Monday, December 31

Have you grown weary...

 of my Patriots coverage? A couple more notes:

+ Peter King's whole MMQB is full of love notes to them. Stand out stat: the number of cold weather games Brady played in his record-setting season ( this page). If he played in warm weather, or a dome, like the guys he finally surpassed, like Manning and Marino and Cunningham (Vikings 98) and Warner, he would have kept up the crazy pace he was on earlier in the season. He would have obliterated all the records it took him until Saturday night to break.

+ Brian Billick is gone from Baltimore, the architect of the high-flying 98 Vikings. Yet he never had a decent offensive year in Baltimore, winning the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer. Two conclusions: 1. He never had comparable personnel. 2. Maybe he wasn't that awesome to begin with...

+ The resurgence of the Redskins with career backup Todd Collins is crazy (like every commentator has said).

+ Don Banks has an interesting article on the remaining teams' momentum.

+ This is what I'm talking about (ibid, but second page):

New England this season was 7-0 against teams that wound up with a winning record, with six of those teams being 10-6 or better (Chargers, Colts, Cowboys, Steelers, Browns and Giants). By comparison, the 1972 Dolphins were just 2-0 against winning teams. ...

And the Patriots have now won an NFL record 19 regular-season games in a row, topping their own mark of 18 set in 2003-2004. That means that in the span of the past five regular seasons, New England has had two separate 18-game winning streaks. The Patriots are a combined 66-14 in those five regular seasons of 2003-2007.

The Patriots are already the best franchise in the history of the NFL over a five-year period, given the competition. In the free agency era. They bury the 72 Dolphins in this respect. What remains to be seen is if they can also cap it by winning through the arbitrary championship system we have set up.

+ Kurt Warner has a good season. And he probably did enjoy beating Marc Bulger yesterday. But Bulger has certainly been more consistent than Warner since replacing him. Pretty hard to fault the Rams for not sticking with Warner. How'd he get the job anyway? Took over from injured Trent Green. I like Kurt, but he hasn't been mistreated.

+ 34.5 million people watched the Saturday night game, 'the largest audience for an NFL non-playoff game in more than 12 years'. ( source) Kudos to the NFL for putting it out there for us to watch.

Okay, that's enough for now (maybe the whole week), don't you think? ;-)

Okay, this is my first... [updated]

Okay, this is my first try at using jott for blogger for my web blog and jott you know transcribing service from voice to text, so we will see how they do. All that to say I am calling because I was in home depot and you too has had I still haven't found what I am looking for was on the radio and that [...] was pretty funny. listen

Powered by Jott

Update: Not bad, but not great, as you can tell by comparing the recording with the transcription. I liked the old audioblogger better for this kind of service. Anyway, no sweat, since I don't really plan on using Jott this way. I mostly use it to send myself email reminders via phone, and it works great for that.

And, by the way, the funny part above was hearing U2's 'I still haven't found what I'm looking for' at Home Depot ;-)

A couple more (very deep) thoughts about the Pats

+ More irony: the team that Commissioner Goodell hammered for video taping the opposing team's signals has garnered unprecedented ratings and buzz for the league.

+ Something else about the Patriots' season: they've been blissfully injury-free.

+ This paragraph (source) amplifies my comparison from yesterday:
The Patriots' feat is more impressive because in the days of the '72 Dolphins, there was no ritualistic free agent raiding of a Super Bowl caliber roster. There was no NFL scheduling format in place that assured tougher schedules for the previous season's biggest winners. And there was no salary cap to squeeze most teams toward the competitive middle of the league.

Sunday, December 30

They did it!

The Patriots went 16-0. But that was a close one. They're beatable. It's just that nobody's done it yet.

(BTW, the Vikings really stunk last week. Good thing I'm a bandwagon Patriots fan.)

Must address Cris Collingsworth's opinion last night that 16-0 isn't in the same league as the '72 Dolphins if the Patriots don't win it all. I heartily disagree. We all know the competition back then wasn't as stiff. 16 games are quite a bit harder than 14. Plus, the much closer media scrutiny (24-7 sports coverage across all media) makes it harder.

We've all agreed on how championships are decided in the NFL. It's not best of 7 or something like that. It's whoever's the best that day. But not all championships are created equal. (And don't get me started on all of the Packers' 'world championships' before the merger of the AFL and the NFL.)

(I did fell they got jobbed on that excessive celebration penalty that led to the runback for a touchdown, but since they won, I can let it go.)

Hand it to Manning. He did real well against a tough Patriots D. The Giants did a good job.

That said, I look for a major letdown for them this week, emotionally and physically when they play TB. The Bucs will win. The Giants played really hard against the Patriots. And it will come back to bite them in their playoff run.

(Of course, I could be wrong and Eli could be right.)

Nice article on the Brady-Moss records . I like Jim Litke's writing.

Heck, even the mention of beating the Vikings' 1998 single season scoring record brings back painful memories of the losing the NFC Championship Game to the Giants.

But maybe it was for the best: I doubt the Vikes could have beaten Denver in the Super Bowl, and then we'd be all alone at 0-5 in Super Bowls.

A big, public thanks to Christine for watching the game with me. That's love.

Wednesday, December 26

Brain waterboarding

+ Nice guide to a healthy brain (I think I got this from Guam Brad). Goes beyond crossword puzzles and sudoku (Blast! Thought I had it covered!) to knowing your brain, nutrition and exercise, optimism, challenging yourself (with new stuff), thinking for yourself, socializing and laughing.

+ Guy tries waterboarding himself and finds it horrifying (via).

Mo Merry Christmas

+ Here's a link to our favorite Christmas song, Come On! Let's Boogey To The Elf Dance!

(fyi: when it's me, i spell it 'boogie' ;-)

+ And, just in case you haven't had a chance to hear this classic yet this Christmas season, a link to Adam Sandler's Chanukah Song.

(My) More Merry Christmas

First of all, just a reminder that, according to the traditional church calendar, we have moved from Advent to Christmastide. So feel free to celebrate Christmas for another 11 days!

Also, I got an Amazon gift card that I'm excited about. I'm looking forward to buying some of their DRM-free singles.

Peace!

Tuesday, December 25

Merry Christmas!

For my part, I'm listening to 'The Blues Brothers' Soundtrack, which I got today. How's that for Christmas cheer? (Belushi and Aykroyd were geniuses back then!)

We had a pretty nice day. Hope you did.

Saturday, December 22

Christmas post

Shane tagged me with this Christmas post. And away we go:

1. Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share Christmas facts about yourself.
3. Tag seven random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Welcome to the Christmas edition of "Getting to Know Your Friends."

1. Wrapping or gift bags?

+ gift bags. i hate wrapping and am SO lazy

2. Real or artificial tree?

+ artificial, quasi-prelit (but only if Christine puts it up. if not, no tree).

3. When do you put up the tree?

+ Man, Shane and I are 3 for 3 the same. I don't put it up. When Christine does, it just depends. She likes it earlier...

4. When do you take the tree down?

+ When Christine gets to it. The year she was pregnant with the twins, it literally stayed up until Easter! :-)

5. Do you like egg nog?

+ Sure, but I don't drink it much.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?

+ Intellivision!

7. Do you have a nativity scene?

+ Christine says we have 4 if you count Little People and Veggie Tales

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

+ My inlaws like to stuff stockings with practical things like Kleenex, breath mints, etc :-(

9. Mail or email Christmas cards?

+ Neither. If I get out an email with a Christmas picture of us and a 'Merry Christmas', I'm doing well.

10. Favorite Christmas Movie?

+ Easy: A Christmas Story

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas?

+ As late as possible.

12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

+ Gramma's Buttermilk Fudge

13. Clear lights or colored on the tree?

+ We call them white.

14. Favorite Christmas song(s)?

+ Come on everyone, let's boogie to the elf dance!

15. Travel at Christmas or stay home?

+ 3-year rotation: Iowa with my family, NC with Christine's family, home

16. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?

+ Easily

17. Angel on the tree top or a star?

+ Star

18. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?

+ Extended family Christmas Eve, current immediate family Christmas Day.

19. Most annoying thing about this time of year?

+ Again, very like Shane's, but I'm most annoyed when the people closest to me stress out about Christmas. I assume strangers are going to be yahoos ;-)

20. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color?

+ Nope

21. What do you leave for Santa?

+ We don't really do Santa.

22. Least favorite holiday song?

+ Auld Lang Syne.

23. Favorite ornament?

Something with a twin picture in it

24. Family tradition?

+ If Bethy keeps performing in Nutcracker, our early Christmas pretty much gets geared around that.

25. Ever been to Midnight Mass or late-night Christmas Eve services?

+ Yep, lots of times.

I will be passing this "tag" on to the following blogfriends:

Paul
Guam Brad
Jim
Madhu
Detroit Brad
Jaq
Aaron

Wonder if they'll accept it...

Thursday, December 20

Parsing Battlestar Galactica

I've been thinking about the things that bother me about Adama and Roslin and I think I've narrowed it down to what I'm going to call their core values.

Adama's is his ship. Other things can slide. He's especially a poor performer as a father, often. But he will not allow his ship to malfunction. He told Chief Tyrol he'd line up ten Callys and kill them for mutiny if that's what it took. He faced down Starbuck and Tigh when they were sowing dissension.

(I don't think this accounts for his hateful behavior toward Lee in the penultimate episode of season 3, relative to Lee defending Baltar. Unless maybe it's because of how the defense tore apart Tigh.)

Roslin's is the survival of humanity. Now I like many things about Laura. But her willingness to commit crimes against Cylons, even in a time of war - that's a problem. Strangely enough, I'm not really thinking of Season 3, Episode 7 where they have the chance to infect the Cylon race with a deadly virus. My thinking is probably not justified on this, but they attacked first and they won't let up and they are often monstrous.

The main one that occurs to me is switching Sharon's baby for a stillborn one and raising her in secret. That just seems over the line to me.

And I think there are some more for Laura, but I can't think of them right now.

I'm not saying the characters should be portrayed this way. It sure makes for interesting drama.

But I'd say they're in the neighborhood of character flaws or character obsessions. Not to be emulated.

What do you think?

Toshi Hobbit (+1)

+ Deleted scene from Star Wars: A New Hope. Totally rings a bell, even 30 years later, because this section was in the novelization and some of the other literature surrounding the movie. (via)





+ 'The Hobbit' movie emerges, with the LotR team producing (but not directing), along with midquel taking place between The Hobbit and the LotR.

The Dark Knight

Heard the new Batman trailer was awesome...

Whoa.

Still not crazy about Bale's performance as Batman (reminder: loved him as Bruce Wayne).

Ledger looks amazing as the Joker. Seems to touch properly on Nicholson's portrayal (very good for what it was).

Nice new Batcycle. Kept the old Batmobile, which I liked and like the choice; sometimes a little continuity in these superhero movies, even in such small things is nice.

Mild reservations about 'The Dark Knight' not being on a straight-up Frank Miller story, but I can get past that.

Maggie Gyllenhal as Rachel: How will she compare to Katie Holmes (who I think is 100% better looking, acting ability and choice of husband not withstanding ;-)

Might be one of those where we have to attend the premiere.

To burst or not to burst?

Unhappy vacation.

First day of two week vacation (combining company-wide paid holidays with remaining vacation): urgent care. Double ear infection. The PA said 'Your ears both look terrible.' I said 'That's how they feel.' Amoxicilin and Vicodin.

2:06 AM. 2 Vicodin in the last 5 hours. Still can't sleep.

You get to the point where you might welcome the burst eardrum. Is such a thing serious? The PA didn't seem too worried about the possibility, like a puncture was no big deal. Just see a specialist to make sure it heals cleanly.

Upon further review, it's important to keep the ear dry after a ruptured eardrum. Good to know.

I'm really not very good with pain.

Tuesday, December 18

Should a zenpundit provoke?

Mark had some 'aggravating' questions that caught my fancy. Here they are, with my answers:

Would Global Warming attract nearly the same level of interest among environmentalist activists and Hollywood celebrities if the most effective proposed policy solutions had a free market bent ?

+ no

If you were to run a country going to war would you rather be in charge of Iran or the United States? Iran or Israel ? China or Taiwan?

+ US, Israel, China. guess i’m a Machiavellian (like you ;-)

If independents and third party wannabes are correct that the country really needs an effective and competitive major third party, why are they historically unable to propose any set of original programmatic ideas that the Republicans and Democrats cannot steal ?

+ the Repubs and Dems think they are playing to their bases. they aren’t ’smart’ enough to branch out

If the EU has genuinely changed the twenty century-long warlike character of Europeans to apathetic, bureaucratic, declinists why does the idea of Germany with nuclear weapons still give everyone pause ?

+ a nuclear Germany gives me much less pause than nuklear Pakistan

Or for that matter, who’s up for the Japanese Prime Minister announcing a successful test of a hydrogen bomb ? If you’re not but you are also ok on a nuclear Iran, can you give an intellectually credible explanation as to the difference?

+ Germany:Pakistan::Japan:Iran

What government entitlement programs that you personally benefit from should people be prepared to live without ?

+ can’t think of any this minute (though i’m sure there are some ;-). (upon further review: what Dan said. my farming family has long benefited from ag subsidies)

To what degree is opposition to the death penalty rooted in opposition to the concepts of individual accountability and punishment ? To what degree is gun-control a repudiation of the right to self-defense ?

+ not much, i don’t think, in both cases. i don’t think those are the main issues in those issues

If you are pro-Life, why should a woman who happens to be pregnant have to take into account your personal religious beliefs before her baby is born but not afterward when making life-altering medical decisions on behalf of her minor child?

+ wrong question. some things are objective, and preserving life is one of them

If the rich should pay more taxes, who counts as “rich” ? Why is your arbitrary figure plucked out of the air better than mine or anybody else’s ?

+ i am willing to negotiate. let’s vote and take a simple majority

How many laws regulating the legal profession are ever proposed ? How many are passed ?

+ no idea. fewer ;-)

If the U.S government has friendly but non-committal diplomatic relations (minimal or no conflict) with another state, does that constitute “support” for the regime or ” non-intervention” ?

+ at some point, non-intervention is support

If multiculturalists are correct that that the non-Western cultures are of greater moral stature than the oppressive West, then why did none of the non-Western cultures ever practice multiculturalism ?

+ the mulitculturalist are wrong. power corrupts (and would have corrupted the nonWestern cultures, given a chance)

methodological statement v. Shane: for my part, it just seemed like fun ;-)

How about you? Any of these inspire you?

Monday, December 17

Prince Dan Huckabee, Overpaid

+ The Prince Caspian trailer looks good (I saw this somewhere, but I forget where. If it was sorry, sorry for the no-link!).

+ I like this post from Dan: here's the beginning and the almost-end:

The greatest change every to befall earth is not climate, or glaciation, or any of that: it is the rising-up of a artificial genome-plex...

What Jurassic fruits taste the sweetest? Which plants eaten by the triceratops would make good raw material for ethanol? I think we'll live to have a good idea of the answer to these questions.

Saturday, December 15

Ambisports global battlestar

+ Cool ambigram (reads the same right-side-up and upside-down) on new Princess Bride release.

+ Bobby Petrino excels Nick Saban in total classlessness and lying, ditching the Falcons for college. Not that I'd advise any coach to touch either of those floundering franchises with a ten-foot pole.

I wonder if we'll start seeing (probably already exists) owners hiring private eyes to keep an eye on their franchise players to make sure nothing obviously wrong is going down (I'm thinking of the Vick case here). If the Falcons had done their due diligence before the new contract, things might be different down there.

+ I'm seeing a lot of reactions to the Mitchell Report that say 'who cares'? Answer: I do. This stuff matters.

Actually, I came out the same as all of the majorities in this SI poll except for the 'how much of a fan are you?' question (wasn't a big one to begin with, even less now) and the last question (I answered 'Somewhere in between').

Is the Mitchell Report sufficient for due process? Obviously not and those players shouldn't be punished (based on it alone). Something further could be pursued against them, if that were desired.

This stuff should matter for the Hall, for guys like Clemens (and McGwire (sp?) before him). Not sure how you run it down, though.

Tom Verducci's writing on MLB is authoritative, and here's his take on the Mitchell Report. To wit:

What's the big deal anyway? Why should we care if players shoot up drugs?

Mitchell wickedly skewered the steroid apologists -- and backed the many disenchanted clean players I've talked to over the years -- with this concise view: "The minority of players who used such substances were wrong. They violated federal law and baseball policy, and they distorted the fairness of competition by trying to gain an unfair advantage over the majority of players who followed the law and the rules."

End of argument.

The not big deal camps have said it's entertainment. But it's entertainment based on performance and competition. And if some people juice...

+ I agree with Dan's opinion of global warming.

+ Finally, for now, I'm getting into Battlestar Galactica. Even joined Netflix to start watching through. Any other BG fans out there?

Thursday, December 13

Pop Up Video!

Have I ever mentioned how much I loved Pop Up Videos?

Not just music and video, but something to read, too! More data streams!

Take On Me is one of my all-time favorite videos. The actresses' name was Bunty Bailey. She's still listed at Crawfords Commercials.

Secret: I also like a-ha's song 'The Living Daylights'.

There are 47 videos over there to choose from. The one I'm missing is 'Torn'. I think that's the first Pop Up Video I ever saw.

Another favorite, of course, is Losing My Religion.

I must have watched that video about ten times, back in 1991, trying to figure it out.

Monday, December 10

NFL rundown

How much do you think about what your readers will think when you write your weblog posts, or think about writing them?

For example, Madhu is serious about telling me to 'go update interact!' with some frequency. But I don't think Madhu is a big NFL fan. Oh well. Here goes. It's what I've got on my mind:

+ Peter King is making me blush! He keeps writing about how much he likes the Vikings. He's got them ranked #7 in the league ! That's third in the NFC, behind Dallas and Green Bay. Whoa there, big fella!

Then check out this quote:

i. Adrian Peterson rushed 14 times for three yards at San Francisco, and the Vikes won by 20 points. Yes, the tide is turning for the Vikes all right.

j. I'm no ratings maven, but I'll bet a dime that a Dallas-New England or Green Bay-New England Super Bowl would draw the biggest audience in American television history.

k. Why do I think the Vikings might have something to say about that?

Yikes, Peter! Just don't put 'em on the cover, ok?!

+ You know I'm a bandwagon Patriots fan. I enjoyed watching them dismember Pittsburgh (another team I like) after a second year DB guaranteed a victory. Pretty stupid to give the already dominant Patriots bulletin board material. It's clear to me (and I think everyone else) that that Pats are going for the undefeated season.

And I think when Brady got in Smith's face after their first touchdown, it was probably more to fire up his team than because he was really mad at Smith. After the game, Brady's words were very conciliatory.

+ It's also ironic that the Dolphins, owners of the only undefeated season are staring a season without a win in the face.

+ Peter King also says you shouldn't spend big money on a coach or a running back because there are good values out there at lower numbers. Hard to disagree. Once again: it's Moneyball for the NFL. Look for value. Don't bet.

+ Check out this Super Bowl dream from Don Banks:

I know what I expect to see in Glendale, Ariz., eight weeks from now: The greatest matchup of winning machines in Super Bowl history. That would be a New England team that enters 18-0 in its quest for perfection, against a Dallas squad that's 17-1, with its only loss in Week 6 to those very same Patriots. Two teams with a combined 35-1 record, and a .972 winning percentage.

How much fun would that be? They hype alone would be historic. Brady vs. Romo. Owens vs. Moss. Armageddon, indeed.

It could happen. And what would the line on that game be? Pats by 14?

+ Yes, I subscribed to SI's news feed. Should have done a long time ago.

That's enough for tonight.

Update: Ok, I take it back: one more:

This is a cool exercise by Don Banks: Knowing what we know now, how the draft would go today.

I'm outta here.

Tuesday, December 4

November highlights

In other photo news, Christine has the November highlights Picasa album up. Lots of good stuff in there including tearing down the brick wall in our front yard, Bethy in the Nutcracker, Christine's birthday and haircut, Thanksgiving and, the pièce de résistance, our new entertainment center!

Well, that might be a little strong. This one of Christine and me is awfully nice:

Unedited, retouched, Photoshopped or otherwise changed. We're just good looking people, people! ;-)

Photo caption contest!

This picture is not my new profile picture, but it probably should be:

Want to caption it? Some pretty obvious ones leap to mind (especially considering the happy shirt coincidence ;-)

(Did you know you can make foam swords with pool noodles and 3/4" PVC? There are lots of variations and improvements (start here if interested), but Wil wanted his to look as much like lightsabers as possible.)

Saturday, December 1

Ok, now I can watch some other channels

I was a little discouraged about my tv reception, and I was thinking of giving up. I don't watch that much tv anyway, right?

But I was looking at reviews at BestBuy.com and saw the link to the Consumer Electronics Association's guide to antennas, antennaweb.org. You can plug in your address and it'll tell you what direction to point your antenna by degrees of the compass and what kind of antenna you need. Great. And they link to Radio Shack as a participating provider, so I went to Radio Shack.

They put me on to this really pretty small (about the height of a cereal box, but not as wide) indoor/outdoor antenna. I figured I'd take it home and try it and if it didn't work I'd take it back and try something bigger.

Well, it's working pretty well. I went from 1 HD channel to 5 (not counting piddly local weather and a couple extra SC PBS stations). I'm getting ABC (regular broadcast) now, which I couldn't get before (watching OU-Mizzou right now). The only HD channel I'm not getting that I want is ABC.

So, tomorrow I'm going to get some longer coaxial cable and try this sucker outside. But if I don't get ABC in HD, I'm going to stick with this antenna, because, after all, there's literally nothing I watch on ABC (including no NFL) and I'm very satisfied, on balance.

Good end to a pretty good Saturday.

That was the best Christmas album ever! (again)

I know, I used this title for my Sufjan Stevens Christmas collection paean last year, but it's still true.

Who knew we were waiting for Christmas songs with a lot more banjo?! (Well, maybe Guam Brad...)

Now, admittedly, I'm not a huge Christmas music fan, and I don't allow listening until after Thanksgiving, but I haven't even gotten to my previous fave yet. Yes, it's true. A Charlie Brown Christmas has been supplanted.

One more great thing about Sufjan: he sings the standards, including songs about Santa, and he's sincere. He also sings songs about bad Christmas happenings, and that's good, too. He's the only one who sings songs about Santa that I actually like!

Reading last year's post, it's pretty good. Go check it out if you're interested at all.

You can listen to some of these songs on Hype Machine ...

(I now have 2 Brad B's on my blogroll. So we'll make them Guam Brad (above) and Detroit Brad. DB, what do you think of Sufjan?)

Run, don't walk, to get this album if you don't already have it.!


Friday, November 30

I am now the world's biggest CBS fan

It's terribly bourgeois, I know, but we got a new TV over Thanksgiving.

We'd seen a good price in the KMart flier (ah! sub-bourgeois!), but weren't planning on going to KMart (or any other store) on Thanksgiving.

Plans change. Elizabeth came down with a fever on Thanksgiving day and we had to go get medicine. We tried Rite-Aid, but it was closed, so we ended up at KMart.

I decided to check the TVs, since we were there. They were out of the one we'd been looking at, but the salesdude said he'd check...

And he found one more they'd been holding for someone who never came, so we bought it!

So I've been working since then, trying to get everything set up. We needed to get a new tv stand, which after some travail (and two extra trips by Christine back to Target), we got put together yesterday.

All of that to say, our reception (we are the only people we know in Columbia without cable) is as bad as it has always been, except for 19.1, CBS is glorious HDTV.

I like CSI (the original), but never watch it. Maybe I'll have to start... ;-)

Saturday, November 17

Bad Beowulf review (Spoilers)

Originally, I was hopeful about this movie.

But then I watched the clips and I was not hopeful that it would hew reasonably to the original story.

Then I decided to hold out hope that it might be ok.

I heard a horrible review on NPR yesterday morning, but that did not deter me.

When I saw a graphic novelization co-written by Neil Gaiman at Barnes and Noble today, I was hopeful again.

Hopes dashed: Mr Gaiman decides to be too clever. Grendel is the demon-spawn of Hrothgar and Grendel's mother (hence the seductive Angelina Jolie clips). And Beowulf succumbs to the same temptation. And the dragon is his spawn.

Blast. Leaning towards not going to see it...

For a nice graphic companion to the original story, I recommend Gareth Hinds' graphic novel.

Friday, November 16

The 'sibling effect'

Dan made a comment about birth order that really got me thinking:

Birth order is a particularly interesting combination of biological and environmental factors.

It seems that the mother's body is harsher to later borns, which accounts for the differences in birth rate and other consequences that manifest themselves later in life.

At the same time, there's the environmental factors you mentioned, and those the article deals with (vaccination rates, etc.).

Then you get into development, where later borns tend to have a lower IQ than their siblings through early childhood, but that this reverses as they grow into older childhood and adolescent.

I asked him about it offline and got to researching the biology of birth order.

I'm pretty sure I'd read this before, but did you know that, statistically speaking, fraternal birth order affects male sexual orientation?

Here's a great, clear, concise synopsi
s: O brother, where art thou? The fraternal birth-order effect on male sexual orientation .

For each additional brother that precedes him, a boy's chance of growing up to be gay increases by a third.

And it's not social influence, because the effect is seen with biological brothers out of the house (eg, adopted) and is not seen with step-brothers in the house.

Other interesting facts:

A brain nucleus that is larger in men than women is also smaller in gay men than straight men...

For women, a bewildering array of body parts (ears, fingers, eyes, arms) all indicate that lesbians were, on average, exposed to more fetal testosterone (T) than straight women (3–6). The idea that the brains of lesbians might have been masculinized by exposure to fetal T fits easily with animal models, where researchers can make a mammalian brain as masculine or feminine as they like just by controlling how much T reaches the brain, especially early in life (7)...

Twin studies found that sexual orientation is heritable in both sexes (9), and a portion of the X chromosome was implicated in some cases of brothers who were both gay (10)...

One estimate is that approximately one in seven homosexual men in North America are gay because of older brothers (12). That means that about a million Americans are either gay men today or boys who are going to grow up to be gay because their mother had sons before them...

Here's the one I was really looking for:

Each subsequent baby a mother carries tends to weigh more, but boys whose mother carried brothers before them did not weigh as much as boys with older sisters (13).

If you've met my 'little' brothers, you know they're big, strapping bruisers who managed to grow over 6 feet tall. And I had heard and rightly remembered that younger children tend to be bigger.

But in this fact I have my revenge: They would have been even bigger if they'd had an older sister instead of me! ;-)

A few more facts:

The FBO effect on birth weight was greater among boys who turned out to be homosexual than those who became straight, suggesting that those boys who are made gay by older brothers are also more susceptible to the FBO effect on birth weight. Scouring the literature, these authors found an old report that placenta weight, which also tends to get heavier with each subsequent child carried, weighs even more for boys if they have elder brothers rather than elder sisters (14).

Older brothers increase the probability of a boy becoming gay only if that boy is right-handed. Among left-handed men, there's no difference in the incidence of homosexuality no matter how many brothers they have. What's curious about this finding is that, by itself, left-handedness makes males and females slightly more likely to be gay (16).

So, what's the cause? Maybe

the "maternal immunization hypothesis" (Fig. 1). A mother carrying a first son has very little exposure to the proteins he is making because of the placental barrier. But upon delivery and the inevitable mixing of fetal and maternal blood, her immune system will now see proteins it has never seen before, including proteins encoded on her son's Y chromosome. If she mounts an immune response to these proteins, then any subsequent sons will be exposed, via active transport across the placenta, to maternal antibodies directed against the male-specific proteins. These maternal antibodies might then perturb development of the younger son, decreasing birth weight and affecting his brain to increase the probability that he will grow up to be gay (13).

Now, before anyone attacks, let me say that some parts of this article imply that biology causes homosexuality. I don't believe that and never have. Biology affects behavior, but it is not behavior. There is human choice. Two other behaviors commonly associated with male heterosexuality are violence and promiscuity. I may very well have those biological proclivities. But we all agree, societally, that violence and promiscuity are not acceptable.

I'm not arguing societal consensus. What I am arguing is the effect of values and choice in behavior. I stipulate some biological propensities to homosexuality. The point is: what do people do with it? What choices do they make?

Further, homosexual tendencies need not be any more overpowering than promiscuity or violence.

Besides, it's not a zero-sum game. It needn't be the case that someone with biological homosexual tendencies also has zero biological attraction to the opposite sex.

Oh, and, by the way: none of my three younger brothers are gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that ;-)

Thursday, November 15

Nice quote

Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc.

(Thus we gladly feast on those who would subdue us.)

(As seen on Instapundit.)

By the way, I'm keeping a list of some of my favorite quotes, now.

Wednesday, November 7

Do it for the science!

My buddy, Dan, has a survey called Creativity and Blogging for his PhD work. Would you be willing to click through and take it? It asks about your attitudes on blogging. Thanks!

Sunday, November 4

Catch-22

I had never read this book before. But defective yeti is doing a group read of it this month, so I thought I'd dive in, too.

(His arrival at Catch-22 is almost Hellerian in itself: It's for National Novel Writing Month, which he tried two years ago and didn't achieve. Last year he tried a group read of Moby Dick, which he also didn't achieve, but this year we're reading Catch-22 ;-)

I re-copy my first comment over there below:

i am one of those who just keeps reading it. i'd say i'm about halfway done after starting earlier this week.

the shtick does get old (made-up example: 'Yossarian was the most self-absorbed soldier in camp except for when he wasn't.'). thankfully a plot emerges.

i have decided not to take the book too seriously as a critique beyond war and modern institutions are crazy and when combined warp reality. so i'm not considering Yossarian guilty of anything and trying to resist with Milo and Cathcart. otherwise, reading about Cathcart will make me homicidal.

never read Catch-22 before. great pick. glad i voted for it ;-)

Something I neglected to mention: Reading the book is really making me want to try the movie. I can imagine some of the scenes would work really well.

Reading this book has made me wonder if Heller served in the Army Air Corps (pre-Air Force for those of you who don't know that's a post-WW2 service). Turns out he did, and flew 60 missions (a Yossarian-like number), but he said they were mostly milk runs.

An interesting quote from Heller:

"Everyone in my book accuses everyone else of being crazy. Frankly, I think the whole society is nuts -- and the question is: What does a sane man do in an insane society?"

I figured this was the underlying theme of the book. And I used to be very susceptible to this line of reasoning. It seems such an elegant critique. I totally fell in love with it in the 90s with Terry Gilliam's movies.

But you know what I've discovered in my 30s? Saying society is insane is, in the end, a cop out. Sure, it's compelling, even sexy. But it also undermines useful work, at least. At most, it absolves you from productivity, contribution, or just plain common sense.

I used to say that the world is metaphysically 95-99% objective. Subjectivity has its place, but it doesn't totally subvert objectivity. This is the problem with where modernism ends up and where post-modernism begins and stays: There's no room left for objectivity and, clever philosophy notwithstanding, the world is, by definition, an objective place where useful work is done.

Next connection: Tom is fond of saying that the Boomers make terrible politicians, and maybe this is partially why. Let's connect it with another quote from the Heller Wikipedia entry:

Once it was released in paperback in October 1962, however, Catch-22 caught the imaginations of many baby-boomers, who identified with the novel's anti-war sentiments.

So, following the line of my critique above, are Boomers too susceptible to viewing society as insane and, thus, undermined in their contributions, or downright 'absolved'? If society is insane, Yossarian's self-absorption is positively sane.

Though I am very fond of criticizing the Boomers and really believe that they will try to live forever, thus obstructing the rise of Generation X and out own chance to really screw things up, this critical hypothesis should not be regarded as not applying to Gen X. It very well may and probably does.

Friday, November 2

Bethy and the Incredibles

That's what these Halloween pix look like to me, like we're Bethy's backup singers ;-)

From there, I think of the recent Sufjan Stevens tour costumes with wings. Then I think of Jenny Owens. It sure looks like it could be indie PR to me...

Thursday, November 1

Waterboarding is torture

I have to confess, I didn't know the details of waterboarding (I'm a little ashamed). Therefore, I have not been alarmed by that part of the national discussion about torture. I am after reading I know waterboarding is torture - because I did it myself.

Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.  

Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim's face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.  

Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.  

Call it "Chinese Water Torture," "the Barrel," or "the Waterfall," it is all the same. Whether the victim is allowed to comply or not is usually left up to the interrogator. Many waterboard team members, even in training, enjoy the sadistic power of making the victim suffer and often ask questions as an after thought. These people are dangerous and predictable and when left unshackled, unsupervised or undetected they bring us the murderous abuses seen at Abu Ghraieb, Baghram and Guantanamo. No doubt, to avoid human factors like fear and guilt someone has created a one-button version that probably looks like an MRI machine with high intensity waterjets.

The fuller version is at the excellent Small Wars Journal (via MountainRunner).

Ironically, the fact that the Bush Administration has legitimized waterboarding makes it that much more important that American service personnel be subjected to it in training because the likelihood increases that they will be tortured if they are captured.

However, when performed with even moderate intensity over an extended time on an unsuspecting prisoner – [Enhanced Interrogation Techniques are] torture, without doubt. Couple that with waterboarding and the entire medley not only "shock the conscience" as the statute forbids -it would terrify you. Most people can not stand to watch a high intensity kinetic interrogation. One has to overcome basic human decency to endure watching or causing the effects. The brutality would force you into a personal moral dilemma between humanity and hatred. It would leave you to question the meaning of what it is to be an American.

But, now, reading through the comments, I'm reminded that my buddy, Dan, has weighed in on this topic. He takes exception with the author above, especially on technical issues like the use of rhetoric and the morality of the argument.

I find myself closest in opinion to 'ry', who I know digitally from Tom's weblog. I don't have a problem with shame, temperature, stress positions, etc. when it comes to interrogation. Of course, I do not want these to be used casually. I cannot agree that all of the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques are torture. In fact, of those listed in the link above, I would only say that waterboarding is truly out-of-bounds torture.

Now, let me hasten to add, I'm no authority. I may have missed something. I am open to learning from you. What do you think?

V. car alarms

It is not possible that car alarms have saved enough cars to justify how annoying they are. And it's like those who own them get inured to them - they just let them ring and ring and ring. Makes me wish I had an Explosively Formed Projectile lying around...

(On the other hand (there's always another hand with me, isn't there?), if car alarms have saved LIVES, that's something else...)

Wednesday, October 24

V. global warning alarmism, then evolutionism, and back again

I always like to repost my articulate comments from elsewhere, raise the IQ of this weblog a little, ya know? ;-)

So here's one I thought was pretty good from Tom's site. Big discussion of Gore's Nobel, Bjorn Lomborg, etc. 'jim' (not buddy Jim over here I don't think) commented that he thinks the scientific community is risking its credibility in their approach to global warming. I wrote:

jim: good point though i think the scientific community has already hurt its credibility, ie, it's past the risk. and this isn't the only issue, either...

the postmodern critique pointed out the limits of rational inquiry some time ago. science in general has seemed fairly oblivious to this critique, for good and ill.

now we are seeing the politicization of science without attendant awareness that subjectivity is involved. the scientific 'consensus' is simply presented as 'fact'.

Of course, another area which I criticize in this regard is evolutionism and the demonization of all who believe in some form of creation in which evolution does not suffice to get from nothing to complex life.

In other crappy scientism news, Clive Thompson at Wired says scientists should change their terminology to the Law of evolution since the unwashed masses don't understand that a theory can be 99% proven. Well, yes: if you rule God out of bounds from the start, evolution's the best explanation left. Of course, Thompson's rhetoricizing here, because evolution can't really be proven, especially in retrospect.

Before anyone goes berserk, I'm not saying there's not evidence for evolution. But Thompson sort of implies that evolution is 99% proven by referring to the possibility of a theory being 99% proven. Evolution is patently not 99% proven. It can't be, because it's in the past. Unless your proof is constituted by 'Well, we're here, and there's obviously no god, so...'

Again, a big part of the problem here is presuppositions. If science restricts itself to inquiry with absolutely no reference to God, then evolution makes sense. What other explanation could their be?

But, if we move back to presuppositions and allow the possibility of God and I ask you what makes more sense: an Intelligent Designer or complex life from nothing, the answer to me is clear.

It's the start of the disconnect: to atheists, belief in any form of creation is utterly unwarranted. To deists, the absolute exclusion of creation is nonsensical.

No wonder very few of us on opposite sides can meaningfully discuss this issue.

And, by the way, regarding the title of this post: I'm not denying global warming. I'm agnostic on it and willing to stipulate the IPCC's work.

I do question the extent of human causation. Further, following Tom and Lomborg, I question the imperative of re-tooling our global economy around global warming, killing ourself to fight back a few degrees (out of the total) while people are dying in the undeveloped world, today, of simple disease and malnutrition and lack of jobs and security and access to capital. We want to spend billions, and maybe cripple our economy, for possible ecological savings for those of us in the developed world while we don't care about those in the developing world that we could save right now for pennies on the dollar.

Not to mention the Law of Human Ingenuity. I'm betting, in my policy recommendations (which, of course, will make no difference ;-), that we'll figure out ways to live with global warming, if it's as bad as some people predict it will be: solar shade, seed the clouds, sequester carbon in the ocean, build sea walls, undersea colonies, or even arcologies. I don't know. But when it gets bad enough, we'll come up with something.

Not to mention the fact, which I've alluded to above, that global warming countermeasures may very well cripple the economies of developing countries that need more money today and need more wealth to deal with the possible effects of predicted global warming.

(By the way, the UN already predicts that developing nations will have much more wealth to deal with this situation in the event of rising seas, etc.)

Okay, flame off.

(Sorry I didn't warn you about the flame on ;-)

Monday, October 22

Last (planned) Ireland post

Two things:

I really like County Meath's logo:



So our version would be:


(Best I could do with Paint.net ;-)

The first place we drove to in County Meath was the Hill of Tara, historic home of the High Kings of Ireland. We had trouble finding it in our little rental car, trying to follow signs, being directed down one lane roads.

It was crazy! This famous, historic location is out of the way, with barely and services at all. Here in the States, we'd have a Hill of Tara Amusement Park and Campground. I teasingly told Christine I'd found my life's calling: to develop the Hill of Tara ;-)

There's not much left on the site: some mounds and a standing stone.

Check out our pictures from the Hill of Tara. Begin here (and don't forget to read my comments below the pix).

Sharon's big gig

My friend, Sharon, posted the video of her appearance on The Daily Show last year. Check it out:


Saturday, October 20

Brú Na Bóinne: Newgrange

This is probably going to be my last Ireland post. I think it's overdue, don't you? ;-)

While Knowth is the most impressive Brú Na Bóinne site in terms of amount of archaeological data, Newgrange is the most impressive recreation of what the megalithic tombs of Ireland might have been like. There is, of course, controversy about the restoration. Be that as it may, Newgrange is very impressive.


Newgrange is the oldest surviving building in the world and was built in such a way that at dawn on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, a narrow beam of sunlight for a very short time illuminates the floor of the chamber at the end of the long passageway...

Originally built between c.3300-2900 BC according to Carbon-14 dates it is more than 500 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, and predates Stonehenge trilithons by about 1,000 years...

The Newgrange mound is 250 feet across and 40 feet high, and covers an entire acre. Within the mound, a long passage, stretching approximately one third of the length of the mound, leads to a cruciform (cross-shaped) chamber. The passage itself is over 60 feet (18m) long. The burial chamber has a corbelled roof which rises steeply upwards to a height of nearly 20 feet (6m). A tribute to its builders, the roof has remained essentially intact and waterproof for over 5,000 years...
The entrance to Newgrange features "one of the most famous stones in the entire repertory of megalithic art":

(Click the image to see a much larger picture.)

Our guide ran down some of the theories about what, if anything this art signifies. My favorite was the three mounds (left) with the river running beneath them.

Notice also, in the picture above, the roofbox that the light shines through on the Winter Solstice to illuminate the inner chamber.

Friday, October 19

Tony Tony Tony

Did you see Tony Snow on the Daily Show?





Pretty good. Wrong format for real debate, and Jon talked too much. (Be sure to watch the second one, too, if you want to get the whole picture.) Tony handled himself really well. I would have said 'Jon, I'm not taking any more questions from you until you let me answer one' ;-)

Any you know me. I mostly agree with Jon.

Even makes me like the President a little bit more ;-)

(This is a shout-out to the Stokeses [1] [2], three of whom share an alma mater with Tony.)

Monday, October 15

What is my problem?

+ defective yeti is hosting a group reading of Catch-22. I'm seriously thinking of joining in, especially since I've never read it before...

+ Al's Nobel leaves me cold (get it? ;-). As usual, I agree with Bjorn Lomborg instead. Check out his op-ed on the occasion. (via tdaxp?)

+ Led Zeppelin is finally distributing their music digitally. Time for me to pick up 'Cashmere'.

+ Dan had a bad football day, but I, finally, had a great football weekend. The Hawks and the Gamecocks won on Saturday. The Vikings and Patriots won on Sunday. Heck, my fantasy team even almost won (anchored by Tomlinson, Brees, Welker, and Jones-Drew), but my brother had Brady and Peterson.

Heck (Marshall, you still reading?), Jeff Gordon even won on Saturday. He's the NASCAR driver I'd pull for if I followed it at all.

That's all for now!

Saturday, October 13

V. DirectBuy

My buddy Dan tdaxp is fighting a company called DirectBuy because they are fighting things like free speech. It's a hard sell company (that uses spam pages) that follows with copyrighted (to try to prevent republishing) cease and desist letters. And somebody's sanitizing their Wikipedia page.

Saturday, October 6

Bad sports life

Sure, the Cubs won the Central, but now they're down to single-game elimination. The Hawks and Vikings are up to their old tricks. My fantasy football team is absolutely horrible (leveraged on Chargers and Saints) with no wins and the fewest points in the league by far.

All I'm left with is my bandwagon Patriots and marginally adopted SC Gamecocks.

I'd rather one of my real teams do something.

Friday, October 5

The ancestral homeland

And another thing I've been thinking about:

Meath. Remember how I wrote that the 'th' is often shortened to 'd' and it's pronounced 'Meade'? And that's where our last name is originally supposed to have come from.

Well, it was also spelled 'Midhe' in the past, or 'Mídhe' or just plain 'Míd'.

In this case, the 'i' or 'í' is pronounced 'ee' like in Spanish.

Nowadays, in Irish, it's just 'Mí'.

And it just means what it looks like: 'mid', 'middle'. The middle kingdom (yes, we're talking small kingdoms here, were there were many little kings (chieftains, really) and one High King).

Meath is sometimes called 'the royal county' and, in addition to Brú na Bóinne also has the famous sites, as Irish as you can get, of Tara and Kells. It was one of the five kingdoms of medieval Ireland.

Keep your eyes on the ball

I know I have been distant, neglecting this weblog. Just haven't felt much like writing after a day of writing.

But, I had a comment on Tom's website today that I thought was worth re-posting over here.

The context is a post about Obama proposing we get rid of nuclear weapons.

This really does not fit in with Tom's vision of the world. Nuclear weapons have been a key part of the end of great power war.

A commenter said Obama's proposal wasn't that bad.

I wrote:

right, nukes aren't a deterrent in asymmetrical warfare. but don't throw great power war out with the asymmetrical bathwater. great power war is still the greatest danger we face. not likely at this time and lets keep it that way.

it's not disingenuous at all to modernize our nukes and 'lecture' other countries on not developing them. we are the deterrent (along with a few others). most countries have bought off on this and eschewed the chance to go nuclear. they trust us in the long run to do the right thing.

(Israel, India and Iran are different cases, in some tough neighborhoods. Iran sensibly wants to deter an invasion after we capped both its neighbors. too bad we didn't lock them into a security agreement before we did Afghanistan.)

sure, de-target, reduce the number, etc. stipulated. but the main issue is continuing the expansion of globalization by continuing to stave off great power war, the most effective means of shrinking the Gap, period.


Tuesday, September 25

I mean it! (This is why we have the internet)

To find out that there's a common scream in the movies called the Wilhelm Scream, and to be able to hear it and see a montage of movies that use it (especially George Lucas). You'll never hear that scream the same way again!

Monday, September 24

Brú na Bóinne: Some facts

Here's an interesting fact about the builders of Brú na Bóinne: they had moved beyond subsistence living. It's hard to imagine they would have put so much effort into building if they were eking out an existence. Much effort was obviously diverted from the material basics of life. Unless they were absolutely compelled by their religious beliefs, surplus is the best hypothesis.

Myself, I wondered if the arrival of the Celts in Ireland could have had anything to do with the construction of these tombs. But the timing is probably wrong. Maybe the people associated with the Tuatha de Danann?

There are theories based on what art is used when and possible connections with continental art, specifically Brittany and Iberia. Could there be a relationship with the Kurgan mound builders of early Indo-European civilization?

Interestingly, archaeologists believe the earliest megalithic art at Brú na Bóinne was
made by the original, Irish, neolithic inhabitants. The original art was simple, while later art was more sophisticated. In fact, sometimes later art was superimposed over original art.

The time of the construction of the passage tombs was approximately 3300-3100 BC. Archaeologists guess that the tombs continued to be used for their original purposes untill 2900 or 2800 BC.

The timber circles at Knowth and Newgrange were constructed and used in the range of 2600-2400 BC.

Have I mentioned yet that Brú na Bóinne is older than Stonehenge or the Pyramids? True, they are larger undertakings and accomplishments, but Brú na Bóinne is quite impressive for 4th millenium, neolithic Irish.

Here's an interesting paragraph on Irish prehistory:
From the Irish perspective the earliest "Irishmen" have been found to be located in the West of Ireland, and to have strong genetic links with the Iberian Peninsula, going back presumably to the beginnings of the megalithic. It is worth keeping in mind that the astronomical studies of the post-4000 BC period would be equally applicable to navigation as to agriculture. Accounts of voyages such as the Aeneid, the Odyssey, and the Argonauts have many references to star navigation -- they did not have to wait for the compass.
(Speculation at this source, too, on who the emigres to Ireland were in ancient times.)

The other major tomb of Brú na Bóinne is Dowth. We did not visit, it is not in good shape, and has not been fully excavated or restored. So I won't be writing much about it.

Sunday, September 23

Brú na Bóinne continued: Knowth

One note from the last post (and the main reason I took such pains to put in the River Mattock): when you count the mattock, Brú na Bóinne is more than 75% enclosed by rivers. This must have been significant to the builders.

Newgrange and Dowth were created to line up with the sun of the Winter Solstice. Knowth lines up with the Autmnal Equinox.

We toured Knowth first and it was wonderful. Our guide was really excellent. Unfortunately, we were not able to enter the passages and tombs at Knowth as we later were able to do at Newgrange.

Do you have a feel for how these tombs were created? They were sited based on the position of the sun. Then the kerbstones and orthostats (large, upright stones) were placed with lintels between the orthostats forming the passage. In the case of tombs like Newgrange, the central chamber was created from corbelled stones, overlapped then held in place by the subsequent mound.

Each of the main sites covers about an acre of ground and average 10m in height. The mounds themselves consist of alternating layers of redeposited sod, loose stones, and boulder-clay.

Much is made of the neolithic, megalithic art of the tombs, but I myself, obviously, found that much less interesting than the engineering and siting of the tombs themselves.

The sites were often subsequently utilized or altered, but I'm not that interested in that 'recent' history.

Knowth is so richly decorated 'It is reckoned that one quarter of all Europe's neolithic art is held within.' [source]

One of the most interesting things about Knowth is the 18 smaller mounds situated so close to it.
Here's another website about Knowth.

Nice picture of the eastern passage at Knowth:

Intro to Brú na Bóinne

I'm really into ancient history and prehistory. In researching our trip to Ireland, I found out that some of the most significant prehistoric sites in the world are in County Meath.

I wanted to go to County Meath, anyway, because that is supposedly the provenance of our family name (though our Meades didn't emigrate from that area of Ireland, having already moved west). In fact, 'Meath' is often pronounced 'Meade' with the 'th' shortened to 'd'.

Plus, we were going to spend the majority of our time in Dublin, and County Meath is just the next one up. Easy to get to.

Brú na Bóinne (Palace of the Boyne) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This area is rich with neolithic structures, the greatest of which are the three megalithic passage tombs of Knowth, Newgrange, and Dowth.

Okay, I went to look for a map for you and totally spazzed out on Google Maps.

I mostly followed this map. Here's another one.

I guess what happened is I found this map but was not satisfied.

More to come...

Back from our big trip

I had to be in London for business, so Christine and I added a side trip to Dublin. We left for London on the Monday the 10th of September and flew to Dublin on Saturday the 15th. We flew back home Wednesday the 19th.

So here's a link to our pictures. More to come soon.

Friday, September 14

Someone saved (someone saved, someone saved) my life [Monday] night

I had the worst case of hiccups I have ever had. I could not sleep. I couldn't even get into bed for fear of waking Christine. I tried to watch some Monday Night Football, to relax, to surf a little bit. No good.

So, finally, in deperation, I Googled best hiccup cure, and I found it.

The 30 Second Cure for Hiccups worked for me as advertised and I could only have been more grateful if I had been better rested.

Sunday, September 9

Saturday, September 8

Musical soccer education

+ Ken had an interesting post about a kind of musical notation for people who don't know much about music theory. You communicate the tune simply by whether each interval is up, down, or the same.

+ Read in Sports Illustrated about a 9 year old soccer star who got invited to Man U's academy when his dad sent in a highlight DVD. Great control, good crossover, good spin move.

+ Shane had a post about education that reminded me I'd been meaning to ask him and Mark their opinion of homeschooling from an educational (v. religious) standpoint. Mark's answer was awesome (he's a professional educator), and Shane subsequently posted it:

Speaking analytically and from close to 20 years of firsthand professional experience, the public school system's fundamental problems are an anachronistic orientation (Agrarian calendar, industrial mass production, and Taylorist model, hierarchical control), a breakdown of the home to school social contract and iniquitous, unreliable & irrational funding mechanisms disconnected from the system's legally required objectives. There are other problems, naturally, but those are the major systemic stumbling blocks to wholesale improvement.

That being said, it is not obvious to me that the primary alternatives to public education are any better when measured with identical yardsticks (surprisingly, often they are worse). Those that are (usually idiosyncratic programs of high quality) suffer from a lack of scalability. You just can't set up a top-notch Montessori program for 75 million kids - in fact, it's tough to do so for 75. Anything that is scalable - like curricular reforms and high standards featured by many charter schools - can be done more efficiently in public education for reasons of economies of scale. The only reason it isn't done is lack of political will and budget.

Homeschooling works best when the parents are exceedingly motivated and well educated, and their children are young and intellectually curious. Many home schoolers abandon the effort when their kids hit junior high and high school and the subject matter becomes more specialized - these kids either come to me performing well-above grade level (about 25-30%) or below grade level due to significant gaps in content knowledge because Mom really didn't understand fractions or the Civil War or whatever and skipped teaching it.

Catholic schools vary in quality these days just like public schools because the number of members of religious orders teaching in them (highly educated folks working cheap) has declined severely. In Illinois for example, St. Ignatius College Prep is a top high school but the average Catholic high School here is staffed by secular teachers who weren't good enough to find jobs in the public school system. What Catholic schools offer as a system that public schools do not is a culture, discipline and a sense of identity that some people find valuable (and a leg up in applying to Notre Dame, DePaul, Gonzaga etc.).

Other private schools, military academies etc. tend to be highly specialized in terms of mission.

Essentially, instead of judging which system is best, I'd look at what specific schools are available in your area and select the one that is relatively better than the others. If they are about even, save yourself a bundle of cash and use the public school system - unless safety/discipline is a concern.

What a great answer from Mark!

One thing that occurs to me upon re-reading is something I read in Ray Baake one time: If your local public school is unsatisfactory, supplement it with classes, trips, tutoring, lessons, etc. You'll still save a bundle over private school.

One of my major objections to public school is all the wasted time. I object in principle to the inefficiency (v. homeschooling). But that objection, in itself, is, obviously, not finally determinative.

Civ IV quotes

Have I mentioned how much I get a kick out of the fact that 'iv' is redoubled in 'Civ IV'; and that Wil noticed it, too, on his own; and that 'Civ V' and 'Civ(i) VI' will also redouble? Normally I'm not real into Roman numerals, but I'm making an exception in this case ;-)

More Civ geekery: I really like the tech quotes in Civ IV, even more than the fact that they're read by Leonard Nimoy. So, I came up with a list of my favorites (the complete list ):

"Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it."
- Publius Syrius

"The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy."
- Unknown

"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public."
- Adam Smith

"Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies."
- Thomas Jefferson

"You can get more of what you want with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word."
- Al Capone

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."
- Benjamin Franklin

"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."
- Winston Churchill

"Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe."
- Albert Einstein

"Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual responsibility."
- Ambrose Bierce

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist."
- Dom Helder Camara

"You would make a ship sail against the winds and currents by lighting a bon-fire under her deck? I have no time for such nonsense."
- Napoleon, on Robert Fulton's Steamship

"People can have the Model T in any color - so long as it's black."
- Henry Ford

"The great masses of the people... will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one."
- Adolf Hitler

"Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl."
- Frederick the Great

"Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in car."
- E.B. White

"We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles."
- Thomas Edison

"The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."
- Oscar Wilde

"Never trust a computer you can't throw out a window."
- Steve Wozniak

"Soon it will be a sin for parents to have a child which carries the heavy burden of genetic disease."
- Bob Edwards

"The real problem is not whether machines think, but whether men do."
- B.F. Skinner

"The future will be better tomorrow."
- Dan Quayle

Controversy is the spice of life

+ Petraeus for president. I wish the general all the best. He seems like a very solid, smart guy. (Here's his latest letter to his troops , in advance of his coming report in Washington on the surge.)

+ I'm really excited about this method of searching only recent results in Google. Not sure yet if it's game-changing for me or not...

+ Have you seen that Ben Stein (Bueller? Bueller? Something economics. Voodoo economics) is coming out with a movie critical of the lack of openness in the scientific community to the claims of intelligent design? Here's his first post (with >1000 comments). I may actually go see it in the theater...

+ NBC and Apple have divorced over sales in iTunes and NBC has shacked up on the rebound with Amazon . I love Amazon, but they don't have 75% market share like Apple. Betcha NBC sells a lot fewer episodes.

Monday, September 3

Happy etymology day

+ Dontcha just hate deceiving etymologies? Take 'solecism'. The definition points toward something related to 'sole' or 'solo', no?

1.a nonstandard or ungrammatical usage, as unflammable and they was.  
2.a breach of good manners or etiquette.  
3.any error, impropriety, or inconsistency.

Nope:

1577, from M.Fr. solécisme, from L. soloecismus "mistake in speaking or writing," from Gk. soloikismos "to speak (Greek) incorrectly," from soloikos "ungrammatical utterance," prop. "a speaking like the people of Soloi," from Soloi, Athenian colony in Cilicia, whose dialect the Athenians considered barbarous.

+ Here's a cool one: egregious:

c.1534, from L. egregius, from the phrase ex grege "rising above the flock," from ex "out of" + grege, abl. of grex "herd, flock." Disapproving sense, now predominant, arose 16c., originally ironic and is not in the L. word, which etymologically means simply "exceptional."

Egregious derives from Latin egregius, separated or chosen from the herd, from e-, ex-, out of, from + grex, greg-, herd, flock. Egregious was formerly used with words importing a good quality (that which was distinguished "from the herd" because of excellence), but now it is joined with words having a bad sense. It is related to congregate (to "flock together," from con-, together, with + gregare, to assemble, from grex); segregate (from segregare, to separate from the herd, from se-, apart + gregare); and gregarious (from gregarius, belonging to a flock).

Didn't know it had so much to do with the group. And now I can link 'congregation', 'segregate', 'aggregate', 'gregarious', etc. Sweet!

+ Did you know maudlin comes from Mary Magdalene always pictured as crying?

+ One more thought on Krzyzewski and the national team, which crushed again yesterday: Does this mean Coach K could really make it in the NBA, or is the patriotism a major factor?

Sunday, September 2

Sunday Sports

+ Bummed to see Rodney Harrison busted for banned substances. The drive to perform and win in the NFL inspires a lot of bad choices.

+ Iowa and Carolina won their openers, though not without concerns. At least the Iowa running game looked good.

+ App State beat Michigan at the Big House. Wholey moley! Good for them!

+ Krzyzewski has the national team righted; they crushed their opponents in Olympic qualifying. What a relief.

+ Red Sox rook throws a no hitter in his second game after being called up to the bigs. Guess he'll stay a while.

Thursday, August 30

One, little link

Need a break from the computer and I'm busy poring over SI's NFL season special, so all you get is this link from good ol' ZenPundit to a review of 300 in the Michigan War Studies Review.

Good night.

Tuesday, August 28

SC news

+ Ok, if you watch the internet crazes, you've seen Caitlin Upton, Miss SC Teen, make a total fool of herself. I'd like to say she's from Aiken or Spartanburg, but she's from Lexington County just like me :-(

She's the top story on The State's homepage right now. Hey, it's not everyday your Miss Teen is an internet craze (and you can watch the vid from there if you haven't seen the horror yet).

In her defense, she had a 3.5 gpa and played soccer. She's probably not as dumb as she sounded.

But, whoa...

+ Hooray! Mississippi is the fattest state in the union! It's not SC! Reading the article... SC not mentioned... this is good... not in the top 3 mentioned in the article...

Oh, there we are. #5.

Not good.

Should I even say 'we'? I don't really consider myself a South Carolinian.

Iowa's 20th. Oklahoma's 11th. NC's 17th.

Elizabeth and Wil on the web

Back when I recorded the twins, more than 2 years ago when they were just in kindergarten, I tried uploading some of the files to Ourmedia, which is free. Well, it didn't work very well, so I never went back. But three of them did make it up and I want to make sure they're preserved for posterity:

Take me out to the ball game - Wil
Bethy's ZYXes
O Leaphart - Wil

If you have time, give them a listen. They are so sweet!

Saturday, August 25

Is Jon Stewart ever not funny?

Jim linked to this hilarious analysis/sketch (Note: some of the language is a little rough if that's not how you roll):

Friday, August 24

Pile of Delusion‽

+ No offense intended to Hawk when I say Pile of Index Cards [Flickr set] [weblog (mostly in English; scroll down)] is the most shocking example of exhausting productivity pr0n(1) I have ever seen. I couldn't look away. This method of getting things done apparently works for him and makes him happy, so that's great. I would never get started on this amazing system...

+ How could I have missed the wonderful punctuation mark, '‽' (interrobang)‽ Unfortunately, Texter does not support it (as a pure character) or I could use it all the time! I'm in love!

+ If you've read this weblog long you know I really dislike Richard Dawkins. Here's a pretty good recent summary of why, the Wikipedia article on Alister McGrath's 'The Dawkins Delusion'. (And, not least of all, I'm putting it hear for my own reference.)


1) For my uninitiated readers (Christine, Kathy, et al.), meaning and usage

Two quick links for ya'

+ Hmm. Apparently some journo prof at Elon U popped off about weblogging lately. Matt linked to a nice response, including an impressive list of real, weblog journalism.

+ LOL: Nebraska Moves 2008 Presidental Primary to 1:30 This Afternoon

(Don't worry, Dan. I'm not dissing Nebraska (lest the Iowa barbs begin ;-).)

Wednesday, August 22

Trip down memory lane

Remember my cd post? It brought up a typical problem for me: I really have trouble remembering year, grade and age. I can remember 'Ok, this happened fall of 8th grade.' But what year was it? How old was I? I've written out a timeline before, but I thought 'I'll throw one up on Google Docs and then it'll always be where i can get at it.

And then that project blew up ;-)

I added columns for family, notes, world events, music, movies, and media notes. Check it out and tell me what you think.