Stuxnet Worm

Smart, targeted at industrial equipment, and created by a nation state. This is not your typical virus trying to steal your eBay login. This is a new breed of worm, and warfare, and is well worth the read:
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/09/stuxnet/

Fly Like a Bird

This is pretty incredible. Though human powered flight has been done before - and over some fairly long distances such as the English Channel in similar craft - this is the first time a human has flown by literally flapping his wings. Those wings just happen to be about the same span as the wings of a 737.

HPO The Snowbird from U of T Engineering on Vimeo.

Your Head Ages faster than Your Feet

Seriously. Your head ages faster. Over 79 years, your head will be 90 billionths of a second older than your feet will be. All due to the magic of relativity.

Your feet, being closer to the big 'ol gravity field that is the earth, are being slowed down, while your head, roaming in the freedom of about 5'8 higher, is just floating around without a care in the world.

Thing is, scientists always knew this - but had never been able to test it until now. New atomic clocks, both small and incredibly accurate, can now measure relativity at altitude differences of a foot or less, and speeds of only 20mph.

The bad news of course is for those of you living in Denver (or Nepal for that matter). You are getting older faster than the rest of us.

Financial Transaction Tax

Here's a good one for you: in order to try and pay for some of that government mandated bailout, why do we tax financial institutions for transacting in anything financial? That'll teach 'em.

"Yeah, so what that the financial system is global, and in many cases the location of the transaction is immaterial and the services provided are fungible. Oh, your telling me that a transaction tax will cause a massive capital flight? And will drastically cut back or likely eliminate the US position as the global financial hub? Well screw em, we don't need 'em anyway, we'll make our money taxing the shit out of anyone who remains to make up for what they made us spend. No... no, the government wasn't the root cause of the financial crises, no way, we saved the world, saved it I tell you. I'm a hero. A HERO GODDAMIT."
-Senator Ima Dumbdumb

Congress on Taxes: RUN!

Yeah.... so Congress is punting on taxes, because they are a bunch of cowards who cant stand a struggle.

But first - I have to get a pet peeve off my mind.

Everyone is talking about "extending the tax cuts" - as if somehow letting them expire would be the normal thing, and leaving them would be a "tax cut." Leaving them would not be a "tax cut" - IT WOULD JUST BE LEAVING TAXES WHERE THEY ARE. Getting rid of them is a tax increase - a major tax increase. I don't care that these cuts were written into the law using sunset provisions and the sun is now setting - these cuts have become the new standard, and getting rid of them is a tax hike.

Now that I have corrected the politicians and the media for their mistake, back to the matter at hand.

America needs tax cuts, and needs them now. Tax cuts, more than spending, boost the economy. Directly. Especially on matters such as capital gains tax: lets see, you earn money, pay tax on it. Some of the money you are given after the govt. takes its 30-50% (is the govt. responsible for 30-50% of the good things in your life? Think about it.) you decide to invest in something useful, such as a new cancer-treatment company which just went public. Using the money from you and other investors that cancer-treatment company builds its new centers all across the US, and with their innovative technology, hundreds of thousands of lives are saved. In the meantime, you, along with the other owners of the company (likely including its founders and leadership team) make a fair bit of money. This is a good thing. You then decide "gee - I am 72 years old, I might take some cash and buy a trip into space aboard Virgin Galactic's VSS Enterprise." So, of your original investment of $10,000 (which had already been taxed) you sell shares worth $200,000 (the price of a ticket). But wait! The govt. says that though it has already taxed that money, it gets to tax it again! "WTF?" you say to your fellow-retired church congregation, and one of them, a registered Tax Accountant points out that if there is one thing the government likes to do, it is to fuck you coming and going.

Of course the truth is that the congresspersons are too busy raising campaign money to read the laws they pass. The laws are written by staff tax nerds who can put pretty much any wording they want in there. I bet that if you actually read the entire vastness of the U.S. Tax Code, you'd find at least one sex scene ("'Yes, yes, YES!' moaned Vanessa as Lance, his taut body moist with moisture, again and again depreciated her adjusted gross rate of annualized fiscal debenture").

England Wants your Money

Ahh England.

The Emerald Isle.

The Motherland.

The throne of the Empire.

The home of freedom and democracy in the modern era.

Errr... well.. at least it used to be. Because now, it is know for watching all of its citizens very very closely. It has become the closest thing to the Big Brother State the world has ever seen. Hell, they even love the show Big Brother in a perverse irony. The UK watches you when you drive, when you walk through the street, when you shop, when you use any public area, and when you travel - to a degree that no other nation on Earth comes close to matching. It has proposed using satellites to watch you drive, your neighbors to review CCD videos to find infractions, and now it has taken a step further.

It wants to get paid, instead of you. And then the balance of your paycheck, whatever they don't take for themselves, they will kindly transfer into your bank account.

If that does not raise your hackles, get your blood boiling, grind your gears and just piss you off, then you have lost your sense of self and desire to be an individual.

I cant believe they would even propose such a thing - but to them it is just the next logical step down the road. Right now there are lots of errors in terms of paying the right amount of taxes - wouldn't it all be much simpler if the government just made those errors for you? Not to mention the difficultly of working with with large, information-intensive data sets, which the government of the UK is one of the best in the world at, much better than the big, efficient public companies of the UK, or any company for that matter. And finally, the Government is probably the one you trust the the most to keep your information safe, to handle it well, to have reliable employees. And fundamentally, it is the organization you would be most likely to think of as being impartial, without its own agenda, largely faultless in its quest for a safe, reliable, and pleasant country.
http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/cgo/lowres/cgon94l.jpg

ObamaCare: Crap Tsunami

What really gets me about ObamaCare is not that it is a huge steaming turd. Well, actually, that does kind of piss me off a lot. But it is also the fact that it was sold as one giant lie to the American public. We are talking Iranian nuclear enrichment kind of lying - showing the inspectors one thing, but all along knowing that what they were selling was false. Obama recently made this comment about his plan: "it is going to increase our costs; we knew that." WTF you arrogant little bastard. I know you knew, we all knew you knew, hell you would have to have been even dumber than you seem to not know. But admitting the fact that you spent the whole time lying to the American public?? WTF. This is on the same scale as "Bush Lied, people died" - its just "Obama Lied, People Died, and we all get to pay a shit-ton of money"

CANNON: Six months later …

Coverage is decreasing, and prices are going up

By Michael F. Cannon
The Washington Times

Six months ago today, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. The intervening six months have shown that this health care law offers neither patient protection nor affordable health care - in fact, quite the opposite.

Obamacare's greatest selling point was that it would guarantee health insurance coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, starting with children, through government price controls that would prohibit insurers from charging higher premiums to those patients. Unfortunately, the only thing price controls guarantee is misery.

Even before the price controls affecting children took effect today, major insurers Wellpoint, Cigna, Aetna, Humana and CoventryOne announced they will simply stop writing child-only policies rather than suffer the inevitable losses. Thanks to this "consumer protection," many parents will be unable to insure their children. Expect other insurers to follow suit as adverse selection causes premiums for existing child-only policies to rise.

When those price controls go marketwide in 2014, they will force insurers to avoid sick adults as well. Economists have shown that unless insurers avoid the sick, the price controls will put them out of business. Look for insurers to avoid, mistreat and dump the sick by marketing themselves only to healthy people, skimping on claims processing and customer service, and dropping benefits that sick people value - not because insurers are heartless, but because that is what Obamacare rewards.

The law's authors admitted as much when they included new subsidies and regulations (on marketing, claims payments and benefit design) to mitigate those perverse incentives. Unfortunately, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says those subsidies can only succeed at a very high cost, while the regulations will stifle innovation.

For example, three years before they even take effect, the marketwide price controls are eliminating an innovation called "guaranteed renewability," which protects sick patients from high premiums and skimping. Obamacare has pushed BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina to dismantle its guaranteed-renewability feature and transfer more than $100 million from sick to healthy customers. Mr. Obama claims this is evidence the law is succeeding. Yes, but succeeding at what?

The past six months also have shown that Obamacare is making health care less affordable.

Starting today, Obamacare requires consumers to purchase 100 percent coverage for preventive services, coverage for dependent children up to age 26 and unlimited annual and lifetime coverage.

All that additional coverage comes at a cost. The Department of Health and Human Services projects that just one of these mandates will increase some premiums by nearly 7 percent. Many insurers say the combined effect is 3 percent to 9 percent. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Connecticut says these mandates are forcing it to increase premiums for many of its customers by close to 30 percent.

Earlier this year, Mr. Obama described premium increases of that magnitude as "jaw-dropping," while Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said they threaten "to make health care unaffordable."

Indeed, Obamacare's added costs could push many to drop coverage - particularly individuals and small businesses, who will be hit hardest. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that a similar mandate pushed many employers to drop mental health coverage.

Costs will keep rising. According to the consulting firm Milliman Inc., Obamacare's price controls will increase premiums for young adults by 10 percent to 30 percent beginning in 2014.

Obamacare, the president now admits, "is going to increase our costs; we knew that." If he knew that, why did he claim his health plan would reduce costs by as much as $2,500 per family?

More broadly, how can anyone call Obamacare's mandates and price controls "consumer protections" when they leave some people with worse coverage or unable to afford any coverage?

Supporters now defend Obamacare largely by arguing that opponents haven't agreed on how to replace it. When Congress inevitably repeals Obamacare, lawmakers should enact real reforms that make health care better, cheaper, safer and more secure.

But even if Congress did nothing more than repeal Obamacare, that would deliver a real dose of consumer protection by arresting this downward spiral of rising costs and deteriorating quality.

Michael F. Cannon is director of health-policy studies at the Cato Institute and co-author of "Healthy Competition: What's Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It" (Cato Institute, 2005).

Obama - "Mexicans were here" "long before the US was even an idea"

Obama is a smug idiot. Just watch this:
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2010/09/21/obama_mexicans_were_here_long_before_america_was_even_an_idea.html

This says it all:
"Long before America was even an idea, this land of plenty was home to many peoples. The British and French, the Dutch and Spanish, to Mexicans, to countless Indian tribes. We all shared the same land," President Obama told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Mexico declared its independence on September 16, 1810. It was recognized on September 27, 1821.

The United States of America declared its independence in 1776.

World's Smallest Stop Motion: From Wallace and Gromit

From the guys who brought you Wallace and Gromit, there is this little gem. And I mean little. It is the worlds smallest stop motion animation. And it is pretty damn cool.


The Great Stone Face by Nathaniel Hawthorne

One afternoon, when the sun was going down, a mother and her little boy sat at the door of their cottage, talking about the Great Stone Face. They had but to lift their eyes, and there it was plainly to be seen, though miles away, with the sunshine brightening all its features.

And what was the Great Stone Face?

Embosomed amongst a family of lofty mountains, there was a valley so spacious that it contained many thousand inhabitants. Some of these good people dwelt in log-huts, with the black forest all around them, on the steep and difficult hill-sides. Others had their homes in comfortable farm-houses, and cultivated the rich soil on the gentle slopes or level surfaces of the valley. Others, again, were congregated into populous villages, where some wild, highland rivulet, tumbling down from its birthplace in the upper mountain region, had been caught and tamed by human cunning, and compelled to turn the machinery of cotton-factories. The inhabitants of this valley, in short, were numerous, and of many modes of life. But all of them, grown people and children, had a kind of familiarity with the Great Stone Face, although some possessed the gift of distinguishing this grand natural phenomenon more perfectly than many of their neighbors.

The Great Stone Face, then, was a work of Nature in her mood of majestic playfulness, formed on the perpendicular side of a mountain by some immense rocks, which had been thrown together in such a position as, when viewed at a proper distance, precisely to resemble the features of the human countenance. It seemed as if an enormous giant, or a Titan, had sculptured his own likeness on the precipice. There was the broad arch of the forehead, a hundred feet in height; the nose, with its long bridge; and the vast lips, which, if they could have spoken, would have rolled their thunder accents from one end of the valley to the other. True it is, that if the spectator approached too near, he lost the outline of the gigantic visage, and could discern only a heap of ponderous and gigantic rocks, piled in chaotic ruin one upon another. Retracing his steps, however, the wondrous features would again be seen; and the farther he withdrew from them, the more like a human face, with all its original divinity intact, did they appear; until, as it grew dim in the distance, with the clouds and glorified vapor of the mountains clustering about it, the Great Stone Face seemed positively to be alive.

It was a happy lot for children to grow up to manhood or womanhood with the Great Stone Face before their eyes, for all the features were noble, and the expression was at once grand and sweet, as if it were the glow of a vast, warm heart, that embraced all mankind in its affections, and had room for more. It was an education only to look at it. According to the belief of many people, the valley owed much of its fertility to this benign aspect that was continually beaming over it, illuminating the clouds, and infusing its tenderness into the sunshine.

As we began with saying, a mother and her little boy sat at their cottage-door, gazing at the Great Stone Face, and talking about it. The child's name was Ernest.

"Mother," said he, while the Titanic visage smiled on him, "I wish that it could speak, for it looks so very kindly that its voice must needs be pleasant. If I were to see a man with such a face, I should love him dearly."

"If an old prophecy should come to pass," answered his mother, "we may see a man, some time or other, with exactly such a face as that."

"What prophecy do you mean, dear mother?" eagerly inquired Ernest. "Pray tell me about it!"

So his mother told him a story that her own mother had told to her, when she herself was younger than little Ernest; a story, not of things that were past, but of what was yet to come; a story, nevertheless, so very old, that even the Indians, who formerly inhabited this valley, had heard it from their forefathers, to whom, as they affirmed, it had been murmured by the mountain streams, and whispered by the wind among the tree-tops. The purport was, that, at some future day, a child should be born hereabouts, who was destined to become the greatest and noblest personage of his time, and whose countenance, in manhood, should bear an exact resemblance to the Great Stone Face. Not a few old-fashioned people, and young ones likewise, in the ardor of their hopes, still cherished an enduring faith in this old prophecy. But others, who had seen more of the world, had watched and waited till they were weary, and had beheld no man with such a face, nor any man that proved to be much greater or nobler than his neighbors, concluded it to be nothing but an idle tale. At all events, the great man of the prophecy had not yet appeared.

"O mother, dear mother!" cried Ernest, clapping his hands above his head, "I do hope that I shall live to see him!"

His mother was an affectionate and thoughtful woman, and felt that it was wisest not to discourage the generous hopes of her little boy. So she only said to him, "Perhaps you may."

And Ernest never forgot the story that his mother told him. It was always in his mind, whenever he looked upon the Great Stone Face. He spent his childhood in the log-cottage where he was born, and was dutiful to his mother, and helpful to her in many things, assisting her much with his little hands, and more with his loving heart. In this manner, from a happy yet often pensive child, he grew up to be a mild, quiet, unobtrusive boy, and sun-browned with labor in the fields, but with more intelligence brightening his aspect than is seen in many lads who have been taught at famous schools. Yet Ernest had had no teacher, save only that the Great Stone Face became one to him. When the toil of the day was over, he would gaze at it for hours, until he began to imagine that those vast features recognized him, and gave him a smile of kindness and encouragement, responsive to his own look of veneration. We must not take upon us to affirm that this was a mistake, although the Face may have looked no more kindly at Ernest than at all the world besides. But the secret was that the boy's tender and confiding simplicity discerned what other people could not see; and thus the love, which was meant for all, became his peculiar portion.

About this time there went a rumor throughout the valley, that the great man, foretold from ages long ago, who was to bear a resemblance to the Great Stone Face, had appeared at last. It seems that, many years before, a young man had migrated from the valley and settled at a distant seaport, where, after getting together a little money, he had set up as a shopkeeper. His name--but I could never learn whether it was his real one, or a nickname that had grown out of his habits and success in life--was Gathergold. Being shrewd and active, and endowed by Providence with that inscrutable faculty which develops itself in what the world calls luck, he became an exceedingly rich merchant, and owner of a whole fleet of bulky-bottomed ships. All the countries of the globe appeared to join hands for the mere purpose of adding heap after heap to the mountainous accumulation of this one man's wealth. The cold regions of the north, almost within the gloom and shadow of the Arctic Circle, sent him their tribute in the shape of furs; hot Africa sifted for him the golden sands of her rivers, and gathered up the ivory tusks of her great elephants out of the forests; the East came bringing him the rich shawls, and spices, and teas, and the effulgence of diamonds, and the gleaming purity of large pearls. The ocean, not to be behindhand with the earth, yielded up her mighty whales, that Mr. Gathergold might sell their oil, and make a profit of it. Be the original commodity what it might, it was gold within his grasp. It might be said of him, as of Midas in the fable, that whatever he touched with his finger immediately glistened, and grew yellow, and was changed at once into sterling metal, or, which suited him still better, into piles of coin. And, when Mr. Gathergold had become so very rich that it would have taken him a hundred years only to count his wealth, he bethought himself of his native valley, and resolved to go back thither, and end his days where he was born. With this purpose in view, he sent a skilful architect to build him such a palace as should be fit for a man of his vast wealth to live in.

As I have said above, it had already been rumored in the valley that Mr. Gathergold had turned out to be the prophetic personage so long and vainly looked for, and that his visage was the perfect and undeniable similitude of the Great Stone Face. People were the more ready to believe that this must needs be the fact, when they beheld the splendid edifice that rose, as if by enchantment, on the site of his father's old weatherbeaten farm-house. The exterior was of marble, so dazzlingly white that it seemed as though the whole structure might melt away in the sunshine, like those humbler ones which Mr. Gathergold, in his young play-days, before his fingers were gifted with the touch of transmutation, had been accustomed to build of snow. It had a richly ornamented portico, supported by tall pillars, beneath which was a lofty door, studded with silver knobs, and made of a kind of variegated wood that had been brought from beyond the sea. The windows, from the floor to the ceiling of each stately apartment, were composed, respectively, of but one enormous pane of glass, so transparently pure that it was said to be a finer medium than even the vacant atmosphere. Hardly anybody had been permitted to see the interior of this palace; but it was reported, and with good semblance of truth, to be far more gorgeous than the outside, insomuch that whatever was iron or brass in other houses was silver or gold in this; and Mr. Gathergold's bedchamber, especially, made such a glittering appearance that no ordinary man would have been able to close his eyes there. But, on the other hand, Mr. Gathergold was now so inured to wealth, that perhaps he could not have closed his eyes unless where the gleam of it was certain to find its way beneath his eyelids.

In due time, the mansion was finished; next came the upholsterers, with magnificent furniture; then, a whole troop of black and white servants, the harbingers of Mr. Gathergold, who, in his own majestic person, was expected to arrive at sunset. Our friend Ernest, meanwhile, had been deeply stirred by the idea that the great man, the noble man, the man of prophecy, after so many ages of delay, was at length to be made manifest to his native valley. He knew, boy as he was, that there were a thousand ways in which Mr. Gathergold, with his vast wealth, might transform himself into an angel of beneficence, and assume a control over human affairs as wide and benignant as the smile of the Great Stone Face. Full of faith and hope, Ernest doubted not that what the people said was true, and that now he was to behold the living likeness of those wondrous features on the mountain-side. While the boy was still gazing up the valley, and fancying, as he always did, that the Great Stone Face returned his gaze and looked kindly at him, the rumbling of wheels was heard, approaching swiftly along the winding road.

"Here he comes!" cried a group of people who were assembled to witness the arrival. "Here comes the great Mr. Gathergold!"

A carriage, drawn by four horses, dashed round the turn of the road. Within it, thrust partly out of the window, appeared the physiognomy of the old man, with a skin as yellow as if his own Midas-hand had transmuted it. He had a low forehead, small, sharp eyes, puckered about with innumerable wrinkles, and very thin lips, which he made still thinner by pressing them forcibly together.

"The very image of the Great Stone Face!" shouted the people. "Sure enough, the old prophecy is true; and here we have the great man come, at last!"

And, what greatly perplexed Ernest, they seemed actually to believe that here was the likeness which they spoke of. By the roadside there chanced to be an old beggar-woman and two little beggar-children, stragglers from some far-off region, who, as the carriage rolled onward, held out their hands and lifted up their doleful voices, most piteously beseeching charity. A yellow claw--the very same that had clawed together so much wealth--poked itself out of the coach-window, and dropt some copper coins upon the ground; so that, though the great man's name seems to have been Gathergold, he might just as suitably have been nicknamed Scattercopper. Still, nevertheless, with an earnest shout, and evidently with as much good faith as ever, the people bellowed, "He is the very image of the Great Stone Face!"

But Ernest turned sadly from the wrinkled shrewdness of that sordid visage, and gazed up the valley, where, amid a gathering mist, gilded by the last sunbeams, he could still distinguish those glorious features which had impressed themselves into his soul. Their aspect cheered him. What did the benign lips seem to say?

"He will come! Fear not, Ernest; the man will come!"

The years went on, and Ernest ceased to be a boy. He had grown to be a young man now. He attracted little notice from the other inhabitants of the valley; for they saw nothing remarkable in his way of life save that, when the labor of the day was over, he still loved to go apart and gaze and meditate upon the Great Stone Face. According to their idea of the matter, it was a folly, indeed, but pardonable, inasmuch as Ernest was industrious, kind, and neighborly, and neglected no duty for the sake of indulging this idle habit. They knew not that the Great Stone Face had become a teacher to him, and that the sentiment which was expressed in it would enlarge the young man's heart, and fill it with wider and deeper sympathies than other hearts. They knew not that thence would come a better wisdom than could be learned from books, and a better life than could be moulded on the defaced example of other human lives. Neither did Ernest know that the thoughts and affections which came to him so naturally, in the fields and at the fireside, and wherever he communed with himself, were of a higher tone than those which all men shared with him. A simple soul,--simple as when his mother first taught him the old prophecy,--he beheld the marvellous features beaming adown the valley, and still wondered that their human counterpart was so long in making his appearance.

By this time poor Mr. Gathergold was dead and buried; and the oddest part of the matter was, that his wealth, which was the body and spirit of his existence, had disappeared before his death, leaving nothing of him but a living skeleton, covered over with a wrinkled yellow skin. Since the melting away of his gold, it had been very generally conceded that there was no such striking resemblance, after all, betwixt the ignoble features of the ruined merchant and that majestic face upon the mountain-side. So the people ceased to honor him during his lifetime, and quietly consigned him to forgetfulness after his decease. Once in a while, it is true, his memory was brought up in connection with the magnificent palace which he had built, and which had long ago been turned into a hotel for the accommodation of strangers, multitudes of whom came, every summer, to visit that famous natural curiosity, the Great Stone Face. Thus, Mr. Gathergold being discredited and thrown into the shade, the man of prophecy was yet to come.

It so happened that a native-born son of the valley, many years before, had enlisted as a soldier, and, after a great deal of hard fighting, had now become an illustrious commander. Whatever he may be called in history, he was known in camps and on the battle-field under the nickname of Old Blood-and-Thunder. This war-worn veteran being now infirm with age and wounds, and weary of the turmoil of a military life, and of the roll of the drum and the clangor of the trumpet, that had so long been ringing in his ears, had lately signified a purpose of returning to his native valley, hoping to find repose where he remembered to have left it. The inhabitants, his old neighbors and their grown-up children, were resolved to welcome the renowned warrior with a salute of cannon and a public dinner; and all the more enthusiastically, it being affirmed that now, at last, the likeness of the Great Stone Face had actually appeared. An aid-de-camp of Old Blood-and-Thunder, travelling through the valley, was said to have been struck with the resemblance. Moreover the schoolmates and early acquaintances of the general were ready to testify, on oath, that, to the best of their recollection, the aforesaid general had been exceedingly like the majestic image, even when a boy, only the idea had never occurred to them at that period. Great, therefore, was the excitement throughout the valley; and many people, who had never once thought of glancing at the Great Stone Face for years before, now spent their time in gazing at it, for the sake of knowing exactly how General Blood-and-Thunder looked.

On the day of the great festival, Ernest, with all the other people of the valley, left their work, and proceeded to the spot where the sylvan banquet was prepared. As he approached, the loud voice of the Rev. Dr. Battleblast was heard, beseeching a blessing on the good things set before them, and on the distinguished friend of peace in whose honor they were assembled. The tables were arranged in a cleared space of the woods, shut in by the surrounding trees, except where a vista opened eastward, and afforded a distant view of the Great Stone Face. Over the general's chair, which was a relic from the home of Washington, there was an arch of verdant boughs, with the laurel profusely intermixed, and surmounted by his country's banner, beneath which he had won his victories. Our friend Ernest raised himself on his tiptoes, in hopes to get a glimpse of the celebrated guest; but there was a mighty crowd about the tables anxious to hear the toasts and speeches, and to catch any word that might fall from the general in reply; and a volunteer company, doing duty as a guard, pricked ruthlessly with their bayonets at any particularly quiet person among the throng. So Ernest, being of an unobtrusive character, was thrust quite into the background, where he could see no more of Old Blood-and-Thunder's physiognomy than if it had been still blazing on the battle-field. To console himself, he turned towards the Great Stone Face, which, like a faithful and long remembered friend, looked back and smiled upon him through the vista of the forest. Meantime, however, he could overhear the remarks of various individuals, who were comparing the features of the hero with the face on the distant mountain-side.

" 'Tis the same face, to a hair!" cried one man, cutting a caper for joy.

"Wonderfully like, that's a fact!" responded another.

"Like! why, I call it Old Blood-and-Thunder himself, in a monstrous looking-glass!" cried a third. "And why not? He's the greatest man of this or any other age, beyond a doubt."

And then all three of the speakers gave a great shout, which communicated electricity to the crowd, and called forth a roar from a thousand voices, that went reverberating for miles among the mountains, until you might have supposed that the Great Stone Face had poured its thunderbreath into the cry. All these comments, and this vast enthusiasm, served the more to interest our friend; nor did he think of questioning that now, at length, the mountain-visage had found its human counterpart. It is true, Ernest had imagined that this long-looked-for personage would appear in the character of a man of peace, uttering wisdom, and doing good, and making people happy. But, taking an habitual breadth of view, with all his simplicity, he contended that Providence should choose its own method of blessing mankind, and could conceive that this great end might be effected even by a warrior and a bloody sword, should inscrutable wisdom see fit to order matters so.

"The general! the general!" was now the cry. "Hush! silence! Old Blood-and-Thunder's going to make a speech."

Even so; for, the cloth being removed, the general's health had been drunk, amid shouts of applause, and he now stood upon his feet to thank the company. Ernest saw him. There he was, over the shoulders of the crowd, from the two glittering epaulets and embroidered collar upward, beneath the arch of green boughs with intertwined laurel, and the banner drooping as if to shade his brow! And there, too, visible in the same glance, through the vista of the forest, appeared the Great Stone Face! And was there, indeed, such a resemblance as the crowd had testified? Alas, Ernest could not recognize it! He beheld a war-worn and weatherbeaten countenance, full of energy, and expressive of an iron will; but the gentle wisdom, the deep, broad, tender sympathies, were altogether wanting in Old Blood-and-Thunder's visage; and even if the Great Stone Face had assumed his look of stern command, the milder traits would still have tempered it.

"This is not the man of prophecy," sighed Ernest to himself, as he made his way out of the throng. "And must the world wait longer yet?"

The mists had congregated about the distant mountain-side, and there were seen the grand and awful features of the Great Stone Face, awful but benignant, as if a mighty angel were sitting among the hills, and enrobing himself in a cloud-vesture of gold and purple. As he looked, Ernest could hardly believe but that a smile beamed over the whole visage, with a radiance still brightening, although without motion of the lips. It was probably the effect of the western sunshine, melting through the thinly diffused vapors that had swept between him and the object that he gazed at. But--as it always did--the aspect of his marvellous friend made Ernest as hopeful as if he had never hoped in vain.

"Fear not, Ernest," said his heart, even as if the Great Face were whispering him,--fear not, Ernest; he will come."

More years sped swiftly and tranquilly away. Ernest still dwelt in his native valley, and was now a man of middle age. By imperceptible degrees, he had become known among the people. Now, as heretofore, he labored for his bread, and was the same simple-hearted man that he had always been. But he had thought and felt so much, he had given so many of the best hours of his life to unworldly hopes for some great good to mankind, that it seemed as though he had been talking with the angels, and had imbibed a portion of their wisdom unawares. It was visible in the calm and well-considered beneficence of his daily life, the quiet stream of which had made a wide green margin all along its course. Not a day passed by, that the world was not the better because this man, humble as he was, had lived. He never stepped aside from his own path, yet would always reach a blessing to his neighbor. Almost involuntarily too, he had become a preacher. The pure and high simplicity of his thought, which, as one of its manifestations, took shape in the good deeds that dropped silently from his hand, flowed also forth in speech. He uttered truths that wrought upon and moulded the lives of those who heard him. His auditors, it may be, never suspected that Ernest, their own neighbor and familiar friend, was more than an ordinary man; least of all did Ernest himself suspect it; but, inevitably as the murmur of a rivulet, came thoughts out of his mouth that no other human lips had spoken.

When the people's minds had had a little time to cool, they were ready enough to acknowledge their mistake in imagining a similarity between General Blood-and-Thunder's truculent physiognomy and the benign visage on the mountain-side. But now, again, there were reports and many paragraphs in the newspapers, affirming that the likeness of the Great Stone Face had appeared upon the broad shoulders of a certain eminent statesman. He, like Mr. Gathergold and Old Blood-and-Thunder, was a native of the valley, but had left it in his early days, and taken up the trades of law and politics. Instead of the rich man's wealth and the warrior's sword, he had but a tongue, and it was mightier than both together. So wonderfully eloquent was he, that whatever he might choose to say, his auditors had no choice but to believe him; wrong looked like right, and right like wrong; for when it pleased him, he could make a kind of illuminated fog with his mere breath, and obscure the natural daylight with it. His tongue, indeed, was a magic instrument: sometimes it rumbled like the thunder; sometimes it warbled like the sweetest music. It was the blast of war, the song of peace; and it seemed to have a heart in it, when there was no such matter. In good truth, he was a wondrous man; and when his tongue had acquired him all other imaginable success,--when it had been heard in halls of state, and in the courts of princes and potentates,--after it had made him known all over the world, even as a voice crying from shore to shore,--it finally persuaded his countrymen to select him for the Presidency. Before this time,--indeed, as soon as he began to grow celebrated,--his admirers had found out the resemblance between him and the Great Stone Face; and so much were they struck by it, that throughout the country this distinguished gentleman was known by the name of Old Stony Phiz. The phrase was considered as giving a highly favorable aspect to his political prospects; for, as is likewise the case with the Popedom, nobody ever becomes President without taking a name other than his own.

While his friends were doing their best to make him President, Old Stony Phiz, as he was called, set out on a visit to the valley where he was born. Of course, he had no other object than to shake hands with his fellow-citizens and neither thought nor cared about any effect which his progress through the country might have upon the election. Magnificent preparations were made to receive the illustrious statesman; a cavalcade of horsemen set forth to meet him at the boundary line of the State, and all the people left their business and gathered along the wayside to see him pass. Among these was Ernest. Though more than once disappointed, as we have seen, he had such a hopeful and confiding nature, that he was always ready to believe in whatever seemed beautiful and good. He kept his heart continually open, and thus was sure to catch the blessing from on high when it should come. So now again, as buoyantly as ever, he went forth to behold the likeness of the Great Stone Face.

The cavalcade came prancing along the road, with a great clattering of hoofs and a mighty cloud of dust, which rose up so dense and high that the visage of the mountain-side was completely hidden from Ernest's eyes. All the great men of the neighborhood were there on horseback; militia officers, in uniform; the member of Congress; the sheriff of the county; the editors of newspapers; and many a farmer, too, had mounted his patient steed, with his Sunday coat upon his back. It really was a very brilliant spectacle, especially as there were numerous banners flaunting over the cavalcade, on some of which were gorgeous portraits of the illustrious statesman and the Great Stone Face, smiling familiarly at one another, like two brothers. If the pictures were to be trusted, the mutual resemblance, it must be confessed, was marvellous. We must not forget to mention that there was a band of music, which made the echoes of the mountains ring and reverberate with the loud triumph of its strains; so that airy and soul-thrilling melodies broke out among all the heights and hollows, as if every nook of his native valley had found a voice, to welcome the distinguished guest. But the grandest effect was when the far-off mountain precipice flung back the music; for then the Great Stone Face itself seemed to be swelling the triumphant chorus, in acknowledgment that, at length, the man of prophecy was come.

All this while the people were throwing up their hats and shouting with enthusiasm so contagious that the heart of Ernest kindled up, and he likewise threw up his hat, and shouted, as loudly as the loudest, "Huzza for the great man! Huzza for Old Stony Phiz!" But as yet he had not seen him.

"Here he is, now!" cried those who stood near Ernest. "There! There! Look at Old Stony Phiz and then at the Old Man of the Mountain, and see if they are not as like as two twin-brothers!"

In the midst of all this gallant array came an open barouche, drawn by four white horses; and in the barouche, with his massive head uncovered, sat the illustrious statesman, Old Stony Phiz himself.

"Confess it," said one of Ernest's neighbors to him, "the Great Stone Face has met its match at last!"

Now, it must be owned that, at his first glimpse of the countenance which was bowing and smiling from the barouche, Ernest did fancy that there was a resemblance between it and the old familiar face upon the mountain-side. The brow, with its massive depth and loftiness, and all the other features, indeed, were boldly and strongly hewn, as if in emulation of a more than heroic, of a Titanic model. But the sublimity and stateliness, the grand expression of a divine sympathy, that illuminated the mountain visage and etherealized its ponderous granite substance into spirit, might here be sought in vain. Something had been originally left out, or had departed. And therefore the marvellously gifted statesman had always a weary gloom in the deep caverns of his eyes, as of a child that has outgrown its playthings or a man of mighty faculties and little aims, whose life, with all its high performances, was vague and empty, because no high purpose had endowed it with reality.

Still, Ernest's neighbor was thrusting his elbow into his side, and pressing him for an answer.

"Confess! confess! Is not he the very picture of your Old Man of the Mountain?"

"No!" said Ernest bluntly, "I see little or no likeness."

"Then so much the worse for the Great Stone Face!" answered his neighbor; and again he set up a shout for Old Stony Phiz.

But Ernest turned away, melancholy, and almost despondent: for this was the saddest of his disappointments, to behold a man who might have fulfilled the prophecy, and had not willed to do so. Meantime, the cavalcade, the banners, the music, and the barouches swept past him, with the vociferous crowd in the rear, leaving the dust to settle down, and the Great Stone Face to be revealed again, with the grandeur that it had worn for untold centuries.

"Lo, here I am, Ernest!" the benign lips seemed to say. "I have waited longer than thou, and am not yet weary. Fear not; the man will come."

The years hurried onward, treading in their haste on one another's heels. And now they began to bring white hairs, and scatter them over the head of Ernest; they made reverend wrinkles across his forehead, and furrows in his cheeks. He was an aged man. But not in vain had he grown old: more than the white hairs on his head were the sage thoughts in his mind; his wrinkles and furrows were inscriptions that Time had graved, and in which he had written legends of wisdom that had been tested by the tenor of a life. And Ernest had ceased to be obscure. Unsought for, undesired, had come the fame which so many seek, and made him known in the great world, beyond the limits of the valley in which he had dwelt so quietly. College professors, and even the active men of cities, came from far to see and converse with Ernest; for the report had gone abroad that this simple husbandman had ideas unlike those of other men, not gained from books, but of a higher tone,--a tranquil and familiar majesty, as if he had been talking with the angels as his daily friends. Whether it were sage, statesman, or philanthropist, Ernest received these visitors with the gentle sincerity that had characterized him from boyhood, and spoke freely with them of whatever came uppermost, or lay deepest in his heart or their own. While they talked together, his face would kindle, unawares, and shine upon them, as with a mild evening light. Pensive with the fulness of such discourse, his guests took leave and went their way; and passing up the valley, paused to look at the Great Stone Face, imagining that they had seen its likeness in a human countenance, but could not remember where.

While Ernest had been growing up and growing old, a bountiful Providence had granted a new poet to this earth. He likewise, was a native of the valley, but had spent the greater part of his life at a distance from that romantic region, pouring out his sweet music amid the bustle and din of cities. Often, however, did the mountains which had been familiar to him in his childhood lift their snowy peaks into the clear atmosphere of his poetry. Neither was the Great Stone Face forgotten, for the poet had celebrated it in an ode, which was grand enough to have been uttered by its own majestic lips. This man of genius, we may say, had come down from heaven with wonderful endowments. If he sang of a mountain, the eyes of all mankind beheld a mightier grandeur reposing on its breast, or soaring to its summit, than had before been seen there. If his theme were a lovely lake, a celestial smile had now been thrown over it, to gleam forever on its surface. If it were the vast old sea, even the deep immensity of its dread bosom seemed to swell the higher, as if moved by the emotions of the song. Thus the world assumed another and a better aspect from the hour that the poet blessed it with his happy eyes. The Creator had bestowed him, as the last best touch to his own handiwork. Creation was not finished till the poet came to interpret, and so complete it.

The effect was no less high and beautiful, when his human brethren were the subject of his verse. The man or woman, sordid with the common dust of life, who crossed his daily path, and the little child who played in it, were glorified if he beheld them in his mood of poetic faith. He showed the golden links of the great chain that intertwined them with an angelic kindred; he brought out the hidden traits of a celestial birth that made them worthy of such kin. Some, indeed, there were, who thought to show the soundness of their judgment by affirming that all the beauty and dignity of the natural world existed only in the poet's fancy. Let such men speak for themselves, who undoubtedly appear to have been spawned forth by Nature with a contemptuous bitterness; she having plastered them up out of her refuse stuff, after all the swine were made. As respects all things else, the poet's ideal was the truest truth.

The songs of this poet found their way to Ernest. He read them after his customary toil, seated on the bench before his cottage-door, where for such a length of time he had filled his repose with thought, by gazing at the Great Stone Face. And now as he read stanzas that caused the soul to thrill within him, he lifted his eyes to the vast countenance beaming on him so benignantly.

"O majestic friend," he murmured, addressing the Great Stone Face, "is not this man worthy to resemble thee?"

The Face seemed to smile, but answered not a word.

Now it happened that the poet, though he dwelt so far away, had not only heard of Ernest, but had meditated much upon his character, until he deemed nothing so desirable as to meet this man, whose untaught wisdom walked hand in hand with the noble simplicity of his life. One summer morning, therefore, he took passage by the railroad, and, in the decline of the afternoon, alighted from the cars at no great distance from Ernest's cottage. The great hotel, which had formerly been the palace of Mr. Gathergold, was close at hand, but the poet, with his carpet-bag on his arm, inquired at once where Ernest dwelt, and was resolved to be accepted as his guest.

Approaching the door, he there found the good old man, holding a volume in his hand, which alternately he read, and then, with a finger between the leaves, looked lovingly at the Great Stone Face.

"Good evening," said the poet. "Can you give a traveller a night's lodging?"

"Willingly," answered Ernest; and then he added, smiling, "Methinks I never saw the Great Stone Face look so hospitably at a stranger."

The poet sat down on the bench beside him, and he and Ernest talked together. Often had the poet held intercourse with the wittiest and the wisest, but never before with a man like Ernest, whose thoughts and feelings gushed up with such a natural freedom, and who made great truths so familiar by his simple utterance of them. Angels, as had been so often said, seemed to have wrought with him at his labor in the fields; angels seemed to have sat with him by the fireside; and, dwelling with angels as friend with friends, he had imbibed the sublimity of their ideas, and imbued it with the sweet and lowly charm of household words. So thought the poet. And Ernest, on the other hand, was moved and agitated by the living images which the poet flung out of his mind, and which peopled all the air about the cottage-door with shapes of beauty, both gay and pensive. The sympathies of these two men instructed them with a profounder sense than either could have attained alone. Their minds accorded into one strain, and made delightful music which neither of them could have claimed as all his own, nor distinguished his own share from the other's. They led one another, as it were, into a high pavilion of their thoughts, so remote, and hitherto so dim, that they had never entered it before, and so beautiful that they desired to be there always.

As Ernest listened to the poet, he imagined that the Great Stone Face was bending forward to listen too. He gazed earnestly into the poet's glowing eyes.

"Who are you, my strangely gifted guest?" he said.

The poet laid his finger on the volume that Ernest had been reading.

"You have read these poems," said he. "You know me, then,--for I wrote them."

Again, and still more earnestly than before, Ernest examined the poet's features; then turned towards the Great Stone Face; then back, with an uncertain aspect, to his guest. But his countenance fell; he shook his head, and sighed.

"Wherefore are you sad?" inquired the poet.

"Because," replied Ernest, "all through life I have awaited the fulfilment of a prophecy; and, when I read these poems, I hoped that it might be fulfilled in you."

"You hoped," answered the poet, faintly smiling, "to find in me the likeness of the Great Stone Face. And you are disappointed, as formerly with Mr. Gathergold, and Old Blood-and-Thunder, and Old Stony Phiz. Yes, Ernest, it is my doom. You must add my name to the illustrious three, and record another failure of your hopes. For--in shame and sadness do I speak it, Ernest--I am not worthy to be typified by yonder benign and majestic image."

"And why?" asked Ernest. He pointed to the volume. "Are not those thoughts divine?"

"They have a strain of the Divinity," replied the poet. "You can hear in them the far-off echo of a heavenly song. But my life, dear Ernest, has not corresponded with my thought. I have had grand dreams, but they have been only dreams, because I have lived--and that, too, by my own choice--among poor and mean realities. Sometimes even--shall I dare to say it?--I lack faith in the grandeur, the beauty, and the goodness, which my own words are said to have made more evident in nature and in human life. Why, then, pure seeker of the good and true, shouldst thou hope to find me, in yonder image of the divine?"

The poet spoke sadly, and his eyes were dim with tears. So, likewise, were those of Ernest.

At the hour of sunset, as had long been his frequent custom, Ernest was to discourse to an assemblage of the neighboring inhabitants in the open air. He and the poet, arm in arm, still talking together as they went along, proceeded to the spot. It was a small nook among the hills, with a gray precipice behind, the stern front of which was relieved by the pleasant foliage of many creeping plants that made a tapestry for the naked rock, by hanging their festoons from all its rugged angles. At a small elevation above the ground, set in a rich framework of verdure, there appeared a niche, spacious enough to admit a human figure, with freedom for such gestures as spontaneously accompany earnest thought and genuine emotion. Into this natural pulpit Ernest ascended, and threw a look of familiar kindness around upon his audience. They stood, or sat, or reclined upon the grass, as seemed good to each, with the departing sunshine falling obliquely over them, and mingling its subdued cheerfulness with the solemnity of a grove of ancient trees, beneath and amid the boughs of which the golden rays were constrained to pass. In another direction was seen the Great Stone Face, with the same cheer, combined with the same solemnity, in its benignant aspect.

Ernest began to speak, giving to the people of what was in his heart and mind. His words had power, because they accorded with his thoughts; and his thoughts had reality and depth, because they harmonized with the life which he had always lived. It was not mere breath that this preacher uttered; they were the words of life, because a life of good deeds and holy love was melted into them. Pearls, pure and rich, had been dissolved into this precious draught. The poet, as he listened, felt that the being and character of Ernest were a nobler strain of poetry than he had ever written. His eyes glistening with tears, he gazed reverentially at the venerable man, and said within himself that never was there an aspect so worthy of a prophet and a sage as that mild, sweet, thoughtful countenance, with the glory of white hair diffused about it. At a distance, but distinctly to be seen, high up in the golden light of the setting sun, appeared the Great Stone Face, with hoary mists around it, like the white hairs around the brow of Ernest. Its look of grand beneficence seemed to embrace the world.

At that moment, in sympathy with a thought which he was about to utter, the face of Ernest assumed a grandeur of expression, so imbued with benevolence, that the poet, by an irresistible impulse, threw his arms aloft and shouted,"Behold! Behold! Ernest is himself the likeness of the Great Stone Face!"

Then all the people looked, and saw that what the deep-sighted poet said was true. The prophecy was fulfilled. But Ernest, having finished what he had to say, took the poet's arm, and walked slowly homeward, still hoping that some wiser and better man than himself would by and by appear, bearing a resemblance to the GREAT STONE FACE.

Cameron, X-Prize, and A Culture of Hate

First: Read this article.

James Cameron Heads For Mariana Trench to Film Avatar Sequel and Capture X Prize Simultaneously


Bathyscaphe Trieste This contraption was the first and only sub to bring humans to the ocean's deepest spot, the 7-mile-deep, appropriately named spot Challenger Deep. James Cameron is commissioning an Australian team to build him a new one, so he can win an X Prize and shoot 3-D footage for a new "Avatar" movie. Wikimedia Commons

Director James Cameron has commissioned Australian designers to build a sub that can plunge 36,000 feet beneath the surface of the ocean, hoping to combine his love for deep waters with his apparent craving for cash. If he can pull it off, he could win a $10 million X Prize and shoot footage for an “Avatar” sequel simultaneously.

The Daily Mail first reported the story, saying the sub would be made of composite materials and powered by electric motors. It would have to survive the immense pressures experienced at seven miles below the surface of the ocean, where Cameron hopes to shoot 3-D footage to incorporate into the second Avatar film.

The sub would be designed to explore the Challenger Deep, a 35,994-foot deep depression in the southern end of the Mariana Trench. It’s the deepest known spot in the oceans and has only been explored three times — but since the first daring 1960 attempt in the Trieste, no one has tried a manned descent.

Attempting such a feat would hardly be a first for the director, who has waded into deep waters several times on behalf of his films, including “Titanic” and “Aliens of the Deep.” The “Avatar” sequel will reportedly be set in the fictional oceans of Pandora.

Later this year, the X Prize Foundation is expected to formally announce a $10 million award to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Trieste's dive. The winnings will go to the first privately funded sub to make two repeat manned descents to Challenger Deep.

Not content to earn more money than anyone in the history of moving pictures, HMFIC apparently wants an X Prize, too."

Ok, all set?

Because here are some things that I find interesting, and things that really piss me off.

First, the next Avatar will be all about the oceans. Which I think will be really freaking cool. Now that my 8yr old self has gotten his opinion out there...

The next thing is HELL YEAH JAMES CAMERON. Going to the bottom of the trench is kind of like flying into space: dangerous, incredibly difficult environment, a huge technical challenge, and no direct benefit other than the fact that we are human and goddamnit we will explore every last corner we know of. The difference is that we have only been once, briefly, to the bottom of the ocean. This would be like simply giving up on space after Yuri Gagarin's first, brief, exit of the atmosphere.

But the thing which really, really pisses me off is the last little paragraph: "Not content to earn more money than anyone in the history of moving pictures, HMFIC apparently wants an X Prize, too." Are you kidding? This is from Popular Science, a major scientific publication. Why the bitter and twisted view of the world when applied to making money? Because it is a thread which currently resonates strongly in the American electorate. Which is disgusting. What the hell is wrong with capturing a prize when you already have money? Why the hell not? Interestingly this is applied to a guy in the entertainment industry, which is usually exempt from the hatred applied to CEOs and other businessmen - in fact people usually take pride in their favorite movie star or athlete getting a $20 or $50 million contract. Maybe it is because he is a producer, not actor, so it is assumed his product is being intelligent, and inherently it is unfair to use intelligence to make money, but when you are using god-given gifts such as beauty and athleticism, you just can't be blamed for it.

This trend is increasingly prevalent in American society. It is both disgusting and dangerous. It is also a sign of the coming fall of American super-power world-leading status.

whatthefuckasaurus

Toyota: The New #3

Last year, Toyota was the #1 car company in the US, a title which it took from GM the year before, and most industry watchers expected that Toyota would continue in that position for perpetuity, its ironclad reputation and reliability propelling it forward with the momentum of a battleship going downhill. One year later, Toyota is no longer #1. It's no longer #2. It's #3.

Here's how the numbers break down this year:
  1. Ford: 1,155,713
  2. Chevy: 1,052,773
  3. Toyota: 1,018,664

Compare that with how the brands finished last year:

  1. Toyota: 1.55 million
  2. Ford: 1.44 million
  3. Chevy: 1.33 million
Yeah. Two interesting stories here. First is that Toyota fell. The second is the rise of Ford. Ford has been making some impressive new cars (though I think that the Taurus should be selling better than it has) and has been charging hard. The funny part about all this? Ford has been following the Toyota model: have only a couple brands (Ford sold Land Rover, Jaguar, Volvo, and has killed of Mercury, leaving Ford, and Lincoln), focus on key models in each segment rather than the shotgun approach of GM (think Camry vs Chevy Impala, Chevy Malibu, Saturn Aura, Pontiac Grad Prix, Buick LaCrosse), and make global cars (the new fiesta, like the Corolla, will be global, and soon the fusion and european mondeo will be the same car).

So Ford is out-Toyotaing Toyota. Now they just need to make sure they don't lie to customers and cover up defects.

Italian Flood

Here's amazing video of flood waters flushing cars down a street in the Italian village of Atrani on the Amalfi Coast last week.

The Electorate is, Finally, Tiring of Unions

Unions are increasingly dominated by public-sector workers. And they are increasingly out of touch with reality. Which means they were in touch with the Democrats, spending 96% of their political contributions on Democrats in the last election (and I bet the rest went to "independents" who vote democrat).

The thing is, the people of this country are finally getting sick of the raise-taxes, pay-us-more, and protect-our-jobs message of the public unions. From the WSJ:

In the midst of the contentious 2009 gubernatorial race in New Jersey, the state's teachers union took a poll of its own members and found only a slight majority preferred the candidate the union had endorsed, Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine, over Republican challenger Chris Christie. The alarmed union, the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), swung into action with a campaign that included phoning 100,000 of its members and urging them to vote for Mr. Corzine, according to union documents leaked last November to the Education Intelligence Agency, a watchdog web site.

The electorate may also be turning away from public unions because of their relentless campaigning for higher taxes. Mr. Christie has estimated that New Jersey's public unions spent some $4 million throughout the spring on ads advocating higher taxes and railing against his budget. In California, the teachers union has kicked in $500,000 as part of a campaign to rescind business tax breaks to keep jobs in the state. Last year in Michigan, a coalition of unions engineered a campaign called "A Better Michigan Future" that advocated hundreds of millions in new taxes, which the state legislature rejected.


All I can be is thankful that people are starting to see the waste and stupidity that these unions represent. Hopefully the tea party (though again - they are actually the most anti-union part of the political spectrum) does not screw it all up in November by having too many of their candidates on the ballots.

The System is Broken

Across the US, the Tea Party is winning primaries against traditional Republican candidates.

How are they doing do? Primaries are generally voted on by a tiny percentage of the electorate. So they have always been driven by the ideological halves of the parties. So what does it take to kick a 10-time senate seat winner out of office? Turns out about 25,000 votes. Which is really not a lot at all.

And the end result? A slew of unelectable candidates, and what is shaping up to be a disaster for the Republican party. Yes - they will gain back seats, that much is clear, but they may not gain back the majority, all because of the Tea Party. And that is a big deal.

The issue is this: primaries favor the extremes, while general elections favor the middle. The Tea Party is using this to elect "Republican" candidates who are, quite simply, unelectable.

As I have said before, we need to move away from the two-party system. It is really preventing rather than helping the political society of the United States at this point. The Tea Party should be able to find representation. Winning primaries which then cause one party to lose a seat it otherwise would have won is a far far cry from an effective and representative political system. In many of those elections now, the vast majority of voters will have no one at all that they can vote for.

This is not to say that the Tea Party is wrong in what it wants, I happen to agree with a fair number of their main objectives (smaller government, lower taxes), but right now the only way they can gain any influence is by screwing over the party which they are aligned with. Does not make a lot of sense to me.

The SkyRider: The Future of Pain


The SkyRider was just revealed at an airline industry tradeshow. The new "seats" take up only 23 inches... per row. The theory goes that this allows more passengers (like 40% more) and so will give cheaper seats. A number of budget US airlines are interested, as well as (no shocker here) a number of Asian airlines. The thing is though... you would probably have to pay me to ride like that. The company behind it says that cowboys are able to comfortably ride in the saddle for 8 hours a day, and so this should be fine. I call BS. The average American ass spends its time being well cushioned and consistently growing on a diet of fast-food and soda - the SkyRider would be about as comfortable for 8hrs to the average American as 8hrs of the Ring Cycle.

whatthefuckasaurus

Where is BP's oil? On the bottom.

Well, at least some of it. Turns out that there appears to be a lot more oil on the bottom of the gulf than people expected. Near the well, there are a couple inches of oil in places sitting on the bottom of the ocean, largely resting atop a new layer of dead marine life. Sad.

This is not a road


This may look like a rural gravel road, but it's not. Its a waterway, in Louisiana. And its covered with hundreds of thousands of dead fish, crabs, eels and stingrays — even a dead whale. Its caused by a deadzone, something which is relatively common along the Gulf Coast, but in this case people are worried that it is related to the BP spill. Regardless, the level of destruction is pretty astounding.

This may look like a rural gravel road, but it's not. Its a waterway, in Louisiana. And its covered with hundreds of thousands of dead fish, crabs, eels and stingrays — even a dead whale. Its caused by a deadzone, something which is relatively common along the Gulf Coast, but in this case people are worried that it is related to the BP spill. Regardless, the level of destruction is pretty astounding.

Man Falls Out of Sky in NJ

Three employees at a veterinarian's office in Egg Harbor Township, NJ say they saw a man fall from the sky on Tuesday, sans parachute. An exhaustive search has turned up nothing.

One of the employees told NBC Philadelphia she looked out the window and saw the man plummet to earth head-first: "You could see the arms and legs flailing and his clothes were blue, a dark blue like a navy, black and gray," Hale said. "There's no doubt that it was a person. We're 100 percent sure."

Police looked all day today but found no body. There are only a few possible explanations for this:

  • Someone was hiding in the wheel bay of a plane and fell out
  • Crazy movie-style mob hit
  • Three office workers playing a prank/experiencing mass boredom-induced hallucination
  • NJ....

The End of NewSpace

NewSpace, started by the X-Prize, is now officially dead. But all is not lost.

Boeing has announced that starting in 2015 it will offer commercial space flight to paying customers.
Yes, Boeing is getting in on what the X-Prize started. Remember however that the X-Prize offered a $10 million purse. $10 million is probably less than Boeing pays for staplers in a year. $700 staplers on govt. contracts of course...

But yeah, this really is the beginning of the end... or is it the end of the beginning?

I would go with the latter.

Back when the X-Prize was won, people thought commercial flights would come only a few years later. 6 years have gone by, and Virgin Galactic--which is based on Space Ship One--still has yet to make a flight into space, let alone a commercial flight. None of its major competitors are any further along.

The entrance of Boeing does not spell the end of the road for these companies. Rather, I think it signals to potential investors that flying people into space is a worthwhile business opportunity: more money should be flowing to the little guys now rather than less. The potential market is huge, and Boeing's entrance signals credibility, and maturity.

So NewSpace is dead, but long live NewSpace.

Nokia: Hardware first, Software Second

The world of the smartphone is increasingly becoming the world of software. When the iPhone first came out the really big deal was the software, not the hardware (though the hardware was a big step forward also). Since that point in time, software has caused phones to succeed or fail (with the exception of Palm, which failed due to idiotic marketing and sales practices). Android is now more popular than the iPhone, and people buy any Android phone because it is an Android phone, the specific hardware is now a secondary consideration.

Nokia seems not to have gotten the message. According to a software engineer there, all deadlines and requirements are set by the hardware people, and software is just sort of expected to fill in when needed. Hardware might be changed with no notice to the software people etc. No wonder that Nokia's US smartphone marketshare hovers around 3%, and that I cant think of anyone who actually has one. Until they let software come first, they will never get this one right.

Selling $60 Billion to the Saudis

Well, if there is one thing that will help (somewhat) our massive trade imbalance with Saudi Arabia - its fighter jets. We're good at making 'em, and they want 'em. They have wanted them for years... but now.. we are facing down Iran. So we are selling them $60 billion in arms, with the big-ticket item being already dated F-15s (don't get me wrong, this is a great gen 4.5 aircraft, but a big step behind the JSF and other 5th gen fighters or the F-22 Raptor which is often referred to as gen 6 - but that we refuse to sell to anyone, including countries like Australia).

The interesting thing is that the reason we have not done this in the past (and the last jumbo arms purchase by the Saudis was from British BAE - though no doubt with the US's blessing) is because of Israel. They really don't like the idea that these modern aircraft and other armaments could be used against, well, them.

And so we have pulled off a nice little trick. Every fighter aircraft broadcasts a signal which lets people know if it is friend or foe. Well, really, its that friends can see your signal, and foes cant, so they assume you are not a friend. What these F-15s will have is a feature that prevents them from firing upon US or Israeli aircraft. Interesting really, selling marginal allies weapons which can only be used against our enemies. I like it.

Stephen Hawking on Creation

I believe in God. As I have said before, I am a diest. I believe in a God - I just cant stand activist religion and think that God is more of a force or alternate line of understanding rather than a rational (or irrational - have you read the Bible?) actor. Stephen seems to think some of the same things, and has some pretty cool postulations on our live and our universe to boot.

For me, one of the most important concepts is one I thought of when I was about 10yrs old, and then found out that a lot of other people had already thought up:
"The fact of our being restricts the characteristics of the kind of environment in which we find ourselves"

In other words - the chance of us being here, because we are already here, is 100%.

Why God Did Not Create the Universe

There is a sound scientific explanation for the making of our world—no gods required

According to Viking mythology, eclipses occur when two wolves, Skoll and Hati, catch the sun or moon. At the onset of an eclipse people would make lots of noise, hoping to scare the wolves away. After some time, people must have noticed that the eclipses ended regardless of whether they ran around banging on pots.

Ignorance of nature's ways led people in ancient times to postulate many myths in an effort to make sense of their world. But eventually, people turned to philosophy, that is, to the use of reason—with a good dose of intuition—to decipher their universe. Today we use reason, mathematics and experimental test—in other words, modern science.

Albert Einstein said, "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible." He meant that, unlike our homes on a bad day, the universe is not just a conglomeration of objects each going its own way. Everything in the universe follows laws, without exception.

Emma Hardy for The Wall Street Journal

Stephen Hawking at his office at Cambridge University on Sept. 2.

Newton believed that our strangely habitable solar system did not "arise out of chaos by the mere laws of nature." Instead, he maintained that the order in the universe was "created by God at first and conserved by him to this Day in the same state and condition." The discovery recently of the extreme fine-tuning of so many laws of nature could lead some back to the idea that this grand design is the work of some grand Designer. Yet the latest advances in cosmology explain why the laws of the universe seem tailor-made for humans, without the need for a benevolent creator.

Many improbable occurrences conspired to create Earth's human-friendly design, and they would indeed be puzzling if ours were the only solar system in the universe. But today we know of hundreds of other solar systems, and few doubt that there exist countless more among the billions of stars in our galaxy. Planets of all sorts exist, and obviously, when the beings on a planet that supports life examine the world around them, they are bound to find that their environment satisfies the conditions they require to exist.

News Hub: Hubble Takes Baby Pictures of Universe

6:51

The Hubble Space Telescope snaps new images of the oldest galaxies ever seen. A senior scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, explains to WSJ's Robert Lee Hotz and Simon Constable how he did it-and what it means.

It is possible to turn that last statement into a scientific principle: The fact of our being restricts the characteristics of the kind of environment in which we find ourselves. For example, if we did not know the distance from the Earth to the sun, the fact that beings like us exist would allow us to put bounds on how small or great the Earth-sun separation could be. We need liquid water to exist, and if the Earth were too close, it would all boil off; if it were too far, it would freeze. That principle is called the "weak" anthropic principle.

The weak anthropic principle is not very controversial. But there is a stronger form that is regarded with disdain among some physicists. The strong anthropic principle suggests that the fact that we exist imposes constraints, not just on our environment, but on the possible form and content of the laws of nature themselves.

The idea arose because it is not only the peculiar characteristics of our solar system that seem oddly conducive to the development of human life, but also the characteristics of our entire universe—and its laws. They appear to have a design that is both tailor-made to support us and, if we are to exist, leaves little room for alteration. That is much more difficult to explain.

[W3Feature1] Stephen Youll

The tale of how the primordial universe of hydrogen, helium and a bit of lithium evolved to a universe harboring at least one world with intelligent life like us is a tale of many chapters. The forces of nature had to be such that heavier elements—especially carbon—could be produced from the primordial elements, and remain stable for at least billions of years. Those heavy elements were formed in the furnaces we call stars, so the forces first had to allow stars and galaxies to form. Those in turn grew from the seeds of tiny inhomogeneities in the early universe.

Even all that is not enough: The dynamics of the stars had to be such that some would eventually explode, precisely in a way that could disperse the heavier elements through space. In addition, the laws of nature had to dictate that those remnants could recondense into a new generation of stars, these surrounded by planets incorporating the newly formed heavy elements.

By examining the model universes we generate when the theories of physics are altered in certain ways, one can study the effect of changes to physical law in a methodical manner. Such calculations show that a change of as little as 0.5% in the strength of the strong nuclear force, or 4% in the electric force, would destroy either nearly all carbon or all oxygen in every star, and hence the possibility of life as we know it. Also, most of the fundamental constants appearing in our theories appear fine-tuned in the sense that if they were altered by only modest amounts, the universe would be qualitatively different, and in many cases unsuitable for the development of life. For example, if protons were 0.2% heavier, they would decay into neutrons, destabilizing atoms.

If one assumes that a few hundred million years in stable orbit is necessary for planetary life to evolve, the number of space dimensions is also fixed by our existence. That is because, according to the laws of gravity, it is only in three dimensions that stable elliptical orbits are possible. In any but three dimensions even a small disturbance, such as that produced by the pull of the other planets, would send a planet off its circular orbit, and cause it to spiral either into or away from the sun.

The emergence of the complex structures capable of supporting intelligent observers seems to be very fragile. The laws of nature form a system that is extremely fine-tuned. What can we make of these coincidences? Luck in the precise form and nature of fundamental physical law is a different kind of luck from the luck we find in environmental factors. It raises the natural question of why it is that way.

Many people would like us to use these coincidences as evidence of the work of God. The idea that the universe was designed to accommodate mankind appears in theologies and mythologies dating from thousands of years ago. In Western culture the Old Testament contains the idea of providential design, but the traditional Christian viewpoint was also greatly influenced by Aristotle, who believed "in an intelligent natural world that functions according to some deliberate design."

That is not the answer of modern science. As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.

Our universe seems to be one of many, each with different laws. That multiverse idea is not a notion invented to account for the miracle of fine tuning. It is a consequence predicted by many theories in modern cosmology. If it is true it reduces the strong anthropic principle to the weak one, putting the fine tunings of physical law on the same footing as the environmental factors, for it means that our cosmic habitat—now the entire observable universe—is just one of many.

Each universe has many possible histories and many possible states. Only a very few would allow creatures like us to exist. Although we are puny and insignificant on the scale of the cosmos, this makes us in a sense the lords of creation.

—Stephen Hawking is a professor at the University of Cambridge. Leonard Mlodinow is a physicist who teaches at Caltech. Adapted from "The Grand Design" by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, to be published by Bantam Books on Sept. 7. Copyright © by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. Printed by arrangement with the Random House Publishing Group.