Well, A Southern Man Didn't Need Him Around Anyhow...

Via InstaPundit, NBC declares the death of Astronaut Neil Young.

Crooked houses

More from Not Exactly Rocket Science:

Dukes of Hazzard Day

In the process of looking for fun things to do this weekend, we came across a motorcycle gathering that was built around a Dodge Charger.

Why "Dukes of Hazzard Day"?  Nobody seemed to know or care, but there was a General Lee.

A shiny chopper, with a Confederate helmet sticker.

I have it on good authority that Elizabeth Warren's great-great grandmother...

Brynhildr was there.

Lots of Veterans were there, as usual with biker events, but the 7th ID insignia is one you rarely see.

Lots of Confederate flags everywhere...

...but I hadn't seen the fuzzy-dice version before.

The Confederate flags go with the Dukes of Hazzard theme, as well as with a motorcycle rally in Georgia, but it's pretty clear that most of the very many bikers flying it did so all the time.  In some circles this is taken as being tantamount to a hate crime, but having grown up in a place where the KKK felt free to move about openly, I think I can fairly say that racism is not the intent of the symbol among most of those flying it today.  There were a number of black bikers there, including a US Navy veteran, who were obviously quite comfortable and who were plainly as welcome as anyone else.

That's good.  I have a great deal of sympathy with the "Heritage, not Hate" movement, but it has to really be true if it's to count.  I'm glad to see that, more and more, it seems to be.

The First Man to Walk on the Moon

Neil Armstrong died today. It was an honor to have shared the world with him for so long. I wonder if we shall live to share it with the first man to walk on Mars?

Kittehs on roombas

Most of this post was about weaponizing roombas (into "doombas"), but the really useful innovations involved cats.

The Joy of Autumn

As we enjoy the first hints of autumnal air, we think of the joys to come. The Stone Mountain Scottish Highland Games are awaiting us, if we can make it to October.

If you're in Europe, Denmark will be hosting the annual Medieval Festival of Europe this weekend in Horsens.

Portugal does its big Medieval festival in August, too. I guess it's nicer out there on the Med.

Further north, the Nordic Festival for Medieval Music is typically in September. Here is something from 2010:

BSBFB: Greatness

The Borderline Sociopathic Blog for Boys is the source for this. Here is the comment that goes with the video there:
Perhaps it is presumptuous for me to say, but I understand the men on the ladder with the prybar entirely. They are my brothers.

I do not know how I've woken up in a world where 99 percent of the population never think to do anything but point their crummy cameraphones at whatever calamity is ongoing.

The man with the prybar is worth a thousand of them.


A neighbor's son was married last weekend.  It was a nice change from a recent spate of bad news in the neighborhood, from funerals to divorces.

Science Fiction, Brought to you by Corning

Apparently Corning, who probably made your casserole dish, is swinging for the fences.  You may have seen this before, but I don't think we've talked about it here.

The child is the father of the woman

This strikes close to home:
I do have a lot in common with toddlers, actually. 
1. I spill things down my front (mostly just coffee). 
2. I need WAY more naps than I actually take. 
3. I like to eat things that are white. Green, not as much. 
4. I firmly believe all pets love me, regardless of the growling they do as I approach. 
5. Bathing is optional. 
6. I sit too close to the TV. 
7. Sometimes the answer you get from me is for a question you didn't ask. The question you did ask? I didn't hear you. Or I lost track and forgot what you asked. Or I rambled on about something else. 
8. I'm easily distracted. 
9. My stories rarely make sense. 
10. I give voices to pets and stuffed animals.

Here are the ways I am NOT like a toddler. 
1. I won't get angry at you when you make me go to bed. I will probably thank you. 
2. Even though I love ice cream, I know it is not good to eat it on a daily basis. 
3. I do not like cartoons or animation. 
4. I have a hard time believing in make believe. 
5. I don't need to be reminded that instead of holding my crotch to stop the flow, I can just go to the bathroom and use the toilet. 
6. I won't answer a questions like "What do you want for your birthday?" with the plot of Star Wars. 
7. I prefer to read books that don't have pictures. 
8. I love road trips and car rides. And I won't fall asleep. 
9. I understand what a "library voice" is and use it. 
10. I believe in pants and the power of pants and the covering up of things by wearing the pants.

Culture and morality

Who says our culture has lost so much faith in itself that we don't know how to use shame?

Speaking of Merry….

Here are a couple from Patsy Cline, about whom I'd forgotten (because originally, I didn't like her that much) until the too-short-lived Space Oater Above and Beyond reminded me of her.

 And this one, which I've been wondering why I didn't like as a kid (oh, wait…).

 And a propos nothing much in particular,
A man went to the zoo and among other animals there, saw a gnu in its pen. "What kind of a gnu is that?" he asked the keeper.

"It's just a typical gnu."

A couple days later the guy returned.  This time there was a stack of tiles in the gnu pen, and the gnu was applying them to the floor of its pen. The man said in surprise to the keeper, "Hey, I thought you said that was a typical gnu. But he's putting tiles on the cage floor!"

"Yeah.  He's a typical gnu and a tiler too."

And finally:
A frog went to a bank for a loan, and the teller sent him to see the loan officer, Mr Paddiwack. He went to Paddiwack 's desk and made his pitch for the loan.   When the loan officer asked the frog if he had any collateral, the frog pulled out a small ivory figurine of an elephant and set it on the desk.  The loan officer looked dubious and said "Hold on a minute."

The loan officer went to his manager, and explained the situation, and said that all the frog had was the figurine as collateral.  The manager looked at the small statue and said "It's a nick-nack, Paddiwack. Give the frog a loan."

Merry Men

You know what?  Mr. Hines makes it clear to me that we are not having enough fun around here. Elections are serious business, almost a revolution every four years; but the primaries are over, and the finals are far away. It's time to take a step back, and not let the political order our lives for us.

The rest of the week until next Monday, no more politics except in the comments to posts below.  November will come soon enough, and we've got September and October to deal with it all as well.  I charge all of you with posting rights to come up with something fun between now and Sunday.  We've fought enough for a while.  It's time to be merry.

Even if a war starts between now and Sunday, we'll deal with it in God's good time.

This recording makes Brett's words hard to make out, though you can hear the strings clearly. Let's have it from the Clancy Brothers.

Dr. Althouse and Scott Adams

I cited a post of Dr. Althouse's the other day that was critical of her, but I think she's written the best thing I've seen written about the current controversy (and a companion, concerning a left-wing thinker in the UK who was fired for a column about rape):
Take note. That's something that if you say it, you will lose your job. It's now, officially, a topic that cannot be discussed anymore. Feminists used to have to fight to get sex without consent recognized as real rape. (Here's Susan Estrich's book "Real Rape," spelling it out in 1988 for people who were struggling with concept could bring it within grasp.) Now, you're on notice that making distinctions between types of rape could utterly destroy you. Don't talk about it.

What a victory for women in the war on women.

ADDED: There's a big difference between Akin and Galloway, and it's not just that one's a righty and one's a lefty. Akin is, I think, rather dumb, and he's obviously inarticulate. By contrast, Galloway is quite smart and articulate.

Ironically, it was Galloway who was talking about a category that could be termed — using language properly — "legitimate rape." When Akin said "legitimate rape," he was referring to the most serious kinds of incidents within the larger category of unconsented-to sexual intercourse, the acts that everyone will agree are rape.

The word "legitimate" makes it sound as though Akin were saying those acts are acceptable, but he only meant those are the acts that are properly referred to with the word rape. And this was all in the context of talking about abortion.

Akin wants to say abortion is always wrong, and he's got to deal with the widely held opinion that a woman who has become pregnant through rape ought to be able to get an abortion. How can he find a way to say no? What if it were true that when it's a really serious rape — an act properly categorized as rape — that the woman's body would repel the sperm? That would be really convenient as a way to fend off the argument that has worked so strongly against his absolute anti-abortion position. Of course, it's not true, so it's some highly stupid wishful thinking on his part.

Now, let's look at what Galloway said. He's talking about the kind of rape that's not at the core of what is reprehensible about rape. Like Akin, he's thinking about the most serious types of rape and distinguishing other acts that also get classified as rape, and he's legitimating those less serious acts. Akin was probably only trying to say that it would be good always to favor the life of the unborn over the interests of the woman (because if she got pregnant, she wasn't a victim of the harshest violence).

But Galloway wasn't talking about the innocence of the unborn at all. He was talking about the innocence of the man who has sex with a woman without her consent. He was saying that when a man is naked in bed with a woman who has already had sex with him, that man can proceed with another act of intercourse without acquiring her consent. He's saying that something that some people categorize as rape is not really rape.

So Akin and Galloway raise 2 different issues about rape. One is about access to abortion in a world where there is rape. The other is about the extent to which sexual intercourse should be criminalized. These are actually both things we should be able to talk about!
She captures a great deal of what I thought was important about the matter too. If we're going to be governed by citizen legislators, they'll be ordinary men and women -- which means they will sometimes be, or at least sound, dumb and inarticulate. It turns out that Akin is a former Army combat engineer, so he's probably not stupid as such; but as Scott Adams pointed out, we're all increasingly functionally stupid as the amount there is to know grows exponentially but our capacity to learn stays largely put. Outside of our functional area, then, more and more we're going to sound stupid even if we're really quite smart inside of our proper sphere.

So he said something that was wrong (probably, though as we've discussed it's actually very difficult to tell what to make of the numbers), and he sounded kind of dumb, but he did it in an honest attempt to explain the reasoning underlying his principles. That's good! In fact, it's the only way around the problem that Scott Adams is pointing us towards: the only way to take advantage of all this new knowledge is if we find a way to bring our stupid areas forward for correction by those whose functional area it happens to be.

We learned something from this (whether or not he did):  about where we stand as a republic on the question of rape, about the existence of a theory most of us probably did not realize was informing part of the abortion debate, and about what we think about that theory. We are all better off for having had this discussion, even though it made a lot of people angry and upset.

I gather Dr. Althouse takes that to be to the good -- and except for some sympathy for those who were upset by the remarks, the effect is good.  A legislator isn't elected to make policy about the one thing he or she knows about, after all:  they're going to be functionally stupid in a lot of the areas where they have to make law.  The freer they feel to talk in public about what they believe and why they believe it, the better off we will be as a nation.

Is Ryan a "Cafeteria Catholic"?

If so, he may be filling up his tray with the right stuff.  The Wall Street Journal chronicles the trials of Ryan the Heretic:
So here we are in 2012, when all but one of the active senators and representatives who are members of the official Catholics for Obama campaign team enjoy a 100% approval rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. 
This fundamental dissent from a basic church teaching is now a fact of modern Democratic Catholic life.  The result for our politics is an extraordinary campaign, in the 10 days since Paul Ryan became the Republican candidate for vice president, by those on the Catholic left to strike a moral equivalence between Mr. Ryan's reform budget and Democratic Catholic support for the party's absolutist position on abortion.
Mr. Ryan's own bishop wrote recently that the Church considers abortion
an "intrinsic evil" (meaning always and everywhere wrong, regardless of circumstances). In sharp contrast, he said, on issues such as how best to create jobs or help the poor, "there can be difference according to how best to follow the principles which the church offers."
As a result, the bishop concluded, "it's wrong to suggest that [Ryan's] views somehow make him a bad Catholic."  In the view of Catholic progressives, however, his budget certainly does.  That leaves us with the conclusion that Catholic progressives
believe that the pope and bishops have nothing of value to offer about the sanctity of marriage or the duty of protecting unborn life, [but] when it comes to federal spending, suddenly a miter means infallibility.

More Georgia Politics

With the runoff behind us, it's a good day for Zell Miller, argues Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. It's a bad day for Sarah Palin, at least down here.
The former governor of Alaska is now 0-for-2 in Georgia races. Sarah Palin had endorsed Zoller, though she made no personal appearance to back up her choice. Palin had also endorsed Karen Handel in the 2010 Republican race for governor.

The 9th District race had pitted north Georgia mountain sentiments against the tea party tidal wave. Zell Miller, the former governor and U.S. senator, had backed Collins – his grandson, Bryan Miller, was Collins’ campaign manager.
I'm sure we don't have anything against Sarah Palin down here, but mountain ties run strong. Zoller was a good candidate too, and I hope she does well elsewhere in the state.

Meanwhile, a Federal Appeals court has decided to allow Georgia to enforce its version of the famous Arizona law. Our friends at the SPLC turn up again, on the losing side of this ruling:
“It’s not the end of the story,” said Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “We believe that eventually the law will be struck down and found to be unconstitutional as it is applied in the real world.”
The argument that it is unconstitutional is that state laws on the subject are pre-empted by Federal laws. That's an interesting argument, although the state doesn't claim the right to override the Federal government here -- just to check to see if Federal laws are being obeyed, and make an arrest if they are not. What's at issue is whether agents of the state, and not the Federal government, are entitled to the power to "check."

Once Upon A Time in the East

Here is a collection of old photos from Shanghai, during its wild days in the 1930s. I really liked Shanghai. We had a great time there, I guess it would have been 2001: we dined on a wonderful spiced yak dish, and bought artwork in little markets to bring home after our long stay in China. I've been to the Bund, which still looks much like this (or did ten years ago). The other side of the river, though, has changed a little bit in the ensuing decades.

Terrorism Futures

I thought this was a great idea the last time around, and I still think it is. Strange to think that was nine years ago, and I have an old comment to link about it; maybe I've been blogging too long.

Runoff Day

If you're one of our Georgia companions, today is runoff day. There's still an hour to get to the polls if you have forgotten, although if you're like me you cannot possibly have forgotten because a recorded campaign announcement has called you two or three times a day every day for two weeks to remind you.

The biggest race today is the runoff in the Mighty 9th Congressional District. I'm looking forward to seeing who wins, although frankly I think we can be pretty happy either way.

UPDATE: A map of results from the 9th runoff is here. Doug Collins has an early lead, though it looks like a lot of results have yet to come in. I'll be very surprised if Union County stays in Zoller's column.

UPDATE: Looks like Zoller has conceded in the face of what looks to be roughly a 55/45 split, so Dan Collins will be our new Representative (although there is a pro forma election in November, barring a miracle the Democratic candidate might as well not be running). Union County did stay in Zoller's column, by a little under a hundred votes. I'm surprised by that -- I would have thought Zell Miller's endorsement would have carried Union County, but apparently not. Of course, only about fourteen hundred people got out to vote today, so I guess anything can happen in a low-turnout race.

A Tribute to the Land

Victor Davis Hanson has written the story of the land his ancestors worked for 140 years.  It's an interesting story, and you can see the feeling that motivates him very clearly in it.  In spite of his sense of loss, though, he has an appreciation for the marvels of new creation:
This winter I watched a new owner of the farm parcel next to mine bring in enormous Caterpillar equipment and land-levelers. He ripped out every living tree and bush. He changed the very contours of the land, flattening even the once rolling hills. Within days, arose a postmodern almond orchard of some 40 acres.

I say postmodern because the new creation is beyond modern. High-density-planted new trees are genetically designed to grow on these sandy soils. The drip system is computerized and injects precise amounts of fertilizers, while not wasting a drop of precious well water. An ancestral pond and its overflow basin have now shrunk to about an acre. The result is that the almond trees — not more than six months old — are growing so rapidly that they appear as if they were supernatural and in their second or third leaf. It is agribusiness development such as this that explains why California farmland is the most productive in the world.

Experts Wonder: Can We Make Cars Hacker-Proof?

Apparently this is a hard question. Let me provide an answer. If we're talking about 'hackers' in the computer-centric sense, as the article seems to be, yes, you can. Here are several examples of cars completely immune to computer hackers:

Ford Mustang, 1968

Dodge Charger R/T, 1970

Hot Rod Lincoln

By virtue of which, see here and here, and also below:

You know what else is hacker-proof? My motorcycles. Not a computer on the things anywhere.

So yeah, it can be done. The results look pretty good from where I sit.

The spirit of invention

These ideas don't have the grand potential of the micro-solar panel I wrote about over the weekend, but I think many of them are modestly brilliant, especially the the trainer wheels on the spike heels.  Stylish and practical!

This one is practical, too:

Akin's Fallacy

It may now be named after a likely-to-fail Senate nominee, but the error is not his alone.
But here's the thing: Akin didn't make this idea up. That women can't get pregnant when they're raped is a thing that some people actually believe. I stumbled across this several months ago while researching another story. It turns out to be an idea held and repeated by individuals who oppose abortion in any circumstance.
Not only them! I was taught a version of this as an undergraduate, in a class on Eastern (i.e., Asian) metaphysics. The professor was explaining the benefits of Kundalini meditation, one of which was allegedly that it allowed women to exert greater conscious control over their reproductive functions. This was something women could do anyway, he said, as in the example of women repelling pregnancy from rape; but with adequate meditation you could come to understand and order the flow of energy within your body, and use the same capacity simply as birth control.

I put this down as a highly unlikely claim. Still, it's not a surprising one. Fertility is one of the great mysteries of nature, and it is not at all surprising that there remain some magical ideas about it. It's a magical process, in the good sense of the term: it brings forth life and renewal. It's also a hidden process, in that the early stages of it happen out of sight and according to things we really don't consciously control. That's the kind of process where magical thinking is most likely to turn up.

So it's hard for me to blame someone for believing something like this, assuming he was -- as Akin said he was in his original remarks -- told it by doctors. Such doctors exist; the Mother Jones post just cited offers a link to "Physicians for Life," which makes the same claim. The claim isn't inexplicable, and it seems to be shared by certain pseudoscientific figures on both sides of the abortion debate (my professor was quite left-wing on reproduction issues: his whole point was that here was another wonderful way for women to take control of whether or not they got pregnant). It's important to get the facts right, and to disabuse people of claims that are demonstrably wrong: but if their reasons for holding the belief is understandable, it's not a demonstration of bad character that they happened to believe something that isn't really true.