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Star Wars at NASA

Here's my story today on the tense times at NASA. Mike Griffin is certainly one of the more vivid characters in Washington. The Obama folks are examining Griffin's architecture for space exploration, and Griffin has taken extreme umbrage. Note his response to my question about whether he could abide a possible change in rocket strategy:

"I don't know where the threshold is, but dictating design solutions to NASA on any technical subject, launch vehicles or otherwise, is above it," he wrote. "NASA's purpose is to produce technical solutions to achieve space policy goals enunciated from above. If agency management cannot be trusted to do that, they should be replaced. Specifying solutions from outside the agency cannot possibly work."

Griffin is a true believer in space exploration, not a policy wonk or bureaucrat. And he sees virtue in being what you'd call an intense person. Here's Griffin giving a commencement address a few days ago at the University of Alabama-Huntsville:

Many people have asked me how I found the time over the years to take those classes while working, raising kids, and amidst the various distractions life brings. The answer is that I don't watch any television apart from the evening news, an occasional old movie, and a few rounds per year of major-championship golf, my other life-long passion. I'll never be able to complete a People magazine crossword puzzle, and I don't know who hosts which TV talk show, or care. I first heard of Saturday Night Live through all the hoopla surrounding their twenty-fifth anniversary. But being ignorant of those things has given me more time to learn, and to apply what I've learned, to the physics, engineering, and management challenges of my profession, aerospace.

If that makes me a "nerd" or "geek" or a "workaholic", then it does. I know the conventional wisdom about leading a balanced life, but I have not done it. The people I know who set out to accomplish something meaningful in their careers have not done so either. They too are nerds, geeks, and workaholics. Frankly, I think our society owes a great deal to such people....

If you choose to remember one thing from what I have to say tonight, let it be this: go about your life with a sense of purpose. Have an agenda, have a goal, have a plan, and pursue it with "fire in the belly". Whatever that purpose is, seek its fulfillment during your lifetime, or advance the agenda so as to leave it in a better place than you found it. Pursue your goals with determination and fortitude, and remember always: if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life.

[More NASA commentary at Transterrestrial Musings, DailyKos, NASAWatch and Knight Science Journalism Tracker.]


Marc Fisher has a big birthday today, and it reminds us that any news organization trying to come up with a new business plan in these tough economic times should just try to hire more people like Marc. He has the strength of ten men. His mental database borders on omniscience. He can write a story standing on his head while juggling three baseballs with his feet. [Fact: If you ask him if he has any story ideas, he'll hit you with a list of about 250.] Happy birthday, Marc! [Tell him happy birthday at RawFisher.]


By Joel Achenbach  |  December 15, 2008; 7:35 AM ET
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Next: Universe Won't Rip Apart


"if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life."

Except, I have found, that management hates it when you are caught loving what you do, and so they find ways to make it into work. This is a time-honored way to get capable people to retire or look elsewhere for work -- or rather, to do what they love.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 15, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse


Today is a great Shoe Day! (off kit, but . . .)

Posted by: Braguine | December 15, 2008 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Have to say I agree with Griffin on policymakers dictating technical solutions. I know nothing of rocket strategies, but I've seen firsthand the disasters that occur when policymakers step into the technical realm.

Posted by: Raysmom | December 15, 2008 9:12 AM | Report abuse

I think sometimes NASA gets caught in the "NIH" (Not Invented Here) syndrome. Yes, policy people should probably not design rockets, but maybe they know other rocket scentists who might provide some light inside the silos.

Posted by: ebtnut | December 15, 2008 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone know Griffin's stance on the NASA climate science suppression by the Bush administration? Did he squawk, was he compliant, what?

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 15, 2008 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I don't know anything about rocket engineering, but it seems that there's only a few expert organizations. Russia, a few US corporations, NASA, the European Space Agency and its contractors. The Japanese program (which built the Space Station's finest module). And whatever China and India are doing.

Given the competitive nature of relations among some of these outfits, arranging peer review of rocket designs seems a bit difficult. Maybe a bit like Toyota inviting Honda in for a look-see?

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 15, 2008 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I don't agree with Griffin at all in is characterization of successful people as always leading an unbalanced life. And I'm not talking about the philosophical meaning of the term "successful."

Living in a closed world prevents one from seeing alternative approaches. It leads directly to the narrow-minded thinking that has dogged, say, General Motors and, some would suggest, NASA. Yes, a hard working uber geek will achieve a well-defined technical goal. But such people seldom allow themselves to consider whether the goal is worthwhile or not.

The true great thinkers of our time have been individuals who understand that inspiration comes from unexpected places. To exclude stimulus other than "work" is, ultimately, to preclude greatness.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 15, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Fifteen years ago I worked in and around the infrastructure at Cape Canaveral. The shuttle launch pads are re-purposed Apollo sites. The legacy systems are positively steam-punkish. Since everything was built in the 60s the place is riddled with asbestos. Those guys have done more with shoe polish and baling wire than anyone could imagine possible. Somebody throw some money their way and at least let them put a coat of paint on the place.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 15, 2008 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Dodgeball 2: Dubya Ducks
"If you can dodge a shoe, you can dodge a ball."

Posted by: yellojkt | December 15, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

The stated position, at the time of Jim Hansen's allegations of attempted climate-science muzzling, was that NASA public affairs personnel were not to do the things that Hansen had reported, and that NASA supports open publication and debate of unclassified scientific research. The over-reaching political appointee in Public Affairs was shown the door (how could one possibly put a political appointee into Public Affairs? Policy positions, yes, but Public Affairs should be for career professionals). A cynical person, of course, could view this as pure CYA. I prefer to take it at face value -- an appointee whose appointment preceded Griffin (IIRC) had a chance to do something unconscionable because the initial assumption is that a person will try to acquit his job well, until demonstrated otherwise. He demonstrated otherwise, and got canned.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 15, 2008 9:36 AM | Report abuse

I would argue that the kerfuffle about Griffin and "looking under the hood" is based on some unspoken words -- or, at least, unreported. The question is whether the new administration is looking to see whether NASA is doing it right (which could understandably raise some hackles) or whether NASA could do better with the support of different policies. The current mission architecture, and strategy for replacing the Shuttle with Constellation, is based around the expansive mission statement and very limited resources provided by the Bush Administration. Is Griffin being questioned on the strategy ("The Moon and Mars on $30 roundtrip!") or on the technical solution to that strategy?

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 15, 2008 9:47 AM | Report abuse

I understand there's a scene in the new version of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" where Keanu Reeves, lying injured on the lawn on the mall in front of his spaceship, turns to the giant robot that is about to start zapping people, and tells him to stand down, uttering those immortal words we all know by heart by now, "Huzzah Hokie Mokie, Techie Mojo Rah."

I dunno, Joel. Griffin may be a brilliant guy...but to me, from everything presented so far, he sounds pretty much like a jerk. He sounds like a "my way or the highway" kinda guy, a hard person to work for, and a man with tunnel vision. I don't object to a person who pays no attention to cultural issues--but one who brags about it makes me suspicious: he's holier than thou. While us poor schlubs are watching Britney and Survivor and SNL, *he's* off doing important things and thinking loftier thoughts. Well, F.U., Mr. Griffin.

Might one also suggest --if it isn't blasphemous and anathema to Mr. Griffin -- that the Russians build much better launch vehicles than we do? That ours are built in clean rooms with minutely precise engineering tolerances, and the Russians build theirs with shipyard welders? And there's always that story -- don't know if it is apocryphal or not -- about NASA spending a fortune trying to design a ballpoint pen that works in space, while the Russians simply switched to pencils.

I am not prepared to give Mr. Griffin my unfettered admiration. And I want to know the answers to Jumper's questions about Griffin's oversight of his agency's craven pandering to the Bushies. Perhaps if Griffin watched a little more television he'd know what's going on in the world.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 15, 2008 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Well said. Anybody between the age of 40 and 60 that is completely unaware of Saturday Night Live is suspect in my book. If you don't know who the Coneheads are, how can you hope to ever send a manned mission to Remulak.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 15, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

According to Wikipedia Griffin said this vis-a-vis climate change/global warming:

"I have no doubt that global -- that a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change.

"First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown, and second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings - where and when - are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take."


Griffin is either a Limbaugh-listening lunkhead or completely clueless about the litmus test landmine he stepped on.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 15, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

yellojkt's right about the Cape being a bit like the automobiles of Havana.

NASA's perhaps also getting to be a bit like the Army Corps of Engineers, which is terribly overloaded with things to plan, but underfunded to actually build anything. There's increasing suspicion that Corps-funded projects to restore the Everglades will never be built.

On the other hand, the long-planned and hugely expensive Yazoo Backwater Reformulation Project was finally killed off.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 15, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

The humidity levels on the Space Coast also does a lot to make the general jungle-like appearance seem like one missed application of Round-Up would turn the whole place into a set for a Logan's Run sequel.

And since Merrit Island is all one big nature preserve, I used to count the gators in the drainage ditches on the way in. One day a twelve footer sunning himself on the asphalt stopped traffic coming and going to the LC-39 complex.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 15, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

I suspect it was lack of awareness of the litmus test landmine. Perhaps Griffin doesn't read New Scientist or the new section of Science?

Princeton University Press has what looks like a sober new assessment: "The Long Thaw: How Humans are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate" by David Archer.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 15, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Griffin probably wouldn't approve of such a low-brow topic, but I would note that -- anent our ongoing discussion of all things Christmas, smells and cookies in particular -- the foodies over at "Slate" have a seven-part series on cookies, small essays on what constitutes a cookie, whither goest the cookie, cooking/baking with butter, etc., at

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 15, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Griffin's commencement address makes him come out as a snotty A-type personality. Great achievers may be necessary to the progress of society but this particular type would get on my nerves, quickly.

I's OK to go to work without being so happy as breaking in a song and starting to dance. I mean, one can be reasably happy at work even if it is not making progress toward the achievement of your life. Jeez.

Saturn 5 isn't good enough for the next manned flights or is it that all this liquid hydrogen is giving cold sweats to the safety people?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 15, 2008 10:42 AM | Report abuse

That's sort of a given with workaholics. They think everybody else is a slacker.

More to be pitied than censured, in my view.

Posted by: Yoki | December 15, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps I am wrong, but I think it would be really hard to recreate the Saturn 5 even if there weren't sound technological reasons not to. I have heard tell that the record keeping isn't quite what it should be. Not that there is anything unique about this.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | December 15, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Amazing, really, how many hackles Mr. Griffin has raised in such a short excerpt, but mine are up too. I suspect there's at least one person who, on his deathbed, will regret he didn't spend more time at the office.

Can we get equal time for statements from his family?

Smells of Christmas? Springerle baking (which they are, right now). No butter, still a cookie.

Posted by: -dbG- | December 15, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I got the impression that there was a definite pro-solid propellant bias within NASA, and given the Challenger experience, it would seem to be partially justified.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 15, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Good morning! I'm afraid I can't muster much sympathy for Griffin. Respect, sure. I'm sure he's absolutely technically more than competent to make decisions about NASA engineering and the way to carry out policy. His opinions about the policy may also be just as good. I'll even take his assurance that he's the best.

However, as head of a gummint agency he is not running a private fiefdom. The Bush gang has every right to questions him right now, if they want to, and the Obama gang has a duty to find out what's going on as they enter office. His job right now is to open the plant, give the guided tour, then let the visitors (owners? shareholders?) poke around and ask questions. He can argue all he wants about their opinions based on the tour. He can even quit if, after finding out what's going on, they want to change course. He doesn't get to throw a fit just because they want to know what is going on.

What if Treasury told the Obama team to trust them, they were working on the bailout? What if the Pentagon said not to worry, the war strategy is rocking right along?

I was bothered by Griffin's reply to the transition team leader the first time I read it and on reflection it is even more disturbing. Griffin basically said any attempt to independently review the agency programs amounted to calling him a liar. NASA is not his, and this process is not about him. He needs to step back. Perhaps if he were a little less unbalanced in his obsession he would see this. His kind of focus no doubt worked very well for the engineering aspect of his career. To run the entire program, which involves politics, funding, and accountability to others, it may help to have a little more experience in the world. As RD says, openness to other ideas and solutions is a hallmark of success.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 15, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I bet Mr. Griffin is really fun at parties. You know, the type that can only talk about work because that's all he knows. Whee.

Posted by: Raysmom | December 15, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

President George W. Bush:
Shoe flies, don't bother me,
Second shoe flies, don't bother me,
Flying shoes, don't bother me,
They coulda hit ol' Nuri al-Maliki.

Muntader al-Zaidi:
I feel, I feel,
I feel like a media star,
A farewell kiss, a farewell kiss,
Flying footwear, protest of war.

Dana Perino:
Shoe flew, it bothered me,
A hit to the eye, could have been bleedy,
Durn microphone stand, can I see?
I'm real shook up: lobbed size 10s of al-Zaidi.

Posted by: laloomis | December 15, 2008 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, your post is most excellent.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 15, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

"In The Long Thaw, David Archer, one of the world's leading climatologists, predicts that if we continue to emit carbon dioxide we may eventually cancel the next ice age and raise the oceans by 50 meters." -from Princeton University Press.

The plan to restore the Everglades is probably unnecessary.

Posted by: -tao- | December 15, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

"This is the best book about carbon dioxide and climate change that I have read. David Archer knows what he is talking about."--James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Posted by: -tao- | December 15, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

And they continue to spread the cost of insuring seaside development among homeowner policies far inland.

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 15, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

For some real doublespeak, try this hatchet job on General Shineski.

I really can't quite find the point other than that they are assuming that silence is assent. And where Di Rita falls on the Rumsfeld lackey list needs to be determined.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 15, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom said: "What if Treasury told the Obama team to trust them, they were working on the bailout? What if the Pentagon said not to worry, the war strategy is rocking right along?"

I thought that was exactly what was going on.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 15, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

The Week from Heck is over.

Yoki: Wow. All the Best.

Smells: Has no one said gingerbread yet?

Griffin: the idea starts off well - own a tv not the other way around - but he goes too far. I'm surprised to hear such a technocrat statement from someone so senior. He's supposed to be the Big Picture guy.

Posted by: engelmann | December 15, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Jumper, Randy Cohen had a great little riff on the ethics of just that, some months back.

Posted by: Yoki | December 15, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Merritt Island and the rest of the Cape historically had fire-maintained vegetation, both marsh and oak scrub. The scrub housed Florida scrub-jays. There was apparently no shortage of lightning to set those fires.

In the absence of fire, scrub becomes overgrown pretty fast, forcing the jays to live at the edges of roads.

The area's salt spray is apparently intense by anyone's standards. Steel corrodes rapidly; so does reinforced concrete.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 15, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Thanks engelmann. That is just what I anticipate.

Posted by: Yoki | December 15, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

morning all
Quite balmy here in west by god up to 54 now and expecting a high of 62.then comes more rain and wintry mix for tomorrow.

I was watching "the Right stuff" recently with a friend and all the trials and errors they had to go through to get the first rocket to launch sucessfully...yikes. Brave men being shot up into space.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | December 15, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Mudge. I'm probably just cranky because I don't have a fiefdom.

I missed lots of interesting boodling yesterday. Omni, good luck to you. Also to you, Yoki. The tentative theme of this year's Christmas letter is "change, or living in interesting times". You two are right in step with that. Also, jack, I'm sorry to hear about your aunt.

Christmas smells: Christmas trees, hot cider, gingerbread, pie, that dry-air smell from the register in the morning as the heater kicks in.

It is in the teens here, which qualifies in Oklahoma for "bitter cold". I read the temperatures of you Northern birds in amazement.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 15, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse




As always, you hit the nail squarely on the head.

Posted by: cmyth4u | December 15, 2008 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Completely off-kit, this made me laugh. Randy Cohen (again):

Botox improves the look of a face in the sense that vinyl siding improves the look of a house. But while it is ultimately a matter of taste (my own notwithstanding) as to whether one admires a face frozen into immobility (the fun of rigor mortis without the inconvenience of death)...

Posted by: Yoki | December 15, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Funny you should mention that Yoki.I watched the Simpsons movie for the first time over the weekend. My stomach hurt from laughing so much. Kent Brockman after they were running out of supplies(botox) uses a clothes pin after he strecthes his face and pins it up on his neck.....I busted a shirt button on that one.

spider pig, spider pig, does whatever a spider pig does!!!!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | December 15, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Ha, gwe, that movie made me laugh too.

Posted by: Yoki | December 15, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

So many hilarious moments,i love it when the swallows hit the dome and all the cats are waiting at the buttom for them to slide down....

Posted by: greenwithenvy | December 15, 2008 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Good - wow, is it afternoon already?

Clearly, I've been too busy designing human-rated rockets powered by clusters of Estes D engines to pay attention to things like the passing of time -- holy moly, when did it get cold? Did I miss Christmas again?

Seriously, though human spaceflight is important, and, as I've said many times, I think that NASA - and we taxpayers - are just going to have to pick a plan and stick with it, even though better ideas and designs will surely come along over time, given the durations of aerospace project implementations.

Seems to me that changing our minds, changing the plans, delaying or withdrawing commitments, will result the current lack of visible progress continuing unabated. [Yes, I know that there has been progress on paper and in prototyping and testing, but how much is visible to the taxpayers? Even test boosters blowing up on pads as they sometimes did back in the day was *something.*]

I'm not aware of anyone or any human process that can render complete perfection. Personally, I believe it's better to make a well-considered decision that I *know* is going to be imperfect, commit to it and move forward than to paralyze myself with Fear of Being a Little Bit Wrong.

That way I'll have a little time to watch NFL football or American Idol.

[And yes, I'm willing to sit my butt on top of that much potential energy controlled by machines built by the lowest bidder. I'm a *gladiator* fer goodness' sakes.]


Posted by: -bc- | December 15, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

*applauding bc*

Now can we talk about cookies?

Posted by: Raysmom | December 15, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Joel's NASA story is the number three story on the home page. Just sayin'.

Just finished a boring morning of writing up team evaluations and all that stuff, for annual reviews and raises, etc.

Speaking of swallows, what's for virtual lunch today? I wish I could report there were lots of leftover meatballs and sausage from yesterday --but my son hit the fridge late last night, and there tweren't much left to begin with, alas. I was kinda looking forward to them today. More shattered dreams...

And it's after 1 p.m.--I better wander over to the cafeteria. I haven't had a Philly cheesesteak in quite a while...

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 15, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Great post, bc.

Posted by: Yoki | December 15, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

bc, as you know your idea of clusters of Estes rocket isn't far from what NASA is proposing to do with Ares V with its 6 (six!) liquid-fuel and 2 solid fuel engines for the firt stage.

As might be expected there is no lobstah left from last night celebration. I'd have to dig into the braised "boeuf à l'oignon" to bring something to the table.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 15, 2008 1:25 PM | Report abuse

My meager offering is leftover ham and bean soup. Unless you want me to run over to Taquiero Nacionale for some fish tacos.

Posted by: Raysmom | December 15, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

As I'm so very interested in shoes as a topic in general, al-Zaidi really caught my attention. His actions will eclipse N. Kruschev as one of the best shoe incidents in foreign policy. But here's the kicker....must it always be some type of functional (read: no style) men's shoe? Granted, FMPs aren't for throwing, but geezy-peezy, couldn't they find something with a bit more oomph, maybe a knock-off at DSW? Besides, men's shoes have no heel to speak of...without a direct hit (al-Zaidi's got an arm many an NFL coach would appreciate, no?) doesn't that make them sort of no-harm, no-foul?

About NASA...I was raised around a whole herd of those types (want to hear about the disaster that was my 5th grade science project?), I can say that many of those with that kind of mind aren't exactly well-rounded people, but that doesn't make them bad. Shoot, sometimes it comes in downright handy (sort of like living with MacGyver). Besides, sometimes that type of personality can be kind of endearing. Not really good for PR, but you gotta remember what their strong suit is and look for them to excel at that, not at something else. But they really should get someone else to talk to those whose understanding of technology starts and ends with the on-off switch.

Back to the salt mines....(why am I in the salt mines but the seven dwarfs got to work in a diamond mine? Waaay unfair.)

Have a happy day all.

Posted by: LostInThought | December 15, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

kim, i forgot to say congrats on your son's college acceptance!

griffin seems very knowledgeable, if a bit insane. however, whoever made the decision to rely on russia for 4 years between the retiring of the shuttle program and whatever replaces it has very bad judgment, imo.

my questions about griffin would be more along the lines of how people who work in nasa feel about him and whether he is part of the old culture there that led to the failures (as in disasters) of the shuttle program or whether he represents a different way of doing things.

Posted by: LALurker | December 15, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

the shoe story is a really fitting end to the bush presidency. the man who lived in the bubble, who wouldn't discouraged constructive criticism in his circle of advisers, who has refused to acknowledge mistakes, has shoe missiles thrown at him during his last visit to iraq. some may consider it a lack of respect or an insult to our country. i don't feel that way at all. i'm not saying throwing things at people is a good idea, but in the grand scale of things, throwing shoes at a person who started a disastrous war in one's country seems relatively mild to me.

Posted by: LALurker | December 15, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

It's *always* all about the shoes, isn't it, LiT?

Just to tie the whole shoe thing together and toss it over the power line, was that guy simply trying to tell Bush that he has no sole? And was it my my imagination, or was that guy wearing "Hello Kitty" socks when they arrested him?

Thanks for the nice words about the NASA bit, folks.


Posted by: -bc- | December 15, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Count your blessings, LiT. When you work in a diamond mine, at the end of the day they strip-search you, including a check of your orifices. Salt mines: not so much.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 15, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

What's up with Griffin getting all bent out of shape? Who would he have look under the hood if not a transition team member? Someone all pointy and sciencey like himself, probably. And they still wouldn't be able to 'splain it all to those of us down here. Anyway, time spent in politics and government and on the staff of a presidential campaign makes for a wealth of expertise that can be used to make sense of all manner of challenges and questions that arise. Why shouldn't the transition team rethink Griffin's programs and offer newer, better solutions? It's not like we're talking rocket science here...

Posted by: Gomer144 | December 15, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

No need! Anybody who would put salt in an orifice is too stupid to be a miner.

Yes, I could have been a judge but I never had the Latin, never had the Latin for the judging, I just never had sufficient of it to get through the rigorous judging exams.

I managed to get through the mining exams – they're not very rigorous, they only ask one question, they say, "Who are you", and I got 75 per cent on that.

Posted by: Yoki | December 15, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

But...but...but...I put salt in my mouth all the time!

Oh. That orifice. Yes. I see what you mean.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 15, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Since I'm having a nasty day and am feeling particularly b1tchy, I wanna nit-pik the hed and concept behind Chris Cilizza's "The Fix" piece. It concerns the GOP's gamble in attempting to link Obama to Blagogate (lemme be the first...).

What I object to is the word "gamble." A gamble necessarily implies that the party in question has something to lose if the outcome doesn't go their way. And in this case, indications seem to be the polls show nobody is buying the attempted linkage, and Obama is'nt being tarred with this one.

So where's the "gamble"? What does the GOP lose by taking this (ridiculous) shot at Obama? So they are being what? What have they got to lose by trying? Their credibility? Their "integrity"? Please, don't make me laugh.

Here's what Cilizza perceives is the risk: "If not, will voters perceive this strategy as nothing more than a partisan attack at a time when people want political leaders to come together..."

Yes. God forbid anyone perceive the GOP of launching an empty partisan attack and trying to smear someone by association. I'm shocked and dismayed. And at this point in time, who give a rat's patoot what "voters" think? The election is over. Ain't gonna be no relevant election coming up for two more years, by which time this will be an ancient footnote. Ain't no "voters" to sway. There's no negative payoff.

Not a big deal, perhaps -- but I think an editor should have parsed this a bit and kicked it back to Cilzza for a little judicious re-write. Don't create a "gamble" where none exists.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 15, 2008 2:21 PM | Report abuse

And s_d, I did in fact know that the Ares V has lots of engines some of them solid fueled (like Estes and the STS SRBs), but I was also thinking of the business end of a Soyuz booster, which has something like 32 exhaust bells for the boosters and vernier control engines.

Speaking of Kruschev, that booster has a lineage that goes back to his time, and they're still flying it. On the other hand, when the Soviets tried their heavy-lift booster for manned-lunar flights, the US Geological Survey recorded the explosion on seismographs halfway around the world.

By the way, for those of you who like tall tales about the 60's Space Race, John Calvin Bachelor's "Peter Nevesky and the True Story of the Russian Moon Landing," is a hoot.


Posted by: -bc- | December 15, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps 'gambit' would be a more appropriate word. As well as a great phrase to use in the title of a political thriller, e.g. 'The Ferret-Haired Crook Gambit'.

I spent a good amount of time browsing Wikipedia which has a number of good articles explaining the various Ares configurations as well as the Orion vehicle. A certain sense of deja vu emerges. We need to rehire all those Apollo engineers before the Alzheimer's sets in.

What happened to all our good Capricorn 1 technology? Admittedly, the life support systems and vehicle re-entry components need some tweaking.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 15, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

They're rallying their base, Mudge. That's all they got.

By the way, all very insightful analyses, but as for me, I'll just assume Griffin either suffers from impacted bowel or impacted ego syndrome and think no more of it.

Interviewing his underlings should prove insightful, I must agree.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 15, 2008 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Joel's NASA article is the top link on my Google WaPo Gadget.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 15, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure how much "rallying" they're getting done, Wilbrod, but basically, yes. But either way, how is that a gamble? There's no penalty for failure. yello's right: "gambit" is a much better word than "gamble." So is "ploy."

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 15, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Oy, somebody said ploy?
Moy I ploy a bit? I've toils
To wag and to tell!


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 15, 2008 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Leave it to the 'ound to 'owl and toss off a bit of 'aiku. 'O knows, 'e moight be part cockney spaniel.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 15, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Many years ago when I was admitted to Penn State's main campus for fall term, I took it for granted, something that happened because I was an Air Force brat with residency privileges in Pa., but no familiarity with PSU or much of anything else.

Turned out that they didn't like being burdened with lots of freshmen, so most applicants had to start at a branch campus. And many others were offered summer term admission to the main campus, like it or leave it. Then it turned out they'd pegged me as a C+ student. This was my safety school?

So warmest congratulations to your kid on being so warmly embraced by such a nice university. Visit Mountain Lake sometime.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 15, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Zaidi's shoe fly pie is on the menu tonight!

Posted by: Braguine | December 15, 2008 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I know lots and lots of PSU alum. The kid will graduate a connoisseur of beer and pizza and will be highly employable to boot. Kinda the best of both worlds. And I still need to find myself in State College when the Creamery is open. My son is two trips to there up on me.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 15, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Or as the 'ound would say, DotC, "'uzzah 'okie Mokie, Techie Moe Joe Roy."

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 15, 2008 3:58 PM | Report abuse

I've been watching Rick Sanchez on CNN, and he's showing that clip of the shoe throwing incident so many times. And the people are emailing him with all kinds of remarks and jokes. I don't condone throwing anything, and especially at the President of the USA, but I guess the guy was just full, and couldn't take anymore.

Bush may be a lame duck, but he's our lame duck. Most of the emails think the shoe throwing incident is a fitting end for this presidency.

Can someone explain to me why Saturday Night Live thought their comedy at the expense of the governor of New York was funny? Making fun of blind people isn't funny or anyone that has a physical or mental disablility, for that matter. It was in poor taste. Very poor taste.

Children met a KKK emblem in front of their school this morning here in North Carolina. Great way to start the week and the Christmas holiday.

Posted by: cmyth4u | December 15, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Words and umbrage fail me, Cassandra.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 15, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

*broadcasting condemnation*

Posted by: Yoki | December 15, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Oh Cassandra! Fie and shame on those hateful people (person?).

I think of Gandhi's comment: any evil meant he must love more completely.

You are doing that right now: loving those precious children and loving through prayer that damaged and dangerous person.

About NASA, I am most knowledgeable about the EOS or earth observation programs; I want more support for environmental monitoring. We are a planet worthy of study and besides, that pesky buggaboo of climate requires good data on

1) how bad is ti?

2) what does the science suggest for our best mitigation and adaptation schemes?

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 15, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

And just think, once the Obama admin is in place, science may inform policy!

Posted by: Yoki | December 15, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Sigh. I'm confused again.

Congratulations, Kim! I thought you'd written that your son was early-admit to Virginia Tech, but how did PSU work itself in here?

I'll say I was excited if he were going to PSU because you could stop here overnight on trips there!

Posted by: -dbG- | December 15, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

That is terrible, Cassandra. Something is badly wrong with whoever did that. All I can hope is that most of the kids didn't recognize it. I mean, I hope that the Klan is or becomes so unimportant, so without influence, that kids can look at it and its symbols and just not care. I really hope that someday soon, as the world begins to change, all those defensive isolationist me-first nuts of every stripe become so marginalized that they can't effectively scare anyone, even innocent little kids.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 15, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

dbG, such a delight to see you here! We see you too little in these parts.

Posted by: Yoki | December 15, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Oh man that is not good Cassandra.

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 15, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Well said, Ivansmom.

When I push for unmanned missions and robotics, it's not because my heart is cold or I didn't read Heinlein, in fact the contrary. But the economics of things give us so much more payoff for the buck.

Posted by: Jumper1 | December 15, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Jumper1 | December 15, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Oh, crap, Yoki. Just what we need: a bunch a facts cluttering up our decision-making. Sheesh. What ever happened to good old-fashioned gut instinct and carrying out God's will?

Cassandra, I went back and looked at that SNL piece again, and I think it's a pretty tough call. On the one hand, Patterson is, after all, a blind man, and one of the things SNL is noted for is its impressions of politicians. And Armison's impression was spookily accurate. Many TV shows have done impressions of blind people before, including SNL doing (very funny) impressions of Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles.

The next point is, given that Patterson is blind, the impressionist has to acknowledge that; we can't pretend he ISN'T blind. I'm not sure how far we can push the notion that this show is also supposed to be "edgy" and a bit "daring." So granted that he has a handicap; how "touchy" do we have to be about it, and how much gentle kidding is OK? Do we raise a double standard that it is OK to be positively vicious as hell when characaturing a Bush or a Clinton or a Jerry Ford falling down, or a senile Ronald Reagan, because none of them have physical handicaps? When is a "fat" joke OK and when not? (Was it OK to picture a pudgy Bill Clinton in the McDonalds as gobbling up every Big Mac in sight?)

It seems to me that Patterson's drug use history is a perfectly legitimate target for satire, as is the overall political situation of an obscure politician being suddenly thrust into the limelight and doing a job he probably isn't very well qualified or experienced enough to do.

But can we say just because he's blind he's immune to satire? He's off limits? Clearly not.

Did SNL go a little too far? Well, maybe. But in part that's what they're supposed to do. Remember also that there's a major school of thought that says that most comedy is necessarily offensive, to one degree or another, to somebody or other. And there are plenty of people who would say that if your are worried about doing things "in good taste," you shouldn't be watching SNL at all. And there's some merit to that.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 15, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Hello, all. I've been taking some time off from the Boodle (yeah, and I know how much you missed me, eh?) and I thought I'd back-boodle a bit, alliteratively speaking, of course.

Ivansmom, you are, as usual, right not point. And, Cassandra, I'm so sorry the kids (and adults) had to see that stuff.

The Comcast guy is supposed to come tomorrow between 11 & 2 to hook up the cable system to the TV. Once that's done, I'll be able finally to see Jon Stewart.

It appears that Caroline Kennedy is interested in the NY Senate seat vacated by Hilary. I admire her a lot (much more than some of the other Kennedys) and she's very smart (unlike some of the other Kennedys). What gets me is the fulmination by others who decry her "lack of experience" -- okay, let's see. Jim Bunning from Kentucky used to pitch baseball for the Detroit Tigers. Yeah, he's a nut job, but he must have had the experience, eh? And what about that guy in California (also a nut job, but dead now) who used to be a tap dancer in Hollywood. Nothing wrong with that, is there? It appears that women and minorities require intense scrutiny, while white guys don't.

I've made all my holiday presents now and have sent out my holiday emails, so all that is done. Whew! I'm so glad this time of year comes only at this time of year. And, no, I'm not feeling particularly Scrooge-ish, just perhaps b1tch-ish. Which is allowed on a Monday, I think. Don't you?

Omni, I hope a new job (and one that is satisfying both in a $$$ sense and an existential sense) comes your way soon.

And to all the others -- *waving*.

Toodle-oo to the Boodle-oo for now.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | December 15, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Ohhhhhh - carp!!!! SCC -- Ivansmom, you are right ON point. *expletive stream*

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | December 15, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Yoki! Work, work, work. :-(

Posted by: -dbG- | December 15, 2008 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Hi all! Haven't had time to boodle today because I've been too busy at work!

Just popping in to say 'hey' and 'I love my job!' and will be sure to backboodle when I get home.

Posted by: -TBG- | December 15, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse


You bring up some good points, but I don't think making fun of the governor's blindness falls under any of those categories. It's mean-spirited and implies that people with disablities are not capable of doing a good job or should even have a job. And I just don't like making fun of folks because of physical or mental issues that they can do absolutely nothing about. Yes, I'm bias in that respect, and will admit it. And I do not apologize one bit. By the way, I don't watch Saturday Night Live. I saw the clip on the news. I'm usually sleep by the time it comes on. I used to watch it, just can't hold out that long now.

A young girl(family) called my daughter this morning on the cell phone and told her about the KKK(emblem) at her school. I haven't heard it on the news. I think the kids took it as a prank. It may be on the evening news later.

Posted by: cmyth4u | December 15, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Cassandra. There are laws in states that prohibit giving false information or endangering blind people...

Precisely because too many yahoos have thought it was funny to misdirect a blind person over an edge or into danger.

You said drug use history is legit. I do tend to agree; that was a choice. Even being overweight is seen as a choice of sorts.

Being born blind or deaf or black or yellow or white is not a choice.

Any comedy that raises "them" kind of thinking is going to be over the edge of appropriateness.

I didn't see the sketch, I did catch the Laurie show which had a brief wedding from hell sketch that featured a blind musician.

(And if that was supposed to be Patterson, it was a godawful impression. What are they doing, radio?)

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 15, 2008 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Hi all... SNL has kind of a running gag with Fred Armisen playing idiots who keep walking in front of the camer. Of course, using Patterson as a foil may have not been a wise choice.

Finally got a chance to read the Kit and boodle. All I can say about Griffin's speech is that I have no respect for anyone who brags about what they *don't* know. Even if it's trashy TV, almost everything is worth knowing about. You don't have to watch it (or read it, or do it) but you should know what things are and being proud about NOT knowing is silly.

I do love my new job. I really believed that losing my job was going to turn out to be a great thing, but had no idea I'd find myself landing in such a wonderful place. The people are incredibly nice and the surroundings are beautiful. The folks seem like a big family... sounds familiar, no?

Posted by: -TBG- | December 15, 2008 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Wow, TBG, that's great news! Everything sounds great. So happy for you.

Posted by: Yoki | December 15, 2008 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Windy3 sent me the pics she took at our BPH the other night. No... I am not really twice the size of the other folks.. it was the camera angle... really!

First one... Mudge, Windy3 and TBG...

Next one... Windy3 and Mo...

Posted by: -TBG- | December 15, 2008 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Yoki!

Omni... I have every reason to believe that you'll find a dream job this summer. Enjoy your time off, too!

Posted by: -TBG- | December 15, 2008 6:57 PM | Report abuse

good evening boodle!
I didn't see the SNL skit, but Paterson has made it clear he wants to win the governorship in his own right and even a bad imitation on SNL is not going to hurt that. He's also well able to handle himself in the rough and tumble of comedy shows. Here's a link to his appearance on Colbert. (Can't find a transcript.)

Posted by: frostbitten1 | December 15, 2008 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Windy3 looks exactly as I imagined her, only better-looking! That is, of course, my universal experience when meeting Boodlers in person for the first time. A tremendously good-looking bunch, in my view.

Posted by: Yoki | December 15, 2008 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Hello, Boodle!

I just had to drop by to say YAY TBG!!! I saw her little message at the other place.

It has been too long, but I've been busy. I spend too much time w/ my computer at school, so I've tried to cut back here at home. I feel it is OK not to watch things so obsessively since the election.

KBertocci, I'm finally reading March. And, today at school while sitting at the media center I picked up Napoleon's Buttons. I'm having a fun time reading that, too.

Hope everyone is happy and healthy. I may be in DC with the kids and hubby over the break. Maybe we can have a daytime BPH?

Posted by: abeac1 | December 15, 2008 8:02 PM | Report abuse

abeac! *waves*

Posted by: Yoki | December 15, 2008 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Supersupersuper news about your new job TBG! Why am I hearing the theme from the Mary Tyler Moore Show? (well, it's you girl and you should know it...)

This afternoon at work I heard a woman enter the ladies room and pull a toilet seat cover out of the dispenser. And another and another and another and another. Yes, five! Then I heard sounds of her quite elaborately feathering her nest in the next stall. I'm still trying to figure out what she was doing, and why.

Posted by: Raysmom | December 15, 2008 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Windy3 nice to put a face to the name, hope you enjoyed yourself at the BPH.

TBG love the shirt!

Posted by: dmd2 | December 15, 2008 9:01 PM | Report abuse

For those who get CBC they just started the original Boris Karloff narrated, animated Grinch. Followed by Frosty the Snowman!

Posted by: frostbitten1 | December 15, 2008 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Thanks! Raysmom... I did twirl around and throw my hat into the air today.


Posted by: -TBG- | December 15, 2008 9:18 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps she had some eggs to lay Raysmom.

Posted by: dmd2 | December 15, 2008 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Delighted to hear about the great first day, TBG! I hope they are all just as wonderful!

Has anybody else noticed the photo of Caroline Kennedy on the homepage? Every time I look at it, I cringe. Her face looks like she's spent way too much time in the sun. She's four years younger than I, she's shouldn't be wrinkled like that! I hope it's just a bad photo.

Posted by: slyness | December 15, 2008 9:42 PM | Report abuse

A couple of quick comments here - abeac, let us know when you'll be in DC, and I'm sure folks can meet you somewhere for lunch or something...

And I'll be glad to talk "Napoleon's Buttons" with you, as would several other Boodlers -- I believe several of us have read it.

Cassandra, that's a shame about the KKK emblem outside that school - if you don't mind me asking, exactly what *was* it?

Finally, some comments about humor, comedy, and satire. We all percieve and understand things differently, based on the context of our individual experiences, knowledge, and understanding. What each of us finds funny is subject to all of those things affecting percepion and congition as well as emotional and personality factors such as mood and taste, and even social context.

What one person finds side-splittingly funny, another might find mortifyingly offensive or not even recognize that same situation as having humorous intent at all.

There are many different kinds of humor, too, from slapstick to satire, some of which requires some information or knowledge to understand or appreciate.

And here, sadly, is bc's Unfunny Principle: Explaining a Joke Guarantees That it is No Longer Funny. "Oh, I get it," is the phrase that makes humorists' blood run cold.

Of course, it's reasonable to request an explanation of a joke for social or intellectual purposes, but I think that whatever the explanation conveys, it won't elicit a laugh.


Posted by: -bc- | December 15, 2008 10:04 PM | Report abuse

Glad to hear about TBG's great new day, I can just see her twirling a hat into the air.

So sorry to hear about omni's job travails and Yoki's difficult time. I'm happy that you're on a better path now.

dbG - you're not confused, it IS from Virginia Tech that my son rec'd an early decision offer. I'll have to think of another excuse to visit you in PA! Buttercake or earrings will do the trick.

I have to tell you what my son said that flummoxed me a little. We were having a party on Saturday night and he had been helping the hubby ice down the beer and came in the house and said something along the lines of, "well, Mom, I think I'd better have a beer before I go to college. I better check it out on safe territory." I just said, "hmmmmmm" in a non-committal voice and kept on with party prep.


Posted by: Kim1 | December 15, 2008 10:28 PM | Report abuse

oh and Slyness, about Caroline Kennedy's wrinkles. I think it's partly because she is very, very slender. I remember watching an interview with Sophia Loren years and years ago and something was mentioned about her beautifully unlined face and she said with her lovely accent, something along the lines of, "well, dear, there comes a time in every woman's life when she has to choose between her derriere and her face. If one stays slender then you will become very wrinkly"

So there you have it!

Posted by: Kim1 | December 15, 2008 10:33 PM | Report abuse

Yes, congrats on the first day, TBG.

Er, you were adequately perky today, weren't you?


Posted by: -bc- | December 15, 2008 10:34 PM | Report abuse

On Caroline's complexion - I think that's what horseback riding and sailing does to you. No matter how much sunblock and moisturizer you use. Ah, the good life.

Posted by: seasea | December 15, 2008 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Not just perky, bc... spunky, too.

I still think Caroline Kennedy is beautiful. She was my idol when I was a little girl... the presidential princess. She's done nothing to disabuse me of that notion now. I'd love to see her in the Senate.

Posted by: -TBG- | December 15, 2008 11:00 PM | Report abuse

TBG -- spunky, of course.

My mistake, ma'am.

Congrats, Iggles fans -- that's a fine victory in the Philly rain tonight.

Well, aside from simply playing a superior game, the Browns did contribute some remarkably bad luck and some degree of, er, haplessness.


Posted by: -bc- | December 15, 2008 11:22 PM | Report abuse

I would also submit that explaining to somebody that they shouldn't be offended is rather useless unless you learn why they are offended first. You may gain new insights.

I value Cassandra's contributions to this blog a good deal for the topics of discussions she opens up.

And Cassandra called it.

Now, take those two scenarios: A rich, nasty man who nobody likes takes a pratfall. People laugh and tell the story all day to others. (Hello GWB and sedgway; GWB and pretzel choking.)

Take a frail, sweet lady well known as a teacher and mother of three, not rich, and have her do the same pratfall and you'll have people rushing to help her, and if anybody laughed, they'd be rounded on and called mean.

Same shtick, completely different outcomes... and it lies entirely in social dynamics, as well as the person's reaction to the incident.

We can see the rich man ready to yell to sue somebody, and a lot of people ready to enjoy seeing him taken down a peg. Besides he can afford it.

Not so with the lady, because she could be seriously hurt by the fall, and few bear her any animosity. Courtesy takes over.

However, that doesn't always work that way with the disabled. The scenario could always go both ways for us. Seriously.

If SNL is not aware of that possibility, tough, they're supposed to be humor pros. Get their act together.

Now, I laughed myself silly at this one:

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 15, 2008 11:32 PM | Report abuse

I feel a bit Irish.

Posted by: Yoki | December 15, 2008 11:40 PM | Report abuse

I sowed a bunch of confusion by not properly distinguishing my own innocent efforts at university admission (to a "safety" school that really wasn't) and Kim's kid's far better-organized campaign to enter Virginia Tech, whose location in the Appalachians (near lovely Mountain Lake) is faintly like that of the big land-grant/science/engineering place I attended.

So the ombundsperson suggests that I apologize. I do.

But the Appalachians are lovely, regardless of which portion. Even if Linville Gorge looks a bit mini compared to, say, NW Wyoming scenery.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 16, 2008 12:01 AM | Report abuse

Ack! Why can't I get to sleep?

Posted by: -TBG- | December 16, 2008 1:02 AM | Report abuse

TBG - Perhaps you were waiting for an update:

Nobody has parked in front of the sidewalk ramp for a couple of days now!

Posted by: bobsewell | December 16, 2008 1:05 AM | Report abuse

Yoki: Perhaps we should feel you, and be the judge of THAT. I, for one, have felt enough Irish-persons to feel at least moderately competent in this particular area.

Posted by: bobsewell | December 16, 2008 1:09 AM | Report abuse

Hi Bob! I almost added "Even bobsewell is asleep" to my 1:02 am. I'm glad I didn't.

I may try again soon to get to sleep. The stuff that was mulling around in my head has been taken care of. The midnight snack has been eaten. The warm milk was delicious. Now let's see if it does its job.

G'night all.. .sorry to leave you alone here Bob.

Posted by: -TBG- | December 16, 2008 1:15 AM | Report abuse

Who gets to own umbrage? Seldom an easy question for those who live largely by letting other people inside their own heads, almost never a difficult question for some other people.

It's another of those problems that would have been solved long before now if it was an easy one, methinks.

Posted by: bobsewell | December 16, 2008 1:16 AM | Report abuse

I'm right behind you (figuratively!) TBG.


Posted by: bobsewell | December 16, 2008 1:17 AM | Report abuse

Paterson's comment on this:

The national federation of the blind:

I think they own the umbrage here.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 16, 2008 1:27 AM | Report abuse

OK... one more thing... This is way cool.. Obama's coming to DC on the train, making whistle stops along the way...

Posted by: -TBG- | December 16, 2008 1:29 AM | Report abuse

1) the facial expression part of the impression was good. That was Paterson most of the time.

2) The actual physical blind acting wasn't very good. It is much harder to think and act blind than people assume. Especially with ones' eyes open. They should have skipped that altogether, not built gags on that part.

3) Stereotyping actions and exaggerating them takes dead aim at blind people's most profound insecurities-- how they present themselves to the world, what they're missing out on.

This was a perfect way to offend.

It didn't come off well visually, a lot of small false notes when the impersonator tried to impersonate "blind."

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 16, 2008 1:48 AM | Report abuse

I learned a long time ago that many of the things that offend me tend to leave other people puzzled.

Mostly, I leave the game for others to play.

Posted by: bobsewell | December 16, 2008 1:55 AM | Report abuse

[Except when I feel compelled to leave a snarky note on someone's car.]

Posted by: bobsewell | December 16, 2008 1:56 AM | Report abuse

I find that very smart people, more often then not technical people, often lack interpersonal communication skills. Most of the time, they never give it a thought that being able to communicate with people more than their own level is important.

When I was in college, I heard a guy complaining about the school making computer major students take a management course. He asked a legitimate question. He was a computer major not a management major, why must he take a management course in order to graduate. I had agreed with him. After I left school and worked for many years, I realized our school was right in making non-management major students take a management course. Somewhere, buried in the management book is a chapter on interpersonal communication skills.

About ten years ago, our company bought this raid thing from Dell for data storage. One of them wasn’t working, so the local Dell agent sent a computer guy to fix it. This guy was like a piece of wood. Honest to god, I’m not exaggerating. I asked him a question. He didn’t look at me, grunted once, kept tapping the keyboard and stared at the monitor. His face was expressionless. After half an hour, he said “Done” to my staff and then left. Obviously, he was very good at his work, but I don’t think one word and a grunt would get him very far, if he is thinking of a management position.

Posted by: rainforest1 | December 16, 2008 2:02 AM | Report abuse

rainforest - And he probably never had to pass the "drownproofing" class, either!

Posted by: bobsewell | December 16, 2008 2:07 AM | Report abuse

“We’re sorry, but the (snl) clip you selected isn’t available from your location.” Says the video link ….

Yoki, best wishes on your new life.

Omni, good luck in your job search.

Congrats to son of Kim.

Posted by: rainforest1 | December 16, 2008 2:10 AM | Report abuse

True enough. Some people simply do not have the cultural background or common experience to understand how something is offensively portrayed.

"Children of a Lesser God" offends a lot of deaf people with how it portrays deaf culture. If you just focus on the story and do not take it as indicating typical aspects of deaf culture, it is a fine play and movie. However, given the extremely limited exposure of most people to deaf people, the movie can paint a distorted picture-- and that starts with the title itself.

The story is, and it was written from, the perspective of a hearing man. Therefore it is limited, biased, and frankly, in some aspects incredibly naive given the purported background of William Hurt's character which somehow gives him the language, but no comprehension, of the deaf.

However it was a nice gift to Phyllis Frelich, the original deaf actress who so impressed the playwright who wrote it so she could specifically act in it. I have an autographed play poster with her name on it somewhere.

It is frustrating when a minority sees a very limited variety or selection in how their culture is portrayed, and when it is inevitably filtered by outsiders for their own agendas.

Personally, I just assume people who know me will quickly see the differences between movies and reality.

But they have to know me first. And therein lies the rub.

Paterson made a good point about employment. That is the one arena where mild prejudices and stereotypes tend to become strong barriers to the disabled.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 16, 2008 2:16 AM | Report abuse

IMHO: What makes the particular group of folks who've stuck around the A-blog rather unusual is that it's a group of opinionated folks who are not drawn together by any particular common interest(s) other than a willingness/desire to play around with various topics (often carried to absurd extremes) and a trust that nobody is being intentionally hurtful.

I think that a willingness to be [what is perceived to be] willfully hurtful is essentially the only sin that is difficult to forgive here. Apostasy in almost all other matters of faith, we can deal with.

Posted by: bobsewell | December 16, 2008 2:25 AM | Report abuse

Theology alert @ 4:20! :-)

Kim, both in abundance here, stop on by! Except for now, when I'm returning to bed.

TBG, you should'a e-mailed me. You know I'm up.

Let me start imaginary lunch today. . . homemade Caesar salad with the anchovies Cuisinarted into the dressing so nobody notices, fresh lemonade.

Posted by: -dbG- | December 16, 2008 4:24 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle.

A really good (for a change) Richard Cohen column this morning on how to pierce the bubble that surrounds presidents (answer: read a newspaper), and an even better Gene Robinson column on the GOP's suicidal effort to kill the bailout. Money grafs:

"But our domestic auto industry has been thoroughly out-thought and out-hustled by the foreign competition, and no infusion of public funds is likely to change this pattern.

"It may be that General Motors, Chrysler and Ford are lumbering, Jurassic beasts that deserve their looming extinction. But only a free-market fundamentalist, a lunatic or a Senate Republican -- perhaps that's redundant -- would conclude that now is the moment to hasten Detroit's demise."

Looking forward to dbG's imaginary Caesar salad for lunch -- I love the blenderized anchovies mixed in with the dressing--the only way to get that tangy saltiness. Meanwhile, I'll put the coffee on in the Ready Room.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | December 16, 2008 6:05 AM | Report abuse

I haven't gotten around to watching SNL for the week (I was too busy last night watching those Chantilly kids put on The Wiz), so I just watched the Weekend Update sections. All I can say is that it is par for SNL, a show I like. The New Jersey jokes even elicited a few chuckles because I know some New Jerseyites that are very easily offended.

SNL has a long history of being deliberately offensive. Who can forget this SNL first season classic where Chevy Chase mocks blowhard Dan Ackroyd behind his back and then has Garrett Morris deliver the news for the hard of hearing?

I just saw 'Young Frankentstein' on Broadway and they recreated intact the scene where the old blind hermit repeatedly spills hot liquids on the monster. Mel Brooks, Comic Genius.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 16, 2008 7:06 AM | Report abuse

Ok, I’m confused about the kerfuffle over Caroline Kennedy not being qualified to be a senator. Exactly what qualifications did Hillary have to be senator? The Clintons even moved to NY so that she could run. At least Kennedy actually lives there. I don’t much care who they choose but geez.

TBG, glad you love your new job. What a good feeling to have so quickly.

Posted by: badsneakers | December 16, 2008 7:12 AM | Report abuse

I wasn't that keen on the precedent Hillary Clinton set of the Senate being an entry-level position. And I'm sure you much smarter boodlers can find earlier antecedents where a candidate's primary qualification was his or her surname, but that still doesn't make it a good practice.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 16, 2008 7:18 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all! You too, Cassandra!

Mudge, scones coming out of the oven shortly, I'll be right there with you in the ready room.

I looove the thought of Caesar salad and lemonade for lunch! Today is baking day, so I'll be bringing shortbread cookies for dessert. And cheese straws for an appetizer, if that appeals to anyone.

Thanks to the reminders, Kim and Seasea, about Caroline Kennedy's complexion. Not being slender, I never think in those terms. I don't have a problem with her being in the Senate. After all, she *does* meet the one Constitutional requirement - she's over 30. It's just a bonus that she's lived in the state she would represent for most of her life.

Posted by: slyness | December 16, 2008 7:19 AM | Report abuse

Hey Mudge, you liked Emm Gryner...I think you might also like Carrie Rodriguez

7 Angels on a Bicycle

Posted by: omnigood | December 16, 2008 7:47 AM | Report abuse

The passing of Cardinal Avery Dulles saddens me, brilliant yet humble. Met him when I was in college during a seminar on science and faith.

Did not see the SNL sketch. Most humor has a stiletto or grain of sand in it. Sorry that feelings here -- real -- are hurt. Our histories are not common, which explains in part the different reactions. Would hope to see some kiss and make up here. Air kisses work fine, doncha know? If that is too hard just now, then let it stew on low. We can hope the reduction makes for a nice sauce later on.,,,,cooking metaphor! Fun. I am hoping for a rhubarb or two in the sauce for that nice tart undernote. Frosti has the recipe, I do believe.

For lunch I will bring a light but satisfying soup: mussels and pearl onions in chicken stock splashed with white wine. Slyness's cheese straws on the side are perfect. I caramelized the little darling onions before baptizing them into the stock, Keep the whole pot on low, so as to not rubberize the mussels.

I think that next week as a ramp up to Xmas, LiT and BC will make stuffed mussels. Italian Christmas is fish. fish, fish, fish, fish, and fish. Lovely of them to share.

I do believe that Yoki and GWE will prepare game of some kind as Canada and West Virgie are both Hunting-by-God Country. Virtual cooking means that 3000 miles are as nothing, simply a wink that is all.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 16, 2008 7:50 AM | Report abuse

This one is for mo:


Carrie's Austin Twang really come through on this one

Let me know what you think mo, OK...

Posted by: omnigood | December 16, 2008 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Morning all! Getting ready to head off to work. The lunch sounds grand, but I think I'm going to miss it today. Y'all have fun without me.

Yello... if I remember correctly, Caroline Kennedy's Uncle Bobby moved to New York specifically to run for Senate from there. He probably wasn't the first one, either, but it's a precedent that's close to home for Caroline, literally and figuratively.

Posted by: -TBG- | December 16, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle, Cassandra.

A wee small chinook blew over the city last night, and so we are temporarily in single negative digits, on a way to a high of -16C. Practically summer!

CP, mussels sounds great. And I like your suggestion of game, would be happy to cook with gwe. greenwithenvy, you prepared to take one for the Boodle and work with me? Might be a lovely elk steak, or... wait for it... Hasenpfeffer!

Interesting day will be had at work; I have inadvertantly become the occasion of some contention between Board members, and will need to join their conference call to settle them all down.

Equilibrium will be restored, harmony regained, I do believe.

Have an extra-special good day, friends.

Lunch at 1:00?

Posted by: Yoki | December 16, 2008 8:24 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good morning, friends. I slept one hour last night, only one. My eyes were wide open. Real tired this morning, but preparing for the walk. It is so foggy here, one can barely see anything. Visibility is zero.

Mudge, you know I love you dearly, and value your opinion very much. Forgive my sharp response to your comment. It is a subject that touches me deeply living in my world of solitude much of the time. But that is no reason for me to be mean-spirited and ugly to anyone. That was not my intention. Just feel really strong about the subject. I'm coming from a different perspective and so are you, but we can always meet at the point of love. And that, dear Mudge, is the good part.

Wilbrod, you are a dear heart.

I have a Christmas gathering to attend today. I'm going to start the cleaning process. I'm not there yet. Dreading it something awful. It is warm here. Probably more rain in the picture. Have a good day folks.

TBG, glad you like the job, and it went well for you. You're on your way.

a bea c, glad to hear from you. Where is Kbert?

Slyness, Martooni, Scotty, Yoki, and all the boodle, good morning.*waving*

Time to walk.

Posted by: cmyth4u | December 16, 2008 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle!

Filipino crew pelts pirates with tomatoes, fails to prevent boarding.

Brag :o)

Posted by: Braguine | December 16, 2008 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Here she is again with a tiny little guitar and an awsome backing band

"'50s French Movie"

Voice sounding more garage band, and not at all Texan

Posted by: omnigood | December 16, 2008 8:50 AM | Report abuse

I haven't dealt with chinooks since living in Cody, Wyoming. The town's right at the foot of the mountains, so on winter evenings, a warmish wind was likely to pick up.

This meant the local airport was unprepared for snow.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 16, 2008 8:55 AM | Report abuse

I love your video selections. Your taste is eclectic and refined. I can't/don't watch them at work and often forget to backboodle for them at home.

You need a blog where we can keep track of the archive and watch them at our leisure. They truly are one of the great features of the boodle.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 16, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

yello, I sent the the links to you via e-mail. I think you'll dig Carrie, even if she isn't a lesbian folk singer (just kidding)

Posted by: omnigood | December 16, 2008 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

Only time to get the Dawn Patrol warmed up and into the air - then I'm dropping the hammer on the service jeep and getting some work done at the office.

Mudge, mind you don't get your scarf wrapped up in the prop again as you take the cockpit. I promise I'll get you untangled faster if it happens again though -- when you were getting whipped around and dashed on the ground with every revolution, I could just not stop laughing. It was even funnier when I got tangled up in there with you, and we both had out brains beaten out. Good thing we were reeled into the prop shaft and stalled the engine, otherwise we'd have ridden that E-ticket to a collective pulp until the plane ran out of gas, or Brag stopped lauging himself long enough to clamber up to the cockpit and hit the kill switch (not the one to open the throttle and hasten our conversion to strawberry jam, but to shut it off).


Posted by: -bc- | December 16, 2008 9:22 AM | Report abuse

I thought we were gonna wind up as a couple of blenderized anchovies that day, bc, that's for sure. Now I've taken to wearing a pre-perforated silk scare that has tear-away capability.

Your laughing didn't help matters, I must say -- at least until you got tangled up, too. Now THAT was funny!

omni, I liked both those Carrie R numbers. So far, you are batting 1.000 on your recommendations. I still listen to Vanessa Mae every once in a while-- good for Especially the Sabre Dance number. VERY good for my morale. Very uplifting, that classical stuff, in ways that Yo-Yo Ma just doesn't do it for me.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 16, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

They can't all be. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 16, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Posing a query to our science guys... anything to the stories about increased (10x-ish) on a charge for lithium battery technology?

If so, is it just theory, in the lab, or potentially in production?

Posted by: russianthistle | December 16, 2008 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, there is madness to my musical picks method.

I read the WaPo Style performing arts review every time it's published. Anything that sounds interesting in print I YouTube search.

Anything that gives me goose bumps and moist eyes I share here.

You can only imagine all the dreck I wade through.

Posted by: omnigood | December 16, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Lunch @ 1, or one-ish (11-4, as far as I'm concerned).

Caroline Kennedy *running* for Senator doesn't bother me, but I'd like to see someone *appointed* who's been active in politics already. Surely there are some other Democrats who would qualify. Even Cuomo has worked his way up, so to speak.

Of course, I don't live in NY, so my opinion doesn't count. I'm still just happy we Pennsylvanians rid DC of Santorum.

I'm sending cookies to my sister in Florida. She's a little iffy about me sending pecan tartlets or jam thumbprints, thinking they may spoil because of the heat. Oh great boodle, what do you think?

Posted by: -dbG- | December 16, 2008 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Sometimes I feel like a blenderized anchovy far away from home.

Posted by: -dbG- | December 16, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Though the YouTube Vid was taken down I did find an audio only version of:

David Of The White Rock - Jane Oliver

This is really goose bumping moistened eyes music for me.

Posted by: omnigood | December 16, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

My wife caught me YouTubing botball videos from the robotics competition talk the other day. She thinks I really really need a honey-do list.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 16, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse


I agree that the goodies won't make it to Florida, send them here to Maryland!!!

Posted by: russianthistle | December 16, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Haven't made them yet, RT(DM), or I would. As it is, I'll probably just add in Gingerbread biscotti and Moravian cookies in place of the perishables.

I will bring a cookie platter to the February BPH TBG and I have been talking about, though, fragiles and perishables included.

Posted by: -dbG- | December 16, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I have to say I agree with russkie. but first take pix to send your sister so she knows what she missed out on...teeheehee

Posted by: omnigood | December 16, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I'll have to check with Scotty when he gets back, but I'm prety sure "Blenderized Anchovy" is available as a Boodle handle.

RT, I can handle the battery question. So far the research is basically in the laboratory. I believe it was some South Koreans at Hanyang University who discovered that replacing the carbon separator with silicon in a lithium battery will yield about an eight-fold increase in capacity. I suspect it will be a while before we see anything in the marketplace.

Of all the possible advances in technology in any field over the past century, upgrading/improving batteries has always been among the highest on the wish list--and the most resistant to improvement. The great Thomas Edison himself said that trying to improve batteries will drive a person mad.

I've been studying battery technology now for close to 30 years, ever since I started working on electric boats. And for 30 years now we have been "on the verge" of breakthroughs that have never come. Hell, we've been "on the verge" of breakthroughs since 1880. They just don't seem to come. Almost every other aspect of electricical technology has made improvements or breakthroughs-- except batteries. (Let's don't nit-pick on this. Yes, there have been improvements...but they have all been small and incremental, not the "breakthrough" variety everyone has been touting.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 16, 2008 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Another Carrie - Carrie Shaw

Reminds me of Kate Bush

Very haunting voice, but in a good way

OK, that's enough of me sending everyone away from the boodle for one day.

Posted by: omnigood | December 16, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I believe that the title "Children of a Lesser God" is pretty obviously intended to be ironic. Going out on a limb here, since I haven't actually seen the play -- but if it's written from a hearing character's perspective, then wouldn't the arc of the play have to include the character's transition from cluelessness to cluefulness? Within such an arc, most of the play would have to include the character's fundamental lack of accurate comprehension of the non-hearing world. I do not know whether this accurately describes the play, but I would use it as a working hypothesis.

In the linked article about how David Paterson "hates" SNL, I note that the actual quote from him makes a reasoned and legitimate criticism, and does not express "hate", nor is he paraphrased as making such a statement. That material all comes from the writer, who very much conveys the impression of someone trying to score points for how sensitive he is because he feels deeply for an insult to somebody personally unknown to him. In a word: posturing. Perhaps two words would be better: sanctimonious posturing.

Fact is, David Paterson is a public figure and he's going to get ribbed. His blindness is part of who he is, and will necessarily be a part of representing him on camera. I agree that it sounds clumsy and ineffective to use his blindness as the basis for a joke, but I can envision the possibility of good jokes that could use it, too (i.e., a joke that turns on his failure to perceive something superficial and unimportant, or a joke that turns on false expectations of the effect of his blindness). The problem is the joke that was made, not the general concept of using it in a joke.

If we are going to comment on Caroline Kennedy's complexion and the appearance of her skin, then I guess that makes the subject of her attractiveness fair game: I, for one, think she looks darned attractive. As a younger woman, I thought she looked kinda plain and uninteresting. Her face has acquired character. Based on a stunningly superficial impression, she looks to me like a person whose face has been molded to reflect the act of thinking, and I like that. Who knows? Maybe she's really Paris Hilton inside. Wouldn't THAT be a disappointment?

So, there.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 16, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

On a tech podcast I listen to, they said that the Moore's Law time constant for battery technology is about 8 years as opposed to 18 months for chips. And most of the improvements tend to get eaten up by increased power needs in the devices. This is why you have to charge an iPhone at least once a day.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 16, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Mornin' all...

Just a quick drive-by to say "Hello, I'm still alive."

I'm up to my arse in alligators and crocodiles and sawdust, not to mention shipping deadlines and a flood of orders I've had to decline. Just not enough of me to go around.

At least I finally kicked that stupid flu bug. Of course, now that that's over, my chronic bronchitis has kicked in, but I know how to deal with that -- hot tea with lemon and a shot or two of Old Grandad. Probably not the best remedy to take when one works with power tools, but a Gnome's gotta do what a Gnome's gotta do (it helps that I'm an old pro at mixing high-test spirits and sharp whirling things).

Hope you're all having a loverly Tuesday. Time for me to get back to it. The wood awaits...

Peace out :-)

Posted by: martooni | December 16, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Morning all
Snowing her in west by god this morning,calling for mixed precipitation later today.I will have to test the roads to see if they are passible,if not looks like a Snow Day!!!

Yoki I am *Game* to work with you in the kitchen,but I would be more of an errand boy rather then the actual cook.I see your recipes and I am as confused as I am when I read the science stuff here.You prepare those wonderful 4 course meals,I am lucky to get 2 courses(hotdogs and beans)But I would be glad to help,just as long as I get to sample the goodies.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | December 16, 2008 11:06 AM | Report abuse

For sure, gwe, part of the fun is tasting along the way. Let's get to it, time's a'tickin. We've only got two hours to turn out a fabulous lunch.

dbG, I think the goodies would be just fine. All that sugar acts as a preservative.

Posted by: Yoki | December 16, 2008 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Good morning--
I'll report as well, since Cassandra asked. I've had very limited time to hang around the A-blog due to travel, family, holiday, and so on. I have read a couple of interesting articles that I wanted to link to, one from the Village Voice:

One from a New York Times blog (comments as good as the article):

Posted by: kbertocci | December 16, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and here's a link to a very good article by Achenfriend Michael Lewis, about the financial sector fiasco:

Posted by: kbertocci | December 16, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Howdy y'all. It is slick and hazardous here, with little drops of ice drizzling from the sky. However, the morning schedule rolled inexorably on, for today Finals begin. Four days of two-a-day fun, punctuated by pizza slices. Don't feel too sorry for the Boy. Only four of these classes are what I call substantive. He has four hard written exams, two spoken memorized performances, and one physical gym test (running, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups). The guitar concert is already over, and they're just having parties during that time slot now. Ah,the joys of childhood.

Perhaps science and engineering can't improve batteries because they are already perfect.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 16, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Yikes, be careful out there Ivansmom.

Posted by: Yoki | December 16, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Hi All,

Anybody try to load the Achenblog RSS feed lately? I tried to reload but I get a page load error. Any suggestions on a remedy would be greatly appreciated. Or is it WaPo's problem? Thanks!


Posted by: MiddleofthePacific | December 16, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Not going to argue with you about Caroline Kennedy's attractiveness, SciTim. She is a lovely woman, with a face that radiates intelligence. I would venture to say that no one who graduates from law school and passes the bar can be said to be unable to think.

Posted by: slyness | December 16, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I just tested it, Aloha, and it seems to be WAPO's problem.

Posted by: Yoki | December 16, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

He, there has been great progress in batteries! When I first dabbled in the subject 25 years we were all exited to get an energy density of 40Wh/kg out of spirally wound valve-regulated lead-acids. That beat the 20-25Wh/kg of plate lead-acid handily, they were great for wheelchairs, scooters, etc but they still took 10-12 hours to charge. Now scoot 25 years forward.
There is a Canadian company that is offering Li-ion (Co) industrial batteries at over 160Wh/kg that could be charged in 1.5-2.0 hour.
As of now they are mostly used as uninterruptible power supplies and fancy applications such as mini-submarines, medical gizmos, remotely-operated vehicles and the like but they expect to sell some for electric or hybrid cars very soon. Of course a bunch of electronics has to be used to prevent overcharging, overdischarging, excessive rate of discharge and thermal damage i.e. the typical Li idiosyncracies. The cost of those batteries is the main obstacle to general adoption of the technology.
But there has been significant progress in my view if the energy density is multiplied by 4 and the charge time is reduced six-fold over the best of the venerable Planté cell.
All that in a mere 25 years. So capacity doubles every 11-12 years, not exactly microchip speed but it was a much more mature technology to start with.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 16, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Vice President J. Danforth Quayle, Slyness.

Although he wasn't quite as stupid as made out, from what I saw. But it goes to prove that the bar is not a criterion of intelligence, fine company here notwithstanding.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 16, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Cheesestraws are made! The next time Mr. T suggests a double batch, he gets to make them. The kitchen is a mess, and I rubbed a sore spot on my thumb from the cookie press.

I'm ready for lunch and looking forward to the Caesar salad!

Posted by: slyness | December 16, 2008 11:48 AM | Report abuse

here is our lunch menu and don't ask me how to make any of this I am just the errand boy. Talk to the chef,she is the Hot one wearing the hat.

Mushroom Consomme
Served with a small glass of Madeira

Bison Rib Roast
Duchesse Potatoes
Roasted Winter Vegetables
Demi-glace Merlot Reduction
Yorkshire Pudding
Served with Okanogan Merlot

Fennel and Orange Salad
With a smoky Chardonnay

Chocolate Silk Torte with Raspberry Coulis
Demi-Tasse Coffee


After all of that I don't think anyone will want to go back to work!!!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | December 16, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I just want a humane way to convert Jack Russel Terrier power into electricity, SD.
One JRT alone could run a lot of applicances.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 16, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Dan Quayle is not a stupid person. He had the good sense to marry the lovely Marilyn Tucker.

And sd's take on battery technology lines up with my 10:57 AM comment. Good to see real numbers confirming it.

My professional society claims that it will decrease building energy use by 30% in three years. Much of the technology (CF lights, heat pumps, new ozone-friendly refrigerants) have already been optimized close to thermodynamic limits. There are not a lot of low-hanging fruit left short of major paradigm changes.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 16, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

greenwithenvy is being characteristically self-deprecating. He actually has mad skilz. Haven't had this much fun in Yoki's kitchen for a long time.

We can all take an imaginary afternoon off, in the spirit of the season, I think.

And everyone should bring their family to lunch, since no supper will be cooked across the continent.

Posted by: Yoki | December 16, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Oh wow, that will be quite the dinner! No need to eat again in the evening, for sure. It sounds wonderful, I can hardly wait!

Posted by: slyness | December 16, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Hey, bc, here's my Christmas present, from me to you. (The video, not the thing in the video. I can't afford the thing in the video.) Enjoy -- you'll probably be verklempt at the end of it; the rest of the Boodle not so much.

Safe for work, 4 1/2 minutes, should have the volume torqued up a bit.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 16, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse


Six year old kids also seem to have an overabundance of energy that could potentially be harnessed.

Just attach a wire from the battery terminals to each ear, feed the kid some candy and wait thirty seconds. Gotta be careful though. A six year old with a Hershey bar could easily overload any system.

(okay... lunch break over... back to work)

Posted by: martooni | December 16, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

It's a glass half full/half empty argument, SD. Capacity has NOT doubled every 25 years -- because to say that you'd have to start counting in about 1880. It has only doubled twice, in the last 25 years. And there is no reason whatsoever to assume that trend will continue. In my view it is a statistical anomaly.

Hate to tell you, but subs have been using batteries since 1905. No breakthrough there -- and the only major improvement is they no longer kill their crews like they used to.

Improvements and advances, yes. But the breakout limit-bustin' price-reducing breakthroughs anticipated? No. We still cannot build an electric car that is (a) affordable and (b) that has a range of more than 200 or so miles (c) that isn't some impractical watermelon seed design impractical for the average commuter or housewife. Cannot design a boat that can cruise above hull speed (say, 8 knots) for any length of time.

Cannot do either one of those things, SD, and nothing foreseeable on the drawing board.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 16, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I just wish 'lunch break over' meant 'nap time'

I'm so tired

Posted by: omnigood | December 16, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Mudge and SD,

Thanks for bringing me up to date. Some twists to the challenge that we face. Sounds like we are indeed looking at possible factors of 10 increases, but already other scientists/engineers are making advances in other important factos.

Cost seems always to be a factor with new technology.

The output per mass seems to me a huge factor, as well. Charge time and charging methods could also come into play. I just find this topic very interesting. I think about the comments made during the campaign by McCain so simplified the work and really did a disservice to those who have been working on the challenge already.

Posted by: russianthistle | December 16, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

My subaru can't do that. Where should I complain?
The engine on that baby has over three times the power of the standard 4-cyl boxer engine, it might have something to do with it.

Mudge, all I'm saying is that your wheelchair, in 5-10 years, will go 4-5 times further than your father's wheel would have 25 years ago if the wheelchairs were equipped in both cases with the best practical battery technology of the time.

I think we'll see cars with high-end Li-ion batteries pretty soon as technology demonstrators. They'll probably be too expensive for mass market but the Clooney-type might buy them.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 16, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

LED lighting should buy you another chunk of power-reduction compared to CFL's, yello, but I think that would be about the limit for improving the efficiency of electric lighting.

I am thinking about installing some of those skylights that have a hemispheric collector on the roof and a diffuser down at ceiling height -- extensive use of such systems should help to decrease the amount of power required for interior lighting systems during the day. A similar effect could be accomplished for large multi-level buildings by using fiber-optics -- a big (e.g. parabolic mirror) concentrator feeds sunlight into fibers, which pipe the light to the desired destination, where optics expand the beam and feed it to a diffuser for general lighting. As a bonus, transmission losses in the fiber cable can be used as a heat source -- water-cool the fiber bundle to avoid over-heating, and use the water as part of the building's hot-water supply. Probably reflectorized flexible polymer tubes would be sufficient for the optical requirements of lighting (e.g., hollow mylar tubes with interior aluminization).

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 16, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Mudge - I'm not sure we need a lot of electric cars with a range of much over 100-200 miles. For long-haul (& planes & trains & boats exceeding hull speed), hydrogen ought to be able to get the job done. This brings up an entirely different set of problems about how we sustainably produce enough energy to create a bunch of hydrogen, but at least it removes batteries as a limiting factor.

I think the "affordable" part is the biggest practical hurdle to electric commuting.

Posted by: bobsewell | December 16, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

There is a fantastic Foster-designed office building under construction that has what he calls a 'light shaft' down the middle, has mirrors angled various ways it's full length (30 or so storey) and aperatures to let the light into the offices. If it works, it is supposed to substantially reduce lighting energy in daytime hours.

Posted by: Yoki | December 16, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Squeezable cranks
with squeaks to power batteries--
Dogs could Play 'n' Plug!


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 16, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I've heard from a good source at Saft that DCGS and Saft will equip the standard Scorpène (diesel-electric) submarine with Li-ion batteries instead of the usual lead-acids. That will be the very first non-Planté diesel-electric sub.
I would probably go for the fuel cell version myself though (what they call Air Independent Propulsion).
Of course for military system a nhigh initial cost is less of a problem than for mass-market products.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | December 16, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Good afternoon boodle!
KB always posts the best links. Saving the Michael Lewis piece for savoring this evening because of length.

Terribly cold here. I've been watching an injured swan on open water in the river for a few days. Surely it was injured, or sick, or it would not still be here so long after the others have passed through from Western Ontario for the Carolinas. This morning it was gone. Frozen to death or taken by a predator, I don't know which. Nature makes me ache more than the -32 we saw this morning.

Back to KB's links. Would be interested in boodle perspectives on the ubiquity of alcohol and expectations to drink to excess at holiday parties. The military world Mr. F and I usually travel in has a 0 tolerance policy for alcohol related incidents, while our fair city fairly swims in the stuff. I have always maintained our fair city is the outlier. Thoughts?

Canuckistanis- A forest industry bail out? Caught just a bit on As It Happens last night where Kenora and Fort Frances were both mentioned. That never happens!

Posted by: frostbitten1 | December 16, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

"I think we'll see cars with high-end Li-ion batteries pretty soon as technology demonstrators. They'll probably be too expensive for mass market but the Clooney-type might buy them."

Clooney already has one:

Admittedly, still with only NiMH batteries.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 16, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm really conflicted over the whole Caroline Kennedy thing (the only part of which I don't give a rat's patoot about is her complexion). On the one hand, I admit to being a fairly die-hard Camelotarian, loved JFK, loved RFK, voted for Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (although she ran an abysmally bad campaign here in Merlin), and would love to see Caroline in the Senate.

On the other hand.

On the other hand, I am generally opposed to family dynasties, and so must confess to a whopping hypocrisy. I am especially opposed to Bush dynasties, Romney dynasties, any spawn of Pat Buchanan in any capacity whatsoever, any offspring of Saint Ronald Reagan. He11, I'm not even crazy about John Quincy Adams even if my wife's distantly related to his mother. So I fess up: if your name isn't Kennedy or Roosevelt, I'm agin ya.

That said, I’m distressed by Caroline's lack of experience in national politics. She has not, as some have said, "paid her dues." I don't object to rookies running for Representative as a "starter" job, but I kinda don't like it in the Senate.

Now, having said THAT, there is yet another "on the other hand." We (as a society, not a Boodle) often say what’s wrong with politicians is they are "all the same," generally meaning (take your pick): all lawyers (in the pejorative sense), all money-grubbing, all part of the Old Boys Network (even if they are wimmin), etc. What we *claim* we want is someone fresh, NOT part of "the system," NOT a professional pol, someone with a new/different/outside-the-Beltway perspective. NOT beholding to "the special interests,” NOT an old fart, White Male, religious fanatic or Good Old Boy. Someone who can bring in new ideas. Someone who can Think Outside the Box.

... you know where this is going. So who comes along, but someone who is young, an outsider, wealthy enough to tell lobbyists to kiss off, smart, educated, good looking, not a White Male, not a beltway insider -- and what do we say about this candidate? We say she lacks experience.

So it's not that I'm such a hypocrite. It's that we are ALL hypocrites.

CK would make a great senator because she's a fresh, new outsider. CK would make a lousy senator because she's not a grizzled, experienced veteran. OK, which one's it gonna be folks?

She hasn't paid her dues and is beholden to nobody: that's good.

She hasn't paid her dues and is beholden to nobody: that's bad.

I'm totally opposed to familial political dynasties. Unless they are Kennedys or Roosevelts. And then I'm all for them. And Jay Rockefeller.

I don't like fresh, young inexperienced outsiders like Sarah Palin (god forbid). Except CK, of course. In that case, it's OK.

I don't like wealthy people running for office and "buying" their seats. I'd rather have poorer candidates, who have to take money from...oh, wait. Damn, that's not gonna work.

You see the problem?


Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 16, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

frosti, that's our feds playing the old regional balance game. Because the Ontario-based auto industry will get a bailout, the (mostly BC and Quebec-based) forestry industry, and the far-north mining industries, will get something too.

Posted by: Yoki | December 16, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

One company, 100% alcohol-free at all holiday parties (held at restaurants):

Bootleg government parties-- 1 spiked punch & beers. (I was pretty angry about the spiked punch-- not much else to drink.)

I don't think that was offically authorized, but I suspect a manager was an wet drunk anyway.

A couple of other companies didn't actually hold organized parties, rather they just provided holiday sweets and drinks on breaks.

Given the potential for mischief with drunken parties, I do think many businesses steer clear of that potential.

Personal Christmas parties do vary, but alcohol seems a bit more common for personal use.

I don't drink so I don't really notice if alcohol was served or not if, as usual, it was glasses of wine or upon request, rather than gallons of spiked punch, so I can't give you any statistics on that.

Given that St. Paul used to be a major bootlegging hub under prohibition... why be surprised?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 16, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I think the real news about Paterson is the painful austerity budget that he laid out for New York state today:

And now a little naptime story for y'all about a parasite (really, parasites) with changing protein coats (gotta love Nick Wade's vivid science reporting):

In 1249 King Louis IX, who led the Seventh Crusade, had such serious diarrhea that part of the monarch’s breeches were cut away to ease his personal hygiene. Giardia may well have been his tormentor.

Posted by: laloomis | December 16, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Drinking much at all is very much frowned upon and discouraged in all the firms I've worked for. *Huge* liability issues, now spread to non-corporate situations (house parties, etc.). Don't know anybody who has more than a couple of drinks at a dinner party, for instance.

Posted by: Yoki | December 16, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

BTW, drinking to excess seems to occur more at New Years' parties.

I'm not suspectible to pressure to drink to excess, any more than I'd be suspectible to pressure to enter an aged gorgonzola cheesecake-eating contest.

But for some people, just readily available alcohol and seeing people get drunk is too much to handle.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 16, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I don't disagree with you about the technology, SD; I just disagree about the semantics of the word "breakthrough," about the expectations game. For well over a hundred years, battery people have been looking for a "breakthrough"-- and it hasn't ever come. I think it never will. (By my definition, a breakthrough has to be revolutionizing, a 10, 20, 40, 100-fold increase in capacity, accmpanied by significant decreases in cost. So I'm agreeing to 'advances" but not to "breakthroughs.")

Bob, we need cars with 300-mile range or better. That's just kind of a given. Yes, some of that is simply driver/consumer psychology -- and god knows, consumers are already wacky enough as it is (see, Hummer, see Escalade, see, Explorer, see Denali, etc.). But part of it is also cargo capacity--we need that range with ability to carry four to six people, and some luggage.

Basically, as a society we have to transform an entire society's behavior. Which is impossible.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 16, 2008 1:25 PM | Report abuse

The secrets of NIMH, ScienceTim? Rodents have taken over battery production?

This is from the NYT story about how dark matter is stunting galaxies' growth: "After bulking up rapidly in the first 10 billion years of cosmic time, clusters of galaxies [] have grown anemically or noit at all during the last five billion years, like sullen teenagers who suddenly refuse to eat."

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 16, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Dark energy, not dark matter. Sorry.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 16, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

So says the man typing at a computer which didn't exist when he was a boy; with a mobile phone in his pocket, and worrying about catching the bus or the subway (which wasn't around in DC 50 years ago).

Society changes. It's just that we can't CONTROL how it changes all that well.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 16, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I just love you guys. Never occurred to me that there was so much to say about batteries, and how interesting it is.

Posted by: Yoki | December 16, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Although there are plenty of individual exceptions the drinking problem is largely age-related, and the bad news is in the 16 to 30 age range. Among drinking drivers, it is 21- to 24-year-olds, in numbers significantly above all other age ranges. They also tend to be rural rather than urban. Alas, they are pretty much beyond reach of any conventional means of persuasion. The one thing they are most susceptible to is peer pressure -- and it is peer pressure that is killing them, not helping them. Napa Valley and Chateau St. Michelle aren't killing anybody; Budweiser, Jack Daniels and pick'em-up trucks are. (I've got the stats.)

It pretty much doesn't matter what us white-collar over-40s say, do or think, or what our office policies are, or what our Saturday night wine-and-brie tendencies are. Mostly, we aren't the problem.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 16, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

LOL, Yoki. Yes, I'm sure you're hanging on our every word -- and praying we'll switch to jet planes.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 16, 2008 1:39 PM | Report abuse

No, I really meant it, 'Mudge. Honestly.

Posted by: Yoki | December 16, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

With Pony express
No horse ran from Wise to Maine
Somehow the mail did...


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 16, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Laloomis - That's just a bunch of crap!


Posted by: bobsewell | December 16, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I dunno, Mudge. Seems to me that the civil rights movement made significant change to our behavior in a couple of generations. Not that we are there yet, but acceptable behavior to people not like ourselves is pretty different than it was when I was a kid.

Posted by: slyness | December 16, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Working in an Historic Gummint Building, there is no alcohol in our office parties. Community and civic organization parties and gatherings I attend have alcohol - usually wine and beer, sometimes a bar. Most private parties I attend have both alcohol and non-alcohol options. I go to a couple of different public policy type conferences each year where we run through a tremendous amount of wine. However, though we joke that we drink like fish, the fact is I don't recall ever seeing anyone get drunk. Mostly, folks don't even get tipsy. Partly I suspect at the public events this is unspoken peer pressure - we're all respected, want to be viewed as responsible, and just don't want to be known as the one who got drunk. There were a couple of high-profile incidents this year involving community leaders drunk and behaving very badly, and nobody wants to get on that list. In addition, at private parties, I suspect it is because there are also kids there, usually ours. Of course, I might just not go to the right parties.

I believe, however, the primary reason that so many people I know drink in moderation and are well-behaved is that we're old. Older. Not young. Whatever. We can't drink enough to get drunk without going to sleep first.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 16, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Hey Joel, suggestion for a kit: The 2009 Dakar. Will be held in South America in January. Let's talk motorcycles!

Posted by: MissToronto | December 16, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I like 'not young' Ivansmom. I shall henceforth describe myself that way.

Posted by: Yoki | December 16, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Granted, slyness -- but look how much technology and science had to do with that progress: Not. One. Miniscule. Ounce.

Not a quarter of an ounce. Not a particle of a smidgin. All our science, all our learning, all our universities, all our space programs, all our engineering, all our computers and cellphones...all the things we pat ourselves on the back for, all the stuff we've been talking about this morning...played not the slighest, slightest role.

It was all won in the trenches, face-to-face, hand-to-hand. (To the extent that the battle is even "over," as you say. But yes, I too believe the tide has been turned.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 16, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Since I'm sure they'll show up eventually, I'm trying to decide if I want to beat the zanies to the punch in the comments on Joel's "Dark Energy" piece ( ).

It shouldn't be too difficult to string together dark energy and Obama's ties to Blagojevich.

Posted by: bobsewell | December 16, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Some people might say birth control had a lot to do with women's lib, Mudge.

Just sayin'.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 16, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I disagree with you, 'mudge, on that. A key factor in the overall success of the civil rights movement (and I acknowledge that that success is not yet complete) was television. Not only were people inspired to join the fight by the nobility they saw on the evening news, but, it has been argued, the anti-rights crazies were sometimes appalled when they saw images of themselves being violent and brutally ugly, something they hadn't really objectively accepted until it was reflected back to them.

So I think technology has a more pervasive (and ultimately positive) role than you credit.

Posted by: Yoki | December 16, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Blago went over to the dark side of the Force, Bob S.?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 16, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

my goodness, you are a provocateur, bobsewell!

Posted by: Yoki | December 16, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Aye, Wilbrod. As well as the mechanization of labor in general, and agriculture in particular.

Posted by: bobsewell | December 16, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse goes all the way back to the invention of the horse collar and beyond!

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 16, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Then they'd be wrong, Wilbrod.

And basically, except for The Pill, birth control has been around for a long time--as long as there's been sheepskin, anyway (effectiveness being a separate issue).

But I agree it's an interesting question: how much was the woman's lib movement a function of women and their reproductive rights versus the Catholic Church, and how much was it Rosie the Riveter in post-WWII economy, and women in general in the workforce, and how they were treated (read: mis-treated).

My inclination is to think technology was a relatively minor factor, and that it, too, was largely a generation-changing face-to-face in-the-trenches battle.

Seems to me the Civil Rights movement, Women's Lib, and Peace movements were/are all basically about ideas, ideas and people, not technology nor even who has access to technology. About the only place I see technology of any kind playing much of a role is in communications media, and I think I can make a good case that even that was both minimal and larger "old" technology (books and newspapers) rather than anything new and/or high-tech. I think TV hastened and broadened a lot of it--but I think the argument could be made it all would have happened even without TV, just perhaps at a slower rate.

Almost all the landmark events I can think of in Women's Lib came through the publication of a small handful of books--technolgy that was even then about 400 years old. Even Gloria Steinem and Ms. Magazine was old technology--200 years or so, more or less. But think about it: Kate Millet, Betty Friedan, Steinem, Erica Jong, Simone de Beauvoir, et al.

I hadn't ever thought of it before, but if there was ever a series of low-tech movements, these were it.

Makes me even more disdainful of the Wonders of Technology than I already was.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 16, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I think you highlight how society needs time to catch up to technology, Mudge-- but that society CAN change accordingly.

And yes, ideas travel light and fast-- and now with technology and increased trade, ever more so than before.

Infanticide used to be a form of birth control for the Greeks and other societies. It's good we're largely beyond that.

BTW, I doubt there was ever a sheepskin sonky mill producing enough for all; that would have to wait for modern industrialization.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | December 16, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Yep, the sexual revolution was in-your-face, in the trenches. Well, not always. In fact, I have no idea of the statistics on the use of different positions, or the popularity of different locations, especially during times of revolution.

Wilbrod may have been imprecise in her choice of nomenclature, Mudge, but my understanding is that she was right on the concept. I believe that the availability of highly effective birth control, under the control of the woman, made a big difference in how women perceived their own role in and outside of the home and how men perceived their status. Previously, women with money (who had a choice about employment) could be derided as 'baby-makers' who would leave as soon as they got pregnant, while women without money could be derided as moral deficients who neglected their 'brats' while working to feed the mouths they 'insist' on making more of. Millions for derision, peanuts for social support. Men control condoms, thus men had a substantial and enforceable role in deciding women's fertility. With the Pill, women decided, and could ignore the wishes of men.

Of course, oral contraceptives are not a recent technology. Archaeology magazine informed me that the ancient Near East had an endemic herbaceous plant, a relative of modern pennyroyal, that was a highly effective oral contraceptive and abortifacient. So great was the demand among the moneyed women of the Roman Empire that the plant was driven into extinction -- apparently, efforts to farm it were unsuccessful. Modern pennyroyal, I gather, is reputed to have similar properties but is substantially less effective.

Another huge influence of technology, albeit not a specific enabling technology: during WWII, women were hired and trained to work in factories, operate tools, and fulfill other 'masculine' roles. That's a power that is not easy to give up.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 16, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Dark, strange, mysterious 'way out there. Good that it's warm and kinda nice today. A big Cymbidium orchid out in the yard looks like it'll put on a show for Christmas. I've established that easy-to-grow orchids do OK under the laurel oaks, so it's time to get a bit better organized. By the way, I have a talent for killing bedding plants.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | December 16, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Let us not forget ergot, which has been used for centuries, and is still used, preferably under medical supervision, for those and several other purposes.

Posted by: Yoki | December 16, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Well, I was just thinkin' on the role of TV in the Civil Rights movement, Yoki, and gave it some pondering before my response. My view is that the first two major milestones in the CRM (Civil Rights Movement) were the Dodgers picking up Jackie Robinson, and the 1954 Little Rock case (Brown v. School Board). These were both completely pre-TV. So in my view the seminal events, breaking the color barrier in sports, and breaking it in schools, both occurred pre-TV. I would take a sort of Marxian view that everything after was kind of "inevitable," once the snowball got rolling.

My hesitation was over the single most-visual event in the entire CRM, which was in 1962. I believe this was the treatment of blacks by Bull Connor and his people in Birmingham, Ala., with the dogs and fire hoses. I believe this event was so horrendous, and the TV images so strong, that it shocked the conscience of the nation. And yes, I agree it was relatively new technology, TV, that made it so. Here's my problem: it was also covered by magazines like Life, and in all the newspapers. And since it is impossible to disprove a negative, it is impossible to say how much the image of those people being attacked by dogs and Connor’s men with the firehoses would have shocked the nation "anyway," absent TV. I believe it would have one way or the other.

Likewise, we have many TV images of George Wallace blocking the schoolhouse door, and Ross Barnett in Mississippi, and James Meredith and others who followed him. And yes, most of these images were carried on TV. But I cannot say they wouldn't have had almost as great an effect being carried "only" in news magazines and newspapers (old technology). The role of reporters like John Seigenthaler is not to be minimized here.

Was TV a tipping-point factor, as you suggest. I can't say no, but I'm reluctant to say yes. I like to think we would have beat them sunsab1tches with or without TV. But I agree it probably would have been tougher without TV.

Then we had all the riots. I am of mixed mind about the role of TV once again. On the one hand, America got to see its cities in flames on TV. But I'd argue, America got to see its cities in flames by looking out the window, and having it on TV was just gravy on the dressing. I believe the shock came from looking out the window.

TV was still so rudimentary in the 1960s, with only three networks, with only 15-minute newscasts, and NOT a lot of in-depth reporting, and virtually ZERO commentary. And it didn’t carry umbrage.

Then there was the church basement bombing in Birmingham of the four little girls, and then the drumbeat of murders and assassinations: Viola Liuzzo, Medgar Evers, Goodman/Chaney/Schwerner, and the Klan and all the cross-burnings. These were largely covered by newspapers and magazines, not TV (insofar as there are no memorable images in my mind from TV). But these were shocking, shocking events, and I'd argue independent of TV.

end of pt 1

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 16, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse

pt 2:

Conversely, there was the March on Washington. Yes, that was a thousand percent television. One can read a thousand books, and not understand the event until one hears King's speech, and sees that throng. It is simply not comprehensible through the written word and still photos alone.

And finally there was King's assassination. Again, I'm of two minds. Yes, we saw it on TV...but yes, we also saw it out the window, saw our cities and neighborhoods, and saw our own neighbors and neighborhoods.

When it comes to the race riots, and then to King's (and RFK's) assassination, I admit to an observer's bias: I was in Philly when they happened, was in the middle of the ghetto, and saw them firsthand. So I don't have a good handle on how much the riots were "TV events" and how much they were things I saw with my own eyes (and so discount the role of TV). I was scared s---less, and didn’t need any damn TV to be so. It was Armageddon, and it was only a few blocks away. And in Philly, Frank Rizzo and his cops were about to invade our campus, and there were only a handful of us white students between him and his troops, and the (non-rioting but still very pissed and very volatile) black students behind us. So I am biased against seeing TV as playing a role in the aftermath of the King assassination. I never saw any TV those three days. So I have to discount my own perspective.

I would then argue that after the period 1954-1968, the entire CRM was irrevocably set in motion, that nothing would ever be the same, and that there was no going back. The battle wasn't "won" at that point, far from it -- but I firmly believe that it was never, ever going to be lost after that point. So in my view, everything after 1968 and the King assassination was "aftermath." I in no way mean to diminish everything that came after. I just regard everything that came after as inevitable... up to and including Obama's election a few weeks ago. It was going to happen sooner or later.

So based on this, I have to regard the CRM as largely happening in spite of, rather than because of, TV. I'd agree TV hastened the aftermath, and made many things smoother and easier; TV was, almost exclusively, on the side of the "good guys" right from the beginning, and god knows, that helped. But I think after 1968, the CRM was eventually going to won by the good guys, no matter what.

But, yes, it is an intensely fascinating question.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 16, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

New Kit, folks. 'Mudge, repost part 1 over there, or part 2 won't make as much sense as it otherwise would.

Posted by: Yoki | December 16, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

You and Wilbrod are entitled to your opinions, SciTim. All I can tell you is I was there, at Ground Zero, during that period, and what women (and us men who were with them) were talking about was coat-hanger abortions, use of condoms (outlawed by the Catholic Church) and a great deal of stuff about roles and jobs and relations between the sexes, and sexism, etc. Yes, The Pill came up-- and it was in all the trendy magazines in New Yrok. Which I suppose I now need to point out wasn't "real life"-- it was the girls in that era's version of Sex in the City talked about. But it wasn't a major factor in the issues of the day. (If anything, the question was whether they wanted to even bother screwing us at all, never mind how to do it safely.) Believe me, the women who were burning their bras weren't worried about any damn pill.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | December 16, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Drive by boodling in between student open-heart massage on their papers.

Ergot vanquishes many migraines.

About Carolyn Kennedy, I echo Mudge on many points. I do not like dynasties in politics. PERIOD.

About her complexion, despite the sunscreen, etc., she is cursed with Celtic skin. The thinness of this fine layer, plus lack of protective pigmentation means we look less smooth and more wrinkly as we age. I love that despite her money, she is opting for what nature bestows on us. And, i believe she is beautiful in many ways, principally the intelligence in the eyes.

I think she should teach or work in a foundation of some sort, leading with the ideals and mission-speak she is well-versed in. However, tis not my decision.

And, Yoki, can you give us the full R. Cohen botox quote and context? Because C. Kennedy's beauty is very much like that of a weather but cared for frame house.

Back to ministrations on DOA papers....

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | December 16, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

It is rather lonely over there at the new Kit, peeps...

Posted by: Yoki | December 16, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

remind me to tell you a story and another... (this is my Karma story that is actually a Pay It Forward ask already deemit

And after I'll tell another that is a scary one....I managed to...inadvertently scare a non intended target into a three second paralysis

Posted by: omnigood | December 16, 2008 7:05 PM | Report abuse

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