Saturday, December 05, 2009

Shots from (near)Space for $150

Gizmodo pointed me to these MIT students who launched a camera to near space with a balloon for $150. Almost 18 miles high! They used a Canon point & shoot running CHDK software to take the photos. This is the same software that allows me to use my Canon SD1000s for 3D pictures. Cool!
Check these guys out. I only wish the camera had pointed down more. FF to about the 2:40 mark to see the balloon pop and descend. That's less boring.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lindsey Graham Gets a Taste of Tea Bag

SC Senator Lindsey Graham (capital R) got a taste of the tea-bagger medicine at a recent town hall meeting. Lunatic fringe anyone?
From Alternet:

"Angry attendees in the crowd interrupted Graham with cries of, 'You're a country club Republican,' 'Sotomayor!,' and 'You lie.' Outside the event, right-wing activist Julliet Kozak picketed the town hall with a sign decrying all 'Unconstitutional Anti-Christ Socialist Federal Deficit Spending Programs.'"

Brad Johnson, meanwhile, collected reactions to Graham from prominent far-right blogs, where the South Carolinian has been called a "fake Republican," "RINO" (Republican in name only), a "traitor," "disgrace," "asshat," "democrat in drag," and a "wussypants, girly-man, half-a-sissy."

It's worth taking a moment to acknowledge Lindsey Graham's voting record here. The right is livid about his vote to confirm Sotomayor and his support for reforming U.S. energy policy, among other things. But given the apoplexy, one might think Graham had suddenly moved to the center. He hasn't.

In the always-helpful VoteView analysis, Graham is the 83rd most conservative senator in the current Congress, meaning only 17 senators are to his right. Graham is not only more conservative that most of the Senate, he's more conservative than most Republicans."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Museum in Australia Features My 3D Picture

The Museum of Tropical Queensland in Australia is featuring one of my 3D anaglyph photos in their new Train exhibition.

This is one of my older single-camera pictures, not the best 3D I've done, but hey, I'll take it. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Crazy for God

I've been wanting to read Frank Shaeffer's book "Crazy for God", especially after reading an article like this on Alternet (read the whole thing):

"We might actually be able to change the conversation in America about religion.

Is that important? Yes, like it or not religion will not go away. It motivates the worst in the American psyche and some of the best too. It is Joe Wilson's religion of hate but it also motivated Martin Luther King Jr.

Perhaps a generation from now the image of a typical Christian won't be a hate-monger like James Dobson but rather a lover of peace such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, or a literary giant like John Updike, and yes, a President Obama.

The only real answer to the hijacking of Christianity by the Religious Right, the longevity of religion-based racism, and the backward and inward looking movement we now call "American Christianity" is not to talk everyone out a having faith but rather to fight for the humane and ancient thread found within the Christian tradition. Blaming everything on race is too easy."

Sunday, September 20, 2009


IMGP9579j, originally uploaded by Watts4.

It's all about saving the planet ;-)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

BHI July August 2009

BHI July August 2009, originally uploaded by Watts4.

Erosion of the Old Bald Head Dune from July to August 2009

The pictures are from different angles, but should be close enough to get the idea.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lovin' me some Weiner

Anthony Weiner (D-NY), that is. And Morning Joe, for that matter. Check out this article from The Nation:

"Something rather remarkable happened on Tuesday's Morning Joe. Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York pointed out that the health insurance industry has no clothes, and Joe Scarborough, after first trying to spin it some gossamer threads, broke down and said, By God, you're right, this emperor is a naked money-making machine!

Well, he didn't use those exact words, but Joe did seem to finally get that America has granted insurance companies the right to create bottlenecks in the financing of healthcare in order to extract profits out of the suffering of ordinary people--without providing any actual healthcare whatsoever.

"Why are we paying profits for insurance companies?" Weiner asked Scarborough. "Why are we paying overhead for insurance companies? Why," he asked, bringing it all home, "are we paying for their TV commercials?"

Weiner, who recently warned that President Obama could lose as many as 100 votes on a health bill if a public option is not included, really wants single payer--Medicare for all Americans is his goal. What a crazy, way-out, reckless notion, Joe went into their encounter believing. But Weiner asked some simple, direct questions that no politician, much less Obama or HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has managed to pose:

What is an insurance company? They don't do a single check-up. They don't do a single exam, they don't perform an operation. Medicare has a 4 percent overhead rate. The real question is why do we have a private plan?

"It sounds like you're saying you think there is no need for us to have private insurance in healthcare," Joe asked at one point.

Weiner replied: "I've asked you three times. What is their value? What are they bringing to the deal?"

Scraping the bottom of a seemingly bottomless pit of spin, Joe is repeatedly left speechless, "stunned" and "astounded," he said, by the questions themselves. Indeed, when confronted with unfettered capitalism's massive failures, the right usually has nothing to say. The "free market" is supposed to eternally grow, not crash under its own greed. They're left ideologically crippled."

Weiner goes all the way, to the heart of the matter, something that my favorite compromizer, Pres. Obama, has been unwilling to do (so far). I say it's time to jettison bipartisanship and own this, Democrats. You're not going to get the Repubs on board without making things worse for our health care system. The problem to a large degree IS the health insurance companies. Partly because there is no real competition (I could choose at most between 2 companies, but what's the difference? They both have the right to disown me if it suits their needs), partly because of natural capitalist greed that works for most things we barter and buy, but not health care (or military).

I also must note one of the comments from this article, it's too good & juicy to pass up:

"To all rightwingers trying to subvert The Nation via neurotic nonsensical diversions ...

You didn't rage when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount & appointed a President.

You didn't rage when Cheney allowed energy company officials to dictate energy policy.

You didn't rage when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn't rage when the Patriot Act took away so many of our rights.

You didn't rage when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn't rage when we spent over 600 billion(and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn't rage when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn't rage when you saw the Abu Grahib photos (except like Rumsfeld to fume that they were ever allowed to be taken).

You didn't rage when you learned we were torturing people.

You didn't rage when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn't rage when we didn't nab Bin Laden.

You didn't rage when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

You didn't rage when we let a major US city drown.

You didn't rage when the deficit hit a trillion dollars.

But you finally start raging when the government decides that people in America deserve the right to see a doctor when they're ill."

Posted by sloper at 08/21/2009 @ 06:18am

Where are the Christians? Wouldn't Jesus say that the poor & sick deserve health care? Where are the farmers who accept gov't subsidies to not grow crops? Where are the potential entrepreneurs who stay working for "the man", 'cause they're the only ones have reasonably priced health care plans? More to come on that....

In the meantime, enjoy the Weiner.

Bye-Bye Bald Head Dune

There it sits, on the beach.

Moving the shipping channel closer to Bald Head, and then pumping the dredged channel sand over to Oak Island has devastated the southwestern tip of Bald Head, and now the Old Bald Head Dune faces imminent collapse. The bird habitat is gone, and no turtles have nested near there this year.

Photo courtesy of Marvin Neuwirth

Update: The Star-News reports in an article titled "No deaths or major damage as hurricane Bill passes"...

"Battered on Bald Head

The peak of the season is worrying Bald Head Island residents and officials, where the beaches continue to erode.

Officials evacuated eight homes on Sandpiper Trail as well as on South and West Bald Head Wynd because the homes had five feet of water underneath them, Bald Head Island Mayor Larry Lammert said.

He said power to the homes was turned off as a precaution to avoid any chance of electrocution. Most of the people in the homes were leaving anyway because the rentals run from Saturday to Saturday, he added.

Bald Head Island resident Watts Carr said the island has been gradually eroding since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started dredging the Cape Fear River shipping channel earlier this year.

“The hurricane, certainly, just makes it worse,” he added.

Carr and others are wondering how the island will hold up if at storm actually hits land. Since February, island officials said they’ve lost more than 150 feet of beach in places, with erosion losses continuing as the island tries to find its new equilibrium.

Lammert said he believes Hurricane Bill wiped away the last of the sea turtle nests Friday night.

“It’s just terrible,” he added"

My Dad also reports they're losing 10 feet with each high tide. No major damage though, according to the (a-hem) f'ing headline.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Angels at U2 Gig in Barcelona

I'm not usually into the "I see Angels" thing, but this one caught my eye. Click the picture to see what folks are saying on Twitter.

Scotty writes in the @U2 forum:
"Definately not photoshopped! I was there and I saw this, it was amazing. It was during moment of surrender. I am the only one in the group i was with to see it as we were in the pit and for some reason during this song I looked behind me.OMG! I was starting to think I imagined this. This is the first mention of the Barcelona angel and I keep telling people to look out for it at the shows, all my U2 mates think I'm imagining things, i have been to 5 360 shows and only saw this once. Glad someone else saw it too!"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wars, What Are They Good For?

Wars. Well, they're good for some things, like defense contractor stock prices. Maybe some things, like Military and Health Care are not the best candidates to share in our praiseworthy capitalist system. Capitalism relies on profits, and these two sectors should not be driven by profit, because that leads the inherent bureaucracy to do things for money rather than doing what is best. Defense contractors are driven to fight long, extended wars just as medical companies are driven to come up with drugs to treat patients over a long term. You get the most money that way, over a long term. Sittin' pretty.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Capitalism.... clearly it drives the world economy and has been pivotal in the development of civilization. Yay Capitalism, really! But military and health care are too central to us as humans, as spiritual beings, that we cannot allow profit to run them. In War, an innocent civilian cut down for arbitrariness sake, in medicine, a patient dies for lack of insurance, unable to afford the medicine needed to save or extend their lives. Surely we as humans cannot accept such things. We cannot trust Capitalism when it comes to war and health, just like we can't trust the Government, unless we truly believe that We the People ARE the Government. I can't think of a better way to "promote the general welfare" than to provide modern health care. I consider basic medical care a human right. If this makes me a liberal, so be it. I'll still defend most of Reagan's Presidency, Bush I's, and even good ol' Jesse Helms if you want me to.

But back to the military spending. The two wars we've been fighting, by the latest estimates, will cost us between $2-$3 Trillion. Yikes. Just think if we'd spent that on say.... health care? But if it was REALLY important to fight those wars, you know, maybe that's what we had to spend. I'd have been OK with just Bin Laden's head on a stick. We've "shuffled the deck" a bit over there, but solved nothing, and we've paid a great cost.

“On my last day in Iraq,” veteran McClatchy News correspondent Leila Fadel wrote August 9, “as on my first day in Iraq, I couldn’t see what the United States and its allies had accomplished. … I couldn’t understand what thousands of American soldiers had died for and why hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had been killed.” ...

“Since the Iraq War began,” Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive wrote, “aerospace and defense industry stocks have more than doubled. General Dynamics did even better than that. Its stock has tripled.”

An Associated Pressaccount published July 23 observed: “With the military fighting two wars and Pentagon budgets on a steady upward rise, defense companies regularly posted huge gains in profits and rosier earnings forecasts during recent quarters. Even as the rest of the economy tumbled last fall, military contractors, with the federal government as their primary customer, were a relative safe haven.”...

The element of “risk,” so basic to capitalism, has been trampled by Pentagon purchasing agents even as its top brass rattle their missiles at supposedly enemy governments abroad. If this isn’t enough, in 2004 the Bush administration slipped a special provision into tax legislation to cut the tax on war profits to 7 percent compared to 21 percent paid by most U.S. manufacturers.

“As of summer, 2007, there were more ‘private contractors’ deployed on the U.S. government payroll in Iraq (180,000) than there were actual soldiers (160,000),” Scahill said. “These contractors worked for some 630 companies and drew personnel from more than 100 countries around the globe. … This meant the U.S. military had actually become the junior partner in the coalition that occupies Iraq.”

And each Blackwater operative was costing the American taxpayers $1,222 per day. The Defense Department remains, of course, America’s No. 1 Employer, with 2.3 million workers (roughly twice the size of Wal-Mart, which has 1.2 million staffers) perhaps because America’s biggest export is war.

“Who pays Halliburton and Bechtel?” philosopher Noam Chomsky asked rhetorically in his Imperial Ambitions. “The U.S. taxpayer,” he answers.

“The same taxpayers fund the military-corporate system of weapons manufacturers and technology companies that bombed Iraq. So first you destroy Iraq, then you rebuild it. It’s a transfer of wealth from the general population to narrow sectors of the population.”...

As Stiglitz and Bilmes remind us, “The money spent on Iraq could have been spent on schools, roads, or research. These investments yield high returns.”
Or Health Care!

On the other hand, maybe Americans want to keep paying to operate 2,000 domestic and foreign military bases and spend more money on armies and weapons of death than all other nations combined. Maybe they like living in the greatest Warfare State the world has ever known.

My hunch, though, is a lot of Americans haven’t connected the country’s looming bankruptcy with the greedy, gang from the military-industrial complex out to control the planet, its people and its precious resources.

OK, now that guy is more liberal than me, maybe even a crazed loon for all I know, but he's right about our military spending. No one's to blame, it's the nature of bureaucracy, as Eisenhower warned. We just have to recognize it and use our humanity to correct it. When all is said and done, We the People have to run everything ourselves anyway, we are the Government. So we may as well... no, it is our duty as Americans, to show humanity to our fellow humans by avoiding war, and helping the sick. Seems like the Christian thing to do as well, so "bonus", right? Right on! Go America!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

LEGO Apollo Lander

Geek websites I read celebrate all things LEGO, and I came across this picture of the Apollo Lander. I stayed up all night making this very model when I was about 8.

The Eagle has landed. Congrats, humans!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Camille Paglia gets U2-ey

The new U2 song "Magnificent" has sparked a Bible/God debate over at Camille Paglia's column at Salon, as she and some readers battle over the song's meaning. Here's her retort to a long and detailed question from reader Don Stockton:

Thank you very much for your good wishes. And my thanks also to Joseph Hartman of Arlington, Va., who wrote in to argue as eloquently as you have that the U2 song is "a psalm to God."

However, I must respectfully disagree. "Magnificent" is definitely a magnificat, a hymnlike song of praise, and it is permeated with religious references -- much as love songs often were in African-American soul music. But as I interpret Bono's lyrics (from my classroom experience as a teacher of poetry), there are several key details suggesting that it is not God but the audience who is being addressed. "I didn't have a choice but to lift you up": Surely Bono is not telling God that He needs lifting! It's the audience who need intervention and exaltation. "You and I will magnify": Devout humans do the magnifying, not God, the subject of that magnification.

Yes, Bono is saying he was destined to sing -- like the Celtic bards before him. He was one of the chosen few even as a squalling infant. "I was born to be with you in this space and time": the "you" here is not God, who exists outside of space and time, but other mortals subject to limitation. The soul had to leave God to come to earth. In professing uncertainty about what is beyond the grave, Bono is rejecting Christian orthodoxy. The "Magnificent" to whom he sings might well be God, but it could also be the universe or life itself.

Pretty heady stuff for a rock band, eh?

Monday, June 29, 2009


I didn't think U2 and MJ ever did anything together.
It's not as good as the Elvis duet.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

"I'm a Bono fan"

So says James Logan Jones Jr., the current United States National Security Advisor and a retired United States Marine Corps four-star general.

This was revealed in the Brain Williams White House special, as they showed a copy of U2's "No Line on the Horizon" on his desk.

Have I mentioned how much I like this Obama guy?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Nancy Pelosi is a Red Herring

red herring
- n.
  1. A smoked herring having a reddish color.
  2. Something that draws attention away from the central issue.
I'm referring to the second definition here. The central issue we are distracted from?
The Torture and Why We Did It.
Sure, she knew about it, and most of us could figure out that it was happening (perhaps not to the extent we have since learned), but the central issue is not that she knew about it, the central issue is that we were doing it, and more importantly, why we were doing it. I can see using it in a limited fashion for the "ticking time bomb" scenario, but what we did was beyond the pale.

From Joy-Ann Reid at Common Dreams:
"Most Americans have long since accepted that the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq was flawed, if not totally false. What we didn't know until recently, was that to sell that case, members of the Bush administration, possibly including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld - maybe even the president of the United States, were willing to do things we're accustomed to ascribing to the North Koreans or Maoist Chinese: using torture not to get good information, but to produce false confessions, to justify an unnecessary war.

The evidence just keeps coming. On Thursday, Colin Powell deputy Lawrence Wilkerson, and former NBC News investigative producer Robert Windrem, offered stunning news. In Wilkerson's words:

... what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002--well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion--its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.

So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney's office that their detainee "was compliant" (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP's office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa'ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, "revealed" such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop."

And what's the latest news on al-Libi, from The Washington Post:
"A former CIA high-value detainee, who provided bogus information that was cited by the Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq war, has died in a Libyan prison, an apparent suicide, according to a Libyan newspaper."
More from Joy-Ann Reid:
"You'd think that these would be top stories, worthy of serious consideration by a press corps that so shamefully let down the American people in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. The implications of these new revelations are stunning: a sitting president, vice president and defense secretary, selling a false case to the American people about an impending invasion of a country that had done no harm to us, and then using torture to produce false confessions in order to further the lie. Instead, the vaunted press corps is fixated - almost to the point of obsession - with Speaker Pelosi."
Torture itself is wrong, but using torture to knowingly produce false information to justify a war? That's beyond the pale.

And that's why Pelosi is a red herring. She may have known and gone along with the administration, but who directed our torture program, who implemented it and why? That's the real central issue here.

Bonus: Star Trek fans will appreciate this article from Slate that describes the episode when Piccard gets tortured. There...are...four...lights! Watch this to see clips from that episode:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Heels at da White House

Bobby Frasor made this great behind the scenes video of the Tar Heels at the White House.
This is a must-see for Heels fans (and recruits).

Friday, May 01, 2009

Not Just Anyone's Cockatoo

I heard about the dancing Cockatoo on NPR yesterday. Bono uses the term "Cockatoo" in one of their new songs called "Breathe", so this just blew me away.

Here's the NPR story, enjoy.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bush Waterboards Reagan

What did Reagan do regarding waterboarding? He prosecuted and jailed the offenders. As I've said before, George W. Bush ain't no Ronald Reagan.

"George W. Bush's Justice Department said subjecting a person to the near drowning of waterboarding was not a crime and didn't even cause pain, but Ronald Reagan's Justice Department thought otherwise, prosecuting a Texas sheriff and three deputies for using the practice to get confessions.

Federal prosecutors secured a 10-year sentence against the sheriff and four years in prison for the deputies. But that 1983 case -- which would seem to be directly on point for a legal analysis on waterboarding two decades later -- was never mentioned in the four Bush administration opinions released last week."

So Bush's Justice Dept. purposely ignored the Reagan precedent on waterboarding. Bush II should have emulated Reagan more... it seems to me he had none of Reagan's compassion.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

We Tortured to Justify War

Frank Rich at the New York Times boils down why we tortured, and it's worse than we think. We tortured in particular to get info that linked Al Qaeda with Iraq, in order to justify going to war.
...Maj. Paul Burney, a United States Army psychiatrist assigned to interrogations in Guantánamo Bay that summer of 2002, told Army investigators of another White House imperative: "A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful." As higher-ups got more "frustrated" at the inability to prove this connection, the major said, "there was more and more pressure to resort to measures" that might produce that intelligence.

In other words, the ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration's ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections. Bybee's memo was written the week after the then-secret (and subsequently leaked) "Downing Street memo," in which the head of British intelligence informed Tony Blair that the Bush White House was so determined to go to war in Iraq that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." A month after Bybee's memo, on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney would make his infamous appearance on "Meet the Press," hyping both Saddam's W.M.D.s and the "number of contacts over the years" between Al Qaeda and Iraq. If only 9/11 could somehow be pinned on Iraq, the case for war would be a slamdunk.

But there were no links between 9/11 and Iraq, and the White House knew it. Torture may have been the last hope for coercing such bogus "intelligence" from detainees who would be tempted to say anything to stop the waterboarding.

Last week Bush-Cheney defenders, true to form, dismissed the Senate Armed Services Committee report as "partisan." But as the committee chairman, Carl Levin, told me, the report received unanimous support from its members - John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman included.

Levin also emphasized the report's accounts of military lawyers who dissented from White House doctrine - only to be disregarded. The Bush administration was "driven," Levin said. By what? "They'd say it was to get more information. But they were desperate to find a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq."

Five years after the Abu Ghraib revelations, we must acknowledge that our government methodically authorized torture and lied about it. But we also must contemplate the possibility that it did so not just out of a sincere, if criminally misguided, desire to "protect" us but also to promote an unnecessary and catastrophic war. Instead of saving us from "another 9/11," torture was a tool in the campaign to falsify and exploit 9/11 so that fearful Americans would be bamboozled into a mission that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. The lying about Iraq remains the original sin from which flows much of the Bush White House's illegality.

If we are to remain proud to be Americans, we must see justice served here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tyler Hansbrough 3D

tylerhansbrough3D, originally uploaded by Watts4.

That's right, National Champs, baby.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

3D HD from Panasonic?

Looks like I have something to add to my wishlist....if they ever make this thing. Gizmodo luvs some 3D.

Monday, April 06, 2009

3D Movies Not the Next Big Thing?

Slate's Daniel Engber has a terrific article on the pitfalls of 3D movies, and why the new crop isn't really better than the old style:

"There are plenty of other problems with 3-D movies that might contribute to the sore eyes, headaches, and nausea. As a general rule, the greater the disparity between the two image tracks—that is to say, the farther apart the two cameras are placed during shooting—the greater the illusion of depth in the finished product. That's a plus for the filmmakers, who tend to favor extreme special effects, pickaxes flying off the screen and all that. On the other hand, the more pronounced the disparity, the more difficult it is for the viewer to fuse the two perspectives into a coherent scene. That could lead to double-vision, uncomfortable flickering, and—yes—eyestrain.

So if the new 3-D movies are still giving us headaches, why has no one bothered to mention them? It may be that the visual fatigue, however pervasive, is small enough to hide in the novelty of the experience—we're so jazzed up that we barely notice our eyes hurt."
I like the new-style 3D movies much better than say, Jaws 3D... they are better. The U23D movie on IMAX was sensational. But yeah, as long as we need glasses to see 3D, there is going to be some discomfort. I find looking at anaglyph pictures much easier on the eyes than movies, and this article helps explain why. Cool article with lots of detail, even if it does douse some water on the new 3D fire.

Friday, April 03, 2009

U2 in Fez Cool Video

Cool video of early "No Line" sessions in Fez, complete with different lyrics for Unknown Caller at the end. I found the video enjoyable.

U2 in Fez from Juan Andrés Milleiro on Vimeo.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Make Taxes More Fair

When we hear how the gov't is taxing the rich too much, I think it's important to look at these figures, too:

Like Rush Limbaugh saying: "The top 1% is paying nearly ten times the federal income taxes than the bottom 50%!" This is true. But AFTER TAXES, the top 1% keeps 20% of the nation's income, while the bottom half of earners retain just 14%.

Or the argument that low-income people don't pay taxes. Based on recent data from the U.S. Congressional Budget Office and the Internal Revenue Service, the total of all state and local taxes, social security taxes, and excise taxes (gasoline, alcohol, tobacco) consumes 21% of the annual incomes of the poorest half of America. For the richest 1% of Americans, the same taxes consume 7% of their incomes.

Or the aversion to 'redistributing' income, because that's a form of socialism. From 1980 to 2006 the richest 1% nearly tripled their after-tax percentage of our nation's income, while the bottom 90% of America has seen their share drop over 20%. Either the wealthy started working 3 times harder or we've experienced a massive redistribution of income toward the rich.

It's time for the fair tax, a tax on consumption rather than earnings. And simplification is paramount... this system is breaking under its own weight.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Speed Dialing with no signal at all

U2's new tour, the U2360 Tour, has been announced....and they're starting in Europe. Check out the cool 360 concert and album preview. And be sure to look at that uncool logo down there on the bottom left, right under the "presented by". Wha? Bono Has A Blackberry? Even Slate is perplexed, on the RIM/Blackberry side of things.

Didn't U2 endorse Apple/iPod/iTunes/iPhone? Isn't that Bono's mug on the icon? Will it remain in Version 3?
I feel for Steve Jobs....first the TIME cover with Bill Gates, and now this. It's almost like the Bono is sticking it to him while he's down.

What most people (including the Slate reporter) don't realize is that, and I quote myself from the @U2 Forum here:
"Bono (rest of U2?) are invested in Elevation Partners, a company that has pumped a lot of money (hundreds of millions?) into Palm, a direct competitor of RIM/Blackberry and iPhone. So yeah, it is a lot different than some random company, it's the direct competition of two other products they are affiliated with... odd huh?

I think U2 love electronic gadgets so much... maybe they're doing all this just to get the latest technology. Geeks. Wink Me, too. I like Palm."
This discussion led to funny statements like this gem from Mr. Bonorfied:
"I bet you like Palm Wink I guess U2 figure they've got the market covered because if you're not getting RIM'med you're getting Palm'ed."
Then andyt nailed the name for the new Blackberry-sponsored U2 Tour:
"Perhaps the '360 DEGREE RIM TOUR'"
That's got a great ring to it. Thanks folks, I'll be here all week, but seriously...

Palm's got a new smartphone coming out this summer, the Pre, and it's supposed to be the shimmy shing shing. Why didn't U2 use their considerable leverage to work with Palm? I find it odd...

So, U2 had a "business arrangement" with Apple: "sell our Tunes and we'll do your commercial".

Later, Bono/U2 invest in Elevation Partners (named for the U2 song), who start backing Palm through debt for years to get the company to its savior, the Pre.

Just as the Pre is about to be released, U2 announce their tour is being presented by... a 3rd smartphone company, RIM/Blackberry. I still can't wrap my head around it.

As a U2 fan, I don't like seeing them tied to products. As a Palm fan, this is a slap to the face! All that to say, I hope they find a way to do something cool with all the technology. Geeks!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Desmod Tutu's Wonderful Idea

One of my favorite folks, the Bishop Desmond Tutu has a challenge for Barack Obama:

"(Bishop Tutu) said it would be “wonderful if [Mr. Obama] would apologize for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq on behalf of the American people.”"

George W. is really the President responsible for the invasion, but Obama is "the man" now, and there's reason to believe that good folks around the world are ready for a new U.S. And we are ready for a new Us:

"When individuals forgive each other, she (a clinical psychologist, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela of South Africa) said, a “transcendence of the heart begins with a recognition that gross human rights violations were committed.” This is done by telling—and listening—to stories about what happened to individuals in a particular incident.

An “empathetic repair” takes place where both perpetrator and victim are able to encounter each other’s humanity because each person has exposed him or herself “to the naked face of evil” that is within him/her.

What is most interesting in this dynamic is that through forgiveness, the perpetrator has a vehicle for expressing remorse and suddenly finds he has an opening to his conscience that he silenced long ago in order to do evil deeds. In effect, he dehumanized himself while trying to dehumanize another! By asking forgiveness, he re-engages himself with those he wronged and thus “re-captures” his lost humanity."
The year+ we have left in Iraq would be well spent doing things like this with the Iraqi people. They deserve it, and so do we.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

U2: No Line on the Horizon Review by watts4u2

It hit the bitstream before you could buy it, and I took full advantage. I've been listening to "No Line on the Horizon" for a couple of weeks and it has taken me that long to get a handle on it.

Here's what you need to know before I start the song-by-song section. I've been a fan since War, and nothing they've ever released has immediately made me completely happy. Since The Unforgettable Fire, I've been saying that U2 need to find someone other than Eno/Lanois for production. Those guys just implant themselves on the music too much, I can hear them. "No Line" is no different in this regard... Eno/Lanois are more up front in the mix than ever before, and it's not just The Edge doing the background vocals. Much of the time the vocals are not really that far in the background, and sometimes they even make up the bulk of the song.

I think they've learned all they need to know from Eno/Lanois. I'm waiting for the stripped down album, 4 guys in the "loud room", and no additional overdubs/weird soundscapes that have come to define U2's sound. Someday...

All that said, I am a huge U2 fan... I believe! This album has at least two songs that are all-time golden nuggets, and it holds up altogether as an album better than recent efforts. For good and bad, you can tell they took their time with this puppy.

The album is getting some great reviews (5 stars from Rolling Stone, for instance), and some poor ones (Time?....they also call "Wild Honey" a hit). Some folks have just given up on U2.... you know, the folks who can't like something once it becomes popular? Some bloggers, when mentioning what albums came out on March 3rd, didn't even mention the new U2 CD, or put them in the Top 10 list of Best Albums of '09 SO FAR. Only two months in.... shush now!

So here's my personal take on the "Line", song by song:

No Line on the Horizon: I heard the b-side version first, so this slowed-down, soundscaped, Eno-wierdened version left me flat, especially toward the end with the too-sweet chimes. Great line: "Time is irrelevant, not linear/Then she put her tongue in my ear". Bono is oh-so-Bono with his "Whoa-o-o-o-ho", a good example of his willingness to throw himself into a song without fear of being uncool. It works here. The b-side version has a much more raw, live in the studio feel, and I prefer it by a mile.

Magnificent: A big song. The 10CC-like counter melody annoys me. Has some good moments with Edge/Larry, but doesn't really hit the mark for me. I didn't like "With or Without You" at first, either. The live version is better.

Moment of Surrender: Wow, that's a lot of sing-along. This song reminds me of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (read: somewhat boring). The verses and chorus go on forever. Game-saving guitar solo by the Edge sounds like he lifted it from a song off "Layla" called "I Am Yours". Not sure if that's Duane Allman or Eric Clapton, but that's good company. Wish the rest of the song was up to that level...

Unknown Caller: Beautiful long intro, then Danny (somebody tell me I'm wrong here) sings "Sunshine, Sunshine", ah this is a good place. The Eno Chorus here is one of the bright spots on here from me, the computer-like commands are fresh and remind me of Ernie Maresca's "Shout, Shout (Knock Yourself Out)". As much as I rag on Eno/Lanois, this gem is a diamond. The real mind-blower is the ending....a Beatles-like synth/horn thing followed by the Edge's Greatest Guitar Solo Ever. That's right. Is that Styx? Naaaaah

I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight: I call this the Abba song. This will be a single, it's not as bad as the title suggests, I'd like to hear Elvis or Bob Marley sing it, especially the chorus "it's not a hill, it's a mountain...."

Get On Your Boots: Space-age rocker melds Vertigo with Discotheque in a disjointed manner. Interesting, long, slow chorus and abbreviated guitar solo are at odds with the fast pace. They overworked this one (who? U2? overwork a song???), but it does have an undeniably great riff.

Stand-Up Comedy: I had seen this compared to Zeppelin, and that was way off the mark. This song tries to be funky, and Bono is oh-so-Bono in the verses, the chorus belongs to David Bowie....background vocals are great. It has good moments, but I don't love it even though it's a rocker. Odd song may grow on me and should be much better live without all the trappings of the studio and years to work on it.

Fez - Being Born: Eh, long, boring Eno intro kicks in to a completely different sound/song. Once again, Bono's "verses" detract from the song, but the "Oh-aaaaaaaaaho" parts sound great. Incomplete/missed opportunity. Tried to make it weird and lost the song in there...

White As Snow: A slow reminder of "Peace on Earth", the melody is nice enough, but this kind of U2 is not why I fell for the band. Some folks love this side of U2, and it has it's place.

Breathe: The second "Great" song on "No Line", I think Eno called this the most U2-ey song ever, and if he did, he's on the mark. I really like Bono's fast-paced delivery of the verses, it all seems so natural, with the band in full-soaring mode. Sounds great live. Folks, we have a winner!!

Cedars of Lebanon: Another slow one, Bono so serious and self-aware. Not uplifting at all, in fact the album ends with the notion that your enemies "are gonna last with you longer than your friends." How comforting!

So how does it stack up against past efforts? It's too early to tell, but it seems to me that this record was well-manufactured, I'm still hearing new sounds and feeling my way, much like the best of U2's records.... they take more than a listen or two or even few to get under your skin. 3-4 songs that I really dig on any album is doing pretty good by me. I'm used to not getting exactly what I want from U2, and I'm sure that's part of what still makes them interesting today. I can look back at all the U2 records and pick out 3-4 standouts that I like best, and other fans will pick a different set. It's all good.

"No Line" is more challenging than the last two records which went down easier. Hopefully that means it will endure the test of time. Undoubtedly, I will find more satisfaction in rougher b-sides like the stuff off the Digital Box set from the past two albums. Oh, and the live music... yeah, they're knocking "Breathe" out of the park.

"Unknown Caller" and "Breathe" I can latch onto as Great U2 Songs. They both induced spine chilling reactions on multiple listens. For a fan who prefers the stripped down and raw U2, I'm surprised how much I like this record, 'cause it is anything but stripped down. It's filled up.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

NSFW U2 Parody: "Check Out My Pubes"

I hesitated posting this, but it's just too good. Don't show the kids, I didn't!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

U2: Not Linear, Relevant

A lot of talk about Time on the new U2 record "No Line on the Horizon". One of my favorite lines is from the title track:

"“Time is irrelevant, it’s not linear”
Then she put her tongue in my ear"

Earlier today I was thinking how it's been about 20 years since Rattle & Hum. And then I thought about how we're as far away from Rattle & Hum as Rattle & hum was from, say, Sgt. Pepper or Electric Ladyland or Zeppelin I.

This here tune "Breathe" is one of my very favorites from the new CD. A one song twister, borrowing from Dylan, but taking it to the place only U2 can, not bad for four old Irish dudes.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

No More: Billy Packer

Hasn't it been nice not hearing that RB Billy Packer at all this year? That's been one of the highlights of the season for me! Yahoo! recently had a list of the 50 worst announcers in sports today, and Billy turned up....#1. Congrats! He won, even though he's not even in the competition:

1. Billy Packer: The man who annually managed to turn the most exciting three weeks in sports, the NCAA tournament, into a visit to your cranky grandfather's house. Griped and moaned about everything from women in sports to mid-major invitations (this, just before George Mason reached the Final Four). All credit goes to coaches; all blame goes to players. Thankfully put out to pasture with Bobby Knight. Boy, there's a joyful combo, huh?
I should say something about how great I think Mike Giminski has been... but I digress.

Here's a funny video about Billy Packer from the N&O:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Another New U2 Song

this is NOT the album version. but this post look like it is the album version. this is just NO LINE ON THE HORIZION 2 from the GET ON YOUR BOOTS SINGLE. the album version is different.

Click here to go to site with streaming version of "No Line on the Horizon"

Saturday, February 07, 2009

How to 3D on Wired

Check out this video from Wired that shows the basics of shooting and viewing 3D. I couldn't believe one of the images in the video (starting 25 second in the video).... I've taken a 3D picture of that!

Picture I took:
spmNYny (67j)

Here's an odd-colored screenshot from the video:

His Luteness, Sting

Ouch. Dude. I watched the whole thing.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Paul Boutin Can Suck It

Stop Blogging? AYFKM?
"Thinking about launching your own blog? Here's some friendly advice: Don't. And if you've already got one, pull the plug.

Writing a weblog today isn't the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge. Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It's almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter."
Paul Boutin obviously just wants his blog to stand out more by encouraging me to quit. Wait, Valleywag quit him. I kid, I like his stuff, but c'mon man. Facebook can't replace da blog.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Billy Joel Reamed

Ron Rosenbaum at Slate just tore Billy Joel a new one. I mean, he really goes off on the guy:

"Billy Joel, they can't stand you because of your music; because of your stupid, smug attitude; because of the way you ripped off your betters to produce music that rarely reaches the level even of mediocrity. You could dress completely au courant and people would still loathe your lame lyrics.

It's not that they dislike anything exterior about you. They dislike you because of who you really are inside. They dislike you for being you. At a certain point, consistent, aggressive badness justifies profound hostility. They hate you just the way you are."

Ouch! And to think I was hard on Sting. Slate has done this kind of thing before. I hope they don't ever do Bono like this.

Update: This picture is on page 1 in Google search, credit should go to
I get a ton of hits on this, BJ fans are great! Don't let that article get you down, it was so bad it was funny.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Drummer Nails Boots

Check out this kid drumming U2's new single, it makes me like the song more:

There's a high-res version on youtube

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lenovo Ad for Geeks

As somewhat of a geek, and a Lenovo owner, and an admirer of the fairer sex, I found this interesting ad over at Gizmodo:

The Future in 3D

Engadget HD has a good update on the state of 3D technology. Oh sure, they diss the red/cyan glasses, but the future looks bright (and it's sticking out of the screen).

What will I do when red/cyan glasses are out and new 3D technology is in? All the pictures I have in 3D are in pairs....pairs that could be reassembled in any 3D format. So, in a sense, they are future-proof. Cool!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Boots On

Boots On, originally uploaded by watts4u2.

from the Centro

Hear the New U2 Single!!

Put on some headphones and crank it up, it's the new single from U2 called: "Get On Your Boots". The link goes to the U2 webpage that's repeating the song, you can download it from Amazon or iTunes from there if you so desire. Here's a link to the lyrics.

Happy MLK Day, folks!!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Somebody had to say it. Thanks Robert A. George of the Philadelphia News.:

"He is both harbinger and embodiment of the current political mood. Note that Bono and Barack Obama are the same age. Though one hails from Ireland and the other America-via-exotic back-story, they see the world through similar (sun) lenses: They put a premium on post-partisanship....

...Bono dismayed fans by meeting with the late Jesse Helms -- who pronounced Bono as "genuine" and "well-prepared" in trying to get aid to Africa that would actually get to the people who needed it. This is the sort of common sense you wish every cause-chasing Hollywood-type would follow. With that post-partisan pragmatic approach, Bono sounds like Obama (or, more accurately, Obama sounds like Bono).

Ironically though, Andrew Sullivan who loves and admires Obama's pragmatic sensibility, dismisses Bono for his "opaque" lyrics. Right -- and no one has accused Obama of high-flying rhetoric that appears not to mean anything at first glance?!?! The similarity between singer and politician are pretty strong."

Thanks George! (Hey, I can say that without using it in a disparaging way!)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Got That Spirit!

Originally uploaded by Watts4
Check out this video, in tune with the times:

Monday, January 12, 2009

"Get On Your Boots" Primer

U2 has a new single scheduled to come out on January 19th, "Get On Your Boots"!!! Alan's Music Geek blog has a primer....he's heard the single:
"This is NOT a back-to-basics guitar/bass/drums track like “Vertigo” or even “Beautiful Day.” There’s some definite sonic evolution going on here.

It does rock. ...

Bono manages to rhyme “submarine” with “gasoline” and says something about “don’t talk to me about the state of nations.”

There’s a portion of the melody that somehow reminds me of the cadence of the verses in Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up,” but as I write this, I’m not completely sure. Still, part of the song reminded me of…something else.

Did I like it? I didn’t hate it—but I need to hear it more before I really make up my mind about what I think about….anything to do with the song.

Like so many U2 songs—especially ones produced by an Eno/Lanois/Lilywhite nexus—it’s filled with far more subtleties and complexities that anyone can hear with one listen. I need to examine it, ponder upon it and otherwise live with it.

But that’s the cool thing about U2. There’s just so much THERE there that it can take a while to sort through it all. Suffice it to say, however, that if you’re a U2 fan, you’ll be pleased.

If the song isn’t on the radio by the end of this week, I’ll be shocked."
I'm on pins and needles for this one, folks. I wouldn't be too surprised to hear my favorite President-elect use this theme and maybe this song somehow in the inauguration on the 20th.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year! Bring it on.

tbikepool, originally uploaded by Watts4.

Here's a 3D anaglyph fer yer New Year's. I have plenty of red/cyan glasses if you want to check 'em out, drop me a line...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

2008 Year in Review Vol. III

And a few more highlights to finish out the year:

Sarah Palin and John McCain stand-up Bono.

I go for the low blow on McCain.

My favorite Hillary supporters for McCain.

$600 Billion? Oh Yeah...

The Left's Not Right, they're miserable.

Obama Wins! I record an acoustic version of the Star Spangled Banner with echo from Audacity.

Pete Townsend scoffs at us Gen X'ers.

Happy New Year to All!

Watts Gonna Happen in 2009?

2008 Year In Review, Vol. II

We saw Barack Obama in person, and even shook his hand!!

We had kittens!

Less than 2 months after I started making anaglyphs, I was quoted in an article!

A great experience with a fellow Obama supporter.

Attacked John McCain in a bad way.

Noted that America is #1!

Knew Tina Fey would accept the nomination.

Caught up with John Edwards.