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Friday, March 31, 2006

A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Slacker

From Wikipedia:
"Proust was quite close with his mother, despite her wishes that he apply himself to some sort of useful work. In order to appease his father, who insisted that he pursue a career, Proust obtained a volunteer position at the Bibliothèque Mazarine in the summer of 1896. After exerting considerable effort, he immediately obtained a sick leave which was to extend for several years until he was considered to have resigned. He never worked at his job, and he didn't move from his parents' apartment until after both were dead (Tadié)."

In other words, the very first thing he did at his new job was take a several year sick leave!

An Army of One

I've ridiculed before the Army's slogan, which suggests that the government military is a bastion of individuality and free expression. On the back of some magazine spam I got at school, there is a full page Army ad that shows a dad with his hand on his young son's shoulder. The caption says:

YOU TAUGHT HIM ABOUT RESPECT, HONOR AND COURAGE. IS IT ANY SURPRISE THAT NOW HE WANTS TO USE THEM?

I think that this would be a better commercial for the Christian Peacemaker Teams than for the Army. Oh well.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

More On (not Moron) Mises.org

Here's another great article about contradictions on the Right from Lew Rockwell, and here's my mockery of an article talking about scientists wanting to tax soda. (Thanks to Rachael for alerting me to the ridiculous article in question.)

Holy Schmokes

Iraqis told not to cooperate with government security forces -- by the government!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

V for...

I was with some academic friends Monday. One of them was praising V for Vendetta, which he had just seen over the weekend. He remarked, "Some of the lines in the movie could have come out of the mouth of Ayn Rand."

I asked, "So some character said, 'Nathaniel, Frank's not home -- quick, bend me over the back of that couch!'"

Feel free to add your own line in the comments.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

geekelations

I just noticed that this week's tropical storms in Australia are not in alphabetical order, so I went to the source to get my head straightened. It seems that each storm developed in a different area and comes under different naming rules. Larry formed in the "Eastern Australian Region"; Wati began its churning over in the "Fiji Region", and Glenda, which is about to pounce, is spinning around in the "Western Australian Region".

I suppose this is only of true interest to geeks, but I had to share.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Localized Central Planning

I was listening to some guy on NPR talking about rebuilding New Orleans. He said something like, "We don't want a top-down approach to the rebuilding, with the federal government dictating what businesses and residences will go where." This really warmed my heart. It reminded me of when the Twin Towers got knocked down and people kept asking each other, "What do you think we should put in their place?" My non-interesting answer was, "I imagine the owners of that plot should build whatever yields them the most revenue."

My reminiscing was cut short when the NPR guy elaborated and said that local zoning would ensure that what "the community" wanted and needed would be built in the hurricane zone. I found out that it was Haley Barbour (sp?) talking.

Clever Couple

My wife and I independently came up with the idea of calling our outings with our son "random walks." I.e. Clark will go in one direction for a few steps, then for no apparent reason will make a sharp turn and go a different way. When he's older I'll take him on a martingale jog. (Okay you got me, I'm bluffing. I don't know the difference between a random walk and a martingale.)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

New at LRC

I take on the wingnuts again.

Excerpt:
5) Sure, invading Iraq was a mistake, but now that we’re in there, we’ve got to finish the job.

On July 2, 1881, U.S. President James A. Garfield was shot by an assassin in Washington. The second bullet that struck him had lodged in his back, and his team of doctors could not locate it. They were persistent fellows though, and they continued to probe their fingers and various instruments around in the wound, hunting for the little bugger. At one point they even called in Alexander Graham Bell for help.

The doctors no doubt operated under the motto, "Now that we’re in there, we’ve got to finish the job." Unfortunately, what they were finishing was President Garfield. The bullet itself presented no serious health risks, but the doctors’ efforts to assist him were continually infecting and traumatizing their patient. On September 19, 1881, after over two months of "treatment," Garfield died. The doctors, with the annoying patient out of the picture, were no doubt then able to find the bullet and "finish the job."

Friday, March 24, 2006

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Narnia

We saw this yesterday. I thought it was really good, especially the exchange where (after they find the ransacked faun's house) Peter says, "We need to call the police!" and one of the girls says, "These were the police!" (Not exact wording no doubt.)

However, no matter how brave etc. they depict it, I can't help but think running your outnumbered troops into hordes of monsters is a rather silly use of men and materiel. If I were King Peter I would've proudly said, "Run and hide! Later we'll attack the White Witch's supply chain!"

Now What's a Wingnut To Do?

Michelle Malkin is upset about the Afghani government planning to execute a man for converting to Christianity, but understandably she is somewhat at a loss as to what to do about it. Usually she is eager to bomb anyone who looks at American interests cross-eyed, but in this case about the sternest response she can come up with is to "offer [the convert] asylum"! Well, I feel for her plight: She'd like to call for the US to invade Afghanistan, overthrow its government, and install one of American choosing, but of course America already has invaded Afghanistan, already has overthrown its government, and the offending ruling body is the very one that the US installed. Michelle must have spent hours at home wondering if it were nevertheless possible for America to invade again, what the status of the American troops propping up the current government would be vis-a-vis the ones trying to overthrow it, and other conundrums that finally left her looking like this:

Friday, March 17, 2006

Americans Don't Want Country

From The Onion:

'I already belong to a health club, a church, and the Kiwanis Club," Tammy Golden of Los Angeles wrote. "I'm a member of the Von's Grocery Super Savers, which gets me a discount on certain groceries. These are all well-managed organizations with real benefits. None of them send me a confusing bill once a year and make me work it out myself, then throw me in jail if I get it wrong."'

Monday, March 13, 2006

Fun with Statistics

I've been contemplating the prevelance of vague or misleading statistics in the media and in advertising lately. My first example is food products that sport a label claiming, for instance, that the contents are "99% fat free." I think what they mean is that 1% of the product's weight is fat, but it sure is an odd way to say it. Usually, if we heard a general claim that "99% of Iraq is now free of insurgents," we wouldn't interpret him as saying that 1% of the country is solidly covered in shoulder-to-shoulder resistance fighters. No, we'd imagine that in only 1% of Iraq's area are insurgents still regularly a problem. But that reading would make no sense applied to, say, yogurt -- is all the fat just causing trouble in a tiny section of the container?

While the above is stated in a weird way, at least I believe I know what it really says. Not so with a common type of assertion made by weather forecasters, e.g., "There is a 10% chance of rain in Boston today." Are they saying it is likely to be raining 10% of the time all across the city? Or that 10% of the area is likely to see at least some rain? That there is a 10% chance that any rain at all will fall anywhere in Boston? A 10% chance that rain will fall everywhere in the city? That 10% of the time a few drops will be falling on at least one neighborhood?

The last case I present I ran across in the sports pages of the NY Daily News. The reporter mentioned that while Vince Carter of the Nets had scored 29 points in the game he was reporting on, he had scored "only 7 points" in the 4th quarter. I stopped reading to wonder if the writer had tried dividing 29 by 7. Vince was only .25 points below his average for the game in the closing period -- you could hardly expect him to be any nearer.

While I find these sorts of things amusing in themselves, I also think they are signs of a more serious phenomenon: all of us are to ready to accept statements made by these "authoratative" sources as sensible and clear even though, upon examination, they turn out to be quite funky.

NEW EXAMPLE: On ESPN today, the anouncer was backing the assertion by the coach of the Tennessee women's team, that her quartile of the NCAA tournament was too hard, by pointing out that "Five of the team's in the bracket were in the top 25!" Of course, given that all of the top-25 teams are likely to make the 64-team tournament, and there are four brackets, the average number of top-25 teams in a bracket is always 6.25 -- so he was actually presenting evidence that Tennessee's bracket was too easy!

Lew Rockwell = Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime wasn't the strongest, fastest, or smartest Autobot, but he was clearly their leader and a great one at that. If you want to see how to be a leader in the real world, kids, take out your notebook and read.

Is This in Europe?

According to NY Post columnist Peter Brookes, there's a new country operating on the world stage: "US/Israel."

Do any of our readers know where "US/Israel" is located? Who its leader is? Thanks in advance.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

When Are You Having Another One?

This is one of my least favorite questions regarding children, right up there with "Where'd he get that red hair from?" (Clark has gorgeous red hair.) I think it's a very rude question, and I'm sick of people asking me about it so casually. The reason it hits a hot spot with me is because frankly, I don't want another one right now, and I'm tired of people suggesting that it'll be bad for Clark, and that a family needs to be a certain size. But it can hit much hotter spots for other people. At church today, someone asked me, and then she asked another woman in the group. The woman said, "Well, we just lost one in April..." See? See my point? She brought up the woman's MISCARRIAGE, whereas if she had just kept her rude mouth shut, or chatted about the weather, she wouldn't have hurt anybody.

This is a question you just shouldn't ask! For all you know the woman doesn't want another one, or she and her husband fight about it every week, or maybe there are fertility problems, or maybe she had a miscarriage--and any way it spins, it's most likely not your business.

NCAA Tourney Pools

ESPN.com writer Pat Forde gives his advice on filling in your office NCAA bracket:
"Picking all-out anarchy is fun, but rarely profitable. At least one No. 1 seed has made each of the past 25 Final Fours.

"Then again, picking nothing but favorites won't win the prize, either. Since the NCAA began seeding teams in 1979, all four No. 1 seeds have never made it. (Three have only made it three times, all in the 1990s.) In 26 out of 27 years, at least one team seeded third or lower has made the Final Four.

"If you throw out two fluke years (1980 and 2000, each of which had three teams seeded fifth or lower) and one super-chalky year (1993, when three No. 1s and a No. 2 advanced) the average Final Four seeds have been remarkably consistent. They have ranged from 1.8 to 3.8 per team.

"So after you pick your Final Four, do some quick addition on the seeds of those teams. If they add up to less than seven (say, two No. 2s and two No. 1s) or more than 15 (say, a No. 8, a No. 5, a No. 2 and a No. 1), start over."

This advice makes sense -- if your office pool is won by whoever gets closest to the average seed of the Final Four teams. Since no pool works that way, it's bad. The point isn't to know that at least one three or lower seed is likely to make it, but guess which team that is. Unless you think you can do that, the best thing is to pick all one seeds, since more one seeds make it than any other.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Friday, March 10, 2006

Better Wait Until the Place Calms Down

From the Antiwar.com blog:
"...UN special envoy Jan Pronk warned recently that intelligence sources have reported, 'people in Khartoum[, Sudan,] who were not there before,' which has been interpreted as meaning an al-Qaeda presence. The terrorist network has allegedly made threats against the UN, which Mr Pronk says have led to the taking of extra security measures.

"That was confirmed by his critics as well, among them Sudan's Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardhi. He also warned, while referring to 'foreign elements' in his country, that the safety of a UN peacekeeping force could not be guaranteed."

Isn't the whole reason for sending a UN peacekeeping force somewhere that it is dangerous, and, you know, there is some need to keep the peace? What countries are good targets for UN peacekeeping -- Switzerland and New Zealand?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

please gouge me

Last week, a gullywasher worked its way through the roof of our building, flooding two units. Since Katrina and especially Wilma, roofs all over the city have been covered in blue tarps and/or springing leaks during some of South Florida's notorious thunderstorms. We got off much easier than the Gulf Coast, but we are still limping back to normalcy. Part of that reason is government regulation. (Duh!)

Today's Miami Herald carries an article on a contractor sting that nabbed a number of unlicensed contractors hoping to do repairs on a home. The reason?
"Police and building officials say they are trying to stop shady contractors before the hurricane season rolls around in less than three months. They also wanted to use the sting as a way of warning consumers that making home repairs with unlicensed workers could result in disasters."

Not having enough contractors and materials in the area is the single greatest threat to homeowners now, long before June 1, the start of hurricane season. Some contractors might be shady, but we're willing to take the chance on them as opposed to hoping that a hurricane doesn't arrive before a licensed man can do the job. I can only hope that officials in Mississippi and Louisiana are shady enough to accept bribes and let those roofs get fixed. I seriously hope so.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

War with Iran, Anyone?

Dick Cheney puts the option on the table.

March Madness Time

I predict that Gonzaga will go out in round 2 of the NCAA tournament. They are badly overrated. They barely beat Stanford, a mediocre Pac 10 team, and have been squeaking by weak WCC opponents by a point or two. If they played in the BIg East, they'd have finished in 5th or 6th place.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Standing Up to Military Might

See it here. (Warning: Big .wmv file.)

Talk About Conspiracy Theories...

An accounting prof tipped me off to this Google movie. I had always thought the Bush Administration certainly had the incentive to orchestrate 9/11, but I thought it would be way too difficult. But if this stuff is legit in the opening 10 mins, it certainly seems spooky. (I have no problem believing they took out JFK, for example.)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Really, Really Late-Term Abortions...

now legal in Holland.

Puck You All

My first novel, PUCK, will be published soon. I just received the publisher's comments on my manuscript, and I share some excerpts to whet your appetite:

"The manuscript is a unique blend of the writing styles of William Shakespeare (without the Old English, of course) and the later works of James Joyce. The author takes a post-modern approach to the classic Joyce novel Finnegan’s Wake.

"This is the kind of classic work that would require a semester’s worth of study at a University... just as James Joyce 'put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries.'

"Lovers of modern and postmodern literature will enjoy this book immensely.

"I suspect that each time the reader reads this manuscript, new subtleties and nuances will appear. This is 'classic literature'... [It is] a complex expression of [the author's] worldview that rivals the greats."

Art Notes

Check out an interview with my friend, Duke Riley. We once passed a half-an-hour together burning small (non-living) things on Columbia Street in Brooklyn.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Heresy continues...

I first met Celia Farber in NYC about twelve years ago. Although I was just a tag-along to the meeting, I was thoroughly interested in what this supposed "crank" was going to say. I had my own questions about AIDS already--which Celia's column in Spin Magazine had contributed to--but I was still very doubtful that the medical establishment could be so wrong. (I'm way less naive now.) Despite noting that all my promiscuous, gay or needle-popping friends were alive and relatively healthy, it was hard for me to wrap my head around my own observations and believe that they were anything other than the exception to the HIV-->AIDS rule. I don't think it took more than a half hour of listening to Celia to completely cure me of the HIV myth. She literally filled in the missing puzzle-pieces to my knowledge and observations of the so-called AIDS epidemic. I finally had enough information to draw my own conclusions, which was that HIV-->AIDS is a load of C.R.A.P.

Her latest assault on what simply is a money-making lie appears in Harpers Magazine this month. (Reprinted here.) That article along with what I prefer to describe as a letter of apology from AIDS-scientist Rebecca V. Culshaw underscore just how financially lucrative AIDS is to those in the "correct" cliques. How do you stop a train that so many people make money shoveling coal into? They have no incentive to be right or wrong as long as they are getting paid. Just follow the money trail...

Republicans, Guardians of Our Liberty

While stopping for gas in New Jersey, I was reminded of the fact that self-service gas pumps are illegal in the state. And that brought back to mind hearing Christie Todd Whitman answering questions on the WCBS radio show, "Meet the Governors." A call asked her if she would try to get the above-mentioned law changed. Her response was, "If I see a real need for self-service gas, I'll consider it."

There's freedom for ya -- the people are only permitted to do the things their rulers "see a real need for" -- otherwise, it's right out.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Overheard at the Post Office

The guy ahead of me (I think he was trying to flirt with the employee, but I'm not sure) asked why they didn't have tax forms, and she explained that the government didn't send them to that branch this year, and then it came up that the Post Office wasn't really part of the government, even though most people think it is.

The guy started going on and on about how that was great, and that he was so impressed that the Post Office could be independent and not need tax dollars. He even said something like, "I wish I could make enough money to pay all my bills, heh heh."

Don't worry, I didn't exclaim, "Do you think you could make ends meet if you enjoyed a government-granted monopoly?"