Sunday, February 17, 2008

The kids asked me tonight what Billy Clinton's title would be if his wife were to get elected president.

First Gentleman?

Well, I had to tell them that he'd be first something, but "gentleman" wasn't in the running. This is a guy who kept a girl under his desk doing you-know-what (Billy seems to crave that particular) while he was on the telephone with a Senator and later Yassir Arafat---and bragged about it. That's demeaning. Not gentlemanly.

I'm much younger than Billy, and yet my generation says that you don't stuff girls under your desk while you have high level conversations and think that's a cool thing. Actually, it's misogyny.

Misogyny means it's all about you. Women are objects with certain (I don't want to get gross) attributes. And that's Billy (and the woman who puts up with him so she can ride his coattails). Suzanne Fields once observed that Bill regards women in the same manner that a cigarette regards an ashtray. I can't think of a more apt analogy. And the "strongest woman in the US" puts up with that. It's all about power--her husband is a misogynistic a$$hole, but she sticks with him just to draw on the Clinton charisma. If she were truly a strong woman she'd have dumped his body in a reservoir.

Friday, February 15, 2008

My pirate name is:

Captain Sam Vane

Even though there's no legal rank on a pirate ship, everyone recognizes you're the one in charge. You tend to blend into the background occaisionally, but that's okay, because it's much easier to sneak up on people and disembowel them that way. Arr!

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Friday, February 08, 2008

The all-time greatest music video.

And Then There Was One

Harry Landis passed away this past Monday. Landis was one of the last two surviving US WWI veterans.

The last German veteran passed in January.

There are now three known surviving veterans of that war. Frank Buckles, who served with the US Army; John Babcock, who lives in the US but served with Canadian Forces; and Harry Stone of the UK.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

What military aircraft are you?

A-10 Thunderbolt II

You are an A-10. You may not be the prettiest or swiftest, but you're tough as nails, and everyone knows not to mess with you!

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I'm curious.

Two Palestinian murderers went into a strip mall in Israel the other day wearing explosives. Dumbass #1 blew himself up, killing a woman and slamming Dumbass #2 to the ground, rendering him incapacitated. Really, guys, if you're to plan something like that, work it out so you don't blow each other up in the process (sorry if I'm leaking new information to the terrorist murderers).

Anyway, while Dumbass #2 laid on the ground he started digging around in his pants looking for the trigger to his bombs, so an Israeli policeman averted the explosion by planting five bullets in where most people have a brain.

So my question is, does Dumbass #2 get his 72 virgins, or did he forfeit it by being stupid and getting shot before he could kill any infidels?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Oh, and I find it...well, amusing, that Billy Bubba Clinton just "needs" the public spotlight so much that he practically jumps in front of his wife as she campaigns for a position that she seems to think that she simply deserves.

Before you vote for his wife (I refuse to go with the "rock-star" thing of just calling her by her first name), think what a disaster he'd be as first man. "Look at me, Look at me". "Hey, everyone, I was president--look at me, look at me". Or worse--"Hey, baby..."
Now here's a company that deserves some kudos. Big time.

Blackfive reported that Carhartt has donated 750 sets of thermal underwear and 5,000 pairs of socks to paratroopers in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

Everyone knows Carhartt. They make those brown overalls and jackets that guys who work outside wear. They make a lot more, obviously, but everyone has seen the overalls and jackets.

I went to Carhartt's web site and sent them a note thanking them for the donation. The very next day I got a personal reply.

Now there's a company that gives a rodential posterior about the troops and its customers. I need a new winter jacket--I love the one I have, but I've had it for 15 some years and it's getting a bit thin. Guess what brand my next jacket will be...

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I am so G*DDAMN SICK of the "war on science" thing that people who simply hate President Bush carry on with.

Facts, people, facts.

The only thing that Bush has done in his alleged "war on science" is to mandate that the US will continue funding research on existing fetal stem cell lines, but it won't provide government funds for any new cell lines. Got that? Research will continue. For Democrats, I'll repeat myself. Research will continue. The "war on science" thing is bull.

Now for those of you who don't know, fetal stem cells are an absolute, 100% dry hole. Nothing has ever been solved using fetal stem cells. I've been in the biotech industry for almost 20 years now. I read the publications, I've done the research, I've spent hours in labs pipetting things. I've done work on a possible cancer therapy (I won't go so far as to call it a cure, yet) and I did some work of which I'm especially proud which involved a device that I hope will be on the shelves of hospitals very soon and will deal with septic shock.

But fetal stem cells have done squat. Nada. Zero. NOTHING.

Grow up, Teddy Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi--if fetal stem cells were the wave of the future, you'd have biotech and pharmaceutical companies piling over each other to grab the prize. Am I clear? If fetal stem cells were the be-all and end-all, 25 pharmaceutical companies would be all over it.

Ever noticed how they aren't?

There have been some really interesting studies involving stem cells. In one study scientists severed the spinal cords of mice and then injected stem cells and the spinal cords were actually repaired. But they were adult stem cells. Not fetal.

And in one study scientists injected fetal stem cells into people with Parkinson's and the subjects deteriorated rapidly. Worse than if they hadn't gotten the treatment.

For all that is wished, fetal stem cells ain't the be-all-end-all. They've been likened to a piece of sheet metal that can be hammered into any shape, but it turns out that's apparently not the case. Now, one place I worked cultivated cells from adult tissue and achieved remarkable results. A Belgian woman who was basically invalid was injected with cells cultured from an adult heart and recovered something like 70% heart capacity. And we also developed cell growth media which has been used to grow cartilage. But none of this involved fetal stem cells, and yes, we had them.

The whole thing with fetal stem cell research can be broken down into two issues. The first is abortion. People apply the broad brush and say "Those who oppose fetal stem cell research do so because they are opposed to abortion and IVF". And a lot of scientists have wussed out on the whole thing and won't tell the truth lest they be painted by the radicals as anti-abortion. And reason number two is that a lot of scientists are milking it big time: "Just keep throwing money at me and I'll cure everything". Well, hell, everyone wants things cured, so people grasp at it like someone grabbing a life ring. But it's BS.

But the believers built an artificial construct around it. "If you oppose it it's because you're a Luddite or you're one of those extreme right-wingers". So everyone cowers.

As I cited above, cell therapy works. And I am a huge fan of cell therapy. I saw the results of the Belgian woman, I did some really neat work which involved turning certain cells into "hunters" of cancer cells.

But this "war on science" meme is BS. First--Bush didn't defund stem cell research. Not at all. He simply said "No new cell lines will be funded by the government". And second--and this is how you know the "war" thing is BS--if the things worked private companies would be all over them.
Oh, and as far as the inner geek thing, I do have an R-390 receiver that I actually found in a dumpster. All I have to do with it is put a plug on the end of the electrical cord--for some reason somebody cut the plug off before pitching it in the dumpster--and hook it up to an antenna of some sort. I've already used window screens as antennas for receivers, so that's no big project, and attaching a new plug is easy. I'll have to rig up a speaker, too, but again, that's not a big deal.

The R-390, for what it's worth, was the absolute best AM receiver of its era. Suffer through an anecdote--I was in the National Cryptologic Museum a few years ago (there's the "inner geek" thing again), looking at one while a kind of loud and braggart sort of guy was showing a friend of his around and proceeded to lecture about how he had used this radio to do this and that. Only problem was that he called it something else (I forget), and the R-390 doesn't transmit. It only receives. I used the R-390 and have one in my basement, so I knew full well what I was looking at. I kept my mouth shut, but he reminded me of the guy I once listened to at a ski resort who was talking loudly on his cell phone and said "Let me pull off to the side of the slope" while he was sitting at a table eating a burger.

Things have changed with the advent of satellite communications, but there used to be a whole lot of neat stuff to listen to on the AM band--merchant ships and so on--and I'll bet there's still a lot going on.

Only problem is the R-390 weighs about as much as a small elephant, so just dropping it on the kitchen table for an evening of plying the AM spectrum isn't really an option. Not if I want to stay married.

I'll have to give this one some thought. Might be a good thing to work some of the Scouts through radio merit badge, though.

And this whole train of thought led me back to Morse Code. I've made two unpleasant discoveries in the last 30 days--neither playing clarinet nor listening to Morse Code are like the proverbial riding a bicycle. I used to good at both, and I currently am horrendous at both.
I just haven't had much interesting to say lately.

I have no shortage of things to say, but as far as interesting, well, I'm a bit short on that.

But I saw something tonight that brought back memories. Proof, I guess, that you can be a graduate of Special Forces school (it ain't easy), and still sort of a geek.

When I was at the former Ft. Devens, which was a great place to be stationed but exists no more, we decided to try and make a radio shot to the then-new special operations command in Florida. Using a 15-watt radio.

Listen to the radio on your morning drive and at some point they'll say something like "30,000 watts rolling across the countryside", but by the time you get to work you can't hear them any more. That's because they send their signal 360 degrees. By putting up antennae that were very directional (and knowing which antenna fit a particular situation and a bit about the atmosphere--E and F levels, for example), we could send low wattage signals in a straight line over great distances. The whole idea behind that is that it minimizes the chance of having your signal intercepted by bad guys--low signal strength, very directional--you get the idea.

I can't remember why we wanted to make the shot from Massachusetts to Florida, but we decided to go for it with an AN/PRC-74 radio and an AN/GRC-71 Coderburst. The AN/PRC-70 radios were coming into service, but the AN/PRC-74s, though older, were a much better radio. Everyone hated the AN/PRC-70 which the Marines had the good sense to dump. We laid out a five-wavelength wire and tied one end of it to a 34-foot tower and the other end to my Ford EXP. The wire was hundreds of feet long and just too heavy to tension by hand, so I actually drove the car until the wire achieved something resembling tension.

And damned if we didn't make communications from Massachusetts to Florida using a radio that doesn't have much more power than those things they sell now as "family radio service".

That was probably the most dramatic of my radio shots, but I also made consistent communications from Minnesota to Mississippi one very cold January--also using the AN/PRC-74.

To this day, while I have no idea what I'd do with it, I'd like to buy a PRC-74. What a radio. And the GRC-71 Coderburst was a hoot. Theoretically us enlisted swine weren't supposed to actually decode incoming transmissions--that was for the officers--but in ten years I never once met an officer who didn't say "Just decode the damn thing and give it to me".

I wanted become a medic, but the Army needed radio operators (this was when the Army did things Army-wide and didn't regard SF as a sub-entity, which they do now). I'd have liked to have gotten the medical training, but the radio training fitted my inner geek. I could go on at length about "E" and "F" layers and terminating resistors and wavelengths...I'll spare you.