Saturday, April 30, 2005

Quotations #054

"My father used to say that truth was like a rabbit in a bramble patch. You can point to it and say 'its somewhere in there' but you can't lay your hand on it." -- Pete Seeger, "Well May the World Go" with Larry Long.

"I think the world is going to be saved by people who fight for their homes. This is the lesson of the American Revolution." -- Pete Seeger, "Well May the World Go" with Larry Long.

"It's not enough merely to list x number of causes. It is the task of the historian to reduce a given list of causes to order by establishing a causal hierarchy, and to relate the items in this hierarchy to one another." -- Fredrik Logevall, H-NET (H-Diplo, H-Asia).

"At times history is so illogical that only tautologies are completely true." Albert Craig, Choshu in the Meiji Restoration, p. 20, n. 4.

"History, which is largely a record of the melting of minorities into majorities, records no instance of the survival of a group not segregated in space or not protected by a burning faith as by a frontier of fire." -- Zangwill, cited in Abraham Cohen, Everyman's Talmud, p. xxxv.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Ahistorical Guestbook

This was the original message here:
I've been doing this blog for almost six months now, and am quite curious as to who my readers are. So I invite you to de-lurk long enough to post a comment here.
That was almost a year ago. I want to put a little chart here with landmark visitor counts, instead of sticking myself in my own guestbook as I had been doing, and thank everyone who's signed in.

I don't do this for the traffic, but I'm too neurotic to ignore it....
MonthUnique Visitors
2004 NovemberBlog Launch
2005 JanuaryStatCounter installed
2005 June3000
2005 October5000
2005 November6000
2006 January9000
2006 February12000
2006 March15000
2006 April17000
2006 July (hiatus begins)23000
2006 October28,000
2007 May41,000
2008 August71,000

Why be Overqualified when you can be Entirely Uninterested?

[via Media Matters]
So, the acting head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting doesn't care for PBS or NPR. OK. Apparently my own job searches have been way too limited and literal....

Bipartisanship is dead: No Quarter!

[via Sideshow]
Republican leaders cannot be trusted with power, authority or responsibility. They have no scruples, no checks, no conscience to speak of. As Anne Zook said, "Every time I think I can't be more appalled by the Right's behavior, something happens or is revealed that proves I was wrong. ... I'm beginning to wonder if there is any bottom to the Republican barrel."

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Four New Questions: Journalism and Business

Asking the right questions, and seeing the true questions under the questions we ask, is a great service.

20th Century Baby Name Tracking

As Eric Muller says, this is a cool site. The design is really ... if I say nifty, does that mean I'm obsolete?

What Obsolete Skill am I? QBASIC, of course

QBASIC screenshot
You are 'programming in QBASIC'. This programming language (of which the acronym stands for 'Quick Beginners' All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code'), which is so primitive that it cannot easily be used for any purpose involving the Internet nor even sound, was current more than a decade ago.

You are independent, in a good way. When something which you need cannot be found, you make it yourself. In writing and in talking with people, you value clarity and precision; your friends may not realize how important that is. When necessary, you are prepared to be a mediator in conflicts between your friends. You are very rational, and you think of things in terms of logic and common sense. Unfortunately, your emotionally unstable friends may be put off by your devotion to logic; they may even accuse you of pedantry and insensitivity. Your problem is that programming in QBASIC has been obsolete for a long time.

What obsolete skill are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

What's remarkable about this, aside from the fact that the description is pretty much dead on, is that I do remember an awful lot about programing in BASIC (mostly Apple Basic) and PASCAL (another dead language) and never got the hang of C++....

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Heart Attack Option....

We are so lame:
North Korea is the most odious country in the world today. It has been caught counterfeiting U.S. dollars and smuggling drugs, and prisoners have been led along with wire threaded through their collarbones so they can't run away. While some two million North Koreans were starving to death in the late 1990's, Mr. Kim spent $2.6 million on Swiss watches. He's the kind of man who, when he didn't like a haircut once, executed the barber.

But Mr. Bush seems frozen in the headlights, unable to take any action at all toward North Korea. American policy now is to hope that Mr. Kim has a heart attack.
I still think that the Bush administration's withholding of information about the North Korean problems until after the Iraq war authorization vote would have gotten a special prosecutor if Congress had any guts at all. Or a few more gutless Democrats would do the trick, too....

Sad, sad thing

People are dying, dozens of people, as a result of the traditional Jewish practice of keeping a stove fire burning throughout Sabbath and festivals; the fire itself is not a tradition, but a way around the traditional prohibition againt kindling new fires. We have got to have technological fixes for these problems: the stoves themselves, for the fire alarm and suppression systems, for the fire escapes for crying out loud. Even if we're going to enact ancient customs, can't we take some advantage of our advances in engineering and science? That's allowed, I know it is.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Quotations #053

"Learning preserves the errors of the past as well as its wisdom. For this reason dictionaries are public dangers, although they are necessities." -- Alfred North Whitehead

"To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization." -- Arnold Toynbee

"History is only a confused heap of facts." -- Earl of Chesterfield (1699-1773)

"History's lessons are no more enlightening than the wisdom of those who interpret them." --David Schoenbrun

"All that is necessary is that we recognize the contingency of any and all historical outcomes and, in response, that we robustly bracket our sense of already knowing the trajectory of human existence. ... [Lee and DeVore] observed that whether industrialization will 'end up' being a long-term trend in human existence or a momentary exception is not something we can know in advance of a future that has yet to be made." Daniel A. Segal, "'Western Civ' and the Staging of History," AHR, v105, n3 (June 2000), p. 802.

Friday, April 22, 2005

I'm an American, Right?

I scored 45 Patriotic, 31 Lazy, 11 Power Hungry, and 93 General Knowledge!

You know a lot about America, without actually possessing the personal stereotypical American characteristics. Perhaps you are an American who simply doesn't act as lazy and power hungry as most of the others. Or perhaps you googled a few questions to get some answers..or maybe you just paid attention in class?
The test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 59% on Patriotic
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 55% on Lazy
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 34% on Power Hungry
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 68% on Gen Knowledge
[via Pen-Elayne]

And Blogging Makes You...

The distraction factor of constant contact via e-mail and text messaging has a greater negative effect on IQ scores than does marijuana use. [via Anne Zook]

Thursday/EarthDay Lyric: Hills of West Virginia

The Hills Of West Virginia
By Phil Ochs

From the flat plains of Ohio we drifted out one day,
for the southern part of the journey
Underneath the bridge, the Ohio River sang
As we headed for the Hills of West Virginia

And the red sun of the morning was smiling through the trees,
As the darkness of the night was quickly fading,
And the fog hugged the road like a cloudy, cloudy sea,
As we drove though the hills of West Virginia.

We smoked the tobacco and drank of the wine,
And we spoke of the forest we were passing.
And the road would wind and wind and wind,
When we drove through the hills of West Virginia.

Among all the wealth of the beauty that we passed,
There was many old shacks a-growing older,
And we saw the broken bottles laying on the grass.
When we drove though the hills of West Virginia.

The Virginia people watched as we went riding by,
Oh, proud as a boulder they were standing.
And we wondered at each other with a meeting of the eye,
When we drove thought the hills of West Virginia.

And once in a while we would stop by the road
and gaze at the womb of the valley,
almost wishing for a path down below,
Where we stopped in the hills of West Virginia.

Up and down and all around we took our restless ride,
And the rocks they were staring cold and jagged.
Where explosions of the powder had torn away the side,
Where we drove through the hills of West Virginia.

And the orange sun was falling on the southern border line,
As the shadows of the night were now returning.
And we knew the mountains followed us and watched us from behind,
When we drove from the hills of West Virginia.

(the index of other lyrics and poetry I've posted is here)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

As it turns out, I'm only 2/3rds interested in ANY films

You scored as Sci-Fi/Fantasy. You scored Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Depending on the movie this might not deserve a "Congratulations", but you're interested in the future and imaginary worlds far from your own. You probably wish you could be somebody else, or live in one of the worlds from your favourite movies. Check out: Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, Star Wars, The Matrix.





Sadistic Humour






Romantic Comedy


Mindless Action Flick


Movie Recommendation.
created with

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Courage of our convictions

We toss around words like courage and convictions far too easily. These are hard things to have, difficult to enact, and painful to remember and talk about. Courage is not, perhaps, a really rare thing, but it is a precious one, nonetheless. Even among your enemies, honor their courage when they are being truly brave in the service of their faiths; how much more so then, when it we feel the aim and accomplishments truly admirable?

Schiavo Judge Kicked out of Church

Sexism in Social Services

You may be right; I may be crazy...

... but it doesn't mean your butt won't get kicked out the door.

It looks like getting fired is going to have to be considered a hazard of on-line life for a while.

"Arab Militias Rampage Unchecked in Darfur"

Remind me again how the UN is the problem and the US is the solution?
The African Union and United Nations condemned the Khor Abeche attack and referred the name of the Janjaweed commander to the Security Council for a possible travel ban and asset freeze, unlikely to deter a tribal leader in remote Darfur who would rarely leave the country.
Culture of life; invading countries to liberate millions from threats of death and oppression; stemming the spread of hate and weapons.... aren't these supposed to be priorities of our national leadership?

Let me say it, so there's no confusion: if the US could invade Iraq based on the permissions and evidence we had at the time, the US can invade the Sudan. If the reasons given for invading Iraq, before and after, were sincere, then we should invade Darfur.

If the Iraq situation had been handled with a bit more professionalism and care, we could "spare" the resources to stop these known and ongoing atrocities.

I filed my taxes last week, account for a year's worth of taxpaying, about a third of which is supposed to be military spending. It's not enough? You want permission, too? Let's face it, my opinion doesn't count for squat: Bush could lead the invasion of Darfur personally, M-16 in hand (or F-16 around him, whatever), and I probably would still vote for almost any Democrat that opposes his heir apparent in 2008. But at least I would think him less a hypocrit, and that has to be worth something.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Quotations #052

"If an aborigine drafted an IQ test, all of Western civilization would presumably flunk it." -- Stanley Garn

"If everyone contemplates the infinite instead of fixing the drains, many of us will die of cholera." -- John Rich

"Give your decisions, never your reasons; your decisions may be right, your reasons are sure to be wrong." -- Earl of Mansfield

"A smattering of philosophy had liberated his [Nero's] intellect without maturing his judgment." -- Tacitus

"There are not enough jails, not enough policemen, not enough courts to enforce a law not supported by the people." -- Hubert H. Humphrey

That makes more sense

Your Linguistic Profile:

60% General American English
25% Yankee
10% Dixie
5% Upper Midwestern
0% Midwestern

[via Blogenspiel]

If Bloggers Blog about Blogging Bloggers....

...who gets fired first, the fickle fingerer or the feisty funnyman?

Friday, April 15, 2005

History Carnival!

After all my efforts to be ahistorical, an historical thought slipped through and got picked up by the History Carnival.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Slime-Mold Beetle Leadership

[via Mom] Yes, it's a cheap, easy shot. But sometimes you gotta take the bait:
Two American entomologists have named three newly discovered species of slime-mold beetles after President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Lest anyone think that Agathidium bushi, Agathidium cheneyi and Agathidium rumsfeldi were named out of spite for Messrs. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, their nomenclators insist it's a sign of respect. "We admire these leaders as fellow citizens who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy rather than accepting the expedient or popular," said former Cornell entomologist Quentin Wheeler, now the head of entomology at the Natural History Museum in London.
One wonders what they would have done if it were a sign of disrespect. They had a few other beetles to name
The entomologists also named some of the new species after their wives and a former wife, Pocahontas, Hernan Cortez, the Aztecs, the fictional "Star Wars" villain Darth Vader ("who shares with A. vaderi a broad, shiny, helmetlike head"), Frances Fawcett (their scientific illustrator) and the Greek words for "ugly" and "having prominent teeth" and the Latin word for "strange." Many of the other names they used for the recently described beetles were derived from various geographic locations, such as California, Georgia and a few states in Mexico, and for various distinguishing features they discovered on the beetles.

The Unitarian Joke

I was going to leave the Unitarian Jihad alone (how many Unitarian jokes does it take before you realize there's only one Unitarian joke?), but I had to see what name they'd give me:
Sibling Katana of Patience
This won't help those of you who are wondering about my gender, of course -- and I swear I didn't prompt them for gender-neutral, either. Schism is common to both revolution and religion, so I also have a Reformed Unitarian Jihad name:
Pistol of Acceptance
, but I think I'm going to stick with the orthodox sect, for now.

Quotations #051

"Patience -- A minor form of despair disguised as a virtue." -- Ambrose Bierce

"Beware the fury of a patient man." -- John Dryden

"A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works." -- Bill Vaughan

"I come from a long line of dead people / I come from a tall pile of bones" -- Libby Roderick

"In the infancy of societies, the chiefs of state shape its institutions; later the institutions shape the chiefs of state." -- Baron de Montesquieu

Monday, April 11, 2005

Guide, for me

Electronic Freedom Foundation's guide to anonymous blogging [via Volokh]. What they left out, and I'm a bit surprised, is that you need to be careful who you link to, because people will track back.

A definitive Southern score!

I scored "70% (Dixie). A definitive Southern score!" on the above dialect test. But I got a lot of "no regional bias" answers, on questions where the bias really does seem to be northern. I expected to come down more in the middle.... being a damnyankee (My father taught me that as one word).

Tax-Related Injuries

OK, I've gotten my first papercut. I don't even count headaches or blood pressure anymore. And I just passed the "one pot of coffee per day" threshold....

Well, overall, we broke even. Now, if there were only some way to indicate on the forms that the state overpayment should be applied to the federal underpayment, we'd be in the 21st century. No? Damn.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Lottery Sociology and Culture

Discuss (emphasis added):
According to a Duke University study, high school dropouts who play the lottery spend an average of $700 per year on the lottery, high school graduates spend $409 a year, those with some college spend $210 a year and college graduates spend $178 a year. In Georgia, 5% of the population subsidize 50% of the ticket sales and those 5% are predominantly poor and African-American.

Media Credibility

[Via Sideshow, Cliopatria]
The recent NYT-Wikipedia "incident" is quite indicative of the difference noted above: "conservatives" want to turn mainstream media into a Republican/corporate echo chamber; "liberals" want the media to return to a competent and energetic analytic watchdog role. The proof? Having noted a similarity between the amateur and frequently plagiarized Wikipedia and a professionally produced New York Times article, the "right" immediately assumed and trumpeted that the Times had plagiarized incorrect information from Wikipedia, instead of the truth (which was easily checked with the Wiki change tracker) which is that Wiki users had plagiarized correct (but poorly explained, particularly out of the article's context) information from the Times.

And, while I've got Instapundit on screen, let me point out that repeated appearances on Fox News and affiliates, while certainly a career of sorts, does not make some a booming mainstream voice. To Malkin's credit, she's been beating on the "pundits for hire" pretty good, but only because she wants to protect the credibility of conservative voices against... well, conservative corruption.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

History Carnival....

This blog isn't much about history -- quite the opposite, unless you count my quotation series -- but it's on the Cliopatria blogroll (under "Unclassifiable" for obvious reasons) and Ralph Luker linked here once, so just in case there are any readers here who aren't reading the rest of my blogroll (and why should you? You've got your own, right?), I'll return the favor: April 15th is when the next History Carnival goes up, so send them something which is both blogged and historical.

Quotations #050

"The absolute pacifist is a bad citizen: times come when force must be used to uphold right, justice and ideals." -- Alfred North Whitehead

"Always forgive your enemies -- nothing annoys them so much." -- Oscar Wilde

"The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be." -- Paul Valéry
"What's more, it never was." -- Lee Hays

"The one thing which even God cannot do is to make undone what has been done." -- Agathon, cited in Aristotle, Nichomachaean Ethics

"It has been said that though God cannot alter the past, historians can; it is perhaps because they are useful to Him in this respect that He tolerates their existence." -- Samuel Butler, Erewhon Revisited

Friday, April 08, 2005

Sexuality, Religion: Nature, Nurture?

As Neiwert points out, it doesn't really matter whether you believe sexuality is chosen or inborn, with regard to anti-discrimination law. Laws as currently written protect both. So excluding homosexuals from anti-discrimination laws is a matter not of principle, but of choice.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Arthur Clarke (And George Carlin)

"Above all we need better schools and teachers. I hope it will not be too late for the US to undo the damage wrought upon it by fundamentalist fanatics, Creationist crazies, and New Age nitwits. Such people are a greater menace to open society than the paper bear of communism ever was." - Sir Arthur C. Clarke - "Scenario for a Civilised Planet"

"Unfortunately, most people do not understand even the basic elements of statistics and probability, which is why astrologers and advertising agencies flourish. If you want to start an interesting fight, say in a loud voice at your next cocktail party; 'Fifty percent of Americans (or whatever) are mentally subnormal.' Then watch all those annoyed by this mathematical tautology instantly pigeonhole themselves." - Clarke - Credo

Of course, advertising agencies flourish, in part, because people want to obscure the statistical and mathematical realities which would normally be a component of "rational choice" decisions. Of which we are more capable than we give ourselves credit, I think.

As C. Pettit points out, George Carlin said the same thing, in his own inimitable fashion:
"Take a look around you and figure out how stupid the average person is...then realise that half the country is even stupider than that other words, there are a hell of a lot of f***ing stupid people!!" - the immortal George Carlin - Complaints and Grievances

Bonus from Harlan Ellison: "The great art critic and philanthropist Bernard Berenson once said 'Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.'"

Is it Treason? Let's Indict and Find Out....

[via Sideshow, NPR]

US President George W. Bush, on Tuesday, April 5th, 2005, did publicly and with malice aforethought threaten the financial stability of the government of the United States. He did this by denigrating as "worthless IOUs" the US Treasury bonds used to finance both Social Security and ongoing US government operations, without which the US government would be unable to meet its financial obligations, which would cause both local, national and international financial panic. Further, by revealing the location of the Social Security Administration's archive of Treasury Bonds, he revealed to hostile elements a potentially devastating fiscal vulnerability of the US government.

Further, President Bush did abuse the power of his office to gain this information, which is irrelevant to the pursuit of his duties, and revealed this information.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Subverting the Canadian Paradigm

If you follow the link above you will get to a post which offers you the chance to violate Canadian law (if you're Canadian), by reading about a major political/financial scandal (something about advertising contract kickbacks and the Liberal Party). I have some mixed feelings about this, actually. Our own relationship between the press and the courts is such that "trying the case in the press" is a cliche for trying to subvert the judicial process, and finding a reasonably good jury that hasn't formed strong opinions about widely known cases is a great challenge (and we can discuss the abuse of the jury selection process another time, but I actually think it works more often than not at this point). The Canadian "gag rule" is an attempt to preserve the jury pool, to keep "opinion makers" away from the topic until they can't do any harm. It seems like this might be a case in which the closure is going too far and the topic is too important, but it doesn't seem like a terrible idea in principle.

Let's face it, the information is going to come out: nobody who's guilty is going to be spared public humiliation, criminal charges, etc. And, as this whole blogging thing demonstrates, the information is not even close to actually secret. Unless there's an urgent need -- an upcoming election, for example -- a bit of patience might pay off dividends in an improved process. The "need to know" isn't necessarily a "need to know now." There are legitimate uses for anonymity, secrecy, etc....

How much circumstantial evidence does it take to turn on a light bulb?

Seriously. Paper ballots, hand counted. Non-partisan election officials. International observers.

No matter how many rhetorical or political points we score on DeLay and his cronies, how much of a quagmire we get ourselves into (or leave for someone else to clean up), how rotten the economic and social news gets, we won't see a change of regime in this country without honest elections.

Newsletter Gospel

In a discussion of some of the current Catholic positions on gender, my spouse pointed out that Paul's letters were directed at specific communities, and that some of the strictures in them might have been intended as local, not universal prescriptions.

To take a contemporary analogy, four thousand years from now a religious community will still divide by surname their offering duties into the "Salads," "Desserts," and "Main Dish" tribes, with place of pride going to the semi-priestly "Setup Committee"....

Don't believe me? Look at the Talmud. We've been trying to make universal laws out of marching and building and cooking instructions for millenia now.

The Tangled Bank XXV: Dear Journal Editor, It's Me Again

Orac is the Master. All who dare to dream of hosting a roundup or Carnival, make pilgrimage.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Public Intimidation, Private Law

[via Sideshow, Orcinus, etc.]

What kind of party manipulates the rules to close off public debate on almost everything, but does not rebuke its members for advocating murder and terrorism?

Shameless, vicious and yes, un-American.

I know, "The various admirable movements in which I have been engaged have always developed among their members a large lunatic fringe." -- Theodore Roosevelt

This isn't the "fringe": this is some of the highest elected officials of the party which holds national leadership responsibilities. Unacceptable, to say the least.

Let the impeachments begin!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Quotations #049

"There are two kinds of egotists: those who admit it, and the rest of us." -- Laurence J. Peter

"Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious." -- Brendan Gill

"The one serious conviction that a man should have is that nothing is to be taken too seriously." -- Samuel Butler

"What ever you may be sure of, be sure of this, that you are dreadfully like other people." -- James Russell Lowell

"All paid employments absorb and degrade the mind." -- Aristotle