Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense

July, 2009:

The sky finally clears!

Celestron AstroMaster114 Last night was the first time I got to use my new telescope that I got from Telescopes.com. It was delivered on July 17th and, with one exception, the sky has been cloudy every… single… night! Finally, last night, there were enough clear spots that I could get a nice view of the moon and the detail. The view, even without a filter, was terrific. Megan was pretty excited about it, too (Lori took a look and said she saw footprints. Ha!).

The moon was probably only about one-third full, but there were lots of craters visible with great resolution. I used a 20mm eyepiece to position everything (about 50x magnification) and then switched to a 10mm eyepiece (100x) to get more detail. I almost expected to see the LRO cruising around the moon!

I’ll be taking a drive with the telescope to a much darker location with less light pollution soon, so I’m hoping to get an even better moon view and some great views of a planet or two… if I can find them. I’m still not fluent with the whole astronomical coordinate language yet, so that’s going to be tough for awhile.

I’m really looking forward to a clearer night with a fuller moon.

Palin’s popularity is declining

Sarah Palin According to an MSNBC article, Sarah Palin’s "favorability" is dropping a bit as she prepares to leave her position as governor of Alaska. A Washington Post-ABC poll showed that 53% of Americans view her negatively, while only 40% see her in a positive light, which is her lowest positive rating since she was first chosen to be John McCain’s running mate (and became a subject of polls such as this).

Not surprisingly, Republicans still hold her in high regard… as many as 70% view her favorably and rank her among the top three contenders for a presidential candidacy in 2012. White evangelical protestants are her most avid supporters, but even their view of her hasn’t remained untarnished.

Here’s a quote from the article summarizing the poll (emphasis mine).

As Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin prepares for the next stage of her political career, a majority of Americans hold an unfavorable view of her, and there is broad public doubt about her leadership skills and understanding of complex issues […]

I had to pause when reading that because, as usual, I’m constantly amazed that anyone ever thought she did have an understanding of complex issues… or that they thought she did have leadership skills suitable for a vice presidency.

In the 2008 election, I had been wavering between Obama and McCain. I was leaning toward McCain because he seemed like he was going to maintain fiscal conservatism without going all theological on the country the way Bush had done. I was leaning away from Obama because of typical "Democrat" things like union support, crazy spending, and bigger government.

Then McCain picked Palin (or was directed to pick her… I don’t know) and after I learned about her and heard her speak, my decision was made. Palin was not (and still is not) vice presidential material, much less presidential material, and she repeatedly showed it every time she took the microphone or granted an interview. The media wasn’t hard on her. They tossed softballs. Katie Couric wasn’t even hard on her, but Palin came across looking like a uneducated bible thumper in nice clothes. She couldn’t answer simple questions. She got defensive when Couric pressed her for an answer to a reasonable question about what news sources she reads. She conveyed what I consider to be some reprehensible moral positions.

I was disappointed because, even though I had (mostly) liked McCain, I couldn’t support him as president after making a choice like Palin for his vice president. So I was stuck with Obama, who I admired for some things, but who didn’t quite represent what I wanted. I liked (and still do) his international stance, his speaking ability, his education, some of his ideas… but I didn’t like some fiscal positions and union support.

Palin was a deal-breaker because she was clearly unqualified on multiple fronts… yet Republicans and evangelicals just loved her to death. Maybe it’s just a religious thing… a carryover from Bush’s eight years of mobilizing and empowering the religious right to commandeer the Republican party. Maybe it all has to do with Palin making claims of God-inspired wars and praying that the country is following God’s plan. Maybe they liked her because, not only was she overtly religious, invoking God and faith on a regular basis, but she also winked at them and said, "You betcha!"

It certainly can’t be her professional qualifications.

This doesn’t surprise me

President Barack Obama According to a new Pew Research Survey of twenty-five countries, the image of the United States has improved dramatically since President Obama took office. In many cases, favorable views have reached or exceeded their levels from the year 2000.

Not that there was really anywhere to go but up. International approval of the United States had made huge drops during the Bush administration, no doubt in large part due to his bull-headed, aggressive statements, his antagonistic superior attitude paired with seeming ignorance, and his perceived warmongering. Add that to his religious fervor, declaring the war on terrorism to be a "crusade" and claiming his actions were due to God’s instructions, and you’ve got a recipe for international derision.

Quotes such as…

God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East.

…and…

I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe — I believe what I believe is right.

…and…

We’re now interested in finding those who may attack America and arrest them before they do. We’ve had over nearly a thousand people have been detained in America and questioned about their motives and their intentions.

…don’t foster confidence or benevolent feelings or pride in rational people.

Obama’s gentler tone and apparent willingness to speak to other countries without a self-aggrandizing air of superiority creates a much better atmosphere for productive conversations and beneficial outcomes. Rather than pronouncing that "We are America and what we say goes," he says, "Let’s talk about it and see what we can come up with together."

It’s refreshing, smart, and despite what the right-wingers say, it’s going to make this country a lot safer.

Evian Roller Babies

Evian’s promo featuring roller babies. Too funny!

(thanks to spajadigit @ Infidelicacy)

I did think it was cool…

phlatball I remember seeing the Phlat Ball on television awhile ago. It’s a Frisbee kind of thing that turns into a ball when you throw it. So you throw it just like you would a Frisbee, but you get to catch a ball. The commercial had all kinds of cool shots of the ball transforming and I thought, Wow, that looks cool!

Well, I saw it in action today and it’s very clever. When you collapse it, there are two internal suction cups that hold it flat in its Frisbee configuration, but when you throw it, the spin releases the suction cups and it turns into a ball. This is all well and good, but what you really end up with is a Frisbee that rolls away if you don’t catch it. This is annoying, but it’s even more annoying if you’re playing on a hill.

A+ for intent and potential coolness. C for practical usage.

Fun With Extemporaneous Poetry

poetry Back in college, I used to write a lot of poetry, being an English major and all. I took two poetry classes (though I shouldn’t have taken the 2nd one) but wrote poems mainly for fun. I like rhymes. Poetry that doesn’t rhyme is just prose with bad formatting. The teacher of my second poetry class didn’t agree with me… which is why I never should have taken the class (the teacher of the first class… where I got a A… even warned me about that).

One time I was sitting in the library studying with a friend and writing an occasional small poem for my own amusement and for hers. I think I made a boast that I could write a poem about whatever animal (or thing… I forget) she wanted me to write about. So she said "armadillo." I wrote a quick 4-line poem that was pretty silly, so she said, "anemone."

Much internal cursing ensued, but I ended up writing one of my favorite silly poems which I still quote to some people even today when the situation warrants.

I mentioned this story to my daughter tonight, so of course she wanted to issue her own challenges… and here are the results.

Challenge #1: Goose

Russell’s Plight

Russell was a fuzzy goose
With feathers soft as silk.
He ate strange things like peppercorns
Crushed up in sour milk.

And though his silky feathers gleamed,
He had a heavy heart.
For Russell couldn’t fly, you see.
All he could do was fart.

That got a pretty good laugh from my daughter, but I really took a cheap shot there with the fart joke. That will make any self-respecting kid laugh. Then came another challenge.

Challenge #2: Peanut Butter Pancakes (…and much internal cursing ensued)

Peanut Butter Pancakes

Our peanut butter pancakes come
In thirteen different flavors.
I’m kidding. They just come in one
And this is how we make ours.

With peanut butter (only smooth)
And flour, eggs, and butter
And sometimes just a bit of rum.
Yes, rum. I didn’t stutter.

We cook them up (without the rum)
And serve them on a platter,
Then eat them with our pirate swords
And that makes quite a clatter!

We drink the rum, sing pirate songs,
And what a racket that makes!
Because there is no better loot
Than peanut butter pancakes!

Great reaction. No cheap shot (other than the rum). Happy ending. Off to bed. No more poems. Good night…

"Can we write poems again tomorrow?"

(…and much internal cursing ensued)

Burn Notice to the rescue!

burnnotice After writing the last post about Rush Limbaugh, I got a bit of a sickening feeling in my stomach and realized that today’s post made three in a row about Rush. That’s both depressing and unacceptable. So in order to remedy that sad state of affairs, I figured it’d do a quick write-up of Burn Notice, a spy/drama/action/comedy television show that is in its third season. The accompanying photo is way better than a bloated Rush face, too.

I got hooked watching Burn Notice a few months ago when I happened to catch a couple episodes on USA Network. It had a great Miami Vice meets Beverly Hills Cop kind of style. Netflix hooked me up with the Season 1 and Season 2 DVD’s and Hulu provided me the opportunity to completely catch up with this season.

Sadly, now I have to wait a week (or longer) between episodes.

The show, however, kicks ass. I frequently find myself laughing out loud… and then sitting on the edge of my seat… and then getting a little choked up. The mood mixing is done very well and the style of the show is such that it’s a visual treat as well.

Though there is an over-arcing storyline, each episode generally contains a standalone storyline as well, making it very easy to pick up in the middle and still understand most of what’s going on. The characters have phenomenal chemistry. Jeffrey Donovan and Gabrielle Anwar constantly have a cool, sexual tension heat while Donovan and Bruce Campbell have great buddy charisma. Sharon Gless, who plays Donovan’s mother, is a perfect mix of doting, overprotective mother and nagging bitch. Mix all that up with the spy back story and Donovan’s informative voiceover narrative and you’ve got a terrific show that is a delight to watch.

And you learn lots of pretend spy stuff. 😉

Rush Limbaugh Logic

Rush Limbaugh Listening to Rush again, I came to the conclusion that he really has a tough job. He’s got to talk, almost non-stop, for hours a day… is it four hours? Five? I’m not sure how long his show lasts each day (I can only listen for 10 minutes or so). He also has to put together and edit audio clips that eliminate anything that contradicts what he’s saying and that he can spin to support his rants. Then (and this he doesn’t, perhaps, do quite as well), he has to try to logically tie everything together as though he’s an analytical genius who represents truth, intelligence, and the average American.

His ties from a politician’s statement to a brilliant analysis tend to be weak… or even non-existent. However, he spins better than Bill O’Reilly, twisting the facts in torturous ways that would make even the most seasoned CIA operative cringe.

Here’s an example. I made it up. He didn’t really say this, but it’s pretty accurately along the line of the stuff he does say.

Democratic Politician: I’m not really that fond of hamburgers.

Rush: You heard it here, folks! He has declared that he wants this administration to eliminate the beef industry and he will do whatever it takes to help them make it happen!

Perhaps that sounds like a bit of an exaggeration, but if it is, it’s not much of one. Rush makes those kinds of "connections" on a regular basis and generally provides no evidence to back up his statements. When he does, he plays carefully edited clips that provide no context (other than what he gives himself).

While this does indicate that Rush is a very savvy entertainer, it’s somewhat frightening to me that he is taken seriously… by anyone. His shtick is hateful, disturbed, misleading, and spiteful, yet people listen to him with rapt attention, as though every word he utters is auditory gold.

But he knows how to pander to his audience.