Monday, December 29, 2008

Speaking of fire alarms.

When I was in college my dorm was notorious for having the fire alarm set off by people attempting to pop popcorn in a microwave and such-like. During my freshman year I tended to come back to my dorm room rather late. Or early, depending on how one looks at it.

One morning, as I returned to my room and sat down on my bed to remove my shoes, the fire alarm went off. I sighed and stood up to go back outside and wait for the firemen to come and walk through and give the all clear. As I stood, I noticed that, despite the extremely high decibel level, my roommate Jim (not his real name) was still sleeping. So I ambled to the door and opened it allowing the fire alarm that was directly across the hall to enter the room at an even higher volume.

Still, he slept on.

So I kicked the mattress and said, loudly, "Jim! Jim! Wake up!" He sat up, and looked at me blearily.

"You hear that?"

"Yeah." And he put his head down and went back to sleep.

I kicked his mattress again. "Jim!"

He picked his head up. "Yeah?"

"What is that noise?"

"The fire alarm." And he again calmly put his head back down and slept the sleep of the righteous.

Kicking his mattress a third time, I said "Jim!"


"That means you have to get up and go outside."

After a long pause he wordlessly sat up and slowly started putting on his shoes. I waited to follow him out since, who knows, he could have fallen asleep halfway to the door. Later, when he was fully awake, I let him know that in the future, if I had not just walked in when the fire alarm sounded, he would be on his own. If I was uncertain about the time available to make my own escape, I wasn't going to endanger myself by waiting around for him to reach minimum levels of functionality.

How was your Christmas?

Here's how mine started.

Thankfully, it got better from this point.

My family was awoken Christmas morning by the sound of the fire alarm going off. I don't mean a smoke detector, it's a full-on, building-wide fire alarm that is fit to wake the dead. (But not my college roommate. Funny story, I'll tell you that one in a minute.) My wife and I jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes and dashed off to grab our children. A minute later, becoated and behatted we ventured out into the cold morning to stand in the snow that was dumping at a high rate.

Of course, we were concerned that someone's Christmas tree was merrily blazing away after an electrical short and failure to water regularly had combined to create our building's own personal Nightmare Before Christmas. The intrepid firemen showed up a few minutes later (and their lack of urgency hinted that our worst fears were probably just that) and entered to investigate.

Some kindly neighbors whose van was parked outside of the garage that's under our building offered to let my wife and kids sit inside to get out of the snow and about 30 minutes after all the excitement began the firemen turned off the alarm and allowed us back inside. Turns out one of the sprinkler pipes had burst and the change in pressure had set off the fire alarm. The burst was in the underground garage, so no one even had any damage to anything other than their nerves at the way we were all woken up.

It's a nice story to be able to tell, but frankly I'd have rather heard about it than experienced it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Have you ever wanted to orbit the earth?

Ever wondered what it would be like to fly the Space Shuttle? Well, now you can know! NASA is giving away Space Shuttles free*! That's right! Free*! Act now, supplies are severely limited and when they're gone, they're gone! These are one of a kind items that will never be reproduced! Call now, operators are standing by.

(Space Shuttles are free with shipping and handling paid* by recipient.)

(S&H costs are $42 million US.)

(From First Things.)

Now playing: Chorus, Callas, Gedda - Parle-moi de ma mère
via FoxyTunes

NT Wright's problem with evil.

I'm reading NT Wright's book Evil and the Justice of God (the first, and perhaps last, book of his I've picked up) and having only just started the second chapter I'm already irritated and unimpressed with the book, the author and his reasoning. Perhaps he is a brilliant man with sharp theological insights, but so far in this book he has proved to be pedestrian and his arguments crude.

He unfortunately lets his opposition to the Iraq war get him worked up enough to make large and unjustifiable leaps of logic. He glibly pronounces that dropping bombs indiscriminately on Iraq and Afghanistan in response to the events of September 11th will not solve evil. Yes, I'm serious. He claims that things we haven't done will not accomplish what no one has said we are trying to do. Here, I'll quote him.
"Lashing out at those you perceive to be 'evil' in the hope of dealing with the problem—dropping copious bombs on Iraq or Afghanistan because of September 11—is in fact the practical counterpart of those philosophical theories that purport to 'solve' the problem of evil."
He later goes on to say (in the same paragraph) that "the thousands of innocents who died in Iraq and Afghanistan" are part of the cost of such a "'solution'". The implication being, from the larger quotation above, that the US and its allies were the ones slaughtering the innocent in a quixotic crusade against evil. He also compares the US actions to Auschwitz for good measure. (page 28)

After reading this, I'm surprised that anyone takes him seriously at all. The idea that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were merely knee-jerk reactions to September 11 is patently false. That the US is responsible for thousands of innocent deaths in either country is ridiculous and a libel. Finally, to compare any of the inadvertent deaths of innocents in Iraq or Afghanistan as being on par with the deliberate attempt at genocide by the Nazis is outrageous.

I was going to go on to criticise his "nuanced" view of evil and the rest of the book as I read through it, but my stomach is turning enough already and I don't think there's a need. I might not even finish the book, which is unusual for me, especially since it's only 165 pages or so.

Now playing: Carmen - Prelude
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Without a master

I bought the soundtrack to Ronin last month, and I am quite pleased with the purchase. If you've ever seen the movie (and if you haven't, go rent it; it's superb) you'll probably remember the understated and melancholy melodies that wend through it. They stand up just as well without the movie playing over them.

Now playing: Cerebral - Sinclair
via FoxyTunes