Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Saga of Raggot the Ballistic PyroGerbil

Long ago, if not far away, I recorded the Saga of Raggot the Ballistic PyroGerbil, a story now lost to a faulty hard drive which claimed I was backing up to floppy when in fact I was creating a shortcut. It is a loss to culture perhaps on par with that of the Library at Alexandria or the Aztec Codices, but so it goes and most shall likely survive, and if not, well, the sun shall one day nova and things other than Literature shall attract our attention more on that day I’ll bet.

I did re-find the likely anti-gay inspiration tho, still on the web, and that allowed me to reconstruct much of the Saga of Raggot.

From a pan-Internet article alleged to be in the Los Angeles Times:

"In retrospect, lighting the match was my big mistake. But I was only trying to retrieve the gerbil." Eric Tomaszewski told bemused doctors in the Severe Burns Unit of Salt Lake City Hospital. Tomaszewski, and his homosexual partner Andrew "Kiki" Farnum, had been admitted for emergency treatment after a felching session had gone seriously wrong. "I pushed a cardboard tube up his rectum and slipped Raggot, our gerbil, in," he explained. As usual, Kiki shouted out "Armageddon," my cue that he'd had enough. I tried to retrieve Raggot but he wouldn't come out again, so I peered into the tube and struck a match, thinking the light might attract him." At a hushed press conference, a hospital spokesman described what happened next. "The match ignited a pocket of intestinal gas and a flame shot out the tube, igniting Mr. Tomaszewski's hair and severely burning his face. It also set fire to the gerbil's fur and whiskers which in turn lighted a larger pocket of gas further up the intestine, propelling the rodent out like a cannonball." Tomaszewski suffered second degree burns and a broken nose from the impact of the gerbil, while Farnum suffered first and second degree burns to his anus and lower intestinal tract.

The above is all over the Web and only the severely isolated would believe, yet Inspiration can sneak up and strike at any moment and that is exactly what the scoundrel did to me. To wit & hereby note that I claim copywrite for the following:

The Saga of Raggot the Ballistic PyroGerbil

This clearly describes prototypes of the Kiki-series Self-Propelled Rectal Assault Mortar and the Raggot-series Ballistic PyroGerbil.

Development for military and sporting purposes proceeded immediately upon the recovery of the initial design team, also known as the Triple Alliance.

Ensuing Research and Development papers were published in:

PyroGerbil Institute Proceedings
“The Official Organ of the Society for PyroGerbil Studies” (Classified)


“Philosophical Issues in Deploying the Kiki-series Self-Propelled Rectal Assault Mortar in a Bi-Gendered, Multi-Preferenced Military Force: Elite Volunteer Cadre or Every Doughboy’s Duty?”

“Design Tolerances and the Kiki-series Self-Propelled Rectal Assault Mortar, Part I: Are Republican Mortar Bores Too Tight For Safety? Documented Malfunctions Include Severe Over-Pressures, Ruptured Chambers, Projectile Impaction, and Deep Seated Denial.”

“Design Tolerances and the Kiki-series Self-Propelled Rectal Assault Mortar, Part II: Can Democrat Mortars be Held to Adequate Standards?”

“Evolution or Revolution: Development of the Raggot Mod I Mk IV Palomino PyroGerbil for Use in Selected Dude Ranch-type Environments.”

“Mod I, Mk V: The High Explosive PyroGerbil”

“Parameters for Osteo-Donto Friability in the Raggot-series Ballistic Pyrogerbil, Mod I, Mk VI: The Fragmentation Round.”

"Mod I, Mk VII: The Enhanced Methane Gas Round" (Banned by international treaty).

“Seeking an Efficient Legume-Based Propellant System for the Raggot Mod I Series Ballistic PyroGerbil.”

“Investigation into Effects of Varying Gel Density in Gerbil Fur Gas Checks in the Raggot Mod I series Ballistic PyroGerbil: Propellant Gas Blow-By, Bore Erosion, Spiking, and Mid-Range Accuracy ”

“Field-Expedient Solutions: Improvised Bore Cleaning Compounds and Bore Swabs in the Kiki Series Self-Propelled Rectal Assault Mortar”

“Prevention and Treatment of Chamber, Bore, and Throat Erosion in the Kiki Series Rectal Assault Mortar.”

“Deleterious Effects of Unauthorized Bore Swabs in a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Field Expedient Combat Environment.”

“Rifled or Smooth-Bore?: Effects of Spin Stabilization on the Internal Guidance System of the Raggot-series Ballistic PyroGerbil.”

“An American Dilemma: Should Future Kiki-series Rectal Assault Mortars be Breech Loaders or Muzzle Loaders? Nomenclatural Disagreement Clouds the Debate.”

“Aspects of Tompion Design for the Kiki-series Self-Propelled Rectal Assault Mortar: Preventing Bore Obstructions without Exhaust System Blow-Out”

“Question of Emphasis for Future Self-Propelled Rectal Assault Mortar Technology: Rapid Fire or Full-Auto?”

“Utilization of Advanced Gene Splicing Technology to Effect Transfer of Certain Aerial Control Surfaces from the B1-RD Avian Platform to the Raggot-series Ballistic PyroGerbil Pedi-Form Maneuvering System.”

“Personnel Factors Impacting Field Deployment of the Raggot Mod I, Mk VIII: Self-Propelled Rectal Assault Mortar Crew Resistence to the Tactical Nuclear PyroGerbil.”

“Big-Bore Technology Project a Pointed Failure as Unforseen Personnel Factors Obstruct Prototype Testing: Self-Propelled Rectal Assault Mortar Crews Resist the Ballistic Porcupine.”

“Optimizing Configuration of Naso-Cranial Support Matrices, Idealizing Complex Multi-Structural Osteo-Donto-Keratic Interfaces, and Effectuating Appropriate Proteinaceous Rebound Parameters in the Raggot Mk X Armor-Piercing Ballistic PyroGerbil to Ensure Improved Penetration, Ricochet Reduction, and Inhibit PyroGerbil Splatter.”

“Rocket Propulsion in the Raggot Model II: Entering a New Era in PyroGerbil Technology.”

“Utilization of Implantable Ceramic Nozzles to Prevent Thruster Burn Out in the Raggot Mod II series Rocket-Propelled PyroGerbil.”

“Advances in Gerbil Fur Gas Check Systems for the Multiple Independently-targeted Re-entry Gerbil (MIRG): Improved Accuracy, Longer Range, Increased Sensation.”

“Initial MIRG Field Tests Prove Positive: Taliban Troops Pull Walls Down on Themselves.”

“Techniques for Improved Down-Range Patterning in the Raggot Mod II series Rocket-Propelled PyroGerbil: Enhancing In-Flight Inter-Projectile Communication with Concomitant Reduction in Pyro-Gerbil Chatter. ”

Any interested federal granting agencies are free to apply for sponsorship status. Especially the Pentagon and/or Defense Contractors. Hollywood producers wishing to shovel unusually large sums of money in my direction in return for making a Major Cinematic Event starring Brad Pitt and Britney Spears are welcome to do the same.

Important philosophical issue lurking here unaddressed

>>In a modern context, bayonets are known to be particularly good for ...poking an enemy to see whether he is dead <<

I guess that's OK w/ PETA, since people aren't animals...well, except for Republicans, of course.

Hmmmm...Does that mean poking Democrats with bayonets is OK with PETA because they aren't animals, but you have to respect Republicans' rights, because they are? But the Democrats' symbol is a donkey, and we know what PETA thinks about them.

I get so confused sometimes.

Blog: Iranian Girl

That's the name of the blog: Iranian Girl . The girl's name is Fatema. If you follow the links you eventually get to some photo galleries.

Now that a popular Iranian blogger has translated the instructions for how to set up a blog into Persian, there has been an explosion of Iranian blogging. May say something about how repressive the government and society are, but anyway they seem to be going for it, despite some arrests.

Here's a link to a list of English language blogs by Iranians , some living there, some elsewhere.

Thanks to the BlogFather for the link which eventually led to this.

It's 43 degrees outside.

That seems unreasonable.

Also, I need some exercise, so I'm about to drive to North Shore Cinema in Mequon and watch an action flick. Kingdom of Heaven, about the Crusades, or so Hollywood would have us believe.

UPDATE: Well, it's yer standard 12th century hack 'em up, with some fancy special effects, and the standard multicultural midieval blacksmith/lord hero seeking a new world where ppl (or at least blacksmith bastard sons of the high and mighty) are free to rise to the level of their ambition/abilities, while wreaking some havoc upon the poor long suffering locals. Sorta like Hollywood's take on other issues. Anyway, if you don't take it seriously, it's a fun enuf movie.

UPDATE II: Variety has an interesting tidbit :
[Kingdom of Heaven] opened on 21 screens in the United Arab Emirates, nine in Lebanon, six in Kuwait, three in both Qatar and Jordan and on single screens in Bahrain, Oman and Syria.

"We're expecting admissions of over 100,000 in both Lebanon and the U.A.E.," says Hiyam Itani of Circuit Empire, which is handling the pic for Fox in the Mideast. "People are really interested in it. They can relate to the story and the religious aspects. After all, it happened here."

But the film has also been dogged in recent months by accusations that it short-shrifts real history.
Well, "Pirates of the Caribbean" wasn't exactly a documentary either.

Volokh Conspiracy vs the New York Times and the Washington Times

If you are interested in seeing how those miserable, unedited, un-fact checked bloggers can compare with a couple of the mass news media, try reading Eugene Volokh's post on the MD school district court case about a sex ed curriculum, vs the New York Times and Washington Times accounts.

Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA, runs the Volokh Conspiracy , a group blog by mostly law profs with a libertarian perspective .

Which story left you with a better idea of the issues? Which story provided a link to the pdf of the court's decision?

Ma'o hau hele: Endangered Hawaiian Hibiscus

There are about 12 populations statewide containing probably fewer than 60 individuals, the Fish and Wildlife Service said. In addition to the Pu'u-o-Kali plants, the service reported two tiny clusters on the slopes of the West Maui Mountains.
This sounds rather like Hawaiian libertarians.

Say, you don't suppose a federal captive breeding program could.....

No, no, I suppose not.

PETA, Jews, Nuanced Thinking, and the Final Solution

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has apparently been running an ad campaign equating slaughter houses with Nazi extermination camps. According to Wesley J. Smith in National Review Online , that campaign "explicitly compared eating meat to participating in the gassing of millions of Jews." Smith quotes from the PETA campaign:
The leather sofa and handbag are the moral equivalent of the lampshades made from the skins of people killed in the death camps.
Smith quotes from the forward to Charles Patterson's book Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust, which he says inspired PETA's program to simplify our thinking:
In Eternal Treblinka, not only are we shown the common roots of Nazi genocide and modern society's enslavement and slaughter of non-human animals in unprecedented detail, but for the first time we are presented with extensive evidence of the profoundly troubling connection between animal exploitation in the United States and Hitler's Final Solution.
Now, please let me know if I am wrong, but isn't this coming from the same camp which accuses the Republicans of simplistic thinking? Is this the camp which thinks the American abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison (most famously: humiliations) are worse than the Baathist tortures and executions of prisoners at the same place?

These are the same people who wrote Yasser Arafat a letter asking him to stop using donkeys in suicide bombings of Israeli civilians:
I am writing from an organization dedicated to fighting animal abuse around the world. We have received many calls and letters from people shocked at the bombing in Jerusalem on January 26 in which a donkey, laden with explosives, was intentionally blown up...

If you have the opportunity, will you please add to your burdens my request that you appeal to all those who listen to you to leave the animals out of this conflict?...

Very truly yours,

Ingrid Newkirk
President, PETA
Now, I pulled that excerpt off of PETA's own website, so it is pretty likely reliable: PETA's callers were shocked to find that mass-murders of civilians had stooped to killing a donkey. It was the donkey which mattered.

Oddly, if Ingrid Newkirk and her fellows really think there is moral equivalence between murdering people and killing a donkey, why didn't she seem to have any problem at all with killing the people? Doesn't moral equivalence necessarily go both ways?

I think these are some seriously sick people.

UPDATE: The link has succumbed to link rot. However if one plugs "Ingrid Newkirk letter to Yasser Arafat" into a Google search, you will find plenty of links.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Yom HaShoah

Yom HaShoah is Holocaust Memorial Day. Seth M. Siegel writes of it in OpinionJournal , concluding with this occurance at a Manhattan Jewish school:
The Heschel parents, an American and an Israeli, realized that, since there was only a single Nazi transport from the town, both of their fathers were undoubtedly on the same train bound for an extermination camp in October 1942. The American told of his then 19-year-old father, who escaped by jumping through a plank he had dislodged from above a window in the car. His father, telling the story, always added that, before he jumped, he pushed a boy up and out through that loosened plank.

The Israeli instantly knew who the boy was, for his own father had always told of how there was an opening too high for him to reach--he was then age 11--and of how an older boy lifted him up and pushed him out. The two boys never saw each other again, but each, miraculously, survived the war by hiding in Ukrainian farms and forests. Now their children, so far in time and space from these events, came to learn that their daughters are in the same class.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Is TSA worth the cost?

Veronique de Rugy of the American Enterprise Institute wonders:
TSA's requested budget for FY2006 is $5.6 billion...

That's a lot of money for an agency whose main measure of success is to have "intercepted seven million prohibited items at airport checkpoints, including just over 600 firearms." What it really means though it that 0.008 percent of items intercepted are actually firearms and that 99.992 percent of intercepted items are tweezers, breath fresheners, and lighters. But is that a real measure of success?
It's a ridiculous measure: Easy to quantify, but meaningless. Better to ask: How many of those "over 600" firearms were going to be used to take over a plane? How many of those seven million prohibited items were going to be used to take over planes? If stopping seven million prohibited items is success, lets prohibit t-shirts and underwear: then TSA can raise their intercept numbers into the tens of millions and that will be "success." Big whoopee.

As an ex-con told me last week, any fool who has been in prison knows how to turn a toothbrush into a deadly weapon in about 30 seconds. After it has been converted, no screener in the world would realize it.

We still allow duty-free liquor in glass bottles aboard planes, and cracking two of those together makes a pair of pretty fine weapons. We can carry matches but not lighters. Our security is in the hands of charlatans.
Security experts argue that TSA's mandate is also poorly focused. The federal government has already spent over $10 billion of taxpayers' money on systems that screen every passenger to keep knives, weapons, and now lighters off of planes; what we really need, however, is to keep dangerous passengers out of airline cockpits. This can be accomplished with simple cockpit barricades, which the airline industry has now installed at a relatively low costs estimated between $300 million and $500 million over a ten-year period.

Another cost-effective security measure to prevent attacks of the 9/11 variety is to let pilots carry guns. Yet two years after TSA launched a program to train pilots to carry guns in the cockpit, lingering bureaucratic problems and unfriendly responses have dissuaded pilots from participating.
Screening for explosives makes sense. Keeping pilots from carrying guns does not. Letting passengers carry some deadly weapons but not others makes no sense at all.

Do video games make kids smarter?

"Mom, if I don't play video games 8 hours a day, I'll end up mowing lawns instead of doing quantum physics."

I remember some years ago reading that video games might make kids into better fighter pilots. Now a philosophy professor named James Flynn seems to have found evidence not only are ppl getting smarter, but he suggests that some of it may be attributable to playing video games:
The best example of brain-boosting media may be videogames. Mastering visual puzzles is the whole point of the exercise - whether it's the spatial geometry of Tetris, the engineering riddles of Myst, or the urban mapping of Grand Theft Auto.

The ultimate test of the "cognitively demanding leisure" hypothesis may come in the next few years, as the generation raised on hypertext and massively complex game worlds starts taking adult IQ tests. This is a generation of kids who, in many cases, learned to puzzle through the visual patterns of graphic interfaces before they learned to read. Their fundamental intellectual powers weren't shaped only by coping with words on a page. They acquired an intuitive understanding of shapes and environments, all of them laced with patterns that can be detected if you think hard enough.
Steven Johnson has the story in Wired. Parents everywhere: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Pulsating Giant

Get yer minds out of the gutter. This is a Cool Space Pic of the Day. Sheeesh!

Women Marines in the front lines

There is a reason which is hard to dismiss:
Cultural sensitivities precluded male Marines from searching women, so the female Marines were meant to deflate fears of Iraqi men and women, said the battalion executive officer.
It may be just a start, but it does seem to be that:
In all, 14 women from Combat Logistics Battalion 8 were called away from their usual jobs of supplying ammunition, food, water, fuel and mail for the three-day offensive that kicked off in the pre-dawn hours Saturday about 15 miles northeast of Fallujah...

The battalion’s Lima and India companies absorbed the women into their ranks, giving them the primary mission to search women and children suspected of hiding anything....

And while it hasn’t been used here, [the insurgency has] been known to use female suicide bombers,” Liston said.
Sandra Jontz has the story in Stars and Stripes: Click here: European and Pacific Stars & Stripes

Virgin Galactic

Seems a bit pricey per minute, but if you have the money why not support space travel?
Virgin Galactic initially plans to offer its sub-orbital space rides from the Mojave, California, base where SpaceShipOne flew.

Mr Whitehorn said about 100 people had signed contracts to pay $200,000 in advance for a spaceflight, while another 29,000 had agreed to make deposits of $20,000 for rides.

The spaceships are expected to be able to carry between five and nine passengers per flight. Each flier will have his or her own window to enjoy the view and can unstrap to float freely during the four to five minutes of weightlessness planned for each excursion.

Mr Rutan said that if the private spaceships could be made as safe as commercial aircraft were during their early days, up to 500 passengers would fly the first year the service was available and 3,000 people by the fifth year.
US Gov't regulation seems to be a problem tho. Surprise.

Thanks to InstaPundit again.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Cool Space Pic of the Day

Free Testaclese Fund

College administrators have been enthusiastic supporters (of) Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues and schools across the nation celebrate “V-Day” (short for Vagina Day) every year. But when the College Republicans at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island rained on the celebrations of V-Day by inaugurating Penis Day and staging a satire called The Penis Monologues, the official reaction was horror. Two participating students, Monique Stuart and Andy Mainiero, have just received sharp letters of reprimand and have been placed on probation by the Office of Judicial Affairs. The costume of the P-Day “mascot” — a friendly looking “penis” named Testaclese, has been confiscated and is under lock and key in the office of the assistant dean of student affairs, John King.
Sounds like sex discrimination to me. Click here: Christina Hoff Sommers on The Penis Monologues on National Review Online

Monday, May 02, 2005

Word for the Day

So much for valuing diversity

Stanford law professor Hank Greely, who chaired the ethics committee, said...the committee recommended closely monitoringthe mice's behavior and immediately killing any that display human-like behavior.
Jeepers. What does the committee recommend for ppl who act like mice?

Now that's a refreshing attitude.

J.Lo's latest critics include the PETA crowd. Dozens of protesters representing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals...complained that they have asked several times that Lopez eliminate fur from her clothing line but have been ignored....

Asked what she thought of the protesters, Lopez replied: ''I don't.''
Click here: The New York Times > AP > Arts > PETA Targets J.Lo at Film Premiere

The Time Traveler Convention

Are you a time traveler? Want to meet some? Check out the Time Traveler Convention at MIT on May 7th.

Thanks to Instapundit for the lead.

"Censoring debate on Global Warming"?

If you think scientists of global warming are unanimous that global warming is real and that it is caused by humans, you should check out this article by Robert Mathews in the Telegraph:

Leading scientific journals 'are censoring debate on global warming'
By Robert Matthews (Filed: 01/05/2005)

Two of the world's leading scientific journals have come under fire from researchers for refusing to publish papers which challenge fashionable wisdom over global warming...

A separate team of climate scientists, which was regularly used by Science and the journal Nature to review papers on the progress of global warming, said it was dropped after attempting to publish its own research which raised doubts over the issue.

The controversy follows the publication by Science in December of a paper which claimed to have demonstrated complete agreement among climate experts, not only that global warming is a genuine phenomenon, but also that mankind is to blame.

The author of the research, Dr Naomi Oreskes, of the University of California, analysed almost 1,000 papers on the subject published since the early 1990s, and concluded that 75 per cent of them either explicitly or implicitly backed the consensus view, while none directly dissented from it.

Dr Oreskes's study is now routinely cited by those demanding action on climate change...

However, her unequivocal conclusions immediately raised suspicions among other academics, who knew of many papers that dissented from the pro-global warming line.

They...decided to conduct...analysis of the same set of 1,000 documents - and concluded that only one third backed the consensus view, while only one per cent did so explicitly...

Prof Roy Spencer, at the University of Alabama, a leading authority on satellite measurements of global temperatures, told The Telegraph: "It's pretty clear that the editorial board of Science is more interested in promoting papers that are pro-global warming. It's the news value that is most important."

He said that after his own team produced research casting doubt on man-made global warming, they were no longer sent papers by Nature and Science for review - despite being acknowledged as world leaders in the field.
So, who to beleive? I don't know, but if the above is accurate then we do have something to be concerned about: political bias in the scientific community, including among prominent publishers, may be skewing both research and publication. That can have major impact on state and federal law-making- and it could cost us all a bundle.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Whining for dollars

Rick Weiss, science reporter for the Washington Post, wrote recently of the terrible effects of "Our Incredible Shrinking Curiosity" on pure research, especially on space exploration. The graphic on long term spending on basic research which accompanies the column seems to belie the column itself, but perhaps that is irrelevant. He is concerned that NASA may cut funding for the Voyager project, which has been sending back data since 1977.

I don't know enuf about Voyager's current info to have an opinion on whether we should continue with the project, but a reasonable argument can be made that overall NASA and Congress have inhibited research/space technology/commercial development of space by chewing up research and development money on some extremely interesting projects with no commercial potential. Sending ppl to the moon was a stunt done for political purposes: that might have been worthwhile as such, but confusing the political with the economic or scientific will lead to wasting incredible resources which could better be spent elsewhere.

As I understand it, the space station has little scientific justification: we expend huge quantities of resources doing things with ppl which can be done just as well and a lot cheaper with robots. Ditto on sending robots to Mars: they cost a tiny fraction of what sending ppl to Mars will cost. Sending robots may be a scientific endeavor, sending ppl is political propaganda which costs resources better spent in other ways.

Ditto the space shuttles: neither is justified by what they do: the shuttles and space station exist in order to justify the spending on the other, not because they do anything which can't be done cheaper with robots. Throwing away resources on political stunts is not the way to get into space, and not the way to conduct effective research.

Think of having two options for watching a new movie. You can do so at home on your television, or you can buy a new car, drive several hundred miles, check into the most expensive hotel in the country, watch the movie on an identical TV there, immediately drive back home and junk the new car. Would the second option likely have an impact on what else you do? What would you think of someone who had both options (at your expense), and chose option two because other ppl would admire them for it? Especially when they complained that you were then too cheap to continue paying for the TV in their guest bedroom?

I think there is plenty of money for space exploration with robots if we quit the political stunts with ppl. I suspect that the only way to do so is to either sell NASA to the highest bidder or just close it down. I won't hold my breath for either option.