Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown

This year, I got lots of good presents, including music from iTunes, some great books, and a really beautiful cashmere sweater. But the best gift was to be at home with my family, singing carols around the piano. Happy holidays to all my imaginary readers out there in the land of intertubes. And happy new year.


Friday, December 21, 2007

The sickness is deep

Baby, if you've ever wondered... wondered why I despise Ron Paul... I'll tell you one reason why: Many of his most ardent fans are psychos.

Here's an example. Lots of political blogs have noticed that Ron Paul has taken money from neo-Nazis, and that conspiracy nuts and white supremacists are proudly claiming him as the candidate that represents their views. Paul has generally not repudiated these supporters or their views, or given the money back. That's bad.

But it gets a lot worse. The Paulbots have figured out that people are judging The Only Man Who Can Save America by the company he keeps. In other words, lots of voters might get the idea that Ron Paul is a paranoid anti-semite. So, what do they do? They accuse everyone else involved of being a conniving Jew.

White supremacists who say they like Ron Paul? Jews.

Right-wing bloggers who expose the links between Ron Paul and white supremacists? Also Jews.

Other mainstream bloggers and media organizations who criticize the first bunch of bloggers? You might think that these are the good guys, since they are on the same side as Ron Paul. But they're Jews, too-- playing a very deep game. I wish I were kidding, but here's a quote:

It should be obvious that LGF is a Zionist operation, but that doesn't mean you can trust people who expose the lies of LGF.

...none of these groups are willing to expose the Iraq war, Zionism, 9/11, the Holocaust lies, the Apollo moon landing hoax, or any other crime.

...Some of the people who criticize the critics of Ron Paul are Zionist agents, also.

The Zionists are trying to control every side of the issue so that no matter who you decide to trust, you are trusting a Zionist Jew. The only solution is be suspicious of everybody!

Wow. That's USDA Grade-A Choice Psycho. And let me just say that blaming your troubles on scheming Jews is not a good way to prove that you are not an insane neo-Nazis. Which is why we have to suspect that the real conspiracy runs even deeper.

Want to know the real truth? It's too deep and dark for me to see it in its entirety, but let me just say that I have begun to suspect that those of Ron Paul's supporters who say that Nazis, anti-Nazis, and anti-anti-Nazis are all Jewish agents are in fact themselves the real Jewish agents! DUN DUN DUNNNNN!

Or maybe Ron Paul and his fans are all a bunch of loons.


Thursday, December 20, 2007


The Lakota have declared independence. They have informed the State Department that they are withdrawing from their treaties with the US. I'm not sure how that works, from the standpoint of international law, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rise and shout

BYU is a funny place.


(Update 10:45 AM : Every Zoobie should read this.)

Monday, December 17, 2007


So, I took another useless internet quiz, and this one tells me that I have a Western accent. But I am not sure how well to trust it, because after I thought about it and changed one answer, it said I had a "neutral" accent, by which it seems to mean Midwestern.

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)


Western is kind of neutral, but not quite since it's still possible to tell where you're from. So you might not actually be from the West (but you probably are). If you really want to sound "neutral," learn how to say "stock" and "stalk" differently.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.

Go ahead and give it a try yourself, and see if you have a distinctive accent of some kind. (And feed your results into the map.) But I think most of our accents and dialects are dying, because people move around a lot, and everyone watches the same TV and movies. It's a tragedy.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Good country people

An Indian holy man seems to have lost his leg in a rather unusual way after getting drunk with a couple of unscrupulous con men. I wonder what Flannery O'Connor would say?


Thursday, December 06, 2007

How did it come to this?

Where is the Fred and the Rudy?  Where is the straight talk express? They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow...

So, apparently Gov. Mike Huckabee is now in the lead in the Iowa polls. I have two comments. First, I agree with Ace that this is bad news for Romney. My homeboy Mitt has put over seven million dollars into Iowa and if he doesn't win, his campaign will be mortally wounded. This would kill his chances of getting a veep nod, or probably even a cabinet seat.

Second, how many former governors of Arkansas can we as a country allow to become presidents of the United States? Seriously, people. My preference would have been zero. We can't help the fact that we've already had one, but let's not do two.

Frackin' razorbacks.

Which reminds me: I have a movie to watch. Sweet.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Advice for stupid hippies

Step one: Lead by example. Get married or cohabit as soon as you can, and then stay married, for the good of the planet. But please make sure you don't have any children, because they're bad for the environment. And of course you're going to have to live in poverty, because consumption will destroy the Earth.

Step two: Get everyone else to do the same. This is going to be tough, since your miserable condition will be pretty obvious. I would recommend being really shrill, and endlessly prophesying doom for non-believers (you know, like the religious nuts you hated in high school), but you guys seem to have this down pretty well already. So really, it's all about step one for now. Start by giving away the computer which you are currently using to read this-- they can be as bad for global warming as an SUV.

Of course, I won't be joining you. Not that there's anything wrong with what you're doing, but it's just not my lifestyle. I was born this way. Don't judge me.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Rejoice, my fellow nerds!

So, I recently finished Knife of Dreams, the latest book in the Wheel of Time series. I have had it for almost a year, but have been reluctant to read it because it is the next to last in the series, and Robert Jordan (the author) died before finishing the ultimate volume.

But I finally broke down and read it, finishing this weekend on a plane flight. (Pleasure reading is the only thing that keeps me sane cramped in those little seats for hours at a time.) I liked the book a lot, and one of the things that I liked best was that Jordan gave his long-suffering fans some closure.

Lots of things I have been waiting to see for a long time finally happened (or started happening) in this book. Since this is the eleventh book in the series, I thought I would give a list of eleven things that I have been waiting to see.

(Of course, if you don't want to have the book spoiled for you, then you should read no further.)

1) Lan and Nynaeve rally the scattered nation of Malkier. Been waiting since: Book 1 - the Eye of the World.
2) Loial the Ogier gets married. Been waiting since: Book 2 - the Great Hunt.
3) Elayne captures most of the rest of Liandrin's Black Ajah group. Been waiting since: Book 3 - the Dragon Reborn.
4) Mat marries the Daughter of the Nine Moons. Been waiting since: Book 4 - the Shadow Rising.
5) The Shaido are defeated and go home. Been waiting since: Book 5 - the Fires of Heaven.
6) Thom's letter reveals that Moiraine is not dead, and can be rescued by attacking the Tower of Ghenjei. Been waiting since: Book 6 - Lord of Chaos.
7) Halima is exposed as one of the Forsaken, and flees the rebel Aes Sedai camp. Been waiting since: Book 6 - Lord of Chaos.
8) Elayne gains the Lion Throne. Been waiting since: Book 6 - Lord of Chaos.
9) Mat rejoins the Band of the Red Hand, and gets back to winning battles. Been waiting since: Book 7 - A Crown of Swords.
10) Perrin rescues his wife. Been waiting since: Book 8 - the Path of Daggers.
11) Tuon becomes empress of Seanchan, more or less. Been waiting since: Book 9 - Winter's Heart.

And that's not all. Lots of other cool stuff happened, too-- like psychotic ex-pacifist Aram buying the farm, and High Lady Suroth finally getting her just deserts. Ah... So satisfying!

It's almost enough to make me shed a big, fat, nerdy tear or two. Thanks, Robert Jordan. Rest in peace.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Whole lotta links

I've meant to write about all of these things, but there are others who clamor for my attention. Such is the life of the rock star of the academy. I give and give, but it's never enough for my fans. So instead of my own peerless insight, here are a bunch of things for you to read, written by lesser men and women. (Sorry, imaginary readers.)



* Things are getting better in Iraq.

* However, one scholar believes that the US and its major allies may be at a disadvantage in future conflicts due to declining demographic power. Interesting!


* There are probably two or three times more illegal immigrants in the US than the previous, widely-accepted estimate of 12-15 million.

* Cubans are fleeing to the US in record numbers, many of them through Mexico.

* I'm not a big fan of Bill Clinton, but I like to give credit where credit is due, and I'm sure glad that the former president has no qualms about shutting down insane conspiracy theorists. Nice job!


* Apparently, even very moderate drinking is not good for you, or so one study says. Well, I guess it's time for me to start obeying the Word of Wisdom, since scientists know best.

* Speaking of science, here's a good scientific reason to abandon our irrational love of music. Awesome!


* Even though I know how this test works, and I can point it out to others, I still can only see this optical illusion the way that other right-brained people can. I'm just too darned sensitive and emotional!

* Frackin' Battlestar Galactica is pushing back the debut of season four until April 2008. Felgercarb!


* If you suspect that restaurant servers are committing credit card fraud to get extra tip money out of you, you might be a delusional paranoid. But just in case, here's a clever way to protect yourself.


Sorry I'm not writing more, but I am needed elsewhere. What can I say? My talents are in high demand. Time to share the love.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

All politics is local

HotAir isn't letting anyone register to comment at the moment, and since I feel the need to respond to some comments on this post, I fear that you, my imaginary readers, must bear the brunt of my venting. You have my most sincere apology.

So, here's the background. This Tuesday, Harry Reid, Democratic Senator from Nevada, and Senate Majority Leader for the last year or so, came to speak at BYU. He spoke about his early life in a small town in Nevada, and how he found religion and joined the Mormon church. He also attempted to answer a question on the minds of many in the audience.

It is not uncommon for members of the Church to ask how I can be a Mormon and a Democrat. ...my faith and political beliefs are deeply intertwined. I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon, not in spite of it.

After the speech, he talked with some reporters, and pushed this idea a little further:

Reid also told reporters the Republican Party has been driven by evangelical Christians for 20 years. “They are the most anti-Christian people I can imagine, the people from the Christian far right.”

This quote has managed to make quite a few people mad, which I think is nothing new for Harry Reid. Many people seem to be reading this as an attack on evangelical Christians as opposed to Mormons. I don't read it that way. I read it as an attack on conservative Christians including Mormons.

Remember, Reid is not really in friendly territory at BYU. It's true that he is a Mormon, as are virtually all BYU students. But he is also a liberal Democrat, unlike the great majority of BYU students, who are conservative Republicans. The entire point of his speech was an attempt to justify himself to a skeptical audience, and in doing so he must call their own beliefs into question. When Reid says that he is a Democrat because he is a Mormon, he is telling his Mormon audience that they are wrong to be Republicans, and that they are un-Christian. In other words, people who want to follow Christ's example should feed the poor and avoid war. This is a familiar argument, even among Mormons.

So, if you are an evangelical Christan, and a Republican, and you are mad at Harry Reid, I think you have every right. But please remember that he spoke not as a Mormon attacking other Christians, but as a Christian Democrat attacking Christian Republicans. Many Mormons are just as mad at him as you are, and for pretty much the same reason.

I guess what I am really saying is, don't come complaining to me about some stupid thing Harry Reid said. I didn't vote for him, either.

Gupta Air

After weeks of dithering about where to go during the Thanksgiving break, I've found the flight I want to take. Now if I can just manage a connecting flight in to Delhi...


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Every day a little closer

What's in store for us? I don't know, and neither does anyone else. This is one of the reasons I love reading old science fiction. It's fun to see all the things they got wrong. But I suppose that's the problem with trying to see what's coming. We're too mired in the present. We'll get there eventually, but in the meantime we are truly clueless.

"People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it. Predicting the future is much too easy, anyway. You look at the people around you, the street you stand on, the visible air you breathe, and predict more of the same. To hell with more. I want better." ~ Ray Bradbury

I want better, too. But while I wait for the future to get here, I do enjoy escaping from the present. Any of my fellow escapists might enjoy reading this list of the most commonly envisioned futures, and the reasons why they won't happen. (Found at GeekPress.)

Contentious optimists (or optimistic pessimists) should feel free to post comments below explaining how we'll get to utopia (or the apocalypse). Me, I think we might be there already.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Test confirms the obvious

So, I took an online test that said I am a conservative. I am posting the results here not because they are interesting (they are not), but to interest you, my imaginary readers, in testing yourselves.

The test is really about which moral values you find to be most important. People of all political persuasions are motivated by moral principles-- the big difference is which moral principles (equality, justice, freedom) move them most. I found it enlightening. Perhaps you will as well.

Of course, taking tests of this sort is a bit like reading tea leaves, or the I Ching. The test doesn't have the answers you seek. It doesn't know you, doesn't know anything about the world. You're the one with the answers, and you know them already. So it's really just a novel way of asking yourself questions, in the hopes of tricking yourself into accidentally having an interesting thought.

Good luck!


Friday, September 21, 2007

Nunchuck skills, bowhunting skills, computer hacking skills...

So, courtesy of Times and Seasons, I found this list of 25 things every man should know. (The list comes from Popular Mechanics magazine, FYI.)

Lists of this sort interest me. I'm a single boy, and I want to be a married man. And like Napoleon Dynamite, I have noticed that women are looking for men with skills. They make their own lists of desirable attributes and skills, and compare potential mates to the lists. (Tell me it ain't so, ladies.) So when I see a list like this, no matter how stupid, I usually stop and compare myself.

Now, here's the list:

1. Patch a radiator hose
2. Protect your computer
3. Rescue a boater who has capsized
4. Frame a wall
5. Retouch digital photos
6. Back up a trailer
7. Build a campfire
8. Fix a dead outlet
9. Navigate with a map and compass
10. Use a torque wrench
11. Sharpen a knife
12. Perform CPR
13. Fillet a fish
14. Maneuver a car out of a skid
15. Get a car unstuck
16. Back up data
17. Paint a room
18. Mix concrete
19. Clean a bolt-action rifle
20. Change oil and filter
21. Hook up an HDTV
22. Bleed brakes
23. Paddle a canoe
24. Fix a bike flat
25. Extend your wireless network

Wow. Rough. I have no idea how to even start about three-quarters of these. In my defense, I think most guys would not do a lot better. For instance, even combining efforts with my four brothers, I think we only have about 70% of this list covered. And I think we're a pretty capable crew.

But I do think there are some things that every man should be able to do that aren't on this list. Especially when I start thinking about my dad, who to me is the pinnacle of manliness. So here are some things I think are necessary for a good dad, and a good husband.

* Grill (It's even better to actually be able to cook, but grilling is a must.)
* Soothe a crying baby (My dad has the magic touch on this one. You put a baby in his hands, and crying just stops.)
* Dance (I can't do this one at all. My bones rebel.)
* Fight (Haven't done this in years, but I think the power to defend yourself and your family is an important part of being a man.)
* Tie a tie (If someone else has to tie it for you, you are still a boy.)
* Play sports (Not all sports, but you should be able to throw a pass, hit a pitch, sink a jumpshot, etc. I feel confident about swimming, frisbee, soccer, and a few others, but I cringe thinking of the day when my brother-in-law told me I threw a baseball like a girl. The shame!)
* Garden (Real men grow food.)

There are probably more, but I think this is a good start. And I wouldn't even know how to begin a list of skills necessary for a woman. But maybe you, my imaginary readers, have some ideas.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

He'll pass a non-binding resolution whenever there's trouble...

So, they're making a movie in which, G.I. Joe, a real American hero, is no longer American. That's right. I said, G.I. Joe is no longer AMERICAN!!!

Paramount has confirmed that in the movie, the name G.I. Joe will become an acronym for "Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity" — an international, coed task force charged with defeating bad guys. It will no longer stand for government issued, as in issued by the American government.

The studio won't elaborate, saying filming hasn't begun and details are still in the works, but the behind-the-scenes rumblings are that the producers have decided to change the nature of G.I. Joe in order to appeal to a wider, more international audience.

The word is that in the current political climate, they're afraid that a heroic U.S. soldier won't fly.

So, G.I. Joe, which is supposed to be about kicking foreign terrorist butt, is now part of the UN or something. Words fail me.

But, for you, my imaginary readers, I will try hard to describe my feelings. It's like... It's like finding out they've decided the Boston Red Sox are going to be a soccer team in Argentina, coached by King George III. Or that Mom's homemade apple pie is 40% animal waste. And that Mom is really a big hairy biker dude. Or coming to a 4th of July picnic and finding out that they replaced the hamburgers and fireworks with a platoon of the SS-Totenkopfverbände and a quick trip into a freshly-dug mass grave. And in that grave, already cold and dead: Santa Claus.

Seriously, I don't even know if I can go in to work tomorrow.


(UPDATE 09/14 : Yesterday evening after my haircut, I walked by the nerd store and decided to stop in. On a whim, I inquired about G.I. Joe, and a helpful regular customer pointed me to the 25-cent bin in the basement. Long story short, I walked out with 31 issues of the old Marvel classic G.I. Joe comic book. Awesome. Yo Joe!)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

RIP Luciano Pavarotti

Dici che il fiume
Trova la via al mare
E come il fiume
Giungerai a me
Oltre i confini
E le terre assetate...


Friday, September 07, 2007

5 points of an art film

Just sent Federico Fellini's Oscar-winning classic 8 1/2 back to Netflix. This is one of the top ten films of all time, according to a lot of critics. Myself, I didn't finish it. I thought it was terrible. I gave it two stars, and that's because of Claudia Cardinale.

I think it is appropriate at this time for me to reveal my five-point profile of an art film. An art film is a film in which: (1) Miserable people (2) sit around talking (3) and smoking (4) and committing adultery (5) but nothing really happens.

1) The people in art films are bored and unhappy. They hate their lives, even though generally they are materially well off. Life bores them, the world has nothing left to offer them, they are weary of everything and everyone. It helps if they are European.

2) In art films, people talk a lot. And the conversations are very important and very carefully crafted, although they don't really advance the plot. (See #5.) So you have lots of people sitting around talking for long stretches about very ordinary things, and they interrupt each other and talk over each other, as people do in real life. Also as in real life, most of the talking is not very interesting. (That's why people go to the movies.)

3) Everybody smokes in art films. And they smoke a lot. And the camera lingers on the cigarettes and the smoke in that artsy kind of way. I don't know why this is thought to be such a sophisticated, beautiful thing-- smoking is gross.

4) In art films, it's important for everyone to be mired in adultery. And it's never pre-marital hanky-panky-- it's always people cheating on their spouses. But not in a sexy way. In a bored, disappointed, world-weary sort of way. In 8 1/2, for instance, perhaps since it was made fifty years ago, there are scenes of lovers embracing, or passionate kisses (again, perhaps due to #3). But there is a scene of a mistress demanding a job for her husband from the married protagonist.

5) Most importantly, nothing really happens in an art film. There really is no plot. If I had to sum up the plot of 8 1/2, I would have to say something like: A movie director is tired of the movie business. But that's not a plot. It's a setup. It's a premise. You start with that, and move on. Like this: A movie director is bored of the movie business...

...AND SO HE quits and follows his dream to become a professional hockey player.
...AND SO HE makes the best film ever and changes Hollywood forever.
...AND SO HE joins the CIA and becomes a spy with the perfect cover story.
...BUT THEN HE falls in love and rekindles his love of life.
...BUT THEN HE is approached by a mysterious stranger who says she is from the future, and that only he can prevent the robo-pocalypse.
...BUT THEN HE has his world turned upside down by the boss from hell-- literally-- when he discovers that his producer is Lucifer, prince of darkness.

Something should happen! But not in an art film. In an art film, nothing should happen, except the talking and the smoking and the miserable, unfaithful people gradually becoming more and more bored with their lives. I don't see why this kind of movie is so popular in certain circles, but it doesn't do it for me.

Lots of critics gave 8 1/2 5 stars; I give it 5/5 on my art-house disaster scale. I recommend seeing it only if you think your life is too thrilling and happy-- like if you just won a gold medal in awesome at the rock and roll Olympics-- and you can't afford depressants in pill form.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

The candidating game

So, my brother emailed me this quiz that compares your views with the positions staked out by US presidential candidates and tells you which candidates match up with you best.

Here are my results, starting with the candidates who got a positive score:

Hunter +34
Romney +30
Giuliani +29
Huckabee +26
McCain +23
Tancredo +20
Cox +14
Thompson +13
Brownback +7

And then we get into negative numbers...

Richardson -15
Obama -15
Biden -16
Paul -17
Clinton -18
Dodd -19
Edwards -19
Gravel -28
Kucinich -30

This actually is pretty close match to my own perceptions of the candidates, especially given the very simple nature of the test. I'm surprised and impressed with how well this works. (I am especially pleased to see that the program figured out that I dislike Ron Paul almost as much as Hillary Clinton. Nice.) Makes me want to go read up on Duncan Hunter...

But it's definitely a very simplistic test. I did it in two minutes, without thinking about it too much, and was surprised with how well its predictions matched my own previous feelings about the candidates. But I think it's not going to be very helpful for people who are still sorting out their own positions on the issues.

I'm lucky. The issues I care most about are pretty clear-cut. For instance, I think that for our intervention in Iraq to succeed, we need a lot of people there for a long time. The way I read history, anything else leaves the place in absolute chaos. So I support more troops in Iraq for a longer time. And all the candidates have a pretty clear stand on that issue at this point. Now, things could be a lot more complicated. For instance, if the surge were yielding obviously spectacular successes, lots of candidates would shift their positions to agree with mine, at least at that level of detail. And then I would have to get a lot more fine-grained, and tease out much more subtle differences.

That's where the health care issue is, to my way of thinking. Some candidates have positions that are widely divergent, but most of them are pretty close, and you have to get into the nuances to see what the differences are, in lots of cases. For instance, Mitt Romney got a sort of universal health care system started in Massachusetts, but it's not the same kind of universal health care system that Hillary Clinton tried to get passed in 1993. But that was 14 years ago. When she says she wants to reform the health care system now, how different will her plan be from Romney's? And then we have people whose position is much less clear, and much more based in platitudes that obscure these small, nuanced differences-- like Barack Obama.

As I say, I'm lucky. There are a few issues that matter more to me than the rest, and the candidates have staked out pretty clear (and different) positions on those few issues. There are a few other issues like this (I have a friend who decides entirely on what kind of Supreme Court justices the candidate is likely to nominate.) but most are not. I'm just glad I'm not deciding on education policy, or something like that. After quickly eliminating the ones who are way out there at the extreme, I'd be left with the muddled middle. And I'd never be able to figure out who to support.

So, I'd probably just do what I did last time, and support a beltway outsider.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Onward, Christian babies

So, yesterday I saw this link to an opinion piece at SFGate.com, a website affiliated with the San Francisco Chronicle. The piece is incredibly vitriolic and nasty. You have to read it to believe it.

It is written in response to news stories about a family in Arkansas that just welcomed their 17th child. As far as I can tell, their children are clean, cheerful, polite, and well-spoken. The family is Christian, conservative, traditional, and not very hip. These facts sent columnist Mark Morford into a hysterical, frothing, raving fit. Here's a sample of his despite:

Perhaps the point is this: Why does this sort of bizarre hyperbreeding only seem to afflict antiseptic megareligious families from the Midwest? In other words -- assuming Michelle and Jim Bob and their massive brood of cookie-cutter Christian kidbots will all be, as the charming photo suggests, never allowed near a decent pair of designer jeans or a tolerable haircut from a recent decade, and assuming that they will all be tragically encoded with the values of the homophobic asexual Christian right -- where are the forces that shall help neutralize their effect on the culture? Where is the counterbalance, to offset the damage?

Where is, in other words, the funky tattooed intellectual poetess who, along with her genius anarchist husband, is popping out 16 funky progressive intellectually curious fashion-forward pagan offspring to answer the Duggar's squad of über-white future Wal-Mart shoppers? Where is the liberal, spiritualized, pro-sex flip side? Verily I say unto thee, it ain't lookin' good.

Perhaps this the scariest aspect of our squishy birthin' tale: Maybe the scales are tipping to the neoconservative, homogenous right in our culture simply because they tend not to give much of a damn for the ramifications of wanton breeding and environmental destruction and pious sanctimony, whereas those on the left actually seem to give a whit for the health of the planet and the dire effects of overpopulation. Is that an oversimplification?

Although Morford's column overflows with so much berserk hate that I wonder if he is, perhaps, rabid, he is pointing out an important phenomenon in contemporary American society. The number of conservative people in the US continues to increase because these people tend to have more children. Conversely, progressives tend to have few children, and often no children.

This fact is often pointed out by right-leaning pundits, who make a couple of related observations. First, as James Taranto notes about once a week, pro-choice women in particular fail to pass along their preferences, aborting the children who would otherwise grow up in their homes, and likely share their political viewpoint. He calls this the "Roe effect", and claims that it helps explain why public opinion has shifted dramatically in the pro-life direction since the legalization of abortion in 1973. Second, the numbers of progressives would be dwindling even more quickly if they didn't have the ability to persuade lots of kids to lean left after leaving home.

People like Mark Morford should probably realize that if they want policy change, they need a majority of voters to support their views. (In America, this is called "democracy.") So, they either need to propagate, or propagate their views. And I think the progressive effort is not helped by this kind of bile:

Let us be clear: I don't care what sort of God you believe in, it's a safe bet that hysterical breeding does not top her list of desirables. God does not want more children per acre than there are ants or mice or garter snakes or repressed pedophilic priests. We already have three billion humans on the planet who subsist on less than two dollars a day. Every other child in the world (one billion of them) lives in abject poverty. We are burning through the planet's resources faster than a Republican can eat an endangered caribou stew. Note to Michelle Duggar: If God wanted you to have a massive pile of children, she'd have given your uterus a hydraulic pump and a revolving door. Stop it now.

In fact, I think it quite likely that if the Duggar family were to read what Morford wrote about them, it would only strengthen their determination to bring more good Christian children into this wicked world. Good for them.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Wonderful spam!

I love gmail, but it has disappointed me this weekend. Friday an old friend called me and told me she had emailed me a couple of notes to which I had not responded. Lo and behold, gmail had put them in my spam folder. So today, on impulse, I decided to wade around a bit and see if any of my other friends' notes were getting mis-labeled.

In my spam-wading, I learned three things:

1) The emails sent by Blogger to automatically notify me when someone comments on a blog post here have all been shunted off to the spam graveyard. Quel désastre! (I have taken steps to rectify this, but if any of you, my imaginary readers, worry that I have not noticed your clever, clever comments, feel free to notify me here.)

2) There are a lot of nice Russian girls who are bored this evening and who would (thus) like to chat with me, and perhaps send me pictures. All of them seem to be using email addresses with the names of American men, for some reason. Odd, that.

3) My loan application has been approved many hundreds of times. Also, denied.

Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What kind of fool am I?

Okay, that's a retarded title, but what else should I have used? Anyway, here's the results of the latest time-wasting quiz (found via Dean's World). Apparently, I'm a warmonger. Check it:

How to Win a Fight With a Liberal is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Conservative Identity:

You are a Freedom Crusader, also known as a neoconservative. You believe in taking the fight directly to the enemy, whether it’s terrorists abroad or the liberal terrorist appeasers at home who give them aid and comfort.

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

W00t! Neocons No. 1!


Monday, June 11, 2007

Structured procrastination

Note to all my imaginary readers who are upset by the blog famine in these parts lately, let me just say that this lack of work is a vital part of my larger strategy of structured procrastination.

By harnessing my guilt about not blogging, I reap the power to perform other tasks. As Stanford professor John Perry explains,

Procrastinators often follow exactly the wrong tack. They try to minimize their commitments, assuming that if they have only a few things to do, they will quit procrastinating and get them done. But this goes contrary to the basic nature of the procrastinator and destroys his most important source of motivation. ...

The trick is to pick the right sorts of projects for the top of the list. The ideal sorts of things have two characteristics, First, they seem to have clear deadlines (but really don't). Second, they seem awfully important (but really aren't). Luckily, life abounds with such tasks. ...

Not blogging has allowed me to: finish final exams, final papers, and class grades; move offices; put my RA to work on vital research tasks; exercise away 10 pounds; arrange great Mothers' Day surprises for my mother and sister; celebrate my birthday and my brother's; paint most of the inside of my house; acquire a new desk and rearrange the furniture in my home; read up for the the lit review chapter of my dissertation; and most importantly, watch all of Lost, season 3. Thank you, not blogging!

Of course, now that writing the lit review chapter, it's time to start blogging again, both here and on my other, secret blog. Hooray for procrastination!


Monday, April 23, 2007

Note to self

If I ever go to prison, make sure it's in Kentucky.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

New blog template

So I am building a new blog template, since the old one ate all my comments. Given that this is the busy season for me professionally, it will be a few weeks before everything is back to normal. Just thought my imaginary readers would like to know.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The delicious taste of cognitive dissonance

From Scott Adams, commenting on a recent article in Time about Einstein and religion:

There aren’t many ideas that have the potential to change the world. But the idea that we have no free will has to be on the short list.

At the risk of ruining the joke by explaining what's funny, let me elaborate. If a racist bigot has no free will, to borrow one of Scott's examples, then his prejudices are beyond his control, are they not? So how do we change this one person's behavior, much less "change the world," by telling everyone that they are merely "moist robots," instead of moral agents?

Mmm.... That's good cognitive dissonance!


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Go sit in the corner

Humorist Eric Snider pointed me toward an interesting web resource called ConservaPedia. This is like a free, user-edited encyclopedia for very stupid people who vote basically the same way I do.

As Eric points out, stuff like this is one of the reasons that many left-leaning folks feel comfortable stereotyping right-leaning folks are not very bright. I thought the article was funny, but I decided I should go check it out the site and see if it was as goofy as Eric made it sound. (He's a very funny guy, so things often sound sillier when he talks about them.)

Conservapedia proved to be a lot dumber than I expected. Among my favorite nuggets of idiocy is the claim that the earth is flat, as proved by Bible passages about the "four corners of the world." Personally, I don't take passages like this so literally, but to my way of thinking even if you really want to take it literally, you have to consider a couple of other possibilities. Which is really what I want to talk about today.

First, if the world really has four (and only four) corners, and it's flat, then this tells us not only that the world is flat, but also that it is a quadrilateral of some kind. So it's not a hexagon, for instance.

But we run into some problems. For instance, the Bible does not say that the earth's four corners are angled at ninety degrees. So, assuming the earth is flat, we are still left with a very interesting question: What shape is it? I mean, you could have a parallelogram or a trapezoid, which I think we all would agree are much more fun to think about than a square or rectangle. You could even get some kind of funny straight-edged boomerange shape, right?

But let's set this aside, and move on to intriguing possibility number 2. Again, assuming that we have a flat earth with four (and only four) corners, we still don't know that these corners are on the outside. They could be on the inside. So maybe the world is a vast, infinite plane with no corners and no ends on the outside, but with a big square hole in the middle, with four corners. Why not? This fits the Biblical requirement just as well as anything else. The hole is a bit problematic, because the water would all pour through, but I'm not sure how square-flat-earthers handle the water problem, either.

Because, if you think about it, unless the world is completely flat, then it has more than four corners. Like, if it's a square box deep enough to hold the oceans, then it has eight corners. There's only four on the top, true, but there's eight overall, which is more than the Biblical specification. Of course, maybe the square is not completely flat. Maybe it's deep in the middle-- like maybe the world is a square, but it's flexible like cloth, and it's being held at the corners by angels, but in the middle it's full of water and land and animals and such. That way it's still got only four real corners, but it allows for a three-dimensionality that the original, square, totally flat earth model doesn't allow.

And speaking of three-dimensionality, here's a third interesting possibility. Assuming that the earth has four (and only four) literal corners does not mean that it has to be flat. If the earth was a pyramid with four triangular sides, then it would still have four corners. (They wouldn't be ninety-degree corners, but the Bible does not specify the angle, so I think we're still within the specifications.) So why not a tetrahedral world?

So, if there are any flat-earthers among my imaginary readers, I would be pleased to hear which of these various models you favor. Although I think a careful, and of course, excruciatingly literal reading of the Bible forbids commenting on blogs. Which, I think, is why Blogger has disabled this feature on my blog. Thanks, Blogspot!


Sunday, March 25, 2007


Looks like my stupid free commenting thing has died and taken all my comments with it. Bummer. Sorry, imaginary readers. I'll try to get something worked out ASAP so you can once more share your wisdom with the world.


(UPDATE 03/27 : I'm attempting to turn on the Blogger.com commenting feature, but it looks like it won't do anything for my old posts.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Firely season 2

It looks like an independent production company is trying to give us a second season of Firefly, the best gorram science fiction show of all time. And they're bringing it back, because it is just too pretty for us to let it die.

So unless you want to go to the special hell, please fill out the survey and let them know you want to see this show get re-launched.



Friday, March 16, 2007

The New York Times crushes my dreams again

Seriously, when I read things like this, I remember a tale of my late-marrying uncle. Upon being told that marital bliss was, in fact, not 100% bliss 100% of the time, he allegedly shouted something like, "Don't spoil the illusion! It's the only thing keeping me going!"

I feel you, dog. I feel you.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Ravaged and plundered

"What have they done to the earth? What have they done to our fair sister?" I don't know, but I'm pretty sure I know whose fault it is.



(UPDATE : Related.)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Apparently the bar is pretty low...

You Are a Smart American

You know a lot about US history, and you're opinions are probably well informed.
Congratulations on bucking stereotypes. Now go show some foreigners how smart Americans can be.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Six Degrees of WikiBacon

So, this evening my brother Dave and I invented the awesomest game in the universe by accident. Here's what you do. You go to Wikipedia and hit the random article button on the top left hand column. Then, you try to get to Kevin Bacon in six links or less. No cheating, such as looking stuff up on Google or using your back button.

Here are some examples:

0 US House of Representatives
1 California State Legislature
2 California
3 Hollywood
4 Walk of Fame
5 List of Stars
6 Kevin Bacon!

0 Indian Institute of Technology
2 Counterculture
3 Brokeback Mountain
4 Randy Quaid
5 American film actors
6 Ba
7 :( Kevin Bacon (So close, yet so not six degrees...)

0 Dolores Project
1 Ute Tribe
2 Utah
3 Footloose
4 Kevin Bacon!!!

0 Chromosome 15
1 Marfan syndrome
2 Vincent Schiavelli
3 Ghost (Yes, we thought Kevin Bacon was in Ghost. That's right. We suck.)
4 Demi Moore
5 A Few Good Men
6 Kevin Bacon!

0 Douglas Head Lighthouse
1 1986
2 1986 in film
3 Tom Cruise
4 A Few Good Men
5 Kevin Bacon!!

0 Parseval's identity
1 Mathematics
2 Space
3 Outer Space
5 Apollo 13
6 Kevin Bacon!

We also could have won on that last one by going from Math to Combinatorics to Paul Erdős to Erdős number to six degrees to Kevin Bacon. But I only remembered that there was some math guy that people played a game with like Kevin Bacon, and I had to look up some info to make the connection. That's cheating, so it doesn't count.

Anyway, it's totally sweet. And easy to play. It would be even easier if I knew something about Kevin Bacon. (I only know like four movies he is in-- the other one I haven't used yet is Tremors.) Others of my imaginary readers will have superior knowledge, and thus do much better at this game than I. But that's okay. The game is my gift to the world. I'm like Dr. James Naismith. I don't have to be good at it, because I invented it. I think.

Has someone else already played this game? I don't think so, but it seems pretty obvious in retrospect. Anyway, if you have, you're Dr. James Naismith, and I'm not. But if you haven't, then I am. So there.


PS - Feel free to play the game yourself and leave your scores in the Comments, or Trackbacks or whatever. Party on.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Celebrity endorsements

It's true what they say: being a professor is exactly like being a rock star, except with even more rock and roll. Last semester I got my first tastes of fame: I had an interview published*, I was quoted in an article in the newspaper**, I opined on the radio***, and I even got a speaking gig****. It should now be obvious to all that I am not just an established pundit, but a celebrity.

Life in the fast lane accelerated for me this semester as I was (and continue to be) sought out for a series of celebrity endorsements. Even better, I am being asked to endorse people. Most celebrities only are trusted to render judgements on things like breakfast cereal or cars, which Consumer Reports does better anyway. But my advice is being sought on the worth of individual human beings.

The power I hold in my hand is truly awesome. I can make or break someone's summer internship. It's quite an "authority rush," as the kids say, but I am careful not to let the sensation go to my head. I keep myself grounded through a combination of yoga and old G.I. Joe cartoons.

Wait, that should say yogurt and not yoga. (Custard-style Yoplait, just like the movie stars eat.)

Anyhow, you, my imaginary readers should be grateful that you are getting in on the ground floor of the House of Payne fame elevator as it rockets through the roof and into the sun. It's just a matter of time now before I am elected Emperor of Earth through popular acclaim. How many academics can say that? Besides Alan Dershowitz, I mean.

Peace out, peasants.


* The interview was in the Political Review, a 4-page magazine written by students and handed out for free to anyone who will take one. The circulation is in the hundreds, I am sure, if you count trash cans as subscribers.

** I was quoted in the Daily Universe, the student newspaper. They asked me about border security as it relates to immigration, about which I know very little.

*** Me and two other guys who work here got to blab about nukes on a program called Thinking Aloud. The thinking I am not so sure of, but I believe we were actually vocalizing, so the aloud part is right.

**** Some folks who work at the bureau of reclamation here in town asked me to come in and talk a bit during their lunch break. It was not, strictly speaking, a paying gig, unless you count prestige as money-- which I do. I assume that dozens of people work there, and I assume that the five or six people who showed up with brown bags took my words and carried them back to share with their co-workers. So the potential impact of what I said is basically limitless.

Friday, February 02, 2007

First post in many, many moons

And of course it is a silly piece of nothing. The Butchers linked to this post on Texas Best Grok, and I feel compelled to waste fifteen minutes on this silly sci-fi internet meme.

Here are the rules:

This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club.

Bold the ones you've read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

Here we go...

  • The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien*
  • The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
  • Dune, Frank Herbert*
  • Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein -- HATED IT! SO MUCH!
  • A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Neuromancer, William Gibson
  • Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick*
  • The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  • The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  • The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov*
  • Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
  • Cities in Flight, James Blish
  • The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
  • Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
  • Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
  • The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
  • Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
  • Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey*
  • Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card*
  • The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
  • The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
  • Gateway, Frederik Pohl
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams*
  • I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
  • Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Little, Big, John Crowley
  • Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny*
  • The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
  • Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
  • More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
  • The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
  • On the Beach, Nevil Shute
  • Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
  • Ringworld, Larry Niven*
  • Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
  • The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
  • Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
  • The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
  • Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein*
  • Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
  • The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
  • Timescape, Gregory Benford
  • To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer