Archive for July 2005

An 8 Year Old’s Questions About Space Travel

Last night before we started reading in his bed, The Kid asked me out of the blue – as children often do – how fast light travels.

“186,282 miles in a second,” I answered.
“Some kid said that sound travels faster than light in space,” The Kid said.
“Sound can’t travel in space,” I answered. “But if it could, light is much faster.”
“In space, no one can hear you scream,” The Wife interjected. “By the way, which movie is that from?”
“Alien, I think,” I said.
Seeing the opportunity to spark the kid’s imagination I continued. “Nothing can travel faster than light.”
“Nothing?” The Kid said. “He paused. How about if you took ten or thirty rockets and put them altogether?”
“They still couldn’t travel anywhere near the speed of light. You see the problem is that the closer you get to the speed of light the more you need more and more fuel.” Technically not right, but how do you explain gaining mass – or even the concept of mass – to a child?
“How long did it take to get to the moon?” The Kid asked.
“Four days.”
“How far away is it?”
“About 250,000 miles. So that means that it takes light about 1 1/2 seconds to travel between the Earth and the Moon.”
I then did some quick calculations in my head. 4 days=350,000 seconds or so, divided by 1.5 = 225,000.
“So light is 225,000 times faster than our rockets.”

The Astronomy lesson continued. Has man ever been to deep space? No, but the machines we made have – if you consider “deep space” to mean beyond the outer planets. How about to a star? No, but we made machines that have orbited our Sun – which is a star. Have we gone to any other stars? No because the nearest is 4 light years away – and if our rockets are a quarter of a million times slower than light – then it would take us a million years to travel there.

Again, technically this is incorrect. Theoretically it would be possible to travel to the stars faster, but you have to tailor your answers to your audience, and what is important in this case is the sheer distances between the stars. Whether the journey took two hundred years or a million is immaterial to an 8 year old. Either number is huge.

His thoughts turned to the universe. Was it as big as infinity?
For all practical purposes yes, but according to current theory, it’s about 30 billion light years across, and still expanding.

“What would happen if we came to the edge of it?”

I couldn’t think of a good answer to that one. My instinct said that an edge was not possible, that we were like ants walking on the outside of a balloon and that eventually we would return to where we started. Kind of. However in the mean time the universe would continue expanding, so the point where we started really wasn’t the point where we started: “new points” now lay in between. Besides in order to arrive where we began we would have to travel faster than the expansion of the universe, which would mean we would have to travel faster than light which brings us to time travel – backwards in time, the universe collapsing like high speed film of a firecracker exploding, the pieces combining and reforming, the smoke and light being sucked back into the tightly rolled paper.

“I think it’s time for Harry Potter,” The Wife said.

“Yeah, read Harry Potter,” The Kid commanded.

Saved by J.K. Rowlings.

Fame

Just a note that this post of mine at Dean’s World has made the Daily Roundup for July 29, 2005.

(Ben Stein) Woohoo. Go Kirwin. Go Kirwin. It’s my birthday. It’s my birthday. (/Ben Stein).

Here’s
a link
to a story about Conservative cartoons (hat tip Instapundit), "Laughing
at the Left". The article goes beyond cartoons and makes some important
points about the ideological divide. Take for instance this quote:


(Chris "Day By Day") Muir’s girlfriend, the primary model
for one of his characters, “is a total liberal.” As it happens,
the same holds true for Mallard (Fillmore) creator (Bruce) Tinsley, whose
wife is a civil rights lawyer. There’s perhaps a lesson here. “It’s
a funny thing,” Tinsley says. “All her liberal friends are incredulous
that our marriage works, but none of my conservative friends have any trouble
with it at all. They understand you can think differently about things and
still be civil to one another.”


One of my favorite quotes about civility comes from President Gerald Ford "We can
disagree without being disagreeable." It’s a value to live by – most of
the time. I’m a firm believer that it only works when your opponent holds the
same value: when he doesn’t you must roll up your sleeves and open up a
can of Ann Coulter on their ass. That said, I too live in a "Matlin – Carville"
marriage.

Part of it could be the old adage that "opposites attract" – or in
New Age speak "my yang yearns for her yin" (hmm… that doesn’t read
right). When we met 15 years ago she loved the Grateful Dead while I held them
in complete Hardcore Punk contempt (and still do. If I ever end up in Guantanamo
I expect I’ll hear "Wake Of the Flood" and "American Beauty"
until I cracked – which I reckon would take all of 15 minutes). When Jerry Garcia
died my first response was "How did they notice?"

There are serious benefits to a Liberal/Conservative marriage. First and foremost
it keeps both of us from the extremes. If she comes home with some barking moonbat
piece of tripe, I can usually shoot it down before she has wasted too much time
on it or worse, come to believe it herself. Likewise I can sound an idea or
an opinion off her and get her candid take on it before going public with it – thereby applying a level of rigor to what might otherwise have been a stupid
idea or opinion. Secondly we can intellectually spar with one another, thereby
keeping our ideas fresh and perhaps even (gasp) changing them. Finally, when
we’re together we can handle issues and situations using our different perspectives.
Because of her liberal nature she can be much more open with salesmen than I
can be. If the salesman takes advanatage of her openness, I can step in and
bitch-slap him into submission without any regard for his feelings or the validity
of his opinions. Needless to say the "Good cop – Bad cop" routine
comes in quite handy when dealing with disputes with retailers and service providers.

Then there’s parenting. Here the roles flip: I’m as free with money
for The Kid as the Carter Administration was with taxpayer money for welfare
moms. The Wife, on the other hand, is the motherly personification of the Graham-Rudman
Act. Ever had to justify buying a $3 pack of Yu-gi-oh cards for a kid that
already has hundreds? I have. With a Daddy Decision The Kid always knows
there is the Mommy Court of Appeals – and she is all too happy to exercise her
judicial perogative and overturn my decisions. Mommy establishes precedent and
there is a strong stare decisis in The House. Daddy, being the liberal
parent he is, has no sense of the importance of precedent so often finds himself
overruled.

There is a definite positive dynamic in our family that is based on our differences
and it works for us. I am sure all relationships don’t have to be of the "Matlin – Carville" type to be successful, but
the article
points out some interesting reasons why such relationships are
more stable than you might expect. It also makes some important points about
humor – but I’ll have to leave that for another time.

When Conservatives Marry Liberals

Posted at Dean’s World here.

Here’s a link to a story about Conservative cartoons (hat tip Instapundit), “Laughing at the Left”. The article goes beyond cartoons and makes some important points about the ideological divide. Take for instance this quote:



(Chris “Day By Day”) Muir’s girlfriend, the primary model for one of his characters, “is a total liberal.” As it happens, the same holds true for Mallard (Fillmore) creator (Bruce) Tinsley, whose wife is a civil rights lawyer. There’s perhaps a lesson here. “It’s a funny thing,” Tinsley says. “All her liberal friends are incredulous that our marriage works, but none of my conservative friends have any trouble with it at all. They understand you can think differently about things and still be civil to one another.”



One of my favorite quotes about civility comes from President Gerald Ford “We can disagree without being disagreeable.” It’s a value to live by – most of the time. I’m a firm believer that it only works when your opponent holds the same value: when he doesn’t you must roll up your sleeves and open up a can of Ann Coulter on their ass. That said, I too live in a “Matlin – Carville” marriage.


Part of it could be the old adage that “opposites attract” – or in New Age speak “my yang yearns for her yin” (hmm… that doesn’t read right). When we met 15 years ago she loved the Grateful Dead while I held them in complete Hardcore Punk contempt (and still do. If I ever end up in Guantanamo I expect I’ll hear “Wake Of the Flood” and “American Beauty” until I cracked – which I reckon would take all of 15 minutes). When Jerry Garcia died my first response was “How did they notice?”


There are serious benefits to a Liberal/Conservative marriage. First and foremost it keeps both of us from the extremes. If she comes home with some barking moonbat piece of tripe, I can usually shoot it down before she has wasted too much time on it or worse, come to believe it herself. Likewise I can sound an idea or an opinion off her and get her candid take on it before going public with it – thereby applying a level of rigor to what might otherwise have been a stupid idea or opinion. Secondly we can intellectually spar with one another, thereby keeping our ideas fresh and perhaps even (gasp) changing them. Finally, when we’re together we can handle issues and situations using our different perspectives. Because of her liberal nature she can be much more open with salesmen than I can be. If the salesman takes advanatage of her openness, I can step in and bitch-slap him into submission without any regard for his feelings or the validity of his opinions. Needless to say the “Good cop – Bad cop” routine comes in quite handy when dealing with disputes with retailers and service providers.


Then there’s parenting. Here the roles flip: I’m as free with money for The Kid as the Carter Administration was with taxpayer money for welfare moms. The Wife, on the other hand, is the motherly personification of the Graham-Rudman Act. Ever had to justify buying a $3 pack of Yu-gi-oh cards for a kid that already has hundreds? I have. With a Daddy Decision The Kid always knows there is the Mommy Court of Appeals – and she is all too happy to exercise her judicial perogative and overturn my decisions. Mommy establishes precedent and there is a strong stare decisis in The House. Daddy, being the liberal parent he is, has no sense of the importance of precedent so often finds himself overruled.


There is a definite positive dynamic in our family that is based on our differences and it works for us. I am sure all relationships don’t have to be of the “Matlin – Carville” type to be successful, but the article points out some interesting reasons why such relationships are more stable than you might expect. It also makes some important points about humor – but I’ll have to leave that for another time.

Protect the Environment: Stop Recycling

Posted at Dean’s World here.

Last night The Family watched Dirty Jobs – a show on the Discovery Channel that sends a guy out to do some of the nation’s dirtiest jobs. One of the jobs was sorting recyclable materials from trash at a recycling center. If memory serves, garbage trucks from the Bay Area carted recyclable materials to a center filled with conveyor belts that moved the stuff around as people sorted it into paper, plastic, glass, metal and trash. Mike Rowe, the host of the show, worked alongside one of the sorters, asking him all kinds of questions about the job. Paper was compacted into bales weighing a ton. The center produced 400 of these a day, and sold them for about $130-200 a bale.


“See why I nag you to sort the recycling first?” The Wife nudzhed me.


I remained silent, doing the math in my head. 400 x $200=$80,000/day for paper. Not too shabby on its own, but as I stared at the numerous lengthy conveyor belts that snaked their way through a large well-lit center filled with moving cranes and fork lifts and I began to wonder about the overhead costs – both economic and environmental.


There was the cost of electricity to run the conveyor belts, lights and other machines. The electricity most likely came from a powerplant burning fossil fuels. Then there was the cost of the diesel used by the fork lifts and garbage trucks. Diesels aren’t the cleanest engines on the planet (yet – although I’ve read they are much improved). I imagined them driving around the Bay Area collecting recycling while spewing pollution into the air. That struck me as a bit nonsensical.


They didn’t mention glass. The materials for glass making are some of the most abundant on earth, and recycling glass takes a lot of water and energy to do. When you look at the entire lifecycle, does recycling a glass bottle make sense rather than making a new one?


Here’s an in-depth rticle that discusses just that. It’s conclusion: If you are concerned about the environment, recycling doesn’t help. There’s only one solution: Use less.


It’s important in a marriage to choose your battles carefully. It will take me years to convince the Wife that if she wants to help the environment she should read the Sunday paper online, avoid glass bottles and when she can’t – throw them away in the trash. She was indoctrinated at the University of California to believe that recycling is good for the environment ie An environmental group said it. I believe it. That settles it. It is a dogma that she hasn’t questioned much over the years, and honestly, I wasn’t up to rocking her world on a Tuesday night after a long day in the NICU.


But the fact remains: Recycling is bad for the environment. Using less is good. So the mainstream media (MSM) isn’t just biased and elitist: it’s bad for the environment too.


Who said Conservatives weren’t green?

Viva Cuba Libre!

Hat-tip: Val at Babalublog:

The Real Cuba

Jimmy Carter, speaking in Havana:

“Your constitution recognises freedom of speech and association,
but other laws deny these freedoms to those who disagree with the government…
My nation is hardly perfect in human rights. A very large number of our citizens
are incarcerated in prison and there is little doubt that the death penalty
is imposed most harshly on those who are poor, black, or mentally ill. – Jimmy
Carter, May 15, 2002


Meanwhile… 3 years later:

You know the Democrats are in trouble…

When you visit your doctor – a young guy from South Philly – and over the course of your visit you learn that he voted for Gore in 2000 but can’t imagine ever voting for a Democrat again because of their stance on the Kelo decision, the Patriot Act and the War On Terror.

They are fucking doomed…

Note To Jihadis

While you’re scrambling around in your caves and tunnels professing your “love” of “god” by blowing up people and in general, partying like it’s 1299, we’re touching the face of God while hunting you down.

Space Shuttle Blasts Off

So peek out of your cave and take a glance up at the sky because

We are there.

The Australian: Mugged By Reality

Mark Steyn: Mugged by reality?
(link)
July 25, 2005

WITH hindsight, the defining encounter of the age was not between Mohammed Atta’s jet and the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, but that between Mohammed Atta and Johnelle Bryant a year earlier. Bryant is an official with the US Department of Agriculture in Florida, and the late Atta had gone to see her about getting a $US650,000 government loan to convert a plane into the world’s largest crop-duster. A novel idea.

The meeting got off to a rocky start when Atta refused to deal with Bryant because she was but a woman. But, after this unpleasantness had been smoothed out, things went swimmingly. When it was explained to him that, alas, he wouldn’t get the 650 grand in cash that day, Atta threatened to cut Bryant’s throat. He then pointed to a picture behind her desk showing an aerial view of downtown Washington – the White House, the Pentagon et al – and asked: “How would America like it if another country destroyed that city and some of the monuments in it?”

Fortunately, Bryant’s been on the training course and knows an opportunity for multicultural outreach when she sees one. “I felt that he was trying to make the cultural leap from the country that he came from,” she recalled. “I was attempting, in every manner I could, to help him make his relocation into our country as easy for him as I could.”

So a few weeks later, when fellow 9/11 terrorist Marwan al-Shehhi arrived to request another half-million dollar farm subsidy and Atta showed up cunningly disguised with a pair of glasses and claiming to be another person entirely – to whit, al-Shehhi’s accountant – Bryant sportingly pretended not to recognise him and went along with the wheeze. The fake specs, like the threat to slit her throat and blow up the Pentagon, were just another example of the multicultural diversity that so enriches our society.

For four years, much of the western world behaved like Bryant. Bomb us, and we agonise over the “root causes” (that is, what we did wrong). Decapitate us, and our politicians rush to the nearest mosque to declare that “Islam is a religion of peace”. Issue bloodcurdling calls at Friday prayers to kill all the Jews and infidels, and we fret that it may cause a backlash against Muslims. Behead sodomites and mutilate female genitalia, and gay groups and feminist groups can’t wait to march alongside you denouncing Bush, Blair and Howard. Murder a schoolful of children, and our scholars explain that to the “vast majority” of Muslims “jihad” is a harmless concept meaning “decaf latte with skimmed milk and cinnamon sprinkles”.

Until the London bombings. Something about this particular set of circumstances – British subjects, born and bred, weaned on chips, fond of cricket, but willing to slaughter dozens of their fellow citizens – seems to have momentarily shaken the multiculturalists out of their reveries. Hitherto, they’ve taken a relaxed view of the more, ah, robust forms of cultural diversity – Sydney gang rapes, German honour killings – but Her Britannic Majesty’s suicide bombers have apparently stiffened even the most jelly-spined lefties.

At The Age, Terry Lane, last heard blaming John Howard for the “end of democracy as we know it” and calling for “the army of my country … to be defeated” in Iraq, now says multiculturalism is a “repulsive word” whereas “assimilation is a beaut” and should be commended. In the sense that he seems to have personally assimilated with Pauline Hanson, he’s at least leading by example.

Where Lane leads, Melbourne’s finest have been rushing to follow, lining up to sign on to the New Butchness. “There is something wrong with multiculturalism,” warns Pamela Bone. “Perhaps it is time to say, you are welcome, but this is the way it is here.” Tony Parkinson – The Age’s resident voice of sanity – quotes approvingly France’s Jean-Francois Revel: “Clearly, a civilisation that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.”

And yet, The Age’s editor Andrew Jaspan still lives in another world. You’ll recall that it was Jaspan who objected to the energy and conviction of certain freed Australian hostage, at least when it comes to disrespecting their captors: “I was, I have to say, shocked by Douglas Wood’s use of the ‘arsehole’ word, if I can put it like that, which I just thought was coarse and very ill-thought through … As I understand it, he was treated well there. He says he was fed every day, and as such to turn around and use that kind of language I think is just insensitive.”

And heaven forbid we’re insensitive about terrorists. True, a blindfolded Wood had to listen to his jailers murder two of his colleagues a few inches away, but how boorish would one have to be to hold that against one’s captors? A few months after 9/11, National Review’s John Derbyshire dusted off the old Cold War mantra “Better dead than red” and modified it to mock the squeamishness of politically correct warfare: “Better dead than rude”. But even he would be surprised to see it taken up quite so literally by Andrew Jaspan.

Usually it’s the hostage who gets Stockholm Syndrome, but the newly liberated Wood must occasionally reflect that in this instance the entire culture seems to have caught a dose. And, in a sense, we have: multiculturalism is a kind of societal Stockholm Syndrome. Atta’s meetings with Bryant are emblematic: He wasn’t a genius, a master of disguise in deep cover; indeed, he was barely covered at all, he was the Leslie Nielsen of terrorist masterminds – but the more he stuck out, the more Bryant was trained not to notice, or to put it all down to his vibrant cultural tradition.

That’s the great thing about multiculturalism: it doesn’t involve knowing anything about other cultures – like, say, the capital of Bhutan or the principal exports of Malaysia, the sort of stuff the old imperialist wallahs used to be well up on. Instead, it just involves feeling warm and fluffy, making bliss out of ignorance. And one notices a subtle evolution in multicultural pieties since the Islamists came along. It was most explicitly addressed by the eminent British lawyer Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws, QC, who thought that it was too easy to disparage “Islamic fundamentalists”. “We as western liberals too often are fundamentalist ourselves. We don’t look at our own fundamentalisms.”

And what exactly would those western liberal fundamentalisms be? “One of the things that we are too ready to insist upon is that we are the tolerant people and that the intolerance is something that belongs to other countries like Islam. And I’m not sure that’s true.”

Hmm. Kennedy appears to be arguing that our tolerance of our own tolerance is making us intolerant of other people’s intolerance, which is intolerable. Thus the lop-sided valse macabre of our times: the more the Islamists step on our toes, the more we waltz them gaily round the room. I would like to think that the newly fortified Age columnists are representative of the culture’s mood, but, if I had to bet, I’d put my money on Kennedy: anyone can be tolerant of the tolerant, but tolerance of intolerance gives an even more intense frisson of pleasure to the multiculti masochists. Australia’s old cultural cringe had a certain market rationality; the new multicultural cringe is pure nihilism.

Mark Steyn is a regular contributor to The Australian.

What Makes A Suicide Bomber – New Scientist

Turning ordinary people into suicide bombers

  • 23 July 2005
  • Michael Bond

ASK someone to sketch a personality profile of a typical suicide bomber and the chances are it would not come close to describing the four young men who, it seems, blew themselves up in London two weeks ago. Even from their friends and families the refrain has been, “I can’t believe he would have done such a thing – not him.” And when you look at who they were, it is hard to believe.

There was Mohammad Sidique Khan, father and teaching assistant, loved by the children he taught and well respected by his community; Hasib Hussain, the “nice lad” from a close-knit family; Shehzad Tanweer, the cricket-loving sports science graduate; and Germaine Lindsay, a young father described as “dead brainy” by a schoolmate. None of them had a criminal record, none was mentally ill, none was especially poor, and they were mostly well educated. All of them grew up in the UK. In short, they were not what you’d expect in a suicide bomber.

Except you’d be wrong. Most suicide bombers anywhere in the world appear to be normal. Study after study has shown that suicide terrorists are better off than average for their community and better educated. They are also rarely suicidal in the pathological sense. Ariel Merari, a psychologist at Tel Aviv University who has traced the background of every suicide bomber in the Middle East since 1983, has found symptoms of mental illness or drug and alcohol abuse in very few.

They don’t have to be Islamic extremists either, or even radicalised by faith. True, the London bombers were all Muslims, as are the vast majority of suicide attackers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel. Yet many of the suicide bombers in Lebanon in the 1980s were from secular Christian backgrounds. And one of the modern pioneers of suicide terrorism, the Tamil Tigers, are secular Marxist-Leninists.

The question, then, is how can comfortably-off, well-educated young men born and brought up in the UK end up sacrificing themselves and killing civilians for a cause that seems a long way from their daily lives? The answer is, much more easily than you’d think. The key lies less with the bombers themselves than with the organisations that recruit and prepare them.

Virtually every suicide attack in modern times has been conceived and managed by militant groups, and they all employ the same methods. First, find people, usually young and male, who are sympathetic to the group’s cause and organise them into small units. Second, exploit their motivation to fight for the cause using religious or political indoctrination, emphasising the heroic nature of their mission and the nobility of self-sacrifice. Third, have all members of the unit make a pact declaring their commitment to what they are about to do. Beyond this point, it becomes psychologically very hard for them to back out.

Merari and others who have studied suicide attacks across the world have found this pattern in just about every one, from kamikaze pilots to the 9/11 hijackers. The sense of duty to a small group of peers that the process creates can, they say, turn just about anyone into a potential suicide bomber: the crucial factor is not the psychology of the individual, but that of the group. Many researchers have shown that it is not difficult to persuade normal, rational people to do evil things if you apply the right conditioning. Persuading someone to die in the doing is not as fantastical as it seems.
“A sense of duty to a group of peers can turn just about anyone into a potential suicide bomber”

Still, there is something unusual about the London bombers. Nearly all suicide attackers have come from communities that are under violent occupation or suffering great social injustice. Typically in these communities there is a visible culture of martyrdom – in the Palestinian territories, the bombers are celebrated on posters and in songs. But none of these factors applied to the London attackers. How did they become so radicalised in a place that seems so far removed from the cause – the liberation of Muslims from perceived western oppression – they are widely presumed to have died for?

For these men, the cause was clearly not far removed. Many young British Muslims feel ideologically closer to their family’s land of origin or to the worldwide Muslim community than to the country they grew up in. Marc Sageman, an American psychiatrist who has studied Al-Qaida supporters in Europe, suggests that radicalisation in the Muslim diaspora starts with a feeling of estrangement from the general population that surrounds them. Young Muslim men especially can come to empathise strongly with Muslims abroad who they think are suffering injustices at the hands of the west. It is not hard to see how, through contact with militant radicals or through the plethora of inflammatory websites, they might see an alleged enemy of Muslim communities in Palestine, Iraq or Afghanistan as their own enemy – even when that enemy is their own country.

The immediate reaction to suicide bombers is to label them as animals, or inherently evil. But this will not do. Blowing themselves up in a crowd is often the first evil thing these people have done. And they are not animals. The most difficult thing of all is to recognise that suicide bombers are, alas, all too human.
From issue 2509 of New Scientist magazine, 23 July 2005, page 18

We Are Not Afraid

Still Not Scared

Yet More on Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design
Some subjects suck me into them, I’m not sure why. It’s not like I’m a Great Debater or anything, that I hope to sway others with my logic and charm. Nevertheless there is a handful of subjects that I really feel passionate about, and Science is one of them. If you want an argument, bring up Japan, Multi-Culturalism or Evolution.

I am currently embroiled in a debate on the topic at Dean’s World, and while I like Dean a lot I also disagree with him on this issue.

The crux of my argument against Intelligent Design is that it is not science and has no place in a science curriculum. I actually believe that religion should be discussed and studied in public schools, but not in science class. This is problematic for those who actively seek to reintroduce religion, because the Supreme Court has made it clear in several rulings that teaching religion is not going to happen in the American public school system.

I have problems with the Supreme Court position on many fronts, especially on the issue of the separation of powers. However instead of fighting this issue, people who want religion taught in schools have seized upon a “backdoor” or a “loophole” that allows them to advance their religious views in public schools through the science classroom.

I believe that they have gained traction in exploiting this loophole because evolution and natural selection are difficult concepts to grasp. I didn’t understand the latter until about 10 years ago, and the moment when I finally understand the role chance played in natural selection remains as one of my greatest personal epiphanies.

If evolution were simpler and better understood, would the Discovery Institute advance the teachings of numerology or the Kabala (which has a strong component of numerology built into it as I understand) in Math? How about Astrology in Astronomy?

Another Great Cox & Forkum

The Real Suicide Bomb

Lessons Learned from a Stray Cat

A writer always treads in dangerous territory when he or she writes about pets. Your dog may seem quite interesting to you, but the moment you start putting down your thoughts about her things just slowly come apart. Why? Because most pet stories are boring. So I will do my best to avoid that tendency over the next few paragraphs.

Yesterday the Wife and I put one of our 4 cats to sleep. “Chalupa” was a scrawny feral cat that took up residence in our backyard starting about 6 years ago. We fed her outside for about a year until we were socked in by a snow storm and the Kid noticed that her paw was bloody. The 8 inches of snow and injured paw slowed her down enough for me to catch her and get her to the vet. After another year she lived in our house but always ran away from people. Finally, after about 2 years she escaped outside, was trapped by a neighbor and taken to the Humane Society where I found her. Taking her back home she was suddenly the sweetest and most affectionate of all our cats. For the remaining four years of her life she was an integral part of our household.

Over the past year she became bloated with ascites – fluid in her belly. At first we thought she was pregnant (which would have been a miracle considering she was spayed) and an x-ray confirmed she was not. We fed her diuretics and tapped her belly but nothing could keep her from slowly wasting away carrying a softball sized belly of fluid. In the end she stopped eating, and I knew the time had come.

So what did that scrawny little cat teach me?
1. Never rule out change. From feral to affectionate this cat reminded me that change is possible for those that allow it.

2. Don’t care what other people think. Chalupa never made friends with the other cats. There was something in her mannerisms that turned off the others and made them bully her. But she never seemed to care. She did her thing no matter what the others thought.

3. History doesn’t matter. Chalupa was a street cat but you would have thought that she had been raised her entire life amongst humans.

4. Don’t whine. She bore her illness with quiet dignity, never crying out or calling attention to herself.

5. Never give up. Up until the last day she tried to jump up on the bed with her belly full of fluid. She would have lived a few more days through sheer will had we not stepped in and said “that’s enough”.

She spent her last day in the arms of the Wife and died while being caressed surrounded by people who cared about her.

It was a good death.

Why not democracy in Yemen?

Osama’s ancestral home needs democratization. Jane Galt at Armies of Liberation explains how the current regime is resisting it here.

Moral Hazzard

Apparently Hollywood has managed to trash the family fun of Dukes of Hazzard by making a remake that actor and ex-congressman Ben Jones (“Cooter”) says to avoid:

“From all I have seen and heard, the “Dukes” movie is a sleazy insult to all of us who have cared about the “Dukes of Hazzard” for so long … ,” Jones wrote. “Unless they clean it up before the August 5th release date I would strongly recommend that true blue Dukes fans hold their noses and pass this one up.”

And Hollywood wonders why box office grosses are falling? Come on – the Dukes of Hazzard was a dumb TV show that Gen X kids watched religiously. Would it have been too hard to remake it into one that would allow us to bring our kids to see?

I guess so. Too bad for them. I’ll keep pumping my money into video games. Will the Kid end up seeing 4,000 movies like his dad? I doubt it. Hollywood doesn’t realize it but it is in serious trouble.

Think Vaudeville.