Moving Goal Posts

Because I am a junky, I have been watching this “Arlen Spector Defects to the Democrats” thing. I think it’s interesting, not because I think he’ll ever vote differently than he has in the past, but because he stayed still politically but the goalposts of where the Republicans end and the Democrats begin moved.

Parties end. Parties die. The Whig party didn’t survive even though it had some pretty stalwart luminaries among its number — Daniel Webster, Zachary Taylor, Abraham Lincoln. When the Whigs ran up against the ugly wall of slavery, many of its leaders changed parties to Republican (ie, Lincoln) or dropped out of politics entirely. The Whig party became more and more insular until it dried up and died. And it happened quickly.

Sometimes I feel like the credit crisis is taking our modern GOP with it. As several core views have been repudiated — removing regulation of the markets, starving the Government while forcing unfunded mandates, trying to fuse religion with state issues, etc. — the inner core has become more insular and less interested in reality. It feels like the GOP was heavily in debt and over-leveraged in all their policy-based investments and they, too, have discovered that too much debt is not, at the end of the day, a good thing and all their risk models were wrong. But the old model worked in the past, so much like the banks, they are clinging to them for all their worth and not realizing that they are totally insolvent. “Cut taxes!” doesn’t do you any good when people aren’t working and not paying taxes. Cut what taxes?

It becomes this inward deflationary political cycle. People flee and they join this weird new faction called the “Conservative Democrat” or cling to their Independent registrations. Primaries in most States are closed so the GOP is forced to put up crazier and crazier candidates to get that hard right cranky white guy core to vote just so the candidate can get trounced by those new Is and Conservative Ds in the general. I can’t see this getting better. Only 20% of registered voters now identify as a Republican. I’m pretty sure they all live in Utah.

The GOP is trotting out a “rebranding” effort. I want to shake them and scream, “It’s not about branding.”

This sort of brings it around to Arlen Spector who was, no doubt, told by the GOP kneebreakers to get in line or leave. He took a good hard look at this totally wackjob Club for Growth guy and the GOP kneebreakers and the slow dissolution of his Party and he did what the Whigs did in 1856-1860 — took a good, hard look at what was going on and said, “Nah, that’s okay. You can keep your wackjob, GOP. I’m good. Thanks.”

Some Kindle Thoughts

Eric is trying to persuade me that the Amazon Kindle is not the end of the Codex as we know it or the end of human civilization.  He bought me a book to read, a collection of highly goofy essays called “Things I Learned from Women who Dumped Me,” and conned me into reading it.  I’m 70% done with the book, but I figured I could post a little commentary now.

– Reading off the Kindle does not give me headaches.  If I try to read a long piece on a computer screen, I get throbbing headaches, but I did not have this issue with the Kindle.

– It is light and easy to hold and easy to flip pages.  Eventually hitting the next page button doesn’t feel any different than turning a page.

– The raft of buttons at the bottom means I can prop it up on my chest and see it clearly.  This is, oddly, a major plus.

– Clicking it on and being at the page I left off is really nice — no lost bookmarks or fumbling around with pages or having to skim pages to figure out where I left off.

– The controls aren’t bad.  Takes a bit to get used to it, but not bad.

– Nice and light.  Weighs much less than a paperback.

However, not knowing what page I am on in relation to the book is a bit weird.  I finally realized the bottom bar is the chapter marks.  I also find going to the Table of Contents to be really kludgy.

My verdict on it is that reading a book off the Kindle feels very much like listening to an audio book off Audible, except reading it instead of listening to it.  It will not work for dense histories or reference books or art books or anything that really requires tons of focus.  It’s pretty much great for the newest Christopher Moore novel or an Elmore Leonard novel or a history book by Sarah Vowell but I shy away from anything serious, dense, or requiring an index or lists of citations.

In my mind, I’d treat the Kindle more like an Audible subscription.  These are books you don’t really need to keep but they’re nice to sort of breeze through with 1/2 of the attention and half the brain.  It’s great for read once, toss away paperbacks.  I like it in an it’s okay to read outside sort of thing, but it’s not going to be parting me from my books or book collections any time soon.

Terrifying Baby Dragon and Bag of Noro

Two completed projects:

1. A terrifying baby dragon! He’s terrifying. And made of yarn. He also sat for a side view to show off his awesome back spines, wings and tail! He was made of many individually crocheted pieces but he is very cute. I will do more dragons in the future! He is looking at me RIGHT NOW.

2. This fat-bottomed bag is made out of 2 skeins of green and brown Noro all the way from Japan and stuffed in luggage! The first picture does not do it justice so here it is, filled with bunnies. It is a bunny-bag ratio! This bag is basically exactly 2 skeins of Noro — no more, no less. I was convinced I was going to run out for a while. I could snazz up the bag with some ribbon and a pin, I think.

Anyone Have a Primer on Protesting?

It’s been so long since the Conservatives in this country have really gotten up a good protest that they’ve gotten out of practice. I want to be 100% clear:

* You named your protest Tea Bagging without putting it into, say, google, just to check.

* Your protested what you felt was about wasteful spending by buying one million teabags. Did you plan on drinking one million cups of tea? At $4.97 for 100 Lipton tea bags, that’s $50K on not even consumed tea.

* You protested the government running up debt and selling it to China by buying tea bags made from tea (dust)… from China.

* When you went to actually protest by dumping 1,000,000 tea bags in DC it turned out you didn’t have a park permit to protest and thus you were put down by the Man in the form of the US Park Service. (What happened to the 1M tea bags?)

* … and you protested taxation with representation by pretending you were being taxed without representation. Sometimes even dressing up! You didn’t even look up the Boston Tea Party on Wikipedia did you.

Okay, guys? I am seriously not against you protesting at all. Don’t think that I am. I’m good with you venting this way. But I think you need to go back, socialize a bit, run a few web searches, and try this again. Maybe try a few groups on Meetup? Meet at a coffee shop? Start small?

The Pink Elephant

I had some pink yarn, and I wanted to do an experiment with it, so on a whim I gave in and decided to make a stuffy pink elephant. However, the pink elephant was (much) larger than I expected him to be, so I ran out of the original color mid-ear. So she is part-pink and part-purple.

Here is the pink elephant staring right at you in a pink elephant sort of way. She also sat for a nice side portrait. Then I did a size compare between the pink elephant and an ANSI Standard 4 Year Old. As you can see, the elephant is relatively large compared to the 4 year old.

My biggest sin: I am being too conservative with the stuffing. It leaves the stuffy very squishy but too floppy.

Dob Update

We took the Dob out for real this evening because the evening was incredibly clear just as the sun went down. While Katie Rose was antsy while the telescope was positioned we were able to see:

– Some amazing cratering on the moon.
– The rings of Saturn and Titan.

The Dob was able to split the rings. Of course, nothing stayed in the view for very long because the Dob is manual and doesn’t have a worm gear to hold tracking, but for a little telescope, the optics were quite spectacular.

Katie got to see lunar details and the rings of Saturn from the driveway. Orion was a bust, but all in all, a pretty amazing success.

Museum and Gardening

We took Katie to the Maryland Science Center on the Inner Harbor on the diagonal on the water from the National Aquarium in Baltimore. The Maryland Science Center is a hand’s on science museum focusing on dinosaurs, general Earth Sciences, Newtonian physics, (incredible amounts of) Biology, Space Sciences in cooperation with NASA and whatever special exhibits they are showing that season — right now, surviving Antarctica. My impressions:

  • Four year old pro-scientists can run free and touch everything. This makes this the best place on the planet.
  • The exhibits were pretty comprehensive.
  • They have a full wet bio lab for kids, but it’s a very much “7 and up,” which made 4 year old who really wanted to wear a lab coat and play with microscopes have a meltdown.
  • I liked the Planetarium.
  • All in all, we will return to the museum. It was accessible from 95, straight forward with parking, and lots of things to mess with. It was about the same size as the National Aquarium, so it’s a 4 hour museum, not a two day mega-haul like Air and Space down on the Mall. I want to look at what the benefits of being a member are and weigh if I want a family membership or not.

    My tiny proto-biologist got out with a Cat in the Hat book that is an introduction to basic human anatomy, a second Cat in the Hat book with an introduction to Space Sciences, and a Discovery DVD on anatomy. (Katie is obsessed with how the human body works, and today’s organ was the lungs.)

    Then I came home to resume my war. My Mom thinks I garden because it’s relaxing. I know I garden because I get to destroy my enemies, the weeds, with extreme justice. I’ve been working on it for the last month and I’ve actually de-garbaged it, pulled weeds, cut back plants, cut back the Rose Bush of Doom, planted more bulbs, and finally started laying down mulch. But right now I am out of mulch so I have been thwarted by reality. I don’t know what annuals are going to go into it this year. I haven’t thought that far. I am thinking things that grow big and aggressively instead of little sedate, timid things. And I am tempted by clematis on the side of the house just to see how insane the vine goes. It will need something to climb…

    I’m doing a very small 3×3 vegetable garden with Katie Rose this year as an experiment in horticulture. It turns out Aerogarden has a vegetable seed-starter kit so we’re doing the daily observer-and-record cycle in the dining room while starting plants from seed. I find that I don’t care if I get a tomato out of it this year or not, but if Katie learns about how plants grow then it’s a score. After the seedlings move outside, the Aerogarden is going to be repurposed for cherry tomatoes.

    It is very clear out so we’ve promised Katie Rose astronomy night. The Dob will go into the driveway and we’ll look at the Moon and see what else we can see…