Archive for the 'Only Vincent Is Interested In This' Category


Hail Sagan!


Shameless Self-Promotion

I’ve been bored. So I made a few cartoons. You can watch all three of the current episodes here. I probably be adding more of these over time, whenever I feel inspired (or bored enough) to spend the time.



Musing on Geography

Glancing through the statistics for Guns, Germs, and Blogs, I noticed something strange. We got a visitor from St. Petersburg, Russia (здравствуйте!) recently, and this locational information was included in the logs:

Continent : Asia
Country : Russian Federation
State/Region : Saint Petersburg City
City : Saint Petersburg
Lat/Long : 59.8944, 30.2642

What struck me was the entry on the “continent” line: Asia.

Continue reading ‘Musing on Geography’


King of Speed

I found this on the Internets this morning and couldn’t help but repost it. This is an excerpt from Sled Driver, a book by a former SR-71 Blackbird pilot Brian Shul. (If you’re not an airplane nerd, the SR-71 has held the record since 1976 for fastest air-breathing, manned aircraft, capable of reaching speeds over Mach 3.)


There were a lot of things we couldn’t do in an SR-71 Blackbird (The Air Force/NASA super fast, highest flying reconnaissance jet, nicknamed, “The Sled”), but we were the fastest guys on the block and loved reminding our fellow aviators of this fact. People often asked us if, because of this fact, it was fun to fly the jet.

Fun would not be the first word I would use to describe flying this plane – intense, maybe, even cerebral. But there was one day in our Sled experience when we would have to say that it was pure fun to be the fastest guys out there, at least for a moment.

It occurred when Walt and I were flying our final training sortie. We needed 100 hours in the jet to complete our training and attain Mission Ready status. Somewhere over Colorado we had passed the century mark. We had made the turn in Arizona and the jet was performing flawlessly.

My gauges were wired in the front seat and we were starting to feel pretty good about ourselves, not only because we would soon be flying real missions but because we had gained a great deal of confidence in the plane in the past ten months. Ripping across the barren deserts 80,000 feet below us, I could already see the coast of California from the Arizona border. I was, finally, after many humbling months of simulators and study, ahead of the jet. I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for Walter in the back seat.

[…]The predominant radio chatter was from Los Angeles Center, far below us, controlling daily traffic in their sector. While they had us on their scope (albeit briefly), we were in uncontrolled airspace and normally would not talk to them unless we needed to descend into their airspace. We listened as the shaky voice of a lone Cessna pilot who asked Center for a read-out of his ground speed. Center replied: “November Charlie 175, I’m showing you at ninety knots on the ground.” Continue reading ‘King of Speed’


Wikileaks, the Caucasus, and the New York Times

What a difference a Wikileak can make.

As it turns out, I have a certain small fascination with the Caucasus, especially Georgia. It has therefore not been without some interest that I have been reading about some of the documents released by Wikileaks pertaining to the so-called “Five Day War” between Russia and Georgia.

Some, including the analysts at Eurasianet, have suggested that cables from American diplomats in Tbilisi bolster the Georgian government’s contentious claim that it was Russia (or their South Ossetian proxy) that started the fighting in August of 2008.

Sadly, the Wikileaks documents do little to clear up matters.

This New York Times article, by one C.J. Chivers, a journalist and former Marine Corps officer who seems to have some experience covering events in the former Soviet Union (Beslan and Andijan, specifically), argues precisely the opposite, maintaining that American diplomats in Georgia were so dazzled by Saakashvili that, “as the region slipped toward war, sources outside the Georgian government were played down or not included in important cables.”

Well, maybe.

But I maintain that this ongoing squabbling about “who shot first” is, ultimately, a pointless exercise. To embark on a search for “original sin” in Georgia is to dive headlong into a rabbit hole that leads to questionable Russian “peacekeeping” missions, flagrantly illegal passportization schemes, post-Soviet geopolitical thinking, ethno-territorial violence, and Soviet nationality policy, to name but a few factors that led quite directly to what transpired in 2008. If you want my opinion, the answer to “who shot first?” is “the Bolsheviks in 1921.” But I digress.

My point is that that the notion that the Times can castigate American diplomats for “relying on one-sided information” while uncritically repeating verbatim the Russian government’s version of the story — completely shorn of any context (*cough* passportization *cough*) — and describe the territorial dismemberment of a former Soviet Republic in direct violation of numerous international law, not the least of which is the Helsinki Final Act (which, among other things, asserts the inviolability of frontiers and the territorial integrity of states) — as, and I quote, “a more stable cease-fire,” utterly defies belief.

By most accounts, Mr. Chivers has written ably about the role of the AK-47 in modern conflicts. Given his apparently limited and uncritical understandings of the subject, however, one might suggest that in the future he should perhaps content himself with discussing the implements, rather than the politics of warfare.


Soul-Draining Quote of the Day

The more that ports resemble nodes moving people in a global network, that the status of ‘immigrant’ is officially conferred not upon but some time before or after the subject’s arrival in a new land, that transportation and communication systems overlay and deepen the transnational over the international, that international travel becomes an everyday experience and not a life-defining event, that airports resemble other melancholy ‘non-places’ distinguished at most by simulacral quotations of their regional hinterlands, the more all these things obtain, then the less the border appears as threshold or gateway into a nation/society so much as one among many sorting points, nodes within a wider, albeit thinner social space.

-William Walters, “Border/Control”


Unnecessarily Obscure Quote of the Day

The monolithic image of Empire thus tries to condense and unify all those forms and relations into a single Sovereign Power, to which can only be opposed some force that is radically Other, gestured to in the name ‘multitude’: the multitude, then, in the contemporary incarnation of the regicide, who, in eliminating the sovereign, will inaugurate an epoch in which sovereign power is re-appropriated by subjects themselves. Despite its apparent radicalism, anti-capitalists would do well to be wary of the religious underpinnings of this fable of resistance as deliverance to a promised land.

-Paul Rabinow & Nikolas Rose, “Biopower Today”