Wednesday, August 29, 2012


On this day in 1833, the United Kingdom abolished slavery within the empire.

Van Helsing

I attempted to watch Van Helsing tonight, but...the acting, it burns!

New Books

The Scramble for Africa
Victorian Colonial Warfare: India
Victorian Colonial Warfare: Africa

The India one is primarily a sourcebook, with quotes from articles and people around the time of the Sikh wars through the Mutiny. The Africa one tells of the campaigns against the Abyssinians, Ashanti, Basuto, the Boers, Kaffirs, Matabele, Zulu, and small actions in other parts of Africa. It doesn't cover Egypt and the Sudan, because those are enough to warrant their own book.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cowboys and Aliens

This was a movie with a reasonable story, and two stars who know how to act, and yet it flopped. There were some logic problems with it--for instance, how come only the one alien had a gun?--but nothing insurmountable. So why did it fail?
One fail factor was from the science fiction aspect. There was no opportunity to figure out and use the alien technology. There was no taking the fight to the aliens, other than that one ship; nothing would prevent the aliens from sending another ship. There was no epic moment when we felt the universe was much bigger than we knew. There were aliens, yes, but they were just after gold, and some shooting and some dynamite could fix that. There was no "wow" moment.
A second fail factor, and probably a more important one, was that, at the start of the film, nobody was especially likable. Jake had no sense of humor and didn't know who he was. Dolarhyde was a cold blooded cattle baron who didn't mind torturing people. Ella was a mystery woman with ulterior motives who never explained herself. Yes, we found out more about them as the film went on, but by that time you've spent two thirds of the movie with nobody to really like.

Adrian Carton de Wiart

I was looking through a list of notable Victorian generals, which mentioned the usual--John Nicholson, Garnet Wolseley, James Hope Grant, etc--plus one I'd never heard of before: Lieutenant General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart, VC. Fought in the Boer War and both World Wars; wounded seven times, survived a plane crash, tunneled out of a POW camp, and so forth and so on.

In his memoirs he wrote, "Governments may think and say as they like, but force cannot be eliminated, and it is the only real and unanswerable power. We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Nothing is withheld

Someone reading this blog post from Joel Runyon would probably say that Joel met Russell Kirsch, computer pioneer. In fact, notice that it was Kirsch who initiated things.

As they discussed some of Kirsch's achievements, they had this conversation:
Kirsch: Nothing is withheld from us what we have conceived to do.
Runyon: That's good--who said that?
Kirsch: God did.
Runyon: What?
Kirsch: God said it, and there were only two people who believed it. You know who?
Runyon: Nope, who?
Kirsch: God, and me. So I went out and did it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


"When you said all you wanted for your birthday was for me to give you a card, I didn't know you meant my credit card."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

World Sky Race

Don Hartsell of Texas is putting together a series of 18 airship races which will, if all goes according to plan, start in London, go around the world, and end in Paris. The proposed routes will take them over the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, the Statue of Liberty and over 120 other World Heritage sites.

Hartsell, 53, said "I started this out with, 'OK, you're at a point in your life where either you can retire or you can do something worthwhile.' I went, 'Are you still crazy?'"

Bleu Burgers

  • 6.78 pounds of 85% lean ground beast
  • The rest of the Montreal Steak Spice. Whatever was in the container. What, you want me to scrape it off the hamburger and measure it? Call it 5.612 tablespoons. Roughly.
  • Worcestershire sauce. More than that. A bit more. WHOA!
  • Three capfuls of hickory smoke seasoning, more or less depending on what size cap you wear.
  • Mince some onion. Use half of it. Find something else to do with the rest.
  • A thing of bleu cheese. Two things might be better.
Form into many patties. Refrigerate overnight unless you want to make the patties right before the party, with people coming in while you've got grease on your hands.

Cook on a hot grill, in summer, on a deck overlooking the river, with no mosquitoes, for approximately 15 minutes, flipping (the patties, not the grill) after about 8 minutes.

Serve on a toasted kaiser, because that's how we roll.

Feeds twelve people, plus a couple of samples for QA testing the night before, and maybe six or seven left over, but I'm not sure how many had seconds or whether some people just ate the shrimp and didn't get a burger, in which case they missed out and I will quite cheerfully eat the burger they would have had if they'd've had sense.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lynnhaven River

Glass smooth water, trails of ripples from fish skimming along under the surface. Small silver fish jumping, tails buzzing like cicada wings.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Grey hair

Got a haircut today, and Victoria said "Oh, I'm sorry, I see a grey hair there." I said "Finally!", which is, I think, not the answer she was expecting.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Moon Maze Game

There will be spoilers below.
I read and enjoyed Dream Park and its sequels Barsoom Project and California Voodoo Game, back when they came out years. Last week I saw Moon Maze Game in the library and picked it up, expecting it would be just as good, or at least nearly as good.
It wasn't.
The premise is that there's a colony on the Moon, and Cowles Industries has arranged the first Dream Park type game to be played on Luna. As usual, shenanigans outside the game--in this case, the politics of an African country, with princes and terrorists--intrude into the game, and the gamer players have to cope with that while also getting through the game and interacting with the other gamers. Except...they don't. They do have to get through the gaming area while terrorists are searching for them; in a few cases they have to interact with the scenario to get a door to open; but generally speaking the power is off, the gamemaster can't do anything except watch, and most of the magic is dead. Which kills the main point of it being a "Dream Park" novel. It is merely a "bad guys hunt good guys" with a little HG Wells window dressing.
The characters are not nearly as interesting as they were in the other three books, and specifically they are not witty, charismatic, or brilliant. Granted, there are plenty of gamers who are lacking, but these people are supposed to be top notch, world class, invited to an historic occasion. No way.
My immediate reaction on finishing the book was "...they phoned it in..." I can't recommend reading it and I certainly don't advise spending money on it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Back to the mountains

Mom is getting ready to go to Africa, so we gathered some of the stuff they need in Zambia and drove up to the farm to deliver to her. Dinner was waiting when we got there, roast beef, mashed potatoes. butterscotch pie, yum.
On Saturday, while Mom and Diana went into town, I took the Mutt down into the meadow where the two creeks join. The grass is nearly four feet high there, with Queen Anne's lace and black-eyed Susan and thistles and such. It took a fair amount of effort to walk through it, and the Mutt went bounding through it as if it were deep snow. At the bend in the creek, where the rocks and trees hang over it and high water has left a tiny stone beach, I moved some rocks around to see what that did to the water flow. Zoe plunked herself down in midstream as casually as if she was laying on carpet and hadn't noticed the water. On the way back to the house, I gathered some slate stones to line our flowerbeds.
In the evening I talked with Mom a little, and engaged in chemical warfare on some wasps. The Olympics are on, so I watched a few minutes of TV--this probably doubled my total tube time for the year.
Sunday was church at First Baptist, lunch with Elizabeth, David and Jack (Julia having just flown to Barcelona), and then drive home.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


A few years ago, it would never have occurred to me that some day Josh would have references including UN economist, a congressman, and a state official. I'm still a little stunned by the realization.


On this day in 1932, Carl David Anderson discovered the positron. I had no idea people were fooling around with antimatter in 1932.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Economics of Love

According to the National Review, anyway.
Friedman’s libertarianism was based on an economics of love: for real human beings leading real human lives with real human needs and real human challenges. He loved freedom not only because it allowed IBM to pursue maximum profit but because it allowed for human flourishing at all levels. Economic growth is important to everybody, but it is most important to the poor. While Friedman’s contributions to academic economics are well appreciated and his opposition to government shenanigans is celebrated, what is seldom remarked upon is that the constant and eternal theme of his popular work was helping the poor and the marginalized.