September 30, 2005

Geekify Your World

You've all got seven hours left to enter the Geekify Your World contest before it's all over and the Ra points for September are locked up and finalized. Remember, it's a lot of points at stake and you'll get an entire post dedicated to your glorious victory. Right now Drew is the only contestant, which means he's going to get points no matter what unless at least two of you enter with killer entries. So what you got chumps? You gonna get steamrolled like this?

"Nothing you can know that isn't known / Nothing you can see that can't be seen"


Same deal as ever, load up a list of your mp3s, set the player to random, and post the first ten results in the comments. Just don't alter the randomly selected song list in any way, particularly in an attempt to alter the list to make it more socially acceptable.

Song - Artist

1. Gimmie Shelter - The Rolling Stones
2. Grandes Études de Paganini, No 3, La Campanella - Liszt
3. Friendship - Tenacious D
4. Fuck You Lucy - Atmosphere
5. Tomorrow - Stratovarious
6. Sky Is Falling - Blackalicious
7. Hello Helicopter - OSI
8. Side Of The Road - Beck
9. Kashmir - Led Zeplin
10. Never Understand - Angra

"She swore that she loved me, no, never would she leave me / But the devil take that woman, yeah, for you know she tricked me easy"

Browncoaaaaats, Mount Up!

Serenity opens today, and I expect you all to be out there seeing it. To get you ready, I want you all to know what the goal is here. We're not satisfied with one successful movie, no sir. Here's what we Browncoats are about, son. A Big Damn Trilogy.

I also needs to give a shout out to Joy, who's in birthdayland today. An auspicious day indeed!

"A secret yearning lurks inside / Like a dream trying to hide / Another time, another space."

DeLay Is Out

This is old news by now, but I at least wanted to cover it a little here even though Drew has it pretty well covered. Tom DeLay has been indicted by a Texas D.A. and has therefore had to step down from his leadership position under the rules passed by the Republicans in the 90s. Before you pat them on the back you should keep in mind that a few months ago they were ready to get rid of the rules in order to keep DeLay in.

The more interesting part of the story for me is how quickly he was replaced by Roy Blunt of Missouri. Makes sense that they'd want leadership quickly, right? Well, the rumor on the internet is that David Dreier of California was actually in line for the spot, but got passed over. According to the rumor, DeLay didn't expect to be on the mat for long and didn't want someone in his seat that was going to be there that he couldn't get out later and Dreier fit that description. Why then would they go for Blunt, who carries a lot more weight in the party and probably isn't going to be pushed aside? Evidently, and this is so widely believed by people of multiple political stripes that I tend to believe it, Dreier is gay and has had a long term relationship with another man. There were other reasons listed, being pro-choice and from Southern California, but man even having homosexuality on that list sickens me. Seriously, that's just terrible.

"Ma, Ma--look what I did, Ma. Look what I did to my hands, I broke 'em. /You gave me the stone, gave me the chisel, didn't say how to hold 'em."

Lots Of Blogging To Do

Ok, lots of posts to get out in not much time. First let's hit this post over on Pandagon by Amanda. You know, I am sympathetic to the arguments against voting for Roberts, and I certainly don't like him as a Justice (just look at my initial thoughts to his nomination), but I can't help but get a little annoyed when people on the left jump all over Democrats for choosing an actual strategy and sticking to it when they haven't offered a real alternative strategy. Here's the current Democratic strategy as I see it:
1)Roberts was going to get confirmed anyway. He's good telegenic, has a really great looking resume, and no matter what the Republicans have the votes not matter what.

2) Rehnquist was a really conservative justice and even if Roberts is super conservative his votes probably won't switch the makeup of the court on many, if any, major decisions. Plus, there was no way in Hell Bush could nominate a moderate for Rehnquist's seat even if he wanted to.

3) Most Americans agree with things like Roe or Brown v. Board, but they hate politics. It will be far easier to make people interested in fighting off a real conservative for O'Connor's seat than Rehnquist's seat.

4) If the Democrats made it clear during confirmation that they didn't like Roberts at all, but voted for him anyway, they can fairly easily deflect charges of being obstructionists and can more effectively fight against a distasteful nominee for O'Connor's seat.

Yeah, it would have been nice to not have Roberts as Chief, and voting for a nominee you don't like is never an easy thing to swallow, but just saying that anyone that voted for him is on your shit list seems awefully short sighted to me. What good would it have done to the big picture if all the Democrats had voted no? The strategy as I see it has lots of value in the long term, what is the long term value here?

" 'Pictures at an Exhibition' played as he stood in his trance / Staring at his inhibitions / All the time believing / That it call came down to nothing but this chance."

September 29, 2005

October is a good month for evil

and for good. And neutral. Hooray!

Black & White 2 has gone gold (finally!), and goes on sale next week.

City of Villains is in closed beta, and there are rumours that it will ship at the end of the month.

This is extremely frustrating news. Not only are long-anticipated sequels to two of my favourite games being released in the same month, the period of time from mid-October to late November (Fall Break to Thanksgiving) is usually one of the busiest of the entire year.

September 28, 2005

CA Prop 73

In just over a month, Californians will be voting on Proposition 73, which will, if passed, require some form of parental consent for teenage women seeking an abortion. Here is an excellent summary and response to a great discussion on these, including links to the previous participants.

Hugo's response is essentially to state that his liberalism trumps his Christian communitarianism in this case--he isn't even defending that value ranking, so much as explaining it. Again, I approve of this, but the communitarian in me thinks we can and should do better. I'd like to suggest that there are good communitarian reasons to oppose initiative 73, and that while Russell identifies a problem with liberal individualism, he repeats the error at another level of abstraction. Liberals may be guilty of reifying and overstating the value (both descriptive and moral) of individual autonomy; but his brand of communitarianism reifies the value (again, both descriptive and moral) of familial autonomy.


Ah, Creationism. It's like a legitimate scientific discipline, only except for the way it's grounded on anti-intellectualism and hence not in any way scientific.

If you haven't heard, Hearings have started concerning the Dover, PA, school board's decision to require the reading of a disclaimer in all biology classes before studying evolution.

But there's more! Seattle's own Discovery Institute, one of the modern leaders in politicizing science education, has started a blog to serve as their internet soapbox. Do check out the discussion over at Pandagon, which provides excellent demonstrations of the cliches and prejudices of both sides.

One of the major problems is how much of this debate gets turned into semantics -- what counts as 'science', what exactly is a 'theory', and so on. As I argued some years back, both Intelligent Design and a more literalist Abrahamic Creationism aren't worth crap even if they're considered full-blooded scientific theories. In particular, the physical evidence for ID is precisely the same as the physical evidence for a completely materialist theory of natural selection, and ID includes an argument from ignorance that's antithetical to the scientific spirit.

ID shouldn't not be taught because it's religion in disguise; it should not be taught because it's bad science.

That said, someone can still have good subjective reasons for rejecting the naturalism of science as anything but a methodological principle, but this is entirely compatible with the methodological naturalism of the working scientist and the high school bio classroom.

(NB The essay linked to above is not to be taken as an expression of my current views on anything, except to the extent that it falls in line with the outline I just gave. I was grappling with a sort of positivism at the time, which I have since left behind.)

Just A Reminder

Friday is the last day of the month, which means you've got just a couple more days to submit your geekified songs. I want to be clear that you need to submit here, and not in this post's comments. There are a lot of points riding on this contest, enough so that at this point just about all of the contestants could take the lead if they submitted something. Of course, as I'm writing this only Drew has submitted anything, so it doesn't look good for any upsets...

"At night I would pray for this / Then wonder if God heard at all / For the chances I've had are now long gone / And that star is no longer wished upon / For on this night it seems too far away."

September 27, 2005

Here's A Good Tip

Every once in a while I come across a cool song or video that loads in Firefox, my web browser of choice, but doesn't give me the option to save the song or video as a file to my hard drive to be used at any time. The most recent instance of this problem was my recently discovered "Old Glory Insurance" video, which loads in Firefox with the Quicktime plugin, but doesn't let you save the video as a quick time file. Here's how you can make your own files.

The first, and most annoying, problem is finding out where Firefox caches files. This is troublesome because they don't want you to find out where they cache files precisely so you can't keep stuff that's supposed to be streamed.

Step 1: Open a Firefox browser and type "about:cache" in the command line.
Step 2: Go Start --> Run --> and then copy and paste the "Cache directory" which appears under "Disk cache device"
Step 3: This should bring up your Firefox cache. Most of these files will be under 100 kilobits, so just go through the files and find the file that's around the right size. Music files will be a handful of megabytes, videos will be several, probably over ten. If you really want to make it easy on yourself, open a Firefox browser and go to Tools --> Options --> Privacy --> Cache, and then clear your cache. After your cache is cleared, load up your video or music file in another Firefox browser, let it load completely, and it should be the only substantially large file in your cache.

Enjoy the keeping of things that you're not supposed to be able to...

"She never really had a chance / On that fateful moonlit night / Sacrificed without a fight / A victim of her circumstance"

September 26, 2005

This One's For Me

In case you haven't noticed by now, most of the links I post are actually just a really easy way for me to keep track of cool things I find so that I can find them later if I forget the link. So here's a link to one of my favorite SNL clips ever, "Old Glory Insurance".

"My world would be a beautiful place / Where we would weave such wonderful dreams."

I agree

with Jesse. This makes me happy.

One of my favourite bits:

So, in other words, women who procure abortions are committing first-degree murder—but should not be punished. (Enshrining this principle into criminal law would certainly have interesting consequences; if you want somebody killed, just pay somebody to do it, and as far as you're concerned it’s all nice and legal.) There are two possible explanations for this bizarre combination of policies. The first—which is the reason that abortion laws passed in the 19th century (including the Texas law struck down in Roe) applied only to doctors—is that Republicans do not consider women to be responsible rights-bearing subjects (unlike, say, the first-trimester fetus that inhabits a woman’s body.)


So Cindy Sheehan has been arrested. Does anyone think this will help the pro-war effort? As the link says, I'm sure she wasn't singled out, but still from a p.r. perspective I can't imagine this will help Bush & Co.

"Sun streaking cold / an old man walking lonely / Taking time / The only way he knows."

PhilosophyQuiz II

Just because I came across this while reading and thought it was incredible.

For ten points, identify the author of the following quotation, and the title of the work it's from:

In this ... argument so many sophistical principles come together that speculative reason seems to have summoned up all its dialectical art so as to produce the greatest possible transcendental illusion.

For ten points, interpret it into more standard English.

For fifteen points, identify which argument the author means by "this argument" and/or summarize it briefly.

For five points, name a philosopher who puts forth "this argument".


Hey gang, sorry for the lack of posting recently. I was a bit worn out over the weekend which culminated in some full on sickness yesterday and today. I think I'm on the upswing, so hopefully by tomorrow I'll be back to normal posting. Until then I'm going to be resting up and drinking o.j. Here are a few links to tide you over.

Here are some leaked videos of Perfect Dark 0 and Kameo: Elements of Power for the Xbox 360.

Here is a 15 minute roundtable discussion with game developers about the Nintendo Revolution controller.

One of the guys responsible for the Monkey Island games, which are among the best and funniest adventure games ever made, has an adventure/RPG in the works.

Lego Serenity! For those that didn't know, the movie Serenity, which is based on the television show Firefly, opens on Friday. Since Firefly was one of the best shows of the last ten years, and its cancellation one of the greatest television tragedies, you are all required to attend a showing. Seriously, if you haven't watched the dvds of Firefly, do yourself a favor and Netflix them, or however you go about renting dvds.

And, what the hell, just because TNG is on, here.

"With my perceptions in a mix / Down twenty miles through the sticks / To the cloudy town of Hellview: Population 96"

September 25, 2005

People in New Haven are pissed

Well, it turns out the article that prompted this post was flawed. Specifically, it was based on a crappy, rigged survey and selective quoting. From one of the young women who was quoted in the article:

It saddens me that I am portrayed as an insensitive and unambitious person in the article, and really did not know that Louise was only going to quote those of us who wanted to stay at home if/when we had kids. She in fact did interview my other suitemates who answered the survey as either not wanting to have children at all, or would continue working as a mother. I am somewhat shocked that she did not include ANY of their ideas or views in the article.

On the one hand, I was wrong: this source does, in fact, want to be a stay-at-home mom. On the other hand, she deliberately denies any inference from *her* preferences to those of young women in general.

September 23, 2005


It's the game that all the cool young people are playing. Or so you should think because I said so.

For Ra points, identify the dangerous anti-American radicals who said the following (edited slightly to make them harder to track down):

(1) In the abstract we celebrate freedom of opinion as part of our patriotic legacy; ... [it is] only when some Americans exercise it that other Americans are shocked .... Intolerance of dissent is a well-noted feature of the American national character

(2) I know of no country where there is so little true independence of mind and freedom of discussion as in America .... The majority raises very formidable barriers to the liberty opinion: within these barriers an author may write whatever he pleases, but he ... [must] repent it if he ever steps beyond them

And what defender of tradition and critic of modern culture said this:

(3) The [elite] cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing ... the whole relations of society .... All fixed, fast, frozen relations with their train of ancient and venerable ... opinions, are swept away; all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned .... the [elite] has, through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country

For double Ra points (because this one is hard), figure out which book, published within the last two years, I'm reading that uses all three of these quotes.

One quote per person. Hints late this afternoon if no-one seems to be getting them.

Edit: Ben was complaining that I didn't say what the points were. It's five for each quote, and ten for the last one.

Geekify Your World

Ok, here's the last bit source of Ra points for the rest of this month that I'm planning on giving out. Like always, you can get Ra points from song identification, sending me cool links, etc., but this is the last big-point event. Here we go:

In class the other day I was talking with a friend about nerdy things and eventually I ended up trying to think of a way to remake a particular song's lyrics with a geeky subject. Now, it's my firm belief that just about everyone is a geek in some way or another, they just don't know it. The contest will be to take a song and to geekify it in whatever way you like. If you're really into football you might remake "I Saw The Sign" by Ace of Base with football lyrics. If you're into Victorian novels you might remake "Regulators" by Warren-G about Oliver Twist. I don't care what the subject is, I just want you to show us through the lyrics just how geeky you really are with that topic. Also, I'm going to require that all submissions include at *least* a chorus and two verses.

That's not a small amount of work, but at the end of the month I'll be judging all the entries and giving the winner 100 Ra points and 25 points for a runner-up prize. This means that the contest is wide open as long as Drew doesn't get the first prize, but it also means that if you want to win you better not only participate but make your submission good. I'm pretty sure you can delete comments if you submit something and decide you can do better, so keep that in mind. If you're not able to delete your own comments and you don't like your first submission just submit your second submission with a note that you'd like me to disregard your first submission. Again, all submissions must be in by the end of the month, which gives you a week to come up with something good. And remember that while I'm not going to discriminate between different types of geekery, I am looking for extreme examples of geekery, and making the lyrics work within the tune of the song will also be taken into account. One last thing, only submissions to this thread will be counted.

In order to keep this post shorter, I'll post my example submission in the comments.

"Realize I don't want to be a miser / Confide with sly you'll be the wiser."

Dark Days

Promoted from the comments, here is a cool ass link of a high school band playing DJ Shadow. Hat tip over to Andy, who receives Ra points apleanty for this cool link.

"Now, part two are you ready? Do you wanna hear?"

Random 10 - Randomly On Friday!

You know the rules, set you mp3 player of choice on random and post the first ten songs that come up in the comments. The only rule is that the list be completely random and you don't tamper with it to hide potentially embarrassing songs. As you'll soon see, I am not ashamed of my random songs.

(Title - Artist)

1. Good Times Roll pt. 2 - RJD2
2. Lost In Space - TV Theme
3. Ta Moko (feat. Whiri Mako Black) - 1 Giant Leap
4. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood - Santa Esmeralda
5. Trillion Zillion Centipedes - Tiamat
6. The Wild Wild West - TV Themes
7. Got To Give It Up (Parts 1 & 2) - Marvin Gaye
8. In The Corn - L'Roneous
9. Chateau - Rob Dougan
10. Run - Snow Patrol

"Going in your third eye for the styles ya here. Making music that'll bump for a thousand years."

September 22, 2005

One of the redwoods in Muir Woods, just north of San Francisco, in July 2004.  Posted by Picasa

September 21, 2005

Cool Video

Normally I'm not the biggest fan of Jack Cafferty, but man, he's been extremely entertaining lately. Here's his latest and greatest.

Hat tip over to Atrios.

"Numbers is hardly real and they never have feelings
but you push too hard, even numbers got limits.
Why did one straw break the camel's back? Here's the secret:
the million other straws underneath it - it's all mathematics."

Jonah Goldberg Is Everything Wrong In The World

Ok, so there are some other things, but this article is exactly what I was talking about the other day when I parrotted Jesse and said that swearing is far less offensive to me than some of the crapulecent arguments that get made by some conservatives.

Hat tip to Pandagon. Actually read Jesse's thoughts on this too.

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

September 20, 2005

She might be on to something here

Amanda makes an observation:

Okay, a simple-minded and seemingly sexist member of a thrash metal band is enamored of an administration that feeds him a steady diet of cock worship and pointless violence, and NRO thinks there's a contradiction there? That's not a contradiction. You want a good shot of holy-shit-that-can't-be-true contradiction, try this on for size: Huge numbers of people who call themselves followers of a gentle spirited prophet who preached that the meek shall inherit the earth keep voting in war-mongerers who have a hard-on for fucking over the poor. That's more of a jaw-dropper.

Your Lives Suck

If any of your lives are ever made into movies, I will not be going to see them because they will have no music at all. Even "silent" movies had a musical soundtrack. My biopic, however, would be an international hit due in large part to the amazing soundtrack and the Oscar-winning performances of Brad Pitt (playing me) and Scarlett Johansson (playing herself) who will fall in love with, and presumably have awesome awesome sex with, me.

"vita detestabilis nunc obdurat et tunc curat ludo mentis aciem"

An extra ten points for a translation.

Southern Strategy

In recent discussions we've had the issue of the Southern Strategy, and its existence, brought up and questioned. I'm at school, so I'm sorry if I'm a bit terse here, but here are some links about the Southern Strategy:

First, the Wikipedia link. Yeah, I know that there's a certain amount of skepticism that should come with a resource produced by internet users, but this is a pretty good background on the history of the Southern Strategy and the end has a nice bit about how the Strategy still exists, though it may have changed since its inception.

Next up, we use the Wayback Machine (five Ra points for identifying where that comes from) to go back to 2003 where Orcinus gives us a good overview of Joseph Aistrup's The Southern Strategy Revisited: Republican Top-Down Advancement In The South.

Finally, we have a quote from RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman where he admits that, not only did the Southern Strategy exist, but that it was wrong for the party to do. Though I'm sure the Strategy has changed in the fourty years that it's been in use, I'm not quite as convince as Ken's quote seems to imply, that the Strategy is completely off the table.

"Let's go back, let's go back, let's go way on back"

Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood

Here is a rather bizarre article in the Times. Apparently, many women in ivy league colleges are planning on sacrificing their careers to be full-time parents. In itself, that's not necessarily a bad thing: third-wave feminism is, in many respects, about being much more open to people choosing traditional gender roles than earlier incarnations of the feminist movement. Of course, that word 'choosing' is doing a lot of work there: feminists of all stripes have always opposed the assumption that woman = stay-at-home mom.

The article tries to play it up as a choice, saying that these women "don't want" carreers, but there really isn't much here to justify that. There are some quotations from some Yale sophomores, but they don't really sound like people who are all excited about giving up careers to be at home with the kids:

"My mother's always told me you can't be the best career woman and the best mother at the same time," Ms. Liu said matter-of-factly. "You always have to choose one over the other."

Ms. Ku added that she did not think it was a problem that women usually do most of the work raising kids.

'I accept things how they are,' she said. 'I don't mind the status quo. I don't see why I have to go against it.'

After all, she added, those roles got her where she is.

'It worked so well for me,' she said, 'and I don't see in my life why it wouldn't work.'"

This next one was particularly shocking:

Sarah Currie, a senior at Harvard, said many of the men in her American Family class last fall approved of women's plans to stay home with their children.

"A lot of the guys were like, 'I think that's really great,' " Ms. Currie said. "One of the guys was like, 'I think that's sexy.' Staying at home with your children isn't as polarizing of an issue as I envision it is for women who are in their 30's now."

Sure, it's not polarizing for men. It's NEVER been polarizing for men. It's been prestigious, convenient, and a boost to one's perceived masculinity to have a wife to take care of your kids and clean your house for fifty years now. I really have to wonder if Ms. Currie has ever read The Second Sex or The Feminine Mystique, books that started off second-wave feminism by challenging the premise that what women should want is what men like.

Of course, there's also some actual evidence that these young women are enthusiastic about their future as homemakers. Or, I should say, "evidence", because it doesn't actually support this claim in any way whatsoever.

While the changing attitudes are difficult to quantify, the shift emerges repeatedly in interviews with Ivy League students, including 138 freshman and senior females at Yale who replied to e-mail questions sent to members of two residential colleges over the last school year.

The interviews found that 85 of the students, or roughly 60 percent, said that when they had children, they planned to cut back on work or stop working entirely. About half of those women said they planned to work part time, and about half wanted to stop work for at least a few years.

Two of the women interviewed said they expected their husbands to stay home with the children while they pursued their careers. Two others said either they or their husbands would stay home, depending on whose career was furthest along.

Yes, a large percentage of the self-selected sample of 138 students said they expect to be stay-at-home moms. Also, many more women than men with advanced degrees ended up dropping out of the workforce. Hence, young women today don't want careers!

I think the way these women seem to just blithely accept the status quo is what annoys me most about this. Older feminists (meaning anyone over about 25 or 30, older than these college students) use "you can't have it all" as a rallying cry, adding on "but we should be able to!" and calling for a revolution in the form and assumptions of the white-collar career (which came about in a time when educated men were expected to leave the childcare and household management to their wives). See, for instance, Wifework, The Way We Never Were, and The Price of Motherhood. These young women just seem to shrug and pretend they don't care.

September 19, 2005

Pandagon: In Defense Of Cursing

Go read Jesse's Defense Of Cursing. Now. No, I don't mean in five minutes. Go now. What?! You want to know why?

My first response was to bring up the preference of some to be massaged into oblivion than be shocked into clarity. For some reason, 'You're a fucking racist idiot' is a more offensive statement than 'black people have less native intelligence than other races, and embrace poverty accordingly'. Even worse is the 'the major goddamn drain on the budget is the tax cuts, as the federal budget has shown every fucking year since 2002', which simply blows 'the tax cuts have increased revenue, because that's the power of fiscal conservatism' out of the water. A lie, an insult, a grossly racist imputation is afforded legitimacy because it's said nicely.

That's why. And it only gets better. Check out the comments, too, for some spectacular trolling.

Katrina: The Gathering

Good law school buddy Dan has sent me this link. Do you think making fun of terrible tragedies is tasteless and completely unfunny? Well don't go there, adise you I would.

"I'm sick of all you hypocrites holding me at bay, and I don't need your sympathy to get me through the day."

Welcome, My Friends, To The Show That Never Ends

Some time in the next ten to twenty minutes we're likely to see hit number 10,000 as recorded by Sitemeter for The Headpiece for the Staff of Ra. I know that for some fancy pants places that's not much, but we're a small site that's trying to grow. Anyway, hmmm, we should celebrate with some trivia....

1) Staff of Ra was actually birthed on another site (edit: it was on Livejournal. This should make the task possible to complete) and then moved to Blogger after I realized how hideous the first site was. Find the site and post the link in the comments for ten Ra points. I would like to say that the first version of the site, though hideous and with few posts, was awesome.

2) Find the first post I posted for this version of the site and identify the movie quote for ten Ra points.

3) Either use Sitemeter (which I think you should be able to access), or just look for my most recent post where I mention it, and tell me what search term has been our most frequent hit lately. Five Ra Points.

4) What was the first movie review I did for the site? Five Ra points.

5) When did Noumena, my illustrious co-blogger, joint the fray (month/date), and what was his first post about? Ten Ra points.

6) Who posted the first comment in the forums (the first one that still remains, that is), and what were they commenting about? Ten Ra points.

7) On what date was the Random 10 introduced to the site, and how many people posted their own 10s in the comments? Ten Ra points.

8) On what date were Ra points introduced on the sites, which question (along with answer) was the source of the most Ra points in that first post, and who got points in that first post? Fifteen Ra points.

9) On what date did I start posting lyrics at the bottom of my posts, what was that first song, and who, if anyone, got the points for it? 15 Ra points.

10) For 5 Ra Points each, name all the ways that I have announced as a means of getting Ra points. There are five I can think of...

Well, that's a lot of Ra points up for grabs. I'm not going to do the math, but I'm pretty sure that if pretty much anyone other than Drew gets the majority of these they should be able to overtake him in the standings. Thanks all for visiting the site. Hopefully the next ten thousand hits will come even faster.

"Hey pretty baby are you ready for me? It's your good rockin' daddy down from Tenessee."

September 18, 2005

Soundtracks Of Our Lives

Every once in a while I'll find myself listening to a song and thinking that if my life were ever turned into a movie this would definitely be a song that would end up on the soundtrack. So while I was bored recently I went through my music and actually assembled soundtracks to my life. I ended up making two separate soundtracks because they wouldn't have really fit together and because I just couldn't discard enough songs for one album's worth. Here are the guidlines:

1. This is not an exercise in choosing your favorite songs! While liking the songs you choose is an important part of the process, we're looking for a selection that works well together as a soundtrack. In my case, despite the fact that Dream Theater is my favorite band of all time, and my top ten favorite songs of all time would have several DT songs, only one song of their's made it onto the albums, and not a typical DT song at that, because their songs just didn't work well as soundtrack songs. Imagining what kind of movie your life might be might help.

2. No more than two songs by the same artist. Sure, some soundtracks, like Saturday Night Fever, feature one artist/group pretty prominently, but those are the exceptions that prove the rule. Soundtracks are nearly always a vehicle for giving exposure to a large number of groups in addition to setting the mood for the movie they are in. In one of my albums I ended up with three artists that have two songs on the album, which should also be avoided. Again, the goal is to have the greatest variety of artists exposed in your album's sales, and I'm only letting myself get away with three dual song artists because the songs fit really well.

Well, I think that should be enough to get us going. Here's what I came up with:

(Song - Artist)
Album #1: Ben's Life as angsty, but quirkily funny indie movie
1.New Slang - Shins

2. Wasted & Ready - Ben Kweller

3. This Is How It Goes - Aimee Mann

4. Friday's Dream - Arena

5. The Sporting Life - The Decemberists

6. Waitin' For A Superman (Mokran Mix) - The Flaming Lips

7. Such Great Heights - Iron & Wine

8. One - Johnny Cash

9. Black - Okkervil River

10. Pavlov’s Bell - Aimee Mann

11. Head - OSI

12. The Weakest Shade of Blue - The Pernice Brothers

13. Eugene - Pink Martini

14. Trains - Porcupine Tree

15. A Deeper Kind Of Slumber - Tiamat

16. Disappear - Dream Theater

Album #2: Ben's Life With a Humorously Inappropriate Hip-Hop Soundtrack Which Nonetheless Seems To Work, ala Office Space

1. Endtroducing - DJ Shadow

2. Rock N' Roll (Could Never Hip Hop Like This) - Handsome Boy Modeling School

3. Hipdahop - Sean Mahler

4. Good Times Roll Pt 2 - RJD2

5. Fuck You Lucy – Atmosphere

6. Flashlight - Parliament

7. Escape Artist - Sage Francis

8. Shallow Days - Blackalicious

9. Front the Most - MC Frontalot

10. Dreamin' - G. Love & Special Sauce

11. Start Smoking - Grand Buffet

12. Breakdown - Handsome Boy Modeling School

13. Fett's Vett - mc chris

14. Since We Last Spoke - RJD2

15. Agony In Her Body - Sage Francis

16. Calm Down - Optimus Rhyme

17. If You Want Me To Stay - Sly & the Family Stone

18. The Things I've Seen - Spooks

19. Somewhere Over the Rainbow - DJ Erb

"Then we talked about the weather and the game/ Election day and things I can't remember/ But all that I could think of/ Was this would be the last time/ That we'd talk about anything"

Abortion rights and ethics of care

Do be sure you read this piece on abortion in the New York Times, especially if you've never read an abortion testimonial. There are quotations from women who've had and are planning to have abortions, and employees of clinics, plus lots of interesting statistics.

This stood out at me in particular:

Even the patients often have a negative view of abortion. "I very often hear, 'I don't believe in this, but my situation is different,' " [a clinic employee] said.

Based on the other quotations, I'm guessing 'I don't believe in this' means the people think abortion is completely wrong and immoral ... except for them. There are two different ways to think about this. In one respect, it's obviously hypocritical: they're just rationalizing, making up ad hoc loopholes for their own convenience. But the idea that every woman's (and more generally, ever person's) situation is different provides a foundation for a particularly radical conception of ethics that is at the heart of my pro-choice beliefs. If I have the time and energy tomorrow, I'll try to talk a bit about care and virtue ethics.

Things I find amusing

Third-hand amusing stories about close encounters of the philosophical kind:

This is second hand. There was a public lecture at Brown given by a famous philosopher (I think Ted Honderich), and a member of the audience presented a challenge to the speaker's thesis. [The lecturer] replied that [the questioner's] thesis could be better understood if a certain ambiguity was cleared up. "We need to draw the distinction between - " he began, but he was interrupted by the member of the audience: "I don't care much for distinctions."

One day, a coworker made a crack that I probably smoke a lot of pot because, as he said 'I know all you philosophy types do drugs.'

I didn't immediatly answer. Instead I pulled up a 30 page peer reviewed journal entry of a paper on philosophy of mind off the internet, one that featured a lot of bayenesian calculations. I walked towards his desk and laid my laptop in front of him. "Yea, this guy (the author of the journal article) must have been real high when he wrote this."

Needless to say, no one's made fun of me at work for my course of study since then.

I went speed-dating the other week, and spent a lot of time trying to disabuse my dates' misconceptions about philosophy. A typical conversation ran:

Me: I'm writing a Ph.D. in philosophy.
Her: Really? But there are no right and wrong answers there, are there?
Me: Well, yes, there are actually.
Her (matter of factly): No, but really there aren't. You can never say that one philosophy is right and another one is wrong.
Me: And why is that?
Her: It's all just what you think about stuff, isn't it.
Me: So, for example, you think that whether or not an action is good or bad is just a matter of what I think about it?
Her: It's just your opinion really, isn't it?
Me: So if you got raped and I said that was bad, would that just be my opinion?
Her: Silence

Needless to say, she didn't want to see me again.

September 17, 2005

The Red Oak Victory, just outside Richmond Harbor, July 2004. Victory ships transported ammunition during WWII; this entire thing would be packed full of explosives and set off across the ocean, prime targets for the Japanese and German navy. Today it's a museum. More positively, these were the ships that 'Rosie the Riveter' built; apparently, there's a statue to her in front of the factory in Richmond Harbor proper.  Posted by Picasa

September 16, 2005

More Awesome from MA

Via feministing, we learn that the state legislature has overridden the governor's veto, and EC can now be sold over the counter. Plus, the law also requires hospitals to offer rape victims EC.

Check out Gov. Romney's reasoning:

According to the FDA, the pill mostly works by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary. But it also may block fertilization or prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb. For those who believe life begins at conception, that amounts to abortion.

Supporters of the Massachusetts law say the governor broke his word by vetoing it. On a questionnaire abortion rights groups gave to the gubernatorial candidates in 2002, Romney answered ''yes" to the question, ''Will you support efforts to increase access to emergency contraception?"

But Romney, who describes himself as ''pro-life," said he had to veto the bill to fulfill a campaign promise not to change the state's abortion laws. Because the Massachusetts bill does not have an age restriction and Plan B sometimes causes an abortion, Romney argued, the measure undermines the state's parental consent laws.

There are not enough potty mouths up in here!

So I come up with the greatest contest ever in the history of the world, and only two people bother to enter it?! What the hell is wrong with you guys!? There are Ra points at stake!

I'm doing the official count Sunday morning, and if no-one else has an entry by then, I'm tempted to give Manda and Drew 15 points each just for being the only ones who are awesome.

Friday Random Ten

You know the rules, load up your mp3 player, set to random, and post the first ten songs that come up. The only rule is that it's actually random and not tampered with to avoid embarrassment.

Song - Title

1. Brand New Colony - The Postal Service
2. Narcissist, 1999 (Live on WRIU) - Sage Francis
3. The Mariner's Revenge Song - The Decemberists
4. Jimi Thing - DJ Erb
5. Nothing Better - The Postal Service
6. Roundabout - Yes
7. The Divine Wings of Tragedy - Yes
8. Squeegee Man Shooting - El-p
9. The Legend of Zelda - The Minibosses
10. The Healing Colors of Sound - Spock's Beard

"You were born in June, or was it May? Eisenhower was the President, although it may have been JFK."

A Bit More On The Rev

Well, here's a pretty decent writeup of the event where Nintendo unveiled their new controller design. Evidently there's some kind ability to tilt and aim the controller, but as a former owner of the NES gun, the Power Glove, and the Super Scope 6, let's just say I'm skeptical about the usefullness of this method of control.

"The sun never shines in the ghetto."

How the Democrats can (theoretically) win an election

Once again, DKos is in a turmoil. This time, Kos called environmentalism a pet issue. medigirl has some thoughts:

Voting Rights are moral. Protecting young women's lives is moral. Standing up for what's right even if it is not popular is moral. Equal protection and marriage rights for Gays are moral issues. Our morality - a kind, caring, compassionate morality that is consistent with every great philosopher/'savior' in history.

Now we may disagree on the fine points, but we ARE on the side of the angels. We've read the Constitution and understood it. We embrace diversity, we march for civil rights, and we have room for Atheists and Pagans and Christians and Muslims and everybody else who is doing their best to get by and get along. We embrace science because WE Love TRUTH.

We're acting as if the party of greed, graft and a vengeful 'God' has something we need to emulate or imitate. Bullshit. We need to stand up, stamp it out, get behind the poor and the sick and the elderly and every neglected minority and good people everywhere because the majority of people fall in to one or more of those categories.

I'm from the Women's Studies set, a war-hating hippy and an LGBT and I've got news for the boys - I AM the Democratic Party - or I should be. If they keep kissing elephant ass, I'll soon be Green, which is the wave of the future anyway if the Dems don't find their spines.

Just stop playing politics and do what you know is right. There is no acceptable alternative. Not for a Progressive.

It's a great polemic, a wonderful progressive rally cry. Sadly, the people who rise to the top of the Democratic party never seem to hear it. I remember the first time I read something like this. It was ten years ago, in Michael Moore's first book. The second edition of Michael Moore's first book. The second edition, which was already a couple years old. This is not a new idea: if Democrats show themselves to be strong advocates for actual liberalism, they'll garner the support of the vast majority of Americans, who think such radical thoughts as 'HMOs are a really dumb way of getting people health care' and 'maybe we should try to do something about pollution' and 'abortion makes me nervous, but it's better than coathangars'.

And then the Democratic party jettisons any serious consideration of these in favour of pursuing batshit insane 'values voters'. Never mind the values held by the vast majority of sane Americans.

Ah, here we go! The controller in the left hand has two triggers available to the index finger, while the right has the d-pad with an A button directly below that and a B button for the index finger. Also, you should notice that towards the bottom of the right controller is another set of A and B buttons. Nintendo is planning on releasing a lot of their old games on the Revolution, and the controller on the right will be able to be turned sideways and used like a classic NES controller. The revolution is now! Posted by Picasa

I can't wait until we all get together to play games! Posted by Picasa

"What's that?" you say. "Is that the DVD remote for the Nintendo Revolution?" No, indeed not sir, for this is the "revolutionary" new design for the primary gaming controller for the Revolution. That's right, you'll be controlling your games with this things. What about the analog stick? More pictures to come... Posted by Picasa

September 15, 2005

This is an "Argument"

In response to some of my rabble-rousing, Dawn Eden has let a commentor elaborate on an earlier comment that seemd to say pro-choice people can't think because we're all so morally degenerate.

[F]reedom, reason and morality are intertwined; a corruption of one affects the others. If we hold that it is morally permissible to take innocent life on demand, then we have destroyed the moral basis for the obligation to feed, clothe, house and pay people a just wage. If some can be killed for arbitrary reasons ('arbitrary' means 'based on or subject to individual judgment or discretion'), then the moral obligation to value all others is fatally undermined as well.

Now, in the comments, this person ('S') explained that, no, they weren't actually calling pro-choice people murders who do not value human life at all, because 'murder' is a legal term. But I'm just going to run with the assumption that they were, in fact, talking about pro-choice people.

Let's start by breaking the argument down. I'm going to paraphrase a bit, and lean a bit on their earlier comments.
  1. Freedom, reason and morality are intertwined
  2. Abortion devaules certain kinds of life
  3. Hence, abortion devalues all human life
  4. Hence, pro-choice people do not believe we have any obligation to others

Now, let's ask ourselves what exactly this argument is supposed to do. Who's going to find it convincing? Well, clearly, it can't be some kind of reductio ad absurdum that assumes abortion is moral and tries to show that's a contradictory position: it immediately follows from (2) that abortion is immoral! That is, no pro-choice person (well, no reasonably thoughtful pro-choice person) is going to agree that abortion devalues any kind of life. (Interestingly, a commenter made this essential point, and that's where S said they were not, in fact, talking about abortion.)

So, this can't be an anti-abortion argument. But neither could it be the sort of asinine, self-aggrandizing rant wherein abortion opponents convince each other that pro-choice people aren't just baby-killers, they're downright sociopaths! Because, of course, everyone knows conservatives are way too tolerant, intellectually honest, and respectful of their liberal sparring partners to write anything like that.

Pledge Fight 2: This Time, It's Personal

A federal district court has, once again, found the mandatory Pledge of Allegiance in public schools to be unconstitutional. Just like last time, this probably isn't going to go anywhere, nor is it all that important; but, as someone who cares a lot about church/state separation, it's nice to see Newdow working on this.

'I'm passionate about treating people equally. Imagine you send your kids to school every day, and the teachers made them stand up and say, 'We are one nation that denies God exists.' Imagine you are Jewish, and they say, 'We're one nation under Jesus.' Imagine you are Christian, and they say, 'We're one nation under Mohammad.'

Conservatives, surprisingly, are bitching about 'judicial activism', which apparently now covers 'declaring laws unconstitutional'. I say 'surprisingly' because I figured it's only 'legislating from the bench' when the judge requires you to do something, not prevents you from doing something. Like when they required priests in MA to marry gay couples, or when they require criminals to go to jail. Or something. Wait, I think I just hurt my brain.

"This is another bad ruling that warps the U.S. Constitution and dashes parents' hopes of patriotism in the next generation," said Randy Thomasson, president of the California-based Campaign for Children and Families. "When the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals delivered the craziest ruling in American history by striking down the pledge three years ago, the Supreme Court stepped in and stopped the insanity. The lower courts striking down the pledge again is like a dog returning to its vomit."

Note that the Supreme Court didn't toss out the 5th Circuit's ruling because the arguments were incoherent and irrelevant, the way they did with some of Roberts' more creative anti-abortion arguments. They said Newdow, as the non-custodial parent, didn't have grounds to sue. That won't work here, because the parents who sued are their children's legal guardians. At least, I hope Newdow isn't making the same mistake as last time.

(Incidentally, I met Michael Newdow once. He's an extremely intelligent and likeable man, and the whole non-custodial parent thing is a really sore spot for him; he started studying law when he was denied visitation rights with his daughter.)

Now, a familiar conservative line here is that children can 'opt-out' of saying the pledge: they can go sit out in the hallway while the rest of the class, lead by the teacher, recite it. Not only is this disingenuous, it is irrelevant. The opt-out clause is disingenuous because it pretends peer pressure doesn't exist, or that being physically removed from class isn't marginalizing. Newdow's quote above makes exactly this point.

The opt-out clause is irrelevant because the *teacher*, in their capacity as a state employee, is still privileging one particular form of religious belief over others. It doesn't matter whether little Sally Q. Atheist is standing out in the hall, covering her ears, home sick, or even looking around self-consciously while she mouths the words: the teacher-led pledge still takes the form of an enunciation by the state of a particular religious belief.


Mass. Lawmakers Reject Gay Marriage Ban:

The Massachusetts Legislature rejected a proposed change to the state constitution Wednesday aimed at banning gay marriage, a striking reversal that preserves the state's status as the only place in the nation where same-sex couples can wed.[...] the Legislature voted 157-39 against the proposed constitutional amendment.

It was the second time the Legislature had confronted the measure. Lawmakers were required to approve it in two consecutive sessions before the proposal could move to the statewide ballot in 2006 for a final decision by voters.

This seems to suggest that no ban will be possible until 2007.

And here's an amusing little homophobic state rep:

The union of two women and two men can never consummate a marriage. It's physically impossible.

It looks like the next challenge is California: either Ahnahld changes his mind or the SSM bill goes through the legislature again once he's replaced for being an even worse governor than Gray Davis.

It's a fuck-off!

And that's as clever as I get tonight.

Seven Ra points to whoever uses the most profanity in a 50-word comment. Rules:
1) Only your first comment counts
2) You must use sentences, and
3) Your usage of profanity must be grammatically correct
4) No one root word can be used as an ejaculation more than once

So you can't just type 'Fuck!' fifty times over, or 'Fuck! Fucker!' twenty-five times.

And, let's say, a couple bonus points to the runner-up ("loser") with the most creative swear word.

September 14, 2005

His Uppence Has Come!

Jack Thompson, who has made a career out of being an anti-video game activist and all around hater, has been lampooned on the website for Rockstar's "Liberty City Stories", due out soon for the PSP. The promotional site for the game includes "e-mails" from people to the Liberty City Tree Newspaper (keep in mind this game takes place in the mid-late 90s) and one is from an individual named "JT" from the organization "Citizens United Negating Technology". In the email JT describes the evils of the then-nacent 'net and violent video games, including the horror that overcame him as he searched with the phrase "young girl water sports" when trying to find water skiing information for his niece. The organization has a website itself, including annoying animations, 90s style, which features testimonials from people that have had their lives ruined by the internet.

Thompson doesn't actually threaten suit in response, but certainly is threatening. It's a good thing though, because for all you non-law kids out there, or people who didn't receive the same training by watching The People vs. Larry Flynt, while people are protected from libel and slander they are not protected from parody, which this clearly is.

For fun, here are some great Jack Thompson quotes:

I can tell you that some crimes would not occur but for the violent entertainment. For the families of the deceased, that is the only statistic that matters.

Armies have been known to go on rape rampages after battles because the violence stimulates sexual aggression. How lovely that GTA weds sex and violence in the same game.

The heads of six major health care organizations testified before Congress that there are "hundreds" of studies that prove the link. All the video game industry has are studies paid for by them, which are geared to find the opposite result. Lawyers call such experts "whores."

You just watch. There is going to be a Columbine-times-10 incident, and everyone will finally get it. Either that, or some video gamer is going to go Columbine at some video game exec's expense or at E3, and then the industry will begin to realize that there is no place to hide, that it has trained a nation of Manchurian Children.

Thanks EA for the links.

"Lady don't take no shit. Insist to walk around like a woman."

This is my good buddy Casey meeting Metallica front man and all around bad ass James Hetfield. Right now Casey is telling James how much of an impact James had on his guitar playing and that he loves him in that special "rockstar to rockstar" way. Anyway, Casey hereby gets ten Ra points for rocking so hard and for having those massive guns that you can see in the pic.

"Hold my breath as I wish for death, oh please God wake me!" Posted by Picasa

Reading blogging -- Aristotle, Physics I.7

In book one, chapter seven of the Physics, Aristotle begins his analysis of the metaphysics of change. When philosophers think about change, usually the case study is fairly rapid, or even instantaneous, change: painting a wall or chopping off Descartes' hand (no-one said this wasn't a gory occupation). Aristotle, however, looks at a very different sort of change: "The man becomes musical." The process of becoming musical takes ten or twenty years: the early lessons, plinking out Chopsticks, then years of practice, learning music theory and history, finally culminating in, say, a MFA. Before the first lesson, the man is clearly unmusical; and, with his MFA, he's clearly musical. But what's his status in between? Well, kind of musical, kind of not; you certainly can't point to any one moment and say that HERE is where the change occurs.

Arguing with abortion opponents at other blogs lately, I've seen the following argument numerous times:
  1. Any line we draw distinguishing the definitely-alive newborn baby and the questionably-alive freshly fertilized human egg is going to be artificial.
  2. Hence, there is no real distinction between a newborn baby and a freshly human egg.
  3. Hence, we have the same duties to both a newborn baby and a freshly fertilized human egg.
  4. So abortion cannot be distinguished from infanticide; and since the latter is clearly wrong, the former must be as well.

How is the inference from (1) to (2) supposed to go? There seems to be an assumption here, that real distinctions require sharply-drawn categories. But Aristotle's case study provides us with an excellent counterexample: the distinction between musical and unmusical is certainly a real distinction, but there is no moment at which the change actually takes place. This change actually parallels pregnancy quite well: we start with some things that clearly don't amount to a new person (a sperm and an egg), and nine months later end up with something that clearly is a new person (a newborn baby); and we needn't point to one single instant where personhood suddenly appears on the scene to recognize the reality of the change over time.

Going further, I would argue that personhood (and here I mean rational agency) and life, like musicality, are not metaphysically simple, and hence all three can serve as paridigm cases of gradual change with a fuzzy period of transition. For life, consider suspended animation: the yeast at the supermarket, for example, is not metabolising, but nor is it dead; it's in the transition phase between the two, and giving it warm water and food will bring it back fully. For rational agency, consider a dog. My mom's dog, Buddy, in particular. Buddy is smart enough to figure out how to unlock gates, unless they're secured using a lock that needs an opposable thumb to open; but at the same time, he clearly doesn't use language or undertake long-term projects or engage in any other sort of abstract thought. I think one could argue that a dog has a certain amount of rational agency -- he's able to choose to undertake projects to achieve his desires -- but not as much as a human or other ape -- we can use language and reason abstractly.

September 13, 2005

For Those That Might Be Interested

Evidently the patent on the NES has expired, so now other companies can make machines capable of playing the old carts. In fact, here's one. Thanks Pandagon!

"Heaven smiles above me. What a gift can be love."

Roberts Looks Good On TV

And for those of you not in front of a TV, you can see the confirmation hearings online over at C-SPAN.

"You wouldn't speak to me, I would be left behind. We'd be through if you knew all the things in my mind."

For Doctor Nelson

Good buddy and future whore for the pharm-industry Andy posted this link in the comments and it is good. I don't know how this guy does this, and I don't want to know. As far as I'm concerned it's magic and any questions will be punished with sharp fury and electorcuting anger. On the other hand, this link is cool enough to earn Andy, oh, let's say 15 Ra points. Seems like a lot doesn't it? It helps to be helpful.

"It's all about the things that you're expecting me to be. There's not enough time to live, and all the things that you're expecting me to give."

Questions For Roberts

I posted this a couple months ago, when we first heard about Roberts, but since the hearings are underway I thought it'd be useful to post again. Here is the list of questions Chuck Schumer came up with back in July to ask Roberts. A lot of people, myself included, have speculated that Roberts will stonewall the comittee's questions, but I'm since learned that ever since Scalia was confirmed 98-0 after completely stonewalling any questions of substance the nominees have been forced to at least have a little bit of candor. I still expect Roberts to be super cagey, but hopefully we'll get him to say something about the more important cases, like Griswald (contraception), Casey (abortion), etc.

" Ya' gotta' pick your battle /Battle cry /Cry Baby /Baby Huey /Huey Lewis and the News /News at 9 /1980 /87 was the year I saw the Run's House Tour /Tore your green card apart /A Part Time Sucka with no job /Job-core /Correlate /Late pass /Pass me by /Bypass /Pass the time /Time passes slow /"

Dream Theater: 2005 Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory

Every time Dream Theater releases a new album it usually takes between three and five listens before I'm really able to wrap my mind around the music and decide if I like it or not. Of course, I always end up loving it and can't imagine them making any new albums that don't sound like this. Then after a couple years they release another album that sounds very different from the last and the whole process starts over again.

Now that I've finally fallen in love with the newest release, Octavarium, and have been listening to it non-stop for well over a week I thought I'd post my personal ranking of Dream Theater's studio albums. I’ll post my thoughts on one album per day, starting with the lowest ranked and moving upward. Here we go!

1. Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory

Well, here we are; the last Dream Theater review. It was supposed to take a week to write and post, but ended up taking a few months to get the lot of them out. I suppose I could still review the live albums and/or the DVDs, but not now or anytime soon. Before I get into the nitty gritty of the review I should point out that not only is this my favorite Dream Theater album, it's among the select few albums that I would point to as being in the running for my favorite album of all-time. But let's get down to it.

What can I say about this album? Unlike most of the rest of the list I loved it from the first spin and it’s remained my favorite Dream Theater album since it was released in 1999. It’s got fantastic musicianship on every song, great melodies, and I believe is among the best concept albums ever crafted. This album epitomizes the way I feel about Dream Theater: I can listen for fun and just rock out, I can try to break down the music and think about the interesting things they’re doing, or I can think about what they’re songs are about. It’s a meaty musical experience that can capture many moods and many different ways I want to come at the music.

Though Dream Theater often ties and album together by using similar themes through the tracks on a given album, this is their only full length concept album. Actually, it's not just a concept album, it's the sequel to the song "Metropolis Part 1: The Miracle & The Sleeper" off the Images and Words album. Interestingly, the band never planned to create a series out of the song, they just thought they were being funny or clever in their naming. As groups with rabid fandom often find, however, fans rarely if ever get the joke and almost immediately began asking when the band would make a sequel. After their label forced them into the borderline mainstream Falling Into Infinity, the band decided the would swing to the other extreme with a seventy minute plus concept album while simultaneously sating the cries of the hardcore fans.

Another interesting bit of trivia relating to this album is that the band started recording this album with their second keyboardist, Derek Sherinian. They got about halfway through writing and recording the album when personalities clashed and Derek left the band. Having worked with him on both Liquid Tension Experiment albums, Mike Portnoy (percussion) and John Petrucci (guitars) suggested Jordan Rudess as a replacement and the other band members agreed. They discarded the entirety of the album that had been written and recorded with Derek and started over from scratch. Trust me when I say that there has been plenty of web board discussion of what that first half-album might have been like.

I hate saying things are the best, and making this list is torture, but I can say this is among the select crème of the crop of all albums I’ve ever listened to. There's not a bad song on the disc, from balls to the wall rockers like "Beyond This Life" and "Home" to ballads like "The Spirit Carries On". If you want to know what progressive metal is all about, and why Dream Theater has been at the forefront of the genre since they basically invented it in the late-80s, this is the album to listen to.

"Spin the bottle, post office/Kiss and tell, dressin' up /Playin' doctor, peek-a-boo/Two hand touch, cooties/Little League, Looney Tunes/Scissors rock paper, Zoom/Kick ball, stick ball/Kill the guy with the ball"

September 12, 2005

Driving over the Golden Gate last August. And, yes, I was driving when I took this.  Posted by Picasa

September 11, 2005

Dream Theater: 2005 Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence

Every time Dream Theater releases a new album it usually takes between three and five listens before I'm really able to wrap my mind around the music and decide if I like it or not. Of course, I always end up loving it and can't imagine them making any new albums that don't sound like this. Then after a couple years they release another album that sounds very different from the last and the whole process starts over again.

Now that I've finally fallen in love with the newest release, Octavarium, and have been listening to it non-stop for well over a week I thought I'd post my personal ranking of Dream Theater's studio albums. I’ll post my thoughts on one album per day, starting with the lowest ranked and moving upward. Here we go!

2. Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence

This album would deserve to be this high on the list based exclusively on value. At two discs and over an hour and a half of music, it’s a lot of stuff to listen to. Add in that the double album is almost uniformly excellent and it locks in hard to the number two spot. Disc One has what has now become part of a three album (with more to come) epic in “The Glass Prison”, great rocking songs with “Blind Faith” and “Misunderstood”, one of the two best political Dream Theater songs with “The Great Debate”, which deals with stem cell research, and “Misunderstood”, a great dark moody song. Disc Two is the forty minute long “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence”, which, though not as tight as Scenes From A Memory as a concept, is just filled with movement after movement of great tunes.

An interesting bit of controversy among some fans centers around the song "Solitary Shell", which shares a lot in common, musically, with Peter Gabriel's "Salisbury Hill". Another Dream Theater song, "Home" from the Scenes From a Memory album, has some riffs very similar to "46 & Two" (if that's spelled wrong, feel free to correct me, but I really don't care much) by Tool. The argument is always that the songs are some kind of rip off, but I think these people are simply not taking the time to contemplate the possibility that there is a purpose for emulating the songs. "Solitary Shell", for instance, plays on the themes of "Solisbury Hill" and puts them to use in a much darker song. I don't want to go on too long here, as I've done in several forums over the years, so I'll just leave it at the statement that those who disagree with me are both wrong and stupid, so ha!

"They call him desk duty, Robocop. Younger dudes call him Freddy Krugs from the way he walk on the block."

Reading blogging -- Russell, "Mathematical logic as based on the theory of types", 1908

In the first decade of the twentieth century, a number of logical paradoxes were known, including several that involved the logicist foundationalist project for mathematics. Russell himself had come up with one, now known as Russell's Paradox, which starts by considering the collection, W, of 'all collections' which are not members of themselves, ie, X is in W if and only if X is not in X. But then, is W in W? By definition, W is in W if and only if W is not in W, contradiction. In this paper, he makes the following diagnosis:

we found that all of [these paradoxes] arise from the fact that an expression referring to all of some collection may itself appear to denote one of the collection (101, his emphasis)

For example, the Russell paradox assumes that there is a collection of all the collections, and W is a member of this 'universal collection'. He continues:

We decided that, where this appears to occur, we are dealing with a false totality....

By Kantian grounds, this is an accurate diagnosis: while we can talk about collections through abstract, conceptual representations, the only way we can be sure that a collection exists is if it can be given in intuition. Logic cannot tell us whether anything exists, so the definition of W is not a 'purely logical' definition; and since we cannot represent the act of 'collecting together' all collections into one universal collection in intuition, we can't use the universal collection to define an object, W, and then act as though we know W exists.

But Russell, who follows Frege in bucking two thousand years of metaphysics and giving logical constructions ontological weight, takes a very different approach: he orders variables into a hierarchy of 'types', 'proceeding upon the principle that any expression with refers to all of some type must, if it denotes anything, denote something of a higher type than that to all of which it refers'. That is, W is not of the same type as any of the collections which it contains (the variable X ranges over one type lower than the type of W), and hence there is no contradiction for W to not contain itself.

This makes a colossal mess of his symbolic logic, and doesn't end up solving anything; a few years later, he has to 'ramify' each of his types, creating a new hierarchy at each level of the old one, to avoid similar paradoxes; and at the same time, these strictures make it impossible to talk 'across types', eg, the predicate 'is a type' becomes incoherent, and has to be replaced with unanalyzable predicates we might write as 'is a type1', 'is a type2', 'is a type3', and so on. 'The hierarchy of types' itself becomes incoherent, as (in an ironic echo of the Burali-Forti paradox Russell proposed the hierarchy of types to address) its type must be higher than that of any type.

This is one reason why I don't think all that highly of Bertrand Russell.

I Do All The Work, And You're Reaping All The Benefits

For anyone that watched that trusted computing video and said, "Damn, that's some cool ass music in the background." Linkareeno.

"Cruising Mos Espa in my DeLorean. War's over, I'm a peace-time Mandalorian."

And It Gets Better

This is a screenshot of Ghost Recon, a launch title for the Xbox 360. This and more pics can be found here, but you'll definitely want to go here and wade through the crazy jibertalk language to find the video of this game in action because it will blow your mind. Seriously, this is amazing stuff.

Also, the official Xbox 360 site has a new montage video of various games being developed for the console. You've got to let the site load, then click on the football player's face a couple times to get the video to load.

And just because it's a cool video, go here and watch the cool video about trusted computing.

"Rest assured you'll get your money's worth. The greatest show in Heaven, Hell, or Earth."Posted by Picasa

Can David Brooks

write an entire op-ed column about the failure of the plan to evacuate New Oreleans, without ever giving a single specific reason for that failure?

Yes he can.

And, of course, he doesn't fail to take the obligatory incoherent ideological potshot that is a breathtaking display of missing the point:

But liberals who think this disaster is going to set off a progressive revival need to explain how a comprehensive governmental failure is going to restore America's faith in big government.

September 10, 2005

The Blame Game Definitely Needs A Theme Song...And Prizes!

Salon has a great 8-minute video of the conservative talking-point response to the Katrina fallout. You've either got to pay for a registration of watch a quick internet commercial, but it's worth it to see these guys scramble to find reasons why Bush didn't screw this thing up royally.

"Waited so long, now the plane's delayed an hour. Reminds me of all our days apart. Hold on, just a little longer."

Maybe, Just Maybe, The Nerdiest Link Ever

My buddy Drew has been watching the Star Trek DVDs lately, and as is to be expected, has come to me a couple times with questions about the show(s). When he asked me something about the timeline that I wasn't sure of, I did a little digging and found this: The Star Trek Timeline. Ever wondered when Leonard H. McCoy was born? No? How about what year Cardassia occupied Bajor? Well why the hell not? Anyway, you can find all that stuff out there.

"It's been a long, cold, lonely winter"

More Ra Points Stuff

So in the previous post Manda suggested that the Ra points system isn't reward driven enough to encourage participation from everyone. While I always assumed that, as 'mericans, you all would be so driven to compete that that alone would be enough, but if it's reward you want, reward you shall have. Manda suggested some sort of digital trophy and that seems like a good idea to me. The trophy will be given out at the end of each period and will be posted in its own post, to be accompanied by a post written by myself and announcing your superiority to all competitors. Also, I think it would be fun if I allowed the winner to have a quote relating to their win included in the post. The quote is, of course, subject to editorial approval before it's published, so try to keep your quotes postable folks. I'm looking through the internet at you now Jay.

Here's the real question though; Manda suggested that I give out this award once a month, but I've been thinking that accompanying the award would be a resetting of the scores, so as to allow different winners as often as possible. What is the appropriate length of time for this? Is a month enough time for you guys to compete, or do you want more time before you lose your scores? Any other thoughts on how I can make the competition more enticing? I'm reluctant to do anything for the competition that I can't do in front of the computer (mailing prizes, etc.) because this is really supposed to be a minor diversion from the substantive posting, nothing that requires much effort or time from either me or you all. Anyway, all thoughts are appreciated.

"Mom and Dad, this is Chasey. Chasey, this is my Mom and Dad."

September 09, 2005

Ra Points Update

Wow, we've had an explosion of Ra points lately, mostly due to the music quotes I've been putting at the bottom of the posts. We've definitely got a few fierce competitors going at it, but don't let that discourage other from trying to get in on this action. I'm trying to think of special events that would allow people to catch up without letting the people in front to make their leads insurmountable. I definitely want to encourage frequent participation, but I also don't want it to get to the point where only people that work at a computer all day even bother to post because that's the only way you can compete. I don't know, we'll see what I come up with, but hopefully it'll keep everything fair for everyone. Anyhow, here are the current standings:

Drew: 50
Jay: 35
Jaime: 25
Andy: 25
Casey: 20
Joy: 12
Jesse D: 5 (a random visitor that accidentally earned Ra Points. That's super cool.)

I know we have more regular visitors than that. Like I said above, I know it's getting harder to get the music quotes, but I still dole out points capriciously for posting substantive comments to stories, and they'll always be worth more than identifying a music quote so you should be able to catch up pretty easily if you just express your opinions from time to time. Also, I'm going to try to make it a point to post trivia on the weekends, which will also be a way to catch up. So let's make this list longer and closer, eh?!

"Father, Father, we don't need to escalate. You see, war is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate."

Dream Theater: 2005 A Change Of Seasons

Every time Dream Theater releases a new album it usually takes between three and five listens before I'm really able to wrap my mind around the music and decide if I like it or not. Of course, I always end up loving it and can't imagine them making any new albums that don't sound like this. Then after a couple years they release another album that sounds very different from the last and the whole process starts over again.

Now that I've finally fallen in love with the newest release, Octavarium, and have been listening to it non-stop for well over a week I thought I'd post my personal ranking of Dream Theater's studio albums. I’ll post my thoughts on one album per day, starting with the lowest ranked and moving upward. Here we go!

(Ed. note: I sort of forgot to finish posting these reviews, so here's the first of the last three, which I hope to get out this weekend)

3. A Change Of Seasons

This song only has one studio song on it, but it’s possibly the greatest single song Dream Theater has ever made and it also happens to be the first Dream Theater album I ever bought, which gave it a few extra points. This is everything that an epic length song should be, a single whole tied together by distinct but related movements that run the gamut from slow to fast, rocking to mellow. Each piece sounds great on its own when it’s playing, but there’s no doubt that it’s one song and not several songs simply laid next to each other. Fill out the rest of the album with some great live cover tunes and this one still gets frequent play. I know, it seems lame to be giving what’s really a half studio album such a high ranking, but the title track earns it by be so fantastically good. The cover tunes are the candy pieces on an already baked and frosted cake. For the record, here's a quick run down of the cover tunes:

"Funeral For A Friend/Loves Lies Bleeding" (Originally by Elton John, I actually like this version better)
"Perfect Strangers" (Originally by Deep Purple)
"The Rover/Achilles/The Song Remains the Same" (Originally by Led Zeplin)
"The Big Medley" (Includes pieces of "In The Flesh" by Pink Floyd, "Carry On My Wayward Son" by Kansas, "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, "Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'" by Journey, "Cruise Control" by Steve Morse, and "Turn It On Again" by Genesis)

"And then you disappeared. Your gambling arrears, the only thing you left behind."

The iFriday iRandom e-10

Quick recap of the rules: You choose whatever program or device you use to listen to mp3s on and set to thing to random. Then you post the first ten songs it chooses for you here. It must be totally random, so no changing it to avoid embarrassing songs or homogenous lists.

Song - Artist

1. 54 Buck Per Minute - Maker
2. Evolution - Cat Power
3. You're All I Need To Get By - Marvin Gaye
4. Piano Concerto #5 in E-flat minor, Op. 73 - Beethoven
5. Dragonfly - The Grouch
6. Upgrade (A Brymar College Course) - Deltron
7. Darkside of Aquarius - Bruce Dickenson
8. Clever Use Of Shadows - Nathan Mahl
9. The Sounds Of Silence - Simon & Garfunkel
10. Scene Five: Through Her Eyes - Dream Theater

"This world is spinning around me. This world is spinning without me. Every day sends future to past. Every breath leaves me one less to my last."

A Scary Situation

It doesn't sound like this is happening all over, but it's still crazy that people are being penned in like this.

"He hears the silence howling -- catches angels as they fall. And the all-time winner has got him by the balls."

Nerd News

This is one of the funnier bits of news I've read in a while. It took me a while to get it, so don't be frustrated if you don't. I'll explain in the comments. I know, jokes that need explaination usually aren't as funny, but I still got a chuckle out of it.

Could there be a Halo 3 announcement later this month? It's starting to look like there might be.

Any Sonic: The Hedgehog fans in the house? It's been a while since a good Sonic game came out, but I like the looks of these next-generation screen shots.

Thanks to Evil Avatar for the links.

"And respect you'll give me, Ludacris, I live loud like Timmy! Fuck, have to clear these rumors, I got a headache and it's not a tumor!"

September 08, 2005

Tennis On TV

Wow, just wow. I watched Andre Agasi beat James Blake in the US Open, and it was one of the most brilliant and tense games I've seen. Just perfect.

"Making mention of my DJ CPU, nerd core hip-hop is the style that he use. Step to my DJ, you better step prepared. He got 28 n 22/50ths squared."

Let's get fisky!

I just have to copy my comment on this post. Sorry if it's not terribly clear what's going on based on this; go read, then come back here.

More fascinating—in one of those it takes modern social studies to affirm the obvious—is that the whole "reproductive health" information has been skewered in favor of the girls and that boys have been completely marginalized. Gee, sounds like an awful lot like schools with their anti-boy attitudes, doesn't it?

Historically and globally, birth control and maternal health have been an almost strictly female affair. The movement to disseminate reliable information on sex and reproductive health really in this country was really started by feminist activists. Since their primary concern was women's health, and they were predominantly women teaching women, yes, they didn't care too much about making sure men were fully educated. But by no means does it follow that they were anti-male! Like many antifeminists, your conflation of feminism with misandry does nothing more than display your ignorance of feminism.

So contraception inadventently shields boys from the consequences of impregnating their girlfriends

Inadvertently? Preventing pregnancy is precisely the point of contraception. Hence the name 'contraception'.

thus, further entrenching the teen boys' total indifference to fatherhood and other forms of responsibility.

Yes, using contraception to do what they can to keep from being fathers before they're ready is a textbook example of irresponsibility.
Huh? This is completely incoherent.

nowhere does the article ever raise another option—abstinence

It's a study of sexually active teenagers. It's rather hard to use abstinence as your birth control method, given that you're sexually active, without giving up the sex part.

after all, why should society encourage self-control and patience with respect to sex? That would put Planned Parenthood out of business as it could no longer justify the exorbitant tax subsidies the American federal government grants for sexual "health advice," abortions, and contraception.

Here is PPUSA's page on Birth Control. It's one level under the front page. Abstinence is TWO of the first four methods of birth control listed on this page.

Another social-scientist-states-the-obvious paragraph is when it highlights how a boy's attitudes towards sex and whether or not he favors pregnancy influences the girls' attitudes towards birth and abortion.

What paragraph is this? Could you provide at least a quoted phrase that we could search? I'm not seeing it. It certainly seems an odd conclusion to draw from a study in which only boys were interviewed, so I'd want to see their reasoning in more detail.

Worse, the boys would reimpose patriarchial authority and that's far more horrifying! Imagine! Stable loving families with loving parents who dote on their kids.

What does patriarchal authority have to do with stable, loving families and parents who love their kids? Plenty of straight, 'father knows best' families are dysfunctional -- conservative Christian marriages break up as often as any others, after all -- and plenty of egalitarian straight and gay families are filled with love and raise awesome kids.

Even better is the gratuitious class snobbery: boys most likely to be positive towards pregnancy are from 'less-educated' mothers. Nice subtle potshot at moms who adhere to traditional values or typical views of sex, pregnancy and birth.

I assume you're talking about this paragraph: "Teens who actively planned on impregnating - or thought they might do so accidentally - tended to be less negative about pregnancy in general, and came from families with relatively less-educated mothers, the researchers added." Why are you making the classist assumption that less-educated mothers hold 'traditional' values of sex, pregnancy, and birth? This article just reports a correlation, it offers no explanation whatsoever -- perhaps these young men have seen how hard it is to raise children on the limited income someone who didn't go to college is liable to have.

[I would point out that very few people ever respond to the comments I make on that blog.]