A tall order

Bob Herbert says Stop Being Stupid:

….(Bernie) Madoff summed up his activities with devastating simplicity. He is said to have told the F.B.I. that he “paid investors with money that wasn’t there.”

Somehow, over the past few decades, that has become the American way: to pay for things — from wars to Wall Street bonuses to flat-screen TVs to video games — with money that wasn’t there.

Something for nothing became the order of the day. You want to invade Iraq? Convince yourself that oil revenues out of Baghdad will pay for it. (Meanwhile, carve out another deficit channel in the federal budget.) You want to pump up profits in the financial sector? End the oversight and let the lunatics in the asylum run wild.

For those who wanted a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood, there were mortgages with absurdly easy terms. Credit-card offers came in the mail like confetti, and we used them like there was no tomorrow. For students stunned by the skyrocketing cost of tuition, there were college loans that could last a lifetime.

Money that wasn’t there.

The other day upon the stair, I spent some money that wasn’t there … then I woke up to find it really wasn’t there. Of course it wasn’t. Now all of us – even the ones who managed their money well – have to spend even more money that isn’t there. Herbert says we have tremendous choices as to how we use that debt and thinks:

We should use it to invest in the U.S. — in a world-class infrastructure (in its broadest sense) to serve as the platform for a world-class, 21st-century economy, and in a system of education that actually prepares American youngsters to deal successfully with the real world they will be encountering.

I think he’s right.

The photo is Leonard and Ova years later by anyjazz65, whose immensely entertaining account begins:

Leonard had emptied that case of Michelob he’d carefully hidden in the lawnmower shack at the corner of the back garden. Now while lying in his driveway counting stars and got fascinated by the light bulb at the top of the flag pole in his front yard. He became convinced it was an alien space ship and that he was about to be abducted and experimented on in ways he mostly wouldn’t like.

Leonard jumped up (always a mistake) and ran for his life. In just three strides he ran full face into the steel garage door which he’d left rolled half open. (Or half closed, depending on your point of view.) Leonard’s face stopped running while the rest of Leonard continued on toward the Studebaker.

When Leonard came around again, he stood up catching the top of his head on the garage door, which understandably was still there. He reeled and tumbled again this time striking the back of his head on the Studebaker’s back bumper.

I think you need your head examined if you don’t read the the rest, check out other pics & stories in the Talking Pictures set (slideshow) and (most important) over at Lost Gallery.

Shadows in the night

Through Wired I learned of Trevor Paglen and his photography of “black satellites”. Paglen has an exhibit at UC-Berkley, where they explain something about him:

Paglen’s nearly constant subject is the “black world” of the United States government, and through research and visualization he attempts to outline the edges and folds of this hidden world of military and intelligence activities. Whether photographing secret military bases from fifty miles away, or imaging spy satellites in the heavens from earth, Paglen’s photographs embody the limits of visibility, imposed both by the realities of physical distance and by informational obfuscation, that keep us as citizens from seeing and knowing these subjects on our own.

If you head over to paglen.com you can see all kinds of Things That Maybe Should Not Be Seen including code names, limit telephotography and his book I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Black World and an interview with Paglen from The Colbert Report. There’s also a link to a New York Times review of his book that includes a slideshow of the patches. Here’s a couple excerpts:

…The classified budget of the Defense Department, concealed from the public in all but outline, has nearly doubled in the Bush years, to $32 billion. That is more than the combined budgets of the Food and Drug Administration, the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

…“Oderint Dum Metuant,” reads a patch for an Air Force program that mines spy satellite images for battlefield intelligence, according to Mr. Paglen, who identifies the saying as from Caligula, the first-century Roman emperor famed for his depravity. It translates “Let them hate so long as they fear.”

…What sparked his interest, Mr. Paglen recalled, were Vice President Dick Cheney’s remarks as the Pentagon and World Trade Center smoldered. On “Meet the Press,” he said the nation would engage its “dark side” to find the attackers and justice. “We’ve got to spend time in the shadows,” Mr. Cheney said. “It’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.”

Huge black budgets, US military units taking their mottos from one of the most terrifying figures in history and a growing shadow government … not the cheeriest things to contemplate.

Captain Kirk invented blogging but nobody has invented the flying car

Beam me up ... no wait, take me to the corner of State & Main

So… there’s this post on Google’s blog titled “Stardate 0817.06“. Ignoring the fact that a Google programmer is blithely creating a Y3K crisis with the stardate, the central premises are sound. Those premises are 1) that Captain Kirk invented blogging and 2) that a lot of the stuff we do every day is right off Star Trek. I guess … it’s really neat and all …  but I was promised a future that included the flying car.

The above photo is called Taxi driver freelances as communications officer on the Starship Enterprise in his spare time by Zara 1.0 who says she was a nerd before it was cool. The photo wins the award for “most perfectly titled photo to match a post” for the month of August. For that, Zara will be allowed to increment to 1.1 and add the “Beta” suffix to her appelation!

Google is also hosting a booth at the 5th annual Official Star Trek Convention in fabulous Laaaaaas Vegas. It looks like just about everyone from the Star Trek universe other than Ensign Ro Laren (my favorite Star Trek character) will be there. I wonder what it says about you when your favorite character in an escapist, utopian reality is the surly, maladjusted early 21st century patriot?

The whole “welcome to the future, now let’s have some fun” vibe that Google is pitching is compelling. I wish that was better at math and puzzles. I get bored with them almost instantly.

Crop circles, White Horses and other Oddities

Awaiting the Crop Circle

Wired went out and found Temporary Temples, where (in addition to a decade’s worth of crop circles) there are pictures of white horses, monoliths and other oddiments of the English countryside.

I found the horses especially fascinating. They are chalk figures which are (according to Wikireality) usually created by the cutting away of the top layer of relatively poor soil on suitable hillsides. This exposes the white chalk beneath which contrasts well with the short green hill grass and the image is clearly visible for a considerable distance. Here’s a link to some more info about the Uffington White Horsewiltshirewhitehorses.org.uk and the Hillfigure Homepage.

The photo above is We hid, awaiting the crop circle (a six word story) by Coxar.