Tuesday, December 23

I'm out of town...

for a couple weeks. No posting until 1.2.2004 or later. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 18

'Return of the King' Reviews

(via Jaq)

Green Man Review

Gamer's Nook Review

I mainly agree with these guys and will come back and reference them later.

Wednesday, December 17

Return of the King review [No Spoilers]

Well, we saw 'Return of the King' last night. Of course, we enjoyed many parts of it immensely. You may remember from years past that my first review does not include criticism, just the stuff I enjoyed. So let's get on with it:

- Miranda Otto/Eowyn - loved most everything about her. Whenever she's on stage I call out 'Choose her!'

- Aragorn was more regal, and Christine said she felt Viggo's performance was better.

- Sir Ian McKellen continues his star turn

- a lot of the Pippin stuff, including Billy Boyd's singing

- really, all the Hobbits do a good job. Christine called this 'The Movie of the Brave Hobbits'.

- Minas Tirith

- Frodo's and Sam's relationship (with one minor objection)

- the lighting of the signal beacons

- Grond, the hammer of the Underworld

- the ride of the Rohirrim at The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

- Minas Morgul

- The Straight and Winding Stairs to Cirith Ungol

- Shelob

- the Phial of Galadriel

- Sam in the Tower of Cirith Ungol

- Galadriel is chill at the end

- the ending (which I can't talk much about right now)

Hopefully that makes you even more excited to go see the movie. It's always good to remind myself of all the good things. Otherwise the unreasonable expectations can overwhelm...

Tuesday, December 16

The future of flight

Really cool article in The Economist. Pretty wide-ranging, covering both commercial and military frontiers. Warning: no flying cars.

Sunday, December 14

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

(Which I've also seen translated 'Abandon all hope, you who enter here.', incidentally.)

One of the cool things about Macon, new interact commenter and reader, is that his brothers-in-law run Despair.com.

Repeat after me, Jaq...

New England Patriots: Team of Destiny.

I can't believe how many close ones the Patriots have won. It's like their championship season all over again.

The Patriots gave up a touchdown at home for the first time in five games.

That's crazy.

A better Arwen

interact correspondent Kathy alerted me to a better Arwen:

Had you seen Barbie as Arwen and Ken as Aragorn? I like Barbie as Arwen better than Liv Tyler. Ken as Aragorn, though...that's scary.

Saturday, December 13

Great stars, Batman!

Wow, An Atlas of the Universe is really cool, with lots of additional links, information, and maps.

Which dictionary is the best?

My philologists out there will enjoy this article. Please read it and comment with a few thoughts. You know who you are! (via kottke)

(Speaking of philologists, Macon and I were talking about the word for 'lover of words' the other day. I can't believe I forgot 'philologist', especially since it is so connected with Tolkien. I honestly suggested 'logophile'. Oh well.)

Also via kottke, Funny imitation of Google search features.

Friday, December 12

My Presidential Candidate Selector Results

2004 American Presidential Candidate Selector

1. Your ideal theoretical candidate. (100%)
2. Kucinich, Rep. Dennis, OH - Democrat (68%)
3. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat (61%)
4. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (56%)
5. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (53%)
6. Gephardt, Rep. Dick, MO - Democrat (50%)
7. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat (47%)
8. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat (46%)
9. Clark, Retired General Wesley K., AR - Democrat (45%)
10. Bush, President George W. - Republican (39%)
11. Libertarian Candidate (34%)
12. Lieberman, Senator Joe, CT - Democrat (33%)
13. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol, IL - Democrat (25%)
14. Phillips, Howard - Constitution (23%)

(via Scott, via Charles)

Obviously, this selector is just about stated policy and not about character. That indicates a problem with the selector itself. Where's the place of character? For example, I don't see myself voting for Lyndon LaRouche ever.

It'a all good...

over at defective yeti.

You Know Yer Indie. Let's Sub-Categorize.

You're a Post-Punk. You know 70s punk was cool, but
it was mostly just a stepping stone for the
greater intellectualism of what would come
after. The 80s were amazing. You quite possibly
have huge hair, and may wear lots of black.
Snare drums need reverb. Lots and lots of

You Know Yer Indie. Let's Sub-Categorize.
brought to you by Quizilla

via 13labs

David and 'The Two Towers'

Remember when I had dinner with Dorothea and David? David is on the bonus footage for 'The Two Towers' and wrote the lament for Theodred that Eowyn sings on the Extended Version. Cool.


If you've been around me, you probably know I'm a big water drinker. I'm enjoying my new Nalgene bottle. My friend, Leigh, is studying chemical engineering and wondered what Nalgenes are made of. Also, you might be interested in the Nalgene story.

Saturday, December 6

Getting up to speed

I'm so excited. Now I'm playing with power: I just installed DSL at home. I'm downloading applications and surfing like a madman.

Finally watched The Return of the King trailer and really enjoyed it.

Checked out the latest Finches' Wings and defective yeti to great effect. Found out on Collaboratory that many surviving firemen of the NYFD have left their wives and married their friends' widows. Ewww.

I have finished 'Longitude' by Dava Schobel, 'An Illustrated Brief History of Time' by Stephen Hawking, 'Gates of Fire' by Stephen Pressfield, and the massive, 926 page 'Taiko' by Eiji Yoshikawa. 'Gates of Fire', especially, was excellent. I highly recommend it.

As you can see, I've been pretty into historical fiction. What's your favorite? (I'm going to ask on Collaboratory, too.)

Next up, 'Six Easy Pieces' by Richard Feynman and 'A Game of Thrones' by George RR Martin on Jaq's recommendation.

I have also been enjoying Jimmy Fallon's 'Troll Doll Celebrities' quite a bit, like, I wake up with it in my head first thing in the morning

Wednesday, November 19

Good riddance, Keyshawn

Only one more major mouth to go on that team...

Tuesday, November 18

v. the Anthropic Principle

People in the know agree:

the delicate balance of cosmological and physical conditions necessary for intelligent life does cry out for some sort of interpretation which will render it intelligible.

I've run into the Anthropic Principle lately in my reading of Hawking and Greene.

Teleologists and Anthropic philosophers differ radically as to what that interpretation should be. Theistic philosophers view this sensitive nexus of conditions as evidence of wider teleology and therefore indicative of a cosmic Designer. Anthropic philosophers contend that due to the self-selection effect imposed by our own existence we can only observe a limited number of worlds; therefore, we should not be surprised at observing this one. Moreover, if a Word Ensemble exists in which all possible values of cosmological and physical quantities are somewhere instantiated, it follows necessarily that our world with its delicate balance of conditions will also obtain.

I think William Lane Craig summed it up pretty well (from Concluding Remarks).

Obviously, I believe that conditions Hawking says 'seem to have been very finely adjusted' are what Hugh Ross calls 'the fine-tuning of the universe' by an Intelligent Designer.

Another interview with Brian Greene

I meant to link Brian 'String Theory' Greene's latest interview in Scientific American (via kottke), but I think I forgot. So here it is.

Friday, November 14

Jason's back

Jason's back to logging with some really strong stuff. I had Mr Sheeley, too, and he was a major influence.

Carver Mead redux

John Hardy and I really liked the Carver Mead interview in The American Spectator, but the link was broken. John has completely reconstructed the interview so we can all find it and make reference to it.

Wednesday, November 12

Venn Diagram-o-rama!

Did you know that I love Venn Diagrams? (I also loved proofs in geometry. I'm one of those.) So, here are 10 ways to use Venn Diagrams and Create-A-Venn. (from kottke)

Who is the working class

Jaq's got some good stats:

:: Forget "flipping burgers". Fast-food jobs constitute less than 5% of low-end jobs.
:: Teenagers hold 7% of low-wage jobs.
:: A majority of adults who hold low-wage jobs also have families.
:: Nearly two-thirds of all low-wage workers are white.
:: While blacks and Latinos constitute a minority of low-wage workers, they are represented in the low-wage workforce by a greater percentage of their overall workforce than are whites (31.2% of blacks and 40.4% of Latinos, versus only 20% of whites.)
:: Women constitute 60% of the low-wage work-force.
:: Three-quarters of those women are white. (But again, blacks and Latinos are overrepresented here.)
:: 40% of low-wage workers have a high school diploma, 38% have some post-secondary education, and 5% have a college degree.

These stats helped change my view of the working class. I've been assuming more immigrants were in that class (though there are plenty).

My position is still: if you like your lifestyle, with cheap food and service and goods, you better be darn grateful for these people who work so cheap. We should support a better deal for them.

(Hey, that could be my campaign: A Better Deal.)

Tuesday, November 11

The new Walt Disney Concert Hall

I knew nothing about this until I saw it in the paper today. Apparently it's the bomb, architecturally (designed by Frank Gehry) and acoustically. Good for LA.

Kucinich for President?

passed by the Kucinich table today and picked up his 10 key issues. I like 9 of the 10 proposals pretty well (you know which one gives me pause). What do you think of them?

Of course, he's not electable, but that's another issue.

Sunday, November 9

Just when you thought the Chargers might be the worst team in football...

the Vikings came along and found a way to change your mind.


Some of my favorite movies made since 1980

(Inspired by Jaq.)
in no particular order:

I think the thing that really distinguishes these movies is that if I walked in the room and they were on I would pretty much be happy to sit down and watch them anytime. That's saying something.

Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Empire Strikes Back
Say Anything
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Hunt for Red October
Raising Arizona
The Princess Bride
Toy Story 2
12 Monkeys
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
A Room with a View
The Apostle
Strictly Ballroom
[Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and Clueless] (count as one for purposes of this list)

Wednesday, November 5

I think I'm in love with the idea of Annie Dillard

I listened to 'An American Childhood' on tape recently and adored it. I'll admit I couldn't get through 'A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek' (too filled with naturalistic data for a theorist like me). But I loved 'Holy the Firm'.

Now I'm inspired to write my own autobiography. And I've decided to do the first (only?) draft in installments on a separate weblog, My Childhood In Iowa. It doesn't matter if few people read it. This public announcement is intended not only to inform but also to keep me a little bit accountable. My basic goal is to write 'some lines' every day. You should feel free to prod me when necessary.

I'm further making a commitment to not play Civilization until I've done my lines each day. I was going to give up Civ altogether, but that seemed a little rash :-).

Rant on!

I don't generally do rants. Maybe I'm feeling crabby today...

Daniel Schorr informed me via ATC today (scroll down to the fifth item) that the vote in the Senate on the Iraq and Afghanistan budget was a voice vote that leaves no record of who voted which way. It was agreed to by the Majority and Minority Leaders in advance. There truly ought to be a law against such a thing. We have a right to know how our representatives vote and to hold them accountable for it!

I wasn't avowedly pro or con on the war, in Iraq. But I'm surprised by people who were pro, but now want out. This is not some simplistic deal where you depose a government and then pull out. If you're going to do something like this, you better have the will to follow through.

Wednesday, October 29

Holy sunspots!

Because of the fires in SoCal (which are tragic), the sun's huge spots could be seen with the naked eye today! Unbelievable! (via kottke)

Richard Feynman

I really enjoyed Richard Feynman and The Connection Machine by Danny Hillis (via kottke). They sure had a lot of smart people working there.

Following up of that article led me to Wikipedia. In fact, it led me to add to the entires for Feynman and Thinking Machines. Not sure that's a good trend, but we'll see.

How the Democrats could win

Here's my new 'eureka' idea about the race: the presidential candidate probably has to be seen as a little bit 'nonpolitical'. Governors fit this bill perfectly. Our last four presidents have come from outside of Washington (right? Bush the 1st?). If this is right and if the Dems want to field a viable candidate, they'll stay away from Leibermann, Kerry, and Gephardt, at least. I'm not sure that people really know Edwards, so he might be ok (they didn't know Clinton either, at first). Dean might work if he's not too radical (see below). This is not to say the primaries will come up with such a condidate, though they might.

My corollary is that you have to be a centrist, like Clinton. That's what we fly-over people are. I like Dean's boldness (though I disagree with some of his positions, of course), but i don't think he's electable.

Hmm. These two ideas together make Edwards look pretty strong.

Tuesday, October 21

Matthew Baldwin for Governor

It's clear to me that I've been away from defective yeti for too long. Matthew ran a minor Malfoy for Governor campaign.

Also, check out the Google for Governor tshirt. Not only is the tag line priceless, Matthew's got a nice sign-off as well.

Also, how deep into Marvel Comics can you go?

Hell Mouth

The Queen: While you're paying bills online, could you take care of this dentist bill too?

Me: Sure. [Takes bill] Wha-? Geoffrey Strange? Your dentist is "Dr. Strange"?

Q: Uh-huh.

Me: Who does he have as dental hygenists, the hoary hosts of Hoggoth?

Q: ...

Me: Uhh, never mind. That was kind of a nerd joke.

Q: I assumed.

Christopher Hitchens is a raving lunatic

The title of his latest (which I'm not linking) over on Slate:

Mommie Dearest: The pope beatifies Mother Teresa, a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud.

Clue phone: some people think differently from you.

Delicious: he misquoted Mother Theresa and it had to be corrected at the bottom.

Advice: don't read his crap.

Monday, October 20

Hey Jaq

Did you notice Tom Brady throw that game-winning pass yesterday? He must really be the real deal!


Sunday, October 19

Watching NO at Atl

There's a lot of offense here, and the game's a little bit interesting, because both of these teams suck so bad on defense. 21-14 with 5 minutes left in the 1st half. The fox guys say no one wants to play NO right now. Are you kidding me? The Falcons suck and they still have 14 on NO. Carolina blanked Atl. I'm not convinced NO is for real.

Chris Salt makes movies with Legos

The movie closes with a Bertrand Russell quote: "Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."

Now that quote could become my mantra. It might apply to a fair amount of this weblog, aye?

The universe according to Sterling

Continuing in the vein of cosmology, Bruce Sterling, in the latest issue of Wired, talks about the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe.

Already, the probe's findings have provided a few salient new notions about the nature of cosmic reality. For starters, the universe is 13.7 billion years old. Unlike previous figures, this is not a rough estimate; the margin of error is about 1 percent. In addition, the universe is flat. Forget all that mind-boggling space-time-is-curved stuff. Euclid was right all along. And the space-time pancake will expand infinitely. There's no such thing as an end to this particular universe.

Now here's the really wacky part: Everything we're made of or can measure - from atoms to energy - is only 4 percent of the whole shebang. The rest is dark matter (about 23 percent) and, best of all, dark energy (73 percent).

By the way, that WMAP site has a pretty good looking primer on cosmology

Warren Sapp is a punk

I agree with every criticism in this article. That is all.

Thursday, October 16

The universe according to Steven Hawking, Brian Greene, et al.

I've been listening to 'Steven Hawking's Universe' on tape. Interesting stuff. You might want to check out the website for the PBS series. My favorite part is the timeline of the Big Bang. When you get down to the Planck Time (10^-43 seconds), that's pretty cool (figuratively). There's another timeline.

What is Planck length? What is Planck time?

the best time line I've seen so far Aren't logarithmic scales cool? If you've made it this far, make sure to click through to the Early Universe Chronology.

You know there are four fundamental forces right? Gravity, Weak, Electromagnetic, and Strong. There's another cool time line showing when the forces broke apart (assuming they were unified before the Planck Time).

Ooh. PBS has it's Elegant Universe site up already and the program hasn't even aired yet. Did you know that all elementary particles can be classified as bosons (force particles) or fermions (matter particles)? Superstring theory further posits that strings make up bosons and fermions.

They've got another scale-type thingy there, kind of like the old Powers of Ten video, that takes you down to string size.

The interview with Brian Greene contains a query about imagining more than 3 spational dimensions. I always think about it in terms of something like cyberspace. I think about 4 dimensions (including time) as a sequence of snapshots of a limited area, almost like time lapse photographs laid out in sequence. What do you think?

Something that occurred to me when I read 'The Elegant Universe': the speed of light (c) is a constant. It's a limit. It's the law. But doesn't tell us why. Why is the speed of light (c)? What about the nature of the universe sets that speed and imposes that limit? That's what I want to know.

(This had been a Posting-like-John-Hardy-but-without-the-pictures production.)

Tuesday, October 14

Pop-stock Market

Jason had a nice comment over on Byzantium's Shores:

Recently, some friends and I did a "buy-sell-hold" round with the younger group of pop stars:
Britney: sell (apt to become a punchline permanently)
Christina: buy (grody to some, but has a strong enough voice for a long career)
Michelle Branch: buy (good variety of material, carefully managed image)
Shakira: hold (may develop niche market; she's not too thin :-)
Jessica Simpson: sell (no hook)
Mandy Moore: hold (developing hook as an actress)
Alicia Keys: buy (real talent, excellent prospects)
Norah Jones: buy (but with reservations; could become a niche market item)
John Mayer: sell (every damn song sounds the same; no man will buy his records)
Jason Mraz: sell (see above)

(This is what I have to post for Jason, who has not updated his weblog in a long time. But, he has a few things going on...)


Sure, it's a nautical code with flags, but Napoleon adopted a system in 1793 that allowed the French to communicate rapidly around the country fifty years before morse. The Wikipedia had a really nice entry. Then, if you really want to know about the Chappe Semaphore, including pictures, a map, and everything...

Interesing. I got to thinking about the Chappe Semaphore while reading the Horatio Hornblower novels.

Cubs ahead, 3-0

Can you tell I'm sitting here surfing and blogging while I watch the game? It works pretty well, given the glacial pace of baseball.

12 hours of 'Lord of the Rings'

On December 16th a few theaters are going to show the Extended Editions of 'Fellowship...' and 'Two Towers' in the theater and then premiere 'Return of the King'. (via Matt)

I'll tell you what, that's too much, even for me. Of course, I haven't even seen the 'Two Towers' on DVD yet.

Google's Adsense

Did you see that Matt is making a lot of money with his PVRblog?

I'm having a great sports fall

The Cubs will have to choke and die to not make the World Series. Can you believe it? They have dominant pitching and their offense can light on fire. They're management has finally done something right and Dusty Baker is pulling them together.

The Vikes are 5-0. Granted, they haven't played anyone good yet, but at least they're winning games they should win. A test this week against Denver, but coming off the bye, with everyone healthy, and at home.

And the the Hawks are 5-1 and upset Michigan and have suffered only one disappointing loss (akin to last year's to ISU) to MSU. This week against Ohio State will be a huge test.

The Cowboys

I was the first to say that Bill Parcells was getting far too much face-time in the pre- and early season. But he's obviously the real deal. He's winning with someone else's players. Who'd'a thunk it?

Al Franken was right

Rush Limbaugh really is a big, fat idiot.

I know this post is totally late, but I can't resist piling on. I can't believe he said that about Donovan McNabb. The avalanche that has fallen on Limbaugh couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Monday, September 29

Weblog dreaming

Oh yeah, being on Blogger reminds me that I dreamt that my titles were screwed up. Funny.

Moneyball redux

Though I haven't read 'Moneyball', I like reading about it. And I think I've got the general idea without reading the whole book: the young turks in baseball are transforming personnel approaches by watching stats and money closer and making good trades.

Here's an article on Moneyball from a pure business angle.

So here's a short article on where Billy Beane, Moneyball's central figure, is today.

The Red Sox have adopted this method, promoting 28-year old Theo Epstein to GM. He's doing pretty well.

I think the thing I like most about Moneyball is the way it breaks the rules and works. It's innovative and smart. There are lots more Moneyball posts over on Blissful Knowledge's July page (scroll down about half-way for the first one).

From what I've read, the Patriots and Eagles try to manage their cap carefully, too, in a similar way. They're both struggling this year. That's part of it. The parity in the NFL and enforced salary cap make that a different deal.

Here's a post that includes comments about Moneyball's penetration in the NFL.

(I'm sure there are other NFL teams doing this, too. Maybe the Bills (?). Hopefully that will defuse Jaq's ire at me implying something positive about the Pats :-)

Monday, September 22

It was a great weekend for football

Iowa beat ASU on national TV saturday night. Of course, the announcers were focused on ASU. As Iowa took command. They started to say ASU was beating themselves. We finally pummelled them into submission. We didn't hear much of the commentary anyway. We were having my brother's bachelor party weekend, eating grilled lamb and drunken goat cheese and drinking some yummy Ridge.

Sunday we went to The Fox and Hound and watched a bunch of games at once, focusing on the Vikings game (the Bucs-Falcons was secondary). It wasn't pretty, but the Vikes won another one to go 3-0, all in their division. That puts us in the fabled catbird seat.

I watched a little of the Bills-Dolphins last. Since I have Bledsoe and Moulds on my fantasy team, it was pretty disgusting, and I was too tired to stick with it anyway.

Thursday, September 18

Palestine/Israel continued

It's so good to see Johnny13 drop by! He commented on the thread below:

He quoted me: Is it fair to conclude that the Palestinian government, and many/most Palestinians, prefer war to peace?

Then he wrote: I would certainly not say that, tho they may prefer it to a hostile and humiliating peace.

I would counter by saying that Abbas was not moving toward a hostile and humiliating peace. But maybe this is all just my frustration speaking. I want justice for Palestine and I think, overall, as I've said many times before, that they need a break because Israel has so much power over them, including a virtually unconditional alliance with the US.

Silflay Hraka

Cool title for a weblog (if you're into 'Watership Down') with contributors being Bigwig, Kehaar, and Woundwort. Also an NC weblog. Can't speak to the content :-)

Translation from rabbit (if I'm not mistaken): rabbit feeding.

Wednesday, September 17

Saturday, September 13

Iowa wins!

Woo hoo!

Best column result ever!

Dave Barry wrote a column slamming telemarketers and listed the phone number of their national organization.

Thousands of Barry's readers have done as they were told, forcing the association to stop answering its phones. Callers now hear a recording, which says that because of "overwhelming positive response to recent media events, we are unable to take your call at this time."

"It's difficult not to see some malice in Mr. Barry's intent," said Tim Searcy, executive director of the ATA, who said the added calls will be costly to his group because of toll charges and staffing issues.

Barry hardly sounded apologetic.

"I feel just terrible, especially if they were eating or anything," he said. "They have phones like the rest of us have phones. Their attitude seems to be if you have a phone, people are allowed to call you."

(article via AP)


A few thoughts on Palestine and Israel

I was disappointed by Abbas' resignation. Is it fair to conclude that the Palestinian government, and many/most Palestinians, prefer war to peace?

In the wake of that development, Israel may have a point about exiling Arafat.

Dean has gone on the record for a more balanced treatment of Israel. His fellow candidates have made it clear that they still want money from pro-Israel donors. (via robot wisdom)

Speak out against the RIAA!

Sign the EFF's petition. Couldn't hurt, right?

Thursday, September 11

Did ya notice the titles?

New Blogger feature. Pretty fun, aye? Just like the big boys! Yeah, boy!

Football redux

I haven't mentioned yet how much I enjoyed the Vikings crushing the Packers at Lambeau on sunday.

Iowa v. Iowa State

I know I speak for my brothers and Jason when I say please, please, please, please let Iowa win this weekend.

How to talk like a pirate.

I always like pirate stuff.

The RIAA is a bunch of bullies

Those guys stink, suing a twelve year old girl.

(More thoughts about this brewing... Coming soon.)


A sad day remembered with sadness.

Matt's tribute is my favorite so far.

Wednesday, September 10


For y'all Scrabble fans: Scrabblog (via kottke).

Sunday, September 7

I want to beat Jaq to the punch: Buffalo was amazing today! I have carried Tom Brady's torch before, including over against Drew Bledsoe. I'm glad for the Bills. Congrats. (And I have Drew Bledsoe and Eric Moulds on my Fantasy team, so I've got a new interest in the Bills.)

Thursday, September 4

My friend, John Hardy, took up with Hitchens' opinion in a much more respectful way (to me and other believers) over on Finches' Wings. Rather than sending you to the comments over there, which get in some funky order, why don't I just copy them here (though if you want John's links you'll have to go over there, and the commenting system is funky with single quotations, so if I don't get them all changed, you'll know why.).

John: Well there's the funny thing, normally I disagree with everything Hitchens writes.

Sean: so does that mean that you agree with at least some of what Hitchens says this time, John?


Absolutely. In fact I agree with all of it.

The main difference is that I wouldn't have written an article about it because I know that it would offend a lot of people''s religious view (although I might argue it over a nice meal with a couple of wines in me The reason why I wouldn't write an article is because I have learnt that people come to their most deeply held convictions through processes which have little to do with rational thought and therefore argument is generally a pointless exercise. Religious people are far more likely to admit that their premises are fundamentally irrational than non-believers, readily invoking concepts such as spirituality, faith or a sense of mystery as a counter-influence to reason and rationality but it is a point that is just as true for non-believers. So in summary, if you really believe something and I really believe something else, there's no point trying to sway the other through the exercise of mere reason.

The big exception, of course, is when the person to be swayed is already suffering a severe crisis in their own convictions. In other words if they were already at the point of giving up their faith or philosophy and just waiting to embrace another. Every proselytiser intuitively knows this, a polemicist like Hitchins preaching from a highly influential pulpit might interested to score a few converts as well. It's not really my interest to try and sway anyone.

But I'll admit I did leave a comment along the lines that implied my agreement with Hitchins and you did ask... please accept this as just my personal view. It is not intended to inflame, offend or convince anyone to change their minds or beliefs.

So what do I agree with? I agree with Hitchins that, when looked at from the outside the Bible, especially in its early chapters reads like an inherent depository of Bronze Age legends. The the main character, Yahweh comes over as a somewhat insecure and immature adolescent. That the Ten Commandments on closer inspection do look like a fairly patchy list with some pretty serious omissions. This might be a problem if they were held up as being universally significant in this day and age (which I don't believe they really are) but not if one considers them as a cultural artifact crafted in a cultural backwater by a tribe of uncouth Bedouins. It's not really up there with the considerably older Code of Hammurabi, for example.

Of course, if I was starting from the point of view that these were the utterances of my father, well, of course I'd probably view them differently:

"So Dad was a bit of a brat in his youth, threw tantrums, flooded the world, smited, cursed, destroyed, blamed his own creation. Okay but he's still my father, show some respect.

AND he's a lot more grown up now, a regular transcendental Supreme Being, an Unmoved Mover no less".

But like Hitchins, I do not think of Yahweh as my father so any talk about showing him "humility" is to my mind as preposterous as showing humility to any of his contemporaries, Baal, Amon or Marduk. Also any argument that expects respect for "4,000 years of history and faith" I find equally unconvincing. Mere numbers don't do it for me, I'm afraid, how much respect is due now to the religion of ancient Sumer? For four thousand years people built temples and came to worship the gods at the Southern Mesopotamian holy city of Nippur. Today nothing remains, just a few mounds of mud in the desert and few broken tablets. The only echoes that remain withus in our culture are in the form of the horoscope in the daily newspaper and, ironically enough, the Old Testament.

But it doesn't matter, perhaps the point where you and I disagree most, Sean, is in the notion that somehow our morality and the morality of our society really rests on these religious underpinnings. First you say that without humility before God it is "it's no surprise that we have no morality." Well, I consider that, beyond using this as a rhetorical device, to imply that we have no morality is patently false.

>> religion is not just incongruent with morality but in essential ways incompatible with it

> Wrong. Religion is necessary for true morality.

Both wrong. Morality is an essential ingredient of any society. All societies have moral codes, all societies have taboos on theft and murder, all societies have narratives and myths to explain them. Sometimes these take the form of religious stories at other times they take the form of reconstructed histories (such as the myths surrounding the glorious founding of the United States of America for example).

As way of demonstrating the point, China is an ancient society which has always found its source of morality in the teachings of the sage kings and of philosopher like Confucius. Even though the Jesuit missionaries of the seventeenth century spent a great deal of effort and tried their dardest through the meticulous translation and interpretation of these texts, they could find no place in them for their interventionist deity.

Instead they found a moral code that was based completely on the rights and responsibilities of people living beneath an all pervasive but essentially disinterested Heaven. It was the influence of these text flowing back to the West that helped to create the conditions that led to the Enlightenment and to the establishment of secular and religiously tolerant societies throughout the world. This side-lining of religion in favour of freedom was, I believe, a very good thing but I don't believe it made people who lived before or after this evolution any more or less moral.

So there you have it, that's my contribution to the global supply of digital crap.


dear John

first of all, thanks for commenting.

then, what to say, what to say?

the most disgusting thing about Hitchens is his lack of respect for those of us who value faith. in this regard i put him in the same category with Richard Dawkins.

believe it or not, my main goal is not to sway anyone, either. i do want to present the reasoned side of my faith. believe me, i have met a lot of people who just assume a person of faith has checked her braon at the door. i''m fond of saying ''i'll match my smart people to theirs any day.''

thank you for your senstitivty, John. i don't feel enflamed at all :-)

(the Code of Hammurabi is much older according to the conclusions of secular and liberal scholars. there are good arguments for the Ten Commandments dating to ca. 3500 BC.)

i still maintain that the Judeo-Christian faith deserves better than to be summarily dismissed by the likes of Hitchens. what distinguishes them from most other ancient faiths is that they are still living and still practiced by people who are deeply committed to them. these people find sane, self-consistent, contemporary ways to practice faiths which have ancient origins.

i may have overstated on the whole ''no morality'' business, but part of what i was saying comes out of an unexplained technical definition. we can define ''morality'' basically as ''values'' and then, of course, everyone has them.

part of what i'm alluding to, coming specifically from a Christian context, is the assertion that no person can really do good without being changed by God. being ''born again'' is one of the descriptions that's well known, along with things like ''regeneration''. of course most people will disagree with me and other holding to historical Christianity in this regard. that''s no surprise.

ultimately, historical Christianity comes across as arrogant in some ways: ''we're right and you're wrong''. i don't know of any way around it. we feel God has revealed Himself with some strict delimiters. how should we be different from Hitchens? by engaging others'' beliefs without demeaning them.

and now i have exceeded my limit of sermonizing.


Monday, September 1

There's something really cool about Scott Blake's Bar Code Clock when you just watch it run (via Kottke's remaindered links).

Thursday, August 28

Grrr...Who does this Christopher Hitchens think he is?

I guess he thinks he lives in the 21st century and doesn't have to respect 4000 years of history and faith. I guess he thinks he can stand in judgment over The Ten Commandments. I guess he thinks he can measure all things (which isn't what Erasmus meant). His little offscouring makes me furious.

Don't get me wrong. I understand that some people don't want the government posting the Ten Commandments. I disagree with their interpretation of Freedom of Religion (in short: it's supposed to keep the government out of religion, not religion out of government), but I understand it.

But to have the audacity to stand in judgment over the Ten Commandments is so ridiculously arrogant that it boggles my mind.

I hesitate to even dignify his pronouncements with an answer, but I feel compelled to address his arguments because it may not be self-evident to some people why they are idiotic.

First of all, the Ten Commandments build the proper foundation for morality by showing the necessity of humility relative to God (something Hitchens totally lacks). Since our society, collectively speaking, has no humility relative to God and sets itself up to judge God, it's no surprise that we have no morality.

Incidentally, plenty of people who claim Christ as Lord don't have this humility either. They buy into the system to use as a scoring method, like the Pharisees did. And that's not the right answer, either.

This humility is similar in kind to the humility a child should have relative to her parent. Is the parent insecure for insisting on respect and obedience? No. Why? Because it's best for the child. It's necessary. One of the worst things we can find in a chlid is being spoiled. On the other hand, proper, loving discipline with proper boundaries is almost universally recognized as necessary in child-rearing. Hitchens' lack of humility leads him into the execrable error of calling God insecure.

The sabbath is part of humility before God. Not that I practice it traditionally. But the point is: remember that God is your provider and God is in control. Don't get so caught up in your own work and your own production. To tie the sabbath, even in jest, to building the pyramids...reprehensible.

Child-like humility before God follows quite naturally into the literal humility of children before their parents. (I wonder how Hitchens scores hereon...) The Ten Commandments are the ultimate minimum code for civilization (some unrelated commentary by Adam Greenfield in his first section (0.0) unwittingly makes this point). You couldn't do better if you tried, and neither could Christopher Hitchens. You could make something closer to your criteria. The objective criteria would remain the same. Sure, you and Hitchens (and I) could come up with things we'd like to see included, like Hitchens does here with protection of children. But parents normally care for their children. Some sick parents don't, but we're working with a minimum of ordinances here.

Hitchens doesn't understand 'covetousness', which doesn't surprise me. It would require a somewhat open mind to approach the commandments on their own terms, like any good exegete. The sense here is not 'Never think about or desire other stuff.' The real psychological injunction is 'Don't dwell on it. Don't mull it over. Don't obsess about it. You might want it. OK. But you don't have it, so let the want go.

We all know the answer to Hitchens' patently stupid 'imago Dei' argument, right? (Answer: free will and the Fall.)

religion is not just incongruent with morality but in essential ways incompatible with it

Wrong. Religion is necessary for true morality. Hitchens' solipsism is the system that's incompatible with comprehensive morality.

And that's all the stomach I have for this digital piece of crap.
And this from the 'nobody cares but me' department, Drake Players Get Early Look at Davis' System.

Tuesday, August 26

And now, from the 'that totally stinks' department, beth got fired for reading MetaFilter at work. (via kottke)

Friday, August 15

Woo hoo! Jason finally has his own weblog: Finches' Wings. He's starting strong with a whole lot of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Godspeed, old friend.

Thursday, August 14

Matthew Baldwin is so funny!

And, curiously, the church he picted is a church from my denomination, and I know the pastor! Fun.
I know everyone except me had already seen the Google Calculator (via Kottke).

OK, except maybe you.

Sunday, August 10

Dorothea had this over at her site. My results are pitiful, but I coudln't resist taking it. I'm such a linguistics groupie.

version 0.9b1
LGA(-) F++ Pc- Pn- M Sx H- O
Lg < L(3)D(2)>
Data: Lg-ProtoIndoEuropean

C- Im I()U() S

Take it yourself.

Tuesday, August 5

You see so many nice rhododendron plants here in the mountains, and I always wonder about the etymology, since I've studied a little Greek. I knew the 'dendron' part was tree.

from Gk. rhododendron, from rhodon "rose" + dendron "tree."

- from the Online Etymolgy Dictionary
That defective yeti guy really is funny: Reo Speedwagon and the Police jailed for stalking and pick up lines on the bus .

Wednesday, July 30

'interact' correspondent Kathy Linfoot sends in the VH1.com Which icon are you? quiz. She got Princess Di and I got Tony Soprano. How about you?

Saturday, July 19

Cool: a Star Wars fighter for every other letter in the alphabet. Get your geek on (especially Kathy and Jaq) (via armoured-ant on MeFi).

Matthew collects the best lines from the worst reviews of 'LXG' all in one place. I wish this were a better movie. The concept is cool. I sat in Barnes and Noble the other day and read the first graphic novel. It was good it that usual Alan Moore sort of way, but also left me a little cold in the same way. While I respect his works, I don't usually love them (except for 'V for Vendetta').

Wednesday, July 16

I just heard 'Bring me to life' by Evanescence on the radio and I really liked it. I'd forgotten it was from the 'Daredevil' soundtrack. Is that why I liked it?

Tuesday, July 15

Hey, here's something cool: I got chosen for the TypePad beta. Don't worry. I haven't been neglecting this log for that one. But I am starting to fool with it a little. I've had the idea of doing a more specifically spiritual journal for awhile, so I'm fiddling with that over there: News from the front. But don't expect too much, ok?
If Matt's doing whole websites with Movable Type I presume that means that very soon we'll all be able to do it, with MT or something else, and we won't have to FTP or hand-code HTML anymore. Great day in the morning. Then I might actually post more non-weblog stuff to the web (operative term='might').

Monday, July 14

Yes, I'm posting, but don't get all excited. I don't think this is going to be regular, yet.

You must see the Ergonomic Keyboard for Pirates.

That is all.

Monday, June 30

Need a laugh? You know you have a good chance at Defective Yeti, right? A couple notable posts:

Matt's having his wife cut his hair (complete with pix). Christine has developed a complex about cutting my hair with clippers and can't even be in the same room with my getting my hair clippered anymore. Hmm. Maybe Aunt Mary will cut my hair when we move.

And there's a post (you must read, Jason) about 10,000 Maniacs. Anyone else who wants a laugh should read it, too.

Saturday, June 28

I had dinner last night with Dorothea and David. I really enjoyed myself (Dorothea gave me a good review, which was nice). I have been continually surprised by how much I'm interested in that gets posted to Caveat Lector.

Something Dorothea didn't mention is that we also talked linguistics, which I am fascinated by. Understand: I am a hack and a poseur compared to D and D, but I enjoy it.

Hmm. What books should we discuss next time? I finished 'Cryptonomicon' recently and enjoyed it quite a bit. I'm currently slugging through 'The Elegant Universe', which I really like but, again, is a little over my head. Literature-wise I've given up on 'The Brothers Karamazov' again. I can hold my own in British Literature. Maybe D and D will have some ideas.

Friday, June 13

BillH had a post on May 10 (permalinks not working) on what he uses instead on Microsoft products. Right on. I'm planning on trying out OpenOffice.org (I said this on 5.9, but now my permalinks aren't working.).
We're in the process of moving. Posting will be light until at least the 19th.
Word of the Day: puissant

Means 'powerful' in French, right? Doesn't look or sound powerful to me. It looks like the least powerful word I can think of, except maybe 'pantuflas' (the Spanish word for 'slippers'). It looks more like 'piss-ant' than anything, and we all know those aren't powerful.

(I thought of this while reading 'Cryptonomicon' by Stevenson. Can you tell?)

Tuesday, June 10

Collaboratory is on fire!

And nothing is too esoteric, as we have sometimes been accused.

Monday, June 9

Jaq wants to know how he can be out of the new Blogger loop.

How do you do your editing? Do you go through the front page on Blogger? If so, you should have seen the posts in the center column about the new blogger. You click through to the new Blogger home page. You read the documentation, you click on one of your weblogs, you see the new interface. It looks to me like you had to do that during the demo at some time or you're still locked out. Are you locked out? All of my weblogs use the new Blogger except Collaboratory, and I don't know why.

If you go straight to your editing page, you could have missed all of this stuff, or if you post some other way (eg, email). Or if you never clicked through on the links in the center column.

So, explain yourself.

Heads up: Technorati keyword search (via kottke's remaindered links)
Wartburg Weblogs

Someone came to Collaboratory using the Google search Wartburg College blogs. So I checked it out. Here's what I found:

View from the bench

Antioch Road

Byzantium's Shores by Jaquandor (Jaq and I were at school together, but were not friends then.)

Collaboratory (Jaq and I work on this together, along with some other guys.)

twinlog (Christine and I write about the twins here.)

A Blog of His Own

and me: interact

Know anyone else from Wartburg who has a weblog?

By posting this list, I have become the expert on Wartburg College weblogs. This should be the definitive list, right? Still, I do not expect to be called to the lecture circuit yet.

Sunday, June 8

Kottke's got the 4-D Rubik's Cube in his remaindered links. I'm not going to fool with it much, but I enjoyed reading the first part of the introduction. I'm interested in 3+D space and extra dimensions of time. (More on this later.)
Have you seen the TV Games Video Games Systems? Atari, Activision, and Namco. Looks fun to me. (via Plinth on MetaFilter)
I assume it's John who's posting as Andrew Carlssin, the purported time traveller, over on Laputan Logic. John is, after all, responsible for making Collaboratory the seventh link in a Google search for AC.
What Jaq said.

Of course Blogger isn't an ideal solution. It gets messed up all the time. Archives go up and down. Permalinks are often broken.

And I'm too poor to move to any of the other solutions. Alas. Even TypePad will probably cost more than what we can budget.

Jaq was reacting to a long screed by Steven den Beste. Why does Steven have to eviscerate Blogger?

There are work-arounds for most of the Blogger-imps. You don't have to lose your whole archive (probably the guy didn't really lose them anyway. They can just be hard to get to.). Any of us couldback up our archives pretty easily. Seems reasonable.

Yes, Blogger goes down a lot. But it's free.

CityDesk sounds great. The WYSIWYG editor sounds great.

Here's the work-around for losing entries, especially if you're on a budget. Just ctrl-A, ctrl-C before you post (ctrl-enter). Then you've got a copy of what you said on the clipboard if anything goes wrong. This works for the free commenting systems, too. Even better, download a clipboard extender (I have finally settled on Yankee Clipper III and like it very well.) Then it's on the clipboard for good if you want to go back to it. I have found this is a cheap and easy way to avoid ever having to lose an entry. It becomes an easy habit.

You don't usually have to manually republish your archives to get them to work, and certainly not after every post.

Another advantage of Blogger is that, for all it warts, many of us don't want to get into server management, locally or remotely. Sure, we could probably learn it, but for whatever reason, and not just financial, we don't want to mess with it. One of mine is: I probably spend too much time logging as it is. I don't need to invest anymore time or money in it. In fact, I could really stand to be a little more judicious in my surfing and logging.

Saturday, June 7

I must say, after all of the times the Times has trashed weblogs, I'm feeling a little schadenfreude that they can't keep their own house in order.

Friday, June 6

Jaq has a big-style post on the top 100 country songs.

My folks listened to country music while I was growing up and, importantly, so did my bus drivers in rural Iowa. Those were the two major sources of listening for me. So I know every country song between 1975 and 1982 and many of the classic ones. My annotations below:

1. "Stand by Your Man"

2. "He Stopped Loving Her Today"

3. "Crazy" - Everything by Patsy Cline is wonderful.

4. "Ring of Fire" - Johnny Cash: good.

5. "Your Cheatin’ Heart"

6. "Friends in Low Places" - over-rated

7. "I Fall to Pieces"

8. "Galveston"

9. "Behind Closed Doors"

10. "Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" - I'd have picked a different Willie Nelson song, like #33

11. "Blue Moon of Kentucky"

12. "Amarillo by Morning" - This is a beautifully melodic and plaintive song that I think of quite often.

13. "Coal Miner’s Daughter"

14. "Dance, The"

15. "Forever and Ever, Amen" - Fun song with a catchy melody.

16. "I Will Always Love You" - Give props to Dolly Parton. Her version's about a million times better than the Diva.

17. "Hello Darlin’" - It's hard not to smile about Conway Twitty.

18. "Take Me Home, Country Roads" - I disagree with Jaq here - Denver's over-rated.

19. "Hey, Good Lookin’"

20. "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" - Woohoo! Glad it placed so high.

21. "Okie From Muskogee"

22. "Wide Open Spaces"

23. "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain"

24. "Chair, The"

25. "Folsom Prison Blues"

26. "Gambler, The" - Agree with Jaq here; this one should probably be higher on the strength of sheer popularity. It is a little (ok, a lot) maudlin, though.

27. "Fancy"

28. "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)"

29. "I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry"

30. "I Hope You Dance"

31. "I Walk the Line"

32. "Rhinestone Cowboy"

33. "Always on My Mind"

34. "Harper Valley P.T.A."

35. "D-I-V-O-R-C-E"

36. "Will the Circle Be Unbroken"

37. "King of the Road" - It'd be hard to find a song that's more of a Meade favorite than this one. My Grampa Bill used to make up his own words and we love to sing it to this day.

38. "Breathe"

39. "Make the World Go Away"

40. "Hello Walls"

41. "Sweet Dreams"

42. "El Paso" - GREAT song by Marty Robbins. Nice Mexican-Country sound.

43. "Delta Dawn"

44. "When I Call Your Name"

45. "Guitars, Cadillacs"

46. "Desperado" - Ugh. Don't these people know that 'Peaceful, Easy Feeling' is the only remotely tolerable song by Don Henley?

47. "Don’t Come Home A'Drinkin’ (With Lovin' on Your Mind)"

48. "Boot Scootin’ Boogie" - Yuck,

49. "I Can’t Stop Loving You"

50. "Independence Day"

and a few more:

58. "Kiss an Angel Good Morning" - Let's hear it for Charlie Pride.

64. "When You Say Nothing at All" - This was our song (mine and Christine's) long before the 'Notting Hill' inspired craze. Beautiful.

74. "Flowers on the Wall" - The Statler Brothers are a family favorite.

77. "You’re Still the One" - Isn't this song mostly about Shania Twain being hot?

86. "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" - It's just one short step from here to 'Feliz Navidad' (and a shorter one to the end of Freddie's career).

87. "Passionate Kisses" - A couple of smart ladies, especially Lucinda Williams who brings us the immortal 'I'm going to Slidell for to find my joy...you took my joy and I want it back.'

Did I miss a song by Jim Reaves? We love him in the Meade family.
Extra added bonus of the new Blogger: it works right in Mozilla.
Look out. We've actually been updating the twinlog some.
Remember, gentle reader, the days when we had Wine Notes? Well, I don’t think I’ve posted about wine since then, but this one deserves it: The Cline 2000 California Zinfandel. I didn’t know you could get a bottle of Cline for 10 bucks. I saw it across the liquor store and walked over to look at it. The sales guy said ‘That’s a good bottle.’, which is what I was figuring.

So, if you’d like a big, fruity PUNCH IN THE MOUTH go out and get a bottle.

Wednesday, June 4

Sure, blogdex is the weblog diffusion index, but what we need is a weblog _confusion_ index.
I heard that Tulsa has lost the second most jobs in the nation in the last few years,after San Jose. And we're not talkin' percentage One source via Google:

Tulsa has lost 16,400 jobs during the 12 months that ended in March, giving the city one of the highest percentage declines in employment in the nation, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

I can vouch for that. I'm one of the statistics.
If Bush helps to broker some kind of real peace in Palestine/Israel I promise to take back every bad thing I ever said about him and to apologize, if appropriate. Should he want an apology from me in that case he will have it.

Tuesday, June 3

Monday, June 2

Well, the FCC went and opened the doors for the mega mergers. Blast.

Big article at MarketWatch. The Players. Media Map and Companies.

Who's poised to take over? Fox/News Corp, NBC/GE, Tribune, and CBS/Viacom. Add in ABC/Disney and you've basically got the the Mother Corps of the 4 networks: News Corp, GE, Viacom, and Disney.

Beware your news! You're just another consumer and it's just another product. Make sure you get healthy doese of alternative news, for example, Sean Meade's 'interact'.

To blog or not to blog

Is 'blog' an ugly word or not? I say yes. The discussion over on languagehat is pretty interesting.
No more stand-alone Internet Explorer [1] [2]. Gentlefolk, if you haven't already made a switch, begin contemplating it now. Matt sold me on Mozilla and now I love it.

Saturday, May 31

Have you seen BookCrossing? Release your books into the wild. Looks interesting.
I'm such a geek, I'm on the 37signals email list even though I will never use their services. Sure would be fun to get their express service for this weblog.
Straight Talk About Graduate School will take the enamel off your teeth. I have certainly been fighting the advice and inclination to go.

One of my biggest beefs: it's not educational. Go find any teacher, and DEd, and they will tell you this is not the way to teach people.

Let's all agree to try to make our way outside of graduate school. There are ways to learn and to teach people outside of the Academy.

Friday, May 30

Changed the tagline again. Just a whim. The most true one really is 'a synapse fired'.
You know what I wish? That there was a way to keep your weblog archives in the template you were using back in the day. Of course one could do this by posting the HTML output from the template before changing templates and publishing or republishing archives, but I am far too lazy for that.
Dorothea Salos of Caveat Lector (GREAT title!) has the most amazing post about phonaesthetics. I have thought about this kind of thing a lot as I have thought about my future fantasy work and have tinkered with the names. I may very well be stopping by her site more often. I'll go ahead and put her in the BlogRoll.
I am not really Neo (and I mean in personality or anything else, though I bet I could out-act Keanu), but that's what I got on the quiz:

You are Neo
You are Neo, from "The Matrix." You
display a perfect fusion of heroism and

What Matrix Persona Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

How about you? Post it in the comments!

Thursday, May 29

Hmm, while reading that slashdot thread I see that Infogrames (maker of my addiction, Civ3) has become Atari.
That Sony PSX looks pretty boss (via kottke).

If you've got the bandwidth, interest, and time check out Sony's pdf.

If you're REALLY interested, you may check out the slashdot thread.

For my not-too-educated part, I see all of this headed toward convergence of home media servers - TV, TiVo, DVD+R, broadband, CD+R, mp3 (etc), wireless home network, gaming system... What did I miss? For my part, I say 'Bring it on!'

Wednesday, May 28

How'd you score on The Geek Test? I got 'Total Geek' - 29%. Not bad. My list of suggested additions:

edit other people's email before deleting
regularly synchronize timepieces with the atomic clock
--have a computer app to do this automatically
have subscribed to a Word of the Day email list
watch Battle Bots
sent in suggestions for this list
Scott's got a funny post about grandmas who hold up garage sales (but, as usual, his permalinks are not working right).

Tuesday, May 27

Tuesday, May 20

Vintage John 13:

I visited a snack machine today. I considered a bag of Cheetos. While making up my mind, I noticed that the drawing on the front of the bag pictured Chester Cheeto on a mountain bike doing his extreme sport thing. The kicker was that Chester is sporting some disc brakes on his bike! Freaking cheetahs have better brakes than I do! This cannot stand!

Monday, May 19

I'm so glad the Lakers are out of it. I'll really be fine with any of the four teams left. Mild preference for the Nets and Dallas with the win for Dallas.

Sunday, May 18

Remains of the day('s links)

  • Learn Classical Greek or Latin on Textkit (via Language Hat)
  • Robert Johnson donated a million ucks for a new YMCA in West Charlotte at the intersection of West Blvd and Donald Ross Road
  • Reading about Athanasius
  • kottke continues his crusade against PowerPoint by linking Edward Tufte’s essay The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint.
  • Not your typical carnie

    For the last three days I've been selling Dippin' Dots at Bell's, a small, local amusement park. It was occasionally fun, and certainly a different experience. That's mainly why I haven't posted in a couple of days.

    Thursday, May 15

    I linked to MoveOn.org. Lawrence Lessig did too.

    I am cool.

    Wednesday, May 14

    Today's Saudi Arabia can't last much longer--and the social and economic fallout of its demise could be calamitous.

    In the air in Riyadh and Jidda is the conviction that oil money has corrupted the ruling family beyond redemption, even as the general population has grown and gotten poorer; that the country's leaders have failed to protect fellow Muslims in Palestine and elsewhere; and that the House of Saud has let Islam be humiliated--that, in short, the country needs a radical "purification."

    The kingdom's mosque schools have become a breeding ground for militant Islam. Recent attacks in Bali, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kenya, and the United States, not to mention those against U.S. military personnel within Saudi Arabia, all point back to these schools--and to the House of Saud itself, which, terrified at the prospect of a militant uprising against it, shovels protection money at the fundamentalists and tries to divert their attention abroad.

    For a surprising number of Saudis, including some members of the royal family, taking the kingdom's oil off the world market--even for years, and at the risk of destroying their own economy--is an acceptable alternative to the status quo.

    from The Fall of the House of Saud by Robert Baer

    And the rest is a pretty grim picture of the House of Saud: dysfunctional and in bed with our government, and especially the Bushes.

    Monday, May 12

    Not much fact checking out there in the media these days: some guy fakes a bunch of articles for the NYT and then this Klingon language myth perpetuates to CNN. Funny!

    Sunday, May 11

    Remaindered links (a la Kottke):

    Senior U.S. Official in Baghdad to Be Replaced. Is this a good idea?
    Israel Should Ease Life for Palestinians-Powell. I hope this is good news...
    Drug company watch
    Tools are the revolution, Kevin Kelly (via Kottke)
    Stop the FCC
    I missed the big to do when MetaFilter got added to the Google Ad Network. You go, Matt.
    I hope all of you mothers saw your Happy Mother's Day on Google

    (No, not you muthas.)
    This is totally over the line, but I got to thinking maybe I could rewrite the whole thing. (I tried to find an mp3, but couldn't. Sorry.) Whadda ya' think?

    I remember readin' kottke.org
    when kids were tradin' for Pikachu
    I remember writin' on MetaFilter
    (my number's 252)
    and I was readin' Robot Wisdom
    when all my friends
    were still groovin' in their Hondas to Jewel
    I was loggin' when loggin' wasn't cool.

    I remember sayin' 'Not really'
    when people said 'You're a geek.'
    I remember talkin' bout' y2k
    with my tongue firmly placed in my cheek
    I was surfin on the Web
    not goin' to the mall
    when everyone was groovin to La Vida Loca
    I was loggin' when loggin' wasn't cool.

    Oh, I was loggin' when loggin' wasn't cool.
    I was loggin', though some thought we were fools.
    I still act and look the same:
    What you see ain't nothin' new.
    I was loggin' when loggin' wasn't cool.

    [instrumental bridge]

    Now Google's bought our Blogger, Microsoft's in line
    some say it's noise, not signal, but we're all still doin' fine
    I was loggin' when loggin wasn't cool.

    Saturday, May 10

    The new Wired has a thing about the largest G7 multinational companies and the top non-G7 multinational companies. That got me thinking. I did some research. The most interesting site I came across was Oligopoly Watch.
    The comments on Palestine/Israel on the thread below got a little more involved than normal. Check them out.

    Friday, May 9

    The more I read about Microsoft, like about Longhorn and, forbid!, them getting a slice of the weblogging pie, the more I think it's time to go MS free, to move in that direction. I'm thinking seriously about my next laptop being a Lindows machine running OpenOffice.org.
    For some reason I spent a lot of time yesterday reading Paul Graham. It looks like he's really fighting the good fight against spam. Jon Udell writes about one application called SpamBayes. I'm testing out MailWasher, which is free, and I like it pretty well. Fight spam!
    I wish I'd kept track of my taglines somewhere.

    - a synapse fired
    - don't let all of the Tolkien stuff scare you off
    - Lord have mercy (post 9/11)
    - at least as good as kottke (and maybe a whole lot better)
    - the way to a man's heart is through his weblog

    Remember any others? Suggest any others? One that I found in my search was 'I've said this before.'

    Anyway, all of this because of the new one, inspired by this article by Andrew Grumet.

    update: two more from John in the comments:

    - all lagado all the time
    - out of control, but holding out for sanity

    Thanks, John!

    and the subsequent ones:

    - I was logging when logging wasn't cool. (Do you get the Barbara Mandrell reference? :-)
    - sean@meadenyet.com
    Why have I been updating 'interact' so faithfully these days? Two words:

    No Civilization.

    Thursday, May 8

    Mike Roth says that he judges an author's weblog, preliminarily, on their first post and their 9/11 post (via kottke).

    Mine: first 9/11

    I feel pretty good about those. I feel like they stand up to the kottke and A Whole Lotta Nothing posts he cites. Comments?

    Wednesday, May 7

    Cody asked why I've said I couldn't work for the government, specifically the State Department. I gave him a brief answer, but I was thinking more about it today.

    Because government is political, and our political system creates a false dichotomy that marginalizes intelligent discourse. Instead we get polarized rhetoric. And I can't go for that at all.

    Now I said in my reply that part of this is my problem. I really don't take direction very well at all, especially form people I think are wrong or I don't respect. And I don't respect people who engage in 'politics' that demonizes the other side. Most elected politicians do this, maybe even have to do this. Enough said?
    Christian Right Talks of Bolting GOP in 2004

    Wouldn't that liven things up a bit.

    I think it's good news. I think the Christian Right is way too in-bed with the Repubs.

    For the record, I don't share their view on Santorum.

    On the other hand, the major point of what he was saying is that we do want the government in the bedroom when it comes to certain things. I don't necessarily agree with his list: bigamy, polygamy, incest, adultery. You don't have to. We differ on what should and shouldn't be legislated. 'Consenting adults' is the typical legal language. That seems like the right direction to go, legally. Legislating morality is a tricky thing.

    Most of us agree that we want pedophilia and rape to be against the law.

    As the Atlantic points out, 'it was indeed offensive to so casually associate the millions of decent people who happen to be gay with practices almost universally condemned as immoral.' But Santorum has a point, legally.

    ('decent' is a tricky word. More about that below.)

    Heads up: this kind of legal principle does open the door for things we find distasteful: bigamy, polygamy, necrophilia, adultery, etc.

    All of this is not to say that I find these consensual acts to be moral ones. You know I don't.

    But the basis of morality is very difficult to agree on, too. What is 'decent' (cf reference above)? My basis for morality happens to come from two-millenia old Christian faith. I don't expect you to agree with me all the time. But, for me, right and wrong ultimately hinges on what God says about it and why. Ultimately I think God says that all of the behaviors in question here are harmful to us and to others. That's why they're immoral (in a historically informed Christian view). Does that mean I make laws to inforce them? No. Does that mean that I hate people and fight people who practice them? No.

    We have to be careful. I think the Christian standard for sexuality is 'loving marriage between a man and a woman'. Most sex falls short of that. Most marriages need to grow in love.

    You might say this definition is too strict, but that's exactly my point: When we get into law and logic, the Christian Right tends to go to war against homosexuals. They 'turn the other cheek' to 'healthier' heterosexual peccadilloes like premarital sex and heterosexual adultery. I know the underlying, unconscious reason is because at least those sins are 'natural'.

    What is 'natural' is totally not the point when it comes to morality and sin. I have made this argument before [1] [2]. I am naturally violent and promiscuous. That's what I'd be if I let my 'nature' go unchecked. But most of us can agree that that wouldn't be good.

    The point of what is moral and good is love. Anything else is sin. It's a tough standard. It takes God's help to even want to do it. I fall short of that kind of love all the time.

    Monday, May 5

    Yeah, Steven's probably right. The 'Right of Return' for Palestinian refugees from the 48-9 war probably has to be given up. It's not about justice, but about what's possible, and if there's going to be peace in Palestine/Israel, the 'Right' probably has to be given up.

    On the other hand, peace comes best when it's founded on justice. That's a bumper sticker you can actually put a little credence in - 'If you want peace, work for justice.' Any unjust peace sows the seeds of future conflict.

    Unless there's truth-telling and reconciliation. I hope South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission succeeds in lancing some of the poison without unrealistic reparations.

    I wonder if something like that could ultimately work in Palestine/Israel - telling the truth in exchange for amnesty.
    The most hated sin of this day and age is hypocrisy. Let alone if you're trying. Let alone if you're repentant. If you're someone who holds up moral values of any kind, and you stumble in any way, real or perceived, you will be the target of hatred. We already hated your supposed virtue before, but it's harder to criticize. But, oh, the joy when you fall. It's far worse to be a hypocrite than to be amoral or immoral and have 'integrity'. WYSIWYG, that's the highest virtue.

    So, everyone pile on Bill Bennett.

    Seems to me like there are some discrepancies in the 'facts'.
    The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
    Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
    Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very High
    Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Low
    Level 2 (Lustful)High
    Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
    Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
    Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
    Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
    Level 7 (Violent)Low
    Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
    Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

    Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

    Sunday, May 4

    Check out the new sidebar. I went nuts tonight. I added BlogRolling, Mitch's trusted weblogs search, GeoURL, and an RSS feed.
    I finally put my lon/lat in and registered with GeoURL. Folks around me.

    When we move to Columbia, my coordinates will be: N 34.000554 W (-)81.035009. Folks around there.

    The farm's coordinates are N 41.68752795 W (-)91.70255385. Folks near there.

    So, basically, most everywhere I have connections is the hinterland for cool cats. But that's OK. That's why we have the Web, right? So us lonely cool cats can connect virtually.

    I am cool, right?
    Scott also posted Which Country of the World are You?. I was the USA. Care to comment?
    Scott posted a fun world geography quiz. My results:

    Europe - 95/111
    ME - 68/87
    Africa - 95/147
    CA - 30/42
    SA - 36/39
    Asia - 77/84
    Canada - 37/39

    You should be able to beat those easily. Let's see your scores.

    Friday, May 2

    Went sailing with some friends last night. You probably heard me. I was the one hanging from the lifeline singing 'Rio'.

    Monday, April 28

    'Get your geek on' courtesy of Jaq: Jeff Russell's Starship Dimensions. There are different ships on the different tabs, so make sure to check them all out, especially the -2000X (the biggest).
    Surely Brad Banks can do better than Rob Johnson, right?
    We have a plan!

    InterVarsity called this morning to offer me the Campus Staff position at the University of South Carolina (Columbia) and I accepted. We will be moving to Columbia, hopefully this summer, after we sell our house here and get a good start on raising support.

    Saturday, April 26

    Something else I got from Meg's presentation was GeoURL, which continues the meme of planet posting for me. When I get home I plan on entering my GPS coordinates into the meta tags of this weblog and registering in their database. I think this stuff is going to come together. Not that I have the ability to get get GPS coordinated in real-life, yet, but it must be coming, right?
    What's the future of weblogging?

    Wouldn't you like to know...

    I don't know either. I don't even know what it is for me. I'm pretty tempted to switch over to Movable Type, like all of the cool kids, but I've never worked on a server before. Maybe I should and maybe I shouldn't. My logging has slacked off a lot lately. I still like it, but it can be hard to get to, especially when the kids are around. Part of me thinks I don't need to spend any more time at this, like learning MT and servers and such. Maybe TypePad will be an easy way to get the functionality of MT. I don't know. I certainly believe in the medium...

    Jaq got me thinking about it reading his RSS flare (4.23, long ways down, permalink not working). He got me thinking and I commented and here's the gist of it: RSS isn't necessary yet, but I bet it might be down the road (we can adopt it then). It's tempting to implement it to be able to use Micah Alpern's Trusted Blog Search Tool (via Meg's presentation, with other interesting potential future apps in it.)

    Tuesday, April 22

    Did you hear that great editorial on Fresh Air about how we've been doing violence to Iraq and the pronunciation of Arabic?

    Are you stuck-up when it comes to language? Then you'll enjoy Going Nucular.

    Both brought to you by Geoff Nunberg (who I found via language hat.)

    Monday, April 21

    So where, you ask, did this weblogging flurry come from? Two sources.

    1. I played too much Civ 3 yesterday and I vowed to take a day off, especially on Easter.

    2. Christine and I were talking about the Proto-Indo-European rooted words father, mother, sister, brother, daughter. Why not son?

    We hypothesized a different root language for son. Was the PIE-rooted word for son out there, something more nicely parallel?

    Wrong and nope. Son has its root is PIE and it just so happens to be different from the other five. Why? Don't know. My hypothesis: because sons were really, really important.

    (For the record, they had at least one more that fits: daiwer - husband's brother.)
    For my part, I'd like 'son' to be something more nicely parallel, like 'suter' (I checked 'suitor' and that's not where it comes form). But I guess it's not, is it?
    I've got poison ivy again, and it really stinks. I should be sleeping now, but it's bugging me, so I'm up relaxing before I try to sleep again.

    - two little patches on my left side and arm. I know exactly when it happened: I was mowing the lawn on friday (wihtout a shirt) and there was a branch sticking over the back fence and it hit me in that spot on the side before I realized what was happening. I was more careful after that, and I came inside and showered afterwards.

    It was just over 24 hours later that I first noticed the spots. They started to break and ooze today around noon.

    I'm going to see if I can gut this out a little longer, but I might be off to the doctor for immediate (24 hour) relief. We'll see.
    John put me on to languagehat. And languagehat mentioned the Bible on mp3. It's funny, but I didn't really think of that that way before. I guess it shows I'm not converted to the mp3 mindset. What I had thought before is that I needed to get the Bible on audio cd so I could make mp3s for personal use. Of course getting it on mp3 on cd is easier and cheaper.

    Audio Treasure

    But the versions are very limited: World English Bible, KJV, and NIV. That's all they list on their site and that's all I could find through Google. I want NRSV and NLT and maybe ESV. I can't believe more of these aren't available, and for free. Someone needs to get on that!

    Sunday, April 20

    More on Proto-Semitic

    It should be noted that Proto-Semitic is part of a huge language group, Afro-Asiatic. Semitic language and peoples probably came out of Africa. (This statement has been edited per language hat's suggestion.) But that's not surprising, right, since it's believed that life homo sapiens began first appeared in Africa.

    Another implicit theological question: Where is Eden? What was Eden? The answer is: I don't know. I'm inclined to believe that homo sapiens did indeed come out of Africa. What did the author(s) of Genesis intend? I'm inclined to believe Eden was in Mesopotamia, in the East, in the author's mind. Was there a literal Eden? Don't know.

    What about Adam and Eve? Don't know. Do Adam and Eve refer to the first home sapiens? Maybe. I had a professor one time who believed God might have taken home erectus and 'ensouled' them. That makes sense to me. Could be. But I wouldn't necessarily pin them down as Adam and Eve with no remainder. Because there seem to be other humans around pretty shortly after Eden in Genesis (at least on my reading). I haven't looked at it in an academic way, but I don't get the impression that you have to read from Genesis that there were no people who were not descended from Adam and Eve.

    (Note: I don't believe evolution across species has been proven. I believe God worked that part of evolution. But I could totally be wrong.)

    Could it have all been literally like the Bible can be literally read? Yep. God could have done it that way. It wouldn't fit my concept of God, but He's bigger than my concept. None of this specualtion is mission critical for me.