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Archive for November, 2014

At Fifteen, A Re-Shuffle.

Yes, very quiet around here as of late, but for once I have very good reasons. Before I get into those, let’s get the anniversary out of the way. As of this past weekend, Ghost in the Machine is now 15 years old. [0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 11, 12, 13, 14.]

I’ll forego the usual retrospective about the date, partly because that’s already been done a few times (say, at the ten-year mark), and partly because one should probably post more than once every 2-3 weeks, as I’ve been doing the past few months, to qualify for that sort of navel-gazing. In any event, my focus at the moment is on the future. To wit, if you haven’t seen it via other social media, some big life changes of late:

As of three weeks ago, and after five+ years in the House — specifically with Rep. Rosa DeLauro — I’ve transferred over from Rayburn to the Watergate and am now speechwriting for the National Trust For Historic Preservation. In fact, I just spent last week down in beautiful Savannah, Georgia for PastForward 2014 (their/our annual conference).

It’s been a hitting-the-ground-running affair ’round these parts, but so far, so great. It’s been refreshing to get involved with an organization that is history-, present-, and future-minded, and to get some respite from the often-Sisyphean environment of the House.

And as of two weeks ago — tho’ there are boxes everywhere and much work to be done — I left my 1BR bungalow of five-plus years in Dupont and moved to a snazzy deluxe 2-BR apartment in the sky on Capitol Hill, along with my girlfriend Amy and her 6-year-old bichon, Murf. (Berk and he overlapped for a little over a year — They went from some minor tensions between them to, before the old man’s passing, a cultivated and studious disinterest.)

So lots of change, all of it for the better, but, yes, the Ghost has suffered even more than usual. Still, while there’s always a lot of work these days, I think I’ve now made it through the major gauntlet, and GitM should be able to get a little more attention in the year ahead.

Either way, if you’ve been stopping by since 1999 or here for the first time, thanks, as always, for stopping by.

Now as Ever, GOP-Lite Won’t Work.

“On Tuesday night, a lot of Republican-ish candidates got crushed by the official Republican candidates, confirming yet again that a gutless, wincing version of one kind of politics always loses to the robust one. Nobody first starts drinking Diet Coke because they think it tastes better, and the only people who keep drinking it are the ones who’ve drunk nothing else for so long that actual flavor seems weird. Why vote for someone hesitantly and semi-apologetically tacking toward the right when you can just vote for someone who goes balls-to-the-wall rightward and is damn proud of it? At least that person gives off the sense of actually enjoying his own beliefs.”

THIS. Part of the upside of being newly off-the-Hill is I can escape a bit further from the dreariness of much of current politics, so no absurdly-belated, long midterm post this year. Besides, The Guardian‘s Jeb Lund has already well-articulated where I am on all this: Give people a choice between a Republican and a Republican and the Republican will win every time:

“[W]hether the Democratic Party stands for anything is a perfectly valid question at this point. On a macro level, a party that is already thoroughly militarized and corporatized — and largely indifferent to Main Street whenever it poses a conflict with Wall Street — offers little alternative to the other party that already celebrates that.”

Sure, the ground in 2014 always heavily favored the GOP: This was a six-year midterm, Class 2 year, and the seats up for reelection swung heavily Democratic six years ago, in that faraway, hopey-changey time of 2008. Still, when you have a party that hardly, if ever, has the courage of its convictions anymore, coupled with a President who seemed at times to be actively trying to discourage the base, little wonder that the lowest turnout since 1942 brought forth another shellacking. As Richard said, a withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.

So, yeah, bad times for the Democratic brand, and no mistake. The good news is the long-term story hasn’t changed: Republicans are still drawing dead, demographically speaking, even though they’ll probably hold the House until at least 2020 due to gerrymandering (and now, thanks to these 2014 results, will likely be able to hold the Senate for the first two years of the next presidency.) And, even better, Americans strongly supported progressive positions two weeks ago, be it on the minimum wage, marijuana, or misdemeanors.

But Dems can’t just assume the government will eventually devolve to them by fiat. We’re going to have to quit thinking the endless “but the other team is crazy-pants” blather will carry us over the top, and actually put up candidates that will stand for something other than GOP-lite camouflage. Of course, our 2016 standard-bearer is, at least at the moment, undoubtedly Hillary Clinton, sooo…I’m sure everything’s going to work out great.

Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For Grommash.

Aaahoo, Warlords of Draenor, aahooo On top of all the other busy-ness of late, WOW’s latest expansion, Warlords of Draenor is now off and away as of last Tuesday, meaning more off hours shoring up the garrison and leveling my almost-nine-year-old rogue (and his army of alts) to all-new, rarefied three-digit heights. (I dinged 100 last night, with three more zones and lots more content to explore.) Aaahoo…

Deeper Down the Portal.

“When Flemmer gets wind of this he teleports to the theater (freezing Charles Nelson Reillly in time along the way) and takes control of the Truman puppet during the second act of Equus…[It] starts juggling bowling pins while playing the psychiatrist and Malkovich has seizures, levitates and breathes fire while playing Alan Strang. The Truman puppet turns into a giant swan, which bursts into flames, and then from the ashes of the swan the corpse of the real Harry S Truman rises and implores the audience to vote for Mantini.”

As seen at io9, Devin Faraci reveals the originally-planned ending of Being John Malkovich, and it’s out there alright. This reads like the textbook definition of “Too Many Notes” — I much prefer the filmed version, and especially its haunting final moment.

The Fields Under Lock and Key | In Eclipse.

“Miller, whose parents would rouse him in the wee hours to watch space launches, was awestruck by Launch Complex 19, where the manned Gemini missions took off. It was slowly rusting away, and Miller resolved to photograph it while there was still time. It took two years of haggling before he made his first images of Cape Canaveral…Since then, he has photographed sites nationwide, including Johnson & Kennedy space centers, the Marshall & Stennis Space Flight centers, Langley Research Center and many more.”

In Wired, photographer Roland Miller captures the decaying infrastructure of the early space race. “As launch pads were replaced, retrofitted or decommissioned, Miller was invited inside. By his estimate, 50 percent of the things he’s photographed no longer exist. ‘It’s not in NASA’s mission to conserve these sites,’ he says. ‘With shrinking budgets it’s an impossible thing to do.'”

***

“There’s not only last week’s deadly crash by Virgin Galactic, which hoped to launch widespread space tourism, or the unexpected explosion of a rocket headed toward the International Space Station. The United States also retired the space shuttle fleet in 2011. And…we now spend less on NASA — relative to the wealth of overall economy — than at any point in history.”

In very related news, and in the wake of Interstellar (which, on account of all the reasons I just mentioned, I haven’t seen yet), the Post‘s Zachary Goldfarb briefly surveys our current neglect of the space program. (Here’s what we’ve got planned at the moment.) “As recently as 2012, polling showed that more Americans than ever before thought that we were spending too little.”

The Lander That Could.

“‘Prior to falling silent, the lander was able to transmit all science data gathered during the First Science Sequence,’ lander manager Stephan Ulamec said in a statement. ‘This machine performed magnificently under tough conditions, and we can be fully proud of the incredible scientific success Philae has delivered’…’The data collected by Philae and Rosetta is set to make this mission a game-changer in cometary science,’ said Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta project scientist.”

After traveling 4 billion miles, accomplishing an exhilarating landing on a 84,000-mph moving target, and, after 57 hours of work in an unfortunately dark location, successfully sending a valedictory round of data, the ESA’s history-making Philae probe falls into slumber. “We still hope that at a later stage of the mission, perhaps when we are nearer to the Sun, we might have enough solar illumination to wake up the lander and re-establish communication.” Rest well, little lander — ya did good.

An Infant System.

“[T]he most breathtaking aspects of the image are the rings and gaps in the disk, never imaged before in this much detail. The largest gaps likely contain protoplanets, which form by collecting gas, dust, and small meteoroid fragments, gradually clearing their orbit of that debris. The combination of those gaps and the young age of HL Tauri suggest planets may form more quickly than astronomers think.”

Also in space news, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) captures our best look yet at potential planetary formation around a newborn star, 450 light years away. “The disk surrounding HL Tauri is much bigger than Neptune’s orbit, so any planet in the gaps would at least begin at a larger orbit than the major planets in the Solar System. Additionally, other gaps could be ‘resonances’: orbits where the combined gravity of the star and protoplanets drive matter out, concentrating it in the rings.”

Spectre in the Contraption.

“Since time immemorial, humans have traded stories about ghosts and wraiths — haunting presences that are strongly felt but never seen. Mountaineers often report feeling an unseen presence keeping in step beside them…Blanke was seeing the same phenomenon at work in his patient, but with one critical difference: he could turn it on and off.”

In a nifty experiment involving movement-mimicking robots and a brief time delay, scientists uncover a potential neurological basis for sensing ghostly phenomena. “The mismatched sensory and motor information confused their brains…If those…didn’t match up, my brain would revise its perception of reality to account for the discrepancies. Maybe I’m not inside my body at all, it might think. Maybe I’m over there.”

The Forgotten ‘Buster.

“The night before filming begins, however, I get this new script and it was shocking. The character was gone. Instead of coming in at the very beginning of the movie, like page 8, the character came in on page 68 after the Ghostbusters were established. His elaborate background was all gone, replaced by me walking in and saying, ‘If there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say.’ So that was pretty devastating.”

Thirty years after its release, Ernie Hudson opens up about his conflicted feelings on being “the fourth Ghostbuster.” “Winston wasn’t included in the movie poster or the trailer and all that stuff…I love the movie, I love the guys. I’m very thankful to Ivan for casting me. I’m very thankful that fans appreciate the Winston character. But it’s always been very frustrating — kind of a love/hate thing, I guess.”

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