Sunday, April 30, 2006

They Can't Even Grovel Competently

The Bush administration left Zarqawi alone for a year because we were courting the French? Also because attacking him would have weakened the tottering case against Saddam Hussein... Dishonest, incompetent, humorless imposters.

Undercover Quirky

Your Quirk Factor: 59%
You're a pretty quirky person, but you're just normal enough to hide it. Congratulations - you've fooled other people into thinking you're just like them!
Of course, all bets are off if you blog. Quirky has a way of coming out....

Generations of Food Advice...

The Timeline of Dietary Advice actually starts with quite a few descriptive entries. Warning, it's a timewaster: take 123 CE, for example
By 600 B.C. Hindu physicians had identified the clinical symptoms of diabetes, blaming the condition on 'dietary indiscretion'. Around 400 B.C. an Indian physician, named Susruta suggested that diabetes may be linked to an excess of sugar, flour and rice in the diet.

Recommendations in the Caraka Samhita (c.123 A.D.) were for a moderate diet high in fibre and carbohydrates to counter these excesses.
And you just have to keep clicking. Of course, they highlight the prescient early citations and the really bad modern ones (OK, there's the goofy middle ages, too).... But it's still fun reading. It would be an interesting exercise to give this to some students and see what sort of "history" they could draw from these facts.

The Social Issues Research Center has some other fascinating papers, too, including a guide to flirting (one wonders if they are trying to take all the fun out of it) and a detailed and vigorous defense of gossip as an essential social function enabled by wireless and asynchronous communications.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Painful to read, but worthwhile.

When family, religion, politics and the state are against this girl, where do we start fixing things?

And, at the bottom of that same post, I note a lazy journalist has invented a new religious sect: "devout Judaeo-Christians."

Words fail me, sometimes. Not often, but sometimes.

Communal Violence

Conservative commentator incites violence, goes unpunished, again.

Brian Ulrich thinks, in related issues, that understanding your enemy is good policy.

I think that historical scholarship based on emotional epiphanies should be considered suspect, no matter who it's about. (in related news, this petition in support of the authors was taken down (after some initial success), I suspect because of the hundreds of critical and satirical signers which I saw when I checked it yesterday. I really don't like the paper in question, and I think Cole's defense of it is a bit shallow, but dumbass vandalism and vulgarity doesn't help.

Finally, news from the top: George Bush fits psychological pattern of bad, bad presidents. To be fair, I probably do, too...

Before you pick up your date tonight, read this....

Six ways to increase your attractiveness [via] to potential mates:
  • Experience fear together. [which explains the inappropriate relationships and sex scenes in most thriller movies, I suppose]
  • Body language. [Standing: good. Knuckle-dragging: bad]
  • Music. [not with body parts, though. Not on a first date, anyway]
  • Chemistry. [a.k.a. alcohol and chocolate; also, for men, soap]
  • Eye contact. [Because you don't usually fall in love at first smell.... see above]
  • Jokes. [How'm I doing so far?]
This explains so much about modern dating . . . It's scary to think that all those cliches really, really work.

And, if your date is a member of Congress, or you yourself are a member of Congress, you might want to consider an FBI chaperone (more; hypocritical bastards).

Friday, April 28, 2006

My next career: Ahistoricality to the Future!

You Should Be a Science Fiction Writer
Your ideas are very strange, and people often wonder what planet you're from. And while you may have some problems being "normal," you'll have no problems writing sci-fi. Whether it's epic films, important novels, or vivid comics... Your own little universe could leave an important mark on the world!
Oh, there's an itch there, to be sure....

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Compare and Contrast Carnivals

The Carnival of Satire is up, and looks good (more later), as does the Skeptics Circle (this time done in the form of a scientific paper, furthering host Coturnix's attempt to blur the lines between blogging and scientific publishing)

And, just for fun, I'm going to look at the Carnival of Liberty (Libertarian) and the Carnival of the Liberated (Iraqi and Afghani anglo-bloggers) later.

Non Sequitur: I have no opinion on anything written in Sports Illustrated, but he's right about mosquito nets. My only complaint is that this shouldn't be a matter of private charity: this should be public policy, and the fact it isn't is gruesome.

Quick Thought: Snow in April and Fox in the White House

There's a lot of talk about new Press Secretary Tony Snow's mildly critical (tactical, not strategic) comments on the presidency before his new job. I think the main thing to take from this, instead is that we finally have the QED we need to entirely ignore FOX, even to go on the offensive with challenges to FCC licenses and FEC political airtime issues.

(On the other hand, criticizing the administration's record on oil economics while driving an SUV short distances... just dumb. It's true that the foreign policy and energy policy of the administration have contributed to the oil market constriction, but it's also true that there are forces well outside of their control -- American buying and driving habits, international demand for oil, Middle East tensions (it's not like the region was going to be peaceful anytime soon) -- and that fingerpointing is just opportunism. Opportunism has it's place, and perhaps the runup to midterm elections is that place, but I'd like to see more policy and less politics....)

Wingnuttish Moonbattery

Hmmm. On second thought, that sounds like a shorthand recipe for nut-encrusted milk-batter fried chicken.... I need biscuits.

Carnival of the Liberals #11 nearly deserves its own entry in the Carnival of Satire: the entire thing is done in the voice of a Rush O'Reilly wannabee and is such good satire that I very nearly decided to skip linking to the carnival this time. If I want abuse, I'll go read it straight from the source. There are some decent posts there, if you're willing to wade through it. The prevalence of satirical material raises the issue, though, that I raised most recently here, about liberal participation in conservative-dominated non-political carnivals. Submit this stuff to the Carnival of Satire, Carnival of Comedy, Carnival of Vanities, etc. (there are some folks who do; Madeleine Kane's limericks show up all over the place) and we can make some progress. This, for example is pretty good satire; will it get submitted if I don't do it? We'll see.

If you're not, here are some alternatives: The case for abolishing nuclear weapons: Sometimes people say "you can't put the genie back in the bottle." But you can. We eradicated smallpox. We criminalized gas weapons. Countries have disarmed, many times in many ways. Only one country has ever invented nuclear weapons independently -- the US (every other country has, to a lesser or greater extent, borrowed or stolen significant components of the expertise necessary) -- and so clearly it's something that isn't all that easy. We never would have built them in peacetime: only the exigencies of war gave us the moral cover necessary to spend all that time, money, energy and expertise on a doomsday device. If nuclear weapons were abolished, the case for building them in peacetime would be nearly nonexistent. This deserves to be the most widely read post of the week.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Expanding minds...

Ozarque has a fantastic series on braille reading and reading cognition, as well as a link to this braille primer (also note the braille technology page)

Anne Zook has decoded some policy labels for us.

Orac has been monitoring a creationist med student (I'm nervous. Are you nervous?) and finds both intense inanity and creative non-sequitur.

Because Reality and Satire aren't that far apart, particularly where advertising is involved, two stories from the NYtimes: professional satirist stymied trying to outdo college admissions officers and ads on sheep. Yes, sheep.

Because Carnivals are Fun!
Seriously, the Tangled Bank in the form of a Star Wars intro is pretty fun, which highlighting, perhaps unintentionally, the somewhat embattled state of science in our society. When you've got Prize-winning Intelligent Design Science Fair projects, you know you've got trouble.

It's for Science!

The Carnival of the Vanities is up, and I'm in it. IMAO's done some lively writing, which actually doesn't obscure the content of the post anywhere near as much as it looks on first skim. (Update: though he continues the tradition of hard-core conservative hosting, and is proprietor of the Carnival of Comedy, which I just gave up on)

Most interesting thing I've found so far is this critique of Christianity (which could well be applied to several other religions with which I'm familiar) which includes a link to this very thorough set of anti-Christian attacks. When I have more time I might go through it and see how many apply to myself as well....

There's a new carnival, combining the topics of two of my favorites -- Grand Rounds and Kid Comedy: Pediatric Grand Rounds! Everything from poop jokes to sugar alarmists to the home delivery rant that spawned a hundred+ comments (including yeoman's work by Dr. Amy Tuteur

And the 31st issue of the 2nd year of Grand Rounds is up, as well. Advice on meetings is good but pretty generic, as is the emergency department superstition list. However, the encounter between the deaf nurse and deaf patient is anything but, as is the post that includes the words "My personal feeling is that intercourse while wearing a monitor is best accomplished with a regular partner. It should never be a surprise that you will have red, brown, green, white, and blue wires running from your chest to a box at your waist...." It's for science!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Flying Weenie

In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, there's a little hot dog joint called the Flying Weenie, which serves wonderful Nathan's dogs with chili and fresh-cut fries. Also, though I can't find a picture online, there's an airplane on top of the restaurant (and the engine block is inside by the counter).

We used to joke about the name being a new ultra-budget class of air travel: First-Class, Business Class, Coach and Weenie. Well, now someone's gone and suggested standing room sections on jumbo jets, and our only defense, as I see it, is going to be ridicule.

Inappropriately joyous non-sequitur: Naomi Chana, of Baraita, is back and blogging about Yom Hashoah and the First Crusade!

Academic Haiku Limerick

DeanDad and Little Professor
wrote some haiku of their stressors:
Students and funding
and semester ending
ac'demic admin'strative pressures.

Sorry about the apostrophes....

Monday, April 24, 2006

Bloggerly Obligations

I've been blogrolled by a bunch of new folks, whom I've neglected to thank properly.
  • Reader IAM, blogging here and here (with Callimachus, whose weekly etymology roundups ought to be more regular reading for me)
  • AnElementaryTeacher, who is just doing some lovely blogging, including a Roald Dahl anti-TV poem and faith and history
  • I have no idea what drew Gary McGath to blogroll me, since he's a hardcore libertarian and I'm a Four Freedoms Democrat, but he's got an interesting mind and lively blog.
  • Authentic Personality's beesucker, who is a fine model of what Buddhist blogging can be
  • Most recently, Terry, excellent host of the most recent Carnival of Feminists, added me to her lists. She does some very nice daily history stuff, as well as language and politics commentary, personal stuff... she's a blogger, and worth watching.
It's funny, the people you meet out here in blogland. Lively conversations!

Update: I nearly forgot ArticulateDad, who's become one of my more regular commenters (a rare breed indeed), and who has just posted the funniest annotated rejection letter and an even funnier Letter back to a search committee: "Following careful deliberation with my wife and family, consultations with numerous colleagues and advisors, I have been so far unable to find an institution worthy of my further consideration....."

And thick and fast they came at last.... I just discovered another inexplicable blogroll entry: Meyers' HistoryBlawg, which looks like a classroom discussion blog. Curiously, this blog and Chris Bray's forum are the only blogs listed under "history" which is kind of .... wrong. I would strongly urge Mr. Meyers and his students (whose discussions look fascinating and lively) to take a look at the New and Improved Cliopatria History Blogroll, in which I am "Other".... and deservedly so.

Politicians suck at Policy. We need Wonks

Dave Neiwert has compiled a pretty thorough indictment of bad policy and science on global warming and energy. For a good collection of policy issues, go back to Anne Zook's energy/garbage rant, her call for sane, focused leadership then read her short list of current issues.

HNN has a very thorough review of the latest bin Laden tape, in which he makes it very clear that [warning: partisan response ahead] our failure to apprehend or kill him has implications for nearly every other foreign policy problem we currently face [I warned you; oh, I'm not done]; it also makes it clear that -- as much of a failure as the administration has been in its self-declared "Wars On" -- there really is a war on. It's not a big war: any list of casi belli which includes cartoons, Salman Rushdie, headscarfs, and Arab TV, is more on a scale with the "War on Christmas" than the Cold War.

With all due respect, I say there's no such thing as you!

said Mr. Banks, as he went noisily sane.

In other news, Palestine doesn't exist in the British Airways databases. Let's hope their maps are better than that.

Speaking of existential questions (sorry!) On Exes and Blogs raises the sticky issue of when you reveal yourself and who your readership might be. (via friday femme fatales)

If you read through an entire Carnival of Comedy, and only laugh at one lousy graphic, what does it mean? It's official. I'm sticking with the Satire and Kid Comedy carnivals from now on.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Roundups and Updates

Carnival of Kid Comedy #7 is still small but some cute bits.

Also the Carnival of the Vanities is up. It's been a rough month for CoV: first the schism, then a disappearing host: kudos to Stingflower for stepping in and doing a nice, clean job on short notice.

One interesting find: someone staged a Denial-of-Service attack on the War on Easter atheism site.

Not in any carnival yet:

Girls, Grrls, Grrrls, Grrrrls, Grrrrrls, etc., etc.

Inspired by a book title in Scott McLemee's interview with the author of a book on pin-ups, I wondered if there was a standard spelling for the non-vowel, assertive, fourth-wave(?) feminist spelling of "girl." Being fundamentally lazy -- if terminally geeky -- I went to Google:
girls, girl1.25 billion
gurls, gurl19 million
gril, grils6.1 million
grrl, grrls2 million
grrrls, grrrl2.3 million
grrrrl, grrrrls142 thousand
grrrrrls, grrrrrl42 thousand
grrrrrrl, grrrrrrls14.3 thousand
grrrrrrrls, grrrrrrrl1.1 thousand
grrrrrrrrls, grrrrrrrrl2.8 thousand
grrrrrrrrrl, grrrrrrrrrlsunder 700
At this point I gave up keeping track and just wanted to know how many 'r's I could add before the search returned zero results: 45 for the singular and 30 for the plural.

Clearly there's still uncertainty as to whether two or three will become the standardized version of this slang (though it may be that the two will take on two different shadings, as well, and both remain in place).

update: prompted by elementaryhistoryteacher's comment, I added two lines: "gril, grils" for the most common uncorrected typo (which seems to be deliberate in some cases) and "gurl, gurls" which is by far the most popular variant. Now, someone has to figure out what it means, and that someone isn't me.

Friday, April 21, 2006

In a word....

First, a bit of history:

The word of the day is:


You get the idea.

Four Freedoms Ring!

You scored as Old School Democrat. Old school Democrats emphasize economic justice and opportunity. The Democratic ideal is best summarized by the Four Freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
Old School Democrat
New Democrat
Foreign Policy Hawk
Pro Business Republican
Socially Conservative Republican

What's Your Political Philosophy?
created with [via]

Just one thing: where in the world did that high "Foreign Policy Hawk" result come from?

As Anne Zook pointed out, Norman Rockwell did a Four Freedoms series:
Freedom From WantFreedom to Worship
Freedom From FearFreedom of Speech

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Disability is not Race

Sam quotes Jamie Leonard:
Title I [of the ADA] has been rendered ineffective because of reliance on traditional civil rights mechanisms. My thesis is that the integrationist goals of Title I are so different from those of traditional civil rights statutes that it was a mistake to use the latter's concepts and mechanisms in the disability setting. To put the matter glibly, Title I has fallen into the equality trap.

The paradigmatic civil rights statute, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, rests on the assumption that immutable characteristics such as race, gender, or national origin are irrelevant to valid workplace decisions; consideration of such traits is therefore irrational, whether or not tainted with hostile attitudes. With regard to the inalterable traits addressed by Title VII, we are all equal in the sense that membership in a particular group, ideally, should bear no adverse consequences.
The ADA's great innovation is the adoption of an active, integrationist plan in a civil rights context. By traditional standards it is hardly a theory of equality at all. While Title I of the ADA forbids consideration of irrelevant disabilities, its principal tool is the reasonable accommodation requirement. The command that employers alter working environments in favor of persons with disabilities, recognizes that the defining characteristic of the protected class is relevant to the statutory goals.
That's a nice, clear statement of the problem. Something to think about on my way to Blog Against Disabilism Day (May 1)

Doing My Share....

Coturnix's discussion of science blogging continues (check out the links at the end, and the comments).

In other news, the Carnival of Satire is up, and even the conservatives are funny this week! I preferred this to the limericks MadKane submittted, but it's always worth scrolling through her stuff. Sometimes, as Tom Paxton said, the truth is self-satirizing: ATF Agents Seize Ninja-costumed student on Ninja/Pirate Day doesn't take a lot of work, does it? The tension between environmentalism, liberalism, energy and weaponry is a legitimate problem, which we liberals really ought to think a bit harder about. Can a press release create a groundswell? Against Google?

There's more there, too, and, as you'll note, if you spot something satirical on the web, Mark Rayner is always happy to consider submissions (and he gives credit where it's due, which does not always happen, I've found). Happy 30th Edition to the Satirical Community!

Thursday Poem: Poem For My Little Boy

Li Shangyin (812 - 858), Poem for My Little Boy
(Translated by Burton Watson, Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry)
(I copied this from here but had to a little clean-up)
My little boy Kun-shih,
no finer, no handsomer lad;
in bellyband, less than one year old,
already he knew six from seven;
at three he could tell you his name,
had eyes for more than chestnuts or pears.*
My friends came to look him over,
call him the phoenix of Cinnabar Cave;
at former courts where looks were prized,
he'd have rated first, they say;
but no, he has the style of an immortal spirit,
the swallow-throat, the crane-walk of a nobleman!
Why do they praise him so?
His father poor and talentless, they hope to comfort me thus.
In green spring, the warm and gentle months,
cousins all, his companions in play;
he runs round the hall, threads the wood:
a rush of bronze cauldrons bubbling over.
Elderly gentlemen come to the gate;
at once he dashes out to greet them;
in front of the guests, asked what he would like,
he mumbles shyly and won't speak up.
Guests are gone, he mimics their faces,
bursting through the door, snatching at his father's staff,
now aping Chang Fei's outlandish countenance,
now making fun of Teng Ai's stutter.**
A brave hawk on high wings soaring,
a noble horse with fierce, snorting breath,
he cuts stout green bamboo for a pony,
Gallops wildly, banging into things.
Suddenly he is the General in a play,
in stage voice summoning his groom;
now beside the gauze veiled lamp
he bows his head in evening obeisance to the Buddha.
Whip upraised, he bats at spider webs;
head bent down, he sucks nectar from the flower,
so nimble he outruns the swallowtail butterfly,
so swift he hardly lags behind the flying willow catkins.
By the terrace stairs he comes on Elder Sister,
rolls dice with her, loses all he has;
sneaks in to play with her vanity case,
prying at the golden clasp till he breaks it off.
Try to hold him -- he wiggles and squirms;
threaten and scold -- he will not be ruled.
Crouching down, he drags on the window netting;
with gobs of spit he polishes the lacquer lute.
Sometimes he watches while I practice calligraphy,
standing bolt upright, knees never moving;
old brocade book cover -- can he cut it up for clothes?
The scroll's jade spindle -- he begs for that too;
pleads with me to make him a spring garland,
spring garland fit for spring days,
when plantain leaves angle up -- furls of letter paper;
and magnolia buds droop -- writing brushes proffered.
Your father once was fond of reading books;
sweating, slaving, he wrote some of his own;
going on forty now, worn and tired,
no meat for his meals, cringing from fleas and lice --
Take care, my son -- do not copy your father,
studying, hoping for first or second on the exam!
Jang-chü's Rules of the Marshal,
Chang Liang's Yellow Stone Strategy,***
these will make you a teacher of kings;
waste no time on trash and trifles!
Much less now when west and north,
barbarian tribes rise in defiance,
when neither force nor bribes will bring them to heel
and the burden of them saps us like an old disease.
My son, grow to manhood quickly,
seek out the cubs in the tiger's cave;
make yourself lord of ten thousand households—
don't huddle forever over some old book!

* an allusion to an earlier poet's lament about unscholarly sons
** historical figures, noted for these features
*** classical works on military science

Touch + Food = Culture

Suzette Haden-Elgin notes:
It has been suggested [starting with J.W. Prescott and Douglas Wallace, "Developmental Sociobiology and the Origins of Aggressive Behavior," a paper presented at the 21st International Congress of Psychology in July 1976] that the more biased a culture is against touch, the more violent it is likely to be. If that hypothesis is valid, a culture that places a high value on violence is going to do everything possible to maintain and nuture its anti-touch bias and keep down the level of acceptance for everything related to nonviolent touch.
That explains an awful lot, at least to me. When "touchy-feely" became a slur, we were pretty well doomed, eh?

By the way, Ampersand noted another disturbing bit of research:
No commercial program, clinical program, or research model has been able to demonstrate significant long-term weight loss for more than a small fraction of the participants. Given the potential dangers of weight cycling and repeated failure, it is unscientific and unethical to support the continued use of dieting as an intervention for obesity.
It gets worse:
There are few studies in the medical literature that indicate that mortality risk is actually reduced by weight loss, and there are some that suggest that weight loss increases the risk of death.
There's an exception in the research for people with certain preconditions (high blood pressure, diabetes), but for healthy fat people, the way to stay healthy is, apparently, to stay fat. Exercise helps, as does a reasonably balanced diet, but "eat like a thin person" is a myth and clearly a failed model.

Worse, comes news [via] that agroindustrial vegetables aren't as nutritious as the farmed foods of yesteryear
The past five decades have been marked by the "Green Revolution," which has seen a marked increase in U.S. production and yields as farmers have turned to the fastest-growing and greatest-producing plants.

The tradeoff is that the faster-growing plants aren't able to acquire the nutrients that their slower-growing cousins can, either by synthesis or from the soil.
So, to eat a truly healthy diet, it turns out, you actually have to care where your food comes from.... It's quite disconcerting to realize that macrobiotic food nuts are actually dead-on right about something that you care about.

OK: time to focus on getting more sleep and exercise.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Settle in, it's a long one...

The Carnival of Feminists is big. Rich. Dense. Educational, infuriating and inspiring. Very international, too.

And, I don't know if this qualifies as a feminist issue or not, but Japan's Space Exploration Agency is staging a Space Fashion Design contest [via my spouse]. Nothing has been entered yet, so there's still time, but the head of the contest has created a wedding dress just to show us how it might be done. There is also one item in the official gallery, which is hideous. I'm hoping it's just a placeholder item....

Medicine and Other Snark

Grand Rounds is up, and though the host did a quick-and-dirty job, it's still one of my favorite regular carnivals. There's humor (dry slapstick... er... wet irony? Never mind. There's an interesting discussion of self-promotion in comments in the comments, too), journalism (the failings thereof, of course), current events (I have a friend who got mumps in Iowa! She's fine now), and human resources (you gotta read the note at the top, if nothing else. Johnny Paycheck Lives!)

Not in the Grand Rounds, but still medical: eat your vegetables? Sure, but in China, wash them first!

Political non sequitur: I'm not a big HuffPo fan, but Jane Smiley's Notes for Converts delivers a stern rebuke to those who only recently have rejoined the reality-based world and who are trying to repent of their Bush-sodden past.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Meta-Blog for Science

Coturnix has surveyed the field and cast down the gauntlet: Science Blogging Should Be Real Science as well as real blogging. It is a fantastic survey of the field (and I'm not just saying that because the Carnival of Bad History got mentioned) and a powerful manifesto for growth and professionalization in the science blog field. I say that, of course, as a non-scientist who reads the science blogs through the filter of Orac, Grand Rounds, and Skeptics Circle (Tangled Bank sometimes), so my view's a bit narrow. I suspect that he's right, but that it's going to be revolution by evolution (fitting, of course) because academic communities are notoriously unresponsive to anything but the most straightforward of stimulus/response inputs.

Which is to say: people will come to blogging for their own reasons (unless it becomes a "good thing" in the tenure/grant calculus) and with any luck we might reclaim a small part of the web to its original purpose: the exchange of scientific and scholarly information in asynchronous accessible discourses.... But it'll take time.

I do think, though, that the carnivals are a great resource; the danger, though, is specialization. Just as nobody reads certain journals except specialists, I'm concerned about carnivals -- quite naturally -- splitting up as they grow in size until they can't be managed or kept track of. What I love about the carnivals now is the cross-fertilization, the window they give non-specialists into new fields and developments and issues. As they become more professionalized, they become less useful in that fashion.

Lots of great stuff to think about.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bad Moving History

Uhaul has unintentionally linked their brand name to two of the least fun "moving adventures" in American history.
Read how corporate slogans and local history don't always mix well....

And, just because this was a short post, fate has provided me more material; this time, it's bad historical humor at the Fed in 2000
Chicago Fed President Michael Moskow (joking about the possibility of a recount of the Fed's decision on rates): "And finally, I just want to say that if there is going to be a recount, I would like to speak first because those of us in Chicago know how to handle recounts!"

Chairman Alan Greenspan: "I've heard that if you rig the numbers in the beginning, you won't have to do a recount."
And where did you hear that, Mr. Greenspan?

Logical and Rhetorical Resources

I always get a bit nervous when someone links to me and to collections of logical and rhetorical fallacies in the same post. But I'm pretty sure The Chainik Hocker isn't making a point about me... yet. He did, however, cite some really nice resources, which I'll reproduce here:
But bad grammar and poor writing skills doesn’t madden me quite so much as poor logic skills.

Therefore, I ask that the entire Blogosphere be required to at least skim the following links:
Propaganda Critic
Logical Fallacies and the Art of Debate
And, the most inclusive
A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices
That last one includes a really rigorous quiz at the end, in which you get 25 quotations and are required to name the rhetorical devices being used. Good stuff!

Atheism, Buddhism, History....

Now that Easter has passed, it's time for the atheists to speak. The Atheist carnival is a good place to start.

The metaphor of the egg is powerful, as long as you don't think about it too hard. It's just a metaphor. Though it does bring another metaphor to mind -- what if, instead of eggs, it was holstered pistols? Would it be a better metaphor then? Of course, it wouldn't be seasonal.... PZ Myers took Easter as the jumping off point for an anti-Christian argument which probably won't convince anyone but has the virtue of clarity.

This Is Pure Blogging Art. And it's approaching a thousand comments.

I once compared the administration to Maximilien Robespierre. I withdraw the comparison, and apologize to Robespierre. Neither Bush, nor Rove, nor Cheney, nor Rumsfeld, nor Wolfowitz, nor Rice, nor Gonzales, nor Alito, nor Scalia, nor anyone else in this administration would have the courage, consistency, ethics or empathy of the Incorruptible. [via]

Also, Blogmandu, which includes notice of a Dalai Lama webcast (coming today, I think) and a sidebar button design tool. Just for fun, I created this efficient mantra: Think First

Finally, for political content, Avedon Carol's got everything you need on lefty blogging, Iraq, etc.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A simple truth, as short poem

LucyRain found a simple truth; I've rendered it here as a Fibonacci Poem:
wrong with not
(forgiveness awaits)
understanding yourself," she said.

Indeed. It's our natural state. (Oops. I skipped one line. Fixed.)

Next time you start a meme....

call the Times. Of course, it helps if slashdot has turned it into a phenomenon, but some of us don't read it....

This one, sent to me by my mother, is Fibonacci Poems, using the number theory sequence of sums (adding the previous two numbers to get the next one: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, ad infinitum) as the syllable counter. The first line, technically, is a silent one....

Standard "Fibs" stop at line six (seven, technically) and go like this:
My mother
Sent this article
To her blogger haiku writer
I think the silent line deserves a notation: [breath] [silence] [sigh], etc. could add a bit of expressive depth
Think movies
Are worth studying
While the syllabus goes unread?
The originator is a writer of all kinds of poetry, actually, but it's exciting to get noticed.

Best headline he's gotten so far was in German: "Haiku are yesterday; fibs are today"

I think the cascading structure of the fib has real potential, if used carefully. But the haiku ain't going anywhere.
Sonnets still exist
Limericks still have some life
Haiku will survive
[all poetry in this post is original]

AAP Top Ten Traffic Attracting Poets

1. Langston Hughes
2. Emily Dickinson
3. Robert Frost
4. Walt Whitman
5. E.E. Cummings
6. Sylvia Plath
7. Maya Angelou
8. Dylan Thomas
9. Shel Silverstein
10. William Carlos Williams via

I've heard of all of them
I've read one or more poems by all of them (I think; I'm not entirely sure about the last one) and I'm sure I have at least one poem by each in the house (courtesy of some massive anthologies).
Most of them are fine, in small doses.
I own more than one volume of two of them.
Favorite? Shel Silvestein, by a long shot.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

History Carnival

It's up. It's really good stuff, too.

Penny Richards Disability Blog Roundup has some good history, as well as the other stuff. There's a notice there that May 1 will be "Blogging Against Disabilism" day, so I've got two weeks to think of something to say....

Speaking of Carnivals, here's the long-term result of the Bad History Carnival peak I reported earlier. Traffic is back to its normal double-digit levels, with triple-digit days with links from elsewhere.

More and more: The Monthly Teaching Carnival is up, and it's a somewhat less overwhelming collection than usual. Must be midterms....

And Carnivalesque is an Early Modern ... cabinet? Not just any cabinet, but a Wunderkammer! Beautiful and full descriptions and presentation; very nicely done.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Could it be this easy?

Chas, at The New Chainik Hocker is arguing that we could have a much more successful occupation/development in Iraq by raising American troop levels to as little as 150,000, the level we maintained during the elections last December. The operative theory at the moment -- Iraqization -- is even less successful (if that's possible) than "Vietnamization" was in SE Asia, as Chas points out, and we've been understaffed there since the beginning which has seriously hurt our credibility, and we still have little clue what we're doing on the ground. And it may be that withdrawal wouldn't be the worst thing.

If Chas is right, really, then the Administration is even more culpably negligent than even critics like myself are prone to believe.

Ultimate Atrocities

I'm not entirely sure that it's rational (actually, I'm pretty sure that it's not entirely rational), but nothing offends me more deeply than the idea of deliberately depriving someone of access to water.

Water binds us all together; it permeates us; it balances us; it is the solvent in which the world's biosystems and ecosystems and weather and geography have formed and thrived. It is the most elemental of substances, in chemical terms the simplest non-gas with which we have any regular contact.

Water is not property, at least not for long. It flows away, it evaporates, it passes through us. Too much is as bad as too little, but both are usually temporary. When it goes away, it comes back; when it overwhelms us, it drains away.

Monopolization of water sources is the most illegitimate form or use of power I can imagine. Shared management of water is the hallmark of our earliest civilizations, and nothing bears starker witness to our loss of humanity than drought as an excuse for power-grabbing and violence.

Related: Heartbreaking evidence of global warming, too.

Fun with Statistics: Racism Bad; Books Good

From Richard Morin:

Republicans are 25% more likely than usual to vote Democratic when the Republican candidate is black; voter turnout remains unchanged.
Democrats are 38% more likely than usual to vote Republican when the Democratic candidate is black, but voter turnout increases significantly.
Anybody who mentions one statistic without noting the other one is a partisan hack and vile propagandist.

The researchers found that a child from a family having 500 books at home scored, on average, 112 points higher on the achievement test than one from an otherwise identical family having only one book -- and that's after they factored in parents' education, occupation, income and other things typically associated with a child's academic performance.
They also found that not all books are created equal. "Having Shakespeare or similar highbrow books about bodes well for children's achievement," they wrote. "Having poetry books around is actively harmful by about the same amount," perhaps because it signals a "Bohemian" lifestyle that may encourage kids to become guitar-strumming, poetry-reading dreamers.
Umm.... some of us "guitar-strumming, poetry-reading dreamers" are pretty academically advanced, fellas. And, last time I checked, Shakespeare wrote poetry.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

For really, really small teeth....

I present, for your edification, the world's smallest brush, suitable for nano-dust, pollutants, and generating really small static charges.....

Why I'm not as scared about terrorists as I used to be

The first word:
Recently, postings on jihadist Web sites have expressed increasing concern about spyware, password protection, and surveillance on chat rooms and instant-messaging systems.
"Recently"? What you're telling me is that there are probably spammers out there with al Qaeda's credit card information. And why haven't we actually caught them using these tools?
There is no evidence that Internet companies such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have cooperated with federal spy agencies to monitor terrorist communications. But privacy groups point out that it would be fairly easy for the federal government to subpoena any of these companies' records or issue a national security letter to them, essentially requiring them to turn over the data. In those instances, the companies would be precluded from disclosing publicly what they turned over to federal officials.

Yahoo and Microsoft's MSN are quiet about how much user data they save, and for how long, but Google makes clear that it wants to store more and more user data on its servers, said Daniel Brandt, founder of a privacy-advocacy Web site called Google Watch.

"From a jihadist perspective, they are absolutely right. They should avoid Google like the plague," Brandt said.
I don't know why that makes me laugh, but it does.

Update: Apparently gangs do it, too. I imagine that we're in for another round of "hard edged urbanism" in blogging, now, just as it's hit most other genres of art and literature: extremism, imitators, gnashing about "art expressing reality or influencing youth to commit violence," and finally.... commercialization and whinging about 'authenticity'. I gotta say, though, the juxtaposition of hard-core bangers and geekdom is pretty striking... until you remember the correlation between gangs and other forms of technophilia -- cars, guns, video games. If it's worth doing, it's worth being extreme!

Carnivals to Make You Smile

The Carnival of Comedy is up, and bears a disturbing resemblance to a supermarket checkstand tabloid.... I haven't finished reading it, but I'm sure there's something funny there somewhere. . . This qualifies
The Easter Ninja’s modus operandi is similar to that of the outmoded bunny, he breaks into your house and leaves baskets of eggs and candy. The only difference is instead of leaving carrots for the bunny, children leave carefully constructed booby traps that the Easter Ninja must negotiate without setting off to get to their baskets. Everyone knows thwarting traps makes ninjas happy, so the Easter Ninja will reward clever children with baskets of eggs and Easter Ninja shaped chocolates.
That's really more satire than comedy, as such, but that's as good a segue as you get for the Carnival of Satire which includes poetry from Madeleine Begun Kane, and some sharp linguistic satire.

De Dubium Scientia: 'From Doubt: Knowledge'

The 32nd Skeptics' Circle is another tour de force presentation, this time enveloping the collected links with a nice little dystopic future. And it's a doozy of a collection: Best post titles awards go to The Calvinball Defense [had to cast my mind back a bit for that one] and This is your brain ... on God, both of which are also very interesting pieces); Best straight-up satire is probably this application of ID logic to CS, and an honorable mention for field research for Thursday, who went to a psychic show and presented field notes.

The Seder was lovely: small and quick, befitting our tired Little Anachronism and general state of exhaustion, great food and nice people. It's really Passover! Time to go boil some eggs...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Comments and Carnivals

John McKay notes a troubling pattern:
Every time the Bush administration decides that they have the right to mistreat foreigners in certain ways, they eventually get around to claiming the right to treat American citizens that way. Declare them 'enemy combatants' and hold them without charge, access to a lawyer, or notifying their family? Check? Tap their phones, read their e-mail, and rifle through their unmentionables drawer without a warrant? Check? Assassination? Check. Which 'right' to use against US citizens are they going to claim next: torture or pre-emptive nuclear strikes?
I'm guessing torture, unless gerrymandering, pandering, fearmongering, lying and vote rigging doesn't suffice to maintain their hold on Congress: then they might need to do a little "preemptive demographic adjustment." (Then they'll point to Waco and say "Clinton did it, too!")

And who could have imagined that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion could be a useful analytic tool in modern politics?

Carnival of the Vanities includes one of my pieces, but so far it hasn't produced more than a few visitors. It's a pretty minimalist presentation this time. Comparative Desk Studies is interesting and this attempt to prove the non-existence of God is OK.

Grand Rounds is a really good collection, simply but clearly presented. This is my favorite, sweet and heartbreaking (actually, the whole blog's like that). This one is disgusting, funny, and deeply troubling (in an informative kind of way). Some really great writing going on in the medical community.

Tangled Bank is done as a tour of Seattle, though a bit more explication might have helped the liberal arts majors among us. Still, it's a very rich collection and well worth exploring.

Carnival of the Liberals is heavy on atheism, science and credos, which you'd expect from PZ Myers. An interesting thought experiment on real choice and privacy, a meditation on science and politics, and a lament for journalistic clearheadedness are my favorites.

I, however, am engaged in first-born fasting, de-leavening and poultry distillation. Yeah, Passover starts tonight: Chag Sameach, and may we all be free!

Cool Science

These were sent by my father:Thanks, Dad!

A Modest McLemee Proposal

Scott McLemee writes
Admittedly, a rational person could object to my plan. “Wouldn’t shooting cell-phone users in research libraries be counterproductive?” you might well ask. “Wouldn’t that actually make the library more noisy?”

A fair point. Yes, it would. But not for long....
He has some interesting bits about evolving manners, too, but don't miss the comments, where RWH admits
every one of my syllabi include the following statement, “Please understand that if your cell phone ever rings in class you will automatically get an F in this course.” You will not be surprised to learn that I have never had to give an F for that reason.
Not terribly surprised. One of my favorite teachers in college was vehement about watches that beeped and soda cans opening; either was fine, but not during (and especially not near the end of) lecture.

Funny, though. Similar warnings about things like plagiarism don't seem to do the trick.... maybe it's time to bring the big guns out. Literally!

Non Sequitur but funny: Apparently they did Queen songs on American Idol.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Where to Start?

The last few days there's been one of those big side-of-the-road programmable construction site warning signs in town, with a message flashing on it in three parts:
You Drink. You Drive. You Lose.
Fine: it's your basic scare tactic and given the state of DUI laws these days, not too far from the truth, if you get caught. I wonder how much good this slogan (and slogans like it) does, though. It's a great "I told you so" line, but if it actually changes people's minds.... Anyway, it's been bugging me, and it wasn't until yesterday that I figured out why.

The words are on a loop, with no apparent pause in between the beginning and end of the loop. So sometimes you hit it right, and it's the traditional narrative of sin and consequences. Sometimes, though, you hit it wrong
You Drive. You Lose. You Drink.
For most NASCAR drivers, that's the way it goes, right? Only a couple of them come in near first, and there's a lot of them on the track just taking up space. Doesn't tell us civilian drivers much, though the idea of going home to a beer doesn't sound all that bad after a "You Lose" sort of day.

My favorite, though, is what happens when you hit
You Lose. You Drink. You Drive.
Sounds like a good weekend in Las Vegas, or bad relationship blues. It's not smart, but how else are you going to get home?

Putting a nice long pause between iterations would have been so simple. But this is more fun.

Translation is a two-car collision....

Chinese to English: The worst translated menu of all time, the result, apparently, of a Chinese restaraunteur's attempt to drum up some English-speaking clientele (or fool his Chinese clientele into thinking he had English-speaking clientele) by applying a dictionary to his menu and never getting it checked by an actual English speaker.

English to Chinese/Japanese: Hanzi Smatter, an entire blog devoted to the misuse of Chinese characters in English-speaking environments (with special attention to tatoos, because it's funnier if it's emblazoned on your flesh) which never lacks for material.

Japanese/English: You mean other languages have homonyms? Who woulda thunk it?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Google's sense of humor is.... corporate

Don't get me wrong, I'm on blogspot and I use the search engine. But their autoresponse to an April Fool's joke resulted in an ISP taking action that is marginally illegal and certainly lousy business ethics.

Similarly, bill notes an attempt to get people to surrender their personal and financial rights with hand-waving legalese.

Is there a technical term for pseudo-legal bullying? [there's a really easy lawyer joke here, but I'm gonna abstain]

I better get rhyming...

Because it's National Poetry Month. I discovered this at the latest Blogmandu, which is fittingly poetry-rich this week. Taking the easy shot (someone had to!), this Seussian ode to Tom DeLay will stick in your head. There's a fantastic example of poetic linkage, and some old Japanese poems. That'll get you started.

And, in an unpoetic challenge to Plato's footnote, Nagarjuna is vying for the title of Most. Important. Philosopher. Ever.
"Nagarjuna is surely one of the most difficult philosophers to interpret in any tradition. His texts are terse and cryptic. He does not shy away from paradox or apparent contradiction. He is coy about identifying his opponents. The commentarial traditions grounded in his texts present a plethora of interpretations of his view. Nonetheless, his influence in the Mahayana Buddhist world is not only unparalleled in that tradition, but exceeds in that tradition the influence of any single Western philosopher in the West."
Christian theologians take note.

Nothing like a well-written bad review... this case, Tom Shales' vivisection of "The Ten Commandments" as perpetrated by ABC. Speaking of vivisection
Pharaoh spears an adviser merely for suggesting that the Israelites be freed. "I am a god," Pharaoh explains. "I stand firm. I will not be moved." Yeah, but he sings another tune when he wakes up one morning to find his bedroom filled with frogs, hippity-hopping all over the bed and floor (one of the plagues that DeMille, perhaps wisely, omitted, since it's darn difficult to make frogs horrifying, except maybe in biology class).
There's a thought to take with me into the Seder...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Impeach Bush NOW!

For rushing ahead (also here and lots of other places) with ill-considered plans for illegal wars and atrocities (there is no international legal basis for using nuclear weapons ever), in spite of the fact that he himself is implicated [via] in treasonous violations of national security secrecy that directly impinging on those plans.
Intelligence sources would not identify the specifics of Plame's work. They did, however, tell RAW STORY that her outing resulted in "severe" damage to her team and significantly hampered the CIA's ability to monitor nuclear proliferation.

Plame's team, they added, would have come in contact with A.Q. Khan's network in the course of her work on Iran.

While Director of Central Intelligence Porter Goss has not submitted a formal damage assessment to Congressional oversight committees, the CIA's Directorate of Operations did conduct a serious and aggressive investigation, sources say.
One former counterintelligence official described the CIA's reasons for not seeking Congressional assistance on the matter as follows: "[The CIA Leadership] made a conscious decision not to do a formal inquiry because they knew it might become public," the source said. "They referred it [to the Justice Department] instead because they believed a criminal investigation was needed."

The source described the findings of the assessment as showing "significant damage to operational equities."
Several intelligence officials described the damage in terms of how long it would take for the agency to recover. According to their own assessment, the CIA would be impaired for up to "ten years" in its capacity to adequately monitor nuclear proliferation on the level of efficiency and accuracy it had prior to the White House leak of Plame Wilson's identity.
Additionally, George W. Bush has flouted constitutional balance and ignored legal responsibilities with signing statements and his subsequent treatment of laws so signed.

For these reasons and more, President Bush and Vice President Cheney should be impeached and removed from office, forthwith.

Update: Oh yeah, the wiretap thing. For the record, censure is worse than worthless, except as a temperature-taking measure.

Bad History or Good Muckraking?

I can't decide if this attempt to link -- genetically -- Aleister Crowley and Barbara Bush is an example of good geneaological investigation, bad historical guesswork or mere muckraking (note that "muckraking" does not mean "false or wrong"). There are a couple of logical leaps -- made with verve ("must have") rather than with traditional timidity ("logical to assume that") -- which seem to me to suggest avenues for historical investigation rather than certainties. I'm quite sure that the last bit -- comparing public statements on disasters of Crowley and Bush -- is the thinnest sort of historical evidence possible; it proves nothing (ethics are not genetic, nor is the ability to produce sound bites), though it might suggest an avenue of investigation into the views of Bush's mother which could demonstrate some kind of "heritage."

Non Sequitur: Speaking of questionable sources, Adamu has found some fascinating, troubling, but thoroughly irrelevant "secrets" about the administration.

Simple Linkage

Natalie Bennett's Femmes Fatales roundup was worth waiting for this week. Mom101's Things I've Won could make for an interesting meme. I've been thinking about "lucky numbers" lately, and I can't think of a time when my "lucky" number was particuarly helpful.... The rest of the roundup is a particularly solid and readable bunch of blogging -- in other words, articulate, thoughtful writing.

Vision Language; Language Visions

I was reading about chiasmus today; that's who's to blame for my title.

The subject, though is the subtle, and not so subtle, ways in which vision is a privileged sense in the English Language. A friend sent along a recommendation for me to look at linguist/SF author Suzette Haden-Elgin's blog, particularly her recent posts on the subject of "sightism" in language. The first post, an excerpt from her book which addresses overemphasis of sight in guided imagery exercises, is a fine introduction to the issue. Or, to put it another way, touch doesn't work the same way and the language we use for touch is considerably less varied.

Being a wordhound myself, I'm particularly fond of her list of now-defunct words. My favorite is
yespen -- a double handful; as much as two hands can hold
I even have a use for it: "We put a yespen of chocolate chips in our corn muffins...." (That's Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix, if you want the full recipe).

Haden-Elgin is a really neat writer, and a serious sociolinguist. I'm not entirely sure that I buy her distinction between poetry and lyrics, for example, but I love the attempt.

Why doesn't my reading list ever get shorter?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Homework: Do You Know What You're Doing and Why?

Anne Zook has produced a fabulous set of questions about energy use, pollution, health and convenience which I really can't answer most of. We need a chemist, electrical engineer and environmental scientist (an ethicist might help, but I've never been terribly convinced that the professional ones were actually better at these questions than I am), and probably a couple of hundred grand in grant money, but if we could answer these questions, we'd have considerable progress towards something like a rational approach to increasingly healthy (personal and planetary) living.

These are not easy questions, and if you are the kind of person who thinks of yourself as "green in practice" for the little things you do (and I do, too), then this is absolutely necessary reading.

Update: Speaking of necessary reading, Natalie Bennett pointed me to David Morris' "The Once and Future Carbohydrate Economy". A teaser, the same quote she used
The first plastic was a bioplastic. In the mid-19th century, a British billiard ball company determined that at the rate African elephants were being killed, the supply of ivory could soon be exhausted. The firm offered a handsome prize for a product with properties similar to ivory, yet derived from a more abundant raw material. Two New Jersey printers, John and Isaiah Hyatt, won the prize for a cotton-derived product dubbed collodion.

Ironically, collodion never made it as a billiard ball: The plastic, whose scientific name is cellulose nitrate, is more popularly known as guncotton, a mild explosive. When a rack of cellulose nitrate pool balls was broken, a loud pop often resulted. Confusion and casualties ensued in saloons where patrons were not only drinking but sometimes armed.
Morris notes that "the market" largely hasn't embraced bio-derived versions yet, in spite of government promotion, largely because of government spinelessness and government subsidies to petroleum economies. He also notes, going back to Anne's point above, that
Unlike most other renewable resources, biomass can be cultivated, harvested, and processed in nonsustainable ways. Soil erosion, fertilizer and pesticide runoff, and industrial pollution all can result from biomass inappropriately grown and processed. Public policy also needs to ensure that, when using biomass by-products such as cornstalks and wheat straw, farmland is not denuded of nutrients that nature needs to regenerate the land.
There's a lot more there, including some fascinating ruminations on the renewal of local economies through bioenergy production, and some other warnings about what we could do wrong....

Friday, April 07, 2006

Savoring the Ironies

Roosting Chickens
Press secretary Scott McClellan tried to draw a distinction between leaks of information "in the public interest" and those that compromise national security.
Update: Pooh has the quote
The President believes the leaking of classified information is a very serious matter. And I think that's why it's important to draw a distinction here. Declassifying information and providing it to the public, when it is in the public interest, is one thing. But leaking classified information that could compromise our national security is something that is very serious. And there is a distinction.
If it was declassified information, why didn't the administration just say so and get Libby off the hook?
Told You So:
a short (representative) Honor Roll of people in a variety of fields whose prescience and patriotism led them to risk their positions and/or prestige in public life to warn their nation of impending catastrophe
It's a new revenue stream, silly:
A gossip writer for the New York Post has been suspended pending the outcome of a federal investigation into whether he tried to extort money from billionaire financier/possible newspaper investor Ron Burkle, the Post said Thursday.
That's about all the irony I can handle for now.


Al Franken debated Ann Coulter: his opening statement is wonderful reading, and it sounds like the rest of the evening was fun, too. If you like that sort of thing.

I don't know anyone who wanted to see this, but lots of people had opinions on the Horowitz/Churchill show. Aside from what I said earlier, my only response to this is to note the length: "just under two hours." Two Hours!?!?! Ugh.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Professional Satires and Unprofessional Self-Parody

Adam Kotsko on the imago Dei which "encourages theologians to simply make shit up."

The Little Professor meets Law and Order.

PZ Myers isn't writing satire, as such, but sometimes it plays that way.

Please tell me this is a satire!
WalMart Associate: We don’t carry those colors because we found they were being used for Mardi Gras.
Me: That’s what I wanted it for. I’m making a chair for this great orginization.
WalMart Associate: Do you know what Mardi Gras is about?!
Me: Yes, it’s a last hurrah before Lent.
WalMart Associate: Mardi Gras is about sex and debauchery! Women get raped in New Orleans!
WalMart Associate: We feel that as a Christian Company it was inappropriate to carry things associated with morally corrupt themes.
Me: (Very loudly) Mardi Gras is a Christian party! It’s a last hurrah before Lent.
WalMart Manager: Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to leave until you can be calm.
WalMart is a "Christian Company"? Since when? Nope, it's not satire, but it seems to be a lone nut associate rather than corporate policy.

Speaking of lone nuts, how about the California Congressman who wants to replace immigrant labor with prison labor? Yeah, aren't we supposed to be against prison labor?

Finally, as Eric Muller says, insert joke here
A man arrested for exposing and masturbating himself in front of a 16 year-old girl used to be the guy in charge of...wait for it...Homeland Security's "Predator." That's the agency designed, yes, to bust child sex criminals.
There is nothing more to say....


The 12th Carnival of Feminists is a serious comic-book fest (as well as including lots of other topics), and the commentary is not, for the most part, complimentary. For another hard-edged look at culture on- and off-line, the Radical Women of Color Carnival is gaining ground, and also includes quite a few poetic entries. It also includes this roundup of an ongoing discourse on feminist discourse and comment policies which is interesting reading for anyone involved in blogging and commenting, frankly.

Meanwhile, the host of the current Carnival of the Vanities decided to replace the "open admissions" format with an "Ivy League" selectivity, violating both the spirit and definition of the carnival; it's possible that this is a delayed "April Fool's" because the selected articles are, as one commenter noted, pretty limited in their appeal (and I say that though I like Jon Swift and GrrlScientist; I also note that the host mentioned, but failed to provide a link to or note the satirical nature of, the Jon Swift post)

I suspect, without any evidence whatsoever, that the host is trying to generate enough heat and links to make some progress on his recently announced goal of "cracking the top 100." Therefore, I will not link to it.

Schism! Avignon! Heresy!: someone else did the job right, though they didn't really have time to appreciate the satirical bits properly. Still, it turns out that folks submitted some interesting stuff. Many thanks to the True Believers.

Rumsfeld Speaks; We Fact-Check.

Arkin at Early Warning said that
Monday, Secretary Rumsfeld also gave a lecture at the Army War College where he gave the "country" a D or a D-minus grade in the battle of ideas.
I went and checked it out: after plowing through a few screens of boilerplate (talking about Iraq and 9/11 together without "linking" them, etc.) found what I was looking for in the Q&A section.

It was a bit disappointing, actually: the grade (which the transcript has as D/D+, not D/D-) was for the tactical side of information "warfare", the same old "the press is not reporting the good news" whinging that's so familiar (and, since the administration has been defunding Voice of America and similar high-quality projects which Rumsfeld praised, hypocritical). Can we say Talking Points, boys and girls? Rumsfeld's plaints about bloggers and 21st century media clearly came from the same script as Hanson's column of last week.

As far as ideological strategy goes, he follows the Administration script
It's basically a struggle not between the West and Muslims. It's a struggle within the Muslim faith. There are a relatively small number of violent extremists and a very large number of moderates who do not believe in violent extremism in that faith. We're going to have to find ways that we can encourage and support those moderate voices because they're the ones who are in the struggle.
I'm not disagreeing with him, but I would point out that he'd spent a good hour before that making the strongest case (that he's allowed to make) that it is very much our struggle, and if the US isn't part of "the West" then he needs to say that.

He also addressed a question which Anne Zook raised the other day, about the inadequacy of our public institutions in the face of catastrophe
On the other hand, there isn't any institution in the country that is organized, trained and equipped to do things that are conceivably useful in that kind of a catastrophic event [post-Katrina], nor would it make any sense for the society to create an institution of that magnitude to be available. We have at any given time enormous unused or ready to be used or ready to be deployed capability.
But that's precisely what we were talking about, and precisely what FEMA is supposed to do: serve as a coordinator and organizer of resources -- human, fiscal, etc. -- which can be deployed in the event of emergencies but which serve other purposes most of the time. It's their job.

Unless they want to privatize that, too.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Self-identity meme: Five Things

Articulate Dad has invented, in response to the false clarity of traditional self-identification categories, a new Self-identity meme:
What five things about you most contribute to your self-identity?
I like his answers, too, but they're not ME, so I'll have to do my own.
  • Religion: Liberal Jew, steering a rocky and lonely course between faith, pride, action and identity, not to mention secular and Christian society. I love ideas, religious, ethical and philosophical, and words and the connections between things and people. A lot of that comes form my tradition and my faith. I hate it when someone tries to pigeonhole me because of religion.

  • History: It is both a curse and our greatest resource for understanding ourselves. It is a profession, an avocation, a worldview, a tool and a bludgeon. I would include my love of speculative fiction and fantasy here: the best of it, like the best history, is an investigation into humanity, individually and collectively. I can't abide ignorance and I abhor distortion and deception. Truth, historical and otherwise, is essential to life.

  • Participant in the public sphere: I've always believed that democracy is what you make of it, and that it must be a discourse rather than just an electoral process. I've been writing letters to editors, newsgroups, blogs, etc., for many years now. I like to think that I have something unique to contribute, but I actually don't care if that's strictly true: what I care about is that I care about the policies and values which make our society what it is, and that I participate knowingly in creating our culture. Apathy drives me nuts.

  • Family: Like many, I haven't entirely figured out how to balance family with work with personal space/time, but there's no question that my family is what inspires me, drives me past my lows, and makes it necessary to be a better person than I am. What I know of love, I've learned by watching and doing, not by thinking.

  • Regrets: I regret my failings. I regret my decisions. I constantly live with the fear of failure because I can't escape the memory of failures nor the reality of failure. What I do not do is voice my regrets, because it doesn't do any good whatsoever. If I regret it, I already know it was a mistake and do not need to rehash it to "learn from it"; if I regret it, it is something I cannot change, no matter how much I "talk it through." They are my regrets, my failures, and I will live with them forever.
That's a good start. I might regret my choices later, but you'll never know.... Oh, and I don't tag people. If you want to do it, do it. If not, don't. But it's an interesting exercise, I'll say that.


is the link between quantum physics and mathematics. [via Sideshow] Aside from the literary significance of that number (if you don't know, you lose geek points), what makes this particularly interesting is the fact that physicists solved a fundamental problem in mathematics, proving again that the boundary zones between disciplines are fun.

Ding, Dong....

DeLay is Gone!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Oh, well...

Seen the New York Times redesign? I think it's time for me to switch to the Washington Post (switch back, actually, because I grew up reading it). I'd been reading the NYT after their "Times Select" switchover mostly because I was so used to their front page that I could find information quickly: that's gone. Also, I tend to read with partial windows, not maximized ones, and the new design is so wide -- and will not resize properly -- that I can't actually see the whole page at once.

Plus the Post has those cool trackbacks....