Saturday, June 23, 2012

Picture of the Week: Mickey Lu's BBQ...

Yes! While this is not exactly a "new" picture, I will be going here this week. Can't wait!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sci-Fi Friday: A Classic...

I am going to be out of blogging range for a bit, but I haven't forgotten the blog.  I will update when I can.  I promise.

For Sci-Fi Friday, I leave you with a picture of the classic. Hopefully you can recognize this motley crew.

(hint: their names are on the bus in the background)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

White House Claims Executive Privilege...

I am generally not one of those types that believes that everything that the sitting President does has a suspicious ulterior motive. But you do have to question President Obama's latest use of executive privilege.

If you believe the White House spin department, the decisions and actions that led up to Operation Fast and Furious were all above board, and were part of a continued series of investigations (albeit an operation that put thousands of guns into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels). But today, in "the most transparent White House in history" (this quote always cracks me up), the Obama administration decided that the details surrounding the operation would be subject to executive privilege, and would not be released to the House committee investigating the operation.

I strongly believe in the idea of executive privilege (a curious concept that some political parties only believe when it suits them), so I support President Obama's use of the privilege in this case.  But it sill makes me wonder what exactly was AG Holder and the White House thinking...

Microsoft Surface...

I meant to post this yesterday, but time got away from me...

This is the new tablet offering from Microsoft - the Microsoft Surface.

Unlike some of the "other" slates and tablets that have been released, this one has the potential of being a game changer and finally a real alternative to the iPad from Apple.  Of course, just like the previous entries into the market, it will very much depend on how the Surface is actually priced - if it is too high, regardless of the features, people tend to go with what they know over the new thing.  So hopefully, Microsoft will have it as a bargain price, and create some real competition for the iPad.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Press "Engaging" The President...

After the Daily Caller's Neil Munro shouted questions at President Obama last week, you would have thought that the world was coming a screeching halt.  While I am generally not very supportive of what Neil Munro did, the liberal establishment would have you believe that never in the history of all media has something so egregious ever happen.

Well, it has.

Check out this AP article from the Reagan years at the White House.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Saw this, and had to share it!  May the Force be with you!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Rush's New Album...

Rush released their new album on Tuesday, and I have cycled through it several times at this point.  It is quite excellent, as most of their albums generally are.

If you like Rush, you probably already have it.  If you need a better understanding of the greatest of the rockbands, email me and I will help you.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sci-Fi Friday: SW Tattoos...

For this week's Sci-Fi Friday, I give you 5 examples of people that are more...dedicated to Star Wars than I am. They are also extremely rare, as they are all women that break the stereotypes of a "geek girl".  Just remember - there are people (at least 5 of them) that are crazier than I am.


Now THIS is a tramp stamp...
I mean - WOW!
Very popular on the beach.
The Tattoo AND the swimsuit. Doesn't get much better!
And my favorite of them all...
Sucker for a woman in heels. The SW Tats are a nice touch as well...

Picture of the Week: It's What's For Dinner!

When looking at this picture, I fully expect you to be humming Aaron Copeland's Hoe-Down from Billy the Kid.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Day By Day Cartoon...

Among the sites that I visit religiously (meaning every single day) is Chris Muir's Day By Day comic strip.  It is excellent political commentary, and very well drawn.  I very highly recommend it.

This will not be the last time I post one of his excellent cartoons, but I found this one interesting.  Tomorrow's should be even MORE interesting, especially if you follow the story arc back a few days.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs...

No, not Steve Jobs. I'm talking about the number of jobs added by a President during their time in office.  I usually don't put a lot of faith in that statistic, as the President doesn't really control jobs (or the economy, or the weather), except to expand the size of the federal government and create jobs there (which I am obviously not a fan). But people seem fixated on the jobs number, so this is an infographic that many might find interesting (Thanks Mike!).

The only other thing I would add is this would be even more interesting if it specifically delineated public sector vs. private sector job growth. To show how "fair" I am, one could argue that a very large majority of the job growth experienced under George W. Bush came from the growth of public sector jobs (think Homeland Security and related jobs).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

NYT: Uncle Ray's Dystopia...

Still mourning the loss of Ray Bradbury from last week.  A friend of mine passed along this excellent opinion piece by Tim Kreider of the New York Times (Thanks Jake!).  The original post can be found here.

I will add that I have been thinking quite a bit about the current crop of Sci-Fi writers out there today.  While there are some good ones, there are none that compare to the writers of two generations ago.  There are no modern day Clarkes or Asimovs or Bradburys. 

We have push toward the future along the pathways inspired by their vision, guided by their ideas, and catching glimpses of the possible triumphs and tragedies along the way.

IF you’d wanted to know which way the world was headed in the mid-20th century, you wouldn’t have found much indication in any of the day’s literary prizewinners. You’d have been better advised to consult a book from a marginal genre with a cover illustration of a stricken figure made of newsprint catching fire.

Prescience is not the measure of a science-fiction author’s success — we don’t value the work of H. G. Wells because he foresaw the atomic bomb or Arthur C. Clarke for inventing the communications satellite — but it is worth pausing, on the occasion of Ray Bradbury’s death, to notice how uncannily accurate was his vision of the numb, cruel future we now inhabit.

Mr. Bradbury’s most famous novel, “Fahrenheit 451,” features wall-size television screens that are the centerpieces of “parlors” where people spend their evenings watching interactive soaps and vicious slapstick, live police chases and true-crime dramatizations that invite viewers to help catch the criminals. People wear “seashell” transistor radios that fit into their ears. Note the perversion of quaint terms like “parlor” and “seashell,” harking back to bygone days and vanished places, where people might visit with their neighbors or listen for the sound of the sea in a chambered nautilus.

Mr. Bradbury didn’t just extrapolate the evolution of gadgetry; he foresaw how it would stunt and deform our psyches. “It’s easy to say the wrong thing on telephones; the telephone changes your meaning on you,” says the protagonist of the prophetic short story “The Murderer.” “First thing you know, you’ve made an enemy.”

Anyone who’s had his intended tone flattened out or irony deleted by e-mail and had to explain himself knows what he means. The character complains that he’s relentlessly pestered with calls from friends and employers, salesmen and pollsters, people calling simply because they can. Mr. Bradbury’s vision of “tired commuters with their wrist radios, talking to their wives, saying, ‘Now I’m at Forty-third, now I’m at Forty-fourth, here I am at Forty-ninth, now turning at Sixty-first” has gone from science-fiction satire to dreary realism.

“It was all so enchanting at first,” muses our protagonist. “They were almost toys, to be played with, but the people got too involved, went too far, and got wrapped up in a pattern of social behavior and couldn’t get out, couldn’t admit they were in, even.”

Most of all, Mr. Bradbury knew how the future would feel: louder, faster, stupider, meaner, increasingly inane and violent. Collective cultural amnesia, anhedonia, isolation. The hysterical censoriousness of political correctness. Teenagers killing one another for kicks. Grown-ups reading comic books. A postliterate populace. “I remember the newspapers dying like huge moths,” says the fire captain in “Fahrenheit,” written in 1953. “No one wanted them back. No one missed them.” Civilization drowned out and obliterated by electronic chatter. The book’s protagonist, Guy Montag, secretly trying to memorize the Book of Ecclesiastes on a train, finally leaps up screaming, maddened by an incessant jingle for “Denham’s Dentifrice.” A man is arrested for walking on a residential street. Everyone locked indoors at night, immersed in the social lives of imaginary friends and families on TV, while the government bombs someone on the other side of the planet. Does any of this sound familiar?

The hero of “The Murderer” finally goes on a rampage and smashes all the yammering, blatting devices around him, expressing remorse only over the Insinkerator — “a practical device indeed,” he mourns, “which never said a word.” It’s often been remarked that for a science-fiction writer, Mr. Bradbury was something of a Luddite — anti-technology, anti-modern, even anti-intellectual. (“Put me in a room with a pad and a pencil and set me up against a hundred people with a hundred computers,” he challenged a Wired magazine interviewer, and swore he would “outcreate” every one.)

But it was more complicated than that; his objections were not so much reactionary or political as they were aesthetic. He hated ugliness, noise and vulgarity. He opposed the kind of technology that deadened imagination, the modernity that would trash the past, the kind of intellectualism that tried to centrifuge out awe and beauty. He famously did not care to drive or fly, but he was a passionate proponent of space travel, not because of its practical benefits but because he saw it as the great spiritual endeavor of the age, our generation’s cathedral building, a bid for immortality among the stars.

His visions of a better world weren’t high-tech but archaic, bucolic. In “Fahrenheit,” Montag remembers “a farm he had visited when he was very young, one of the rare few times he had discovered that somewhere behind the seven veils of unreality, beyond the walls of parlors and the tin moat of the city, cows chewed cud and pigs sat in warm ponds at noon and dogs barked after white sheep on a hill.” His utopia isn’t some flying city or exotic planet but prewar, small-town America — specifically, Waukeagan, Ill., circa 1928, a town of porch swings and bandshells, dandelion wine stored up in cool cellars and fire balloons on the Fourth of July. His Martians are not alien like Heinlein’s or futuristically evolved like Welles’s but a premodern people akin to the ancient Egyptians or American Indians (or a boy’s idealized conception of them), our superiors not technologically but spiritually. He was, like most of my favorite artists, a misanthropic humanist.

There’s already been a lot of rhapsodizing about Ray Bradbury’s “sense of wonder,” the dark magic and October chill he infused into his work. But let’s not turn him into something harmless, a kindly, childlike uncle spinning marvelous tales of rocket ships and dinosaurs. Don’t forget that he was also the crazy uncle, the dangerous one, a malcontent and a crank, alarming everyone at the dinner table with impassioned rants and dire warnings. (For a bracing antidote to his sentimentality, reread the demented revenge fantasy “Usher II,” in which an entire board of censors is meticulously killed off after the manner of Edgar Allan Poe stories.)

The obverse of his reverence for the natural world was a keen-edged contempt for the greedy men and crass, destructive culture that would gladly bulldoze it for a buck. “We Earth Men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things,” says the arch├Žologist Jeff Spender in “—And the Moon Be Still as Bright” from “The Martian Chronicles.” “The only reason we didn’t set up hot-dog stands in the midst of the Egyptian temple of Karnak is because it was out of the way and served no large commercial purpose.” There isn’t a hot-dog stand at Karnak yet, but I’m advised there are tourist shops selling pricey bottled water and Pharaonic souvenirs made in China.

I think of Ray Bradbury’s work often these days. I remember “The Murderer” whenever I ask for directions or make a joke to someone who can’t hear me because of her ear buds, when I see two friends standing back-to-back in a crowd yelling “Where are you?” into their phones, or I’m forced to eavesdrop on somebody prattling on Bluetooth in that sanctum sanctorum, the library. I think of “Fahrenheit 451” every time I see a TV screen in an elevator or a taxi or a gas pump or over a urinal. When the entire hellish engine of the media seemed geared toward the concerted goal of forcing me to know, against my will, about a product called “Lady Gaga,” I thought: Denham’s Dentifrice.

It is thanks to Ray Bradbury that I understand this world I grew into for what it is: a dystopian future. And it is thanks to him that we know how to conduct ourselves in such a world: arm yourself with books. Assassinate your television. Go for walks, and talk with your neighbors. Cherish beauty; defend it with your life. Become a Martian.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Political Contributions Via Text...

For the past several years, the FCC and the various wireless services companies have worked to allow their users to donate money to specific causes (tsunami relief, to the Red Cross, etc).  Now those who want you money the most are getting in on the action.

The Federal Election Commission ruled on Monday that political campaigns will be allowed to use the system to donate small dollar amounts to their candidate or cause of choice.  The maximum allowed donation will be $50, which is also the federal limit for an anonymous donation. 

One one hand, this is a sign that the political process (one that is always lagging in embracing the latest trends) is finally catching on to how people actually operate.  I think they saw the millions raised by the Red Cross and other organizations and decided they wanted a piece of that.  On the other hand, it is yet another way for the politicians to get your money.  Granted, you don't have to donate. But they are going to get your money one way or another eventually, so you might as well put it somewhere that you have the illusion of control.

Monday, June 11, 2012

High Park Fire...

If you have been following the news this weekend, you probably have heard that there is a massive forest fire that is ravaging northern Colorado.  Called the High Park Fire, it was just announced that it has grown to over 36,000 acres, with 0% containment. 

The smoke here in Loveland today is TERRIBLE, and will likely only get worse.  My thoughts are with those affected by this fire, and with those fighting it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sci-Fi Friday: Do or Do Not...

Now that the blog has returned, I am going to try to take it in a direction that is not always "in your face" political.  You have already seen the Picture of the Week (it came earlier that I expected, but you only see the transit of Venus twice in a lifetime), and now I would like to introduce Sci-Fi Fridays.

I follow dozens of different science fiction sites of one kind or another. Rarely does a week go by that there is not at least one interesting tidbit worth enough to share.  So this shall be that forum.

This week I wanted to share something that was sent to me a while ago by a friend: the eternal wisdom of Yoda. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

RIP Ray Bradbury...

I am not trying to politicize the death or Ray Bradbury - he was (is) an outstanding science fiction writer and one of the best writers of our time.  But I did want to share this blog by John Fund for the National Review.  I think it shares a perspective that not everyone always saw of Bradbury and his beliefs.

Famed futurist Ray Bradbury died last night at the age of 91 in Los Angeles, the city he grew to love even though he never learned to drive.

Bradbury captivated readers beginning in the 1940s with classic novels such as The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451. His anti-authoritarian novels shouldn’t make it surprising that he was a conservative, but many people assumed he was on the left. On the contrary. Bradbury stood with the Tea Party in his final years.

“I think our country is in need of a revolution,” Bradbury told the Los Angeles Times in 2010. “There is too much government today. We’ve got to remember the government should be by the people, of the people, and for the people.”

Bradbury didn’t start out as a conservative. Raised a staunch Democrat, he took out a full-page ad in Variety, the show-business bible, after the 1952 victory of Dwight Eisenhower. His “open letter” to Republicans warned: “Every attempt that you make to identify the Democratic Party as the party of Communism, as the ‘left-wing’ or ‘subversive’ party, I will attack with all my heart and soul.”

But Lyndon Johnson’s subsequent mishandling of the Vietnam War left him disenchanted, and he voted Republican for the first time in 1968. Although he considered himself an independent, he voted for the GOP in every presidential election save 1976, when he voted for Jimmy Carter. But as his biographer Sam Weller explains, Mr. Carter’s inept handling of the economy “pushed [Mr. Bradbury] permanently away from the Democrats.”

Other Democratic presidents haven’t fared much better with him. He once described President Clinton with a word that rhymes with “knithead.” As for President Obama, Mr. Bradbury was angered by the president’s curtailing the space program. “He should be announcing that we should go back to the moon,” he told the Times

His attitude towards filmmaker Michael Moore was even less complimentary. When in 2005, Moore appropriated the title of his seminal anti-censorship novel Fahrenheit 451 for his anti-Bush agitprop documentary Fahrenheit 9/1, Bradbury was furious that he hadn’t been asked for permission and also concerned that his book would be confused with the film. After fruitless attempts to contact Mr. Moore, the novelist went on television to demand: “Give me my title back!” Moore finally called with the news that the premiere of his film was only two weeks away and he could do nothing to change the title. But Mr. Bradbury had the last laugh. Two weeks after Bush’s reelection, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts in a White House ceremony for “his commitment to the freedom of the individual” as “the greatest living American writer of science fiction.” Let’s just say he was a great American and a wonderful writer, period.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Picture of the Week: Venus in Transit

In case you missed it, an extremely rare event took place yesterday. The planet Venus transited the Sun, and will not do so again until 2117.

Heritage: Historic Win For Reform in Wisconsin...

Excellent piece by the Heritage Foundation this morning regarding Governor Scott Walker's recall election victory over Democrats and the public sector unions.  The original can be found here.

The state of Wisconsin has once again lived up to its billing as a Midwestern incubator of Big Ideas. In yesterday’s case, when voters resoundingly defeated a liberal effort to recall Governor Scott Walker (R), the Big Idea was that reformers who come armed with the strength of their convictions can carry the day–even against mobs, labor unions, Hollywood, the media, academia and everything else the left throws up these days. All reformers need to do is lead.

In Walker’s case, his weapon in the fight against out-of-control government was a promise to the voters of Wisconsin that, were he entrusted with their vote, he would bring sweeping reforms to state government. One year ago, Governor Walker fulfilled that promise, and last night the voters rewarded him for his leadership by resoundingly rejecting an effort to remove him from power.

It was a historic recall election that focused nationwide attention on what has become an existential threat to state governments — the problem of public-sector employee pensions and benefits running states into the red. Walker unabashedly confronted that threat without straddling a fence or tiptoeing around Big Labor’s Maginot Line. Facing a $3.6 billion deficit and the fourth highest tax burden in the country, Walker instituted policies designed to bring some sanity to state government. Those reforms included asking public sector workers to contribute a modest 5.8 percent of their salaries to their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health-care premiums while also limiting the collective bargaining power of public sector unions. (Even that is a small amount, as Heritage’s Jason Richwine shows in a new paper examining the true costs of public pensions.)

Those moderate policies sent labor unions and their allies into full-on crisis mode. Tens of thousands of protesters stormed Wisconsin’s capitol last spring, Democratic state senators fled the state in hopes of blocking a vote on the measures, and lawsuits were filed to block the law from taking effect. Ultimately, Walker’s reforms were upheld, yet a massive effort to recall the governor was undertaken.

In short order, a massive campaign to unseat Walker was launched. Unions poured millions of dollars into the race to attack the governor, President Barack Obama weighed in on the eve of the election (albeit timidly, with a Tweet) and endorsed Walker’s opponent, and grassroots armies descended on the state to turn out the vote. Yesterday, the voters of Wisconsin had an opportunity to examine the governor’s reforms and render a verdict on whether they approved of the direction he has taken their state.

One of Governor Walker’s reforms included giving government workers the option to choose whether they wanted to pay union dues. When given the option, tens of thousands of members chose to leave the union. And according to exit polls, a third of union households backed Walker. But union leadership remains out of touch with the fiscal crisis Wisconsin, and our nation, faces. Yet as the people of Wisconsin know, Walker’s reforms have helped Wisconsin turn the corner. Since Walker took office, the state unemployment rate has fallen from 7.7 percent to 6.8 percent— well below the national average of 8.2 percent. And last year, Wisconsin employers actually created 23,000 jobs. In other words, Wisconsin’s economy is growing all while the rest of the country faces very troubled economic time.

Walker’s victory will send shockwaves across the country. Last year, the governor took a strong stand for the proposition that public sector unions should not negotiate their taxpayer-funded benefits with politicians they helped elect using mandatory dues. And he also stood for reforms that curbed spending and got his state’s budget under control — without raising taxes. Despite facing a recall election, Walker was ultimately rewarded for a job well done.

There have only been three gubernatorial recall elections in U.S. history, and Walker was the first one to survive the challenge. As Louisana Governor Bobby Jindal said last night on Fox News, “What Scott Walker has proved tonight is that good policy makes great politics.”

Congratulations GOVERNOR Scott Walker!

Governor Scott Walker: 53% (1,331,076)
Mayor Tom Barrett: 46% (1,158,337)

As I mentioned yesterday, I believe that this is a great sign for Republicans in the fall.  I also think that it will start the conversations in Republican controlled state governments regarding the damage that public labor unions are having on state governments.  

Again, congrats to Governor Walker and the people of Wisconsin for making the right choice!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Second Most Important Election in 2012...

Today, voters in Wisconsin will very likely play a large role in the outcome of November's political outcomes.

If Scott Walker survives the recall bid brought by unions throughout the state (and nationwide), it may serve as a sign that President Obama's position in the fall election is far weaker than the Democrats suspect.

Walker is ahead in practically every poll taken, and will hopefully prevail over the Milwaukee mayor.  No surprise, the Obama camp has deliberately distanced themselves from this election, fearing to catch cooties from the unfavorable results.

There have been some rumors that the White House political team and the DNC very specifically did NOT want this recall effort to occur, as every dollar spent is one less dollar that they will have to spend on the general election.  And they will likely need every dollar.  But the union leaders would have none of it, believing that Wisconsin could serve as a catalyst for other anti-union legislation.

Regardless of the outcome (and I am obviously pulling for Walker), it is nice to have the D's on the defensive for a change.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A New Blog!

As some of you that have followed this blog in the past may know, it has been fairly quiet for the past year.  I have been very busy with work and life, but the truth of the matter is that I was just not in a place to publish my thoughts in a matter that was constructive. 

But election season is upon us. It is time to get back into the saddle. 

Again, no promises...

Any suggestions?  Ideas?