July 31, 2005

This is one of the first photos I ever took with my digital camera. December 2003.  Posted by Picasa

Some Quick Links

Umbert The Unborn: A Christian comic brought to us by Pandagon

Rick Santorum gets his ass handed to him on national TV.

Sozialismus no more!

I've outgrown Sozialismus. As an AIM screen name, it dates back about ten years. So, as part of my Brand New Start (tm) (new school, new town, new car, new cell phone), I've come up with a new handle, more in line with my current intellectual inclinations. Goodbye, Sozialismus, hello, Noumena!

July 30, 2005

Our next President!

Check out this video of Santorum. Much more accurate (and shorter) than the crappy Daily Show interview:

I don't think [birth control] works. I think it's harmful to women, I think it's harmful to our society to have a society that says that sex outside of marriage is something that should be encouraged or tolerated, particularly among the young. I think it has, as we've seen, very harmful long-term consequences for society. So birth control to me enables that and I don't think it's a healthy thing for our country.

One of the commentors put it best, I think: "Santorum hates America because he hates the freedoms we have." And another good one, from further down: "I wonder if he's morally opposed to sunblock? That also allows one to do something without suffering the consequences."

July 29, 2005

Rationality and pseudo-choice (because packing is so damn boring)

I believe this was written by a guest poster at Alas, a blog. Doesn't seem to be either Amp or Pseudo-Adrienne:

Those who believe in a woman's right to control her own reproduction are rightly afraid of those who believe that fetuses deserve the same legal protection as born children, but these are not the only enemies of choice. More insidious is the opposition from 'pseudo-choicers' who believe abortion should be available - when they think it's appropriate.

Just as Henry Ford reputedly offered his customers 'any colour you want, as long as it's black', these 'pseudo-choicers' support a woman's right to choose, provided she makes a choice of which they approve. They agree that abortion is not murder, and they agree that the decision to end a pregnancy can be difficult - so difficult, in fact, that a foolish, hormonal woman cannot be trusted to make it alone.[...]

If the right to choose means anything at all, it has to include the right to make a choice that is incomprehensible to others. A woman's decision to end or continue a pregnancy doesn't need to make sense to anyone other than her; she is often the only person with all the information - knowledge of her own personality and wishes - necessary to understand it.

My emphasis.

Not only is this a great first-person statement which my views on abortion and autonomy echo, but it ties into this post on moral relativism. I really should write a post on 'care' vs. 'virtue' ethics sometime, but I think the bolded paragraph summarizes 'care' ethics really well: the strict, universal moral laws of 'virtue' ethics just can't incorporate the particularities of each individual situation, which, according to 'care', 'feminist', or (I would say) 'existentialist' ethics, are necessary data for making a moral judgement. Hence, I can only be comfortable accepting the broadest moral laws as being truly binding -- ie, probably only the categorical imperative. Anything with more substantial content would have to be handled by the way the CI is applied by the individual making the decision.

I also want to point out that our legal system is grounded (at least partially) in 'virtue' ethics -- at least formally, the laws apply universally, to all members of society equally, and are always binding. This leads to a conflict with the most radically 'existentialist' or 'autonomal' versions of 'care' ethics: it may easily happen that the morally right decision involves breaking the law. Kierkegaard recognized this, or something very much like it, in what he called the 'religious' form of life, in which the individual transcends the limits of the 'ethical' form to achieve a higher good -- what he called 'a teleological suspension of the ethical'. Kierkegaard had Christianity in mind in particular (hence 'religious'), but you can see something similar in Nietzsche's ideal of the Ueberman, as an artist who's willing to transcend mediocritizing social mores in pursuit of artistic triumph. I haven't read Walden, or don't remember it if I did, but the standard gloss on Thoreau includes such ideas, too.

It's debatable how far to take this analogy, however: what Kierkegaard and Nietzsche seem to have in mind is something Beyond Good and Evil, while 'right', 'wrong', 'justice' and 'fairness' are moral concepts, and the justification for civil disobedience is that the state might pass unjust laws, which should in turn be defied.

But This Friday Goes To 11!

Song - Artist

1. Body of Works - Sole
2. Little Deuce Coupe - Beach Boys
3. A Train of Angles - Joe Satriani
4. Age Of Ice - Gruf The Druid
5. All On A Sunday - Spock's Beard
6. Chew On A Rubber - Grand Buffet
7. How To Live Alone - The Pernice Brothers
8. Good Times Roll - The Cars
9. Mastermind - Nas
10. Prodigal - Procupine Tree

And this week the Staff of Ra has armadillos in its pants...

11. Vacant - Dream Theater

You know the drill by now folks. Take whatever digital music player you care for best (be it itunes, Win Amp, Windows Media Player, whatever), set the thing for random and post the first ten songs it chooses for you. The only rule is that you accept whatever the program chooses, even if you don't like the list, or the list doesn't seem representative of your collection, which happens extremely often. For those that don't know, last week Drew got some Ra points for posting his Random Ten when nobody else did. I'm not guaranteeing that I'll be giving out points this week, but it's always a possibility.

This could easily be my favourite soup: a rich, warming black bean soup.  Posted by Picasa

  1. 1 pound dried black beans, rinsed and picked over
  2. 2 bay leaves
  3. 5 cups water
  4. 1/8 tsp baking soda
  5. 1 tsp table salt

Bring all these to a boil together in a large saucepan with a tight lid; simmer 60-90 minutes or until beans are tender. You may have to add a little more water. Discard bay, but do not drain.

  1. olive oil
  2. 2 large onions
  3. 1 large carrot
  4. 3 medium celery ribs
  5. 4-6 medium garlic cloves
  6. 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  7. 1 1/2 tbsp cumin
  8. 6 cups stock (I use veggie boullion cubes; water will also work)
  9. 1:1 cornstarch/water paste

Heat about 3 tbsp of oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot. Finely dice the veggies, and sautee onions, carrots and celery with a sprinkling of salt. Once soft and lightly browned, reduce heat and add garlic and spices; stir constantly until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add beans, their cooking liquid, and broth. Bring to boil over medium-high, then reduce to low and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally while cooking to mix flavours and keep stuff from burning to the bottom of a cheap pot.

Turn off heat and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Use an immersion blender, or ladle half the solid matter and enough liquid into a regular blender (put a towel over the top for extra insurance against hot soup sputtering), to smooth the texture and mix the flavours further (this is optional but highly recommended). Add about 1 tbsp of the cornstarch mixture and bring the soup back to a boil for 90 seconds, stirring to fully incorporate the cornstarch. Shut off heat and check thickness; add additional cornstarch, bringing back to a boil and stirring with each addition, until the soup achieves a suitable consistency.

Recommended garnishes and additions: Stir 2 tbsp of lime juice in off the heat. The cumin provides lots of heat, so taste before adding tobasco, etc. Top in bowls with sour cream, cilantro (pictured above), diced avocado, diced red onion, or smashed/crumbled tortilla chips.

The flavours of this soup combine well when refrigerated, but the cumin can lose some of its heat once chilled. Add an acid, like more lime juice or vinegar, to perk the soup back up.

(Yes I know it's probably too hot right now for a hot soup. I'll try to track down my gazpacho recipe, though I don't think I have any pictures.)

July 28, 2005

Time to break down

and get a cell phone. Tmobile looks okay -- I can get unlimited nights and weekends for $40/month, while the same thing with Cingular starts at $60. Anyone know of any better deals than Tmobile's? Anyone use Tmobile and have any complaints or caveats?

July 27, 2005

What is: moral relativism

Well, it's a phrase that movement conservatives and other culture warriors just love to toss out by which to condemn us lefties as horrible degenerate: we condone ANYTHING because we're MORAL RELATIVISTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But maybe, just maybe, you'd like to know what a phrase means before you use it as an insult. This would be a good idea, because it keeps you from making an ass of yourself when someone comes along who does actually know how 'relativism' modifies 'moral'. Rad Geek to the rescue!

"Moral relativism" does not mean "being lax about taboos that you shouldn’t be lax about"; far less does it mean "drawing a mistaken comparison in ethics". Moral relativism is the doctrine that one and the same action can be both right and wrong at the same time—that is, that questions of moral value can only be answered relative to some frame of reference that can change from one judgment to the next.

And a fine working definition it is! Follow the linky for an amusing anecdote/examples of the proper and improper use of the phrase.

Now, I'm supposed to be our resident philosopher (or some shit like that), so I guess I have to have an opinion on moral relativism. Here's the thing: as many of you know, I'm a big fan of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Foucault, and other existentialists and postmodernists, but also Kant. On the one hand, existentialism comes with a pretty hefty helping of relativism; since you're all about autonomy, recognizing that you're judging from your own point of view and using phrases like 'teleological suspension of the ethical', you don't put a lot of stock in universal regulations. On the other hand, Kant has a bunch of books on morality, ethics, and social/political philosophy, and in all of them his starting point is that moral rules are universally binding.

I don't have a systematic way of merging these two very different streams of thought, but I'm inclined to do something like the following: Kant's system provides certain moral laws, which are in fact universally binding. Well, one: the categorical imperative, a maxim of respect for rational agents. But to work out the details, to decide in any particular situation which actions are morally permissible and which are not, that is, to actually apply the categorical imperative, you have to incorporate a lot of background information, which comes from your own perspective on the issue. So it seems entirely possible for two individuals to look at the same situation and come to starkly different conclusions about what actions are right or wrong.

I think you can see this really well in Kant's own work. Not that he condones this sort of analysis; far from it. But, for example, when he condemns any sex outside of (heterosexual) marriage in the harshest language, it's obvious that he's using certain ideas about the metaphysics of sex as grist for the mill of the categorical imperative. Then, with a different metaphysics of sex, the categorical imperative concludes that extra-marital sex is morally permissible.

A memorial obelisk in Graceland Cemetery, Chicago. Taken in May.  Posted by Picasa

July 26, 2005

Real image project

Via Amandagon:

Reader David Werner contacted me about his graduate project on female body image issues. He wants to collect women's stories anonymously about their own body image. If you want to help him out, go over to his website and tell him your story. No names necessary, so feel free to unburden yourself honestly.



I know many of you don't read Penny Arcade, perhaps the best web comic for the video gaming nerd out on this ol' net o' mine, so I thought I'd show you this awesome pic.

For the second year now Penny Arcade is hosting the PA Expo in Seattle. Unlike the E3 Expo, which is supposedly exclusively for those who work in the industry (though many people get in anyway), the Penny Arcade Expo is proudly for the gaming and nerdy masses. Every type of gaming you can think of is represented there, and many video game companies show off upcoming games that they're working on.

Also of note is the Omegathon, which is a contest of supreme coolocity in which contestants compete against each other in a variety of video games. The winner receives a grand prize, referring both to its supremacy over the other prizes and its awesomeness. The above picture is this year's grand prize: Every game released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in the US, except for three. As you can also tell you get three systems and a large number of accessories. Truly a grand prize for some lucky Omeganaut. There are other pictures, but I have to wait for the news post to be archived before the link is worth anything.Posted by Picasa

Links Before Quizzo

They're making a game based on Jackass. Now, initially this sounded pretty stupid to me, but then I realized that it's basically going to be a game wherein you wheel your character around from one location of pain to other locations of pain and I realized that it could be fun stupid. Anyway, there's that.

With all the hubbub about GTA in the news, it's nice to be reminded that violent youth crime has been on the decline for quite a while now, whilst simultaneously the playing of video games has exploded into much wider demographics.

Next, Thundercats: The Movie!

Not much to say, but this one deserves its own post.

Somebody is doing a Thundercats movie. This could be good, but the movie running in my mind is frighteningly bad. Let's hope for the best. At least I have the new Transformers movie, which will be awesome by sheer force of my will.

Edit: Did I say Thundercats? I meant Voltron, as will be clear if you click through the link. Truthfully though, I think a Thundercats movie would have a much better chance of actually being good than a Voltron movie.


Reading your favourite blog, come across a link that sounds interesting, only to discover it leads to some newspaper article behind an annoying registration site?

BugMeNot.com. Via Bitch, Ph.D. It even has a handy little Firefox applet so you can retrieve the username and password just by right-clicking. Neat!

July 25, 2005

Men talking about girl-stuff?!

UW has a new chair of their Women's Studies department. This is big because the new chair is a man. Hugo has a great post on men teaching women's studies (which he himself does):

No, I will never know what it is like to menstruate. No, I will never know what it is like to have to choose between motherhood and career. I will never have a clitoris, I will never give birth, and my chances of being a victim of acquaintance rape are infinitesimal. But a shared biology, even a shared experience of suffering, is no guarantee of empathy; just look at the legions of anti-feminist women in public life! Yes, men like David Allen and Hugo Schwyzer can be role models too, though perhaps not the sort that Melissa Pico expects.

At the risk of real hubris, men like us send the vital signal to young men that feminism is a man's concern as well. In our public work and our private behavior, we model (imperfectly, I'm aware) what it is to live as a pro-feminist man. Our young men need to see that to know it is possible. Heck, our young women also need to know that there are men out there who do see their experiences, hopes, fears, dreams, and history as colossally important.

I hope some day to teach philosophy classes with of a feminist/women's studies flavour. There are lots of good stuff for such a class: "big name" feminist theorists, from Wollstonecraft to de Beauvoir to contemporary French postmodernists; feminist critiques of science, especially biology and sociology; and theories of ethics and social/political philosophy considered 'feminist' -- a number of the biggest names in ethics and soc/poli phil right now are women. These are a bit outside my primary area (philosophy of math) of course, but I think I'll end up qualified to teach something along these lines.

July 24, 2005

Too fucking hot

Can we just tell the sun it won, so it leaves us alone? Or something? Seriously, the heat index in Chicago today got up to 112. It's still hovering around 100. I spent about eight hours this afternoon sneaking around a movie theater and hanging out at Borders reading comic books, but I don't have AC. I have no idea how I'm going to sleep tonight. Neither do I have any idea why the hell people lived here before AC was invented.

At least I'll have central air in Indiana.

Easier To Hide The Geek From The Ladies

Marvel is releasing 44 years of Fantastic Four comics, from 1961 through 2004, all on one DVD and for around $50. It's an awesome way to have all those stories at your fingertips without the boxes and boxes of books that tell women right away that you've got some kind of disease, and whatever it is, they don't want to catch it.

July 23, 2005

The Wonders of the Internet

Like Post Secret, here we have a cool site doing something totally weird, yet captivating. They continually post the most recent 50 pictures posted to various Live Journals.

Hat tip to Pandagon for the link.

Quick links

International Serenity Trailer.

V for Vendetta trailer.

Final Superman Returns logo.

James Marsters, Spike to Buffy/Angel fans, to appear on Smallville as Brainiac.

Time to get my sims porn on

Or not, because you can't. Asshole:

In the statement, Thompson says, 'Sims 2, the latest version of the Sims video game franchise ... contains, according to video game news sites, full frontal nudity, including nipples, penises, labia, and pubic hair.' [...]

Thompson doesn't seem to care. He cites a cheat code that can remove the blur that covers the nether regions. "The nudity placed there by the publisher/maker, Electronic Arts, is accessed by the use of a simple code that removes what is called 'the blur' which obscures the genital areas. In other words, the game was released to the public by the manufacturer knowing that the full frontal nudity was resident on the game and would be accessed by use of a simple code widely provided on the Internet."

It's not just the adults that are liberated from their wardrobes. Sims kids can also be nudified, "much to the delight, one can be sure, of pedophiles around the globe who can rehearse, in virtual reality, for their abuse."

For those of you who don't know, a widely-available patch eliminates the blurring that covers nude sims. When used this patch reveals the sexual features of a ken or barbie doll. No nipples, no hair besides that on the head, no genitalia. And while you can do this with children-sims as well as adult-sims, they're just as featureless -- and there aren't any interactions involving children that are remotely sexual.

I don't think Gamespot should've even given this guy this much coverage; he's obviously just trying to capitalize on the GTA:SA controversy in a profoundly idiotic way.

July 22, 2005

The On Time Friday Random Ten

Song - Artist

1. Black Magic Woman - Santana
2. ...And Justice For All - Metallica
3. T.O.J. - El-P
4. Selling Live Water - Sole
5. Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel
6. The Big Medley - Dream Theater
7. Battle Royal - Duke Ellington & Count Basie
8. Altoid Addiction (Interlude) - Prefuse 73
9. Since We Last Spoke - RJD2
10. The Silent Man - Dream Theater

Seriously, how long does it take to post your Random Tens? Do it chumps. Over the last few weeks, since I loaded all my music into one place, I've been using itunes' Rating function to rate my songs on a zero to five star system. Shuffle then takes your ratings into account and brings higher rated songs to the shuffle with more frequency than lower rated songs. Lower and unrated songs still get in there with good frequency, but looking at this list I can see that the a fair number of those are high rated songs. I suppose that means my list isn't entirely random, or at least not as random as it could be, but it's still a nice feature.

July 21, 2005

Taken in Chicago this April. It's one of the few really nice times of the year here.  Posted by Picasa

How does his skull not implode?

According to lil Davey Brooks, John Roberts is a thoughtful conservative who will not face a tough confirmation battle because he's Catholic and 'confounds culture war categories' by having a wife who's a member of Feminists for Life. Also, the Democratic members of the Senate will be encouraged by bloggers to deny confirmation.

So Roberts will avoid the culture war by being at the centre of it, and confirmed because he's a moderate who's ideologically quite conservative?

(Poking around FFL's website, I noted such features as long-discredited data on a connection between abortions and breast cancer, and a list of famous feminists who supported abortion -- prior to WW2. Their only non-abortion issue seems to be Father's Rights.)

Pinko Feminist Hellcat: Abortion is wonderful

Great post over at Pinko Feminist Hellcat:

Not. Your. Business.

I do not want to hear what the exceptions for the supposed moderates are. They are quite happy to enforce consequences they don't have to live with. Besides which, it's beyond arrogant and patronizing to listen to a woman's situation and pass judgement on her choice. Who are you to tell anyone that you would allow for an abortion in her situation because of X,Y, or Z? Since when is your approval needed or warranted?

There are those of us who do not want to be pregnant, period. So adoption is not an option.

We are not public property, so lay off. When you get the urge to proclaim approval or disapproval for a woman's choice, do the opposite and shut it. Just shut it.

Because while abortion isn't horrible, enforced pregnancy is. As is pillorying women who refuse to be guilty for choosing differently than you.

July 20, 2005

Canada is gone to teh gays!


Canada legalized gay marriage Wednesday, becoming the world's fourth nation to grant full legal rights to same-sex couples.[...]

The Netherlands, Belgium and Spain are the only other nations that allow gay marriage nationwide.

Technically, the US allows gay marriage, too -- but only in Massachusetts.

Check out the bonus strawman further down:

Churches have expressed concern that their clergy would be compelled to perform same sex ceremonies. The legislation, however, states that the bill only covers civil unions, not religious ones, and no clergy would be forced to perform same-sex ceremonies unless they choose to do so.

Charles McVety, a spokesman for Defend Marriage Canada and president of Canada Christian College, said he was "very sad that the state has invaded the church, breached separation of church and state and redefined a religious word."

The sad thing is, he probably believes this.

My Thoughts On John Roberts

In a word: Nightmare. The man is fifty years young and has pretty much no record at all to be held to. After Souter I can't believe that the Republicans are going to be so sloppy as to not make sure that their nominee will be in the vein of Scalia, and while I suppose there's always a chance for a Souter Surprise, the chances of it happening a second time around are low. From a strategic point of view, with no record the Dems are going to have to really grill him in the confirmation process, but there are two problems: 1) He could lie, which we can't really do anything about, and 2) Really extensive questioning can be spun against us in the media pretty easily.

Who knows, maybe he's actually a moderate and Bush is saving his super conservative for Rehnquist's seat. The Chief seat is, after all, a lot more important than O'Conner's in setting the direction of the Court. Still, I think it's a little too much to hope for from this White House. No matter how this guy comes down on the issues he's going to camp out in that seat for thirty years, and that's increadibly scary.

A bit of a contrast

I actually ripped this off from Fox News. Maybe it was unintentional. Follow the link for an interesting list of questions for Roberts, the new candidate for the Supremes.

He Gave It All He Had, Captain

James Doohan, Scotty to Trek fans, has passed away. He was 85 and suffering from pneumonia, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, lung fibrosis, and was confined to a wheelchair. According to people that met him at Trek conventions he was the most friendly and personable member of the original cast.

Resolution, Probably

Well all the hubub over the "Hot Coffee" mod has resulted in a recall of the game. Truthfully, I don't care much about the content, but it's about time the ESRB flexed some muscle.

July 18, 2005

As it turns out, I'm gay

This is news to me, of course, but according to the Christian "reparative therapist" for homosexuals discussed in Salon's series on reparative therapy, I must be gay gay gay gay.

Barry Levy, a Christian counselor and licensed clinical social worker, is explaining to me what causes homosexuality. 'Take the young boy who is more sensitive, more delicate, who doesn't like rough-and-tumble, who is artistic,' he says. 'He can't hit the ball, fire the gun or shoot an arrow. There is a high correlation between poor eye-hand coordination and same-sex attraction.'

Other 'causes' of homosexuality discussed in this article include a erotization of masculinity (see, gay guys like giving blowjobs because they're cannibalizing the penis!) and an overbearing mother who emasculates the unavailable father. Because everyone knows teh gay = effeminate men who didn't get the proper man-i-zation from their fathers.

July 17, 2005

More GTA "Hot Coffee" Mod

In addition to the ESRB investigation into the unlockable "Hot Coffee" mod for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, now some Senators, including Joseph Lieberman and Hilary Clinton, are now lobbying the FCC to look into the matter as well. What they're actually asking for, I don't know, but what I do know is that the reaction from the internet nerds is, as ever, woefully off the reservation in terms of the issues presented. Here, I'll quote a popular argument people are making:

Let's take it slow, so you can understand this. The way this game is meant to be played goes as follows: you have a console (let's say PS2). And a controller (let's say the PS2 controller). These are the only factors Rockstar is working with.

With input from the PS2 controller, there is no possible way to unlock this content. The only thing that's "part of the game" is stuff that can be unlocked using the controller. If Rockstar had put in a "code" for you to unlock this stuff, then I could understand what the problem would be. But, they didn't want anyone to see it.

They took it out of the game as a form of self censorship. And they left the content on the disc to avoid bugs. It's that simple. If you've ever heard of Occam's Razor, you'd know that the simplest solution is usually the correct one. This is the simplest solution. There is no massive conspiracy by Rockstar to corrupt our nation's youth.

And, as a side note, I fucking hate the Grand Theft Auto games anyway, and I would be overjoyed if they never sold another copy of them ever again.

Let me put it this way: let's say you're presenting a powerpoint presentation in your class. At one point, you decide to toss in a picture of a boob. However, later on, you decide against this, and take the picture of the boob out, but you still have it on your harddrive.

Is that picture of the boob still considered part of your powerpoint presentation because it's still on your harddrive? Should people get angry at you because there's a picture of a boob on your harddrive that no one should access? Now, I know this isn't completely analagous, but you get the idea.

Though not specifically relating to that post, here's my latest take on it:

Most of the arguments people are giving in support of Rockstar strike me as ethical or moral arguments. While I have sympathy to those arguments, and indeed I don't think there's anything wrong per se with content that's on a disc and not part of the game from an ethical/moral standpoint, this isn't one of the two issues here.

Issue 1: Rockstar's contract with the ESRB. This is a simple matter of looking at the contract the two of them signed and parsing the disclosure requirements. While none of us know for sure what the contract says, I think it's entirely likely that the contract required full disclosure of everything shipped on the disc, whether an integral part of the game or locked content. The actions of the ESRB seem to me to indicate that *they* think the content should have been disclosed.

A sub issue here is also whether the sex scene would have affected the rating, and though many of us, myself included, think the ratings system is crazy in how it deals with sexual content as opposed to violent content, based on what we've seen from the ESRB in the past the scene very well might have had an impact on the score.

Issue 2: The political issue. We live in a society where currently it is popular to bash video games as the source of all types of evils. GTA was hardly out of the political spotlight before this happened and all kinds of similar hearings and denouncements had happened about any number of things that you are able to do in the game. Given this political climate, Rockstar released a game, already controversial for the brutal carnage you can partake in, with an unlockable sex minigame. Now, maybe this was on purpose. It's possible that they knew this would get found and also knew that as one of the most popular and profitable franchises in recent years that their game was in a unique position to include this content and make an issue out of it. As has been pointed out, the ESRB is very intertwined with the industry and it's very unlikely that they'll give an AO rating to a game this popular, regardless of the content, so maybe Rockstar is just trying to push the boundaries on acceptable levels of sexual content.

I don't know what they're trying/intending to do, and nobody else does outside the company. What we do know is that this is just one more thing to jump on if you're a person that thinks there's something wrong with video games today, and if this wasn't some intentional move by Rockstar then it was a huge damn mistake. Whether they intended it or not or whether it's an integral part of the game or some locked minigame, however, does not matter to the politicians. The content is there, in millions of children's homes across the country, and the debate is whether it *should* be there, regardless of how it's accessed, and also whether parents should be made aware of this content before they bring it into their homes.

I understand the frustration with the political process, but this happens every time there's some new artistic expression. It happened to Rock n' Roll, it's still happening to Rap, and it's going to continue to happen with video games until the kids that grew up on GTA are in thier 50s and are deeply involved in politics.
What are your thoughts? Should the ESRB change the rating? Should the government be involved? Have any questions about the situation that I haven't done a very good job of making clear? Post in the comments!

There's nothing wrong with you that I can't fix ... with my hands!


July 16, 2005

How Random Is This Ten? Totally

(Song - Artist)

1. Goodbye Cruel World - Pink Floyd
2. Prodigal - Procupine Tree
3. Don't Panic - Coldplay
4. You Can't Always Get What You Want - The Rolling Stones
5. 2 Cent Brain - Peanuts & Corn
6. Good Vibrations - The Beach Boys
7. Blessing of a Smile - The Flower Kings
8. King Nothing - Metallica
9. Monasterio de Sol - Paco De Lucía
10. Signed Sealed Delivered, I'm Yours - Stevie Wonder

Come on you louts, post your randoms!

A slice of Chicago's lakeshore bike trail early in May.  Posted by Picasa

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!

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.

The rest of the album is filled out with some great live cover tunes from several of Dream Theater's musical influences. The live stuff includes "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" formerly by Elton John, "Perfect Strangers" by Deep Purple, "The Rover/Achilles Last Stand/The Song Remains the Same" by Led Zeplin. Lastly, "The Big Medley", which as you might expect has bits of songs from Pink Floyd, Kansas, Queen, Journey, The Dixie Dregs, and Genesis. Though not on this album, but released on one of the Live DVDs they later released, this live show also included appearances by several guests, such as Steve Howe of Yes fame.

Also of note is that this was the first album for then new keyboardist Derek Sherinian, who came on as a hired gun after the departure of original member Kevin Moore left the band. He didn't last long though, and only appeared on this album and Falling Into Infinity before he was replaced (according to rumors for being too much of a slime with the ladies back stage) and the current lineup took shape.
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 just the lettering on an already baked and frosted cake.

July 15, 2005

The Matrix Will Light Our Darkest Hour...And Keep The Roborave Going

For those interested in the upcoming live action Transformers movie, but worried about what it might look like, I think this is pretty reassuring. I'm sure, however, that our movie will have much less Soul Train and more Astro Train. And lasers. And missles, which is probably a real bummer to Bumblebee. Turns out Roboconomy cars *are* good for something, it's just not going to turn the tide in the Cybertronian Civil Wars. Unless their wars work a lot different than ours I suppose.

Yeah, it's kind of pablum

But at least it's Joss Whedon pablum, and really, it's pretty accurate for the feel of his work:

The one thing I would want an audience to take away from my work is that people who do not think they have strength in them do and that everybody has the ability and chance to be stronger and better and happier than the world seems ready to let them.

Culture of life

But what kind of life?:

Of the 287 chemicals we detected in umbilical cord blood, we know that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests.

Why, mutant life, naturally! In 2008, the GOP is the party of the X-Men! Vote Cyclops!

Doing math

From the blog of a mathematician I read (I don't know the mathematician personally), describing the way she does research:

The process itself isn't that blogworthy, either. Unlike the people who can blog about the creation of an outline or the number of pages written, or whatever, there's nothing tangible to show for my time. I sit for a while, staring at a blank piece of paper. Then I might re-write the question on the paper. Maybe I'll write some follow-up questions. Stare at the paper some more. Flip through a related article, hoping that something will pop out as useful. Sometimes I'll take a section of the article that I'm reading and recopy it (like a medieval monk) onto my sheet of paper, just to be sure that I'm understanding every line. Maybe then I'll instead stare at the wall for a while.

It's only after a while of this (for me, this takes months and months) that a good idea might pop out. Then there's the business of nailing down all the details and making sure that the idea really does work -- that it's not some sort of trick being offered by my brain to get me to stop staring at empty pages and walls and whatnot. (Ideas that arrive in the middle of the night are almost always wrong.) Only once an idea survives this personal vetting process can writing begin.

That's pretty much dead-on to the way I work, too, although a lot of the time I'll be laying on my back on a couch or my bed with my eyes shut, only apparently napping, or in a coffee shop sitting there, staring blankly and muttering to myself. Working on a philosophy problem really isn't all that much different for me, although I prefer to make philosophy-related notes on a yellow legal pad, and math notes on featureless printer paper.

Watching academics work must be as exciting as watching paint dry.

My mom's cat, Duchess. She's always has that rather pissed-off expression, even back when she was a kitten. This is meant to be evocative of some of Warhol's paintings.  Posted by Picasa

July 14, 2005

I Know It Was You, Ron Sims. You Broke My Heart!

Big Media Matt and Robert Farley make the argument that Seattle's lack of a good ol' fashioned American Mob presence could be holding it back from mass transit.

The Sears Tower, taken from my old school (University of Illinois, Chicago).  Posted by Picasa

My First MP3

Maybe this will get you scoundrels to post. What is the first MP3 you can remember listening to? For me it was the Foo Fighter's "Monkey Wrench", or possibly Guns 'N Roses "Sweet Child of Mine". I had just heard about these crazy MP3 things and found a website that actually had them right there on the front page to download. Ah, the early days, before entertainment industries knew the internet existed.

So anyone remember the first songs they got in MP3? Needn't be the actual first, just some early MP3 memory.

July 13, 2005

The Plame Game or: The Least Original Post Title

Alright, I'm always hesitant to post about this type of story for a few reasons: 1) It seems so clear to me that I feel like I have much to say, 2) These stories make me angry, and you wouldn't like me when I'm angry, and 3) A natural laziness that strikes me from time to time.

Anyway, as I thought about it I figured it'd be useful if I just gave a broad overview and you all could talk about it in the comments.

1) In his 2003 State of the Union Address President Bush states that British Intelligence reports that they have proof that Iraq has been attempting to purchase uranium from "Africa" (later clarified to be yellow cake uranium from Niger.

2) July 6, 2003: Former US Ambassador Joe Wilson writes a column in the New York Times claiming the President's statements about Iraq's attempts to score some uranium are, as the kids say, "totally whack". He supports this claim with the fact that he was actually sent, by this Administration, to Africa to check it out.

3) July 14, 2003: Robert Novak writes a response column, but interestingly claims that Wilson was not sent by the Administration, but by his wife Valerie Plame, the CIA Agent. Surprisingly, this tidbit was not public knowledge, as she was undercover. Novak refuses to reveal his source, despite the fact that there has, in all likelihood, been a very serious violation of federal law. It should be noted that uncovering undercover operatives is not only an abstract danger to national security, it also endangers the life of the operative. Though Plame wasn't an agent in the James Bond/Solid Snake mold, evidently she was on somewhat sensitive missions. Also, uncovering Plame essentially stunted her career possibilities within the Agency.

4) On several occassions both White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan and President Bush stated that they were serious about discovering the source of the leak and punishing the one responsible. They went so far as to say, on at least one occassion, that the leaker would be fired "at a minimum".

5) July 6, 2005: Reporter Judith Miller was jailed for contempt of court after refusing to reveal Time reporter Matt Cooper's source in a story relating to the Plame affair. Cooper subsequently states that his source has given him permission to testify before the Grand Jury relating to the Plame case. A Time memo is discovered before his testimony which reveals that Karl Rove was Cooper's source.

6) Bush and McClellan both dodge questions relating to Rove and how much, if any, punishment he shall receive if indeed he is proven to be the leaker. The official stance is that the White House does not comment on an ongoing investigation, despite the fact that they commented plenty before the memos were discovered.

Hope that hits all the high points. If I missed something or, and I am eternally hopeful, you just want to give your thoughts, feel free to post some comments.

We're All Scared...Very, Very Scared

Rehnquist is in the hospital. It doesn't sound like anything serious to me, but I can't help worrying every time I see a Supreme Court Justice in the news.

Huge Dickheads

Hey, funny story, remember how Electronic Arts bought up all the football rights for exclusive use, along with the ESPN franchise, previously owned and used by their primary rival, Sega Sports? That, combined EA spent $1.5 billion securing NFL/ESPN rights for five and fifteen years, respectively? Yeah, well they just signed a new agreement with John Madden. That's right, after all that money and kicking of their competitors right in the place o' pain they're probably not even going to use the ESPN license. "Sorry Sega, you were doing too well, we're going to need your brand name to stuff our closet."

Game On!

Hockey labor and management have reached an agreement in principle. My knowledge of the actual deal reached is rather limited, but my guess is labor got hosed.

Yes, I am back on broadband, so pictures of the day have returned! This is a group of windsurfers enjoying the recent Fourth of July holiday just inside the Golden Gate Bridge.  Posted by Picasa

A confusing post on Judith Miller

I've decided I cannot agree with Drew. Not because I think Judith Miller was right to refuse to reveal her source, but because I can't decide whether she was right or not.

The problem is that the principle Miller is standing by here is the same principle that protects whistleblowers, albeit perversely twisted here to support, not undermine, those in power. And whistleblowing is the reason you have a free press: so information can be brought to light without fear of retribution from those in power.

Drew says that "It is ludicrous to suggest that criminal conversations are or should be protected by the long-standing rule against a journalist betraying a source." My training is in philosophy, not law, but isn't it a crime, on some level, to break a non-disclosure agreement and tell reporters that the cigarette company you work for does, in fact, know their product causes cancer?

On the other hand, it seems like a difference can be found here: the minor crime of violating the non-disclosure agreement is overriden by the greater crime of knowingly manufacturing and marketing a dangerous product, while Judith Miller was not being informed of any sort of wrongdoing when she was told Valerie Plame (sp) was a CIA agent. Is this the sort of 'crime calculus' our legal system uses, though?

July 11, 2005

Useful information

Unmarked "Police" Cars:

I knew about the red light on police cars, but not the *677.

It was about 1 PM in the afternoon, and Lauren was driving to visit a friend. An UNMARKED police car pulled up behind her and put his lights on. Lauren's parents have 4 children (high school and college age) and have always told them never to pull over for an unmarked car on the side of the road, but rather wait until they get a gas station, etc.

Lauren had actually listened to her parents advice, and promptly called *677 on her cell phone to tell the police dispatcher that she would not pull over right away. She proceeded to tell the dispatcher that there was an unmarked police car with a flashing red light on his rooftop behind her. The dispatcher checked to see if there were police cars where she was and there weren't, and he told her to keep driving, remain calm and that he had back up already on the way.

Ten minutes later 4 cop cars surrounded her and the unmarked car behind her. One policeman went to her side and the others surrounded the car behind. They pulled the guy from the car and tackled him to the ground. The man was a convicted rapist and wanted for other crimes. I never knew about the *677 Cell Phone Feature, but especially for a woman alone in a car, you should not pull over for an unmarked car.

Apparently police have to respect your right to keep going to a 'safe' place. You obviously need to make some signals that you acknowledge them (i.e. put on your hazard lights) or call *677 like Lauren did. Too bad the cell phone companies don't generally give you this little bit of wonderful information.

*Speaking to a service representative at **Bell** Mobility confirmed that *677 was a direct link to OPP Dispatch. So, now it's your turn to let your friends know about *677.

Zombies, what Zombies?

Apparently US scientists have figured out a way to bring back clinically dead dogs by draining their blood, replacing it with a nearly freezing saline solution, and three hours later, replace the blood and bring the dog back to life with an electric shock. Apparently, no brain damage results from the procedure. The article talks about how this would be most benificial to battlefield or trauma victims, i.e. people who lose massive quantities of blood, because it would give more time to repair bodily damage.

I will admit, my PETA sense was tingling when I found the article didn't mention whether or not the dogs were already dead/injured/etc. Ethically, aren't there some problems with killing animals just to see if we can bring them back to life? Insert your generic mad scientist laugh here.

Also, just because I've read too many Lovecraftian stories, and watched too many zombie movies, I'd figure that they should keep something nearby if they ever do it to a person. Just, you know, in case....

July 10, 2005

An Update

Remember that mod I linked you all to last month? The one that unlocked a "have sex with your girlfriend" minigame in GTA: San Andreas that had been removed before it shipped? The ESRB has opened an investigation into whether they should retroactively change the games rating from Mature to Adults Only.

July 09, 2005

Not so Fantastic

Not surprisingly, The Fantastic Four is pretty mediocre. Michael Chiklis, from FX's The Shield, does quite well in the role (and costuming) of Ben Grimm/The Thing, but every other actor is crappy crap crap. The script is shaky -- several 'why did they do that?' moments, and lots of annoying technobabble thrown around -- but you can tell the writers at least tried to do something in the spirit of, say, X-Men or Spiderman; they just failed miserably.

If you go to superhero movies because they're superhero movies, you probably won't want to tear your eyes out -- this is not Daredevil. But, really, just go see Batman again.

Keep Reading

Dan and I have evidently posted quite a bit today, including some rather long posts, so keep reading on down to get to all the new stuff.

So You're On A Desert Island...With Some Power Source

What movies or music do you think you will never in your life become tired of? For instance, I've watched Ghostbusters and The Big Lebowski, among many others, countless times, but I could watch them today and be entertained. In fact, uh, I'm watching Ghostbusters right now...it's so great.

So, what of you?

Dream Theater: 2005 Octavarium

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!

4. Octavarium

I’ll be honest, this middle part of the list is a little muddy. Truth be told the difference between any one album on this list and the two albums ranked higher and lower than it is really small and I wouldn’t have any problem swapping some of these. The real reason this one is probably ranked as high as it is is because it’s new and I’m just excited about all the songs. This isn’t to say it’ll drop to the bottom when I tire of it, because I probably won’t tire of it, just get used to it.

I think this is probably Dream Theater’s most straightforward sounding album, which is just nice to have in the catalogue. I like to view DT’s discography as the ingredients for a live show, so it’s good to have a good mix. Put out an album of rich, complex tunes, then balance it with a more straightforward album. This one fills the latter quite nicely and the tunes are extraordinarily catchy for Dream Theater. The melodies and hooks in this album are approximately a bunch more catchy than previous albums. Moreso than other albums I find myself humming the tunes from this album when I'm not listening to it, but more importantly, when I'm not thinking about it. If you've ever found yourself absentmindedly humming some tune you didn't even realize you were humming, you know what I'm talking about, and to my mind it's that type of stuff that tells me something is really catchy.

This isn’t to say that it’s a shallow album. Quite the opposite, but I’m still just starting to unwind all the different layers of the album and look forward to doing for a quite a while.

1) The Root of All Evil - Part three of the multi-album spanning tale of dealing with alcoholism. The themes from the previous two parts of the epic blend nicely with the new stuff they've presented here and I think this is probably my favorite of the three thusfar.

2)The Answer Lies Within - A slower more contemplative song than most of the rest of the album, this one didn't grab me at first and it wasn't until I found myself, as noted above, humming the tune absentmindedly that I appreciated it more. No solos or virtuosity to speak of here, which is a good departure for a band that likes to spread itself out stylistically.

3) The Walls - I think this is my favorite song of the album. Like most of my favorites from DT this one grabbed me the first time I listened to it with a nice catchy-ness mixed with some nice rich technical composition to back it up. This is the type of song I can just sing along to or choose to follow any of the members of the band and enjoy what they're playing. Jordan Rudess layes down some nice atmospheric keys; Mike Portnoy's laying down a rock solid percussion along with some great little flares to spice it up; John Myung manages to completely disappear in the mix, not because he's not there but because it blends so well you don't notice that he's doing really cool stuff unless you listen for it; and John Petrucci is keeping it nice and crunchily rocking then switches to a wonderfully clean and simplistic solo. I can't wait to see this one live.

4) I Walk Beside You - I was skeptical when I heard people, including Casey in his review posted below, mention this song in the same sentence as U2, but it's there. Don't take that to be negative, which it certainly isn't, and this is actually one of the things I like most about DT. They can do a U2-ish song while still sounding like Dream Theater, then the next second do something completely different. Can U2 do Dream Theater? Don't know that they've ever tried, but I've never seen a more versatile band than Dream Theater and this song is another example.

5) Panic Attack - John Myung doesn't often get a chance to shine because he's so often happily just playing his complex bass riffs in the background, but every once in a while he gets to come out front, as he does at the beginning of this song and show what he can do. A balls out rocker, this is one of the more "in your face" songs on the album, while at the same time sometimes I'll be listening and pick up a bit of lyrics and realize how well I think they match the quick rocking going on underneath. This song also lets the band put in a couple nice quick packed-with-notes solos which is pretty rare on this album, even though these solos are reletively short.

6) Never Enough - Another rocker, though at a bit of a slower clip than the last one. The thing I appreciate the most about this one is the rock solid platform provided by Portnoy on the drums and Myung on the bass. The two of them just drive this song forward with a head bobbing groove and amazing precision. Like most of the album there's reletively little soloing going on, but it's impressive how much milage they get out of what little they indulge in.

7) Sacrifice Sons - This is the song I'm least sure about on the album, though it has nothing to do with the music. Dream Theater has a history of taking on controversial topics (stem cell research on Six Degrees of Inner Turbulance and religious fanaticism on Train of Thought), but doing so in a rather amazingly even-handed way, refusing to take sides in the debate. Given my political leanings I'm a little wary of jingoism and that's the impression I first got from this song. Sure, DT's a New York band and they probably have a lot of personal feelings about 9/11 and I can begrudge them an outlet in a song, I'm just careful about what the messages in songs like that might be. That said, it took me a while to find the other side being presented in the previous political songs and in the end it took sitting down with the lyrics and headphones and breaking the song down, which I haven't done with this one yet. I can say that I like the music though, so it's already got that going for it.

8) Octavarium - Ah, the epic song of the album. While the rest of the songs on the album are shockingling short by Dream Theater standards (only one half the album's songs break 8 minutes), this one clocks in at a hefty 24 minutes flat. There are two ways that I can think of to make a song longer: 1) Add solos, and 2) Make movements. The former can be interesting every once in a while, but it can become rather tedious, especially as the songs get longer. I've heard some songs that broke the twenty minute barrier that probably shouldn't have, none by Dream Theater of course, and those aren't all that fun. Movements is the much more practical and interesting thing to do with long songs, but still, I think in our radio trained culture of music listening people just don't "get" long music anymore. Mahler wrote a symphony that lasted an hour and a half and calls for upwards of a thousand (that's right 1,000) people, though you can get away with less. There's nothing inherently wrong with long music, but it seems to me that today anything that goes over five minutes is written off as self indulgent.

Anyway, to get to the actual music, this song has eight movements, each falling under one broad theme which ties the work together. Some of the movements I like better than others, and while this isn't Dream Theater's best long song, it's an excellent song to work your way through. I'm only starting to break this song down and really "get" each of its parts but I am starting to understand that this song is made of puzzle pieces and that this song is a part of the larger puzzle presented in the album as a whole. I'm not quite sure where it's going yet, but musical themes are quoted throughout the album both from previous albums and between tunes on this one. This one's going to take me a good long while to fully digest, but that's what I love about this band. I'll be listening to this song regularly for a year and it won't feel old in the slightest.

Men For VAWA Declaration of Support

Go sign:

As men throughout the United States who are committed to ending violence in our families and our communities, we support the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). We believe that men must join together with women to be part of the solution to the problem of domestic and sexual violence.

Since 1994 VAWA has helped to reduce the rates of domestic and sexual violence, but the problem continues in epidemic proportions throughout our country. VAWA 2005 expands support for domestic violence victims and focuses on breaking the cycle of violence by targeting resources to children and youth who have been exposed to violence, and engaging men as allies in this work.

Infantile masculinity

Via Panda Amanda, a post by one Robert Arjet on the culture of the 'doofus dad' or selfish, emotionally stunted masculinity:

Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

Jeez, this one is painful just to read. It wouldn't be so bad if I couldn't imagine millions of guys, some of whom I know, saying "Hell, yeah!" to that one. It's such a sad rejection of the entire emotional life. Sympathy is a basic element of the human condition. I'm actually at a loss to put into words what is missing from a life without sympathy.

Crying is blackmail

Ah, my favorite. Boy-men generally hate to see women cry, especially if there's any chance that they might be legitimately at fault. If crying is blackmail (not "sometimes blackmail" or "often used as blackmail"), then anytime a guy like this is such an ass to a woman that she tears up, she is automatically in the wrong, he is automatically in the right, and nothing she says any longer has any validity. Nice bit of logic. Talk about blame-the-victim. I mean, this is abuser mentality. Do these guys, in their darker moments, think "bleeding is blackmail?"

What's sad is that I really recognize this sort of selfishness: with the exception of one uncle (who was gay), all of my male relatives have proven again and again to be incapable of genuinely respecting their wives or girlfriends. Or doing any real work around the house.

Where Being Sent To The Bench Is A Good Thing

Drew's got a pretty bleak picture of the state of affairs after the recent announcement that Sandra Day O'Conner will step down from the Supreme Court and the rumors that another (Rehnquist), or possibly two more (Rehnquist and Stevens), retirement announcements are on the way.

First let me just state the obvious; the fact that Bush is getting any Supreme Court nominations is a bad thing. Still, given the ages represented on the Court it's hardly surprising, especially given how long it's been since a new Justice was appointed.

Ok, that's the basic stuff. I have to agree with Drew that if they manage to get two more Scalia's on the Court and promote the real Slim Scalia to the big chair that things are going to be screwed like crazy. Drew mentions a lot of areas where precedents can be overturned, and he's right of course, but I'd be much more concerned about areas where there *aren't* decades of precedents yet. We're talking the internet(s), genetic manipulation/cloning/research, novel issues of international law stemming from the so-called War on Terror. Yeah, that's all pretty scary.

Still, and perhaps I'm just be a bit of an insane optimist here, but I just don't think Bush can pull something like that off. Sure, there may be a grand conservative leader that will guide this country into a decades long venture into a fundy dreamland, but Bush isn't gonna be that guy in my ever humble opinion. I mean, Zogby's got the guy polling with 42% of people saying they'd be in favor of impeachment if it was found that Bush mislead people about Iraq before the war and it's only in the South that Bush's job approval gets over 50%, and even then it's at 51%. Yeah, everyone should be skeptical of polls and those numbers probably aren't that high or low, respectively. Still, major polling institutions are polling on *impeachment*! The fact that they're even asking the questions is pretty big, and though it may be a bit higher than reality, 42% is a high damn number!

I just don't think Bush is in the position to nominate real honest to God wackos, or at least certainly not two. Sure, he'll probably be able to a real conservative in Rehnquist's seat of that opens up, and that's fine, though I still don't think he'll be able to get a James Dobson-ite through. But with O'Conner's seat, I have to believe that the Dems are going to fight tooth and nail to get a real moderate in there. Yeah, the hearings are going to be long, and in all likelihood pretty catty, but I have to think there are enough Republicans sane enough out there to realize that replacing the first woman ever to be appointed to the Court and who was always the bulwark guarding some fundamental reproductive rights with some crusty old white conservative monolith would be disasterous to their party. Yeah, we'd be stuck with a couple crap judges, if they ever managed to get them through, but the Dems would be handed one of the most potent electoral messages they could ever hope for.

Of course I suppose we'll all see, but I feel like whatever it was the Bush was calling his "political capital" from reelection has been spent paying for an unpopular an unproductive war. Like Clinton he's surrounded by scandals, and these ones aren't just getting a blowjob. Like I started with, Bush nominating anyone is bad news, but I don't think we're quite staring at the abyss.

Evidently There Were More Than A Couple Links

Here we have the first concert of video game music performed by a major symphony. Tunes include orchestrations of Mario™, Zelda®, Halo®, Metal Gear Solid®, Warcraft®, Castlevania®, Sonic™, Tron, Tomb Raider®, Advent Rising, Beyond Good & Evil™, Kingdom Hearts, God of War™, Final Fantasy®, EverQuest® II, a special retro arcade segment, and more. Check out their website for more.

Here's a somewhat long, but really informative interview about all, or most of at least, the cool shit that's going into the Xbox 360. Lot's of good info about things like the interface, which helps you organize things like music that you've put on the machine or even meet people that are of about the same skill level as you in an online game. Good stuff if you're at all interested in the 360.

Thanks to Evil Avatar again for those links.

I'm not sure how excited, if at all, I should be when I read that people think pineaples might fight off cancer in people and that there might be an AIDS vaccine. Science people, let me know what you think!

Lamark was right?

Thanks to /. for those links.

Couple O' Links

Here's a link to a discussion with video game developers about why we haven't seen any serious attempts at religious video games. Any thoughts? I've got a couple but I want you all to start commenting for Pete's sake. Here's a couple relevent bits to start you thinking:
1) Cinema has many serious mainstream treatments of religious source material.

2) Though perhaps a smaller industry by numbers of consumers, money wise the video game industry is starting to get close to, if not already having surpassed, the movie industy.

3) One of the defining characteristics of video games is player control, while movies are more a medium for presenting a single forceful perspective.

I might think of something later, but that should at least get you all started. Also, I want to point out that you don't need to be familiar with video games to talk about this in the abstract, so all you people saying, "Oh, I'm not a gamer, he doesn't want me to post." and just click that little comments link and put in your thoughts.

Next up we have an enormous audio interview with Avi Arad, Marvel big wig, about all things Marvel. It's fourty minutes broken up into six minute segments so you don't have to listen all at once. Topics covered include the future of some movie franchises already made into films (Fantastic Four, X-Men, Spiderman, etc.) and some upcoming franchises (Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider).

Here are a couple nicely shorter highlights of the above interview in printed form.

Thanks to Evil Avatar for the links.

Finding Design in Nature

An Austrian Cardinal (the Catholic person kind, not the bird kind) has written an essay, published in the New York Times a couple days ago:

The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.

'Neo-Darwinism' is an old boogeyman of religious opponents of evolution, though that name is not entirely accurate. What the opponents of evolutionary theory are afraid of is what Nietzsche called the death of God: the nearly nihilistic point of view (not even really a coherent, unified philosophical movement) that existence is utterly without purpose or plan. This point of view is utterly antithetical to all but the most deistic forms of religion, which is why Nietzsche gave it this name, and also why it is so vigorously opposed by the religious.

It is, incidentally, a point of view I am rather drawn towards.

The problem is, in the context of discussions of biology, this point of view becomes a straw man: it is a metaphysical idea, strictly beyond the scope of science. 'Neo-Darwinism', or the post-Watson and Crick 'new dogma' (yes, it is actually known in this way) properly speaking, is a theory of DNA and survival pressures: DNA provides the blueprint for all the various traits and structures of an organism; variations in DNA occur with some regularity, as cells of the organism split for growth and reproduction (this is the Neo- part, what was added to Darwin's basic theory of variation and selection after the discovery of DNA); these variations carry over into slight variations in traits and structures among populations of organisms, and the DNA coding for those variants (genes) which are better able to reproduce will gradually become more widespread throughout the population; finally, over sufficiently long time scales, these small, subtle changes build up into large, dramatic ones. Nowhere does Neo-Darwinism forbid divine guidance, especially with regards to the particular genetic variations that occur.

But, similarly, nowhere does Neo-Darwinism require any kind of divine intervention. This is the threat the religious seem to see here: that their fragile faith will be shattered if God is not intellectually necessary. It's sad that they lack the robust faith of their sisters and brothers who ground their faith not in a requirement of rock-solid intellectual necessity, but out of loving hope in spiritual possibility, what Christians have often called grace.

July 08, 2005

Friday Random Ten - New And Improved

So we've been a bit off the job lately, particularly with the Random 10s, but there's an explaination, if not a great one. Well, first, Dan's on vacation and is therefore allowed to be lazy, while I have spent a significant bit of my free time over the last week increasing my music library. For those that aren't aware, my old laptop died a few months ago and, thanks to my Best Buy Warranty, I was able to get a brand spanking new one which had a number of higher stats than the old one, notably a larger hard drive. This week I decided that this extra space was a perfect excuse to move every MP3 I had stored on various computers to this one and to rip every CD I own to MP3. As you can see, this has taken me a while.

Hrrrmmm, someone's come to pick me up, therefore, stay tuned to this space because the Random 10 will appear here soon. Though it may get in edited on Saturday, I still will have posted this on Friday!

Edit: And here's the list, culled from 7856 songs, which played back to back would run non-stop for 23 days. As you might imagine, this little project of mine has taken up quite a bit too much of my hard drive, and I mean to trim back a bit in the coming weeks. Be that as it may, here's the list:

(Song - Artist)
1)Gun Control - Busdriver
2)Dancing With Myself - Billy Idol
3)Salt In My Wounds - Vanden Plas
4)Suicide Song - Sole
5)Baptism - Roots Manuva
6)Spanish Castle Magic - Yngwie Malmsteen
7)Point of No Return - Kansas
8)Nova Scotia Baby! - Josh Martinez
9)Let It Snow! - Bing Crosby
10)Action Satisfaction - Jurasic 5

Don't forget to post your own Random 10s!

At least they're consistent

The Next Anti-Choice Frontier: IVF:

An Illinois judge declares that an early embryo is a human being, allowing a couple to sue a clinic for destroying a fertilized egg.

A U.S. senator suggests that couples seeking fertility treatment should not be allowed to produce more embryos than they wish to implant simultaneously.

Anti-abortion activists picket a fertility clinic in Virginia, proclaiming, “IVF kills babies.”

Here's to hoping we'll look back on this moment as the time the anti-abortion movement jumped the shark: while a pretty sizable chunk of Americans have some qualms about destroying something that looks more-or-less like a baby, only the wingnuts seem to care about clusters of a couple cells, especially when those clusters are created to save and create lives.

PS I don't think I'm going to use the term 'anti-abortion' anymore. 'Anti-choice' is good, as is 'anti-autonomy', but at the moment I'm in a crappy mood and 'coathangers' seems most appropriate. As in 'these fucking coathangers are so pro-life they want to see women bleeding to death in alleys'. What do you think? Too obscure?

Rehnquist and Stevens to retire today

Or so goes the rumour-mongering; I'm a bit sceptical myself. We'll see what happens, I guess. If Bush does get to appoint three (!) justices, including the chief justice, this is always an option. Unless, of course, you're about to be locked into a Ph.D program for a minimum of four years.

Good intentions

but this is just weird:

The Spanish Senate is due to pass a reform law this week which will drastically change relationships in future marriages. The reform to Spain’s divorce laws will require men to do an equal amount of housework as women

Besides the obvious privacy issue, I can't figure out how this would be enforced. Work diaries? In-home surveillance? The Spanish police pay some constable to hang out in your house for a couple days?

It looks like this might actually be a link to an editorial, but I don't want to register so I can't be sure; I suspect it's just some wacky anti-feminist bullshitting.

July 06, 2005

Indiana does something right

for a change. Feministe:

In Indiana the county fair is still a summer highlight for many residents. As teenagers, news of who competes and wins the county beauty pageant still permeates the halls of county high schools. Thus it was with great interest that I found the news that Indiana has decided Title IX must apply to county beauty pageant contestants and that married and pregnant women are now eligible to compete for the title. In addition, award titles will be changed so that achievement is not based within a gender category. We may have two kings or two queens, at certain fairs a “court” of achievers, and even a divorce from the monarchical language altogether.

Comment contest: come up with a disparaging nickname for my new home!