The red

Self portrait on dirty glass

Employment up for zeros

The digital counter [on the National Debt Clock in New York] marks the national debt level, but when that passed the $10 trillion point last month, the sign could not display the full amount.

The board was erected to highlight the $2.7 trillion level of debt in 1989.

The clock's owners say two more zeros will be added, allowing the clock to record a quadrillion dollars of debt.

[From BBC NEWS | Business | US debt clock runs out of digits]


Autumn up against the wall

Autumn up against the wall, originally uploaded by tedcompton.


"Once you've come to be part of this particular patch, you'll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real."

[From Goodreads | quotes by Nelson Algren ]

A day at the beach

At Gulf Shores, Alabama, a sand crab takes the sun.

(Photo: Phil Compton)


Oh oh, another Maverick heard from

Before "maverick" became an overused trademark of the McCain-Palin campaign, it was a word meaning an unbranded strayed calf. But before that it was the family name of 19th century Texas lawyer and land speculator Samuel A. Maverick, who let some cattle he had acquired in payment of a debt run wild on land he owned while he lived comfortably in town.

Samuel Maverick's descendants have remained prominent in Texas affairs, and some of them are not happy about John McCain's co-opting their family name. "It's very irritating, because he is not a maverick," Fontaine Maverick told CNN.

[From The Raw Story | Original 'Maverick' family upset that McCain coopts their name]

Still waiting?

Still waiting?, originally uploaded by tedcompton.

Bach as punishment, alas

URBANA, Ohio - A defendant had a hard time facing the music. Andrew Vactor was facing a $150 fine for playing rap music too loudly on his car stereo in July. But a judge offered to reduce that to $35 if Vactor spent 20 hours listening to classical music by the likes of Bach, Beethoven and Chopin.

[From Judge sentences rap music fan to Bach, Beethoven - Yahoo! News]


Here, in case you're wondering...

...are some pictures of the "overhead projector" at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, the one McCain referred to during the debate last night.

[From Chicago's Adler Planetarium projector stirs campaign controversy -- chicagotribune.com]

I spent a lot of Saturdays at the Adler one summer in about 1950, which would be the summer before I started high school in the Chicago suburb of Naperville. A good friend and fellow sci-fi buff at the time was working on building a telescope and every Saturday morning the two of us would take the train into Chicago so he could have somebody at the planetarium check the lens he was grinding for it. While my friend and his advisor were peering through strange instruments, I would pass the time wandering through exhibits of meteorite fragments and other goodies from outer space. And on several occasions we stayed for the star show, a perfect night sky created on the black domed ceiling by the "overhead projector" of the day.

It - the projector - has been updated a couple of times since then. That new one looks pretty cool.

Rock face

Rock face, originally uploaded by tedcompton.

Time flies

Here it is almost noon and the only thing I've accomplished all morning is throwing away my little list of subjects I was hoping to hear addressed in the presidential debates this year. Not that there was anything serious on it - just little things like NAFTA, war profiteering, the privatizing of essential government functions, data security, FISA, torture as national policy, and whatever...oh yeah, assuring our elections are fair and honest. Nothing totally important, or anything like that.

I'm figuring Obama will win this thing, assuming the election is fair and honest (a proposition upon which I, myself, would not wager one thin dime). Which is good, because a McCain win would be about as imminent a disaster as one is likely to confront - except a Palin presidency, at the thought of which my brain completely shuts down. Why bother thinking at a time like that? Just run.

Not that I expect much from that - an Obama presidency, I mean. I expect he'll be a weak President - he's a facilitator, not a leader - probably a one-term President, and very possibly he'll set us up for another Republican reign of terror down the line.

I could get away with not voting for either one, living, as I do, in a state that will go for Obama with me or without me. But I'll be at the polls anyway voting, as they say, down-ticket, so I might as well check a box for Obama just so I can say I did.

But I may well skip the next debate because, Dude, I have already heard way more than enough of nothing much.


Not doing well

PRINCETON, NJ -- President Bush's job approval rating is at 25% in the latest Oct. 3-5 Gallup Poll, the lowest of the Bush administration, and only three percentage points above the lowest presidential approval rating in Gallup Poll history....

The current poll recording Bush's low job approval rating was conducted after Congress passed the economic rescue bill on Oct. 3. Americans recognize the economy as the nation's top problem, but apparently, the passage of this bill -- which the Bush administration had heavily advocated -- did nothing to affect Bush's approval ratings. Indeed, only 55% of members of Bush's own party approve of him in the poll, perhaps a reflection of some pushback from conservatives who do not strongly support the economic bill. Nineteen percent of independents and 5% of Democrats approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president.

[From Bush Job Approval at 25%, His Lowest Yet ]

But what took so long?


Factory, originally uploaded by tedcompton.


Jigg's, originally uploaded by tedcompton.


I used to know some bridge players like this

A journalist from China News Network arrived at the scene to find three people, an old couple and a middle-aged woman, sitting right in front of a wrecked truck and playing cards.

"It looked like they didn't know what was happening at all," said the shocked journalist, Zhao Xiaoli.

[From Ananova - Card game amidst crash chaos ]

(Click the link to see a photo.)

Would you buy a used car from any one of these guys?

WASHINGTON — The administration has selected a former Goldman Sachs executive to be the interim head of its $700 billion rescue effort for financial institutions.

Neel Kashkari, the Treasury's assistant secretary for international affairs, was selected Monday to be the interim head of Treasury's new Office of Financial Stability.

The designation was made by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who was the head of Goldman Sachs before he joined the Bush administration in 2006. Kashkari, 35, will head the office created by the emergency legislation enacted Friday to fund the largest government bailout in history.

[From Neel Kashkari, Former Goldman Sachs Executive, To Head $700 Billion Bailout]

From "The Poetry of Sarah Palin"

"Secret Conversation"

I asked President Karzai:

"Is that what you are seeking, also?

"That strategy that has worked in Iraq?

"That John McCain had pushed for?

"More troops?

"A counterinsurgency strategy?"

And he said, "Yes."

(To K. Couric, CBS News, Sept. 25, 2008)

[From The Poetry of Sarah Palin. - By Hart Seely - Slate Magazine]

And much more at the link.

For your continuing convenience...

...we have added to our work avoidance list a unit conversion utility capable, among many other things, of converting linear measurements to smoots.

Wait! Whoa!

It will take time for the Wall Street bail-out bill to be put into place and confidence to return to financial markets, US President George W. Bush said Monday....

"It's going to take a while to get in place -- a program that, one, is effective and, two, doesn't waste taxpayers' money," he said. "We don't want to rush into this situation and not have the program be effective."

[From The Raw Story | Time needed to restore financial confidence: Bush]

We don't want to rush into this?

I thought that was exactly what we did want to do. As in, we have to pass this bill tomorrow, if not yesterday. I thought this was an imminent crisis. Am I using a lot of italics here? Sort of like screaming? Arrrgggghhh!

I'm your car, Dude: Make my day

If a Toyota Prius just looks too friendly for your tastes, you’re not alone. People readily see faces and traits in cars, and a new study suggests that they prefer cars to appear dominant, masculine and angry.

[From 081006-car-face.html | LiveScience]

The progress just keeps progressing along

Oliver Smoot was the shortest pledge in the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity [at M.I.T.] in 1958 when its members decided to lay him on the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge. After discovering Smoot measured 5 feet 7, they marked the bridge in those increments, with an eventually exhausted Smoot getting up and down for each new measurement.

They soon determined the bridge was 364.4 Smoots long.

Today, Google.com's calculator function can convert any measurement into Smoots.

[From 'Smoot' measurement reaches new heights at MIT - Yahoo! News]

Smoot himself later became chairman of the American National Standards Institute.

Coming soon to a state near you

Illinois finished the first three months of its budget year in some of its worst financial shape ever, with a mountain of unpaid bills and record delays in payments, Comptroller Dan Hynes says in a new report.

Worse, the report said, with the state's economy still faltering, the backlog of bills and payment delays "will experience an even greater increase by the end of the calendar year and beyond."

[From Illinois can't pay backlog of bills, comptroller says :: The SouthtownStar :: News ]

Duck after hard left turn

Hang on, duck!


View from New Orleans

(Photo by Phil Compton)

"Stiff"! It's ruining my day!

And not because it's stinky and gooey (it is, a little, but in a good way) but because it's a book I can't put down (or unplug from my ears, as the case may be). Joyfully written by Mary Roach (and, for audiobook fans, brilliantly read by Shelly Frasier), "Stiff" is a book about the excellent adventures of cadavers.

Who knew? (Well, OK, I sort of did. In a way. But not as much as this. Not anywhere as much as this. Not even close.) Stiffs do amazing things. And they've been at it for a long, long time.

The book came highly recommended so I'm not surprised it's good, I'm just surprised by how good. Like, you've-gotta-read-this good. Like awesome.

So Mary Roach's "Stiff" becomes the first book ever to go on the blog book list even before I've finished reading it. (When literary awards are handed out that's gotta count.)

(And thanks to both our Midwest and Seattle bureaus for pointing it out to me.)


Autumn, originally uploaded by tedcompton.

Unclear on the concept

"We shouldn't have a financial bailout package at all," said Clint Wells, a 68-year-old manager of a mechanic shop in Reno, where he has lived all his life. "Let it crash!"

He's voting for McCain, "the lesser of two evils," he says, because he sees Obama as an economic disaster waiting to happen.

[From As economy craters, Nevadans say they'll gamble on 'change' - The Boston Globe]

Waiting to happen? That's pretty grim.

"So much for Main Street"

After the Senate approved the $700 billion bank bailout, the majority leader, Harry Reid, tried to persuade his colleagues to address another economic calamity before they left town for the long election recess. He urged them to extend unemployment benefits for 800,000 jobless Americans.

In the face of Republican opposition, the measure failed. Benefits start expiring this week. So much for Main Street.


The Labor Department reported on Friday that 159,000 jobs were lost in September. That is the biggest monthly drop in five years and the ninth straight month of job contraction. It brings total job losses for this year to 760,000.

[From Editorial - Meanwhile, in the Economy - NYTimes.com]