The Big Think

April 29, 2013

SuperSonic SS2

Filed under: Space,Technology — jasony @ 2:27 pm

SpaceShipTwo goes supersonic during first rocket-powered flight

April 27, 2013

I Wonder What Old Tom Jefferson Would Have to Say

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:58 am

Long ago much of the country changed its interpretation of the Constitution. To many now, it simply means what they want it to mean, not what it actually says.

Limits have been ignored, federalism evaded, wealth seized and redistributed, property confiscated, private affairs invaded and businesses subjugated. Yes, we’ve even endured swarms of federal officers harassing our people, and eating out our substance.

The Threat Of Bloomberg’s Personal Interpretation Of Constitution

April 25, 2013

Do As I Say

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 7:36 am

“Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, sources in both parties said.

The talks — which involve Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Obama administration and other top lawmakers — are extraordinarily sensitive, with both sides acutely aware of the potential for political fallout from giving carve-outs from the hugely controversial law to 535 lawmakers and thousands of their aides. Discussions have stretched out for months, sources said…

Yet if Capitol Hill leaders move forward with the plan, they risk being dubbed hypocrites by their political rivals and the American public. “

Via Politico

Ya think? I’m waiting for all my friends who supported this monstrosity to give me a good reason why Congress should be exempt. So far I’ve heard only crickets.


“Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said if OPM decides that the federal government doesn’t pick up “the 75 percent that they have been, then put yourself in the position of a lot of entry-level staff people who make $25,000 a year, and all of a sudden, they have a $7,000 a year health care tab? That would be devastating.”

Boo frickin’ hoo. You should have figured that out before you passed it. Proof of irresponsible ineptitude.

Burr added: “And that makes up probably about 30 percent of the folks that work on the Senate side. Probably a larger portion on the House side. It would drastically change whether kids would have the ability to come up here out of college.”

Yet Burr, a vocal Obamacare opponent, is also flat-out opposed to exempting Congress from the exchange provision.

“I have no problems with Congress being under the same guidelines,” Burr said. “I think if this is going to be a disaster — which I think it’s going to be — we ought to enjoy it together with our constituents.”

Good for him. Either Congress suffers with us, in which case changes are likely to be made, or Congress proves that they think of themselves as a Ruling Class that can vote itself out of problems that bother the little people.

Oh, what am I saying? They did that years ago.

Reason #452 Why I Don’t Teach

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 7:27 am

“More testing does not equal more rigor. In my 17 years teaching middle school language arts, I’ve seen exactly the opposite. As high-stakes testing increased, real learning fell by the wayside. Authentic, creative writing has been replaced by 26-line formula essays. Imagination and elaboration are discouraged unless it can fit on one page. Classroom lessons are focused on getting students ready for the test, which steals instructional time away from teaching students how to actually write and communicate.

What else has been stolen? Novel studies, independent thinking, analytical discussions, and creative writing. Where my 2001 students would have read 10 novels by now, my current students have read one. Where my 2002 students would have written and peer-edited more than 15 creative writing pieces, my current students have completed zero. Instead of analyzing literature, students get sorted into testing rooms to take practice tests. School officials seem to think that testing kids — who have already lost significant instructional time to STAAR practice — will improve their performance. But as we say in Texas, weighing the pig does not make it fatter.

No, testing has not made kids smarter. It has, however, taught students that the test is all that matters. They ask, after STAAR testing is complete in April, why we go to school for another month and a half. For many students, school equals test prep, and once they’ve taken the test, they see no value in coming to school. These students don’t recognize that the true purpose of education is to learn new things, to expand their minds, to further their knowledge and understanding of the world. To them, school simply means narrow learning of skills that will appear on the test.”

STAAR Writing Test A Big Step Backward

April 24, 2013


Filed under: Politics,Quoth — jasony @ 5:37 pm

Offered without comment:

“That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes — delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”

Thomas Jefferson, Kentucky Resolutions of 1798

Current Reading

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 2:00 pm

Well, listening anyway. I just finished the Great Courses lecture series “The Art of Public Speaking” and am now staring on the lecture series “The Story of Human Language”. Erin and I are also watching the Great Courses series “The Lost Art of Cooking” every night. Great stuff!

April 23, 2013

Punching Back Twice as Hard

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:41 am

“A West Virginia teen who was arrested and suspended for wearing a National Rifle Association T-shirt to school returned to class Monday wearing the same shirt that got him into trouble.

Jared Marcum, 14, was joined by about 100 other students across Logan County who wore shirts with a similar gun rights theme in a show of support for free speech.”

West Virginia teen returns to school with NRA shirt, classmates’ support

Why is the Episcopal Church near collapse?

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 8:31 am

Why is the Episcopal Church near collapse?

April 22, 2013


Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 5:19 pm

“Recruit the heart. Train the brain.”

America Bracho

AT&T Woes

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 10:22 am

Dear AT&T. When I said “switch us from DSL over to Uverse fiber” I did not say “please disconnect my phone number two days early and then scramble my account.” Allowing myself to be talked into Uverse has resulted in hours on the phone with AT&T trying to handhold their representatives into being competent. I’ve concluded that’s an impossibility.

April 21, 2013

Steampunk Homes

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 7:51 pm

Grand Steampunk Homes and Businesses Straight from the Alternate Past

April 20, 2013


Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 8:21 pm

“If you want to lead the orchestra, you must turn your back on the crowd.”

Max Lucado

April 17, 2013

The Steel Building and the Yellow Towel

Filed under: Business,Education,Movies,Music — jasony @ 9:18 am

And now for something non political. You’re welcome. 🙂

I saw this on Facebook this morning and it got me thinking about music, movie trailers, and communicating through art. Give this a few minutes. In fact, watch it once and don’t think about anything. Just watch it as you would any other trailer. Then watch it again and pay attention to the music.

Movie trailers are an art form in and of themselves. A good trailer can make or break a quarter-billion-dollar movie, making the lowest piece of dreck seem like a perfectly good way to blow ten bucks and two hours on a friday night. Similarly, a bad trailer can take the best piece of cinema and leave the audience with a deadly feeling of “meh” during the previews. This trailer accomplishes what it sets out to do perfectly. Posing spoken and unspoken questions in the mind of the viewer while building to an emotional climax that makes you feel better for having watched it.

First off, I really like what the the music isn’t. It’s not the typical BWAAAH… BWAAAHHHH that we’ve become accustomed to since Inception a few years ago. It doesn’t get in your face and say “I’M THE MUSIC!”. That works in some contexts and trailers, but this one called for a more reserved and traditional approach. From the quiet piano statement at the beginning with simple harmonies, the music is understated while still being regal. Then the light rhythm starts and we hear words of inspiration and aspiration. Slow build. Slow build. Good intercutting between the spoken words and the music. Good storytelling in a three minute format. The trailer is a mini-movie in itself. By the time the brass comes in full-tilt at the 2:00 mark we’re sold. Give us the bad guy, show us the digital FX. Explosions and mayhem. It becomes a big giant summer movie blockbuster but somehow seems like… more. Then we’re rounding back to the simple initial theme before ending with a punch. It’s a great trailer, and a fitting tribute to a fun standalone art form.

It is tough to connect with an audience when you have limited time and a small pallet. You need to tell a story, communicate emotions, manipulate (but in an honorable, allowable way), and leave the viewer feeling fulfilled and also expectant. It’s a difficult thing to do that often comes down to individual frames, beats, fractions of a second, and that ineffable thing that’s impossible to communicate but you know when it’s right.

I’m reminded of a story from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. A young theater director was having a hard time making a scene work with his actors in rehearsal. Not knowing what else to do, he called in a much more experienced director to watch the scene and make suggestions. After silently watching for several run throughs and getting a sense of things, the experienced director thought for a while and then pointed his finger at a prop and said “that towel should be yellow”. And that was it. After that, the scene worked. The audience loved it, and the show did well.

How did he do it? What was the mystical, magical thing that changed? I don’t know. And here’s the important part… the older director probably didn’t either. But somewhere in his brain was locked the accumulated experience of tens of thousands of hours laboriously adjusting, tweaking, massaging, and correcting performances until they felt right. Until something unknowable just clicked. And when asked to correct a scene for a younger director, that inner voice supplied an answer that didn’t make sense, but made the scene sing.

That’s what we do as artists. Whether it’s movie trailers, the written word, or Sing acts. Communicating with an audience through art is an act of constantly digging into the depths of experience and finding the yellow towel that makes something take flight. It reminds us that speaking through art is the hardest thing to accomplish consistently but also the one that touches us most deeply.

Requiem for a Requiem

Filed under: Music — jasony @ 8:03 am

Wonderful writing.

April 16, 2013


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 3:00 pm

I’m so incredibly tired of talking to friends who think our country can continue to charge on the national credit card, that there are no repercussions to the future for spending the way we are today, and that we can have things as a country and not pay for them. But once more into the breach, dear friends:

If enacted, Barack Obama’s latest budget would mean that in just ten years, interest payments alone on the national debt would begin pushing the trillion-dollar mark: $763 billion a year by 2023. That may be a rosy estimate: It assumes that interest rates, currently near historic lows, do not rise a great deal over the next ten years as the Treasury continues to pile up new debt. If interest rates do climb a bit higher — not even to their historical average, but higher than they have been of late — then those interest payments easily could be more than $1 trillion a year.

But let’s stay with that $763 billion a year for now. How much money is that? It is more money than the federal government spent on anything in 2011: The largest single spending item in 2011, Social Security, amounted to only $725 billion. Department of Defense spending was only (only!) $700 billion, and all nondefense discretionary spending combined amounted to only $646 billion. If you believe the welfare state is too expensive now, or that we spend too much money on the military, consider that President Obama proposes to spend more than that merely making interest payments on all the debt his budget would help pile up. How much debt? How about $8.5 trillion in new debt over the next decade, for a total of more than $25 trillion in national debt. At 6 percent interest, it would cost us $1.5 trillion a year to service that debt: about the size of President Clinton’s entire proposed budget for 1995.

The one number you need to know.

This is not about politics, partisanship, or having one side win over the other (except that I would love for any sane side to have a shot at running things for a while). It’s about extrapolating a simple, inexorable, undeniable debt curve into the future and adding my voice to the growing chorus that is shouting what can’t go on forever won’t. We have to stop this insanity while there is still time. Assuming there still is.

April 15, 2013

The Rejection Slip

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 9:16 pm

Well played, MAD Magazine.

The Rejection Slip

Feed Your Brain

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 6:31 pm

13 Smart Podcasts That Will Feed Your Hunger for Knowledge and Ideas

April 13, 2013

And Carl Sagan Ain’t One of ‘Em

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 9:02 pm

7 billion people on 1 page

April 12, 2013


Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 11:46 am

Screen shot 2013-04-12 at 12.45.31 PM.png

Commence construction.

April 11, 2013

Margaret Thatcher, RIP

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:01 pm

” That, I think, is what they never forgave her for. Thatcher laughed at them, mocked them, outwitted and out-debated them. That infuriated the Left: Conservatives aren’t supposed to mock, they are supposed to be mocked. They might be allowed to win a few elections, but they could never be allowed to win the argument, much less to scoff at liberals’ public pieties.

Thatcher won, in no small part because she was her own best case. Her confidence, prudence, good humor, and other virtues were those she sought to encourage in her fellow countrymen.

“Those who opposed her and reviled her were on the wrong side of the most important question of their age, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with tyrants, many of them as guilty as those who manned the gulag watchtowers. And even today, when they make their pilgrimages to sit at the feet of Castro or bury Chávez, when they put leftist terrorists on their payrolls, they know: They lost. What they do not know, because they are incapable of understanding the fact, is that they deserved to lose. We should not allow them to pretend that they were on the right side all along.””

Roger’s Rules » Margaret Thatcher, RIP

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