Friday, August 12, 2005

Republicans don't know how to squeak

Robert Novak writes that the point of the confirmation battle isn't to stop or ensure Roberts's appointment, but to determine who the next appointee will be. If a relatively soft nominee like Roberts can get only sixty votes, what chance is there for another Scalia? So NARAL is pulling out all stops to take as many votes as they can, even if it is hurting their credibility, and even though they know they can't win. Their purpose is just to make it a close call. According to Novak, that was the point of the filibusters also.

I think he may be onto something here. I also think it's worth pointing out a major mistake that conservatives have made with respect to the Roberts nomination: we've been too reasonable. What has Bush learned from this nomination? He has learned that he can nominate someone who is just barely credible for keeping far as his pre-election promises about judicial nominees and the conservatives will give him the benefit of the doubt and the leftists will still be furious but they won't go toenail-chewing insane.

So what motivation does Bush have to nominate a genuine solid conservative the next time? He can, as always, minimize the acrimony by disappointing his supporters and catering to his enemies. That's what being reasonable in politics gets you. I'm beginning to wish that conservatives had followed Ann Coulter's lead and pounded on Bush for his weak nomination. Even if you think Roberts is OK, we can and should demand better than OK. We control the presidency and both houses of Congress. We should show no more concern for the sensibilities of the Democrats than they have shown for ours. Namely, none.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and conservatives just don't squeak loud enough. We are too willing to compromise, to willing to be reasonable. And the other side, with their complete and utter contempt for civil discourse will always end up getting a better deal than their position calls for and we will always end up getting a worse deal than our position calls for. That's part of the reason that we have such an outrageously leftist federal court system even though we have had Republican presidents for 25 of the last 37 years. By all rights, our current judiciary should reflect Republican values, but it clearly doesn't.

I don't know what the solution is. I don't want to give up our attempts to have civil political discourse, but we need to start creating penalties for those who use rage and threats and slander as their primary political weapon. A good start would have been to eliminate the filibuster for appointments. But once again, Republicans decided to ignore the incivility of the Democrats and be unilaterally civil. I'm getting pretty tired of it.

Bear Flags

I've just been accepted in the Bear Flag League. It's a group of California bloggers. You can see the most recent 25 posts from League members over there on the right in the gold box.

You know, I just found out a few months ago that the flag of California has a bear on it. Our new office building has a bear flag flying outside. For the first couple of weeks, I assumed we had some Russian company in the building that was flying their corporate flag.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Scale 7 Artifact, part 10


Commission (part 3)

Back in his room, Daniel removed his coveralls and then released the tensor to strip off his spacesuit --or spacejohns as it was sometimes called. He sent both to the cleaner even though neither really had to be cleaned. The combination was designed to stay comfortable, odor-free, and sanitary for weeks of constant wear, but it felt to Daniel like he ought to do something to prepare for a months-long mission.

Daniel stepped into the shower, turned off the automatic sequencing and turned on the hot water: medium pressure, full volume. It was almost like an earth shower. The housekeeping program would charge Daniel for the extra water use, but this would be his last chance in a very long time to enjoy a shower, so Daniel was determined to savor it.

Daniel tarried under the stream of warm water for about twenty minutes, until the heat began to seem oppressive. Then he reluctantly shut it off and got out of the shower into his steamy quarters. He dried himself with a large fluffy disposable towel instead of using the air drier in the shower. He had specially requisitioned the towel for just this occasion.

The door chimed as Daniel was drying off. "Who is it?" he asked the air.

A slightly mechanical voice came from the room's speakers, "Valet."

"Enter." Daniel commanded.

The door slid open and the robotic valet entered with the freshly-cleaned space suit and coveralls. The spacesuit to protect him in case of sudden decompression, the coveralls for modesty and pockets.

Daniel took the spacesuit from the tray and began to pull it on. The suit was of soft, sheer elastic fabric, slipping easily over his skin but fitting snuggly once in place. Daniel checked the various indicators at his joints and cavities to make sure the suit was aligned correctly and then activated the tenser. The suit began to hug his body as nanomotors re-aligned tiny spring fibers in the suit to create an equal 4.8 PSI pressure over all of his skin.

Elastic alone could not keep the entire body area under equal pressure because elastic pulls in only one direction, it tries to become shorter. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, so if you stretch an elastic fiber by pulling it over a round body part then it will push against the body part, seeking to get back to a straight line. But when elastic is stretched across a flat body part like the back or the inside of the wrist, it is already in a straight line and it doesn't press against the body at that point. Worse are concave body areas where the elastic will not even touch the surface. To get the inward pressure, the spacesuits used fiber springs that would bend easily but would always try to return to their original shape.

Each spacesuit was tailored to one person to specifically follow that person's body contour. The suits were of thin material and literally outlined the entire body as if they were painted on, so modesty required another covering such as coveralls or at least shorts.

The astronaut's fingers and the head were left uncovered for convenience. The spacesuit had finger parts, but they were normally rolled up to the base of the astronaut's fingers like thin fabric rings. In case of a decompression, tiny fiber springs would activate to unroll the material and cover the fingers. A transparent hood would expand from the collar and cover the head, forming an air-tight seal at the top to be filled with pure oxygen at 4.8 PSI from a small canister in the collar. The canister also pressurized the sealed areas of the suit that covered the orifices below the waist, protecting the body's inner cavities from being damaged by decompression.

Except for the few sealed areas, the spacesuit was not air-tight. Water vapor from sweat could pass through the fabric so there was no need for special cooling technology. The suit held only ten minutes worth of oxygen, but there were oxygen canisters all around the ship that could be used in an emergency.

Daniel pulled the coveralls over his spacejohns, wondering at how calm he was. He had never thought he would every have such a wonderful opportunity, and now that it was immanent, his main thoughts were about how odd the whole project seemed to be. Daniel knew that he was a bit too suspicious. Borderline paranoid, according to his brother. Daniel smiled at the memory.

The door chimed again and Daniel asked who it was.

"It's me!" Sarah's voice sounded tense.

"Enter." Daniel said, and the door opened automatically.

Sarah looked tense too. She had her arms crossed over her chest, hugging herself. She looked so tightly wound that she might pop at any minute. Daniel couldn't help but smile.

"Aren't you ready?" she asked, coming into the room, "It's almost time to go!"

"We have twenty-five minutes and we can be at the shuttle in less than ten."

"Well I don't want to wait till the last minute." Sarah hopped nervously as she spoke. "Aren't you nervous?"

"I'm about to explode," Daniel said. "but maybe a good hug would calm me down." He lifted his arms and Sarah immediately grabbed him around the waist, closing her eyes and squeezing hard. Daniel squeezed back and they held the hug until her shivering subsided.

"Feel better?" Sarah asked him finally.

"Yes," Daniel said gently. "That helps a lot, thank you."

"I'm going to get my kit," Sarah said. "Meet me at the lounge door, OK? Don't keep me waiting because I want to get there early."

"OK, sweetheart," Daniel said.

Sarah rushed from the room and Daniel smiled after her for a moment. He really didn't have a kit to get, just that little sack in his personal locker. Daniel opened the locker and paused. In retrospect, the three items he had brought along seemed a bit silly. It felt silly taking them along to Moon 3 and sillier to send them to storage. Well, the coveralls had pockets. Daniel took the items out one by one and put them into the pockets of his coveralls.

Sarah's voice came from the speaker on his collar, "Come on, Danny!"

Daniel chuckled. Then he tossed the empty sack back into the locker and left his short-term home without a backward glance.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Fred Phelps

Ever heard of Fred Phelps? He's the "pastor" who put a sign outside his church that says "God hates gays". Leftists like to point to him as an example of right-wing bigotry and hatred, but it turns out that he is actually a left-wing whacko.

This should come as no surprise. The left has always been a home to racists and other hate-filled people. Marxism is a creed without morality. To them, racism isn't a right or a wrong, it's just another issue to use cynically to further their own goals. Some racists they condemn, others they excuse and aid. Whatever helps them gain power.

new email

I've had to give up on my doc@docrampage email address because it has become about 99% spam. The new one is posted over in the right margin. I'm hoping that gmail has some good spam filtering.

I just got cable broadband at my new place and although I turned off all features that would let the browser download software, I found half a dozen spamware programs on the computer the next day. I want to know why prosecutors when after hackers like they were the devil when they were just playing pranks on major corporations, but now that they are creating enormous costs for the entire world, no one seems interested in tracking them down.


Fiddle and Burn is hosting the next Storyblogging Carnival.

Monday, August 08, 2005


Reasoned Audacity has noted the decline of the National Organization for Women (link from Dean). I wrote a post last year where I wondered if the NAACP was going the same way and for the same reasons. NOW was extremely hypocritical over the Clinton scandal and the O. J. trial, but I don't think that was the proximate cause of their decline. I think that hypocrisy only made clear to everyone that NOW was nothing more than the ladies auxiliary to the Democratic party. It was in no way, shape, or form an actual independent political entity, nor was it especially concerned with women's rights.

I wondered then if the NAACP was similarly throwing themselves on the grenade for the party (the Democratic party). I think it's too soon to tell. They have yet to be embarrassed by anything as fully as NOW was, but that could still change if Africa becomes more prominent in the nation's conscience. It is outrageous that the NAACP's only concern with Africa is sending them free condoms, with all the terrible tragedies that happen on that continent on a continuous basis.

wormhole doorways in speculative fiction

I described wormhole doorways in the post below and Donald made this comment:
Considering that the air pressure and temperature can be vastly different on other sides of the wormhole, do you get wind through the doorway? If you set up a lot of them in a single room, are you setting up a small tempest? What if you were to accidentally drop a doorway into the ocean?

That said, the Doorway system is one of the key components of the power of the Domini.
This is an interesting point. Assuming it does the obvious thing and acts just like a real doorway, the Domini could put them to a lot of uses. If you can carry them around, the doorway in the ocean could be used to create an instant flood, or you could put one end of the doorway into a well and get an endless source of water fresh water. You could put one at the south pole and have an endless source of cold. Maybe hook it up to some magical device for shoveling ice and you could use it as a portable ice storm. Just about any magic that seems to create anything could be simulated by having the object created elsewhere and shoved through a doorway.

In Sci Fi worlds, the doorways would have to be designed not to violate the conservation of energy, otherwise you get a cheap planet-buster: take two doors that are connected and place them horizontal with one above the other so that something that falls out of the top one falls into the bottom one and something that falls into the bottom one falls out of the top one. Drop a weight into the bottom door and it will fall out of the top one and into the bottom one again. Each time the weight goes from the top door to the other, it accelerates. In a short time you would have something going so fast and having so much energy that it could be used to destroy a planet.

I would prevent this by putting a gravitational potential between the entry and exit that is exactly sufficient to prevent this sort of thing. Then you can't really just step through a door, you would need some sort of elevator to lift you through. There would have to be some way of spreading the gravitational gradient out so that you don't traverse the whole thing at once.

wormhole commuting

Ever thought about what it would be like if we could create wormhole doorways? I'm thinking of just a doorway that you step through and you are hundreds of miles away. You could live on a tropical beach, but there would be a door in your house that you step through, and you're in San Francisco. Another door takes you to London. Both London and San Francisco would have big wormhole terminals with thousands of doorways leading all over the world. Step from your living room into San Francisco and from there through a another door into the Rocky Mountains for some skiing.

I almost feel like I'm living in that world now. Every day, I get up in the morning and look at the waves on the ocean. I put on a light jacket because it's a bit chilly and windy. I drive through the heavy overcast and light fog up Hwy 1, over the crest where the fog is often thick enough that I have to slow down, and down Hwy 280. For the first time in my life, I actually have a use for the fog lights on my car. I just got them because they looked cool.

When I exit 280 onto 380 I go under a bridge. That's where the wormhole doorway is. The sky goes from overcast and foggy to sunny and clear. I turn off my lights, change one dial from heat to cool, and another dial from defrost to vent. A few minutes later I am in my office, looking at the calm and waveless bay.

I've always liked variety in weather so I'm really enjoying the commute. Next week I'm going to start taking the subway and then the change will be even more dramatic. I get on in foggy Daly City, go underground, and get off in sunny Milbrae.