Thursday, January 31, 2019

No. 42

On the 100th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's birth, writer Tony Blengino at Forbes reminds us that while Robinson was an amazingly strong man who re-integrated baseball after more than 50 years of segregated play, he was also an amazing ballplayer.

Blengino spends some time measuring Robinson's stats against other top players and shows how he easily ranks with them. And he notes that Robinson's career started late -- he was 28 in his rookie season, thanks to World War II and segregation itself.

It's pretty easy to see that even without the historical context, Robinson would be a Hall-of-Fame level player. That he was a great man as well as a great ballplayer is one of history's fortunate convergences.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Winter Horrorland?

Snow blowing through a forest in northern Japan creates ice and snow "sculptures" on the trees that build up into fantastic shapes that bear a resemblance to some of Bill Watterson's best creations for his Calvin and Hobbes comics. The Japanese call them "juhyo," but of course we all know that they're actually called "deranged mutant killer monster snow goons."

Monday, January 28, 2019

Word Problem

So among new and upcoming offerings in streaming entertainment are a live-action adaptation of Garth Ennis's comic book series The Boys, coming from Amazon, and from Netflix another retelling of the life and crimes of serial killer Ted Bundy. This is the scenario behind the following ethical puzzle:

1) Choice A is yet another expedition into the mind of a murderous lunatic who welcomely left this mortal coil 30 years ago.
2) Choice B is a live-action version of one of the comic book industry's foremost practitioners of the illusion that brutal vulgarity is creativity.
3) Choice C is to have iodine injected directly under your fingernails via rusty hypodermics.

Which do you pick?

Ha! I'm sorry, it's a trick question. We ran out of iodine forty or fifty people ago!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Pithy and Precise

For the last several years, I have relied on Dustbury's Charles Hill for Oklahoma City Thunder game summaries. Tonight, as always, he presents a quick, accurate summary of the game du jour, some contextual notes regarding the season to date and upcoming contests and a witty headline. Thanks for the work, Charles.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

You Weren't There...Or Were You?

There are a lot of these "Photoshop yourself into old picture" collections around, but Chinese photographer Silin Liu does it better than many, as she manipulates the environment of the photo itself as well as the way she appears in inserting her glamorous alter ego "Céline" next to famous people who don't even seem to realize she shouldn't be there.

The post title is taken from an Electric Company sketch called "You Weren't There," a parody of the You Are There historical TV show. You missed the big event covered in the show, because, "You weren't born yet, you were out of town, or you just weren't paying attention."

Friday, January 25, 2019

Pscottish Psalm?

This blog has extolled the virtues of poet Robert Burns, the blog author's love of the Scottish part of his ethnic heritage and his miring in traditional Christian theism.

To mesh them all, on the anniversary of Robert Burns' birth in 1759, we present his paraphrase of Psalm 1:

THE MAN, in life wherever plac’d,
Hath happiness in store,
Who walks not in the wicked’s way,
Nor learns their guilty lore!

Nor from the seat of scornful pride
Casts forth his eyes abroad,
But with humility and awe
Still walks before his God.

That man shall flourish like the trees,
Which by the streamlets grow;
The fruitful top is spread on high,
And firm the root below.

But he whose blossom buds in guilt
Shall to the ground be cast,
And, like the rootless stubble, tost
Before the sweeping blast.

For why? that God the good adore,
Hath giv’n them peace and rest,
But hath decreed that wicked men
Shall ne’er be truly blest.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition...or Excitons!

We present another in our occasional series of amazing headlines that simply have to be shared even if 95% of the world has no idea what they mean:

"Multiple Excitons Make a Surprise Appearance in 2d Hybrid Perovskites"

Excitons are quasiparticles, or subatomic effects that aren't really subatomic particles even though they sort of act like they are. The can transport energy.

And that's about as much of the article at Physics World that I understood before my brain melted down. So 2d hybrid perovskites, as well as why excitons appearing in them is some sort of surprise, will remain for an earlier-in-the-day read at another time.

Interestingly, this is the second time in the last few months that perovskites have make an appearance on the blog, with the first coming last September in another of our amazing headline entries.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Time Delay

Humanity has probably known about the planet Saturn since prehistoric times, although obviously we have no idea what they thought about it. The ringed planet can be very faint, although it brightens when its rings are face-on to the Earth and it is the most distant planet visible to the naked eye. Babylonians, Greeks and most other ancient civilizations show it on their maps of the heavens.

But even once we invented telescopes that could see the gas giant up close there was something about it we did not know, and in fact have never really known until quite recently: How long was a Saturnine day?

Since it's a gas giant, there's no solid surface to measure rotational speed. Some parts of the outer cloud layer that we could see moved faster than others. Jupiter has the same issue, but scientists could track its radio emissions and get a solid number. Saturn's magnetic field acts weird, so that method was out. Venus is also covered by clouds, but it's close enough that radar signals bounced off its surface can be measured and features of that surface identified to determine rotational speed (Turns out that Venus rotates backward and very slowly; a Venusian day takes almost 250 Earth days).

But as the Astronomy Today story at the link notes, Saturn does have those amazing rings. And it oscillates as it rotates, which sets up ripples in the rings that were measured by the Cassini probe. Christopher Mankovich, a graduate student at the University of California Santa Cruz studied the ripples and developed computer models of what Saturn would have to be doing, rotation-wise, to produce them. Rotational speed was one of the variables in the models, and by studying them researchers could see which elements best matched reality and then figure out how fast Saturn was rotating.

The estimate is 10 hours, 33 minutes and 38 seconds -- which is a little speedier than one offered by radio signals used in the 1981 Voyager flyby. Saturn's magnetic pole, though, lines up almost perfectly with its actual north pole and makes the radio-timing trick a tough one and very likely to be off a little.

To me one of the most fascinating things about this discovery is the time it took to happen. Human beings have known about Saturn for as long as we've been looking at the sky and watching its objects move. We've known about its rings and its moons for almost 400 years. But we weren't sure how fast it turned on its axis until just a few days ago (Mankovich published his research on January 17).

It's a pretty cool universe that always has something new to find out, even when that new something is directly connected to a very very old something.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


So Joy Behar, whom this space has previously opined is not the sharpest pencil on the planet, today on The View offered a rationale for some of the bigger stupidities we have seen recently from media folks and others.

Behar answered moderator Whoopi Goldberg's question about why so many people were so quick to judge high school students shown on a viral video this past weekend. The original version had just a brief snip of confrontation between a Native American man in Washington for the Indigenous Peoples March and teenagers who, we were told, surrounded the man while wearing their Make America Great Again hats and chanting hatefully at him. Many people saw it and forcefully condemned the students, but within hours significantly longer video clips from other sources surfaced that showed a multitude of other factors the original video omitted. Among them: the presence of another group shouting insults at the students and the way the Native American man approached the students rather than the other way around.

In the meantime, the school which sent the students to Saturday's March for Life and several of the students themselves -- some of whom didn't behave well either -- had been identified and received death and bomb threats. Many tweets had flown around suggesting the students be punched or worse, only to be withdrawn or deleted when the new information began to come out.

Behar said that the rush to judgment came because so many of the people condemning the students were "desperate to get Trump out of office." She seems to have said it for a laugh line, but I think she revealed an important truth -- and weakness -- held by many people who oppose President Trump.

I'm no fan of the president. I didn't vote for him and I don't intend to vote for him in 2020. I think he is not of fit character to receive the salute of the lowliest buck private recruit in uniform. But I think he won the election in 2016 and so he's the President and will be until at least the morning of January 20, 2021.

Far too much of the energy that could go into opposing him, opposing his policies or attempting to negotiate deals with him is going into futile attempts to undo 2016. Rather than sitting back and let this unstable goofball self-destruct his way into a primary challenge from his own party, people do incredibly stupid stuff like run his press secretary out of restaurants, pretend that cursing him at awards shows was brave and take every frickin unsubstantiated negative story about him as God's own handwriting on Moses' memo pad. People who might consider voting against Trump if given a viable alternative see instead a 24-hour rage monster that offers no guarantees victory will turn it back into Bruce Banner.

Progressive folks seemed to have learned the worst lessons from the people who opposed President Obama during his terms. The birth certificate crap, his identity as a "secret Muslim (or atheist, take your pick)" and the like were issues raised by many people as reasons that the 2008 election was in some way illegitimate. Because of them, the election could or should be null and void -- leading to exactly what, nobody could say, because there wasn't that much thought going on in the process. Although those folks remained mostly fringe characters for much of Obama's first term, they had enough of a profile that some who might have supported Mitt Romney in 2012 were leery of putting them or anyone who might have thought like them anywhere near political power.

Currently, the problem is significantly more serious because the anger level seems so ramped up. But the end result could be exactly the same: Four more years of a hated president, in significant measure because people who opposed him were so "desperate to get (him) out of office" they believed any stupid thing that promised that possibility. And in the end they believed so many of them that they were never able to make a case that they could offer anything better to people who might have been interested in hearing it.

Monday, January 21, 2019


Today our nation honors the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the major forces in the civil rights movement during some of its toughest -- and in many ways most effective -- years.

Something that sometimes gets overlooked in reflecting on the struggle for civil rights was how segregation and racism disrupted so many basic human relationships. Extra drinking fountains so whites and blacks wouldn't mix. Separate areas for seating. Extra bathrooms in buildings. Refusal to serve a large chunk of the population and thus cutting off a significant source of revenue. I'd have never succeeded as a segregationist -- aside from recognizing it as evil, I'm way too lazy to go through all of that mess.

When you read about the civil rights movement, you see a variety of opinions. Some leaders wanted to focus solely on the political arena, and ensure African-Americans could exercise their right to vote and hold office. They thought that things like bus seats and lunch counters could come later. But the thing about doing business with people is that it doesn't take too long before whatever barriers custom and history put up get knocked down by plain ol' commerce.

And from there, it's barely a generation before community ties erode even the memory of the divided place of business: The diner founder refuses to serve black people. His son starts that way but new laws require him to serve everyone. And his son, if he thinks about segregation at all, shakes his head at how much money gramps let slip away by limiting himself to only part of the population.

P.J. O'Rourke, in an essay about the meaning of trade in American Consequences, references a 1958 pamphlet by an economist named Leonard Read, called I, Pencil - My Family Tree. It highlights how one of the simplest and most ubiquitous items on the planet is beyond the grasp of any one person to make from its most basic ingredients. Only through trade -- a formalized kind of cooperation involving money -- can pencils arrive in the hands of those who want them. Leaders like King saw that the more ties were forged across the barrier of skin tone, the more each race would understand it gained as a result. And commerce offered an abundance of opportunities for such cooperation.

Today voices on both sides of the melanin line talk more about separation and disunity than they do about a shared destiny and common ground. King's kind of voice is heard amid a lot of others, many much less irenic and unifying. It's cause for concern that we might lose some of the ground we gained as a nation through the efforts of civil rights leaders in the 1950s and 1960s. And we should keep an eye out for that kind of slippage.

In the end we might find ourselves saved by commerce and good ol' Adam Smith's invisible hand of self-interest. Because if bigotry resurfaces and someone somewhere decides they don't want to sell to someone of a particular race, they'll have a competitor who will be more than happy to do so -- whether from altruism or ugly naked greed. But sell they will. And they'll be the ones left in business.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Tip of the Cap

To Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles -- who founded a religious revival movement that continues to this day. Mrs. Wesley  passed on many of her ideas about theology and spiritual things to her children, including those two sons, and her words influenced their own thinking and teaching.

She would have been 350 today had she not passed in 1743 at the much more plausible age of 73.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Eternal King?

As guessed earlier this week, Sherman the shark and his friend Ernest have traveled back in time to keep a particular ancient animal from beginning the transition from sea to land. Unfortunately, they find that the animal is already demonstrating some human-specific characteristics; they may be too late!

Friday, January 18, 2019


Thanks to the efforts of the good folks at Mental Floss, you can learn a couple of neat things about that invaluable friend of English comp writers, the thesaurus.

The one that interested me the most was the knowledge that Peter Mark Roget, the man credited with the development of the modern English thesaurus (the best-known of which bears his name today) was also a medical doctor. His birthday of January 18 is observed as "Thesaurus Day."

And he invented the log-log slide rule, a specialized version of that old mathematical tool that displayed the logarithm of a logarithm and thus allowed the user to directly manipulate roots and exponents in calculations.

My doctor's pretty cool, but I don't see him branching out like that.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Wrong Way to the Right Place

Retired political reporters, I am sure, probably look at today's headlines and offer thanks to whatever deity, human agency or random chance in which they believe that they are in fact retired political reporters.

Because otherwise they would have to find a way to write about the two septuagenarian pre-schoolers at the center of a Washington, D.C. hissy-fit in such a way as to help keep us mindful of the authority of the positions involved. And said septuagenarian pre-schoolers make that anything but easy.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi withdrew the invitation to President Donald Trump to deliver the State of the Union address in Congress later this month. She cited the current partial shutdown of the federal government as the reason, saying that the shutdown would make it difficult for the Department of Homeland Security and Secret Service to do their jobs and properly protect all of the government figures in the building for the speech. I have no idea if she believes this herself, but if so she is the only one. Her more likely intent was to embarrass the president, which is a stupid thing to do for many reasons.

It's a move certainly beneath the dignity of the office of Speaker of the House, but the stupidity comes in thinking that anything could embarrass this president. Matt Murdock's Daredevil may be "the man without fear," but Donald Trump is the man without shame. Attempts to do so have never worked, and Representative Pelosi is not a smart woman if she thinks she can manage to shame a man who carried on with an adult film star while his wife was still opening baby shower gifts.

The president, for his part, proved that not only is it a bad idea to expect childish gestures to shame him, it's a bad idea to try, because childish tit-for-tat gestures are among his slender cabinet of talents. He withdrew permission for Pelosi and a group of congressional leaders to use military aircraft on a tour of Afghanistan and other countries in which the U.S. has troops stationed, suggesting they fly commercial instead.

It would be easy to say that this tantrum makes them both look bad, but neither has ever looked anything else so why should this back-and-forth be any different. The only positive development that may come from all of this is the very real possibility we will not have to endure a State of the Union speech this year. A memo was good enough for George Washington and it ought to be good enough for all of the significantly weaker successors modern times have inflicted on the office. I think there's a better than even chance that Speaker Pelosi will find a reason to withdraw the 2020 invitation as well, which could mean we would have two years without the meaningless spectacle of what is usually one of a President's worst televised speeches.

Unfortunately I think we will get only a temporary reprieve. If the Republicans regain the House of Representatives in 2020 or if the Democrats win the White House in 2020, then we'll see it resume.

Or rather, someone will see it resume. I haven't watched that speech in more than 20 years.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


One of the neat things about the dearth of listenable radio stations in most areas of our country today is the rise of the podcast. Tablet + podcast + cassette adapter = highway diversion when traveling two-plus hours to a meeting. The variety is immensely greater than even the most eclectic radio station menu, and the downloadable nature of the format means that a desired program can be listened to when convenient, rather than only when broadcast.

Book Lab is a podcast by Canadian science journalist Dan Falk and science writer Amanda Gefter that discusses what are usually called "popular science" books, as opposed to specialized textbooks. The popular books are meant to be read by a well-educated but non-specialist audience, and succeeding at that task requires a bit more dexterity than the creation of a teaching textbook. Falk and Gefter have a couple of award-winning popular science books between them, so they make a kind of natural fit for discussing similar offerings.

Format-wise, the show opens with a single book that both of the hosts have read and they work through it, explaining the subject matter, what the writer says about it and whether or not they think the project succeeds. Then each offers a shorter take on a book that's "on the nightstand," explaining it in briefer detail and answering questions from the other about the content and why they picked it.

Book Lab has a very NPR-show feel to it, right down to the jazzy piano music bumpers between segments and Falk's broadcast-professional presentation. Gefter is just as articulate and informative, but her tone is not quite as radio-ready as Falks. Although both have their own specialty areas of study and interest, they've covered many areas of science through the books they discuss. Both are engaging personalities and work well together, leaving a listener better informed not only about a few books but also the scientific discipline it covers. The only real complaint I have with Book Lab is the infrequency with which Gefter and Falk release shows; since their first episode in December 2014 they've only done 19. Which is probably savvy from their point of view, marketing-wise, because it never hurts to leave your listeners wanting more.
Quillette is an online magazine founded in 2015 by Australian writer Claire Lehmann. Its podcast focuses primarily on issues the magazine has covered, digging deeper through interviews with other writers and newsmakers they have covered.

Like the magazine, the Quillette podcast trends heavily into the heterodox and iconoclastic in both its subject matter and the way it's approached. Although heterodoxy in today's media world most often means a more conservative perspective, Quillette doesn't hesitate to publish or interview anyone, left or right, connected to the subject at hand. Meghan Murphy, a radical feminist blogger whose general politics would probably clash with Quillette's more libertarian leanings, wrote for the magazine and sat for an interview to discuss her removal from Twitter. Lehman and other members of the Quillette staff may disagree with Murphy on much, but they stand four-square behind free speech and believed Murphy's story and experiences offered a good handle for exploring the issue.

Unlike some other podcasts that cover interesting subjects from a libertarian or even right-leaning point of view, Quillette allows its interviewers far more time than just a quick 10-minute segment. Interviews last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, and primary interviewers Toby Young and Jonathan Kay do an excellent job exploring the topic of the hour through their conversations with their subjects.

Most of the actual reporting done under the Quillette banner goes into the magazine's stories. The podcast interviews can provide some significant contrast and background but they are not intended to be street-level reporting and writing. All told, Quillette is an excellent way to either deepen our knowledge of the world around us or gain some new perspectives on perhaps familiar topics. And so far, at least, writers and bloggers have diligently dug simply for information for a story, rather than treat their work as a tool with which to slam or embarrass one office-holder or another.

Those persons may certainly find themselves embarrassed now and again, but that's not the name of the game -- just a wonderful side-benefit..

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


Sherman the shark, in discussion with his friend Ernest, attempts to come up with contributions of value that can be attributed to human beings, or "beach apes." Ernest seems to believe there are none, but Sherman demurs and credits us with inventing Oreos.

The discussion is held in light of the discovery of a fossil that shows where life diverged to produce land animals and the aforementioned land-dwelling primates. Since Sherman's Lagoon creator Jim Toomey has been known to be looney, it's possible we'll see a time travel series in which lagoon denizens journey back in time to prevent the rise of human beings. So stay tuned; it may even turn out that we're good for more than snack cookies.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Climate Change

Humphrey Bogart died on this day in 1957, and although the world continued to turn as always, it was not quite as cool as before.

Sunday, January 13, 2019


Yeah, I'd climb a mountain, too, if it resulted in a view like this.

Good night, everybody,

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Space Visions

The paintings by Charles Bittinger, found at this link from National Geographic may seem kind of ordinary in their views and depictions of some of the planets of our solar system. After all, our recent marking of Apollo 8's 50th anniversary and the taking of the famed "Earthrise" photo give us a real actual view of the earth instead of the painting that Bittinger made.

But when you consider that Bittinger painted these scenes in 1939, before the invention of even jet airplanes, you can get a sense of how extraordinary they must have appeared to Geographic readers almost 80 years ago. Bittinger was frequently a painter of science-related material, creating a series of murals on the life of Benjamin Franklin in which each canvas actually held two paintings. One could be seen in regular light but the other only under ultraviolet light. Think how many bedrooms in the 1970s would have been different had the Led Zepplin posters that decorated their walls had images that only showed up in natural light. Bittinger also helped develop camoflauge paintings and patterns for U.S. Navy ships during World War I.

Fortunately, Bittinger lived long enough to see the beginnings of the space age and even the Apollo moon landings. Born in 1879, he was 90 years old when Neil Armstrong took his small step and he died in December 1970. Come to think of it, seeing a human being walk on the moon is something that someone born in 1979 can't lay claim to.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

This Just In: United Nations Still Worthless

Among the things the UN is supposed to try to do in the world is improve the status of folks on the underside of societies among its member nations. In several nations, that mandate applies to helping ensure better -- or often any -- basic human rights and freedoms for women.

A major group working towards this end is the Executive Board of UN Women, officially titled the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. And among the many things it does is create rankings that describe how well member states of the UN do when it comes to guaranteeing freedom and human rights for women and girls. Of the countries on one of its most recent lists, the nation of Yemen came in dead last -- 149th out of 149.

So naturally the Yemeni representative to the Executive Board of UN Women was just elected vice-president of a board he should not even be on, let alone given authority over. Which means that if 2019 sees any advances in the status of women in the world, it'll almost certainly be in spite of the United Nations and not because of it. On the other hand, the panel will probably issue frequent denunciations of Israel.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Test Pattern

Busy church day and lots of useless time in meetings and training tomorrow. See you then.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Worst of Times, Best of Times?

Quite a few people bid adieu to 2018 with relish, rejecting it as a really bad year because of all of the bad news it produced. But, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof points out, there were a lot of reasons to think of 2018 as the best year in human history.

Kristof notes that rates of extreme poverty and things like child death were the lowest they have ever been -- and not just in developed countries: Around the whole world! As recently as the early 1980s, more than 40 percent of the people of the world lived in extreme poverty, making less than $2 per person per day. Adjusted for inflation, the figure in 2018: Ten percent.

This post at Threedonia shows some other statistics in the illustration and also references the Kristof article. The author notes that several of the things that combined to make 2018 a great year are parts of trends rather than one-off events, meaning that 2019 has a good shot at being even better. We might figure we've got reasons to gripe, considering that the majority of our elected leadership labors mightily to prove that brains, decent character and common sense are not job requirements. But when we think of the children who live to be 5 today who wouldn't have as few as 20 years ago, we might offer at least a grudging admission that for some folks, being born now is not the worst thing in the world.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Alive and Kickin'

It's sometimes thought that the modern era of anticorruption efforts and good-government laws have put the old-fashioned big-city political machines out of business.

DePaul University freshman David Krupa learned otherwise after he collected enough signatures on a filing petition to run for alderman in Chicago's 13th Ward, which includes DePaul, against incumbent Marty Quinn.

Quinn is closely tied to Mike Madigan, the speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and a very powerful figure in Chicago and Illinois Democratic politics. For some unaccountable reason, he viewed the quixotic campaign by a college freshman as the kind of threat that needed to be squashed before it got too far. So organizations friendly to him submitted petitions that people signed which said they had either not intended to sign Krupa's petition or that the person collecting the signatures had tricked them into signing something they would not have signed. Such a "I did what?" petition is a part of Chicago law, so that action wasn't shady.

But the wrinkle comes in when you look at the numbers. Krupa's petition required a minimum of 473 valid signatures in order to get him on the ballot. His effort collected just more than 1,700, more than enough. Quinn's counter-petition, though, collected almost 2,800 signatures of people who said their signatures were obtained through deceptive means -- meaning that a thousand more people said they were tricked than even signed the original Krupa petitions. When the two lists were compared, only 187 names on the Quinn "Oh, no you don't" petition were from people who actually signed Krupa's petition.

The party machine is alive and having a ball in Chicago, even if sometimes it can do some really stupid things. From wherever he resides in the afterlife, Da Honrable Richard J. Daley, Mare a da Great City a Chicago an All Its Great People, was heard to comment, "Ward bosses ain't what they use ta be."

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Putting the "Super" In

Writing at CBR, one G. Kendall offers a sketch of the development of Superman: The Animated Series, which ran in between Warner Bros. groundbreaking Batman animated show and the monumental two versions of the Justice League series.

Even though series creators didn't have to overcome the legacy of something like the Adam West Batman TV show, they still had some work making the Metropolis Marvel more grounded in order to appeal to a 1990s audience (the show ran from 1996 to 2000). A big chunk of Supes' Silver Age adventures were plenty silly even without any Biff! Pow! television episodes. The Christopher Reeve version of the character had two good outings but derailed in its third and fourth movies -- and it relied some on the cornier aspects of the character in conflict with the hip 1970s.

Fortunately the creative team of Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and Alan Burnett found a formula that made for a show with its own identity and aesthetic. While Tim Daly didn't became as iconic a Man of Steel as Kevin Conroy did for Batman, the Clancy Brown Lex Luthor and Dana Delany Lois Lane set some standards that a lot of live-action portrayals have yet to meet. Michael Ironside's Darkseid also overshadows a lot of other portrayals of that character.

Anyway, Kendall's article was a nice reminder of the show, for which I have a soft spot by virtue of my own first career as a somewhat mild-mannered reporter. Oh, and Dana Delany.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Webster's Wrequired

Anyone care for an over-under on how many people talk about President Trump's impeachment without understanding that impeaching him won't remove him from office? My guess is a substantial plurality, but still under 50 percent.

The fun thing will be watching them once they have bucked the Democratic party leadership to ram articles of impeachment through the House only to see the Senate not vote to convict on them and the President remain in office as though nothing had happened. I would think that real live members of Congress would be among those who understand the actual results of the process, although some of them are dumb enough to need frequent reminders.

To be honest, I would prefer a White House without President Trump, but the time to have taken care of that was during the Republican party primaries. Unless Robert Mueller's investigation has something astounding and his staff has achieved a level of anti-leak discipline unprecedented since the idea of bureaucracy was invented, then there will be no two-thirds vote to remove the President and exchange him for a President Pence. If it looked like things were headed that way, the canny Trump would no doubt resign so that Pence could pardon him anyway.

Of course there would be folks who would insist that Pence, coming into office through the same tainted election that brought in Trump, should also be removed from office. But the will to go through the entire impeachment and conviction process a second time? Not strong, especially when the congressional term reproductive instinct would kick in, demanding representatives present themselves to donors and other buyers for fertilization for new terms in office.

The only thing that would make that funnier would be if someone else beat the loudest impeachment voices in the subsequent elections, dinging them for being do-nothing representatives who didn't accomplish anything.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Remarking the Unremarkable?

Otherwise undistinguished, January 4, 2019 does have the singular feature of marking 82 days until the opening day of 2019. So it's got that going for it.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Cool Views

As often happens, the change of the year brings collections and contests. Some of the photos at My Modern Met's "Best of" for 2018 are spectacular because of what they show and some are spectacular because of the way they were put together. Some of them are static images, and some of them are their own self-contained narratives.

Like the one where the lioness is holding a camera in her mouth. I bet that one's a pretty darn good story indeed.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Big Ol' Honking Red Light

When a fellow in Oregon spent three years examining the state's automatic traffic cameras to see if they were properly timed -- and found out they weren't -- and then told the Oregon Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying about his discovery, they did what any self-respecting state agency would do: They fined him $500.

See, Mats Järlström had said he was an engineer, but the state of Oregon said it got to say who could call themselves an engineer and who couldn't. And those who could call themselves engineers were people who had registered with the Oregon Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying (and paid the requisite fees, of course). Järlström holds a bachelor of science in engineering from a university in his native Sweden, and has been bugging the state of Oregon since 2013 about the timing of its yellow lights, saying they were too short when drivers had to slow to make right turns. He made the same claim at different national conferences and on local and national media.

The state of Oregon said Järlström had been misrepresenting himself as a Oregon-registered professional engineer when he wasn't. Järlström countered that he had never said he was an Oregon-registered engineer, just an engineer, and he had the right to do that given his education and expertise.

Late in 2017, the state conceded it couldn't restrict people who weren't identifying themselves as Oregon-registered professionals, since they were engaged in the decidedly non-specialist activity of telling the truth about themselves. They refunded his fine and said that as long as Järlström wasn't attempting to represent himself as a professional engineer or make money off that status they would leave him alone. He and his lawyer said, essentially, "That's cute," and pressed to have the state's power to define and fine in cases like his actually removed instead of just relying on the state pinky-swearing it wouldn't do it again.

Last week, a federal judge agreed, and said that Järlström can call himself an engineer as long as he doesn't try to represent himself as an Oregon-registered professional engineer or try to make money off of it, and the state can't tell him no. She cited an obscure statute adopted by the federal government waaaay back in 1791. The state of Oregon, in a rare moment of awareness, had seen the writing on the wall and revised its regulations.

By an Oregon-certified Professional Regulation Reviser, of course. Wouldn't want to just let any speaker of the English language do it; might be someone who could read and understand them without paying someone to interpret.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019


Although today's reprint has Calvin and Hobbes discussing their apparently peril-fraught sledding journey. it struck me that it might hold some significance as a way of reflecting on the past year as well:
Or, upon reflection, any year. Happy 2019.