Another example of stupid economic speculation!

June 27, 2008

…. and who is leading the way to the path of economic doom?

… the laissez-faire capitalists?

… robber barons?

… socialists?

…. communists?????

… No … the most contemptible of the contemptible ….. that’s RIGHT!

Cubs fans.

They can be the scape GOAT for just about anything. (get it … goat ….. eh nevermind)


In memorium: Stan Winston

June 26, 2008

Even though Stan Winston died a couple of weeks ago, I finally found a little website that highlights some of his work ….

For those that don’t know, it is hard to think about it in this day and age of CGI effects, but Stan Winston was one of the grand masters of what one might call “practical effects”. You need a monster, any size, Stan will make it. While some will say that period of the 1980s and 90s (at least in terms of scifi and fantasy) was the era of Spielberg, you could argue that it was much more Stan Winston’s era, because without Winston, a lot of the classic look of the genre from that period would not have been. If you have an interest in scifi or horor, stop by and look at what this site calls his ten best efforts (those that know me will notice two of my all-time classic films make the list).

He won four Oscars for makeup and visual effects in his lifetime. Among the films he worked on that you won’t find at this site:

The Ghost and The Darkness
The Relic
Galaxy Quest
Big Fish

A few years ago, visiting my “friends in Washington” I got to see up close and in person two of his best known creations: a velociraptor and Tyrannosaur head from the film Jurassic Park. On screen is one thing, but up close you get to appreciate the craftsmanship of building something that looks realistic out of material that has to be practical for the requirements of filming.

In short, the list above are the bad films; the “less important” of his work. His big stuff was certainly “big”.

Second Amendment defended

June 26, 2008

While the U.S. Supreme Court routinely looks at courses cases which forces a strong look into the Constitution (notably the amendments), and requires sometimes an interpretation or reinterpretation of what that 200+ year old document means, the second amendment is not one that comes up for review very often. The last time was in the 1930s.

First, a review. The second amendment is the one that protects the right of the citizens to bear arms …. depending on who you talk to. The amendment reads:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

This has led to the age old argument: was the intent that only those involved in a state militia (what we today would call the national guard) entitled to bear arms ….. or is it not even applied to them (in the era around the Revolution, the state militias were the army, and there relly weren’t many bases or forts that stationed these militias, so you kept your rifle at home in case the call went out.

The other interpretation is that, since we were a young nation just coming out from under the boots of an autocratic monarchy, that the citizens have the right to bear arms to defend themselves from … the government. Even Thomas Jefferson warned that the day may come when the government may become so autocratic; so little engaged in defending the rights of the citizens, that the people should be ready to overthrow the government and change it so that it serves them again. There is thus the implication that private citizens should be able to bear arms for just such a purpose.

Of course, today, there are restrictions on gun ownership: there are requirements to have them registered practically everywhere. In many places, you cannot physically carry a gun on your person all of the time. There are certain places you can’t take them (schools, court, etc). A lot of these restrictions are somewhat common sense.

The city of Washington D.C. (and others, including Chicago) have outright bans on the ownership of handguns. You cannot have one in the home. If someone breaks into your home, and you shoot them, you will likely be in trouble to some degree. Of course looking at the exceptionally low crime rate in Washington DC and Chicago, this ban obviously makes sense (for those who don’t know: Louisiana and Maryland have the worst murder rates of any state: about ten murders-per-100,000 population (give or take); Washington DC has a rate around 35 murders-per-100,000)

So, a security guard who lives in Washington sued for the right to own a hand gun. The appeals court supported him, but the Supreme Court chose to review this. The result, in a 5-4 vote (which has become a regular vote result lately), is that the government (in this case, municipal governments) do not have the right to outright ban gun ownership to everyone. There still exist restrictions that can be put in place (like the mentally ill and former convicts can be barred from owning them). It also removes the requirement that guns be stored either disassembled or with trigger guards. The idea of course was to prevent kids from accidentally shooting the gun, but it also prevents people from legitimate home defense. That’s certainly more of a grey area.

There was one aspect of this case that was really disturbing, and I really hope that I am misinterpreting this because it is such a small clip from the decision:
Justice Sephen Breyer wrote a separate opinion for the minority. The clip from his dissenting opinion is as follows:

In my view, there simply is no untouchable constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to keep loaded handguns in the house in crime-ridden urban areas.

Now, if I am interpreting this (and I could be wrong, I really hope I am) Justie Breyer is saying that municipalities with high crime rates certainly have the right to ban guns, because in the people who live there don’t have the constitutional protection to bear arms like the rest of the nation.

That is disturbing. It would seem to me that the one unquestioned reason for bearing arms in the modern world is self-defense. It would seem that the higher the rate of crime, the more necessary it would be to defend yourself. In light of this, Justice Breyer’s decision does not seem to make sense.

On top of that, it almost seems to suggest that some citizens are entitled to a constitutional protection, while others are not. I have to say that I am not in favor of some citizens being protected and others not.

Having talked with folks who are not from America, they are often quite puzzled with our obsession with guns … the answer I give is that it is a cultural thing … our nation is unique in that it was a democracy being built by pioneers exploring new territory (you could say the same for the rest of the Americas, except the rest of the continent was under the control of monarchies for a large percentage of their histories). No one moving westward could survive without a gun. Like any right, it is very difficult to take away or restrict once it has been granted.

For what its worth, I support the right of individuals to own reasonable weapons for defense or hunting purposes. I also support the need for registration, background checks, and such. I support strong penalties for those who circumvent such, and mandatory education for any gun owner.

I grew up with firearms around me. My father collected guns, and had one near the bed in case he needed it. I knew where it was, and was explained in no uncertain terms that it was never to be touched, and the consequences of my actions should I decide to handle it. My uncle was a hunter in the north woods of Wisconsin, and while I never chose to join him hunting, I have been to shooting ranges, and learned how to properly handle a rifle and a pistol. There is a great deal of discipline involved, and learning to do this right is someone that anyone who is going to be living around a gun should go through.

I can only hope that with rights restored to many citizens, this will not lead to more injuries and deaths ….. and that the next time a criminal thinks about breaking in to someone’s home, they think twice (they won’t, but I can hope!)

I’ve got to get me one of these …..

June 14, 2008

There is also a link to a New York Times article here ….

Apparently, the article is in response to a new book being published about the symbols and shoulder patches used by members of black ops …… this one in particular is very funny. if you scroll through, there is an NRO one based on Graucho Marx with a great reference to SETEC Astronomy.

Becky Hammon: traitor or victim

June 14, 2008

Here’s the story of Becky Hammon.

Becky grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota …. very middle America …. grows up like most middle American kids: God and country.

Bekcy, as it turns out, also is one heck of a basketball player: she was “Miss South Dakota Basketball” her senior year, and an All-American at Colorado State … is the all-time (mens and womens) scorer in the history of the Western Athletic Conference. She was the Colorado Sportswoman of the year (not Colorado State … the whole state of Colorado). Her jersey is now retired. Today, she plays in the WNBA for the San Antonio Silver Stars. She averaged over 18 points-per-game. By any definition, a success. So great a player and strong a personality, ESPN even let her help cover the NBA as a sideline reporter.

So successful in fact that unlike many athletes that take it easy during the off season, Becky keeps playing. She played in Spain for a while … then moved to Russia. Early in 2008, she was granted Russian citizenship despite having no Russian ancestry.

Not a big deal so far.

Except 2008, as some of you may recall, is the year of that big sports thing going on in Beijing.

Despite her being really good, Becky did not get a call to try out for Team USA. So, when the Russians called and invited her to have a spot on their team, she jumped at it! Going from “no chance to play in the Olympics” to “we want you” is something one can hardly pass up.

Here’s the sticky wicket. No sooner does she sign on with the Russians, than Team USA comes a-knocking. She of course is already committed to play for Russia. On top of that, she feels that it is not a real serious offer, and that she likely will not have a shot at making the team.

Team USA’s head coach Anne Donovan by painting her as a traitor to the United States.

Now lets look at that a moment.

The Olympics are a necessarily flawed entity. There are a hundred and one ways to be “eligible” to play for a nation, one of which is the old “passport in hand” way. That is: if you are issued a passport by a country, you can compete for that country (in the technical terminology, this is often called “passport of convenience”). This is hardly new …. many nations have gone hunting in the U.S. et. al. for athletes with some skill, and have been offered a free ticket to the Olympics for the price of having dual citizenship. Not a bad price, really! If people knew how often this really went on, they would begin to understand why the United States gets looked at oddly by the rest of the world for approaching the Olympics so seriously and so gingoistically. In fact a great many athletes running, swimming, tossing, leaping, biking, sailing, shooting, and rowing in the Olympics for “other nations” are in fact not what most people would call “home grown citizens”. So, to label Becky Harmon a traitor in this regard is laughable. Is it perhaps the “to the core” most ethical thing. Maybe not, but its in the rules as being perfectly legal, and until that changes, it happens.

As I recall, some 16 out of the 24 members of the Greek Baseball team in the 2004 games had never set foot in the nation of Greece until the games started. They were all Americans of Greek parentage ….. they didn’t even have Greek passports. Did anyone complain? No. It was a laughable curiosity that Greece recruited players from far and wide to play for them. At least they did not finish last!

So is Becky Hammon a traitor. I don’t think so. Her country said “we don’t need you”, and she opted to play for a team that wanted her. There’s really no sign this was a “passport of convenience” which is as close as one might come to saying that something is really fishy here. It’s like the same ridiculousness that occurs when a Red Sawx player gets let go, and then plays for the Yankees. The Red Sawx fans say “How could you …. you traitor …” even though it was the Red Sox that said b’ bye.

Keep this in mind when you watch the Olympics, and wonder how that great swimmer from down the block is in the starting blocks with a swimming cap that says “Grenada” on it.

Guillermo del Toro: a hero!

June 13, 2008

Story about a recent interview with visionary director Guillermo del Toro:

Mexican moviemaker Guillermo Del Toro has ruled out ever directing a romantic film – because he prefers blood and guts.

The Hellboy filmmaker loves making horror movies about scary creatures and fantasy characters – because it doesn’t mirror reality.

He explains, No way. Sleepless in Seattle can go f**k itself.

“Monsters are the most beautiful creatures in the universe. I have no interest in everyday life, except through a twisted mirror.”

More Pan’s Labyrinth, less Gone With The Wind! The world will be better off.

Welcome Annalise Marie!

June 12, 2008

Annalise Marie born to my good firends Al and Arlis on Tuesday evening …. weighing in at a little over 8 lbs, and measuring 22″, she was delivered by C-section …..

Mom and baby are doing well. Father reports he is tired.
edit you can see a picture of the new arrival: