Where You Can See Russia From Alaska

The island is called Little Diomede. It looks like a rock plopped into the Bering Strait. Only about 150 Alaskans live on the whole island. And just about two miles away; in full view of every single house on the island is the nation of Russia. Specifically, it is the Russian Island of Big Diomede which sits about 25 miles from the Russian Siberian mainland (which you can also see from the American island.) Most everybody on Little Diomede had relatives who lived on Big Diomede.

But decades ago, the Russian government sent them all to the mainland, and today, Big Diomede is limited to a Russian military presence. It’s also a full day in front of Little Diomede because it’s on the other side of the International Date Line. Little Diomede is fascinating. It looks like the moon would if you built a lunar settlement. It’s full of rocks, dirt, and craters. We were curious if Sarah Palin has ever visited this island. According to the natives, the answer is no.

As a matter of fact, no Alaska governor in the state’s nearly 50 year history has ever visited the remote outpost that still has little running water. We were curious what the Little Diomeders thought about Palin’s claim of foreign policy experience because of the proximity of Siberia. Interestingly, many of these Alaskans had no idea who Sarah Palin was! It turns out they have no TV on the island, and therefore, many don’t follow the news.

The island’s mayor has heard of her though. No American mayor resides in a city closer to Russia than Andrew Milligrock, and he says being two miles from Russia doesn’t give him any foreign policy expertise.

Anderson Cooper 360: Blog Archive – You CAN see Russia from here! « – Blogs from CNN.com.

This, sadly, is actually in depth reporting into the claims of one of the Vice Presidential candidates, if you can believe it.

I’ll bet someone who woke up from a two-month-long coma today couldn’t, to be honest.

This latest revelation about the technical accuracy of Sarah Palin’s claim regarding the physical reality of Russia probably won’t do much to help her polls numbers…although it might help explain them.

The Sarah Palin pick has not worn well with North Carolina voters, as her net favorability has gone from +8 to -3 in the course of three weeks, for a negative shift of 11 points.

She is particularly unpopular with independents in North Carolina. 46% of them now say her selection makes them less likely to vote for John McCain compared to just 36% who say her spot on the ticket makes them more inclined to support him. Even among Republicans enthusiasm for her has dropped from 75% to 67%.

[full post]

UPDATE: Umm, not to worry.  Sarah Palin, it turns out, reads *every* newspaper and magazine regularly in order to keep in touch with Washington, D.C. while living in Alaska.  We are also informed that Alaska is not. I repeat *not* a foreign country [watch Katie Couric roll her eyes at this one].  This is despite the fact that you need a passport to get there over land and their current governor’s husband was a member of a secessionst political party.

Anyway, on with the clip.

O.k. raise your hands…who thought that was Tina Fey in the clip making fun of Palin?

It’s a Blue Planet, Although It *is* Snowing on Mars

Vote Obama or McCain: Global Electoral College | The Economist.

There’s a nice application over at the Economist that gives a feeling of how the world would vote if the concept of the United States’ “electoral college” was exported to the entire world.

Unsurprisingly, they favor the guy who is more their color.

Which is to say, blue (and off-white, to be honest).

To briefly extend the red-state/blue-state metaphor to one of global proportions, I would much prefer we live on a Blue Planet rather than a Red Planet.

The Blue Planet is beautiful and awe-inspiring.   Yes, sometimes vicious and cruel, but no more than is necessary.

The Red Planet is a planet of war and conquest (and a horrid movie).  It is a planet of heroes and tragedies.  Right now, however, we’re learning circumstances there are much stranger than previously thought.

September 29, 2008 (Computerworld) Forget trying to find evidence that there used to be water on Mars. Scientists from NASA said today that its instruments on the Red Planet have detected falling snow.

While the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been circling the planet, the Phoenix Mars Lander has been sitting on the northern pole of the planet for several months, testing Martian soil samples for any materials — including water-ice — that could support life. A robotic arm on the lander has dug up pieces of ice, and the orbiter has sent back pictures of what look like old fractures in the planet’s surface, and trails of waterways.

Scientists today added to that mounting list of scientific Martian discoveries with evidence of falling snow. “Nothing like this view has ever been seen on Mars,” said Jim Whiteway, lead scientist for the Canadian-supplied Meteorological Station on Phoenix. “We’ll be looking for signs that the snow may even reach the ground.”

[full story]

I think the metaphorical implications of this latest discovery are quite revealing.  A planet (or politician) once thought to represent all that was glorious in war, is actually kind of cold and crying on the inside.  The sadness never quite makes it all the way out, and the devils of the past remain evident, yet the full picture piques curiousity more than respect.  We end up feeling more of a distant pity than a searing loyalty.

And so it is with the man who wants to lead a Red Planet, as the global poll numbers would suggest.

I Love Old Jewish People

I just realized something on the beginnig of this five-thousand-seven-hundred-and-sixty-ninth year year of “our” history, old jewish people are hilarious.

My thanks to Wyatt Cenac of That Daily Show who put together this piece on the Presidential Debate.

[ummm, no love for Wyatt people?]

Hmmm, it’s not online yet.  Watch the Daily Show for September 29th, 2008.  It’s got one of the funniest bits ever done and is the reason for the title of this post.

UPDATE: Aaaah, here we are.   Classic.  Particularly Jon’s facepalm at the end.

The Seven Minutes of Death

On Monday afternoon, Wall Street basically stopped trading to watch TV — mainly CNBC — to see how the House of Representatives would vote on the $700 billion bailout package. When it first started looking like the bill would fail, the Dow plummeted 389 points, or 3.6%, in just seven minutes.

Without a Bailout Plan, What Will the Cost Be? – TIME.

Wow, just wow on that.  Let me see if I can find a good graph….

The Seven Minutes of Death

The Seven Minutes of Death

See that part where the line disappears?  That was where the whole concept of a “rational market” disappeared.

Most economists don’t model for such things, as it would be impossible to do so by definition.

Ebert goes off on McCain (Which I Can’t Vote For John McCain :: Debate Version)

I do not like you, John McCain. My feeling has nothing to do with issues. It has to do with common courtesy. During the debate, you refused to look Barack Obama in the eye. Indeed, you refused to look at him at all. Even when the two of you shook hands at the start, you used your eyes only to locate his hand, and then gazed past him as you shook it.

Obama is my guy. If you are rude to him, you are rude to me. If you came to dinner at my house and refused to look at or speak with one of my guests, that would be bad manners and I would be offended. Same thing if I went to your house. During the debate, you were America’s guest.

What was your problem? Do you hold this man in such contempt that you cannot bear to gaze upon him? Will you not even speak to him directly?

Do you think he doesn’t have the right to be running for President?

Were you angry because after you said you wouldn’t attend the debate, he said a President should be able to concern himself with two things at the same time? He was right. The proof is, you were there. Were you angry with him because he called your bluff?

Guess who’s not coming to dinner :: rogerebert.com :: News & comment.

I’m not really sure a film critic is the right person to look for in the political realm, but as someone who studies human interaction (and judges representations of it) for a living, I think he’s qualified to talk about this particular aspect of the debate.

[this one goes on for a while and turns into a rant…]

Continue reading

Coulda Had A Whole Poetry Thing Going For You (Ravens/Pittsburgh…and football update)

Watching MNF again….trying to…Tony Kornheiser keeps talking…and it hurts.

That title is a quote of his, BTW. [previous observations concerning the football commentating skils of one Anthony Irwin “Tony” Kornheiser]

Let’s see what other brain-piercing pieces of wisdom he has for us….(yes…this is blogging as therapy).

While we’re at it, and for the therapy part, I just want to acknolwedge the near-flawless performance by the Washington Redskins in Dallas on Sunday.  Congrats, you despicable bastards.  Now get back to D.C. and go scalp some politicos, if you don’t mind. 

I knew the Cowoys had a problem when all five of the Fox jackasses (including a decently funny Frank something or other) picked them to win during the pre-game show.  I’m curious how often all five are wrong….I’d expect it to be a great deal more often than when all five are right…since it’s a whole lot easier.*  But such is how statistics and football work… 😉 

Speaking of football, here’s a nice pic from the weekend.

Oh, and a good story about the incredible number of college football upsets there were.

This past week those in the college football world noticed an astonishing turn of events. USC lost its golden armor, UGA lost their strength, Florida lost its super powers, and the rabid badgers could not handle the rabid wolverines. This past weekend was the end of the road for one team and the beginning for some.

[full post]

It was a good weekend for football, except for the Cowboys losing and the sad fact that “Monday” now means Kornheiser.

“In depth analysis, by me!”  Ughh.

“Last year we had Spy-gate, this year we have Eye-gate.”  [crickets].   I’ve mentioned my dislike for *-gate constructions, right?  May I reiterate it here?  Thanks.

 “I took high-school Spanish, and that either means ‘nobody is going to touch him’ or ‘could you pick up my dry cleaning in the morning.’”  Good one, jerkoff.  O.k….this was from a couple weeks ago.   You caught me stacking the deck.

Nice, next he calls Big Ben Roethlesberger a “drama queen” for getting injured as an NFL quarterback after nearly dying in a motorcycle accident.  He also tries to pass it off as “some writers said”.  This from a guy who, and if I may stress this, has never taken a hit in his life.

Observations on the first half: This Flacco character looks to be a solid player.  I hadn’t ever seen him play before, but his first touchdown pass in the NFL was a pretty one.  And of course I love watching Ray Lewis play linebacker.  If you ever wondered how the position is supposed to be played, watch Mr. Lewis.

UPDATE: Well, that’s how quick things can turn.  I was about to mention how Mr. Lewis, at linebacker, had taken over the game in the late fourth quarter and overtime with a tipped pass, good pressure, and sure tackling.  Then Big Ben completed a pass right smack dab in the middle of the field (Ray’s Place) off some good play action and put the Steelers in field goal territory.  Then they slip and go nearly out of field goal territory.  Then they move back into fgt….and….GODDAM IT.  I thought they made that crap illegal.

Time out by the kid coach of the Ravens.

“It’s Good.” Steelers win.

And that, my friends, is why it’s so hard for five experts to be right about the same game.

UPDATE: I just wanted to mention something else about Mr. Lewis.  It turns out that running into him is literally like running into a brick wall.

The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens in overtime Monday night but lost two players to season-ending injuries.

Rookie tailback Rashard Mendenhall suffered a fractured left shoulder and guard Kendall Simmons injured the Achilles’ tendon in his right foot. Both players will be placed in the injured reserve list, according to the team.

[full story]

This happend on a play where Rashard Mendenhall has a nice open hole in the line and ran straight into Ray Lewis.  I’ll see if I can find the highlight.  It looked like a fairly normal, hard hit.  The only difference was that it was Ray Lewis he ran into, and not a normal man.  [searching for video evidence….]



* for all five to be right, all five have to pick correctly.  For all five to be wrong, only one of them must do so.  Beware unanimous decisions, groupthink is a subtle and powerful influence.

Why the Failout Failed (at least on Blackish Monday)

Welcome to Fail Street

Welcome to Fail Street

FiveThirtyEight.com: Electoral Projections Done Right: Swing District Congressmen Doomed Bailout.

[via Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com]

This was predictable, I suppose, but it’s remarkable to see how strong a relationship there is between today’s failed vote on the bailout and the competitive nature of different House races.

Among 38 incumbent congressmen in races rated as “toss-up” or “lean” by Swing State Project, just 8 voted for the bailout as opposed to 30 against: a batting average of .211.

By comparison, the vote among congressmen who don’t have as much to worry about was essentially even: 197 for, 198 against.

They also added this tidbit from a reader comment.  This is the one that cinches it for me.

UPDATE: A helpful reader named Matt Glassman passed along the fact that, among 26 congressmen NOT running for re-election (almost all of whom are Republicans), 23 voted in favor of the bill, as opposed to 2 against and one abstaining.

And so we see how polling and an election year and a huge financial emergency all come together to crash against the rocks of reality.

What we are left with then, is an electorate fairly split about a bailout package…that most who know how the system works would like to see implemented…and those that have no idea about oppose on general principles.  The fact that it wasn’t passed today led to this….

The day started with silence — the iconic opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange failed to sound — and things just got worse from there, ending in the single biggest one-day point loss in history. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 777.68 to close at 10,365.45. The previous biggest point drop came on Sept. 17, 2001, the first day the market reopened after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A jittery stock market spent all morning in negative territory as investors worried about the $700 [billion bailout].

[full story]

This is becauase most of these people know what’s going to happen when banks don’t have any money to lend.  We are now seeing the disease spread, and this kind of stuff *REALLY* affects people who hope to retire….soon.

It’s not that bad for people like me who are 30+ years from retirement.  Those, however, currently in the 2-5 year window (read: 40+ million Baby Boomers) don’t have that option.   They get to decide…soon…what to do.

My simple prediction?  They will sell out and the stock market will continue to stagnate.  It has been hugely propped up by this retirement money, and now that people are going to actually pull it out of the market, put it someplace *much* safer (like a bank…ha!) and use it to live, the amount of capital in the stock market is going to tumble….which adversely affects the price of everything else.

I’ve been predicting this general trend for a while now, based mainly on the demographic shift we are seeing as a country.   The whole “U.S. Economic Collapse” thing has been predicted by history, which dictates that large empires running expensive un-ending wars halfway around the world tend to collapse….every, single, time.

The fact that it is our democracy itself (in the form of election-year politics) which is freezing our government when it needs to act is the icing on the crap-cake we will all soon be swallowing.   The irony would be delicious…if it wasn’t for the fact that it smells, tastes, and nourishes….like shit.

UPDATE: In what can only be called par for the course…the McCain Campaign accepted credit for passage of the measure.

“Sen. McCain knew time was short and he came back, he listened and he helped put together the framework of getting everybody to the table, which was necessary to produce a package to avoid a financial catastrophe for this country.” 

On Monday morning, McCain campaign communications director Jill Hazelbaker said on Fox News that the deal would not have happened “without Sen. McCain.” 

“Sen. McCain interrupted his campaign, suspended his campaign activity to come back to Washington to get Republicans around a table,” Hazelbaker said. “Without Sen. McCain, House Republicans would not have appointed a negotiator, which would not have moved this bill forward. 

“It’s really Sen. McCain who got all parties around a table to hammer out a deal that hopefully is in the best interests of the American taxpayer.” 

[full b.s.]

BTW, in addition to the alternate breakdown that started this post (i.e. Politicians facing re-election or Not) one can alsobreak down the vote by party lines.  Democrats 140-95 (~60% Yea) and Republics 65-133 (~33% Yea).

So that claim of “suspend[ing] his campaign activity to come back to Washington to get Republicans around a table” was not only total b.s., it was a total failure of leadership.

UPDATE2: The next step…

Democratic and Republican leaders alike pledged to try again, though the Democrats said GOP lawmakers needed to provide more votes. Bush huddled with his economic advisers about a next step. The House was to reconvene on Thursday instead of adjourning for the year as planned.

[full article]

Umm, Thursday?!?  They do realize the DJIA is going to be at about 9,000 by then, right?  [hmmm…second thought…I’ll say 9,500.]

By then I think the Panic of the People will have set in and the Bailout will get about 90% support and everyone will claim credit…including your and/or your employer’s bank.  😉

The Astronaut Musk

SpaceX has made history. Its privately developed rocket has made it into space.

After three failed launches, the company founded by Elon Musk worked all of the bugs out of their Falcon 1 launch vehicles.

The entire spectacle was broadcast live from Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific. Cameras mounted on the spacecraft showed our planet shrinking in the distance and the empty first stage engine falling back to Earth.

As the rocket ascended, cheers rang out during every crucial step of the launch sequence, and at the final stage their headquarters in Hawthorne, California erupted in excitement. (Wired.com viewed the launch over the Internet on SpaceX’s live webcast.)

The tensest moment came just before stage separation. At that critical juncture, the third launch attempt had failed. This time, it worked out perfectly.

Eight minutes after leaving the ground, Falcon 1 reached a speed of 5200 meters per second and passed above the International Space Station.

“I don’t know what to say… because my mind is just blown,” said Musk, during a brief address to his staff after the successful launch. “This is just the first step of many.”

SpaceX Did It — Falcon 1 Made it to Space | Wired Science from Wired.com.

Here’s the video of the launch.  It’s pretty spectacular.  I especially liked watching it in fast-motion after the rocket left the atmosphere (and the oxygen that burns so brightly).

The title of this post is a reference to the movie “The Astronaut Farmer” (the pun being his name is “Farmer”), which I happened to watch this morning, after seeing this story this weekend.  In that movie a former almost-astronaut dedicates his life to going into space.

In the movie, this obsession almost costs him his wife, his ranch, and his life.  And because it’s a movie, things mostly work out in the end (after the requisite film-drama).   A decent movie, overall, what I thought it did well in particular was illustrate the strains that obsession with an outlandish personal goal can bring to a family.   Why am I talking about this movie, and this aspect of it in relation to the story about a geek-gone-rich then goes-to-space?

Because that same journey wasn’t without personal cost…..

yes, divorce

« previous entry | next entry »
Sep. 13th, 2008 | 09:28 am


I am getting divorced. We had a good run. We married young, took it as far as we could and now it is over. That’s about all I can say for now, other than that it was a very sad and very necessary decision.

To be clear here, I have no personal knowledge of the events leading to the post involving the former Mrs. Musk, nor do I know that it was “el otra mujer” that led to the breakup.   I was just struck by both the sameness and the difference between the real world we all actually live in, and the fake one that hopes to inspire real world dreams.

Note to Jon Stewart re: Joe Biden and Beretta

At Beretta, they think of shotguns as works of art – they must not only be perfectly suited for their purpose in the field, but they must be authentic, beautiful, and a joy to own. Just like any well-crafted work of art, Beretta shotguns are always innovative, but innovation never comes at the expense of tradition. Beretta firearms retain a timeless appeal even while incorporating the latest technology.

Beretta Shotguns – Field & Competition Shotguns from Beretta at Able Ammo.

Beretta 3901 Shotguns

Beretta 3901 shotgun

This is re: Stewart’s funny regarding Biden’s latest gaffe.  I just saw this joke on the Sunday Funnies and thought its inaccuracy kinda hurt the humor.

Palin Problem by Kathleen Parker on National Review Online (?!)

As we’ve seen and heard more from John McCain’s running mate, it is increasingly clear that Palin is a problem. Quick study or not, she doesn’t know enough about economics and foreign policy to make Americans comfortable with a President Palin should conditions warrant her promotion.

Yes, she recently met and turned several heads of state as the United Nations General Assembly convened in New York. She was gracious, charming and disarming. Men swooned. Pakistan’s president wanted to hug her. (Perhaps Osama bin Laden is dying to meet her?)

And, yes, she has common sense, something we value. And she’s had executive experience as a mayor and a governor, though of relatively small constituencies (about 6,000 and 680,000, respectively).

Finally, Palin’s narrative is fun, inspiring and all-American in that frontier way we seem to admire. When Palin first emerged as John McCain’s running mate, I confess I was delighted. She was the antithesis and nemesis of the hirsute, Birkenstock-wearing sisterhood — a refreshing feminist of a different order who personified the modern successful working mother.

Palin didn’t make a mess cracking the glass ceiling. She simply glided through it.

It was fun while it lasted.

Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.

Palin Problem by Kathleen Parker on National Review Online.

Jeez, ya think?

I had originally predicted that the Palin nomination would lead to a 10-point Obama lead within the week.  It took a couple weeks longer than what I thought (our media is pretty slow at expressing the blindingly obvious…but it usually still gets there), but here we are (9 points in one poll…plus the margin of error).

I don’t think things will change that much in McCain’s direction now, especially with the latest “suspended” campaign idiocy.  Yea…right…you are so important you can’t possible take a couple hours to sit down with the guy you are running against.    What a load of crap.

I’ll have another post on that, which will probably include a bit of the debate as well.