Friday, August 14, 2009

Brian May on Adam Lambert's 2012 song

Adam Lambert has recorded a song for the soundtrack of the movie 2012. Here's what Brian May has to say about it on Brian's blog (Aug. 14, 2009 entry; sorry no permalink):
And I was privileged to hear a track that the guys have finished for Adam Lambert ... a song for a forthcoming film, 2012. I have to say I was completely blown away ... it's truly sensational. In fact it's so obviously a number one smash, any bookie would be mad to take bets on it. I am not kidding. I'm not easily moved to jelly by male vocalists ... but Adam's voice reaches out with sensitivity, depth, maturity, and awesome range and power which will make jaws drop all around the world. Its an awesome performance. No doubt about it. The world of Rock has a bright new star.
H/t ontd_ai.

As you may already know, Glenn Beck is a tool

I'm pretty sure that no one here is a Glenn Beck fan. So enjoy laughing at The Daily Show outing Beck's douchebaggery. (Sorry I can't embed. The code is flawed.)

Military spending, in historical perspective

I came across that allows you to generate historical charts of government expenditures. (You can view the data in actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars or percentage of GDP by changing the units.)

Here is a graph of military spending using inflation-adjusted dollars (and a link to it and the underlying data):

I went looking for the data because a Facebook friend of a friend claimed that the drop in military spending as a percentage of GDP during Clinton's administration was the cause of 9/11. Ew boy. For starters, it should be obvious that our external threats are what they are regardless of GDP, so I don't get why you'd look to percent-of-GDP data to make the case that the spending was insufficient (or sufficient) to keep the country safe from attack. Further, military spending at the end of Clinton's term was still historically plenty high. Does anyone writing here believe that the drop in military spending under Clinton allowed 9/11 to happen or caused 9/11? I hope not.

Setting all that aside, I have to say that as I looked at this chart I was amazed at the extreme increase in military spending since 2001 relative to historical levels. I'm curious to know whether those who believe the Iraq war was a good idea also feel that the benefit you see is commensurate with these costs. In other words, was our takeover of Iraq as important as our role in WWII? Was it far more important than the Cold War?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Put it down!"

Update: The rest of the story is just as funny. I guess this has been around the tubes a while but it's new to me.

Calling certain Scooters

In case you missed it in the comments:

The question of my Native American heritage

After speaking with my parents concerning this, I've come away with some facts: (1) it appears that I would not be able to claim "NA" as my race; (2) they are somewhat confused as to the exact lines; and (3) some details (such as dates and first and/or last names) are somewhat sketchy. Through the years I have either misunderstood what details have been told to me or I have twisted them to fit what I wanted. As best as my parents can tell me, here is my linage:

Father's Side: This side of my family is Choctaw, not Cherokee. My great, great, great grandmother was full-blooded Choctaw. One of her children was a daughter (this is the relative who lost an eye in a raid, not by other Choctaw's, but by Cherokee's). This daughter was my great, great grandmother who was actually still alive when I was very young. I was around her, but of course I have no memory of her. She married a white man and one of their children was a daughter. This daughter was my great grandmother. I do have many memories of her and my great grandfather and their farm. One of their children was a son who was my grandfather. One of his son's is my father.

On a side note, one of my grandmother's (my father's mother) brothers has some NA linage on his side. I was told that one of his son's (a cousin of mine) was able to attend the University of Tulsa and claim some type of NA heritage and thus get a big reduction on tuition. I need to check this out and see what the story is.

Mother's Side: I guess I never knew that there is some NA heritage from this side of my family - it wasn't really talked about. This side of my family is Cherokee, from somewhere in the Southeast, possibly Georgia. My great, great, great grandmother was full-blooded Cherokee. All anyone knows is her first name ( which might be her only name). One of her children was a daughter. This daughter was my great, great grandmother. She had many children and was married twice. One of her children with her 2nd husband (who not much is known about, but "the story" is that he was either full-blooded or 1/2 blooded Choctaw, but it seems no one really knows) was a daughter. This daughter was my great grandmother. I have memories of her and I remember she was funny as hell. Very outspoken. Very blunt. One of her children was a daughter. This daughter was my grandmother. One of her daughter's is my mother.

There are a couple of relatives that have done some rather extensive research on the family trees - more so on my father's side. I need to get with them and see if they have actual names, dates, places, etc. I'm told they do and in fact, one of my cousin's has traced back to pre-Civil war times. The Civil War details are actually more interesting to me than the NA stuff. I've heard stories about relatives that fought in Tennessee, so I'd like to get some details and learn more about my relatives and where they were, what they did, during the Civil War period. Maybe I can get into the Sons of the Confederacy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

This just in

No version of the new health care plan precludes vampires from biting people. Therefore, it is pro-vampire. In fact, I hear (though I haven't confirmed), the plan calls for citizens to make an appearance in a room of vampires for a five-minute period and take their chances. Those who can't evade the vampires will live forever. It's a socialist plan to help all people live the same amount of time.

When children disappoint their parents

Michelle Bachman's son has joined Teach for America, one of the program under the AmeriCorps umbrella. (From Jon Tevlin, columnist for the Strib, heavy on the snark.) Tevlin notes that Rep. Bachmann has had this to say about AmeriCorps:
"[It's] under the guise of quote, volunteerism, but it's not volunteers at all," she said on the Sue Jeffers radio show in April. "It's paying people to do work on behalf of government. There are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people get trained in the philosophy the government puts forward and then they have to go work in these politically correct forums.

"As a parent, I would have a very, very difficult time seeing my children do this."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Devils Tower

Those of you who were just there probably know this:
Devils Tower is made of phonolite porphyry. Phonolite refers to the ringing of the rock when a small slab is struck, and its ability to reflect sound. Porphyry refers to its texture, large crystals of feldspar embedded in a mass of smaller crystals.

Another reason for my trip to Little Bighorn

I must admit that I had another reason for wanting to go Little Bighorn - my quest to visit all 50 states. That is why I had a fail-safe point on my route. Had I thought I wouldn't make it within 1 hour of closing time, while I would have been bummed out about that, I would have been able to add Montana to my count. I do have some criteria that must be met:

  • I have to have some memory of being there. When I was very young, my parents took me on a trip from Tulsa to Yellowstone. I have no memory of this, so any states that we went through do not count on my list.
  • Flight connections where you never leave the airport do not count.
  • There has to be a legitimate reason for going there, not just to cross the border to say you've been there. This rule is a bit subjective and is open to some interpretation.

To date, here are the states I'm counting:

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, DC (obviously not a state), Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts,Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire (this is one that I had to make a ruling on, but I counted it because to get to Maine from Boston, you have to go through NH and I paid a toll), New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

So that's 40, plus DC. That leaves me only 10 to go:

Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Ohio, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

Of these, the ones I really want to get to ASAP are Alaska, Idaho and West Virginia. Obviously some of these can be combined (WA/ID; WV/DE; CT/VT/RI) which leaves the most difficult ones, for me, to be Ohio and ND. I can't think any reason to go to either of these 2 states (with all due respect to Stephanie with regards to ND) and Alaska has it's own set of issues.

So, to help me with my quest, give me some reasons (legitimate ones) to go to Ohio and North Dakota.

Death on the prairie

LJ, I see your death-markers-for-soldiers-on-the-prairie, and I raise you actual-graves-and-interesting-causes-of-death:
(This looks impossible from this vantage point, but the Missouri River is not so far away.)

From Ft. Lincoln, south of Mandan, North Dakota.

Update to give some history about these soldiers (from the Ft. Lincoln site):
The History of Fort Abraham Lincoln

As the Northern Pacific Railroad advanced west across Dakota Territory, the US military kept pace. When the railroad reached the Missouri River in 1872, the city that would become known as Bismarck sprang up and Fort McKeen was established on the west bank of the river as a small infantry post. By November of that year, Fort McKeen had been renamed in honor of the fallen President, Abraham Lincoln.

Fort Abraham Lincoln was expanded to house six companies of the 7th Cavalry under the command of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer in 1873. Their mission was to further the advancement of the Northern Pacific Railroad and open the westward expansion of the American frontier.

By 1874, Fort Abraham Lincoln was the largest and most important fort in Dakota Territory and was considered the “premier“ frontier fort on the Northern Plains with 650 Infantry and Cavalry soldiers keeping the post maintained and operational.

May 17, 1876, the troops left Fort Lincoln on the Centennial Campaign, which took the 7th Cavalry into the valley of the Little Big Horn. They were attempting to force non-treaty Indians back to their respective reservations. Outnumbered, outgunned, and out-maneuvered, 260 cavalry troopers would not return to Fort Abraham Lincoln, including every member of the five companies with Custer.

By 1883, the Cavalry had been detached to Fort Meade, the NP railroad had been completed to Montana and Fort Abraham Lincoln’s importance declined, leaving Fort Abraham Lincoln to be later officially abandoned in 1891 by order of Congress. Fort Abraham Lincoln and General Custer’s 7th Cavalry would leave a lasting legacy for years to come.

Today, the visitor can relive what Fort Abraham Lincoln was like for General Custer and his command in the year 1875. We invite you to take a step “back to 1875“ as uniformed soldiers and laundresses conduct “Living History“ style guided tours through the reconstructed Custer House and Central Barracks. Relive the Legacy! Come out to Fort Abraham Lincoln and see for yourself.

Update II: I should note that the most surprising thing about the causes of death in this cemetery is that at least 90% had nothing to do with engaging an enemy (at least not directly), but instead were these kinds of things.

Sarah's family

Can I just say to Sarah Palin that, under Obama's plan, her parents and Trig are welcome to keep their current health care coverage. Sorry to spoil her frothing and ranting fun.

Pictures from the great road trip of 2009

Try to picture Kansas in your mind and this is what you should come up with:

The bison have the run of Custer State Park. When they cross the road, they amble. They seemed oblivious to cars and trucks and minivans - motorcycles they didn't really like. You could hear them grunting and making all sorts of noises. I liked watching them roll around in the dust:

Some of the elk I saw, as the bikers pulled up:

Picture South Dakota in your mind and this is what you should come up with:

One of tunnels on the Iron Mountain Highway. The white-ish area on the mountain to the right looking thru the tunnel is Mt. Rushmore:

The best tunnel, which is on the Needles Highway. It's longer than it looks and there is a 45 degree turn to the right at the other side:

The first view of Devils Tower you get on the road coming from the northern route from SD:

Pictures really don't do Devils Tower justice - I kept looking for the Mothership:

Looking down towards the Little Bighorn river from Last Stand Hill. The markers are not graves - they mark where each soldier fell. Most of the remains were moved to the cemetery located near the visitors center. Custer's' remains were moved to West Point:

Driving towards Little Bighorn, hoping to make it before closing:

Great road trip of 2009

For over 20 years, I've wanted to go to the Great Plains. Don't ask me why, because I couldn't really tell you. Perhaps the vast openness; perhaps the lack of people; perhaps what I call "the pull of my people" (since I am part Native American). I was planning to do this back in the 90's, but never really got around to it. But now, a perfect storm of life situations made it possible. My proposed route was to be basically Dallas - Black Hills (Mt. Rushmore), SD- Devils Tower, WY - Little Bighorn, MT - Boulder, CO - Dallas. I wanted to stay off of interstate highways as much as possible, so I could see more of the countryside. The only part I wasn't sure about was making it to Little Bighorn - my problem when I left was having to be back on a certain day because C was possibly traveling. That part was going to be a last minute decision. Overall, I loved the trip. The only negative was that I picked the wrong time to be anywhere near the Black Hills - it was Sturgis week. I've never seen so many bikers in my life. I started seeing them in Kansas and the further north I went, the more I saw. Luckily, they were all heading south (since the motorcycle rally was ending that weekend and from what I was told, most of the bikers leave by Friday). Well, if most of them were gone, I can't imagine how many are there. They were ALL OVER THE PLACE. The hotel guy where I stayed in the Black Hills told me that you basically draw a circle 100 miles around Sturgis and that is how far they have to stay. Which also explains why I had to pay $100 for a hotel room that would normally be $40. Sturgis week + summer rates = $100. I guess I was lucky I could find a room at all. I can see why bikers love the BH - great weather, hilly and curvy roads. But they certainly hinder wildlife viewing. I can't count the times I was stopped on the side of a road watching elk or bison or antelope when here would come 5 or 6 or 20 bikes. They would stop to see what I was looking at and with all the noise of idling bikes, the animals would stroll or run off. Some of the little towns would not allow non-motorcycles down the main street because the traffic was so bad. Making turns took forever; buying gas took forever, trying to eat took forever. Then again, if I had a bike, I'd probably be up there with them.

I was convinced by a Park ranger at Devils Tower that I could make the trip to Little Bighorn before it closed. So I decided to give it a go. My route was going to take me thru 2 reservations, so I was advised to fill up before taking off, since there isn't much out there. I also had a back-up plan if I felt I wasn't making good enough time and had to call it off. About 20 miles before I had to make the decision, I ran into a really bad rainstorm. The temp dropped from 75 to 55 in about 5 minutes and it was raining with some hail mixed in. I was driving 80-85 (and getting passed) and had to slow down to below 55. But, after about 15 minutes, it stopped and the skies cleared and it looked good to the west. I made it with about an hour or so before the park closed. I was an interesting place, a bit eerie, and was the one place where I really thought about the history of the area and the Plains in general.

Some other observations:

  • I've heard of the "seven wonders of the world". Until I drove thru Kansas, I'd never heard of the "seven wonders of Kansas". One of which was "The Big Well" - the deepest hand-dug well in the world. For Kansas, I guess that is a big deal.
  • Why anyone would live in Kansas is beyond me. Nothing there, flat and just miles of dirt, corn, or wheat and a stench that made me gag every time I got out of my vehicle. All the people I saw were rather large, which surprised me because I could barely eat. But I guess you get used to it.
  • I saw a crop duster airport - a long shed and planes taking off one after the other. Cool!
  • My parents have always talked bad about Nebraska (the smell, the flat fields that go forever, brown and no trees). Well, the part of Nebraska I went thru was nothing like that. I saw trees, rivers, grassland with rolling hills. Not much wheat or corn. I even went thru a national forest that reminded me (sorta) of parts of Colorado.
  • The Iron Mountain Highway in the Black Hills is the coolest road I've ever been on. I was on it early in the morning in the rain, so I didn't see a single bike. Only saw 1 other car. Great views, great wildlife, unbelievable "rock tunnels" and then BOOM - Mt. Rushmore. And I think Mt. Rushmore is something every American should see (as well as a trip to DC). I thought all the faces looked like the person, except for Teddy Roosevelt.
  • The road curves and spiral over and under itself. Even at slow speeds, you get a bit dizzy. The best individual tunnel was on the Needles Highway.
  • When you first see Devils Tower from the highway, you are 20 minutes or so from it. When it popped up after taking a curve, I had a "Close Encounters" feeling, like I was being drawn to it. It was as awesome as I expected. The grooves and crevices were incredible and it looked really cool with the blue skies, white puffy clouds and birds flying on and around it.
  • Montana folks drive really fast. Then again, the roads are flat and you can see forever and you wonder why they even have speed limits. I seem to recall that parts of Montana didn't have them until just recently.
  • I spent Sat. night in Sheridan, WY. I couldn't believe how dead if was. I was trying to find a place to eat and had a difficult time finding any place that looked open. I think I may have been on the wrong side of town, but still, it was strange. I ended up having to get a sandwich and some chips from a convenience store where I bought gas.

I had a great time and probably could have spent another day in the Black Hills area, but I was worried about finding a place to stay and I was getting tired of bikes. Not the riders, because all the ones I talked to were nice and friendly. Just dealing with driving and noise and the hassle was getting to me. I want to go back during off-season and perhaps I can talk C into going as well.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Status check on bailouts

I haven't checked these numbers, but according to Tim Fernholz at Tapped today, here's the current tally on bank bailout money:
Even the limited transparency has allowed federal regulators to examine the weird compensation practices at the banks, creating a prototype for real financial regulation. And for all the talk of taxpayer money and expense, we may end up being surprised by how relatively cheap the bailouts ultimately are -- keep in mind, for all the talk of spending, the Obama administration's policies will still result in a lower deficit than if Bush administration policies had been kept in place, that banks are paying back their loans, plus interest, and that ultimately the cost of the bailouts will be much lower than its sticker price, especially if management of the program continues to improve under congressional and public pressure for higher returns. Of the $1.1 trillion in bailout money being tracked by ProPublica, only $583 billion has been committed, even less has been spent, and $77 billion has been returned.

That picture will only continue to improve as banks continue to pay the loans back. I don't know whether the bailouts were a good idea, but it's useful to keep the actual dollar amounts in mind when considering the topic.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

CRA: not guilty

I'm not trolling any right wing blogs these days (now that Hot Air crashes my browser), so I don't know if they're still pushing the story that the Community Reinvestment Act is to blame for our recent economic collapse. Let's hope not, since that idea has been debunked, most recently by Ellen Seidman at The American Prospect.
Based on the Canner and Bhutta study, former Federal Reserve Governor Randall Kroszner concluded, "we believe that the available evidence runs counter to the contention that the CRA contributed in any substantive way to the current mortgage crisis." In reaching this conclusion, Kroszner and the Federal Reserve Board joined other bank regulators in affirming that CRA did not cause the mortgage-market meltdown. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chair Sheila Bair has stated, "I want to give you my verdict on CRA: Not guilty." Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan agrees: "CRA is not the culprit behind the sub-prime mortgage lending abuses, or the broader credit quality issues in the marketplace. Indeed, the lenders most prominently associated with sub-prime mortgage lending abuses and high rates of foreclosure are lenders not subject to CRA." All of these regulators were appointed by President George W. Bush.

Bear: Was it over several months ago?


Paris Rosen's front flip attempt

at the Summer X Games 15:

As I mentioned earlier, he's from the Twin Cities.