Friday, January 30, 2009

Corruption

"A conviction that those who perform the prayer of labor may store up a compensation which cannot be appropriated by the improvident is the soundest incentive to virtuous industry. Where the opposite conviction prevails, where popular majorities may, on a plea of present need, override these rights earned by past effort, the tendency is for all persons to become politicians. In other words, they come to feel that manipulation is a greater source of reward than is production. This is the essence of corruption."
~ p. 138-9
Ideas Have Consequences

I vouch for nothing else.

NOTE: I wrote this back in 2007 and I'm not sure why I didn't post it. Maybe there was something weird of the rest of the site? I dunno, and I'm not exploring the whole thing to find out. It's a little dated, but you still might get a chuckle, and the warning stands.

But this is pretty funny. Are you bummed because your brand, spankin'-new iPhone has no GPS? Sure you are, because if you're reading this and have one, you're an ├╝ber-nerd and after paying $500 and standing in line for 3 days, you feel gypped. Fear not! Follow that link above and find the hack you need to integrate the Hipster GPS with your iPhone. View the rest of the site at your own risk. (Via The Map Room.)

A small matter, but indicative, I think.

And these two news items demonstrate it.

This reminds me of something...

What is it...? Hum.

In this house we butter our bacon-wrapped sausage!

I think I've used that to title a blog post before...

But I doubt it was as apropos as it is this time. A friend of mine forwarded me this link. Mmmm... bacon.

Jeff, if you link me back, bear in mind I don't use my real name on the internet. And we should totally do this next time the guys get together for Scrabble.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Writing

"I serve notice, therefore, that we here approach a question of blasphemous nature, a question whose mere asking disturbs the deepest complacency of the age. And that is: Has the art of writing proved an unmixed blessing? The thought challenges so many assumptions that to consider it requires almost a fresh orientation in philosophy; but we must recall that it occurred to Plato, who answered in the negative."
~ p. 94
Ideas Have Consequences


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Now playing: Newsboys - Miracle Child
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Steelers!

I know I haven't posted about sports in a long time; mostly it's been because I haven't kept up with any sports very much over the past year. But, it has not escaped my notice that the Pittsburgh Steelers have the chance to win their sixth Super Bowl here soon. I confess that I'm glad they're facing Arizona instead of Philly, mostly because I do think Arizona is the weaker team. They're hot now, but the Steelers have a solid defense and had already lost once to Philly earlier in the season.

And that about wraps it up. I'll post again after the big game and maybe a bit more when baseball starts, but I don't think there will be much more sports for a while.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Past

"Most modern people appear to resent the past and seek to deny its substance for either of two reasons: (1) it confuses them, or (2) it inhibits them. If it confuses them, they have not thought enough about it; if it inhibits them, we should look with a curious eye upon whatever schemes they have afoot. Imagination enables us to know that people of past generations lived and had their being amid circumstances just as solid as those surrounding us. And piety accepts them, their words and deeds, as part of the total reality, not to be ignored in any summing-up of experience. Are those who died heroes' and martyrs' deaths really dead? It is not an idle question. In a way, they live on as forces, helping to shape our dream of the world. The spirit of modern impiety would inter their memory with their bones and hope to create a new world out of good will and ignorance."
~ p. 176-7
Ideas Have Consequences

Inaugural post

I didn't watch the inauguration. I was at work and I don't own a TV anyway. But, had I watched it (on the web or somesuch), I don't think I would have felt much differently than I do now. I just... didn't care that much. I keep thinking of that book He's Just Not Into You, and that's about how I feel about our president. When I think of Obama, I think of a liberal, a Democrat, the president and after getting through that list it dawns on me that, oh yeah, I'm supposed to be worked up about him being black. (Whether positively or negatively.)

And that's kind of it, isn't it? It's all the Democrats and the Illinois Nazis who care about him being black, and the Republicans, libertarians and conservatives... well, we just can't get past the fact that he's a lefty. The only people who really care about race, the only people who haven't worked through race as an issue in our country are... liberals, Democrats and fringe-nutters. (That Nazi link up there is safe to click on, by the way. Takes you to IMDB.)

I mean, I guess it's wonderful and all that a black man was elected President, but conservatives and Republicans and so forth have accepted this as a genuine possibility for a long time now. It feels like the liberals are all shocked and amazed that a black man could be elected president and that tells me a lot about who is really concerned with the colour of a man's skin more than the content of his character.

On a lighter note, I'm certainly not the first to wonder, but I hope that when I start to criticise President Obama for his words, actions and policies, all those nice liberals out there will remember that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. (First interview answer if you click through.)

And, though it doesn't tie together really well with the rest of this post, let me encourage you to watch this video. If you're not creeped out by the end... I'm not sure what to say.

Monday, January 12, 2009

And now, for something completely different.

I found this on the internet somewhere. Oh, yes. It is. If only we knew how it turned out.

It was a dark and stormy knight.

(NOTE: I started this post almost a month ago and I haven't finished it until now. Christmas, New Year's and my daughter's birthday intervened.)

So, I finally saw The Dark Knight. My one word review? Neh. If you haven't seen it, (unlikely, since I seem to have been the last person who hasn't watched, except for my wife who refuses to do so) I'm going to SPOIL IT for you.

There were a lot of little problems with it, much as there was with Batman Begins. I'm not going to swoon as my brother did. And yes, the voice was still awful. In fact, most of the minor problems of the first were still around in the second. Alfred still sounds too Cockney, too many people know about Batman's identity (were they hinting in the interrogation scene that the Joker knew as well?) and they don't treat the other characters with the respect they deserve. (I can't believe they made Montoya a dirty cop.) Gordon was a bit less one-dimensional (I know, I know, comic-book movie, what do I expect?), but it was only a bit.

It had more significant problems too; it was preachy at times and I think the writer/director had drunk a little too deeply from Nietzsche's well. (Or looked too long into his abyss?) We learn that prisoners are more noble than your average citizen, that it is never right to kill anyone under any circumstances unless you've learned that rules are for the untermensch and if you can transcend to become ubermensch you're able to dispense with such nonsense. There was the obligatory political point about the evils of using technology to investigate crime and how popular heroes must inevitably become villains. These might have been easier to ignore if the points hadn't been made so ineptly. (Though it wasn't so ham-fisted as the most recent Bourne installment.)

Even when the movie was good, I think it failed. For example, Heath Ledger did a marvelous portrayal of the Joker and his madness. It was a subtle, careful performance that demonstrated just where nihilism leads and the problems with not bothering to believe in any sort of transcendent purpose or meaning. But I'm afraid it was undercut by how "cool" the Joker ends up being. I mean, I understand that the evil of the Joker has to be made somewhat enticing. After all, nihilism does have a certain cachet that attracts people, but it is worrisome that the movie may do more harm than good. The average unthinking American adolescent will, in all likelihood, ignore the critical points made of the Joker and embrace his joyful plunge into depravity. Don't think so? How many people understand that the Godfather movies were being critical of organised crime?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Book stats

Lists from 2006 and 2007, 2008's list is in the preceding post but one. In 2008 and 2006, all the non-fiction books I read were first-time reads. In 2007 I re-read 3 non-fiction books. An interesting fact, I think. While I think I tend to value the non-fiction I read more highly than the fiction, I overwhelmingly come back to the fiction. On the other hand, it could well be that I don't read the non-fiction books cover-to-cover after having done so for the first time, but sample them in smaller chunks.

65% new books in 2008 (107/165)
49% new books in 2007 (79/161)
60% new books in 2006 (106/178)

35% re-reads in 2008 (58/165)
51% re-reads in 2007 (82/161)
40% re-reads in 2006 (72/178)

78% fiction in 2008 (129/165)
76% fiction in 2007 (122/161)
82% fiction in 2006 (146/178)

22% non-fiction in 2008 (36/165)
24% non-fiction in 2007 (39/161)
18% non-fiction in 2006 (32/178)

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Now playing: The Echoing Green - Accidentally 4th Street (Gloria)
via FoxyTunes

Happy New Year

I'm only a week late. I've got my list of books read in 2008 posted... and that's about all I do to mark the New Year.

I didn't make any resolutions this year, but I don't ever bother with it. I understand the symbolism of starting fresh in a new year with changes one plans to make, but I don't feel much attraction to it myself. Besides, someone pointed out to me (might have been my wife) that it almost makes more sense to make such resolutions on one's birthday since that truly marks the division of one year of one's life into the next.

There's been some upheaval with my employer of late, but so far I seem to be in good shape. I don't anticipate problems at work in the coming year. I'll be hitting a milestone decade this year on my birthday (I won't say which one, but those of you who know me off teh Interwebz already know or can readily figure it out).

I suppose one of my goals for this year is to actually read 200 books in a single year, but I've been meaning to do that for some time and haven't gotten that close. On the first of January, I was on pace to read more than 700 books, but I've rather fallen off since, I'm afraid.

I hope everyone reading this had a happy conclusion to 2008 and has excellent prospects going into 2009; regardless, I hope your expectations fall far short of the mark and the year is better than you anticipate.

Books read in 2008

January
1. Heroes by Paul Johnson
2. On the Origin of the PCs by Rich Burlew
3. Start of Darkness by Rich Burlew
4. Dungeon Crawlin' Fools by Rich Burlew
5. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
6. My Grandfather's Son by Clarence Thomas
7. Watchmen by Alan Moore
8.Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription by William F. Buckley
9. Serving in the Dark by Kazuo Koike
10. Sand and Flower by Kazuo Koike
11. Comparison of a Man by Kazuo Koike
12. A History of the American People by Paul Johnson

February
13. From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming
14. Top of the Heap by Erle Stanley Gardner
15. Making Money by Terry Pratchett
16. Making Sense of It All by Thomas V. Morris
17. Mike by PG Wodehouse
18. Religion of Peace? by Robert Spencer
19. Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
20. Indiscretions of Archie by PG Wodehouse
21. Cobra by Timothy Zahn
22. Cobra Strike by Timothy Zahn
23. Cobra Bargain by Timothy Zahn
24. The Politeness of Princes and Other School Stories by PG Wodehouse
25. Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog by Kitty Burns Florey
26. High Window by Raymond Chandler

March
27. The Politics of Glory by Bill James
28. Dragon and Judge by Timothy Zahn
29. The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers by Rob Neyer and Bill James
30. Birds Are Weird by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik
31. Batman: The Complete History by Les Daniels
32. Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips
33. Superman: The Complete History by Les Daniels
34. Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
35. The Battle for Azeroth by Bill Fawcett
36. A Man of Means by PG Wodehouse
37. Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
38. The Complete Peanuts 1955-1956 by Charles Schulz
39. The Histories by Herodotus
40. Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
41. Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton
42. The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler
43. Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout
44. The Siamese Twin Mystery by Ellery Queen

April
45. Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton
46. The American Gun Mystery by Ellery Queen
47. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
48. The Complete Peanuts: 1957-1958 by Charles Schulz
49. The Complete Peanuts: 1959-1960 by Charles Schulz
50. The Prisoner Handbook by Steven Paul Davies
51. The Complete Peanuts: 1961-1962 by Charles Schulz
52. Reginald by Saki
53. Reginald in Russia by Saki
54. The Chronicles of Clovis by Saki
55. Beasts and Super-Beasts by Saki
56. The Toys of Peace by Saki
57. The Square Egg by Saki
58. The Complete Peanuts: 1963-1964 by Charles Schulz
59. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James
60. The Complete Peanuts: 1965-1966 by Charles Schulz
61. The Quotable Baseball Fanatic by Louis Rubin Jr.
62. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
63. The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay
64. Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
65. The Greek Coffin Mystery by Ellery Queen
66. The Real Heaven: It's Not What You Think by Joe Beam and Lee Wilson

May
67. Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg
68. Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian
69. Post Captain by Patrick O'Brian
70. H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O'Brian
71. The Mauritius Command by Patrick O'Brian
72. Desolation Island by Patrick O'Brian
73. The Fortune of War by Patrick O'Brian
74. Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups by Rob Neyer
75. The Surgeon's Mate by Patrick O'Brian
76. The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold
77. The Ionian Mission by Patrick O'Brian
78. Treason's Harbour by Patrick O'Brian
79. The Far Side of the World by Patrick O'Brian
80. The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold
81. Ink by Terisa Green
82. Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold
83. Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold
84. Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold
85. The Reverse of the Medal by Patrick O'Brian
86. Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold
87. Plum Pie by PG Wodehouse
88. The Girl on the Boat by PG Wodehouse

June
89. The Letter of Marque by Patrick O'Brian
90. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
91. The Thirteen Gun Salute by Patrick O'Brian
92. The Man Who Altered the River's Flow by Kazuo Koike
93. The Battle of One Hundred and Eight Days by Kazuo Koike
94. Life's Greatest Difficulty by Kazuo Koike
95. The Nutmeg of Consolation by Patrick O'Brian
96. The Truelove by Patrick O'Brian
97. The Wine-Dark Sea by Patrick O'Brian
98. The Commodore by Patrick O'Brian
99. The Yellow Admiral by Patrick O'Brian
100. The Hundred Days by Patrick O'Brian
101. Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O'Brian

July
102. Child of Smoke by Kazuo Koike
103. Shinobi with Extending Fists by Kazuo Koike
104. Battle for Power: Part I by Kazuo Koike
105. Battle for Power: Part II by Kazuo Koike
106. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
107. The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi
108. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
109. Battle for Power: Part III by Kazuo Koike
110. Belgarath the Sorceror by David Eddings
111. Manta's Gift by Timothy Zahn
112. Conqueror's Pride by Timothy Zahn
113. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
114. Game Boys by Michael Kane
115. Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings
116. Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings
117. Magician's Gambit by David Eddings
118. Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings
119. Enchanter's End Game by David Eddings

August
120. The Dragons of Expectation by Robert Conquest
121. Polgara the Sorceress by David Eddings
122. Guardians of the West by David Eddings
123. King of the Murgos by David Eddings
124. Demon Lord of Karanda by David Eddings
125. Sorceress of Darshiva by David Eddings
126. The Seeress of Kell by David Eddings
127. Something Fishy by PG Wodehouse
128. The Quest for God by Paul Johnson
129. Bill the Conqueror by PG Wodehouse
130. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
131. With My Trousers Rolled by Jospeh Epstein
132. Envy by Joseph Epstein
133. Friendship: An Expose by Joseph Epstein

September
134. Narcissus Leaves the Pool by Joseph Epstein
135. Plausible Prejudices by Joseph Epstein
136. The Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay
137. Pulp Stories by Raymond Chandler
138. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
139. Reflections on a Ravaged Century by Robert Conquest
140. The Potpourific Great Big Grab Bag of Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley
141. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
142. The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
143. Dragon and Liberator by Timothy Zahn
144. Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay

October
145. The Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay
146. The Wandering Fire by Guy Gavriel Kay
147. Arts of Darkness by Thomas Hibbs
148. Making Money by Terry Pratchett
149. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

November
150. Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley
151. On the Firing Line by William F. Buckley
152. Artists in Crime by Ngaio Marsh
153. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
154. The Reagan I Knew by William F. Buckley
155. Post Captain by Patrick O'Brian
156. H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O'Brian
157. The Mauritius Command by Patrick O'Brian
158. Desolation Island by Patrick O'Brian


December
159. The Fortune of War by Patrick O'Brian
160. The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull
161. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
162. Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
163. The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett
164. The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett
165. Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
(italicized titles are first-time reads)

Year-end posts coming soon.

Seriously.