I've had it

I want off this planet:

CRANFORD: I have been at the bedside of these patients. I know what they die from. I’ve seen them die. And this is all bogus. It’s all just a bunch of crap that you are saying. It’s totally wrong.

DANIELS: Well, with all due respect, Doctor, it sounds like you think that you know what you are talking about, so let’s ask you about that. …

SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second. Hold on a second. You’re so sure of yourself — respond to this. AP had a report yesterday. They said seven doctors have looked at her. Four said she was in persistent vegetative state. You were one of them, hired by Michael Schiavo to do that. There were three others that looked at her that disagreed. How can you be so absolutely sure that everybody that agrees with you is 100 percent accurate and everybody on the other side is a charlatan?

CRANFORD: Joe, Judge — Judge [George W.] Greer disallowed, didn’t believe what [Dr. William] Maxfield [a doctor selected by Terri Schiavo’s parents] said. You got your numbers wrong. There were eight neurologists saw her. Seven of the eight said she was in a vegetative state. Only one said she wasn’t.

SCARBOROUGH: I am quoting an Associated Press report from yesterday.

CRANFORD: Joe, you’ve got to get your facts straight.

SCARBOROUGH: I have got my facts straight.

CRANFORD: Get your facts straight. You’ve got your facts way off.

I’m sorry, but what the hell is this? A television reporter is telling a neurologist that he sounds like he thinks he knows what he’s talking about. A TV reporter is accusing a physician of not having his facts straight, when the facts in question are trivially easy to determine. A shouting head, one of the most irritating creatures we’ve managed to create in recent years, and someone who has managed to make a career out of impugning everyone who disagrees with him, is wondering how another person can “be so absolutely sure that … everybody on the other side is a charlatan.” And, you know, the one doctor who agrees with Joe is right, and the other seven guys who agree with Cranford — the one dude, he’s the genius; the other seven guys, they’re all wet. Right? Right.

You have got to be kidding me. This is what passes for journalism? No wonder this case is all screwed up from a perception standpoint — we treat it as though each position were an equally valid position, and that it’s just a matter of opinion. I fully expect the next time Buzz Aldrin gets interviewed on TV, he’s going to have to sit next to some jackass who thinks the moon landing was faked:

HACK: So, Dr. Aldrin, it sounds like you think you’re something of an expert on the moon.

ALDRIN: I am an expert on the moon. I’ve been there. I know the other people who went there. You can see my boot print in the lunar dust.

HACK: But how do you explain Bill Kaysing’s claim that you can’t see the stars in the photographs you allegedly took while there? I can see the stars at night on the earth when it’s dark in the sky; it’s dark in the sky on the moon, so why can’t we see the stars?

ALDRIN: Well, Hack, we were on the moon in early lunar morning —

HACK: Wait a minute, but the moon doesn’t have a time of day, because it never changes its face relative to the earth. So it doesn’t turn. It’s suppose —

ALDRIN: Get your facts straight. The moon rotates.

HACK: I don’t think so. I never see the far side of the moon. No one has. Everyone knows that.

[crosstalk]

ALDRIN: [agitated] No, the moon rotates. Like I said, we were out there in full sunlight, and the cameras aren’t sensitive enough — you can’t take a picture of a dim object in full sunlight when you’re also trying to capture objects lit by the —

HACK: Hold on a second. Hold on a second. You’re so sure of this — how is it that you’re so sure of this, when other people — smart people, reasonable people — can talk about this rationally, without getting angry, without punching other people in the nose — how do you respond to these reasonable and measured people who claim that you never went there, and that you and your colleagues were engaged in a massive conspiracy to defraud the United States of billions of dollars and perpetrate a hoax?

ALDRIN: I was there. You weren’t.

HACK: Well, that’s certainly your opinion, Dr. Aldrin, and you’re entitled to it. It is just an opinion, after all. Thank you for your time. Coming up next, why conservatives are persecuted for their beliefs: We talk to oppressed minority Bill O’Reilly about the hardships of being white, rich, and male in American society. And now, a word from Pfizer.

I used to joke that journalism barely rated above lawyering in terms of the popular impression of the profession. I’m starting to think that journalism barely rates above venture capitalism.

(See also: perpetual rant that “opinion” now seems to mean “a baseless statement that should not be criticized on the grounds that it is baseless.”)

Seems about right to me

NorbiznessThe Left:

After tabulating my hunches, it looks like the 1997-1998 season (#9) is a prime candidate for the first season where the bad significantly outweighed the good. The first three episodes are the Homer in New York, the two Principal Skinners, the screedy “Homer gets a gun” episode, Homer coaching the pee-wee football team (featuring a crossover with the new King of the Hill show)… all terrible. However, this isn’t when Mike Scully took over for Conan O’Brien, a popular theory among people even geekier than I… according to this interview, he started in Season #5 (1993-1994).

This will, no doubt, hearten those of us who feel exactly as Norbizness does, especially in relation to the deplorable 4F19. Read comments for other suggestions, none of which I can really disagree with (except anyone who says that any episode after season 8 was any good; they’re lying sacks of crap smoking high-quality dope).

I probably take the Simpsons too seriously. Probably.

Uh, you think?

While taxiing around CYVR yesterday afternoon, I happened to see a bunch of JetsGo Fokker F-100s sitting on a faraway corner of the ramp, engines and windshields covered. It seemed sad to see these planes mothballed, the way the boneyard at Davis-Montham seems kind of sad, and a little unfair that the airline biz is so harsh, but then I remembered something I read in the March 14 edition of AvWeb’s newswire:

Jetsgo said its business is no longer viable because it is deeply in debt and its airfares are well below cost. The company blamed intense competition from other carriers, especially WestJet, for its financial woes. Clive Beddoe, CEO of WestJet, told reporters he was not surprised to see Jetsgo fail, because Jetsgo owner Michel Leblanc had told him he would undercut every fare WestJet had until he filled his airplanes.

It’s probably worth noting that JetsGo was Leblanc’s seventh airline.

“Well, I hate to say that that’s not a very good business model that works,” Beddoe said.

Beddoe should be given some kind of award for tact and understatement.

Thought for the day

“99% of journalists, and the public at large, think that science is
just one rather boring topic for “Crossfire”-style argumentation,
where there’s one side screaming one set of lies and the other side
screaming another and everyone hates America and/or babies and now
here’s some ads for Matt Damon movies and dick pills. Admittedly, you
have to be a howling retard with all the intellectual curiosity God
gave a Sea Monkey to think this way, but let me introduce you to your
fellow human beings.” —The Poor Man

The application of this point to “discussions” about Terri Schiavo is left as an exercise to the reader.

Party like it's 1997

Hey, remember this?

Remember the browser war between Netscape and Microsoft? Well forget it. The Web browser itself is about to croak. And good riddance. In its place … broader and deeper new interfaces for electronic media are being born. BackWeb and PointCast, propelled by hot young Silicon Valley start-ups. Constellation and Active Desktop, spawned in the engineering labs of the browser kings. And from the content companies, prototypes powered by underlying new technologies – Castanet, ActiveX, and Java.

What they share are ways to move seamlessly between media you steer (interactive) and media that steer you (passive). They promote media that merrily slip across channels, guiding human attention as it skips from desktop screen to phonetop screen to a car windshield. These new interfaces work with existing media, such as TV, yet they also work on hyperlinked text. But most important, they work on the emerging universe of networked media that are spreading across the telecosm.

Use this moment to stop laughing hysterically. Seriously. They said this with a straight face, once upon a time. People thought this was a good idea.

I couldn’t tell you what Castanet was, nor do I care enough to spend the five seconds with Google to look it up. ActiveX has mostly become a security hole, and Java.. well, what can I say about Java that hasn’t been said elsewhere before? Java on the client side will still, in 2005, run a reasonable chance of crashing at least the VM if not the entire browser session; Java on the server side will, in 2005, kinda sorta work, assuming you make it live inside something like Oracle (where it might only crash an instance of the database manager, if you’re lucky).

I think it’s instructive that most of the really bad ideas from the 1990s — push technology, crappy VoD services, entry portals on Web pages — essentially revolved around the idea that you could get a user to allow you to lead him around by the nose. When that turned out not to be true, business models and assumptions that were thought to be manifestly correct ended up being more or less incorrect. That makes me happy, though I’m not sure I could tell you why. It’s also instructive when you realize how fully out of touch those Wired guys really once upon a time, and it makes you kinda wonder why you ever listened to them in the first place.

Oh dear.

My transformation into one of the k00l k1dz of the 1nternet continues apace: I signed up for a Gmail account tonight. In my defense, my longstanding ISP of choice is making noise like they want to get rid of my favorite e-mail client (accessed via shell, of course) and I’m not sure they understand that I want them to replace elm and its antiquated mailbox format with mutt and its much nicer maildir mailbox format. Well, let’s be honest: I don’t really care about mailbox format, but they do; elm doesn’t do what they want it to, so they want to get rid of it, and if they’re going to keep me as a customer, I need to have shell access. Which more or less means mutt.

Yes, I know about the Gmail and privacy issues. I know how much webmail sucks. I know all of these things, and then some. But at the time it seemed like a reasonable thing to do, and it seemed like something sensible, and I always have the option of not using it, and… now I have it, and that’s the end of the discussion. So in addition to my half-dozen other e-mail addresses, I’m now also dochazmat@ (you know the rest; if you don’t know the rest, chances are I don’t want to talk to you, because you strike me as a clueless person).

As for why I don’t POP my mail over and keep it locally… well, I have more important/useful things to do with my time than fight with one of: sendmail/qmail/exim/MTA-of-doom. Trust me on this; I don’t get paid to do that crap anymore, and even if I did, I think I’d still outsource the mail management to someone else, because… it’s a real pain in the ass.

Incidentally, I think this is a hilariously useful (and very generous) service. If you’ve got some spare invites kicking around, or you’re looking for one of your own, why not drop in and say hello?

"Hey! We know how to play softball."

Okay, let’s go over the ground rules.
You can’t leave first until you chug a beer.
Any man scoring has to chug a beer.
You have to chug a beer at the top of all odd-numbered innings.
Oh, and the fourth inning is the beer inning.

I’ve been thinking about 8F13 lately because there’s been some discussion of setting up a softball tournament in the semi-near future, and it would be really nice if it were to be played according to Springfield rules. But in re-watching 8F13, it occurred to me that it’s perhaps my favorite piece of baseball popular culture ever. Sure, every baseball movie ever made has its defenders: My father gets all weepy at The Natural, I’m quite fond of the dialogue and the feel of Bull Durham, and you can even find fans of silly movies like It Happens Every Spring (like, say, me). The best baseball movie, for my money, is one that hilariously few people have ever seen, probably because it ran on HBO and nowhere else — 61*.

But how I love 8F13! It’s truly a thing of beauty, and I smile every time it comes up in syndication because I know it (like so many other Simpsons episodes) so well. And because it was so clearly a product of the writers’ love of baseball, and takes such joy in the game, and the things that are glorious about the game (the personalities, for the most part). And the players — how good were they when they were recruited to play on Mr. Burns’ team?

(Sadly, I’m reduced to using the triple crown stats and stupid countings, because Baseball Reference doesn’t feature EqA or other more useful metrics.)

1B Don Mattingly was a Yankee in 1992 (and in every other year of his career). He hit .288/.327/.416/, 184 H, 86 RBI, 14 HR.

2B Steve Sax spent 1992 with the Chicago White Sox, putting up a season line of .236/.290/.317 in 567 AB. 134 H, 47 RBI, 4 HR.

3B Wade Boggs was lured away from the Red Sox in a season where he hit .259/.353/.358 in 514 AB with 133 H, 50 RBI, and 7 HR.

SS Ozzie Smith played for St. Louis that year (duh), putting up a .295/.367/.342 line in 518 AB, good for 153 H and 31 RBI. Don’t ask about his home runs in 1992, or any other year for that matter.

LF Jose Canseco was traded halfway through 1992, splitting time between Oakland and Texas; his season line was .244/.344/.456 with 107 H, 26 HR, and 87 RBI. There’s no word in the official history of the nuclear plant team whether Jose injected the other players with steroids (though I can’t imagine the nerve tonic did anyone any good).

CF Ken Griffey, Jr. was, of course, playing for Seattle in 1992 and having an excellent year. .308/.361/.535. I look at that SLG and just gape — Griffey’s been injured so much lately, I tend to forget what an amazing ballplayer he was at his peak, and mourn what could have been. Should have been. 174 H, 27 HR, 103 RBI.

Our nemesis in RF, Darryl Strawberry, had a short season in 1992, playing for the Dodgers. In spite of his nine home run performance, which does not show up in official histories, Strawberry put up at .237/.322/.385 line; 37 H and 5 HR, with 25 RBI.

I’m still kind of amazed that Mike Scioscia was tapped to be Burns’ starting catcher. In what would be his final season as a player, he put up a .221/.286/.282 line with 77 H, 24 RBI, 3 HR. I think his career as a manager is more distinguished than his career as a catcher.

And then there’s Roger Clemens. In 1992, pitching for Boston, he put up an 18-11 record with a 2.41 ERA in 246.7 IP and striking out 208. Clemens and Griffey are the only two players still actually playing baseball — Griffey is unquestionably worse, but Clemens.. might actually have been better in 2004 than he was in 1992.

So what would a contemporary Burns team look like today? You could debate this at lengths, but if I were Burns and out to beat Ari, I’d say..

1B Albert Pujols
2B Mark Loretta
3B Adrian Beltre
SS Alex Rodriguez
LF Barry Bonds
CF Carlos Beltran
RF Ichiro!
C Ivan Rodriguez
DH Edgar Martinez
RHP Randy Johnson

I pick Edgar not because 2004 was a great season for him, but because.. damnit, it’s Edgar. And we love him. I note that the other Mariners on this team are not there solely because they’re Mariners, but because they actually are the best at their position in the league right now. Which is kind of a neat feeling, knowing we’ve got a killer RF and a kick-ass 3B.

26 days to opening day.

ph33r my m4d w4rbl0gg3r sk1llz, yo

It was pointed out to me in e-mail that I came awfully close to sounding like a warblogger there in my last post. This was entirely accidental. I would like to state for the record that I do not in any way, shape, or form endorse that kind of language use. Moreover, I would like to publicly decry the tendency of contemporary discussions to devolve into something resembling the expository passages of a bad Tom Clancy novel with the requisite use of indecipherable acronyms and annoying jargon. RAMCC! AMRAAM! CENTCOM! Ick.

Sorry for the confusion. I think I was just amused at the discovery of a highly useful tool for aviation nerds who are too cheap to buy the civilian versions from the FAA or Jepp (that would be, uh, me).

Navigable airspace

I’m not sure why I’m surprised by this, but it turns out the Department of Defense’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has a collection of terminal instrument procedures for Baghdad International, among other airfields in that part of the world. A surprisingly large number of these airports have TACAN approaches — TACAN being a particularly military type of navigational aid (and a temporary one, at that). “The security situation,” DoD says, “is such that the only radio navigational aid in Iraq that has been flight inspected for civil use is the Baghdad VOR. All current radio navigational aids are temporary military assets.” The moral is, apparently, “get a GPS and hope your airport of choice has a published GPS approach.” Or, alternatively, “don’t fly in Iraq. Still.”

If you poke around the site for a little while, you get a little disappointed at how, uh, blandly repetitive some of the documents are. The planning file for Iraq, for instance, does not contain any information labeled “DANGER: DO NOT FLY HERE UNDER PENALTY OF AMRAAM,” nor does it say “LANDINGS AT THIS AIRPORT AT OWN RISK” or even “YOU MUST HAVE PERMISSION FROM CENTCOM OR SOMEBODY SPECIAL TO FLY HERE.” Instead, the most prohibitive it gets is a warning that you can’t fly VFR in Iraq if you’re not military; you have to file and fly IFR if you’re going to be operating commercial or civil (!) aircraft in the country. Somehow, I doubt Iraq’s GA lobby is going to be too bent out of shape over this. (Does Iraq even have a general aviation constituency?)

To get that kind of warning, you have to visit the Regional Air Movement Coordination Center that deals with the airspace in and around both Afghanistan and Iraq. And there, they come right out and tell you: “All operators are warned that there are ongoing military operations in Iraq and non-military flight operations could be at significant risk. There are continuing reports of indiscriminate missile and small arms attacks on aircraft operating in Iraq. Operators undertake flights within the BAGHDAD FIR at their own risk.” The RAMCC publishes their own airspace information guide, which is a 229-page guide that is at once ridiculously dull and hilariously frightening. I think the funniest thing you’ll find in the guide is a requirement to sign and file a waiver form before operating aircraft in Iraq, forever releasing a whole host of agencies of liability should one of Moqtada’s boys shove a SAM up your exhaust pipe. It’s kind of interesting, actually, that the RAMCC exists at all — DoD came up with the idea during that whole Balkan thing to coordinate aircraft movement in a small area, and then to provide interm guidance and stability while the involved countries rebuilt their air navigation capabilities. ATS might seem like a fairly trivial kind of infrastructure, but it’s still important, and one that no one seems to think about.

(Also, I learned that Iraq’s aviation authority is called the General Establishment of Civil Aviation. How cool izzat? Great name, guys.)

Also of note — unrelated to this, but still fun to read — is the official participants guide for the US Antarctic Program, most of which will be redundant if you’ve spent any sort of quality time over at Big Dead Place.