Daily Archives: September 21, 2008

Photo Break: Snowy plover

Look, up in the sky!  It’s a bird!  it’s a plane!  It’s…wait, no, it’s a bird.  And it’s on the ground.  Looks like I’m birdblogging.  Story behind the photo below the break.

Snowy plover

Snowy plover

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Senior prom politics, escalated

OK, the parallels to a 90210 senior prom have finally hit a brick wall.  The saga of Sarah Palin’s disinvitation to Monday’s nonpartisan anti-Ahmadinejad rally at the U.N. has edged dangerously into McCarthyist territory.  And as with Hitler references, I never raise the ghost of Tailgunner Joe frivolously.

For those who haven’t been following, I blogged about this earlier.  Here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

  • Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were both invited to speak at the rally.
  • Clinton wasn’t aware Palin was invited; when she found out, she withdrew, saying (bizarrely) that she hadn’t been aware it was a “partisan event.”
  • After the organizers were unable to find a suitable counterpart to Palin, and the possibility arose that she would appear without a Democrat to offset her, they came under heavy pressure from Democrats to rescind her invitation.
  • Unable to placate the Democrats, but unwilling to insult Palin by singling her out for shunning, the organizers simply disinvited all scheduled politician guest speakers.

Such petty sabotage of a perfectly legitimate event is bad enough, but according to CBS News (as blogged by Hot Air), the Democrats didn’t just lean on the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations to dump Palin from the billing.  Not only did some of them threaten to pull support (which is replaceable), but they actually threatened the Jewish groups’ tax-exempt status (which isn’t) if they failed to scrub her appearance.

Tax-exempt organizations are forbidden by the IRS to engage in partisan political activity, even if a good-faith effort is made to preserve nonpartisanship.  For Democrats to deny a nonpartisan group access to any of their prominent figures deliberately, and then to turn around and threaten to sic the IRS on them precisely because they have no speakers from their party, all to keep Sarah Palin away from a microphone, is unconscionable.  Using government intimidation to silence or weaken a political figure is a hallmark of McCarthyism, and no party is immune.

Gotta get me one of these

Friends, Romans, gadget-freeks, I present to you BigDog, quite possibly the kewlest real-life robot ever.  (Link courtesy of my high-school drama teacher.)



BigDog is the alpha male of the Boston Dynamics family of robots. It is a quadruped robot that walks, runs, and climbs on rough terrain and carries heavy loads. BigDog is powered by a gasoline engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system. BigDog’s legs are articulated like an animal’s, and have compliant elements that absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next. BigDog is the size of a large dog or small mule, measuring 1 meter long, 0.7 meters tall and 75 kg weight.

Point of note:  at least in the video (yes, there is awesome video at the link), it appears to resemble the “small mule” more than the “large dog,” despite the don’t-mess-with-me name.  At least when you ignore that it doesn’t have anything analogous to a head.

Aside from the fact that a headless metal-and-plastic mule-dog doesn’t quite amount to the butt-kicking conversation piece around the home that, say, a three-tier pinball machine or omnipresent single-remote home entertainment complex might, you’d likely be the first kid on your block to have one.

BigDog can carry loads of 340 lbs. or more (400 lbs. in the video demo), negotiate rough terrain, climb or even hop over some obstacles, stay on its “feet” on slippery surfaces like ice, and even weather considerable attempts to push it over.  Plus, with the gas engine, it sounds like Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre while it’s coming at you.  The only thing that keeps it from reaching a whole new level of badassity is the absence of heavy ordnance mounted anywhere, but I can only imagine that part must still be in the testing stages.  It’s not like nobody’s ever thought of this before.

Click on the link in the intro paragraph to check out the video and read more about BigDog’s badass kewlness.  And ‘scuse me while I make adjustments to my Christmas list.

UPDATE: There is also a LittleDog at Boston Dynamics, which is about the size and configuration of a large bullfrog.  As it walks, it might also remind you of an enormous beetle.  There is also the insectile RiSE robot for untethered climbs up sheer faces (much like the mecha-bugs from Runaway).  The amphibious RHex robot, which can navigate swampy, muddy, even underwater conditions (as well as dry land) is more like a six-legged platypus.  Yeah, that’s right, I said a six-legged platypus.  If you’d seen one, you’d know.

Blogger Neologism Watch

OK, this one also comes from Ann Althouse’s blog, though it’s attributable more accurately to commenter “EnigmatiCore” in response to a request for a good word for “a misquote that becomes more of a famous quotation than the original.”

Ann’s neologism request was spurred by the SNL skit in which Tina Fey debuted her much-awaited impression of Sarah Palin (and yes, she is every bit the dead ringer everyone expected).  Ms. Fey’s line, “I can see Russia from my house,” is one that Ann says she tends to remember now more easily than the actual quote from Palin, “They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.”  Another example, recalled by another commenter, is Al Gore’s “I invented the Internet” from the 2000 election, which in Gore’s actual words was more along the lines of, “I took the initiative in creating the Internet.”

EnigmatiCore suggests we call such a misquote Malapropaganda. I like it; it incorporates the element of misspeaking inherent in a “malapropism,” though it turns the definition on its head by involving someone else putting the misspeech in the speaker’s mouth (intentionally or otherwise) and convincing others it’s the original, recalling the deceptive nature of “propaganda.”  A portmanteau for the ages!

(NOTE: Althouse commenter “dcbyron” also suggests Substiquote, which definitely gets points for cleverness, though I think EnigmatiCore’s contribution is more inventive and memorable.)