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Lion Country Safari

Here are some goofy photos of animals from Lion Country Safari. LCS is worth a visit once every decade or so, just avoid the tourist-trap “Safari World” unless you have kids. It’s worth driving through twice, which you can do at no additional charge. (Regular admission is $23 per person, a $5-off coupon is here.)


Posted: Wednesday September 24, 2008 by Alesh Houdek · Permalink · Comment [2]


How we will win

Dan is exactly spot on: all the people ranting and raving about how great Barack Obama is, or how terrible McCain/Palin are, are missing the point. Yes, Obama would be much better for the country, but the point here is that this is the responsibility of all of us. (And please to watch also Dan on Jeremiah Wright, where I think he’s actually even more on point, just that the message is a little less timely.)

Posted: Monday September 22, 2008 by Alesh Houdek · Permalink · Comment


“Mass butterfly deaths are rather disturbing.” — Ross, reporting from Cambodia, where he is waiting out visa issues before he can get back into China. (Also: Vietnam photos from a couple of months ago.)



In support of Sarah Palin because in support of Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin as a youth, hunting Hey, I happen to like Sarah Palin too. For whatever her level of experience, she has the right attitude, and that’s still got to be the most important qualification for a president. And to draw a chess metaphor, her pick as vice presidential running mate is like an even exchange of rooks (or something), since it neutralizes whatever attacks Republicans would have about Barack Obama’s lack of experience, while the attacks of the few Democrats who say her experience is substantially lower then Obama’s is easily discredited.

Here’s what’s interesting at this moment in the election process: As the conservative intellectuals line up against her, and as the latest round of criticisms and refutations of the McCain campaign’s claims in her favor (a few e.g’s: 1. Yes, she was for that “bridge to nowhere,” up until it became obvious the Congress would reject it; 2. No, she has not been to Iraq, and has “been to” Ireland, as claimed, in the sense that a plane she never got off stopped there to refuel; 3. as of latest, she will not be cooperating with the troopergate investigation; 4. maybe, this), Bill Bennett, one of the conservative intellectuals still standing in her support, went on the Today Show.

When presented with the latest series series of embarrassments and refutations of the points of experience the McCain campaign has cooked up for Palin, Bennett’s response was something like (paraphrasing), “sure, the Republican party intellectuals are turning against her, but most people don’t care about this stuff, and her support among average voters is still strong.”

We pause now while I confess to a pet peeve. “Begging the question” is a phrase that has gone beyond being abused in casual conversation, and is not being flagrantly abused by people on stages and on the television who ought to know better. I’m not normally a language pedant, but, um, I do not think that expression means what you think it means. “Begs the question,” has a specific meaning which is worth preserving. Try “raises the question” next time you want to use the former expression, and I think you’ll find yourself much better served. And while you’re at it, look up the meaning if you need to, and you’ll find yourself interestingly educated.

Anyway. To the extent that there’s any sense left in the world, people base their opinions in significant part on information they get from the news. So here’s Bill Bennett being asked to respond to the criticisms against Sarah Palin, and his response is (paraphrasing again), “even with all this criticism, people still like her.” Dude! Your job is to tell people what they should think, and that’s the best you got? Addressing this to a guy who should care, you, sir, are begging the question.

Image: photo of Sarah Palin as a youth, shortly after hunging, with her catch. Talk to me about how she wanted to ban books, but do not tell me she is not cool, America.

Posted: Thursday September 18, 2008 by Alesh Houdek · Permalink · Comment [24]


Completely messed up photos of hurricane Ike damage in places that are not Miami. Hard to imagine your home getting flooded and burning down all at once.



A small appreciation for Richard Wright

richard wright It is very stressful, in these troubled times, to try to summon emotions specific to Rick Wright. Waters and Gilmour would be no problem, even Nick Mason I have lots of specific affection for. As the keyboard player, Wright was obviously central to PF’s sound. But I think that he was most interesting in his minimalist approach to the keyboard. I guess it’s hard to appreciate what he was doing because, rare and innovative as they were at the time, his gauzy synth washes sort of became the default mode for keyboards in pop in the 80s and obscured his contribution. Maybe. I believe he composed that song on Dark Side that has a female singer doing a long wordless improv(?), but insofar as that sort of thing represents PF’s most indulgent side, well, I dunno.

I’m young enough that my introduction to PF came through Momentary Lapse of Reason, by which point Mason and Gilmour were listed as the only two official members of the band (although, oddly, Wright plays on the album), which I guess speaks to his friendship with DG and says something about loyalty and his generally being a perfectly lovely British chap.

If the four members of the Beatles were about as close to all being equal as you can imagine, and REM represents some sort of opposite extreme, with one extremely gifted member and three perfectly good but ultimately replaceable musicians, I guess PF fits somewhere in the middle. Two (three if you count Barrett) creative fountainhead dudes with two talented and valuable supporting musicians, of which Rick Wright was one. Not, I suspect, a bad life.

Posted: Wednesday September 17, 2008 by Alesh Houdek · Permalink · Comment [3]


There is a nice article about Facebook and Twitter in the New York Times. I got into Facebook late, and into Twitter early, but the appeal of both is forehead-smackingly obvious to me now. (via)



Tucker Carlson on Sarah Palin

I’m completely transfixed by this little mini-interview with Tucker Carlson, filmed on Tuesday. Carlson is a cable TV blowhard who I rarely get to experience. Here he is apparently with his guard relatively down, talking almost casually with Talking Points Memo’s David Kurtz, and oscillating wildly between the eminently reasonable and the absurd. He begins with (obligatory?) praise for new media, then launches into

It seems to me the essence of scientific inquiry is, bring it on. Test me. Ask an endless series of questions. Test every possible hypotheiss. I mean, that’s what science is, right? But in the name of it you have people say, the very fact that you would raise that question not only suggests but in fact proves that you are a moron, incapable of understanding the debate, or you’re evil, you’re being funded by some special interest that wants to pollute the earth. To impune the motives of people who ask questions in the name of science, that’s insane! In fact, it’s like a parody — it’s like a joke.

Without knowing the specific exchange Carlson is referring to here, it should go without saying that he’s sort of missed the point — that scientists entertain an “endless series of questions” from those who understand the issue under discussion. The continued insistence of a certain group of the right wing that global warming does not exist contradicts the 99% of the scientists who study the issue, and who are understandably irate at debating demagogues who obviously can not be persuaded.

But then comes really the meat — Carlson’s criticism of how the GOP convention is being handled, and on the choice of Sarah Palin as vice presidential candidate. His critique of the cancellation of convention events, and his critique, is great. Spot-on, I’d say, but also almost funny in his frankness and openness. “Go zanny!”

Posted: Thursday September 4, 2008 by Alesh Houdek · Permalink · Comment [3]



As I was installing and loading up Chrome, my general thought was, “yeah, sure Google, I’ll switch as soon as you can replicate my favorite dozen Firefox plugins.” Fast forward five minutes, and my reaction is, shall we say, mixed.

OK, this is a beta, and it’s not all roses — in my first 5 minutes a couple of little bugs have already cropped up. Nothing fatal, though. Maybe there’s even a Flashblock functionality built in here somewhere.

Chrome may not be displacing Firefox as my primary browser yet, but it’s pretty close to displacing Opera as my backup go-to browser.

Posted: Tuesday September 2, 2008 by Alesh Houdek · Permalink · Comment [4]


Dropical Tepression

Labor Day. This is when I love Miami. Just as Fall starts to set in just about everywhere else, with the leaves browning, animals and people stocking up for the winter, here it is the opposite. Bring in the first tentative indications of the subsiding of the sweltering of the Summer. Bring in the first trickles of snowbirds, returning from the four corners of the world (but mainly Canada) to which they’ve retreated from that sweltering. And bring in the peak of the hurricane season, when God fires the low-pressure storms like bowling balls, one right after another. I’m not even remotely close to kidding, either:

Atlantic Ocean, showing tropical activity

To the left we have Gustav, Category 2 Full Blown Hurricane, currently hitting New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana, maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, and as we speak keeping me in terror of turning on the TV. (But seriously, can you imagine? — an entire city built under sea level, so that in times like these, 100% of them there populace has to evacuate, (and despite the much-publicized few holdouts, I believe most of them in fact have), and the city is presumably empty but for (futile?) looting-prevention squads of National Guard, waiting to be hammered like a fat kid at best, or at worst — what? — wiped off the face of the Earth?)

Next up we have Tropical Storm Hanna, maximum sustained winds of 60 mph, currently doing its business to the Bahamas, and strengthening as it moves towards Florida, the cone of danger veering wildly from the north to the south from advisory to advisory (the NHC really should archive its advisories and maps, so we can see just how well their computer models have done over the years), but with an excellent chance of ruining next weekend for me.

The next low-pressure system appears to have split up into two areas of crappy weather. They may continue to move westward, but they’ve forfeited any chance of blooming into cyclones. Not much, but what heavy weather they bring will be seen as a resting point between volleys.

. . . hot on the heels of which is currently Tropical Depression 9, maximum sustained winds 35 mph, and so probably by the time you read this to be proclaimed Tropical Storm Ike. Doesn’t look like much, but by next weekend it’ll have likely covered two thirds of the distance between its present location and Miami. Are you starting to see my point?

And of course we have the seemingly big orange blob, officially “a strong tropical wave,” where the butterflies are currently doing their fluttering between the coast of Africa and the Cape Verde islands. Orange indicating here “medium potential for tropical cyclone formation,” natch. It too is moving towards us, 15 to 20 miles per hour. OK, so I turned on the TV for a bit. Something about a little bit of good news, and but “some of the levies may already have been breached.” Spawning tornadoes.

But wait, I was talking about why I like this time of the year. The danger I guess is part of it. We don’t have those browning leaves down here to remind us, yadda yadda, of the circle of life, the Forces at Work, on this planet. We have these volatile storms that always look like they’re just bearing down on you, and sometimes they do bear. There is a level of danger, but it’s what’s called a tolerable level. There are warnings, and there are possible preparations and evacuations, and the damage is usually the kind that you can put just dollar signs in front of. My heart goes out to the city of New Orleans. Hope you’re safe. But this, as they say, is part of it.

(Sorry about the high-school-newspaperesque fever of my writing here. I’m just getting back into it, ok?)

Posted: Monday September 1, 2008 by Alesh Houdek · Permalink · Comment [2]