Saturday, February 27, 2010

A tale of two earthquakes

So, Chile got hit by a big earthquake today, an 8.8 strength one.

Not exactly news, the largest earthquake ever recorded happened in Chile in 1960.

However, I think it interesting the disparity between the toll in Chile (first reports of 82 dead), and the damage in Haiti (230000 dead). Now, maybe the different between an 8.8 and a 7.0 doesn't seem all that big, but one has to bear in mind that the MMS Scale is a logarithmic scale, so a magnitude 9 earthquake is 31 times stronger than a magnitude 8, and almost ONE THOUSAND times stronger than a magnitude 7.

So, the damage caused by the two earthquakes are the inverse of the power of the earthquake (assuming the death count in Chile tops at around 200). What does this say about the disparate infrastructures, the money invested in earthquake proof architecture and other technology, and the oversight of government in large disasters?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Just waiting for the crazies to ramp up on this one

So, Fox News recently reported a rumor: "The U.S. Army is investigating allegations that soldiers were attempting to poison the food supply at Fort Jackson in South Carolina."

First, the lack of any length or details in this report bothers me. The Army is investigating "allegations," it's not even investigating people at this point, almost two months after the "allegations" were made. Second, the timing of the allegations fits smoothly into the post-Fort Hood timeframe of "We need to start investigating Muslims!" Finally, the fact that it has been picked up only by crazy blogs (read the comments...) and right wing media at this point suggests to me that there isn't much substance to the story.

Thankfully, I also encountered this blog when doing some more research on the story, who helpfully explains the coded language used by the CID representative at Fort Jackson: "If there were substantive leads for an ongoing investigation, he would have said simply that the investigation continues and then said nothing more about it."

But, the story fits so well with the right's attempt to create a narrative that the Obama administration is soft on terror, and the Army is being crippled by its attempts to maintain political correctness. I don't think either is true. Frankly, I even think the Nidal Hasan issues were not related to his religion, except only peripherally (the Army does not have enough Muslim individuals in counseling roles, so even as a subpar performer, he was kept on so that Muslim soldiers would have someone to turn to - they do this with officers from other faiths as well...).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


As I have previously mentioned, there are only three english channels currently available in my area: AFN, BBC, and a third station which seems to change formats about every three months or so

Even when that third station was decent, that meant only two stations playing music for the english speakers at any given time. The interesting (and strangely pleasant) side effect of this was that when driving down the road, if you saw someone singing, the chances were pretty good that they would be singing the same song you were listening to. I maintain that this is one of the main reasons why radio still exists in the United States, despite over a hundred years of personally owned musical listening devices. I still feel better hearing a song I like on the radio than when I play it on a CD, somehow knowing that there are other people out there listening to the same song at the same time gives me a feeeling (real or fake, who cares) of being connected with them - that somehow these people are members of my own little Imagined Community. Knowing this for a fact, by seeing someone singing the song you are listening to, is even better - and so rarely happens in the media heavy world of the United States that it's a pleasant and unexpected perk.

However, given the fact that AFN plays 80% crap, 19% decent, and only 1% good and innovative music means that my own tastes are a bit underrepresented. Luckily, I just discovered that my truck does, indeed, play the mp3 CDs it claims it does, so I can make my own mix CD of my 80 favorite songs to listen to while driving around.

And there's something strangely appropriate to driving around a military base while listening to Honour.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dick Cheney and homosexual rights

So, a lot has been made of Dick Cheney's recent statement of support for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Do a google search, and you get dozens of hits on liberal blogs, gay blogs, and just one hit on the first three pages from a conservative blog (this may change in the next couple days as the impact of the statement spreads).

However, I found one part of Cheney's statement very interesting, and it's not one that has anything to do with the policy itself: "Twenty years ago, the military were strong advocates of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' when I was Secretary of Defense," Cheney said.

Ummm... when you were Secretary of Defense, it was still illegal to be homosexual in the Army, Dick...

Maybe it was just a brain fart on Cheney's part, or maybe he was misremembering discussions about the homosexuality policy at the time (they were ongoing for quite some time before 1994). Or maybe the man's being disingenuous and trying to maintain his "what the generals want" position in general.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


is disgusting

Oh, get over it

Tea baggers need to learn that their protests, name, and general demeanor are just silly.

And it's an effing comic book!

My favorite quote: "Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips told Yahoo! News that it "sounds less like a genuine 'we're sorry' than it does a 'we're sorry we got caught' statement."

Honestly, what does he expect them to do? I worry about the future of America (truly, I am not being hyperbolic) when this kind of crap goes on.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fashion Report: Baghdad

So, the style this year is digital grey patterns.

Just kidding. Contractor fashion is a realm in and of itself, but civilian, so there are some personal touches which the soldiers here (obviously) can't reflect.

First - men's fashion hasn't really changed. Cargo pants or khakis and a polo shirt is the outfit of choice. Usually with brown combat boots or sometimes hiking boots (most seem to prefer the combat boot style to reflect their "authenticity"). Button up shirts are also acceptable, but much less common than the polo.

Women: although the khaki/polo combo can be seen, I have recently encountered a surge in khakis with a flannel button-up over a t-shirt of some sort. Originally I noticed this style predominantly on KBR employees, who form their own little subculture here on Victory Base, but recently the style has spread to the DOD contractors as well, so I have to assume it reflects some ethereal trend in the female subconscious here.

It is not surprising, of course, as we've had a few years of 80s fashion, so the resurgence of 90's fashion (read: grunge) is the next logical step. And everyone's already wearing the boots...

In looking up grunge, I found this awesome timeline for people who fell in the cracks between major music movements.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Palin

So, I just read an interesting piece on Slate about Palin's... well, insanity and complete unfitness for office. (It's by Robert Kaplan, who I have always had tremendous respect for).

He compares Palin to Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes.

However, I think a more up-to-date analogy would be Bob Roberts...

I find it interesting how many "bad" pictures there have been of her at the recent tea Party event. And I'm waiting for the conservative outcry about it. However, of them all, I think I like this picture the best...

The Unit, part 2

get your head out of the gutter.

Well, I finished watching the series (it's amazing how fast something goes when you watch one episode a night before going to bed). Overall, I thought it was well done, aside from some weirdness in the middle which I think is what ended up getting the show cancelled in the long run. I get the feeling the writers were trying to capture some of the Lost/Alias weird metaphysical angle, but they failed utterly. First was the introduction of a psychic, which was actually kinda cool, since her character was greeted by "aren't you one of those people that studied people staring at goats?". Nice reference.

However, rather than play with that, somewhere the writers got even weirder, and had an episode centered around the Spear of Longinus, and the next episode was some weird acid trip by one of the main characters. Combined, I think it was these two episodes which just killed it. The show was already suffering from a poor attempt to move from an episodic to a story-arc season, and the clunkiness of that poor execution combined with the insanity of mystical monks and swordfighting was the deathblow. It was kind of a shame, I think there was one more season in it, if nothing else than just to resolve a few of the smaller things floating in the background (rich people conspiracy theories that overlaid most of the show I would have liked to have seen completed).

I think, like many things, one of the big problems was the inability of the founder to step away from the project. Again, I like Mamet, but he is absolutely not suited to directing or writing for television.

Mamet hanger on count for The Unit:

Rebecca Pidgeon
Ricki Jay
Max Martini (iffy, but he was in Redbelt)
William Macy
Bai Ling

A welcome recurring role from Summer Glau, though, didn't even know she was in the show (and in a bikini...)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Urban Dictionary

I swear people just sit around trying to invent words that refer to nasty things.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I don't know what's more distressing

about this article:

1) that they had to use 12 year olds to study teenager sexuality

2) or that the "successful" group of abstinence-only instructees (12 year olds) still had a 33% sexual activity rate.

3) or, of course, that somehow this is going to get twisted into some kind of "evidence" for religious abstinence only programs...