Musings of a Philosophical Scrivener...
Idle ramblings of an intermittently philosophical nature... Apologies to Martin Gardner, whose The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener is one of the best books you've (probably) never read.

An Idle Thought...
What a misfortune, and injustice, for the University of Tennessee College of Law that [Glenn "InstaPundit"] Reynolds should now be their best-known faculty member.
--Brian Leiter, Professor of Law and Philosophy, University of Texas, Austin

About Me (the condensed version)
A member of the tail end of the boomers; a middle aged recovering lawyer turned professional computer geek. Native of St. Louis, Missouri, transplanted to Memphis, Tennessee. Avid reader, amateur philosopher, St. Louis Cardinals fan, one of the last Renaissance men.

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A bit about me (The uncondensed version) Memorial to a dear friend
Frederick W. Benteen
The Web of Leonards
The St. Louis Cardinals
The Memphis Redbirds
BlogMemphis (The Commercial Appeal's listing of Memphis blogs)
The Guide to Life, the Universe, and Everything
« ? Verbosity # »

Listed on Blogwise

And in case you're interested, here's how many other 'net denizens need a life, or at least more compelling reading:

A blog worth reading:

Bloggus Caesari (Julius Caesar's Warblog)

Two blogs worth reading that I'll plug because the blogger is another Linux geek and a fellow Cardinals fan besides:

Frankly, I'd Rather Not

Other links of interest (to me, at least), in no particular order:

The Daily Howler
Bill Maher Blog
The Progressive
The O'Franken Factor
Majority Report Radio
The Gadflyer
Daily Kos
Steve Gilliard's Blog
Whiskey Bar
Just a Bump in the Beltway
The Village Gate (formerly The Right Christians)
Juan Cole *Informed Comment*
Christopher Orlet
The Online Gadfly
The Crisis Papers
Ted Rall Online
The Smirking Chimp
Talking Points Memo
Molly Ivins
This Modern World, By Tom Tomorrow
Tom the Dancing Bug, by Reuben Bolling
Bob the Angry Flower
Conservatively Incorrect, by Rack Jite
Media Whores Online
Butterflies and Wheels
The Leiter Reports
Nathan Newman
Brief Intelligence
Half the Sins of Mankind
The Swing State Project
Glorfindel of Gondolin
Turquoise Waffle Irons in the Back Yard
Missouri Liberal
different strings
Shock and Awe
Gotham City 13
Pen-Elayne on the Web
Empty Days
Censored Story of the Day
Roger's Profanisaurus
Rhonda & Jane present: 525 Reasons to Dump Bush
The Bush Scorecard of Evil
Sherman P. Wright's Moderate Weblog
Quaker in a Basement
World Phamous
NLSO Subic Bay (Navy unit alumni blog.)
Iraq Coalition Casualty Count
Bracing against the wind
Rants Vitriol and Spleen JRI
Apostate's Weekly
Redbird Nation
Go Cardinals
The Cardinals' Birdhouse
The Birdhouse Minor League Report
The Cardinals Fan Site
St. Louis Cardinals Ultimate Fan Site
RedBird Central
Get Up, Baby!
Royalties and Cardinalate (an all-MO baseball blog)
Pro Sports Daily: St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals news
Rob Neyer's column
The Hardball Times
The Baseball Widow
Management by Baseball
The Nashville Files (RTB member in waiting?)
Madeleine Begun Kane's Notables Weblog
The Select Group of Toys
Pesky the Rat
I, Cringely
The Gripe Line Weblog, by Ed Foster
The Register
Evil Empire
Watching Microsoft Like a Hawk
Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil
Public Defender Dude
Punishment Theory
Savage Cruel Bigots
Treason Online
Hell for Halliburton
Hollywood Lost and Found
Popdex Citations

Rocky Top Brigade:

RTB Lounge
NationStates Region

A Little More to the Right
A Moveable Beast
A Smoky Mountain Journal
Beyond the Whispers
Big Stupid Tommy
Bjorn, Again
Bully Pulpit
Busy Mom
Celtic Grove
Classless Warfare Jane
Conservative Zone
Dagley Dagley Daily
Damn Art Diary
Damn Foreigner
Democratic Veteran
Doc B
Doug McDaniel
Drawing Dead
Elephant Rants
Filthy Hippy Speak
Frank Cagle
Free Speech News
Granny Rant
Growth Spurt
Guy Montag
Hypotheses Non Fingo
In a Mays
Inn of the Last Home
Jaded Journal
Johnson City Stories
Lay Lines
Lean Left
Les Jones
Loco Parentis
Long Pauses
Mike Hollihan
Mike Reed
Mind Warp
Missives Anonymous
Mr. Lawson
My Quiet Life
Newton's Kumquat
No Quarters
One Hand Clapping
Pathetic Earthlings
Philosophical Scrivener
Queen Medb's Castle
Rebel Yell
Rex Hammock
Rich Hailey
Road Warrior
Sick of Bush
South Knox Bubba
Southern Reporter
Straight White Guy
Team Rock
The Golden Calf
Up For Anything
Voluntarily in China
Wandering Hillbilly
William Burton
InstaPundit (link removed, because I think Reynolds is an idiot, and he doesn't need the linkage. If you really want to waste your time reading his drivel, you know where to find him.)
Adam Groves (MIA)
Fat Ass Politics (MIA)
Oz's Lion (MIA)
Rapmaster (MIA)
Rush Limbaughtomy (MIA)
Secret City Scene (MIA)
Twelfth Parsec (MIA)
Uncommon Sense (KIA)
Underground Man (MIA)
Xyon's Rambles (MIA)

Memphis Blogs not in the Rocky Top Brigade

Signifying Nothing
m e m p h i s . c o o l (Jon W. Sparks's personal blog)
Sparks on Memphis (Jon W. Sparks's CA blog)
Peggy Phillip
Tread lightly on the things of earth
Rachel and the City
Well, I think I'm funny
Voice of Golden Eagle
when you're 21, you're no fun

The League of Liberals:

Democratic Veteran
The Spy Game
Cosmic Iguana
People's Republic of Seabrook
Philosophical Scrivener
The Mahablog
WTF is it NOW?
blunted on reality
Happy Furry Puppy Story Time
All Facts and Opinions
Dubya's Daily Diary
ARMACT Action Alerts
Cup O' Joe
Grateful Dread on the Web
The Poison Kitchen
Indigo Ocean
The Felonious Elephant
Sick of Bush
Arms and the Man
Rick's Cafe Americain
A-Changin' Times(ACT)
Estimated Prophet
Gotham City 13
Officially Unofficial
The Gunther Concept
The Mudshark
Screaming Points
Ink from the Squid
Left Is Right
Byte Back
The Huck Upchuck
The Sesquipedalian
DeanLand - Dean Landsman's Weblog
Turquoise Waffle Irons in the Back Yard
Wilson's Blogmanac
Ayn Clouter
Anarchy Xero

The Liberal Coalition

01/01/2003 - 01/31/2003
02/01/2003 - 02/28/2003
03/01/2003 - 03/31/2003
04/01/2003 - 04/30/2003
05/01/2003 - 05/31/2003
06/01/2003 - 06/30/2003
07/01/2003 - 07/31/2003
08/01/2003 - 08/31/2003
09/01/2003 - 09/30/2003
10/01/2003 - 10/31/2003
11/01/2003 - 11/30/2003
12/01/2003 - 12/31/2003
01/01/2004 - 01/31/2004
02/01/2004 - 02/29/2004
03/01/2004 - 03/31/2004
04/01/2004 - 04/30/2004

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Friday, January 31, 2003

Two of the better lines from Austin Powers in Goldmember

Dr. Evil, while you were in space, I created a way for us to make huge sums of legitimate money and still maintain the ethics and the business practices of an evil organization. I have turned us into a talent agency.
--Number Two

[Addressing one of Dr. Evil's henchmen]
Do you know who I am? [henchman nods yes] Have you any idea how many anonymous henchmen I've killed over the years? [henchman nods in the affirmative] And look at you. You haven't even got a name tag. You've got no chance. Why don't you just fall down. Go on, son. [henchman falls to floor] All right, Dr. Evil. Give yourself up while you've still got a chance.
--Nigel Powers

The computer for the rest of us?
Jakob Nielsen's last "Use-It" posting was on voice interfaces for computers, and he had this to say (in part):

Many people have an exaggerated impression about voice-interface benefits, likely based on the prominence of voice-operated computers in "Star Trek". You know, the captain says, "Computer, locate Commander Data" and the computer answers, "Commander Data is no longer on the ship: he left half an hour ago on an unauthorized shuttle launch." I've always thought that Captain Picard would have been much better off with a design that informed him immediately when a shuttle was stolen, without first waiting to be asked.

Which gets me to thinking.... Sometimes, the Trek producers have some weird ideas about computers. When I'm home in the evenings (not that common during the week now that I'm taking a math class in the evenings) I usually put the TV on for background noise, and my default choice of program early weeknight evenings is Star Trek: The Next Generation on TNN. About a week ago they showed "Aquiel". One of the plot premises in this episode is that Geordi LaForge has to review the "personal logs" of a female Starfleet lieutenant who is missing under circumstances that lead one to believe that she murdered the other officer on the relay station to which they were both assigned.

Ah, the personal log.... Of course everyone who's seen at least one episode of Star Trek in its various incarnations has heard of the "Captain's Log", which is basically the Trekkish way of characterizing the dramatic opening narration by the Captain which sets the scene for the episode we're about to watch (I've served as a Navy officer and I've read real ship's logs; believe me, in reality they are about as dramatic as an oral reading of a street map of metropolitan Memphis). The "personal log" was merely a plot device created by the Trek writers to make the opening narration just as dramatic when, because of the exigencies of the episode's plot, it needed to be done by someone other than the Captain. Real Navy officers don't do "personal logs"--usually onboard a ship there's too damn much to do to allow time to maintain a diary (which is really what these damn "personal logs" are). Of course, Star Trek being the future, we can't just type our diary into a computer file (or Ghod forbid, write our diary on paper). We've got to dictate the damn thing into a computer. In audio. Or rather, in video, since the exigencies of this plot required Geordi to "fall in love" with the presumedly deceased Lieutenant, which is difficult to do with a voice alone....

And the show had Geordi viewing the damn "personal log" entries, one by one. Didn't it occur to the writers how ridiculous this is? It struck me as ridiculous that the logs would be kept in audio-visual format (actually, it struck me as ridiculous that Starfleet officers are keeping quasi-official diaries on Starfleet time, but blogging must be a required course at the academy); in a text format it's not that difficult to use a tool like grep and just search for the appropriate references you're looking for. But it's difficult for Geordi to fall in love with a mere voice, and it's paractically impossible for him to fall in love with mere words; he has to see her and hear her, and waste Ghod knows how many hours of Starfleet time doing that.....

I am willing to suspend my disbelief, however I will not hang it by the neck until it is dead.

On a mail list I'm on someone forwarded an interview of Elwyn Chase, where he said:

[Saddam Hussein]'s a monster, a maniac for power. But he thinks he's doing the right thing. Americans think when Hitler laid his head on the pillow at night, he thought, "Oh, boy, have I been evil today!" He thought he was doing a wonderful thing for the Aryans. That's why I really dislike this talk of the "evil" empires.

Michael Kinsley, in a column for Slate Wednesday, noted that the State of the Union message hit a lot on our obligation to go after Saddam because he's "evil" (though the evil that he is cited as having done, destroying villages and torturing children in front of their parents, was done about 10 or so years ago back when Saddam was one of the "good" guys we approved of, since he was fighting Iran for us).

Why the sudden focus on "evil", as in the "axis of evil"? Are we really taking Mike Meyers and "Dr. Evil" too seriously? Do we really believe that there are world leaders who sit cackling in their lairs (preferably underground), boasting of how evil they are? More to the point, if we pointed that seeming spotlight of virtue into our house, and the houses of our allies and "friends", how many of them would be seen to be doing things that are just as evil as the things we routinely denounce our enemies for?

This Day In History Department
The Dr. Science newsletter tells us that today is the anniversary of the opening of the first McDonald's in the (then) Soviet Union. Another milestone in the victory of capitalism.

Got a work related email yesterday, and the writer (writing from her/his work email account) has a Bible quote in his/her .sig block. I don't know why I get up at 0330 (3:30 AM to you 12 hour clock folk) and think about things like that, but that's what happened this morning.

Anyway, the thought occurs to me as I'm laying there that were I to put an atheist quote (something like Theists think all gods but theirs are false. Atheists simply don't make an exception for the last one) in my .sig block in my work email that I'd get some sort of response from it, and I'll wager that the response would not be good. In fact, I'm a bit concerned that it would be "not career-enhancing", as we used to say in the Navy.

Is that fair? I'm not talking about proselytizing here (my correspondent's quote was what I think they call "testimony"), but simply being able to state upfront what one thinks without having to be concerned about the fact that someone might take offense at the fact that you've rejected the herd mentality and struck out on your own. And without having to be concerned that being honest like that is going to cost you professionally (that it might cost me socially, I can deal with; I've been disliked by more interesting people in my life. *grin* Just so you know where I'm coming from, I have had my tires slashed because my car had a Darwinfish on it, so forgive me if I seem less than trusting in my Christian neighbors' practice of loving their neighbor).

Nope, I don't think we'll have true freedom of religion in the U.S. until we get around to electing an atheist president. Or at least an atheist vice-president. I'm not holding my breath, though....

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Too good not to share
The Onion: Point-Counterpoint on Abortion

Thought for the day
Some people are like Slinkies; not much good for anything, but you still smile when you see one tumble down the stairs!

A current events songfest?
This will be all over the Internet before long, I'm sure, if it isn't already. Still, it's too good not to publicize:

The Ode to Hell
(sung to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands")

If you cannot find Osama, Bomb Iraq.
If the markets are a drama, Bomb Iraq.
If the terrorists are frisky,
Pakistan is looking shifty,
North Korea is too risky,
Bomb Iraq.

If we have no allies with us, Bomb Iraq.
If we think someone has dissed us, Bomb Iraq.
So to hell with the inspections,
Let's look tough for the elections,
Close your mind and take directions,
Bomb Iraq.

It's 'pre-emptive non-aggression', Bomb Iraq.
Let's prevent this mass destruction, Bomb Iraq.
They've got weapons we can't see,
And that's good enough for me,
'Cause it's all the proof I need,
Bomb Iraq.

If you never were elected, Bomb Iraq.
If your mood is quite dejected, Bomb Iraq.
If you think Saddam's gone mad,
With the weapons that he had,
(and he tried to kill your dad)
Bomb Iraq.

If your corporate fraud is growing, Bomb Iraq.
If your ties to it are showin', Bomb Iraq.
If your politics are sleazy,
and hiding it ain't easy,
If your manhood's getting queasy,
Bomb Iraq.

Fall in line and follow orders, Bomb Iraq.
For our might knows not our borders, Bomb Iraq.
Disagree? We'll call it treason!
Let's make war not love this season
Even if we have no reason,
Bomb Iraq!

This Day In History, Dept.
According to a usually reliable source, today is the 34th anniversary of the last public performance by the Beatles, namely the rooftop "concert" that they gave in Saville Row which is memorialized in the film Let It Be. Appropriately enough, the one unambiguous reference I can find to this date on the Web is, of all things, an entry on a Nightclub and Bar Promotional Calendar ("Promotional ideas for every day of the year"). Morbidly interested, I jump to my birthday (July 9) and find that their suggested promotional idea is a blind liquor or beer tasting. Hmmmm.. I can think of worse ways to spend my birthday, I suppose.

This would explain a lot:
Dear Doctor Science,
Why does it seem that days aren't 24 hours long anymore? Is this just my perception or am I onto something?
-- Anonymous via Prodigy from The Internet

You're not hallucinating. It's true, since the invention of the Internet, the days have been getting steadily shorter. The rate at which this occurs depends on many factors, mainly IQ, sex appeal and speed of modems. My days are only 15 minutes long - hardly enough time to get much done and certainly not long enough to get bored. In fact, I'm proud to say that I haven't even been nipped by boredom since my days as a graduate student. Of course, I remain apprehensive about the future. If this continues I may end up rushing toward senility at a frightening rate. Then things will slow down. And, like Zeno's paradox, I'll crawl towards the termination of the experiment.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

That ought to get their attention, at least.
Another member of the same mail list I mentioned in my previous entry, writing about a Bush plan to support "faith-based" drug/alcohol rehab programs:

George Bush may be onto something. He says the power of faith can help addicts. He wants to give federal money to religious institutions to rehab drug addicts by instilling faith into them.

I can see it now. A poster up on the wall in the corridor at school. Shows a priest. The slogan says "Fool around with drugs, and your ass belongs to me."

A propos of the State of the Union Message...
a member of a mailing list I'm on wrote:

There was one *very* interesting moment I noticed. Dumbya was snarling and baring his fangs and sneering about how we're gonna kick Saddam's punk ass, and all his bitches in Congress leapt to their feet one more time in wild applause. But there was one shot of four military guys with serious fruit salad on their chests (I assume it was the joint chiefs), and they were just sitting there stone-faced, not applauding, and not looking very happy about the whole thing.

And to think that in the '60s some of us were blaming the generals for being militaristic....

Interesting commentary....
if you're wondering what to make of all those Left Behind books. I stumbled across "An Orthodox View of Rapture", which makes for some interesting points. And it's fairly brief, which is always good news.

My favorite rapture commentary though, is that of the poet Andrei Codrescu, who is Romanian (I think), though probably not Orthodox (or orthodox, for that matter):

The evaporation of 4 million who believe in this crap would leave the world a better place.

It ain't what you know, it's who you're related to....

As you're probably aware, President Bush celebrated the Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday holiday by speaking out against affirmative action programs at the University of Michigan. The irony wasn't lost on one Newsday columnist.

Verrrrrrrrrryyyyyy interesting....
But not at all a surprise to me, being as I am a disloyal alumnus of Northwestern Law School.... Stumbled onto this, which is a part of the Brian Leiter listing of US law schools referenced in my last entry. The context is Leiter's comparison and contrast of his rankings to those of U.S. News and World Report, as Leiter explains why his rankings don't take law school job placement rates into account:

Some schools are obviously prevaricating about the employment rates, but others have found creative ways to "lie." So, for example, schools will classify as "self-employed" all the graduates who could not find work and who are presumed to have "hung out a shingle." Northwestern, which reported a much-improved rate of 99% (another one that beat Harvard and Chicago!), is reported to have hired unemployed graduates in low-paying research assistant positions in order to boost the numbers.

And I can remember them telling us that having been admitted we had nothing to worry about as far as getting a job....

Whither philosophy?
Stumbled across The Philosophical Gourmet Report, aka "The Leiter Report" in some circles after its author, Brian Leiter, who's professor of philosophy and law at the University of Texas, Austin. My, what a difference almost 25 years makes. Back when I was contemplating doing graduate studies in philosophy (before I made the mistake of going to law school and ruining my life that way), there wasn't any such "gourmet report" of top philosophy graduate programs (though of course your undergrad advisors and other profs in the department would try to guide you in that way if you were both serious and showed promise in the field).

The guide is both fascinating and depressing. Fascinating, of course, because lists of top x anything are so fascinating, but depressing in that it shows the careerism that seems to have infected academic philosophy (of course it's become careerist, Len; these men are making careers. Is that concept so difficult to understand?). Unfortunately, there seems to be no room for folks who just want to study the subject intensively, and let the career thing take care of itself. Then again, in this day and age that seems to be a luxury nobody can afford. Fortunately, there are a couple folks in the philosophical world who have maintained a sense of humor and/or proportion. There's at least one parody ("The Lighter Report") out there on the web, and also, for the more serious minded, "A Web Site Dedicated to Counteracting the Excessive Influence of the Philosophical Gourmet Report".

For what it's worth, Professor Leiter also maintains a list of U.S. law schools similarly ranked, and needless to say it's as careerist oriented as the Philosophical Gourmet. But then you should expect that from lawyers, shouldn't you? ;-)

Is Microsoft Spread Too Thin?
Analysis at: NewsFactor. Basically, only Windows, Office and the server platforms (things like Exchange and SQL Server) are making money. Xbox, wireless initiatives, MSN, "business solutions"--those are all bleeding money. On the other hand:

"You're right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars next year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I'll have to close this place in... 60 years." --Charles Foster Kane

The thing being, Bill Gates is sitting on a lot more than $60 million, even when you factor inflation into account.

Quote du jour:
A propos of the Super Bowl:

The defining moment of last night's Super Bowl came roughly midway through the third quarter. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had just taken a 34-3 lead over the Oakland Raiders, and the Lombardi Trophy was already halfway back to the Gulf of Mexico. Early in ABC's telecast, there had been loads of shots of those wacky fans, known collectively by the tired nickname Raider Nation, dressed to the nines and hyped all week as the 12th Man that would propel Oakland to victory. As Tampa seized control, those cutaways trickled to a halt, but now there was a quick shot of a stunned member of the Oakland faithful, and his expression said it all: "We've been drinking since Thursday for this?"
--Robert Weintraub []

Reminds me of a day a little over 12 years ago, or so when I was watching the Army-Navy Game (the only college football game worth watching, IMHO, but remember I am a Navy veteran). Navy had just taken the lead over a heavily favored Army with about 3 minutes left to go in the game, when the camera panned over to the West Point side of the stadium and took in a shot of the cadets.

I've attended jollier funerals.

No, in case you were wondering, I didn't catch The Game. To my mind the Super Bowl serves as a signpost for two more significant dates in the Sports Calendar:
  • the release of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in a week, and
  • the start of Spring Training in about 6 weeks.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

"What it meant then is what we say it means now"

Ed Foster's latest InfoWorld "Gripe Line" Column is scary. Go read it for the details, but Foster details a situation where a company using McAfee's VirusScan security software was being told by Network Associates (the folks who bring you McAfee VirusScan) that his two year subscription to virus definition updates wasn't really a two-year subscription--in order to continue downloading the updates the company'd have to renew their one year PrimeSupport tech support agreement, even though a) they had documentation of their original contract for a separate two-year subscription for virus updates, and b) what documentation that was available at the McAfee/Network Associates web site said nothing about this "bundling" of the virus update subscriptions with the PrimeSupport program. Basically, Network Associates was trying to retroactively rewrite the contract in the middle of the contract term, to tie in the PrimeSupport agreement to the virus update agreement (and of course, stick the company for another year's payments on the PrimeSupport agreement), even though that's not what the customer bargained for to begin with.

That isn't right, folks. Agreement on terms and conditions is one of the basic building blocks of a contract, or at least that's what I learned in law school (granted, I graduated in that half of the class which made the top half possible, so I might have missed (or fallen asleep during) the class where we covered unilateral rewriting of contract terms without notification). But I don't remember those rules being changed during my law practice days, or afterwards for that matter. But that's what software companies are trying to do with these "shrinkwrap" licensing agreements they attach to their software ("opening the package and use of this product represents your consent to the terms of this agreement...."), which increasingly seem to include clauses allowing companies to change the terms of the agreement by posting a change to some website without ever notifying you that the change has been posted (and probably, posting it to a password protected website that you never did have the password to, anyway, and which they'd never give you the password to even if you think of looking there....).

I hope some court looks into these "agreements" closely. There seems to be very little agreeing involved in them.

Techie toys....
Well, I managed to find Aaron Chan's cgiComments tool at his website, so now I have a real live commenting function here. I suppose there's nothing left for me to do but just sit back and accept the accolades of an admiring public. [Dr. Evil voice: Riiiiiiiigggggggghhhhhhhtttttttt.] No, more likely sit back and get depressed as I realize that there's nobody reading this, and it's all just an exercise in intellectual masturbation. If you can call it intellectual.

Thought to live by:
If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon.

(This appears on a "demotivational" poster from Despair, Inc. If you're as cynical about corporate motivational posters (think Successories or any similar outfit) and trinkets as I am, go visit them now; their stuff is hilarious. Better yet, buy lots of their demotivational materials and spread it all over your office.)

When you lay down with dogs....
don't complain if you get up with fleas.

Jack Kolb on the SKEPTIC list posted an editorial from the New York Times (registration required, in case you haven't visited the Times website before) about the plans of the current Administration to earmark Federal funds (funnelled through HUD, apparently) for buying, building and rehabilitating "houses of worship" which are used for both religious and "non-religious" functions. Of course they're making a "distinction" that the Federal money is supposed to be used to only buy, build, or rehabilitate that part of the house of worship which is used for the non-religious functions; the part that's used for religious functions is supposed to be built by the religious body's private funds.

Hmmmmmmnnnnnn.... Doesn't anyone in this fading republic seem to notice that when the Federales throw money into a pot, that it usually comes with a butt-load of conditions and provisions attached? Provisions and conditions that may be at odds with what a religion teaches, or what it requires of its members? There are some church-run institutions (like colleges and schools) which refuse Federal funds just to avoid the taint that Federal oversight entails.

Not to mention that enforcement of the requirement that the Federal money funds only the "secular" parts of the building may be completely impractical. A drug-abuse treatment program (I know of at least one such program whose "guru" requires that new groups meet at "houses of worship") is going to refrain from meeting in the sanctuary if that's the only space in the building that can handle a group their size? People tend to push boundaries; as Grace Murray Hopper pointed out, "It's easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission."

News You Can Use
First aid tips from The Onion:

  • Keep a first-aid kit in your car's glove compartment. It should contain alcohol, cotton balls, Jar-Jar Band-Aids(TM), ChapStick(TM), car-bingo games, cigarettes, parking stubs, and a map of Ohio.

  • If you did all you could and the victim still dies, pat him or her down for a Snickers(TM) bar. It's not like you don't deserve one.

  • In the event of decapitation, sit the victim's body in a chair as best you can, balance the head on top of the shoulders, and walk away whistling nonchalantly.

  • Always keep plenty of gauze around the house in case you invent an invisibility potion.

  • Nothing revives a stroke victim like an eye-popping orgasm.

(These stolen from today's entry in The Onion's Dispatches from the Tenth Circle "page a day" desk calendar... Used without permission, of course.)

Headline of the Day:

Girls without panties slip into the groove

(I am not making this up: See The Mainichi Daily News. This one brought to my attention by Randy Cassingham's "This Is True" column. Thank heaven for a marginal command of the English language. *grin* For more fun, catch

Morning Thought to Muse Over
My main problem with people who have "moral clarity" is that usually it means they have stopped thinking about the problem. They have reached a conclusion that fits nicely with their other preconceived conclusions and they ignore or rationalize away all the loose ends of their often untenable position. They don't want to think about it any more because if they start to chip away, they're afraid the whole house of cards will come down. At the core of this is laziness.
--Carlton Vogt

Monday, January 27, 2003

Thought for the Evening
It is the position of some theists that their right to freedom OF religion is abridged when they are not allowed to violate the Rationalist's right to freedom FROM religion.
--James T. Green

A Theory of Film Criticism
Really, more of a theory about how the consumer should use film critics. I've been of the belief for some time now that one needs to find a critic or critics whose tastes in movies matches the viewer's own. Then, when the critic says "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" (and yes, now you know who one of my Trusted Critics is), you are reasonably sure of what you're getting into.

Sometimes this means that you have to mix and match critics to get exactly what you're looking for. Right now, my two Trusted Critics are Roger Ebert and James Berardinelli. Both of them are close to my tastes, but neither is spot on; Ebert is a bit more cerebral, and tends to go for Art over more mindless entertainments; Berardinelli, like myself, is more tolerant of trashy comedy (I'm basically a whore; make me laugh and I'm eating out of your hands, Mr. Director).

A good example: Last weekend I saw Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, the Chuck Barris "biopic" ("biographical" in the same sense that my erotic daydreams are "biographical"). Ebert gave it three and a half stars, lauding Clooney's directorial debut and praising the effectiveness of his directorial conceits. Berardinelli gave it two and a half stars; he thought the direction was overblown and overextended, but praised the performances of the actors (as did Ebert). I'd have given it three stars, myself. The performances were compelling, and the directorial conceits worked within the confines of this film; the CIA assassin subplot seems, in this rendering to be within Barris's tortured mind, and telling the story (regardless of its truth) is Barris's means of salvation.

The two treats of the movie: Sam Rockwell's performance as Chuck Barris (simply dead on), and the use of the real, uncensored filmclip of The Newlywed Game's most (in)famous moment, when the bride answered the question "Where will your husband say is the most unusual place the two of you have made whoopie?" with the immortal answer, "Is it in the ass?"

Miscellaneous Ramblings
Talking about math, it was a nice piece of ego-boo (i.e., an ego boost) to see that I got most of the problems assigned last week correct. I know, trivial, but you don't know my history with mathematics. For me, it's quite an accomplishment.

This arrived in one of last week's emailed tech newsletters (the name is suppressed to protect the guilty party):

''Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.''
- Calvin Coolidge

Far be it from me to knock hard work. Well, ok, near be it to me to knock hard work--my personal motto seems to be "They say hard work never killed anybody, but why take chances?"--but the fact of the matter is that the optimistic credo that "You can do anything you set your mind to" leaves quite a bit to be desired. The fact of the matter is that persistence and determination are not omnipotent. Powerful, maybe. And certainly nothing lasting can be achieved without a degree of persistence and determination. However, no matter how persistent and determined I am, I'm simply not going to be able to lift the building across the street from me over my head. No matter whether I ate my Wheaties or not this morning.

That being said, I will point out that I actually did get my math homework done this weekend. My ages old friends, who know how mathematics and I don't get along, will be duly impressed at that display of persistence and determination. Ah, one week down, 16 more to go.

Dammit! I gave in...
I'd been fighting this urge for some time. Whenever I'd get the urge to create a blog, I'd wind up rereading Andrew Orlowski's comments from The Register:

Of course, you'll argue: we're just being mean. Online journals give a billion people who can't write and who have nothing to say the means to publish. It's good! To which I reply: here's a mechanism which allows a billion people who can't sing, can't write a song or make an original beep, and have nothing to express, the means to deafen me with their tuneless, boring cacophony. Get a producer!

I should have taken Mark Twain's advice, and treated this urge the same way he treated the urge to exercise: go take a nap until it passed. Anyway, I give up. I'm a slave to fashion. I have a blog. With any luck, somebody will find my idle musings interesting. Oh what the hell. I will, and that's what really counts, right?