Saturday, December 27, 2008

Do I owe Ron Paul money?
Chapter 2: Their Finest Hour

So, as I have mentioned before, this summer I sublet to a Ron Paul nut. He said that the stock market is going to crash and everyone is going to buy gold to use when the economy collapses and we abandon paper money. That sounded nuts to me.

So we made a bet on whether or not the price of gold and the Dow Jones Industrial Average would converge. The gap in July was about 10,000, and I said if that closed to less than 5,000 in the next year or so then I would make a substantial to Ron Paul's congressional campaign. Or whatever.

So for the last five months, I have been watching both the price of gold and the Dow Jones. August and September were very good months for me. The gap remained at about 10,000 almost the whole time; there were only three days when Bob's predictions were ahead of the curve.

But it's been pretty ugly since then. Here are the numbers:

October 21, 2008
* Dow Jones = 9,265.43 points
* Price of Gold = $795.00
* Difference = 8,470.43

November 21, 2008
* Dow Jones = 7,552.29 points
* Price of Gold = $738.00
* Difference = 6,814.29

December 22, 2008 (no data for 12/21)
* Dow Jones = 8,579.11 points
* Price of Gold = $835.75
* Difference = 7,743.36

It's not been pretty. Bob's predictions were ahead of the curve for 33 of the 63 business days in these three months. But there are two bright spots. First, the price of gold has not risen at all. In fact, it's fallen about a hundred dollars an ounce since this summer. That's good. It means not everyone is a panicky nutjob with an irrational fear of paper money and equally irrational faith in the magical powers of gold.

Second, like the rescue of defeated Allied forces from total annihilation at Dunkirk, bailouts from the Fed have prevented a complete economic collapse and Wall Street has bravely rallied in December to save me from losing the bet and having to donate to Ron Paul.

As my good friend Winston once said:

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the American economy and its stock markets last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."

So, chin up, lads. And until next time, cheerio!

--JOHANN "FNORD" WEISSHAUPT

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Froeliche Weinacht!



Das Bluemelein, so kleine,
das duftet uns so suess;
mit seinem hellen Scheine
vertreibt's die Finsternis.
Wahr'r Mensch und wahrer Gott!
Hilft uns aus allem Leide,
rettet von Suend' und Tod.

--DAS SCHMERZHAUS

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's evolution, baby

I was taught that the sex of children is randomly determined. Since each sperm carries with it an X or a Y chromosome, whichever one happens to get to the egg first will determine whether the baby will be a boy or a girl. So each child has essentially a 50-50 chance either way.

But I've always thought that boys run in my family. I have more than twice as many boy cousins as girl cousins. I have one sister and four brothers, two nieces and six nephews. This never looked particularly random to me.

So this guy thinks he has proved that it's not random. In fact, it's an inherited trait passed down from father to son.

"The family tree study showed that whether you’re likely to have a boy or a girl is inherited. We now know that men are more likely to have sons if they have more brothers but are more likely to have daughters if they have more sisters . . . " Mr Gellatly explains.

...

The study suggests that an as-yet undiscovered gene controls whether a man’s sperm contains more X or more Y chromosomes, which affects the sex of his children. On a larger scale, the number of men with more X sperm compared to the number of men with more Y sperm affects the sex ratio of children born each year.


Interesting stuff. And it means that I was right all along. As usual.

--YAHYA AL-RIIFI

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hey America, you're so fine

It's a good day. I spent the morning putting up a Christmas tree with my brother and his family. Then I got online and bought presents on Amazon's Black Friday sale. This afternoon we all went out and threw the frisbee around. And of course, I'm completely full of turkey and cranberries.

Thank you, America, for being awesome. And thank you, God, for letting me be born in America.

--THE HOUSE



PS - I played this game to see how much I love America. I got a 97%. Stupid Roe v. Wade... Can't believe I missed that one. So easy.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Apocalypto

Well, I voted this morning. It took me almost two hours of waiting in line, but I cast my ballot against Obama, for Palin, and-- to a lesser degree-- for McCain, and against Biden.

Despite the fact that I have been trying hard not to care about this race, I find myself quite tense. And so in these trying hours, I turn to the words of wiser men than I for solace:

Kent Brockman: Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it's time for our viewers to crack each other's heads open and feast on the goo inside?
Professor: Yes I would, Kent.


Mmmmm! That's good democracy!

--JACQUES LE PEN

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Dave Barry Initiative

So... One of my roommates is getting a new game for his Nintendo Wii. I think it's Guitar Hero World Tour, but it might be Rock Band 2. Or something. I don't know.

My contribution is to think of a name for the band. Hooray! I always loved playing that game. But it's harder now that I am responsible for coming up with one that everyone in the apartment will love. (Plus Mark's fiancee Andrea wants to play and she said the name can't be sexist.)

So here are the best ones I could pull out of thin air:

* Fat Alec Baldwin
* The Sex Bulimics
* Crapspackle
* Bride of Kong
* The Walden Pond Scum
* Invisible Motorcycles
* Occam's Toothbrush
* The Reverse Vampires
* Mount Vesuvius and the Latin Explosions
* Bolivian Beach Bunnies
* The Mighty Moon Worm
* Ultimo Diaz
* Toby and the Flendersons
* The Infamous Nose of General Charles de Gaulle
* Plucking Chickens

Now, I realize that some of you will say that most of these are not great. And that's true. So if you have any suggestions, or want to voice an opinion about my crappy list of ideas, then please feel free to rock the comment box. Which, come to think of it, would be a pretty terrible band name.

--REDBEARD

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Spree

I thought this financial crisis thing was, you know, a crisis. People in Washington have been talking like it's the end of the world. But their actions tell me that it's just another day in Washington, with piggies crowding the trough. The bailout bill is loaded up with the same stupid useless crap as always. And when I say useless crap, what I mean is a bunch of earmarks for things like wool research.

As Mark Steyn says:

I'm willing to be persuaded of the merits of a bill for "wool research", or the merits of a billion-trillion-gazillion-dollar bill to save the planet from economic meltdown. But the same piece of legislation cannot plausibly contain both.


I'll start worrying about the fate of the global economy when Congress quits acting like teenage kids on a shopping spree.

--JOHANNES CLERK

Friday, September 26, 2008

Once again a knife-wielding maniac has shown us the way

Good editorial here about all the posturing that is going on in Washington about the current financial problems. Here's my favorite sentence.

You can try to prevent a financial meltdown or you can teach Wall Street a lesson, but you can't do both at the same time.


I agree, and I also think that you can't prevent a financial meltdown if your first priority is, say, getting elected. John McCain said he was suspending his campaign to go to Washington and get this fixed, and I hope I see that happen. But I haven't yet.

It's not that I know what to do about this. I don't. But nobody in Congress has shown me that they know what to do about it, either. I just see a bunch of goons trying to score points by talking about what a crisis this is. Well, if it's a crisis, stop talking to the cameras and go get this fixed. Start taking things a little more seriously.

And in the meanwhile, watch this video.

--ABDUL ALEM

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Do I owe Ron Paul money?
Chapter 1: The Gathering Storm

So, this summer, I had a guy subletting in my apartment who is a Ron Paul fan. He spent a lot of time trying to proselytize me, in the fashion of Ron Paul fans everywhere.

This effort was somewhat handicapped because he also believes that the Federal Reserve is a satanic conspiracy engineered by a mysterious group of international financiers, and that the US government was behind the September 11th attacks. This lowered his credibility somewhat.

I should have simply avoided conversation with him. He wouldn't stop preaching, and I couldn't keep myself from arguing with him. But no matter how often (or how strongly) I disagreed with hi, he never got upset or angry. And whenever I thought I had him cornered, he cheerfully switched topics and began anew his attempts to persuade me.

After weeks of attempting to nail him down, I finally got a specific prediction out of him. He believed that the world was on the brink of another great depression, and that we would see this in two ways. First, stock prices would fall. Second, the price of gold would rise. In a year or two, he expected that the price of gold in dollars would converge with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and meet somewhere around three or four thousand.

So, we made a wager. The Dow was then at about 11,000 and the price of gold was almost $1000 per ounce. This left a gap of about 10,000. I said that if this gap closed to 5,000 or less before September 1, 2009, that I would make a sizable contribution to Ron Paul's congressional reelection campaign. (For his part, Bob pledged that if he lost the bet he would refrain from contributing to Ron Paul.)

For the last two months, I have been watching both the price of gold and the Dow Jones. Here are the results so far.

July 21, 2008 - initial measurements
* Dow Jones = 11,467.34 points
* Price of Gold = $960.50
* Difference = 10,506.84

August 21, 2008
* Dow Jones = 11,430.21 points
* Price of Gold = $833.50
* Difference = 10,596.71

September 22, 2008 (no data for 9/21)
* Dow Jones = 11,015.69 points
* Price of Gold = $889.00
* Difference = 10,126.69

So far, it looks like there is no appreciable convergence in these two numbers. The distance between them is about what it was on the day we made the wager.

Of course, the gap could close suddenly. Lots of morons on TV with great hair and undergraduate degrees in communications are talking in grave tones about a terrible lurking danger that will shortly ruin the US economy. But these people have also told me to watch out for Monkey Pox and shark attacks. So I'm watching and waiting, but I'm not buying guns and hoarding gold yet.

Sorry, Bob.

--JOHANN "FNORD" WEISSHAUPT

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hue and cry

I scored 8/100 on this test, and I feel pretty good about that.

--HUMBLE ST. JOE

Monday, September 15, 2008

The last word on Palin

I think I need to lay off the politics for a while. But before I do, here's one last bit about the campaign. If you haven't seen Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, you haven't lived. (Thanks, Dean's World.)

--EL DOLOR

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Deliberator

My sister and I have been talking about the presidential campaign, and she had an interesting critique of McCain and Palin. It's something that I think I have not heard anyone else say. Here it is:


And here's the real thing for me -- she and McCain are both "gut" players. They govern with their guts and their instincts, and everything is right and wrong and there is no grey. And they're not afraid to tick people off to do what they think is right. And I'm tired of that technique. I think we need a more deliberative style in the presidency as well as a more bridge building, working together style. When I hear McCain say "vote for the team that's not afraid to break some china!" I think, the china is already broken. We've already had a china breaker, and that has been a real mess, IMHO.


And this was my reply:

I think you're right about [the personal style of] McCain and Palin, and Obama certainly seems more deliberative. And I'll admit, a little more thinking before acting would be a welcome change. But there are two ways to look at it. One is to say that he is more deliberative. The other is to say that he never does anything.

From what I can see, Obama has virtually no record. And I don't mean that he hasn't been in Washington for very long. I mean that there's very little that we can point out that he has accomplished. Look at this list of all the legislature he ever introduced in the Senate:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_bills_sponsored_by_Barack_Obama_in_the_United_States_Senate

In four years in the Senate, he has managed to get five pieces of legislation passed-- all of which passed by unanimous consent, without the need for individual Senators to vote yea or nay. Two of these designate a particular day as National Summer Learning Day. One congratulates the White Sox on winning the World Series. One is an obituary for a minister from Memphis. And one recognizes "the historical significance of Juneteenth Independence Day and express[es] the sense of the Senate that history should be regarded as a means for understanding the past."

That's the entirety of what this man has accomplished in the Senate. In this he is like John Kerry, and a lot of other worthless politicians who sit around and enjoy the collegiality of the Senate club without doing much. John McCain gets things done. Even Joe Biden has done some important work in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But Obama hasn't done anything, despite thinking a lot and talking a lot about how he's going to change the country, and the world.

It's the same if you look at his time in Illinois. What did he accomplish as a community organizer? Here's a pretty critical look at his years there:

http://nrd.nationalreview.com/article/?q=ZDQwYmNjMGIxNDYyZGE1ZDNmZTU1MjhmMzA0ZDlmY2M=

But even if you read the most enthusiastic and supportive accounts of his years as a community organizer, you can't find much evidence of him having done anything. There's lots of talk about how it helped him to understand the plight of the urban poor, and understand himself better as well. But I can't find any evidence that these people were better off for his help.

Similarly, as a state legislator, he is most notable for the (surprisingly great) number of times he voted "present."

Deliberation can be good, but the point of it is to make a good decision and then act. I have heard it said of George Washington that he was not a quick thinker but that he always reached the correct conclusion in the end. Obama strikes me as a person who does plenty of thinking and plenty of talking, but just doesn't get much accomplished.

Consider the issue of government waste and corruption. I'm sure Obama is against it, but his record leads me to believe he will get outmaneuvered and steamrolled by Congress. On the other hand, I think McCain will spend days and nights poring over bills to find that pork. Then he'll expose the crooks, and try to kill the bills. Why do I think this? Because that's what he has done for decades in the Senate-- and as president, he will have a much larger audience when he exposes waste, and his veto will count for more than his single Senatorial vote did.

Or consider global warming. Barack Obama introduced the Climate Change Education Act, which never got a vote, even in committee. John McCain-- even if we only look at the time since 2004 when Obama was elected-- has introduced two substantive pieces of legislation, with Democratic co-sponsors, that were extensively debated before being defeated.

It's the same for social security, or illegal immigration, or any other important issue. McCain has written detailed and important legislation, pushed for it, and often got it passed into law. For his part, Obama has given widely-acclaimed speeches, and occasionally introduced a bill that usually doesn't make it out of committee.

Frankly, I'm not too worried about an Obama presidency, even though I disagree with him on policy quite a lot. I'm not worried because I don't think he'll get much done. And maybe that would be a nice change. You might want a quieter time, with a president who serves more as a figure for inspiration, one who uses the bully pulpit more and lets Congress do their work without much executive interference. I'm not sure that's the way it would really work out, but I can see the appeal.


This is not so original, though. I have noticed a lot of people making this critique of Obama, but it's still very convincing-- to me, anyway. And that's what matters in the end. Because my word is LAW.

--JAN DEPAUW
A word of advice

An old friend invited me to join a group on Facebook. The group is called "Sarah Palin, hold a press conference." I ignored it for a few days, but this morning I joined it, just so I could put up a post on their wall.

Here's the post...

Kids, you're setting yourselves up. After Palin got nominated, there were those who painted her as an illiterate neanderthal, so when she gave a good speech, it exceeded expectations and made her very popular.

You're doing the same thing again. She is, of course, going to do a press conference at some point. And the bigger the stink you make about it before it happens, the lower the expectations will be, and the better she will look.

As a your friendly neighborhood Republican, I'm telling you, you're walking into a trap here. She wants you to misunderestimate her. It's strategery.

Watch the videos of her gubernatorial debates and you will see that Sarah Palin is not a pushover who the American people will reject en masse as soon as she gets some tough questions. She's savvy enough to handle herself in an interview and lots of Americans agree with her views.

So, sit back and relax. You'll get your press conference soon enough.


Personally, I can't wait for the first Sarah Palin press conference. I think it's going to be a lot of fun to see her add another trophy to her wall.

--"SUNSHINE" DAVE RAHIMI

Monday, August 25, 2008

Summer movie reviews

So, here's a bunch of movies I saw this summer, and what I thought about them. the better ones are at the top.

WALL-E : What a beautiful movie! If you haven't seen this, don't waste any more time. Find a place where this is playing on the big screen and see it this week. Some people were turned off by the eco-preaching, which I agree was occasionally a bit much.* But it's so sweet, and so beautiful, that it's well worth the few moments of environmental earnestness. I think this is a five star movie, and I plan to buy it.

*(For example, let's pretend for a moment that Americans could be buried in the detritus of our own consumerist culture, and would have to flee to space. But can you see this happening to, say, the Congo Republic? No. So the central premise is ridiculous. We're not going to evacuate the whole planet because of Wal-Mart. But that's how it is for all science fiction-- and if the film is good enough, you just suspend disbelief and enjoy the movie.)

The Dark Knight : Wow! I thought that it was crazy for anyone to try to top Jack Nicholson's iconic 1989 performance as the Joker. But Heath Ledger did what I thought was impossible, and I bet he gets a posthumous Oscar for it. Everyone in this movie is great, even down to William Fitchner's brief appearance as a bank manager. This is another one I am sure I'll buy. Five stars.

Iron Man : Fun, exciting, and smart-- this is the perfect summer flick. Robert Downey Jr. is perfect as Tony Stark, Jeff Bridges is the best he's been in years, and Gwyneth Paltrow is absolutely delightful. It's highly re-watchable. I saw it twice in theaters, and can't wait to pick up the DVD so I can watch it again. It's just fun. I give this one five stars as well.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army : This was my happiest surprise of the summer. I liked the first Hellboy, and wanted to be excited about the sequel, but the trailer didn't thrill me. But I am so glad I went and saw it. This is an old-school fairy tale, full of ethereal wonder and grim terror. It's also really funny. Four stars, and I am going to buy it, unlike the first Hellboy.

Hancock : This one surprised me, too. I went to see Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, and Will Smith in a comedy about an alcoholic superhero. And I got that. But then it turned dramatic-- and although I would have been happy to have nothing but the laughs, I found myself really sucked in by the drama. It's very ambitious, and I think it mostly works. This one I also think might merit four stars, and if I can find it for seven or eight bucks, I will probably pick it up.

Get Smart : Funnier than I thought, but not as funny as it could have been. I love Steve Carrell, I have a soft spot for The Rock-- and they did provide me with many laughs. There were two things that I didn't love about this movie, though. One is that they made Maxwell Smart surprisingly competent, instead of a bumbling goof like he was on TV. But he still bumbles, and it doesn't always mix well with the competence. Either a smarter spy or a dumber spy would have been more entertaining, I think. The second thing that put me off is that in the climactic scenes in the last twenty minutes of the movie, there were lots of shots that looked cheap and unfinished, like they were footage from a DVD featurette called "The Making of Get Smart," instead the actual movie. It's still worth watching, but I wouldn't buy it. Three stars.

The Incredible Hulk : Not as ambitious as Ang Lee's Hulk, but more fun. Edward Norton is pretty good in this, but the monster himself is just a cartoon. So the big confrontation at the end just didn't interest me. It was just two cartoon monsters, fighting. Meh. If you see it, make sure to watch through the credits for Robert Downey Jr. in a cameo. Tony Stark and the hot Brazilian girls in the first half hour of the movie push this up to three stars. I might watch it again if someone else rented it, but I'm not going to buy it.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian : Lots better than the first Narnia movie, but they still have a bad case of Peter Jackson envy. It's a kids' book! You don't have to have gigantic epic battles everywhere. And the monsters are scary enough that I wouldn't take a child under 10 years old to see this. It's not a bad movie, and I might give it three stars. If you haven't seen it yet, it's probably worth renting.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull : Also known as My Gray-haired Father and Some Stupid Aliens Or Something. My brother told me that if you try hard not to think of this as an Indiana Jones movie, it's not bad. I think he's right. It's much more fun if you see it as an imitator, like National Treasure. Except that National Treasure was better. This was more like National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, which was pretty dumb. I mean, what kind of Indiana Jones movie has cartoon gophers? Seriously! I give this movie two stars out of charity. If someone else has rented it, it might be worth watching to make fun of. It's clearly worse than Temple of Doom. The only question is which sidekick you'd rather see in his own movie-- Short Round or Mutt. (I know how I vote.)

The X-Files: I Want to Believe : I'm genuinely sorry I saw this movie. I can't believe I'm about to type this, but, I wish I had seen Mama Mia instead. If you want to see Scully and Mulder, catch them in the reruns. This one's not worth your time. One star, for David Duchovny's impressive crazy-man beard.

SPECIAL BONUS OTHER MOVIES I SAW BEFORE SUMMER!

Cloverfield : Awesome! This is going to change the way that monster movies are made. Plus, it was short enough that I was wishing for more instead of checking my watch. Good scary fun. Three stars. Worth renting, but you don't need to have it on your shelf.

The Spiderwick Chronicles : Not bad. The best part is the kid who plays twins. But it's hard to sympathize with the protagonists, because they do too good a job playing an unhappy family. Two stars.

So, imaginary readers-- what did I miss? What did you love that I didn't see? What should I put in my Netflix queue? Give me a tip in the comments. Thanks!

--PROFESSOR SMARTY PANTS


(UPDATE 9.10.2008 - I also saw Kung Fu Panda before leaving Happy Valley. Not bad! Three stars, which is a lot more than I expected to give a talking-animal cartoon with celebrity voices.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

So it's come to this: Another link-fest

I've been meaning to blog, but haven't. Sorry, imaginary readers. To make it up to you, here are some of the interesting things I've read lately. I'd like to give credit to the other blogs where I first found them, but they came from all over and I can't remember any more. So, enjoy!

Here are three interesting new technological developments:

* First, here's a new chip that will let an iPod store a half a million songs. Awesome!

* Second, here's a guy who talks about the ways that Web 2.0 technologies could change our society. Neato!

* Last, from Japan, this one is more cringe-inducing than useful. Yikes!


These three articles reinforce my skepticism about environmentalism:

* First-world ethanol may mean third-world starvation.

* The "organic" food you buy in the store is not better for the earth, and might not be better for you, either.

* For the US to meet the carbon-reduction goals of Obama, Clinton, or McCain, we would have to use less energy per person than we did before the industrial revolution.


Some lists which may provide a few minutes of entertainment or distraction:

* A (British) list of the 101 most useful sites on the web. Some of these are quite new to me, but some I couldn't get by without.

* From Esquire, a list of 75 skills a man should know. About a third of these I don't think are necessary at all-- many of them involving alcohol, etc.-- but about a third of these I wish I knew how to do.

* Here's a list of the world’s worst religious leaders from Foreign Policy. I think they could easily double the length of this list without diluting the quality. Or increasing the quality, maybe?

* And finally, a list of the twenty most frightening weapons systems in recent history. Scary!


Anyway, there's lots more to share, but I'm tired of doing this, so I'm just going to stop now and leave you with a video I wish I had made myself.

--PADDY O'PAGAN


Monday, May 12, 2008

Not that there's anything wrong with that

Heaven help us all if the zoobies hear about this.

--FABULOUS J.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bitter?

So, on Friday, Barack Obama was at a fundraiser in San Francisco. He talked a bit about his chances in Pennsylvania, which hasn't yet held their presidential primary.

In particular he spoke about his chances of appealing to working class white people there. Pennsylvania is part of the old rust belt which has been losing jobs (in certain industries) for the last thirty or forty years.

In Obama's opinion, people here are frustrated that no one in the federal government has been able to reverse this trend. Okay, I'll agree with that. But, he goes further. Frustrated working class white people in Pennsylvania don't know how to say that they are mad at the government, so their frustration comes in other ways. To wit:


"...it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."


This is an extremely strange claim, for several reasons. But I'm just going to talk about two. First, it's strange to say that people are too stupid to realize what they're really mad at. I've heard this argument before, and I didn't like it then, either. Why second-guess? How about just listening to what voters say really motivates them?

Trying to win an election is like trying to get a girlfriend. If a girl says she doesn't like me because I am a fat nerd, it might be comforting for me to pretend that the real reason is because she is threatened by my giant IQ, or because she is a lesbian. But she's not. And lying to myself in this fashion only prevents me from making the changes that will make me more attractive. I would expect that the same is true for Obama.

Now there's a second strange thing about this quote. Let's re-examine it. Assuming he's right (instead of vainly deceiving himself), when people get "bitter," they "cling" to the following:

1) guns
2) religion
3) racism ("antipathy to people who aren't like them)
4) xenophobia ("anti-immigrant sentiment")
5) isolationism ("anti-trade sentiment")

Isn't that a strange list? Doesn't it strike you as odd?

I mean, racism and xenophobia are pretty obviously bad things. Isolationism is also a pretty unpopular sentiment in the US these days. And saying that people "cling to guns...as a way to explain their frustrations" doesn't sound like a really positive behavior.

In fact, the logic seems to be the same for each of these: frustration which cannot be expressed properly (and therefore cannot be resolved) finds an outlet through violence or hate. This is pretty classic Freudian psychoanalysis. You're mad at X, but you can't do anything about that, so you attack Y instead.

So, what is religion doing on this list?

Do you "cling to...religion...as a way to explain [your] frustrations"? I don't. And it's really hard for me to believe that anyone who goes to church as often as Obama does would put this forward as a good explanation for religious belief. On the other hand, this sounds a lot like the kind of explanation I have heard from people who have rejected religion, or who have no experience with it. And my guess is that a lot of people in Obama's audience fit this description. But Obama portrays himself as (1) a pretty religious guy and (2) a guy who can bring different people together and help them understand each other. So it's pretty disappointing that all he is doing here is confirming the prejudices of his audience.

Why do I 'cling to religion'? Well, because I believe it's true-- God lives, and he sent his son, Jesus, to pay for my sins. But also because my religious experiences make me feel better. And because my religious principles motivate me to change myself for the better.

Why does Obama go to church? I don't know. But I'm certainly not going to bother asking him, reading what he writes, or listening to what he says. That's for suckers. Instead, I'm just going to assert that Obama is bitter because of the repeated failures of the Democratic party, but he simply hasn't figured out how to explain his frustration yet.

Also, I think he's a lesbian who's threatened by my giant IQ.

--JOHANNES CLERK

(UPDATE 4/13: Senator Obama's latest response, dissected.)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Los Jenízaros

What if they all grew up to be Kurt Russell?

Illegal immigration is a sensitive issue, I know. But Frank J. has a novel idea on how to deal with anchor babies. I don't want to spoil the surprise, but it's about halfway between Jessica Alba and Jango Fett. Awesome!

--GILBERTO "TURK" BENITEZ

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Nerds, I am prepared to receive your envy

[Note: This post is going up on April Fools' Day, so let me just begin by stating that I am not joking. Especially about the J.K. Rowling stuff.]

You may remember, my imaginary readers, that I have been taking a writing class this semester. Our teacher is also a young author (actually, he's within six months of my own age, which is a little weird) who is standing at the threshold of fame and glory. Ten years from now, he might be the most famous Mormon author in the world. (I don't mean he writes Mormon books; I mean he's a Mormon who writes books.)

And he let us help proofread his latest manuscript before it gets printed. So, this morning, I just finished reading the third Mistborn novel: Hero of Ages. My fellow nerds, be warned. It's really, really good.

I'm not trying to be a dumb fanboy. I recognize that there are constructive criticisms that could be made. At the micro level, looking at individual sentences, the dialog isn't always sparkling. The prose isn't always elegant. But as one of the other proofreaders said to me, the book shows an incredible mastery of the larger elements-- plot, setting, character. Taken as a whole, the novel is brilliant.

And I wasn't sure it would be. As I drew nearer to the end, I became more and more reluctant to continue. Disappointing endings in other books-- I'm looking at you, Rowling!-- have taught me to be wary. Too often we get stupid twists that serve no purpose but to surprise the reader. That doesn't impress me. Surprise is easy. It takes real precision, and real care, to put together an ending that's not only surprising, but satisfying. And this novel does both, superbly. No plot holes, no character inconsistencies, no loose ends. Everything worked, and everything worked together.

Brandon, thanks for letting me take a look at your manuscript. Everybody else, buy this book!

(Yeah, I'm talking to you, Rowling...)

--JHON NOONIEN SINGH

Friday, March 28, 2008

Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

As a veteran of Mack Wilberg's elite paramilitary music force, I am happy to see that his talents have been recognized.

Congratulations, Mack.

--YOHANNA BEN-DAVID

Monday, March 24, 2008

It's all in the reflexes

How many countries can you name in five minutes? (Hat tip: Miss Hass.) Here's my first try:

96


And my second try:

124


My guess is that I probably can't get much higher than 150. I just can't type fast enough.

And if I had infinite time, I probably could not get much higher than 180 or so, although the widget says there are 270. That's a lot.

But we all know there's only one that matters.

China.

--PAN YUE-HAN

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Genius!

Welcome... to the world of tomorrow! For you, my imaginary readers, here are a few glimpses of the glorious future that awaits us... today!

1) A new comic strip: Garfield without Garfield. It's just what it sounds like. And it's unbelievable. (Hat tip to Ace of Spades HQ.)

2) This guy makes computer games in seven days or less, including the amazing Crayon Physics, and one where you are a boulder trying to crush lots of little Indiana Joneses. (Hat tip: Slate.)

3) Scam-baiters are jerks to the jerks that spam you wanting your checking account information. Keep up the good work, guys! (Hat tip: POE News.)

And to think, just yesterday I said there is nothing new under the sun. Hooray for human ingenuity!

--SOLOMON MBANASO

Monday, March 17, 2008

Night-vision tomahawk cruise nuggets

This video depicts the last seventy years or so of international conflict-- or at least the wars that most Americans would be familiar with. What makes this video so different? All of the belligerents are food. Yes, food. Watch it!

--MAJOR BLUDD

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Everything's coming up Milhouse!

So. The facts.

1) Earth needs babies.

2) Guys who are good dates are bad husbands.

3) Single women with high standards who refuse to settle end up sad and alone. (Hey, don't shoot the messenger. These are facts. It's science.)

The inevitable conclusion: Time for somebody to become Mrs. House of Payne. Aw, yeah.

SO DAMN AWESOME!

So why is this not happening? Oh, wait, I almost forgot the last piece of the puzzle. Now, more than ever, American men are lying scumbags. Or immature jerks who flee responsibility.

(Also, we love Battlestar Galactica. So awesome!)

But don't cry, ladies. It could always be worse. A lot worse.

--REDBEARD

(UPDATE : You think it can't be worse? Because it could be worse. SO MUCH WORSE. [Warning: last link not for the easily embarrassed.])

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The triumph of Captain Ahab

For the last year or so, I've been working to get myself in better shape. The first six or seven months went really well, and I dropped about twenty-five pounds without too much trouble. Then, in October of last year, I just hit a plateau.

My goal was to get under 220 by November 1, and by Christmas I could be about the weight I was when I graduated from BYU. Well, it didn't happen. And then with the holidays, I regressed and put some pounds back on. So I've been trying to get under 220 for the last five months or so, and I've come to feel a bit like Ahab chasing his white whale.

So this morning, I harpooned it. That's right. This morning after a little time on the stationary bike, I hit 219.0 pounds. So I am officially out of the 100+ kg club. At a slim, trim 99 kilos, I'm a double-digit midget. Hooray!

Anyway, just thought I'd share the news. Thought it might inspire you, my imaginary readers, to nail your own impossible goals.

(You're welcome.)

--JUAN PENA

(UPDATE - White whale spotted off the Alaska coast!)
Hans, bubby, I'm your white knight!

I think I found my candidate for president. I'm not sure I agree with all his policy positions, but I think he's got the right temperament for the job.

--BIG JACK LE PEN

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Stick with the kid, baby!

A friend asked me what I thought of the recent exchange between John McCain and Barack Obama on Al Qaeda and Iraq. For those of you, my imaginary readers, who have not heard about this, here is the Readers' Digest version:

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain mocked Democrat Barack Obama on Wednesday for saying he would take action as president "if al-Qaida is forming a base in Iraq."

"I have some news. Al-Qaida is in Iraq. It's called `al-Qaida in Iraq,'" McCain said, drawing laughter at Obama's expense.


So, what do I think? Well, I think they're talking past each other.

The key to the exchange between Obama and McCain is to recognize that there is a dispute about the relationship between Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). At one extreme, AQI might not be a distinct organization at all, so that the term refers simply to those members of the Al Qaeda organization who are living in Iraq at the moment. (McCain's sarcastic comments fit here.) At the other extreme, AQI might be entirely separate from Al Qaeda, sharing nothing but the name. And of course there are lots of possibilities in the middle.

Similarly, there is a debate about what Al Qaeda itself is. Some people think of it like a government or an army, organized and hierarchical. Some people think of it as a loose network of affiliated groups. Some argue that it is a social movement, or an ideology, or even a fiction. And this disagreement colors the debate, too.

To me, it seems like Obama and McCain were talking past each other-- not even speaking the same language. Obama said he would consider sending troops into Iraq "if al Qaeda [were] forming a base" there. When he says Al Qaeda, he probably isn't meaning to refer to the whole network, but just its core, centered around Osama bin Laden himself. And more than that, when he talks about them forming a base, he is probably thinking about the kind of physical infrastructure that Al Qaeda had set up in Taliban-era Afghanistan, where they were able to operate in the open. Such bases are easily identifiable targets-- you know when you blow one up. So it's easy to think about intervening to remove them.

On the other hand, McCain says that Al Qaeda already has bases in Iraq. He doesn't mean that Osama bin Laden is there, but that the Al Qaeda in Iraq organization is there. And when he says they are there, he doesn't mean that they have physical facilities like the big military-style compounds they had in Afghanistan. The Iraqi government, though, does not like AQI, so they have to operate in secret. So, no big bases.

For McCain, that's reason enough to be involved. But for Obama, it's not. The group is not close enough to bin Laden and the core of the Al Qaeda network. Their presence in Iraq is not obtrusive enough for us to worry about. And I would guess that he also doesn't fear an attack on American soil coming from AQI, as he might from Al Qaeda.

Of course I am guessing here, because Obama's actual response did not shed any light on this. He just got defensive and changed the subject:


"So I have some news for John McCain," he added, saying there was no al-Qaida presence in Iraq until President Bush invaded the country.

Noting that McCain likes to tell audiences that he'd follow Osama bin Laden to the "gates of hell" to catch him, Obama taunted: "All he (McCain) has done is to follow George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq."


Obama could have pointed out that he and McCain do not agree on what Al Qaeda is, or how it is related to Al Qaeda in Iraq, or what constitutes a base. McCain could have done the same. And this would have clarified their positions a lot. But keeping things ambiguous is better when you're on the campaign trail because it maximizes the number of voters who think your position is close to their own. So I'm not surprised that we get a muddy argument carried out in the form of mostly vapid sound bites. It's safer than being clear.

Or, maybe they're just not as smart as me, so they didn't see this.

Yes! Yes! Mind taker!

--ABDUL ALEM

Monday, February 25, 2008

She forgot to mention Han and Chewie...

Monday, February 04, 2008

Link bonanza!

And now, here are a bunch of things I have been meaning to write about, but haven't:

* Ever wondered what goes into a power bar? Here's a hint: Not food.

* Some of these medical myths I already suspected or knew were baloney (we only use 10% of our brains, shaving makes hair grow back thicker). Some, I have long believed (drink eight glasses of water per day).

* There is now a dating service that matches men and women according to the chemical cocktail that gives each of us our own unique scent.

* Brigham Young was right about the societal dangers posed by unmarried men.

* Are religious extremists more likely to resort to suicide terrorism?

* Is it possible for the tiny Gaza strip to conquer Egypt? Given the popularity of Hamas and the unpopularity of Mubarak, I think the author makes a persuasive argument.

Enjoy!

--YAHYA AL-RIIFI

Monday, January 28, 2008

The mantle of Elijah

President Gordon B. Hinckley

President Gordon B. Hinckley has died.

When President Hunter died, I was serving a mission in Ogden, Utah. That day my companion and I were doing service working on the grounds of the Ogden temple. One of the grounds crew came over and informed us, and we went over and lowered the flag to half mast.

I wish I had something like that I could do today.

--THE HOUSE

Friday, January 18, 2008

Culinary altruism

And now, because my heart is full of love, here is a recipe for preparing pork chops that I created ex nihilo and completely by accident the other night. Bachelor cooking is full of surprises, and some of them are really, really tasty. Enjoy!


The Pork Chop Express

ingredients:
4 small boneless pork chops
one nice big apple
one sweet onion
one clove garlic
half a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes with peppers
one cap of cider vinegar
salt, pepper, cumin, parsley, cilantro

I got a big, big skillet and coated the bottom with olive oil. When the oil was nice and hot I put the pork chops and browned them on one side. Then I turned them over and gave them plenty of salt and pepper. After they cooked a bit, I pushed them to the edge of the pan and emptied half a can of Ro-Tel in the middle. I let that cook while I chopped up the onion and the apple. Then I crushed the garlic and put it in the oil around the edges. The onion went in the middle with the tomatoes, and then I gave it all a bit of salt and a pinch of cumin. After it had a chance to cook a bit more, I threw in the apple and the vinegar and then mixed everything up in the middle. I turned the chops to make sure they got cooked on both sides, tossed a bit of parsley and cilantro on top, and just waited for the chops.


I served it with coleslaw (courtesy of Rachel Lucas) and sourdough bread. Super yummy! And really pretty easy. If anyone else tries it, give me a holler and let me know how it turns out.

--CHEF GILBERTO BENITEZ

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fame and glory watch

Triumph! My email got quoted on The Corner. My domination of all media continues!

--SAN GIOVANNI UMILIATO

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A writer writes, always

So, I am thinking about doing something foolish. My friend Mitch was in town and he let me know that Brandon Sanderson is teaching a writing class this semester. Sanderson, as it turns out, is a fantasy and science fiction author who was recently picked to finish the Wheel of Time series. I haven't read any of his other stuff, but I did get one of his books for Christmas and I am thinking about picking up a couple of the others.

It would be a little weird for me to be in class as a student again, especially at an institution where I am currently teaching. And since going to grad school I think I have only written one story. But maybe it's time for me to get started again.

I went to the first class, and from what I can tell, the time commitment will be smallish. The class is in the evening, so that's nice. And all I have to do is write 8-10 pages of fiction every week and read what the other three or four people in my group write. I can do the writing on Saturday or Sunday, whenever I have a couple of hours. And the reading I should be able to do in less than an hour on Thursday afternoon. So I got an add card signed, and I got clearance to enroll. I haven't turned in the add card yet, but I have until Friday to think about it.

It could be fun. I might even let you, my imaginary readers, see what I write for class. Neato!

--CHISAIBU

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Amen, brother

I don't know who this guy is, but he appears to be some kind of genius. Also, he has an even better blog alias than any of mine.

--EL DOLOR

PS - Dave Barry is very funny.

PPS - Thanks to Times & Seasons for both links.