December 31, 2005

Roll In the New

Happy New Year!

And not a minute too soon!

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Overworked much?

The opening sentence of a story about Bush's brush-clearing hobby: "On most of the 365 days he has enjoyed at his secluded ranch here..."

Lessee. 365 days = 1 year. Jan. 21 2001 - Jan. 1 2006 = 5 years. Therefore, 1/5 (20%) of his presidency has been spent on that ranch. For this we pay him $400K a year?

Nice work if you can get it.

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December 30, 2005

What to read?

I was given a $25 gift certificate from Borders for Christmas. What book should I buy?

Update: In response to a question in the comments, either fiction or non-fiction. My library catalog is here, if you're looking for pointers ;).

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What country is this?

Dear God in heaven, what are these people doing in our names?

The administration contends it is still acting in self-defense after the Sept. 11 attacks, that the battlefield is worldwide, and that everything it has approved is consistent with the demands made by Congress on Sept. 14, 2001, when it passed a resolution authorizing "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks."

"Everything is done in the name of self-defense, so they can do anything because nothing is forbidden in the war powers act," said one official who was briefed on the CIA's original cover program and who is skeptical of its legal underpinnings. "It's an amazing legal justification that allows them to do anything," said the official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issues.

The interpretation undergirds the administration's determination not to waver under public protests or the threat of legislative action. For example, after The Washington Post disclosed the existence of secret prisons in several Eastern European democracies, the CIA closed them down because of an uproar in Europe. But the detainees were moved elsewhere to similar CIA prisons, referred to as "black sites" in classified documents.

The CIA has stuck with its overall approaches, defending and in some cases refining them. The agency is working to establish procedures in the event a prisoner dies in custody. One proposal circulating among mid-level officers calls for rushing in a CIA pathologist to perform an autopsy and then quickly burning the body, according to two sources.

Oh, and did you know that the defense industry is lobbying against a Pentagon proposal to ban human trafficking? One of their reasons? They don't like the idea of their people being prosecuted. (The "they" in the following quote refers to human rights organizations.)

Without tough provisions requiring referrals to prosecutors, they said, contractors could still get their employees on planes back to the U.S. before investigations commenced, as they allege happened in several documented cases in the Balkans. They said some local contract managers even had "special arrangements" with police in the Balkans that allowed them to quickly get employees returned to the U.S. if they were found to be engaged in illegal activities.

This Administration has gone completely off the rails. Even at the height of the Cold War no President sanctioned this sort of activity.

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December 29, 2005

The importance of backup

A horror story for anyone who writes for a purpose:

When Linda Cerniglia went back to school, it took her almost seven years to get through all the prerequisites, the labs, the research. And it took a thief just moments to grab her purse, with the only copy of her master's thesis stored on a tiny jump drive inside.


That night she couldn't sleep, tortured by visions of her lost jump drive. The next morning, Cerniglia began to think about what she would do if she were the thief. Get out of there fast, speed out on the Beltway, then dump the purse.

There was a chance, just a chance.

She was going to retrace his steps, go to every store he hit. She would talk to security guards, check lost-and-found, scour the parking lots.

So that day, she drove to Greenbelt, and as soon as she parked she saw a big trash bin behind a Wendy's, like a beacon. It was perfect. "It was open. It was hidden. I thought, 'That's it -- if it's going to be anywhere, it's going to be there.' "

She started pulling out broken-down boxes. She didn't care about the trash, even if it was greasy slop from a fast-food place. "No cockroach, no rat, no creature from the dark was going to keep me from my jump drive," she said. "Nothing is as bad as the thought of rewriting that thesis."

She saw a flash of aqua cloth. Her heart pounded -- it looked like her workout pants. "Then I see my gym bag. I jumped into the dumpster. I'm throwing things out of the way. I see my driver's license."

And there, at the bottom, was her black leather purse. She unzipped it, reached in, and felt her fingers close around -- her jump drive.

People driving by stared: A 5-foot-4 43-year-old woman jumping up and down in a trash bin, screaming.

I once took a course in International Business from the Dean of my college (Hawaii Pacific was a much smaller place in 1979). He had been a professor at UCLA and told a similar story: one of his grad students had stored the only copy of his thesis in a cardboard box on the back of his motorcycle, held in only by an elastic cord. The poor guy was driving along on one of the freeways and a gust of wind took the contents of the box and blew them to hell and gone all over four lanes of traffic. Dr. Papageorge told this story to make the obvious point: make copies of your work (this was pre-PC days; he was talking about carbons/photocopies, but the maxim holds). I wrote my 18-page paper for that class with a dime in my pocket for the copier, and as I completed each page I went over to the machine and deposited that dime.

(via Lawyers, Guns and Money)

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December 28, 2005

Quizlet answer

Karan and Shelley were right; it's Huckleberry Hound!

Huckleberry Hound

I have a memory of coming back from somewhere in a car in snowy Connecticut (so it had to be either the first or second season -- 1958-1959) and being very antsy that we wouldn't be home in time to see that week's episode.

Yogi was spun off after three years on Huck's show. He was probably the most successful character of all the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but I always had a soft spot for Huck.

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December 27, 2005


Without Googling, name the show on which Yogi Bear originally appeared.

Hint #1: It was the first animated show to ever be awarded an Emmy.

Hint #2: The title character was a blue under-achiever.

Hint #3: This show gets no respect from the historians or the programmers; I don't think it's ever appeared on Nickelodeon or even The Cartoon Network.

Why bring this up? For Christmas I got a T-shirt emblazoned with the legend "Smarter than the Average Bear."

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December 26, 2005

Popcorned out

I took myself off to see "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" this afternoon and learned that giving movie gift certificates was apparently a popular idea this Christmas. I found long lines at the box office, even at 11:45 am.

The movie itself was pretty good, although there was an awful lot left out. Not enough Snape, for one thing. I understand that it would have been a four-hour film had they put more of the backstory in, but there were some gaps that might have been better explained. I've read the book, but those who haven't (are there any? Maybe that's the point.) might have needed more. A muttered "Priori Incantantem" from Dumbledore was hardly sufficient to explain the reappearance of Cedric, the old Muggle, and Harry's parents. The assumption of Mad Eye Moody's identity by Barty Crouch Jr. also could have done with a bit of explanation.

Ah well, everyone's a critic.

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December 25, 2005


Anyone would think we had two or three small kids in this house. Not so!

Somewhere in there are several books for me: Wodehouse: A Life, by Robert McCrum, 1776, by David McCullough, and The Stratocaster Chronicles, by Tom Wheeler. I kind of hoped for the McCullough book, but I hadn't a clue about the Fender history or the Wodehouse biography. Fun, fun, fun!

Most of the jokes worked, including the ream of paper for the niece who complains she never has enough, and the colored CDs for backup purposes for the same girl. The froggy, ladybug and dragonfly earrings seemed to be a big hit too.

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December 24, 2005

A famous letter reprised

Merry Christmas to All!

Note: This entry was originally published December 24, 2003.


From the Editorial Page, New York Sun, 1897

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus?Thank God he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!

From The People's Almanac, pp. 1358-9.

Francis P. Church's editorial, "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" was an immediate sensation, and became one of the most famous editorials ever written. It first appeared in the The New York Sun in 1897, almost a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until 1949 when the paper went out of business.

Thirty-six years after her letter was printed, Virginia O'Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter:

"Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had never disappointed me. But when less fortunate little boys and girls said there wasn't any Santa Claus, I was filled with doubts. I asked my father, and he was a little evasive on the subject.

"It was a habit in our family that whenever any doubts came up as to how to pronounce a word or some question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to the Question and Answer column in The Sun. Father would always say, 'If you see it in the The Sun, it's so,' and that settled the matter.

" 'Well, I'm just going to write The Sun and find out the real truth,' I said to father.

"He said, 'Go ahead, Virginia. I'm sure The Sun will give you the right answer, as it always does.' "

And so Virginia sat down and wrote her parents' favorite newspaper.

Her letter found its way into the hands of a veteran editor, Francis P. Church. Son of a Baptist minister, Church had covered the Civil War for The New York Times and had worked on the The New York Sun for 20 years, more recently as an anonymous editorial writer. Church, a sardonic man, had for his personal motto, "Endeavour to clear your mind of cant." When controversial subjects had to be tackled on the editorial page, especially those dealing with theology, the assignments were usually given to Church.

Now, he had in his hands a little girl's letter on a most controversial matter, and he was burdened with the responsibility of answering it.

"Is there a Santa Claus?" the childish scrawl in the letter asked. At once, Church knew that there was no avoiding the question. He must answer, and he must answer truthfully. And so he turned to his desk, and he began his reply which was to become one of the most memorable editorials in newspaper history.

Church married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died in April, 1906, leaving no children.

Virginia O'Hanlon went on to graduate from Hunter College with a Bachelor of Arts degree at age 21. The following year she received her Master's from Columbia, and in 1912 she began teaching in the New York City school system, later becoming a principal. After 47 years, she retired as an educator. Throughout her life she received a steady stream of mail about her Santa Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.

(Thanks to Barricks Insurance for the text.)

A footnote: The original letter Ms. O'Hanlon wrote appeared on The Antique Road Show a while back; I got the picture there. It was appraised at between $20,000 - $30,000.

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December 23, 2005

Injury Report

The North Pole Stars reported today that Santa Claus suffered a tear to his ACL during practice on Wednesday and will be unable to play this Sunday. The Stars insist there is no need for concern, however; they have signed Kris Kringle and Father Nicholas from the taxi squad.

"Kringle and Nicholas are ready," said an upbeat Gitem Elves. "They've been working together all year and we don't anticipate any dropoff in the team's performance."

In related news, Comet and Dancer have fully adjusted to the hip replacements each had after last season.

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December 22, 2005

Progress report

Shopping done. Wrapping to do. Lest we forget, "wrap" is a four-letter word.

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December 21, 2005


Had the well-photographed abuses at Abu Ghraib not occurred, Saddam's claim that he's been tortured while in American captivity would probably be discounted as more lunatic ravings from the man. Since those abuses did occur, in parts of the Muslim world there's going to be some skepticism about American denials of that activity. No repeated espousals of democratic reform by Karen Hughes, Dick Cheney or George Bush will completely erase those pictures. It's a shame, but that's the way it is.

It's just one more example of how stupid our masters are. Creating a climate where torture and prisoner abuse were apparently thought to be minor infractions by the personnel on the ground has come back to bite us, and Rummy, Franks et. al. should have known it would.

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December 20, 2005

Impeachment seems warranted

From Article 2 of the Articles of Impeachment against Richard M. Nixon:

. . .Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposed of these agencies.


He misused the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, and other executive personnel, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, by directing or authorizing such agencies or personnel to conduct or continue electronic surveillance or other investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office; he did direct, authorize, or permit the use of information obtained thereby for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office; and he did direct the concealment of certain records made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of electronic surveillance.

It was good enough then; it's good enough now.

Yes, I know it says "for purposes unrelated to national security," but I'm willing to bet there are a few people or groups who are unlikely to be considered a threat to the nation who were wiretapped. Like The Truth Project in Florida, it appears.

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December 19, 2005

Oh, yeah, that thing

While rummaging through the below-counter cupboards I rediscovered my "Lean Mean Grilling Machine." Yet another household gadget received for Christmas and never yet used. In this case it's just been a year, but there may be other things like it. I know we have a meat slicer I haven't used since about 1985, when it was a useful tool for the New Year's Day Open House we no longer throw.

Who else has something they got for Christmas but for whatever reason has never gotten around to using?

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December 18, 2005


Ok, I've used up all my luck this Christmas season. I had to go to the local mall twice today (once shopping for my own purposes, and once for my Mom's -- this would be a good argument for getting a cellphone), and found a parking space within one minute each time.

And then my brother-in-law and niece showed up to hide a gift for the other niece over here. The thing weighs 100 lbs, stands 5 feet tall, and is the same thing that was used to great effect as a prop in a recent movie starring Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, and Hilary Swank.

It's now "hidden" in my room with a beach towel over it.

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December 17, 2005


As requested in previous comments, here's a closeup of the treetop angel. She's purportedly Irish.

For the technically-minded, she's got a tiny plug which goes into a transformer. It's about two-thirds of the way down the tree, resting on some inside branches close to the trunk.

Here she is in the catalog.
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O Tannenbaum

O Tannenbaum
The tree is complete! This year we used the satin and glass balls which used to go on the "designer" tree downstairs, just for a change. The angel on top has wings outlined in fiber-optic lights which change colors, and they move. It was such a deal from the catalog people we couldn't resist.

Now to finish shopping!
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December 16, 2005

Christmas wrapping idea

Things like Blockbuster or Tower gift certificates don't wrap well, and they're not too exciting when opened anyway. Why not pick up a small package of CD jewel cases at the local Office Depot and put them inside one of those? It makes the content less obviously what it is, which is a benefit in our house, where we're entirely too predictable most of the time.

As a bonus, jewel cases meet the Linkmeister rule of wrapping:

"When given a choice of several gifts, choose the one that's rectangular or square."

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December 15, 2005

Dingell is a national treasure

This is a press release issued yesterday.

Washington, DC - Congressman John D. Dingell (MI-15) recited the following poem on the floor of the US House of Representatives concerning House Resolution 579, which expressed the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected. “Preserving Christmas” has been a frequent topic for conservative talk show hosts, including Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly:

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the House

No bills were passed ‘bout which Fox News could grouse;

Tax cuts for the wealthy were passed with great cheer,

So vacations in St. Barts soon would be near;

Katrina kids were nestled all snug in motel beds,

While visions of school and home danced in their heads;

In Iraq our soldiers needed supplies and a plan,

Plus nuclear weapons were being built in Iran;

Gas prices shot up, consumer confidence fell;

Americans feared we were on a fast track to…well…

Wait--- we need a distraction--- something divisive and wily;

A fabrication straight from the mouth of O’Reilly

We can pretend that Christmas is under attack

Hold a vote to save it--- then pat ourselves on the back;

Silent Night, First Noel, Away in the Manger

Wake up Congress, they’re in no danger!

This time of year we see Christmas every where we go,

From churches, to homes, to schools, and yes…even Costco;

What we have is an attempt to divide and destroy,

When this is the season to unite us with joy

At Christmas time we’re taught to unite,

We don’t need a made-up reason to fight

So on O’Reilly, on Hannity, on Coulter, and those right wing blogs;

You should just sit back, relax…have a few egg nogs!

‘Tis the holiday season: enjoy it a pinch

With all our real problems, do we honestly need another Grinch?

So to my friends and my colleagues I say with delight,

A merry Christmas to all,

and to Bill O’Reilly…Happy Holidays

(Link from Demagogue via Atrios.)

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You want Year-in-review lists? Here's a list of them. Books, music, movies, toys, ads, gadgets...they're all there, and there are more to come. He's accepting nominations, so if you run across one that's not there, let him know.

Hours of time-wasting possibilities, I'd say.

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December 14, 2005

Travel widgets

Here's a sentiment I fully agree with. The author doesn't want a GPS device for Christmas.

The problem, to me, is that navigation by G.P.S. changes the nature of car travel: it makes it seem all about numbers (distance to destination, time to destination) when I'm trying to preserve a sense that travel is also about something else.

Hear, hear. Since I got a drivers license my vacations most often have consisted of "land someplace, rent a car, and head off into the distance." I went to Vancouver for Expo 86, then drove to Seattle, exchanged rental cars, and drove all over the State of Washington for a week. In 1983 I spent a week driving from LA (where I'd been working) to King's Canyon and Yosemite. Several times I've driven up and down the Oregon Coast, starting from San Francisco. Most recently I landed in Phoenix and drove east, wandering all over New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.

On none of these trips did I have specific destinations in mind. I wanted to see the Oregon Coast, but I stopped when and where I wanted while driving US-101 up and down the shore. This has led to some memorable experiences. Once I was midway through a vacation and completely forgot it was the Columbus Day weekend. I was somewhere around Newport, OR (map) at about 4:30 pm on that Saturday, so I started looking for a motel. Ha. There were nothing but "no vacancy" signs all the way up the coast. I ended up driving north and then east to Longview, WA, finally finding a bed around 11:30 that night. Along that stretch US-101 (or Pacific Coast Highway) is two lanes of very twisty asphalt, not a road I really wanted to try at night. Nonetheless, there I was, a quivering mass of relieved jelly once I finally found a place to sleep.

If I'd had a GPS gadget, I'd probably not have had that experience. Instead, it would have told me to head east at Newport and drive to Corvallis some 35 miles inland. I actually started that way that afternoon, but then I got stubborn and said to myself that I'd surely find a vacancy somewhere. The gadgets may take some of the travel experience away, and I don't want that.

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December 13, 2005

Good question

Brad DeLong writes:

While watching the Johnny Cash movie, "Walk the Line," he [DeLong] spends a substantial part of the movie spinning increasingly ridiculous and implausible scenarios as to how a man who committed felony murder in Nevada (Reno) could have wound up incarcerated in a California state penitentiary (Folsom Prison).

I mean, federalism.

(Lyrics here.)

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Bliss squared

Tigger is an inveterate egg hound, and an equally inveterate cheese hound. When I make a "breakfast for dinner" meal I have to throw an extra egg into the skillet for her, or I'm relegated to "worst human companion in the world" status for several hours. And the only way to get her to swallow her arthritis/pain pill is to wrap the little thing in a scrap of cheese.

Last night she got a twofer. I made a cheese omelet. For a few minutes there she was the happiest dog in the world.

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December 12, 2005

Christmas albums

Anybody heard any good Christmas albums lately? This one looks interesting. I saw a review of it in our local paper, and I think I might like it. No new songs, just Krall, her piano and a jazz orchestra on standards. Oh, I just noticed it's #2 in sales at Amazon music. The bandwagon is leaving town.

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Dark Ages resume

Charlie Pierce writing in Esquire:

Welcome to Idiot America

Let's take a tour, shall we? For the sake of time, we'll just cover the last year or so. A federally funded abstinence program suggests that HIV can be transmitted through tears. An Alabama legislator proposes a bill to ban all books by gay authors. The Texas House passes a bill banning suggestive cheerleading. And nobody laughs at any of it, or even points out that, in the latter case, having Texas ban suggestive cheerleading is like having Nebraska ban corn. James Dobson, a prominent conservative Christian spokesman, compares the Supreme Court to the Ku Klux Klan. Pat Robertson, another prominent conservative preacher, says that federal judges are a more serious threat to the country than is Al Qaeda and, apparently taking his text from the Book of Gambino, later sermonizes that the United States should get with it and snuff the democratically-elected president of Venezuela.

The Congress of the United States intervenes to extend into a televised spectacle the prolonged death of a woman in Florida. The majority leader of the Senate, a physician, pronounces a diagnosis based on heavily edited videotape. The majority leader of the House of Representatives argues against cutting-edge research into the use of human stem cells by saying that "an embryo is a person... We were all at one time embryos ourselves. So was Abraham. So was Muhammad. So was Jesus of Nazareth." Nobody laughs at him or points out that the same could be said of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, or whoever invented the baby-back rib.

Pierce is a sportswriter for the Boston Globe, and he's also a frequent contestant on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, in case you're wondering where else you might have heard the name. He's really on a roll here. He talks about Intelligent Design (Dinosaurs on exhibit! Dinosaurs with English saddles!), but more than that he talks about the anti-intellectualism America has fallen into (far far deeper than it was in the 1950s, when Adlai Stevenson was ridiculed as a "pointy-headed intellectual" and lost two Presidential elections in part because of it). This anti-intellectualism has been overcome by the Gut feeling, of which there are three precepts:

  1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
  2. Anything can be true if somebody says it on television.
  3. Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.
One last shot:
It is the ultimate standard of Idiot America. How does it play to Joe Six-Pack in the bar? At the end of August 2004, the Zogby people discovered that 57 percent of undecided voters would rather have a beer with George Bush than with John Kerry. Now, how many people with whom you've spent time drinking beer would you trust with the nuclear launch codes? Not only is this not a question for a nation of serious citizens, it's not even a question for a nation of serious drunkards.

It's a wonderful piece.

(Link recommended by Adam Felber.)

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December 11, 2005


Never underestimate the need for shoulders to be pain-free when trying to sleep.

I think I've got some version of the flu, and it's centered (aches & pains-wise) in my left shoulder. This means I wake up every time I roll over in bed, and I then can't get back to sleep for 20 minutes to half-an-hour. This is no fun.

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December 10, 2005


After a notable lack of movie-going for about 20 years on my part, I succumbed a few years ago to the lure of the Harry Potter ones, and there was no way in hell I was gonna miss the LOTR trilogy. So I went to them (matinees all). I thought that would be the end of it, but apparently not.

There are at least three movies currently out (HP and the Goblet of Fire, Syriana, and the Narnia one) that I want to see, and there's also Christmas decorating and shopping to do. This is not the way I'm accustomed to spending December.

What to do, what to do.

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December 09, 2005

Christmas suggestion

Here's an unsolicited plug for a CD by one of our local artists. I just heard Jeff Peterson's version of "Take Five," the Dave Brubeck classic. It's found on his new album, Slack Key Jazz. The hook is that the melody is played on slack key guitar rather than piano. It's absolutely gorgeous. You can hear clips of that and much more at the link. If you know a guitarist and need a Christmas present for him or her, listen to this.

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I've officially heard everything now

From the NYT:

Some of the nation's most prominent megachurches have decided not to hold worship services on the Sunday that coincides with Christmas Day, a move that is generating controversy among evangelical Christians at a time when many conservative groups are battling to "put the Christ back in Christmas."

Man, even us nominal Catholics used to attend Mass on Christmas and Easter. I guess it's just too much trouble for these folks.

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December 08, 2005

What institution's ethics?

My hypocrisy meter just pegged. From the Washington Times:

Congressional Republicans said they support Ambassador John R. Bolton's threat to block the U.N. budget unless it adopts reforms, and they are ready to back him up if changes aren't made.

"Whatever it takes," said Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican. "We desperately need to reform that body."

U.N. budgets are usually adopted by consensus, and Mr. Bolton has said he will not agree to a budget unless the United Nations overhauls its operations by creating an ethics office and increasing oversight of U.N. activities. Still, there is nothing in the U.N. Charter that would prevent a General Assembly vote, and Mr. Bolton would be hard-pressed to win majority support. (Emphasis mine)

Look, Duke Cunningham! Under that rock, Jack Abramoff! Over there, Mike Scanlon! Behind that tree, David Safavian!

Rather than worry about a UN ethics office, Republicans should clean up their own act.

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Bush = Grinch?

Adam Felber has a lovely poem which discusses American state and local governments agreeing to Kyoto all on their own, leaving poor President Bush shivering in the New Ice Age:

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?
“It came without Hummers! It came without oil!
“It came without burblers, chugglers, or smoglers a-boil!”
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

Go, read. I just wanna know who to tie the antlers to, Cheney or Rove?

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December 07, 2005

Spreadsheet help

Nearly three years ago I found a nifty tool to convert Excel to HTML, but then it got lost in the machine failure of last January. I had occasion to go back and look for it, and I found it again. If you have such a need, go here, look under Development Products, and then look for Web Tools. It's an itsy-bitsy download of an executable file which becomes a plug-in within Excel. You have to activate the plug-in once you've installed it, but it does great work while putting far less junk in the resulting web page than the Microsoft Excel-to-HTML utility does.

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December 06, 2005


If you don't like what the man says about your Christianity, do you a) turn the other cheek or b) beat him up?

Mirecki recently wrote online that he planned to teach intelligent design as mythology in an upcoming course. He wrote it would be a “nice slap” in the “big fat face” of fundamentalists.

Granted his language was intemperate, nothing justifies stalking and beating him.

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This one got me


A man and his wife are sitting in the living room and he says to her:

"Just so you know, I never want to live in a vegetative state dependent on some machine. If that ever happens, just pull the plug."

His wife gets up and unplugs the TV.

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December 05, 2005

New internet trial

In an attempt to rid myself of stereo equipment which is taking up space and not really working, I thought I'd try Craigslist. I got a nibble within three hours, but turns out he didn't understand which model I was selling (despite my putting the model number on the listing--grrrh). So I've now put up some photos of the stuff, in hopes of avoiding such misunderstandings.

I bought this gear while in Japan back in 1973 at Navy Exchange prices (i.e., cheap), and it worked like a charm for about 10 years, but then I got out of the habit of using it, and I suspect it just quit from disuse. Anyway, I'd just as soon replace it as try to get it fixed (if that's even possible), so out it goes.

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December 03, 2005

A novel question

Inspired by this comment in a discussion of the difficulty of finding clothes that really fit, why is it that characters in novels never need to find the nearest lavatory, shower in the morning, or have colds?

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December 02, 2005

Secrecy stinks

Why do the Republicans hate the public? They want to create a new government agency which will be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

The proposed Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency, or BARDA, would be exempt from long-standing open records and meetings laws that apply to most government departments, according to legislation approved Oct. 18 by the Senate health committee.

Those exemptions would streamline the development process, safeguard national security and protect the proprietary interests of drug companies, say Republican backers of the bill. The legislation also proposes giving manufacturers immunity from liability in exchange for their participation in the public-private effort.


The agency would provide the funding for development of treatments and vaccines to protect the United States from natural pandemics as well as chemical, biological and radiological agents.

This is bad on its face, but it's even more stupid when you consider that scientific data is disseminated through publication in medical journals. Limiting that means only the scientists working at the agency would be able to study results from tests, which would mean that the knowledge gained would remain cloistered at BARDA. That's way too insular.

Also notice that as usual the Republicans want to immunize their campaign contributors from possible lawsuits. Don't they ever get tired of this game?

(Reminded of this by Suburban Guerilla.)

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Bird sighting

We've always had Java sparrows and Mynahs around the house, but this week we've suddenly got a Pacific golden plover (Kolea, in Hawaiian) cruising around the back yard. So far he's too skittish to let me get a picture of him; I've got the camera on the kitchen counter, but the moment I open the screen door he's gone. Wildlife photography must be one of the most frustrating forms of human occupation imaginable.

They tend to winter in Hawai'i, coming back to the same place year after year. If he takes a fancy to our yard, that would be pretty nifty.

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December 01, 2005


Would the blogosphere (or blogtopia, and y!sctp!) please stop using "peddle" as though it meant "pedal?" If you quietly renounce something you'd previously stood for, you are backpedaling, not backpeddling. If you tone down your rhetoric about a specific issue, you're softpedaling, not softpeddling.


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Lost, Season 2, Episode 5 or 6 9

A freakin' black horse? Just what sort of omen or portent is that supposed to be?

Michael is/was an artist, so how's he know from beans about computer hardware?

I'm not a lot smarter about Kate than I was. There's still no explanation of how she got into the custody of a US Marshal on a plane from Oz to LA, unless I've forgotten something.


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