January 31, 2006

Who really matters, according to the GOP

For all their bleating about Democrats causing partisan rifts in the country, it's fairly clear who the GOP operation thinks matters for 'their guy.' Here's a quote from TIME:
Inside the White House, though, aides were smiling again. Low poll numbers aren't worth agonizing over because many party strategists believe Bush has a ceiling of 52%, says Republican pollster Whit Ayres. "It's hard to imagine anyone who didn't vote for his re-election would approve of his job performance."

In other words, the other 48% of you can take a flying fuck at a rolling donut. Your opinions are irrelevant to what the President's party does, and how they do it. America is not for 100% of us, it's for 52% of us - the 52% that (they think) voted for their guy. At least, according to their polling machines.

I'm not saying it's the GOP poller's job to worry about what Democrats think. I'm just saying that for a party which seems to think it's the Dem side of the aisle causing all this partisan ruckus, that's a mighty standoffish attitude.

Posted by jbz at 11:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Welcome to the Twilight Zone.

But don't mind me. I live in the Northeast, which isn't Real America.

Posted by jbz at 9:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 24, 2006

See, when *they* do it, it's OK...

Because the MPAA ratings board has your best interests at heart. So when they copy a movie, even though specifically told not to by the copyright holder, well, that's OK.


Yep, it's entirely possible that the filmmaker baited them into doing this.

Doesn't make a whit of difference to me if they were stupid enough to eat the bait.

Posted by jbz at 5:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monster Mash! No, not Boris'.

The iTunes Signature Maker, if you use iTunes and have Java, will analyze your iTunes music library and produce a heavily-mashed-together chunk of audio that may or may not represent your musical taste. I kinda like mine (here's a slightly smaller version).

Posted by jbz at 12:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 22, 2006


Because I'm a dick and can't stop thinking about the stuff in the last post.
The television behind the bar was set to regional news, the sound turned off. The six of us in the place were ignoring it as much as we were ignoring each other. Two of us at the bar, a couple and a pair of businessmen each seated at a table in the main area; all six drinking professionally. I was on my third Scotch. My neighbor at the bar was idly drawing condensation rings around the bottom of his glass which contained something that wasn't beer, either.

I looked down the bar. The tender was standing, arms crossed and one foot hitched on the cooler at the end, watching the TV, which had a cheap graphic next to a makeup-laden blonde local news anchor. I grimaced at the icon; the two-buildings-with-jetliner-and-orange-star-explosion was grating. In the last, what, eight months, you'd think they'd have been able to at least steal their affiliates' better CGI for the newsfeed. The tender caught my eye, nodded, moved towards me.

"Another Dewars' rocks, please."

"Sure." He raised an eyebrow to my neighbor four stools down who nodded back and held up his glass, then crunched ice, swallowed, and spoke.

"What was that about?"

"What was what about?" asked the tender absently, already expertly arcing liquor into my glass.

"The news."

"Oh." He swooped the Dewars' bottle back into its spot in front of the mirror (my glass was now two millimeters below the rim, precisely, with two new cubes in it - I nodded approvingly) and reached for another bottle. Basil Hayden. "They revised the casualty estimate again."

The other drinker's face animated for the first time that night. We'd been there several hours; all flights out of Westchester County Airport had been on hold for a massive rain and windstorm, and the few professional travelers there as late as we had been (and unwilling to head for the refuge or alternate connections of New York City, a mere hour or so away by shuttle) had retreated naturally to the bar. "Up or down?"

"Down. Another two people found who ditched IDs and turned up in Florida, wherever."

"From the planes or from the towers?"

I turned to look at the guy. It seemed an odd question; they were alive, after all. Maybe they turned out to be slightly shady, but I wasn't about to pass judgement on them dropping out of sight without knowing their stories. Still, dead was dead, alive was alive, after all. He looked like it really mattered, though. The tender, finished filling his glass, replaced the bottle and shrugged.

"They didn't say."

As quickly as it had come, the tension flowed out of the man's shoulders, and he slumped his weight back down onto his elbows alongside his newly-filled bourbon. He smiled at the tender and nodded. The latter nodded back and moved back towards the TV, leaving my neighbor looking into the ice and liquor for answers as only an experienced scryer can.

Curious, I moved over a couple of seats. He turned to me, frowning at this breach of the social bar contract. I shrugged in apology and gestured vaguely at the bar, asking permission; after a moment, he shrugged back. Sure.

We sat there for perhaps half a tumbler.

I decided there wasn't a good way to ask, and that I was too curious not to. "Why does it matter if they were on the plane or in the towers?"

"What?" He turned to me, startled. I noted that one hand reflexively gripped his drink, the knuckles pale against his skin, which was light brown. The ice in his glass tinkled, stuttering, until he set it back carefully on the bar and turned in his seat to face me. "I'm sorry. What did you say?" His voice was much calmer, but also, I noticed, very controlled.

"I'm sorry myself. I didn't mean anything by it. I just wondered what difference it made, you know, when you asked...I mean, if the people who turned up had been thought to be on the plane or in the towers on nine-eleven. They're alive, either way, right?"

"Oh. Oh, yeah. Yeah, I suppose they are." He turned back to his drink, took a long pull at it. Setting it down, he laughed, but it didn't come out right. It started as a short, perfunctory laugh - the kind where you throw out half a breath in laughter, hard, and continue on with your point. But another small 'ha' escaped at the end, and almost as if he was trying to balance it, he said 'ha' again, softly, and then again - and suddenly, he was laughing rhythmically, softly, with a completely deadly lack of humor.

I was suddenly frightened. I had no idea what I'd reached in and touched, but the timbre of this man's laugh told me that it was deeply personal. Ashamed as well, I picked up my drink and started back down the bar to my original seat, but he lifted a hand, held it straight up. Wait. I slowly slid back into my chair and watched as he ran down, sitting hunched at the bar, laughs and sobs intermingling, until he finally gulped the remainder of his bourbon convulsively and waved at the bartender. The tender came over with the bottle and refilled his glass, but not (I noticed) before giving him a silent sobriety testprofessional evaluation. When the tender had departed again, he turned to me. "I'm sorry. Didn't mean to lose it like that. Not your fault."

I didn't know what to say. "If you lost someone, I'm-"

"I did. But not like that."

I was completely at sea now. "Um, okay."

He gazed into my eyes for a time. His eyes were brown, fairly unremarkable save for the intent nature of his look. In fact, he was thoroughly unremarkable in appearance. His face was worn, now that I looked - grief, or trial. This should have warned me off, but only in retrospect was it clear. I waited.

He relented with a quick shrug. "If they were on the plane, they don't mean anything to me," he said. "I couldn't have done anything about it."

"Oh," I said. "Are you - were you a firefighter? Or policeman?"

"No." Flat. "Never that." More silence. "But...emergency rescue, in a way." He took another drink. "Did you lose anyone there?"

I turned back to my drink. "Yes." The Scotch burned weakly; the ice had melted. This time the tender came over for me, and didn't hesitate when I waved the glass, which told me I hadn't drunk enough to talk about it. I shook my head at his No Iceoffer of ice in partial compensation. "My cousin was a cop. He was in Tower Two. One of my college friends was a firefighter in the lobby of Tower One. A couple of colleagues were above the fireline. A distant acquaintance on Flight 93."

"I'm...sorry." We both drank. The liquor was familiar and friendly, if impersonal; it didn't care, but it did what it could.

"Not your fault."

The other snorted. "I know that." He swigged again. "But still."

"Still what?"

He looked at me, for a good half a minute. I looked back at him, ignoring the tears that were prickling in my eyes. New York Metro moved around us, temporarily in abeyance, held back beyond the beltway and the Merritt and I-95 and the windstorm, a wounded beast moving, picking at the scab that lay in lower Manhattan, bellowing angrily when anyone told it to stop that or it wouldn't heal. Here in the quiet concourse of Westchester County, the two of us sat in a small bubble of pain and understanding and drank distillates, warmth an illusion of capillary dilation. In the world beyond, armies moved and men marched, fought and died, their blood moving; revenge and justice an illusion. New York Metro lived and healed, slowly; the people, the infrastructure, and the thing itself. He and I had proven to each other that we were both part of it, now, and slowly we acknowledged the pain we both carried.

That was the problem. Mine was fairly typical. I understood it. Once I told people what it was, they understood it. New Yorkers - real New Yorkers - were adept at dealing with it; they would nod to me, once; or just hug me, once. That acknowledgement was worth everything. Then they would leave it, unless I asked them to talk about it. Living in New York, you become expert in managing the flow of emotional energy and information across the membranes of distance and time that surround the convex hull that is a psyche and a body. Each person, each ego; each takes up a certain space, and in New York, that space is under constant assault from the environment and other people's presence. New Yorkers learn to manage their interactions so as not to add their actions to that list - or they get their attitudes adjusted. Painfully.

So I looked at him. He looked at me.

"You got the right." He looked back at the drink again, then at me. "I need to tell you a story."

Those are the magic words.

Tell me a story. The pain that they can cause, or transmute, or lift, is unmeasurable.

We're all finding out, now.

"Okay." My voice was steady.

"I'm sitting in WTC. On 9/11. I work for...let's just say, I work for a Government agency." He smiles at me, tightly. I smile back, just as tightly. One thing about the World Trade Center falling down, you learn about CIAjust New York City Crisis Command Bunkerwho New York State Tax Bureauhas Bear Stearnsoffices in it, after the fact. Some of them, anyway. I nod for him to continue, and wave over the barman. He pauses, looking at both of us, but I wave somewhat imperiously at him and throw him a credit card, motion him to run the tab. He shrugs and decides that the two of us talking aren't as likely to cause trouble as the two of us getting individually trashed and leaving his bar, so he fills us up and leaves. My acquaintance nods and continues.

"So we know right away when the first plane hits. I'm on duty. I see it happen. I wake everybody up, fire off a report...do you know what OPREP-3 is?" I shake my head no, fascinated. "Doesn't matter. So I send off a PINNACLE message, and I go downstairs to the bunker, because I'm on watch. Everybody else leaves. I have this chair, and all these monitors...anyway, I'm sitting in the bunker, and I have all the feeds coming in - video, audio, networks, feeds from DC and the complex security systems, everything. Maintenance systems. Everything. That's what the bunker's for. I make sure the city services are all scrambled."

He pauses, drinks again. I do, too.

"Sure enough, they're coming. Fire, cops, medics, the works. We have a checklist in there, right? After the bomb in, what, ninety-three, they got all organized. I make sure someone's called Leslie Robertson-"


"Oh, that's the engineering firm that built the Trade Center. I make sure somebody's getting them outta bed. Sure enough, the New York crew is already on the ball. So ends up I'm mostly just checking things off a checklist at this point, right, just being backup making sure stuff gets done. Then I make sure everybody from our office is out."

"Right, I'd hope so."

"Sure. I said 'rescue.'" He laughs again, but it's hard. "So everybody's out of our office, and then I'm sitting there. I've got all these training videos I've watched, and all this...information, really, on diagrams and tipcards. But mostly, my job is to sit there and monitor everything and report to DC."

"That makes sense."

"Yeah." More bourbon. I remember, and take a drink as well. "So about forty-five minutes goes by. At this point, everybody in the towers below the fireline has gotten out, right?"


"So everybody is out except the people above the fires. And I know that, because..." He gulps back a sob and I realize what he's going to say, and wince - "...because I can see 'em all, on the screens. I had security feeds from the tops of the towers still working. I don't think anyone else did. But I could see 'em up there. They were...they were..." he stops, drinks hard.

We sit there for a couple of minutes while he gets his voice back and I struggle to push the vision of my mere imagination, not memory, out of my brain. When he starts speaking again, his voice is dead, all emotion leached out in order to allow him to continue.

"So around this time, they start jumping. You probably saw that on the reports. Lower floors start jumping to avoid the fire. Rescue crews are jammed up maybe a couple floors below the fireline, it's too hot to get higher, and they're having trouble getting water pressure enough to get into contact with it. I've puked maybe three times at this point. I've sealed the bunker from the inside as per the checklist."


"Anyway, nothing's coming up from DC. They're all fucking confused. I guess the NCA still weren't back into secure comm by then...Bush is still reading My fucking Pet Goat or something, and Cheney's under the White House but he's not talking to me. He's not supposed to be, of course. But nobody is, really, other than to call once in a while and ask if what they're getting on CNN is true. Like it wouldn't be. Fucking idiots."


"So you gotta understand." He turns to me, and I see he's crying, now. Jesus, I think, so am I, it's fucking natural, man. "This thing, they'd seen it. Ninety-three. I mean, they'd had a bomb go off there, right? I mean, that's why they had me down there, in case something happened, they wanted real-time information."

"Well, sure."

"And Wall Street, I mean, most important square klick of space to the western economy, right there. That's why we had an office there. That's why I'm sitting there watching."

Oh, man. I have no idea what to say, but I have to say something. "Look, you were ordered in there. You couldn't have helped. You were supposed to watch, that was your job."

"I know."

There was silence for a minute or two, coupled with another refill. The bartender was getting the disapproving look of someone getting ready to cut us off.

"So it's fifty-six minutes in."

Oh, Christ. I needed to let him finish, though. This was important to him. "Yeah."

"I don't know what it was. I've always wondered. I've gone over it and over it. I have no idea what it was. Something happened, though. Something."

"The North tower collapsed."

He turned to look at me, and through his tears he was wearing a rictus grin. "No, man. Before it collapsed. Something happened. Something moved. Or something. I was sitting in that bunker, eyes glued to those fucking screens like they'd been for an hour, crying, watching people jump, watching shit burn, and I saw something not right, and I DID MY FUCKING JOB AND I TURNED MY FUCKING KEY!" The shout rang through the bar into the sudden silence.

Oh fuck.


He turned back to his drink and polished it off in one go, waving off the bartender, who'd started over to investigate. "Not here."

"WHAT?" That shout was mine. A musical sound made me look down; I'd put my glass down - too hard. Glass, Scotch and blood were on the bar. The tender had stopped, and was edging towards the phone now. I waved at him hurriedly. "No! No, wait. Sorry, sorry. nine-eleven shit, man, really, sorry." He stopped, looked wary. "Look, we had one too many. Can you run us through on my card and we'll find a hotel shuttle?" He nodded, relaxed slightly and moved away from the phone to the register. I turned.

"What the hell do you mean you-"

He whispered fiercely, looking suddenly stone sober, "Not. Here." In a normal voice, "Aw, fuck, man, your hand..." grabbing up a napkin, he wrapped it around my hand after making sure there wasn't any glass embedded in the cut and added a couple of ice cubes to the binding. The tender came back with the slip, which I signed with my right, and we grabbed up our travel cases and walked out onto the empty concourse towards the hotel shuttle stop. Outside the terminal, as we stood the cases up again, I turned to him.

"What the fuck."

He slumped onto a concrete cylinder intended to guard the sidewalk from drivers intent on Unloading In A No Unloading Zone. I could see, now, the pain and the ghosts he was carrying as he settled them around his shoulders. "That's why I was in the bunker. That's why they built the bunker after '93."

"I don't get it." I was shaking from fear and anger.

"I know. Look, think about it. Two of the tallest buildings in the world, right? Hit on the side by a jet plane. Both designed to handle airplane impacts. Both fall down."

"They said the jets were bigger-"

"Horseshit. Look, look at the damage pattern. They both fell straight down. So did WTC 7. Which was hit by falling debris on one side. You know how often controlled demolition - of much smaller buildings - goes wrong?" I shook my head, numb. "Enough that three perfect drops of buildings with unknown-in-advance damage, including two over one hundred stories, is fucking unbelievable. Trust me." He lit a cigarette.

We sat there for a minute. Headlights turned into the airport loop; the hotel shuttle arriving.

"Why are you telling me this? Who are you?"

"I just who I told you I am. I'm the guy who was on Dropwatch that morning. I'm the guy who turned the key. I'm telling you because you lost people, and you should know. They didn't die because of terrorists. Well, not all of them, and not directly. They might have died anyway; if your - cousin? was NYPD, he probably would've gone into the tower anyway, even if he knew it was wired. Firefighter, same deal. The people above the fireline were dead anyway, from suffocation, heat, or jumping. But you should know, because I keep hearing now that there's scientists saying that the buildings would've survived. They weren't going to fall."

"So?" The bus had stopped, and the driver got out to open the luggage compartment in the side.

"So nothing in my briefing materials said that. I thought they were coming down, and coming down hard and wrong." He handed the driver my bag, told the guy that we'd get it. The driver nodded and went back around to reboard. "Look, damn it. I turned that key to save Wall Street and the people in a ten-block radius, and I'd do it again, knowing what I did. But the information they gave me might have been wrong, and it might have been wrong in such a way that any basic engineering prof could've told them that. They were so obsessed with it being secret they never got it vetted properly. So those buildings went down, maybe, by mistake. I'm not saying that was wrong. But if they never tell anyone, then this might happen again. So every once in a while, I tell people."

"What if I tell somebody? What happens to you?"

He gave me a death's-head grin. "What, you haven't figured it out?" He hoisted his bag. "Save us a spot on the bus." I nodded, and got on. As I sat, the luggage door slammed. I sat there, thinking furiously, as the bus pulled away. I looked up, but the aisle was empty. I twisted, looking back, and caught one glimpse of a figure lighting another cigarette, before the bus turned and he was lost to the rain.

Posted by jbz at 11:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Let's just look at that last.

Okay. In the last entry, I linked a paper by a guy at BYU who claims that his analysis shows that the WTC buildings which came down on 9/11 could not have come down as a result of the damage sustained from the jet impacts. Furthermore, he points towards evidence which he notes carefully is at least circumstantially points to the presence of higher-energy demolition - i.e. explosives - involved in the events. Some of it photographic/video, some of it chemical, some of it engineering analysis; a great deal of it conducted (he states) in concert with other professional scientists and engineers. I am not going to claim I have verified so much as a calculation of his, nor that I have checked his references; just that from my own limited knowledge base, the numbers he uses for the negative part of his analysis (i.e., the reasons he has problems with the official explanations) look 'okay.' I'm not going to pass judgement on any of his proposed explanations for what might have actually gone on.

But let's think about it for a second.

Let's say there were explosives in the WTC that brought down Tower 1, Tower 2, and WTC 7. Why would they have been there? Who might have put them there, and when?

The 'tinfoil hat' theorists would have us believe that some agency in league with the hijackers did so. However, I find that unlikely. What would be the point? Surely, if the hijackers succeeded in crashing their aircraft into the towers, the result would have been essentially the same. Probably almost the same number of casualties (minus the rescue workers trapped in the buildings when they came down) would have occurred - there was little hope for anyone trapped above the fires, at that point. No evidence would have survived the aircraft crash and fire, most likely - at least, no evidence other than that Al-Qaeda hijackers had done just what we think they'd done - hijack the airplanes and crash them. Anything other than that would have been a terrible risk to the plan - imagine if they'd missed the buildings? And no, hitting them was not a sure thing. It was, in fact, a fairly good piece of piloting and luck, especially for both planes to hit. I'm not saying they couldn't guarantee both aircraft would crash, but hitting the towers, i.e. the place rigged to destroy evidence - nope. After all, look at Flight 93. So. Why would whoever rigged the towers have been in league with the hijackers?

Okay. Who, then?

The obvious next choice: The U.S. authorities. But why would they do that?

Simple answer: damage control. Look at where the towers were located. Above Wall Street. Above the most important piece of real estate to the Western economy on the planet. A controlled demolition's most important advantage would be that it would allow the buildings a much better chance of being brought straight down, into their existing lot, without damaging anything outside the property line.

Evidence exists to support this hypothesis. First, the actual pattern of destruction. One point of the destruction everyone marvels over is how finely crumbled or powdered the debris was. Very few identifiable pieces were retrieved, other than large structural steel bits. Obviously, the fall would damage everything - but no really large pieces fell outside the building perimeters. Consider that even planned and scheduled demolition sometimes goes hideously wrong - and then consider that three times, on the same day, including two of the tallest buildings in the world, far taller than have been controlled-demolished before, all fell due to unplanned, unbalanced damage - with that little collateral damage.

WTC 7, by the way, was damaged by falling debris - but only on one face. A few of its support columns were, indeed, damaged - but it still fell almost straight down. Wouldn't it have fallen over like a tree? Nope, not in this case.

So. Why would this happen? Because the building were, in fact, demolished in a controlled fashion. Not by terrorists - but by government agency, in order to prevent worse destruction were the towers to topple over lower Manhattan. Or, if you believe the tinfoil theorists, to lay the groundwork for the invasion of Iraq - but again, I don't think you needed to demolish them for that. However...

Consider the following. When were the explosives planted? The towers lasted mere hours after the attacks. Any demolition preparation work would have involved a massive effort, and been impossible to hide from the rescue workers charging up and down the buildings, and would have also involved equipment and materials that would have been difficult if not impossible to get onsite that quickly. Explosives would need to be placed on structural members that would likely be inaccessible without cutting through at least some cladding material. Multiple times, on multiple floors. While WTC 7 might certainly have been done following the attack (consider how much later it collapsed, as well as the fact that it had been completely and successfully evacuated nearly immediately, and how much smaller it was) Towers 1 and 2 would have been almost impossible to prep in that timeframe. I'm not going to say impossible, but it seems...unlikely.

However, we must recall that the Towers had been the target of a structural attack years before. A credible one, by terrorists - explosives planted in the parking structure, successfully detonated, if insufficient for the job. Furthermore, when the Towers were built, there was a debate for a long time if the seawall built to retain the foundation pressure from allowing the structure to settle by pressing the substructure out into the Hudson river would be able to last longer than thirty or forty years. Although procedures for fixing it were, I believe, eventually implemented, when it was designed, it was designed 'on faith' that those would be available (I was told this by an employee of the engineering company that designed it. I don't know if it's true.)

In any case, after the bomb explosion, it might have made sense for the government to consider preparing the Towers for deliberate demolition in case of just such an eventuality. After all, better to lose just the Towers than the entire surrounding area. Of course, the question arises - why not tell us?

At the time, it was sheer chaos. There were thousands of civilians still trapped in the buildings, which were burning. Although engineering models run after the event seem to indicate that the building might have survived the fire, FEMA's report indicates that the fire was, in fact, what weakened the buildings to collapse. Certainly, there is debate. Imagine the following. If you posit that there was, in fact, a demolition system installed in WTC, then it follows that there must have been a person responsible for making the decision to utilize it. That person would have been glued to every monitoring system available, watching the buildings, the rescue operations, everything. They would, assuming they were a responsible and reasonably competent individual (and I do assume that) be in agony. Despite the evacuation, thousands remained above the fireline. We now know that hundreds of people were committing suicide, jumping rather than die by flame. There were firefighters, police and rescue personnel in the buildings, of course. But above all, that person would have been charged to remember that they and they alone were responsible for protecting the thousands of people who remained within a four or five-block radius (the height of a tower) and likely further, not to mention the economic damage, should one of the towers decide to topple rather than fall. They know, or have been told, that if they 'turn the key,' the tower in question will implode and fall straight down, damaging little outside its footprint - after all, the agency in question had months to plan and implement this system after the last bomb, and they're confident it will work.

So our triggerperson sits and stares at the monitor. They're looking for any twitch of the building. Any shudder. And who knows. After 56 minutes, something happens on North Tower. Something. Perhaps it did start to collapse. Maybe the floor where the impact occurred suffered enough damage for the outer shell to peel away. Something.

And they turn the key. Knowing that even though there are hundreds of rescue personnel and thousands of people above the fireline, there are tens of thousands within reach of the tower if it doesn't go straight down.

Then, 46 minutes later, the upper 34 floors of the South Tower start to fall to the South and East. They turn the key again.

At that point, WTC 7, already evacuated, would be an afterthought.

I don't think I would blame that person one damn bit. I don't think I'd try to give them a medal either, because if they were the kind of person I'd hope was given the job, they'd probably try to kill me if I did. Nope, I'd give them all the therapy they wanted, and make sure nobody ever knew. Make sure they never had to worry about money again. Make sure they always had someone to talk to, ideally someone who'd had to make a similar choice, if not on that scale.

Unfortunately, this is our current government. I think they would have just panicked and reflexively thought of the lawsuits from families and buried the whole damn thing. It would have had to be beyond secret anyway - if you *did* have a demolition system in the WTC, you sure wouldn't want anyone knowing about it. After all, though, they did put the NYC crisis response bunker in there after the bomb went off. Sorta odd place for that, wasn't it? And the CIA undercover facility was there. And of course, the rage over the loss of the skyline as well as the loss of those people being blamed on Al-Qaida made the War on terror agenda so much easier to sell.

Man, it can be fun to be a tinfoil hatter.

Posted by jbz at 4:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I Hate It When...

Things I've dismissed as conspiracy theories in fact turn out to be relatively agenda-free discussions of the shortcomings of a set of information which poke at the analyst part of me until I go "huh...yeh...I mean...this isn't raving...at the very least, somebody should be proving a negative, here."

And no one is.

Posted by jbz at 4:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Science question.

So, ponder this. Imagine we had viable nanotech, of a sort. It takes large physical plant to keep it working, say, or it only has a short lifespan and it takes a large physical plant to make it, whatever. And obviously, it doesn't violate thermodynamics. But it can do molecular rearranging so long as the energy equations work out.

I wonder if it would ever make sense to just have big vats of the stuff set up somewhere sunny to build gasoline?

I mean, gasoline is, in fact, a really really efficient medium for energy transport, modulo safety. It stores more chemical oxidation energy per unit volume than hydrogen (gaseous, certainly; dunno liquid but that introduces all manner of other storage/safety requirements) and doesn't go bang nearly as easily.

Plus, a liquid energy transport infrastructure already exists.

It removes the need for nano to be used anywhere outside the refinery setting, although you could always have more expensive setups that built gas for remote locations. Or built whatever. But the point is, Heinlein sort of had it right, in Friday and his short stories - the problem isn't energy production so much as energy transport. The 'Shipstones' from Friday were essentially a transport solution. He posited solar and orbital solar production.

Along those lines. Everytime people talk about orbital power production, the problem of getting the power to earth comes up. Obviously. Absent orbital tethers and superconductors, this isn't going away. People always seem to come up with masers, most likely because the atmosphere's gaseous components are transparent to microwaves. The problem is that there's a lot of water in the atmosphere, which sure isn't. Has anyone thought of (and I'm sure the answer is yes) just using visible lasers onto 'normal' solar arrays at visible wavelengths and then using orbital power to illuminate them at night, and to perhaps boost them somewhat during the day? You could at least double the productivity of a solar array without worrying about non-normal frequency EM radiation effects on the planet; you wouldn't have to collimate masers or lasers to some hideously tight beam and worry about keeping them aimed; you'd just make sure that the emissions level of the lasers was such that at the surface, the levels never got above 'normal sunshine.' Sure, since it would all be on one frequency, you'd have to worry about eye damage. But that seems better than 'hellish powerful masers hitting water clouds.'

Sorry. Noodling.

Posted by jbz at 3:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 17, 2006

Who supports the troops?

Their mothers and families and friends do. But someone 'very high up' who has the authority to issue orders to them may not. I don't know if this story is true; I do know that it should be vigorously investigated by the Congress, which has been asked to do so much on the basis of 'supporting and protecting' those same troops. Especially the part about general officers wearing the Pinnacle gear while lower ranks are ordered to abandon that which they purchased with their own funds.

Also, someone with more legal smarts than I should quickly talk to SGLI about the precise nature of the restrictions and conditions on the $400,000 'death benefit' to GIs. That 'could jeopardize' in there looks awful damn fishy and an awful lot like justification for pressure that can't quite be backed up by facts.

Posted by jbz at 11:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 16, 2006

Where oh where has Sharp Tools been?

Er. Well, um. See. You know how they always tell you to make a backup? Yeh. And you know how I'm a system administrator, so I should REALLY KNOW THAT? Yeh, uh-huh. Well, there's good news and bad news. The good news: I had a backup when my server shit the bed. The bad news: it was in such a state that given its state and my laziness and the fact that it was Baconfest, it was a much better bet to wait until I returned and see if I could resurrect the machine in situ rather than try to reproduce the installation using said backup, which while having all the data didn't have all the software install configs and the like.

So, whee, we're back.

Not like anyone reads this thing. :-)

Posted by jbz at 6:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 2, 2006

The Stealth Bomber's Got A Daddy

Holy living fuck. The Palm Springs Air Museum has this unbelievable snippet in its schedule of events for 2006:
Feb. 25 FLYING WING - The Flying Wing, designed by Jack Northrup sic during the early 1940's is a most significant historical aircraft. This radical design was the precursor to the Stealth Bomber. The object of a political controversy, Stuart Symington, Sec'y of Defense under President Truman, ordered the original 13 Flying Wing aircraft and plans destroyed. Original Northrop employees restored this Flying Wing over an eight-year period. FLIGHT DEMO
FLIGHT DEMO. This is not a drill. SOMEBODY please, please, please please get to this and take pictures. Lots of pictures. Video would be better. Good God, I had no idea any of these survived.

I really want to know if this is the B-35 or the (X/Y/YR)B-49 (reciprocating engines on the first, Allison turbojets on the latter three).

Posted by jbz at 2:50 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack