Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sci-Fi Dust Up

My top ten favorite science fiction authors and my favorite book by each:

1. Jack Vance - Maske: Thaery
2. Robert Heinlein - The Puppet Masters
3. Larry Nivan - The Mote in God's Eye
4. Peter F. Hamilton - The Night's Dawn Trilogy
5. Keith Laumer - Catastrophe Planet
6. Greg Bear - Anvil of Stars
7. Tad Williams - The Otherland Series
8. Joe Haldeman - The Forever War
9. Leigh Brackett - The Secret of Sinharat
10. Marion Zimmer Bradley - The Bloody Sun

Note: I know I've left off a lot of important authors, like Clarke, Asimov and Anderson, to name a few. I have a little theory about art and how we judge it which may apply here. I believe we all go through different emotional phases in our lives, and that during each phase we connect with different forms of art. At my age now I am at the point where I am less affected by a sense of wonder than I am by a sense of intellectual curiosity. Writers like Peter Hamilton, Greg Bear and Tad Williams explore the complex situations which arise from amazing advances in science, and really appeal to me now. On the other hand, M.Z. Bradley and Leigh Brackett were writers who cared more about the downright wonder of distant worlds and less about how we could get to them. I encountered them when I was very young and it was books like theirs which really set the hook.

I won't apologize for Burroughs. I didn't know when I first read his stuff that he was not very skilled as a writer. Now that I do, it doesn't make a half ounce of difference. I still love the way John Carter went gadding about Mars, skewering bad guys and saving princesses left and right. This kind of thing never gets old with me.

Heinlein of course should be on everyone's list. If there is one author who single handedly defined the genre, it would be him. As for Jack Vance - I've always considered him to be a writer of incredibly engaging style. Surprisingly, many of his works have been faulted by his well known habit of losing interest in a project before it was completed. Not a few of his stories begin with a measured tempo, but then are abruptly concluded in the last chapter. "Emphyrio" is a perfect example. However, this problem is more than offset by the sheer exuberance of his imaginings. I chose "Maske: Thaery" because it does not suffer from this drawback.



Movie Madness - Steve's List

Ouch. Making a list of your favorite movies is hard: very hard. No doubt, I made this list too fast, but tried to develop it using a criteria based on this - if I'm flipping through TV channels, and see that one of these is on, I'll stop and watch it. If I notice it's on the schedule for sometime later, I'll change my plans to watch it. Here's my list (I added a couple of new categories, too).

* * * Comedy:

The Court Jester (with Danny Kaye, vastly under-rated)
Duck Soup (The Marx Brothers)
Young Frankenstein (Gene Wilder's tour-de-force)

* * * War: (yeah, all WW II, but that was The time period covered by my favorite war movies)

Tora, Tora, Tora
Stalag 17

* * * Western:

The Magnificent Seven
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

* * * Crime/Mystery:

The Maltese Falcon
The Godfather
Thin Man, The

* * * Historic:

Missiles of October (1974 ABC Made-for-TV Movie: inspired Costner's Thirteen)
Apollo 13

* * * Science Fiction:

Star Wars
Forbidden Planet

* * * Drama/Suspense

Citizen Kane
North By Northwest

* * * Horror: (not my favorite category)

Alien (by Ridley Scott, the first one, and, no, I don't think it belongs in Sci-Fi)

* * * Fantasy:

The Wizard of Oz
The Return of the King (really the whole LOTR series)

* * * Full Length Animated:

Fantasia (1940)
The Incredibles
Dumbo (easily the most emotional of the early Disney classics)

* * * Romance: (about LOVE; not limited to relations between men & women)

Gone with the Wind
Shenandoah (I can't think of a better category for it)
Old Yeller (if you don't cry at the end, you're not fully human)

* * * Fun for the whole family: (with a focus on “fun”)

7th Voyage of Sinbad, The (thank you Ray Harryhausen)
Mary Poppins
Raiders of the Lost Ark

* * * Musicals:

Singing in the Rain
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Paint Your Wagon (Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood sing!)

* * * Adventure:

Flight of the Phoenix
King Kong (1939, with Fay Wray)
The Time Machine (George Pal version with Rod Taylor)

Here's just a few(!) of the ones I *really* wanted on the list somewhere, but couldn't find room (ouch!)
[ Presented Alphabetically ]

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (the Disney version: What a cast!)
2001: A Space Odyssey (still not fully understood after all these years)
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Adventures of Robin Hood, The (Errol Flynn)
African Queen, The
Airplane! (king of the parody)
Animal House
Arsenic and Old Lace (almost a toss up between this one and Harvey)
Battle of the Bulge (#4 in War)
Battleship Potemkin (from USSR! most interesting)
Beauty and the Beast (Disney, my #4 in the Musical category!)
Blade Runner
Bridge on the River Kwai
Bringing Up Baby
Caine Mutiny, The
Chariots of Fire
Cheyenne Social Club
Damn Yankees (Ray Walston should be in there somewhere!)
Dark Knight, The
Day the Earth Stood Still, The (with Rennie and Neal)
Devil's Advocate, The
E. T. - The Extra Terrestrial (#5 in Family)
Fantasia 2000 (why did we wait 60 years for a sequel?)
Fail Safe (cold war classic, much better than Dr. Strangelove, IMHO)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) (#4 in Horror)
It's a Wonderful Life (how could I leave out Capra's finest?)
Jaws (#5 in Horror)
Laurence of Arabia
Little Ceasar
Little Dictator, The (Chaplin)
Long Grey Line, The
Longest Day, The (#5 in War)
McClintock! (#4 in Western)
Mr. Roberts
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
My Fair Lady
Operation Petticoat (one of the funniest war movies ever made)
Philadelphia Story, The
Pink Panther, The
Pretty Woman (#4 Romance)
Producers, The (1968)
Rear Window
Road to Morocco (Bing & Bob)
Saving Private Ryan
Shawshank Redemption, The
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Some Like It Hot
South Pacific
Sting, The
Treasures of the Sierra Madre, The
Untouchables, The (Costner & Connery)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (w/Gene Wilder, #4 in Family Fun)
Yankee Doodle Dandy (Cagney dances!)

...Egad. Like you said, there are dozens upon dozens more. But If I have to pick ONE as The Best... In consideration of the era in which it was made, the excellence of production (given what was technically available at the time), looking at the unique aspects which makes it unlike other movies, calculating its long-term effect upon the movie industry as a whole, ignoring (somewhat) ticket sales but acknowledging its legendary and iconic status... #1 (for me) has to be (drum roll).... Fantasia

- Steve

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Movie Madness

My picks for the greatest movies of all time:
Note that some movies might overlap, but each movie can only appear once, and in the category which it most strongly represents.


Its A Mad Mad Mad Mad World - 1963 Stanley Kramer
The Great Race - 1965 - Blake Edwards
What's Up Doc? - 1972 - Peter Bogdanovich


Full Metal Jacket - 1987 - Stanley Kubrick
Saving Private Ryan - 1998 - Steven Spielberg
Black Hawk Down - 2001 - Ridley Scott


Unforgiven - 1992 - Clint Eastwood
Dances With Wolves - 1990 - Kevin Costner
The Wild Bunch - 1969 - Sam Peckinpah


The Godfather - 1972 - Francis Ford Coppola
The Godfather II - 1974 - Francis Ford Coppola
Goodfellas- 1990 - Martin Scorsese


Alexander Nevsky - 1938 - Sergei Eisenstein
Dr. Zhivago - 1965 David Lean
Braveheart - 1995 - Mel Gibson

Science Fiction:

Star Wars - 1977 - George Lucas
Alien - 1979 - Ridley Scott
Jurassic Park - 1993 - Stephen Spielberg


Casablanca - 1942 - Michael Curtiz
Sin City - 2005 - Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez
Pulp Fiction - 1994 - Quentin Terantino


The Exorcist - 1973 - William Friedkin
The Thing - 1982 - John Carpenter
The Shining - 1980 - Stanley Kubrick


The Wizard of Oz - 1939 - Victor Fleming
The Return of the King - 2003 - Peter Jackson
Time Bandits - 1991 - Terry Gilliam

Full Length Animated:

Fantasia -1940 - Walt Disney
The Little Mermaid - 1989 - John Clements
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within - 2001 - Hironobu Sakaguchi

Romance (ick!):

Frankie and Johnnie - 1991 - Garry Marshall
As Good As It Gets - 1997 - James L. Brooks
Shakespere In Love - 1998 - John Madden

Fun for the whole family:

Big - 1988 - Penny Marshall
Its A Wonderful Life - 1946 - Frank Capra
Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation - 1962 - Harvey Kostner

Now I'll probably wake up tomorrow and think of about a hundred movies I should have included. I'm already regretting some of the entries. But there never has or never will be any doubt in my mind as the the greatest movie of all time - which is (drum roll please).... Casablanca.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What passes for AGW credibility - PNAS

I refer you to the recent PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy Of Science) article here. It's a sad day that such a renowned publication would stoop this low. A few points:

- Why is it asserted that the credibility of a climate researcher is, in any way, tied to the level of his activity in publishing articles, papers, etc., which agree with the IPCC? (There is an implicit insult by this paper that those listed on the 'opposition' side are simply incompetent to the extent they cannot understand the science behind the AGW theory because they disagree with 98% on the 'credible' list.)

- Why does the PNAS have a article tag named 'climate denier'? Is this an appropriate subject category on the same level as 'citation analysis'? (Sounds suspiciously like they have 'chosen sides' in the debate. Are they developing a 'blacklist'?)

- The paper effectively divides individuals into groups - 'supporters' and 'deniers' of AGW (ACC). Why? (This will yield a list with Al Gore on one side and Freeman Dyson on the other - neither of whom is considered a specialist in climate science. In a discussion on the scientific aspects of energy transfer and its relationship or relevance to measuring the effects and probable causes of climate change - should I value Al Gore's scientific opinion as being more credible than Dyson's simply because Gore (a) agrees with the IPCC and (b) has more noses lined up behind him? Absurd. Yet, it is arguable this is the paper's objective: determining WHO should be considered as having a credible opinion. And, apparently, PNAS agrees. Sad.)

Again: Science is not a democracy. You do not advance the understanding of natural, observed Real World processes because anyone says so (no matter how many others may agree/disagree). The ONLY way to find out the answer (or check for accuracy) is to examine the a theory critically, using available evidence, with the intent to disprove. When one enters the world of human reputations, you cannot help but become tainted by bias, conflicts of interest, personality defects, political power grabs, and - yes - the corrupting influence of money (regardless of the source).

Human history has shown, time and again, that true, long-term scientific accuracy and understanding stems from AVOIDING that giant septic tank of conflicts. The pursuit of 'Science' must RISE ABOVE the realm of human frailties and insist (demand) impartial analysis of scientific Real World evidence, which can be duplicated for testing and evaluation purposes. This means you set aside guesses, estimates or output from complex computer models and consider the evidence. Really. After all, disproving a theory only requires ONE dissenting piece of evidence, from any source, even if the researcher doesn't have a laundry list of degrees and pile of publication royalty checks.

What happened to the PNAS? What happened to the Scientific Method? Egad.

- Steve

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Up Is The New Down


After reaching the age of 60, I thought my mind couldn't be blown any more. I mean, dude, its been - oh, years and years since they dressed up little cans of common spray paint, quadrupled the price and sold them to us guys as cover up for bald spots. Remember that? Thank heavens I was in the same room with someone who knew how to administer CPR when the ad for that first came on. Even so it left me with a permanent facial tic. I thought then, this will set the bar so high in the annals of doofus ideas that every simpleton out there looking for a more lame brained idea might as well pack their tent and go home. Naturally I was wrong.

I read an article in the New York Times this morning which left me with the feeling that maybe up is really down. It seems young film maker Andrew van den Houton (how do they make this stuff up?) applied to the state of Michigan for a state grant to help pay for his latest movie, "The Woman", and is a little miffed that the state turned him down. According to the state's film commissioner, Janet Lockwood,

"This film is unlikely to promote tourism in Michigan or to present or reflect Michigan in a positive light..."

Well good for her. Nice to know we have a public servant out there manning her post with vigilance. But before you ask why the state of Michigan has a public servant in charge of giving away tax money to private film makers in the first place, let's get to her reason for rejecting Mr. van den Houton:

"...this extreme horror film’s subject matter, namely realistic cannibalism; the gruesome and graphically violent depictions described in the screenplay; and the explicit nature of the script..."

Whoa! I mean really. I can see people being drawn to the state of Michigan by a movie about, oh say, Coho fishing on the St. Joe or camping at the lovely Tahquaminan Falls State Park in the Upper Peninsula. But cannibalism? Well, sure, its going to bring in a few people, but not exactly the kind you expect to spend a couple hundred bucks on Petosky stones and Hudson Bay blankets. And it serves Mr. van den Houton right. After all, the least he could have done was add a few cut-aways to his cannibals fly fishing on the Big Two Heart River between meals.

You'd think that would be the end of it. But back comes Mr. van den Houton with a counter. He thinks "The Woman" has every right to be financed by Michigan, since after all it is only a sequel to "Offspring", a movie he made a couple of years ago, 40% of the financing for which was underwritten by the state. And that movie was even more gross than "The Woman". According to Mr. van den Houton:

" “The Woman,” a sequel to “Offspring,” is a little less horrific," Mr. van den Houten said in an interview. “We had babies in the first movie,” he offered. "

Oh, I get it now. This whole "news article" is just an elaborate put on. No state in their right mind would finance a movie about cannibals eating babies hither and yon. Let's check...

Hmmmm, well bless my stars! By golly, Mr. van den Houton really did make "Offspring" a couple of years ago. According to one review:

" It concerns a group of cave-dwelling Neanderthals, basically, except here they're rendered as little more than wild men/women cannibals, who terrorize people and eat babies and the like."

What nasty people they are! You would think that starting flat footed with characters like this, the movie would be something of a tuff sale. And you would be thinking right. The review continues:

"The whole thing is barely watchable. It just grinds on and on and on, a seemingly never-ending parade of awfulness. Blood splashes across the screen, the actors are truly awful (and you could care less about any of the characters), and it looks like the cumulative budget was about $4.50."

What am I missing here Steve? Before you answer that, consider that the article goes on to say that 44 states have committed "heavy subsidies" to private film makers, and Georgia, facing a budget shortfall which runs in the tens of millions, is one of them. Kind of makes you want to find out which six states don't finance private films and go live there, doesn't it? Briefly, back to Michigan (current rate of unemployment: 14.9%):

"Ken Droz, the communications consultant for the Michigan Film Office, declined to discuss “The Woman.” But he noted that Michigan had approved 160 applications out of 320 submitted to date..."

" “This is not an entitlement program,” Mr. Droz said."

Oh yeah? Somebody needs to tell Mr. Droz to stay out of the pixie dust.

Steve, this whole thing is wrong on so many levels I really don't know where to start. Maybe I should begin by telling you that yes, I do believe in government support of the arts. But to me there is an obvious and crucial difference between preserving recognized works of art for future generations, and influencing the nature and direction of art. Call me crazy, but I do believe the first hurdle any artist in any medium should have to overcome, on his or her own, lies squarely in the arena of public opinion. If people like art, they will voluntarily buy it. If enough people buy it, it will become famous. And if it becomes famous, it recommends itself to preservation by the institutions of government we finance involuntarily.

Got that? We preserve redwoods and grizzly bears because they represent a precious and vulnerable resource which enrich our lives in clear and purposeful ways. We buy paintings by Manet and Bouguereau and display them in our museums to be viewed by people of average means like you and me who could not otherwise afford them. And yes, in the process there will be disagreements. After all, one man's art can often be another man's garbage.

But the one thing we should never disagree on, or even question, is that the state has absolutely no business getting involved in the creation of art. This should be every bit as obvious as it is that cans of spray paint don't cover up bald spots. Apparently it isn't.

Friday, June 11, 2010


I've taken a look at the paper, "Global Warming Advocacy Science: A Cross Examination", and so far find it to be, in a word, odd.

The author, Jason S. Johnston, is a professor of law at Pennsylvania University and is something of an old school libertarian. He oversees UPenn's PLEE (Program On Law, Environment and Economy), and is head of the "Penn Workshops on Markets and the Environment", which is supported by a grant from The Searle Freedom Trust. As you know, the SFT also supports a veritable laundry list of conservative/libertarian outfits like CATO, The American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation, to name a few, and is even thought to rival the ultra conservative Scaife Foundation in terms of annual grant amounts. Interestingly, the president of The Searle Freedom Trust is Kim Dennis, who also sits on the board of the Independent Women's Forum which I mentioned a few posts back on the BEE episode. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that Searle Foundation money also supports the IWF, since the IWF certainly meets the standards set up by Daniel Searle in the SFT's charter. Small world, eh?

Professor Johnston's papers available at "Penn Workshops..." all reflect a decidedly libertarian stamp. You can review some of them here, (and a few more here). When it comes to the environment, his work can be broadly divided into two distinct classes: 1, the impact of environmental legislation from a legal point of view - on which Dr. Johnston clearly has relevant expertise, and 2, questions and criticisms regarding the actual science behind various environmental issues - on which he has none. "Global Warming Advocacy..." apparently falls in the second class. The paper is, by the way, neither unbiased nor thorough.

At first blush, I had to wonder exactly who the intended audience is for this paper. PLEE's mission is a real head scratcher:

" encourage research and teaching that explores the positive and normative foundations of environmental and natural resource law and policy, seeking both to explain the existing system and to provide a rigorous theoretical and empirical basis for a better way forward."

If it means that legal experts, generally considered to be charged with determining how laws are executed, should now go the extra mile and also consider if the laws themselves are wise, why then this represents a huge quantum jump in the definition of "legal expert". It is if a lawyer, defending his client against prostitution, should first ask the court to consider whether or not the laws against prostitution are justifiable.

But let's be generous and suppose that the faculty involved in PLEE ought to be looking into the state of environmental science. If that is so, why, of all people, would they have a law professor doing this? After all, UPenn has a school of environmental studies, staffed by 12 competent professionals. If professor Johnston, or any other member of PLEE for that matter, had questions about the state of environmental science, why wouldn't they just pick up the intercom and ask a competent professional? Anyway...

Dr. Johnston's paper's stated purpose is to review "peer edited literature" in a systematic way to determine whether or not the climate science community (under the auspices of the IPCC) is intentionally overstating the impact of global warming. Well it turns out it is. Surprise!

Now I'm going to have to say here that the paper isn't much more than a re-hash of several of the most common denialist talking points - with a bunch of legal boiler plate thrown in to wow the field hands. A clear bias is indicated by the title itself, by which Mr. Johnston identifies a particular field of atmospheric theory and research as "advocacy science" (oh, come on...), which he intends to "cross examine". Coming from a person who should know better, the whole concept is insulting.

In any fair trial, don't attorneys present each other with witnesses and evidence from both sides? Mr. Johnston does nothing of the sort. Hundreds, or perhaps thousands of peer reviewed papers have been published in detailed refutation of Mr. Johnston's talking points, yet he doesn't present them. His discussion of "the hockey stick controversy", which not surprisingly presents only Ross McKitrick's side of the story, is a representative example.

It is as if in a civil trial, the only evidence allowed to be presented would be that approved solely by either the defense or the prosecution - which indicates Mr. Johnston not only misunderstands climate science, but also the bedrock principles of his own field of specialty: the American legal system.

Am I being harsh? Early on (Page 7) Dr. Johnston cites the book "Climate Confusion", by Roy Spencer as explaining in a "concise and accessible way" that "some of the most crucial (and actually testable) predictions or assumptions underlying predictions of dangerous climate change are not in fact being confirmed by observations". This is merely asking the reader to accept as a given the opinions of a highly biased skeptic as presented in what could hardly be described as "peer reviewed literature".

It occurs to me Mr. Johnston's paper fits an
observation by George Monbiot:

" takes only a minute to make a claim, but can take hours, even days, to investigate it. So if people are making lots of claims, exposing them requires a great deal of work. Judging by the outcome of all the investigations I've mentioned, the gurus of climate change denial appear to expect that no one will have the time and energy to question them."(my emphasis)

Similarly, "Global Warming Advocacy Science" makes a lot of skeptical claims, but pretty much sticks only to the evidence offered by those who are making them. One is then presented with the option of either accepting these claims, or proceeding with the far more rigorous and time consuming task of tracking them down, reviewing the opposite side of the story and deciding for one's self whether they are true or not. And that is the central failure of the paper.

Had Mr. Johnston really been interested in making an impartial review of his subject, he would have presented a reasonable summary of the evidence on both sides of the issue in terms the average lay person could be expected to understand and verify. Which leads me right back to the question of who he intends his audience to be. The paper hardly stands as an exposition of the finer points of environmental law - which is in fact his specialty. Neither does it qualify as a contribution to original scientific research. This therefore leaves out as potential audiences members of both the legal and scientific communities. So who is he trying to convince anyway? Let's suppose it is the general public.

Now seriously Steve, are you telling me the average reader is going to be able to follow Mr. Johnston's arguments without extensively ramping up his or her technical knowledge of the science itself before hand? For Pete's sake, go back and have a look at the math Mr. Johnston presents us with starting on page 26. For most readers in the general public, including myself, this math is well beyond our ability to casually evaluate.

Steve, if you already understand how this math works, why do you need Mr. Johnston to explain it to you? And if you don't understand it, what possible basis could you have to decide if Mr. Johnston's calculations are correct?

I suspect that what passes for science in this paper was put together by none other than the authorities Mr. Johnston cites in his footnotes on page 1. Now there's nothing fundamentally wrong with that. The Roger Pielke Sr's, Richard Lintzens and Ross McKitricks of this world are entitled to their opinions. But what strikes me as uncomfortably deceptive is a law professor who sets himself up as an impartial arbiter, then proceeds to represent these sceptics as the only trustworthy authorities.

The scientific establishment has had its share of thoughtful, patient writers who have made the effort to work within the confines of the layman's technical abilities and reduce truly marvelous and complicated science to terms the general public can comprehend. George Gamow, Arthur Clarke and Carl Sagan come to mind. While this process doesn't magically transform the average citizen into an expert physicist or biologist, it does add an important dimension to our understanding of the world around us.

This piece by Jason Johnston does precisely the opposite. It obscures the science, intentionally, to leave us believing Mr. Johnston knows what he's talking about because he sounds like he knows what he's talking about - thereby allowing him to assert the existence of "advocacy science" from a presumed position of authority. Steve, this is nothing more than the tiresome charge of conspiracy tarted up with big words.

I'm a little troubled by your intellectual flexibility in this regard. You've repeatedly complained of climate scientists who adhere to the consensus because that is where their paycheck comes from. Now comes an law professor, outside the field entirely and recipient of a grant from the ideologically conservative Searle Foundation... and you accept his opinions without question. Really?


Thursday, June 10, 2010

The state of Climate Science

A most interesting document on climate science is found here...

I think it’s well written, cuts to the core, and uses an unusual style of writing. It doesn't appear to be pushing a pre-defined position or agenda. It’s not really written to entertain, but provides substantial clarity. It highlights the rhetorical flaws in the reasoning and argument styles on both sides, which gives it a comprehensive punch. Say what you will, but it actually tries to explain something. There are no attempts to obscure meaning while rehashing well-known key phrases. It’s 79 pages long, (no cartoons, sigh) and doesn't even have any graphs, but incredibly, it has sentences that are actually readable. And, merciful God, it's written by a law professor of all people! Damning with understated tones.

IMHO, it's surprisingly good.

- Steve

Monday, June 7, 2010

(My Last) Gardener's Corner

Icelandic Pineapple (Cranium Fracturus)

Icelandic Pineapple is remarkably easy to grow and well below the skill level of even the most retarded home gardener. Cuttings, or "corms" are easily acquired by obtaining Icelandic citizenship, placing one's name on a waiting list, then waiting in a darkened hotel room in Reykjavik for a man named Guofinnur to deliver the goods. Best results are obtained by planting the corms in early spring, then changing your name and leaving town. In August, bank the rows with a mixture of well rotted manure and solid gold. By September, the tops of the plants will produce huge, gelatinous sacs which eventually burst and emit hordes of ravenous, man eating slugs. Sometime later, the fruit may be safely harvested by remote control from outer space.

Prized in its native land for its pungent scent, which reminds one of rotting corpses, The Icelandic Pineapple first reached the shores of North America by way of early Viking plague ships. Though some cultivars were once grown commercially to produce an inexpensive alternative to pre-frontal lobotomy (with mixed results), the practice has fallen into disuse. Nowadays, the entire annual crop is given over to the production of Icelandic Pinapple Wine, the effect of which is difficult to describe. Survivors report an increased sensitivity to sunlight and the ability to fly.

...from, "Digging For Dignity - One Man's Guide to Self Destruction", by I.M. Druncas Ascuncas

The Gardener's Corner III - Kudzu


All you beginning gardeners out there might want to consider growing kudzu as a fine way to launch out into the great adventure of gardening. Kudzu, for those of you not already familiar
with it, is a hardy perennial that can be grown quite well by the beginner who observes these few simple rules.

CHOOSING A PLOT: Kudzu can be grown almost anywhere, so site selection is not the problem it is with some other finicky plants like strawberries. Although kudzu will grow quite well on cement, for best results you should select an area having at least some dirt. To avoid lawsuits, it is advisable to plant well away from your neighbor's house, unless, of course, you don't get along well with your neighbor anyway.

PREPARING THE SOIL: Go out and stomp on the soil for a while just to get its attention and to prepare it for kudzu.

DECIDING WHEN TO PLANT: Kudzu should always be planted at night. If kudzu is planted during daylight hours, angry neighbors might see you and begin throwing rocks at you.

SELECTING THE PROPER FERTILIZER: The best fertilizer I have discovered for kudzu is 40 weight non-detergent motor oil. Kudzu actually doesn't need anything to help it grow, but the
motor oil helps to prevent scraping the underside of the tender leaves then the kudzu starts its rapid growth. It also cuts down on friction and lessens the danger of fire when the kudzu really
starts to move. Replace the oil once every thousand feet of growth or every two weeks, whichever comes first.

MULCHING THE PLANTS: Contrary to what you may be told by the Extension Service, kudzu can profit from a good mulch. I have found that a heavy mulch for the young plants produces a hardier crop. For best results, as soon as the young shoots begin to appear, cover kudzu with concrete blocks. Although this causes a temporary setback, your kudzu will accept this mulch as a challenge and will reward you with redoubled determination in the long run.

ORGANIC OR CHEMICAL GARDENING: Kudzu is ideal for either the organic gardener or for those who prefer to use chemicals to ward off garden pests. Kudzu is oblivious to both chemicals and pests. Therefore, you can grow organically and let the pests get out of the way of the kudzu as best they can, or you can spray any commercial poison directly onto your crop. Your decision depends on how much you personally enjoy killing bugs. The kudzu will not be affected either way.

CROP ROTATION: Many gardeners are understandably concerned that growing the same crop year after year will deplete the soil. If you desire to change from kudzu to some other plant next year, now is the time to begin preparations.

Right now, before the growing season has reached its peak, you should list your house and lot with a reputable real estate agent and begin making plans to move elsewhere. Your chances of selling will be better now then they will be later in the year, when it may be difficult for prospective buyer to realize that beneath those lush, green vines stands an adorable three-bedroom house.

... quoted from HOW TO GROW KUDZU, by Tifton B. Merritt

The Gardener's Corner II

Norwegian Mambo Pepper (cantancorus trotsalotus)

Cultivation of the Norwegian Mambo Pepper is not considered to be within the normal abilities of the average home gardener. However, growing this pint sized package of culinary brimstone can be awfully rewarding for anyone with skill, patience, and access to a commercial blast furnace.

Rated at 12 million scoville units, the Mambo Pepper is considered to be the hottest pepper in the known universe. Seeds may only be purchased online and are promptly delivered in armored cars driven by men in strange looking hazmat suits who talk like extras from the movie "The Andromeda Strain". Before planting, home gardeners should check local zoning laws and compose wills.

The Mambo will grow in almost any well drained soil, but prefers active volcanoes and toxic waste dumps. Planting times are not important as the plants create their own weather systems. Pests to be guarded against are the Hairy Devil Spider, The Poisonous Fang Worm and the Night Horror, all of which may be kept in check with anti-tank weapons and napalm. Additionally, the Mambo should be isolated from the rest of the garden by a 10 foot wall of high tensile armor plate.

When mixed with fresh lemons and spring water, the Mambo Pepper provides a refreshing, summertime alternative to raw sewage. A "burpless" variety, known to delay rigor mortis by about 12 seconds, has also been developed.

...from, "Gardening For The Demented", by Marvin Mouthfungus

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Gardener's Corner

Arabian Parsnips (Parsnipus Arabipus)

Arabian parsnips, or more commonly, "Achmed's Revenge", are easy to grow and present little challenge to the home gardener. Seeds may be purchased in 60 gallon drums at most Arabian parsnip outlets. Plant seeds six feet deep in holes drilled with a fence post auger. Soil should be well drained and treated with approximately 7 tons of well rotted manure, human body parts (to encourage bud formation) and fish eyeballs. Water every day for several hours with a fire hose secretly connected to a nearby fire hydrant. The roots grow to a depth of about 20 feet - above ground foliage should be kept in check with a machete. Roots can be lifted from the ground in late fall with a block and tackle. Store roots in a cool, dry airplane hanger to prevent spontaneous combustion.

Creamed Arabian parsnips make a delicious topping for bird head pie or jello. They can also be served baked, steamed, toasted, torched, scorched, smelted or incinerated, with a side of mouthwash. The flavor of any stew, soup, goulash, or ragout will be improved by the mere mention that Arabian parsnips might be served instead.

Arabian parsnips are thought to improve digestion by simply liquefying and expelling the digestive tract, thereby rendering the whole process unnecessary. It is thought that in ancient times, mariners employed them as caulking and to repel boarding parties.

...quoted from "I Lost My Pancreas to Gardening (And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt)" by Percy Whipstiff

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Please don't despair...

Please calm down, Chris. I recognize that you have stumbled upon yet-another attempt by the unwashed masses to combat the AGW hysteria. This naturally upsets you, as it is a clear attack on one of your treasured positions. Take a deep breath; Relax. Remember, denying 'man-made climate change' as a life-and-death-for-the-planet issue is *not* the same as denying climate change as being an appropriate and valid subject for scientific research. The fight is with the demand for blind adherence to a scientifically unproven position based upon questionable study at best.

While I don't 100% agree with BEE, their main purpose seems to be combating the pro-AGW agenda by demanding representation of the 'other side'. In short: a pissing contest. Not the strategy I would recommend, but understandable. That said, I could give substantial arguments that BOTH positions on AGW do *not* belong in elementary, middle and high school curriculum AT ALL. (But, Steve, how should the AGW issue be presented in schools? As a case study on what to do/not-do when you explore proof/disproof of a THEORY - just like the study of Galileo v. the Church.)

I must say I am distressed at your numerous snide comments about individuals and their (supposed) motivations. It ill becomes you. Attack their science and conclusions, if you will, but such petty snipes (i.e., the caveman metaphor, ) simply because you disagree with them is beneath you. Let others use personal attacks as a defense - you have too sharp a mind to allow it to be lulled by such nonsense.

You see, you are absolutely correct in spotting BEE's adoption of the if-you-can't-lick-em-join-em approach. If the pro-AGW crowd uses such techniques (bullying, intimidation, argument by authority, suspension of rational debate, etc.) - and you know they do - then BEE is simply attempting to play by the same rules. (They're just not very good at the tactic because of a lack of experience.) The fact that the pursuit of GOOD SCIENCE should rise above such things - and yet does not - is the real tragedy.

*Sigh* As for the status of polar bears, try here or here (arguments by authority; I thought you'd like my using it. See? Just using the same tactics, but politely.). As for climate scientists “lying to us”... Oh my, need I mention Jones and Mann again?

And no, “renewable energy” is not for sissies: it takes real courage to overcome the self-generated panic of uninformed hysteria. Unfortunately, the majority of highly-touted "renewable" sources have a significant problem completing when it comes to being COST-EFFECTIVE. Those green 'solutions' just don't hold up very well when it comes to the bottom line. Have you looked at how much physical space would be required for windmills to generate even 10% of the current U.S. Energy requirements? To say nothing of the very real danger to birds... And why aren't there demands to paint roofs white? And why don't we demand (and regulate) the planting of trees atop sky-scrapers?

Geo-thermal is nice, but has the distinct disadvantage of having your power source located so far away from the power consumers as to be impractical. Solar has significant cost issues. Bio-fuels take away resources from FEEDING PEOPLE.

And don't get me started on how much better a NUCLEAR ENERGY development program would be - a fact known to everyone except those who think protons, neutrons and electrons are roughly the size and shape of a small pea - and yet are absolutely certain all such things are 100% bad, evil, and toxic. QUESTION: The U.S. Navy has effectively used nuclear power for YEARS with no accidents, health concerns, waste disposal problems, etc. - just what is keeping us from adapting THAT practical real-world experience technology for use on dry land?

Sadly, children have been increasingly used as political pawns for decades; the AGW 'debate' is merely one instance. A recent TV commercial showed a father looking to buy a 'green' big-screen TV system because his little girl was crying for him to “save the polar bears, daddy”... That is simply wrong, no matter what the motivation is. I think we'll agree with each other here.

Which leads me to your comment on education, where I note you left out the REVIEW process - e.g., when HOW they are teaching is proven NOT to work - you do something else. Currently, it is far more politically important to maintain full-employment for teachers, regardless of their ability to actually TEACH... Makes you question motivations and priorities, doesn't it? The old adage was that a school consisted of a log with a teacher on one end and a student on the other still has merit, but doesn't generate adequate union dues. Oh, well.

Fair is fair - If it's somehow wrong for BEE to develop a course curriculum *against* the advancement of the AGW-theory, then it is equally inappropriate and wrong for the U of Colorado to do the same as *advocates* of AGW. I don't care how many 'distinguished scientists' support it (argument by authority) because the experts can be wrong, too. Remember, the philogiston theory? And how those who dared challenge the conventional belief system were vilified and academically destroyed? Do you see the parallels in recent challenges to a systemic “the debate is over” belief in AGW?

* * * * *
Is "Going Green" bad? NO. but for your consideration, I submit this stated agenda of some so-called leaders of the environmental movement:

This is the way we are setting the scene for mankind’s encounter with the planet. The opposition between the two ideologies that have dominated the 20th century has collapsed, forming their own vacuum and leaving nothing but crass materialism.

It is a law of Nature that any vacuum will be filled and therefore eliminated unless this is physically prevented. “Nature,” as the saying goes, “abhors a vacuum.” And people, as children of Nature, can only feel uncomfortable, even though they may not recognize that they are living in a vacuum.
How then is the vacuum to be eliminated?

It would seem that humans need a common motivation, namely
a common adversary, to organize and act together in the vacuum; such a motivation must be found to bring the divided nations together to face an outside enemy, either a real one or else one invented for the purpose.

New enemies therefore have to be identified.
New strategies imagined, new weapons devised.

The common enemy of humanity is man.

In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then, is humanity itself.

* * * * *

[shudder] Have we devolved to a point where the ultimate goal is the promotion of species-based self-hatred?

* * * * *

Back to the subject at hand... If we're going to talk about SCIENCE, then let us do so without regard for the (obvious) political agendas, which have no place in the scientific method anyway. Prove the AGW theory with appropriate research supported by duplicatible scientific fact (I don't think that's possible, but folks are welcome to try - remember: it only takes ONE to disprove the theory).

Be aware PROOF doesn't mean we can use “it's our best guess” as a validation. It doesn't mean the results from a computer model are 100% fact. It doesn't mean you can cherry-pick the statistics you want to use, and discard the others, simply because they don't support the theory. And, above all else, it doesn't mean you spend billions of dollars trying to find ways to CONFIRM the theory! I want to see all those 'peer-review-qualified' scientists trying to aggressively DISPROVE the theory, before asking us to blindly accept their belief, especially when following them has such life-altering and economically disasterous consequences.

Like you said, “Pretty simple, I think.”

- Steve