November 17th, 2007

#718: Brakes, part 3 of 3; miscellanious news; and other comments.

New calipers on the front of the van, new pads, and the brakes work properly because I was finally able to get all the air out of the system.

Well, most of it. There is still a little bit of softness that I can't seem to get out, but the brakes are working well within nominal limits, so F it.

Now I just have Sunday left in my week off, and I doubt I'm going to get much more done, damn it.

* * *

What do you call this? People minting their own coins and saying they're worth $10 each, and people are bartering them here and there across the country.

As far as I know, federal law states that the government has a monopoly (and monopsony) on printing legal tender. These coins don't pretend to be government issue currency, so it's not "counterfeit" money; but as far as I know it's still not legal to use anything other than government-issue legal tender as "money".

These people are doing their thing based on the notion that it is perfectly legal to use anything as "money" as long as it's not counterfeit US currency. But I don't know, and I expect that the feds do know, so I'm prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt in this case.

Travolta kisses Kirk Douglas on the lips. Travolta is lucky Kirk Douglas was in public. Otherwise Douglas would probably have broken his jaw. You think Kirk Douglas is just some old guy, but in his younger days he could kick ass when he needed to.

Meanwhile, Travolta=f4g lolz

Clinton News Network only wanted "happy" questions for Hillary. Surprise coefficient: 0.000...0

The girl wanted to ask a question about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste spent nuclear fuel storage facility. "Despite scientific evidence that it is a vulnerable site,..." went her question. "Scientific evidence," I suspect, which is approximately as scientific as "global warming=man-made=apocalypse".

(As we all know, I support recycling spent nuclear fuel. I think Yucca Mountain is a fantastic waste of money because if we had any sense at all we'd just process the stuff, remove the elements which poison the chain reaction, and re-use the stuff until every shred of U-235 had been consumed.)

This is not racism. This is how the law works.

When you are committing a felony, any death related to the felony which occurs during the commission of that felony is your fault, and it doesn't matter whether you are white, black, blue, green, or polka-dotted.

In this case, three black men break into a guy's house. The guy shoots two of them dead. The third robber is charged with murder. Civil rights groups swing into action protesting the "racism" of this.

Of course, part of the reason this is "racist" is because the white guy defended himself with a gun. No "civil rights" group which protests this kind of thing is for the Second Amendment; Jesse Jackson--the exemplar of the type--is rabidly anti-gun. (For, that is, you and me. Not for his bodyguards. He wants them to have guns, of course.)

If the three black men had beaten the guy to death and raped and killed his wife and then spray-painted "DIE WHITE MOTHERFUCKIN CRACKERS" on the walls of the house, that wouldn't be racism.

A white guy shoots two robbers dead, the third one is charged with murder; that's racism.

I saw, by the way, that there was a rally protesting the treatment of the "Jena 6" the other day, calling for more "hate crimes" legislation. WTF, the "Jena 6" beat the living shit out of some white people, continuing to beat one kid after he was out cold--who committed the hate crime?

Here is an interesting article about Hollywood Communists.

Evidence that the Big Bang evidence may be wrong. If true, cosmologists will have to go back to the drawing board.

The cosmologists are already rejecting it out of hand, though.

* * *

It's the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Already. Where did the year go? WTF, it seems like July was last week.

* * *

There is something incredibly refreshing about an ice-cold can of Vault, particularly the first swig from it. I don't know what it is. But I find myself cracking open a can, taking a big drink from it, and then setting it down with a "Puu-haa!" like people in anime do when they're slugging down a cold one.

* * *

When I really think about it, I realize that Charles Schultz really heavily influenced my comic art.

I don't mean that my characters look like Peanuts; but Schultz's work really had a great impact on things like timing in comic strips, and there are certain types of jokes which I find myself using much more often than others.

Example:

Charlie Brown is standing there with a bag of candy, one hand in it, his cheeks bulged as he chews.

Panel 1:
Linus asks, "Why are you eating so much candy, Charlie Brown?"
Charlie Brown replies, "I'M EATING BECAUSE I'M FRUSTRATED, THAT'S WHY!" --and it comes off just that way, even though Schultz used all-caps; he used larger letters in this case. Posture, expression, lettering, all combine to show the reader how Charlie Brown is reacting to Linus' innocuous question.

Panel 2:
"You'd be frustrated, too, if your entire baseball team had just quit on you!"
"Yes, perhaps you're right," Linus agrees.

Panel 3:
"BUT I WOULDN'T BE SO CRABBY ABOUT IT!" Linus, alone in the panel, says.

I don't know how long it's been since I last read that strip--and my recollection may be imperfect--but to me it's one of the best examples of how good Schultz was at drawing comic strips. It's funny--and more than once in the strip; it continues a story started in an earlier strip; it gives the reader enough information about the situation without going overboard on exposition or requiring a text box to explain what's going on; and we always understand how the characters feel and why they feel that way.

It's a lot of information to cram into one little comic strip. Schultz always made it look effortless.

So when I look at my own work--from the stick-figure things I drew in school to the manga-esque stuff I draw these days--I find myself wondering how much of my style is me and how much comes from having read Peanuts from the time that I could read.

I mean, I grew up reading Peanuts; we had literal dozens of the books of collected strips laying around here as long as I can remember. (I've still got 'em.) One of my friends showed me--in like 1978--that it's possible for anyone to draw a comic strip, and so I started drawing the simple stuff that I could draw.

It's impossible for me to look at my early work and say, "Yes, here you can see the Schultz influence" mainly because the artwork is crappy and the jokes are amazingly juvenile; I cringe when I look at it. (And I cringe at the idea of anyone else seeing it, at least while I'm still breathing.) So I guess we'll never know how much of my style I owe to Schultz.

What a freakin' tragedy.

#719: So much for SetoHan. *kusu~n*

(*kusu~n*:=*sniff*)

Seto no Hanayome is one of the best series I've seen in a long time. I really liked it. The ending was handled very well, in that it was satisfying on many levels, yet left the story wide open for sequels. In other words, there is a feeling that many issues have been resolved (such as San's father wanting Nagasumi dead) yet nothing is explicitly said about these issues being resolved. (In fact, Mikawa is still courting San even though she and Nagasumi have all but tied the proverbial knot at the end of the climactic scene.)

It's really worth the effort of going to AnimeSuki and grabbing the torrents, if you don't mind the P2P "back door" thingy. (SetoHan @ AnimeSuki.) The only thing is, the last four eps are only available from YourMom Subs, and they're not really all that good with grammar.

Knowing that SetoHan was ending, I started with Amanaideyo! Katsu and Kaze no Stigma today.

Amanaideyo! Katsu picks up where the first series left off. Everyone's there, and there are a couple of new characters. Fan service for the first episode is pretty cool, and there is the promise of a lot more. Heh.

Kaze no Stigma (KnS) promises to be worthwhile, too. The artwork is stellar. The main character, Ayano, has an amazing range of facial expressions and they change a lot. The rest of the artwork is just as good. If the first episode of this series is any guide to its overall quality, they put a lot of effort into it.

Storywise it feels a little rushed, but I had enough information that I understood what was happening even if I'm not totally "up" on who is who, yet. (Certainly it wasn't like Ikkitousen: Dragon Destiny where I didn't know who was who, what, or why even after watching seven episodes.) I have a feeling that "all will be explained" as things progress, though, so it's fine.

Then I watched Pretty Cure ep 27, which is the first ep of the 2nd season. In 26, the Dark King was vanquished and the Garden of Light was restored and all was well. Big tearful scene as the girls leave Mepple and Mipple in the GoL...

...but then Mep. and Mip. come back to Earth (the "Garden of Rainbows"). As it turns out in ep 27, then, when the Dark King died, he sent dark seeds to the Garden of Rainbows, and some of those seeds have started to sprout--and if they are allowed to go on, eventually the Dark King will pull a Sauron and come back from the hereafter. So Pretty Cure's new mission is to take out the seedlings. In ep 27 they defeated the first seedling, but he's still alive and kicking, of course, and there's more than one of them out there, so I expect things will be entertaining.

They also have a new mascot, in addition to Mepple and Mipple: Porun, the Prince of Light, who is younger and more annoying than the other two. No idea yet what his function is, but presumably they'll get around to explaining that sooner or later.

* * *

It's the first time in a three days that I've watched any anime. I guess I was trying to make SetoHan last just a bit longer, but sadly there's not a lot I can do about that. It's all over!

So here I sit, listening to XM radio's "Classical Christmas" channel because there's nothing else I really want to watch right now, but I might decide to watch something and I don't want to turn off the TV just yet.

* * *

Interesting fact I read somewhere, but don't recall where: insects are size-limited by the oxygen content of the atmosphere. The Earth's atmosphere was, at one time, something like 40% oxygen, and bugs were a lot bigger back then. I wonder if insects would even have evolved if the oxygen content of the atmosphere hadn't been that high?

Anyway, since oxygen now comprises about 18% of the atmosphere, we don't have to worry about bugs the size of canned hams wandering around. Bugs lack lungs; they "breathe"--if you can call it that--through tubes which allow air to circulate through their bodies; oxygen is absorbed from the air and carbon dioxide is released this way.

But damn, they can get big, even so: recall that, in the Philippines, I saw a cockroach the size of a freaking mouse and it could fly. (I have never seen a cockroach fly, not ever, damn it. Never. WTF.)

I suppose it's a good thing bugs don't breathe, because I couldn't handle bugs if they were the size of german shepards. That would just be wrong.

...and one reason it'd be frickin' wrong is how thick the exoskeleton would have to be. Chitin is strong stuff and a quarter-inch plate would be virtually impenetrable. Could you imagine trying to fight off a raccoon-sized bug? You could probably hit the thing with a baseball bat and it'd keep coming. The only way to hurt it would be to shoot the damned thing, or hit it at a joint with a freaking pole arm (glaive guisarme, anyone?).

Blech, my "SF writer's brain" is taking the idea and running with it. Okay, so it's not an insect anymore; it's still an invertebrate but it's warm-blooded, breathes, and is carnivorous, and it's the size of a small dog. Its exoskeleton makes it hard to kill. Its got a nervous system that you'd expect from a mammal, except that there's no spinal cord: the brain's kept in the middle in a cartilaginous capsule, with a "comb" not far from the brain which is a radiative structure to keep the brain's temperature from exceeding its stable limit. (The "comb" might be a vulnerable spot--crush the comb and you cause hemorrhaging, which might kill the thing--and it might not. It would not have to be large, though.) The brain would have to be near the sense organs but not as exposed as it is for us, and even if it was just under the chitin it would be safe as houses. Suspend it from other internal tissues in a "capsule" and concussion becomes a lot less likely, too.

I might have to work on this a bit more; now I'm starting to get interested.

...but an atmosphere of 40% oxygen is probably necessary to get life out of the oceans and onto land. I don't doubt it, in fact; without a lot of oxygen in the atmosphere, it probably wouldn't have been possible for life to make that change.

And, of course, that proportion changed over the eons, lowering to the present-day figure of 18%, giving land-based life plenty of time to adapt to the reduction in atmospheric oxygen by evolving ever-better and -bigger lungs.

What gets me is that plants have managed to evolve quite nicely, too, so that they now survive handily in an atmosphere of only 0.78% carbon dioxide. Back in the Carboniferous era it was a lot higher than that.

* * *

I'm too much of a scatterbrain to do this kind of thing with any regularity--think about what effect this and that might have on evolution--and I should, since I write SF...but I don't think much about aliens. I'm the kind of guy who writes stories about humans; when I have aliens in my stories, they're just strangely-shaped people, similar to the Star Trek phenomenon of aliens being "humans with funny noses". (And/or foreheads. Take a look at the "alien races" on Star Trek: The Next Generation and tell me I'm wrong.)

But the above discussion about "bugs with lungs" is useful for an ant-like race I've written a little bit about in one of my novels.

The most fascinating conversation I ever took part in happened at the "Dead Dog" party of a science fiction convention I attended. It started with the energy economics of Star Trek and rambled over things like cetacean linquistic theory, the energy economics of eating meat and how that influenced human evolution, physics, chemistry, biology--I was talking with people who were as smart as (or smarter than) me, and as widely-read in the sciences as I was, and it was marvelous. There was no argumentation; it was all, "This is true." "Really? How does that work?" "ABC etcetera." "Yeah? Oh, that reminds me of this other thing--and it's really cool." "Oh, that is cool!" ...and so on.

I think if I hung around with people like them a lot more I would probably have a lot more material to work with. Sadly, none of the friends I've had since 1997 have had college educations. ("Some college", perhaps, but not degrees.)

Well, maybe one or two people. But the vast majority of people I associate with? No. And they aren't stupid people; they just haven't been to college. Many of them know how to do interesting and useful things, and are quite intelligent, but it's hard to have an interesting and engaging conversation about physics with someone when you spend 3/4 of the time explaining the physics to the other person so he understands what's so interesting about what you're discussing.

And I'm not blaming anyone for this, nor am I calling anyone "stupid". It's not that. I understand that my physics geekery makes me the oddball. What I'm expressing here is my frustration at not knowing anyone else who understands what I'm saying without a 25-minute explanation of the concept. I can just say, for example, "This bomb generates a quark-gluon plasma!" and the other person will say, "Damn, that'd be a big bang!" because he already understands the conditions under which a quark-gluon plasma can exist. (A few milliseconds after the Big Bang, the universe was a quark-gluon plasma, because things were still too hot for elementary particles such as protons, neutrons, and electrons to condense.)

And I'm not a super-genius, either. I'm just a guy of ordinary (or maybe a bit above average) intelligence who's a physics geek.

But science isn't taught in schools these days, and when it is, it's watered-down mishmash that's more likely to concentrate on "man-made carbon dioxide is causing global warming" than "a transparent material's index of refraction determines how far a given shape can bend a beam of light". I'm not kidding; in high school I took "College Prep Physics" (these days they'd call it "Advanced Placement Physics") and I could have taught the class, it was so watered-down.

Physics is simple, anyway, particularly classical mechanics. The way it's taught--at least in high school--is pretty broken.

So I'm not very likely to find people out there who know science, who like intellectual discussions, who have a lot of curiosity, who are very widely read, and who can understand and accept differing ideas without getting angry and upset that everyone doesn't agree with them. You can usually get one or two of those, but not all of them at once. That one time, that was something special.

#720: Impeach Darth Cheney--second thoughts.

#706: Impeach Darth Cheney!

I was thinking, this afternoon, about this, and realized that it was even more frickin' stupid that I thought it was at first.

I thought, okay, here's the flowchart:

1) The House of Representatives is not going to vote to impeach the vice-president. But let's say it does, for whatever reason.

2) The Senate is not going to vote him "guilty". The vote might go along party lines but IIRC they need 60 votes to remove, and the Demokrats don't have 60 votes. The Democrats and the mainstream media would piss and moan about how "partisan" the vote was, and speak in denigrating tones about how the vote was "along party lines", but the outcome would be the same. But hey, let's say it happened.

3) Cheney would resign before the Senate vote. But let's say he didn't and he was removed from office. He didn't commit any actual crimes, not even according to Kucinich, quoth the article referenced in the prior post:
Kucinich's resolution said Cheney deserves to be impeached for allegedly manipulating intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaida connections to justify the attack on Iraq. The congressman also charges the vice president "openly threatened aggression" against Iran "absent any real threat to the United States."
None of those are actual crimes. That is to say, there are not--as far as I know--any laws on the books which rule out those kinds of behaviors, particularly from politicians. Bill Clinton committed perjury, which is what he was impeached for. (What? Cheney "lied"? Show me the politician who has never lied. The difference is, Clinton lied under oath, which is a felony.) But WTF, let's say that he gets indicted for something.

4) Bush could pardon him. But let's say Bush didn't pardon him and Cheney actually went to jail.

5) Cheney has repeatedly said he is not going to run for President, that once his time as VP is over, he's retiring. But let's say he changed his mind.

5) Cheney could run for President regardless of where he was or what his legal status was. Even being in jail does not preclude you from being President; it's not likely but a President could go to jail for a crime and still be President until and unless he was impeached and removed from office by the procedure set out in the Constitution.

...in short, Kucinich's measure won't result in Cheney being removed from office, and if he's got even half the intellect that God gave the average carrot, he knows that. Therefore all this is asinine grandstanding to get the batshit-insane lefties to vote for him in the primaries.

Besides all that, there's the question of what would happen if the Senate was split 50-50 on whether or not Cheney should be removed from office. If the Senate is tied 50-50, who do you think casts the tie-breaking vote? The Vice-President of the United States. The Democrats would be up in arms because of his "blatant self-interest" and "refusal to recuse himself" but who else would cast the vote? No one else can! It's in the Constitution!

...all of this for something that wouldn't have any effect on the current policies or practices of the sitting administration even if it did somehow come to pass. Which it won't.

Grandstanding, I'm telling you. Because there's nothing else he can do to call attention to himself; he's an "also-ran" unless Hillary and Obama just self-destruct. (I doubt that'll happen, but it's not impossible. Maybe if John Smith shakes Hillary's hand and has a vision and tries to assassinate her, only she grabs a baby and uses it as a shield....)