Saturday, February 28, 2009
  Paul Harvey RIP

The last of the great ones. Gone.

Harvey was a serious anti-Communist, and an important part of the Mainstream Media, yet for some reason he was ignored by modern conservatives, never listed among the mentors and founders of the movement. This has always puzzled me ... possibly it was because he turned against the Vietnam war and thus turned a large segment of popular opinion against it. Well, he was right, and in fact he was consistently anti-Communist in opposing the war. The Vietnam war was a gift to the Soviets, and Comrade Nixon was our most left-wing president until Sultan Bush came along and outdid him.
Friday, February 27, 2009
  Dying newspapers

Newspapers are blaming the Web for their demise. Only partly true.

When movie newsreels started in 1915, newspapers were supposed to die. They didn't. When radio came of age in 1935, newspapers were supposed to die. Nope. And when TV news developed in 1955, newspapers were supposed to die. They didn't.

Each of those technical jumps "should" have replaced newspapers, but papers found new ways to serve their public.

So the current problem is not the new technology, but a total lack of imagination and service on the part of the papers.

Some commentators say that serious reporting will disappear when papers are gone. Nonsense. It's already gone from the papers. Here in Spokane, I check the websites of local TV stations and the newspaper each day. The TV stations do a much better job on the daily basics like murders, car accidents, power outages and traffic blockages. I rarely see anything on the paper's website that strikes me as important.

Well, how about the traditional "crusading journalist", supposedly an exclusive property of papers? Exposing corrupt city officials, letting the chips fall where they may.... Neither the paper nor the TV stations will touch those stories, and in fact the Spokesman-Review is owned by the same family who owns the city government. Brave reporting comes only from small "alternative weeklies", which will continue to exist because they serve a select and loyal audience. A good recent example is the exposure of Portland's gayor enjoying his youngboy intern.

There is precisely one exception to this rule: Dorothy Rabinowitz at the Wall Street Journal. She has covered stories that nobody else would touch, told the truth that nobody else would speak. All other reporters at major papers are gutless Leninist scribes.

Same with classified ads, a major source of revenue. Papers enthusiastically enforce Communist "equal-opportunity" censorship of classified ads. You can't advertise for a female secretary, you can't describe a house's neighborhood. The free ads-only papers (Shopper's Edge, Nickel Nik, etc) and the web ad services like Craigslist don't enforce these rules. If you want to write a useful and specific ad, you're not going to run it through the Communist censors at the newspapers when you have a better option.

In short, papers are not dying because their function has been duplicated by the Web; papers are dying because they stopped performing their function.

= = = = =

Can I imagine a newspaper-like service that I would pay for? Yes, but it would probably be more like a radio program, perhaps like the pre-Rush form of talk radio. Arthur Godfrey's early work gives the flavor if not necessarily the content of such a service. It would be a mix of local news, local advertising, and a warm invitation to community.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
  Goofy Bobby

Obama's SOTU was (unsurprisingly by now) an excellent speech. He allowed some of the usual circus atmosphere, but kept pushing ahead to make his points.

The SOTU was originally meant as a simple annual progress report to Congress, and Obama did speak directly to Congress much of the time. He wasn't just quoting a calculated list of talking points for the benefit of the calculated list of special interests; he was telling Congress to get its ass in gear, and to serve the country.

Polistra especially appreciates the service message, and will return to this point soon.

As for the stated goal of telling Americans why we have a crisis and why we need to throw money at banks, Obama missed. If the message was there, I didn't catch it. He promised to hold the banks more accountable from now on, but that ain't gonna happen.

Jindal's response: just awful. He talks like Misterogers. Republicans still haven't learned the most basic lesson from Bush Junior: Leaders must speak in a way that isn't physically painful to hear.
Monday, February 23, 2009

I notice that Gary Locke is the next nominee for Obama's Commerce Dept. He served two terms as Wash Gov, and served competently enough. He was somewhat puzzling ... around the start of his second term, he obviously lost interest in the job for reasons that were never made public. He carried on through the term, more or less "phoning it in", which was good enough for an undramatic state like Washington with reliable tax sources and fairly clean politics. There was no indication of scandal. I always wondered if he was simply too sane to be a politician, or if something external (like family trouble) was distracting him.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
  Still unanswered

Author: Finally.

Polistra: Huh?

Author: Yaaaaaayyyy! Yaaaaaayyyyy! Yaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy!

Polistra: Good heavens! Meeeerrrrryyy Christmas to you too! Did you just pull Clarence Oddbody out of the river?

Author: No, no, no, not that big. I just got word that my courseware product passed all the beta tests. A year of work and suspense, and it's all done, all good.

Polistra: Wonderful! That's worth a few Yaaaayyys for sure.

Author: Yes indeed. It means we can count on an income for the next three years or so. After that, Social Security should kick in.

Polistra: If the government hasn't collapsed by then.

Author: Yeah. Nothing we can do about that. Well, at least I've done what I can do.

Polistra: Thanks.

Author: You know, I've always been out of phase with The Economy. I was making good money in the late '70s and early '90s, the last two recessions. And I'm doing better than usual this year, in my peculiar minimalist way. By contrast my two down-for-the-count times, around '72 and '96, coincided with boom times for The Economy.

Polistra: Yup, the media always miss that part. Well, they miss everything, but they especially miss that The Economy isn't one uniform blob. Manufacturing has been dropping for twenty years as the Bush and Clinton dynasties handed our production to China. Wasn't the Story, so it didn't count. When high gas prices were the Story, the media told us that everyone was suffering from Pain At The Pump. Well, Oklahoma and Texas loved it. No pain there, just prosperity.

Author: The Story is always told from the viewpoint of the Wall Street Casino. Then they assume, as a Euclidean axiom, that everyone in the country feels the same as the Bettors in the Casino. When the Bettors are coked up, the rest of the country must be coked up. When the Bettors are crashing, the rest of the country must be crashing.

Polistra: It's egalitarianism. Our elites, both the alleged liberals and the alleged conservatives, always start from a leftist mindset. Their deepest and most unshakeable instinct is that all humans are identical. When you start there, you have to conclude that everyone is identical to ME, because otherwise I'm not human. So if I'm living on imaginary money, ready to fall into bankruptcy when the interest rate on my credit cards rises one basis point, then by egalitarian logic I "know" that everyone in the country is living that way, so the most important thing is to keep interest rates negative and keep inflation high.

Author: If we had a real free press, if we had a functioning representative government, the other half of the country would have a voice. The half that understands basic economics, the half that saves and earns interest, the half that would benefit from deflation, the half that wants security more than the thrill of tossing an infinite number of dice into an infinitely deep pile of cocaine.

Polistra: I don't know ... I think something more complicated is going on now, not just the same old broken system. Back in September when this alleged "crisis" started, we were discussing the strange suddenness of Shotgun Paulson's theft. The real-estate stuff, the mortgage frauds that were supposedly the basic problem, had been running for several years, and they didn't really affect most people. Nobody told us why these monstrous sums of imaginary dollars HAD to change hands RIGHT NOW.

Author: Now, five months later, they still haven't told us.

Polistra: Right. It has all the marks of an extortion. In September I wondered if perhaps Russia was the blackmailer. Now I'm not so sure. A simpler hypothesis would be: Sheikh Osama made a deal with Sultan Bush after showing his power on 9/11. Sheikh Osama allowed Sultan Bush to survive, provided he would accomplish the Sheikh's goal of destroying America's economy, industry, culture and armed forces, turning America into a decaying third-rate power like Russia. Sultan Bush carried out this task with perfect efficiency. Just before the end of Sultan Bush's Demolition Derby, the Sheikh demanded a huge amount of cash (laundered through the Wall Street Mafia) to keep the deal secret. And now Obama is paying another ransom through the same channel to continue the deal.

Author: Scary, but I can't poke any holes in it. Sheikh Osama certainly got exactly what he wanted from Bush, which made further attacks unnecessary. And I'm sure he could find a convincing way to tell the whole story if we stop payment.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
  Rare bit of truth

On CNN just now, Evan Thomas said: "California is locked-up and ungovernable."

The host tried to dismiss him with a chuckle, but it's the plain truth. Same for our federal government. Frozen in place, incapable of taking the obvious steps to fix the problem, only able to spend more more more more more more more more more more more imaginary "money".

Most of the states are still functioning, but Calif and USA have already collapsed.

= = = = =

Washington state is an outstanding example of a still-functioning state. We're looking at a small deficit; small because Gov Gregoire has been cautious and frugal while maintaining a fairly liberal set of social programs and a tolerable level of taxation. Yesterday Gregoire gave a speech defining what the state and the people must do now, to minimize the deficit and survive the mess.

Video here.

A few highlights:

"What we're doing today is a representation of this Washington. And this Washington has passed these bills in a bipartisan way. ... We're determined that we're going to end up in the black. We still have a rainy day fund, that we've not touched, that's got about $430 million in it. That's very good news. Most states that are struggling don't have any additional resource to tap. We do."

California, Kansas, and other states with incompetent or insane governors really need to study Christine Gregoire. This is how a perfectly competent governor works.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
  Monkey, Meteor, Mafia

Three of today's top news stories share a common quality.

1. The monkey who killed a woman. "Everyone thinks monkeys are cute; it's surprising and shocking to see a monkey turn violent!" No, anyone who has watched monkeys in a zoo knows they're not cute. They're vicious, noisy, capable of sudden violence.

2. The mysterious UFO in Texas. "What could this be? The government says it's probably a meteor, but it looks like an alien craft." No, anyone who has watched a meteor shower recognizes this instantly as a meteor. Some UFOs are truly mysterious, truly look and behave like strange rockets or aircraft. Not this one.

3. The response of Wall Street to the final signing of Obama's stimulus package. "Wall Street doesn't like it, so we're starting to doubt whether it will work." No, anyone who has watched Wall Street knows that it's just a criminal syndicate. If a Mafia dislikes what you're doing, you must be doing something right. Doesn't matter if it's the Italian Mafia, the Russian Mafia, or the Jewish Mafia.

= = = = =

In a more serious vein, the stimulus package does contain some genuinely good and long-overdue elements. Especially: Assistance for railroads and mass transit, and the switch to computerized medical records.
  Math the universal language? Nope

An article in the latest New Superstitionist puts forth an old idea, common in science fact and science fiction for decades.

If we ever establish contact with intelligent aliens living on a planet around a distant star, we would expect some problems communicating with them. As we are many light years away, our signals would take many years to reach them, so there would be no scope for snappy repartee. There could be an IQ gap and the aliens might be built from quite different chemistry.

Yet there would be much common ground too. They would be made of similar atoms to us. They could trace their origins back to the big bang 13.7 billion years ago, and they would share with us the universe's future. However, the surest common culture would be mathematics.

The article goes on to discuss which formulas and theories would be good candidates for interplanetary chit-chat.

Polistra begs to differ. The supposed "universality" of math is a myth.

Our new Facebook Friends on Alpha Centauri could have the technology to text us, while knowing very little math. Let's look at the start of electrical communication on Earth. Sam Morse was an artist, not a mathematician, and his telegraph was built by trial and error. Alex Bell was a speech teacher with a deep visual comprehension of wave action. Early radio sets (spark-gap transmitters, cat-whisker detectors) were also built without fancy math, though a certain amount of measurement was important for meaningful testing. You'd need to remember, for instance, that a 50-foot antenna worked better than a 51-foot antenna.

Even without trying to imagine an alien mind, it's easy to see how we Earthlings could have developed a communication system able to reach distant planets, all without any math beyond measurement. It would have required vastly more work by a huge number of workers; it would require ant-like organization, but we could have done it.

= = = = =

An even dumber assumption in the same paragraph:

"They could trace their origins back to the big bang 13.7 billion years ago"

Only a few physicists on Earth claim with certainty that our origin traces back to the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. The vast majority of Earthlings believe we were created by some form of God. So the Big Bang is hardly universal among Earthlings let alone ET's; and it's no more scientific than Genesis, since neither theory can be verified or falsified by experiment. Most of us muddle along through life, even doing all sorts of higher science and mathematics, without thinking about the whole question. The Big Bang is just an irrelevant and unnecessary bit of mental masturbation which apparently gives a Bang to those few physicists.


Saturday, February 14, 2009
  Repeal redux

A couple days ago I observed that we no longer repeal laws, at least at the Federal level. Every policy, agency and program is eternal.

The only major exception to this rule in the last 30 years was Newt and Clinton's welfare reform which repealed LBJ's welfare entitlement policy. I thought about amending the original entry to include this exception, but the Feds got ahead of me. As part of this week's monster Stimulus Package, Newt & Bill's reform has been completely undone, returning to LBJ's original welfare entitlement policy.

So the only important repeal in living memory has now been un-repealed, making my observation perfect.

I wish it were otherwise. After all, the only real advantage of representative government is that a legislature can change its mind; if something doesn't work right, or if public sentiment changes, the law can be eliminated or revised. Our founders were Steam Age thinkers who understood the idea of a self-regulating machine. They intended the House to be the main path for feedback, steering to the left when the government was skidding to the right or vice versa. The Senate was meant to be a damper on the House, adding some friction to prevent overcorrection. It was a wonderful machine, but it no longer operates. Policy is mostly generated by unelected judges implementing Lenin's long-term plan to weaken and destroy the country, and neither branch of Congress dares to question the black-robed saboteurs.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
  Uncle Wallace Willis

For several months I've been noticing a large number of hits on the August 2008 "archive" of this blog. Many of those hits were coming from public school systems, which puzzled me. I finally traced it down, at least partly. It appears that Google is leading searches for "Uncle Wallace Willis" to one picture and then to the archive, which contains many posts on many subjects.... so the search is basically fruitless.

Polistra does discuss Mr Willis, and the picture in question happens to be in the same episode of Polistra's Dream. But the Googled picture comes later in the episode, and is unconnected to the discussion of Uncle Wallace.

If you read from the start of Episode 6, you'll hit the mention of Uncle Wallace Willis before you reach the picture that Google linked to.

I'm hoping this entry, including this more directly related picture:

will provide a more direct Google connection for people who really want to read about Mr Willis, because he truly was an interesting character!
  Tradition vs Law

The radio comedy shows of the '30s and '40s generally avoided obvious preaching, except during the war when they were required to carry weekly reminders from the Office of War Information. The point of comedy, after all, is to give the audience a break from the constraints of real life. But occasionally a moral message would slip in ... maybe it came from the writers, maybe from the star. One such message popped up in a 1940 episode of Fibber and Molly.

Here's a one-minute snippet including the message.

= = = = =

Transcribed for non-listeners:

Molly: Couldn't you get City Hall [on the phone?]

Fibber: Nope, Myrt says them politicians down at City Hall are so rushed now that you can't get a call through.

Molly: Well, why are they so rushed?

Fibber: It's all on account of Izzy.

Molly: Izzy who?

Fibber: Oh, you know. Izzy gonna run for a third term? Izzy gonna announce it soon? Izzy playing possum? [Note: referring to FDR, who was being coy about his intentions to run again in '40.]

Molly: I see. By the way, is there any law against a third term?

Fibber: Nope. Just tradition.

Molly: Oh, just tradition...

Fibber: You know what that means. A tradition is an unwritten law that nobody dares to bust. On account of if they do, it'll be made into a written law, and then somebody's liable to repeal it. And then the fat's in the fire. But you can't repeal a tradition! ... Say, that ain't bad. Remind me to write that down.

Molly: It is written down.

Fibber: Where'd I write it?

Molly: You didn't write it, you read it.

Fibber: Oh.

= = = = = end transcription

Seems to me that Fibber (Jim Jordan) had a personal stake in this little sermon, even though he tossed it off as just a piece of the script. Was this meant as a caution to his son? To a friend? We'll never know.

Is the message still true? No, it's obsolete. The first part (don't break traditions) is still valid advice for sane people in a sane society, but since 1968 our Leninist masters have trained us that breaking traditions (Questioning Authority, Speaking Truth To Power) is the most heroic way to proceed.

Wellllll, only if you know which traditions to break. Any tradition that advances Christianity, assists marriage, increases civilization, helps real science or real logic: Break'em now! Rip'em to shreds! Any tradition that belongs to Mohammed, Feminism, Gaian pseudoscience: Enforce them with Glorious Proletarian Vigor. Crush anyone who twitches an eyebrow in the wrong direction when Mohammed, Feminism, and The Planet are being "debated".

How about the rest of Fibber's Rule? The middle part still holds. A broken tradition will be replaced by a law, and the law will be enforced by the police instead of by social pressure. In fact, this is the entire justification for the Leninist requirement to break traditions. The Party is universal, and no authority outside the Party may exist.

But the last clause is false, because WE NO LONGER REPEAL LAWS. Anything that gets written into Federal law remains forever. We may cease to enforce it broadly, but the Feds will still use it when they need an excuse to kill a Christian.

In short, Fibber's Rule has been inverted. The nearest we can get in Newspeak is something like this: "Repeal all Christian traditions. Abolish social pressure toward civilized behavior. People will then run wild, which will require new laws, far more rigid and intolerant than the original traditions. These laws shall be eternal."

= = = = =

Later thought here.

Another footnote: Modern TV situation "comedies" do plenty of preaching. In fact the preach-to-humor ratio is reversed: roughly 90% preaching (verbatim recitation of feminist and homosexualist doctrine) and 10% humor. The humor consists of exactly two situations: (1) You thought that was a man? No, it was a woman! Gotcha! Gotcha! Gotcha! Ha! Ha! Ha! (2) You thought that was a woman? No, it was a man! Gotcha! Gotcha! Gotcha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  Obama's Okie connection

Interesting article in Sunday's Ponca City paper. The Dunhams, Barack's grandparents, lived in Ponca from 1948 to 1951. Mr Dunham was a salesman at Paris Furniture, and Barack's mother started elementary school in Ponca. Apparently the Dunhams didn't leave a big impression on the city, because the connection has just now surfaced more or less accidentally.

My parents were married in Ponca in 1947, but moved elsewhere for college shortly thereafter, returning in '52; so they wouldn't have encountered the Dunhams. I'd speculate that my uncle Bob might have known Mr Dunham, because Bob was an active leftist at that time (voting for Henry Wallace)... and there weren't a lot of active leftists in Ponca.

Rambling a bit: Bob was something of a tragic character. He was sophisticated and intelligent, had big dreams that could have been achieved. But he never quite had the gumption to break out of expectations, and ended up doing the same dull job his father had done. A classic case of "the perfect as the enemy of the good." Alcohol took over, and he died fairly young. It was Bob's death in 1973 that spurred me to break out of my own expected pattern, to skip perfection and fulfill my own modest dreams. I did just that, and I don't regret it.

Bob's wife, equally sophisticated and intelligent, is the basis for the character of Fran in Polistra's Dream; I needed to "free her spirit" in literary form, to see what she might have done in a slightly different universe.
  Kudos to MSNBC

Kudos to MSNBC for solid coverage of today's Oklahoma tornado. Special kudos to Melissa Rehberger, a former Okie, for breaking out of the idiotic alleged tornado syndrome that has infested TV news lately. Rehberger saw a tornado that was obviously on the ground, and she called it a tornado, not an alleged or possible tornado.

= = = = =

Later: No kudos to CNN. Their weather reporter just said "There are no basements in Oklahoma. At all." This is phenomenally stupid. He may be thinking of a swampy place like Louisiana where the water table is so high that basements are impossible, but that's completely unrelated to Oklahoma. There are plenty of basements in every part of Oklahoma. As elsewhere, cheaply built tract houses generally lack basements, but that's not a geographical distinction.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
  A Svensmark thought

The disastrous weather of the last couple years, including two horrible winters here and the current Australian tragedy, has one basic cause. The problem is not too much heat or too much cold; rather it's too little movement. Each system stays locked in place for weeks or months, continuously dumping the same weather on the same area. Months of snow and ice here, months of dry heat there.

Okay, as a general rule, when do things move more? When they get more energy input. When do they move less? When they get less energy input. And what are we getting from the sun now? Less energy.

The Svensmark theory wouldn't put it quite so simply; what we're getting is not less input from the sun itself, but more overall cloud cover which means less solar energy reaching the surface. Result is the same. Less maximum heat means shallower gradients between max and min, thus less "push and pull" to move big systems around.

So the systems tend to stay in one place longer, which gives disastrous consequences in some places.

Polistra noted this problem several years ago (before the Svensmark theory was published) and begged NASA to work on a fix, to find some way of shoving a system out of a dangerous rut. Needless to say, NASA won't do it, because they are zealous fanatical wild-eyed supplicants of the Planet Goddess Gaia. They are too stupefied by Gaia to perceive facts or recognize valid theories. The only cure they can imagine is destroying the human species to eliminate CO2.
  Still the same stupidity.

Reprinting an item Polistra wrote in late September:

= = = = =

It appears that the Great Nation Robbery, now that it has been worked out in the form of legislation, has acquired the acronym EESA.

Uniquely appropriate, since this bit of suicidal idiocy follows the exact same philosophy as the plain ESA. In other words, it tries to break the laws of nature.

The regular Endangered Species Act tries to break the laws of nature by preventing a species from dying off. It never works and always creates great harm. Evolution is nothing more than the dying of species and the increase of other species, in each specific location. One species is fading out in this location because it's no longer making the best use of the available resources. When you try to keep this fading species alive, you're not doing it any favors; you're only preventing other species from taking its place and making better use of the resources. And at the same time you're stealing property from humans, which is the real reason for the ESA.

Same with this new EESA (Economic Endangered Species Act). The giant reptile called Bankerosaurus Fraudulenti is dying off because he has eaten up all the available resources. If we were obeying the laws of economic nature, we would let B. Fraudulenti fade and die to leave more room for other critters, some of which may be more honest and less wildly all-consuming.

No, no, no, we can't do that. Must keep B. Fraudulenti alive, and must preserve every aspect of its weird habitat: dishonestly high house prices, forced low interest rates, impossibly high stock prices. And at the same time we must also steal property from honest people via the tax of inflation, since we'll never pay this monstrous amount in direct taxes.

We will reap what we sow. History will remember this pack of thieves and gangsters, and history will spit on their graves.

= = = = = end reprint

Now in February, after a supposed change of administration, nothing has changed. We're still arguing about how to keep the unsustainable bubble inflated, and how much to spend to keep the unsustainable bubble inflated. A few major commentators do seem to recognize reality, but nobody in power is willing to allow normal evolution.

We should be arguing about how to soften the effects of a return to reality; instead we're still arguing about how to maintain the fantasy.

As mentioned before, infrastructure and public works are actually a valid part of softening the impact, especially short-term projects (i.e. "pork"). Ideally these projects would keep many people occupied and fed while the criminal syndicate called "Wall Street" is utterly eliminated, leaving honest businesses more room to operate and grow without criminal competition from fraudsters. That's not what we're doing. We're doing some public works, but mainly we're rewarding and re-energizing the criminal syndicate.

Can we spell Yeltsin?

= = = = =

Update 2/10:

Geithner just said "We will restart the securitization system."

Yessir, that's how you fix a problem. Just like Alcoholics Anonymous gives the drunk as much whiskey as he can swallow, just like Sully Sullenberger saved the plane by steering it straight into the ground. What's that you say? AA tries to get the drunk to stop drinking? Sully tried to land the plane smoothly? Well then, they're not nearly as smart as Tim Geithner!

Dropping the bad parody and getting deadly serious: We desperately need a return to sober banking. We need to let interest rates rise to their natural level, probably around 15%. Then bank savings accounts will become irresistible investments, and banks will have a good reason to sell loans. Each bank would have to function on its own, without using the Madoff Mafia for nonexistent "money"; and each competent bank would make a good profit on its own.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
  Brief update

I've been ill this week, and also occupied with final beta testing of the courseware project, so blogging has been off the radar for now.

But looking back at the archive, it's clear that Jan and Feb are always my slow blog months regardless of health or work, so the above is probably irrelevant!
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
  Good idea

Students at a Spokane middle school have been working with a local homeless shelter as part of a community-service experience. The students invented a coat that turns into a sleeping bag. They actually built three of the coats and donated them to the House of Charity.

Even if the coat works well, it probably won't make much difference in reality, because many of the homeless are mentally incompetent, unwilling or unable to adopt a new idea ... but it's excellent for the students.

This is exactly how education should work: start with a real-world problem, develop your skills while solving it.

Story here.
Monday, February 02, 2009
  Tip for Old-time-radio (OTR) fanciers

For several years a local radio station was playing OTR programs overnight. I got into the habit of leaving the radio on, since OTR is an excellent background for falling asleep happily. It's interesting enough to distract the mind from unpleasant thoughts, and serves to mask out those "suspicious" noises that aren't really suspicious! (As in "What? What the hell was that clunk-scrape-thump sound? Mouse? Burglar? Oh, it's just the damn refrigerator's defrost cycle.")

When the station stopped running OTR in the wee hours, I switched over to using my computer as a "radio". GOM player, the best of the available media players, has a playlist feature, so I just line up about 16 half-hour programs each night and let'er rip. I don't need to change the list every day, because most of the shows run while I'm asleep. I simply change the starting point so the first half-hour is relatively fresh.

One problem with this method: OTR clips were transcribed and recorded in many different ways by many different people. Some went straight from a carefully preserved original transcription disk to MP3; others were recorded in someone's kitchen from a portable radio tuned to a distant station and then copied through many stages of reel-to-reel and cassette tapes before the era of digitization. Thus their level and quality varies tremendously. And when my playlist began with a low-level clip, I was getting awakened suddenly at 3:30 by a high-level clip.

So I went looking for a solution, trying to find either a free-standing MP3 player or a program with some kind of automatic gain control.

It turns out that GOM player already has such a feature, though somewhat hidden, and it works perfectly. In the Preferences menu, pick Audio, then Normalizer.


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Location: Spokane

Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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