April 30, 2006

Nuestro Himno

Dan Brottman, ever the source of postable links, sent me this post on foreign language versions of "The Star Spangled Banner". Heh, indeed.

Update: Stephen Colbert hosted the White House Press Corps Dinner and here's the video. Man, *uncomfortable*! Well, Scalia seemed to enjoy it, so good for him.

April 28, 2006

Today's Random Ten By Trogdor: The Burninator

First we make an "S". Then make a more different "S". Then load up your mp3s, set the thing to random, and post the first ten songs it plays in the comments.

(S0ng - Artist)

1. Bastille Day - Rush (1)
2. Far Away - Royal Hunt (10)
3. Langsam. Ruhevoll. Empfunden - Gustav Mahler (6)
4. Light Fuse And Get Away - Dream Theater (8)
5. Without Me - Eminem (4)
6. Everywhere - Fat Jon (7)
7. The Tonight Show - Theme (9)
8. Lee - Tenacious D (5)
9. Pride and Joy - Stevie Ray Vaughn (2)
10. Say Hey There - Atmosphere (3)

Those numbers at the end are the order of the songs by personal favorite. Feel free to play along with that if you like as well.

Also, last week's question was, according to DJ Shadow, "Why Hiphop Suck In '96"? The answer is "the money".

Gas Prices

I just saw on MSNBC that gas prices in New Jersey jumped $.14 over night. They showed a clip from the 1974 hearings on the gas crisis where they said that in that year oil climbed to $10 a barrel. According to an inflation calculator I found online, that's about $41 in 2005 dollars. Oil barrels are at about $71 now. Another clip showed Tom Brokaw saying that the highest gas prices were in Hawii, where gas topped out at $1.02/gallon, which is about $4 in 2005 dollars.

OMG Sex Scandle FTW!

I know, it's pretty unbelievable. In fact, at this point is *is* still unbelievable and I'm going to wait for something a little more concrete before I get too excited. Still, let me throw some words together and see how they sit.

Prostitution ring
Republican legislators
Watergate Hotel
lobbyist sponsered
Porter Goss, head of the CIA

Man, you throw an unwanted pregnancy in there and you've got the perfect storm for a scandle. Yes, it's a little tenuous at the moment, but this is more solid than a wild rumor, so who knows, things could get very ugly for Republicans very soon.

Update: More info. It's possible that the limo company used for shuttling the prostitutes around may have received a rather sizable kickback.

April 27, 2006


The most colourful house on my block. A few days after I took this, the owners put out a 'for rent' sign, and my friend Natalia's going to be living there starting the end of May :-)

I "get" to fly to LA this weekend -- my brother has somehow managed to graduate from college. Try not to set the place on fire while I'm gone. Posted by Picasa

Study/Nap Break

To stave off the boredom induced coma, here are a few links for you.

The Nintendo Revolution has been renamed the Nintendo Wii (pronounced "we"). Here's a Nintendo-made animation.

Also, one of the class action law suits brought by employees of Electronic Arts settled today. There's to be a cash payout and reclassification of some workers to hourly wages. It seems like a nice win now, but I wouldn't be surprised if EA started moving software development overseas in the next few years. We've already got some companies moving some of the work over to China.


Now look, every economic expansion is going to be latched onto by the party in charge, be the Democrats of Republicans, so it's not surprising to me that we've gotten to hear a lot about the economic growth of the last two years. What annoyes me, however often it is the case, is when the conversation is kept at an absurdly basic level. We hear about how great it is that the GDP is up, but they never talk about what effects that has on normal people. It's always just assumed that bigger numbers are better and that the old Adam Smith maxim of "A rising tide lifts all boats" holds true. Every once in a a while though, a study comes out that shows the middle class shrinking, or social mobility becoming more constrained, or large portions of employment increase correllating to some degree with people taking multiple crappy jobs to replace the really good job that got shipped overseas.

I can't convey to you how much I would love to see these issues brought up on Russert's show or Mathews', but I know they'll just talk about what good news the economy is for the administration.


The Times has an interesting article on Myspace today, focusing on what happens when someone with a Myspace page dies. For all the discussion we hear on a daily basis of how the internet breeds online communities, there's usually very little discussion of the roll it plays, or should play, in the grieving process. There are some really interesting quotes in the Times piece from people that find it too hard to deal with the attention it brings, while other people find the outpouring of emphathy comforting. Interesting stuff to think about.

April 26, 2006

BluRay At A Store Near You

The first BluRay drives, one of the two technologies trying to take over for DVD, are starting to hit the market. There will be, I believe, somewhere in the neighborhood of three movies released on the first day and the first drive will cost $850. That's right, $850 to play discs that cost $30 and offer a bit of increase in picture quality, but only if you're HDTV is extremely new, like within the last six months.

What this also means is that whatever it takes to play BluRay discs is not cheap technology and that the PS3, which plays BluRay movies as well as playing next generation video games, has got to be extremely expensive. Either that or they are using substandard parts in the machine in order to keep its retail price in line with the norm for game machines. One final possibility is that the PS3 will be the normal price for game machines, somewhere between $200-$400 at launch, but that Sony will take extreme losses on each machine sold.
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April 24, 2006

Poll question

Is it immoral to look someone up on Google without getting their explicit permission first?

So, mangoes prove a hostile designer exists?

Some of you may be aware that Kirk Cameron grew up to be a fundamentalist wacko. In this ID video, he and his trusty sidekick disprove atheism. Using a banana. And quotes taken out of context from famous scientists. It's half an hour, but be sure to watch from 3:30 to 4:36 if nothing else.

What's especially funny is that the banana is actually a fantastic illustration of natural selection in action. Before their domestication, bananas were tiny, bitter and virtually inedible (if you ever ate a really green banana or a raw plantation, then you know how bad they tasted). But the environment changed in a way that favoured those plants that produced larger, sweeter, and softer fruits when ripe -- in particular, humans came along -- and those plants flourished. Then, there was a freak mutation, which resulted in a strain of bananas that were still more successful than their cousins -- given the environment (humans cultivating the kind of bananas they preferred), those without seeds were able to reproduce much more prolifically than those with seeds.

Arguably, this new strain of bananas was a speciation event -- the new kind of bananas reproduce in a completely different way from the old kind, and hence are a related, but distinct, species. This is important, because creationists like to claim that we've never observed 'macroevolution', where one species transitions into a new one. But they're wrong: bananas have undergone macroevolution! Even if you don't buy this, the history of bananas still debunks the myth that 'all mutations are harmful' -- while the seedless strain of bananas would have failed miserably in other environments, it flourished in the one in which it happened to arise, and hence was a beneficial mutation. And it was really just one little mutation -- at the genetic level, nothing all that dramatic or unusual.

A creationist might still object, claiming that cultivation isn't natural selection. But 'selection pressures' just means the way an organism with (or without) a given trait is more or less successful at reproducing in a given environment. It doesn't matter what links that trait with success, whether it's a change in the local climate or humans cultivating strains with traits they find desirable.

Finally, it's also important to keep in mind that banana farmers weren't, for the most part, breeding bananas to encourage particular traits (like sweetness and seedlessness): as banana plants with more desirable traits cropped up at random, they were cultivated more, and bananas with less desirable traits were cultivated less. Farmers certainly couldn't have foreseen that a seedless strain would develop!

The history of the banana, then, is a human-scale illustration of natural selection. Random and genetically minor but compounded mutations were disproportionately favoured by the environment, with the result that a new species formed and was better able to reproduce than the old. And all within a few thousand years (meaning this supports Gould's theory of Punctuated Equilibrium, too).

Via Jesus' General

April 23, 2006

Blog against heternormativity

I have too much work to do, so I'm blogging vicarious, ie, just giving you a link. Okay, I'll also drop in a quote that explains heternormativity.

in brief, heteronormativity is a term that can be used to describe institutions, policies and beliefs that reinforce the rigid categories of male and female. these categories, supposedly, determine our sex, sexuality, sexual desire, gender identity, and gender roles. therefore, there are expected behaviors for males (such as the patriarch of the nuclear family for example), as are there expected behaviors for females (the submissive wife to the patriarch, among other things). but we all know---THAT'S BULLSHIT!

April 21, 2006

Wait, words and formalities aren't enough for it to count as a democracy?

Via Twisty Faster, a fantastic filmstrip from 1946. Mmmmm irony.
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Friday Random Ten - On Time!

What up, you hep cats and kittens? It's that time again, and I know Kryssa's excited for it! Let's skip the directions this week and get right down to the tunes. If you don't know what we're doing...make your best guess and play along! Actually, I'm going to try something different this week. My list will be random, but at the end of each line I'll include a number representing where the song would be if I reordered the list by favorites, with my favorite song of the bunch at #1 and decending from there. Feel free to do the same.

(Song - Artist)
1. Don'T Let The D'Evil In - The Flower Kings (8)
2. Broken Wave - Enchant (9)
3. The Break Down - People Under The Stairs (7)
4. Casper, The Friendly Ghost - Theme (10)
5. Octavarium - Dream Theater (1)
6. Psycho Monkey - Joe Satriani (4)
7. La Villa Strangiato - Steve Morse (2)
8. Everyday People - Sly and the Family Stone (3)
9. Why Hip Hop Sucks In '96 - DJ Shadow (5)
10. Still, You Turn Me On - Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (6)

Now, I spent just a couple minutes ordering those, so if I thought about it more or later there might be some shifting, but I was trying to keep it easy and go right off the top of my head. I wouldn't recommend agonizing over it if you're going to play along.

Big Friday Blog Dump

First, the important news: There's a new Star Trek film in the works and it's going to be directed by JJ Abrams of Lost/Alias fame! I don't know about his directing abilities, but I like that he's involved. I'm less excited about the fact that it's supposedly focused on the youth of original cast, but I guess it could be interesting. You *know* that they're going to show Kirk cheat his way through the Kobayashi Maru, right? Oh, snap! Fanboy gushing!

I know it's plenty hip to hate on the Country music, but while I'm not exactly a fan, I can listen to it without rolling my eyes and have even found a few tunes that kind of grew on me. Twang or no, a catchy tune is a catchy tune, and before their fall from grace a while back I heard quite a bit of the Dixie Chicks through my sister and they certainly fit that category. Modern Country may not really be "Country" by some standards, but The Dixie Chicks seemed even less so. Anyway, I'm nowhere near qualified on Country music generally or The Dixie Chicks specifically to say much without exposing my ignorance, but they've got a new album out and you can listen to the first single for free here. Even if you're not into Country it's worth a listen.

I've got a couple Crooks and Liars links for ya next: here and here. The first shows a Fox News Poll with Bush's approval at 33%. Criticize polling all you want, that's a damn impressive number. The second link is an awesome clip from The Daily Show about Donald Rumsfeld. Sometimes it's like these people set the jokes up themselves.

I think Big Media Matt's War-Avoidance Plan with Iran was best articulated by Agent J in the venerable foreign policy documentary Men In Black: "What I don't understand is, why you gotta come down here and bring all this ruckus? My opinion is, 'Don't start none, won't *be* none'."

Read this editorial on how it was so awesome when people could beat up gay people for sport. This got published, in print. No, seriously.

Bitch, Ph.D isn't a site that I read with great regularity, but evidently she gave a keynote address recently and it's an interesting, if a bit long, read. Now, Noumena can probably correct me if this is wrong, but it seems to me like a good place to start if you're interested in reading the site or just thinking about femenism generally.

Joel Dykstra of South Dakota thinks "rape" and "incest" are undefinable buzzwords. In other news, does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care? Also be sure to check out Bill Napoli's rape exception. I think he's a crazy person.

Danniel Henniger is worried that the web is making everyone into disinhibited, foul mouthed crazy people. Of course, I don't think it was blogs that led to Cheney's famous phrase from the Senate floor, nor do I think the lack of blogs made the Old West any more "civilized". Pieces like this remind me of the Krikkit Wars from Life, The Universe and Everything. A solar system surrounded by a vast cloud of space dust which obscured any view of the stars led to the inhabitants on one of the system's worlds to believe that their little solar system was all that existed in the universe. When a space ship crash landed on the planet, the shock and trauma of learning that their entire conception of the universe had been wrong from the start led the people of Krikkit to the only reasonable conclusion: The rest of the universe needed to be destroyed. I don't know Henniger's political beliefs, but I think this is true for most Movement Conservatives. Oh, and I'm not going to scan back to make sure, but I'm pretty sure I got through writing this big ol' blog without uttering a single swear. Of course, if someone points out that I did, I'll just edit it. Ha ha, the beauties of the internet!

Fetishizing profit

Marx argued (somewhere in Capital, I'm too lazy to dig out a quotation right now) that one of the major fallacies committed by economists of his day was commodity fetishism, the reification of communal values and beliefs -- for example, treating money as a physical, material object and the profit motive as an inevitable law of nature.

In the intervening century and a half, things haven't improved. Let's examine a list of reasons why the cost of gasoline to the consumer has jumped up so high in the past year:

-- The showdown over Iran's nuclear program has pushed crude-oil prices to new heights, with a barrel costing $71.95 Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

What does the possibility of a war have to do with the current relationship between supply and demand in the crude oil market? Well, nothing, of course. Except for speculators buying as much oil as they can now, anticipating scarcity when (if) a war starts, and thereby creating scarcity now. So, technically, it's speculation and opportunism among investors over the showdown in Iran that's driving up crude oil prices.

-- Several states have started blending ethanol into their gasoline, driving up costs for the additive.

Driving up the costs for refinery and gas station owners. They could, of course, choose to absorb the cost of adding ethanol.

-- Some refineries knocked out by last year's hurricanes remain closed, while others untouched by the storms have throttled back for long-overdue maintenance. That's driven down gasoline production 457,000 barrels per day compared with the same time last year, while demand is up slightly, according to the Department of Energy

This is the only explanation that seems genuinely beyond the choices any individuals have made. However, one might still ask why the former refineries are still closed, and simultaneously, production has slowed at the latter.

-- Refinery profits have soared, adding to the price at the pump.

This is essentially the same explanation as the ethanol one: the owners of refineries have chosen to maintain, or even increase, their profits, at the expense of working- and middle-class folks (who do not generally get reimbursed by their employers as completely, if at all, for their transportation and travel expenses as the upper-middle class and wealthy).

All four explanations, then, are misleading: it is not that impersonal economic forces have accidentally aligned in such a way that pump prices have inevitably floated up, but that speculators, refinery owners, and gas station owners have all made opportunistic choices to enrich themselves at the expense of others.

April 20, 2006

Waking the fire


Behind the fold, Eric wakes the fire Saturday night with some enthusiastic drumming. Posted by Picasa

April 19, 2006

Women gamers outnumber men

Counterintuitive? There's a catch:

Women were found to be slightly less likely than men in the 25-34 bracket to play traditional console games on systems like the PlayStation 2 or Xbox, while they gravitated more heavily towards simple [sic!] types of games like Tetris or other puzzle games and card games like solitaire. These casual titles are typically found on web portals like Yahoo!, AOL Games, PopCap Games, EA's Pogo.com and elsewhere.

As someone pointed out in the comments on that thread (which you should also read), puzzle games aren't usually what gamers are talking about. We're thinking first-person and third-person shooters and adventure games, sports franchises, and real-time and turn-based strategy games -- Penny Arcade and Gamespot probably aren't going to breathlessly review the latest additions to Yahoo! Games.

And, as I've suggested before, both the culture and content of 'real' games is, generally speaking, rather sexist, and this is why women are less likely to play them. As I put it in my comment on that thread, women are less likely to be impressed when you skimp on decent writers and invest in animators that can make a pair of DD boobs bounce as obviously as possible.

This might seem to be a self-reinforcing problem -- the teenagers playing sexist games learn sexist values, and grow up to become the game designers churning out even worse titles. But I think there's good reason to be optimistic, as feminist values gradually infuse the entire culture and teenage women who enjoy 'real' games despite the sexism grow up to be designers of better, more popular, and hence more lucrative games.

Public intellectuals

I'm too tired to write a comment. But go and read, and keep in mind that this doesn't just apply to scientists. All intellectuals ought to be public intellectuals; they don't (or shouldn't) just pay us to think deep thoughts with each other.

This therefore leads, once more, to the idea that perhaps the layman not only is not ill-equipped to fully understand science, but that more important than the lack of education, is a lack of caring. But, if that's the case, than how do we reach out to the community and encourage improved general scientific understanding of our surroundings? If the pursuit of scientific understanding is part of bettering all of humanity, but we cannot seem to communicate our findings to an improved general understanding of the world, what then is our true purpose? Is it all just a quest for pure truth?

And For The Nerds Of A Different Sort

Ezra Klein, formerly of Pandagon fame and now at The American Prospect Online, did a spot on C-SPAN on Easter, which is pretty interesting. Interesting, and depressing; the kid's younger than I and is not only getting all kinds of success and recognition, he deserves it.

If you just want to see Ezra's segment, make sure you click the top link, as the other one is much longer.

Edit: Rather than post another short post just to get a link in, and since this pertains to nerds as well, here's an amusing article about Wikipedia courtesy of Dan Brottman.

Edit #2: New issue of The Escapist is out, and there are several very interesting articles there for your perusal. I can't understate how impressed I've been with The Escapist. Were it not an online publication, I would probably subscribe to the print copy. Games are treated as a serious medium worthy of serious discussion, which unfortunately is all too rare in the media.

The Internet Is Awesome Part Eleventy-Billion And Two

You know, it's easy to get jaded on the Internet. It's easy to say, "Oh, I've seen "Brokeback to the Future", and "The Internet is for Porn", and "The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny". I've seen all the nerd humor there is to see!" Then somebody makes a new funny video and it's awesome. I give you, "The Secret Wars Re-Enactment Society". Discuss.

Women watch themselves being looked at

Take the time to read this photoessay on the male gaze. Like Bitch Ph.D, I perceived the first two pictures of men as just as cute and charming as those they're based on. I find this interesting: what does it say about the way we construct cuteness in general?

April 18, 2006

Oh, How I Love Law School Ruckus

I'll admit it, I hate having drama in my own life but I *LOVE* having drama in other people's lives that I get to watch from afar. Obviously, I hate to see personal friends in traumatic situations, but I do love a good ruckus. Oh, and there's a good one going on now.

Professor Livingston, a tax and international law professor at Rutgers Law - Camden, started a blog in the last several months and recently wrote a post where he expressed his dislike of affirmative action, particularly in the hiring of new law professors. I'm not sure what the chronology of events was, but his post got picked up by the Volokh Conspiracy and a few other mainstream conservative sites. At some point this post found its way back to Rutgers Camden and spread through the faculty, including Imani Perry, a black professor and recent addition to the Rutgers faculty. She evidently wrote an email response to Professor Livingston expressing her offense at the perception that he intended recent "diversity hires" as the target of criticism. This, in turn, got picked up by Blackprof.com, and at some point was emailed to the student body by "Justice Forall" of the Equality Forum 2006. I'm not sure, but I think that *might* be a pseudonym. Since this started there has been extreme outrage by some at the school, with at least a few calls for his dismissal and a few more references to his "obvious" bigotry. At some point after this Prof. Livingston wrote a followup to his original post after this kerfluffel started.

Well, that's some fine drama!

So, read the posts, decide for yourselves, and post your thoughts in the comments. I'll hold off on giving my opinion until we've got something like a conversation going...Man, I love ruckus!

April 17, 2006

So, Is Gay Porn Ok If The Actors Are Married?

The new Bush Administration policy on abstinence-only education programs, and the federal grants that go to them, now includes the definition of "abstinence": Voluntarily choosing not to engage in sexual activity until marriage." It also defines marriage as the legal pairing of two members of the opposite sex, so as Think Progress points out, gays are to be taught to be celibate for their entire lives. This is assuming, of course, that marriage as they're defining it only authorizes you to have sex with your spouse and not participate in, say, some sort of wild key party.

Cranky atheist Easter post (belated)

Easter is creepy and annoying. You have an entire religion nominally based on the teachings of a guy they call The Prince of Peace, and the holiest of holy days revolves around his brutal torture and execution. I guess celebrating something more positive and constructive, like, say, the Sermon on the Mount, with all its radical notions about caring for the poor and shunning superficiality, would just be crazy. Incidentally, I'm not sure that Passover is actually better in this respect -- it celebrates the wholesale slaughter of innocent Egyptian children, after all. But at least Jewish people don't go around wishing everyone a happy Passover. And neither do Neo-Pagan and Wiccan fertility fetishists shove May poles down our throats.

I would find ways to say cranky and dismissive things about other religions, too, but sadly I don't know enough about spring celebrations in Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism. Other than that colour festival thing they showed a clip of on the Daily Show a couple weeks ago, and that actually looked neat.

There's basically one grocery store chain in the SB, and yesterday it was closed. I needed sugar for my lemon meringue pie, and had to drive five miles to find a place that would sell it to me.

Now, go read about bad reporting on New Testament studies. My mom actually bought me one of the Strobel books mentioned there a couple years ago; I'm pretty sure I managed to decline the gift without calling him a hack and crappy apologist (which I did do to someone who tried to get me to read some CS Lewis back in college). He is a hack and a crappy apologist of course (as is Lewis), but I managed to keep things politic.

So, hopefully everyone had a nice Zombie Jesus day. I'm going to get some Indian food.

April 16, 2006

Coming attractions


I went to a bonfire last night. Expect to see more as I have time to put them up this week. Posted by Picasa

Ohhh noes! Femminity soaked in lust!

"The sexuality of human developing countries has always leaned on anonomous
heterosexual relationships."
Of course! Why didn't I think of that before?

Via Bitch Ph.D

April 15, 2006

Fri-aturday Random 10

It's that time again kid and kiddlets. Load up your mp3s in your Lappy 486 computer or Diamond 64 mb portable player and set that sucker to random. Post the first ten ditties that come up in the comments, being careful not to disturb the sanctified-ness-ocity by trying to change out songs that make you seem like you lack the verve and moxy of the hep cats.

(Song - Artist)
1. Chance - Savatage
2. Outro - Blueprint
3. Octopus's Garden - The Beatles
4. The Riches - Jane's Addiction
5. C'Mom Wit Da Git Down - Artifacts
6. Get Smart - Theme
7. Space Lion - Yokko Kanno
8. Tribes - Preston Reed
9. What To Say - Enchant
10. Out Of Live Wires And Twisters - Reaching Quiet

Well, it's not great throughout, but that's a pretty sweet list for being totally random. Anyone want to take a shot at guessing the genres of these groups?

Video Games Say The Darndest Things

Here's a nice Saturday post over at The Armchair Empire where they list the "Best In-Game Quotes". Now, it did strike me as odd that their definintion of "best" seems to be humorous or unintentionally humorous, without any seriously dramatic or moving lines making the cut, but with that qualification it's a nice trip down memory lane for those of us that thought it was a really good idea to spend our formative years parked in front of a television or computer screen. Actually, it's a pretty odd collection of games and I, who consider myself an authority on geeky things, have only played six of the ten games, and a couple only very briefly. How 'bout you lot? How many of those games have you played, and do you have any favorite game quotes that didn't make the list? Hit up the comments to let us know.

April 12, 2006

Sex only counts if it's risky!

You can read what Dawn Eden wrote yourself, or Amanda's post on it, but either way it's hilarious. Be sure to check out the comments under both, though, they get even funnier.

I say it's still a kiss. It is also a deception: your bodies have been altered, and you are trying to pretend they haven't been. Thus, each member of this hypothetical couple would be lying to the other, as well as being complicit in the other's lie. Moreover, while it is still a kiss, it is, like a bad movie climax, lacking in suspense or tension, in any sense of what's at stake. It is lacking in the dramatic weight it ought to have. This kind of training in avoiding certain kinds of drama a) leads to really bad, repetitive, introspective cinema and b) means either that the movie of your life is going to be lacking certain elements of real drama, or that the drama therein is going to be off-kilter. There's very little middle ground, as far as I can tell.

Hence, the best kind of kiss is when you're making out with a stranger who might have cholera. Because that makes for a good movie. Or something.

And we should only have sex when it's unprotected sex with AIDS sufferers and someone can get pregnant. Because then we can maybe star in our own, ultra-tragic version of Philadelphia, which was a decent movie in its day. Or something.

This exchange nicely sums up the insanity of the whole thread at Dawn's:

Ok, let me get this straight. If something goes wrong with your birth control and get pregnant, you see the child as a "mistake." If you mess up or miscalculate your NFP, you see the child as a "blessing." How you see children is contingent on your method of birth control. NFP is as effective or more effective than birth control pills (not true according to every study I've ever read, but I'll go with it for now), but the reason NFP is so great is because it keeps the couple open to new life. Contraception is bad because you're withholding your fertility from your parnter, but NFP is good because you're withholding your fertility from your partner by not having sex during the times you could possible get pregnant.

Did I get it all? Is anyone else's head spinning?
Actually, Jill, you've got just about all of it.[...]
Dawn Eden

Kierkegaard's notion of faith is all about embracing paradox. But he's talking about the paradox of Christ (the 'fully human and fully divine' thing), not this insane shit. Dawn and her ilk make Reason cry.

Because, damn it, we just haven't caused enough suffering yet

Bush is planning on invading Iran.

The title of this post is, I think, the only honest argument one could give in favour of this idea. Note that I said 'honest', and not 'sane', 'rational', or 'non-sociopathic'.

Conscientious objectors: pharmacists and pacifists

Last summer, a handful of pharmacists around the country refused to distribute birth control because they thought the use of birth control was the same thing as an abortion. Now, it's a simple matter of fact that they're either idiots or defining 'pregnancy' completely differently from the AMA, but let's suppose for the sake of argument that one of the ways birth control works is by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine lining, so they have vaguely reasonable grounds for saying the pill is immoral. At the time, quite a few of us made jokes about Christian Scientist and Jehovah's Witness pharmacists refusing to distributing any drugs whatsoever. Well, leave it to movement conservatives to prove that truth can be as strange as fiction: pharmacists are refusing women their prescribed drugs for no other reason than that the drugs were prescribed by clinics that perform abortions. In certain cases, these drugs including vitamins taken only by pregnant women.

Now, unlike the representative of PP, I think it's my job (qua philosopher) to be as charitable as possible to these pharmacists. So, while I'm not willing to grant their position that abortion is evil, I am willing to grant that they are entitled to hold that belief. I am also more than willing to grant that there had better be very, very good reasons for requiring someone to do something they think is evil. Hence, if we are going to require pharmacists to violate their deeply-held beliefs, we'd better have some damn good reasons why. In particular, requiring these pharmacists to violate their beliefs must be the 'least worst' option of all the ones available.

I think a good analogy is with conscientious objectors in times of war: if we're going to require pacifists to take up arms -- that is, if we're going to require them to violate their deepest principles and most sincere beliefs -- it had better be because something like the Third Reich is going to steamroll over us unless everyone joins the fight, and we can't put the pacifists to work doing something else, eg, growing food.

Now, has this burden been met in the plan to simply strip out conscience clauses, as the PP representative (among others) seems to want to do? I think we must conclude not, as there is an alternative plan that both allows pharmacists to conscientiously object to the distribution of birth control and allows women access to birth control: require pharmacies to distribute properly prescribed drugs within a reasonable amount of time. Pharmacists who refuse to distribute certain drugs to certain customers won't be required to violate their principles, but will also be legally required not to interfere with the distribution of the drugs; more specifically, they will generally not be allowed to harass or insult a customer, and another pharmacists will have to be on-shift with them so the drugs can still be distributed. Similarly, pacifists should generally be exempted from a military draft, but can be legally punished for sabotaging military equipment.

Some of these pharmacists may still be unhappy, however, and feel the desire to actively interfere in the distribution of these drugs. This, I think, is like the monkeywrencher or pacifist saboteur. Here the difference between legal and ethical comes into play: on the assumption that the use of birth control is always evil, then it seems natural to conclude that interfering with the use of birth control by others is ethically permissible or even required, provided the interference is proportional (ie, you can't claim it's ethical to kill someone to prevent them from using birth control, but it could be ethical to burn each carton of pills in the alley as soon as it arrives). But because there is no legal argument to accept that assumption and legal arguments to reject the conclusion, it is legally impermissible to interfere, and such interference can be punished by the state (requiring the pharmacist to pay for damages, etc.). This, then, is civil disobedience, and while I can neither morally nor legally condone this sort of action by these pharmacists, I do believe it is a consistent position for them to take. Similarly, while I happen to believe that the actions of monkeywrenchers interfering with logging are generally morally permissible, this is because I share certain environmentalist background assumptions and values, and I don't presume (here) to have a good legal argument for those values or the permissibility of monkeywrenching, so I believe the state can also compel saboteurs to pay damages to the owners of the equipment they destroyed.

But none of this applies to the shit the article is talking about. I can see absolutely no rational defence for those actions; they're literally insane, and figuratively batshit insane.

Via Bitch, Ph.D.

April 09, 2006

Carnival of Feminists XII

I'm trying to think up an amusing yet not insipid collective noun for all of us here -- readers, myself, and MosBen. SoRers? Ra-ites? Leave your suggestions in the comments, folks.

Anyway, Staffers might be interested in the 12. Carnival of Feminists, which has several many entries on comic books and cartoons, along with pop culture more generally and 'serious' current eventsy things.

April 08, 2006

I miss geography


"On clear winter days the Olympic and Cascade mountains flank the trough of Puget Sound like a fence of white-capped waves. We've got mountains like Iowa's got flat. And yet the local vernacular admits only one 'Mountain', and when Rainier rises we tell each other, "The Mountain is out." Mount Rainier is at once the most public symbol of the Pacific Northwest and its most sacred private icon. A friend once disclosed that she says a prayer whenever she sees it .... Like rain and rivers and trees, the mountain is a continuous presence in our lives, but in our psychological landscape it occupies a place separate and greater than the forests and falling water. We look at Rainier and feel love for a mountain, if such a thing is possible."

Bruce Barcott, The measure of a mountain: Beauty and terror on Mount Rainier, quoted in Arches (my alumni magazine). Photo from the USGSPosted by Picasa

April 07, 2006

Friday Random Ten

Hot on the heels of Dan's itunes post, it's time for the Random 10! Let's see some randomness up in this piece!

(Song - Artist)
1. Solitary Soul - Spock's Beard
2. Passion (Feat. Michael Franti) - One Giant Leap
3. Candlelight Fantasia - Symphony X
4. Song About A Star - Okkervil River
5. Of Sins And Shadows - Symphony X
6. Dawn Of A Million Souls - Ayreon
7. The Mirror Maze - Ayreon
8. Holy Land - Angra
9. Monotone - Mars ILL
10. Wake Up - The Ditty Bops

Odd mix. Two repeated groups in five songs, and I don't even have that much music by those groups. I find it really odd that though I have a non-insignificant collection of classical and jazz that they rarely come up in the shuffle. I guess my itunes doesn't like that old stuff...

April 06, 2006

I cause problems

Are you surprised?

"CoX" = "City of Heroes and City of Villains"

Politically Correct

Amanda has a great point about political incorrect-ness, though I'm not sure she makes much of a case for applying it to Bill Maher. Be that as it may, there are few phrases in common parlance that annoy me as much as "this may be politically incorrect, but..."

As I see it, there are two possible definitions of political correctness:
1) Language used by politicians as a means to give coded messages to their base without using words or phrases that might be inflamatory to either their opponents or other groups they may wish to court.

2) A state in which a person attempts to tailor certain aspects of their speech so as not to be offensive.

As to #1, this is something that all politicians do. It's simply the nature of politics that you want to say the things your base wants to hear but not appear so attached to them that you can't act on your own. Liberals want to assuage the fears of their base that they will protect social programs while not wanting to seem fiscally irresponsible. Neocons want to seem socially compassionate to moderates while reassuring the Movement Conservatism base that they're going to legislate based on all the nasty prejudices that that group holds dear. The annoying aspect of this definition is that conservatives have managed to completely take it over such that when people think of "political correctness" of this type they invariably think of the wishy washy sounding phrases coming out of the Democrats instead of things like Bush saying in the debates that he, wonder of all wonders, didn't support the Dredd Scott decision (where a slave was ruled to be property by the Supreme Court). Of course, his reasoning for opposing this decision was that the judges were inventing things in the Constitution which "weren't there", an obvious nod to the people that think Roe should be overruled because privacy "isn't there".

As to #2, I've always thought that this was just what my grandmother might have called "being polite". If someone I'm talking to or about doesn't like being called Indian because they feel it is a moniker born out of European ignorance, well fine. It's not like it takes much effort for me to say "Native American" instead. I might make a mistake here or there, but we all do and people are generally forgiving about that sort of thing in personal discussions. And honestly, as much noise as people, mostly conservatives, make about honest mistakes or ignorance being punished by the Political Correctness Police, it's not like they're not keenly aware when they're offended by things like the differences between Catholics and Protestants (it's in the footnotes).

Like Amanda's article points out, being "Politically Incorrect" is used as a blanket excuse not to push valid but unpopular ideas, but to prop up unsupportable nonsense by cloaking it as "rebelling against the orthodoxy". In common practice, being PC is really just about not being a jerk to people. Do you know that someone is going to be offended if you say "crippled" when you talk to them? Aren't you a jerk if you then purposefully call them crippled?

Like I said at the beginning, I'm not sure she makes much of a case against Bill Maher. He definitely believes some stuff that I disagree with, but I think he usually has arguments to back it up, even if I think those arguments fail. There is definitely something to be said for the fact that he could use another phrase for his show and that without him using it the phrase might diminish in the popular conciousness, but I'm not convinced he has quite that level of power. Some of the comments over at the Pandagon suggest that the case is made against him because he sometimes gives right wing guests too much slack in making their points, but I think that's unfair. Sometimes giving conservative guests space to make arguments you don't agree with so that conservatives feel comfortable enough to come on the show isn't hackery and, moreover, there have been far more times when the entire panel is composed of moderate to liberal guests.

Nostalgia, and a comic

The neighbourhood I grew up in wasn't your typical suburb. I suppose suburb is the best way to describe it, but this wasn't a dense thicket of virtually identical houses on cul de sacs and meandering streets named for trees that had been cut down to build the houses. All the lots in the neighbourhood were two acre parcels, and all the houses were custom or spec homes -- built individually, not en masse. Back before the white people moved in and cleared the land, my part of California was the Sierra side of the chapparal -- a huge forest of live oaks, digger pines, and manzanita. A forest that survived, at least through my childhood, in the form of 50 or so acres in the contiguous back yards of the neighbourhood where I grew up. We had a stream, that I made various successful and not-so-successful attempts to dam and bridge, and a big hill, and a sink hole from the old gold mines. It was, in many respects, the furthest edge of a very small city, in the exact place where the suburbs began turning to countryside.

'Nostalgia' comes from a Greek phrase -- something like 'sadness at being unable to go home again'. Classically, it was exemplified by Odysseus-type characters, whose literal journey home was thwarted by fate; but in our society, where the children of the middle class move far away from the family home at 18 and only sporadically return, the journey home is a logical, not just logistic, impossibility. 'Home' itself becomes destabilized -- neither the soil dam on the seasonal creek, nor the rainy suburb where I went to college, nor the big city I wandered around in for a while, nor the small midwestern town I've confined myself to, are my home. But nostalgia -- even if it is ultimately a maudlin feeling -- gives me a way to go back home, for just a little while.

And that is the value of Hope Larson's Salamander Dream. Be sure to read the review of Gray Horses in Salon, but take the time to read Salamander Dream thoroughly. It is a journey worth taking.

April 05, 2006

An iTunes Game

Thanks to Manda for the following game.

Open itunes (whatever program you can have your music like that) to answer the following:
*total number of tracks
*sort by song title, first song on the list
*top 10 most played songs
*first five songs that comes up on shuffle
*how many songs come up when you search "sex", "love", "you", "death", "hate", "wish"

I'll go first, in the comments.

Theocracy in the USA

Amanda argues that the US is slouching towards exactly the same flavour theocracy Iran already has. What kind of theocracy does Iran have?

1. Islam is the official state religion.
2. Freedom to practice for protected minority religions.
3. State laws based on religious principles.
4. The interpretation of the religion into law is determined by mullahs.

Just substitute 'Christian' in for 'Islam', and 'Scalia et al' in for 'mullahs' and there you go.

Be sure to read the comments, too. Someone's there arguing (possibly facetiously) that the US can never be a theocracy because we're a *democracy*, y'see, and (I guess) it's logically impossible for a democracy to devolve into a theocracy. Also, atheists hate god, and they're the ones who are going to destroy democracy.

April 04, 2006

Better dating advice

If you have trouble hanging onto guys because being (financially) successful and also female makes you "emasculating", you're dating the wrong guys.

This is important

On Wednesday of this week, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in the morning, the time and date will be

01:02:03 04/05/06

That won't ever happen again.

Of course, if you (like me) write the date in a European style, you have to wait until 4 May.

via Morgaine

April 03, 2006

A Political Post!

Whew, it's been a while since I've done one of these. I better ease my way in. Through Kos I ended up at Firedoglake, where they're running a weekly series of posts where they expose the insane things that make their way through the right wing blogosphere and even peak into the mainstream media (MSM to those savvy folks out there) from time to time. All this is in reaction to a piss poor interview by Wolf Blitzer accepted Hugh Hewitt's assertion that the lefty blogosphere is a "fever swamp" at face value.

Ultimately, this is what annoys me about the idea that the MSM is "liberal". It's not so much that I think Blitzer and most of his collegues aren't liberal themselves, but they're either so concerned about appearing liberal or are so woefully uneducated and unprepared that they get railroaded when they have a conservative on.

Actually, I have to run right now, but I may return to this later.

Two Quick Things

First, evidently we may start to see broader acceptance of digital delivery for movies. Just as we've seen with music, primarily through itunes though Pandora would also qualify, digital delivery is simply the way the technology is going. With high speed broad band and wireless networks becoming more standardized over time the industries will be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era of entertainment. Actually, it's mind boggling how short sighted industry always is. They fought home video, and it became an enormous source of income. Much like with digital music, digital video download will tap into that impulse buying instinct that people get when things are made extremely convenient for them. Now we just need more devices that work with Windows Media Connect, though perhaps Microsoft is only too happy to make the Xbox 360 the premiere device for streaming video from your computer to your nice big HDTV.

Second, I love when video games spill over to the real world. Whether it's live action Pacman, or kids putting Super Mario Bros. coin boxes around town. Unfortunately, sometimes a box with a big question mark on it can look like a bomb.

A parable

from PZ Myers. It even features a fire tiger. Everyone knows the best parables feature fire tigers.

April 01, 2006

Should men be called feminists?

Ampersand gives this question as long, thoughtful answer:

Years ago, I used to get into arguments about the 'feminist' versus 'pro-feminist' question, but then I began to wonder: Why am I spending time arguing with feminists? Is it my job as an ally to care about what these people I want to support choose to call me? If I get into long debates about what I should be called - or if I'm a feminist at all - aren't I both wasting the time of feminists who might have better things to do, and making myself the center of feminist debate? (For that reason, I've more-or-less stopped going to female feminists' spaces to argue about feminism - if I have to argue with someone, it's better that it be an anti-feminist, or at least that the argument take place on my own space rather than appropriating someone else's.)

I still call myself a feminist - frankly, I think more men should be calling themselves feminists, especially in public. But at the same time, I call myself pro-feminist if I sense that's what most feminists in a room would prefer. It's not helpful to feminism if I get into women's faces and make demands about what I'd like to be called. In the end, I think the content matters more than the label. (Of course, there are feminists who argue that my content sucks, too).

And there's more; take the time to read the whole thing.

In a somewhat different context, I make the following argument in a paper I'm current writing:
First, think of A. A is in her twenties, a grad student in philosophy who's done some serious thinking about feminism, and who calls herself a feminist. B is the same age as A, and also a grad student whose views would easily be called feminist, except that he is male.

Suppose A and B spend a week going around their campus together, documenting all the different instances of sexism they come across. A and B will probably not produce identical lists, of course, but it's quite likely each will only have a few items the other didn't put down.

Now suppose C and D do this same exercise. These two are both first year undergrads, coming from some politically moderate, upper-middle class suburb; they haven't really thought much about sexism, or political issues in general. C is a woman, D is a man. C's list is quite likely to be a great deal longer than D's. And C's list is quite likely to be a great deal shorter than either A's or B's.

I think most of the folks who are concerned about calling men 'feminists' because men don't know sexism 'first hand' have the disparity between C and D in mind. While it's certainly vital to keep this disparity in mind while doing feminist theory or feminist activism, I think it's largely irrelevant to the question of whether B is an 'ally' or a fully-fledged member in the feminist movement.

Is B taking over the discussion, demanding feminists pay as much attention to men's lives as women's and treating other participants in the discussion with a complete lack of respect? Then he doesn't belong in the discussion because he's not really a feminist. But if he's listening respectfully, and contributing his own ideas and stories at the appropriate times -- that is, if he's genuinely a feminist in deed -- why isn't he in fact an equal in the movement?