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Roman Holiday


Taken 1 a.m. Sunday -- just when the Romans were starting to party along the Tiber. This place goes late.


Light's great here. Have I mentioned yet that it has a Los Angeles-like Mediterranean Climate?


People in robes running around the floodlit ruins, shouting, carrying on. I think Julius Caesar is going to have a bad night.


Best chalk-on-sidewalk rendering of a Caravaggio we've seen so far. (But can he do dogs playing poker??)


It's the kind of town where even a random window is beautiful. There's like a beauty cult going on here.


That would be a '62 Rolls Royce parked there in the ruins of the Forum. Nice chariot!

By Joel Achenbach  |  July 12, 2009; 4:39 AM ET
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Next: Space Station Retiring?


Aaaaah! Nice pictures again. It's hot during the day. The temperature is much more party-like later...

And 'morning all. An hour and a half before the start of the German GP.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 12, 2009 6:28 AM | Report abuse

I'm flabbergasted.
"Cheney liked to concealment of C.I.A. project"

When something nefarious is unearthed about the W presidency the smell of the Dark One lingers around.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 12, 2009 6:37 AM | Report abuse

Yes, SD, and it's such a nasty smell.

Almost time to head down the mountain, I'll be leaving shortly.

Great photos as usual,Joel.

Good morning, everyone!

Posted by: slyness | July 12, 2009 7:08 AM | Report abuse

*distinct but restrained jealousness of JA's vacation* :-)

*trying-to-wring-a-little-more-fun-out-of-my-last-vacation-day Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 12, 2009 7:11 AM | Report abuse

That first picture is the Castel Santa Angelo on the Vatican side of the Tiber and as featured in Angels and Demons.

Joel's picture is further evidence that a mad killer would have a hard time making it his secret hideout. Oops, that might have been a spoiler.

The third picture looks like it on the Roman Forum, as you would expect for a performance of Shakespeare. They also perform opera in front of the Baths of Caracalla which is another ancient ruin still being put to good use.

The other still extant baths in Rome are the Baths of Diocletian of which a small portion, relatively speaking (it's still huge) was converted into the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs which was a church we just stumbled onto in our travels. Because it was built within the soaring Roman bath building, it is much taller and grander than nearly any church in Rome short of St Peters.

When we were there it had a huge exhibit going on celebrating the life of Galileo and all the contributions he made to science. I thought it a bit ironic given the poor treatment he had previously received. The church also has a huge astronomical display and sundial like clock built into the floor.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 12, 2009 7:47 AM | Report abuse

The sidewalk artist I remember most memorably was in Florence (or Firenza if you prefer your Italian cities named after crappy Oldsmobiles):

I don't have enough art history skilz to name the painting they are reproducing, but I can guess that the kid without the diaper is the baby Jesus.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 12, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Here's that same chalk painting being worked on the night before. The hours of chalk artists seem to be rather demanding.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 12, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Those pictures are beautiful. The one of the rooftops is so evocative that I stared at it for long moments.

And that chalk drawing amazes me. That a person is willing to apply such remarkable talents to such a temporary medium says something profound. (I'm not sure what that profundity is, but I'm sure it is there.)

I also love that car. Because, you know, '62 was a good year.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 12, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Good morning boodle! Fell asleep last night with reading glasses on and nose in a book-delightful. So cool this morning even the frostcats were slow to wake. As a weekend should be, but for Mr. F working and not able to make it from St. Paul.

RD already noted the rooftop picture. Fabulous! The rooftops near the hip urban loft were a big selling point, to me. They evoke early 20th century bustling commerce, almost as good as the Mary Poppins Victorians visible from a former frostbitten manse. Pretty far off from Rome though. The frenvy grows with every picture.

Time for coffee and then a bit of gardening. Starting to get a bit concerned about our lack of rain. July is normally our wettest month and we've had zip, nada, nothing, zilch...

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 12, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I feel some grilling coming on... Perhaps a real manfood spread in honor of JA's sojourn? :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 12, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Beautiful sunny morning this morning, just goofing around and rediscovered my playlist on youtube, this is playing in the background, suits me perfect this morning, love Colin James, great cover of Van Morrison

Posted by: dmd3 | July 12, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

Rome - I imagine that even the laundry baskets full of dirty clothes are beautiful, and have more history to them than a reciept for 8 gallons of gas left in a pants pocket. [Yes, I'm doing the wash this morning - why do you ask?]

Speaking of Shakespeare - BobS, I'd love to hear what you thought of that "Titus X" production you were going to see at the Fringe Festival.

And RD - that chalk sidwalk art may be a temporary medium from one perspective, but if you remember it, is it really ever gone?

'62 was a good year, and Rolls Royces are very nice, but I'd rather be driving a '62 Ferrari 250 GTO through Rome.

And maybe a Ducati if I'm feeling frisky. Vespas are fine for short trips, too.

S_d, the German GP is on tape delay here in the US (again) 3-5 PM on your local FOX affiliate. Oy. Looks like McLaren's made some progress with this year's car during the break - Hamilton's qualified up there 'mongst the Red Bulls and Brauns, even with the crazy weather during sessions 2 and 3. If Alonso can keep his Renault in the top 5 at the finish, that guy deserves a medal.

Finally, here's a good reason not to lauch the Shuttle yesterday - something like 11 lightning strikes were recorded on the gantry and stack. Nothing like sitting on tanks of liquid fuel strapped to soild fueled rocket engines with lightining in the area to keep an astronaut's attention.


Posted by: -bc- | July 12, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Oh, thanks for the laundry reminder, bc! :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 12, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

It was a good GP bc. No pile-up or cars bursting into flame though, the NASCAR crowd would felt let down.

We had a rare visit this morning, a Baltimore oriole accompanied by 2 juveniles clamoring for food. Teenagers.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 12, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

nice photos JA! now, how about some video eh?

Posted by: MissToronto | July 12, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

The fun never stops. Someone hacked my 401K. The weirdness is that a fund was changed, not drained. And the former fund plummetted shortly thereafter. I am hoping this weirdness means there is an explanation. But I sure can't think of one.

I have seen many writers who can't take a decent picture. Joel is not one of those. He is a Renaissance man.

A friend informed me the Church dismantled some old Roman temples in the 1500s to acquire marble for their new cathedrals. He is still mad about it. I said, dude, it's been 500 years. Put the anger away.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 12, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

It was hard to get old marble those days.

Marble doesn't grow on trees.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 12, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Jumper, maybe you were attacked by Personal-Financial-Planner Man.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 12, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Jumper-must have been the same mysterious force that prompted a painless, and unasked for, lowering of the interest rate on our vacation rental property. Part of me wonders if someone is taking credit for a mortgage modification on a "distressed property" that wasn't in that situation at all (and is a bit peeved), the other part of me says "let sleeping dogs lie."

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 12, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Yellojkt, ironically it was the protestants such as Luther etc. that attacked Galileo first as contradicting the bible.

In effect, the Catholic church was politically forced to make an example of Galileo to neutralize their critics.

Galileo just got house arrest for life. That's really mild in comparsion to what real heretics often got before.

St. Thomas Aquinas championed reason. I read him in contrast to Jonathan Edwards, America's "leading theologican" back when Salem was busy burning witches.

St. Thomas Aquinas lived in the Middle Ages-- 1225-1274 AD, and he sounds far more modern and rational than Jonathan Edwards does.

While it is ironic regarding Galileo, I'd be far more suprised if any protestant church undertook such a similar celebration of science, culture, and reason.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 12, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

If you make it to Castel Gandolfo, say "Hi!" to Brother Guy for me.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 12, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Nice day for the Indy in Toronto, not the picturesque views Joel posted, bu not too bad, haven't seen a temporary garbage depot yet.

Posted by: dmd3 | July 12, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

When in doubt have cheese popcorn, that's what I say.

Anyone want to drive me to Florida? I will pay for 1/2 the gas. I hate driving. Must be all those years in Texas driving 100+ miles a day.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 12, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I realize that my 7:47 went really astray and had little to do with Joel's post. The pictures of the outdoor performance reminded me the night tour we took of Rome that went by the Baths of Caracalla where they do perform opera in front of the ruins.

According a google search (, they did Midsummer Nights Dream last week and have Tosca and Carmen coming up. But those Baths don't have the column array that Joel shot, so he must have been somewhere else.

But speaking of ruins, the Caracalla Baths are also right by the old Circus Maximus which is now just a large giant oval shaped field. And chariot races were the NASCAR of the first century.

And that triggered my fondness for the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels (which is not far from the Santa Maria della Vittoria (Mary gets her share of churches) where the Teresa in Ecstasy statue is). Which also reminded me of the Galileo exhibit. There is an Italian webpage for the show if anyone has Joel-like translation skills:

The exhibit will run until December, so Joel still has a chance to see it. The displays themselves are trilingual with English being one of them. Since the Mary of the Angels church had such a strong astronomical motif, it seems appropriate to have an exhibit for him there.

My point, and I think I had one, is that Rome is so rich in history and culture that it all blends together and merges. An ancient Roman Bath (which even in ruins is spectacularly grand) becomes a church renovated by RennMan Michelangelo which centuries later houses a tribute to one of the world's great scientific thinkers. It all just braids into one seamless tapestry.

And even the places that don't make the Ten Things To See In Rome list are unimaginably beautiful.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 12, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse


Part of the faded glory of Rome is that for 1000 years, the Roman buildings were stripped bare for building materials. They weren't called the Dark Ages for nothing. Part of this was religious prejudice with the Christian leaders jealous of the staggering glory of the Roman architecture.

There was also some economy in 'mining' the old buildings rather than quarry their own. The Coliseum in particular was stripped bare until a later Pope put an end to it.

There is technically a church in the Coliseum where the Pope has a ceremony every Good Friday. The close it off for a big night time pageant and Mass. Our tour group snuck in just under the wire before it was closed to tourists for the day.

The more amazing thing is that any of it is left at all. Even the 'forum' which is a particularly random hodge-podge of standing and fallen parts was three or four distinct areas in Roman times. One of the people on our tour had a then-and-now book with vellum overlays to show what these buildings looked like in their glory days.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 12, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse


Were you the person that Weingarten mentions in his column who threatened to quit when he changed his icon to the turd?

Because if so, his column is factually incorrect. Unless he comes up with someone else I'm going to have to report Gene to the Ombudsman for falsifying a humor column.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 12, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Nice article on first-time (after 17 years) All-Star Tim Wakefield, in the NY Times of all places!


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 12, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 12, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Kitchen window thermometer (still in shade) at 106 again. This is just wrong, I tell you, wrong.

Grass and flowers die in this kind of heat, but weeds thrive. There is no justice.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 12, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

I love watching Wakefield pitch, Scotty. The knuckler followed by his blazing 75 mph fastball is just a wonderful change from all the other pitchers.

He had a great question when he found out he made the team: "Who's going to catch me?"

Posted by: -pj- | July 12, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom-we are having the opposite problem here. Nights below 50 and days topping out shy of 70 do not help tomatoes ripen. Corn should be knee high by the 4th of July and it isn't there yet.

Fatuous garden comment- Lady's Mantle and obedient plant flowering quite nicely. Day lilies are chugging along. Astilbe, after being rescued from lack of water, should put on a nice display in a week or two. The clematis have stalled out. Thought I'd have several open today, but now it looks like it could be as late as Wednesday. The blousy heads of Endless Summer hydrangea are holding their own despite lack of rain. These are a guilty pleasure. Not reliably hardy, not refined at all-they are the garden equivalent of chickens bread to have such large breasts they can't even walk. Think Pamela Anderson instead of Gertrude Jekyll.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 12, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Wow -- it's almost 4:30 and I wonder where the day has gone. Oh, yeah. . .two loads of laundry first thing in the morning (have to get to the laundry room at 8 a.m. when it opens or I'm outta luck) -- oh, how I would love to be able to have my own washer and dryer (against the rules). Anyway, I had the approximate amount of perhaps 4 hours of sleep. I gave a birthday dinner party/bridge game for a friend who turned 70 last month. I had ordered a book for her from Amazon on Thursday and actually spent the extra amount to have next-day delivery. Did it arrive in time? Of course not! So I told her she'd get it right after I get it. Not to worry.

The bridge game, on the other hand, was glorious for absolutely everyone but me. Either I got rotten cards or I had fabulous cards but my partner had rotten cards OR I kept making terrible mistakes when I played. Dang! I, of course came in "last." I look at it this way -- it's only a game, but geez, I would like to win now and again. I think I'm dwelling on my future back surgery and my concentration ability is not where I would rather have it go. *sigh*

Still getting used to the Mac. Couldn't find some of the files that were supposed to be transferred over by the Apple guys, so I powered up my old 'puter in the living room and tossed the important desktop files into my external hard drive, brought the HD back in here and tossed them onto the Mac desktop. I've been able now to bring certain files up to date, so I can get on with my life (such as it is) with respect to certain matters. My desk, my office and my brain appear to be equally cluttered, which has always been a problem. I suspect that it's the rebellious response to neat-freak parents and old habits do indeed die hard.

I'll be starting physical therapy in three weeks, and in the meantime will be fighting in advance with my insurance company for a modicum of coverage for certain things. Can't wait for Medicare -- and I never thought I'd hear myself say that (but then again, I have turned off my speakers . . . .).

*trying to channel 20-year-old body*

Ivansmom -- that's entirely too, too hot. Try thinking of ice bergs and snowy Alps and meat freezers. And stay inside!

Beautiful pictures of Rome from the boss. I remember the first time I saw the Colosseum in the evening, just at dusk. It completely blew me away -- I felt like crying. But to me, the Fiats look like roller skates. I learned how to cross the street by staring down the drivers and holding my hand out in the "stop" position. It seems to have worked, eh? Good food in that city, too.

Don't know what my week is going to look like, but I'll drop in when I can.


Posted by: -ftb- | July 12, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I hate to hear about you having such hot weather, Ivansmom, because it means that we'll be getting it in three or four days. It's 92 now, that's plenty warm. I've been out to water the plants, meaning the vegetables and the gumpo azaleas. All but one mound of squash is done, but I did pick half a dozen beans off the bean tower. It's still more leaves/vines than anything else. Also picked eight or so Romas. The Early Girl isn't. Lots of tomatoes on both plants, so I'll be inundated about next week this time.

Posted by: slyness | July 12, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Joel, don't forget to contact Alan Epstein while you are there...

Posted by: MissToronto | July 12, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I think study and experience have shown us all that the human back tends to give problems. Sooner or later, almost everyone will have a "bad back" one hopes temporarily, but often chronically. This is known as the human condition, and can be traced either to evolution and the relative short bipedal span of our evolution, or if this is not your cup of tea, original sin may serve the same explanatory purpose.

This is a factor in a train of thought that leads me to believe that the Experts are Not in Charge.

Because I have observed the American lavatory. And how in 95% of cases, it is installed at a height and configuration such that an adult will be forced to assume the most inane stooped-over, bent-at-the-waist position to simply wash his hands.

Anyone may perform this observation: whether tall, short, or average height, the posture assumed is the most awkward stooping position the devil himself could have devised.

Generation upon generation of architects and builders have continued this insane practice.

When this is pointed out, often you get odd jokes about how one must be getting old, or unfit, but this is nonsense. One might as well posit that years of washing ones hands in sinks designed by morons has destroyed all our backs.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 12, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

*faxing Ivansmom three spare trays of ice cubes and a fan*

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | July 12, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

True, Jumper.

Lavatory sinks should be made to be accessible from the side, with drains below to catch the overflow-- or a handy water bowl should a pet need a refill,

Forget half baths, we need half sinks.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 12, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the ice and fan, Mudge, and for the sympathy y'all. I think I'll use part of the ice in a mojito here pretty quick. Only problem is I have to step outside to pick the mint.

Hmm. What a dilemma.

Maybe I can get the Boy to do it for me.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 12, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Hi there. "Titus X" was a lot of fun last night. Since it's set in Rome, I guess that's tangentially on-kit. I'm staying in tonight, but if I get down to the BPH tomorrow, I'll probably stay downtown to catch another festival show.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 12, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

>Yellojkt, ironically it was the protestants such as Luther etc. that attacked Galileo first as contradicting the bible.

Wilbrod, Luther died 18 years before Galileo was born.

I've never heard the theory that the church was church was "politically forced to make an example of Galileo", especially in relation to Protestants. I'd be interested to read more if you have a source for that.

Posted by: engelmann | July 12, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

House arrest isn't exactly right either.

Posted by: LostInThought | July 12, 2009 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Alas, I'm unable to think of Martin Luther without remembering the excitement which greeted the discovery of the facilities in which he spent so much of his time:

Posted by: bobsewell | July 12, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

*faxing Ivansmom some mint so she doesn't have to go outside*

Sorry for the delay.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | July 12, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

I don't follow Scholastic philosophy, but there seem to be some who think Duns Scotus was 'way better than Thomas Aquinus. There's definitely those who think theology took a dive in the 1600s. Lots of efforts by the Puritans to make God nice and tame and predictable. No free grace.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 12, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

You're right yello... I did stop following GW after I complained to him about his avatar.

Posted by: TBG-1 | July 12, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

TBG - Well, then, my Luther links probably aren't for you!

Posted by: bobsewell | July 12, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Yellojkt, see "Counter-Reformation."

Also some scholars have argued this view as well.

Maybe some people in the Catholic Church really were appalled by the unbiblical viewpoint, but politics and having to take a hardline to prevent endless schism is a far more believable cause.

House arrest is how it's always been described in all the accounts I've read, LiT. He wasn't burnt at the stake.

From Wikipedia:

"After a period with the friendly Archbishop Piccolomini in Siena, Galileo was allowed to return to his villa at Arcetri near Florence, where he spent the remainder of his life under house arrest with his friend and pupil Ferdinando II de' Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany. In 1638, he published a scientific book in Holland. "

House arrest with a friendly Grand Duke, and he was able to publish even after being sentenced.

I want to be tried as a heretic if I get that kind of sentence.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 12, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Dave o' the coonties-- the word "dunce" comes from Duns Scotus, and he was often accused of sophistry by later philosophy.

Some of his arguments are good Catholic theology (but would be rejected by Protestants just because they don't believe in that stuff.)

I haven't read Duns Scotus, but I've read Aquinas' "City of God"-- which is actually about political science and discusses the relationships between society, rulers, and God.

He cautiously says that society has a right to rebel if kings have failed in their contract to their people and God and thus no longer have divine favor on their rule.

He also discusses democracy, not thinking much of it, but saying it's better than no government.

He also championed reason, and warned of the limitations of man and the infinity of God.

Some sound bites:

“All the powers of the human mind cannot exhaust the essence of a single fly.”
– St. Thomas Aquinas.

And on the subject of free will (vs predestination, a favorite of the Puritans), or omens--

“the highest manifestation of life consists in this: that a being governs its own actions. A thing which is always subject to the directions of another is somewhat of a dead thing.”

And of course-- “Reason in man is rather like God in the World. “ – St. Thomas Aquinas.

Duns Scotus built on Aquinas' work, incidentally. They do have much in common.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 12, 2009 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Add my voice to those quibbling with the notion that the Catholic Church was forced to discipline Galileo for political reasons, or that his punishment was best characterized as house arrest. However, I have no energy to do more than quibble. It is just too darn hot.

Thanks for the mint, Mudge. That was one tasty and refreshing beverage.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 12, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Torn between working and just enjoying a cool, clear evening- sitting on the porch won. Took a few pictures of the scenery

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 12, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Joel's second photo, with the Californian climate, has an obelisk in the rear. Rome has only so many obelisks, so to my surprise I located it with some help from Google Maps and Google's street photos. I'll be happy to drop hints sometime tomorrow.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 12, 2009 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Nice pics, frostbitten. I have daisies just like yours, and a lacecap hydrangea about ready to flower. It's losing some leaves because of the dry ostrich fern, which is planted too high in the soil and overrun by Oriental poppy foliage, is not looking too happy. We've had some sprinkles of rain today, and it's fact, almost wintry...

Posted by: seasea1 | July 12, 2009 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Boodle! I'm home. I know you've been missing me. Or maybe not so much.

I had such a good time in Vancouver. And am now "en famille" for supper in Calgary before heading back to the apartment.

I'm sort of grateful that the Boodle is relatively quiet of a weekend or I would never be able to backboodle.

It is a golden Sunday evening here, with a nice cool breeze off the mountains (sorry, Ivansmom).

Posted by: Yoki | July 12, 2009 9:08 PM | Report abuse

frostbitten's garden is classical perennial. Shastas. Hostas. I had some of those hydrangeas in Jacksonville, but they tended to wilt in summer. I was much impressed to see wild Hydrangea quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea) once, in a bluff forest in Macon, Georgia.

Joel must be levitating like Aquinas. He's got a story on the planned de-orbiting of the International Space Station in 2016.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 12, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Lovely photos frosti I envy you your vistas. My lacecap hydrangea is in bloom, the hydrangea tree is getting ready to bloom and the regular hydrangea (a transplant from my parents so not sure exact variety) just beginning to sprout blooms.

After weeks teasing me my tuberrose bloom has finally opened what a gorgeous scent.

I think I have flower buds on at least one of my moon flowers, still quite small but purplish in colour. I have not grown these before is that how the flowers start?

Stokes Aster has just begun flowering soon will be covered in soft lavender blooms.

Also the tiniest of tomatoes are on the plant with luck we might have something edible when we have out of town visitors in a few weeks.

Posted by: dmd3 | July 12, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, that's okay, I just invite people to really read up on what was going on back then, and then contrast it to how the Renaissance flourished just right before under the same Church.

Personally, I feel compelled to speak up on this subject because many people act from the subconscious position that religion is ALWAYS in opposition to science.

This belief is easily contradicted by reading the entire history of science, rather than the "highlights" such as Galileo's trial. Many deeply religious people have done scientific work and continue to do so.

You can also find it contradicted by reading up on the history of Catholic theology and science, rather than the cliff notes taught in world history.

They are worthy lessons to think about because we're still experiencing those conflicts, where ethical issues get conflated into being "anti-science," and people attack science "for being anti-religion" rather than actually studying the theology of their own religion (and for Christianity, this should mean studying Catholic theologians, too, no matter if they're disagreed with).

People on both sides who make the most noise are also acting out of political motives in addition to sincere beliefs.

Always has been, always will be so.

Why would anybody bother to publish a children's book seriously telling kids that men hitched dinosaurs to cart and then God killed 'em all in the flood, knowing this all is a tissue of lies (and based on Fred Flintstone cartoons too)?

Don't tell me it's belief. It's war propaganda.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 12, 2009 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod...clap clap clap clap clap!!!

Welcome home, Yoki, glad you had such a pleasant weekend. Vancouver is my favorite city on the continent. What a fabulous place!

Posted by: slyness | July 12, 2009 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Yoki, welcome home. Glad you had a nice weekend.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | July 12, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

In one of my sources (Rick Steves, I think) it said that there were 43 obelisks in Rome. In two days in Rome I saw about a dozen of them. To be able to pinpoint one is a pretty good trick. Hints please.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 12, 2009 9:57 PM | Report abuse

Good evening, all.

Joel's written something about the International Space Station, and plans to "de-orbit" it.

All 700,000 or so pounds of it.

*Tim and I discussed that concept a couple of years ago (as a follow-on to a discussion of de-orbiting the Hubble) and swallowed hard at the thought, even then. Tough to walk away from a $100B investment, and tough to junk it.

Given how much it costs to lift such weight into orbit, I wonder if it's possible to move it to more of a parking orbit somewhere and keep it around as a used spacecraft parts depot.

Some thoughts on Galileo later, perhaps.


Posted by: -bc- | July 12, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, house arrest means something very different today. He wasn't treated as a prisoner; at The Vatican, he stayed in a guest apartment, not a cell. His residences at both de Medici spread and then the Archbishop's palace in Siena (neither of which could be called 'houses' per se, but more like vast Hilton-esque estates) afforded him a better standard of living than he had previously enjoyed with any regularity. Formal dinners were regularly thrown in his honor. His final home outside of Florence, near his beloved daughter, was more where he went to live out his last days than be kept captive. As The Vatican became tangled up in other matters, restrictions on his movements were more because of health issues than legal ones. Yeah, every now and again, his chain was yanked for general purposes...his notoriety needed to be kept in check, but he wasn't restricted in his work...indeed, many would say his best work came during this period. (Pretty much, the big thing was he wasn't allowed to lecture to crowds.)

An interesting study in the power of friends in high places...a convergence of government, politics, religion/faith, science, loyalty, the power of the written word and human dynamics. Just because The Vatican was involved doesn't mean it was all about Catholicism.

Posted by: LostInThought | July 12, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse

bc, if you want to start up a used space parts company, I'll back you to the fullest extent of my financial ability, which is something to the tune of $5000...thing you can do it on that?

Posted by: slyness | July 12, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

This website claims there are only twelve obelisks still standing in Rome. I've seen five of the ones on the list.

St Peters Square

Piazza Navonna

Piazza del Populo

Those three were all featured in Angels and Demons. The book should have been called Angels and Obelisks.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 12, 2009 10:07 PM | Report abuse

dmd-when you feel vista envy just remember from December-May all that water is frozen.

An interesting wildlife day Chez Frostbitten. Frostcat #3 seems to have developed heretofore unknown deer detection capabilities. She growls and a few minutes later one appears in the lower meadow. A turtle laid her eggs in the yard not far from the fire ring. I meant to move it anyway but now it's a bit more urgent. With luck this batch won't be discovered by Jacques T. Skunk so I wouldn't want to fry or squash them.

"Used spacecraft parts depot" sounds so much better than junkyard.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 12, 2009 10:15 PM | Report abuse

The obelisk at the top of the Spanish Steps can be seen here:

Piazza Minerva on the back side of the Pantheon:

And Piazza della Rotonda in front of the Pantheon:

That gives me six. I swear there was another right near the Spanish Steps as well.

There is also one pyramid in Rome, but it was too dark to get a photo.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 12, 2009 10:19 PM | Report abuse

All this talk of pizzas is making me hungry. Anyone for Domino's? Papa Johns?

What exactly is on a Pizza del Rotundo, anyway?

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | July 12, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Ahh Frosti - snow I am used to - but your temps not so much. Much of the artwork in our house is some sort of snow scene - I once walked into a gallery of boating/seascapes the first picture I gravitated to was the only winter scene in the store.

Posted by: dmd3 | July 12, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod says:

Why would anybody bother to publish a children's book seriously telling kids that men hitched dinosaurs to cart and then God killed 'em all in the flood, knowing this all is a tissue of lies (and based on Fred Flintstone cartoons too)?

What? Did Pauline Books or The Holy See Press Office take a massive turn somewhere? This I gotta see.

Posted by: LostInThought | July 12, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

slyness, thanks.

I can see myself as an Orbital Fred Sanford, running the Great Junkyard in the Sky.

Hmm, I wonder how hard it would be to get a salvage title for the ISS. I'm afraid to ask what the Blue Book on that thing is... and how much it will cost to get regegistered. Oy.

Well, $5000 might be enough to get a start -- perhaps a parts counter and a junkyard robo-dog.


Posted by: -bc- | July 12, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

good evening, boodle.

joel, lovely pictures.

frosti, i'm envious of your having a body of water so near by, even if it is frozen half the year.

Posted by: LALurker | July 12, 2009 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Meant to add slyness - thanks for the vote of confidence. $5000 *would* be a start.

If I were Japan, Russia, Canada, or any of the nations of the European Space Agency - nations that contributed sections and components to the ISS - I'd be pretty pi$$ed off that the US were going to junk the beast. Those nations' governments/space agencies spent lots of time and money building those components, and I believe they thought that they'd get some use out of them over many years working with the the US government and NASA.

Now instead of a skylab they'll get a sealab? (OK, maybe I shouldn't have said Skylab).

Back to Galileo for a second - LiT, I agree with you. I don't think the Roman Catholic Church advocates the idea that dinosaurs ever pulled human-built carts. I've seen things like that in funadmentalist American Christian bookstores, but never in any Catholic library or bookstore I've ever been in.

And I've been in a few.

Domestic American Fundmental/Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism are not even close to the same thing in my book. And I know a few Evangelicals who feel stongly the same way.


Posted by: -bc- | July 12, 2009 10:54 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt, you photographed Joel's obelisk from the opposite side. The two of you have the same church dome.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 12, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse

LiT, that book was not Catholic, it was fundamentalist christian-- the current "anti-science" side in the religion-science wars.

My point being, that's not realy faith, that's propaganda.

And I think I implied as such about the so-called house-arrest being a punishment-- at a Grand Duke's house?

More like the lap of luxury, with nothing but huge estates to rattle around in...

Where do I sign up for that?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 12, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse

Bc, you're right.

An evangelical I know was surprised to find out from her readings that Catholicism was the earliest form of christianity.

She now attends a Catholic church for her current spiritual needs in addition to doing her own evangelism.

There is a lot of anti-Catholic propaganda out there aimed specifically to drum up the fundamentalist cause; I was shocked when I had some of it shot at me in college.

For more information on this kind of anti-catholicism, "Fundamentalism vs Catholicism" is a good read.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 12, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Had my semi-annual haircut at the end of the week. My wife went to have hers done a couple of days later and the stylist remarked that something must be wrong with me, 'cause I showed up in the chair in July, and not August.

Tiled the floor we started yesterday, and finished in about six hours, leaving only the baseboard cap and shoe moulding to reinstall. Tomorrow is column and door day. Rewiring, plumbing, R&R of a 4x6 gabled roof, a couple days of carpentry and painting each, and final inspection is all that stands between us and a grand opening. If the weather holds, perhaps in three weeks, assuming that ll passes muster.

Posted by: -jack- | July 13, 2009 12:23 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: -jack- | July 13, 2009 12:45 AM | Report abuse


Where do I sign up for that? Really? Are you sure you really want to say that?

It sounds as if you've met some anti-catholic feeling, which has really gotten you in a defensive crouch, understandably, but are you seriously going to try to minimize the Church's treatment of Galileo? Hasn't the Church itself finally apologized?

Posted by: Wheezy11 | July 13, 2009 1:03 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. This de-orbiting the space station will be the most expensive fireworks ever.
Since Teilhard the CC has come to grip with Science, Evolution and all that. A clever Cardinal wrote a public letter about that, barely concealing it was really addressed at the Fundamentalist. I'll try to find it.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 6:13 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. TGIM.

When I went to drive my daughter to her bus stop this morning, when I pulled out of our driveway the first thing I was was a bicycle in the middle of our side street. Upside down. In the middle of the street, blocking btraffic. With no wheels on it.

Very weird.

Today in Nautical and Aviation History

July 13, 1772: A year and a day after returning from his first voyage, Capt. James Cook departs England aboard HMS Resolution on his second great voyage to the Pacific, during which he intends to disprove the myth of a great southern continent called Terra Australia Incognita.”
1944: The Soviet Union’s Lt. Michael Devyatayev is shot down over Lvov and captured by the Germans. He escapes from a POW camp and flies back to Mother Russia in a stolen He-111, taking with him nine other POW escapees. For his heroism he is jailed as a traitor—being captured by the enemy was considered treason—and spends the next nine years in prison. Several years after Stalin’s death, the Russians reconsider and set him free, and in 1958 award him the Soviet Union’s highest decoration, Hero of the Soviet Union, the Order of Lenin, and the Gold Star Medal.

Today is Creamed Dried Beef Day in the Ready Room. Have at it.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | July 13, 2009 6:20 AM | Report abuse

Morning all. We had some rain in the night, yay. Not enough of course, but we'll take it.

bc, if you'll tell me who would issue that salvage title on the ISS, I'll start working on it today! I won't mind if it requires travel to Europe.

Mudge, thanks for breakfast. I just wasn't on the ball to do it myself this morning.


Posted by: slyness | July 13, 2009 7:00 AM | Report abuse

Haven't had time to backBoodle, but anyway.

So the Nats have sent Acta to the showers...

Inevitable? Probably.

Proper? Given the performance of the front office, not so much.

*shepherding-NukeSpawn-through-a-typical-Monday-at-the-office-prior-to-a-hopefully-typical-BPH Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 13, 2009 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Oh, poor Manny. Sure, he mishandled the pitching, but I still thought he was a sound coach.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 13, 2009 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Anyone tell JA you're not supposed to work while on vacation?

*glancing around at my glass house*


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 13, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Good Morning, Boodle.

Gobbling up on Mudge's cresmed beef, yumstuff.

Marines in Afghanistan's Helmand province. I've seen this same movie a long time ago in Danang.


Posted by: Braguine | July 13, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

I couldn't find the letter but here's the press conference summary and some comments. I'm not defending the Church btw, it's just something that stuck in my mind. Because of the surprise I guess, as it's not the CC of my youth.,2933,174489,00.html

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

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

Good morning, friends. It has been awhile since I checked in, soooooooooo, I thought I would do just that. My grandsons are back home, and I'm trying to jumpstart this old body. I really enjoyed them. We walked, not on the nature trail, but a walk. And we laughed and talked, so it was all good. Of course, the g-girl tried to hang in there, but she had to go home at some point.

I haven't read the kits that I've missed, but I hope everyone is doing okay. It's looking like rain here. I hope so.

Mudge, Slyness, Yoki, Scotty, Martooni, and all the gang, have a great day. *waving*

Posted by: cmyth4u | July 13, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

My observations on these things should always be taken with a least a bit of salt, but at its best, the Catholic Church seems to remember that it is, if not "of" this world, tasked with doing its work "in" this world. And being in this world means dealing with stuff like race, gender, sex, scientific knowledge, art, architecture, literature, and all manner of things.

Of course, like most things and people, the Church isn't always at its best.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 13, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

"...Catholicism was the earliest form of christianity."


Posted by: -TBG- | July 13, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse


Are you remembering that Western Rite/Greek Orthodox split? Which side has the claim to longest ancestry depends on which side you were on.

My wife was not raised Christian (her mom is a devout Buddhist and her step dad a very cynical atheist) and she went to a Baptist affiliated college. She was shown some Jack Chick tracts that are heavily reliant on Trent Council level rhetoric to prove how unbending and illegitimate the Catholic Church is. Dangerous hateful stuff.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 13, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

You are taking side for the Coptic church, surely TBG?


A good friend is a Copt. They are always late for Chisthmas and Easter too.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

SCC It's sad when a failed RC can't write Christmas right.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Methinks I hear an objection from the Greek Orthodox Church?

This is really tricky ground, not so much because of various sensibilities (although there is always that), but also because of definitions, etc. For instance, one could make an argument that if Jesus was a member of the Essenes, as some people claim, and adhered basically to Essene doctrine, then one might be able to say the Essenes were the earliest form of Christianity.

The Catholic Church dates its start as being the first Pentecost, i.e., 50 days after the Resurrection. That definition might suit Catholics, but probably no one else. A more logical founding date would be the Council of jersularem, about the year 50 C.E., the first known gathering of Christian leaders. The trouble is, it doesn't have a known date, but only an approximation.

Wiki has this graf (under history of the Greek Orthodox Church):
"The original church or community of the East before the schisms, is the Greek communities founded by Saint Paul and later Asia Minor (Byzantine) churches or communities, the Coptic (or Egyptian) churches founded by Saint Mark (including the Ethiopian of Africa or Abyssinia), the Syrian (or Assyrian) and Antiochian, Asia Minor (Byzantine) churches founded by Saint Peter, along with the Georgian and Russian churches founded by Saint Andrew. By tradition, the Armenian church, as well as the churches of Samaria and Judea were founded by Saint Jude and Saint Bartholomew, while the church of Israel was founded by Saint James.[1]The church of Rome by tradition was founded by both Saint Peter and Saint Paul."

By this reading, it would be impossible to decide "which" specific church was "first," but rather to recognize groups of them forming more or less simultaneously in different places. TBG's polite "ahem" would infer that the GOC stemmed from the "original/first" church, and that after the schisms, it was the other guys who fell off the path, not the GOC.

In a way, it's like talking about the Big Bang and trying to decide which galaxy formed "first."

Which is another way of saying it is kind of a pointless discussion for anyone to claim to be "first" or "the original."

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Yes, Mudge. It was polite and with tongue firmly planted in cheek (didn't you notice it sounded a little muffled?). We always say we consider RCs to be the first Protestants.

Posted by: -TBG- | July 13, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

And here I thought all I said was good morning my usual way, and, boy, I had to duck!

Jesus, you either love him or hate him. He's either first or last. He doesn't do second fiddle.

I love you, guys. Off to study.

Posted by: cmyth4u | July 13, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

LOL. Yes, and I thought I detected a bit of an eye roll as well, TBG.

Of course, from my point of view "we" (TCP, aka the Tribe) have a 1,200- to 2,000-year head start on you guys, and you are all merely the First Apostates. We even gave you The Book and *all* the rules and everything, but noooooooooooooooooo (Belushi voice), that wasn't good enough for you.

But hey, byegones.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I don't know about dogs playing poker, but Caravaggio did paint The Cardsharps. :-)

Been spending too much time in geological time lately--as if religious squabbling during the Holocene really mattered...

But taking creative license in order to mix dinos and homo sapien is another issue. Prothero, Prothero, wherefore art thou, Prothero?

Posted by: laloomis | July 13, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Evidence that it's not just Americans who are dumb as stumps (English subtitles for those who don't speak French. And who can read):

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

*sigh* I don't like this WaPo banner headline: "Battle Commences Over Sotomayor." Even its own deck subverts it: "Obama's Supreme Court nominee is expected to be confirmed easily, but the process may serve as a partisan platform, barometer for future picks."

C'mon, let's stop hyping this thing and blowing it up beyond what it really is. Even the deck admits she's goibng to be confirmed "easily," so why make it such a big damned battle when it isn't? A handful of GOP idealogues are going to throw a hissy fit while everyone else sits by politely just waiting them out. This isn't effing Armageddon; it's simply kabuki theater.

Jeez, Louise.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

laloomis... thanks for the heads up on the Cardsharps... is that a model on the backgammon board of the Tower of Pisa before it started leaning?

Posted by: -TBG- | July 13, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I'm laughing. Liz Kelly's Celebritology column leads off with Latoya Jackson claiming Michael was Liz features a photo of Scarlett Johanson, for no perceivable reason. No link, no story, no connection...just "Here's a photo of SJ." Not that I object.

Somewhere Gene Weingarten is also laughing.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of theater (albeit not kabuki), I read right by the fact that bc had asked earlier what I thought of "Titus X".

I really enjoyed it, probably more than I thought I would. It's not for everyone. Among other things, there's rape, mutilation, and a heck of a lot of murder. But that's Shakespeare's fault. The generous smattering of vulgar language is hardly out of place. The music was good, the voices were strong, and there's plenty of levity to buoy the mood of a (let's face it) potentially pretty depressing story. The cast does great work with minimal props. A WashPost reviewer found the music overpoweringly loud on opening night, but I didn't think that was a problem when I went Saturday, and I was sitting on the second row pretty much under a speaker. It IS a rock musical, after all. I may go back for the final show on Thursday.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 13, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Indeed, Mudge, theater is a good word for these confirmation hearings. They remind me of political conventions in that the official stated purpose has only a tenuous connection with the actual purpose.

The notion that some of these senators remain undecided is nothing but a convenient justification for senatorial pontification. These hearings aren’t as much about exposing the views of the nominee as they are about advertising the views of the senators.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 13, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Also, does anyone know if the 2016 termination date for the ISS is a change of plans? That is, does this announcement represent a surprise, or does it simply represent the confirmation of what was always assumed?

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 13, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I think it's the change in funding priorities, the return to the moon thing.

But if they destroy the SS, who would entertain us if the bombs start going off all over the planet?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Have there been any questions?

As Alex Trebek and Art Fleming have said over the years ....

"in the form of a question"

Posted by: russianthistle | July 13, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

TBG - Dice cup, methinks.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 13, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

If they don't want to fund the ISS after 2016, then thet ought to privatize it, hold an auction and sell it to Marriott or Disney or somebody who will make it a tourist destination.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Graham ... have you heard any of Justice Scalia's speeches since he took a seat on the bench?

What a dope.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 13, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Does Sen. Graham have any clue how offensive his statement was?

Posted by: russianthistle | July 13, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I'm at work and can't watch; what did Graham say, Dolphie?

Posted by: -TBG- | July 13, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Yesterday around noon I was driving back from Violet's Lock after a pleasant morning paddling on the Potomac and I saw something I had never seen before- the world's most expensive street legal car, a Bugatti Veyron, a red and black one. This thing has a 16 cylinder engine which puts out 1,000 horsepower. It has a top speed of over 250 mph. It costs somewhere north of $1.5 million dollars. This particular one also had bird droppings on it.

Suddenly the breeze coming in the window of my 1998 Ford pickup smelled a little sweeter.

Posted by: kguy1 | July 13, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

The tone of his closing statements (I had to turn the hearing off) were akin to calling her "boy" for having an attitude of judgment and equality.

If you flip the reaction by Graham to the "better judge" comments from way back by Sotomayor around, they are suggestive of the fact that she can't possibly feel she is a better jurist than any of her *white* peers.

A judge ... a sitting judge ... saying such? HOW DARE SHE!?

Other comments like "I don't know what is in your heart" and suggesting that this could be "dangerous" ... and that he is sure that she wouldn't decide cases at all like she would scares me more about Graham than it does about Sotomayor.

I don't know?

I just am totally worn out by veiled racist crap. (pardon me, WP) ... been too many decades.

It's like we haven't gotten anywhere. And yet, we are knocking down walls and with each wall, I suppose that these sorts of sentiments will bubble up.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 13, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Check out the surgeon general nominee - Dr. Regina Benjamin.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 13, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

She's from Forrest Gump's home town, Padouk: Bayou La Batre, Alabama.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

kguy - Good for them. I long ago swore that I'll never buy a ridiculously high-end vehicle until I can afford to buy two of them, and just drive the heck out of one of them. And let it collect bird droppings without bothering me overmuch.

Thus far my finances have freed me from having to support this plan with any actions.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 13, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Things like that always leave me pretty much speechless. There is no such purpose on the face of the earth for a $1.5 million car. (Let's don't quibble about prototypes, etc. I mean retail cost of a street car.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Lots going on today. The waste involved in the space station's demise is troubling. I wonder if it were boosted to higher orbit and decommissioned for possible future use - abandoned temporarily - using ion rockets

or whether if then, radiation and years of sustained micro-impacts would render it useless anyway.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 13, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Well, Mudge, I'll concede that it isn't often that you'll need to go down the road at well over 350 kph. But surely it's worth a lot to have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that if you need to, you can!?

Posted by: bobsewell | July 13, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Good point, Bob.

Meanwhile, continuing its Gotterdammerung theme, the WaPo is now featuring "Opening Salvos" in the Battle for the Soul of the Supreme Court. I expect Blitzkrieg, Depth-Charge, and Foxhole any moment now. Possibly followed by FUBAR and Kilroy Was here.

You know we're in trouble when the senate committee starts handing out nylons and Hershey bars to bystanders and the media.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Hey, any SC confirmation process meets the SNAFU definition, no?


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 13, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for that link, Shrieking Denzien.

Wheezy, yes.

A Grand Duke equals a prince so it's like being under house arrest-- if you define "house" to encompass a small country. In Italy.

How many of you would really complain about being stuck in Tuscany? (Probably wasn't, but that's the only region of Italy I know.)

I mean that's a perfect excuse.

"I vouchsafe my regret at my inability to schlep over the Alps to Vienna in midwinter at Your Royal Command, Emperor.
As you know, the Vatican has condemned me for life to pray for my soul in Tuscany."

(As penned over some wine and tasty food.)

Y'all take this trial way too seriously. Nobody died, and Galileo continued publishing too.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 13, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Tom Brady's supposed to have a Veyron. I don't know the colour though. Any reason he would be in town?
The Volkswagen W16-64 valves engine is nice technology though. They always put the cylinders in a funky configuration, do they?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Wonder if G's trial had an Opening Salvos.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Wonder if G's trial had any Opening Salvos.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Y'know, that Rolls that Joel photographed would be a great candidate for a gas-electric hybrid conversion project. As would a Bugatti Veyron, which the WIkipedia page says gets an average of just under 10 mpg (U.S.). A personal car that requires a tender just to refuel it between gas stations.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I think the purists with real money eschew silliness like color, opting instead for the "Pur Sang".

Posted by: bobsewell | July 13, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Nylons and Hershey bars indeed. I could make a case for NOT televising the thing.

Here a reinsurance company both cautions about global warming, and in another story provides North Carolina with some hurricane reinsurance

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 13, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Another fun Veyron fact: The tires run around $25,000 per set. THAT's some fairly conspicuous consumption right there!

Posted by: bobsewell | July 13, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Bob S.--What are these tires made out of, human skin?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 13, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

$1.5 million car....certainly handmade. Presumably lovely craftsmanship. But present-day manufacturing represents such high quality that you wonder why bother buying an Acura rather than a Honda. An ordinary Honda comes with an extraordinarily precisely-made engine, among other things.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 13, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Yesterday, I heard an interesting discussion on NPR about the hearing process for Supremes nominees. I hadn't really thought about it before, but the whole process is fairly recent in our history. It wasn't until the late 50s that the Senate started having serious hearings for every nominee (before that the only cared when a Jew got nominated). After Brown, the southerners got antsy about who was joining the court and the whole major vetting/interrogating process as we know it got started.

Posted by: Southwester | July 13, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Personal note: I made it through the weekend without spilling the beans on my wife's anniversary present. Just a few more hours to go ...

Posted by: Southwester | July 13, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm guessing that the rubber for those tires is lovingly hand-siphoned from rubber trees on special order from Bugatti, and the tire tread patterns are custom-designed by Yves St. Laurent. Hubcaps by Tiffany, of course. Calfskin whitewalls.Tires aren't filled with ordinary air, but baby's breath.

It's really just absurd.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I see that Bob Dole has been hospitalized. I hope it wasn't one of those erections lasting more than four hours.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 13, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I would fill the tires with helium. It has very low heat capacity, as there are no internal-motion degrees of freedom to store energy (e.g., rotation, vibration). And, of course, it's inert. Downside is that because helium is atomic and not molecular, it leaks right through material barriers because the particles are so small. Have to reinflate the tires every hundred miles or so. Which is perfectly consistent with a car so absurdly inefficient that it requires its own tender vehicle. Probably keep a mechanic in the trunk for emergencies (I'm sure it's very comfy in there).

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse


Here's an article from yesterday's Baltimore Sun concerning a film I believe you are familiar with:

Kurosawa classic 'Rashomon' heads to Senator
Restored print of Japanese filmmaker's 1950 gem will open Friday,0,3341457.story

Posted by: -pj- | July 13, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Think they'll take my Mazda3 straight up in trade for that Bugatti?

Posted by: -pj- | July 13, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Actually, SciTim, a certain gummint agency I know has done studies on filling tires with nitrogen. Improves performance by about 5 per cent.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

To continue my weekend of Shakespeare derivatives, I watched Kurosawa's "Ran" (from King Lear") last night. A fine film.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 13, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

What measure of performance -- lifetime? Traction? rolling resistance? Everything?

Actually, filling tires with nitrogen is perfectly reasonable, and the gas is fairly readily available. Even so, it would require delivery of tanked purified nitrogen to the station. Makes no sense for a private gas station, since they would have to eat the cost or pass it on to a customer, who is unlikely to want to pay for 'air'. However, it would be very reasonable for a fleet operation. Say, for UPS or the Postal Service, or the actual gummint.

Actually, why not fill the tires with CO2? Chemically stable, pretty high heat capacity, cheap to produce chemically in pure form -- nitrogen purification requires cryogenic methods. The good side of a high heat capacity is that tire temperature doesn't increase by much, even as the tire absorbs a lot of heat. In fact, for tire-filling purposes, helium (low heat capacity) is a ridiculously poor choice. I should think that CO2 would be great.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

As if we needed 12 more reasons to visit New York City...

Posted by: -TBG- | July 13, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm, Pure nitrogen is less massive than normal air and much less massive than CO2, but I have a hard time believing that the inertia of the gas within the tire is of any significance compared to the moment of inertia of the tire itself. Therefore, the differences must be chemical- and heat capacity-related.

Sounds like a god science fair project. Use bicycle tires, commercial compressed gases, an electric motor on a constant-voltage source and measure loading on the wheel (change in current required) in maintaining constant speed in a standardized task.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

A "god" science fair project? Good. Good. Good. No theological implications whatsoever.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

@SciTim: Whoa! I totally want to go to the God Science Fair.

Posted by: Southwester | July 13, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Most tire shops in Canada have nitrogen cylinders on hand to fill from a special station. You get green caps for the rubber thingy instead of black, to make sure it gets refilled with N2 if you need to adjust the pressure. At 8-10$ a tire those are expensive little cap if an unscrupulous tire shop sells you 80% nitrogen vs 100% nitrogen.
The aircraft industry has been using nitrogen for filling airplane tires for ages. So I suspect it's one of the better choices overall as them aircraft tires are really expensive.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps people should consider filling automobile tires with Nitrous Oxide. That way, if they have a blow-out, it might, you know, not seem like such a big deal.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 13, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, we are just the sort of audience for that report. Maybe the nitrogen stops oxidation degradation inside?

Bulk liquid N2 is 8-12 cents per liter, the amount to fill four tires would be far less than the cost of the 25 cents to a dollar at the gas station air pump machines.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 13, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

It would be pretty hard to keep those tires inflated if ther were teenagers around RD.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

One thing for sure. The volcanos at the God Science Fair will knock your socks off!

Posted by: kguy1 | July 13, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Getting my act together to get out of Dodge so I can make it to the BPH later. RD, you gonna be there? How about you YJ? Shoes must be chosen with care, you know?

Posted by: LostInThought | July 13, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone linked JA's ISS article yet?

Posted by: engelmann | July 13, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Actually, bc and I had a conversation about nitrogen-filled tires a little while ago...

IIRC, the nitrogen has a similar issue to helium -- the tires are very poor barriers to gas exchange, so you end up with regular air in the tires anyway after a surprisingly short time (weeks, IIRC again). Makes sense for racing, though.

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 13, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

I notice that, "Police, ultra-Orthodox Jews scuffle in Jerusalem".

Surely scuffling is frowned upon on Shabbat?

Posted by: bobsewell | July 13, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

LiT is trading in a Viper? A Caravan? What???


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 13, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

S'nuke, Dodge as in the town, not the car manufacturer.

Posted by: LostInThought | July 13, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh... OK. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 13, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

An aircraft tire expert I just consulted says that DRY nitrogen is used because:
-it diffuses slower out of the tire (that shouln't make a h*** of a difference IMHO);
- oxygen attacks rubber, so now the attack is from one direction only;
- humidity in air attacks rubber too at high temperature, see previous;
- humidity condenses at low temperature and thus reduce the initial pressure in the tire, (mind you aircraft tires heat-up pretty fast upon landing); and finally (I believe it's a concern only for aircraft and the NASCAR series)
- exploding tires filled with air aggravates any on-going fire.
And it has happened apparently.

But really it's the neat green caps that sells it.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Gesundheit, 'Mudge...

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 13, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Or the PDF at

I think you'll find the grammar and punctuation especially edifying.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 13, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

We are already at the God Science Fair, but we have trouble discerning the conclusions of the experiments. The principal investigator could perhaps have expressed his conclusions more succinctly and unambiguously, with less reliance on the passive voice.


I doubt that nitrogen is much more prone to diffusing through the tire walls than oxygen, plus there's the fact that the outside air is mostly nitrogen already -- osmotic pressure wouldn't be all that high. Whereas, for helium, it would be diffusing from a high-helium region to a no-helium region, which makes for very rapid diffusion. In any case, this is another way in which CO2 would be superior, as it is a much bigger molecule and less prone to diffusion through the walls.


I think it is correct to say that if your tires were filled with nitrous oxide, you would be disinclined to worry after a blowout. Considering that nitrous is used as a super-oxidizer to get a burst of power out of an engine, I suspect that there is little that would continue to bother you, if you were to fill your tires with nitrous oxide.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I notice that there is a new Kit.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 13, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Wow, that was a missed opportunity for a tiny url Mudge...

The slower permeation thing isn't a canard, that's a good thing to know. They don't talk about 'sploding tires though.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 13, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

envy on the chance to see Rashomon. We seem sunk. It's not on AMC Theatres' national list. I assume the dvd-bluray version will be out soon.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 14, 2009 7:28 PM | Report abuse

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