29 November 2010

Billings MT: Weekend After Thanksgiving aka 1st Sunday in Advent


It snowed off and on most of the week. Thank Heavens we didn't have to go out into the country and thanks also to Pete Huck who made our driveway passable. For unknown reasons our main furnace had a problem. Eventually White Heating and A/C came over and found the furnace to be completely OK. Randy thought it might have something to do with the sensor on the roof being plugged up with snow. We will give that theory a test this night. Watch this space. The above picture is looking out our sunroom at our outdoor furniture. The one below is more of the same. The heated bird bath is just barely visible as a depression on the table.


Meanwhile, inside the house our Christmas cactus is starting to bloom and may well be a 2nd or 3rd week in Advent cactus. See above for general idea and below for detail.


And at Saint Patrick's Co-Cathedral we were celebrating the passage of time and holy days in the old-fashioned way.




Good News from Cancun

Fiesta Americana Condesa


Russian Version of Catch and Release

Perhaps our Russian friends should peruse a few of our Montana fishing brochures and videos in order to brush up on their catch and release programs. Or maybe not. Is there an international version of the ACLU? Do pirates have 4th and 8th Amendment rights?

This is a story from the UK Telegraph about some Somali pirates that captured a Russian oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden. Some commandos from the Russian Navy took the tanker back and "unexpectedly" set the pirates free, but they apparently failed to reach shore. The Washington Post's Anne Applebaum tells the story this way. I have no idea how reliable she is.

27 November 2010

Political Guru Peggy Noonan Says:

The President needs a Special Assistant for Reality.

Sounds a little cryptic, doesn't it? Well, check out Saturday's Wall Street Journal for her short essay/instruction for the president and his non-real bubble assistants. Ms Noonan pretends to overhear a conversation between President Obama and the Special Assistant for Reality (SAR) regarding the TSA and its pathetic attempts to steal the show, i.e. over-acting in the theater of the absurd that anti-terrorism has become, without showing that its earlier entries produced anything useful. Evidence-based. Right!

In general, the President comes off as a combination of the smartest man in America and King Solomon, except that he has trouble getting out of the bubble of Washington and the Presidency itself. Even if he goes to Indiana, he takes the bubble along with him.

The dialogue is funny at times, but then only a humorous essay will escape the sharp editorial scissor of the Bubble-Wizard. It becomes even more ironic when Ms Noonan fails to recognize that her SAR talks and reasons like folks on Fox News. Or maybe she does this on purpose, but why she thinks this sort of person would be listened to by the President or his assistants is not clear. "Hey, it's a difficult if not impossible job so one has to take shortcuts in order to have time for basketball workouts. Right? OK then, Fox News is out, not to be looked at or listened to by anyone in my Administration." Now you know.

24 November 2010

Billings MT on the Weekend before Thanksgiving


Outside it was very cold, down near zero Fahrenheit, and a lot of snow fell too. This is what my outdoor table with warmed bird-bath looked like.


Inside it was more pleasant, about 69 deg Fahrenheit and very little snow, usually quickly melting after you stamped it off your shoes. This Christmas cactus is just starting to bloom in our sun room.


And at the Expo Center there was a lot of vendors trying to sell us stuff. A lot of useful and nice stuff and some good food too. This was a drooling bear who was collecting the drool from his mug to his other mug.

23 November 2010

Global Warming Kudos

As the lawyers say, Global Warming is exaggerated and perhaps doesn't exist; but if it does, it results in longer lives. I love that form of argument. It is so reasonable.

Yes, that is what is reported in the peer-reviewed literature recently.

To the left is a frozen stop sign in South Dakota according to the article cited above.

Reference
Christidis, N., Donaldson, G.C. and Stott, P.A. 2010. Causes for the recent changes in cold- and heat-related mortality in England and Wales. Climatic Change 102: 539-553.
The front cover of the December 2010 issue of one of my favorite magazines. Life, now, alas, defunct, and National Geographic were significant sources of my early education. The latter is still being received and avidly read, or at least the pictures are carefully examined. In the 40s and 50s the editors were always very gentle and careful when they visited Communist countries. Even a child would call this biased but they published great pictures and maps.

Nowadays their particular bias is environmental and they are not careful or gentle with the "warmist" conspirators; rather they are arrogant bed-wetters and proselytizers for this pseudo-religious cult. I think it was G K Chesterton who reckoned that those who lose their Christian faith do not opt for none but rather they are susceptible to anything.

But they still have great pictures and maps, and at least in this issue some pretty good articles on archaeology in Israel, though they seem to have overlooked the excavations near to the Golan Heights, the town of Bethsaida, the elusive and long-lost home town of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew, when they were still completely unknown fishermen, and perhaps other future apostles. Even so, it is a nice summary of some of the interesting characters, some older and others more recent, some who laugh at the Bible and others who treat it with more respect, who have been trying to unearth the truth for some decades now, though perhaps it is still hiding in the Israeli desert, or who knows, maybe some "rough beast, . . . slouching towards Bethlehem, to be born."

There are other good articles too: David Quammen writes on the problem of bats with fungal infections in this country and the almost incredible Gaudi basilica in Barcelona. They have been working on it for about 120 years. To the right National Geographic contributes one of their iconic and incredibly detailed foldouts. After reading this article I had to move Barcelona up on the priorities of my bucket list.

There is an interesting story about some uppity Afghan women. I hope they survive.

And another on the trade-offs between a gold mine and a salmon run in Alaska. Fascinating story and reasonably balanced though the possibility of both phenomena happening at the same time and in the same place was apparently never seriously considered.

And there is a great story on the Black Hole at the Center of our Galaxy.

19 November 2010

A Little More Settled Science

One of my favorite websites:

By the way, what was the settled science of the age of the universe before the Big Bang Theory came along? You know, "In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded."

16 November 2010

Brahms' German Requiem in English

Last Saturday evening the Billings Symphony and Chorale celebrated with the community their year-long 60th anniversary by performing a splendid Brahms' German Requiem. German rather than the traditional Latin and I suppose a little touch of anti-Catholicism too. Maestra Harrigan showed her usual good sense in scheduling this marvelous piece of music several years in advance. Baritone Christopher Johnson and soprano Christine Steyer were excellent soloists and the Chorale was its usual beautiful full-voiced choir. I thought the tenors were exquisite. Besides the woodwinds and horns which are always superb whatever they do, I thought the trombones and tuba acquitted themselves well too, especially with their choir-like masculine sound in the last movement.

By the way, that is Brahms' final resting place in Vienna to the left.

The only jarring note was in the introduction by the usually very articulate Ms Harrigan: she said, according to the review in the Gazette by Jaci Webb, appearing on Monday, "the reason this piece is so ground-breaking is that all of the other requiems [and there have been in the region of 2000 of them over the centuries] focused on death and the fear of going to hell . . . Brahms didn't want them to feel afraid, he wanted them to feel comforted." Ms Webb then goes on to add in her review that "Brahms' Requiem is no funeral dirge but an uplifting call to the living to stay hopeful." I'm not sure exactly what these two thoughtful ladies had in mind when they explained things in this odd way. Perhaps they are unfamiliar with the mass, especially a funeral mass, or perhaps they are unfamiliar with all the requiems that have been written. Not to worry, the final word was that Brahms' German Requiem "was the perfect choice."

I can't resist telling the story of hearing a performance of this piece in Amsterdam back in the mid-70s. We were visiting that lovely city and managed to get some last minute tickets. We were seated on the stage just behind the back row of violins and about 10 ft away from the alto section of the choir. So whenever the director looked our way we immediately came to attention. The concert was part of the Dutch celebration of the Nazis leaving the Netherlands near the end of WWII. There was a little awkwardness as the Crown Princess Beatrice, I suppose she is Queen by now, was actually married to some German with a claim to royalty, but this was all resolved by the Dutch choir singing the German Requiem in English—take that you Nazis. So anyway, the end of the story has to do with me walking over to the choir after the performance and telling them in English how excellent they were. After all, I had heard them singing in English, but of course, they did not feel comfortable talking in English, so we all had a good laugh.

13 November 2010

Is There An Exorcist In The House?

I read in the Billings Gazette this morning that the Associated Press (AP) reported on a two-day conference on exorcism, just finishing up, sponsored by US Roman Catholic bishops, just before their fall meeting which starts in Baltimore this coming Monday. Somewhat surprisingly, the AP keeps a straight face as it reports the decline of those priests with "enough training and knowledge to perform an exorcism . . . (and) to avoid the perception that exorcism is magic or superstition." Because there are so few priests capable or willing to do exorcisms the few that do are kept very busy.

Perhaps thinking that their readers may not be all that familiar with the New Testament, the AP mentions several examples of Jesus casting out evil spirits from people, and that each member of the Church at baptism undergoes a minor exorcism. They also mention that Pope John Paul II performed an exorcism at the Vatican on a woman brought in "because she was writhing and screaming, in what Cardinal Dziwisz, the Pope's private secretary, was a case of possession by the devil." This last quote was as close to skepticism as the article got, a minor miracle in itself.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, was one of the speakers at the conference and said this: "For the longest time, we in the United States may not have been as much attuned to some of the spiritual aspects of evil because we have become so much attached to what would be either physical or psychological explanation for certain phenomena. We may have forgotten that there is a spiritual dimension to people."

According to our friends at Wikipedia, "demonic possession is not a valid psychiatric or medical diagnosis," at least according to the bible of psychiatry, the DSM-IV, or the ICD-10. Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled and People of the Lie, "in an effort to disprove demonic possession, claimed to have conducted two exorcisms himself. He attempted but failed to persuade the psychiatric community to add the definition of Evil to the DSM-IV. And then in his later years he really got into trouble with the High Poobahs of Psychiatry "when he was accused of attempting to persuade his patients to accept Christianity."

These later adventures are chronicled in his last book, published in 2005 by Free Press, Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist's Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption.

11 November 2010

Veteran's Day


A long and thin line on both sides. Protected by fairly lightweight shirts.

09 November 2010

From Electric City Weblog



They call this a Demplosion.

08 November 2010

Not For Sale To Old Folks

Could the Cowboys use this?



I think he should have kept walking instead of breaking into a run.


A couple of days ago I was wondering around our local Barnes and Noble book store looking for I know not what for sure. I came across this recent hardback from McCall Smith. I'm fairly sure he dictates his books to at least two amanuenses as he walks about his Georgian house in Edinburgh, perhaps even as he walks up and down Princes St. I know I haven't finished all of his #1 Ladies Detective Agency stories, and I have barely touched those in the Isabel Dalhousie series. I just can't keep up.

Every one that I have read have been enjoyable, about everyday life in Botswana—the #1 series—and then the adventures of some fairly nice upper middle class folks in modern day Edinburgh—the Dalhousie series—and another one I forget what it's called.

This Might Be A Good Idea

For unknown reasons I used to think that psychiatrists needed help. But reading this blog regularly has been very good for my mental health.

A word from the ruling class to us underlings



Peggy Noonan, former speech writer for Ronald Reagan, as she ages, seems to be getting shriller and getting on with her rant in a hurry. In a recent Op-Ed article in the Wall Street Journal, having to do with the recent mid-term election, and possibly a mea culpa for past sins, she tells us that those running for high office in the USA should have the following qualifications:
"Here is an old tradition badly in need of return: You have to earn your way into politics. You should go have a life, build a string of accomplishments, then enter public service. And you need actual talent: You have to be able to bring people in and along. You can't just bully them, you can't just assert and taunt, you have to be able to persuade."
This bit of brilliance comes a little late. Where was Ms Noonan two years ago when we collectively decided that a couple years as a "community organizer" and running a couple of good political campaigns were enough qualifications to be President of all of us. Actually, Ms Noonan, our pundit-in-chief of the ruling class, was doing her usual thing in this article which was to roast Sarah Palin for having the effrontery of being selected to be John McCain's running mate in 2008, thus pointing out to the whole world the absence of qualifications at the top of the Democratic ticket, not just at the VP level.

My guess is that Ms Noonan feels the need to be fair and balanced in her articles, so that in order for her to say this about Obama after his post mid-term election speech—
"Actually I thought the worst thing you can say about a president: He won't even make a good former president."
—she has to misunderstand something that Governor Palin said about Ronald Reagan and call her a nincompoop, no doubt an affectionate term in the vocabulary of the ruling class.

07 November 2010

A Video Worth Watching

http://www.militarytimes.com/hancock

I would love to share a beer or two with this lady.

06 November 2010

We Hardly Knew Ye Keith O

Did you name yourself as the Worst Possible Person In The World this Week? Say it isn't so Keith O. Is this a prime example of the Peter Principle at work? Mr O seemed to be very good at his sports desk but has he now reached his level of incompetence?

They say he shouldn't have made a political contribution to some of his leftist guests but hasn't he made an in-kind contribution to the political opponents of George W Bush and John McCain and Sarah Palin and other conservatives each time he comes on the air for the past couple of years?

From our friends at Wikipedia (they seem fairly reliable if they are not talking about global warming, or is it climate change, or maybe climate disruption—it is hard to keep up sometimes):


Keith Theodore Olbermann (pronounced /ˈoʊlbərmən/; born January 27, 1959) is an American news anchor,sportscasterwriter, and political commentator.[2] He hosts Countdown with Keith Olbermann, an hour-long nightly commentary program on MSNBC.
Olbermann spent the first twenty years of his career in sports journalism. He was a sports correspondent for CNN and for local TV and radio stations in the 1980s, winning the Best Sportscaster award from the California Associated Press three times. He later co-hosted ESPN's SportsCenter from 1992 to 1997. After leaving ESPN amid controversy, Olbermann became a sports anchor and producer for Fox Sports Net from 1998 to 2001, during which time he hosted Fox's studio coverage of baseball.
After leaving Fox, Olbermann re-joined MSNBC after a hiatus, hosting Countdown with Keith Olbermann in 2003. Olbermann has established a niche in cable news commentary, gaining note for his pointed criticism of major politicians and public figures, directed particularly at the political right.[3][4][5][6][7][8] He has feuded with rival commentator Bill O'Reilly[9][10] and strongly criticized the George W. Bush administration and John McCain'sunsuccessful 2008 Presidential candidacy.[11] Although many have described Olbermann as a liberal,[12][13][14][15] he has said on at least one occasion "I'm not a liberal; I'm an American."[16]
> > >

How do they do this? This paragraph was in the Wiki article within a few days after it

happened!

Suspension

On October 28, 2010, days before the 2010 U.S. elections, Olbermann donated $2,400 each to three Democratic candidates for Congress: Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway, and Arizona Democratic Representatives Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords.[65] In response, on November 5, MSNBC President Phil Griffin suspended him indefinitely without pay for violating a network policy regarding political contributions which required prior approval from management.[66]



05 November 2010

From A Friend



Let me get this straight . . . .
We're going to be "gifted" with a health care
plan we are forced to purchase and
fined if we don't,
Which purportedly covers at least
ten million more people,
without adding a single new doctor,
but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents,
written by a committee whose chairman
says he doesn't understand it,
passed by a Congress that didn't read it but
exempted themselves from it,
and signed by a President who smokes,
with funding administered by a treasury chief who
didn't pay his taxes,
for which we'll be taxed for four years before any
benefits take effect
,
by a government which has
already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare,
all to be overseen by a surgeon general
who is obese,
and financed by a country that's broke!!!!!
'What the hell could
possibly go wrong
?'

03 November 2010

The Day After

Stranger things have happened but not recently. Huge numbers of Democrats were thrown out of office, not least in the state governorships and legislatures. This may mean that state Republicans will get to push electoral boundary lines a few miles toward neutrality. Of course, our main stream media, ever watchful, will make sure that the Republicans don't overstep their natural place as second class citizens.

The rules are,  whatever the Democrats have is theirs and whatever the Republicans have is negotiable. Sort of reminds you of the diplomatic conversations between Kennedy and Krushchev back in the 60s.

Talking about being thrown out of office, maybe we should keep our eyes on those still in office for another couple of months. I know it's not traditional for lame duck sessions to produce anything really useful but you never know with lowlifes like Reid and Pelosi. Dogs-in-mangers to describe these people is being unkind to dogs.

Something strange happened right here in River City. Although the Republicans nearly ran the table in the Montana state legislature, that was not the case in Senate District 25 which failed to return long-serving Roy Brown to the State Senate, giving a very close contest to Kendall Van Dyk, a young fellow apparently not needed on the ranch and of no particular distinction. Odd result. I do remember one of his campaign ads in which he appeared with a smiling Pres. Obama. Of course we know that close contests tend to go to the Democrat in Chicago or Detroit or indeed any fairly large city but could that be true right here in River City. Do we need to worry about who counts the votes?

Downtown Billings in the SummerTime

Downtown Billings in the SummerTime
At The BrewPub on Broadway

Downtown Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix
Downtown Phoenix in the Winter Time

Good Cheese Here

Good Cheese Here
Vermont Cheddar & Minnesota Blue

TAKE TIME FOR PARADISE

TAKE TIME FOR PARADISE
Dehler Park, Billings MT, July 2008 This is what Bart Giamatti recommends for good mental health.

Me and Joan

Me and Joan
Early elderly and middle middle age: We May Know Something You Don't

Mrs America

Mrs America
Fortunately these girls had a good-looking mother

Rimrocks @ Billings MT

Rimrocks @ Billings MT
“In beholding old stones we may feel our anxieties about our achievements–and lack of them–slacken . . . Vast landscapes [and seascapes] can have an anxiety–reducing effect similar to ruins, for they are the representatives of infinite space, as ruins are the representatives of infinite time, against which our weak, short-lived bodies seem no less inconsequential than those of moths or spiders.”—Alain de Botton in Status Anxiety

Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral

Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral
12 April 2009

Pleasant Hillside at Hustisford, AKA The Grassy Knoll for you conspiracy buffs

Pleasant Hillside at Hustisford, AKA The Grassy Knoll for you conspiracy buffs
A Lot of Muellers Are Buried Here