Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010: Happy New Year.

One can hope, I suppose.

My end of the year list: Bad Advertising!

Everyone seems to make a list at the end of the year. I would guess it is now part of those internet traditions that everyone is aware of. Books, movies, bad celebrity dresses, stupid quotes, etc. So, in keeping with this tradition, here is my list of deceitful, manipulative, stupid or annoying television commercials that I hope to never see again in 2010.

1. Capital One Credit Cards: This series of commercials have to be one of the weirdest ways to promote a credit card whose fine print is no doubt littered with landmines that will increase your loan rate at the drop of a hat. Visigoths ransacking villages, a dumbass in front of a computer whose dog is much more intelligent than he is and survivors of an airplane crash who are stuck on an island trying to get off are the spokesmen and women for Capital One. But the big selling point for this particular credit card is you can put your own picture on your card! Absolutely fu*king amazing! Let’s order a couple and one for little Sally as well, even though she is only six years old! What a STUPID selling point. Anyone who actually orders one of these credit cards on the basis of being able to put your picture on it deserves whatever happens to them.

2. Free Credit Reports Dot Com: This one has been in the news a lot, so this isn’t going to be much of a surprise. But advertising something “free” if you buy their service and is something that you can get free anyway from another source anyway is not really “free” in my mind. That’s like telling someone that they can get a free car jack, as long as they buy this car. No, that’s not even a good analogy, because to be a true analogy, you would need to be able to get a car jack for free somewhere. This is a commercial put together by lying SOB’s that do not care they are lying. “Free”, my ass.

3. The Big Head “Burger King”: These commercials, to their credit, are not deceitful. They are just weird and creepy. In these commercials, Burger King comes off as some sort of creepy stalker guy who never says anything. He’s just there. The ad agency behind these ads obviously figured that the Jack In The Box commercials are such a big hit that they would make their own! The only problem is, they failed miserably.

4. Ads for health insurance companies: Now, these aren’t all for the same company. This one is more of a category or genre. All these commercials are trying to accomplish is to make you feel all warm and cuddly about your insurance provider who is STILL going to find any reason they possibly can to drop your coverage if you get really sick and need it. One commercial that comes to mind actually doesn’t even really mention insurance. It’s just some kid talking about her mom who donates her piano, which she had as a kid and really loves, to a school or some other kind of organization that really needs it. Heartwarming. *Sigh* How nice… The problems are, of course, this has absolutely NOTHING to do with health insurance and it never addresses the fact that the CEO of this company will probably make about 85 mil this year while dropping coverage for anyone who might come down with a cold.

5. Verizon “Maps”: These commercials are annoying on their own. I especially disliked the one with Santa and his reindeer, which mercifully is not shown anymore since Christmas is over. But the point here that I haven’t seen anyone make is the colors of the maps. Verizon’s is red, and boy, it covers almost the entire U.S.A. A.T.&T’s map, on the other hand, is blue and barely covers anything. Yeah, this is deceitful on its own merits, since they are implying that ALL cell phone coverage provided by each company is what is shown, not just the 4G variety. But red vs. blue? That’s an interesting choice, especially when you look at the politics behind Verizon. I wonder what target audience these commercials are aimed at?

6. Jewelry commercials: This again is more of a category than a specific series of ads, because all the big jewelry chains do this. I wrote about this one before Christmas. But it’s not just Christmas. Valentine’s Day is also a biggie. I’ll just repeat what I said before.

The Christmas ads that really burn me are the ones for jewelry. I really dislike ostentatious displays anyway, and big, fat diamonds are about the best way to show that. Talk about a totally worthless expenditure of money to support an industry that has a corner on the market. That aside, I am really annoyed by the implication that buying someone a really bright, shiny bauble is the ultimate in romance. All these people in these commercials are young and beautiful, and they act like they came out of a romance novel. Tell me, what guy in his right mind would go out in the middle of the forest and wrap a living tree in lights, just so he can spring a diamond necklace on his girlfriend? And that assumes that he has a REALLY long extension cord or lugged a car battery out there as well. I think that these ads are really targeting the lazy bum who really isn’t normally too keen on keeping his wife’s or girlfriend’s feelings close to his heart and sees that buying jewelry would be a nice, easy (albeit expensive) way to immediately get back in his wife’s or girlfriend’s good graces. The women in these commercials always, without fail, are just awestruck and have this look on their faces that they would do absolutely anything for this guy who just bought her this piece of junk.

7. Geico Insurance: I admit I kind of liked the caveman commercials and the ones with the gecko are tolerable. But the ones with the stack of money with googlie eyes are weird and don’t even make a lot of sense.

8. Mixed message ads: This, again, is a category. It seems very trendy now to have commercials that are about two things at once. Sometimes, tie-ins are evident, such as toys of the latest Disney movie at McDonalds. But sometimes, there doesn’t even have to be an obvious tie-in. They are just trying to ride the latest wave of popularity. One playing now is about a bunch of guys eating a Big Mac that has something to do with James Cameron’s latest film, Avatar. I just do not get that one.

9. Miracle Whip “We will not tone it down!”: I won’t say much about this. Just watch it. Miracle Whip, the ultimate in rebellion!

You have any nominations? I may promote good suggestions from any comments received into this post itself. Boy, won't that be a thrill for YOU.

Friday, December 25, 2009

What did I learn from 2009?

I suppose I learned the lesson that Stupid is now not just acceptable. Being Stupid does not disqualify you from anything. In fact, in many cases, being Stupid is very helpful. It endears you to “common folk.” It shows that you are one of them. It reinforces their Stupid beliefs when they hear someone famous espousing the same Stupid things that they also believe in. Being Stupid can elevate an unemployed plumber to celebrity status. Being Stupid can make common folk believe you are doing something great when you quit your position as an elected official and somehow try to turn that into a selfless and noble act. Being Stupid can get you a program on a major cable “news” outlet where you can say whatever Stupid thing that pops into your mind and the audience eats it up. Being Stupid seems to actually be a requirement to become an elected official from the state of Oklahoma. Being Stupid results in joy when the U.S. loses a bid for hosting an Olympic Games and anger and resentment when the President of the United States wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

Being Stupid is no longer a cause for shame. Being Stupid is something to be cultivated and celebrated. When you say something Stupid, or even Really Stupid, you are no longer required to remove yourself from the public limelight for a suitable period of time. No, the correct response to being caught saying something Stupid or Really Stupid is to either pretend you never said it, even when your Really Stupid remark is one of the most highly viewed You Tube videos of the week, or become offended that the liberal elite media took your statement out of context or is so liberal and elite that they are obviously out of step with the rest of Stupid America.

Stupid is now so routine that most Stupid things rarely even get noted anymore, other than at some of the liberal blogs, who are obviously loser teenagers in pajamas who work from their parent’s basement. Being Stupid didn’t disqualify George W. Bush from being President of the United States, although most people in the country probably didn’t realize how incredibly Fu*king Stupid he actually is. However, we may be reaching the point that being Stupid may be the thing that gets someone like Sarah Palin elected President.

STuPid. Get yours today!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sarah Palin makes even less sense now she’s a climate change denier.

From the Washington Monthly, here is one of her tweets on Twitter about her new favorite subject, the Great Big Climate Change Hoax.

In a late night posting on her Twitter feed, Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin continued to blast climate change believers Friday, calling the talks in Copenhagen, Denmark a representation of man's "arrogance," for believing people have an impact on nature.

"Arrogant&Naive2say man overpwers nature," Palin tweeted.

"Earth saw clmate chnge4 ions;will cont 2 c chnges.R duty2responsbly devlop resorces4humankind/not pollute&destroy;but cant alter naturl chng," the former Republican vice presidential nominee wrote.

Uh huh. It’s “arrogant and na├»ve to say that man overpowers nature.” I guess she is unfamiliar with things like the Chernobyl accident which has rendered huge amounts of land in the former Soviet Union uninhabitable for centuries, mountaintop removing mining, clear cutting of forests, or having rivers and lakes so polluted that, not only can’t people actually go in them, but they actually used to catch fire.

Maybe she’s talking about a global scale, not just localized impacts on the environment caused by mankind’s activities, although I would argue that chopping down the Amazon rainforest is having a global effect. Maybe she thinks that the Earth is so huge that it will be able to absorb anything that mankind chooses to do.

This is the same kind of thinking that Americans held in our early history, which lead to the slaughter and near extinction of what used to be vast herds of buffalo. They are there for the taking. Mankind is the master of the planet, and what self-respecting master of anything willingly puts rules on himself? We can do anything we want! We can overfish the oceans so that the population of jellyfish has exploded due to lack of predators. Rules are for wimps and liberals. After all, photographic evidence of receding glaciers is easy to ignore when you have "Climategate" to talk about.

It’s all part of the conservative thought process. No restraints on anything that they want to do, and to fight tooth and nail against anything that their perceived enemies are for. I don’t know if this attitude comes from what they think are the teachings of Christianity or not. It seems likely to me. We are, after all, God’s chosen people. We’re special. I saw one quote sometime last year about God and climate change. Some person (I wish I had kept this quote) said something like, “God won’t let the Earth be destroyed.” I thought THAT statement was the epitome of arrogance. God will save us from anything that we choose to do. Except when God Himself chooses to destroy the Earth in Armageddon. Or maybe, this perspective on the universe is more rooted in the deep psychology of conservatives. I don’t know the answer.

There are two things that spring to mind when I see something like Princess Sarah’s statement above. One is that she is somehow one of the leading lights of the new conservatives. This person doesn’t even seem to have enough on the ball to qualify as a third grade teacher.

She is also so lacking in science that she doesn’t know the different between an eon and an ion. But I suppose that’s about par for the course for someone who has stated that living in a place where you can see Russia somehow gives her credibility in international diplomacy, and that Africa is a country.

God, this country is so screwed up.

Friday, December 18, 2009

So, this is what it is like to live in a parallel universe.

Huh. Interesting. I thought there might be more time warps or cities whose entire population consists of people who look like Winston Churchill. Of course, there is Lady Gaga. And the fact that the absolutely most important story of the year is the fact that Tiger Woods apparently screws around a lot. I guess this must really be a parallel universe.

Because, you see, in the universe that I thought I lived in, people act in a rational way and do things because they are in their self-interest. This universe I find myself in is in no way rational. Everywhere I look, people are acting like they have been infected with the Franz Kafka disease. Nothing makes sense anymore. The richest and most powerful country on earth has been brought to its knees by some unknown force that renders it incapable of doing anything remotely intelligent.

Affordable healthcare that can’t be cancelled just because you get sick and need it for once is the same thing as the Holocaust. The President of the United States is a fascist, a communist, a socialist, a non-America Muslim with a crazy Christian pastor who is actively trying to destroy the country. Protesters with signs within 100 yards of a Republican president is enough to get you arrested, but carrying a loaded gun to a town hall meeting where a Democratic president is speaking is just exercising one’s right to freedom of speech and to carry guns anywhere you might want to. It’s fine to invade another country that was absolutely no threat, where over 4000 Americans have died and trillions of dollars are spent, but spending money on propping up an economy on the brink of collapse and millions of people are out of work is a cause for angry mobs wearing Lipton tea bags on their hats to come out and carry racist signs. Television news picks up rumors and treats them like the Watergate break-in, but politicians spouting untruths on television that anyone with a computer and 15 minutes free time could easily demolish are invited back on next week’s program. Things such as filibusters that were the epitome of evil three years ago are now acceptable. Science is now on par with palm reading and phrenology. Hard scientific data showing our globe is heating up at an alarming rate is a plot to destroy capitalism. Everything that your enemies do is either sinful or a crime, but when you and everyone else that thinks just like you do does the same thing, that’s O.K.

Nothing makes sense. Our society has decided to play by the rules of Calvinball, and no one is willing to point it out.

So, this is a parallel universe… I don’t particularly like it much, but I suppose it is better nothing at all. I just wonder how I got here and whether it’s possible to find my way back to the universe that I thought I knew, where things made sense and people acting rationally. Probably not. Wormholes only work in one direction, as far as I know.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Here’s my annual “bah, humbug” post.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I am not bashing the Christmas holiday itself. I am what you might call a “non-believer”, but I really have no problem with celebrating what is supposed to be a purely Christian holiday. I have said before that if I were a Christian, I would probably be a tad annoyed at what the holiday has become as well. And that is what I am really annoyed about.

Pressure. That is really what this holiday has become. There’s pressure to find the perfect gift, to bake the perfect pie and cookies, to have the perfect Christmas with your perfect family. Why? Because corporate America wants to sell you stuff. And not just ANY stuff. A lot of stuff and most of it expensive.

I remember when Christmas commercials were a lot about kids toys and maybe a commercial for an electric razor thrown in for good measure. (“Even our name says Merry Christmas!”)

What are the predominant Christmas commericials these days? From what I see, they are for luxury automobiles and a lot of very fancy and expensive looking jewelry. How many people really go out and buy luxury cars for themselves and their spouses at Christmas? And this is at a time when it is estimated that one in 8 kids in America is getting support from food stamps. Where unemployment is running in the double digits. Luxury cars for Christmas? I guess the well off will buy their gifts no matter what else is going on around them, and that this advertising is aimed at them. People without jobs or getting assistance from food stamps aren’t going to have much purchasing power, so the advertisers seem to have acknowledged that fact and just about abandoned the lower and part of the middle class altogether.

The Christmas ads that really burn me are the ones for jewelry. I really dislike ostentatious displays anyway, and big, fat diamonds are about the best way to show that. Talk about a totally worthless expenditure of money to support an industry that has a corner on the market. That aside, I am really annoyed by the implication that buying someone a really bright, shiney bauble is the ultimate in romance. All these people in these commercials are young and beautiful, and they act like they came out of a romance novel. Tell me, what guy in his right mind would go out in the middle of the forest and wrap a living tree in lights, just so he can spring a diamond necklace on his girlfriend? And that assumes that he has a REALLY long extension cord or lugged a car battery out there as well. I think that these ads are really targeting the lazy bum who really isn’t normally too keen on keeping his wife’s or girlfriend’s feelings close to his heart and sees that buying jewelry would be a nice, easy (albeit expensive) way to immeidiately get back in his wife’s or girlfriend’s good graces. The women in these commercials always, without fail, are just awestruck and have this look on their faces that they would do absolutely anything for this guy who just bought her this piece of junk.

My favorite holiday, I think, is Thanksgiving. It hasn’t been completely taken over by crass commercialism. This is mostly because there aren’t any gifts involved. If there were, you can bet that Corporate America would immedialely jump in there. Christmas should be like Thanksgiving, with maybe a few gifts but witbout any pressure. Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Emphasize the “merry” and “little.” Celebrate family. And your religion, if that is part of it for you. But do not pressure yourself into living up to some ridiculous ideal concocted by Madison Avenue to sell you an every increasing array of very expensive crap that you probably can’t afford.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Robbie the Robot falls on hard times.

It's sad to see when big movie stars hit rock bottom.

Uh, you missed a spot over there by the front tire.

Out of control Russian rocket, or something else?


A spectacular spiral light show in the sky above Norway on Wednesday was caused by a Russian missile that failed just after launch, according to Russia's defense ministry.

When the rocket motor spun out of control, it likely created the heavenly spiral of white light near where the missile was launched from a submarine in the White Sea.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that a Bulava ballistic missile test had failed.

However, it is my firm belief that this is all a gigantic hoax involving the governments of a multitude of countries.

In reality, I have proof that the sighting over Norway was actually of Gamera, the giant, rocket powered flying turtle.

You decide.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Amazing photos of physics in action.

Kopp-Etchells Effect

When helicopters pass through dust storms, contact of the particles with the rotating blades produces either sparks or static electricity.

The phenomenon has been observed during combat operations in Afghanistan; Michael Yon has documented the effect, and has named it after two U K Soldiers who died there. "Kopp-Etchells"

When operating in sandy environments, sand hitting the moving rotor blades erodes their surface. This can damage the rotors; the erosion also presents serious and costly maintenance problems.

The abrasion strips on helicopter rotor blades are made of titanium, which is very hard, but less hard than sand; so when a helicopter is flown near to the ground in desert environments abrasion occurs, and at night there is a visible corona or halo around the rotor blades, caused by the sand hitting the titanium and causing it to spark and oxidize .

Note that these photos are under copyright by Michael Yon.

Monday, November 30, 2009

This is so sick and disturbing in so many ways.

From the Seattle Times.

Four officers were shot and killed at 8:15 a.m. as they worked on their laptops at Forza Coffee Company in Parkland. The first two officers were "flat-out executed," while the third tried to stop the gunman and the fourth fired at him, Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said.

Those killed were identified as Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, and officers Ronald Owens, 37, Tina Griswold, 40, and Gregory Richards, 42.

Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar has scheduled a 10 a.m. news conference today to discuss the officers and the shooting.

Clemmons has a long criminal record in Arkansas and Washington. He was released from custody in Pierce County just a week ago, and was facing a charge of raping a child. Family members described him as being in a state of mental deterioration. Last spring, he was also accused of punching a sheriff's deputy in the face.

I have so many questions about this... Where did a guy with documented criminal history like this and who was released from prison only last week get a gun? I have seen other stories that said this guy believed he was a "messiah" and President Obama was going to visit him, personally, to verify this. This guy was obviously unstable. Why was he released? Why did he get clemency in Arkansas? (No, I am not blaming Mike Huckabee, even though this is the second time this has happened with someone he let loose from the Arkansas criminal justice system. If anything, it's the system at fault. A Democrat could have just as easily let this violent lunatic go.)

I am so sick about this. These people were doing their jobs and they lost their lives for it. Their families will never see them walk back in the front door.

I am so sick of this country right now...

American politics as seen as a Japanese giant monster movie.

I wish I had written this.

From Vagabond Scholar.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I've have concluded two things about politics in the U.S..

1) The U.S. government is essentially and forever broken. It's broken-ness is forever and will never return to a government "for the people, by the people." It is sort of "directed" (but not totally run by) by Big Money, War-Mongers, Egomaniacs and Fundamentalist Religionists. The U.S. government does not have the best interests of its citizens in mind. Only when those best interests coincide with the interests of at least one of those other groups does anything actually happen.

2) The citizens of the U.S. deserve exactly the kind of government we are getting, because we let this happen and we did not push back when it was hijacked by these special interests. We're screwed, and it is now too late to do anything about this. The only thing that I can see that a single person can do is keep his/her head down and hope the unpleasantness doesn't sweep him/her up.

So, that summarizes everything I could put in a political post, I think. Everything else is just more details about those two points above.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

No, still haven’t thought of anything to write about….

Thanks for checking in, though.

I do know that I don’t really like what this blog has become, which is very much a one-trick pony complaining about the insanity of the conservatives of this country right now. I think this feeling about the blog reflects my general feeling about this country as a whole. I don’t like where it is going and what it has become. To quote the immortal Joel Robinson, "It stinks!" No amount of complaining about it is going to change that fact. Pointing out the insanity isn’t really even cathartic anymore. It’s boring. And when you admit your own blog is boring, then it’s time to go in a different direction.

I thought I hit a pretty decent stride about a year and a half in, and I was actually doing writing some interesting stuff and getting some interesting things from elsewhere to collate here. Maybe I need to try to get back to that. It is really difficult to gather up the enthusiasm to actually write an interesting and coherent entry, especially when my job entrails a lot of reading and writing.

Check back periodically. Maybe I will find myself a muse somewhere. I tried to pick one up on eBay last week, but was outbid at the last moment. I hate when that happens.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I am considering giving up political blogging.

It's just too damn depressing. When the Bushies were in charge, blogging about the outrage of the day was easy (as, I suspect, it was for many other bloggers). All us liberals were just really pissed off. Now that the Dems supposedly have the reins, it's just depressing. There is too much insanity out there to even wrap my head around. There are too many people whose reality is just completely different than mine, and I cannot reconcile this fact. I can deal with differing opinions, but a totally different view of reality? This is the "reality" where Obama hates America and is actively trying to destroy it and where Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck not only makes sense, they are somehow holders of great wisdom they are dispensing upon the masses. The reality where God really hates Barack Obama. The reality where healthcare reform is really just like what the Nazis did in WWII.

Not only am I considering giving up political blogging, I am considering not even watching MSNBC in the evenings and reading all the blogs every day. Again, it's too depressing.

I have said this before, and I lasted all of about two weeks. But it might be nice to concentrate on some intelligent writing again, which I believe I used to do in the past, rather than just rant about the latest stupidity from the right-wing of American society. So, we will see how long this lasts. The only thing that will probably occur is that I will just get really bored at work if I don't take 10 minutes off every once in a while a look in to see what is going on that day.

UPDATE: Not unsurprisingly, I guess, I am having a difficult time figuring out something I can write about that isn't politics. This is one problem with having a hobby that involves writing and also a job that involves a lot of writing. Once you sit at your desk all day, reading and writing stuff, then it's kind of difficult to gather any enthusiasm about writing more stuff for fun. If I had a job where I sat all day at a desk and assembled model ships inside a bottle, I would think it would be difficult to come home and assemble model ships inside a bottle just for grins. Of course, I am making no comparisons between blogging and model ships inside of bottles. Just a thought that popped into my head... Writing a blog seems MUCH more difficult.

Friday, November 13, 2009

This just about explains everything about the healthcare "debate."

Picture from Attaturk, who stole it from somewhere else.

Blogging? What's that?

Oh, yeah. I write stuff down for very few people to read.

Maybe this weekend. It's been a full week.

Meanwhile, here is an older photo I took of the Cascade Mountains during this time of year. If you time it just right and manage to miss the rain and snow, the Cascades are a pretty incredible sight during autumn.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Waves. Part 2

I like to post interesting or amazing photographs. I get many of them via e-mail (such as the post below with photographs of Hoover Dam or a much earlier one of a Washington State ferry in rough waters) and those e-mails usually do not include any attribution. In this case, however, I do know who took these incredible images; Clark Little from Oahu, Hawaii. These photographs are obviously under copyright. Given that this is a tiny, tiny little blog and these images have already “escaped” via e-mail, I figure these no harm in posting them if I give an attribution. It’s sort of like a commercial for Mr. Little and his work, from which he obviously earns his living… I just found these photos incredibly beautiful and hypnotic. I could stare at them for a long time.

Here is a link to Little’s official home page. Buy his book if you find these images as stunning as I do.

Here is a link to Little’s Facebook page. Go there if you want to find out more.

Waves. Part 1

I like to post interesting or amazing photographs. I get many of them via e-mail (such as the post below with photographs of Hoover Dam or a much earlier one of a Washington State ferry in rough waters) and those e-mails usually do not include any attribution. In this case, however, I do know who took these incredible images; Clark Little from Oahu, Hawaii. These photographs are obviously under copyright. Given that this is a tiny, tiny little blog and these images have already “escaped” via e-mail, I figure these no harm in posting them if I give an attribution. It’s sort of like a commercial for Mr. Little and his work, from which he obviously earns his living… I just found these photos incredibly beautiful and hypnotic. I could stare at them for a long time.

Here is a link to Little’s official home page. Buy his book if you find these images as stunning as I do.

Here is a link to Little’s Facebook page. Go there if you want to find out more.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

“Domestic terrorism” in Seattle.

I guess only the rather liberal Pacific Northwest feels free to call something what it actually is; domestic terrorism. Because, you know, terrrorists are always foreigners.

Here is a link to the story in the Seattle Times. The suspect apparently pulled up beside a patrol car on Halloween night and opened fire on two officers, killing one and wounding the other. Premediated murder. He was also apparently involved in a bombing also against police offices earlier in the month. And the clue that tied to the two crimes together? A small U.S. flag was left at both crime scenes.

When police raided this guy’s apartment, there was a confrontation and he tried to shoot at the arresting officers. He was, very appropriately, shot by three officers. He survived and is in the hospital. A search of the suspects apartment “turned up bomb-making materials, improvised explosive devices and two rifles, including a "military-style assault rifle" similar to the type of weapon police believe was used to kill Brenton and wound his rookie partner, Officer Britt Sweeney. More hazardous material was found later Saturday, and at 8 p.m. residents in Monfort's building were evacuated briefly, according to Tukwila police dispatch.”

(Note: This is about five miles from where I work. Also in the same area is the truck plant where Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer used to work and and Lake Sammamish State Park, which is where Ted Bundy first learned how to lure young women into his beat up Volkswagon bug. About 25 miles down the road in Tacoma is where the D.C. sniper bought his rifle used to kill a number of people while he was hidden in the truck of his car, modified specifically for that purpose and where he killed one of his first victims.)

This event won’t even make the national news, because it is such “small potatoes.” After all, it was only a single policeman that was killed by a lone nutjob. Nothing to see here, no conclusions to be drawn. This comes right on the heels of the horrific killings at an Army base in Texas and several killings in Orlando at a business complex.

The atmosphere in the country right now is just heavy with the potential for violence. Lots and lots of angry people being egged on by their favorite radio or television “entertainer”, easy access to guns, the disintegration of all social restraint, all are contributing to this potential. In the eyes of many, it is now acceptable to take out their anger and frustration by killing people. I can’t believe that many on the right are still spouting off with implications of violence and killing. Michelle Bachmann spoke of people coming to Washington D.C. to confront lawmakers, using the following language:

"I'd love to have every one of your viewers to join me so we can go up and down through the halls, find members of Congress, look at the whites of their eyes and say, 'Don't take away my healthcare.'"

"The American people realize this is it. Just like that brand new Michael Jackson movie came out, ‘This Is It.’ This is it for freedom. If you believe in liberty, and if you’re rejecting tyranny, this is it. Dr. Mark Levin wrote a seminal book that really swept this country called Liberty and Tyranny. And that’s what this debate is about next week. Liberty and tyranny."

The last time I heard the words “the whites of their eyes” and “tyranny” used together, it was about the Revolutionary War. This was, no doubt, intentional by Bachmann. But she is using references to taking up arms against an oppressive government (which at that time was Britain). She is purposely trying to stir up the anger of people at the very government of which she is a part, and insinuating that violence is acceptable.

This is not going to end well. There are already too many angry nuts out there with guns who are more than willing to go out and kill Americans against whom they hold a grudge, real or perceived. This is why many of us rational people were aghast when people starting bringing loaded guns to town hall meetings where President Obama was speaking. Legal or not, that is an insane thing to do. There is no upside.

This is not going to end well. It may not even end at all. This may now be the normal condition of this country. And that scares me a lot.

A healthcare reform bill passes the House.

I expect to see jack-booted healthcare Nazis showing up at everyone's front door to drag away anyone over 60 at any time now.

Really soon.

Just wait a minute....

Friday, November 06, 2009

Jesus Christ, I am confused about the teabag movement.

I believe that, under normal circumstances (which does not include updating a computer), I am a very rational person. I act upon my decisions that are (usually) made in a deliberate and logical manner. This is quite the opposite of what is going on with the tea baggers.

These are angry people, no doubt. I get they are very unhappy with the government paying for stuff that they don’t like with THEIR money. I understand. I was very unhappy that the government invaded and continues to occupy a country that had nothing to do with the horrible events of 9/11. I don’t like the idea that any of what was initially my money was used for that purpose. So, great. These people don’t like the idea of “government run healthcare.” Except for Medicare. That’s apparently fine. And VA run hospitals. Those are fine, too. And all the representatives and senators like their government run healthcare system as well. But universal healthcare? Socialist! Communist! Fascism!

How about other things that the government provides for the common good of everyone? Are they upset about that as well? Take, for instance, the government spending billions and billions of dollars updating the Air Traffic Control system. To the best of my knowledge, the Constitution says absolutely nothing about the government being able to run an Air Traffic Control system, especially on the taxpayer's nickel. The current ATC system is antiquated, but does provide a very good level of safety. We hardly ever see airplanes running into each other, for example. But the government has spent, and is still spending, billions on updating this system. I, personally, am not making any judgment about this. I am just pointing out that is what the government is spending MY money and YOUR money and the TEABAGGER’S money on. Why am I not seeing huge demonstrations against socialistic Air Traffic Control? Hey, it’s protecting the lives and welfare of the citizens of the U.S. Not everyone flies on airplanes. This is really no different than the health care debate. What’s up here? Why the difference? Why the over-the-top rage at an attempt for the richest country in the world to provide basic health care to its citizens? It’s a top priority to not have our citizens die from airplanes crashing into each other or the ground, or even suffering the relatively mild inconvenience of a delayed flight due to weather, but it’s O.K. for uninsured or underinsured people to die because they can’t afford the healthcare they need, or even if they do recover, they have had to liquidate every single asset they possessed?

That’s really insane, when you stop and really consider the question. But, of course, no one ever does really stop and consider the question from a purely rational point of view. It’s all gut emotion.

Another thing I absolutely do not get is that the fact that the tea baggers believe that the Republicans winning two gubernatorial seats in the election this week is some big blow to the Democrats and President Obama specifically. Yet, the Dems won two congressional elections (in California and upstate NY), which is at the federal level. The Dems just picked up one more vote in the House in support of healthcare reform. Why don't those results predict the imminent collapse of the Republican Party? I have no idea. Yet, the race in NY-23, where the tea baggers succeeded in driving out the more moderate Republican, hand-picked by the local GOP, and replaced her with a far-right candidate who ended up losing the congressional seat that the Republican Party has held successfully since the goddamn Civil War, is some sort of teabagger victory? What the hell? Black is black, and white is black. Heads, I win; Tails, you lose. Every single goddamn things that happens in the universe is good news for the GOP and it’s teabagging nutjobs who are currently at the wheel. Where someone using logic looks at this situation and sees complete madness, the teabaggers see complete victory, now and in the very near future. Only about 20% of the respondents of several recent polls identified themselves as Republicans. 20%. Hardly a formula for winning national races, I would like to say. Yet, the teabaggers are now emboldened by the defeat of the official Republican candidate in NY-23, so much so that they are going to target yet more incumbents who do not meet their ideology, and in doing so, will probably produce yet more elections where the teabaggers do not win the war (the election itself), but they won the battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party, and after all, that's all that matters!

This has become a common theme of this blog; the seemingly insane actions by the extreme conservatives of this country. I just can’t seem to get past the fact that I live in the same country as several million insane people.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Seattle produces yet another crazy person.

I suppose we should all just feel relieved that “Reverend” Ken Hutcherson is only a hate filled idiot and isn’t actually a mass murderer like Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, or Ted Bundy. But I am not sure where all the insanity comes from here. Something in the water? The fact that it rains a LOT in the fall and winter and sometimes never gets past “bright twilight?” I dunno, but it’s obviously something.

Ken Hutcherson is a well-known homophobe, spewing his hatred regarding gays on a regular basis. But this rant, via Pam Spaulding at Pandagon, is pretty damn unusual, even for him, given that Hutcherson is black.

I have watched the news, I have seen television, and I have heard different commentators talk about my friend, all the while knowing the things they say are lies. I am proud to be an American and proud of the United States of America, and again this makes it personal to me. I not only see Rush Limbaugh and the conservative movement in this action being attacked, but the entire foundation of what made America great.

Freedom is under attack, and we as Americans need to wake up and stop this madness in the greatest nation ever formed.
Let’s talk about what seems to have happened to Rush Limbaugh. Here is a man who loves professional football almost as much as he loves America’s traditions, values, and heritage of liberty. Rush has dedicated his life to the study of both football and America. He understands America and superbly communicates his understanding with millions every weekday. He understands the game of football, and has influenced it positively by being its biggest fan. Yet Rush has suffered attempts to destroy him with lies, misunderstandings and a direct effort to eliminate his influence in America...over the pretext of what? A game?

I truly believe that this is brought on by what I call the Minority Thought Pattern. Let’s not mince words: the Minority Thought Pattern is the total disdain and hatred of what God has accomplished through the white male throughout history. Coming from an African-American, I know this will shock you.

I am not minimizing the accomplishments of women, African-Americans, immigrants, the religious, or anyone else who is part of America. But the white male was here on Plymouth Rock for God to use, and the Pilgrims had a great belief in that God. The nation built out of their efforts, reflecting their values (most especially their religious values), has become the light of liberty for the world and an obstacle to those power-hungry individuals who hate it.

This is extremely personal to me. It’s about a friend. When I look at Rush, I don’t see a white man; I see a friend. I don’t see a talk show host (a very famous talk show host); I see a friend, and friendship overrides color and political stances. I don’t see a controversial figure, but a man whose heart and thoughts I know, and a man who is not a racist.

My, my… A black guy defending Rush Limbaugh against charges of racism. That’s novel. But it’s his statements about white males being an instrument of God that really grabbed my attention. That’s just out-and-out creepy. If those statements were coming from an old white guy, they would be reprehensible. Racist. Egotistic to the max. Uncaring about anyone that looks different than him, certainly. But coming from a black guy as it does, well, I am sort of at a loss here. Self-hatred? Maybe. It’s also possible that Rev. Ken is so invested in the ultra-conservative dogma that he believes ever bombastic piece of offal that people like Rush throw out there. Yeah, a bunch of rich, old, conservative white guys kicking Rush out of their professional sports ownership group because they didn’t want to deal with the controversy that ensue by having Rush around is JUST LIKE attacking everything that made America great!

*Sigh* The human mind is am amazing thing. It has the most fantastic ability to rationalize away anything that doesn’t fit in with its preconceived notions.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

These are supposed to be Thanksgiving colors, in case you couldn't figure that out.

I'm not sure it totally works, but then, it's only for about a month.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Boeing continues its exodus from Seattle.

Boeing has just made the decision to set up a second 787 production line in South Carolina. Actually, “just” is not an appropriate use of the word here, because many believe that Boeing management made the decision quite some time ago and was just playing the leverage game with SC to get more favorable terms. They played the same game as many owners of professional sports teams do. They set up a conflict between the current home and some other location that is just lusting after whatever it is. The owners then use the conflict to pull a power play and use their toy as a bargaining chip to see who is going to give them the most favorable terms. Sometimes they stay (like the Seattle Seahawks that almost moved to L.A. and the Seattle Mariners that almost moved to Tampa) and sometimes they go (such as the Seattle Supersonics, that did move to Oklahoma City). Who is going to give the rich owners even more goodies?

But, for Boeing, the die was cast long ago; Boeing was going to South Carolina. Boeing management had had its fill of strikes by the Machinists Union. (SPEEA, the engineering union, went on strike over 10 years ago and it had a significant impact, but by making membership in the union mandatory for all engineers, that union has effectively been neutered. It will not strike again.) It didn’t matter if there were valid grievances or not. They didn’t like the strikes. This follows their move of corporate headquarters to Chicago a number of years ago. Boeing is, without any doubt, no longer one of the fixtures of the Pacific Northwest.

I have absolutely no doubt that whenever Boeing decides to build their next airplane, such as a replacement for the long-in-the-tooth 737, it will also go to South Carolina. Boeing can make a ton of money by selling the land that the 737 plant current sits on, and they can go somewhere where the infrastructure will already exist, complete with a non-unionized work force.

I’m not going to try to do an analysis here. It’s just one more example of huge corporations existing for themselves and their shareholders. They do not exist for the benefit of their workers or their communities. Those things are seen, more often than not, as the enemy. I don’t know why this should be. Why are people who buy stocks in a company more important than the people who put a huge chunk of their lives into it? To me, that’s an astounding business model and one large proof that, in today’s America, the almighty dollar is the only thing that matters.

I could write some major paragraphs about the 787 program itself, which has been an unmitigated disaster for Boeing. It is over two years late and the first airplane still has yet to fly. It is not a coincidence that this is the first major airplane program undertaken by the company after its supposed “merger” with McDonnell Douglas, in which McDonnell Douglas essentially bought Boeing with Boeing’s own money, and, with the exception of Alan Mulally, who is now departed and the CEO of Ford, put in ex-McDonnell Douglas people into upper management. The program has been mishandled from the beginning, and it is because of how Boeing is now run. But yet, moving to South Carolina is seen as being “in the best interests of the company.” The workers who will lose their jobs were not the cause of this fiasco, yet they are the ones that will suffer.

Seattle will survive this blow, and the blow that will come in the future when the 737 replacement is also built somewhere else. The Pacific Northwest is a pretty vibrant area in a lot of different ways. We still have Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks and some other high-tech businesses. But continued losses such as Washington Mutual (see my earlier post on that subject), major parts of Boeing and the Seattle Supersonics does feel like we are absorbing some major punches in the gut. We are slowly losing what has earlier defined Seattle. Things come, things go, but the quest for the almighty dollar remains.

(Disclaimer: I worked at Boeing for 19 years, before moving on about 9 years ago. I still work in commercial aerospace. Nothing I have said in this post came from any sort of inside knowledge. Everything is readily available from public sources, such as newspapers and the internet.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

"I never knew there was such a thing as a condom plant!"

Doctor, just what is in those bottles, anyway?

Photo from "The Thing from Another World."

The New Hoover Dam Bypass

Creeping closer inch by inch, 900 feet above the mighty Colorado River, the two side of a
$160 million bridge at the Hoover Dam slowly takes shape.

The bridge will carry a new section of US Route 93 past the bottleneck of the old road which can be twisting and winding around and across the dam itself.

When complete, it will provide a new link between the states of Nevada and Arizona. In an incredible feat of engineering, the road will be supported on the two massive concrete arches which jut out of the rock face.

The arches are made up of 53 individual sections each 24 feet long which have been cast on-site and are being lifted into place using an improvised high-wire crane strung between temporary steel pylons.

The arches will eventually measure more than 1,000 feet across. At the moment, the structure looks like a traditional suspension bridge. But once the arches are complete, the suspending cables on each side will be removed. Extra vertical columns will then be installed on the arches to carry the road.

The bridge has become known as the Hoover Dam bypass, although it is officially called the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, after a former governor of Nevada and an American Football player from Arizona who joined the US Army and was killed in Afghanistan. Work on the bridge started in 2005 and should finish next year. An estimated 17,000 cars and trucks will cross it every day.

The dam was started in 1931 and used enough concrete to build a road from New York to San Francisco. The stretch of water it created, Lake Mead, is 110 miles long and took six years to fill. The original road was opened at the same time as the famous dam in 1936.

An extra note: The top of the white band of rock in Lake Mead is the old waterline prior to the drought and development in the Las Vegas area. It is over 100 feet above the current water level.

(Ed. note: The source of these photos and accompanying text is unknown. I received them in an e-mail, without attribution. If anyone has a correct attribution, I will add it or will remove these photos. They are very high quality and not likely to have come off of someone's Flicker page.)

Update: Several random thoughts regarding these pictures:

1) That's going to be a hell of a view for someone driving across that when it's completed.

2) For $160 million, that looks incredibly fragile and unstable. It looks, at this distance, to be supported by something akin to really tall cement matchsticks. A good gust of wind seems to have more than an even chance of blowing it over sideways.

3) There's NO way I would ever work on something like that! Total freakout time. I doubt I could even drive across it.

4) How'd those guys get out there, anyway?

5) And where is the cement coming from when they are pouring the new sections?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Joe Lieberman's ego; really large, really ugly, thinks it can fly.

Yaknow, I'm really going to miss Halloween when it's over. I am getting to use all these cool photos that otherwise would make absolutely no sense.

(For those interested, the shots are from The Giant Claw, via the B Movie Graveyard. One of THE worst giant film monsters ever. It makes Godzilla look positively frightening.)

Washington Mutual (WaMu): a prime example of the greed and arrogance of our financial institutions.

Every once in a while, a print newspaper actually does some fine investigative reporting. The Seattle Times is running a series on Washington Mutual, which started out as a local home loan business but eventually become one of the main dominoes that contributed to the economic meltdown of the last two years. It is unfortunate that the investigative reporting here is taking place AFTER all this had gone down. Investigating something that has already happened is much easier than investigating something that is currently going on which could have some significant downsides. However, that said, I would still highly recommend this series. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

It’s (unfortunately) a very predictable story. WaMu started out as a small company that had firm principles and treated their customers and employees fairly. However, new management came in, took over, and decided that the only thing that mattered was to grow the company and make huge amounts of money, no matter what.

One very important instrument in how this was accomplished is known as an “option ARM.” Adjustable rate mortgages are iffy enough, if the borrower doesn’t understand what he is getting into. However, these loans came with additional choices. You could pay the entire monthly premium plus the interest, you could pay part of the premium, or you could even pay none of the premium. Heck, you could even pay only a portion of the interest due for that month. The outcome of anyone doing this, of course, is that the amount you owe the financial institution goes up, not down. And when the loan hits a certain benchmark, all options are cancelled and the borrower is stuck with essentially a fixed rate mortgage that has a much larger monthly payment than their original standard fixed rate loan.

All of these nasty little details were hidden in the fine print of the contract, of course. And because the mortgage brokers that WaMu used to sell these loans got very large commissions, they never felt a lot of pressure to tell the potential customer anything that might frighten them off. Rather, these loans were pushed as a great way to save money!

Read this little snippet from one of these stories in the Times:

WaMu did not reward brokers for getting its customers the best deal. Just the opposite. The worse the terms were for borrowers, the more WaMu paid the brokers.

Look at that again. WaMu knowing pushed a business model (through unregulated brokers) to sell their option ARM product to people who they knew could not afford the ultimate outcome. In a number of cases that are documented in these articles, a borrower ended up with a higher monthly payment from the same lending institution than with the original loan! That is unconscionable, in all senses of that word.

However, WaMu didn’t really care. They were making money hand over fist. One big reason they didn’t care is that these loans, which were very aggressively pushed, were also constructed to be sold as part of a package. That’s a very fine business model. They reap huge benefits for risky loans, but because they sell them as “investments”, they take none of the risk for these loans that they knew a large percentage of them would never be paid.

That is the face of today’s financial industry in America. That mindset is all that is necessary to believe that the CEO and upper management are deserving of huge bonuses, when their customers and their own company are going through very tough times. People cannot get out of mortgages they can’t afford. Working families are being evicted from the houses they have lived in for years. What might happen in the future was not a concern to the executives at WaMu, because that was in the future. The only thing that mattered was raking in as much cash as possible in as little time as possible.

Of course, this is the same description that can be applied to any pyramid scheme, where the only thing that matters is to be on top of the pyramid. By the time the entire thing collapses, you have yours and that’s all that matters.

I am always at a loss about how to wrap up a post on something like this. Some pithy insight, some clever reference… But it’s difficult to even contemplate the overwhelming greed and hubris. And, not only that, it's institutionalized greed! It was their business model, just as is the practice of canceling insurance policies of sick people, sometimes VERY sick people, just when they need financial assistance. "Why, that's required if we are to make money. Don't you want us to make money? You must be a socialist...."

This is the one of the faces of the current Republican Party. This is what Republicans stand for, and this is what they are fighting so hard to preserve in their battle against healthcare reform. They are for the top of the pyramid making as much money as they possibly can, by whatever means they can.

Why the other faces of the Republican Party, the fiscal conservatives and the family values Christians, put up with this, I have no idea. The financial institutions in this country are certainly not structured to benefit them.

Oh, yeah. Now I remember. Democrats and liberals are evil, are pro-terrorist and anti-American, and Obama isn’t an old white guy.

Who cares what the Mayans thought, anyway? Aren’t they dead?

Apparently, some Mayan prophecy predicts the world will end in 2012. There’s a major motion picture about it. There are a lot of homebrewed doomsayers around that have adopted this one, based on the number of hits that a Google search on “Mayan prophecy 2012” yields.

Yeah, so the Mayans were pretty good astronomers. They built some pretty cool stone edifices. I’ve been to Chichen Itza and it is impressive, as ancient ruins go. According to the Mayans own stone carvings, they also had a nasty habit about cutting the beating hearts out of living captives (maybe slaves, maybe vanquished enemies) to offer to their version of the Supreme Being.

I do admit, this whole thing is a windfall at the box office, at least for several weeks, for Columbia Pictures and Centropolis Entertainment. But why, exactly, should we care about what a bloodthirsty, albeit vanished, people thought regarding the end of the world? They couldn’t even see their own imminent demise.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Insane? Or do they just not care?

One definition of insanity that I have always heard, which I believe is attributed to Albert Einstein, is to keep repeating the same action over and over, with the expectation that the results will be different. That certainly applies to conservatives these days. They keep “doubling down” on the strategy that requires them to really appeal to their identifiable base; the angry “tea-baggers” who require Republicans to attack Democrats on every single issue, whether that issue has any substance or not. The percentage of people in this country who identify themselves as Republicans is now down to around 20%, Republicans have lost the last two national elections, poll after poll show that satisfaction with the Republican brand is way down. Yet, the conservative element demand ideological purity, and even someone like Lindsey Graham are labeled as traitors if they vote with the Democrats on anything.

That’s the modern Republican Party.

Another definition of insanity, this one of my own making, goes something like this. Someone keeps going completely ape-shit over every single little thing. Some of the issues might be real issues where there is some room for true disagreement on the issues, some are completely bogus or made up. And some criticisms, which usually elicit the biggest ape-shit reactions, are for things that the Republican Party itself did under the Bush administration or continue to do to this day. Karl Rove is a great practitioner of this particularly tactic.

Yet another definition of insanity might be along the lines of someone who continually criticizes others for not following along with their policies and ways of thinking when a) their party has been booted out of office and they are in the minority, and b) the policies they have been advocating have already been proven to be disastrously wrong. A good example, of course, is Dick Cheney and his attack dog daughter, about Iraq, about Afghanistan, about torture, about Gitmo…

All of these definitions of insanity can currently be applied, in spades, to modern conservatives. Yet, they continue to do all of these things. Why? Do they actually not understand that, eventually, everyone stops listening to Chicken Little, especially when Mr. Little’s motives are obvious? Someone cannot make every new “issue”, real or imagined, into a catastrophe in the making when the next day or week, they forget all about that issue and jump into the NEXT new potential catastrophe. Eventually, even the most fervent believer is going to stop believing. To the rest of us, they seem to resemble the spittle-flecked doomsayers ranting on a street corner about the end of the world in the loudest voice possible using the most dire language they can conjure up. They appear to be nutjobs who, if one pays any attention to them at all, it is to snicker at them or shake your head in wonder.

So, my question is, are the current conservatives insane? Do they really believe what they are doing? Do they believe what they are saying? Or do they just not care? Do they know they are lying through their teeth and don’t even care if most sane people also know it, just as long as they whip up the base by throwing them more blood red meat? What is really going on here?

I actually do not know which choice is scarier. If these people don’t recognize the lies they are spewing and do not recognize the fact that they are, many times, contradicting their stated positions of two years ago or even two months ago just so they can go bonkers about how President Obama is destroying this country, that means that the lunatics are indeed in charge of a major political party. On the other hand, if everyone knows what they are doing and the reasons they are doing it, but don’t even care, that means that one entire political party has lost its ethical and moral compass.

So, which is it, do you think? And do these two choices even require an “either/or” answer? Can both be true at the same time? And is that possibility even worse than just only a single one?

If that “viable third party” is going to show up, I wish it would get on with it. I just do not know how long this country can go on with one of its two main political parties being insane.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Reader submitted pet photos.

I think you need to changes filters on your camera.... And you might want to rethink that gift of the Mad Scientist EZ Gene Splicer kit for your son.

When botox treatments go bad.

Georgia Republicans think that screwing with people’s trust is fine.

From Thinkprogress. Look at this Republican fundraiser mailing. Seems to look… kind of official, doesn’t it? Sort of like….or exactly like something one might get from the Census. And elderly people that trust stuff they get in the mail, like “You may have won a million dollars!”probably take this to be exactly what it looks like it is. So, would there be ANY reason at all for someone not to take this at face value and fill it out? And maybe put in some money when it asks for it?

Well, except for the part about political affiliation, I guess. That part looks a little suspicious. I love the choices.

Are you:
a) A conservative Republican
b) A moderate Republican
c) A liberal Republican
d) Independent voter who leans Republican
e) Other

You know, there seems to be a few choices left out there.

Georgia Republicans. Always trustworthy. Always playing by the rules.

What’s amazing to me is that people who do this do not seem to realize they are just validating all the ill will that non-ultra-conservative, non-insane people feel about the Republican Party these days. We don't have to prove these people are lying assholes who will do anything to win. They are proving that FOR us, without us having to do anything more than document their asshole-ness.

Spitzer discovers largest ring around Saturn

This is from an e-mail I received from an engineering and musician acquaintance. I am not sure of the original source of the material.

The Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered an enormous ring around Saturn -- by far the largest of the giant planet's many rings. The Ball Aerospace-built Multiband Imagaing Photometer captured the infrared image that led to the discovery.

The new belt lies at the far reaches of the Saturnian system, with an orbit tilted 27 degrees from the main ring plane. The bulk of its material starts about six million kilometers (3.7 million miles) away from the planet and extends outward roughly another 12 million kilometers (7.4 million miles). One of Saturn's farthest moons, Phoebe, circles within the newfound ring, and is likely the source of its material.

Saturn's newest halo is thick, too -- its vertical height is about 20 times the diameter of the planet. It would take about one billion Earths stacked together to fill the ring.

"This is one supersized ring," said Anne Verbiscer, an astronomer at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. "If you could see the ring, it would span the width of two full moons' worth of sky, one on either side of Saturn." Verbiscer; Douglas Hamilton of the University of Maryland, College Park; and Michael Skrutskie, of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, are authors of a paper about the discovery to be published online tomorrow by the journal Nature.

That is a huge ring of material. The fact that it is not in the equatorial plane of Saturn makes it very unusual, but also makes the source of the material very easy to deduce.

Update: I wanted to make sure about this before I posted it. Saturn's moon Phoebe is very unusual. It has a highly elliptical orbit, which indicates it may be a captured object and did not condense from the disk of planetary accretion material from which Saturn eventually coalesced. It also has a very unusual makeup. From wiki:

However, images from the Cassini-Huygens space probe indicate that Phoebe's craters show a considerable variation in brightness, which indicate the presence of large quantities of ice below a relatively thin blanket of dark surface deposits some 300 to 500 metres (980 to 1,600 ft) thick. In addition, quantities of carbon dioxide have been detected on the surface, a finding which has never been replicated on an asteroid. It is estimated that Phoebe is about 50% rock, as opposed to the 35% or so that typifies Saturn's inner moons. For these reasons, scientists are coming to believe that Phoebe is in fact a captured Centaur, one of a number of icy planetoids from the Kuiper belt that orbit the Sun between Jupiter and Neptune[13][14]. Phoebe is the first such object to be imaged as anything other than a dot.

Heeeyyyyy, Abbott!!!

Is that a statue of Anubis in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?