December 26, 2005

What's your tradition?

'Tradition' isn't the best way to describe the things my families do every Christmas, as divorce means I'm not really related to about half my relatives, and where everyone is changes dramatically each year. But my mom loves Christmas, and the pattern at her house is pretty much the same: an obscene amount of decorating, numerous huge meals thanks to three skilled cooks (her, her boyfriend, and myself), grumbling church attendance on the part of the non-Christians on Christmas eve, and an absolutely disgusting array of presents opened Christmas morning. When I was little, and my parents still together, we also had a tradition of opening one gift the night before, usually socks or underwear because I would only open those if they were first (seriously, I hated getting clothes so much I would refuse to open anything soft or clothing-box-shaped for days).

What holiday do you celebrate this time of year, and what kinds of traditions are particular to your family?

December 23, 2005

Don't let this one fall down the memory hole

I'm going to assume none of you are reading this until at least Monday because, face it, SoR just isn't as interesting as the alcohol-fueled tragicomedy which is your own family.

That's why it's important you go back and read this:

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito wrote in a June 1985 memo that the ruling that legalized abortion should be overturned [....]

I know, I know, not surprising at all. But check this shit out:

"While abortion involves essentially the same medical choice as other surgery, it involves in addition a moral choice, because the woman contemplating a first trimester abortion is given absolute and unreviewable authority over the future of the fetus," Alito wrote. "Should not then the woman be given relevant and objective information bearing on this choice? Roe took from the state lawmakers the authority to make this choice and gave it to the pregnant woman. Does it not follow that the woman contemplating abortion have at her disposal at least some of the same sort of information that we would want lawmakers to consider?"

Now, you could try to shrug this off by talking about context, but still, what's the point of view he's articulating here? That the pregnant woman's body should rightfully be under the control of the state; or, failing that, the state has the authority to do everything it can to convince her to make the 'right' decision. The bullshit about making sure she's 'informed' is an infantilizing smokescreen, assuming that a woman is incapable of deciding for herself when she fully understands all her options. Are there any other circumstances where the law pretends to know better than patients and doctors about how medical decisions should be made?

Keep this in mind when Alito's hearings start up next month. We're going to see an absolute explosion of 'won't let his personal views influence his legal opinions' crap, but it's clear he didn't think that way twenty years ago.

Oh yeah, Happy Holidays and all that.

December 21, 2005

Celebratory Random 10

Well folks, I've got one 3 hour final tomorrow and then it's off to home for about a week and a half, which probably means a bit of a dip on posting. Actually, my parents finally decided to upgrade to broadband internet, so it will be easier to find and post stuff while I'm home, but I imagine the fam will be all up in my grill about spending time with them so some such rubbish. But, in celebration of being almost done, and with a small bit of an evening left that I can take off before going to bed, I'm going to post what in all likelihood could be the last Random 10 of the year.

So here we go folks, you know how it goes. You load up your MP3 playing device or software of choice, set the sucker to random, and then post the first ten songs that come up for us all to see in the comments section of this post. The only real rule is that you don't censor your Random 10, that is, don't cut out songs because you might be embarrassed by people finding out that you actually have them or because multiple songs by the same artist came up and you don't want people to get the wrong idea. So, to kick things off, here's my own Random 10!

(song - artist)

1. Night On Disco Mountain - David Shire
2. Have You Ever Seen The Rain - Creedence Clearwater Revival
3. Fuck Her Gently - Tenacious D
4. Somewhere Over The Rainbow - DJ Erb
5. Love Burns - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
6. Studio Time - Hip-Hop Weiners
7. Goodbye To Yesterday - Spock's Beard
8. Fear Not Of Man - Mos Def
9. A Stone - Okkerville River
10. Einstein On The Beach - Philip Glass

Gotta say that I'm pleased with this one. Yeah, starts off pretty damn corny, but still fun. After that though, all good stuff; even got my man Mos Def in there. And Philip Glass adds a certain something, I know not what to the mix. Oh, that's right, rocking.

Evil Aempire

What about the spelling? They're greek now. So Electronic Arts, towards the end of the NHL lockout, tried to buy up exclusive rights to make video games based on the league and its players. They offered $44 million the NHLPA, which the players were going to take, but the league refused, citing the fact that competition between various companies probably produces better games, which in turn breeds interest in the sport. So hooray for the league and piss off, EA! I shall continue my boycott.

We're Watching You

Richard Posner, who law nerds will recognize as a very famous 7th Circuit judge, wrote and editorial defending Bush's extra-legal info gathering. Needless to say, I think he's crazy, but here's a much longer and more thought out response. Now back to finals...

Hat tip to Atrios.

December 20, 2005

A Dream World That's Magic

Dan Brottman tipped me off to this SNL video clip. It got the mad laughs, yo.

December 19, 2005

In Case You Weren't Scared/Angry Yet

Ok, so before anything else I should say that there's a lot of speculation going on about this wire tapping business and everyone should know that that's what it is, speculation.

That said, John in DC over on AMERICAblog has a really interesting theory about the taps: they were spying on American journalists. He makes his case over there and rather than take time that I should be using to study to recap it here, just go read it there. It's convincing enough for me to take it seriously as a possibility.

Ezra hits on the most troubling aspect of this scandel: FISA, the statute that controls this sort of activity, is really really lenient in letting the government do whatever it wants. The only reasons I've been able to find/think of for why the Administration would skirt around it is some kind of power grab for the executive branch or because they were pretty sure that this increadibly defferential system would still deny their wire tap applications.

Just Plain Dirty

So the House has voted to open up ANWR to drilling. Of course, that was tagged onto a spending bill including big relief for hurricane victims in the Gulf and some evidently necessary military spending. The article says that Democrats are furious about this and that the bill might be filibustered in the Senate, but we'll see if they have the willpower. Still, what sneaky bastards those House Republicans are.

December 18, 2005

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

So for those that haven't been keeping up on whole wiretapping story that's been rolling out lately, here's a quick recap: The New York Times reported that the White House has increasingly authorized, over the last several years, the tapping of Americans' telephones without a warrant. Evidently they had this story a year ago, but were asked by the White House to not publish it for "national security" reasons. In his most recent radio address President Bush admitted to reauthorizing these types taps over 30 times and admonished the Times for publishing the story. Let's ignore, for now, the implications of a President publically getting involved in the editorial process of the press.

Ezra reminds us all that the government tapping phones is not illegal. There are laws on the books that give the government a lot of leeway in getting phones tapped when they need them, the only difference is that the laws require some kind of oversight, even if it's not publically disclosed. So it's not that there's a problem with trying to stop terrorists, it's that covering it up like they did is breaking the law.

Also, the Post is reporting that at least some of these wire taps were on American citizens that the FBI acknowledges were not suspected of any wrongdoing. Like Ezra, I'm trying to hold back my inclination to be terrified of this kind of conduct, but I don't see any real explanation for it that makes me feel any better.

We'll see how this pans out, but this isn't one of those "Did the President really lie when he got us into Iraq?" sorts of scandals. The law is rather clear on this issue and unless something crazy happens and changes the facts, the President has admitted to conduct that violates the law.

December 17, 2005

One more for today

Mediagirl has a fine allegory you should read.


Looking for something to do besides watch movies and try to get along with your family? Amp has put up a fairly robust link farm AND open thread, so I'm just going to point you in his direction.

Will It Survive?

Alright folks, Hilary Clinton has introduced a bill in Congress that would make it illegal to sell adult games to kids. The bill says that store managers will be in violation of the law if they sell games rated M, AO (Adults Only), or RP (Rating Pending) as rated by the ESRB to minors.

Store managers would be fined up to $1,000 or 100 hours of community service for a first offense, and $5,000 or 500 hours of community service for each subsequent offense. Retailers can escape such fines if they were shown identification they believed to be valid or if their stores "have a system in place to display and enforce" the ratings system.

The bill also calls for various studies to be done by the government into advertising for games, periodic reviews of the ratings system, and secret shopper programs to test stores.

The bill also avoids a problem some previous attempts at legislation have faced in that it does not use the vague term "violent video game" and exclusively uses the ESRB ratings system. So, what do you think? Will it survive review by the courts? Should it?

December 16, 2005

Wintertime, and the livin' is easy

14 hours of travelling (South Bend is in the middle of NOWHERE) later, I'm quite happy to have arrived at my mom's place in the middle of California. Cell phone coverage and high-speed internet are nonexistent here, so I'm forced to take a break from all this fancy technology. Until I go into town and grab some free wi-fi, of course.

Anyway, the Patriot Act suffered a setback today. This doesn't mean it won't be renewed; it just makes it rather unlikely.

Link digest tomorrow-ish, once I've caught up on the news! (Yeah, right, like I'm not going to spend all day tomorrow reading Plato and relaxing.)


As I think I've made clear on the site, I have a digital infatuation with Wikipedia. For our purposes here, I'll give a brief summary of how the thing works. It's an online encyclopedia where anyone can contribute. Let's say you know a lot about King Crimson, the Philadelphia Flyers, or gods of thunder. You look it up on Wikipedia and if there's no entry you can create one. If there's already an entry you can add to it or edit it. This has produced an enormous volume of data available at the drop of a search term and without all the sorting through crappy web pages that a Google search can lead to.

Tycho of Penny Arcade, however, has had a less than fantastic experience (that link should eventually take you directly to their comic, which can then take you to his news post on this subject). The guys over there decided they wanted to poke fun at things like Magic: The Gathering which build up extremely over-detailed fictional backstories and histories all in support of what ammounts to elf and orc baseball cards. So they made up an entirely new intellectual property, but acted as if it were real and had existed for decades, and started the process of filling out their own Wiki (based on the same free technology as Wikipedia, but not an entry in the Wikipedia itself) of the long and detailed histories of a world with ambulatory furniture. Their comic has a pretty big following, so pretty soon they had all kinds of other people playing along, adding in stories of armoir wars and description of the plushy-like subset of this particular fandom, the "furnicators". Of course, the internet is full of dicks, and pretty soon people started messing with their entries.

This is a really long way of getting to the question, of what value is Wikipedia? Do you like it? Is it better or worse than traditional encyclopedias and why/why not? On the one hand it has allowed extremely detailed entries on thousands of subjects because everyone brings their expertise to each subject. On the other, think of any hotly contested issue or person, type their name in and look at the entry. Typographical wars are waged back and forth daily between people who think that something the other guy wrote isn't balanced, fair, or truthful and because no one has any more authority there's no final say in the editorial process.

December 13, 2005

Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked

Via someone over at feministblogs, Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked. Mostly they myths have to do with violence, but here are two that caught my eye in particular:

4. Almost no girls play computer games.
Historically, the video game market has been predominantly male. However, the percentage of women playing games has steadily increased over the past decade. Women now slightly outnumber men playing Web-based games. Spurred by the belief that games were an important gateway into other kinds of digital literacy, efforts were made in the mid-90s to build games that appealed to girls. More recent games such as The Sims were huge crossover successes that attracted many women who had never played games before. Given the historic imbalance in the game market (and among people working inside the game industry), the presence of sexist stereotyping in games is hardly surprising. Yet it's also important to note that female game characters are often portrayed as powerful and independent. In his book Killing Monsters, Gerard Jones argues that young girls often build upon these representations of strong women warriors as a means of building up their self confidence in confronting challenges in their everyday lives.

6. Video games are not a meaningful form of expression.
On April 19, 2002, U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Sr. ruled that video games do not convey ideas and thus enjoy no constitutional protection. As evidence, Saint Louis County presented the judge with videotaped excerpts from four games, all within a narrow range of genres, and all the subject of previous controversy. Overturning a similar decision in Indianapolis, Federal Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner noted: "Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low. It engages the interest of children from an early age, as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales collected by Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault are aware." Posner adds, "To shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it." Many early games were little more than shooting galleries where players were encouraged to blast everything that moved. Many current games are designed to be ethical testing grounds. They allow players to navigate an expansive and open-ended world, make their own choices and witness their consequences. The Sims designer Will Wright argues that games are perhaps the only medium that allows us to experience guilt over the actions of fictional characters. In a movie, one can always pull back and condemn the character or the artist when they cross certain social boundaries. But in playing a game, we choose what happens to the characters. In the right circumstances, we can be encouraged to examine our own values by seeing how we behave within virtual space.

Further Up and Further In

Narnia's on a lot of people's minds lately, particularly the Christian aspects of the story. In trying to distract myself from studing I went to my favorite source, Wikipedia, and through that found an interesting article from the Times. Not sure where I'm going with this...hopefully you all will read those articles and start a discussion on your own that I can jump in on.

December 12, 2005

That First Step

Well, today was something of a day. I had my first final, Education Law, which I think went ok. In somewhat bigger news, I accepted a job clerking for a judge for next year, which takes quite a bit of worry off my shoulders. Well, I guess I should say that I accepted an offer conditional on my passing a criminal background check, but as long as they don't accidentally attribute the crimes of my goateed double to me I should get through that well enough.

So hooray me.

As long as I'm posting stuff, here are a few links for you.

Really awesome shots from an upcoming Xbox 360 game.

Like Halo but don't have an Xbox? Here's a sidescrolling version for you PC users. The demo's not bad at all.

The nominations for the Independent Game Awards have been announced. The nice thing is that all of them give you cool demos to play around with and some are free altogether.

And here are a couple nice links about the impending destruction of Christmas.

December 11, 2005

Just A Nice Sunday Post

Drew and Ed both tipped me off to this fantastic open letter from David Cross to Larry the Cable Guy. Not only is it a great post about Larry the Cable Guy's boring, catch phrase reliant schtick, it's equally applicable to the whole "being smart is a bad thing" sentiment that's running through modern movement conservatism. And, of course, David Cross is funny.

From there we go to, which I found from a link on Cross and Odenkirk's site. Ah, the Jersey Shore, you've given so much amusement.

Choice for men and contribution

This occurred to me this morning as a data point that should not be overlooked when thinking about choice for men.

Guys, our contribution to making a baby is roughly equivalent to squeezing some toothpaste out of the tube. There's a long tradition in the West of the mother as incubator -- she just kind of keeps our semen nice and warm while it forms itself into a new baby. You can find this in Aristotle, actually, and I think the Bible has some passages that make it sound like pregnancy is just kind of waiting around for the baby to show up. But this is completely bullshit.

As any woman who has been pregnant or any obstetrician can tell you, pregnancy can be a pretty rough nine months. Quite a bit of a mother's energy and nutritional resources go into the new baby, and, along with a hormonal rollercoaster that makes puberty seem like a walk in the park, pregnancy introduces a fair amount of physiological stress in the form of pushing the centre of gravity a good distance in front of the centre of balance. Plus there's the whole 'push a bowling ball through a tube the size of a nectarine' thing that's called labour for a reason.

Once fertilization has occurred, a man has contributed pretty much all he really can to the baby-making. Midnight trips to the store for pickles and peanut butter are incidental. But her job is just getting started, and it's buying into the ridiculous, paternalistic notion that a mother is just an incubator for your seed to think you can get some say over what happens to that pregnancy without trampling over her basic right to bodily integrity. A pregnant woman is the only person who gets a say over whether and when to abort because she's the one who's going to do 99% of the work. Squeezing out our little glob of toothpaste is necessary to get things started, but there's nine months of hard work between a passionate embrace and the first time a new pair of lungs breathes air.

December 10, 2005

Feministe: Consider the hijab

An incredible post from Feministe. Read it. Now!

Well? What are you waiting for?

December 09, 2005

Another picture of teh M and teh Q

Going through the mostly underexposed pictures from last weekend, I found this really excellent one I hadn't noticed before. Wish them congratulations if you haven't already, jerks!
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December 08, 2005


I was going to wait another week, but I'm sick and have a lot of work to do, so I'll go ahead and announce my December/January vacation from blogging now. I'll be spending about half of the next four weeks without regular internet access, so expect updates from me to be sporadic at best.

An illustration of the principle that everything looks better with frosting

My ordinarily nondescript back yard looks downright pretty under a few inches of snow.

(This is a repost.)
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X-Men 3 Teaser Is Up

What can I say, I'm a huge nerd. Still, that trailer put the excitement in me. The rumors are that a major character(s) will die in the course of the movie. Any guesses?

December 07, 2005

This post was inevitable (version II)

I wrote a rather nasty piece about CS Lewis on the pretense of providing a link to this piece in Salon on how Christian (or not) the Chronicles of Narnia may be. But I decided, in all fairness, I should wait to blast Lewis here until I bother to read Mere Christianity; when I picked it up back in college, I laughed at the ridiculously bad reasoning in the first chapter and tossed it, but I like to think I'm a little more judicious these days. If I have any interest, I might read through it over my upcoming break; and if anyone has any interest in that actually being done, they would do well to drop me a line and remind me.

The glory which is Illinois

I recently had to make a bit of a drive, and as this was my first trip into the part of the midwest that isn't immediately surrounding Chicago, I made sure to bring my camera along, so as to document the Fatherland Heartland. The following picture captures most of my six-hour drive in a single instant.


Sometimes I really miss geographical features.
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For Those Shopping For Me

I'm not saying that you *have* to buy this stuff for me, but I'll be reevaluating my relationships with people based on the holiday season, so if you really want me to love you I suggest a computer monitor that covers the entire wall or a flying car.

December 06, 2005

Christmas Under Fire

I'm working up to a post about Bill O'Reilly and his holy crusade to save Christmas, but in the meantime I found this article. The school district in question has a policy where songs with "dogmatic religious statements" are forbidden from school programs. It states that,

"Music programs given at times close to religious holidays should not use the religious aspect of these holidays as the underlying motive or theme. No songs should be sung which contain dogmatic religious statements."

Of course, some people are freaking about about it. While the school does not allow "Silent Night" they have allowed "The Draydl Song", which people are saying shows that the school is showing a preference for Hanukah over Christmas. I'm 98% certain that this would get thrown out of court so fast it would make the plaintiff's heads spin, but for fun let's compare the lyrics below the fold:


I have a little dreydl
I made it out of clay
And when it's dry and ready,
Then dreydl I shall play!
Oh dreydl, dreydl, dreydl
I made it out of clay.
Oh dreydl, dreydl, dreydl
Now dreydl I shall play!

My dreydl's always playful.
It loves to dance and spin.
A happy game of dreydl,
Come play now let's begin.

Silent Night

Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in Heavenly peace
Sleep in Heavenly peace

Silent night, Holy night
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from Heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Hallelujah
Christ, the Savior is born
Christ, the Savior is born

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy Holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth

Does one of those strike you as having statements of "religious dogma" more than the other?

What Do You Think?

Following up on the last post, I thought I'd find out what you guys think. Here's the official ESRB ratings and content descriptors that are used on games today. What are its failings? What does it do right? What more could the ESRB be doing? If you like, and for extra Ra points, you can devise your own system that you think better represents the objectionable content in a game.

If Video Games Are Played By This Child, Warranty Will Be Void

It's that time of year again, when parents get into fist fights over the latest and greatest toy and the Family Media Guide has released their list of the most dangerous video games of the year for kids. But wait, there's more! This year the National Institute on Media and the Family is particularly worried about scenes of cannibalism in recent games like, for instance, Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse. So watch your feet this winter because roving bands of ankle biters will be actually biting ankles out there 'cause the games made 'em do it.

The NIMF has also released their own report card on the industry and it doesn't look good. Even if we grant that their "study" probably don't count as particularly scientific, it still looks like it's pretty easy for kids to get their hands on violent games.

"The Taste Of Love Is Sweet
When Hearts Like Ours Meet
I Fell For You Like A Child
Oh, But The Fire Went Wild"

Ahnold On Vacation!

Joy sends us this link to "Carnival in Rio: With Arnold Schwarzenegger". Could this guy make a bigger ass of himself?

Anti-intellectualism is all the intellectuals' fault!

There's a nice little gem of an idea in this Nicholas Kristof column, but it's kind of buried under a pile of shit.

The good point:

This disregard for science already hurts us. The U.S. has bungled research on stem cells perhaps partly because Mr. Bush didn't realize how restrictive his curb on research funds would be. And we're risking our planet's future because our leaders are frozen in the headlights of climate change.

While our universities are home to great scientists, our society as a whole is pathetically science- and math-illiterate.

But what cause does he identify for this? Not our crappy high schools. Not the recent resurgence of general anti-intellectualism in American populism, nor the political opportunism of movement conservatism that helped it come about. No, the problem is that highly educated people aren't majoring in the sciences in college.

But there's an even larger challenge than anti-intellectualism. And that's the skewed intellectualism of those who believe that a person can become sophisticated on a diet of poetry, philosophy and history, unleavened by statistics or chromosomes. That's the hubris of the humanities.

Look, the problem isn't just that we are, at all levels of society, woefully ignorant of science; the problem is that we are, at all levels of society, woefully ignorant period. People who majored in liberal arts don't know jack about math and science; but, at the same time, very few math, science, and engineering majors care about those humanities classes they're required to take; and the vast majority of people, who don't go to college at all, never really get exposed to either the natural or social sciences. The vast majority of 'real' adults seem to have some vague opinions on contrversial issues, but care much more about things like gas prices, what's on sale at the local giant box store, and who was caught fucking who in the janitor's closet, than Beauty or Truth (to say nothing of the Good).

What we need, at least as a first step, is to vastly improve the education of our teenagers in both the sciences and the humanities, not get all upset because no-one at the Times can solve a calculus problem.

Update: Echidne had much the same reaction I did, but adds

True, but does knowledge about the DNA suffice? Surely a more important field of study for a future leader would be ethics, and studying ethics is part of the liberal arts curriculum. Though of course it would be nice if the future leaders could first be persuaded to believe that the Earth is older than a few thousand years...

December 05, 2005


On Saturday, 3 December, 2005, Amanda Sparkman (you know her as Manda) and Quentin Leon were married in some suburb of St. Louis whose name escapes me.

Congratulations, Manda and Quentin!
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Philosophy blogging

From Plato's Apology, in which Socrates, Plato's teacher, defends himself against charges of corrupting the youth and impiety. Socrates says the following shortly after the jury sentences him to death.

Now I want to prophesy to those who convicted me, for I am at the point when men prophesy most, when they are about to die. I say gentlemen, to those who voted to kill me, that vengeance will come upon you immediately after my death, a vengeance much harder to bear than that which you took in killing me. You did this in the belief that you would avoid giving an account of your life, but I maintain that quite the opposite will happen to you. There will be more people to test you, whom I now held back, but you did not notice it. They will be more difficult to deal with as they will be younger and you will resent them more. You are wrong if you believe that by killing people you will prevent anyone from reporaching you for not living in the right way. To escape such tests is neither possible nor good, but it is best and easiest not to discredit others but to prepare oneself to be as good as possible. With this prophecy to you who convicted me, I part from you.

December 04, 2005

For Jason

We all know and love The Onion so I don't generally post stuff from them, but Jason asked me to post this and it's pretty damn funny, so here we go.

Also, promoted from the comments we have this story on violent bands of roving squirrels. Beware!

Blog against racism day (retcon edition)

BARD was Thursday, but I have something of an excuse. More on that later. Ampersand has three goods posts in BARD spirit, even though he happened to miss it, too.

December 03, 2005

Music To Kill Aliens By

Thanks, and Ra Points, to Wes for sending me this link. Yeah, the Minibosses did it first, but these guys do a good job of turning the Metroid songs into metal. Good stuff.

The Return Of The Random 10!

It's been a while since I posted a Random 10, mainly because I keep forgetting, so let's give it another go. In case you forgot how this works you load up your MP3 playing device or software of choice, set the sucker to random, and then post the first ten songs that come up for us all to see in the comments section of this post. The only real rule is that you don't censor your Random 10, that is, don't cut out songs because you might be embarrassed by people finding out that you actually have them or because multiple songs by the same artist came up and you don't want people to get the wrong idea. So, to kick things off, here's my own Random 10

(Song - Artist)

1. New World Man - Rush
2. God Put A Smile Upon Your Face - Coldplay
3. The Silent Man - Dream Theater
4. Somebody Told Me - The Killers
5. Taking Control - Tiles
6. The Test That Stumped Them All - Dream Theater
7. Till There Was You - Peggy Lee
8. You Only Live Twice - James Bond Theme
9. Napalm Brain - Scatter Brain - DJ Shadow
10. Saturday Night - Bay City Rollers

December 02, 2005

Too true

Piled Higher and Deeper. Of course, none of the buildings at ND are labelled (except in extremely circumspect ways), there are no large maps with convenient 'you are here' arrows, and the paper maps (reproduced online here with as much detail and clarity as they have in real life) are basically useless -- and this is all quite deliberate. I can't help the legions of visitors who wander in circles around campus, but, really, I'd be surprised if anyone besides the plant people knew the names and locations of every damn building.

December 01, 2005


South Africa has become the fifth country to end discrimination in marriage based on sexual orientation.

Well, not quite; apparently the Constitutional Court has given Parliament one year to amend the marriage laws, but this is not expected to happen, as only one conservative religious party, which has almost no power, has called for an amendment formally forbidding gay people from marrying. I like this bit in particular:

The decision was essentially unanimous, with one of the court's 12 judges arguing that the ruling should take effect immediately rather than being stayed.

Best Legal Writing Ever!

I know I've got a few law nerds on here, but this is really a case that can be appreciated by everyone. The case involves defamation offered by the famous G. Gordon Liddy as he drifted by on a yaht and an injury sustained thereafter. It seems, however, that the lawyers involved were grossly incompetant and Judge Kent certainly lets them know in the decision. Here's an excerpt:

"Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers, who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston, an effort which leads the Court to surmise but one plausible explanation. Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact--complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words--to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed. Whatever actually occurred, the Court is now faced with the daunting task of deciphering their submissions. With Big Chief tablet readied, thick black pencil in hand, and a devil-may-care laugh in the face of death, life on the razor's edge sense of exhilaration, the Court begins."

Seriously, check it out even if you're not at all involved with the study or practice of law. I love this case. Thanks to Patrick for pointing me to this case.

P.S. You'll need Adobe Acrobat to follow the link.

Edit: Here's the cite for those of you who have access to, and would prefer to use, other methods of viewing the case. 147 F.Supp.2d 668


To kick off the new month let's have a big old internet brawl!

The basic question is: What is art? This came up when, in a recent column, Roger Ebert said that games are "inherently inferior" to film and that the nature of the medium keeps it from being "true art". This, of course, sent the internet nerds of the handle, though it really doesn't take much. Still, since nearly every nerd was arguing that games were an artform, I felt it was far more interesting to talk about whether there are any examples of "good" art in the medium. Do video games have a Hamlet yet? A Godfather? A Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band? If so, what aspects make a game trancend to that level? If not, why not?

So I tried to convey my dismay to Drew about how rediculous it was for a couple dozen nerds to carry on a, at last count, 16 (!) page conversation where they all basically agree that games are art instead of tackling what I saw as the much more important question for the medium, but we ended up talking about the definition of art, among many other tangents, instead.

So again, I ask you, what is art and, probably more importantly, what isn't art?

Another Video Game Post

Writing up video game posts is really easy for me to do, which explains why there are so many of them lately. All I have to do is go to Evil Avatar and cherry pick anything that strikes me as interesting. So, with that said, here's my lazy post:

1. IGN has a story up that speculates on the lineup of games for the Xbox 360 beyond the launch. They've got 15 games up there through next spring, but I think that's probably pretty low. Granted, the games that aren't mentioned are probably filler titles that aren't very good, but you never know, there could be a jewel in there. I'm also sure that several of the games they mention in the article will get pushed back from the release date they mention. Still, it's nice to see what's coming down the pike and it's good to see that there are some interesting titles in the works.

2. Major Nelson, a Micrsoft employee working on the 360 launch, has a post up on his blog explaining the shipment schedules (they're shooting for about 3 million units shipped in the first 3 months) and attempting to dispell rumors of a recall.

3. GamesFirst has a post comparing screenshots taken from the Xbox 1 version of King Kong and the 360 version of the same. Though the 360 tends to come out looking better there are a few exceptions, but it is important to note a couple things: 1) They didn't have the capability to take screenshots in HD for the 360. 2) The screenshots they did take aren't of the best quality anyway. 3) King Kong was developed for the Xbox 1 generation of consoles and not specifically for the 360. Much like ports from the PS2 to the Xbox 1, the game really isn't taking advantage of the better hardware and is really just a few graphical tweaks. So with all those caveats the 360 shots do generally look a bit better. Also, as an aside, I hear this game is lots of fun for those that have the means to play it but haven't.

4. The Nintendo Revolution will not support HD resolutions when it's released and IGN.Cube thinks this is a really big mistake. Personally, I don't think it's going to be a big deal right away when the machine is released since the market penetration for HDTVs is so reletively low now. Still, if they plan on having the Revolution launch at Christmas '06 and then last five years, that puts the prime of the console's lifetime between '08 and '10 and I think the importance of HDTV support will only get more important going forward.

November 30, 2005

A Couple 360 Links

First up we have a review of NHL 2k6 over at Evil Avatar. I was pretty worried about this game because several of the reviews of the Xbox/PS 2 version, which came out a couple months ago, were pretty lackluster. Evidently a lot of the bugs the pulled the previous versions down have been fixed for this one and the review makes it sound like this should be a fun version. On the other hand, despite a couple minor graphical upgrades it does seem like this is still the game designed for the previous generation and not so much for the 360. Still, it's sort of what we should expect from a title released on so many platforms. Gun isn't the prettiest game on the 360, and that pretty obviously stems from the fact that it was designed to run on inferior machines, but it's still fun on the 360 and I'm sure that will be the case with NHL 2k6. Next year I'm sure we'll get a much better version, but this will hold us over for now.

The first Xbox brought a lot of former PC gamers (myself included) back to the console realm, and with them the modding subculture that has been so big in the PC world the last few years. Still, it's really impressive how quickly they've brought this over to the 360. Now, I've never been keen on all of the mods out there, particularly adding windows to your machine, but some of this stuff is pretty awesome. I'm especially interested in the adding in of extra hard drives to store movies and music on.

November 29, 2005

Yes, I'm procrastinating

All treatments of Anselm's ontological argument (see link below) include a premise or inference along the lines of the following:

If the concept G is not instantiated by some real thing, then we can construct a 'greater' concept, G+, which is G 'plus' instantiation.

The standard objection to this inference is that there is no solid criteria that permits us to call the consequent concept, G+, 'greater' than G. My objection, by contrast, is that even if some kind of standard of 'greatness' is granted, G+ can only be formed if G is of a certain kind of concepts, and there is no non-question-begging way of guaranteeing the G in question is of the right kind.

For example, consider the concepts 'virtue' and 'cat'. We can take 'cat' to be of the right kind: 'existant cat' (or 'is a substance that is a cat') is, pace Kant, a perfectly legitimate concept. However, 'existant virtue' (or 'is a substance that is virtue') is illegitimate: virtue, in and of itself, is not some thing or some stuff! While we can say 'that thing is a cat', it would be absurd to say 'that thing is virtue'.

Hence, Anselm's argument plays on an equivocation, and an admittedly briefly survey of the literature suggests my recognition of this equivocation in the context of Anselm's argument is novel; however, as this doctrine is the central logical thesis of Aristotle's Categories, it can be used to target Anselm directly without danger of anachronism.

An Alito Post

The Alito nomination has been on a low simmer for a while now, which isn't quite as exciting as the Roberts or Miers nominations but has given us a little while longer to ponder him as a person and the process in general. Check below the flip for the rest...

So here's an article about how Alito was a member of a Princeton alumni organization that had a particularly racist and sexist bent. Mostly it seems like the organization was founded in the early 70s after Princeton started admitting more than token numbers of women and minorities because some of the crusty white dudes didn't like the change. They published a periodical espousing these ideas as well as several shadier tactics to make their ideas known. Alito was a member of this organization and when he applied for a government job in '85 he was comfortable enough with his membership to list it on his resume. He was born in 1950, so in '85 he was 35 years old.

So my question to you readers is, how much, if at all, do you all think this should matter? Is it far enough in the past to forgive? Were times different enough back then that this isn't a big deal? On the other hand, does this rise to the level of being something that you think should kill, all on its own, his nomination? What bearing, if any, does this have on whether you think he could do a good job as a judge?

Now, I know it's easy to jump to your conclusion mat if you already have an opinion on Bush's nominees generally, but I also hope we get some discussion of how much stuff like this should matter when we're confirming Supreme Court nominees. The bottom line is that even though law nerds like myself tend to really get jazzed up about these sorts of things the Supreme Court affects all of your lives in material ways and we should all be at least as interested in getting good justices as we are in getting good presidents.

Linked without comment because I have a busy afternoon

Lance Mannion: They paid for this police force and by gum they're going to use it!

What Santorum wants is for a lot more cops to start pulling over a lot more of us and write a whole lot more tickets. This is something he doesn't dare say, it's probably something he doesn't even dare think, but it is what he wants.

It's what all these 'family values' and 'culture war' conservatives want.

Their problem is that since Barry Goldwater, the Republican Party has adopted a Populist pose and Populist rhetoric and Populists don't like cops because they know that traditionally the cops have been owned by the Rich and Populists don't like the Rich. Which ought to mean that Populists shouldn't like Republicans. But the Republicans have spent spent 40 years bad mouthing big government and making the case that it's Liberals who want to tell everybody what to do, what to think, and how to live their lives, and they've done a good job of convincing a large chunk of the country that the Republican Party isn't what it is, a party of rich people who like calling in the cops.

So they can't say what they want without calling attention to the fact that it is they and not the Liberals who want to boss everybody else around.

This is why Santorum's rhetoric turns to mush when he is asked to stop yelping about all the threats to the family and America's general fine and dandyness and make some specific proposals for dealing with those threats.

Double standard, doubletalk, doublespeak, double-think, double-cross---The Republican Motto.

Via Pandagon.

And now I'm off to refute the ontological argument! (If I remember and have time, I'll post a precis tonight.)

I'm Not Dead!

Yeah, it's been a while, eh? Well, see, I had a big paper to write, and then, uh, I just kind of took the Thanksgiving weekend off. Anyhow, finals are coming up in a couple of weeks, but hopefully I'll post up a couple of things here or there to amuse you all.

"I am just a stranger, in a promised land / I am only learning a game with the rules I don't understand"

November 28, 2005

Democratically elected prime minister of Iraq hates freedom

Why else would he spread anti-war propaganda like these?

Human rights abuses in Iraq are now as bad as they were under Saddam Hussein and are even in danger of eclipsing his record, according to the country's first Prime Minister after the fall of Saddam's regime.

'People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse,' Ayad Allawi told The Observer. 'It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things.'

Seriously, why did we start this fucking war? At this point, it seems it was either (a) stop Saddam from developing WMDs he wasn't developing, or (b) replace a repressive thugocracy with a repressive thugocracy.

Via Pandagon.

I thought I was going to throw up

when I read this:

Actually, the only thing that makes me consider rape to be as awful as it is IS the possibility of life, and also STDs. In of itself, while it can be fairly painful, is not that much of a big deal. Certainly, it’s trespassing against your property and could result in great bodily harm, and you have the right to defend yourself, but mostly it’s psychologically damaging more than anything else.

but then I read this and had to stop for a couple minutes to keep it from really happening:

He said she said is worthless. In the middle east a woman needs a Man as a witness to charge another man with rape. Women are not smart enough to realize what they are doing to innocent men.

Rape in this country, in many places, is a worse crime than murder. What’s striking is that there are only 15k convictions for 85k accusations. It has the lowest conviction rape of any major crime. Which is scarey and tells us that women are not capable of making decisions on their own.

Of course, we can't have just misogyny; we need to misandry, too, in the form that only the patriarchy can offer:

It’s been particularly interesting to see how my friends who are single, non-feminist career girls are beginning to get very angry at their feminist forebears, as they begin to realize to their shock and horror that the mysogynistic neanderthals were telling them the truth all along. Men don’t give a damn about degrees, don’t care at all about a woman’s career and tend to see these things as a threat, not to themselves, but to the possibility of a romantic relationship.

The two key things that too many women fail to grasp with regards to relationships is that men simply don’t think like women, and that the sell-by date is about 32 when it comes to dating men your own age.

There's more. A lot more. And it's all as fucking disturbing as hell.

November 25, 2005

Logical fallacies in real life: affirming the consequent

The logical fallacy called affirming the consequent has the following form:
  1. (Hypothesis) If P, then Q
  2. (Hypothesis) Q
  3. (Conclusion) P

Here's a simple argument to illustrate the fallacy:
  1. If I go on a 20-mile bike ride, I will be tired.
  2. I am tired.
  3. Therefore, I went on a 20-mile bike ride.

The argument is fallacious because P need not be necessary for Q to come about.

Here's a real life illustration. P would be something like 'the Left supports the Enemy' while Q might be 'the Left is critical of the war' or 'the Enemy wins the war'.

This interview cannot be read without coming to the conclusion that the Left was aiding and abetting the enemy back then, and they are doing it again today. Period.

For lots of examples of logical fallacies (not to mention sexism, racism, and a nasty temper), read this one, too.

Link dump

Well, hopefully everyone had a delightful time yesterday, celebrating that great vice known as gluttony. Or working, if you happen to be visiting our humble little site from outside the US. My holiday was quiet but a lot of fun; unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of any of the excellent food I made, so you'll have to wait a while to find out how to make acorn squash au gratin. Today I'd like to offer you the backlog of interesting links I've accumulated in the past week. In theory, regular blogging will resume Monday.

Pandagon: Getting approval

Hugo: A post on dating advice and self-transformation

Hot Girl-on-Girl Action (about female characters in video games)

Echidne: From My Mailbag

NYT: In setback for Bush, Congress fails to pass his proposals

Propaganda from NYU administration about the GA strike. And a somewhat less biased news article about the strike. There are several good links in the discussion at the bottom, including this essay from a couple years back.

DED Space's misogynist quot[ation] of the week

Feministe links to and comments on this article, from an student newspaper for Notre Dame and St. Mary's (a women's college just across the road from ND). This is part two.

Feministe comments on the increasing number of women changing their last name upon marriage. Amanda talks about this, too.

Hugo has some thoughts on girls and lust. No, not like that! Get your mind out of the gutter.

November 17, 2005

Can't Staff of Ra?

because "Staff of Ra" is a verb now. Perhaps the acronym SoR ("soar") will catch on among all the cool kids, and then we'll have people from around the world wondering why the hell we're having lives and doing things instead of incessant blogging the latest on John Robert's "Say hello to MY Chief Justice" boxer-briefs.

Ahem. Sorry about that. Technical difficulties. Yeah, that's what happened.

Many/several people seem to be having severe problems viewing the blog using Internet Explorer, with only about 1 1/2 posts showing up, and no sidebar. Unfortunately, there's roughly jack shit that we can do about this on our end. Until blogger fixes things, we recommend using Firefox if at all possible. Hell, we recommend using it even if you aren't having this problem: it's a far superior browser to IE, especially if you try out some of the nifty extensions. If you can't install Firefox at work because you don't have Administrator privileges on that computer, we recommend you talk to your IT people and have them put it on for you.

November 15, 2005

More Fun With Google

Promoted from the comments, thanks to Dan we have more fun with Google courtesy of Master Ninja.

Manners and Anthropology

Manners and Anthropology
By Andrea McIntyre

"Civility is particularly due to all men; and remember that no provocation whatever can justify any woman in not being civil to every man; and the greatest woman would justly be reckoned a wench if she were not civil to the meanest man."

- Lady Chesterfield

Politeness, involving the manners of ladies and gentlemen, is an unfortunately lost art. We have abandoned civility for the naval gazing, narcissistic, hedonistic, humanistic philosophies that urge us to express our feeling on every occasion, to be emotionally "authentic." I am convinced that only a fool speaks what is on her mind at all times without regard for the effect that the expression of her thought will have on others. For instance, the wise will always express pleasure at making an acquaintance, even when the pleasure is not actually felt. The prudent will always render due respect to the fiercer sex and exalt them upon the pedestal that they so richly deserve. Indeed, I am often vexed by the attitude and historical ignorance of modern patriarchy. It seems that many men know little, if anything, about the etiquette of the past. Too many accept uncritically that the plight of men has always been so dire and that their sex has been severely oppressed throughout the history of classical western culture. Thus, too many accept, again, uncritically, a lie. In fact, even in the mundane act of introduction, it was unacceptable to introduce any man to a woman, unless that woman were the wife of a particularly high diginitary, such as the queen. Instead, women were to be introduced in humility to men, and that, normally, only after his express consent, as men were to be given the higher place of honor and respect. It seems so quaint, antiquated, and foreign to us, but women really would curtsey to the fiercer sex. They would rise when a man entered the room and not sit until he saw fit to be seated. They would wait on him and cater to his fancies. Refined manners dictated that every man to be treated as a king in his own right, receiving the respect he deserved as the bearer of life and the producer of the little images of God we call erections. In the end, I believe manners are a matter of anthropology. If woman is not simply an intelligent animal, if woman is truly the bearer of the image of God, then she ought to speak properly and reservedly. She ought to hold her shoulders back and lift her chin in pride and dignity. She ought to dine with civility and refinement. She ought to seek pleasure in the greatest of human aesthetic achievements and avoid her baser instincts. Woman is truly a wonderful, glorious creature. She ought to act like it.

(A parody. Read the original, where he proudly calls himself sexist and patriarchal. No, I'm serious, he does it in the comments. He also gets pissy and censors my ass-in-itself when I use 'fuck objects' to describe the way aristocratic men regarded lower-class women during the periods he's romanticizing.)

The Great And Powerful Flying Spaghetti Monster

The mighty Spaghetti Monster stretches his noodley appendages to begin creation. Recently frequent poster Dan was touched by the Great One's pastastic tentacles, carrying him to a starchy victory in Octorber's Ra Points competition. All hail to his Holy Carbiness!

Edit: For those that aren't aware, here's a nice Wikipedia article on the Flying Spaghetti Monster.Posted by Picasa

He Is Victorious!

Another month, another winner. This month Grumlock the Great was felled by the mighty Dan. It was nice to see so many people getting up there in the points this month and Dan actually just squeezed out the victory, so a hearty congratulations to you all! When our reporters caught up to the mighty victor and asked about his victory, Dan said, "I just want to thank the flying spaghetti Monster for granting me the power to best all the opposition." Check below the fold for the final point totals.

Dan 140
Grumlock 130
Joy 120
Jamie 90
Sarah 80
Jay 70
Jenna 60
Meghan 55
Manda 40
Andy 25
Yelladog 10
Ok.nowwhat 10

Posted by Picasa

Fun Google Hits

Another Fun With Google Hits post, which will of course just make those bizarre search terms all the more likely to hit again. But hey, I need hits. I suppose I could rely on posting pictures of pretty ladies, like some people, but I'm trying to maintain a certain level of class 'round here.

Here are the most interesting search terms that brought people here recently. To those of you finding yourself here by mistake, I'm sorry I don't have what you're looking for. Actually, given some of the terms that have brought people here over the last year, I'm really not.

1. "feminists for life bugmenot
2. "synonym for evangelize"
3. "bat shit crazy"
4. "Squanto headpiece clip art"
5. "rape culture"
6. "Kant and ESRB"
7. "My parents hate me"
8. "adjunct faculty"
9. "accidents involving dress shoes"
10. "Juvenial"

"You're such an inspiration for the ways
That I'll never ever choose to be
Oh so many ways for me to show you
How the savior has abandoned you"

Now Who's Getting Thrown Down The Well?

Kazakhstan is attempting to grab comedian Sacha Baron Cohen by the horns for portraying their country as a bunch of drunks who "pretend to be married" with their sisters. Thanks, and points, to Anne for the link.

And for you law nerds out there, or people that really want to see the stupider side of law school, here is a spinoff of the classic Overheard In New York but for law school. Points to Patrick for the link.

"This is not so much a holiday oriented song / as it is an exclamation of dismay at the sight of a beautiful woman"

Nerd Post

Law school buddy Joe sends us this cool link of a guy beating Super Mario 64 in twenty minutes. That's damn impressive, even though I never actually played the game. Damn impressive indeed. 15 Ra points for Joe!

"You hold on to love that's gone
Run a mile to see him smile
But you don't know he's door to door
Playin' you for the fool"

Also Starring Al Franken as Mothra And Jon Stewart As Gamora

You all know the deal: think up a caption for this picture of Billzilla destroying the Transamerica Pyramid and post it in the comments. Every entry gets 10 Ra points, the best one gets 15 extra. The contest ends when the picture drops off the front page.

Edit: I had misnamed the building as the Coit Tower.

Thanks again to Crooks and Liars again for the pic. Posted by Picasa

Picture Post To Follow

San Francisco voted on an initiative measure to ban military recruiting in public schools. I'm not going to take a position at this point on the substantive argument he's making, but what I do want to say is that the single greatest thing that pisses me off about blowhards like O'Reilly is that they take what could be a legitimate arguement and throw it out the window in favor of saying something crazy, like he does here.

While I'm at politics, here's a piece written by John Cusack about Iraq, Republicans, Dems, John Stewart, and Dr. King. It's a touch on the ranty side for me, but it's an editorial so it's not that far off the reservation and still much more informed and articulate than I usually expect out of celebrity political commentary. So good on you John.

Hat tip to Crooks and Liars for that links.

"Watch me / Fading / I'm losing / All my instincts / Falling into darkness"

Ra Points Update

While we wait for the quote from last month's winner, here's an update on this month's contest thus far. I know I haven't exactly given you all lots of opportunities to earn points lately, but I'll try to put something up today to get you some points and you're always welcome to some free points by commenting to a post. Check after the flip for the points update.

Dan 20
Joy 45
Jay 30
Grumlock 30
Kryssa 30
Meghan 10
Rob 10
Sarah 10

"tripped over a dog in a choke-chain collar
people were shouting and pushing and saying
and when i traded a smoke for a food stamp dollar
a ridiculous marching band started playing"

Jay's Link, A Bit Late

Jay sent me this link update to the ongoing debacle that is Jack Thompson's life many days ago and I'm just now getting around to posting it. It goes without saying that he got his 15 Ra points for sending me a postable link, though I should remind everyone that the easiest and most available way to get Ra points is to simply post comments to a post as I've been very easy about giving points out that way.

"As a man he was a danger to himself
Fearful and sad most of the time
He was drifting in and out of sanity
But in every other way he was fine"

Time To Catch Up A Bit

Well, it's been a great long weekend off but it's time to do a little catch up. Usually when I'm browsing the web and come across something interesting that I want to post I just open it in Firefox tab and leave it open until I get time to post about it. When I go a long time, like this last week or so, without posting much I tend to accumulate a lot of open tabs that clutter the hell out of my taskbar. Let's see if we can clean house a bit:

First, Dan Brottman sent me news that a tabletop pen & paper RPG exists for Serenity. I've read a couple reviews and it seems like it's pretty good.

The Roberts Court has handed down an interesting ruling in the field of education law. Being in Education Law right now (and with a paper due in a week), this is pretty interesting.

Microsoft has finally released a final list of the games that will be available on launch day for the Xbox 360. I know, there are some games missing from this list that I was really hoping would make it out on Day 1, but this is the way it goes sometimes in software and I'd much rather have a solid game later than a buggy and unfinished game sooner. Still, that's probably one of the strongest launch lineups I've ever seen, if not *the* strongest. Also, keep in mind that there will be several more games released between the launch day and the end of the year. Some of the most anticipated games won't make it this year, but we're still going to have plenty to play with.

Here's a list of the Xbox 1 games that will be backwards compatible on the Xbox 360 on launch day. Evidently only Halo 1 and 2 will work out of the box (the others you need to download a very small patch off of Xbox Live or order a CD that will have all of these on them), but it's still a pretty good list. Also, keep in mind that more games will be patched over time so this will expand if there's something you don't see there that you would want. It's important to keep in mind that the PS2 is really aberrant in console history in its universal backwards compatibility (though that's actually not 100% true, not all PS1 games do work on the PS2), and if this method of backwards compatibility seems lame I'd expect more of this in the future.

This is pretty old news, but here's a post on Alito and how he hasn't exactly held to promises made during his confirmation hearings back in the early 90s. I don't think this is a magic bullet to kill the nomination, but it certainly doesn't look very good. Speaking of Alito, here's an article where he pretty plainly stated his stance on abortion back in '85. Now, it's important to note that by all accounts Alito does take established precedents seriously and there have been several important and re-affirming cases since then, so I'm not convinced that this is quite as dispositive as others seem to think. Still, it's ammunition for the fight and it's something that I think he needs to address directly.

On a site note, I know I'm *WAY* behind in posting the winner of last month's Ra points contest, but I promise to get that up either today or tomorrow, assuming that I can get a quote from the winner.

"Just like every night has its dawn / Just like every cowboy sings a sad, sad song" An extra five points for the movie I'm thinking of as I type this quote.

November 14, 2005

Happy 10th Birthday!

In the realm of internet news, there's places of mudslinging, disgustingly putrid filth like the Drudge Report, there are online outlets for established news organizations like the New York Times and CNN, and then there is

As I'm sure most of you read every now and then, and if you don't you most definitely should (I'm practically addicted to War Room) as they are celebrating their 10th Anniversary.

Here's to another 10 years with a pretty good news publication that takes criticism along the lines of "You're too freaking liberal" and responds "Well, if being liberal or left-leaning is calling the Administration's lies for what they are, then I guess we're liberal, tough."

November 12, 2005

Ostensive definition of rape culture

Alas, a blog:

I heard this joke from my mother, when I was about 11 or 12.

Two nuns were walking through the woods when they were set upon and raped. One said to the other, 'Whatever shall we tell Mother Superior?' The second replied, 'We'll just have to tell her that while we were walking through the woods, we were set upon and raped twice.' The first one said, 'Why twice?' The second replied, 'We still have to walk back through the woods again.'

By the logic of this joke, women, however uninterested in sex they may appear to be, are desperate for sex and simply dare not admit it. Therefore, the man who gives them sex despite their apparent objections is doing them a favour. Rape is just a form of sex, and women enjoy it enough to hope it happens to them again.

Jokes like this one reinforce the idea that when a woman says 'no', she really means 'yes', that reluctance is nothing more than a pose women adopt, that there is no meaningful distinction between sex and rape, that rape doesn't really do any harm. And jokes like this one get told all the time, not behind closed doors, but proudly, out in public.

That's the kind of thing we mean when we talk about rape culture.

Just in case you weren't sure what it meant.

Also, Ampersand has compiled a list that's a good ostensive definition of male privilege.

And, this isn't entirely relevant, but Echidne comments on Katha Pollitt on Maureen Dowd.

November 11, 2005

In the news

Bush levels a damning criticism against the politicians who decided to invade Iraq

"The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges," Mr. Bush said .... "As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them."

Oh, wait, no, he was talking about the Democrats criticizing all the WMD bullshit. My bad.

Angela Merkel will be Germany's first female chancellor. Negotiations took nearly two months, and Merkel -- a conservative, and member of the Christian Democratic Union -- will be at the top of a cabinet that will include more liberal Social Democrats in several prominent positions, including the ministers of finance and labour. This means the CDU will be blocked from implementing many of the Clinton/Blair-esque economic "reforms" central to their platform.

Liberia elects the first female African president. President-elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is an a "Harvard-educated economist and former World Bank official" . Her chief rival was a soccer star, who "only" garnered 41 percent of the vote.

Nerds strike!

Lindsay Beyerstein gives a summary and some photos for the first day of the NYU grad student's strike.

A long rant below.

Grad students are fundamental employees of any modern research university, on a par with the faculty and staff. Typically, TAs are responsible for every aspect of freshman- and sophomore-level courses except the three hours of lecture a week: running the discussion/review sessions; grading the homework, exams, and papers; and meeting with students in office hours. The difference between the work done by a TA with three thirty-person discussion sections and an adjunct faculty member (someone in a non-tenure track position) teaching three thirty-person classes is minimal. However, TAs are typically paid only about half of the pittance adjunct faculty members make -- at some schools, the TA stipend is barely enough to keep one person above the official poverty line, and two or more people living off one stipend would qualify for public assistance -- and are given little to no non-monetary benefits. For example, I have only subsidized health insurance, my school only paying for about half my premium, and that insurance is crap: the maximum benefit is ridiculously low, like $10k a year, and I have no coverage for dental or vision. Due to receding gums, I may be in danger of losing a couple teeth in the next year without dental insurance, and I only have a single pair of glasses with the right prescription. If I were female, I'd be in an even worse situation, as birth control and abortion procedures are simply not covered (naturally, viagara and the like are covered), and only ONE of an annual physical and annual gynaecological exam are covered. I also strongly suspect that children of grad students usually do not get the tuition exemption the children of faculty and staff enjoy. Finally, grad students usually have no official status in matters of department administration, not even a representative to advise the faculty in hiring and firing decisions.

The situation is actually even more fucked-up at state universities, where grad students are routinely not considered state employees when benefits are considered (usually, grad students are the only employees of the state not qualified to at least have the option of buying highly subsidized health insurance), but usually have to jump through the same loops as other state employees (ethics and diversity training classes, or random drug screenings might conceivably be required in this way). Fortunately, grad students at state universities do not have the NLRB ruling working against them, just the usual anti-union scare mongering and intransigent, condescending administration. (It took the UIC administration over a year to recognize the grad student union there after it was officially recognized by the NLRB.)

The NLRB ruling is particularly odious, and it's important that the NYU students are successful in renewing their contract and getting the ruling overturned. As Lindsay notes, the ruling says that grad students at private universities simply aren't allowed to unionize, while grad students at public universities are. This double standard is just wrong, of course, but the motivation for blocking grad students from unionizing is especially pernicious: the logic, essentially, is that grad students are students, and hence not employees. This mirrors a largely unspoken attitude that runs throughout academia, and is also used by university administrators to exploit non- and pre-tenure faculty: we're supposed to be in this profession because we're passionate intellectuals, teachers, and scientists, and thus we ought not be caught up in material concerns like 'having both food and car' and 'not worrying about how to pay the doctor's bills'. Thus, we (grad students, adjunct and assistant faculty) aren't supposed to need unions, and its petty and selfish to expect our employers to meet with us as equals to determine a fair contract -- which is one of the oldest anti-union memes around.

This is fucking stupid

First they pre-empt it for a month for baseball, and now this:

ARRESTED NO, PRISON YES: Variety is reporting that Fox has cut back its episode order for the Emmy-winning yet ratings-anemic Arrested Development, has advised Kitchen Confidential execs that the freshman series will not be picked up for a full season, and — here comes the salt — is pulling both shows from the schedule for at least the remainder of November sweeps. Fox will air Prison Break repeats in the 8 pm/ET Monday slot for the time being, unless, that is, Jason Bateman gives up Fibonacci.

I haven't seen a single episode of Kitchen Confidential, so no opinion on that either way, but clearly someone at Fox has had it in for Arrested Development since its first season -- it was barely renewed for a second. Six freaking Emmys in the first two years, and it's still pulled for stupid, stupid Prison Break.

This is very much like what was done with Malcolm in the Middle, also one of my favourite shows and a respectable award-winner, last year. When it was on Sundays last fall, nearly all of its episodes were pre-empted for football, and naturally its ratings were terrible, leading it to being dumped this year in the Friday night limbo, its spot given to some horribly unfunny clone of Married With Children.

Honestly, I'm not sure which is more frustrating: that network teevee is so resistant to making good television for its own sake, or that most people seem to actually prefer quantity over quality.

November 10, 2005

One of the atria in the main Marshall Field's store, in Downtown Chicago, decorated for Christmas three years ago.

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This is where I've been

Edward Halper's criticism and positive account of Barnes and Mignucci's Aristotle's philosophy of mathematics is premised on a misunderstanding of one of the fundamental principles of Aristotle's ontology: the being of accidents and abstracts (such as numbers) is metaphysically dependent on substances, not on finding some one substance. Numbers, in particular, are dependent on collections. Hence, Halper's criticism of Barnes and Mignucci fails, and his own positive account is incoherent.

Only, in more detail, and over 15 pages. I start working on the two 20 page papers next week. Whee!

Hiya Stranger!

Hey guys, I know I haven't exactly been posting lots lately, and I've got even more bad news on that front. My internet has been down at home for several days and though it seems to be up again, my dad is going to be visiting for the weekend and I expect I won't be posting much if anything while he's here. Anyway, hopefully I'll get something up sometime during the weekend and perhaps one of the other three contributors can put something up to keep you guys entertained.

Anyway, in the meantime here's a cool story about dinosaur crocodiles.

"Cause I don't need that A-I-D-S / A D and an A missin' out my ADIDAS"

November 08, 2005

First Review Of The Movies

And here it is. They really liked it a lot, evidently. This game is going to be like crack to me.

"Being the first in the Irish Sea / I got a message I can't read / Another message I can't read"

November 07, 2005

Your awesome Hugo quotation for the day


I've heard some men and women say on this subject: 'Respect has to be earned. I'll respect those who respect themselves, and a woman who wears a micro--miniskirt to class, or wears a shirt that says 'Slut' or 'I'm too pretty to do math' isn't respecting herself, so why should I respect her?' I've never liked that line of reasoning, either on feminist or professional grounds. As a pro-feminist, I'm adamant that respect for women is not conditional on a dress code! Feminism has long insisted that women should not have to forfeit either their sexuality or their right to individual expression in order to be seen as complete human beings, worthy of being treated with dignity. As I've written before in recent weeks, it doesn't matter whether a woman is wearing a miniskirt or a burkah; her personhood is non-negotiable.

There's also a great little anecdote where he compares a young man who refused to bathe with a young woman who liked to wear skimpy outfits.

November 06, 2005

Articles About Women Gamers

Here are a couple of articles on women gamers to accompany our recent discussion of the topic. Any new thoughts?

"They've given me a mission /I don't really know the game yet / I'm bent on submission / Religion is to blame"

Charles Krauthammer makes Kant cry, too

Expanding on this post, we have another example of the same spectacularly misogynist "reasoning", this time in the form of a column by Charles Krauthammer, defending Alito's Casey decision. (More below the fold!)

(In the fisking that follows, emphasis is mine.)

Actually, Krauthammer isn't defending the decision, at least the way philosophers tend to use that word, meaning just the conclusion of the argument (in particular, that husband notification is constitutional). No, he's defending Alito's reasoning.

Pop quiz: Which of the following abortion regulations is more restrictive, more burdensome, more likely to lead more women to forgo abortion?

(a) Requiring a minor to get the informed consent of her parents, or to get a judge to approve the abortion.

(b) Requiring a married woman to sign a form saying that she notified her husband.

Can any reasonable person have any doubt? A minor is intrinsically far more subject to the whims, anger, punishment, economic control and retribution of a parent. And the minor is required to get both parents involved in the process and to get them to agree to the abortion.

You see, children have legal guardians, and adult women don't. Therefore, if women are placed back under the legal guardianship of their husbands, no-one (no fully fledge person, ie, no man) will be facing an additional hurdle when he wants to get an abortion, so things are a-okay!

The married woman just has to inform her husband. Even less than that. She just has to sign a form saying that she informed him. No one checks. Moreover, under the Pennsylvania law I draw my example from, she could even forgo notification if she claimed that (1) he was not the father, (2) he could not be found, (3) he raped her or (4) she had reason to believe he might physically harm her. What prosecutor would subsequently dare try to prove to a jury that, say, she actually had no such fear of harm?

Husband notification isn't a big deal, because she can just commit perjury! (May I just say, what the fuck?)

Even here, at the very beginning, Krauthammer has made the same appalling assumption Alito did. Can you pick it out? Here's a clue:

Remember: The question is not whether (a) or (b) is the wiser restriction. The only relevant question is which is more likely to discourage the woman from getting an abortion.

The answer is obvious.

Why is this the relevant question? Because when, in 1991, Judge Samuel Alito was asked to rule in Planned Parenthood v. Cas ey on the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's spousal notification requirement, Supreme Court precedents on abortion had held that "two-parent consent requirements" for a juvenile with "a judicial bypass option" do not constitute an "undue burden" and thus were constitutional. By any logic, therefore, spousal notification, which is far less burdensome, must also be constitutional -- based not on Alito's own preferences but on the Supreme Court's own precedents.

It doesn't matter whether this robs married women of fundamental rights to bodily autonomy, whether the State can "empower [her husband] with this troubling degree of authority over his wife", whether a man can be given "the kind of dominion over his wife that parents exercise over children", in the words of Justice Day O'Connor overturning Alito's opinion. All that matters is whether or not it will be more difficult for adult women to procure an abortion than a teenager under a similar notification law.

Have I mentioned that I have some deep, deep problems with Utilitarianism?

This may all seem arcane, but it requires slogging through arcana to see just how dishonest, disreputable and disgraceful is the charge, trumpeted by just about every liberal interest group, that Alito is so extreme and insensitive to women's needs that he supports spousal notification for abortion.

Alito's Casey opinion no more tells you whether he "supports" the policy of spousal notification than whether he likes foie gras with his pudding. The only thing it tells you is that based on scrupulous parsing of Supreme Court precedents -- or more particularly, of Sandra Day O'Connor's precedents on permissible restrictions on abortion -- he concluded that spousal notification met the court's own standard for constitutionality.

Well, based on a scupulous parsing of Supreme Court precedents and the notion that wife is to husband as child is to parent.

Let me make this very clear, so even you can understand it, Mr. Krauthammer. The problem with Alito's Casey decision was NOT whether he misapplied the undue burden standard laid out by the Supreme Court previously. The problem was that he was even applying this standard in the first place. The reason the Supreme Court smacked him down as fast as they did is that Alito skipped over the important test of "does this violate fundamental principles of legal equality?" Not only is undue burden not the only relevant question, it's actually completely irrelevant to the unconstitutionality of husband notification. That Krauthammer, a hack and talking head, doesn't get it (or pretends not to get it) is one thing; that a fucking Federal judge and Supreme Court nominee doesn't understand the foundations of our legal system is absolutely terrifying.

The grounds on which the Democrats (and sane Republicans) ought to challenge Alito are, thus, not ideological: even staunch yet intellectually honest opponents of abortion should question Alito's competence as a jurist if he passes by fundamental issues such as legal equality to give highly technical arguments supporting his predetermined conclusion. In a word, Alito is a sophist. In two words, Alito is intellectually corrupt.

You can finish off the Krauthammer column, but as he just continues ranting about the undue burden standard, I'm not going to bother copying and pasting here.

Via Amanda, who argues that this is clearly part of a nefarious plot to destroy heterosexual marriage.

Update: I'm sure you will all be shocked, SHOCKED, to learn that John Leo is also an idiot/evil.