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If We Find Another Earth

I have a little story today about Kepler, the planet-finding telescope that launched Friday night. I keep wondering what we'd do if we actually found a pale blue dot out there somewhere. It strikes me as rife with possibilities for cosmic frustration. All that nice looking real estate, but it's 475 quadrillion miles away, an insuperable distance. If there's one thing I loathe it's insuperability. Insuperableness. Too freakin' far.

I asked Ed Weiler, the NASA science boss, what we'd do if we found one of these things (after, of course, we had studied it with our Terrestrial Planet Finder-type interferometric space-based supergalactic Lagrangian-point ultracool perfect-seeing telescopes), and he said maybe we'd focus our SETI efforts on it. But that would probably also be very frustrating, since SETI relies on the other folks being not only intelligent (a very long shot at best), but communicative, garrulous, or at the very least loud, with lots of sloppy radio waves spilling out into space. If they've got Comcast cable we'll never hear them. And if they've got a monster case of ennui, they'll be too mopey to say anything. The Drake Equation never factors in the ennui sufficiently.

I'm not sure I want to make contact with another civilization. I worry about the spam, just for starters. It's bad enough, all the spam from this one particular (human) civilization of ours -- do we need to start getting emails from three-headed reptilians on Eta Carinae asking us to wire a million dollars into their bank account? Or trying to pitch us on the merits of Tentacle Enlargement?

You know what would be really bad: We get a desperate message from a dying planet, a warning, a kind of cosmic flare, intended for other, younger civilizations in space, and it says simply: "Avoid Credit Default Swaps."


Stuff to read on a Monday morning:

Here's Mickey Kaus pondering the Stuffing the Beast situation. (Yeah, I'm not sure the very best use of our money is to hand it over to the Department of Agriculture.)

Obama says he's not a socialist. (Remind me to rant at some point on this topic: It was the Bush Administration and the previous Congress that started the nationalization/bailout frenzy. The meme that Obama is a wild-eyed leftist pointedly ignores his very moderate foreign policy moves and Cabinet picks. And the Gene Sperling argument seems fairly reasonable: Tax rates are reverting to where they were in 2001, which would have happened under the Bush plan anyway because of the 2010 sunset provisions (see the Daniel Gross piece in Slate).

By Joel Achenbach  |  March 9, 2009; 7:17 AM ET
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Next: Information Wants To Be Stolen


Good morning, all.


Posted by: -bc- | March 9, 2009 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Reposted from previous Boodling:

"*Tim, I've been keeping an eye on the Kepler launch, too. I don't think the conditions or the trajectory will permit viewing of the launch from this far up the East Coast, but I'll look anyway.

The Kepler mission's interesting to me in relation to that long-running Boodle theme I've kept up for years now; the idea that we're finding better ways to look into the universe, but what I think we'd be most happy finding Out There is ourselves -- and our place in it.

And Kepler has a huge mirror in it, too.

Mirror, mirror in the sky
Tell me of my world and -- why?


Posted by: -bc- | March 6, 2009 2:26 PM"

More later, as I find the Universal topic of What It's All About and With Whom to Register Complaints of much import to my personal spiritual and intellectual growth.


Posted by: -bc- | March 9, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Because of the inevitable time lag, I fear that communicating with other civilizations will be frustrating. I mean, imagine sending out a "Hi. What's up with you" message only to have to wait, like, decades to hear "Not much. Same old same old."

And what about the inevitable confusion? I mean, before we would be able to explain that, no, we really didn't mean to accuse their extended clan of engaging in unnatural breeding acts with trans-gendered sand worms, the missiles could be on their way.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 9, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

That's an obvious justification for tachyon communication research, RD_P...

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 9, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Oh, that's just great. Tentacle enlargement. As if I didn't have enough performance anxiety as it is.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

BTW, I don't know if the whole RushStorm thing is over (one hopes so), but next week's Newsweek (well, the one dated 3/16, anyway) has this rather good attack on all things Limbauhvian by conserv. speechwriter David Frum, one of the few conservs who will tell it like it is without sniveling or groveling at the feet of the Bloated One.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

On-kit observation: This Keppler thingie is going to look at 4 million stars, pay close attention to 100,000 of them, and find a 1 in 10,000 amount of variance in any one of them?

Sheese, I've got a hard time finding a matching pair of socks in my sock drawer. And all of them are black.

Posted by: Don_from_I-270 | March 9, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Well, his exonomic stimulus certainly leads away from Bush to the left. And now reaching out to the Taliban? Not from Bush's playbook either.

Posted by: muraythek | March 9, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

For the few people who do not know it, Joel wrote an excellent, and exceedingly well-reviewed, book called "Captured by Aliens" on this very subject.

(Note that there are "collectible" versions available. Like, who knew?)

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 9, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

So, if there is another "earth" out there somewhere, shall we start compiling a list of people we'd like to send there? Like, well, you know, Republicans? The preponderance of them really seem to want to hang out with people just like them, so, you know, this could be the answer. Their own planet!!! How kewl would that be?

Feeling a little bit quirky today (well, more than usual).

Don, I'm so glad you can continue to join the boodle. It was great meeting you the other week.

Has Martooni emerged? Anyone know what's up with him? *worry* *worry*

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | March 9, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

As far as communciations and time lags go (providing you've established that there's a party to communicate *with,* much less try to blow out of the sky), I think the principle would be more or less the same as mail delivery before the nationalized postal servcies.

Or perhaps starting out with things like photonic smoke signals, then moving to morse code, *then* those long, overwrought Victorian letters. Weapons will necessarily take longer to deliver, I think.

On a related note, my middle daughter just finished reading "Ender's Game" in school (as many times as I gently suggested she read it, she politely rebuffed). I was relieved to hear that she considers it the best book she's ever read as assigned material.

Progress comes in fits and starts - and sometimes it does not start until someone has a fit.


Posted by: -bc- | March 9, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

"Ender's Game" is a truly excellent book, bc, it has an honored place in my bookcase. Glad she's got that under her belt.

That ansible sure would come in handy, too.

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 9, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Those kids and their pseudonymous identities, causing all that 'net trouble... (Ender's Game)

The expression "income" taxes is often used to include only the payroll tax and exclude capital gains. In one of Joel's links was this further link to this neat capital gains info:

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 9, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

YouTube clip of Friday's Bill Maher show. About 45 seconds in, listen to Maher's remark about how going to the moon (Obama's plan) is a waste of money.

From today's NBC Morning Show, a slide show (from their video) of Sacramento's tent city:

Stockton (Calif.) Record reports on Feb. 26 a meeting of an ad hoc committee to discuss erecting a temporary tent city because encampments built on California Department of Transportation property under the Crosstown and Interstate 5 freeways were dismantled the previous week (by whom? Caltrans?). The ad hoc group, which includes Caltrans, but no homeless representative, plans to meet in mid-March, "in part to consider how cities such as Sacramento and Reno are working with homeless populations."

Are there tent cities spring up in your area. Quite a grim read in the NYT this weekend about the huge foreclosure rates in Cleveland, Ohio. Will tent cities be left to cities, counties, states, to solve?

Posted by: laloomis | March 9, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

What if (if I had a nickel for every time I said that..) we do find a planet with potential to support life, and the discovery furthers our own culture wars? So many of us humans are so anthropocentric (this does seems understandable) that we may feel strange, displaced, to have clear evidence that we are not unique. This may be especially true for some who hold a certain theological view of humans as the center and purpose of the Intelligent Designer's Creation. I dread the thought of widening the gulf between science and what several call religion. Maybe the long odds on finding such a planet will buy us some time to continue our own evolution.

Posted by: mlwjaw | March 9, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Awhile back, Chris Buckley wrote this excellent take-down of Mt. Rushbo.

Posted by: BaileyReynolds | March 9, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I started thinking, if it's do-able to measure negative luminosity, why not just measure the positive? Well, I guess there's so much more space surrounding the star than transiting it, and the albedos have to be less than 100% reflectance. Still, to throw out all the possibilities because their orbital planes are wrong seems wrong. I think we need an alternative method for finding EarthIIs. Perhaps a lunar observatory is a good idea.

The day I start getting my science info from Bill Maher is the day I will request euthanasia.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 9, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

LOL, Jumper.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse


Good for mentioning the Sacto situation and the update. I think there must be a bunch of unused trailers in Oklahoma somewhere that were meant for NOLA.

Posted by: russianthistle | March 9, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Very depressing to read Mickey Kaus this morning, not because I disagree with much of what he wrote (which I do) but because it is sooooooo clear that we are mired in a sea of know-nothing, or at least know very little, commentary.

Let's take his $1.5 billion to HUD for homeless prevention as an example. First he complains that HUD has no direct experience in this area, then contends it will merely enrich HUD grantees and community organizations. I will need a heating pad for the neck snap that caused-I thought his rant was about the wasteful growth of government this "temporary" spending will spur. Now he's complaining it's not growing but is instead passing money to local agencies with more experience.

A few things I'd like to say to Mickey et al -
You keep saying that word. (HUD or USDA, or....). I do not think it means what you think it means.

Be honest, when you think HUD you think about displaced urban poor (typically minorities), and urban renewal projects that turned out to be disasters with a highway running through. If not that, it's some high profile scandal involving limos and furs or shoddy construction.

But HUD isn't just about "Urban Development." It is the "Housing" part that I see, through the two-county nonprofit corporation that administers HUD programs here (with state gov't oversight). Here, aside from health problems, the biggest threat to people being able to remain in their homes is not being able to afford to heat them. It used to be folks around here had the good sense to die about the time that they were no longer able to put up enough firewood, or haul it to the stove all winter long. Unfortunately they just don't keel over at 55-62 anymore.

This year HUD assistance, in the form of 10 year deferred loans, will help 400 households in our area insulate, replace windows, and install energy efficient furnaces. Work will be done by area contractors, not gummint workers, and if the home is sold before the deferral period is over HUD recoups the cost (100% if sold in the first year, decreasing 10% each year to 0% after year 10).

End part I

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 9, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Part II

But wait, USDA will also have a hand in housing assistance. Why? Because it’s become the de facto “rural agency.” USDA runs seven different rural housing programs (6 are loan programs), eight rural business programs that don’t have anything to do with crop subsidies, and eight rural community infrastructure programs that support things like clean drinking water, sewage treatment, and telemedicine.

HUD and USDA are too complex, and have overlapping missions that could be streamlined. No doubt some tax dollars will be wasted, and we may start ourselves down a few roads with some unintended consequences we’ll be cleaning up later. I admire any blogger, pundit, columnist, or other “opinion maker” who follows up a sneer at a particular spending provision with some evidence of investigation or research, but I’ve completely lost patience with the “Would you give $X billion to Y Agency?” When Y Agency doesn’t mean what the writer thinks it means.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 9, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

OK, where is everybody this morning? Don't make me start taking attendence and using assigned seats here. Yoki, can I have a *snort* please? CP, how 'bout some of that lilt? TBG? Maggie? Kim, dbG? Who else is AWOL?

We're all worried about martooni, I fear, ftb.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Probably, Weed. D'you think the trailers are exuding less formaldehyde after the years of sitting there?

Posted by: -bia- | March 9, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

H-m-m-m. Tent cities springing up. Are we going to call them "Bushvilles"?

Posted by: ebtnut | March 9, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I liked that article about "Stuffing the Beast."

Here's one complication people should be aware of. One of the ways managers are evaluated in the government is by their ability to spend money.

The rule is, if you are allocated a certain amount of money by Congress, often with very specific caveats as to how it is to be spent, the intent is that you are to spend all of it for the stated purpose.

So if you are given, say $50K for "technical training". You are *forbidden* from spending this money on anything else. And if you do not spend *all* of it you get in trouble for failure to do what Congress wants.

Therefore, as the end of the Fiscal Year approaches, a manager might demand that people take courses they do not need, or travel to conferences that are only marginal relevant, just to "burn" the allocated funds.

Now, this sort of thing doesn't happen as frequently as some would think. But it does happen.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 9, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Movie producer Peter Sanuelson helping to provide tents for the homeless through the fledgling EDAR--Everyone Deserves A Roof:

Via the history tab at the site:

Media executive Peter Samuelson [born in London] began counting the homeless people on his bicycle route from Westwood, Los Angeles to the beach in Santa Monica and return. There were 62 homeless people on those streets, including many women and several children. Peter interviewed all 62 of them and then conceptualized a mobile single-person device that would facilitate recycling (a principal source of income for many who are homeless) by day and at night convert into a dry, safe tent-like enclosure for sleeping, raised off the concrete, with privacy and storage space.

Posted by: laloomis | March 9, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

The boss asks, "do we need to start getting emails from three-headed reptilians on Eta Carinae asking us to wire a million dollars into their bank account?"

Is that any different than wiring a trillion dollars into *the bank's* bank account? Either way, kiss it goodbye.

Posted by: Don_from_I-270 | March 9, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Since Obama now owns the problem, how about Bush-Obama Tent Cities? And Obama did campaign vigorously for the presidential post. Do know that on the today broadcast this morning, Viera and Lauer named other American cities besides Sacramento where tent cities for the homeless exist or are springing up.

One must wonder what was Obama doing as a U.S. Senator to stave off the banking/credit/mortgage crisis? As I blogged previoulsy, he left the campaign trail in Wisconsin to offer minor support for the first TARP bailout.

If you read Paul Krugman today at the NYT, he feels that Obama and team may be falling behind the curve in dealing with the financial crisis. I'm all for lifting the ban on using embryonic stem cells for research, including abolishing the sticky-wicket Dickey-Wicker amendment, but couldn't this have waited until after Obama's first 100 days?

Anderson Cooper again took up at the end of last week his earlier question of whether Obama should be focusing with laser-like precision on the economy and perpetual panelist and former presidential adviser to sevral presidents David Gergen again offered the same opinion or response: Yes.

Posted by: laloomis | March 9, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse


My computer shut down over the weekend and I've lost my place.

Can anyone tell me what I've missed?

I think my last comment on Fri was something about Goats.

Posted by: omnigood | March 9, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 9, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

maybe... I seem to remember some arial shots of hundreds of units on an airfield. If we can teach our kids in portable classrooms, we can house people as well.

Posted by: russianthistle | March 9, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Some of the benefits of investing in Science and Stem cell science in particular. A good deal of money has been invested in this area, the hospitals mentioned in this article are all relatively close together in Toronto - and some great work is being done.

Posted by: dmd2 | March 9, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Another case of shrinkage in the newspaper business.
"McClatchy plans to cyt 15% of its work force"

I dropped the car at a dodgy dealership this morning. That place was deader than a stuffed dodo.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | March 9, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

(My 11:23 link is comment on under-reporting of evidence the recovery bill was too SMALL)

Here's another on the unfair disparity of capital gains taxes versus "income" taxes:

It doesn't go far enough into detail, but it's a start.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 9, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

*Grover-waving at 'Mudge*

Posted by: Yoki | March 9, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Do you think that we may discover a planet out there that still has living Dodos?

Posted by: russianthistle | March 9, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Or Wooley Mammoths - always thought they were cute - in a mangy kind of way or perhaps I have just watched Ice Age to often.

Back to removing wall paper/wall paper glue, any tips for removing large chucks of wall paper glue would be great. The walls are plaster so quite resilent but that glue is tough. I have been using hot water and water softener and it works on the easy parts but much work needed for the thick glue parts - whoever put up this wallpaper did not worry about removing it someday and then painting.

Posted by: dmd2 | March 9, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Dodos? We always just called 'em the ugly chickens...

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 9, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Weed, the GOP still has a lot of living Dodos.

(Thanks for that tremdous softball set-up, RT. Man, ya can't ask for an easier one than that.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I'm boodle-skimming, Mudge. First morning of conference, registration wasn't supposed to start till 7:30, people were waiting in line at 7. Been that kinda day. But I think everyone is happy with the info that's being disseminated. Maybe I'll sleep better tonight!

Joel, if you need special gear in which to have contact with other civilizations, I can get you in touch with the right folks.

Y'all behave, I'll be checking up on you later.

Posted by: slyness | March 9, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I think it would be a bit disappointing to find another world just like this one, with similar wild life and all, because that would mean there were people there. And you know nothing good comes of that.

Posted by: Yoki | March 9, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Crazy idea for wallpaper: will steam iron work if held vertically?

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 9, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

*playing Grover-wave semaphore w/Yoki* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 9, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Still laughing at Don's 9:57 AM

Posted by: nellie4 | March 9, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Hi, Yoki. I was worried maybe you got blizzarded in.

*recalling St. Bernard search-and-rescue teams with kegs of cognac attached to their collars*

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Very nearly, 'mudge. I had to take my car for service; between the snow that is still falling and the extreme cold, the roads are *terrible,* cars bouncing around like skittles, police and ambulances roaring hither and yon...

My dearest wish is to pick the car up at noon and just get home in one piece.

Posted by: Yoki | March 9, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

dmd, I had a similar wallpaper paste problem. I dealt with it with a combination of one of those wallpaper-steamer things and a drywall spatula. Steam the glue until it's soft, then scrape, rinsing the scraper frequently in a bucket of hot water.

Posted by: Raysmom | March 9, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

'Mudge, it still sound like Yoki could use the cognac. Once she gets home, of course.

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 9, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Snow that wasn't supposed to be here until this afternoon has been falling for two hours now. All the bare ground we gained in a few sunny afternoons last week is now covered in a couple inches of wet, hard to shovel, I'm so over winter, I don't care how beautiful the trees look, mental health threatening, snow.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 9, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

*re-sending one St. Bernard to Yoki's apartment, with cognac flagon. The cognac is for sustenance and morale; the doggie is for companionship and keeping feet warm. I know it's not a Berner, but it was the best I could do on short notice, and S&R teams don't giva ya a lot of choice in canines*

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

*faxing a flagon of cognac to Frosti, along with some of our 63-degree weather, because I suspect she could use the morale-boost, too*

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

dmd, my wife the wallpaper maven suggests using a liquid fabric softener.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Raysmom, the sprayer and drywall putty knife seem to be doing the trick, just needed my moms favorite ingredient and an oft repeated phrase in my house "put some elbow grease into it!"

We always use Calgon water softener (for laundry) in hot water to remove wallpaper (once vinyl layer peeled off) works really well and is quick - smells good as well.

Whoever put up the wallpaper just smeared all the glue to the edges, middle parts of the paper at times came off in big chunks complete with paper but not the edges.

Posted by: dmd2 | March 9, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Hi Al!

dmd is causing me to have flashbacks to a time that my marriage very nearly foundered many years ago. We decided to wallpaper the bathroom ourselves. I consider the hubby and I to be very happily married, but that day....ggggrrrrrrr. We recently took that wallpaper down and the combined experience convinced us that we will NEVER wallpaper again.

ebtnut - Bushville, made me cackle.

This past weekend there was a formal dance for my children's high school. It was the first formal for both of them. When I had my daughter I used to love to daydream about mother-daughter rites of passages and the daydreams were full of rainbows and harps and hugs and lovely, frothy dresses. Let me tell you, shopping for a dress that didn't look like Linda Lovelace (I'm dating myself, aren't I?) could wear it was a nightmare! Not to mention that I had to gently but firmly put the kabosh on things like mani-pedi's, spray tans, $120 shoes, etc. After a few trial balloons, my daughter did come around to the belief that all of that stuff is just a bit...excessive?! As it was, we found a beautiful yellow dress, she got her hair done in a little up do and one of her friends did her make up with a little, just a little, sparkly stuff around the eyes and she looked adorable, if I do say so myself. Her date is a wonderful boy and they are best friends so they had a lovely time. The son, not so labor intensive. Refused to wear a tux, he wore his Confirmation suit, picked out a nice corsage and off he went. He was asked to go by a little girl that he works with at the grocery store, otherwise I don't think he would have gone. Not really his cup of tea.

Needless to say, after we waved them off and I sniffled a little, I turned to the hubby and said, "I need wine...NOW!" He's a smart man, he whisked me off to our favorite Italian place. (I think Mudge has eaten there, in fact.) Anyway, a lovely time was had by all and if there is a next time, well, I've learned a lot!

What with Ring Dance Madness and DST, I'm exhausted. Thank goodness I'm off today.

Oh and loved the kit. Insuperability. I'm going to find a way to use that word today.

Posted by: Kim1 | March 9, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

DMD - if you are going to paint, just be sure to get every molecule of old glue removed. Even the tiniest amount will make the paint clump up and look as thought your walls have a horrible skin disease.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 9, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Laughing Kim, we have been wallpaper free since early in our marriage - joint wallpapering cured us of liking wallpaper. When we purchased this house one of the things we liked was only two rooms had wallpaper, a bathroom and the youngests room - the latter I am not removing, the bathroom was done shortly after moving.

Oldest has Grade 8 grade coming up - I will keep your comments in mind and not get to caught up in it being a pleasant mom/daughter experience.

Posted by: dmd2 | March 9, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

SCC Grade 8 Grad

Posted by: dmd2 | March 9, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Oh please don't think that it was terrible, dmd. It was just getting past the unbelievable, over the top craziness that some of her friends' parents were bankrolling and then coming up with a suitable dress when her idea of suitable and mine were not initially compatible. Once we got past that...well, there weren't any rainbows or harps, but it was very sweet.

Posted by: Kim1 | March 9, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Aldo's, Kim? Love it, love it, love it. Wonderful carpaccio.

My wife *loves* to wallpaper, and she's good at it. (But she's always been very artsy/craftsy anyway. She just finished making all new Roman-style shades/curtains for the boat.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

We've talked before about likely reaction to the discovery of extraterrestrial life. I suggested that the reaction of most people would be a big yawn after a few days of excitement. Mudge, SciTim, and others pointed out that religious folks, philosophers, and certainly those of a scientific bent would have to readjust their thinking.

But I wonder. If, say, we found evidence of oxygen-breathing life a couple hundred light years away. Would we do anything different technically besides, maybe, bump up SETI? Would there be a push to create some uber-probe or, even more ambitiously, a multi-generational starship to go check them out? Or, inversely, would we decide to get very, very quiet so as not to attract attention?

I tend to doubt if we would do anything so grandiose. But perhaps, if we weren't too distracted, we might.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 9, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Mudge - yes, Aldo's. Yummy! We had never been there before your recommendation so thanks for that. It's on the other side of town but it's worth it.

Posted by: Kim1 | March 9, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

RD, about needing to adjust my thinking on religion/philosophy, it wouldn't take all that much. I've always suspected we were God's eighth grade science project, and we're stuffed in the back of a closet somewhere with old gym shoes and a tennis racket that needs re-stringing.

Posted by: LostInThought | March 9, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I can't begin to tell you how much I hate this home page hed: "15% of Americans Have No Faith."

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

No faith in whom or what?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | March 9, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

And 23% of Americans don't know what "percent" means.

Posted by: Gomer144 | March 9, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

..and no sooner do I say it than they change the hed, and rewrite the teaser line (thank goodness).

Man, my mojo must be really cooking today.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I just went to check before I blew up in indignation, and now it says "Fewer Call Selves Christians," with sub-hed (is that what it's called?) "Survey finds 15% of Americans say they have no religion." Much better. I don't know that I have the energy for umbrage today.

Posted by: -bia- | March 9, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Must be Mojo Monday, 'Mudge... My machinations proved material in motivating my co-workers' CrackBerries to function properly. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 9, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Who is this Selves person, anyway?

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 9, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

And what was that about separating science and politics again?


Posted by: Scottynuke | March 9, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I love wallpaper, and don't mind putting it up or taking it down. Frostdaddy taught me the fine art, and we worked well together. Now with Mr. F, just imagine George Thorogood singing "I work alone...when I work alone, I prefer to be by myself." It's helpful to have everyone out of the house, but on another continent is even better. I still have 2 rolls of triple width watered silk unpasted paper left over from our Kentucky house (we left in '93). It will be used!!!!

I think the dog with the cognac is lost in a white-out. Unfortunately I must now be off to drive in this stuff. No meetings will be canceled today-everyone's trying to move schedules up so they don't have to be on the roads tomorrow, when things are really bad.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 9, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The Kepler project seems one of the cleverest ever devised by NASA, excluding the business of actually landing and doing things on Mars. From a perspective of maybe 30 years ago, it's astonishing that things as tiny as Earth can be detected so far away.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | March 9, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Sigh is right Scotty, but not because of a problem with science (re: your 1:37), it's more a problem with reality. Minnesota requires that E-85 be offered at a large number of outlets (you pretty much can't build a new gas station without carrying it). That boosted demand for a while, long enough for the creation of a bunch of farmer owned ethanol plants (nothing wrong so far, I'm a big fan of vertical integration for real farmers). But, even with $4 gas the reduced fuel efficiency of E-85 turned many with dual fuel vehicles off-when you considered the cost per mile of operation it wasn't that great a bargain. At $2 gas, E-85 can't compete at all. I don't see where "allowing" 15% ethanol is going to increase demand, when mandating it can't.

Things like this drive me crazy about ag policy because everyone will see USDA and think "evil." We need to serve eaters first, producers second, and idiocy never.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 9, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Check your fax, Frosti. And only Yoki got the dog. (Didn't think you were lost and in need of rescue.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

No dog?! rats

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 9, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

And come the big ET life discovery, many will come to terms with it in a very easy, oft-employed method: refuse to believe it, and go on their merry ways.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 9, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, you are welcome.

RD, been enjoyin' your posts ... catching up from yesterday, and today, but no time to be specific... but good!

Posted by: russianthistle | March 9, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Hi Dolphin Michael,

Yeah, the Punahou Carnival was in early Feb. this year. I love seeing all the colorful tents and rides on the field. We haven't gone for the last couple of years, mostly because of the crowds and the expense. But, I still manage to get my share of malasadas and mango chutney from friends who work the booths.

It's gloomy and dark here. We're expecting thunderstorms today. It's been a very wet and wild four weeks. Two years ago we had 42 days straight of rain. I'm hoping that doesn't happen again. Sigh.

Posted by: MiddleofthePacific | March 9, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

That's funny, LiT. You could start an entire religion with that thought.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | March 9, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Dark/gloomy and Hawaii don't compute in the same sentence, MotP. It's 81 and sunny here in the South, but we're going back to normal March weather by the end of the week.

Posted by: slyness | March 9, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Well Slyness, it's been bummer weather for so many weeks now that it's hurting an already depressed tourism market. Seems to me our sunshine has decided not to show itself. Sigh.

Posted by: MiddleofthePacific | March 9, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Hmm. Much to write about this alien life thing.

Don't have time to write much at the moment, but I agree with the thought that the major religions/philosophies/societies would have to make much adjustment for the discovery of Life Elsewhere at this point in time.

On the other hand, I kinda like LiT's idea that we're an old ant farm.

As far as finding a planet in the "Goldilocks zone," one would have to remind people of the Three Bears.


Posted by: -bc- | March 9, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

One reason I like C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy is that it creates the situation to challenge the notion of "Christianity is for Homo sapiens only."

In a few words the plot turns on this idea: God's merciful and direct incarnation is trans-planet....and that the Christ story takes place (serially or simultaneously in time-warp ways) within the cultural unfolding and specific time of each planets.

And yes, the writing is not as good as other books. BUT, this notion is mind blowing for me. And formative about my simultaneously-held views of

centrist-to-radical Roman Catholic code AND
belief in the cosmic Christ.

Que the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Read the books of Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (a bit like Carlos Casteneda).

So, for some of us, these discoveries are already thought-experiments in a faith life.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | March 9, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

You saw the point of my 1:37 exactly, frosti -- Vilsack's rhetoric has very little to do with "sound science." *SIGH*

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 9, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

And frosti, I think you might have an idea as to how difficult it is for me to avoid typing "Vilseck" when we're discussing the Agriculture Secretary. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 9, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

If black hole A was spiralling in to black hole B could the L4 and L5 Lagrange points along A's orbit ever reach black hole like intensity? Would stuff falling into them emit X-rays or something?

Posted by: Boko999 | March 9, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Somebody please dig out the Planet of The Apes soundtrack and cue it up on the hi-fi:

Posted by: -jack- | March 9, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I don't even play an astrophysicist on TV, Boko, but a Lagrange point is essentially where competing gravitational forces equal out to the point where an object at that point will remain unaffected by the various gravities. So Lagrange points around two black holes would be very good things, if somewhat ephemeral.

Or so I've heard.

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 9, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Yoki | March 9, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Jack, amazing about the apes. And, Yoki is at the YouTube helm.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | March 9, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

If we find another earth- let's hope we don't taste like chicken.

Posted by: cab50151 | March 9, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

No worries there, cab--

We already taste like Soylent Green.

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 9, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, could you cue up "Magic Bus," please?


Posted by: Scottynuke | March 9, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

CqP, I like C.S. Lewis's Pelandra series better than the Narnia series.

Of course, when I read Narnia, I was strongly reminded of Hans Christian Andersen, and also found the christian symbolism really thick and ponderous. I think the Voyage of the Dawn Treader was the one I liked the most of the series.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | March 9, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Yoki | March 9, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Picturing our Yoki as mashed up with Lt. Uhuru, at the communications helm.

"On screen." (says Mudge in a Shatner-voice)."

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | March 9, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Here ya are, Scotty.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Musta been a typo.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I liked Dawn Treader best. Helped costume a play based on this......done on the deck of a pool....real ship placed in h20 too.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | March 9, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

How could you determine blood type so quickly, 'Mudge?

Oh, wait...

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 9, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Can't wait to get home and actually LOOK at the YouTube selections...

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 9, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Ya made me snort Pepsi, Scotty. Not fun.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Just think of it as sweet wasabi, 'Mudge. *nodding*

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 9, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

1. "The Magicians' Nephew" was my fave because (a) I read it first, and (b) critical components in the creation of the world of Narnia are introduced by chance (or as S. J. Gould liked to say, "contingency") and human misbehavior.

2. Lagrange points are positions of unstable equilibrium where gravitational force adds up/balances out to zero, and increases as you move further from the Lagrange point, directed away from it. Thus, it is possible to place something at a Lagrange point and keep it there with slight nudging, but nothing can fall into it. That said, objects that happen to find themselves close to a Lagrange point experience relatively weak forces that tend to move them away, and thus one can find an over-density of space-schmutz at a Lagrange point. No individual piece of schmutz stays there forever, but the turnover rate is relatively low. This is why there are Trojan asteroids leading and following Jupiter in its orbit.

3. The primary interest in Kepler is not really that it will find any specific planets -- all of them will be way far away, too far to contemplate direct detection (the 'go and look for a moving dot' method). The principal value of Kepler is that it will establish the probabilities for any other star of any particular spectral class to have planets, particularly habitable planets. That will give us an idea of how hard we should be looking, and where, for planets orbiting stars much closer to us.

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 9, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Good theme music for the Magicians's Nephew. (Plus pitchers.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Here is the only contribution I can make that comes close to the kit, The Big Bang Theory - in music.

Posted by: dmd2 | March 9, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Oh, hell's bells, I knew chimps were up to something when they figured out how to get ladies to shower with them.

They may be skeevey, but they ain't dumb.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Running for the Magic Bust.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Bus. I meant bus.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 9, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

So, Tim, this Kepler project is like one of those, "Bring-me-a-rock" assignments. I get them a work all the time.

As a person who has faith in God, and looks to Christ to save my worthless hide, I don't have a problem with the notion that God may have created other worlds. I don't see a conflict there. I do note that when he created THIS one, it is written, three times, that He saw that what He had done was good.

Posted by: Don_from_I-270 | March 9, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Someone says "Perelandra" and then starts the "spiraling."

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 9, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Well, that comment was way too obscure. Lewis didn's seem to grasp gravity very well; his description of g forces in ballistic flight paths were not what is actually seen. (He had free-fall such that the astronaut was first pulled towards Earth until midpoint, a brief period of weightlessness, and then a resuming portion where the astronaut is perceiving "down" as towards the target planet - all this in freefall, remember.)

Second, we are all so subject to random bad science writing (although I will bet $20 Joel doesn't do spiraling) that even those of us who know better (boko) get sucked in to the spirals. And as we all know, bad economics writing is beset by spiraling costs all the time. (I'll extend that bet to Joel's economics reporting.)

Sure, orbits decaying seem briefly spiraly. Although most of the time not very spirally looking. Most of the time space stuff follows non-spiraly paths.

Posted by: Jumper1 | March 9, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

What SciTim said at 4:24, #2. *nodding*

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 9, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Gosh, I'll have whatever Jumper's having.

I had a very pleasant surprise in the middle of an otherwise quite fraught work day. One of my oldest and dearest friends emailed to say he was in town for a conference, and could we have dinner? Well, yes indeed we could. So I'm home getting dressed up and will be on the road shortly. Even the wretched weather can't dent my cheerful demeanor.

Posted by: Yoki | March 9, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Thanks S'nuke, SciTim.
I was imagining a piece of space smutz orbiting some mysterious virtual mass instead of interacting with the two larger bodies.
Rookie mistake, I imagine. Oh, well my fuzzy grasp is now more in line with what Larry Niven described in Hell, I don't remember.

Posted by: Boko999 | March 9, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

If the Kepler is going to find a new Earth, it better do it in a hurry. Galactica only has two more episodes to get there.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 9, 2009 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Press secretary Robert Gibbs did a great job of dousing CNN reporter Dan Lothian's question at the presser this afternoon about whether Obama is tackling too much.

It seems that rather than overusing sports metaphors (blech) as he first did in the briefing room when he came onboard, Gibbs' new metaphor is fire. Think red-haired Gibbs should have been a fireman?

Carol E. Lee at has the transcript, but the Gibbs video is temporarily unavailable at politico:

In response, Gibbs got fired up.

“Well, I think part of the house that's on fire is the dealing with the education problem,” he said. “Let's posit this. Let's get our banking system fixed. Let's get credit flowing again. But tell me which business is going to borrow money to expand, to add jobs, to do stem cell research that can't find the people either coming out of college today or graduate school to do those jobs. Where are we going to go? Where do those jobs usually go? Somewhere overseas, right? Does that make sense for our long-term economic growth?”

His own windup seemed to fan the flames.

“I think that, unless we take all of these steps -- your -- your analogy about the house is on fire. Which room are you going to put out first?” Gibbs said. “Or are you going to call the fire department and ask them to put all of it out? Or are you going to say, "You know what? We love the living room. Start over there. And if you can, get quickly to the kitchen and next to the den.”

There was laughter. Gibbs continued.

“We could do that. And maybe, by the time they get to the kitchen or the den, the whole house is in ashes. Instead of asking the fire department to pick different rooms in which to extinguish, the president has decided to alert the fire department and everyone involved that we have a responsibility to move this country forward, address the long-term problems and the short-term problems in order to create jobs for the future.

However, Gibbs at his presser on Feb. 22:

As the President has said, if your neighbor's house is on fire or if several houses are on fire, you don't debate it; you get a hose and try to put the fire out. That's what's most important.

So, is Hero Obama Nero fiddling while Rome burns? Remember that Rome's fire began close to the Circus Maximus. Or, like the emperor, will he let most of the fire consume the scene and then rebuild almost everything?

Posted by: laloomis | March 9, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse

You are my new favorite Boodler. I had no idea there was a longer version of the Big Bang Theory theme. Which reminds me that it is on tonight. Nerd night is not as much fun without my son, but my wife likes the show because she sympathizes with Penny.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 9, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse

SCC: So, is Hero Obama Nero fiddling with the other issues while Rome (the economy) burns?

Posted by: laloomis | March 9, 2009 8:14 PM | Report abuse


What procedures are used when fighting a fire?

Fire fighting strategy involves the following basic procedures: arriving at the scene of the fire as rapidly as possible; assessing the nature of the fire by determining its intensity and extent, the type and abundance of fuel, the danger of entering the fire area, and the most effective techniques for extinguishing the fire; locating and rescuing endangered persons; containing the fire by protecting adjacent areas; ventilating the fire area to allow for the escape of heat and toxic gases; and, finally, extinguishing the fire.

Posted by: laloomis | March 9, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, Thankee for the detail. I decided to take your poetically and elliptically. It worked through the boodle-miracle of understanding these text strings. May I, dear boodler, give you and others this Teilhard quote:

from The Analysis of Life

translated by Rene Hague

Nothing in the world around us is more obvious than the existence - indeed, the fact - of life: and nevertheless nothing is more elusive, more difficult to pin down, than this same life when we try to handle it by the general methods of science.

Thus the whole phenomenon of consciousness, when submitted to scientific investigation, gives the impression of dissolving and melting away, like an illusion, in the uniform flood of a universal determinism: as well might one try to grasp a rainbow.

Initially, the play of chance which shuffles the grains of energy continues unaltered; but once two particles of appropriate psychic affinity happen to brush against one another within their 'radius of choice' (and in its effective angle), then, exercising choice, they will fasten on to one another. And so a movement is triggered off which nothing can then halt.

In truth, if we study it carefully, all life, and all thought, is simply the seizing and organizing of chance.

I am on kit, all day, to speak of chance, mystery, other worlds, life on those other worlds, etc.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | March 9, 2009 8:29 PM | Report abuse

And, Yoki, fine fun at this, the invitation of an old friend.

DMD and SD, I saw my first daffy today: fully gold and huge, so the variety is some early narcissus:

Golden Ducat, perhaps? I bow down before spring, as she comes again. Dear Persephone, you still walk among us robed in yellow and purple....oh, dear and beautiful and reliable Universe with such blossoms in it!

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | March 9, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Uh-oh. Penelope hath a girl-crush on Persephone.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | March 9, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Oh dearest M. I love to be Penelope crushing on Persephone...paging TBG for the essential specialness of all things Grecian!

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | March 9, 2009 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Hi Al...

Vegas was great, although we are pretty much the most un-Vegas people you can imagine. We had a great time exploring the area around the city, including Red Rock Canyon and a fabulous drive up Lake Mead's Northshore drive to Valley of Fire state park. We don't need no stinkin' telescopes or space probes... you can see Mars right there in Nevada.

Our trip home was fine, especially since we upgraded to First Class on our connection from SFO. That turned out to be a great idea... the flight was delayed three hours at the gate while they tried to fix a clogged lavatory; we were already on the plane but they were letting folks get on and off. Not us... we were more comfortable there than we would have been in the terminal.

Just remember that trying to flush a diaper down an airplane toilet can lead to a domino effect of late flights for days.

Now I will leave you with an email I got this evening. For some reason, this one in particular cracks me up...


Dear Friend,

How are you doing together with your entire family, I hope all is well? I am contacting you for a confidential business proposal and please carefully read and understand my reason of contacting you through email. I am Mr. Kabore Ouadrago. Working with Foreign Remittance Unit African Development Bank (ADB).

I am desperately need your assistance regarding this business proposal and you alone. Do not be afraid or to ask on how i came across your email address. I have just decided to contact you through email for security reason after about two week of been with your contact email.

So please endeavour to contact me soon for further breakdown of the business for your better understanding and be rest-assured that this business is 100% risk-free, and all the information and data's you will need have been secured by me.

Thanks and best regards.

This is my telephone number. ( 00226 71359636 )

Mr. Kabore Ouadrago. (ECONS)

Posted by: -TBG- | March 9, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Wow... was that timing or what? Opa!

Posted by: -TBG- | March 9, 2009 9:00 PM | Report abuse


I page TBG and she answers. Is the prove of the existence of God or am I godlike in my powers of commanding? Discuss.

(In a Linda Richmond voice. Butter. Butter. More butter.)

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | March 9, 2009 9:01 PM | Report abuse

TBG, Opa is German for grandpa....

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | March 9, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

CP could you call this little dog I had when I was a kid?

No, wait. It might work.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 9, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Glad you got to see your first daffodil of the season CP, still weeks away here but I did spot the tips just peeking through some soil last week - have to hold on to those promises of spring.

Posted by: dmd2 | March 9, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Butter, here Butter OR

Opa, here Opa.

You choose.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | March 9, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Checking in this evening: CP and Don-I270, if you're interested in stories that address questions of faith and alien life (and theology/philosophy), there are many depending on one's perspective. One could consider not only "Ender's Game," but the sequel-but-not-sequel, "Speaker for the Dead," Frank Herbert's classic "Dune," and perhaps even Heinlen's "Stranger in a Strange Land" as a few of the better-known examples.

But I think that most of these novels deal more with *how* people practice belief and religion in those fantasitc contexts than the actual *why.* Helpful, thought-provoking, and interesting intellectual exercises in "what ifs," but ultimately unsatisfying to me.

Perhaps I'm being picky.

And I was scratching my head at the notion of LaGrange points around black holes in an unstable orbit (spiraling in to each other, correct?), others have explained sufficiently.

SF writers speculated for years that discovery of habitable extra-solar real estate would trigger spectacular interstellar land rushes, but I don't see that happening at this point. IMO, not very many people are willing to fly coach on a multi-generational starship.


Posted by: -bc- | March 9, 2009 10:00 PM | Report abuse

I have some daffodils about to open, but the snow(!) today and below freezing temps tonight will set them back, I suppose. I have some primroses in flower. Hang on, guys.

Like buttah. Hey T, were those first class seats like buttah?

Posted by: seasea | March 9, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Opa! as in throwing-plates-and-yelling-OPA!

Yes, seasea, like buttah.

I don't have a flower in my yard yet, but on the way home from work (on my looooooong, 7-minute commute through the neighborhood roads) I saw a woman squatting in her front yard taking a picture of a small crocus flower. I smiled at the idea that she was so happy to see a sign of spring.

Posted by: -TBG- | March 9, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like a good deal TBG, do you have Mr. Ouadrago's e-mail address?

No flowers yet here, it's been a travel in time back to winter today.

I'm better stay away from Lagrange Points. If they are anything like Lagrange Transforms nothing good can came out of a close encounter with me.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | March 9, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

TBG, I think my neighbours must smile similarly everytime they see me photographing my garden plants. I do it so often I try to make sure no one is about anymore, they must wonder what I take pictures of - it is not like the gardens are anything special. Instead of being the quirky cat lady I am the flower lady.

Posted by: dmd2 | March 9, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Jumper1 | March 9, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Oh.. I forgot to add... the weather was warmer here than in Las Vegas! We did have great spring weather and clear, deep-blue skies, but it was in the mid- to high-60s.

Posted by: -TBG- | March 9, 2009 10:38 PM | Report abuse

TBG! That's hilarious. The thing that always stuns me is that there are *still* people who haven't heard of the 419 scam. I got my first letter in 1985 (such an honour) in the mail, second by fax in 1986, and they've pretty much SOP by email ever since. Because I did legitimate international business, my firm's fax room used to get exercised when I'd get one of these missives and was traveling, because, you know, it was urgent! I eventually trained them to chuck them in the trash.

Posted by: Yoki | March 9, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse



Posted by: Boko999 | March 9, 2009 10:51 PM | Report abuse

I just *know* that means something and is funny, only I don't know what and how.

Posted by: Yoki | March 9, 2009 10:55 PM | Report abuse

A scam?

But Yoki, I am rest-assured that this business is 100% risk-free, and all the information and data's I will need have been secured by Mr. Ouadrago.

Posted by: -TBG- | March 9, 2009 10:58 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Yoki | March 9, 2009 11:04 PM | Report abuse

U2 tour dates:
Closest to me is Vancouver, BC, and even in a good year, that would be a lot of trouble for me to get to. So I may have to see this show vicariously through Boodlers. Lessee, Toronto, Boston, DC, Charlottesville, Raleigh, LA, Norman, OK!

Posted by: seasea | March 9, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Good night, darling Boodle.

Posted by: Yoki | March 9, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Love yer craftiness, Boko

Posted by: DNA_Girl | March 9, 2009 11:43 PM | Report abuse

Evening all
Beautiful moonlit ride home and tonight was bunny night, saw 6 crossing the road in front of me.they tend to get active in march and april.Reminds me spring is right around the corner.still got a little chilly tonight though, but decided not to have a fire just yet,an extra sweater will do tonight before bed.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | March 10, 2009 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Oh, Boko, you silly munchkin (as ScienceKid#2 would say).

You are confusing Yog-Sothoth with Shub-Niggurath.

Posted by: ScienceTim | March 10, 2009 1:05 AM | Report abuse

Gene Weingarten should win a Pulitzer for this article in Post Magazine.

The topic is a very, very serious one - car seat deaths where a child is inadvertently left in a vehicle. Amazing, gripping, emotional story.

Posted by: engelmann | March 10, 2009 1:17 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. I've been tossing and turning all night after dinner at the M-i-L. Very upset stomach. Coincidence?

SoC, look back at the weekend boodle. W's article as been discussed at some length.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | March 10, 2009 6:11 AM | Report abuse

Another early day for me. I'll buzz the bunker on my way out to wake the rest of the Dawn Patrol.

Posted by: yellojkt | March 10, 2009 6:29 AM | Report abuse

Alo, Boodlers!
Soaring like a Condor this morning.
Waiting for the delivery of a small desk and an office chair. My present arrangement of laptop on a bar stool gives me a back ache

Posted by: Braguine | March 10, 2009 7:23 AM | Report abuse

Watch out, that funky Apple ad is on the home page again.

Welcome home TBG!!! Did they serve ouzo in first class, I wonder?

Hey, it must be a red-letter day, I'm in a suit. Oh, wait, just the annual conference with the folks I work for. Tough to get into the Dawn Patrol flight harness with the jacket on, though.

And of course, HOW could Yoki, I and the rest of us have failed to note the obvious YouTube reference for all the Lagrange discussion? I refer, of course, to the ZZ Top classic.

*off-to-find-another-cuppa-joe-to-carefully-sip-to-avoid-suit-stainage-and-hoping-Yoki-had-a-marvelous-evening Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 10, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

*Winces and slaps forehead* I did indeed fall down on that one, Scotty.

Good morning, Boodle. Hey, Al.

I did have a marvelous evening, thanks. Most excellent conversation and food.

Cassandra, check in please.

Posted by: Yoki | March 10, 2009 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Forgot the link!

Posted by: Yoki | March 10, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

*faxin' the rest of the Boodle more coffee* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 10, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

If Nirvana had covered La Grange would it be La Grunge Grange?

Hahaha ha

All righty then.

Am pleased to report my circadian rhythm has been all re-calibrated and everything after a day of feeling mostly dead. This is why I do not travel well.

The Lagrangian discussion reminded me of my college days when there was a huge surge of interest in space colonies at the stable L points. As I recall Timothy Leary was a big advocate. And yet, I can't exactly remember why.

Hope everyone has a great day.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 10, 2009 8:41 AM | Report abuse

From Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish blog:

Barry Ritholtz sighs:

Confidence is a symptom, not the cause of what ails us. It is ironic that so many economists make what is essentially a classic causation/correlation error. Healthy economies have confident consumers and businesses; if we short up confidence, goes this misguided thinking, things will improve. But healthy economies also have expanding economic activity, gaining jobs, wage improvements, active home sales, free credit activity. Confidence flows from the improvements in these basic economic activities; it is not an isolated state of mind independent from the rest of the universe.

Causality and correlation: scientists think rigorously daily about this distinction. Economists -- the self-anointed hard "scientists" of the social analysis set -- not so much.

Mea culpa to those economists who know and acknowledge their original sin.

I am not on-kit, but we seem to bloodle in fits and starts on the economy.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | March 10, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. Brag, hope your furniture arrives soon.

CP, Howard Kurtz's column this morning deals with the economy, mainly by his discussion of the Daily Show and Stewart's hilarious-but-very-sharp take-down of the talking head economists on TV, especially Jim Cramer. As it happens, Comedy Central re-ran that episode last night, so it will be on again tonight at 8 p.m. in the re-re-run slot, if anyone wants to see it. But basically Stewart left Cramer bleeding and left for dead by the side of the road. I don't especially *dislike* Cramer -- but he had this one coming, and Stewart finished him off like a bullfighter walking away with the ears. Man.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 10, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse


You are right about the time zones. In a month or so we will move one hour and be the same as EDT.

The fruit here is fantastic, especially if bought in the ambulant markets. When I was previously here, had a small orchard and picked the fruit off the tree--unbeatable!

Posted by: Braguine | March 10, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and Joel, puhleeze puhleeze puhleeze pretty please tell somebody in the online division that the Apple ad on the home page is doing weird stuff again. On my screen, the breaking news Bernake headline as well as the lefthand photo box and story are flipping up and down rhythmically, and periodically disappearing behind the Apple ad, which won't scroll up. When the photo box is "down," it still overlaps the Bernake breaking news hed.

Also, the photos rotating inside the photo box need to slow down a bit. I'm a fast reader, but sometimes even I can't read the entire caption and digest the contents of the photo before tghe &^%$#*&^% rotates to a new photo. The object of the home page shouldn't be to frustrate and anger loyal viewers (much less new/casual ones). But that's what the home page has been doing for a few weeks now.

I'm not even gonna whine about the two copy editing errors I found.

Anybody else experiencing the crazy flipping and overlapping?

I don't know what other Internet graphics types might say, but in my opinion it is better that the home page be "stable" rather than be "interesting," if "interesting" is full of bugs. I don't know how, but they gotta find a better way of field-testing new front page items and layouts before they throw them out into cyberspace. I don't know if it's a manpower thing, or a skill thing, or what, but the WaPo can't continue to have a home page that misbehaves so often.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 10, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse


Could you cue up "Train, Train" or "Train Kept A-Rollin" or some such?

Thanks. (please don't look for anything resembling "Charlie of the MTA" K?) :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 10, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Good morning boodle, snow plow came through at 0400 so I can leave Chez Frostbitten if I like, but who would like with a blizzard bearing down?

Mudge's suggestion to watch last night's daily show is a good one. The CNBC takedown is less a rerun than a response-Cramer, Santenelli, and CNBC should quit responding until they have a leg to stand on. Here's the link:
scroll down to "In Cramer We Trust" (one snippet is probably NSFW)

Moving slower than I'd like. Takes some of us more than one workday to get adjusted to DST. Time to make it permanent.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 10, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Good morning everybody. So glad to hear from you, Brag, and where is Martooni?

Our very warm weather is about to be replaced today with cold weather as a front rolls in. Bah. The daffodils and hyacinth are in full bloom.

I felt an earthquake here Sunday morning. I have mentioned that central Oklahoma has rejoiced in (now) six small earthquakes in the past few months. This felt as though something hit the house, then everything rattled very briefly. I was half-asleep and pondering what it could have been; considered the earthquake option and discarded it. It was a 3.4, or thereabouts.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 10, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Yes, I would like permanent DST as well. Although I am pretty much acclimated today, the transition is always like being being hung over.

Or so I've heard.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | March 10, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Mornin', Boodle!

Today is the day to de-clothe the Concept2 upstairs and start rowing again in addition to walking. If someone wouldn't mind being a nudge tomorrow and asking me if I don't report, I'd appreciate it.

Coincidentally, there's a pint of sour cream in the fridge that's hitting its due date tomorrow. I was thinking coffeecake, baked tomorrow early am and taken into work to be shared there via breakroom and fax to you.

Back to work. :-(

Posted by: -dbG- | March 10, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all. First day of conference went very well, then everything was nice and quiet for startup this morning. I will be glad to get back into the normal schedule.

Martooni's absence is beginning to be worrisome, I hope he will check in soon.

Cassandra, you up and going this morning? I hope the g-girl isn't wearing you out.

I've backboodled but don't have time to check all the links, sigh.

Onward with the personal protective equipment stuff...

Posted by: slyness | March 10, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

A nudge
From 'Mudge
Should get you to budge
And leave no room to fudge


Posted by: Scottynuke | March 10, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I'll be the drudge
To give ya the nudge
But I won't trudge
Too far to judge.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 10, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I'm afraid it will take more than a nudge from Mudge. I kept looking at my clock this morning, willing it to show an earlier time so I could sleep longer. Time, alas, was stronger than my will.

We finally got used to sunshine in the mornings and now it is once again dark as the kids head to school. This is just wrong.

On the plus side, we had light rain this morning in half the city and clearing skies in the East. As I walked in to work, the sun was coming up, washing the granite building in lovely pink tones, and there was half a rainbow in the western sky silhouetted against the dark blue clouds. Very nice.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 10, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, all you fans of train songs. The filter keeps eating my linky posts. It was a good selection.

Posted by: Yoki | March 10, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Did you have more than three links, Yoki? You can only post up to three at a time.

About -what? -- a year ago Joel did a kit on trains and we did a major Boodle on fav train songs.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 10, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

*jellus of Ivansmom's rainbowage*

I'm off to the conference. I really do wish I could get the Boodle on my CrackBerry... :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | March 10, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Morning all
I have these two links saved on you tube favourites.Ah yes being the son of a railroad man,I appreciate trains very much.


This second video contains many trains.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | March 10, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

That must be it, 'mudge. I'm so seldom linky that I've not run into that limit before.

Posted by: Yoki | March 10, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Just finished listening to the Obama education reform speech.

Interesting story quite recently about educational excellence in San Antonio. The online version of the story is different than the print version. I recall that the print version mentioned that the Kims are Korean-Americans. I think the winner Rohit is Indian-American. No Hispanic kids, No Anglo kids, no Black kids in the very top tier. And the winner took top honors on a Spanish word. Incredible. Educational performance and excellence is grounded in the home, in my opinion.

Rohit Balachandar battled through 14 rounds with a first-time speller Saturday morning to win the Express-News' 56th Annual Regional Spelling Bee, qualifying him for the national contest in Washington, D.C., in May.

The winning word was “luminaria,” defined in Merriam-Webster's online dictionary as a traditional Mexican Christmas lantern.

“It was taking a long time, and the rounds seemed to go forever,” said the 10-year-old Balanchandar, who is a fifth-grader at Encino Park Elementary School in the North East Independent School District.

Balanchandar was up against Brandon Kim, 9, a fourth-grader at Converse Elementary School in the Judson Independent School District, in the final rounds of the competition. The two went through 22 words before Balanchandar accurately spelled the winning word.

In an unusual scenario, Kim competed against his older brother, Justin Kim, 11, for the final spot.

Again, Obama, during this morning's address, called for parents to turn off their televisions and read to their children or encourage their children to read. Britain's Prime Minister gave Obama the gift of a pen last week, the pen an active commmunication tool. What kind of message does Obama's reciprocal gift to Brown send to Americans and Europeans, for that matter, when the president gave Brown a Hollywood export--a collection of 25 DVDs--a passive communication media?

Posted by: laloomis | March 10, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

SCC: Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Posted by: laloomis | March 10, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

then these two

ac/dc new one

gotta love this one from the delmore bros
freight train boogie

Posted by: greenwithenvy | March 10, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

oopps here is the Delmore brothers

Posted by: greenwithenvy | March 10, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

And of course you can't talk about train songs without this essential ballad

Posted by: greenwithenvy | March 10, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Scottynuke, I can get the Boodle on my iPhone.

I was a champion speller back in the day. I had some great coaches in interested English teachers. By "coaching" I mean making me look up the word, learn its meaning, and spell it over and over if I didn't get it right the first time. This was a wonderful vocabulary builder. It is my belief that some people have the spelling gene and some don't. Of course we all learn to spell in school but some of us are better than others. From my narrow and anecdotal observation the ability to spell appears to have nothing to do with intelligence, reading ability or even, up to a point, education.

The regional competition words are drawn from all languages, as long as they are common in English usage. "Luminaria" is pretty simple and, at least in the Southwest, almost a gimme.

Posted by: Ivansmom | March 10, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Interested in your comment the other day about your husband having a classroom of college students who don't read the assignments. I believe you mentioned the term "functional illiterates." Does social promotion exist at the college level--meaning being passed up a grade without mastering the skill set, or in the case of college, given a college degree? If the college kids who don't do, minimally, the assigned reading, do they get D's and F's? Are they given failing grades?

Forgot to note this story in today's paper. How does one provide a decent education to homeless children?:

A national report released today brands Texas as the worst state in terms of the number of homeless children who live here and how they are faring.

America's Youngest Outcasts: State Report Card on Child Homelessness — a study by The National Center on Family Homelessness — numbers homeless children in Texas at more than 337,000. The report is critical of Texas for not yet having a federally mandated Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. ...

Nationwide, 1.5 million children are homeless each year, lacking safety, reassuring routines, adequate health care, uninterrupted schooling and a sense of community, according to the report.

The report card, using information culled from various sources including the Census Bureau and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, grades in four areas: the extent of child homelessness, child well-being, risk for child homelessness, and each state's policy and planning efforts. It used data from 2005 and '06, the most recent available.

But the report's authors say they are certain the current economic downturn has added to the ranks of homeless children and will continue to do so.

Posted by: laloomis | March 10, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

New kit coming momentarily

Posted by: joelache | March 10, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Have to agree with you on spelling abilities Ivansmom. It is a quirk of fate that creates a speller. Are you as cursed with spelling/usage peeves as you are gifted?

I am currently gnashing my teeth over "could of" when writers mean "could've" or "could have." Children used to be the offenders, but now I find it in use more and more among adults.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 10, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I'm going to post this in this boodle, so as not to stain the new one with my whining.

Its cold here. Beastly, beastly. It is now -40.1 C according to mrdr. The sensible thing is to put on a lot of layers, and crawl back to bed.

Posted by: --dr-- | March 10, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I object to a lot of the foreign words in spelling bees, Ivansmom. "Luminaria" may be a gimme in the southwest, but in Mwrlin it is not. (For what it's worth, I never even heard the word until today, although I could probably spell it correctly by sound alone.) But the fact that some words are "gimmees" in some regions is exactly why such words are unfair. In Penna Dutch country, everbody knows what a grundsow is (and how to spell it), but would you assume it's a gimmee in Albuqurque (since you virtually never pronounce the "d" in it)? In Alaska they can spell Inupiat. Is mirepoix a fair word to use (I'd say no). Poutine? Shadenfreude (and do you pronounce the "e" on the end, or not?)?

I don't object to foreign words that are "common" in English, but I protest vociferously the spelling bee people's extreme notions of what constitutes "common."

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | March 10, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

New Kit!

Posted by: Yoki | March 10, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, I must agree with you about spelling being an innate talent. Reading always helps - when you see words over and over again, you get a sense of how they are spelled and when they look wrong. The Geekdottir is a very bright, literate young person, but her spelling appalls me. She never got a grounding in grammar, either, so she misses the easy stuff: to/too, it's/its. Her mistakes make me crazy.

Posted by: slyness | March 10, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

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