Hell-Bent on Destroying My Powers of Concentration

… while you were living like a saint: [not too smart anyway]

  • Mike, one of the Granite Grok contributors, will not miss Mitch Daniels in the upcoming race:
    Just when the RINOs thought that it was safe to get back into the water, when they thought they'd secured a sensible, boring candidate for 2012 to lock out those pesky Tea-Partyers, another disappointment for the rulng class: In a midnight email, governor Mitch Daniels confirmed what many suspected - If you have to ask for your wife's permission to run for president, you don't have it.

    The ruling class is scared to death that, what they insist on referring to as second tier candidates, EG Palin, Cain, Bachmann, Paul will catch fire with the GOP base. […]

    For the record, I'm disappointed that Daniels decided not to run. This may be the first time in history that anyone's confused me with a RINO member of the ruling class.

  • I can't tell a Sunni from a Shia, I could maybe match up a half-dozen heads of state with their countries at best. But even I know about the Palestinian "right of return".
    U.S. presidential candidate Herman Cain is trying to recover from an embarassing stumble over the question of the Palestinian Right of Return on Sunday.

    "Right of Return?," Cain blankly asked twice in response to being questioned about the vital issue on "Fox News Sunday." The second or two of deafening silence that lasted before host Chris Wallace repeated "The Palestinian Right of Return" to the Republican hopeful seemed to last forever.

    A typical negative reaction: D.G. Myers says Cain's "cluelessness on the right of return suggests that Cain is more blowhard than gadfly." But also see Cain fanboy Stacy "Other" McCain. And Geraghty doesn't see it as that big a deal.

  • And not to pick on Herman Cain or anything, but David Bernstein picked up this tidbit from the Des Moines Register:
    Cain, 65, who lives in suburban Atlanta, made his announcement at Atlanta's Centennial Park, urging Americans frustrated by the country's direction to read the Constitution.

    "Keep reading," he said. "Don't stop at life, liberty and pursuit of happiness."

    The good news is, I guess, that if you are reading the Constitution and intend to stop at "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"… well, you'll wind up reading the whole darn thing.

  • Newt's press secretary was unappreciative of the criticism touched off by his boss's appearance on Meet the Press:
    The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding. Washington cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world. The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness. They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment's cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods. Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles. But surely they had killed him off. This is the way it always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught. But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won't be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces.
    English prof Margaret Soltan criticizes the prose:
    Instead of gaining a clear picture of the press bullies, we struggle with three incompatible images:

    1. A firefight.
    2. Sheep.
    3. Cocktail parties.

    Our minds, striving to make sense of disparate phenomena, put it all together into a picture of party-going, pistol-packing, sheep. This takes us very far away from the image of embattled heroic Gingrich that's intended.

    But perhaps it would make a good Michael Bay movie.

  • OK, so not Mitch, not Herman, not Newt. How about T-Paw?
    GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty said Monday he wants to phase out federal ethanol subsidies, which are considered a sacred cow in Iowa.
    I'm with Simberg: my respect just went up a few notches.

  • SMBC unearths some rare historical tech support documents.

Last Modified 2012-09-26 6:08 AM EDT

The Gods Themselves

[Amazon Link]

I've been working through the good Dr. Isaac Asimov's science fiction novels. (For pedants: I'm skipping over short stories blown up into novels, juveniles, and the Fantastic Voyage books.)

This one was published in 1972, a long 15 years after The Naked Sun; during this period, Asimov concentrated on (presumably more lucrative) non-fiction. But he hadn't lost his touch: The Gods Themselves won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel.

And yes, it's pretty good. The premise is that, via scientific mumbo-jumbo, communication has been established between our universe and one with vastly different physical behavior. A "pump" between the two universes is established, generating copious amounts of clean, cheap energy on both sides. Free lunch!

Hallam, the "discoverer" of the other universe and the inventor of the pump is understandably famous, revered, and powerful. But he rubs a young dissident, Lamont, the wrong way; Lamont eventually becomes convinced that the physical-law leakage between the universes will soon cause the sun to go kablooie, and that Hallam is a small-talent hack who's being manipulated by the other universe. Can he convince Earth that Hallam's a fool, and that it's necessary to get off the gravy train? It's an uphill battle.

So far, a pretty standard yarn. But the scene shifts to the other universe; Asimov masterfully sets up the plot there with beings that are (understandably) even more alien than usual. (Example: three "sexes" are necessary for reproduction, and said reproduction involves phase changes between the participants.) On that side, Dua is an "emotional" who shows an unusual amount of curiousity and ability to grasp complex systems. She also becomes aware of her side of the pump, discovers its fatal effects on the other (our) universe, and vows to stop it.

As usual, Asimov's human characters aren't that inherently interesting or sympathetic. And most of the time, they talk, talk, talk. It's surprising this works at all, but Asimov's imagination and ingenuity allows him to get away with it.

Last Modified 2012-09-26 6:09 AM EDT

The Way Back

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Prison escape movies are a small but vital genre. In this one, the escape is the relatively easy part.

The prison here is a good old Stalin-era Gulag work camp, smack dab in the middle of Nowheresibirsk, Siberia. A motley bunch of inmates, facing their imminent demise, band together to break out. They have a vague idea of hiking south to Lake Baikal and escaping to Mongolia. This turns out to be much, much more difficult than expected. At the end, the survivors will have walked 4000 miles to India. (Not a spoiler: it's revealed right at the beginning.)

The difficulties faced by the group, both before and after their escape, are graphically shown. Among the IMDB keywords for the movie: "night blindness", "freezing to death", "sunstroke", "torture", "death by dehydration", "starvation", "sandstorm",… and they're missing some. It's an impressive, epic story.

The recognizable faces here are Ed Harris, playing a mysterious American only known as Mr. Smith, and Colin Farrell as a murderous Russian criminal. It's directed by the relatively famous Peter Weir.

The movie is based on memoir of one of the alleged escapees, Slawomir Rawicz. Its accuracy is questionable, but that doesn't take away much from the movie.

Last Modified 2012-09-26 6:11 AM EDT