The Sky A Bowl Of Stars.

byronius, 2006/11/30 

The Party in the Square was beginning.  Out of the strange two-story condominiums of the South Compound emerged the husbands and wives and the children, walking through doorways set in walls two feet thick.  Bougainvillea blossoms perfumed sweet night desert air, banana palms rustling, lanterns flickering around the huge sweetwater fountain in the center.  Everyone talked in low murmurs.  The djebel loomed, and obscured the vast desert half-moon.  Tables of food and cake and cookies were surrounded by happy aliens, European survivors of the American Frontier now soaking up the thrumming spiritual power from the rock and sand of Arabia.  No one was safe from dreaming.  In the day, the Sun Itself burned everything with a passion, a fury unknown, nothing existing on earth that could withstand it and look upon its raging face — life hid.  Life waited.  In the red dusk, and then the deep blue crescent, all would shake off the gauze and breath in the sweetest air, the air of the Moon.

Marjorie Miller wore flowered culottes and a red top.  She and Cindy Boston were playing Chinese jump-rope with a giant elastic band.  Mr. Boston and his wife talked with other parents;  Ron Scott and Herman Persanoswki chatted about the deep desert wonderlands, soon to be lost, and seen only with the mighty Land Rovers of 1965.  By 1980, the mysteries would be gone forever, paved over, discarded;  but on this night, Arabia still breathed savage and romantic dreams into the heart of every man, woman, and especially child.  Herman's Saluki trotted around, begging scraps, and very successfully at that.  The novelty of the Desert Dog had not worn off.  Burt Bacharach played on the HiFi, chaise lounges dragged outside into the Square — everything else from a 60's James Bond movie set, but not a drop of alcohol.  Herman had once given my father a pound of hashish, grown locally, as a gift;  he threw it away, because he had no idea what it was, and it smelled strangely.  Alcohol was penalized by expulsion from the country.  Hashish was frowned upon, but plentiful.

The lanterns waved in a sudden rush of breath from the Desert.  Everyone at the Party turned to feel it wash over their senses.  After a day of hiding under rocks, and inside air-conditioned concrete, the smell of a breeze that had travelled from the Red Sea over the Rub' al Khali, touching nothing living, purified by six hundred miles of uninhabitable deep desert, an empty sea of giant sand dunes, would catch the soul of even the most jaded of world-travellers;  and there were many such here tonight.  The breeze that washed over them brought a feeling of destiny, an unutterably romantic sense of impending fulfillment, as it would soon reach the pounding shores of the Persian Gulf, and become again what wind likes to be best — a sea-breeze.  It was the cleanest and most dramatic air one would ever breathe.  Intoxicating.  Everyone stopped to feel it, silence deepening until the children grew bored and began to play again.

Marjorie and Cindy invited me to play the elastic jump-rope ritual we had become so expert at, having learned it from the Austrian kids at the American Embassy school, the birthplace of learning for twenty nationalities, of which Americans were the scarce minority.  After five or six rotations, I took a break and headed for the lemonade table.  Lemons were plentiful;  no meat, no milk, rare sweet chocolate — but citrus was grown at oases all over the area.  The lemonade was British-style, less sweet but fresher and more heady than Southern lemonade.  I gulped down two paper cups, and petted the Saluki.  Ron Scott was talking about Africa;  my father was listening intently, just then forming the kernel of an idea that would take his family a year later on a dangerous voyage from Egypt to Mombassa, Sri Lanka to India, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and home.  They would all nearly die a hundred times, and indeed one companion family would be consumed by fate in India, but on this evening, the words fell from Ron Scott's tanned lips like water-cherries into the waiting gourd of my father's soul.

I looked up.  The Moon was nearly free of the djebel, but still failed to dim the effect of night on earth in the deep desert.  No large cities.  No millions of streetlights.  Desert wind, cold lemonade, romance, and the sky a bowl of stars, deep and miraculous.

Get Your War On.


Right after 9/11, everyone at work here struggled to find some semblance of balance, some way of coming to grips with the New America.  One of the most powerful sources of comic relief became the cartoon series Get Your War On, which became a cultural mainstay around here.  It is extremely dark and satirical, usually based around very normal-looking office scenes, with characters saying things out loud that everyone is thinking, but that no one will personally voice.  I know nothing about the author(s), except that the names David Rees and Colson Whitehead pop up.  The cartoon series is a  part of a collected work, found at

It's intelligent, wickedly funny, and too true. 

I don't feel I should post one without permission.  I'm not sure why this seems different than other cartoons I've posted — maybe I just have incredible respect for whoever this is.  Please follow the link and read a few.

 The first series is what we all stumbled on, posted 10/9/2001 —

Warning: Strong Language.

What I want for Christmas: Bright Light and Lazarus Long…

Senrab, 2006/11/29 

I want a Synchrotron and a signed first edition of "Time Enough For Love".

I have no Idea what I will use the former for, but here is an example, in case I happen to fall into possession of an ancient text.


As for TEFL, if I have to explain it, you won't get it.

 Merry Christmas

Antikythera Decoded. Run For Your Lives. End Of The World Tomorrow.


Ancient Moon 'computer' revisited
By Jonathan Fildes
Science and technology reporter, BBC News

The delicate workings at the heart of a 2,000-year-old analogue computer have been revealed by scientists.

The Antikythera Mechanism, discovered more than 100 years ago in a Roman shipwreck, was used by ancient Greeks to display astronomical cycles.

Using advanced imaging techniques, an Anglo-Greek team probed the remaining fragments of the complex geared device.

The results, published in the journal Nature, show it could have been used to predict solar and lunar eclipses.

The elaborate arrangement of bronze gears may also have displayed planetary information.

"This is as important for technology as the Acropolis is for architecture," said Professor John Seiradakis of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, and one of the team. "It is a unique device."

However, not all experts agree with the team's interpretation of the mechanism. 

Reconstruction of Inner Workings

Reconstruction of Rear Inner Workings

150 B.C. —  The Original 15086 CPU. 


Look At What Aldous Did.


Democrats win control of Pennsylvania House after 12 years in minority; Perzel out as speaker


Associated Press Writer

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — Democrats won control of the state House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years Tuesday as Chester County officials settled a pair of hotly contested House races three weeks after the election.

In the closest race, Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith was declared the winner in the 156th District by a 23-vote margin.

Centre Daily Times

Max, 2006/11/28 

Silk Road web site

Finally I can point to a web site that I'm somewhat proud to have been involved in creating. Much of the credit goes to Sonya, my mega-talented wife, who designed the site layout and did all of the graphic design. My work was to put it all together to work on the web. I's a fairly simple site that takes advantage of some basic DHTML effects for the quote fades on the front page, your standard javascript hovers for the menu, and a scrollable div for the content bucket. I was able to dispense with tables except for those necessary to vertically align the quotes to the bottom on the frot page. Gave up on that bugaboo. It's all XHTML compliant which means it validates as properly formed XML. In a future phase I might consider some dynamic XSLT rendering of the site (maybe for an eventual phase 2).

Take a look though the site and consider buying one of her books. Stinger is the prequel that came out second. Sonya has read both of her published novels as well as designed both jackets. If you do read one and decide you like it, leave a note on the contact page to let her know you discovered her via her website (and what a great job that web design team did!).


raison detre,  

I get in the habit of walking the patchwork of field and forest down and up the north side of Cooper Hill to and from work when the summer evenings are warm and sunny.  Driving doesn't make much sense to me, since by the time I'm done following the road's switchbacks down the south side of the hill and circling around to the west to get to the store, I'm almost as fast on foot.  And by the time I've been walking all through the summer and the days are getting shorter, I know every step well enough to find my way in the twilight and even the dark.  All winter I'll drive in the snow and freezing rain, putting the chains on and off, hoping the old truck still has a few more months left.  So I stretch my summer walks through October, sometimes later, walking up that hill every night even when there's a wintry chill in the air.

This modern age #421..


Insomnia leads to Scirabin leads to…

Musical? Opera? Oprha? Music? Film (at 7)? Art school?


12 Weeks of Misery and Doom

Senrab, 2006/11/27 

If I started each week with Clusterfuck Nation, I would be miserable and irresolute, too. Here are excerpts from 12 consecutive weeks :

November 27, 2006

Last week, I had one of those clarifying moments when the enormity of the American fiasco stirred my livers and lights again.

November 20, 2006,

Last week, Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) released a report saying that there was no imminent global oil problem and that enough new oil would come on-line to permit current levels of consumption — and beyond! — for more than a hundred years into the future. CERA's stunningly disingenuous report flies in the face of everything that is known about the current world oil situation.

November 13, 2007

When politicians flog the term around — "energy independence" — they invariably mean that we will continue enjoying the happy motoring utopia by other means than imported oil (which makes up 70 percent of all the oil we burn). Get this: the day is not far off when, for one reason or another, the flow of imported oil to the US will cease. But when that day comes, we will not be running our shit the way we have been running it. That day will be the end of the interstate highways, Walt Disney World, and WalMart — in short, the way of life we are fond of calling "non-negotiable."

November 6, 2007

I confess, what bugs me about my Democrats is that they seem to think we can just duck out of the contest for Middle East oil and keep enjoying the happy motoring fiesta — which, by the way, is not just the way we live in this country but also the basis of our economy, when you sweep aside all the bullshit. Contrary to what a lot of utopian Democrats wish, it will never be prime-time for ethanol, bio-diesel, hydrogen, or twenty other nominees as replacements for gasoline — at least not the way we run things now. Driving a Prius might induce raptures of eco-moral superiority, but changing the zoning laws would produce a better outcome — and that's just too hard.

October 30, 2006

Peachville's surrender to the tyranny of the automobile is total. For a region whose people like to yap about "defending freedom," their own capitulation to the car is complete. Practically every street in this town of 40,000 has been turned into a multi-lane mini-freeway. If you wanted to walk, or needed to walk — and a number of faculty members at the college where I spoke said they did — then your experience would be frightening and miserable because there are so few sidewalks, and the distances between things is scaled to cars, not people.

October 23, 2006,

The coming convulsion we face in the 21st century is not so much moral but no less stark: the collapse of a faltering industrial polity in the face of depleting energy supplies. Like the earlier dilemma of slavery, our national leaders refuse to face it.

October 16, 2006,

I still view the US economy as chronically diseased. It must be in the nature of a stock market melt-up, of the type we've seen the past month, to exert a hypnotic effect on herd expectations — generating any number of rationalizations to make the melt-up seem a healthy and natural occurrence when it is actually something like an aggressive cancer feeding on the organs of our society and sucking the life out of them.

October 9, 2006

Where finance is concerned, the basic implication of peak oil is pretty stark: an end to industrial expansion (i.e. "growth"). All the alternatives to oil will not keep the industrial economies expanding — they can only slow down a contraction, and only marginally so. The trouble with this picture is that finance is a system that uses paper markers to represent the hope and expectation for the expansion of wealth. These markers are currencies, stocks, bonds, option contracts, derivatives plays, and other certificates that are traded in open markets. If there is no longer any hope of increased wealth in the world, then all those tradable paper markers become losers. Their value unwinds and imagined piles of wealth evaporate into thin air.

October 2, 2006

I don't think it's accurate to call it a "war" anymore. It was one briefly back in 2003, and it may become a wider one again in the region. But for now the American situation in Iraq has degenerated into a dangerous, half-assed policing operation. We're not really fighting anyone, just getting in the way of factions fighting each other. A large part of our failure in this project has been our inability to get the electricity and water running properly. Any group of Americans might be equally pissed off and crazy after three years of that.

September 25, 2006

This is what comes of living in an economy of hallucinated finance instead of an economy of wealth-generating work. It all seems to add up until the old assumptions just don't add up, and then things break down.

September 18, 2006

This is an interesting case of the diminishing returns of technology, the stealth disease that is corroding our economy and our culture.

Sept 11, 2006

Thus we would have a profile of exactly what oil geologist Colin Campbell and other peak oil opinion leaders have predicted: roller-coaster-style economic activity pegged to up-ratcheting oil prices, with increasingly deep economic troughs and ever higher oil price peaks. In short, massive economic instability.

Buy a home you can afford. Make it centrally located so commutes are short and shopping is nearby (mileage is consumption, too!).

Research viable sustainability strategies and elect candidates who understand and are committed to them.

Find something else to read on Monday mornings.



Posted on behalf of Perezoso:

I have…recently been listening to– and studying what scores are available online to some degree–the music of Scriabin and other russians—though Scriabin, like Mussorgsky—avoids a lot of that Tschaikovsky–Rachmanioff schmaltz (tho Rach. could certainly play–and he played Scriabin as well. Scriabin was a composer-artist on level of Chopin and Beethoven, really. 

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