reading The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation. I ran into by chance at our local library. I recommend it highly. It helps to communicate the message of the report, condensing the report-language and using simple imagery.

My biggest takeaway so far is that we still have not addressed some of the most crying needs pointed out by the 9/11 Commission. I'm not interested in second-guessing events before 9/11, but learning from it and adapting after it should be imperative.

First, we have not adequately addressed the bureaucratic snarls that prevented the discovery of the 9/11 conspiracy. The Intelligence Community is still largely separated and we still have legislative problems of oversight and accountability, including lack of accountability for enacting the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission!

Second, we began two wars in the wake of 9/11 that we should see through to the best possible conclusions. I have often criticized the Bush Administration for its conduct of those wars. We need clear goals for combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and a comprehensive strategic vision for the Middle East and beyond.

At a minimum, we should be sure troops in these conflicts have what they need to do their jobs. It seems hard to imagine the Iron Triangle (Congress, the Pentagon, and Industry) diverting money from monster technological systems to counter-insurgency resources. Here are some systems that could be cut back:
  • Virginia-class submarine production (slotted at two per year, at least 2.3B$/boat)
  • new aircraft carriers (first of class will cost at least 8B$, not including 5B$ R&D)
  • the FUBARed Littoral Combat Ship and new DDG-1000 destroyer (at least 2.3B$/ship)
  • the F-22 (at least 361M$/plane) and F-35 (at least 83M$/plane) fighters and the Next Generation Bomber
  • the Army's Future Combat Systems proposed upgrade
This is to say nothing of the overall dysfunction of military procurement, the tendency to try to cram in everything and the kitchen sink, specifying technologies that haven't been proven yet and they end up costing more than budgeted.

(The solution to this whole problem (which will most likely never happen) is to incrementally-upgrade systems that already work for as long as reasonably possible. This has worked quite well with the A-10, Apache, Chinook, Super Hornet and aircraft carriers. All of these systems remain very good at what they do, certainly as good or better than similar systems from any other country.

I'm less clear, so far, on how to economically change platforms once that becomes necessary, but, as I've just written above, it's not necessary yet for most of our systems.)

Another major problem with military procurement is that we keep starving the force that is fighting now and buying systems for a future war that will likely never materialize. Tom Barnett calls this 'Buying one force and operating another.' We need to hedge against future major conflicts, including with China. However, it's almost a crime to bet so much money on countering possible future threats while running current combat operations without all of the resources they need. This should include taking better care of troops who deploy to combat, including whatever care they need when they come home and money toward further education. It is unconscionable to buy more of the gold-plated systems listed above and not provide for troops and their families.

Ok, that became a rant, which I did not intend. But that's alright. In case it's not clear by now, my thesis is that one good way for us to observe Memorial Day is to honor those who have given their lives in the aftermath of 9/11, and in previous wars, by making these sensible (though difficult) fixes to our national defensive posture. I hope I'm not too cynical when I say I don't have much expectation that this will happen. I do have a little hope that we can continue to make progress and at least do better than we have done.

Friday, May 23

Such Great Heights

What a great video! The lyrics and sweet melody sort of point toward a love song. But that would be too un-ironic, wouldn't it? No, the song is obviously (unfortunately) ironic, and the video hammers that home: unenacted longing in a chipfab clean room! Oh, the humanity! That the mechanisms move to the beat is just a bonus.

Truly masterful video for a song I love (even if I wish we didn't have to be ironic all the time).

Thursday, May 22

Love will tear us apart again

Why am I so into old videos these days? It's probably Madhu's influence ;-)

Anyway, watched the titular video today:

My thoughts (from chatting with Madhu):
it's fun to watch the song
the instrumentation is so simple
i mean, look at Bernard: he's playing one note at a time on a synth
Ian hardly plays the guitar at all. a couple strums
but it all comes together to produce a classic song
I don't have much more to say beyond that; nothing earth-shattering. Enjoy! :-)

Wednesday, May 21

Distant Early Reverie

'Distant Early Warning' was my introduction to Rush, as far as I remember.

(Sorry, can't embed the video, but you can watch it on YouTube's site.)

The 80s-ness of this video is amazing. 2/3 mullets, obsession with the danger of the Cold War (with good reason!) a la Strangelove, funky-shaped bass and drums, skinny tie (Alex), coat sleeves pushed up (Geddy), knees-together dance (a favorite style of mine ;-).

Nevertheless, I think the song holds up really well.

My friend Aaron Retish was the only Rush fan I knew.

(Google says Aaron now teaches Russian/Soviet studies (goes nicely with this video!) at Wayne State University. And he looks about the same!)

I still don't own a Rush album, but the singles I own (via Amazon mp3s) are: Tom Sawyer, Limelight and Distant Early Warning.

My friend, Kurt, hates Geddy Lee's voice, but I think this is unreasonable ;-)

Sunday, May 18

Dune Ivy Thriller

Jeez, have I really not updated since Tuesday? Crazy.

+ One reason I haven't updated: I'm submerging in the Duniverse. Finally watched Children of Dune via Netflix and it launched me back into the novels, starting with Dune Messiah, which are sublimely beautiful. Only minor complaint: too many antiheroes. Maybe my tastes are immature, but I really prefer a hero and sticking with his/her point of view. Guess I'm more of a YAF-kinda guy ;-)

+ Poison ivy update: not too bad. Two spots on my right wrist that are past the oozing stage. I think I'm safe everywhere else, but I never count that blasted stuff out until there's no sign (unless I've had the cortisone shot below my waistband ;-)

+ Want to see something freaky? Philippine convicts recreating the Thriller video.

My question: who authorized using that girl amidst all those convicts?! No way I'd do it!

Tuesday, May 13

What hope for Obama?

My buddy, Jim, has a very hopeful post about Obama. Here's my reply (lightly edited):
i want to hope, Jim, but i am honestly afraid of being disappointed.

so, i'm trying to think, given this is politics and compromise, what is a reasonably cynical hope for an Obama presidency?

an intelligent, articulate president.

i think my biggest issue is re-engagement with the world at large, a change from the Bush Admin's unilateralism.

i want a message shaped by hope and not fear.

i don't want him to pull us out of Iraq immediately, which all professionals agree would be disastrous.

i don't want him to turn back globalization.

bonuses: being an advocate for the poor without damaging the economy, including improving health care access for all; more bi-partisan unity (i doubt this will happen. politics has become attack and riposte and Obama has certainly played that way with Clinton).

i hope you're right, Jim. i hope we're not naive. and i'll cast my vote for it. but i wouldn't (otherwise) bet on it.
What do you think?

Monday, May 12

Poison Rush Mothers

+ Walter went to see Rush and got his picture taken with Geddy and Alex. Awesome!

+ Major yard work friday night, including the poison ivy corner. Took all reasonable precautions: tried to stay away from it (Christine and her folks dealt with it directly as they are not as allergic), long pants, long shirt, Cortaid post-poison ivy wipes, and immediate shower. First blister appeared yesterday about three inches above my right wrist. Here's to hoping it's the only one...

+ Christine said yesterday was her best Mother's Day of the nine (including pregnancy). Mission accomplished.

I tell the twins their only job on Mother's Day and Christine's birthday is to make Momma happy. They did pretty well.

Saturday, May 10

New profile pic

Way I've got it coded, I need to throw it up somewhere:

SC D&D video attack

+ The twins had their 3rd grade SC History Play Thursday night. Wil played Sequoyah and Bethy was Yellow Jesamine. We are very proud of both of their work. Bethy choreographed her little dance herself. Pix and video.

+ Wired has a nice, long article on Gary Gygax, the late founder of Dungeons and Dragons. Money quote:
Arneson believes the hysteria surrounding the game would end immediately if kids would just invite their parents to watch as they play. "They're going to be so bored," he says. "They will understand that anything this nerdy can't possibly lead to being possessed by the devil."

+ Check out this YouTube/ mashup.

+ Evil? Cruel? Hackers' posts on epilepsy forum cause migraines, seizures

Sunday, May 4

Dark Lady Iglesia

+ Top billing is definitely the new Dark Knight trailer.

Makes me regret even more that Heath Ledger (basically) killed himself.

And I see it comes out when I am in London. Christine and I are in negotiations about whether or not I will wait to see it until I get home ;-)

+ Despair, whom Macon and Walter work for and with, got written up in the NYT.

+ And Paul has a really interesting post on La Iglesia de San Juan de los Reyes. Toledo is so beautiful! Ay de mi!

That's it. I'm all caught up! Woo hoo!

Friday, May 2

A far, green country

Jaq posted this beautiful painting by Ted Nasmith:

(Click through for full size)

It makes me think of that wonderful passage from Return of the King:
"And it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise." (ROTK, Book 6, Chapter IX: The Grey Havens).
They repurposed it for the movies, but I liked their usage:
Pippin: I didn't think it would end this way.
Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path... One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass... And then you see it.
Pippin: What? Gandalf?... See what?
Gandalf: White shores... and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
Pippin: [smiling] Well, that isn't so bad.
Gandalf: [softly] No... No it isn't.
And then I think of Annie Lenox's marvelous treatment of 'Into the West' at the end of the ROTK soundtrack.


Iron Man!

I liked the movie a lot. I especially liked the fx. They looked fairly 'natural'. The casting was good. Fun movie that I'm looking forward to seeing again (can't decide if that's going to be in the theater).

Note: if you go, stay until after the credits!

Checking the Wikipedia entry highlights what I don't like about comics: the series become like soap operas after awhile with all of the crazy twists and turns. The movies are almost better in this regard: they can pick and choose the best parts or the storyline.

The Forbes Fictional Fifteen has Tony Stark at #10 (and also features favorites Bruce Wayne (8) and Princess Peach (15)).

Furthermore, I also found a list of the the ten Smartest Superheroes from an old BusinessWeek. I often think about how superheroes compare to one another in intelligence. I think the three smartest in Marvel are Reed Richards, Bruce Banner, and Tony Stark. Can we pick a smartest one from those three? If so, why and how?

I have a lot less feel for who's the smartest DC hero. Bruce Wayne doesn't seem to play in the same league as the three Marvel guys (unless you want to start talking strategy or operations).

What do you think?

I guess this ended up as more of an Iron Man springboard than an Iron Man review. Suits me ;-)