Saturday, June 7, 2014


The problem with lipreading is so few sounds are visible on the lips. Only some 30% or so of English phonemes can be seen.  It actually involves noticing what the whole face is doing. Nevertheless, when deaf people speak to each other they concentrate on the face, specifically the lips, tongue and cheeks, and all that hand-waving sign and finger spelling is actually seen in periphery. Occasionally the viewer's eyes drop to a hand doing finger spelling for clarity of specific words. I do that all the time. Stop the action and concentrate on the hand. And of course at a distance lipreading is nearly impossible.

Thus the "bad lipreading" videos popular presently that parody context amusingly. I actually do not find those things all that funny because they comport too well with my own frustrating experience. They are just not that funny to me.

I notice the cartoons are becoming very good at showing character's tongue to coincide with the sound of "L", it is cute as can be, and shape the mouth for the sound of "O" and squeeze the lips for "E" and all the sounds that end with it. They purse the lips for "P" and "B" and sometimes show teeth for "V", the tongue showing between teeth for "TH".  The two cartoons that caught my attention with this are "Adventure Time" and "The Ordinary Show" It appears to me the cartoonists take great care in having mouth movement coincide with sound. Impressive, as the cartoons are made over a period of several months in Taiwan. In the case of Ordinary Show the main character's mouth is a bluebird's beak. They are very clever at matching mouth and beak to sounds. From my point of view it contributes tremendously to the humor and the enjoyment of watching.

I concentrate on people's lips while conversing to the point of becoming self-conscious of making the speaker self-concious about their own mouths. I have to tell myself to look at their eyes and knock it off with the concentrated lipreading all the time. It is a habit. Some people are very easy to lipread and others are not. The woman above appears to be exaggerating, at least she is extremely clear. Some people simply give no mouth movement at all, almost as if  they are being ventriloquist. It is frustrating.

Try it. This site is for teaching lipreading, and I have to wonder why they used this thin-lipped woman, she is maddeningly difficult to lipread. Similar to a previous girlfriend. Pleasantly attractive face, she shows no tongue at all for her "L" and "TH" sounds, and I rely on that to distinguish between similar words. She speaks demurely. It seems to me she is trying to confound lip readers and not assist newbies.

I did okay on the game, but I did not score 100. After decades of concentrating on people's lips, and I mean concentrating, I still perform poorly for someone so practiced.

There is a lot of room for misunderstanding. More room for misunderstanding than there is room for understanding. Thus the signs to back all that up. The signs are merely enhanced situational gesticulation. As to sign language, coming from hearing, first you learn finger spelling so now you can say anything you want, then you learns signs so that you don't have to finger spell so much, as you concentrate on lipreading so all that drops to background. Try the test and see for yourself how well or how poorly you do. Experts do not do much better than you.

Now, with that out of the way, here is this video of Michelle Obama saying "All this for just a flag."

Others insist they see "All this for a fucking flag."
Others insist they see "All this for a damn flag."

I see, "All this for a flag." Then Barak, "Uh huh."

How hip.

That is what I see on my own without any help or suggestion, removed from context. It appears quite clear. And that is with realizing all the related phrases that are possible and knowing the phonemes are similar. Some people are easy, and some people are not, and Michelle Obama is easy. And I see that because I held the same sentiment myself, that is my context, not because I was told. Because I shared the same sentiment with Michelle Obama. When I was ten. I did ask what is all the fuss about folding and care for a flag? Why all the somber ritual of folding, the bagpipes, the marching, the taps? Come on, it's just a piece of cloth! I could not comprehend all the reverence centering on piece of fabric. I could not get off the idea of the flag being the focus and not all that is behind the solemnity of the event being closed. The whole representational show seemed overwrought, and tremendously boring besides. My parents were shocked by my childish uncomprehending attitude, they acted as if they were shocked. I saw my dad struggle to muster the patience to not hit me, to convey to his thick-headed lad the reverence is for what the flag symbolizes. But then I was stuck with pondering reverence for symbols. I just was not feeling it. It was a very long time, I can be quite thick about sensitive things, before I accepted the flag as symbol for all that goes into patriotic impulse and the action motivated by patriotic feelings, the bravery and suffering the flag represents, all the wars that get boiled down to "the flag was still there."

And now I'm a sobbing mess. All it takes is a good rendition of the National Anthem a picture of a flag and I am reduced to a contorted tear-streaked face unable to speak.

It is clear that Michelle Obama holds my ten-year old attitude. Even to the point of being wife to president of United States, and it is clear too her husband shares the same aloof sentiment. There is a huge gulf between us. I honestly believe the flag means to these two people their ticket to a luxurious life and that is all that it means to them. For the president of the United States to chew gum at 70th anniversary of D-Day shows that point again and proves it to the people there subjected to his prepubescent insouciance amid their solemnity and reverence. He, like me at ten, just flatly does not understand, does not feel it. He feels something else. Boredom most likely.  He and she have failed to internalize what all that means. It means nothing to them. Just boring ritual.

Washington Times

The video is a few years old. The 10th anniversary of 9-11. Time enough for these two to have grown up, even if it takes the office of Presidency for the growing to occur. I dare say this same or similar immature attitude is broadly shared by their supporters. They deny it, of course, they must. But here it is on her lips, go ahead and remove 70%, it is still right there to see, and on his arrogant gesticulated concurrence.

Saturday Morning Cartoons

I learned about Tex Avery by accident. Several years ago, impelled by memory alone and enabled by Google, I arrived at his name. Never mind that his name was already in plain sight of practically everyone who laughed at cartoons starting in the 1940's.

Red Hot Riding Hood (1943) was one of his earliest efforts, and one so ahead of its time that few appreciate its prescience. Lindsay Ellis pretty much sums up the cartoon's lasting influence as well as its "reverse cautionary tale" meaning and that "no means no":

No Sarcasm: Dianne Feinstein: No threat to Bergdahl

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said she has not seen any evidence that the Taliban would have killed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl if details of an agreement had leaked, contrary to what Obama administration officials have said.

When asked whether there was a “credible threat” on Bergdahl’s life if word had gotten out, the California Democrat responded: “No, I don’t think there was a credible threat, but I don’t know. I have no information that there was.” (read more)

"The Secret Service wants software that detects social media sarcasm"

"In a work order posted online Monday, the agency said it wants analytics software that can, among other things, synthesize large sets of social media data and visually present that data. The request for proposals was first reported by"
More specifically, the orders ask for a long list of specific tools, including the ability to identify social media influencers, analyze data streams in real time, access old Twitter data and use heat maps. And it wants the software to be compatible with Internet Explorer 8. (The agency is asking for a blanket purchasing agreement over a five-year period, which shows just how often the government updates its technology.)

Then there's the request to sift through the heaps of snark on Twitter and other social media services: "Ability to detect sarcasm and false positives," the request reads.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bad Moves

I just wanted to say that I think it was a bad move on Lem's part to squelch further discussion on this 380+ comment thread. I think Fr. Fox has done a remarkable job fending for himself, mostly against Meade. I mean, I think Meade was losing the argument in that thread, and it's important that people make arguments and lose them in free discourse.


Lyrics after the jump


Vodafone: Governments Use Secret Cables to Tap Phones

"Government agencies are able to listen to phone conversations live and even track the location of citizens without warrants using secret cables connected directly to network equipment, admits Vodafone today."
The company said that secret wires have been connected to its network and those belonging to competitors, giving government agencies the ability to tap in to phone and broadband traffic. In many countries this is mandatory for all telecoms companies, it said.
The company Vodafone is releasing a "Law Enforcement Disclosure Report" which the company claims will "describe exactly how the governments it deals with are eavesdropping on citizens."

I don't know... I've pretty much accepted that all my communications can be listened to, sold, compromised, criticized ... Well, maybe not criticized.

My point is... what is the point?.. my point is I have zero expectation of privacy. Privacy, as we've known it, and, other than our thoughts, is on it's way to becoming something like a wrestling match prop. Privacy appeals and supposedly means something, but, in real terms it is as significant as a selfie.

LA: Dozens Of Strangers Show Up At Man’s Door After Bogus Craigslist Ad Promises Free Stuff

"Strangers lined up outside David Otero’s home in Pomona Sunday after seeing a bogus Craigslist ad promising free stuff."
“I said, ‘Oh my gosh, what is going on?’” the homeowner said.

Some people bypassed the security gate and walked right up to his door.

“We had to stay away from the window. We didn’t know what they were going to do. We felt very fearful,” said Otero’s girlfriend, Lorrayne Skeens.

The ad says, “First come, first served..I have a bunch of free stuff that has to be gone by Sunday night.”

The problem is Otero didn’t post it.
The question is... Is 'his' stuff really his to begin with?

A Reminder

Just a reminder that there are only thirty shopping days left before the first anniversary of Lem's Blog.  Time to get going on selecting and wrapping your gifts for Lem.

We all remember this happy day,  I'm certain.

I'm hoping that there will be autographed copies of Lem's blog available for all who were here at the blog's conception and early months.  And a Lem's Blog cap and matching tee shirt.  The promotions committee needs to get going on these items.

The Blaze: Americans ‘are being prepared for a political and financial shakedown’

D’Souza: The left is very successful at appealing to the principle of justice, and justice for the man lowest down. Sometimes, as conservatives, we miss the force of that. We reply by chanting “Liberty!” But we have to remember that justice is a key principle. Right, the Pledge of Allegiance: “With liberty and justice for all.” So we can’t ignore justice, and what I do in the book and film is to engage the left on its own terms. I go “Ok, let’s really look at whether or not America has been good for the common man.” Forget about the rich guy, he’s going to do well everywhere. Let’s judge a society by the kind of life it makes available to the ordinary fellow. So I’m willing to argue that the left is actually attacking ordinary people.
Let me give an example of what I mean. The left says that the wealth of America is stolen. So here’s the first question: Who stole it? Was it the one percent? Now if we look at American history, who are the people who moved West and displaced the Indians? The immigrants. Who are the people who benefited from slavery? Well everybody who bought a cotton shirt. Who are the people who defeated the Mexicans in the Mexican War? Ordinary immigrants and settlers.

Skipping down...

D’Souza: Most of our young people don’t know a heck of a lot, if anything, about these things, but they certainly know about Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks, so they’ve actually got a highly manipulated view of history, a kind of programmed narrative of American shame, and the reason for that is that they are being prepared for a political and financial shakedown. So in other words, if you want the federal government to come to Americans and take their stuff, and you want to prevent Americans from objecting, you’ve got to try to convince them that their stuff isn’t theirs in the first place: that it’s been stolen, that their ancestors stole it, that if history had been fair, they wouldn’t have this big house and this nice couch and this big-screen TV and this nice car. So the government has every right to confiscate it because it’s not really yours. (read the whole thing)

Added h/t Chickelit

Vince Speranza 101 Airborne, Les Mess Bastogne


Second day of battle Germans slipped around and surrounded the town. The church is blown out and the wounded were placed on the floor of the church. 

I went through the town to look for my friend. I found him on the floor of the church.
Listen Joe, I gotta go back, is there something I can do for you before I go back? Joe says, "Find me something to drink." 
... He's a major, I'm a private, so ... he says, "What the hell are you doing soldier?" I say, "Giving aid and comfort to the wounded." He says, "You stupid bastard. Don't you know I got chest cases and stomach cases, you give 'em stuff, you'll kill 'em! Get outta here before I have you shot!"
Present day.

Vince describes his perspective as a boy of his first battle scene  
... And it hits ya, this is where you were when you was nineteen years old, as a kid, and I says, "wait, no, no, Marco, if this was my foxhole, there was a stream over there because I remember that morning I broke the ice to fill up my canteen just before the mist came up we knew the Germans were going to attack. He says, "Yeah, he says, well you can't see it because of the grass. And we walked over there and goddamnit there was the stream and I says, "now I know for sure. This is where I was." And what comes back hittin' me now is that first morning of the battle... 
Vince describes his perspective as a boy of his first battle scene and the commands of his commander to hold fire while waves of Germans become entangled in barbwire fence between the two armies that was hidden by snow and that neither side knew was there.
... The scene that came back to me. You know, when you're an old man you're not in control of your emotions anymore. I fell apart there. And my daughter said, "Eh, Father, let's go back." I get emotion just talk' about it. But we came back to Bastogne and I says, "Marco, eh, I take ya to lunch ..." 
And then Vince's story gets really good.

To you, Vince! You stupid bastard.

Photo from Beer Advocate

Google images Airborne beer.

Brand new 101st Airborne museum Les Mess in Bastogne, Belgium.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Obama's next trade

The next big White House deal was revealed today, already in the works, the details having been sorted months ago. Bypassing Congress and the usual channels through various commissions, the deal tentatively called "The Big Wham-O"  is to be carried out before the dust settles on the recent trade of five top Taliban fighters for one Army deserter, and before opposition can balance themselves from reeling through a series of previous administration scandals too large and too numerous to list that would derail any previous non-racial administration. The idea is to keep opposition Republicans flailing hopelessly and making them appear hapless, ineffectual, confused, acting from anger and utterly hopeless. The plan involves characterizing opposition as "just more of the same old Washington nonsense we see too often and come to expect."  

The next deal involves trading all the remaining Guantánamo prisoners clearing the place out for five billion in reparations paid directly to the Taliban over a ten year period ignoring official Afghanistan government seen as too corrupt to do business with, thus, "killing two birds with one stone, as it were" according to an unnamed high-level official*  Speaking under anonymity the source elaborated, "the first trade was a test run to see how far the White House can go without collapsing, and now having ridded Guantánamo of the worst of U.S. captives held at Guantánamo, the rest will be easy-peasy lemon squeezy." Thus after having been thwarted by opponents his first five years in office Obama can finally fulfill one of his chief campaign promises and secure his historic legacy in his own way by his own methods.

* A house wren that lands on my terrace railing and speaks to me in my mind. 


Lyrics and comments after the break

Grammar: It Does Make a Difference

Call yourself a “grammar Nazi”? Be careful, because they actually exist...
Here’s a Tweet from the American Nazi Party, demanding correct spelling and grammar “for the cause”:
I'm not embedding the Tweet here... but it is embedded at the link.

I am embedding instead an attempt at humor.

National Review: While Vets Wait, VA Employees Do Union Work

"In 2012, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid at least $11.4 million to 174 nurses, mental-health specialists, therapists, and other health-care professionals who, instead of caring for veterans, worked full-time doing union business."
“So many health-care providers were on that list — nurses or physical therapists or whatever they may be — when so many veterans are falling through the cracks,” a Gingrey aide tells me. “It’s kind of shocking that these paid employees wouldn’t be fully dedicated to patient care.”

In total, the VA spent at least $13.77 million on 251 salaried employees performing full-time union work. Others, who were not included on the list provided by the VA, work part-time for unions at the taxpayer expense. In fiscal year 2011, the latest on record, the VA used 998,483 hours of this “official time,” costing taxpayers more than $42 million.

In Columbia, S.C., the VA pays one health technician a $40,706 salary to work for the American Federation of Government Employees.

At that same location, CNN reported in January, a 44-year-old veteran named Barry Coates was forced to wait a year for a colonoscopy, despite intense pain, constipation, and rectal bleeding. When Coates finally got his appointment, doctors found a tumor the size of a baseball — Stage 4 colorectal cancer that had metastasized elsewhere.
Meanwhile a Fox News Poll found that "by a 50-31 percent margin, voters think enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay get better health care than veterans. Nearly one in five is unsure (18 percent)."

fresh face

You know, those face exercises are a bit ridiculous but done faithfully and over time they do wonders. I know by overcoming debilitating Bell's palsy. I can heartily recommend this book by Carol Maggio and you can buy one for 71¢. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Baseball: Don Zimmer has passed away

Wikipedia: Zimmer signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1949. He played in MLB with the Dodgers (1954–1959, 1963), Chicago Cubs (1960–1961), New York Mets (1962), Cincinnati Reds (1962), and Washington Senators (1963–1965). He also played for the Toei Flyers of Nippon Professional Baseball in 1966. Zimmer also saw action in the Latin American winter baseball leagues, specifically in Cuba with the Tigres de Marianao and a team in Cienfuegos, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Zimmer was nicknamed "El Galleguito" (The Gallegan) in Cuba and "El Soldadito" (The small soldier) in Mexico and Puerto Rico.
During a minor league game on July 7, 1953, Zimmer was struck by a pitch thrown by pitcher Jim Kirk, causing Zimmer to faint. He suffered a brain injury and coagulant, which required surgery. He woke up two weeks later, thinking that it was the day after the game where the incident took place. This led to Major League Baseball adopting batting helmets as a safety measure to be used by players when at-bat. Phil Rizzuto was the first player to use the batting helmets. (in Spanish)
Zimmer was the Red Sox manager when I first arrived to this country. My father had a nickname for him, he called him "buchito" (puffed cheeks).

Hillary Walks

Business Insider: People magazine provided photographic evidence proving Hillary Clinton was not using a walker during a photoshoot for the cover of the publication's upcoming issue. The theory Clinton was holding a walker in the picture was first floated by conservative blogger Matt Drudge after the cover photo excerpts of the People article on Clinton were published online Wednesday. (read more)

It's a miracle ;-)

All kidding aside, even if she were to fall ill do to her advanced age, or some other reason hitherto kept from the public, Hillary Clinton would not be the first handicapped president in history.
Franklin D. Roosevelt's paralytic illness began in 1921 at age 39, when he got a fever after exercising heavily during a vacation in Canada.

While Roosevelt's bout with illness was well known during his terms as President of the United States, the extent of his paralysis was kept from public view.

The Night Maureen Dowd Got Hi on Chocolate Marijuana

"Sitting in my hotel room in Denver, I nibbled off the end and then, when nothing happened, nibbled some more. I figured if I was reporting on the social revolution rocking Colorado in January, the giddy culmination of pot Prohibition, I should try a taste of legal, edible pot from a local shop."

"What could go wrong with a bite or two?" (read more)

Obama Bergdahl Tale of the Tape

Trannysaurus Rex

The most fiercely cretinous of the Late Cretaceous. More and bigger of this monster, here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


It's my my second favorite Who song off my second favorite Who album, but who's counting? I must admit that I've always been a little bothered by Pete Townshend's misuse of to lie/lay, but hey, Bob Dylan did the same on "Tangled Up In Blue" and he was a lyrical genius, right?

Something Trooper might do?

"[A] millionaire neighbor will plop a 33-foot, painted bronze sculpture of a beyond-naked pregnant woman with an exposed fetus on his front lawn. So when Aby Rosen, the real estate titan and art collector, installed this 13-ton statue by Damien Hirst on his newly renovated property last month, his neighbors were roused into action."

“It is out of character with the neighborhood,” (read more)

A different edition of the statue,
photographed in Monaco in 2010

Boston Globe Q&A: Our system of donating body parts may be costing lives, says Northeastern’s Kara Swanson

"The enormous success of volunteer blood banking has shaped the way we now think about body products in general, writes Northeastern University law professor Kara Swanson in a new history, “Banking on the Body: The Market in Blood, Milk, and Sperm in Modern America” (Harvard University Press). Today, we divide body products into “commodities” and “gifts”—roughly speaking, options and necessities. Sperm and eggs are perfectly legal to sell and buy, while lifesaving products like bone marrow and organs follow the blood model, and are considered beyond the market."

"But Swanson argues that for all the success of blood banking, the model can have deadly consequences when it comes to other body products. Thousands of people die each year waiting for organ transplants. The solution, Swanson says, might be to realize that this dichotomy is basically a quirk of history, and start paying kidney or bone marrow donors just as we do men who donate their sperm. She spoke with Ideas at a cafe near her home in Cambridge."


IDEAS: There was once a huge amount of anxiety surrounding the idea of transferring body products from one person to another.

SWANSON: When blood transfusion was being developed, we didn’t know about DNA, so blood was it. “It runs in that family.” Where does it run? It runs in the blood....Before people were transfusing blood, people were using wet nurses, and there was that same kind of socio-cultural anxiety. What might this woman who is different than myself and my family transmit to my baby? Personality traits? Religion? Preference for odd, spicy foods?...That tension was resolved in part because of the bank. If you have it sitting there in a fridge, lined up bottles of milk, bottles of blood, or vials of sperm, it doesn’t feel as personal.

Skipping down...

IDEAS: Just as we learned to distrust paid blood, we’ve also come to think of organs as being beyond money. Was that influenced by how we handle blood?

SWANSON: The transplantation of organs sourced from nonrelatives came to be more successful around the same time that Americans were learning to fear the paid supplier—formerly respected as the “professional donor,” now characterized as a skid-row bum. When one doctor announced he was going to establish a supply of organs the same way his predecessors had established supplies of human milk, blood, and sperm—that is, by offering money—Congress and the medical profession moved quickly to outlaw such a practice [with the federal National Organ Transplant Act] in 1984. Harvesting kidneys from living donors is of course more risky to suppliers than selling renewable body products, which also played into the decision to ban sales.

IDEAS: Do we know paying organ donors would increase supply?

SWANSON: I’m a historian, not a fortune teller! What history has told us is that not paying organ donors has correlated with a situation of scarcity....History has also shown that Richard Titmuss’s theory that payment will diminish gifting also is not always borne out by the facts. It makes a great deal of difference how the act of supplying a body product is framed by all participants.

Denver: Bakery Will Stop Making Wedding Cakes After Losing Discrimination Case

The owner of a bakery in Lakewood said he will no longer sell wedding cakes after the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled he did discriminate against a gay couple when he refused to sell them a cake.

Jack Phillips owns Masterpiece Cakeshop. In 2012, David Mullins and Charlie Craig went to the shop to order a cake for their upcoming wedding reception. They planned to marry in Massachusetts and have a reception in Colorado. (read more)

Washington Times: Pentagon knew Bergdahl’s whereabouts but didn’t risk rescue for ‘deserter’

The Pentagon on several occasions had ground-level intelligence on where ArmySgt. Bowe Bergdahl was being held captive at various times — down to how many gunmen were guarding him — but special operations commanders repeatedly shelved rescue missions because they didn’t want to risk casualties for a man they believed to be a “deserter,” sources familiar with the mission plans said.

Commanders on the ground debated whether to pull the trigger on a rescue several times in recent years, according to one of the sources, a former high-level intelligence official in Afghanistan, who said the conclusion each time was that the prospect of losing highly trained troops was too high a price to pay for rescuing a soldier who walked away from his unit before being captured by the enemy. (read more)

Cliff Beeler

The stories developing about Bowe Bergdahl, his father and our CIC, all over the right-o-sphere are making me ill. Salacious indeed designed to take the place of scandal in a news cycle-minded political class. It has politics written all through it. I can hardly bear another word. Thankfully, there is an antidote. What time is it? Time to take a cure. Here is its opposite, a restorative to faith in human nature.

Introduction to Cliff Beeler, U2 pilot, quiet unassuming and unsung hero.

When an airplane stalls midair it can spell catastrophe if there is not enough altitude to recover. An airplane stall is not the same as a car engine stall as you might imagine, it does not refer to the engine, rather, an airplane stall refers to insufficient air flow over the wings causing the wings to stop flying. The plane stops flying midair. (Oddly, I learned this from a Navy pilot in a small consumer airplane after my dad had retired. And learned it again through hang gliding. Maybe I was taught that earlier but I was thinking of something else at the time.) If there is sufficient altitude then the plane can recover by diving but it is the last thing a pilot wants to have happen. Sometimes you see daredevils do this at air shows and it is also part of a pilot's training. From a pilot's point of view it is very brave indeed to induce a stall. Or stupid.

Regarding the U2 program.
As a plane climbs in altitude and the air thins, it must go faster to avoid a stall. The higher it climbs, the faster it needs to fly.
This is true at Denver airports as well. Some days the air is too hot and too thin to take off effectively. You have to go faster than usual to climb, and then the plane climbs more slowly than usual with greater difficulty. You need sufficient power to do this.
Above 70,000 feet, the critical stall speed approaches the plane’s Mach speed, or the speed of sound — somewhere above 650 mph at that altitude. If that barrier is crossed, the shock waves can break the plane apart. U-2 pilots usually had a window of less than 12 mph between the two speeds. They had to keep the plane within that window for hours at a time.

That's 12 mph (they use knots) at 650 mph. One second loss of focus, just one second, and this happens:
He was above Louisiana on a night flight when he reached Mach speed. “It tore the tail off,” he said. “The plane flipped over, and that tore the wing off.” The plane fell apart, he said, and at 78,000 feet, “I’m out in space. That’s a long way down.” Fortunately, he was in a pressure suit with oxygen and had a parachute. After a long freefall, he opened his chute and found himself floating toward the ground. To his right, he could see lights on the ground. To his left, the same. But beneath him, all was black. He remembered he was over Louisiana “I said, ‘That looks like a swamp.’ ”  
It was. “I landed in a big cypress tree,” he said. “My chute got caught and swung me into the trunk.” Telling the story, Beeler reached down toward his calf, “I always kept a doublebladed knife in my pocket,” he said. He was able to cut himself free of the parachute and use the ties to lash himself to the tree. He took off his helmet and dropped it into the darkness below. There was a distant splash. “All I could think about was alligators and cottonmouths in the swamp,” he said. Lucky for Beeler, the breakup of his plane had been spotted on radar. Within an hour and a half a rescue helicopter was overhead.
Beeler describes another close call over cuba. He describes a MiG flying at 50,000, peak for that aircraft, occasionally a MiG pilot will flip on their afterburner and soar straight upward beyond their aircraft's effective operating capability. Beeler looked back and saw the aircraft tumbling in the air within 50 feet of his wing. 

Darn, those spy cameras sure do take enviable pictures. I've read about these all my life and now here is Beeler confirming them on point. 
During one Cuban mission, Beeler spent some time following the coastline. Afterward, he was called into the lab by the man in charge of analyzing the film. “He showed me a picture of this Cuban gal sunbathing nude on the beach,” Beeler said. “It was so clear I could see she had blue eyes. (The analyst) said, ‘The only film these guys want to work with is your film.’ ” 
Returning from another mission, he took some images over San Diego. Later, he was shown a photo of a man sitting in his backyard reading the paper.
“I could read the headline on the newspaper,” he said.
The full interview here at EAA pdf upload 

Beeler landed his U2 on an aircraft carrier following a mission over USSR. Let that sink in. It is an amazing feat. To keep weight down the U2 was originally designed without landing gear. It is basically a jet propelled glider. It was designed with skids in place of wheels. Later production U2s do have wheels, but they are more like a bicycle and require accompanying vehicles to land. Due to the plane's 80 foot wingspan Beeler's carrier landing was possible only because of the ship's forward speed along with a headwind. Beeler stopped the U2 just five feet from the ship's superstructure. Quite an astonishing feat. Beeler relates there is little about the Navy that he appreciates, but he does like their Navy pilot's leather flight jackets. They gave him one. He recently passed the prize jacket along to his son.

Wow. I had such a jacket but not for any special feat I performed and not from anything directly authentic. It came from one of my uncles and it was old and cracked and discolored. Nobody wanted it. I shinned it up with brown shoe polish and laboriously brushed it all over and had the lining replaced. Then my older brother took it. 

The photographs accompanying the article makes me a bit sad, conflicted, actually. They appear to be taken in a nursing home. It is the interior design features that get me. A very old man with trouble standing upright, aided with a walker. One photograph of Beeler in front of photographs of U2 planes. 

I look back at my own immature impatience with men like this, willing to relate directly to me their own stories, at Air Force Bases, at VFWs and such, in our home, and my own inability to understand or to appreciate what is handed to me in terms of history and my stupid inability to grasp its relevance. I fell shame now mixed with gratitude.

Beeler went on to teach a new generation of pilots, and they went on to teach yet fresher pilots and so on, and my spirit is lifted by knowing that, yes, heroes like Beeler do still exist. Quiet heroes seeking no glory filling the background of our own lives.

Experimental Aircraft Association

Monday, June 2, 2014


The scene doesn't frighten anymore, but 1925 filmgoers were shocked at Lon Chaney, Sr.'s on-screen visage. Visual images and stills were tightly controlled in those days, so most everyone only heard about the scene before seeing it.

The comment thread under that video got me to thinking. Excerpt:
Comment: I cant help but laugh at those old movies, their acting is so over-the-top! 
Reply: Back then, theatre (which was pretty over-the-top until Constantine Stanislavsky came along and explored naturalism in acting) was all anyone knew. Not only was the acting 'over-the-top,' the filming was very 'stagey.'
I had to google Constantine Stanislavsky and I learned something new.

Chaney's parents were both deaf-mutes and he grew up with sign language as his "mother tongue." He didn't even learn to speak until he was old enough for school, even though there was nothing wrong with his speech or hearing. Later, his mother fell ill and young Chaney was left to care for her after she lost the use of her hands. They communicated with facial expressions. That explains why Chaney was so unique as Hollywood's first character actor. He was a skilled make-up artist as well. But Chaney did not make the transition to "talkies" -- he died of a throat hemorrhage in 1929.
[added] Here is the original trailer. Also, 15-year old Carla Laemmle had a minor role in the film and she's still alive at age 104!

[added] Sadly, she passed away ten days after I wrote this.

NYT: Supreme Court Rejects Appeal From Reporter Over Identity of Source

The Obama administration has sent mixed signals in the case and on the subject of press freedom in general. In its Supreme Court brief in the case, Risen v. United States, No. 13-1009, it told the justices that “reporters have no privilege to refuse to provide direct evidence of criminal wrongdoing by confidential sources.”
But Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. hinted last week that the Justice Department might choose not to ask the trial judge to jail Mr. Risen for contempt should he refuse to testify.
Oh goodie, look, I'll have some of that world famous Holder prosecutorial discretion.

"Georgia Woman Shoots Home Invaders Posing as Police"

"On May 29 three people allegedly approached an East Point, Georgia, apartment posing as police officers, "intending to force their way inside" when the woman inside the apartment shot one of the would-be invaders."
According to WSB-TV 2, the renter "cracked the door to take a look outside and that's when police say the three tried to push their way inside."

Police say said that "one of the suspects raised a handgun but the woman fired first," grazing one attacker "on the head and the backside."

The suspects fled, but the wounded one was apprehended.

"Since we started we can eat what we want, buy the clothes we want"

"But look, why feel bad? We're not here because we like it, but it's a profession and we're not going to be grumpy and be treating people badly. If we're there working, we'll be smiling. In any profession you need to be like that..."

To reach the zonas, clients and workers alike must pass by the bouncer sitting on a bar stool on the side of the street, go through a metal detector and ascend flights of stairs; what awaits is a like a cross between a run-down prison and a hostel even the earthiest backpacker would turn away from. The floors are bare concrete, while the corridor extends past door after door into cell-like rooms where women lie. There, a girl just out of her teens confirms it's safe before noting: "It's rare but sometimes men rape."

Sunday, June 1, 2014

"Leftists love smartphones and hybrid cars, but they don’t want to develop the mineral resources that make those products possible."

The headline comes from an interesting read at Powerline called "Civil War In The Democratic Party."

I remember getting into long arguments with a guy named garage mahal on the Althouse blog about iron mining in northern Wisconsin and then also about silica mining elsewhere in Wisconsin. Garage perfectly embodied the preservationist mentality -- don't develop and eschew conservation -- i.e., smart development.


The meaning of Morrison's "five to one" ratio followed him to his grave. Snopes explodes some of the myths here. The one about penile manipulation was a new one to me.

Let's add the ratio of Jihadis to Americans in prisoner exchanges to the numerology.

The Bergdahl release is a complete load

Foremost, the swap is illegal, and a bad swap at that. One apparently traitorous soldier for five apparently top Guantanamo prisoners.

Here is how a military-minded general type who knows he is engaged in war performs such a swap. "Give us our guy or we shoot our top prisoner. You have 24 hours to respond." And mean it, and be willing to do it. And the next day a fresh offer along the same line. In short, grow a pair, a big hairy stinking pair. And if you are unable to issue such a threat and unwilling to follow through with such tough horrible decisions despite the screams external and internal, then you simply are not cut out for the job of commander in chief especially during a war of your own making.

But what we have instead is absolutely every situation analyzed as strict politics. Nothing else matters, not the so-called war, not the militaries, not the soldier's lives. And certainly not projecting power. All of those things are subsumed first to ideology and then to politics. Always.

The law requires Congress to be notified before any action is taken, but our little prince, who says and does things from his bleak little political heart, and that only other like-feeling like-minded children understand, signed a statement contending that requirement is unconstitutional. That is, unconstitutional to his little princely royal requirements for doing whatever is necessary, that is, necessary for his political exigency. For a presumed constitutional scholar little prince sure does have strange ideas about the United States constitution and the pellucid intentions therein, intentions of clearly defined limitations on government, intentions of checks and balance to power.

Jammie Wearing Fools asks why Bergdahl's farther erased some of his tweets. It's obvious, actually, because they are damaging. The string of tweets from the father tells a different story entirely than than the weepy story Bergdahl's parents tell today across news channels.

The tweet stream published on JWF is quite damaging.

JWF refers heavily to CBS news report about Bergdahl feeling ashamed of being American. The record shows Bergdahl inquiring about carrying a weapon off base, and of an American wandering into villages asking for someone who speaks English.

This is a very bad trade, another desperate political move to get Obama's scandals off the news, and getting the children that follow our little prince to faithfully expound his utter contemptible failures as success, as they do.

[I was reading last night through comments to  Bloomberg piece on Obama concentrating on Climate Change. (presently 18 hours ago in the thread) one commenter named Frank with 1,200 comments and no history whatsoever, no followers, no nothing, working overtime being silly with quips to all other comments, some activist come out of the woodwork who stated early, "All is OK with Obama as our President. We are happy (at least I am) knowing he is there to protect us. Have a wonderful evening. I've got to get ready for my date! Bye future Democrats! :)" Then persisted with absurd remarks, a lot of LOLing and seeming good nature, "I know you are, but what am I?" type childish remarks, including: "Boy, I bet Bergdahl's parents sure are happy about having their son back." A child's perspective considering the national gravity of obvious abuse of power for strictly political power. One that makes our soldiers in foreign lands much more vulnerable to kidnapping now that it is proven how feckless our leadership is.]

Apologies. This is a rapid post with minimal editing. Give ma a break. I want this up quickly. Ah! Synova got in.

Jammie Wearing Fools, seen on the sidebar at Ace.;postID=2609159419598641558

Washington Post.

CBS News.

Bloomberg (climate change piece, nasty comment section, where activist types show up with nothing but childlike charm to foil the nastiness)

Bill Richardson, genius?

Well it's about time!

If the FAA approves we'll have Virgin Galactic spaceships launching from New Mexico.   The only thing sort of nearby is Whitesands, but I'm assuming they've got this figured out with the Air Force already.

Bill Richardson made a big deal about building a spaceport here (he was big on film kick-backs too) and while I'm skeptical of the economic wisdom involved I'm extra excited that maybe, just maybe, the facilities of Spaceport America aren't going to resemble one of those photo documentaries of abandoned Soviet architecture. 

Spaceport America - from above it looks slightly like a bed pan.

This is a video from a few years ago of a Spaceship Two test flight.  I believe that "feathering" is a re-entry maneuver.

Lem has No internet wifi this morning