April 13, 2002

GOOD TO BE BACK, AND I SEEM TO HAVE MISSED A LOT:

A week in blogistan is an eternity--I missed out on the Bush push for Israeli withdrawal, the Bush back-off on Israeli withdrawal, the Zinni stuff (which I probably wouldn't have said much about anyway), and a couple of odd items relating to the health and welfare of the Blog State itself: the notion that we bloggers are "war profiteers," and that we need some sort of "code of ethics." To the war profiteer accusation, I have two rejoinders--that if I got into this for profit, I've been exceedingly unsuccessful about it because I'm actually in the hole a few bucks in this venture, and that the accusation itself shows the complete moral bankruptcy of the accuser. If you can't attack someone on the merits of their ideas, or their hidden agendas (which on most blogs are about as well hidden as a full moon on a cloudless night), or for some other legitimate reason, you make something up--you name call, impugn integrity, or accuse them of something without evidence in the hopes that it will somehow stick. There are a bunch of people who don't like bloggers for all sorts of reasons, most of them lame and nonsensical but some of them possibly legitimate--but to call us "war profiteers" is to lie about us and our intentions. I have no use for such accusations or the people behind them.

Regarding the "code of ethics," I suspect most bloggers already have one--it's called morality. Tell the truth, honestly analyze the writings of others, call 'em like you see 'em, admit it when you screw up. If you need a fancy "code of ethics" to guide you, you're not likely to abide by it anyway.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

RALLY TO SUPPORT ISRAEL:

If you're free on Monday, April 15, there will be a rally to support Israel's self-defense and to support the US war on terror in Washington, DC. Both are worthy causes.
Posted by B. Preston at 06:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

GAMBLERS, BROADCASTERS AND SPACE ALIENS:

I’d never been to Vegas before, and only had the tales of others to go by. To some, Las Vegas is paradise, a place where anything is possible, where everything is beautiful and free and glamorous. To others Las Vegas is Sodom and Gomorrah, a den of sin and iniquity and everything that’s wrong about America. To me, Las Vegas is a curiosity. With the rampant gambling, the indoor smoking (who knew ten years ago that indoor smoking would be a sign of decadence?), the utter lack of a last call for alcohol, the ubiquitous pornography and suggestive advertising, Las Vegas lives up to the name “Sin City.” But it has its charms—a sleek black pyramid with a brilliant beacon visible from 20 miles away, volcanoes that erupt on cue, the most beautiful fountain show I’ve ever seen, and just about every conceivable type of entertainment known to man. Could I live there? No—it’s ersatz, over-the-top and obnoxious—but for a few days Las Vegas kept me guessing what would be around the next corner.

I was there to attend NAB, the National Association of Broadcasters’ annual showcase and conference. After a few days walking endless conference halls and looking at zillions of new gadgets, all I can say is that for the next couple of years the broadcasting world is in for more of the same—more electronic toys to jazz up newscasts, more data delivery systems that will make getting at the item or info you want easier, and more and more virtual stuff—sets, actors, props, etc are going headlong into the digital domain.

Though I was there for professional reasons, I had a Sunday to play with, so I opted for a drive into the Nevada desert. I was with a co-worker whose passion is UFOs, and though I think he’s pretty much convinced that better than 99 percent are explainable as either exotic military aircraft or weather phenomena, he’s still curious about that 1 percent. We decided to drive up to Area 51, the super-secret Air Force test base in the northeast corner of the vast Nellis bombing and test range. According to legend, Area 51 is home to an alien-American alliance or to a group that reverse-engineers crashed or captured alien technology, or to an alien base working under the cover of being a super-secret US military base. I hold to a very conventional view of the base—that it’s the preferred test bed for our most unusual, secret and potentially effective airborne hardware. I’m all for Area 51’s existence and for its continued success in keeping nosy people like me out of its business. Whatever it is, Area 51 is fascinating both as a physical fact and as a sort of Rorschach test.

We searched around Las Vegas for maps to Dreamland (as the base is sometimes called), only to meet with denials from all the locals we asked—“Lived here all my life, but I’ve never heard of it” was the standard reply. When we finally did get confirmation of its existence and directions to it, from a company offering helicopter tours of the area, the directions turned out to be bogus—we’d been sent in the opposite direction. This, after warning us that flying anywhere near the range meant meeting death at the hands of an F-15. We discovered we’d been given bad directions at a gas station northwest of Indian Springs, NV, home to a curious little Air Force base on the edge of the Nellis range. The small base boasts a few squat buildings, a long airstrip and several sky-blue F-15 fighter aircraft—not the usual gun-metal gray, but blue to match the Nevada sky. In the Indian Springs gas station can be found all manner of alien souvenirs—you can buy a fountain coke and drink it from an alien-shaped plastic cup, you can buy a card identifying you as an “Alien Truck Driver,” or for $19.99 you can buy a good sized rubber alien in a jar of green stuff. But if you ask the staff, they’ll deny any knowledge of Area 51, or Dreamland, or Groom Lake, or any of the other names by which the mystery spot is known. And their denials aren’t the sort of I-don’t-wanna-talk-about-it variety—they’re completely serious and convincing. We found this same scenario play out everywhere we stopped—no one had ever heard of the base made famous in the X-Files, Independence Day or probably a dozen other sci-fi productions. Never heard of it. One guy denied knowing anything though his store had a map hanging on the wall not 5 feet from where he stood—a map with “Area 51” written inside a bright yellow highlighter circle around a patch of the Nellis range. He’d never heard of it, though he had a map with it clearly marked hung practically next to his head. When my co-worker asked one fellow whether he’d ever seen anything unusual, he said “Yeah,” then paused, thought for a moment, then said “Nope.” That was it—we couldn’t get him to say anything else about it.

Well, we eventually did find Area 51’s outer perimeter, the so-called Restricted Zone, into which no unauthorized person may travel without swift arrest by the Air Force security police watching the line. We saw them too, perched on a hill just inside the zone in a spiffy-looking silver pickup, and we saw the remote cameras and motion detectors attached to tripods, and with high-gain antennae for transmitting back to some security headquarters, presumably within the base itself. At this entry point there was no gate—just the cameras, the signs reading “No Unauthorized Access” and the watching airmen on the hill. Cows grazed the desert scrub all around, and I idly wondered what happened when they inevitably crossed over into the base. Who gets them out--the airmen or their owner? We also visited the Little Ol’ Ale-Inn (that’s “alee-in”) in Rachel, looked at the photos of sightings on the walls and read through the logbook of odd stuff people have seen lighting up the night sky around the area. The most recent entry was dated March 18, 2002, and described something that sounded like a National Missile Defense test, or possibly a powerful new Fourth of July firework—an object launched from the ground and, once it attained a fairly high altitude, split off into multiple lights that took off in opposite directions before exploding. And we drove up to a real gate on one side of the base, complete with barriers, lights and threatening signs—but the fence that held the barriers ran no more than fifty feet from the dirt road before ending. Had we wanted to risk it, we could have simply left the car and walked around the fence and right into the base. We wouldn’t have lasted long—the hilltops bristled with more remote cameras on tripods—but we could’ve briefly strolled inside Area 51 itself.

Area 51, the famously super-secret airbase in the Nevada desert, is real--we saw the signs, the patrols and the security cameras meant to intimidate any would-be intruder--though the locals insist that there's nothing on the other side of the mountains. But in our entire adventure, we didn’t see anything take flight from from the direction of the base, or any strange lights, or any evidence of aliens among us. We didn’t see anything at all, except a pickup with a couple of military cops, a couple of cameras, a few threatening signs marking the boundary of the base, and a whole bunch of cows that belonged to the ranch whose buildings sit just outside the perimeter. If we’d have met the rancher, he’d likely have sworn that he’d never heard of Area 51 too. And he’d have been completely convincing.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 12, 2002

TODAY'S DEMOCRATS:

Gary Condit still holds office; Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) is accusing the Bush administration of knowing in advance that 9-11 was coming; and Rep. James Trafficant (D-OH) has been found guilty of racketeering. The AP's story on the trial has a weird little spin at the end:

As for Traficant's political future, William Binning, a professor of political science at Youngstown State University, said "we have more questions than we have answers."

Binning predicted that Democrats will vote to expel him as revenge for Traficant's vote to make Republican Dennis Hastert of Illinois the House Speaker.

"The question is, are the Republicans going to protect him?" Binning said.


The guy's a Dem, yet the professor thinks the Republicans may protect him? Don't count on it...
Posted by B. Preston at 08:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BACK FROM THE DESERT:

I returned home from Las Vegas early this morning. My apologies for the lack of posting lately, but while I was travelling there just wasn't time. The conference I attended, NAB, was immense--the largest conference by far I've ever seen--and when I wasn't trolling it for new gear, contacts and ideas I was either eating, sleeping or seeing some other sight. Vegas is a strange place, and I'll probably write up a recap of the trip that will include the professional side (new gear report) and the fun side (meeting Dick Van Dyke at a software users' group meeting; driving up to the gates of the famous super-secret Area 51). Stay tuned...
Posted by B. Preston at 08:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack