December 26, 2005
What holiday do you celebrate this time of year, and what kinds of traditions are particular to your family?
December 23, 2005
That's why it's important you go back and read this:
Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito wrote in a June 1985 memo that the ruling that legalized abortion should be overturned [....]
I know, I know, not surprising at all. But check this shit out:
"While abortion involves essentially the same medical choice as other surgery, it involves in addition a moral choice, because the woman contemplating a first trimester abortion is given absolute and unreviewable authority over the future of the fetus," Alito wrote. "Should not then the woman be given relevant and objective information bearing on this choice? Roe took from the state lawmakers the authority to make this choice and gave it to the pregnant woman. Does it not follow that the woman contemplating abortion have at her disposal at least some of the same sort of information that we would want lawmakers to consider?"
Now, you could try to shrug this off by talking about context, but still, what's the point of view he's articulating here? That the pregnant woman's body should rightfully be under the control of the state; or, failing that, the state has the authority to do everything it can to convince her to make the 'right' decision. The bullshit about making sure she's 'informed' is an infantilizing smokescreen, assuming that a woman is incapable of deciding for herself when she fully understands all her options. Are there any other circumstances where the law pretends to know better than patients and doctors about how medical decisions should be made?
Keep this in mind when Alito's hearings start up next month. We're going to see an absolute explosion of 'won't let his personal views influence his legal opinions' crap, but it's clear he didn't think that way twenty years ago.
Oh yeah, Happy Holidays and all that.
December 21, 2005
So here we go folks, you know how it goes. You load up your MP3 playing device or software of choice, set the sucker to random, and then post the first ten songs that come up for us all to see in the comments section of this post. The only real rule is that you don't censor your Random 10, that is, don't cut out songs because you might be embarrassed by people finding out that you actually have them or because multiple songs by the same artist came up and you don't want people to get the wrong idea. So, to kick things off, here's my own Random 10!
(song - artist)
1. Night On Disco Mountain - David Shire
2. Have You Ever Seen The Rain - Creedence Clearwater Revival
3. Fuck Her Gently - Tenacious D
4. Somewhere Over The Rainbow - DJ Erb
5. Love Burns - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
6. Studio Time - Hip-Hop Weiners
7. Goodbye To Yesterday - Spock's Beard
8. Fear Not Of Man - Mos Def
9. A Stone - Okkerville River
10. Einstein On The Beach - Philip Glass
Gotta say that I'm pleased with this one. Yeah, starts off pretty damn corny, but still fun. After that though, all good stuff; even got my man Mos Def in there. And Philip Glass adds a certain something, I know not what to the mix. Oh, that's right, rocking.
Hat tip to Atrios.
December 20, 2005
December 19, 2005
That said, John in DC over on AMERICAblog has a really interesting theory about the taps: they were spying on American journalists. He makes his case over there and rather than take time that I should be using to study to recap it here, just go read it there. It's convincing enough for me to take it seriously as a possibility.
Ezra hits on the most troubling aspect of this scandel: FISA, the statute that controls this sort of activity, is really really lenient in letting the government do whatever it wants. The only reasons I've been able to find/think of for why the Administration would skirt around it is some kind of power grab for the executive branch or because they were pretty sure that this increadibly defferential system would still deny their wire tap applications.
December 18, 2005
Ezra reminds us all that the government tapping phones is not illegal. There are laws on the books that give the government a lot of leeway in getting phones tapped when they need them, the only difference is that the laws require some kind of oversight, even if it's not publically disclosed. So it's not that there's a problem with trying to stop terrorists, it's that covering it up like they did is breaking the law.
Also, the Post is reporting that at least some of these wire taps were on American citizens that the FBI acknowledges were not suspected of any wrongdoing. Like Ezra, I'm trying to hold back my inclination to be terrified of this kind of conduct, but I don't see any real explanation for it that makes me feel any better.
We'll see how this pans out, but this isn't one of those "Did the President really lie when he got us into Iraq?" sorts of scandals. The law is rather clear on this issue and unless something crazy happens and changes the facts, the President has admitted to conduct that violates the law.
December 17, 2005
Store managers would be fined up to $1,000 or 100 hours of community service for a first offense, and $5,000 or 500 hours of community service for each subsequent offense. Retailers can escape such fines if they were shown identification they believed to be valid or if their stores "have a system in place to display and enforce" the ratings system.
The bill also calls for various studies to be done by the government into advertising for games, periodic reviews of the ratings system, and secret shopper programs to test stores.
The bill also avoids a problem some previous attempts at legislation have faced in that it does not use the vague term "violent video game" and exclusively uses the ESRB ratings system. So, what do you think? Will it survive review by the courts? Should it?
December 16, 2005
Anyway, the Patriot Act suffered a setback today. This doesn't mean it won't be renewed; it just makes it rather unlikely.
Link digest tomorrow-ish, once I've caught up on the news! (Yeah, right, like I'm not going to spend all day tomorrow reading Plato and relaxing.)
Tycho of Penny Arcade, however, has had a less than fantastic experience (that link should eventually take you directly to their comic, which can then take you to his news post on this subject). The guys over there decided they wanted to poke fun at things like Magic: The Gathering which build up extremely over-detailed fictional backstories and histories all in support of what ammounts to elf and orc baseball cards. So they made up an entirely new intellectual property, but acted as if it were real and had existed for decades, and started the process of filling out their own Wiki (based on the same free technology as Wikipedia, but not an entry in the Wikipedia itself) of the long and detailed histories of a world with ambulatory furniture. Their comic has a pretty big following, so pretty soon they had all kinds of other people playing along, adding in stories of armoir wars and description of the plushy-like subset of this particular fandom, the "furnicators". Of course, the internet is full of dicks, and pretty soon people started messing with their entries.
This is a really long way of getting to the question, of what value is Wikipedia? Do you like it? Is it better or worse than traditional encyclopedias and why/why not? On the one hand it has allowed extremely detailed entries on thousands of subjects because everyone brings their expertise to each subject. On the other, think of any hotly contested issue or person, type their name in and look at the entry. Typographical wars are waged back and forth daily between people who think that something the other guy wrote isn't balanced, fair, or truthful and because no one has any more authority there's no final say in the editorial process.
December 13, 2005
4. Almost no girls play computer games.
Historically, the video game market has been predominantly male. However, the percentage of women playing games has steadily increased over the past decade. Women now slightly outnumber men playing Web-based games. Spurred by the belief that games were an important gateway into other kinds of digital literacy, efforts were made in the mid-90s to build games that appealed to girls. More recent games such as The Sims were huge crossover successes that attracted many women who had never played games before. Given the historic imbalance in the game market (and among people working inside the game industry), the presence of sexist stereotyping in games is hardly surprising. Yet it's also important to note that female game characters are often portrayed as powerful and independent. In his book Killing Monsters, Gerard Jones argues that young girls often build upon these representations of strong women warriors as a means of building up their self confidence in confronting challenges in their everyday lives.
6. Video games are not a meaningful form of expression.
On April 19, 2002, U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Sr. ruled that video games do not convey ideas and thus enjoy no constitutional protection. As evidence, Saint Louis County presented the judge with videotaped excerpts from four games, all within a narrow range of genres, and all the subject of previous controversy. Overturning a similar decision in Indianapolis, Federal Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner noted: "Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low. It engages the interest of children from an early age, as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales collected by Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault are aware." Posner adds, "To shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it." Many early games were little more than shooting galleries where players were encouraged to blast everything that moved. Many current games are designed to be ethical testing grounds. They allow players to navigate an expansive and open-ended world, make their own choices and witness their consequences. The Sims designer Will Wright argues that games are perhaps the only medium that allows us to experience guilt over the actions of fictional characters. In a movie, one can always pull back and condemn the character or the artist when they cross certain social boundaries. But in playing a game, we choose what happens to the characters. In the right circumstances, we can be encouraged to examine our own values by seeing how we behave within virtual space.
December 12, 2005
So hooray me.
As long as I'm posting stuff, here are a few links for you.
Really awesome shots from an upcoming Xbox 360 game.
Like Halo but don't have an Xbox? Here's a sidescrolling version for you PC users. The demo's not bad at all.
The nominations for the Independent Game Awards have been announced. The nice thing is that all of them give you cool demos to play around with and some are free altogether.
And here are a couple nice links about the impending destruction of Christmas.
December 11, 2005
From there we go to NJGuido.com, which I found from a link on Cross and Odenkirk's site. Ah, the Jersey Shore, you've given so much amusement.
Guys, our contribution to making a baby is roughly equivalent to squeezing some toothpaste out of the tube. There's a long tradition in the West of the mother as incubator -- she just kind of keeps our semen nice and warm while it forms itself into a new baby. You can find this in Aristotle, actually, and I think the Bible has some passages that make it sound like pregnancy is just kind of waiting around for the baby to show up. But this is completely bullshit.
As any woman who has been pregnant or any obstetrician can tell you, pregnancy can be a pretty rough nine months. Quite a bit of a mother's energy and nutritional resources go into the new baby, and, along with a hormonal rollercoaster that makes puberty seem like a walk in the park, pregnancy introduces a fair amount of physiological stress in the form of pushing the centre of gravity a good distance in front of the centre of balance. Plus there's the whole 'push a bowling ball through a tube the size of a nectarine' thing that's called labour for a reason.
Once fertilization has occurred, a man has contributed pretty much all he really can to the baby-making. Midnight trips to the store for pickles and peanut butter are incidental. But her job is just getting started, and it's buying into the ridiculous, paternalistic notion that a mother is just an incubator for your seed to think you can get some say over what happens to that pregnancy without trampling over her basic right to bodily integrity. A pregnant woman is the only person who gets a say over whether and when to abort because she's the one who's going to do 99% of the work. Squeezing out our little glob of toothpaste is necessary to get things started, but there's nine months of hard work between a passionate embrace and the first time a new pair of lungs breathes air.
December 10, 2005
December 09, 2005
December 08, 2005
My ordinarily nondescript back yard looks downright pretty under a few inches of snow.
(This is a repost.)
December 07, 2005
Sometimes I really miss geographical features.
December 06, 2005
"Music programs given at times close to religious holidays should not use the religious aspect of these holidays as the underlying motive or theme. No songs should be sung which contain dogmatic religious statements."
Of course, some people are freaking about about it. While the school does not allow "Silent Night" they have allowed "The Draydl Song", which people are saying shows that the school is showing a preference for Hanukah over Christmas. I'm 98% certain that this would get thrown out of court so fast it would make the plaintiff's heads spin, but for fun let's compare the lyrics below the fold:
I have a little dreydl
I made it out of clay
And when it's dry and ready,
Then dreydl I shall play!
Oh dreydl, dreydl, dreydl
I made it out of clay.
Oh dreydl, dreydl, dreydl
Now dreydl I shall play!
My dreydl's always playful.
It loves to dance and spin.
A happy game of dreydl,
Come play now let's begin.
Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in Heavenly peace
Sleep in Heavenly peace
Silent night, Holy night
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from Heaven afar
Christ, the Savior is born
Christ, the Savior is born
Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy Holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth
Does one of those strike you as having statements of "religious dogma" more than the other?
The NIMF has also released their own report card on the industry and it doesn't look good. Even if we grant that their "study" probably don't count as particularly scientific, it still looks like it's pretty easy for kids to get their hands on violent games.
"The Taste Of Love Is Sweet
When Hearts Like Ours Meet
I Fell For You Like A Child
Oh, But The Fire Went Wild"
The good point:
This disregard for science already hurts us. The U.S. has bungled research on stem cells perhaps partly because Mr. Bush didn't realize how restrictive his curb on research funds would be. And we're risking our planet's future because our leaders are frozen in the headlights of climate change.
While our universities are home to great scientists, our society as a whole is pathetically science- and math-illiterate.
But what cause does he identify for this? Not our crappy high schools. Not the recent resurgence of general anti-intellectualism in American populism, nor the political opportunism of movement conservatism that helped it come about. No, the problem is that highly educated people aren't majoring in the sciences in college.
But there's an even larger challenge than anti-intellectualism. And that's the skewed intellectualism of those who believe that a person can become sophisticated on a diet of poetry, philosophy and history, unleavened by statistics or chromosomes. That's the hubris of the humanities.
Look, the problem isn't just that we are, at all levels of society, woefully ignorant of science; the problem is that we are, at all levels of society, woefully ignorant period. People who majored in liberal arts don't know jack about math and science; but, at the same time, very few math, science, and engineering majors care about those humanities classes they're required to take; and the vast majority of people, who don't go to college at all, never really get exposed to either the natural or social sciences. The vast majority of 'real' adults seem to have some vague opinions on contrversial issues, but care much more about things like gas prices, what's on sale at the local giant box store, and who was caught fucking who in the janitor's closet, than Beauty or Truth (to say nothing of the Good).
What we need, at least as a first step, is to vastly improve the education of our teenagers in both the sciences and the humanities, not get all upset because no-one at the Times can solve a calculus problem.
Update: Echidne had much the same reaction I did, but adds
True, but does knowledge about the DNA suffice? Surely a more important field of study for a future leader would be ethics, and studying ethics is part of the liberal arts curriculum. Though of course it would be nice if the future leaders could first be persuaded to believe that the Earth is older than a few thousand years...
December 05, 2005
Now I want to prophesy to those who convicted me, for I am at the point when men prophesy most, when they are about to die. I say gentlemen, to those who voted to kill me, that vengeance will come upon you immediately after my death, a vengeance much harder to bear than that which you took in killing me. You did this in the belief that you would avoid giving an account of your life, but I maintain that quite the opposite will happen to you. There will be more people to test you, whom I now held back, but you did not notice it. They will be more difficult to deal with as they will be younger and you will resent them more. You are wrong if you believe that by killing people you will prevent anyone from reporaching you for not living in the right way. To escape such tests is neither possible nor good, but it is best and easiest not to discredit others but to prepare oneself to be as good as possible. With this prophecy to you who convicted me, I part from you.
December 04, 2005
December 03, 2005
(Song - Artist)
1. New World Man - Rush
2. God Put A Smile Upon Your Face - Coldplay
3. The Silent Man - Dream Theater
4. Somebody Told Me - The Killers
5. Taking Control - Tiles
6. The Test That Stumped Them All - Dream Theater
7. Till There Was You - Peggy Lee
8. You Only Live Twice - James Bond Theme
9. Napalm Brain - Scatter Brain - DJ Shadow
10. Saturday Night - Bay City Rollers
December 02, 2005
December 01, 2005
Well, not quite; apparently the Constitutional Court has given Parliament one year to amend the marriage laws, but this is not expected to happen, as only one conservative religious party, which has almost no power, has called for an amendment formally forbidding gay people from marrying. I like this bit in particular:
The decision was essentially unanimous, with one of the court's 12 judges arguing that the ruling should take effect immediately rather than being stayed.
"Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers, who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston, an effort which leads the Court to surmise but one plausible explanation. Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact--complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words--to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed. Whatever actually occurred, the Court is now faced with the daunting task of deciphering their submissions. With Big Chief tablet readied, thick black pencil in hand, and a devil-may-care laugh in the face of death, life on the razor's edge sense of exhilaration, the Court begins."
Seriously, check it out even if you're not at all involved with the study or practice of law. I love this case. Thanks to Patrick for pointing me to this case.
P.S. You'll need Adobe Acrobat to follow the link.
Edit: Here's the cite for those of you who have access to, and would prefer to use, other methods of viewing the case. 147 F.Supp.2d 668
The basic question is: What is art? This came up when, in a recent column, Roger Ebert said that games are "inherently inferior" to film and that the nature of the medium keeps it from being "true art". This, of course, sent the internet nerds of the handle, though it really doesn't take much. Still, since nearly every nerd was arguing that games were an artform, I felt it was far more interesting to talk about whether there are any examples of "good" art in the medium. Do video games have a Hamlet yet? A Godfather? A Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band? If so, what aspects make a game trancend to that level? If not, why not?
So I tried to convey my dismay to Drew about how rediculous it was for a couple dozen nerds to carry on a, at last count, 16 (!) page conversation where they all basically agree that games are art instead of tackling what I saw as the much more important question for the medium, but we ended up talking about the definition of art, among many other tangents, instead.
So again, I ask you, what is art and, probably more importantly, what isn't art?
1. IGN has a story up that speculates on the lineup of games for the Xbox 360 beyond the launch. They've got 15 games up there through next spring, but I think that's probably pretty low. Granted, the games that aren't mentioned are probably filler titles that aren't very good, but you never know, there could be a jewel in there. I'm also sure that several of the games they mention in the article will get pushed back from the release date they mention. Still, it's nice to see what's coming down the pike and it's good to see that there are some interesting titles in the works.
2. Major Nelson, a Micrsoft employee working on the 360 launch, has a post up on his blog explaining the shipment schedules (they're shooting for about 3 million units shipped in the first 3 months) and attempting to dispell rumors of a recall.
3. GamesFirst has a post comparing screenshots taken from the Xbox 1 version of King Kong and the 360 version of the same. Though the 360 tends to come out looking better there are a few exceptions, but it is important to note a couple things: 1) They didn't have the capability to take screenshots in HD for the 360. 2) The screenshots they did take aren't of the best quality anyway. 3) King Kong was developed for the Xbox 1 generation of consoles and not specifically for the 360. Much like ports from the PS2 to the Xbox 1, the game really isn't taking advantage of the better hardware and is really just a few graphical tweaks. So with all those caveats the 360 shots do generally look a bit better. Also, as an aside, I hear this game is lots of fun for those that have the means to play it but haven't.
4. The Nintendo Revolution will not support HD resolutions when it's released and IGN.Cube thinks this is a really big mistake. Personally, I don't think it's going to be a big deal right away when the machine is released since the market penetration for HDTVs is so reletively low now. Still, if they plan on having the Revolution launch at Christmas '06 and then last five years, that puts the prime of the console's lifetime between '08 and '10 and I think the importance of HDTV support will only get more important going forward.