Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sad Week!

I am sad to say that this week has seen the end of two of my favorite blogs. Scrappleface, a place where I have met like-minded friends, disagreed with fuzzy-logic liberals and sparred with moronic trolls, has been stripped of half of it's fun. Scott Ott, the writer and blogger who created and powered Scrappleface with his witty and satiric takes on politics and popular culture, has decided to remove the "comments" section of the blog. For those who haven't visited this great blog, the "comments" section was a good half of the blog itself. Many very intelligent and thoughtful people, mainly like-minded Christian Conservatives, but also libertarians and even atheists, met there frequently and shared their comments about the issues Scott skewered. We wrote poems, haikus, song parodies and just mainly kvetched about the many things that irked us about the current state of affairs in these United States. By ending the comments, Scott has ended the blog for me. I am not attacking him and am not angry at him, but I am sad to see this public forum closed.

The second blog I mourn today is Villainous Company. I first "met" Cassandra at Scrappleface. Her witty and irreverent comments endeared me to her, there, and her literate and intellectual prose at her own blog kept me entertained and wanting more. She is a great writer, more so than Scott Ott could ever be, though she may be less accomplished. I enjoyed reading her thoughts and the multitude of witty comments provided by her fans, while lurking there. I read the blog often, but posted infrequently. This was probably because I was a bit intimidated by the quality of the writing and the comments of the faithful. I do not say this lightly, as I feel I am usually more than up to the task in any literary discussion, and can write with the best of them. These folks were good! I will miss her blog at least as much as I will miss Scott's comments.

The Scrappleface community-those of you who normally read my scribblings are a part of that-will be most sorely missed. It was the sense of friendship and comraderie that made Scott's site so much fun to visit. Sure, his articles were funny and sometimes grand satire, but it was always the "comments" section that made the blog. He will probably notice this and bring it back, but even if he does, I am not sure I will return.

I will continue to post-irregularly, probably (hey, I'm not all that dependable!)- on this blog, and I hope you folks will continue to stop by from time to time. I continue and will continue to exchange emails with former and present Scrapplers.I will also visit some of the others who frequented Scrappleface and began their own blogs, but I don't think we'll ever return to the zeitgeist that was Scrappledom. I will always cherish that time and that feeling.

You know who you are.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

1957 Revisited

In the New York Times Magazine, Dr. Israel Monroe Levitt, director of the Fels Planetarium of the Franklin Institute, prognosticated about the future of space exploration. These predictions were made in 1957, after the entire world set its eyes on the stars, as a result of the successful launches of Sputnik and Sputnik II, earlier that year:

1960-Satellites with TV transmitters begin operation.
1968-Rocket ship bearing a man or woman (a woman packs the same brains and skill as a man into a smaller package) penetrates to space outside the atmosphere.
1978-Construction of first manned satellite space station.
2000-First departure for the moon, Mercury, and Mars.
2???-First journeys to the nearest stars to see if they, too, have planets and life.

Here is the actual timetable for these events:

1960-AT&T applies for the right to launch a communications satellite with the government. This is finally accomplished in 1965 with the launch of Early Bird by Hughes Aircraft Company. (Interestingly, the first proposal for a communication satellite was authored by SF writer, Arthur C. Clarke-of 2001: A Space Oddysey-fame, in 1945!)
1961-Gegarin is the first man in space on April 12 while Sheppard follows him 23 days later, on May 5.
1971-Salyut I is first manned Space Station. The US's Skylab follows in 1973.
1969-Armstrong walks on moon as the first human on another celestial object. Aldrin follows him 15 minutes later. Collins drives in circles and picks them up. Mercury is probably out of the question. Mars is still just a twinkle in scientist's eyes.
2???-No difference in this prediction and reality. Trips to nearby stars are still in the way distant future.

Dr. Levitt didn't do too bad with his predictions, did he? Who would have guessed that the moon landing would precede the space station?

The launches of Sputnik I and II in 1957 set the stage for the great space race between the US and USSR. It excited generations of scientists and dreamers. Being born in that year helped to fuel my passion for science and science fiction.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Germany Leans Right Update

Well the battle is over in Germany and it looks like Schroeder and his socialists have pretty much won the day over there. In a compromise (beginning to remind you all of anything over here in the USA?), it seems that Merkel's Conservatives (Christian Democrats) formed a coalition government with Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) giving each eight seats around the new cabinet table. The problem is in the compromise. In order for Merkel to be named Top Dog, she had to concede control of the most important cabinet seats to the socialists, er...Social Democrats. This compromise ends any real chance at the badly needed reform of this nearly bankrupted government. Immediately stocks gave up early gains after the news was released. Bonds rose in anticipation of future interest rates rising. Chances for meaningful reform of the collective bargaining bonanza that labor enjoys in Europe, as well as skyrocketing non-wage-related costs and a social security boondoggle that makes our system look good, have all gone right out the window. Germany's non-wage labor costs are 41.7% of gross wages, among the highest in the world!

The good news is that they still want to cut the payroll taxes that fund unemployment insurance. Of course in order to be allowed to do that the SPD insists that a corresponding rise in the Value Added Tax be instituted! Six of one, half dozen of the other. If they don't cut the state's umbilical cord none of these things will ever matter.

Still, it's nice to see that others have it worse off than us. Maybe I'll look into Sweden's situation next...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

What year is it?

The formerly enormously popular Republican president is seeing a drastic decline in his popularity one year into his second term. He is being attacked for neglecting to stem, or even promoting, a bloated, historically large budget. In response to congressional attacks from Democrats, and even a few Republicans, he says, "It is a very great satisfaction to me to find out there are so many economy-minded people in Washington. They didn't use to be here." He has recently been accosted for his wealth and free spending of tax payer dollars.

Concerns have arisen about the latest Supreme Court Chief Justice's conservativism.

The press reports several bombings and a spate of bomb hoaxes which has nearly paralyzed New York City's police.

In the Middle East an anti-Western Arab leader foments anti-American public sentiments against pro-Western leaders. An Imam leads rebel Muslims against a pro-Western Arab leader, threatening a Moslem holy war. Crushed by the Western troops, the religious leader and his rebels escape into the hills to nurse their wounds and plot future attacks.

Muslim terrorists bomb a public place in the Middle East killing ten and injuring 80. In this one year in one city terrorists killed 50 civilians and wounded 257 others. Western army colonel admits, "Every time we get one rebel, he is immediately replaced by another."

A formerly booming economy in the U.S. has stagnated. Reasons cited are the pro-business climate had encouraged borrowing and spending among citizens and businesses, as well as unconstrained spending and conspicuous consumption. Warnings of a recession loom.

African Americans are very popular in stage, screen and music industries. A black woman, six feet tall and described as having the power of a man in her serves and volleys, has taken the tennis world by storm, winning at Wimbledon.

All of these events occurred in 1957! Eerie isn't it?

The president was Eisenhower and his bloated budget proposed for 1958 was a scandalous $71.8 billion! The attacks on his wealth included the account that he was worth $1 million. He countered that he'd take someone up on that sale pronto. To this challenge, a Southern entrepreneur raised the million but the White House was silent about the offer.

The justice was Earl Warren and he angered conservatives with his ability to guide his fellow justices to some decidedly liberal decisions. A decision against DuPont acquiring and holding large amounts of GM stock was considered anti-big business. Civil rights decisions restored the job of a communist at the State Department, John Stewart Service, denied the government the right to withhold evidence contained in FBI files to a defendant, and reversed the conviction of five communists for violating the Smith Act in Los Angeles.

The bombings were committed by the "Mad Bomber", George Metesky in NYC. He was caught that year after 16 years of bombings.

In the Middle East, the anti-Western agitator was Russian-backed Egyptian leader Nasser, while the pro-Western leader was Jordan's King Hussein. The religious leader causing trouble was Sheik Ghalib bin Ali stirring up trouble against the Sultan of Oman. It was British troops that crushed the rebels.

The Moslem terrorists and the bombings were in Algeria. The cited casualties referred to the Algiers slum, the Casbah, and the colonel quoted was a French colonel in that city.

The entertainers referred to in the citation of prominent African-Americans included, Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, Eartha Kitt and Lena Horne. The black woman tennis player is Venus Williams's predecessor, Althea Gibson.

Stay tuned for a further citation of some of the most significant issues of the year, 1957...

Friday, October 07, 2005

New Beer!

I'm brewing a new beer as I type this. It will be an American Hefeweizen, similar to Bell's Oberon, but spiced with lemon grass and tamarinds. Sort of a Thai/American Hefeweizen, if you will.
The grain bill is simple:

14 Lbs. Breiss 2 row pale malt
9 Lbs. Weyerman's Wheat malt
4 oz. Saaz hops (60 minutes)
1 oz. Saaz hops (20 minutes)

Yeast is White Labs American Hefeweizen yeast

Dough-in at 151 F, 60 minute mash
60 minute boil
Primary one week in glass
Secondary 2 weeks in glass

This beer is a slight variation on the beer that won second place in the light hybrid category at the Michigan State Fair this summer. This one should be a bit stronger in alcohol content and spiced differently. I am still trying to think of a name for it, so any recommendations are welcome!

I am trying a two stage batch sparge this time with my Scmiddling easymasher, attached by bulkhead fitting to a converted Budweiser keg. I will wait ten minutes before running the second batch sparge stage for better conversion. New technique!

Stay tuned for some musings on the state of the world as it compares to the year of my birth, 1957. I plan an article to discuss these many differences and similarities real soon!