Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Time for a change of scenery ... not much internet access.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bay Area gang rape ...

Being a bit old fashioned, it seems to me that the old solution of executing those who commit certain crimes, hanging the bodies in the public square, and letting the birds munch on them as a public reminder that some crimes are frowned upon is the way to handle rapists. The police should attempt to catch these predators and use every legal means available to make their lives miserable to discourage others who might think to do the same.

This, however, is just the beginning of the subject. The victim in this case was an open lesbian, and the perpetrators were alleged to have hurled anti-gay vitriol at her while they did their deed. As I said, it is right to use all of the tools legally available against the perpetrators, but this begs a question: If it had been a happily married, heterosexual mother of three who had been raped, would this have been less of a crime warranting less of a punishment? Or perhaps a 14 year old girl who had never been molested? I still find the entire hate crime notion to be nuts in that it seems to make different categories of crimes based on the social class of the victim.

Thinking about the anti-gay rhetoric, this reminds me of when I was young. The un-churched kids were most prone to anti-gay rhetoric and violence. Needless to say, I doubt that the perpetrators were regular attenders of a fundamentalist church. In fact, this class of people probably uses the most inflammatory rhetoric they can think of against anyone they encounter, given that they probably haven't receive any Christian moral discipline.

Some will immediately protest that Christians are the ones who have created the environment of anti-GLBT hate that these thugs incubated in. But what of an environment of respect for women that despises violence against them? How is it that the thugs absorbed the one, but not the other? Certainly we all incubate in an environment, but we should be clear about what the environment is: The environment is a modernist one based on subjectivity and predisposition theory. The victim was predisposed to being a lesbian. Others are predisposed to being heterosexuals. Then there are some who are simply predisposed to roaming the streets in packs, looking for a victim, and gang rapping him/her. Who knows, but it might even be genetic? I can already hear someone protesting in my ears, because she isn't predisposed to accept the conclusion of this line of reasoning. 'Nuff said.

Monday, December 22, 2008

"The City of God", by Augustine.

Every theologian is supposed to quote Augustine, but I have this strange suspicion that most theologians take their Augustine quotes from other theologians and don't bother to read him directly. The City of God is 867 pages in this Penguin Books form and I finally decided to take a plunge, having never read any of his works previously. Now that I have read the first of the 22 "books" that make up this book, I am most thankful for all of the various writers of the Roman era from Polybius and Livy to Cicero and Seneca to Cassius Dio who have helped to provide the context. Augustine's constant references to earlier events and characters of the Roman Empire would be most confusing without this historical background, along with a knowledge of the Bible. It is hard to imagine how this book could be properly appreciated without reading a significant amount of Roman history and philosophy first.

A question I had asked of LivingSword was why Augustine was referenced so much and other early Christian writers so rarely. The answer seems to be clearing up in my mind as I can see an intellect who is clearly above most of the other early Christian writers. Another long winded author is Philo, but Philo is a tedious babbler who keeps returning to similar themes, forcing classical Stoic philosophy onto Judaism in a slavish manner. Augustine, however, seems to be more a master of the subject and able to bring out the truth and the difficulties of classical philosophy while discussing Roman history and bringing the Bible in and out of the discussion as necessary. Although I am a slow reader and easily lose my focus, I am looking forward to continuing this effort and completing the task.
California meltdown watch continues: County budgets taking hit.

The county budgets seem to mostly involve social services. A related item is the demographic changes. Many with employable skills are exiting the state, leaving fewer workers to pay the increasing tax bills, but the need for social services - particularly health care - is on the rise. Optimism is based on the state coming up with a next new, new thing. The next new, new thing, however, is the government trying to create taxable bubble economies by fiat. The first was the housing/credit bubble which ended in tears. California is currently running out of funds on contrived bubbles involving infrastructure and abortion stem efforts. Perhaps if we scale the bubbles up, we will eventually come up with one that is self-sustaining?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Yes, there are some who give Looney their full attention.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Purpose Driven Rage in San Francisco.

Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback has been chosen to do the invocation for the inauguration of President Obama, and a backlash is developing. For those of you who have been vacationing on Mars for the past few years, Rick Warren is the author of the very popular Purpose Driven Life book, the pastor of a very large Southern Baptist church (23,000 members) and fairly mainstream as far as Christian/American morality goes (i.e. he is a hyper-reactionary fundamentalist, hate criminal who opposes "gay marriage"). Much of the mainline theological community is in shock also. I am mainly just scratching my head and wondering what it all means.

The channel 2 news from San Francisco just announced that some GLBT leaders are now advocating a boycott of the inauguration. The other news is that California attorney general Gerry Brown (formally known as governor Moonbeam for his newage superstition) reversed himself and will fight proposition 8 in court. The strategy is to claim that Proposition 8 is a major change to the California constitution, and therefore must only be done by a 2/3 vote of the legislature. Of course the California Supreme Court's fraudulent fabrication of a constitutional right to gay marriage, overruling previous democratic decisions, and bypassing the legislature isn't an issue.
The view from the start for Tueday's snow adventure.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

California infrastructure projects halted.

Lawyers are rubbing their hands in glee due to the fact that the California budget situation is likely going to preclude filling terms of the contracts, so rather than getting infrastructure spending we will throw money at pointless litigation. My suggestion is to shut down the public school system and move to vouchers. That would probably save enough money and improve standards at the same time.
A coyote is clearly happy in the snow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Yes, the Bay Area got hit by snow ... at least in the higher elevations. My heavier SLR camera setup is getting easier to handle over the run/hike, so here is a result for this morning's 10 miler.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

ZANI - Zombies Are Nice and Innocent.

Yes, there is now a new civil rights movement called ZANI. My motivation is that the college kids have returned with the result that my CAT 6 local area network has been hijacked for a LAN party dedicated to murdering nice, innocent, misunderstood zombies. It is terrible. What gives them the right to simply dismiss the human values of these wonderful creatures and slaughter them in mass? It is time to bring the violence to an end.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Obama makes appointments for Health and Human Services.

Certainly Obama would prefer this to be discussed rather than the events in Illinois. This should be at the top of America's agenda given that HHS is the government department in charge of health care, but it is a bit tricky to find a news link. The appointments are Tom Daschle as head and Jeanne Lambrow as deputy. Tom Daschle was a former senate majority leader for the Democrats while Jeanne Lambrow seems to have been part of the Clinton team and also helped Tom Daschle write a book on health care reform.

As with Obama's economic picks, "change" seems to mean "old school", but perhaps I should give them a chance. Jeanne Lambrow's testimony to congress mostly talks about getting uncovered groups medical coverage, but she also notes that America's administrative costs are seven times greater than Europe. Most of the administrative costs are due to government mandates and legal CYA, but it seems that the push is to have computer automated administration, rather than fixing the government. Probably I should fetch Daschle's book to see what Jeanne is really thinking. For the moment, my impression is that the planned solution to a health care system suffocating from runaway government is more government.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Greek situation update: As the violence and protests continue, it seems that the event that triggered everything was a group of teenagers stoning a police car. To be scientific, we should probably get groups of teenagers to throw stones at police in different countries and accumulate some statistics on the results.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Another politician heads for jail ...

There is a law in journalism 101 that goes a bit like this: "If a Republican is involved in a scandal, then you must list the party affiliation clearly in the first sentence of a news release. If a Democrat is involved in a scandal, don't mention the party affiliation directly, but perhaps mention a previous Republican scandal in passing so that readers get confused." And so it goes with the journalism regarding the arrest of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (Democrat) as reported here. The BBC follows the pattern here, suggesting that this is an international rule.

Rod was apparently using the pay-to-play methods that former California governor Gray Davis (Democrat) used which resulted in his ousting by the people of California and replacement by governor Conan (Barbarian Republican). The news reports that Rod was trying to sell the senate seat for which he must name Barrack Obama's replacement.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Greek anarchists embrace recycling: Rocks and debris are collected after the riots for reuse the next day. As usual, the students are protesting "The Establishment", which tenured (i.e. established) professors have explained to them is the government and police, rather than the Ivory Tower.
You can't see me!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Remembering the Trabant.

This was an East German engineering marvel that made a brief appearance on the West German autobahns after the Berlin Wall went down. 'Brief' was the result of many factors, such as the life expectancy of a flimsy car puttering along at 70km/hour in the fast lane.

The German car engineers had a joke regarding the Trabant, which was notable because Germans completely lack a sense of humor:

"How many workers does it take to produce a Trabant?"
"Two. One to fold and one to glue."

For a brief time, this served as a reminder to German's that the government isn't necessarily the answer to all problems, especially when it comes to manufacturing cars. Americans also seem a bit dull regarding this concept, which is clearly demonstrated in the recent discussions regarding the Detroit bailout proposal. As if the car companies managers haven't done a bad enough job yet, the proposal is to bring government bureaucrats into the top decision making role, including the head of the EPA. Certainly the US won't make the same mistakes as the East German government made. No, we will make entirely new mistakes that civilization has not yet dared to imagine!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

California unemployment rate at 8.2% for October.

The national average is 6.5% with California being number 3 after Michigan and Rhode Island, both at 9.3%.
Domitian expels the philosophers ...

"What came after, to be sure, can not be described in similar terms, - his deeds, that is to say, as emperor. Then he killed Arulenus Rusticus for being a philosopher and for calling Thrasea sacred, and Herennius Senecio because in his long career he had stood for no office after the quaestorship and because he had compiled the life of Helvidius Priscus. Many others also perished as a result of this same charge of philosophizing, and all remaining members of that profession were again driven from Rome. ..." - Cassius Dio, 67.13

Apparently the philosophers had acquired somewhat of a bad reputation in earlier times. Seneca, for example, was critized for living a life of indulgence and luxury, so that his Stoic philosophy was all empty talk. During the reign of Domitian's father, Vespasian, another tirade apparently happened:

"Mucianus made a great number of remarkable statements to Vespasian against the Stoics, as, for instance, that they are full of empty boasting, and if one of them lets his beard grow long, elevates his eyebrows, wears his fustian cape thrown carelessly back and goes barefoot, he straightway postulates wisdom, bravery, righteousness as his own. He gives himself great airs, even though he may not understand (as the proverb says) either letters or swimming They view everybody with contempt and call the man of good family a mollycoddly, the ill-born a dwarfed intellect, a handsome person licentious, an ugly person comely, the rich man an apostle of greed, and the poor man a servile groveler.

And Vespasian did immediately expel from Rome all the philosophers, except Musonius: Demetrius and Hostilianus he confined upon islands. Hostilianus would not stop, to be sure, - he happened to be conversing with somebody when he heard ab out the sentence of exile against him and merely inveighed all the more strongly against monarchy, - yet he straightway withdrew. Demetrius even now would not yield, and Vespasiann bade it be told him: 'You are working every way to have me kill you, but I am not slaughtering barking dogs'". Cassius Dio, 66.12

This jumped out at me because it is usually assumed that Christians were the ones who brought an end to the learning of the classical era, but here we see pagan emperors taking action as reported by a non-Christian historian. The statement attributed to Mucianus implies that the philosophers of his day had become nothing but stupid parodies of what philosophy should be. I have similar views regarding much of academia, but perhaps this is simply a universal truth regarding all those who hope to gain attention or a living by the wisdom and knowledge that supposedly comes from their mind: Politicians, lawyers, preachers, professors, bloggers ...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The new US Capital Visitor Center ... and a comparison with Taipei 101 and Burj Dubai.

The new facility for visitors to the Washington Capital is opening to a lot of criticism. Much of it is directed at the costs. Another complaint is that it represents a revisionist notion of America. A congressman thinks the people who arranged the displays wanted to celebrate America's founding ideals of atheism and a society controlled by an all-encompassing nanny state managed by intellectual elites. This doesn't surprise me. Senate leader Harry Reid, however, defended the expenditure on the grounds that it will keep the senators from having to smell the rabble that lines up in front of the building every day.

Being an engineer, I am mainly interested in the overall comparison with other major projects. Taipei 101 is a recent one that represents one of the most significant engineering challenges in recent years as the world's highest building was constructed to withstand earthquakes, typhoons, and, given that it was post 9/11, impact by commercial aircraft.

Burj Dubai is being constructed to be by far the world's tallest building, which necessarily implies a lot of inefficiency to the construction, along with the complexities and volume of the elevator system. Then there is the issue of pumping all of the liquids up and down more than a half kilometer of elevation change. If I flush the toilet at the top floor, how fast will the, um, result be traveling when it gets to the bottom floor? Burj Dubai is, however, a monument to extravagance, and the price should reflect this. All of these major towers have an issue with access as the number of people coming in and out is enormous.

The Capital Visitor Center with its three floors is an engineering no-brainer by comparison. There seems to have been a lot of excavation that was done in the project, but that hardly represents a technical feat these days with all of the large earth moving equipment. Burj Dubai will include a number of luxury houses with all the amenities, but the CVC is basically a stone trimmed warehouse with a cafeteria and toilets. With this in mind, here are some overall statistics:






As expected, the US has managed to construct a dungeon at a price point that is the same order-of-magnitude as for a world class landmark. Our government is planning to "kick-start" the US economy with public works projects, so be prepared for more of this.