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Saturday, December 28, 2002

a flash on the moon ... half a megaton, no biggy

From an article in (via Voyage to Arcturus):
...In 1956, an amateur astronomer -- Leon H. Stuart -- reported in the Strolling Astronomer, that he had observed and photographed a flash a few years earlier on the Moon. This event is the only unambiguous record of the crash of an asteroid-sized body onto the lunar surface.

Now, decades later, a study of lunar images snapped by the Clementine spacecraft as it orbited the Moon in 1994 has uncovered a candidate crater formed by the impact.

Eagle-eye scientists, Bonnie Buratti of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Lane Johnson of Pomona College in Claremont, California have locating a near mile across (1.5-kilometer) feature with a fresh-appearing ejecta blanket at the location of the flash. Spectral analysis of the crater, they report, reveals it to be bluer and fresher than other young craters...

...Buratti and Johnson estimate that the energy of the impact event was about 0.5 megatons, resulting in the newly found feature. The radius of the impacting body was over 65-feet (20 meters). Such an event occurs every 10-50 years, they report...
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book recommendation ...

In 1966, two teenage boys, Kern (17) and Rinker (15) Buck, spent a winter restoring an old Piper Cub, and then flew it across the country. Rink has now written an utterly delightful book, Flight of Passage. It's full of the joys of flying, and working on airplanes, (including the pleasures of intoxication from the dozens of coats of Butyrate dope applied to the fabric-covered plane.)
... After twenty minutes or so we didn't have to beg Kern for a fix. He had started his long, rhythmic sweeps down the fuselage and wings with his spray gun.

Sand and dope, sand and dope, go, go, go. The barn filled with dope fumes. Even on a hot night, we never opened the windows. We had the old Texan radio on loud all the time, and there were some great sanding and doping tunes on WABC then. "Good Vibrations" and "Wooly Bully," "Help Me Rhonda," "You've Lost That Loving Feeling," and "Hanky Panky." Macky [their sister] and I laughed all night and forgot what we said to each other and sanded the same wing twice, shaking our asses in unison through a wing section and a song...
The boys have lots of difficulty (and pleasure) dealing with their father, an eccentric, out-sized character and a former barn-storming pilot.
And the trip itself is a delight to experience
...The funeral director dropped us off at a cavernous, countrystyle cafe built underneath the bleachers of a horse track in Blytheville, which overflowed with a Sunday afternoon crowd. We were amazed at the gaudy hairdos and extravagant makeup of the waitresses, and how much fried chicken you could buy for a dollar in Arkansas. I couldn't believe how they piled up the plates—people in Arkansas seemed to be world-class eaters. In addition to wonderfully flaky but moist Southern-fried chicken, we got collard greens cooked in ham bones, corn, okra, all kinds of jellies and sauccs, mashed potatoes and noodles with gravy, homemade bread and pecan pie for desert.

The waitresses kept coming by and refilling our iced tea glasses, whether we asked for it or not. And you couldn't refuse either.

"Mo? Sure, honey."

When they heard our accents, everyone in the cafe wantcd to know where we were from.

"Nu Jursa! Whoa, Nu Jursa! Hey evry'baddy, dese boys 'ere es all de way from Nu Jursa!"

And the damn Kennedy thing. Arkansas was bonkers over the Kennedys. Everybody in the restaurant was just awed by this, our likeness to the Ken'dee brothers. They kept scratching their heads, looking at us, then hee-hawing with laughter about it. "Fer sur," these boys from Nu Jursa were the spit'n image of Jack and little Bobby.

It was the funniest "thang," one of the waitresses said.

"Evra dern Yanka I meet looks jes like them Ken'dees. I mean, dis one har, with dem big eyes? Gawd, ain't he JFK? And you! Look at you with dat pur-fek kirly 'air. Ya're Bobby! Jes a reglar little Bobby-socks, fer sur."

Kern enjoyed all the attention and broke out into smiles and blushed every time someone told him he looked like old Jack, which just made him look more like Jack...

Friday, December 27, 2002

P. Krugman
#68: Bad News is Good News

We previously commented on the sad spectacle of Democrats running to the microphones to celebrate the slightest bit of bad economic news in the belief, apparently, that it's good political news for them. However, in Lumps of Coal (12/27/02) Paul Krugman outdoes them all with a compilation of dismal developments designed to make even biggest of optimists cringe. This is Pessimistic-Paul at his best (or worst). The only problem is that he has little new to say. It's basically another column on the cheap using pessimistic material from previous columns. He even has the audacity to conclude by saying he hope's he's wrong. Yeah, right!

However, what's important in this column is what's missing. Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley, Krugman's soulmate and fellow "voice from the wilderness" is not mentioned. Roach you may recall has been our nation's foremost prognosticator of Japanese-style deflation occurring here. He even went to Japan a few months ago to study the phenomenon up close and personal. Krugman has cited his "bravery" several times in the course of 2002.

The reason he is not mentioned by Krugman now (and probably will never be mentioned again) is that a strange thing happened in mid-December. Roach threw in the towel! He declared that monetary policy was working and called off his deflation prediction. For those of us who have been following the Roach reports this was the biggest news in six to nine months.

Should be worth a Krugman footnote, wouldn't you think?

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. You can find Paul Krugman's writings, including the latest columns, here]

Thursday, December 26, 2002

It's raining ...

Never forget who brings the rain
In swarthy goatskin bags from a far sea:
It is the moon as she turns, repairing
Damages of long drought and sunstroke.
Never count upon rain, never foretell it,
For no power can bring rain
Except the Moon as she turns; and who can rule her?...

...But if one night she brings us, as she turns,
Soft, steady, even, copious rain
That harms no leaf nor flower, but gently falls
Hour after hour, sinking to the tap roots,
And the sodden earth exhales at dawn
A long sigh scented with pure gratitude,
Such rain -- the first rain of our lives, it seems,
Neither foretold, cajoled, nor counted on --
Is woman giving as she loves.
--Robert Graves
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I've noticed this myself ...

From "Cinderella Bloggerfeller"
... According to Dienstag's First Law of Idiotarianism, all wars must resemble Vietnam and all empires must resemble Rome. It is only thus that we are able to extract lessons from history and find within its pages a Moral For Our Time. Haven't we learnt anything from the Roman experience in Vietnam? Who can forgot those moving war films Born on the Ides of March, Cohort, Full Metal Breastplate and Acropolis Now (*) ? You see, America really is like Rome during its waning years:
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signs of health ...

From Pete DuPont's roundup of the best and worst of 2002:
...The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel reports Census Bureau data concluding that "more people in this country went to watch truck and tractor pulls at least once a month than went to watch tennis matches," and "in 1999, the average American consumed more than 117 pounds of red meat, nearly 30 pounds of cheese, and 31.9 gallons of beer." I guess I have some catching up to do in 2003, but what a country.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

another great Anglosphere column

From Jim Bennett, Anglosphere: The right decentralism...
... Genuine decentralism, or in the American context, genuine federalism, is not the defense of petty tyrannies against wider ones. It is the defense of civil society on all levels, of the state against the Federal, the community against the state, the group against the community, and the individual against the group. There are a variety of tools that may be used in this, and sometimes the power of the wider entity must be used to balance a smaller tyranny. Like many useful tools, such power must be used only with great caution, but sometimes it must be used never the less. The Constitution and Bill of Rights were written to provide such uses, and such cautions.

Federalism and decentralism are central to the political problems of the coming decades. One of the strengths of the Anglosphere right is that it is coming to a better understanding of these issues than what is labeled "the right" elsewhere, which is often still enamored of centralism. And everywhere throughout the Anglosphere the right's opponents seek to paint them as narrow racists. ..
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

lower than pond-scum...

I just LOVED this, the tale of how the Women in Green heckled Jane Fonda, who was doing the important Hollywood-work of giving support to dictators.
... I couldn't believe it! After telling CNN we weren't demonstrating, we were now about to come face to face with Jane Fonda. It was simply too much. It was almost unbelievable.

The Israeli media gathered in front of the restaurant, I soon learn, know nothing of Jane Fonda's 1960s activities. They simply view her as a visiting American celeb.

Our first instinct was to find a different restaurant and ignore Fonda. But here she falls right into our lap! The three of us decide we just have to heckle this "humanitarian." The world needs to know what many here think of Fonda and her global "visits." Particularly this one, where she yet once again is bonding with an enemy; this time, Arabs who butcher Jews daily.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Then Fonda and her entourage reach us --- and we turn around and begin our heckling:

"Hanoi Jane! Hanoi Jane! You are an American traitor! How many Americans were killed because of you? You are an American traitor and you came to Israel as a guest of Peace Now, Israeli traitors- You constantly identify with the enemies of the Western world. Once it was in Vietnam where you identified with those who murder Americans and now you came to identify with those Arabs who murder Jews. GO HOME! Shame on you! Shame!" ...
Thank you, Women in Green. Couldn't have said it better myself. And there are few slime-creatures in the world who deserve it more...

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Amazing software that can read your mind...

For your holiday enjoyment, go here, and click on the 'welcome' where it says: 'Letar du efter den magiska grottat "Cave of Magic"'
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Merry Christmas

I won't bore you with the details of our holiday, except for one. You know the image from a print by Kawase Hasui that usually sits at the top of this blog? (back soon.) Well, to my complete astonishment, a copy of the actual wood-block print was under the Christmas tree! Thank you, Charlene...

What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol, for to sing
The birth of this, our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!
Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honor to this day,
That sees December turned to May...
--Robert Herrick

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way,
Church-bels beyond the starres heard,
The soul's blood,
The land of spices; something understood
--George Herbert

Monday, December 23, 2002

word note...

(I posted this as a comment in Brink Lindsay's Blog. He had expressed disappointment upon discovering that the Wright Brothers had in fact flown not at Kitty Hawk, but at nearby Kill Devil Hill)

Names are part of the poetry of history. It's worth a bit of historical inaccuracy to get a name that rings in the mind.

What if the Battle of Waterloo had been called the Battle of Hougemont? Or Shiloh called The Battle of Pittsburg Landing? Ugh. Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed's Hill, but which is the better name?

Kitty Hawk is a splendid name, so it was the correct one to use. Nothing's really lost, because anyone who is interested in the subject soon learns about Kill Devil Hill.

(And since I'm on the subject of battle-names, the American defeat at Kasserine Pass in Tunisia should really have been called Sidi Bou Zid. Thank goodness somebody wasn't pedantic.)
And I didn't mean that the names Waterloo or Shiloh were inaccurate. But the names were chosen from several possibilities, and probably because they were noble-sounding. For the happy few who still love history, hearing the word Shiloh immediately fills the mind with profound reflections; of bloodshed on a scale until then unknown, of courage and sacrifice, of the greatness of Ulysses Grant, and of a frontier faith that named a log-cabin church in the woods after a village in Palestine. And to think that it could just as easily been called The Battle of Owl Creek.
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wars of freedom

I hadn't intended to write about war right now, but I keep thinking that it was just about this time of year that Epaminondas persuaded the Thebans to march against Sparta. That was one of the best and most surprising events in history.

Surprising first because in the ancient Mediterranean world, citizen-armies never fought in winter. Ships were laid-up, and men stayed home by the fire.

Surprising because the Theban Confederacy, comprising most of Boeotia (bee OH shuh) had just become a democracy, the last flowering of democracy in Greece before the Macedonian conquest. And in some ways the best, because Boeotia was conservative and rural, and avoided the corrosive radicalism of other Greek democracies, with their masses of urban poor.

And surprising most of all, because Sparta was then the pre-eminent land-power of Greece, and all Greek states tried their best to avoid fighting her invincible army.

Surprising also because this Theban army was the last flowering of the almost extinct Hoplite Phalanx, the armies of free Greek citizens who, in heavy bronze armor, would decide a war in an single brutal clash, and then return to their farms. Thebes had long been ruled by a small aristocracy, upheld and bullied by Sparta. The coming of democracy made all Theban citizens eligible to fight as Hoplites, and they now formed a mighty force that was able to challenge Sparta for the first time. Sparta was eager to crush this new threat, and several battles were fought, culminating in a heavy Spartan defeat at Leuctra, in 371 BC.

The Thebans might have thought this sufficient, but a remarkable man, Epaminondas, one of the Theban generals, (and a Pythagorian philosopher) dreamed of ending the Spartan threat forever. Spartan power rested on the ability of all her citizens to be full-time soldiers, devoting their whole lives to military training. This was possible because they had long-before conquered the large neighboring province of Messenia, and reduced its people to near-slaves, the Helots, held down by brutal totalitarian tactics, including a ruthless secret police.

If Messenia could be freed, the basis of Spartan power would be destroyed. This is what Epaminondas persuaded the Thebans to undertake. And it was the rise of democracy and freedom in Thebes that gave the Thebans the upsurge of energy and courage to accomplish what no one had dreamed of before. They were fighting for practical reasons, to destroy a threat and to have revenge for past wrongs. But they were also fighting to free the most wretched and oppressed people in Greece.

When the Thebans marched into Laconia, the Spartans did not dare to come out and fight them in the open-- in itself a momentous change and a huge psychological victory. From there they marched west into Messenia, and with the Messenians, built, with astonishing speed, a new walled city and fortress, Messene, and endowed it with the plunder of the campaign. From this stronghold the Messenians could defy Spartan power.

Walls of Messene
We might keep that long-ago war of liberation in mind, as we face the likelihood of our own coming campaigns to destroy our enemies and free the oppressed. The similarities are many. Such as the sophisticated and nuanced types who loathed the whole enterprise and would have opposed it if they had had the military strength. Back then it was the Athenians, who held the rustic Thebans in contempt. Beoetian was used as a sneer, as we might say bumpkin ... or cowboy.

Then and now, it's the Beoetians who treasure liberty, and who do the dangerous and dirty work needed to preserve it. (and it's the clever Athenian/lefty types who write the books, which is why we don't hear often of Epaminondas as one of the greatest of the Greeks)
The book you want to read is The Soul of Battle, by Victor Hanson.

ruins of the walls of Messene

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Three-winged and gold-shod prophecies of Heaven ...

This is also from Little, Big ... Actually, this harvest feast should have been posted at Thanksgiving, but I forgot. Smoky's toast is from a poem by Hart Crane.
They set out a lot of sleepy, sea-dark wine that Walter Ocean made every year and decanted the next, his tribute; in it, toasts were made over the glistening bodies of the birds and the bowls of autumn harvest. Rudy rose, his stomach advancing somewhat over the table's edge, and said:
"Bless the master of this house
The mistress bless also
And all the little children
That round the table go."
Which that year included his own grandson Robin, and Sonny Noon's new twins, and Smoky's daughter Tacey.

Mother said, glass aloft:
"I wish you shelter from the storm
A fireplace, to keep you warm
But most of all, when snowflakes fall
I wish you love."
Smoky began one in Latin, but Daily Alice and Sophie groaned, so he stopped, and began again:
"A goose, tobacco and cologne:
Three-winged and gold-shod prophecies of Heaven
The lavish heart shall always have, to leaven,
To spread with bells and voices, and atone
The abating shadows of our conscript dust."
" 'Abating shadows' is good," said Doc. "And 'conscript dust'."

"Didn't know you were a smoker though," Rudy said.

"And I didn't know, Rudy," Smoky said expansively, inhaling Rudy's Old Spice, "you were a lavish heart. " He helped himself to the decanter.

"I'll say one I learned as a kid," said Hannah Noon, "and then let's get down to it:
"Father Son and Holy Ghost
You eat the fastest, you get the most."
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

beneath a decillion stars...

From Little, Big, by John Crowley,
When he received these communications, Santa drew the claws of his spectacles from behind his ears and pressed the sore place on the bridge of his nose with thumb and finger. What was it they expected him to do with these? A shotgun, a bear, snowshoes, some pretty things and some useful: well, all right. But for the rest of it . . . He just didn't know what people were thinking anymore. But it was growing late; if they, or anyone else, were disappointed in him tomorrow, it wouldn't be the first time. He took his furred hat from its peg and drew on his gloves. He went out, already unaccountably weary though the journey had not even begun, into the multicolored arctic waste beneath a decillion stars, whose near brilliance seemed to chime, even as the harness of his reindeer chimed when they raised their shaggy heads at his approach, and as the eternal snow chimed too when he trod it with his booted feet.