Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Illegal, Schmilegal...

[via Anne Zook]
A military lawyer in a desertion case may have won a battle and lost the war, so to speak:
After a 20-30 minute eternity that left us all in a stupor of disbelief that the war's legality had just been debated in a military court, on the record, and had lost, badly, the attorney for the prosecution sat down. And then the judge said, "I believe the government has just successfully proved that any seaman recruit has reasonable cause to believe that the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal."
The point was supposed to be that military obligation to serve is irrespective of the legality of the war....

T.H. Huxley: Life as Chess; Education is not Optional

Brandon's right: Long but dead-on:
Suppose it were perfectly certain that the life and fortune of every one of us would, one day or other, depend upon his winning or losing a game at chess. Don't you think that we should all consider it to be a primary duty to learn at least th names and the moves of the pieces; to have a notion of a gambit, and a keen eye for all the means of giving and getting out of check? Do you not think that we should look with a disapprobation amounting to scorn, upon the father who allowed his son, or the state which allowed its members, to grow up without knowing a knight from a pawn?

Yet it is a very plain and elementary truth, that the life, the fortune, and the happiness of every one of us, and, more or less, of those who are connected with us, do depend upon our knowing something of the rules of a game infinitely more difficult and complicated than chess. It is a game which has been played for untold ages, every man and woman of us being one of the two players in a game of his or her own. The chess-board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he enver overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance. To the man who plays well, the highest stakes are paide, with that sort of overflowing generosity with which the strong shows delight in strength. And one who plays ill is checkmated--without haste, but without remorse.

My metaphor will remind some of you of the famous picture in which Retzsch has depicted Satain playing at chess with man for his soul. Substitute for the mocking fiend in the picture, a calm, strong angel who is playing for love, as we say, and would rather lose than win--and I should accept it as an image of human life.

Well, what I mean by Education is learning the rules of this mighty game....
We don't like to think of our lives as games. We don't like to admit that we do things in "real life" that are strategic and selfish. We do them, and we often have (and this is hard for many people to accept) more than one reason for doing something and we need to be not just right and good, but clever and competent to get where we want to go.

Bad and Good History

The Carnival of Bad History is very good.

The History Carnivaltm is coming shortly, and will reportedly be "gargantuan."
Update: It's here, and it's the biggest History Carnival to date. Historians, on the internet. Who knew?


OK, I admit that it might be reading too much into little stuff, but this NY Times article about the President's personal aide, Blake Gottesman, just had too much stuff that rubbed raw wounds:
  • First of all, the only reasons they're writing this is to "make nice" with the administration and fill time by answering a question that's been on "West Wing" viewers' minds for some time now: is there really a personal aide to the president? They do not, however, reference "West Wing" until nearly the very end of the article, and do not admit that the only reason anyone would care is because of the show. Useless, mindless, filler.
  • Of course, he's a friend of the family. They never hire anyone who isn't a friend of the family. Couldn't trust 'em otherwise, apparently. Note that the other guy they interview, Joe Hagin, is a Deputy Chief of Staff and was Pres. G.H.W. Bush's personal aide. Ingrown, inbred, insular.
  • The administration's penchant for deception and secrecy extends to trivia: the article points out that Mr. Gottesman lied -- "an inside joke," they called it -- when asked an entirely reasonable question about his actual work. Apparently the guy's got a "wicked" sense of humor, as long as it isn't at the expense of his boss.
What a waste. Not the article: the eight years.

"Always be sincere, whether you mean it or not...."

Sincerity is overrated....
Generally speaking, the Rabbis view insincere deeds quite favorably. The Talmud writes often that it is better to learn or perform good deeds insincerely, for insincere deeds lead to sincere ones (Pesachim 50b). Better to "do" -- study Torah out of not-fully-committed curiosity, or perform mitzvos (commandments) for reward or recognition. The doing itself is valuable, in fact invaluable. Good deeds themselves wield an influence on a person and touch the soul.
Confucius taught the importance of sincerity not as an inherent character trait, but as a result of study and training.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Quotations #060

"Order is the first requisite of liberty" -- Georg Wilhelm Hegel

"Most of the evils of life arise from man's being unable to sit still in a room." -- Blaise Pascal

"What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope?" -- Immanuel Kant

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -- George Santayana, The Life of Reason

"Patriotism is a lively sense of collective responsibility. Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on its own dunghill." -- Richard Aldington, The Colonel's Daughter

Sunday, May 29, 2005

iPod is the new Nike/Gap/Cabbage Patch Kid...

"parents have to pick their battles"... how about teaching children the concept of "manufactured desire" and the distinction between "cool" and "in"...

Jewish Law on Stem Cells

[via a friend]
Short version: Healing is OK, as it is not "playing God"; improving species through crossbreeding (or genetic manipulation) is not OK, as it is "playing God." Abortion is OK, if it is to save the life of the mother (there's plenty of debate about what that means, but we'll move on) but not for any other reason, including saving the life of someone other than the mother. There's no reason why stem cells from adults or umbilical cords could not be used in healing; and since embryonic stem cells are not aborted, there's not much reason to think they are a violation of Rabbinic interpretations of Jewish versions of God's Law. In fact, there is some reason to think that the ability to screen embryos for genetic defects is a good thing, though I can't for the life of me figure out how that isn't "playing God."

I'm not a Rabbi, though.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Yawn. Yeah, you can read by listening

Audiobooks are books, too! You get pretty much the same thing out of listening to a book read as by reading it! Stop the presses! wait... stop the audio feed?

As usually, the Times doesn't ask the right people: the blind have been listening to books on tape for three decades, now, and on disks (there's even a special 17rpm speed for books) for decades before that.

Yes, it's really reading. It's kind of fun, honestly, the explosion of commercial audiobooks. The blind have benefited greatly from the new technologies. But that's just paving the cowpath, not exploring uncharted territory.

You WILL Go Blind

My mother never said it, but the generation before did, and we've gone to extraordinary lengths to prove them right: certain unnatural (i.e. artificial) sex acts can cause vision loss....

Vestigialities, and two predictions

Long pointy kitchen knives are a vestigial remnant of pre-fork eating habits. Also, they're dangerous, and British doctors are calling for a ban.... yeah, on long, pointy kitchen knives. Needless to say, the gun rights activists will cite this as the next step on the gun control slippery slope [update: I'm too late]. They're wrong: it's entirely possible that the US could follow suit, in practical if not legal terms, without every modifying our toxic gun culture one whit. Think lawsuits: now that the idea that knives could be made safer is out there, every knife wound is a product liability lawsuit waiting to happen. I give it three years, on the outside, unless the knife lobby (do you think they have one yet, or will they have to get one? If they have one, it's probably mostly about steel imports and patents) manages to piggyback a liability shield the way gun and asbestos manufacturers have done. I also think that the first "safe knives" will be on the market somewhere in the world within two years, possibly sooner if the Japanese get hold of the idea.

[update: Via Volokh.com: US Knife Laws. I'll have to go through them later and see what they say]

Quotations #059

"You can do anything with children if only you play with them." -- Prince Otto von Bismarck

"Wise men learn by other men's mistakes, fools by their own." -- H. G. Bohn

"First secure an independent income, then practice virtue" -- Greek Proverb

"All cruelty springs from weakness." -- Seneca

"We should forgive our enemies, but only after they've been hanged first." -- Heinrich Heine

Sins of Omission

As Brian Ulrich said, Juan Cole is right about Jeff Jacoby...

Jacoby used to be a pretty serious guy: often wrong, but rarely stupid. 'Course, that was before he got caught for making stuff up, so now he just recycles talking points.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Job Hunting Tip

When using a "model" cover letter or cv, from a Word template or the web or a how-to book, CHANGE SOMETHING

Expand your vocabulary, Expand ours

Paula writes:
Oh, fiddlesticks, Rebecca, it would be inconceivable and even shocking for me to turn down the challenge of creating a post using the musical language provided here by so many.

Indeed, my perlustration has given me the opportunity to use not only impressive words like 'syncretic,' but allow me to combine them all into an artwork - almost ethereal in nature - that dances with syzygy.

Knowing of course that a comment post is like a spider web - diaphanous, insignificant, and ephemeral (except to the one who creates it) - I still hope that people won't find me a prig for attempting the challenge or decide it's all codswollop. I wouldn't become cantankerous or act the curmudgeon for it, but would find it unfathomable that they could be flabbergasted and flummoxed at my little game.

I have been unable to discover an intelligent way to use the word 'gnu' in a sentence in this literary genius, so this post, albeit wordy and just as much yours as mine, is finished.

Great Zarking Fardwarks! Someone get me an Excedrin; I have a splitting headache!
That's just a small but intense sampling of the great words available at Rebecca's place. (and a few more here. What's your favorite word? Mine's "ahistorical" of course.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Pravda Speaks Truth

"Everything the communists said about communism was a lie, but everything the communists said about capitalism was true" -- new Russian Proverb.

Yes, it's true, Pravda is calling Bush a dictator, a Hitler-esque "great lie" perpetrator, and American Corporate Media a willing collaborator in anti-democratic censorship and propaganda. There's really nothing in this article that an alert reader couldn't get from reading US press, media criticism, the right blogs. But it's Pravda for goodness sake! They know propaganda when they see it; they know a dictator when he speaks; they understand how collaboration functions. If we won't listen to ourselves, can't we listen to people who've gone through the darkness and come out -- barely -- the other side?

Deal of Doom?

This deal -- judges, filibusters -- is a small piece of the puzzle: we are, as Newberry puts its, burning through our accumulated political capital and good will at an alarming rate. The end of this process, decline of a functional republic, is not certain, but whether it is Roman Empire, or Italian Father-State, or Sith Lord, it is not the decent and just society to which we have aspired.

Quotations #058

"You'll find in no park or city / A monument to a committee" -- Victoria Pasternak

"Communism, like any other revealed religion, is largely made up of prophecies." -- H.L. Mencken

"It is the nature of a man as he grows older ... to protest against change, particularly change for the better." -- John Steinbeck

"When some English moralists write about the importance of having character, they appear to mean only the importance of having a dull character." -- G.K. Chesterton

"You know children are growing up when they start asking questions that have answers." -- John J. Plomp

Monday, May 23, 2005

Modern Technology + Ancient Urges = New Social and Ethical Dilemmas

Your in a public restroom, and the person in the next stall is having a long, involved, professional discussion on their cell phone. You finish your business, but they're still having their discussion. Do you flush?

Another Star Wars Quiz

You are a Jedi Guardian.

The Republic wouldn't be the same without you. There are alternatives to fighting, but you will do what you have to do to defend the peace. Refine your skills by growing stronger in your connection to the Force. It will get you through many difficult circumstances.

May the Force be with you.

[via Apocalyptic Historian]
In other words, I'm the kind of guy who votes even when the vote is rigged, writes letters to the editor that don't really influence anyone, promotes moderate compromises that get dissed by partisan hacks, and who is on the edge of rage but unwiling to act on it....

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Kakistocracy v. Rorshach

Thanks to Kirk, I learned a new word today:
Kakistocracy is government by the worst, most unprincipled citizens of a state. It's from the Greek kakistos, worst, superlative of kakos, bad.
The link above will give you one plausible answer to the question, but I want you to take a moment and think: are there any other nations today which I would characterize as kakistocratic?

I can think of a few, actually. Who's on your list?

Hypocrisy Watch: Free Press v. Incitement

So, stories about violating sacred texts cause violence; actual violations of the Geneva Conventions don't. If there weren't a free press, we could get away with anything... It's funny, because for a long time we used to say that Japan was a shame culture and the West was a guilt culture. In other words, in Japan you could do anything if you didn't get caught and it wasn't in the wrong context; in the West there were intrinsic rights and wrongs which were internalized. I think we've finally proven that, for the political elites in this country, doublespeak, doublethink and testicular virility have made intrinisic ethics and rules untenable. They must be shamed. or impeached. [via Sideshow]

Self-Reported Self-Test Results

I Am (apparently):

I am not:


Thursday Verses

An occasional series of music lyrics and poetry, inspired by Hugo Schwyzer

My writings
2005 January 14: Teaching Haiku
2005 July 14: Home Repair Haiku
2005 August 23: Political Limerick: Shorter Kieran Healy
2005 November 13: Stick Your Finger In God's Eye
2006 February 16: Vermin Haiku
2006 April 16: Fibonacci Poems
2006 April 16: A Simple Truth (Fib)
2006 May 26: four haiku, one of which won an eCherry
2006 June 24: A quick and dirty limerick in honor of the return of a poetry carnival.
2008 October 9: Current Events Sonnet
2008 December 20: Haiku, Limerick and Fib in honor of Terry's fourth blogiversary.

Other People:
2004 Nov 25: Thanksgiving Eve by Bob Franke
2004 Dec 2: After The Singing by Rod MacDonald
2005 Feb 3: Don't You Let Nobody Turn You 'Round by Tom Paxton
2005 March 17: The Shame of Going Back by Henry Lawson
2005 April 22: Hills of West Virginia by Phil Ochs
2005 May 5: Malcolm Solves His Problems With A Chainsaw by the Arrogant Worms
2005 May 19: World Turned Upside Down by Leon Rosselson
2005 June 2: The Kind of Love You Never Recover From by Christine Lavin
2005 June 16: Delivery Delayed by Stan Rogers
2005 June 23: Why Walk When You Can Fly by Mary-Chapin Carpenter
2005 June 28: Green Hills of Earth by Robert Heinlein
2005 July 7: After All by Henry Lawson
2005 July 21: If I Were Taken Now by Fred Small
2005 August 11: Don't Think Twice, It's All Right by Bob Dylan
2005 August 18: The Old Sailor by A.A.Milne
2005 August 25: Turning Toward the Morning by Gordon Bok
2005 September 15: The Dodger Song
2005 September 22: For Everyman by Jackson Browne
2005 October 6: Adon Olam by Solomon Rossi (16-17c)
2005 October 20: White Squall by Stan Rogers
2005 November 10: Questions from A Worker Who Reads by Bertolt Brecht
2005 November 17: Suzanne by Leonard Cohen
2005 December 1: Their Way by Bob Blue
2005 December 8: Don Quixote by Gordon Lightfoot
2005 December 15: Great Historical Bum by Woody Guthrie
2005 December 22: That's the Way That the World Goes 'Round by John Prine
2006 January 19: Waiting for the B Train by Christine Lavin
2006 January 28: Guantanamera by José Martí
2006 February 8: Waking the Dead By Joe Ivory Mattingly
2006 February 9: This Looks Familiar by Gonzo
2006 February 13: Mr. Blue by Tom Paxton
2006 February 23: Zen Gospel Singing by Mark Graham
2006 March 2: Brown Shirts by John Gorka
2006 March 23: Song of the Candle by Stan Rogers
2006 April 20: Poem for My Little Boy by Li Shangyin
2006 May 18: Number One in America by David Massengill
2006 June 15: Arrow by Cheryl Wheeler
2006 June 22: Canadian Railroad Trilogy by Gordon Lightfoot
2006 September 7: Stormfront by Garnet Rogers
2006 September 27: In Broken Images by Robert Graves
2006 October 5: Montreal, December '89 by Judy Small
2006 November 8: Alleluia, The Great Storm Is Over by Bob Franke
2006 November 23: Love's Been Linked To The Blues by David Olney
2006 December 7: Stand Up For Judas by Leon Rosselson
2006 December 9: Ballad of The Carpenter by Phil Ochs
2006 December 22: Presidential Rag by Arlo Guthrie
2007 March 22: Muddy Water by Phil Rosenthall
2007 March 29: Binary Addendum by Suzette Haden Elgin
2007 April 26: Doing Nothing by Dan Gerber
2007 May 1: Know that I am Loved by Christy Simpson
2007 May 10: Magic Muffin Dance by Christy Simpson
2007 June 13: Knots by R. D. Laing
2007 July 19: The Uncultured Rhymer to His Cultured Critics by Henry Lawson
2007 December 6: The Nurse's Song by Roald Dahl
2008 March 13: The Last Chance by Leon Rosselson
2008 May 27: "Moose Turd Pie" and "The Hymn Song" by U. Utah Phillips.

Quotations Index

Introducing the Quotation Series and why I've been highlighting some quotations

The Archive of Ahistoricality's Quotations


Quotations from Tosh's Historians on History
  1. V. H. Gailbraith and a brief explanation
  2. For History's Sake
  3. Richard Cobb
  4. Progress
  5. National History
  6. Marx and History
  7. People in History
  8. Mental Landscapes
  9. Michael Howard
  10. Utility
  11. Disciplines
  12. Postmodernism
  13. Arthur Marwick

Other Sources of Quotations

If the Fringes get big enough...

... they become the centers. The above link [via Crooked Timber] is a Texas Lawyers' poll which casts Bush administration nominee as one of the worst-rated justices of the Texas Supreme Court. Actually, her "outstanding" numbers were only about six percent lower than her "poor" numbers; "acceptable" barely broke through the margin of error at fifteen percent. There's no middle ground. Either she's great or she's awful. There are tens of thousands of judges in this country; hundreds of state supreme court justices and federal district court judges. Can't they find a few people with smaller fringe ratings? Is that too much to ask?

Quotations #057

"Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon." -- Winston Churchill.

"It is the mark of a cultured man that he is aware of the fact that equality is an ethical and not a biological principle." -- Ashley Montagu

"Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality ... for one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor." -- Adam Smith

"I always seem to suffer from loss of faith on entering cities." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"A university is what a college becomes when the faculty loses interest in students." -- John Ciardi

Friday, May 20, 2005

Rational Traditionalism. Not Postmodernism?

Your temperament type is Traditionalist (with strong Rationalist tendencies).
[also via Alun]
Note: Lest you think this is some old fuddy-duddy test, it comes with recommendations for weblogs that fit your personality type! Sort of....

I'm Hairy, Loyal and Competent

[via Alun's ArchaeoAstronomy, among others. And let me just warn anyone intersted in taking the test: turn down your speakers, first]

What's the difference between George W. Bush and Gilbert and Sullivan?

They were kidding, mostly. You know, going for laughs. I don't think, as Hiram Hover puts it, that Bush is channeling G&S, as much as he is channeling the knee-jerk "boy I'm glad you're fighting for me" empty honors of the politicians which G&S were parodying.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Hypocrisy in Action: Pull the Plug, Close the Courts

Jeb Bush is pulling the plug? Jeb Bush is against malpractice awards? Add this to the Hypocrisy Watch list, and mourn for a child and her family. [via Sideshow]

Clichés come to life: Where there's smoke...

[via Tom Tomorrow, emphasis added]
In January 2003, the U.S. military issued guidelines to personnel at the base outlining how to handle and inspect detainees' Korans.

The memorandum included the order: "Ensure that the Koran is not placed in offensive areas such as the floor, near the toilet or sink, near the feet or dirty/wet areas."

"The guidelines didn't come out of nowhere. You don't get such orders unless there's some problem, concern or controversy," a U.S. official, who asked not to be named, said.
Hmmm... another unnamed source. Could it be they're afraid of retaliation for speaking the truth?

Mythbusting: Inuit Words for Snow

I've heard that it's a myth, but I've been looking for a good explanation of it, and here it is (emphasis in original):
[T]he Eskimoan language group uses an extraordinary system of multiple, recursively addable derivational suffixes for word formation called postbases. The list of snow-referring roots to stick them on isn't that long: qani- for a snowflake, api- for snow considered as stuff lying on the ground and covering things up, a root meaning "slush", a root meaning "blizzard", a root meaning "drift", and a few others -- very roughly the same number of roots as in English. Nonetheless, the number of distinct words you can derive from them is not 50, or 150, or 1500, or a million, but simply unbounded. Only stamina sets a limit.

That does not mean there are huge numbers of unrelated basic terms for huge numbers of finely differentiated snow types. It means that the notion of fixing a number of snow words, or even a definition of what a word for snow would be, is meaningless for these languages. You could write down not just thousands but millions of words built from roots that refer to snow if you had the time. But they would all be derivatives of a fairly small number of roots. And you could write down just as many derivatives of any other root: fish, or coffee, or excrement.
Human creativity never ceases to amaze me. Anyone who thinks that the loss of small-population languages doesn't mean a loss of human cultural diversity, or who thinks that loss is not as serious as the loss of biological diversities, is just not thinking. I'm not saying that we should preserve in amber every dying culture -- change happens, and often for the better -- but we shouldn't be actively trying to stamp out civilizations which are not fundamentally abusive.

Thursday Lyric: World Turned Upside Down

by Leon Rosselson
[who doesn't put his lyrics on the web, or in his albums, so this is almost the only one I could find; Stand Up For Judas is out there, too, in several languages. This man is the musical equivalent of Harlan Ellison: an incredible technician whose unsparing vision and deep humanity create powerful, challenging works of lasting relevance. emphasis added]

In 1649
To St George's Hill
A ragged band they called the Diggers
Came to show the people's will
They defied the landlords
They defied the laws
They were the dispossessed
Reclaiming what was theirs

'We come in peace,' they said,
'To dig and sow
We come to work the land in common
And to make the wastelands grow
This earth divided
We will make whole
So it can be
A common treasury for all

'The sin of property
We do disdain
No one has any right to buy and sell
The earth for private gain

By theft and murder
They took the land
Now everywhere the walls
Rise up at their command

'They make the laws
To chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven
Or they damn us into hell
We will not worship
The God they serve
The God of greed who feeds the rich
While poor folk starve

'We work, we eat together
We need no swords
We will not bow to masters
Or pay rent to the lords
We are free
Though we are poor'
You Diggers all stand up for glory
Stand up now

From the men of property
The orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers
To wipe out the Diggers' claim
Tear down their cottages
Destroy their corn
They were dispersed -
Only the vision lingers on

'You poor take courage
You rich take care:
The earth was made a common treasury
For everyone to share
All things in common
All people one
We come in peace'-
The order came to cut them down

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

If you can't accomplish anything, look busy!

or "If you can't arrest the one that's guilty, convict the one at hand."

Randy Balko routinely writes about the Bush administration's "war on people with chronic pain" and he's obviously scoring hits because they took the time to respond. Naturally, being the Bush administration, the response is deceptive, distorted, unhelpful and an attempt to shift blame elsewhere. In this case, it's painfully clear (sorry) that the Administration is substituting targets of opportunity for real attempts to solve real problems. Typical.
[via Sideshow]

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

What do liberals want?

Anne Zook, in the guise of making "liberal" less of a dirty word, offers a smart, strong reform program that really shouldn't be limited to liberals. Sure, some of it is more liberal than not, but the goals transcend political "lines" (like there are nice neat categories!) and even most of the methods really aren't all that strongly tied to the "left-liberal" statecraft which is most often the target of such "conservative" scorn.

The Democratic party should adopt this as their platform for the 2006 interim elections; if they don't I'm going to have to create a party that will: Moderates Unite! You have nothing to lose but obstructionist partisanship!

Human Progress is a lovely thing

The Kuwaiti cabinet decided, without warning anyone, apparently, to push through a bill granting Kuwaiti women full political rights -- voting, officeholding -- and it passed by a substantial margin. Yeah, the Islamist parties got a "obey Sharia" clause put in, but that probably won't mean more than separate polling places, in practical terms. Sometimes life surprises you in nice ways. Nothing makes me smile quite like watching democracy and freedom grow... even just a little. [Update: Here's another take, and here's some of what's left to be done]

It takes a little of the sting away. (and if you thought that stung, here's what they left out. It is impossible to trust this administration or its allies on anything.)

Speaking of Democracy and Freedom, the Chinese government just cancelled a democracy conference "apparently because it was too close to the June 4 anniversary of Beijing's 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations..." They just noticed? This thing's been scheduled for a while now.....

Monday, May 16, 2005

Quick Star Wars Milieu Quiz

Could you be a Jedi knight?

You scored 10 out of a possible 10
Jedi master. The Force is indeed strong in you, but remember, pride is one of the paths to the Dark Side. Do not become arrogant in your achievement, or believe that anyone is impressed. They're not.

I haven't even seen Episode II (though I did read the book: how geeky is that?) and I got this right. Couple of cute almost-trick questions.... [via Derek Catsam, where Chris Pettit in comments is trying to argue that the Jedi Council are not a theocratic order.... yeah, right.]

History Carnival #8

Saint Nate did a nice job on the latest semi-monthly History roundup, and I'm not just saying that because he linked to one of my posts. Apparently I haven't quite gotten this Ahistoricality thing down yet. Particularly worth noting, I think, is Saint Nate's own post on remembering the Roma (gypsy) victims of the Holocaust. In a sense, the Roma are deeply ahistorical in most of the senses that we understand history today: histories of place, of progress, of integration and process. Not to over-romanticise them, but there is something about them quite beyond the bounds of history, and their victimization by Nazis (and in lesser ways, by so many other "modern" societies) is a testimony to our tragic inability to accept difference in modernity.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Quotations #056

"Outlawing all atomic weapons would be a magnificent gesture. However, it should be remembered that Gettysburg had a local ordinance forbidding the discharge of weapons." -- Homer D. King.

"If they really believe there is danger from the Negro, it must be because they do not intend to give him justice." -- Booker T. Washington

"Hemingway's remarks are not literature." -- Gertrude Stein

"Boredom is an acute problem for the moralist since half the sins of mankind are caused by fear of it." -- Bertrand Russell

"I do not rule Russia; ten thousand clerks do." -- Nicholas I

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Atlanta, Here I Come!

American Cities That Best Fit You:

60% Atlanta
60% Philadelphia
55% Austin
55% Chicago
55% New York City

And if I change my last answer from "Northeast" to "Midwest" I get:

American Cities That Best Fit You:

60% Atlanta
60% Chicago
55% Austin
55% Philadelphia
50% Honolulu

[via Orac]

No, but I've dated....

theory slut
You are a Theory Slut. The true elite of the postmodernists, you collect avant-garde Indonesian hiphop compilations and eat journal articles for breakfast. You positively live for theory. It really doesn't matter what kind, as long as the words are big and the paragraph breaks few and far between.
What kind of postmodernist are you!?
brought to you by Quizilla

I wonder what would happen if I changed my last answer? Depp's the only one I'd actually date twice, but if I'm really Theory Slut, I ought to be willing to experiment... oddly enough, all other answers produce:

grassroots activist
You are a Grassroots Activist. Anti-capitalist, anti-patrist, anti-authoritarian, whatever, you're just fuckin' anti. You probably tell people you hate postmodernism, but that assertion elides the complex interdependencies among academic poststructuralism and
street-level activism. You don't bathe regularly, and know at least one person who has scabies.
No, that's not it, either..... [via Ralph Luker]

Friday, May 13, 2005

Tough Questions For Tough Jews: Harlan Ellison

[via Bookslut; via 100 Word Minimum]
Part One
Part Two
Part Three -- My favorite. In which Harlan Ellison refuses to solve the problems of the Middle East but solves our problem with the Middle East.

My World View? Unclassifiably Syncretic, apparently

You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative
















I think it's quite interesting that I scored precisely 50% on both Modernist and Romantic, Idealist and Existentialist.... everything else -- i.e., the confusion -- stems naturally from that result. [Via Bitch, Ph.D.]

Friday the 13th of April, 2029

[via Dad]
In 24 years, an asteroid will pass under our satellite belt, and be visible even in bright city night skys. No, it won't hit us, but you gotta love the NASA folks' experience pattern:
  • Step 1: An asteroid is discovered.
  • Step 2: Uncertain orbits are calculated from spotty tracking data.
  • Step 3: Possible Earth impacts are noted.
  • Step 4: Astronomers watch the asteroid for a while, then realize that it's going to miss our planet.
Killer Asteroid! headlines generally appear between steps 3 and 4, but that's another story.
Of course we could change our orbit, or the asteroid's, in the near future (and wouldn't that make a really good bad movie?)....

If you dig straight down...

China wants to build tunnels from its mainland to several of its islands: Hainan, Macao, etc. They're getting international notice because one of the islands they've proposed digging to is Taiwan, and that always gets people's attention. But if you read the article closely you find
Most of the projects will be constructed beneath the water, but the construction of some bridges is also needed, said the expert, adding that some technical problems involving the handling of rock and soil are yet to be solved.
Don't get me wrong: I know that building an extended undersea tunnel is not like digging a ditch. But still.... "some technical problems" sounds like "where did we park the frontloader? What do you mean you lost the keys?" [via Simon World]


[via Sideshow] Emergency power to override all laws and regulations? Sounds like a Roman Dictator to me. Also the Secretary of Homeland Security if the Iraqi War Overrun Approval/UnReal National ID/Constitution Demolition act passes.

Someone once proposed a constitutional amendment requiring that all provisions of a law be related to the primary purpose thereof, forbidding irrelevant riders and piggybacking. I've had doubts at times, but this is nuts.


Pholph's Scrabble Generator

My Scrabble© Score is: 22.

[via the Little Professor]

Where were you when...

... the president was working out?

What would be really interesting....

...would be to see some kind of aggregated score from everyone who took the test.
You scored as agnosticism. You are an agnostic. Though it is generally taken that agnostics neither believe nor disbelieve in God, it is possible to be a theist or atheist in addition to an agnostic. Agnostics don't believe it is possible to prove the existence of God (nor lack thereof).

Agnosticism is a philosophy that God's existence cannot be proven. Some say it is possible to be agnostic and follow a religion; however, one cannot be a devout believer if he or she does not truly believe.


Which religion is the right one for you? (new version)
created with QuizFarm.com

22 March 2006: Took it again

Which religion is the right one for you? (new version)
created with QuizFarm.com

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Can You Read Braille?

I'm having an odd problem on my computer. Everything I read in italics looks weird: in MS Word or MSIE the typeface looks slightly expanded. In Netscape, my primary browser, all italicized text is coming through in braille.... italicized braille, at that. For those of you who don't know, braille on a computer screen is just as useless as any other typeface; it exists as a font for the purposes of demonstration and for printing out.

Actually, a blind person using a screen reader wouldn't even notice: the underlying text is the same as ASCII or any other text, it's just the display font that differs. Like Webdings or any other graphic font. For the computer to display braille in a readable format requires a special display with electro-mechanically moving dots, called a "refreshable braille display" though you can also use a braille notetaker with the appropriate software.

Anyway, I'll reboot and we'll see if that does it. Cosmic rays....

UPDATE: Reboot did the trick. For now. This time.....

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Mathematical Doggerel

No, it's not good poetry in the sense that we usually mean good poetry. It's even pretty weak as song lyrics. BUT, I maintain that it is a fantastic example of the power of hyperlinks to add meaning and create poetry which utilizes directed extra-dimensional meanings.... I have to figure out what I'm talking about, but I'm pretty sure that hyperlinks themselves are a poetic element which has yet to be properly considered by the rhetoriticians and aestheticians [I think I just made up two new words, myself]. [via Historio-blogography, his other blog]

What did we think five years ago?

He's right: five years ago only the most marginal pundits were even suggesting that our last half decade would go this way, and I honestly don't think anyone really thought it could all come together like this.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Quotations #055

"A nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry and by common hatred of its neighbors." Dean William R. Inge

"I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past" -- Thomas Jefferson.

"Art for art's sake makes no more sense than gin for gin's sake." -- Somerset Maughan

"Education is the transmission of civilization" -- Will and Ariel Durant

"Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere." -- G.K. Chesterton

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Unnerving reading, particularly for recently awakened males with a cup by the computer

Apparently, in 1674, English women thought coffee's effects on English men were... detrimental to their health and happiness. [via Clio-Web via Cliopatria]

Orlah: Three Years Before Harvest

It's not just a Torah problem....
"Many men dream of finishing the entire Talmud (Shas) in one evening," R' Yisrael Salanter zt"l is said to have once quipped, "and to get a good night's sleep too!"
Today perhaps more than ever, we tend to focus our efforts and energies on things that have the potential to bring us swift results and immediate gratification. Western society and its "time-saving" innovations have left us acutely impatient and intolerant of even the slightest delays. Overnight shipping, once an expensive extravagance, is now the norm. We want what we want - and we want it now!
We can't turn back the clocks. Mass-production and disposable goods are here to stay. Our task is to make sure the need for immediate gratification that so pervades our world doesn't invade our efforts in Torah, tefilah, and mitzvah performance, and chinuch ha-banim (education). Remember: What comes easily is parted with easily. The more of ourselves we invest in Torah, the more we value it, and the more dear it becomes.
There are fields in which the increased pace has been a boon, in which the technologies of immediacy have been a blessing. Mixed, though.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Hypercube politics

The only way to turn this many corners and still be both lost and in the same place is to be in a four dimensional cubical space: a hypercube.

An Addition to the Articles of Impeachment

[Via Sideshow]
In addition to undermining his own government, George Bush conspired to violate international law and mislead, defraud and endanger the American public.

Media Two-Step

[via Canadian Cynic; welcome to all Avedon's Eschaton readers!]
Declan calls the two-step -- self-referential discourse distortion -- a "failure" on the part of the media, but that really depends on the purpose of the media, doesn't it?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Should we?

[Via Sideshow]

Oliver WillisAhistoricality
America discovered atomic energy.used atomic weapons on civilian populations, and articulated the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction; also haven't built a new nuclear power plant for decades because we're too scared
America went to the moon.and haven't been back for thirty years
America built the microchip.And it has served us well
America built the personal computer.No. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates invented the first economically viable personal computers. America just bought them
America built the Internet.to maintain military communications integrity in the event of massive nuclear attacks
There is no reason that a nation with that kind of track record and continued record of innovation can't break our addiction to oil.We can't even break our addiction to tobacco, and that stuff doesn't have any useful purpose.
Don't get me wrong: I'd love to see our government take energy alternatives and energy conservation seriously again (remember Carter? He tried). But a little less triumphalism might be in order.

Thursday Lyrics: Malcolm Solves His Problems....

by the Arrogant Worms
[Note: they're probably better known for "Jesus' Brother Bob," but this is the song that still makes me laugh too hard to sing. Thanks to our Canadian friends for sharing!]

Malcolm (c. 1997)

Billy solves his problems by calling up his mom
Heather solves her problems with drugs and alcohol
Daniel solves his problems with a doctor and the law
But Malcolm has his own way and it's better than them all

Malcolm solves his problems with a chainsaw (x3)
and he never has the same problem twice

Whether it's a bill or a cheque arriving late
Rancid marble cheese or a steak that's second rate
Awful TV programs or a broken Elvis plate
Or his fiancee who dumps him because he's gaining weight

Malcolm solves his problems with a chainsaw (x3)
and he never has the same problem twice

Aaaaggghhh Aaaaggghhh
problem solved!

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

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Plus, it would be the right thing to do

Avedon Carol (Sideshow) notes
An editorial in The Washington Post called A Vote in the House, about the fact that DC residents still have no real representation in Congress, contains a statement you don't see very often: That inexcusable situation exists despite polls showing that the American public favors congressional representation for D.C. residents.
Let's face it, Congress is a bunch of spineless grubs. I'm including Democrats, who could have done something about this a long time ago and for whom it would have been advantageous. I can kind of understand reluctance on full statehood, DC being a federal reserve, but congressional representation is a fundamental right.

Friendly Fire, and other oxymorons

Sports Illustrated scooped the New York Times on a real story? Damn, I'm reading the wrong stuff.

Which Hypocrisy CAN you watch?

We can add this to the catalog of hypocrisy
You may recall that some time ago television networks were refusing to air some advertisements for a gay-friendly church on what looked to many of us like pretty spurious grounds. Turns out whatever policy banned the United Church of Christ from advertising doesn't apply to Focus on the Family, an outfit you may recall as the main organizers of "Justice Sunday," among other things.
I'll grant, for purposes of discussion, that there is a difference between a church and a theocratic wanna-be movement... but that doesn't mean that it's a meaningful difference, or that the discrimination -- if there must be some -- is going in the right direction.

Monday, May 02, 2005

I'm a moderate!

And I beat Canadian Cynic by four points!

I am:
"You're a damn Commie! Where's Tailgunner Joe when we need him?"

Are You A Republican?

Seriously, folks, how do you get a negative score? By being more than a little unfair about what being Republican means, of course. I've got more than a few republican bones in my body; these questions were entertaining, but cheap shots. But then, cheap shots is what it's about these days, right?

Confused? Lie Down

You're smarter horizontal. [via Anne Zook, whose rants routinely knock me on my back. Then it's all clear].

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Mummy 4: Attack of the Bronze Age Lice!

Excavated from the Xiaohe Tomb Complex in the Lop Nur Desert, Zhu Hong, director of the Frontier Archeology Study Department of Jilin University in Jilin Province, said: "The mummies were unbelievably well-preserved, even better than the mummies in Egypt. Even lice on the dead people's heads have been preserved."
And lest you think that Chinese mummies are too tame to be Hollywood worthy:
The tomb complex yielded rare cultural relics including wooden objects, animal hair fabrics, jade, stoneware, as well as the fur and bones of animals such as sheep, cattle, fowl and lynx. It also yielded objects symbolic of genitals, suggesting a belief in phallicism.
Interestingly enough, this stuff was found before
The massive burial site was first discovered in 1934 by Swedish explorer Folke Bergman. His archeological diary helped Chinese researchers spot the site at the end of 2000, when the diary was published in Chinese.
Maybe it should be Indiana Jones IV, instead?