Friday, December 31, 2004

Books

Read three books so far this week. All are Discworld novels, The Truth, Thief of Time and Night Watch. They were all very good. The last was probably my favourite since it followed Sam Vimes pretty much exclusively, and I find him the character with whom I can most sympathize. Only two more to go and I'm all caught up with this series.

I started reading The Bell Curve which, you may recall, caused a lot of controversy when it first came out. For those not in the know, it was a statistical study of intelligence that seemed to indicate that intelligence may well be linked to genetics and that intelligence is heritable. Anyway, I meant to read it years ago to see what all the fuss was about, but I'm just now getting around to it. They haven't said that much that I find controversial yet, but I'm only in the second chapter.

Baseball Roller Coaster

And we're back to sadness again. The AP is now reporting that the Yanks and the D'backs have reached a tentative agreement to move Randy Johnson. I don't think I can take this much longer. Just do something already!

Take Out Chinese

Or maybe I should make that "Taiwanese". John Derbyshire comments in his December Diary that the US needs to make its policies in Asia more consistent with its stated policies elsewhere.
Most recently the ChiComs have put out a policy paper on national defense...The policy paper goes on to say that separatist activities on Taiwan have become the “biggest immediate threat” to China's sovereignty and to peace and stability in the region.

Taiwan has been functioning as an independent nation for 55 years. In all its previous history, the place was governed by China as a Chinese province for just twelve years. Exactly why the open declaration of what everyone knows to be the case should be a “threat” to anyone at all is a mystery to me. The threat to peace and stability in the western Pacific is not posed by the Taiwanese, who just want to get on with building up their country in peace and independence. The real threat arises from the unrestrained aggressiveness of the Chinese Communists.
And he concludes by asking "Where is all our bluster about “spreading democracy” when it comes to East Asia?"

A good question.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Joy In Mudville

Hail to the Dodgers! Who have blocked the trade of Randy Johnson to the Yankers. It was to have been a three-team trade between the Diamondbacks, the Yankees and the Dodgers. My reasons for not wanting the Yankees to pick up Johnson can be found here.

And now the Yankees are complaining about the Dodgers last minute withdrawal from the deal.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Books

Haven't finished a book in a while. Been doing a fair bit of reading, but events have conspired against me.

Started Damsel in Distress by P.G. Wodehouse, but when I was about two-thirds finished, I forgot it at my parents house and drove to my in-laws without it. My parents will forward it to me in Seattle and I'll finish it next week. Quite good, so far. It's like most other Wodehouse novels, but for all their similarity, I never tire of them. This is one of his earlier works, and uses characters I don't recall reading about elsewhere in the Wodehouse corpus.

Also reading The Siege of Vienna, which, while interesting, is slow going. The topic is quite good, the writing less so. Still, shall probably plod through to the end. And once I clear the initial chapters to get to the actual fighting, it may pick up a bit.

Other than that, I've mostly just been browsing through various books without really applying myself to any of them. I expect I'll get back to reading more diligently after I get clear of all this family interaction stuff. Which is fine in its place.

City of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia, that is. While not strictly in Philadelphia, I am there in the same sense that I tell people I live in Seattle. I don't live in Seattle proper, but very close and, unless you live or have lived nearby, you wouldn't have a clue where I was talking about if I gave the name of the small town in which I do live.

Been a nice, relaxing couple of days, and I'm here until the end of the week. My father-in-law trounced me soundly in several games of pool, and I have demurred ping-pong knowing I have even less hope there. My plan is to get my own back through several games of chess. We'll see how that goes.

Been doing some reading, watched a few movies, played games with family. Taught myself to play bridge not too long ago and have been inflicting that on my family.

Watched Secret Window for the first time. Not too pleased. I figured it out pretty early, and I didn't like the way it ended. While trying not to give too much away, let me just say that when movies end in the manner that this did, it has to be done just right to prevent me from being disappointed. Watched Pirates of the Caribbean for the second time. It's funny, and I enjoy the dialogue, but I'm not going to spend money on it myself. I was reminded afresh that Orlando Bloom is nothing more than a face. (For further evidence that he can't act, see the Lord of the Rings trilogy.) Watched the Legend of Earthsea mini-series on the SciFi channel. It was... okay. I guess. For a made-for-TV movie. I think I may finally be motivated to read the books, but I'm afraid that it will turn out like (shudder) Eddings. Of course, that could just be the influence of a bad mini-series, so I'll give it a shot. Oh, and I saw Shrek 2. Which could have been sub-titled "Shrek 1 Warmed Over". It was funny, but the novelty and edge was gone.

Don't have time to recap books at the moment. Maybe later today or tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

D'backs make effort to ruin my Christmas

It seems the D'backs are determined to play the Grinch and have renewed efforts to move Randy Johnson to the Yanks. Bah. Humbug.

Happy Christmas!

Yes, it's a bit early, but I'm already off on the East Coast of the US to visit my family and my wife's family. I'm in Northern VA for a week and then to Philly for a week. Blogging will probably be light, since I'll be spending time with family instead of online, but I'll probably squeeze a post or two in on more personal topics rather than on news items between now and Yule. I hope everyone has a safe and Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Technical Difficulties

The number of boxes full o' stuff is decreasing in my new apartment, but still no internet. I am now considering, broadband. (gasp!) Probably going to be DSL. Be nice to have cable, which I'm told is much faster, but one must pay for such blinding speed. Further updates as events warrant.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Steroids, Baseball and the US Congress

In response to Steve's query, more on the steroids in Major League Baseball (MLB).

Which is a good question. The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) is a very powerful union. Things in general have broken their way since Curt Flood started to break the hold of the reserve clause owners used on players. (For more on that, go here.)

Congress is now threatening to get involved and force MLB to impose more stringent rules to find and punish users of performance-enhancing drugs. Why Congress? Because MLB has an anti-trust exemption that ruled it is not a business but a sport, thus it is immune from some of the usual laws that govern businesses. More stringent testing and punishment rules must be agreed upon by the MLB and MLBPA. (More on the anti-trust exemption, here.)

In 2003, under terms of an agreement between MLB and MLBPA, baseball conducted 1,438 random, anonymous steroid tests during the season. The agreement was that if more than 5% came back positive, then every baseball player in MLB would be tested twice the following year and punishments imposed for positive results.

Though the league wasn't specific, it was announced that 5%-7% of the tests in 2003 were positive. Because of the number of positives, MLB did activate the second part of the agreement and for the 2004 season, the testing and the penalties were in effect. The penalties ranged from clinical treatment and additional testing for one offense to a year suspension and a $100,000 fine for 5 violations. This regimen is in place until two consecutive seasons combined have less than a 2 1/2% positive test rate. (More details, see this from Nov03.)

I'm a lot fuzzier on what substances are banned by MLB. According to this article from ESPN, any substance is added to MLB's banned list "when the Food and Drug Administration declare[s] it an illegal substance". I tried to find information on the internet regarding what exactly is on the list of substances banned by MLB, but I couldn't find a comprehensive list. Androstenedione, usually shortened to "andro", (which is the product famously used by Mark McGwire when it was still licit) has been banned by MLB, so some substances that are not illegal to possess and use in the US are still banned by baseball, but I don't know what all of them are.

Hope that's helpful to Steve and others.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Big Unit not going to Big Apple

AP reports that Randy Johnson will not be traded to the Yankees. Which is good news for me. I loathe the Yankers and am a big fan of the Big Unit. The resulting conflict of loyalties would trouble me in whether I should cheer for Johnson to win or the Yankers to lose.

But the joy in Mudville brought about by this news is tempered by a sentence near the end of the article. "Johnson has a no-trade clause, and it's not clear whether the Yankees are the only team he would accept a deal to." Johnson is a phenomenal pitcher and is a lock for Cooperstown when he retires; if for no other reason than his place on the all-time K list. But I fear that he'll be viewed by the general public as being 2nd to Roger Clemens among his contemporaries because he's about 80 wins behind Roger. If he doesn't accept a trade to another contender and ends up stuck in Arizona for another couple years, he might not make it to 300 wins, which (though I've pointed out their uselessness as a stat) matter a lot to the average baseball fan.

Giambi on the juice

Jason Giambi has admitted it. He was juiced. That powerful physique? Created by chemicals. And who did he get the stuff from? Why, Barry Bonds' personal trainer, of course. In fact, his opening inquiry that led to the use of the steroids was to ask Bonds' trainer Greg Anderson "what are the things you're doing with Barry?" And while Anderson never came straight out and told Giambi that Bonds was doping as well, I think the circumstantial evidence against Bonds is even more damning that it was before.

UPDATE: Turns out Barry has admitted (though he claims it was all a misunderstanding) that he was on the juice too. Which came out before I could get the above posted. Dang it!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Books

Read C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed. It was interesting, but quite short. I don't think even a hundred pages, in fairly large type. Lewis moved through what looked to be the classic stages of grief, but most of it had a religious bent. It wasn't one of his best.

Finished out the Aubrey-Maturin series. I have to say, while I knew that I really enjoyed it while I was reading through it, I didn't realise just how much I enjoyed it until I finished. I was so disappointed that there were no more books, no more stories, no more information about these two characters. The last books were The Hundred Days, The Yellow Admiral and Blue at the Mizzen.

I also read 21, which is the fragment that was to have been the 21st Aubrey-Maturin book. It was unfinished when Patrick O'Brian died. It looked to have been quite as good as the rest and further increased my disappointment by reinforcing the point that there will be no more such books.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Moving

Just moved to a new apartment and I'm having some difficulties with my internet connection at home. Posting will be rare until that is sorted out. That, and there's a lot of unpacking to do.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

K-Mart+Sears=???

I was so excited when I first caught wind of this story. K-Mart merging with Sears? Fans of the movie Army of Darkness will know why I experienced a frisson of joy. But then I heard more and found out that both sets of stores are going to retain their own names and brands or make a switch from one to the other. Despair. How could they miss the possibility? The perfect slogan awaits in the merging of their names:

"Shop Smart. Shop S-Mart."

O! What might have been!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

BCS Confusion

I'm not a fan of the BCS. And more fodder for us detractors is that four, count 'em, four teams are still undefeated. USC, Oklahoma and Auburn all have only two games left and Utah only one. And while Utah isn't considered to be as good as the other three, another unbeaten team will help at least a little bit in fueling the fires of the BCS' demise. I think it's likely that at least three of the four will win out and there's a good chance all of them will.

USC isn't likely to lose to either Notre Dame or UCLA, both 6-4 right now. Oklahoma has a game with Baylor whose record is a mere 3-7 and then the winner of the North Division of the Big 12 where the top three teams are 5-4, 6-4 and 5-5. On the other hand, Oklahoma lost to Kansas State last year in a game they should have won. Auburn probably has the toughest road, but they have looked strongest all year. First up for them is 6-4 Alabama in a very big rivalry game and then 7-2 Tennessee, or if Tennessee improbably loses both of their last two conference games against cellar-dwelling Vanderbilt and Kentucky, 8-2 Georgia. Auburn has beaten both already, in convincing fashion, but both are solid teams that will be looking for revenge.

Good times.

3500 Years Of Experience!

Watching a triathlon on OLN, they interposed a short segment about a bicycle manufacturer. During it, the head man from the manufacturer that was being interviewed said that in the company's building were "3500 years of experience" collectively. That's so stupid. That doesn't mean anything. What if it's 350 people that average 10 years of experience. That's not that impressive. Or what if it's 700 people with an average of 5 years of experience? Then it might be better to go with a smaller company with "fewer" years of "collective experience". Good grief.

Colour me surprised.

So I was thinking that the season wasn't going to go well for the Sonics when they lost their first game by 30. And I suppose it still might not go well. But they've run off seven games in a row now, including a couple of impressive come-from-behind wins, and now own the best record in the NBA. I'm pleased, but not sanguine that it will last. Maybe they'll be the Pistons of this season, but I won't hold my breath.

The college basketball season is starting up, which should also be a lot of fun. The UW Huskies are ranked in both polls right now. Hopefully, my tourney picks come March will turn out better than last year.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Marvel at the stupidity

Today's PVP strip deals with the story here in USA Today. It seems that Marvel is suing over the ability of players of the City of Heroes game to create a hero that is strikingly similar to comic book heroes that Marvel has copyrighted. And this is the fault of NCSoft and Cryptic Studios (game makers of COH) how? As Kurtz points out in his comic, one might as well sue paper and pencil manufacturers for enabling people to infringe on the copyright of Marvel. Or art teachers for teaching kids to draw so then they can draw their favourite comic book heroes. Is it possible that Marvel doesn't realise that this will annoy and anger their base of fans? If you're a huge fan of the Hulk, and suddenly you can't play your Hulk-like character in COH because Marvel stopped you, will that make you more or less inclined to run out and buy a bunch more Marvel comics? Will having the purpose (to play a game as The Incredible Hulk) behind your spending $50 on a computer game and a $15 a month to play online thwarted make you more of a loyal consumer of Marvel products or less?

Wonderful Wodehouse Words

Steve links to a wonderful page where refreshing it provides one with random quotes from P.G. Wodehouse's books. Take the one below, for example, taken from the foreword to Summer Lightning.
A certain critic--for such men, I regret to say, do exist--made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained 'all the old Wodehouse characters under different names.' He has probably by now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha: but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled the man this time by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Books

Read two more books from the Aubrey-Maturin series, The Wine-Dark Sea and The Commodore. Both were pretty good, but the former was the better sailing story. The second was interesting in its development of the family life of Maturing, but it seemed to just meander and not really get anywhere from a nautical point of view.

Also read The Doorbell Rang and Homicide Trinity; both are Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout. The second is a trifecta of short stories which are pretty good. The first is a novel in which Nero Wolfe takes on Hoover's FBI. Not too bad, and it's quite obvious that the author was not a fan.

Finally, I just finished up reading Applied Economics by Thomas Sowell. It wasn't bad, but one could probably be served just as well by simply reading Basic Economics.

A last book related note. I'm a huge fan of P.G. Wodehouse, and I found on the internet a nice date-ordered bibliography of his works. Lots of details.

The Evil that is Copy-Editors

Footling about on the internet and I ran across this article by Thomas Sowell on writing. It covers a lot of ground, and it's all pretty interesting and probably large swathes are useful for bloggers as well as writers of books. But what really struck me was the bit about copy-editors. Made me glad that I don't have to deal with one.
Then there are those copy-editors who are politically correct. They don't want you to use words like fireman or businessman or even to say that someone mastered a subject, because these are all words deriving from a male-dominated world instead of being "gender neutral." And of course you cannot refer to someone's having welshed on a deal or even say that he has a chink in his armor or that there is a nip in the air, because all of these terms are considered ethnically offensive, at least by politically correct copy-editors.

But these are just two kinds of absurdities from the rich spectrum of the absurdities of copy-editors. Where Shakespeare wrote, "To be or not to be, that is the question," a copy-editor would substitute: "The issue is one of existence versus non-existence." Where Lincoln said, "Fourscore and seven years ago," a copy-editor would change that to: "It has been 87 years since . . ." Where the Bible said, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth," a copy-editor would run a blue pencil through the first three words as redundant.

Pedestrian uniformity and shriveled brevity are the holy grail of copy-editors, the bureaucrats of the publishing industry. Like other bureaucrats, copy-editors tend to have a dedication to rules and a tin ear for anything beyond the rules. Seldom is there even the pretense that their editorial tinkerings are going to make the writing easier for the reader to follow, more graceful, more enjoyable, or more memorable.

Self-justifying rules and job-justifying busy work are the only visible goals of copy-editors.

Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day. If you know a vet, thank him. Meet one, thank him. And today, take a minute at 11:11am to think in silence about the sacrifices veterans have made. That is all.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Slam Dunk Idiocy

Am I the only one who is sick and tired of slam dunks being treated as the ultimate basketball highlight? Sure, when it was less common, when it hadn't been done to death and in every way possible, they were exciting. But not any more. Maybe I'm just getting old, but if highlights are going to be graded on difficulty, rarity and impressiveness, then threading a long pass or an acrobatic lay-up or off-balance shot should be given more attention than a mediocre power forward who gets a lucky-bounce short-rebound and then dunks the ball with an angry expression.

Incredible Movie

Okay, so I haven't seen it yet. (And it might be a while with my current situation.) But from reading several reviews, including this one from National Review Online, I can't wait. I was particularly touched by how Mathewes-Green outlined how Pixar movies model for children the way adults, and especially parents, are supposed to behave. It probably has something to do with the fact that my first child will be born (God willing) in March, but I still think it would make most people think. As kids' movies go, she's right Pixar is clearly the best. Not because they make movies that are childish, but because they make movies that model the world in a way children can understand.

Randy or Roger?

Randy Johnson got jobbed. He came in a distant second place to Roger Clemens in the Cy Young vote, and why? The only statistics that Roger Clemens had that were at all superior were Wins, Hits Allowed and Home Runs Allowed. The differences in Hits and HRs were so small (177-169 and 18-15) that the difference can be explained by the fact that Johnson started two more games than Clemens and pitched 31 more innings than Clemens. In other words, Johnson did more work each game and started more games than Clemens.

Wins are (once thought about) obviously one of the poorest measures of pitching ability. A pitcher, while instrumental in preventing the opposing team from scoring, is only one bat of nine for his own team's offense and no pitcher is expected to be a big contributor on offense. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Johnson's team, scored fewer runs in 2004 than any other team in either league. The Astros, while not the best, were considerably better being 13th of 30 teams and 5th in the National League. Roger Clemens received more support from his team throughout the year. In games that Clemens started, his team scored an average of 4.73 runs. In games Johnson started, his team scored an average of 3.53 runs.

When comparing stat lines that truly indicated a pitcher's ability, such as Earned Run Average (ERA), Opponent's Batting Average (BAA), Baserunners Allowed (WHIP), Strikeouts (K), Walks (BB), Complete Games (CG) and Shutouts (SHO), Johnson is obviously the better pitcher.

Statistics ERA / BAA / WHIP / K / BB / CG / SHO
Johnson 2.60 / .197 / 0.90 / 290 / 44 / 4 / 2
Clemens 2.98 / .217 / 1.16 / 218 / 79 / 0 / 0

Other circumstances taken into account may have been Clemens getting into the playoffs. But on the other hand, Johnson threw his second no-hitter, a perfect game (the oldest man to throw a perfect game). Clemens has never managed this feat. By just about any measure of pitching ability, Randy Johnson should have been the National League Cy Young winner. It's a shame that bigger flash won out over better performance.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Baby Kobe

Just finished watching the Spurs-Lakers game. Spurs won by a mere 9 points after leading by 18 partway through the third quarter. Lakers only got as close as 6 and the outcome never really felt in doubt. But what really impressed about this game, was Kobe's ineptness and petulance.

Sure, Kobe had 28 points, but he had 3 turnovers practically negate his 4 assists and he shot a mere 8 for 22. Beyond that, on a personal level, it seems the losing is getting to Kobe. Throughout the game he spent an inordinate amount of time yelling at referees about calls he thought should have happened but didn't, calls that happened that he didn't like and generally crying like a little girl. He even tried to pick a fight with Tim Duncan at one point. What has to hurt more than anything else, is that Kobe has no one but himself to blame for the break-up of the title contending team he was on last year.

Kobe, meet the bed you made. Bed, Kobe. Sleepy time.

Books

Been doing a spot of reading. Everything I've finished lately has been from the Discworld series. Read Feet of Clay, Jingo and The Fifth Elephant each of which was good, but Jingo was probably least good. Pratchett has been getting more and more preachy as the series has gone on.

When words go bad

Another article from October's First Things, this one on the sad demise of the perfectly good word "proselytise" and its variations. Some good thoughts about proselytism (or "evangelism", the word currently in vogue), but also an interesting article from a linguistic and social perspective.

Neighbors to the North

I don't often think about Canada and I suspect that most other Americans (who aren't right on the border) don't either. But in the past 6 months, they had a national election that shook up their political system. The Liberal party, in power since 1993, was dealt a setback by a united Conservative party (which had come together after being fractured for years) and by an enormous money scandal. An editorial from the October First Things analyses the Canadian political situation with particular emphasis on the contentious social issues of our time, namely homosexual marriage and abortion.

Grant: Hero

A book review in the latest New Criterion gives Victor Davis Hanson (odd how some people are always known by all of their names) a chance to expound a bit on the greatness that was Ulysses Grant. A hero of mine since reading a biography by Jean Edward Smith (there it is again) a year or so ago, VDH reinforces my belief that Grant was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, military man the US has produced. While VDH doesn't go into great detail, he does provide a general outline for the arc of the adult life of Grant. Lincoln could not have saved the Union and freed the slaves without Grant. Oh, and it sounds like it might not be a bad book, though I'd recommend Grant, by the aforementioned Jean Edward Smith.

Break out the peach baskets

It's that time of year again. What time, you ask? The time when both basketball and football are happening. It's the most wonderful time/of the year...? Okay, so that's pitching it a bit strong. Still. Fun times. Except the Sonics look to be the doormats of the NBA. Season opener against the LA Clippers last night. Result? Sonics lose by 30. Thirty! Three-zero. To the Clippers. Clip-pers. The Clips were worst in the West last year. And they clubbed the Sonics by 30. It's going to be a long year. Heard a comment on ESPN that the Sonics may have trouble winning 20 games.

On the positive side, Kobe and the Lakers had their lunch handed to them. Pummelled by the Utah Jazz by 26. It always makes me smile to see the Lakers lose. And, frankly, I laughed out loud when I saw they lost by so much. Am I a bad person? Other interesting scores were Shaq's Miami Heat beating up on the (Jason Kidd-less) Nets 100-77 and San Antonio knocked off Sacramento 101-85 handing the Kings their second blow-out loss. The Kings look to have dropped off this year, which isn't surprising. They've lost several players and haven't done much to make up for it. And Dallas picked up their second win of the year beating a New Orleans team that has gotten the shaft in the NBA re-alignment, which moved them from the East (where they could expect to have a chance at the play-offs) to the West (where they don't have a prayer).

Offensively, the NBA looks good so far, though whether it will pan out remains to be seen. 10 teams of 32 (some teams counted twice if they have played two games) scored more than 100 points in the first couple days (though, it did take two overtimes for Cleveland and Indiana to manage it).

Bush Wins Re-election

Not news to anyone by now, of course. I'm sure everyone knows that it was close, Ohio was decided by 136K some odd votes. Kerry was going to wait and see if the provisional ballots would put him over the top, but once the numbers got explained to him and it became apparent that it would take a statistical miracle for him to win, he did the gracious thing and conceded. I have to say, I'm heartened by the fact that Bush not only won, but became the first president since 1988 to win with more than 50% of the votes. I think this bodes well for the future of a free Iraq as well as the security of the US. There is still plenty I don't like about Bush (government spending, government growth, immigration policy, etc), but on the fundamental questions that matter most to me, I think he is right there. Pro-life, will aggressively defend the US at home and abroad, in favour of preserving marriage, etc. And, on every question, Bush had Kerry beat cold. As bad as Bush might be about spending my money, Kerry would have been worse. As bad as Bush might be about kow-towing to the illegal alie...? pardon me, undocumented immigrant lobbies, Kerry would have been worse. Tuesday was a good day.

Moderate? Yeah, moderately liberal!

An interesting post from Jonah Goldberg regarding how he thinks many moderates are just afraid of calling themselves liberals. I think this is true, but I don't think it's just fear. I think many liberals don't think of themselves as being liberal. To a lot of people who aren't very reflective about their politics, or not very informed, they sit right about in the middle of the spectrum. "Anyone to my right is conservative, anyone to my left is liberal. Obviously, I am the moderate middle, I am the norm." But I do think that this idea is easier for a liberal to hold even with a fair amount of political thought and information in our society since our institutions and the vast majority of the media tend to be on the liberal side of the scale. A liberal fish swimming in a liberal sea sees himself as being moderate, if you'll allow a rather inapt metaphor. Honestly, this is kinda how I think of Greg. I think he's a bit more liberal than he thinks, whereas he just believes he's more "moderate".

On the way home from work, I heard a girl interviewed on NPR saying how she doesn't think the Left exists in the US any more. She thinks it's just the Center and the Right. Which is both stupid and fits with what Jonah was saying.

Stupid Blogger!

I don't know what the problem has been (Blogger isn't very good about letting people know when they're having problems), but Blogger hasn't been working in the mornings for the past several days when I'm trying to post. If you're reading this, then apparently it's working again.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Selling Friends Down The River

Colin Powell has got to go in the next Bush administration. (Keeping my fingers crossed that there will be one.) John J. Tkacik Jr., of The Heritage Foundation, explains on NRO how Colin Powell caved to the ChiComs in a recent interview with a Hong Kong reporter.

Not only did he say that Taiwan and Communist China should eventually reunite (which appalls the Taiwanese after seeing the loss of freedom when Hong Kong was reunited with Communist China), but he averred that Taiwan is not even a sovereign nation presently, which is both a gross falsehood and does our staunch ally a great disservice.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Expanding Your Vocabulary... or, er, at least mine.

I ran across a few new words in reading The Survival of Culture. Thought I'd share what I found in the Oxford English Dictionary when I looked them up. As follows in no particular order:

desuetude

1. A discontinuance of the use or practice (of anything); disuse; protracted cessation from.

b. The passing into a state of disuse.

2. The condition or state into which anything falls when one ceases to use or practise it; the state of disuse.


and

eudemonic, -dæmonic, a.

1. Conducive to happiness; viewed as conducive to happiness.

2. pl. a. (after Gr. ) (see quot. a1832). b. (nonce-use) Appliances for comfort, means of happiness.

a1832 BENTHAM Logic Wks. (1838-43) VIII. 289 Eudæmonics, or the art of applying life to the maximization of wellbeing.

So eudemonical a.


and lastly

exiguous, a.

Scanty in measure or number; extremely small, diminutive, minute.

Hence exiguousness = EXIGUITY.

Celebrity Bozos Want YOU To Vote!

A quite amusing article by Matt Labash about the inane "civics lessons" from celebrity goofballs. Not only are they not very bright, just now learning things the rest of us learned in middle school, but they're preachy, self-righteous, self-absorbed and inordinately impressed with their own importance. I particularly like Matt Labash's description of the man formerly-known-as Puff Daddy, "Mr. Diddy, aka Sean Combs, the rapper-fashion-mogul-all-purpose-publicity-tapeworm".

Blogger Problems

I'm annoyed by Blogger. The last couple mornings, when I go to publish posts I've written, it won't work. Yesterday, it didn't work at all. This morning, I managed one post the way I wanted it, and another that was 2/3 of what I was intending. It's annoying and frustrating. Blogger is good, a lot of nice features and it's free, but one does get what one pays for. Errors and problems crop up all the time. They don't usually last a long time, but it still gets on one's nerves.

Pre-emptive Praise

An article from the Asia Times praises George Bush for striking Iraq pre-emptively, Weapons of Mass Destruction or no. An interesting logic; whether one agrees or not, he does actually make a historical case for his position. Worth reading.
Whether or not Saddam Hussein actually intended or had the capacity to build nuclear weapons is of trifling weight in the strategic balance. Everyone is planning to build nuclear weapons. They involve 60-year-old technology no longer difficult to replicate. It hardly matters where one begins. "Kill the chicken, and let the monkey watch," as the Chinese say. Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, the theocrats of Iran, the North Koreans and soon many other incalculable reprobates have or will have such plans. It hardly matters which one you attack first, so long as you attack one of them.
But isn't it cruel to cast the die for war before it is proven beyond doubt that war cannot be avoided? Given the frightful cost of war, should peace not be given every chance? Some wars of course should not be fought, such as the threatened hot war between the United States and the Soviet Union. In many cases, however, risk and reward are highly asymmetric; the cost of a short and nasty small war vanishes toward insignificance compared with the price of a grand war of attrition, particularly when nuclear weapons are concerned.

Red Sox Thoughts

Well, I am surprised. I picked the Cards in 6, but that seems to have been a bit off. That's okay. I don't mind the Red Sox winning. Now we won't have to listen to the incessant whining about how they haven't won a World Series in nearly a century.

On another note, Presidential hopeful John Kerry seems to be less of a fan of the home-town team than he makes himself out to be.

Finally, an article from my alma mater's rag, The Falcon. It would be funnier if he had been able to write after the World Series had ended, instead of before Game 3.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Computer Gaming

Playing a great game lately, Escape From Monkey Island, which is the fourth and (so far) last installment in LucasArts' Monkey Island series. Classic adventure games, they have fun gameplay, good voice-acting and quite a bit of humour. Only one of the four I haven't finished yet. I'd recommend any and all to just about anyone.

This game series, and the enjoyability of the early games even though technology has passed them by goes to show that solid game design can trump the latest bells and whistles of graphics and sound.

I have seen a vision of my future.

And this is it. I can easily see a time (provided that I gain employment more gainful than currently) when I spend more on books than on food. Though, since my wife is a pastry chef who appreciates good food, that may be difficult. I'm willing to give it the old college try, however.

Catcher in the Rye is lousy

That's the gist of this article. I have to say, I've always suspected as much, though I have managed to avoid reading it. The Old Man and the Sea, by Hemingway, comes in for criticism in passing, and I whole-heartedly agree. I have read that book, and it was tripe. Based on that, I'm inclined to go along with the evaluation of Catcher in the Rye.

Quotation

The Survival of Culture
"No doubt I am biased, but it strikes me that a covert complicity exists between computer and user. Reading a book becomes an experience in one's life in a way that consulting a computer cannot be (or, at least, cannot be yet). The computer is unsurpassable for the transmission of facts, of raw information, as well as for its miraculous indexing properties, but it does not--again, perhaps does not yet--engage our imaginations and intellects in quite the same way a book does."

-Eric Ormsby, p. 37

Books

Finished reading Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell a couple days ago. An excellent book. A lot of it was things that I already knew, but a good bit was things that I hadn't ever considered, or presented topics that I already had heard about in a novel way. I'd say it would be a good primer on economics for just about anybody. He's also written another book as a sort of sequel, Applied Economics, which I also plan to read.

And as an update to my post about my frustration with my local library, I have spoken to them and they agreed to get my books to the correct library. They were quite nice about it; very apologetic for the problems caused by their computer system switch.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Don't Make Me Come Up There

The US has threatened to destroy the European Global Positioning System (GPS) competitor, Galileo in the even of war with a country that will use the system.
The paper also reported a disagreement between EU and US officials this month over Galileo at a London conference which led to the threat to blow up the future satellites.

The European delegates reportedly said they would not turn off or jam signals from their satellites, even if they were used in a war with the United States.

Some allies. Beyond this, countries now need to decide which system they will use, since they are not compatible. Countries that want to distance themselves from the US may be tempted by Galileo, but would then risk having their GPS capabilities destroyed if a country that the US goes to war with also uses Galileo. So if, say, Norway and Iran are both countries that sign up to use Galileo, and the US ends up in a conflict with Iran, Norway may lose GPS abilities if the US decides it needs to shoot down the Galileo satellites.

ARROWED!

Fun little game and time waster that Jonah Goldberg linked at NRO. Some stick-figure violence.

A Large Wading Bird To Visit In The Near Future

I'm not sure why I didn't mention this sooner on my blog. But I didn't. Suffice it to say, that child in the picture below. That's my baby. One runs that gamut of emotion in a generally constant fashion, mixing emotions in odd combinations. Fear Of Failure with Pride In Accomplishment, for example. Anyway. Thought people might want to see a picture of the little tyke.


Posted by Hello

Friday, October 22, 2004

Comments Switch

I'm switching my comments to Blogger rather than Haloscan. While I dislike some of the aspects of Blogger's comment system, such as forcing people to either post as "Anonymous" or starting a Blogger account, the advantage of placing the comments on a page with the post and the fact that Haloscan's comments don't persist like Blogger's seem to have decided me to switch. Sorry if that's a problem for anyone, but I don't think it will be a big deal. I have a single comment since I started blogging again.

Pro-life Women and Barbara Ehrenreich

Still reading First Things and I'm farther down the page of The Public Square now. Neuhaus comments at length on Barbara Ehrenreich's accusation that pro-life women are thumb-sucking wimps and hypocrites. Neuhaus' (sarcastic) conclusion:

Those thumb-sucking women are implying that it is not really terrific to be Barbara Ehrenreich, which is ludicrous. Not that they will be able to match her success, but they can at least support the abortion license that made it possible. Too bad about those two kids, but, as Sartre understood, nothing comes without paying a price. Sure it's unfair, but, then, life is unfair. The children died in the cause of giving the public Barbara Ehrenreich and giving Barbara Ehrenreich some really neat advantages. Do these women know what it's like to live in a grubby lower-middle-class world with a husband who works in a warehouse? Barbara Ehrenreich should feel guilty about what she did? Get real, ladies.

Neuhaus doesn't pull punches.

First Things and Good as New [?]

The November First Things is out, which means the October issue is now completely available online here.

In Richard Neuhaus' Public Square section, he mentions the new "translation" of the Bible, the Good as New by
John Henson of One, an organization dedicated to "establishing peace, justice, dignity, and rights for all," along with the "sustainable use of earth's resources," and to challenging "oppression, injustice, exclusion, and discrimination" while accepting "one another, valuing their diversity and experience."
Yeah.

And he contrasts some passages with the same passages from the Revised Standard Version. Here's a couple beginning with 1 Corinthians 7:

"To the unmarried and the widows, I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion." Good as New: "If you know you have strong needs, get yourself a partner. Better than being frustrated."

Mark 1 in the Revised Standard Version (RSV): "And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.'" Good as New: "As he was climbing up the bank again, the sun shone through a gap in the clouds. At the same time a pigeon flew down and perched on him. Jesus took this as a sign that God's spirit was with him. A voice from overhead was heard saying, 'That's my boy! You?re doing fine!'"

Scary Side of Organ Donation

An article from NRO talks about a recent case where an individual had his organs taken to be used in transplants before he was legally dead. Scary, and Wesley Smith summarises the implications succinctly.
The real danger to public confidence, not to mention the morality and ethics of medicine, lies in the growing advocacy to permit devastated and dying patients to be killed for their organs. Such a radical policy shift would not only shatter the public's willingness to sign organ-donation cards, but worse, it would turn would-be organ sources into commodities, reducing them from the status of fully human persons to mere harvestable natural resources.
I'm thinking I may switch my organ donor status next time I renew my driver's license.

Who's Number 1?!

Kerry! That's right, he's the number one liberal in the Senate. But you don't have to take my word for it. In fact, you don't have to take any Republican's word for it. Michael Moore says that Kerry is the most liberal man in the Senate.
Moore said Kerry may not be perfect, but is far superior to former Vice President Al Gore and this year's other Democratic presidential hopefuls. "There's a reason that they're saying Kerry is the No. 1 liberal in the Senate," said Moore. "It's because he is the No. 1 liberal in the Senate."
And if it takes one to know one...

How NOT to get the votes of moms

Republicans are making hay out of this. NRO has two articles about it. Not only did Teresa Heinz-Kerry claim that Laura Bush had never had a "real job" insulting stay-at-home moms everywhere, but she also ignored the fact that Mrs Bush has been both a librarian and a teacher. (Unions of both groups trend left making this comment a real puzzler.) She backpedaled with the semi-apology that was somewhat plausible: She hadn't remembered that Mrs Bush had been a teacher and a librarian. Doubtful, but let that pass. She still refused to acknowledge that raising kids is a "real job". Way to go, Teresa. Can you find a way to offend even more people at a whack?

Sports, Sports, Sports

A lot going on in the world of sports. The Red Sox beat the Yankees in 7 games, becoming the first baseball team to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best of seven series. The Cardinals won their decisive game 7 over the Astros, beating Roger Clemens (former Yankee) and sending him and Andy Pettite (former Yankee) home pennant-less.

I should elaborate on what I think about the Yankees-Red Sox thing. First of all, and most important, the Yankees lost. But I am a Mariners fan. Not a Red Sox fan. So while it is a great and glorious day when the Yankees lose, my only joy in the Red Sox win is that it adds to the Yankee shame and pain because the Red Sox are the greatest enemies of the Yankees. I don't care that the Red Sox are going to the World Series and it won't hurt me at all if they lose there. I'm just glad that the Yankers got beat, they had to suffer at the hands of their hated rivals, and their defeat was the biggest choke in the history of baseball. That's what warms the cockles of my heart.

In fact, I get a little bit irritated reading Bosox fans who try to co-opt the Yankee-hatred of others (such as myself) into pro-Red Sox sentiment. I don't care about your club at all. So you haven't been to the World Series in 18 years. Boo-hoo. My M's have never been. So you haven't won since the Great War. I couldn't care less. The M's have never won. Your pain means nothing to me. The Red Sox are just a means to the end that is hurting the hated Evil Empire. I'm even looking forward to watching Pujols and Rolen hitting shots over the Green Monster.

Not for the faint of stomach is an article about how the Red Sox doctors tested their theory about how to patch up Curt Schilling so he could pitch Game 6 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. "This man's dead, Jim."

Moving to college football, the NCAA cleared former UW football coach Rick Neuheisel of any wrong-doing in betting in a NCAA basketball tournament pool. He was not given correct information from the University, and was thus held not to have broken rules. He had complied with the instructions given him by the school's compliance officer. Despite Neuheisel being cleared, the UW had its probation extended another two years to 2007 for failing to adequately monitor the football program.

In gymnastics, Paul Hamm had the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) uphold his gold medal win in Athens in the Men's All-Around Gymnastics event. The South Koreans, who whined the next day that there was a judging error were sent packing with a flea in their ear for not following the established procedures for appealing.

Shaquile O'Neal and Kobe Bryant are still feuding despite being on teams on opposite coasts, and now Phil Jackson is getting up in the mix with a new book that criticises Kobe and says that Kobe was the reason he didn't come back to coach the Lakers.

Carmelo Anthony was busted for marijuana possession while boarding the team plane. His explanation? "It's not mine, officer! I swear! My friend, whose name I cannot for the moment recall, must have left it there when I loaned him my backpack." Actually, he has named the friend, and the friend has graciously stepped up and signed an affadavit taking repsonsibility for leaving the wacky tobacky in Anthony's bag. That was a big-hearted, GENEROUS gesture that I'm sure won't go unrewarded. And now we know why they call him "'Mello". It's a downward slide, neighbor. Refusing to play in Athens, fighting in a bar in New York and now getting caught with doobies. Tsk, tsk.

Ricky Williams' lawyer met with NFL and player's union officials to discuss Ricky's possible return to the NFL. Turns out that the reason Ricky retired was because he was facing a suspension for failing his third drug test and he didn't agree that the league had tested him properly. Yeah, because he learned his lesson from the first two drug test failures that he shouldn't act rashly and without taking thought for the future. In a totally unrelated note, it is a coincidence that Ricky's decision to play football again (because he has a passion for the game) was taken just after he found out that he would owe the Dolphins more than $8.6 million (because he didn't think through the consequences of his retirement and breach of contract).

Jerry Rice is now with the Seahawks. How strange is that? And all the Seahawks had to give up was a conditional seventh round draft pick. And, Jerry will continue to wear number 80. Though he did have the class to ask Steve Largent for permission, (and Largent did give the okay) it will pain me to see the number of the greatest Seahawk ever (my boyhood hero) on the back of an aging superstar who is hanging on to his career too long because his out-sized ego won't allow him to go into retirement gracefully. (Paging Emmitt Smith!)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Scholarly Independence

An interesting article from the NY Sun about the increasing prevalence and acceptance of scholars independent of academe. The National Coalition of Independent Scholars held a conference in New York this past weekend. A wide range of interests among these people, and obviously a lot of passion considering the financial difficulties many of them face.

Library Frustration

My local library system has recently switched to a new computer system, it seems. No big deal, right? Wrong. Not only did their catalog disappear for a week so that one could not check the status of holds, items out, fines, etc., but when everything came back, my items on hold were now at the wrong library. Not only were they at the wrong library, it's half an hour in the other direction.

Okay, if I can change that before they actually arrive to fill my hold, that's cool, yeah? And there is a note on the KCLS website that gives a phone number to call to have one's holds moved. So I called. They (rather rudely and abruptly) told me that it could not be done yet (despite what the website said) and to call back in a few days. So, I'm all set to call today and what is waiting for me in my e-mail? A notice from KCLS saying that one of my holds is filled and waiting at the wrong library.

So I'm going to call again today and ask them, politely at first, to move my book to the right library. Updates as events warrant.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Pepsi vs. Coke... In the Lab

Seems some scientists had a bit of extra grant money lying around and decided to check whether or not people could really tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke.

The result? "When asked to taste blind, they showed no preference. However, when the participants were shown company logos before they drank, the Coke label, the more famous of the two, had a dramatic impact: three-quarters of the tasters declared they preferred Coke." This indicated to researchers (along with the brain activity being monitored) that the associations that people had with the Coke label and logo were such that they actually influenced the way people experienced the drink.

I've always thought that I could tell the difference between the two. I've always thought that Pepsi was a bit sweeter and a bit smoother. Coke seemed to have a bit more edge to it. Now, well, I'm just going to have to test for myself maybe. If I do, I'll let you know what happens.

The Greatness of the "Almost-Great"

An article about why books that are almost great are needed and are important. Makes sense to me, but I think the author goes a bit far. "Any number of contemporary works fall into this category. They can be culled from genre writing, including horror, science fiction, outside action-adventure writing, serious biography and narrative history, and a form currently dubbed "chick lit" (the last usually qualifying as descendants of works by Jane Austen or the Brontës )."

I don't know that I'd include all that, but time will tell. I think the key to determining the great and the "almost-great", is time. The great books stand the test of time.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

D&D

An article about Dungeons and Dragons on NRO. I'm not a pen and paper gamer, but one of my favourite computer games, Baldur's Gate II (and BGI and the sequel Throne of Bhaal) uses the D&D system of rules. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed a turn-based game of that nature. Makes me interested in giving a paper game a try.

Kerry: Hoist With His Own Petard

Rich Lowry at NRO points out that Kerry contradicted himself rather badly during the final debate and throughout his campaign. He proclaims his faith but won't let it inform his deeds, except when politically expedient, of course.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Electoral College Maps

If you're into such things, here's a state-by-state breakdown of what the latest polls say about which states are leaning which way. Not only that, you can create custom maps based on different polls, polls of different people (everyone, registered voters, likely voters, etc.) and how recently the polls have been conducted. Worthwhile if you're interested in politics or even if you just like maps with pretty colours.

The Discerning Comics Reader

I like comic strips. But I don't like them all. A lot of comics are just lame. (See: Family Circus) Others preach tiresome liberal dogma under the pretense of being funny, which they rarely are. (See: Non Sequitur and Boondocks) But I've found 10 comics that consistently amuse and entertain me. Big Nate, Dilbert, Foxtrot, Frazz, Get Fuzzy, Luann, Pearls Before Swine, Pibgorn and Rose is Rose. The tenth comic, PVP, is only on the internet or in book collections. To read all of these every day would require subscribing to both local papers and even then I'd still not get every comic. (Get Fuzzy, for example, is not carried in either of the daily papers locally.) The solution, the internet. Ah, yes. Eight of those ten comics are handled by the same syndicate, it would seem. So comics.com is almost a one-stop comic-palooza. Foxtrot is at ucomics.com (though, if you only want the current day's strip, you can go to foxtrot.com and skip the ads and pop-ups) and PVP is on its own website at PVPonline.com. Both ucomics.com and comics.com have archives. Both sites' free archives are small (30 days at comics.com and 14 days at ucomics.com), but you can subscribe for a small fee and get access to years and years worth of comics. About the only thing newspapers are good for now is crossword puzzles and packing your china when you move. (Yes, I have found crossword puzzles online, but it's just not nearly as satisfying or easy to do them online.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Jacques Derrida RIP

John Miller and Mark Molesky, "deconstruct" Derrida on the occasion of his death. Not a bad summary, but for more info on deconstruction as a philosophy I'd suggest looking elsewhere. The writings of Roger Kimball are especially instructive, in my opinion.

Flowers... What?

Look at the post below this one. Back? Right. What is the deal with those flowers? It seems the default image for bullets when one makes a bullet-pointed list are... little, girly flowers. That's lame. I'll leave that list be, but until I take the time to figure how to change that, I'm going to stay away from the bulleted lists.

Books

I did a fair bit of reading during the time I wasn't blogging. I keep a list of the books I've read, but I'm not going to dig through it to find and list exactly what I wrote. I'll just run down the most recent ones that I can remember without much difficulty.
From Terry Pratchett's Discworld series:
From Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series: Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout:
Miscellaneous other books:

I don't think that's all of them, but it's most of them. That doesn't include books I've already read, though I didn't do hardly any re-reading during that time period.

Solzhenitsyn Considered

An interesting (to me) article from last month's First Things about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the great Russian dissident and writer. Probably best known in the West for The Gulag Archipelago, he was actually a fairly prolific writer. Even if you've never read anything he's written, you'd be well advised to check out the article and learn a bit more about the man who so profoundly influenced the latter half of the last century.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Chess Blog

Found an interesting chess blog. Haven't read through a whole lot of it yet, but it looks as if it might be promising. While I enjoy chess a great deal, and play when I get the chance, I'm not really very good. Especially so by the standards of those who play competitively. Since I'm not very well aware of what's going on in the larger world of chess I did some searching for a chess blog. Hopefully, checking this one periodically should help. I wouldn't recommend this blog as an impartial reporter of the various debates and conflicts, but it seems to cover a wide range of chess topics.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Capital Punishment: Playing God?

From First Things an interesting article all in all, but the part that struck me most was the one following. The argument that has troubled me most in the discussions I have had and in my own thoughts about the death penalty is the question of whether capital punishment is playing God. I had arrived at the conclusion that it was not, but it is articulated better below than I have ever been able to do.

I have heard it asked by fellow Christians, “How dare we play God? How dare we wrest into our own hands the divine prerogative of life and death?” It is a good question. My answer is that we dare not. We dare not wrest into our own hands any of the divine prerogatives of justice, whether the deprivation of life, of liberty, or of property. It is a dreadful matter to kill a man, but it is also dreadful to lock him in a hole, away from wife, children, parents, friends, and all that he held dear in life. It is a fearsome matter to imprison a man, but it is also fearsome to use fines and impoundments to confiscate his worldly goods, which he may have accumulated by honest labor and is counting on for the succor of his family and the support of his declining years. No, we dare not wrest into our hands any powers over our fellow men. But if God puts such powers into the hands of those who hold public authority—what then? Does this not alter the picture? How dare we jerk our hands away, hide them behind our backs, refuse the charge. For the teaching of Scripture and Christian tradition are just as clear about public justice as they are about personal forgiveness, and the teaching of Christ is that “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). The magistrate is “sent,” whether he knows it or not; he is “the servant of God to execute His wrath on the wrongdoer.” Yes, we have seen that he is a servant of God’s patience, too, but the one charge does not cancel the other. However tempered with mercy, public authority remains an augur or a portent of the wrath which will one day fall upon the unrepentant.

Dawkins, Darwin and Double Standards

An interesting article from First Things on the latest book by Richard Dawkins that points up his lack of consistency in the beliefs he derives from Darwinism.

But haven’t we forgotten something? Dawkins has already told us that he is passionately anti-Darwinian when it comes to how we should conduct our human affairs. Indeed. But why should that be? Do we detect here an unthinking speciesist double standard? Why should bovine affairs be conducted on a Darwinian basis, and not human affairs? Cows do not seek to minimize our suffering; why should we seek to minimize theirs? Is it because we alone have the “blessed gift of understanding”? We do, but so what? What is there to understand when it comes to morality? Are there objective moral standards existing somewhere, out there, for our understanding to latch on to? Not on Dawkins’ premises. Indeed, he explicitly admits that “science has no methods for deciding what is ethical.”

It's an interesting article that shows that despite efforts to the contrary, Darwinists throw the baby out with the bathwater. If Darwin means one can get rid of God, then morals and ethics have to go too.

Che: Revealed

As part of a review of "Motorcycle Diaries", the movie about the journey across South America made by Alberto Granado and Che Guevara, Anthony Daniels makes some great points about the cult of Che, why it continues and why it should have been smothered at birth. Not only that, but he goes through the movie and compares it with the actual diaries and points out areas that have been revised, seemingly in an effort to make the movie more palatable to post-Communist audiences.

Friday, October 08, 2004

A Little Known Escher Medium

I'm a big fan of M.C. Escher. I think his perspective bending drawings are amazing and, some of them, are quite beautiful. I also like the complexity of it all. Found an interesting site that has Escher drawings translated into three dimensions via... Legos! Check it out here. (Scroll to the bottom for the Escher stuff, though some of the rest is pretty neat too.)

C.S. Lewis Blog

Found a neat blog that has daily quotes from C.S. Lewis. Good stuff. Of course, I picked a bad time to link to it because the blogger in question is going out of town for a week starting tomorrow, but there's some archives to read through if this strikes your fancy. And the blog, though it has a small readership, seems to have a fairly dedicated one. This might be worth sticking my my Link list.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

LOTR 50th Anniversary

Next year, The Lord of the Rings turns 50 years old there will be a commerative edition released. (See the link above.) Do I want a copy? Yes. Can I justify the $68.00 that Amazon wants for it? Probably not.

I'm not Bartholomew Cubbins...

so I could stand to have a new hat. I have a baseball hat that has my employer's name on it and another couple that have my alma mater's acronym (SPU), but I'm not thrilled about being a walking billboard for my company and my preferred SPU hat is on its last legs (if you'll pardon in the inapt metaphor). So I've been looking for a new baseball hat.

I've thought about vintage baseball hats, and if I go that route I'm thinking the oldest of the Washington Senators hats would be cool. I've always liked Walter Johnson, and he served his time, er, played for the Washington Senators, back in the day.

On the other hand, I've also found this hat. I do hate the Yankees, as a Mariners fan should. For the time being, however, I think I'll just tape my old favourite up and stick with it.

Well, I'm back.

Here I am again. I've decided to take up this blogging thing again. I notice there are quite a few new features in Blogger. We'll see how well they work. Their picture software is improved, so I have a pic of my mug in my profile now.

Why am I back to blogging? Well, mostly because I would run across interesting things on the internet and want to share them with the world at large, or I would read an interesting article or book and want to comment. I'm not under any delusions about how many readers I'll have (especially since I'm not going to do anything out of my way to get readers), so I'm probably just talking to myself here.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Hanging Up My Spikes

Time to call it a day. I'm not going to post to my blog any longer. It's been cutting into my time too much. I have plenty of books that have been getting short shrift because I'm blogging and being on the internet in general. So, since one only has 24 hours in a day (and I can't cut my sleep back any further and maintain my health) I've decided that the blog has got to go. It's been fun, and the wrench is small since it's not like I'm abandoning a large readership. It's been a fun 18 months. Thank you, and good-night!

Friday, June 18, 2004

Online Comic Goodness

Found a cool online comic via Steve. Indirectly, that is. Steve had an online comic linked at his site, and I checked that out, and they had another site linked. And this is it. Essentially it's about online gamers and other nerd stuff and it's actually quite funny. It's about what one might find on the Simpsons (none of that rampant profanity and four letter words) in terms of vulgarity. I haven't checked the whole site out, so I don't know what one might find, but I've read a couple years worth of the strips and I think they're pretty good. It's a very solid comic, good characters and it's well drawn. If you dig that stuff, check it out. Or, odds are, if you dig that stuff, you found it way before I did.

Addendum:

I think it's much better than User Friendly, which I was reading for a while too.

M's Win, Yankees Lose.

God's in His heaven, and all's right with the world. I'm paraphrasing, of course.

But still, it is nice. The M's pulled out a win to keep Milwaukee from the sweep and the D'backs gave it to the Yanks properly. May it ever continue.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

There Must Be A Matrix Joke Here Somewhere

I'm probably weeks late to the party on this, but I just ran across a fascinating article on the politics and economics of online worlds such as Ultima Online and Everquest. It's about an economist named Edward Castronova who had an epiphany while playing Everquest. He realised that "EverQuest had its own economy, a bustling trade in virtual goods." Not only that,
EverQuest players would sometimes tire of the game, and decide to sell off their characters or virtual possessions at an on-line auction site such as eBay. When Castronova checked the auction sites, he saw that a Belt of the Great Turtle or a Robe of Primordial Waters might fetch forty dollars; powerful characters would go for several hundred or more. And sometimes people would sell off 500,000-fold bags of platinum pieces for as much as $1,000.
So he did some math. Astonishingly, "It was the seventy-seventh richest country in the world. And it didn't even exist." So he wrote a paper about it.

You really ought to read the entire article, it's full of lots of other fun facts about the online worlds, including the dirt on the SimsOnline brothel chain (no joke), as well as some of the political and social problems inside the games as well as legal issues that may end up extending out of the games if one of the major online worlds were to be closed down because the game company goes out of business.

Expanding Your Vocabulary One Word At A Time

Ran across an interesting word in my reading yesterday: furphy. Here's the OED definition for it along with the first quotation supplied.
A false report or rumour; an absurd story.

1916 Anzac Bk. 56/1 These furphies are the very devil. Ibid., Furphy was the name of the contractor which was written large upon the rubbish carts that he supplied to the Melbourne camps. The name was transferred to a certain class of news item, very common since the war, which flourished greatly upon all the beaches.

Since the word seems to be ANZAC in origin, it makes sense that I found it in a book by an Australian.

Artful Dodger

Found an article about a New York art dealer that seems to have been suckering people for quite a while with a pretty clever scheme. He's been arrested by the FBI, which has been investigating him for years, impeded by the fact that since the paintings have moved around the world in both Europe and Asia as well as in the US, the case has been difficult to put together. Here's the short version of what he does.

He buys a valuable painting, but one that isn't really high class. Not worth millions, but a few hundred thousand. Has it copied and then sells the copy with the certificate of authenticity from the original and then the original without the certificate of authenticity. Since the original is the real McCoy, no big deal. And though it's a risk to sell both original and copy, since he's sold both paintings, by the time the fraud is discovered, both paintings have usually changed hands a couple times. There are some other details that helped his scheme to run smoothly, but suffice it to say that he was a very clever guy.

William Manchester, RIP

I learned from the most recent National Review (On Dead Tree), that William Manchester died on the 1st of June. I was sad to hear this, not because of any personal connection with the man, but because he had not yet completed the third and (I presume) final installment of his biography of Churchill, The Last Lion. Initially, my expectation was that it was not ever to be completed and that I would miss out on reading his insights into Churchill's experience during World War II. But it seems I wasn't quite right.

An article in Opinion Journal informs me that another writer has been engaged to finish the work that Manchester started. It notes that Manchester had about 230 pages finished at the time of his death (presuming the book to be about the same length as the previous two, that's about 1/4 of it finished) and that it will be carried on by Paul Reid, "a features reporter for the Palm Beach Post" who knew Manchester.

The article also has some interesting info about other writers whose work has been "finished" after they have died.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Sports Roundup

Haven't blogged much sports stuff lately; I've been occupied with other things and haven't watched any television in weeks. A quick re-cap of what's been going on is probably in order.

Tampa Bay Lightning win Stanley Cup. (yawn) Tough to get excited about a hockey team from Florida. Sure, great offence, talented players, but really. Tell me it wouldn't have been better for Calgary to have won? Sadly, the Red Wings (my favourite team) got knocked out a couple rounds earlier.

Detroit Pistons upset the Lakers to win the NBA championship. (Query: Does the NBA championship have a name like others: Stanley Cup, Lombardi Trophy, etc? After a quick Google search, it seems not.) I'm surprised, but pleased that the Lakers lost. As a good Seattle sports fan, I loathe all LA teams and wish them nothing but losses and ignominious defeat. I'm not particularly happy that Detroit won (since every team I predicted even a modicum of success for failed), but it's still better than the Lakers.

And finally, the Mariner's are choking like dogs. Haven't even made it to the All-Star break and they're 12 games back in their division and 11 and a half out of what would be the Wild Card spot. I had been thinking that it was the M's pitching that was lacking (and granted, it's not very good), but to this point in the season, only the Expos have scored fewer runs, have fewer RBIs and a lower SLG% (total bases per at bat) and only the Padres have fewer HRs.

The only upside for this year in baseball for me so far is how well my favourite pitcher (Randy Johnson) is doing of late. He's on a 5 game win streak, tied for most wins in MLB leads MLB in strike-outs, opponent BA, fewest WHIP (Walks+Hits/Inning Pitched) and has an ERA of 2.77.

Losers

I was listening to the radio as I was getting ready for work, and during a commercial there was an ad for Comcast. Specifically, they were touting their "On Demand" feature, which lets you watch movies whenever you want, or something. I don't care, and it's not too important exactly how it works. What struck me was the way that they sold it on their ad. They said "Sometimes life gets between you and your TV..." And I thought, "What?" If your problem is that your life is interfering with your television watching, you need a serious readjustment of your priorities. Get your lazy butt off your couch and go outside. Or read a book. Heck, read a book outside. I'm not anti-TV, I watch sports and movies and junk, but if you're to the point where you're lamenting that interactions with other people are keeping you from your set, then you need an intervention and a 12 step program, neighbor.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Errors, Lies And Laboured Phrases

I suppose I'm not the only one this happens to, but I don't recall ever hearing anyone else speak of it. (Though, I don't know that I have before this, so that doesn't signify.) Every once in a while when I'm reading a book, I come across something so obviously erroneous that it displays either a tremendous lack of ability and attention by the author or an outright lie. Or perhaps the writing is so bad, yet so obviously what the author intended, one wonders why his editor or publisher was not able to restrain him. I'll give two examples.

1. I was starting to read Edmund Morris' account of Theodore Roosevelt's presidency, Theodore Rex, and I ran across a sentence that essentially said (I don't have the book with me) that Teddy had read 20,000 books by the time he became president. I first thought, "That's a lot." Then I thought, "No, that's a lot." I've been trying to keep track of all the books I've read, and I've even noted down as many books as I can remember (with certainty) that I've read in the past. I've been able to read since I was 3, but though I haven't been including things like The Pokey Little Puppy, I have included such things as The Hardy Boys, Dr Seuss and collections of comic strips (Dilbert, Foxtrot, Calvin and Hobbes). My list still isn't over a 1,000 books. We're talking about 20 years of reading by a fairly avid reader and I haven't even reached 5% of Teddy's total in half the time? So, crunching the numbers, here's what I came up with. Assuming that Teddy learned to read at 3, he assumed the presidency at 43, so he had been reading for 40 years. 40 years is about 14,600 days. 20,000 divided by 14,600 is about 1.37. So Teddy had to have averaged about 1 and a third books a day, every day for 40 years. And that's without re-reading any of them. Somewhere in there too, he found time to run a ranch in the Dakota Territory for two years, fight in the Spanish-American war and be elected to and serve as Governor of New York. When examined, the claim that he read that many books is ludicrous. I put the book down and haven't bothered with it since.

2. On the first page of Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity, there is the following sentence.
"The waves rose to goliathan heights, crashing into the hull with the power of raw tonnage; the white sprays caught in the night sky cascaded downward over the deck under the force of the night wind."
A man who tortures prose in this way should be horse-whipped on the steps of his club for such cruelty. "Crashing into the hull with the power of raw tonnage." That's an ill phrase, a vile phrase; "crashing into the hull with the power of raw tonnage" is a vile phrase. Tonnage? How much? How is tonnage raw? Tonnage has power? Weight is power? Perhaps some potential energy or what-have-you, but this is not a physics textbook! I am embarrassed to report that I did press on and finish the book, but the ending was so bad that I regretted it even more.

Does this happen to anyone else? Do you ever run across one line that causes you, not to put the book down, but to hurl it from you with great force?

Books

Finished a couple books over the weekend. (In between playing basketball and X-Box.) One was Icons of Evolution, which wasn't bad. It wasn't a take-down of Darwinian evolution, but then it didn't intend or pretend to be. Rather, it was simply a critical look at some of the most well-known examples that are given as evidence for evolution. It makes the excellent point that though these examples have been known to be incorrect or at the least inconclusive for quite a number of years, they continue to be placed into textbooks and taught to students. Some are still thought to be accurate by virtually everyone outside of very specific fields of biology. An interesting read, however, the book's format and layout left much to be desired. Illustrations and their captions were handled in a most clumsy and confusing way. Several times I had to flip back and forth across pages to figure out which text was to accompany the illustration and which was the actual narrative of the book. On the whole, worth reading if one is interested specific points in the debate over evolution, but not if one is looking for broad handling of the debate as a whole.

I finished today (in a single day!) Post Captain, the second of the Aubrey-Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian. Depending on how one likes one's books, it was either superior to the first or somewhat lacking. It was less of an action-adventure tale and more of a "proper novel" with character development and the examination of relationships and what-not. I tend to the second camp. It was, however, still a superb book and I am quite looking forward to the next in the series. Since I placed it on hold at the library well before I actually got and read this book, I hope I shan't have to wait as long in between installments this time. O! to have the money to just buy all the books one wants to read!

Friday, June 11, 2004

My Heart Will Go On

Ah, yes. Titanic. The three hour epic piece of trash that numbed the mind as well as the posterior. Now you can enjoy the tale in a mere 30 seconds. And, as an added bonus, it's re-enacted by bunnies! What more could you ask for?

Not be missed are The Shining and The Exorcist re-enacted by these same bunnies; both movies are also performed in a mere 30 seconds.

Useless, But Neat!

Pi to 1 million places.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Weird (does not equal) Art

I noticed an article in the Sunday Seattle Times (in the section with the crossword, which is what I was really interested in) about this author, Shelley Jackson, that fancies herself an artist. What she's done is write a short story, 2,095 words to be exact, and she's asked for volunteers to each have one word of the story tattooed on their bodies. She has some requirements about how it's to be done, restrictions on location, font, etc. And no one gets to choose their word, you have to take what you're assigned. And the biggest gimmick of all? This is how she's "publishing" it. And only the people who volunteer will get to know the entire story.

Frankly, this might be intriguing if one could be sure that the story would be any good. If it was something classic and enduring. But it might end up being some trite, hackneyed piece of trash that one has irretrievably committed oneself to being a part of. No thanks. And just because she was creative with her "publisher", doesn't make this endeavour any more "artistic" or have any impact on the quality of her writing. It may be great, it may be awful, but it has nothing to do with the tattoos.

(note: I had to edit the title of this post because Blogger apparently couldn't handle the "does not equal" sign.)

I. Am. Batman!

My, my, my. It just keeps getting better. All kinds of cool stuff coming out this summer. Batman: The Animated Series, the ultra-cool cartoon that was on Fox a few years back is finally coming to DVD properly. It'll be out 06 July according to Amazon. This show was one of the best animated series ever on television. I'd have to say that I like this even more than the Simpsons. I'm sure every fan of the Dark Knight already is well aware of this series, but if you're not a big comics fan and haven't ever seen this, you owe it to yourself to check this out. Hopefully you can find this as a rental or possibly be able to get it from your library if you don't want to drop the cash on something you're unsure about. If you go the library route, be prepared to wait, since this will be requested by a lot of people.

Also, though I hadn't mentioned it here on the blog, Fantagraphics is releasing a book series that will (eventually) encompass the entire collection Peanuts comic strips. Over 50 years worth of strips. I'm planning on picking these up too, but I'm going to do it by boxed sets, I think. So I'm waiting for the first one to come out. (This fall sometime, I believe.) Also of note, if you scroll to the bottom of this page, you can pick up the collection of Charles Schulz's pre-Peanuts cartoons. From what I can tell, this book will pretty much only be available through Fantagraphics' website.