Monday, April 30, 2012

Real Airplane Simulator: Same Scam, Different Dress

I have written before about the solid scam that goes by ProFlightSimulator, Flight Pro Sim, and so many other names. Here's a new twist on the scam. On Facebook and other places, you will find ads and links pointing to . That webpage asks for your name and email address (don't do it!)  as payment for downloading a document called "The Easy Guide to Choosing the Best Flight Simulators."

The website is very well put together, by the way. The footer includes links for "Terms and Conditions" and "Contact Us," and they sound absolutely legit. The top menu bar includes links to a couple of so-called articles, one of which includes a short video. I don't know for sure, but I think the video was recorded from a different flight simulator, not this one.

If you scroll further down the Real Airplane Simulator webpage, you will see that it's pushing ProFlightSimulator Suite and Flight Simulator Plus, two other incarnations that I've written about before.

But all of this is just for appearance. It's a tissue-paper-thin facade whose sole purpose is to make the whole enterprise legitimate. In other words, it's a sham covering the scam. Don't fall for it.

The downloadable document? Well, Cody Moya or one of his sock puppets (namely, Charlie Taylor, Dan Freeman, Michael Ortiz and Eriz Cremonti) ripped off a bunch of stuff on the Web, compiled it all with some of his own bogus literature about ProFlightSimulator, and published it in a PDF document, purporting to be the definitive word about the subject.

The definitive word about the subject is not found in this deceptive, self-serving, waste of bytes. It's found in this statement from

 If you do fall for their hype and hand over your money, well, I feel sorry for you. But I told you so.

Zoey Deschanel or Katy Perry?

And now, for something completely different!

From the neck up. Let's keep it G rated, folks.

Who's cuter: Zoey Deschanel, or Katy Perry? And who has the more fun personality? Which one would you rather spend an afternoon with?

Judging from these photos, I'd call it a tie. Flip a coin. Or invite them both.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Who's Flip-Flopping Now?

A long time ago, I wrote about a politician's prerogative to change his mind about a position, based on new knowledge the politician may have acquired. I never mentioned Mitt Romney by name, because I think that all politicians (and all people) should have that right: the right to think new thoughts, to keep an open mind, and to adopt new ideas.

Many Republicans wouldn't give Romney that right. They insisted that once he stated his position on an issue, he must stick with that opinion forever, unchanging. When he did change his mind on an issue, they said he was doing so for purely political reasons, and they called it "flip-flopping." Mitt has been accused of being a flip-flopper since he first aspired to the presidency in 2007.

This has been a particularly bitter and divisive campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Attacks and negativity ruled the airwaves and the Internet. Now that Mitt Romney has the nomination all but sewn up, party leaders are suddenly aware of the need for unity. A divided Republican party has no chance of winning the presidential election this November.

So let's see what one former presidential candidate and one prominent Republican are saying about Romney.

First, Newt Gingrich, just four days ago:  "I think it's a very substantial mistake for Governor Romney to be pretending these primaries aren't occurring and for him to be having quote a general election speech tonight in New Hampshire. He's the frontrunner but he's not the nominee."

Now, Newt Gingrich, shortly after he announced he's giving up: "I do think it's pretty clear that Governor Romney is ultimately going to be the nominee and we're gonna do everything we can make sure that he is in fact effective. And we as a team will be effective in winning this fall."

(As an aside, I think it's kind of funny that Gingrich is offering his services to "do everything we can [to] make sure that he is in fact effective." Yeah. He spent months torpedoing his own campaign, and now he wants to help Romney. I think that a "Thanks but no thanks; go back to your professorship now" would me more likely. Gingrich's help on the general campaign, like Donald Trump's public endorsement, is more a liability than an asset.)

Second, Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City and a one-time presidential candidate in his own right. A few months ago, stumping for one of the other GOP hopefuls, Giuliani had this to say about Romney: "I have never seen a guy - and I've run in a lot of elections, supported a lot of people, opposed them - never seen a guy change his positions on so many things, so fast, on a dime. Everything."

Did you catch that? "Everything." And "never seen a guy." Rudy Giuliani really didn't like Mitt Romney. There was no room in his mind for any candidate to be worse than Romney. Now, contrast that with what he said this week: "I'm proud to support Mitt Romney and encourage all those who worry about our country's future to do the same."

(Another aside: Doesn't it seem to you that Giuliani changed his position rather fast - on a dime, even? He went from "never" to bootlicking in the blink of an eye.)

Who's flip-flopping now, boys?

We know why Newt and Rudy did it. It's called "business as usual." Or "politics," if you prefer.

(I got these quotations from Samara Mackareth's Politically Foul column.)

UPDATE, MAY 3: Today we can add Michele Bachman to the list of flip-floppers. She was one of his loudest opponents, even after she dropped out of the primaries in January. I think it was in January that she said there was "no way" Mitt Romney could beat Barack Obama in a general election. It took months of behind-the-scenes negotiating (in her words, "working behind the scenes, bringing together all factions of our party"), but today she publicly endorsed Romney's nomination.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

This morning's smile

One thing there is NOT a shortage of, in our neighborhood, is people walking dogs.

Another thing there is NOT a shortage of , in our neighborhood, is attractive young women.

(I mean young adult women, of course. I notice these things. Please forgive me. I promise I'll stop — the day my heart stops beating.)

This morning I saw both things at once.

I had a substitute-teaching assignment at 6:00 this morning. I drove home at 7:00 to get my lunch and go to work. As I was driving into the neighborhood, by the light of the rising sun, I looked down the block and noticed ... well, here are the thoughts that went through my mind:

That's a particularly attractive young woman.

She's walking a dog. Wow, that's a pretty dog.

That looks a lot like our dog. I wonder if someone 

Hey! That's my daughter!

Our third daughter is home right now, interviewing for jobs and preparing for her upcoming wedding in a few weeks. She has always been my little girl, and I'm just now getting used to the idea that she's a grown woman.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hilary Rosen versus Ann Romney, part three

So, is Hilary Rosen right? Are stay-at-home moms out of touch?

If they're so out of touch, then please tell me: why do all the working moms tell their latchkey kids to go to the home of the stay-at-home mom in their neighborhood if there's any trouble? (Don't tell me I'm making this up. My wife was a stay-at-home mom for over 20 years, and this is exactly how it was.)

Do you think that the stay-at-home moms don't listen carefully to the kids' conversations, while they're driving carpool after school and picking up the children of the working moms?

Do you think that stay-at-home moms do nothing but cook, clean, do laundry, and sit around the house all day, eating bonbons and watching Jerry Springer and Dr. Phil?

I know that many working moms carefully monitor their children's progress at school, correspond regularly with their teachers, and attend parent-teacher conferences. Do you think that the stay-at-home moms don't do that?

I know that working moms worry constantly about their family's finances, about the job situation, and about the national and local economy. Would you suggest, as Hilary Rosen did, that stay-at-home moms don't have those same worries? Or that they don't know as much about those subjects as working moms? Can you give me one valid reason why they wouldn't?

A Luxury or a Choice? Or Both?

Now let's address the side issue that Rosen and her supporters alluded to, that Ann Romney's decision to stay at home was a luxury that not everybody can afford. In one sense, she is right, it is a luxury. But for a married woman, it's also a choice, and it requires giving up a lot - including that second income, everything that second income can buy, and the extra content on her resume. Rosen called the Romneys "people of wealth" and intimated that only "people of wealth" can afford to be stay-at-home moms, and that "people of wealth" are out of touch. And I say she's wrong on both of those intimations.

Once again, being a stay-at-home mom is a choice. It's a choice that you can make whether you're rich or poor, college educated or not, and it has nothing to do with being in touch or out of touch with economic reality.

Let's stick with Rosen's "people of wealth" terminology for a minute. Here's what a blog called The XX Factor had to say yesterday, in defense of Hilary Rosen:

"We can also admit that at this point staying home full time with your children is not only a choice but pretty much a luxury of the elite. And almost by definition makes it hard for you to relate to the average woman."

Actually, it sounds like The XX Factor was parroting Hilary Rosen. Proof by repeated assertion.

Contrast that with what The XX Factor had to say about stay-at-home moms two years ago:
"Despite the popular notion that most mothers who don't work outside the home are mostly wealthy elites, stay-at-home moms actually tend to be less educated and poorer than the rest of mothers, as we learned from recent census numbers. Many of these moms, especially younger ones, simply can't find work that pays enough to cover their childcare costs."

Can we say that The XX Factor is two-faced? Or should we say that The XX Factor wants to have it both ways: stay-at-home moms are both "wealthy elites" and "less educated and poorer"? Or should we just take the easy way out and say that The XX Factor is full of crap? (Thanks to the Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web Today" for these two excerpts. I'm afraid this link won't work as expected after April 13, 2012.)

(Quick update, April 14: The XX Factor doesn't have just one author. The two comments above, quoted in the WSJ, were from two different authors. But they really do need to get their act together, in order to avoid a mashup like the one above. A third article in The XX Factor takes a more evenhanded look at Rosen vs. Romney and makes some good points.)

Conclusion (such as it is)

Let's face it: it's tough to be a working mom. I've worked with working moms, and I've seen what they have to do to succeed.  But in today's world, even if your husband is a venture capitalist, it's just as tough to be a stay-at-home mom. It's a decision that all women have to face, and deciding either way is tough. Women are lucky if they have a husband who will support them in their decision. They're even luckier if they have a husband who makes enough money that they can choose to be a stay-at-home mom, if they want to.

But don't anybody, ever make the mistake of suggesting that a stay-at-home mom (1) doesn't  work, or (2) is out of touch with the real world, or (3) is, in any way, inferior to a working mom.

For further reading

On my other website is an essay called "Does Your Wife Work?" which looks at this subject from another angle.

Hilary Rosen versus Ann Romney, part two

A national association, composed of women mostly of the Christian faith and of the conservative stripe, the Concerned Women for America (CWA) are not afraid to speak out on issues of national importance that affect women.

Another national association, composed of women of various faiths and mostly of the liberal stripe, the National Organization for Women (NOW) are also not afraid to speak out on issues of national importance that affect women.

CWA's Response

Here's what the CWA had to say, in response to Hilary Rosen's putdown of Ann Romney and stay-at-home moms everywhere. (The original article, "Only 'Real' Women Count", is reprinted here in full, with the permission of CWA.)

Only “Real” Women Count
By Penny Nance

Self-control is a virtue. And I am trying really hard to exert that virtue as much as possible in my response to the complete nonsense spouted by DNC adviser and strategist Hilary Rosen.
In a pathetic effort to discredit Mitt Romney and continue the liberals' recent "war on women" cry, Rosen decided to attack Romney's wife Ann. In an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, Rosen said, "Guess what, his wife has actually never worked a day in her life."

Of course, she only stayed at home to raise five kids!

As the mother of two, I have to admit that my immediate reaction to hearing this was to have the veins in my forehead almost pop. But after a moment, I had to remember that this type of attitude is nothing new among liberals - especially among those who claim to speak for women.

The reality is that for liberals only "real" women count. You know, those who believe in having a "choice" on abortion and put career first, instead of the "enslavement" of staying at home to raise a family. In essence, those who believe like liberals do are the "real" women; those "others" out there somewhere on a farm are still living in the 1950s.

As the President and Chief Executive Officer of Concerned Women for America (CWA), I represent these "other" women. CWA is the nation's largest public policy women's organization with over half-a-million members around the country, and a lot of them are stay-at-home moms who work - and work hard! - for their families to thrive.

These moms have more positive impact on our culture than any government entity or program could ever dream of having. It is in them that the answers to many of our societal ills lie.

But liberals, especially liberal women who self-proclaim themselves as the "voice" of American women, believe that no one should listen to these other, lesser beings. Isn't that what Miss Rosen's comment really says? "Mitt Romney shouldn't be listening to his wife; she doesn't even work."


This is why they don't believe these "other" women should be listened to when the "others" say that because of their religious beliefs, they don't want the government forcing them to pay for other women's contraception.

Apparently Rosen's way of making the remarks "better" was to clarify that Romney should not listen to her on "economic" issues. Right, because running a household has nothing to do with economic issues. She wrote on her Twitter account:

When I said [on Anderson Cooper] Ann Romney never worked I meant she never had to care for her kids AND earn a paycheck like MOST American women!

Words cannot describe how sorry I feel for this woman. The most amazing thing about moms is that they do so much without getting a paycheck. I only wish that Rosen and others like her would stop and consider that. Stay-at-home moms are to be considered more, not less.

I stayed at home for several years while my children where young, and I can tell you that there is not a more practical place where Washington could look to discover the tangible impact their theoretical economic proposals have than the American family. A great number of moms run the budget in the house; they pay bills, give to charity, buy groceries, etc.

Talk about energy policy; these women see the effects every day of desperately trying to manage paying almost four dollars a gallon for gas at the pump. They make tough choices so they can live within their families' budget every month, something this administration is clearly unable to do. Stay-at-home moms are also experts in the areas of education, nutrition, and a host of other issues.

Americans would be wise to remember this as they get ready to go the polls and vote. The issue is much bigger than a simple statement. The statement is a representation of a worldview (shared by our president, I might add) that defines women and "women's issues" in an authoritarian way and purposely ignores anything or anyone who would dare challenge their assumptions.

It puzzles me how liberals do not get how important stay-at-home moms are to our nation? Haven't they heard the saying, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world"? And in this case, it swings elections.

The NOW response

Here's what the NOW had to say, in response to Hilary Rosen's putdown of Ann Romney and stay-at-home moms everywhere.

That's right, nothing.

Correction: a reporter for CBS' local affiliate in Washington, DC, chased down the head of NOW and got this statement from her:

Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, told CBSDC that she felt this was a made up controversy.

“I think Rosen’s point was that Ann Romney’s experience was limited,” O’Neill said.

That's not much better than the crickets.

Part three: the stay-at-home decision - is it a luxury, and does it render women out of touch?

Hilary Rosen versus Ann Romney

Hilary Rosen (left), Ann Romney (right). Picture swiped from
You have, no doubt, heard about the hornet's nest that "Democratic strategist and political commentator" (that's what the newspapers call her) Hilary Rosen stirred up, when she had this to say about Ann Romney on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees show:

With respect to economic issues, I think actually that Mitt Romney is right, that ultimately, women care more about the economic well-being of their families and the like. But there's -- but he doesn't connect on that issue either.

What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, "Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues. And when I listen to my wife, that's what I'm hearing."

Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and how do we -- why we worry about their future. 
Yes, she really did say that:  Ann Romney "has actually never worked a day in her life." And I provided the context in the quotation above, so you would know that she meant exactly what she said.

Wow. Hilary Rosen just disenfranchised every single stay-at-home mom in America. Now, I will grant that stay-at-home moms now constitute less than half of the female electorate in this country.  (Let's define a "stay-at-home mom" as a woman who chooses to be a full-time mother and homemaker instead of being a part-time or full-time member of the paid workforce.) But stay-at-home moms haven't been this marginalized since the other famous Democratic Hil(l)ary said, on March 15, 1992, "I suppose I could have stayed at home and baked cookies."

Well, as the son of one stay-at-home mom and the husband of another one, I've been truly pleased to see the reaction Rosen's comment has gotten. High-value Democrats are running over each other in their haste to get away from her. The  president and the first lady have distanced themselves from her, as have national leaders of the Democratic Party and Democratic leaders in Congress. Some of them have even said, "She's not part of the Democratic leadership" - even though she has been called a "Democratic strategist" and, I might add, acted the part in other venues.

Republicans have taken her comment for the free gift it is, and still haven't stopped capitalizing on it.

Perhaps the most interesting thing so far has been Wolf Blitzer scolding her, on the air,  demanding that she apologize to Ann Romney, and scolding her again for her lame non-apology.

(Her apology? She said to Wolf, "Oh, well I sent out an apology this afternoon." First, she insulted this high-profile lady in a high-profile way, and then she either emailed or Tweeted her an apology, twenty-four hours after she made the insult,and now she expects that to be good enough. In this way, Hilary Rosen demonstrates her total lack of class. A handwritten apology, with an original, handwritten signature, in a hand-addressed envelope, either delivered by hand or by express mail: that's what this situation calls for. Maybe even a bouquet of balloons or flowers. But not an email message. That shows no class at all.)

(Update: It turns out she did issue a statement to the press, apologizing to the world in general for her "poor choice of words." In other words, she meant what she said, but she wished she had said it differently. Um, that doesn't count. What we were all waiting for was something like this: "Dear Ms. Romney. I was wrong. I'm truly sorry. To prove it, I'm going to stop talking in public for a while.")

(She tried it again on Blitzer's show:  "I'm sorry if that offended you."  Did you catch the weasel word? "IF." And she wasn't really sorry. What she said was: "If you're thin-skinned, then I apologize for that flaw in your personality." That's not an apology. )

She keeps trying to talk her way out of the situation, but with every word she says, she digs herself deeper and deeper into the pit she dug for herself. The best thing Hilary Rosen could do right now is give Ann Romney a sincere, public apology and then SHUT UP.

Stay tuned for part two: what two national women's organizations have to say about it.

Postscript: This is totally off-topic, but after I wrote that last sentence, I got to thinking. Maybe Rush Limbaugh should have done the same thing, in his recent situation: issue a sincere, public apology and then shut up.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Election predictions

It's too early to predict who's going to win the presidential election in November. But I can make some predictions about the movements of the voting public. Here are my predictions:

  • Led by evangelicals, many (if not most) Christians will vote against Romney because he's a Mormon.
  • In a similar fashion, many (if not most) Mormons will vote for Romney because he's a Mormon.

Both groups will give other lame excuses to justify their votes, but when it comes down to it, they will vote for or against Romney because he's a Mormon.

So much for religious tolerance in this country. But it gets better.

  • Many people will vote against Obama because (they say) he wasn't born in the United States.
  • Other people will vote against Obama because (they say) he's a Muslim.
  • Many (if not most) blacks will vote for Obama because he's black.
  • Many (but definitely not most) whites will vote against Obama because he's black.
  • Many (way too many) Republicans will vote for Romney simply because he's a Republican.
  • Many (way too many) Democrats will vote for Obama simply because he's a Democrat.

Who does that leave? Oh, the free thinkers, right? Let's look at what the free thinkers will do in November:

  • Many of them will vote against Romney because the negative ads about him were so convincing.
  • Many of them will vote against Obama because the negative ads about him were so convincing.
  • Many of them will vote for the candidate they saw or met in person, just because of that personal contact.
  • Many of them will vote for the last candidate whose ad they saw on the TV before heading to the polls.

Does that leave anybody who's actually going to think before they vote? Anybody who's going to use logic and reasoning, to figure out for themselves who will be the best president for the next four years? Please tell me you are in this final group, and not one of the other groups I've listed!

Snopes and George Soros: the connection

Shall I make it simple? There is no connection.

Not simple enough? Okay, how about this: There is no connection between George Soros and

Still too complicated? Okay, then try this on for size: If you believe that is financed by George Soros or anybody else, then YOU ARE AN IDIOT.

Sometimes I am amazed at how easily and thoughtlessly people pass on falsehoods whose only purpose is to sully the reputation of an honorable or successful person (or group of people). We used to call it gossip, now we call it email lore. (And sometimes we call it political discourse.)

I received one of those endlessly forwarded emails tonight, asserting breathlessly and longwindedly (can you be"breathless" and "longwinded" at the same time? and is "longwindedly" a real adverb?) that the website is financed by shady left-wing sources, that most of those sources have tried to hide their identities, and that one of the sources is controversial kazillionaire George Soros.

I sure get tired of this crap.

Emails like this are written in such a way as to get you outraged enough to feel a moral obligation to "forward this message to everyone you know." They often appeal, in the final paragraph, to your sense of dignity, patriotism, or just-plain-guilt. If they succeed, then, prompted by both outrage and the guilt, you will forward it to everybody in your Address Book.

Don't you wish you'd stopped to do some fact-checking first?

In the case of, I know the Snopeses. David and Barbara Mikkelson are personal friends of mine. We were chasing urban folklore together back before Web browsers existed, back when we had to crawl through the untamed wilds of the Internet with nothing but a machete and a keyboard (and I carried an axe), relying on text-based tools like archie and USEnet newsreaders. We were stuffing and mounting urban legends before any of you found your first free AOL CD in your mailbox.

I watched as David and Barbara put things in place so that they could have a go at making money from urban folklore, by carefully detaching themselves from alt.folklore.urban and starting, maybe not the first, but definitely the most successful, commercial urban-folklore website,

David and Barbara could not be successful if they didn't remain detached and independent—unencumbered by financial or political relationships with ANYBODY. I mean, duh.

But don't take my word for it. Read what they themselves have to say about it:
If that's not good enough for you, then read what two other professional folklorists have to say about it:

You can call the Mikkelsons liars if you want. You can call me, Rich Buhler (TruthOrFiction) and Dave Emery (About) deluded if you want. But at least we went to the trouble of searching out the truth. We're not stupid enough to believe something just because it landed in our Inboxes.

Besides, like I said, I know the Snopeses. Personally. Do you?

UPDATE, June 14: Here's another analysis of the question, written in April 2009 by Viveca Novak at For those of you not familiar with, it's a highly regarded website, billing itself as "a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center." You can accuse them of political bias if you want (Hey! Did you know that the Annenberg Foundation gives financial support to National Public Radio? Does that make them liberals?), but their work has always been credible, well-researched and impartial, as far as I can tell.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Family matters most

Zyzmog Galactic Headquarters is an eclectic blog. There's a bit of everything in here. Here's something that hasn't shown up in this blog yet: an intensely personal note.

This is what matters most to me. (Click here for a bigger picture)

I treasure the knowledge I've acquired over the years. I like knowing stuff, not for its own sake, but to use it to do something. (My kids say I should use it to win at "Jeopardy.") Like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, I have two impressive diplomas, but most of the knowledge I've acquired comes from way beyond those diplomas. I'd like to think that somewhere in the middle of that knowledge, I also acquired some wisdom. I'd like to think that, but some days I'm not so sure.

More important to me than my knowledge, are all the experiences I've had over the years: where I've gone, what I've done, and what I've seen. I got to work for HP back when it was a good company. I've written video games. I've written a book. I've been on TV. I've written music, played music, and directed a choir. I've watched a ballet in La Scala, and an opera in the Bolshoi. I've stood on the top of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, and the Duomo in Milan. I've gone water skiing on the South China Sea. I've climbed the Green Mountains, the Applachian Mountains, the Rocky Mountains and the Alps. I've stood on a top of a mountain illuminated by nothing but starlight, and looked at the Milky Way against the night sky. I've seen the Northern Lights dance across the Canadian night skies, and I've been to St. Petersburg during White Nights.

More important than my experiences and accomplishments, are all the great people I've gotten to meet in my life, and the hundreds — no, thousands — of people I count as my friends. These friendships stretch along a continuum from the mutual respect and camaraderie that springs from a single meeting, to the kind that take up a good chunk of a lifetime, deepened and enriched by the quiet, unspoken love that true friends share. My life is especially rich because of the friends I have known.

I'm especially fortunate because those friendships include hundreds of former students and at least a dozen sort-of-adopted children.

Most important of all, even more important than friends, is family. When it comes to family, I am a very lucky man. Define family however you want, and I'm still a lucky man.  [Edit Edit Edit Give up] I have rewritten this paragraph three times, trying to put it into words, and the words don't work. But when I think of the love that we share, the things we have done for each other, and the things that we would do for each other, my heart fills up to overflowing. In my religious tradition, we believe that families last forever. I look at my family, and it makes me excited about forever.

At the center of it all stands my sweet wife. I have been in love with this girl for almost 40 years. She is the real reason for everything I do. All I have ever wanted to do is make her happy and successful, and to see her smile and laugh, and to feel her love and approval in return. So far, I think I'm doing okay: she hasn't kicked me out of the house yet.

The two of us, at 18 years old (Click here for a bigger picture)
The two of us, today (Click here for a bigger picture)
There's a lot in this world that you can chose from, to define yourself and to give meaning to your life. But when you strip away all of the nonessential stuff, the one thing that remains is family. Family lasts forever. And family matters most.