The Big Think

October 23, 2008

Insanely Fast

Filed under: Mad Science — jasony @ 2:47 pm

and just plain insane.

Can’t believe it’s been more than a decade since the ThrustSSC broke the sound barrier on land.

Ent Cent

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 2:07 pm

I’ve reached a major milestone on the entertainment center. After 8 hours of doing the final finish on the main cabinet I decided the time had come to move it inside! I spent a lot of time wiring it up and making everything ship shape. I also put the old entertainment center (and I use that term loosely) out to pasture. Or, more precisely, out on the curb with a big old “FREE” sign on it. It was gone within an hour, thank goodness. I do have to say, though, that the $15 I paid for it back in 1997 wasn’t a bad deal at all.

So how does the new one look in the living room? In a word: awesome. I still have to finish the tops and work on the front face frame and all of the doors, but the thing has presence. It looks so much better than the old particleboard and cheap, chipping laminate of the old one. It’s a great color and texture and, since I designed it to fit the whole room by modeling it (and the room) in SketchUp, it fits the space exactly.

Once it was in I sat back an had a sort of existential moment of “holy cow, I made that“. It’s a feeling that all woodworkers (all creative people, really) get when we see the fruits of our labor in the proper setting. I never get tired of it.

I want to post pictures of it, but not until I finish the tops and get the doors attached. Then you’ll get to see it. I think I’m going to submit a picture to some of the woodworking magazines as well and see if I can’t get it published. Home stretch! It’ll probably be done before Thanksgiving.

Total time (I didn’t post a few days in there) is 165 hours.

October 22, 2008

Jason Makes a Political Post

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 12:51 pm

With much fear and trepidation, I decided to post these thoughts on the current race. I’ve been having a back-channel conversation with a friend who has lost some good friendships over political differences. I’m in no hurry to follow in his footsteps.

This caught me up short. That a brand new freshman senator actually said that he lacked the experience necessary for the office right before being sucked into the machine was pretty revealing about the state of modern politics. The question and answer were crystal clear and I doubt there’s room for any misunderstanding, so this made me start thinking about the reason for Obama’s nomination in the first place. That made me wonder this:

If you keep the person of Obama exactly as he is- same experience, same connections, same upbringing, same political philosophy and voting record, etc- but instead put him in the body of a young, ugly, white guy from the midwest, would he even have a chance of being elected? I don’t think so. Much of his appeal stems from his appearance (young, black, handsome) and demonstrated speaking ability (reportedly leg-tinglingly good), while his voting record and political philosophy have been actively downplayed by the campaign and the media. I’ve no doubt that he’d be a good conversationalist and an interesting person to have a a dinner party, but focusing on his personal attributes and passively hiding his political philosophy tells me that the voters aren’t getting all the information, or at least, they’re having the information about both candidates cherry-picked to make one look smooth as a Camel cigarette and the other rough as skin cancer. To me, that single point illustrates that this election isn’t about voting record or political philosophy. It’s a throwback to our common high school heritage of the best looking, best talking guy getting to be class president.

I’m not saying that the alternative candidate is all Truth and Light, but don’t forget that McCain was lauded as a maverick and renegade by the press. He was called the only Republican that had a chance to bring some moderation and balance to the political landscape. He was praised and honored by the media as a force for change when he stood up to President Bush. He was called all of these things… until he decided to run for President. McCain hasn’t suddenly become Ronald Regan in his consrvatism (if anything, he’s moved slightly to the left since then with his stance on illegal immigration). So why has the press suddenly decided that he’s the embodiment-of-evil-Bush-the-sequel?

I’ve become seriously concerned at the intense double standard that’s playing out in the media. The Republicans have a vice presidential nominee with experience as a governor and mayor (though limited) and she’s being actively decried and ridiculed for her lack of experience and the fact that she’ll only be a “heartbeat away” from the presidency. She’s also become the latest victim of the overused “stupid Republican” trope that’s been foisted on Reagan, Quayle, Bush I, and Bush II (see a tired trend here?) Meanwhile, the other party has nominated- for the high office itself- a person who himself admits to not having the necessary experience to run for the office. A person who scores closer to the extremes of political philosophy than almost every other member of the Senate- certainly more “extreme” than his opponent. However, he’s being lauded with every approbation imaginable. Ask yourself: if the situation were reversed and McCain said that he wasn’t qualified, wouldn’t this self-damning clip be shown every night on every news station?

If the situation were reversed I’d have a hard time explaining or justifying how the Republican candidate was suddenly qualified for a job for which only a short time ago he admitted not having enough experience.

I’m not trying to tick off or alienate my friends who feel differently about politics. I’m just trying to see if there’s something I’ve missed. It disappoints me that our Presidential race may have devolved to the level of a high school popularity contest.

I’m interested in comments, but looking back at my opening paragraph I’m not sure I want to put match to kindling when the tinder is my friends.

October 21, 2008

Smart vs. Smart Alec

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:11 pm

An interesting take on Glibness vs. Intelligence. And yes, it’s political. Shame on me.

October 18, 2008


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:50 pm

A great read on stories the media has forgotten to tell. I would really like it if some folks I know who are voting in this election would read this and let me know just why this kind of behavior isn’t a problem. Why is it okay for the media to be acting like this?

October 17, 2008


Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 7:57 am

It’s been a couple weeks since my last post and much has gone on since then. Erin and I spent ten very long days in Houston seeing to the funeral arrangements for her father, as well as starting the long process of dealing with his estate. As an only child, Erin had the difficult responsibility of making the decisions regarding his burial, memorial service, and disposition of his things, so I think it’s safe to say that those ten days aren’t something we’d like to repeat any time soon.

Thank you to all of our friends (and my mom and dad) who made the long trip to Houston for the short service. We may not have gotten very much time to talk to you each of you, but rest assured that your presence and love were felt and gratefully appreciated. We talked a lot about how supported we felt and how much your presence mattered to us. Really: thank you.

For now, please go to this page to see Harmon’s extended obituary. He lived a long and interesting life and will be missed. We were glad to see so many people learn the details about his life. I’ll be posting pictures there as we get them scanned.

October 4, 2008

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 1:36 am

Erin’s father passed away this morning at 1:30am. She’s been in Houston the past few days and got to spend a lot of time with him, but this still comes as a surprise. He had shown improvement over the last few weeks but may have had complications from an infection he contracted. Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

October 2, 2008


Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 9:23 pm

Jason: “I can’t believe you’re starting the Harry Potter books again. What is this, the fourth time through the series? I’m going to send you to Harry Potter Anonymous.”

Erin: “I’d go! There’d be lots of good conversations!”

October 1, 2008

A Milestone, Not a Pipe

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 9:10 am

Wherein my good friend Matt posts the first major paper of a series he’s been working on since the dawn of history. That big ‘ol brain just keeps a growin’.

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