Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The whole thing was confusing me - why would anyone want this person as their Senator?
Ah, but it's so simple. The Democrats were jealous of how close Sarah Palin came to the Vice Presidency. So, they're one-upping the Republicans. They've found someone even less qualified for public service to gift with a Senate seat.
Well played, cynical Democrats, well played.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Here is the very encapsulation of the sado-masochosm of religion; it makes impossible demands on people and then convicts them of original sin when they fail to live up to them.Via wikipedia, an excerpt from an Economist review:
much as she tries, the kind of problems that Ms Hirsi Ali describes in Infidel are all too human to be blamed entirely on Islam. Her book shows that her life, like those of other Muslims, is more complex than many people in the West may have realised. But the West's tendency to seek simplistic explanations is a weakness that Ms Hirsi Ali also shows she has been happy to exploit.I'm with Hitchens, and I couldn't disagree more with the Economist review.
But in all cases, women were to be subservient to men, and were considered less valuable. And they were punished when they behaved otherwise. This culture was supported by both men and women, particularly in the older generations. The description of Ali's female circumcision is particularly harrowing. She was 5 years old, and her grandmother held her down during the procedure.
Friday, December 12, 2008
http://www.zooborns.com/ is a cool site. For those times when you want to see something adorable, but you're just sick of house cats.
- THIS IS A CHRISTMAS TREE, NOTHING ELSE.
- This is NOT a Holiday Tree
- This is a Christ mas tree.
- It is not a Hanukkah bush,
- It is not an Allah plant,
- It is not a Kawanza shrub
- It is not a Holiday hedge.
- It is a Christmas tree.
- Say it... CHRIST mas , CHRIST mas , CHRIST mas
- Yes. CHRIST mas - celebrating
- The Birth of Jesus Christ!!!
- Take a stand and pass this on !!
- Jesus is the reason for the season... Amen!!!!!
- Merry CHRISTmas to You!
'tis the season for the War on Christmas. It always amazes me how a group comprising 85% of the United States can manage to consider itself maligned by the minority.
I could understand if someone were referring to a nativity scene as a "Hotel Overflow Moment". But, pine trees covered with lights, anthropomorphic snowmen, "squishy winter huggies"" - it's silly to take offense that these don't prompt a "praise Jesus" from the congregation.
Anyway, here's the response I sent. And yes, I selected "Reply All".
First, I know this wasn't intended for me but I've received it and I'm going to respond. I'm not a Christian - shame on you for trying to make me and others feel like our beliefs are less compatible with this holiday than yours. I don't believe Jesus rose from the dead, but he seemed a decent fellow who never would have engaged in this type of rhetoric.
Second, [my email address] is NOT [RECIPIENT'S NAME]. Please, remove the errant entry from your address books. I'm sure she's a lovely lady who does the Tucker name proud, but I get an unwanted message intended for her about once a month. And think how sad it is that she's missing out on her share of divisive propaganda this holiday season.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
That energy swept over the Earth just before sunrise on December 3. The gamma rays from the beams were detected by the Swift satellite, which promptly determined the burst’s position and sent the coordinates to Earth. Sent out via the Internet (srsly), telescopes across the planet responded to the call, and in northern California GORT swung its eye to the position of the gamma-ray burst. Within minutes of Swift’s detection of the burst, GORT began taking its images. The picture above was from just 7 minutes after Swift triggered.
To recap, a satellite detected gamma rays and sent a "hey, check this out" email to a bunch of photo-telescopes around the world, and 7 minutes later they captured the image. With no human intervention.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
The Climate Theater is a tiny venue - I doubt it sits more than 50 people. He had a laptop hooked up to a projector and worked some multi-media into the presentation - online news stories, youtube videos (he opened with the latest from O. J. Simpson). I liked the intimacy and relatively low-tech nature of the production. He even played us a voicemail he received right off his phone. He interacted with the audience, and even responded to specific comments.
I thought his strongest material was his personal stories. One moment I liked was comparing his own heritage to his white fiancee's. She's a mix of various European ethnicities, but she learned to speak Italian growing up, had visited Italy, and was particularly close to her Italian grandfather. So she described herself as Italian - to which he responded, "oh, you just get to choose ... must be nice". He juxtaposed this with his own experience as the only black kid in school, and his earliest realization that his classmates all saw him as belonging to a certain group whether he liked it or not.
The saga of getting along with his finacee's racist grandfather was well done. There's a whole segment involving his attempt to introduce their family to his culture through sweet potato pie. My mom made this every year for Thanksgiving - I always thought it was just a southern thing, not an African-American thing.
Much of the show addressed racism in current events, the bulk of which related to Barrack Obama's election. It was all funny, and most of it was insightful, but I disagreed with a couple things.
He related an experience while waiting to vote (at Starbucks - apparently they do that in some neighborhoods). A guy in front of them in line - a white guy Bell described as a stereotypical San Francisco hipster - began to accuse Bell of wearing a pro-Obama t-shirt, in violation of campaigning too near a polling station. When Bell pointed out it was actually a Richard Pryor t-shirt, the guy backed off.
Now, it's certainly funny that the guy mistook Pryor for Obama. And he was being an ass since he wasn't working for the polling station, just acting as "the hall monitor", as Bell pointed out. But I didn't hear anything in the story suggesting the hipster wouldn't have done the same thing to another white guy - I didn't get why Bell thought this was racism instead of simple asshole-ism.
He made some pretty sweeping statements, like all white people are responsible for racism (his argument is that we've all benefited from it even if we don't practice it), and white people should show appropriate pride and shame for actions of others of their race (at one point he put up a pic of Bush and asked if the white folks in the audience were ashamed of him).
First, is there an easier way to get applause than criticizing George Bush in San Francisco?
Second, I just didn't get this. I'm ashamed of much the current administration has done - I'm ashamed as an American, not as a white dude. I'm not any less ashamed of our state department's actions because it's headed by Condoleeza Rice.
I liked the show overall. Even the points with which I disagreed, I enjoyed being challenged in my thinking. As is often the case, humor is an excellent vehicle for engaging in controversial issues, and W. Kumau Bell does it better than most. Check him out if you get a chance.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
It is one of the most egregiously and breathtakingly unconstitutional actions by a state legislature that I've ever seen".
Guys, I'm on your side, but you lost me with that one. I find the language distasteful, too, but don't equate it with state laws that tangibly impinge on civil liberties.
Part of Kentucky's defense is that the state motto refers to God (this is an example of what we like to call "begging the question"). The state actually has 2 mottos. The "Offical Motto" has been United we stand, divided we fall since 1942. In 2002 they added an "Offical Latin Motto", Deo gratiam habeamus (Let us be grateful to God). The bill was the project of a group of home schooled latin students:
The bill, HB 857, was the project of a group of Lexington homeschool Latin students. They wrote the bill with help from State Rep. Tom Riner, (D-Louisville) the bill's sponsor. Several of the students came to Frankfort once a week to meet with legislators, and guided it through the process themselves, learning about state government as they went along. The bill passed with votes of 88-0 in the House and 29-0 in the Senate with several members from each chamber not voting. Signed April 11 into Law by Governor Patton.
Not a single dissenting vote. Not surprising, I suppose, but disappointing this happened as recently as 2002. The whole thing seems pretty laughable to me (got a big Latin-speaking population there, Kentucky?). Clearly a sideways attempt to get religious language into state laws.I don't really have much else to say about this. But it did make me curious about state mottos, so I looked them up on wikipedia. Only 6 states explicitly mention "God", Kentucky plus:
- Arizona - Ditat Deus (God enriches)
- Colorado - Nil sine numine (Nothing without God's will)
- Florida - In God We Trust
- Ohio - With God, all things are possible
- South Dakota - Under God the people rule
- Connecticut - Qui transtulit sustinet (He who transplanted sustains)
- Maine - Dirigo (I direct)
I'm surprised there are so few. Of course, I found many of the ones that did not reference God more inspirational. But, it seems to me the secular ones would be just as inspirational to anybody, regardless of religious beliefs. Even when I was a Christian, I would have preferred strong sentiments like "We Dare Defend Our Rights" (Alabama) or "The people rule" (Arkansas) to the passive (and not terribly related to the role of state) "God enriches" or "In God we trust".
A few interesting ones:
- Kansas - Ad astra per aspera (To the stars through adversity)
It would make a better motto for Starfleet Academy. It would be cooler if Kansas had anything to do with NASA or space exploration.
- Michigan - Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice (If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you)
This one just cracked me up.
- New Mexico - Crescit eundo (It grows as it goes)
Was Dr. Seuss from New Mexico? It grows as it goes, as everyone knows, from Carlsbad Caverns to Los Alamos. Probably doesn't rhyme in Latin.
- Washington - Al-ki (By and by)
If brevity is wit ...
- Maryland - Fatti maschi, parole femmine (Manly deeds, womanly words)
This is the worst one of all. It's clearly offensive to women, but I'm almost as offended as a man. What the heck is wrong with manly words?
- Massachusetts - Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem (By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty)
Are you listening, G. W.?
- Minnesota - Quae sursum volo videre (I long to see what is beyond)
The star of the North is the actual state motto. This is the territorial motto, but I like it better.
- New York - Excelsior (Ever upward!)
To infinity, and beyond!
- North Carolina - Esse quam videri (To be rather than to seem)
Both poetic and intellectually satisfying.
In the spirit of manly words that, apparently, aren't welcome in Maryland, my winner goes to ....
- New Hampshire - Live Free or Die
Monday, December 1, 2008
- It got 98% on rottentomatos.com, 192nd best movie of all time according to imdb.com, and two friends of mine highly recommended it. So, my expectations might have been unreasonably high.
- The film is in Swedish with English subtitles. I found some of the dialog and acting to be weak, but some of that might be in the translation.
- I must confess to an anti-vampire bias. Yeah, they're kind of cool - they get to stay up all night and live forever, they kill people but really they're just misunderstood. But how many friggin' movies do we need about them? I know this one's edgy and foreign and arthouse, but still ... again with the vampires?
When Eli first moves in she is in the care of an adult named Håkan. He's basically her Renfield, a loyal servant who protects her during the day and gathers fresh blood for her at night. Unfortunately he's incompetent. At first I thought this was lazy storytelling, since he couldn't have been providing for her very long acting this way. He etherizes people then hangs them upside-down to drain their blood, but fails to do so in secluded locales. Later it becomes clear he no longer has the stomach for his role in her life, so I chalked up his behavior more to weariness than incompetence.
Problem is, the other adults in the film behave as stupidly as he does. We see news reports of the killings, and on at least 2 occasions witnesses identify a young black-haired girl. But law enforcement is almost non-existent, and not until very late in the film does anyone connect her with the creepy new guy and his waifish daughter who just moved in next door. And at that point a guy marches into her apartment (which is inexplicably unlocked) toting only a pocket knife.
Eli also behaves carelessly when she takes to feeding herself. If she's really a 20-30 year old (the film is purposefully vague on this point - she could be centuries old for all we know), she'd have to be dense not to have learned better. I got the impression, though, that no matter how old she is, she's still stuck at 12. Emotionally, physically, and psychologically.
In a needless subplot, Eli bites but does not finish the kill on a woman. This, of course, turns the poor woman (subtly named "Virginia") into a vampire. We see her get attacked by a throng of cats then commit suicide by exposing herself to sunlight and bursting into flames. Both scenes had some interesting special effects, but were laughably over the top and out of sync with the rest of the film. They added nothing to the story. Perhaps the filmmakers wanted to expand on the trying life of a vampire, but isn't one of the advantages of making a vampire flick that you don't have to explain all the rules?
One strength of the film was the creepy-cool special effects used on Eli. When we first meet her she jumps of the top of a jungle gym onto the ground, and I'm not sure but I think some film trickery makes her almost imperceptibly land softer than would be natural, as if she floats to the ground. Her eyes grow slightly larger when she's in vampire mode, her skin tone changes based on how well-fed she is - she is sometimes a sweet little girl and sometimes a grotesque predator. All very well done visually.
The heart of the film is the friendship arc between Eli and Oskar. They bond in part because neither has any other friends. She agrees to be his girlfriend in a scene that is sweet because neither of them really know what it means, and ironic because she's not a girl (down to the anatomical level, the film later makes graphically clear). When Oskar learns her true nature, he is at first cruel and petty, but softens when confronted with some of the suffering she must endure.
She convinces him not to judge her for her murderous ways. She kills to feed herself, while he constantly fantasizes about killing for revenge. This argument works on Oskar, but not on me. She could feed without killing (she has plenty of money she could pay folks for blood transfusions). At the very least she could drain more blood out of each victim so she doesn't have to kill so often. And she makes absolutely no attempt to choose her victims discriminantly - she could act as a vigilante if she wanted to make her kills win-win. Either she's lying to him and her behavior is cruel and selfish, or she's just too immature to see an alternative. I'd lean toward the latter.
In the film's climax, Eli saves Oskar's life from the bullies, killing 4 more victims in the process. It's clear she can stay safely in this town no longer. The film closes with Oskar taking Eli (safely encased in her daytime crate) on a train to start over somewhere else.
I basically saw the film as the completion of Eli's parasitic cycle. Not necessarily in a malicious way (although one could view it that way), but more likely as a consequence of her nature to which she willingly submits. There's a seen between Eli and Håkan early in the film where she gently caresses his cheek. This, combined with his portrayal as a man who's had the life sucked out of him, and Eli's inability to say how long she's been a vampire, had me interpreting their relationship as having started many years ago when Håkan was young, perhaps Oskar's age. Oskar and Eli's relationship is sweet when they're 12 (at least, as sweet as a pair of pre-adolescent serial killers can be), but he'll age and she won't. Someday soon he's going to have a sex drive that she can not satisfy. She's saved his life, so his guilt will never let him leave her. Eventually he'll be old enough to be her father and the whole relationship will just be awkward.
Another way of looking at it is that Oskar, as an outcast kid filled with impotent rage, has found the only lifestyle with which he can safely fulfill his homicidal fantasies. Maybe bloodlust and vampire companionship is all he'll ever need to make him happy, and that makes them a perfect match. Ah, kismet!
Either way, it's a dark tale even for a vampire flick. It was good, excellent in parts. It could have been much better with smarter writing for the adult characters. And they should have snipped the Virginia subplot. But I had fun interpreting the ending in different ways.
I recommend it, but it's over hyped. No way this is one of the best 200 films ever made.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
King Arthur: Old woman.
King Arthur: Man, sorry. What knight lives in that castle over there?
Dennis: I'm 37.
King Arthur: What?
Dennis: I'm 37. I'm not old.
King Arthur: Well I can't just call you "man".
Dennis: Well you could say "Dennis".
King Arthur: I didn't know you were called Dennis.
Dennis: Well you didn't bother to find out did you?
Sunday, November 16, 2008
There was lots of focus on "love". It's about love, our love is just as valuable as yours, etc.. Even though it's catchy and heartwarming, I'm not sure it's the best messaging. It seems to me it's not about love, it's about rights. The state's stamp of approval will never do anything to augment any relationship I will ever have, but it does inhibit same sex couples' rights in terms of inheritence, custody, and enforcement of living wills.
One speaker championed the rights of "intersex" Americans, which I had explained to me is basically the politically correct term for hermaphrodites and others born with ambiguous sexuality. A lot of folks, both gay and straight, seemed to be shaking their heads during this, not quite sure what to make of it. But I think he made some interesting points about the blurry edges of our identities and, hence, our laws.
Some of the more entertaining signs people brought:
- A life-size cardboard cut-out of Beyonce (if anyone has a clue on this one, I'd love to hear it)
- Queer not gonna take it
- We can't all marry Liza Minelli
- Please curb your god
- If you let us marry each other we'll stop marrying you
- Joseph Smith had 34, Brigham Young had 56, I just want one
Friday, November 14, 2008
I have found that, when mentioning this idea to friends, it has oft met with visceral opposition. In general (and this is anecdotal based on my own experience with 10-12 people - please don't read this as prejudicial of either group), Christians and women have violently opposed the idea.
Christians have tended to see it as a dissolution of American values. So the argument goes - marriage is the core of a nuclear family, and that is the foundation of our society, and so the state must support and define it. I just don't get this. Marriage was originally an issue of property - the man owning the woman. That's why fathers still "give away" brides. I think clinging to tradition for tradition's sake is overrated.
If providing children with a stable home is really are the reason for civil marriages, then it should only be allowed to couples who are capable of and plan to have children,. And divorces should be a LOT harder when kids are involved.
But few would argue that a person stuck in an unhappy or abusive relationship should be further punished by the legal divorce process. And few would argue that a loving marriage between a man and a woman for 50 years should have any less weight because the union never produced offspring. That would be insulting. And the current system is just as insulting to anyone else not allowed to marry.
As far as the response I've seen from women to this idea - to be fair, a few of them I was dating at the time. This is one of those examples where I favor honesty over sensitivity, and it bites me in the ass.
One of them I even wound up marrying, and the suggestion that we postpone the civil union until we have children (you see, this would have saved us money on the license, decreased our income tax, and in retrospect a load of divorce bills) - no practical argument mattered - it just meant to her that I didn't love her enough. My commitment to her wasn't sufficient, I had to commit to the Commonwealth of Jamaica, too.
But I just don't get it. I don't get how one can value love, value marriage, be willing to proclaim love and devotion and commitment to a partner and in front of families and friends - how is any of that augmented by the seal of the state? Why is that necessary? And why can I not even speak of it without being viewed as anti-family, anti-commitment, selfish, or unloving?
Shit, the whole thing wears me out.
I believe marriage is a personal, communal, moral, and for most a religious endeavor. I think any steps by our legislature to define it encroaches on our liberties. I don't believe any man or woman loves their spouse any more because the state endorses it. Neither do I believe parents love their children any more.
Marriage laws permeate our legal system, so we'd have to make other adjustments to account for this.
- If civil marriages go away, so do common law marriages.
- Inheritance: We already have to deal with sticky inheritance issues when couples are not married, so our legal system can handle it. Wills would be more important for married couples. But, they're a good idea anyway. If they prove too expensive for some Americans, we could easily take some of the money we save by eliminating the civil marriage bureaucracy to make sure every American over 18 can have one.
- Child custody: Again, we already have to deal with thorny custody battles when parents aren't married. Children should go to the parent who can best care for them - nothing else should matter.
- Social Security: I believe it is unfair that married couples are allowed to leave their social security benefits to a spouse, but single (legally single, which includes those in marriages not recognized by the state) folks do not. I think the benefits should either end when you die (which would have the added benefit of decreasing the burden on an entitlement doomed to collapse), or each individual should be able to choose a beneficiary.
I'd love to hear discussion from others on this. And, please don't think I'm delusional enough to think this has any chance in reality. I just think its a good idea.
My next post will touch on the response I've seen to this idea before.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
37 and still single?
10 Mistakes Guys Make: The 10 most dangerous mistakes you probably make with women and what to do about it.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
- An incumbent with one of the lowest approval ratings ever. A republican (the supposed fiscal conservatives) who's nearly doubled our national debt in 8 years.
- The worst financial crisis of the last several decades, at least. Worst since the depression, if you believe the most pessimistic views.
- A VP pick who - geez, I won't even go into it all. In short, the least qualified VP candidate ever. And 2nd place isn't close. Republican insiders were sniping at each other over her selection in the last few days before the election, and even more dirt is emerging now.
- Republicans had no clear consistent message, divisive ads, and angry racist rhetoric at rallies that seemed to go mostly unchallenged. The democrats ran a much much cleaner and smarter campaign.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
You know where this is going ...
... wait for it ...
... three of them, including the chairman, are now creationists.
Local Dallas coverage here. A response from sane Texans here.
The title of this article from the Houston Chronicle is a triumph of understatement, "Board's actions could put students at a disadvantage." Could?
The chairman also believes in abstinance-only sex education.
I don't live there any more, so I don't care as much as I used to. But, damn, they're giving Kansas a run for the money on being the U.S. poster child on scientific ignorance.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Dear Mr. Putin,
Thank you SO much for invading Georgia. I can't tell you how relieved I am to be disavowed of the false notion that Russia is a responsible world power.
P.S. Sarah says "hi".
Obama's is stronger toward the beginning than the end. He's got good writers. A few awkward moments, though. His comment about AIG drew some awkward applause. It ends on a serious and eloquent note.
McCain spent a few moments offering praise of Obama, which drew strong applause from everyone in the room except Obama. I don't know if this was bitterness, or if he just didn't want to seem like he was applauding himself. He ended on a funny gag about setting unreasonably high expectations for Obama.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
"Joe the Plumber" ...
- is not a plumber, at least not a licensed one. He's been practicing illegally.
- is named Sam.
- asked a question about having to pay more taxes that, according to this article, Obama's plan would not require of him. And, he currently owes back taxes.
In short, he's about as qualified for the title applied to him by Senator McCain as "Sarah the Vice President".
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Barrack Obama's father is from Kenya. He's black. His first names ryhmes with Iraq. His middle is Hussein. His last rhymes with Osama.
He's running against a war hero with lots of experience, including 2 presidential runs.
And, although nothing is certain, he is by all accounts going to win by a Reagan v Modale landslide.
He's winning for many reasons, not the least of which is the extreme unpopularity of the sitting Republican regime and current economic crisis. Maybe any Democrat could have won this election.
But he had a sizable lead even before the Wall Street dive. He's winning largely because he is more charismatic, more intelligent, and cooler under pressure. He exhibited these traits against both Hillary Clinton and John McCain. He's run a better campaign than either of them.
The superiority of his VP choice has been well documented.
I guess it just deflates some of my cynicism to see a candidate, who had all kinds of bad reasons to lose, winning for mostly the right ones.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Other ways in which the debates would be better if they were more like a game show:
- The audience votes on 5 words or phrases each participant is not allowed to use.
- McCain, you can't say "maverick", "earmark", "special interests", "pork-barrel", or "Miss Congeniality" (we'll have to add "cronyism" next week - that was a new one).
- Obama, you must do without "20th century solutions to 21st century problems", "worst financial crisis since the Great Depression", "using a hatchet where you need a scalpel", "tax cut for 95 percent of Americans", and "I agree with Senator McCain".
A candidate who uses one of these must down a shot of liquor (specific liquor to be chosen by the opponent).
- Anyone using "Wall Street" and "Main Street" in the same sentence has to spend 2 minutes in a phone booth full of slugs.
- Before the debate, each participant must provide to the moderator all accusations to be made - voting record, public speeches, whatever. The network will display a near-real-time summary of the straight dope on each of those accusations as they come up during the debate (I know I could look them up online myself, but I'm lazy). If you make an accusation not on that list, you must retract the statement and speak clearly these words - "perhaps my opponent deserves to be President more than I do".
- Bonus points for correct pronunciation of "Ahmadinejad" and "nuclear".
- If the moderator has time for, say, 20 questions, he or she will pick 40 of them and supply them to one of the candidates (chosen either randomly or based upon the winner of a thumb war). That candidate gets to split the questions into 2 piles of 20, and the other candidate gets to choose which pile of questions is used during the debate.
- Live audience members get to shoot the candidates with water guns if they don't like what they're hearing. Or maybe one of these.
- David Petraeus, Henry Kissinger, and Warren Buffet must be on camera during any portion of the debate in which they are mentioned, and each must either nod or shake his head disapprovingly in concert with how the candidate portrays him.
Can you think of more?
Saturday, October 4, 2008
It wasn't a good documentary. Things were edited to make most of the interviewees look as bad as possible. Comments were often followed with film clips of cartoons, famous movies, or low budget passion movies. He went for the cheap laugh too much for the film to have any journalistic integrity.
I did find it educational though. I learned some things, for example, about the myths predating Jesus from which the gospels borrowed (especially Horus).
It was more personal than I had anticipated. Bill Maher spoke of his upbringing - he was raised Catholic, but his mother was Jewish. They quit going to church when he was in Jr. high. There was a section where he interviewed his mother and sister - his mother was pretty funny. He also spoke of how he's addressed religion through comedy over the years.
Maher's skilled at calling bullshit on people while still engaging in civil conversation. Most of the film was focused on Christianity, but he also covered Judaism and Islam (no eastern religions). His general M.O. was to approach religious folk and ask them questions about their faith, then point out what he saw as inconsistency or just plain silliness. It was a good style, as he generally gave people enough rope to hang themselves.
The last 10 minutes or so got very heavy handed, focusing on the dangers of religious belief in a time of nuclear proliferation. It wasn't a bad message, but the radical switch in tone was awkward.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
The moderator (Gwen Ifill) didn't push either candidate for clarification as much as Jim Lehrer did last week. This was disappointing, but it did mean they got to cover more topics.
Palin made a comment early on that she wouldn't necessarily answer the question of the moderator or Biden, that she was going to talk from the heart straight to the American people. This American person would prefer she just answer the dang questions of the moderated debate in which she's participating. She's a VP candidate, she can gab a mike whenever she wants to talk straight to us. She also complained later about her previous interviews being clouded by media bias. I sure hope nobody bought any of that. And I sure hope she's serious about answering direct questions from the electorate from now on.
Biden mostly hammered on how wrong McCain's been about everything. I thought his strongest moment was near they end when he called "bullshit" on McCain being a "maverick", after the 3rd or 4th time Palin used the term.
Palin called the Obama-Biden plan for pulling out of Iraq, and setting a timeframe for the pullout, is like "waving a white flag of surrender". I wish they would have expanded more on this. If leaving now equals surrender, that means we haven't won yet. And if we haven't won yet, I'd like to know what the criteria for victory is. Palin did make one comment like "we won't leave until the Iraqi government shows it can govern itself", but that's to vague.
This was about the folksiest debate I've ever seen. From the streets of Wasalia to the diners of Wilmington, we got to hear a lot about how these two were out there talking to "real people facing real problems", "average Americans", "middle class", yadda yadda yadda. Palin actually used the terms "hockey mom" (since when did hockey become such an all-American sport?) and "Joe six-pack". Biden's remarks resonated a little more with me than Palin's, but I don't much go for scripted sentimentality from anyone.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
I liked Heroes Season 1, even though I thought it fizzled after Five Years Gone. It was silly, and every time Mohinder opened his mouth about evolution I wanted to claw my eyes out, but good TV with strong comic book inspiration.
Season 2 was okay, but a letdown. I was disappointed they couldn't come up with a better storyline than a new future catastrophe to avoid (season 1 was a nuke in NYC, season 2 was a virus). I forgave it, though, since the writer's strike cut it short. The main weaknesses were:
- Splintering into too many storylines.
- Heroes were getting too powerful, especially Sylar and Peter who absorb others' powers. It gets to the point where you can't even remember everything everyone can do, and every few minutes you wonder, "why didn't he/she just use X to avoid situation Y?"
- Everyone's related to everyone else. The first few, "oh my goodness, you're actually my mother!" moments are okay, but when it happens every episode, it loses its punch. Plus, like tracking the powers, it's just a headache keeping up with the connections.
And I can't stand the Mohinder storyline. It's a ripoff of the fly, he's always been a horrible portrayal of a scientist (though I will grant that this is consistent with most comic book scientists), and it's just not interesting how he stumbles onto discoveries instead of figuring them out. Now we've got the ability to give everyone in the world powers - maybe they'll do something interesting with this plot line, but I don't think so.
There is some good - I always like the Hiro storylines, and the interaction between Hiro, Ando, and speedy-girl is fun. I am curious to learn who Tracy is. I hope she's not just Jessica, that there are a dozen or so clones running around. And I look forward to Claire's development into a badass.
I'm still into it enough to keep watching it, even though it's been on a steady decline since the end of season one.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Gibson: Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?
Palin: In what respect, Charlie?
Gibson: What do you interpret it to be?
Palin: His worldview.
Friday, September 12, 2008
A teenage girl in central India killed herself on Wednesday after being traumatized by media reports that a "Big Bang" experiment in Europe could bring about the end of the world, her father said.
Now, the fact that she did this obviously shows she had some mental health issues to start with, so I'm not blaming others for her death. But I was particularly bothered by this quote from her father:
"We tried to divert her attention and told her she should not worry about such things, but to no avail," he said.
He wasn't the only idiot around though:
But in deeply religious and superstitious India, fears about the experiment and the minor risks associated with it spread rapidly through the media.
In east India, thousands of people rushed to temples to pray and fast while others savored their favorite foods in anticipation of the world's end.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Thursday, September 4, 2008
- She has, what, 2 years as Governor of the U.S.'s 47th most populace state? The rest of her experience is as mayor of Wasilia (population 5-6000). And she spent much of her speech criticizing Obama's lack of experience.
- Speaking of the size of Alaska, apparently it's the acreage, not the population, that makes her qualified for the Presidency. Pat Roberston Buchanan is such a tool.
- I've read at least two places (here and here) where the proximity of Alaska to Russia was touted as evidence of her foreign policy experience. Are you kidding me? An explanation of the absurdity of that argument.
- She's being touted as a reformer, but she supported the "bridge to nowhere" before she opposed it, she has many ties to Ted Stevens (currently under indictment), and on at least three occasions she was responsible for the type of earmarking violently opposed by then Senator McCain.
- Troopergate (still under investigation).
But I think the real truth lies in her ties to the religious right (including her belief that God - that's the Christian God, mind you - wants us in Iraq). I'm guessing that's the main reason she was chosen. The religious right continues to exert more and more power over the Republican Party (and the Democrats too - I still can't believe the first televised presidential debate this year was in a friggin' church).
Which is why I will not vote for that party any time soon.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
- Last Sunday I planted some bushes and herbs in my garden. I had to hack up three bush stumps with a hatchet, resulting in a couple bad blisters on my right hand.
- As I leave my condo I always swing my front door shut then reach back to lock it. On Thursday, in too much of a hurry, I reach back and smashed my left middle finger in the closing door. Cripes, did that hurt!
- On Friday, playing softball, I fielded a high hop and didn't quite get my glove on it, so I stopped it with my bare right hand, resulting in a bruise near the base of my index finger.
- Yesterday, while moving a pile of dishes that had accumulated in my sink to the dishwasher, I nicked my right ring finger on a knife.
On the bright side, I've taken the opportunity to witness some pretty cool things our bodies do to take care of us.
- I'm always fascinated by watching scrapes and blisters heal. The scab covers the area to protect it form germs (sometimes helped along by first aid cream and a bandage), after a few days the skin slowly repairs itself. It's just a little over a week later, and the skin is almost fully healed.
- The smashed fingertip was the worst of the lot. It hurt like crazy for the first ~20 minutes, then settled to a dull throb. I wouldn't notice it for a while, then it would pop up again and remind me of the pain. This sort of degrading alert system reminded me of monitoring we have for production systems at work. I also noticed that, within a few days, I was already subconsciously adjusting to the damaged finger. When I would pick up an item with my left hand, without thinking about it, I would hold that finger back and use the other 4 (this after a few times when I didn't do that, and I painfully stubbed the tender fingertip).
- The knife cut has, in less than 24 hours, already sealed closed.
- The Catholic Church has returned to its medieval prominence (or, close to it) in culture and government. Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, but I sure hope that isn't the case 3-4 millenia from now.
- In describing the faster-than-light communication technology known as the "ansible", he writes that even though humanity has learned to utilize this technology, nobody really understands how it works. I'm not sure what Card was getting at here, but it smacked of a flaky "science is just another religion" viewpoint. I suppose one could argue our understanding of quantum mechanics is like that now, but I would think by the time we're able to integrate quantum theory into common technology we'll have a better idea how it works.
- When the main character first arrives at Lusitania, the planet whose colonists are overseen by a Portuguese Catholic theocracy, he's greeted by the local mayor. He has a reputation for being a raging atheist, but he surprises the mayor by espousing his appreciation for religious belief. Near as I can tell, he thinks religion is an "opiate of the masses", and that's a good thing.
... all scientific "knowledge" will eventually be found to be at least incomplete and quite possibly flat wrong, so if any area of science remains unquestioned, that is where the errors will accumulate.Excellent sentiment. We should always be willing to test existing knowledge. But he loses me here when he says his church uses the scientific method to discover
Real scientists are unafraid of questions and never stifle them. The evidence of honest experiment will either affirm the existing belief or replace it with a better understanding. What's to fear in that?
There are no final answers in science, and anyone who thinks he has found one is no scientist.
The LDS faith is an experimental religion. We use the scientific method. No one is asked to rely on other people's faith; we are expected to ask the questions ourselves, and then "prove" and "test" the answers we are given.This is laughable given some of the basic tenets of his religion, excellently satirized by South Park.
I suppose his outlook is better than those who do not question their faith at all. I only hope that many of them come to the conclusion that they can hold onto the valid and powerful aspects of their faith (e.g., their strong emphasis on family and community) while discarding the silly ones.
Ah well, he still writes good sci-fi.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
In brightly hued tights, it will be harder for people there to ignore him when he takes on his new planet's lobbyists, auto manufacturers, and enemies of justice.
Monday, July 28, 2008
From Richard Dawkins' blog, several groups of Catholics have taken the opportunity to petition the church to change its stance on contraception, in particular highlighting the role the Catholic Church's stance has had in the spread of AIDS.
While I appreciate the need for this effort, I stand baffled by the notion that they choose to remain Catholic and fight the establishment. From a purely practical standpoint, throngs of would be tithers leaving the church would have much more of an impact than a petition. But the main thing I don't get is why they would choose to remain members in an organization that takes at best decades and at worst centuries to catch up with the moral sensibilities of the modern world.
I'm curious to know what these protesting Catholics think about Catholic morality. Supposedly this morality comes from God. Has God changed his mind? Was Pope Paul VI simply off his rocker? It doesn't seem to me that human nature has changed. We all want to have sex really badly (even those that believe it's a sin) and don't want to get diseases from it.
I dunno, I guess it saddens me that the progressive Catholics seem, in some ways, loopier than the staunch conservatives.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Type 1 can harness all of the energy of its home planet; Type 2 can harvest all of the power of its sun; and Type 3 can master the energy from its entire galaxy.
This seems vague and arbitrary to me. What about harnessing the rotational inertia of nearby planets? Or other cosmic radiation not generated by the sun, but not limited to the galaxy? And what does it mean to harness all the energy of a planet? And it's unclear how the energy conversion of plants and animals fits into this.
I do get the point that we're not as efficient as we can be, and that our efficiency bears on our survival. If anyone can explain these metrics to me, please do.
But here's where he really loses me, as he breaks down our progress from 0.1 to 0.7 (where we are now, supposedly) to 1.0 historically:
Type 0.1: Fluid groups of hominids living in Africa. Technology consists of primitive stone tools. Intra-group conflicts are resolved through dominance hierarchy, and between-group violence is common.
Type 0.2: Bands of roaming hunter-gatherers that form kinship groups, with a mostly horizontal political system and egalitarian economy.
Type 0.3: Tribes of individuals linked through kinship but with a more settled and agrarian lifestyle. The beginnings of a political hierarchy and a primitive economic division of labor.
Type 0.4: Chiefdoms consisting of a coalition of tribes into a single hierarchical political unit with a dominant leader at the top, and with the beginnings of significant economic inequalities and a division of labor in which lower-class members produce food and other products consumed by non-producing upper-class members.
Type 0.5: The state as a political coalition with jurisdiction over a well-defined geographical territory and its corresponding inhabitants, with a mercantile economy that seeks a favorable balance of trade in a win-lose game against other states.
Type 0.6: Empires extend their control over peoples who are not culturally, ethnically or geographically within their normal jurisdiction, with a goal of economic dominance over rival empires.
Type 0.7: Democracies that divide power over several institutions, which are run by elected officials voted for by some citizens. The beginnings of a market economy.
Type 0.8: Liberal democracies that give the vote to all citizens. Markets that begin to embrace a nonzero, win-win economic game through free trade with other states.
Type 0.9: Democratic capitalism, the blending of liberal democracy and free markets, now spreading across the globe through democratic movements in developing nations and broad trading blocs such as the European Union.
Type 1.0: Globalism that includes worldwide wireless Internet access, with all knowledge digitized and available to everyone. A completely global economy with free markets in which anyone can trade with anyone else without interference from states or governments. A planet where all states are democracies in which everyone has the franchise.
He's equating socio-political systems with energy efficiency. This seems like a dangerous path to go down if you're arguing for political reform. I don't have any numbers, but I bet there have been some wickedly efficient fascist regimes in the past.
I'm all for democracy and I'm all for clean energy, but there are much better arguments for both.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
It's 95% at Rotten Tomatos. I don't get it.
The film wasn't very good. I had about the same response I had to the original Batman with Nicholson and Keaton - the Joker was great, everything else was mediocre or crap. Most of the supposed difficult moral conundrums are laughably contrived, and it gets way preachy at the end. The actions scenes aren't very good, and Bale's deep throaty Batman voice (which I found mildly annoying in the first film, but I wrote it off as a young Bruce Wayne trying to learn how to be scary) is even worse in this film.
Maggie Gyllenhaal had me pining for the complexity of Katie Holmes.
There were 2 good performances - Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart. Eckhart's Harvey Dent was a compelling do-gooder politician who wasn't above temptation to break the rules, but the wheels came off once he became Two-Face. His performance wasn't bad, but the writing just absolutely sucked for the last 30 minutes or so (at 2.5 hours the film was too long anyway). I didn't buy his descent into madness at all.
Ledger's performance is a little over hyped due to his untimely death, but he really did steal every scene he was in. I found him quite believable both as a criminal genius and a madman, which makes for quite the frightening villain. As much as I disliked about the film, I'd recommend it just for his performance.