Sunday, May 30

Zinni, again

Well, I finished 'Battle Ready'. It was a really fascinating read. I didn't know, going into it, that Zinni had been the special envoy for Palestinian/Israeli peace talks in 2002-3. It was fascinating to read about his personal interactions with Sharon and Arafat and his opinions of them.

(Remember I said he'd been in the news? He was on 60 Minutes, and here's one report of what he said.)

Some ideas (his) and thoughts (mine) from the rest of the book:

TZ: Clinton's strategy of engagement and multilateralism was right.
SM: I agree with this. I didn't agree with Bush in his campaign when he said 'no nation-building'. Now he's trying to build two nations after having been isolationist and unilateralist. Makes it hard.

TZ: Middle Eastern leaders complained, when he was CINC of CENTCOM, that the US didn't listen enough to them, in crises, and, even worse, between them. We just came with our own agenda.

SM: Based on Zinni's arguments, I conclude that Al Qaeda is the first post-national state.

TZ objected to Ahmed Chalabi from the start, and now he's been charged with spying.

TZ: Politics in Washington are vicious and petty.

TZ really likes Musharraf (of Pakistan), and he relates a fair number of positive stories about him.

SM: I'm not sure Zinni's position on peace/negotiating/no judgments works. I'm much more compelled by seeking justice, which requires judgments. Maybe he's right from the standpoint of trying to get something done. But peace without justice usually leads to more injustice, and, thus, the seeds of future conflict. Truth, forgiveness, and reconciliation (like in South Africa) also work. I don't think Zinni would advocate peace at any cost, but we've got to keep away from that.

TZ has a lot of respect for Colin Powell.

He viewed Arafat as the major barrier to the peace process, that Arafat wouldn't confront Hamas et al.

TZ takes too much blame for the presenting 'bridging proposals' which Arafat later used as an excuse for stalling the process again.

SM: At the end of the book, Zinni makes an impassioned plea for values in USAmerica. Values would be nice. But I believe that we've cut lose the moorings we had that allowed us to share common values. I believe we're in an age when there aren't enough of us who have enough in common to share values that won't be undercut by those who decide to go the Nietzschean route and do whatever they want that they can.

Please understand me: I'm not arguing that everyone should have my values or their foundational principles. I'm simply assessing that, without common foundations we can't come up with common values.

I see Zinni as a first generation relativist: he believes in a god (he happens to be Catholic), but he won't tell you what to believe, though he wants you to believe in a Higher Power. That stuff doesn't work in the second generation. They conclude, rightly I think, that if it doesn't matter which god I believe in, there must not be a god at all. Then chances are slim that we'll arrive at common values.

But I recommend this book if you're interested in the military of the last 40 years and its place in international relations. It was the perfect mix for me and the best of this series. I read almost every word, and that's saying a lot.

The New World Order

I'm reading Tom Clancy's latest non-fiction, 'Battle Ready', written with Gen. Tony Zinni (who's been in the news this week for saying the Iraq plan was faulty(That's not why I'm reading it. I've read all the other books in this series.)). Zinni's got some really good stuff on the 90s post-USSR.

+ instead of investing in a New World Order, economically and with some military structure (a la the Marshall Plan), we just cut aid and the military (ie, The Peace Divdend) and got a big fat mess. People want to blame Clinton for downsizing the military, but it started under Bush the 1st.
+ the East-West struggle of 50 years only deferred the North-South struggle that was brewing.
+ our current conflicts are between non-state entities - terrorist groups, globalized corporations, and NGOs.
+ the military downsizing and the too-fast way it was handled was devastating to the function of the services, including morale.
+ General George Galvin, CINCEUR, wanted to use NATO to facilitate the military changes in the former Soviet Union, along with a Marshall Plan for them. It didn't happen.
+ the eastern side of the Iron Curtain experienced a peace catastrophe. 'The Soviets were bankrupt. There was no dividend because there was no capital.' (p181) The peace added to instability. The Cold War, at least, had provided stability.
+ EUCOM was srestling with the issue of the Balkans as early as 1990: could we afford to just let it 'Balkanize'? (The answer is 'no', but we let it happen anyway.)

Saturday, May 29

I may not have heard anything crazier than...

Rodeohead, the bluegrass Radiohead cover band (click on the pic). I wouldn't say I like it, so far... (via Boing Boing)

The Way We Eat Now

I find this article from Harvard Magazine very convicting (via Boing Boing). Some of this work is obviously for my own reference...

In 1980, 46 percent of U.S. adults were overweight; by 2000, the figure was 64.5 percent: nearly a 1 percent annual increase in the ranks of the fat. At this rate, by 2040, 100 percent of American adults will be overweight.

My current BMI is 27.1 (calculate yours), 2.1 points into the overweight category. That's no surprise. I'm a lot healthier after working out for the last seven months. I'm sure I have a higher percentage of muscle and a lower percentage of fat. But I also know I'm still overweight.

The highly educated have only half the level of obesity of those with lower education

Personal responsibility surely does play a role, but we also live in a "toxic environment" that in many ways discourages healthy eating, says Ludwig. "There's the incessant advertising and marketing of the poorest quality foods imaginable. To address this epidemic, you'd want to make healthful foods widely available, inexpensive, and convenient, and unhealthful foods relatively less so. Instead, we've done the opposite."

Pumping up portion size makes good business sense, because the cost of ingredients like sugar and water for a carbonated soda is trivial, and customers perceive the larger amount as delivering greater value.

Maybe I could motivate myself simply based on being an educated consumer...

In 1981, David Jenkins, a professor of nutrition at the University of Toronto, led a team that tested various foods to determine which were best for diabetics. They developed a "glycemic index" that ranked foods from 0 to 100, depending on how rapidly the body turned them into glucose. This work overturned some established bromides, such as the distinction between "simple" and "complex" carbohydrates: a baked russet potato, for example, traditionally defined as a complex carbohydrate, has a glycemic rating of 85 (±12; studies vary) whereas a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola appears on some glycemic indices at 63.

Speaking of 'mile and honey', they're both 'sweets' in a pre-processed sugar society, as are fruits, as in 'the fruit of the Spirit' or 'the fruit to the meal' (Hamlet).

Ironically, U.S. government agencies' attempts to deal with obesity during the last three decades—encouraging people to eat less fat and more carbohydrates, for example—actually may have exacerbated the problem. Take the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Guide Pyramid, first promulgated in 1992. The pyramid's diagram of dietary recommendations is a familiar sight on cereal boxes—hardly a coincidence, since the guidelines suggest six to 11 servings daily from the "bread, cereal, rice, and pasta" group. The USDA recommends eating more of these starches than any other category of food. Unfortunately, such starches are nearly all high-glycemic carbohydrates, which drive obesity, hyperinsulinemia, and Type II diabetes. "At best, the USDA pyramid offers wishy-washy, scientifically unfounded advice on an absolutely vital topic—what to eat," writes Willett in Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy. "At worst, the misinformation contributes to overweight, poor health, and unnecessary early deaths."

Note that the pyramid comes from the Department of Agriculture, not from an agency charged with promoting health, like the National Institutes of Health or the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The USDA essentially promotes and regulates commerce, and its pyramid (currently under revision; expect a new version in 2005) was the focus of intensive lobbying and political struggle by agribusinesses in the meat, sugar, dairy, and cereal industries, among others.

Food is the most essential of all economic goods. Fifty percent of the world's assets, employment, and consumer expenditures belong to the food system, according to Harvard Business School's Ray Goldberg, Moffett professor of agriculture and business emeritus. (In the United States, 17 percent of employment is in what Goldberg calls the "value-added food chain.") He adds that "7 percent of the farmers produce 80 percent of the food—and do it on one-third of the land in cultivation. In the United States, half the net income of farmers comes from the government, in forms like price supports and land set-asides." The food industry is huge and exerts enormous influence on government policy.

Consider the flap that arose after the United Nations' World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report in 2003 recommending guidelines for eating to improve world nutrition and prevent chronic diseases. Instead of applauding the report, the DHHS issued a 28-page, line-by-line critique and tried to get WHO to quash it. WHO recommended that people limit their intake of added sugars to no more than 10 percent of calories eaten, a guideline poorly received by the Sugar Association, a trade group that has threatened to pressure Congress to challenge the United States' $406 million contribution to WHO.

Clearly, some food industries have for many years successfully influenced the government in ways that keep the prices of certain foods artificially low. David Ludwig questions farm subsidies of "billions to the lowest-quality foods"—for example, grains like corn ("for corn sweeteners and animal feed to make Big Macs") and wheat ("refined carbohydrates.") Meanwhile, the government does not subsidize far healthier items like fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. "It's a perverse situation," he says. "The foods that are the worst for us have an artificially low price, and the best foods cost more. This is worse than a free market: we are creating a mirror-world here."

Governmental policies like cutting school budgets by dropping physical education programs may also prove to be a false economy. "Supposedly, in the richest, most powerful nation on earth, we can't afford physical-education programs for our kids," says Willett. "That's really obscene. Instead, we'll be spending $100 billion on the consequences. We simply have to make these investments." Ludwig concurs. "There's fast food sold in school cafeterias, soft drinks and candies in school vending machines, and advertising in classrooms on Channel One. Meanwhile there are cutbacks in physical education, as if it were a luxury. What was once daily and mandatory is now infrequent and optional."

The advocated way of eating is 'Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating'. Their revised Healthy Eating Pyramid appears in this document (about a quarter of the way down).

Whole grains: Amaranth, Barley, Brown rice, Bulgur (cracked wheat),
Whole-wheat pasta or couscous, Flaxseed, Millet, Oats, Quinoa, Rye, Spelt, Wheat berries, Wild rice.

Thursday, May 27

Brian McLaren on PoMo

This may be only for my own future reference, but Brian McLaren has a good open letter to Chuck Colson about postmodernism and the right Christian interaction with it.


If money were no object, I'd get the Kinesis Advantage Pro Keyboard and a triple action foot switch.

Pop update

Aaron responded to my request with a 50 years of pop post of his own.

Jaq responded, too
, though more briefly.

Wednesday, May 26

More on robots

My buddy, Jonathan, sent me a link to the video for Old Glory Robot Insurance (from SNL back in 95). It reminds me some of Yoshimi. It might take the 10MB file a while to load for you, but if you have the time, it's pretty funny.

Tuesday, May 25

Truth is stranger than fiction

Some group called Christian Exodus is proposing a state secede from the union and behave Christianly and they've picked...South Carolina.

They want to start by relocating 'at least 12,000 Christians willing to be active in political campaigns'.

Here's one committed, politically aware Christian who doesn't want them. For starters, I don't think they've got the right spirit, eg 'full of grace and truth'.

Failed Chinese dams

via Path Poly

Monday, May 24

Aw, Matthew, come on...

don't mention the naked dream. I have that dream all the time, and it's no fun.

Matthew's common dream is losing his teeth.

Got my gums lowered today

That's how I heard getting your teeth cleaned described once. It certainly described my visit today. My teeth were fine, but my gums weren't so good. She really beat me up. A little more flossing and another visit in six months.

Sunday, May 23

Texas Hold Em

Aaron's got a cool post about playing poker. I just learned this version at camp (for no money), and it's really fun. My buddy, Derek, has a version on his Palm that I need.

Iraqi abuse

I haven't written on this topic yet. The abuse was horrible and inexcusable.

It also bears saying, though, that fighting a war without dehumanizing your enemy is extremely hard. You have to dehumanize your enemy to want to kill them. War crimes are part and parcel of waging war, even in the best circumstances. We need to account for this dynamic when we're thinking about fighting a war.

Friday, May 21

The Daily Show

I'm keeping a closer eye on Jon Stewart since, if my students know what's going on in the world, chances are it's because of The Daily Show. He sure gave a funny address at William and Mary.

XXX Church

Wired is, of course, dubious. But I think XXXChurch is a good, worthwhile ministry.

Philip K Dick's 'A Scanner Darkly'

A good report about the movie.

David's book

Dorothea links David's new book: A Gateway to Sindarin. Pretty cool, huh?

The 50 most important events in 50 years of pop

I forget where I saw this list (kottke?) Wherever it was, they said it was Brit heavy, and that's true. But there are still some great mentions here. A few of my thoughts:

+ Chuck Berry's 'Maybellene'
+ Ronettes' 'Be My Baby' (under Phil Spector invents the Wall of Sound)
+ The Beatles take America
+ Bob Dylan releases 'Like a Rolling Stone'. Decided to pull it up on WinAmp.
+ The Who: 'My Generation'
- The Rolling Stones stink
+ the Kinks' 'You Really Got Me' (under Black Sabbath release their first album)
+ Saturday Night Fever goes on general release. I like songs on this album despite myself. Who doesn't?
+/- The launch of MTV
+ Michael Jackson: Thriller released. What I said about SNF.
+ The Smiths: 'This Charming Man'. My favorite moment in this list so far. Love The Smiths.
+ New Order: 'Blue Monday'
+ Madonnna's 'Material Girl' is released. Madonna is a guilty pleasure for me.
+ Nirvana: 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'. I like the song fine, but what it spawned (eg, Pearl Jam's 'Ten') more.
+ The birth of Napster

How about you? What are you favorite moments herein? What events would you nominate? Which would you excise?

Sacred Space

Stopped by Sacred Space today for the first time. My buddy, Bryan suggested it, and I bookmarked it, but I hadn't taken the time to visit. It was cool. If you're interested in Christian prayer, you should give it a try.

Wednesday, May 19

While I was out...

A lot of stuff happened at Google, including a terabyte of Gmail, their own weblog, and Blogger's relaunch. That's what my inbox tells me.

The NBA Playoffs ground on. That's what Sports Illustrated tells me.

Apart from that, I'm still pretty out of it. But I'm back.

Tuesday, May 4

I'm outta here...

for two weeks. Going to camp at Rockbridge. There is no Internet. Heck, there's no Cingular signal. So I'll talk back to you in two weeks.

I'll leave you with one last link: The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities. I forget where I found this. It has some potentially very sweet apps.

Saturday, May 1

The Google IPO

By now, you know that Google has filed for their IPO.

I've seen the quotes that are critical of Google's plan here (eg). But I'm glad they're doing something out of the box. That's what I expect from Google.

There are many ways in which being a public company can be detrimental to service, not least of all, service to the user. Hitting quarterly earnings numbers often penalizes companies for future invesment. Being controlled by a board can severely limit the kind of quick decision making that needs to happen to compete well.

They beat the temptation to go for the money. Heck, they warned people off of buying their stock.

This may be a mistake on Google's part, but I sure hope not. I hope this sets a trend for other companies to dial down the dollars and ameliorate the bad effects that going public can have on a company.

Jason is the man

I posted the text of Chaucer's General Prolgue in Middle English that I had to learn in college over on Kith and Kin. Jason sent their website this email that he copied me on:

Dear Librarius editors,

I like your site very much; thank you for the hard work that went into it.

That said, I wonder what the basis is for the textual variant I see in line 17. Your version runs, "The hooly blisful martir for the seke." I'm used to seeing it rendered, "The hooly blisful martir for to seke." I'm pretty sure the second version is preferable. Here's why:
1. As your glossary notes, "seke" in this case is a verb meaning "visit." Of course, it is also a variation of "seeke," meaning "sick," but that would have Chaucer building his rime riche on a single word. While that's not unheard-of, it seems to me that he normally prefers something like the clever couplet from The Merchant's Tale, "For sondry scoles maken sotile clerkis; / Womman of manye scoles half a clerk is."
2. If "seke" is construed as "sick" in line 17, Chaucer is reduced to writing, "The holy, blissful martyr of the sick / Who helped them when they were sick." I cannot believe he would do that.
3. If "seke" is construed as "visit," the construction "for the seke" certainly seems nonstandard, as "for to" has the precedent of "for to seken straunge strondes" in line 13. This construction is also attested in line 33, "And made forward erly for to ryse."

I'm familiar with the complicated manuscript situation faced by editors of Chaucer. How did you come to use this version of the line?

Jason Streed