Saturday, August 27, 2005

[blogger] bollocks

More template problems... Grrr... Tried resizing the images - bzzzt. Wrong answer. Oh well; I'll address as time allows.

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[culcha] The Brothers Grimm

We went and saw Terry Gilliam's latest last night - I posted a mini-review here. Short version: <homersimpson text="Mmmmm... Gilliam..."/>

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

[politics] I love a free press

Too bad we don't actually have one... TIME sat on a major story so as to not affect the 2004 elections. WTF? Now it's their job to not unduly influence things with, uh, the truth?

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[geek] We get letters

Actually, just one of the strangest pieces of spam I've ever gotten... Hare Krishna spam:
Received: from {deleted}
by {deleted}
id <20050825202630s18006qmb4e>; Thu, 25 Aug 2005 20:26:31 +0000
X-Originating-IP: {deleted}
Received: (qmail 30401 invoked by uid 89); 25 Aug 2005 20:29:07 -0000
Delivered-To: {my protectedstatic.com email address}
Received: (qmail 30390 invoked by uid 0); 25 Aug 2005 20:29:05 -0000
Received: from unknown {some UUNET open relay in the UK}
by 10.0.35.1 with SMTP; 25 Aug 2005 20:29:05 -0000

-----Original Message-----
From: Neateye [mailto:nitaigouranga@aol.com]
Sent: Thursday, August 25, 2005 1:26 PM
To: Me
Subject: Gouranga

Call out Gouranga be happy!!!
Gouranga Gouranga Gouranga ....
That which brings the highest happiness!!

It certainly left me scratching my head... Thank goodness for Google, eh?

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[politics] Be a witness

Because genocide is news. [thanks for the reminder, Ann (posting at Sivacracy)]

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[geek][politics] Some positive news from Iraq

...however small (and perhaps fleeting): the marshes of the Mesopotamian valley are recovering.
MSNBC staff and news service reports Updated: 4:13 p.m. ET Aug. 24, 2005 TOKYO - A decade after Saddam Hussein had them drained to punish their occupants, the marshlands of southern Iraq, said to be the inspiration for the biblical Garden of Eden, are recovering at a “phenomenal rate” since Saddam's fall, the United Nations said Wednesday. New satellite imagery shows a rapid increase in water and vegetation cover in just the past three years, with the marshes rebounding to about 37 percent of the area they covered in 1970, up from about 10 percent in 2002, the United Nations Environment Program said in a report describing a multimillion dollar restoration project funded by Japan.
Cool. And definitely better than the 'progress' on the Iraqi Constitution...

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

[geek] "Testing Darwin"

In light of the recent controversy over the non-controversy that is evolution, I found the above-linked article quite interesting - digital life, a software package named 'Avida', evolving in ways that Creationists and Intelligent Design advocates say can't happen:
The researchers set up an experiment to document how one particularly complex operation evolved. The operation, known as equals, consists of comparing pairs of binary numbers, bit by bit, and recording whether each pair of digits is the same. It's a standard operation found in software, but it's not a simple one. The shortest equals program Ofria could write is 19 lines long. The chances that random mutations alone could produce it are about one in a thousand trillion trillion. To test Darwin's idea that complex systems evolve from simpler precursors, the Avida team set up rewards for simpler operations and bigger rewards for more complex ones. The researchers set up an experiment in which organisms replicate for 16,000 generations. They then repeated the experiment 50 times. Avida beat the odds. In 23 of the 50 trials, evolution produced organisms that could carry out the equals operation. And when the researchers took away rewards for simpler operations, the organisms never evolved an equals program. “When we looked at the 23 tests, they were all done in completely different ways,” adds Ofria. He was reminded of how Darwin pointed out that many evolutionary paths can produce the same complex organ. A fly and an octopus can both produce an image with their eyes, but their eyes are dramatically different from ours. “Darwin was right on that-there are many different ways of evolving the same function,” says Ofria.
Funny - you can create an irreducibly complex structure randomly: by rewarding greater levels of complexity. If this added complexity confers some advantage to the organism, it will be rewarded. You don't need a designer to get an eye. Remember this the next time you hear someone say that evolution can't be tested in the lab... [stumbled on this indirectly from MSNBC's "Cosmic Log" column]

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[politics] Holy. Crap.

Things get scarier and scarier:
American Legion Declares War on Protestors -- Media Next? By E&P Staff Published: August 24, 2005 4:20 PM ET NEW YORK The American Legion, which has 2.7 million members, has declared war on antiwar protestors, and the media could be next. Speaking at its national convention in Honolulu, the group's national commander called for an end to all "public protests" and "media events" against the war, constitutional protections be damned. [...] The delegates voted to use whatever means necessary to "ensure the united backing of the American people to support our troops and the global war on terrorism."
Don't these assholes remember their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution? Go read the whole thing - it documents a pretty scary call for censorship by vigilante. I'm afraid that while vets like this one are not alone, the leadership of reactionary groups like the American Legion and VFW are doing everything they can to pretend that there are no Democrats, no Liberals, no dissenters in their ranks. (Or that they speak for all vets - now is a good time to remember that they do not.) [hat tip to Atrios]

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[politics] Feds pull funding for abstinence-education group

Good.
Associated Press - Updated: 10:10 p.m. ET Aug. 23, 2005 PITTSBURGH - The federal government has cut off funding to a nationwide program that promotes abstinence to teens through skits and music videos, saying the group in charge of the campaign did not adequately separate religion from its message. The Silver Ring Thing program, related to a Christian ministry based in the Pittsburgh suburbs, puts on shows at churches nationwide that include “Saturday Night Live”-style skits, music videos and a message of abstinence. Young people are given a silver ring and decide whether they want to pledge to abstain from sex.
Now if only they'd defund these jokers because their programs don't seem to work... Oh wait, that'd be a rational thing to do...

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

[geek] Interesting lessons from our past

Lessons in community and biodiversity, provided by a group of 5 archeologists and historians running a 17th century farm in Wales for an entire year using nothing but period equipment. No, this isn't a remake of "Frontier House" or what have you - no soap operas dressed in period cloting here. The folks doing this were all well-versed in the period prior to participating in the project - but only from an academic perspective. This was intended to provide them with some valuable hands-on insights into the reality of their chosen era of study. A sampling:
1. Know thy neighbours. Today it's possible to live alone, without knowing anyone within a 20-mile radius (the same goes for townies). That was simply not possible in the past - not only did the neighbours provide social contact, people shared labour, specialist skills and produce.
or
9. Reliance on any one thing leaves you vulnerable. Hence the country ground to a halt during the petrol blockades of 2000, and a shortage of coal during 1978-9's Winter of Discontent caused electricity shortages. On the 1620s farm, when oxen used to plough fields fell ill, the implements were reshaped and horses did the job instead.
While I do have some rural/early-tech skills, I know I sure as hell couldn't live like this - but this may be a glimpse of shades of our future as well, if Peak Oil comes to pass. The producer's site can be found here.

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

[random] We survived! We survived!

The in-laws just left; they fly back to Sacramento first thing tomorrow... It was a good trip, but I'll be glad to have our routine back. Oh, and I just noticed Blogger's new 'word verification' to cut down on comment spam - that just got turned on, tout suite. I'm still allowing anonymous comments for now, though. [update: mumble, mumble... Now they're on... Thanks, Rusty ;) ]

2 Comments:

Blogger Rusty said...

I thought you said they turned it on?

8/21/2005 09:21:00 PM  
Blogger protected static said...

Dammit. I had 2 Blogger windows open at once - the sessions must have gotten confused.

sigh

Fixing now...

8/21/2005 09:30:00 PM  

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

[politics] News Flash! Bush Lies!

President explicitly links 9/11 and Iraq!
"In a few weeks, our country will mark the four-year anniversary of the attacks of September the 11th, 2001. On that day, we learned that vast oceans and friendly neighbors no longer protect us from those who wish to harm our people," Bush said [in his weekly radio address]. "And since that day, we have taken the fight to the enemy," he said.
Yet again, more evidence that the mendacity of this administration knows no bounds. If we were taking the fight to the enemy, we'd have Bin Laden's head on a stick now. Instead, here it is four years later and we're pouring blood and money down the rathole that Iraq is becoming, and we're trickling away blood and money in the rathole Afghanistan is becoming. In other news, water is still wet.

1 Comments:

Blogger Carnacki said...

Bush also lied about capturing Osama bin Laden "dead or alive" and bringing the perpetrators behind the 9/11 attacks to justice and about supporting our troops.

The only thing he hasn't lied about is he and his administration never stop thinking of new ways to harm our nation.

8/21/2005 10:57:00 AM  

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Friday, August 19, 2005

[geek][random] Fart rockets!

I shit you not! (as it were...)
BACKGROUND OF INVENTION 1. Field of Invention This invention relates generally to toy gas-fired missiles, and more particularly to a toy gas-fired missile and launcher assembly in which the explosive mixture for propelling the missile is derived from colonic gas discharged by the operator of the toy.
What else is there to add? Dave Barry's line, perhaps? A Beavis & Butthead reference? [hat tip to the BBC's The Magazine Monitor column, 'Things we didn't know this time last week']

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[politics] Help impede Roberts' progress

Thanks for the heads-up, Jane!
On Monday the DNC will file a Freedom of Information Act request for documents pertaining to John Roberts' work as a political appointee under the first Bush administration that the White House has so far refused to turn over to the Senators who have asked for them. The request will come from Howard Dean and anyone who wishes to put their name to it. You can read the formal request and add your name here: http://www.democrats.org/foia
I don't know if it'll help, but it can't hurt...

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

[geek] 30-second science blogging - "Strange fossil defies grouping"

A strange 525 million-year-old fossil creature is baffling scientists because it does not fit neatly into any existing animal groups.
How cool is that? Unfortunately, I fear that this very legitimate process of scientific debate will be siezed upon by those people seeking to create a very different debate where none exists. It is also unfortunate that those people will be able to exploit the American public's general ignorance about the scientific process, and will be able to engender confusion and doubt where none should exist.

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[geek] 30-second science blogging - staving off extinction... through consumerism?

Okay, this is going to be a little more in-depth than 30 seconds, but a good tag line is hard to pass up... So - two sci-tech/nature articles on MSNBC caught my eye yesterday evening: This auction block aims to save ancient trees and Elephants, lions to roam North America again? In a nutshell, both articles describe consumer-driven means of preserving genetic diversity - in the first instance, by auctioning off saplings of a pine tree once thought to be extinct (an ancestor of the 'monkey puzzle' tree, it was dinosaur food) but recently discovered in a small grove in Australia; in the second, a number of scientists propose creating a Great Plains Pliocestene National Park by reintroducing descendants of the great North American mammals to an unpopulated segment of the Great Plains: elephants, lions, cheetas, camels and primitive horses would be allowed to roam free, theoretically helping return the plains to their native state by reproducing something closer to the ecosystem that made the Great Plains what they 'should be' (talk about a moving target - 'should be' to whom?). In both cases, the proposals intend to promote biodiversity and offer new environments for threatened species by a.) generating funding, b.) increasing interest in stewardship, and c.) broadening the available habitat for the species, providing 'arks', if you will, where the pressures that they face in their native habitat won't be a factor. Now, market-driven conservation is nothing new: the Nature Conservancy has been doing it for years. It isn't without its criticisms, either - the Nature Conservancy, for instance, will sell land that it acquires to developers in order to fund additional preservation efforts. When they do this, the land the sell must meet fairly strict criteria as far as not being worth protecting, but still, some people find this discouraging. I don't know, myself - what I do know is that something must be done to preserve biodiversity, and while I'm not a fan of purely market-based solutions (Enron and California's energy crisis, anyone?), this doesn't seem harmful, and certainly seems worth a try. Of the two, the auction is certainly more realistic in scope. I'd love to hear what others think about this...

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

[politics] So-called "right-to-life" group tries to capitalize on death of Iraq War vet

How? By calling his family's decision to remove his feeding tube 'murder':
Three days after the Monona Marine's funeral, the Pro-Lifers put out a press release claiming that Simon was "murdered by those in charge of his medical care." Late Friday, under legal threat by the lawyers for the Don and Marilyn Anderson Hospicecare Center in Fitchburg, the Pro-Lifers backed off the murder charge. Still, the Pro-Lifers warned that this could happen to you. Julie Grimstad of Pro-Life [Wisconsin] called Simon's health-care power of attorney document "signing your own suicide note. It may be legal, but it's most certainly immoral." Then, if it's possible to get more appalling, the group goes on to tout Grimstad's seven "End of Life Decisions" brochures. [...] Simon, 32, and the father of a 6-year- old son, was severely injured Nov. 8 by the same roadside bomb that killed Lance Cpl. Shane O'Donnell of DeForest, and two other members of their Madison-based company. Simon came home from Iraq and received medical care here until mid- July when his doctors determined he would not recover. His family honored his "health-care power of attorney," which gave the ability to make decisions to his wife, Regina. Jack Schuster, the family's attorney, said Regina Simon made the decision after much soul-searching. A judge OK'd the removal of the feeding tube. "It was all done legally. If they want to debate the morality, who are they to judge?" Schuster asked. "Hospice provided the highest level of loving care. To accuse them of murdering him is the height of immorality."
I can't imagine the heartache this family endured, only to get this bullshit from the fundies. Why is it that people have such a hard time seeing that all these bastards really care about is controlling your life? They don't care about "the little babies"; they don't really care about euthanasia. They don't care about immorality - how about starting an illegal war, killing thousands, and lying about it? That's immoral. No, these asshats are scared that you might make a decision that they might not like: abortion, end-of-life, sex, education, your job. These sick fucks want to control every aspect of your life. Period. Got it? It isn't about morality; it's about control. [hat tip to xoverboard, with an assist to Atrios, who'd linked to something else on Pollak's site...]

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

[random] Once upon a time

One of the joys of becoming a parent is seeing childhood through new eyes. And, as a parent (if you're lucky) you're given permission to reinvestigate, however briefly, tangentially, or vicariously, those things you loved as a child. I know how incredibly fortunate I am that I've been given this opportunity, and I wish I could loosen up more and go with it without feeling quite so self-conscious. But I do have the luxury of being able to participate in this process, and right now, I'm being given permission to rediscover fantasy. A month or so ago, we spent the weekend at Ocean Shores, WA. While there, we bought a kit for making sand castles. The kit has a couple of molds for a crenellated tower and a wall section, flags, rollers with 'stone' patterns on them, and a dozen cheapo plastic knights in silver and gold. This was a huge hit with our son - I figured it would be, given how well our reading of The Narnia Chronicles went - and after the beach trip, one of his favorite games was playing archer with a longbow made from a plastic clothes hanger and a construction-paper quiver. Aha! we said - time to read The Adventures of Robin Hood!

He couldn't get enough, so this past weekend, we took our son to the Washington Renaissance Fantasy Faire in Gig Harbor, WA. We figured he'd get a kick out of it, but man! Did we ever underestimate! He had an absolute blast; he got a chance to fence and to shoot a bow and arrow, and he thought the jousting was thrilling. Out of the many things he saw and wanted to buy, he eventually settled on a set of plastic armor - he's been playing knight ever since. And I know I'm probably rushing things, but I can't help it - today I went and bought Treasure Island - with the Wyeth illustrations...

We'll be going to the beach again soon - now I want to see if I can't find some more plastic knights. How can you have a good castle siege with only six per side, I ask? Feh. No way. And catapults. We're gonna need siege engines. Or maybe some pirates instead... Yeah, that's it... Some French & Indian War-era soldiers to be the forces of 'good', and we're the merest of steps away from building ourselves a jungle stockade and the Hispaniola out of seaweed and driftwood...

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[geek] 30-second science blogging - epigenomics

Epi-what? Epigenomics:
As scientists discover more about the "epigenome," a layer of biochemical reactions that turns genes on and off, they're finding that it plays a big part in health and heredity. By mapping the epigenome and linking it with genomic and health information, scientists believe they can develop better ways to predict, diagnose and treat disease. [...] The epigenome can change according to an individual's environment, and is passed from generation to generation. It's part of the reason why "identical" twins can be so different, and it's also why not only the children but the grandchildren of women who suffered malnutrition during pregnancy are likely to weigh less at birth.
In keeping with other trends in research, it's looking more and more like your DNA is a mix of hard 'n fast rules, touchy-feely heuristics and quick 'n dirty suggestions. A lot like life itself... Gee, I wonder why that is? (Anyone who suggests 'Cosmic Designer' will be flogged with a rubber chicken.)

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[politics] Not just the WaPo...

It would appear that the Pentagon is also getting antsy about negative reactions to their Nuremburg-on-the-Potomac Rally:
They’ve added a private ceremony for victims’ families. Now that’s a perfectly appropriate event, but was it part of the original plan? Does it fit in with a parade of College Republican yahoos coming in from across the country? In any case, adding that ceremony does make opposing the propaganda event considerably trickier. So the Pentagon strategy seems to be to play up the memorial part of the event, play down the pro-war part, and hope that when the freepers show up on September 11 they don’t make it into too much of an embarrassment.
Go. Read the whole thing, some of the changes are eye-opening. And if you have a blog, raise hell about this propaganda fest - the DoD is listening (.mil IP addresses following Technorati searches on "America Supports You", for instance...) and reacting. Maybe we can shame them into doing their job: upholding and defending the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Unfortunately, they seem to have forgotten that whole 'uphold' part. [via Atrios]

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[politics] WaPo comes to their senses

...sort of... At any rate, they're pulling their sponsorship of the "'America Supports You' Freedom Walk and Torchlight Rally" being put together by the DoD:
The Washington Post announced tonight that it cease its co-sponsorship of the Pentagon-organized Freedom Walk next month. The paper's involvement had drawn heat from within and outside the paper, with a guild committee today calling for the link to end. The newspaper told the Department of Defense that it was pulling back on its offer of free ads for the event--a march up the mall ending with a concert by pro-war country singer Clint Black. "As it appears that this event could become politicized, The Post has decided to honor the Washington area victims of 9/11 by making a contribution directly to the Pentagon Memorial Fund," said Eric Grant, a Post spokesman. "It is The Post's practice to avoid activities that might lead readers to question the objectivity of The Post's news coverage."
"Could become politicized"? Where have these morons been living for the last four years? This administration couldn't survive without conflating Iraq with Bin Laden. [Got a scorecard? It's in Editor & Publisher, by way of The Daily Kos by way of AMERICABlog... Got all that?]

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Monday, August 15, 2005

[random] Site notes...

New template. Going to redo the links section. That's all, nothing to see, move along...

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[geek][politics] 50 Fantasy and Science Fiction Works

that socialists should read. I think I've read about half of this list. I'm trekking down to Portland in a couple of weeks, so now I know what I'll be looking for here.

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[random] Then and now...

Then:

Now:

Well, helllll-O sailor! (Have I mentioned recently how much I love New York?) Thanks, Siva, for a good multi-culti salute to the 60th anniversary of VJ day.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

[politics] Quick! Get me Leni Riefenstahl on the phone!

What? She's dead you say? Since 2003? Too bad - someone will need to film this properly: the "America Supports You" Freedom Walk.
Q: Why is [the Department of Defense] organizing this event? R: Since September 11, 2001, the Pentagon has provided citizens with opportunities to commemorate September 11 in meaningful ways. The America Supports You Freedom Walk is the fourth September 11 commemorative activity sponsored by the DoD. The goal for the 5th anniversary in 2006 is for each state to host a Freedom Walk in order to provide an opportunity for as many citizens as possible to reflect on the importance of freedom.
The "importance of freedom"... Just that; nothing else, right? Too bad Leni's dead: no one else has the experience to do this event justice.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

[geek] Why I love the Internet #6,221,598

Reason six-million, two-hundred-twenty-one-thousand, five-hundred-ninet... Oh hell; I stoppped counting ages ago. I recently posted something about a plagarism lawsuit involving Dan Brown's DaVinci Code and Lewis Perdue's Daughter of God... At the time, I'd merely intended it to be a snarky commentary on the (IMLTHO, utterly shitty) quality of Brown's writing; however, Mr. Perdue showed up and left a comment pointing out his side of things. How cool is it that an interested party can stop by and present their own side of events? Not in a trollish way, but in a serious 'yes, but this wasn't mentioned in the wire-service article...' kind of way.

2 Comments:

Blogger Lewis Perdue said...

It is cool.

In fact, I'd welcome "trial by blog."

After all, if the legal standard is the "average lay reader" then what better way to involve average lay readers and get a true picture of things?

Beats the casino-like gamble that exists now involving a judge (hardly a "lay" reader) and whether their one opinion that day is in tune with what true lay readers really think.

The lawyers would never let it happen because it diminishes their influence and would decrease the profits of those retained by rich clients.

Speaking of rich clients, trial by blog also removes the ability of a cash-rich, massive global conglomerate like Random House/Bertelsmann to spend their way to a better outcome by ... yes, the lawyering thing mentioned above.

Hmmmm ... now that I have written this comment, I hope you won't mind if I use some version as a post on my own blog. If I do, I'll link back to you.

8/10/2005 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger protected static said...

By all means, feel free - as far as I'm concerned, comment-related content is the property of the poster... I see it as a kind of digital marginalia.

8/10/2005 08:02:00 AM  

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[geek][politics] DUH: Design by Unintelligent Hand

via MSNBC's 'Clicked' column:
I'd like to propose a third alternative theory. I call it the theory of "Design by Unintelligent Hand," or "DUH" for short. The basic concept? The Creator is an utter dumbass.

I'm all for teaching DUH
in America's schools!
*snicker* But it's no Noodly Appendage, that's for sure.

2 Comments:

Blogger Carnacki said...

I have no trouble accepting evolution and maintaining my faith. It's weird to me how some right wingers get so caught up in trying to prove God's existence instead of just living their lives with grace.

O/T, I'll probably be away from the computer a lot until the middle of next week. Mom's coming in for a visit to see the grand kids and so I'll be spending next couple of days getting some home projects done and then spending time with her and the rest of the family. So please post as much or as little as you want on MotHV. I'm willing enjoying your posts. Between the two of us we offer, in my opinion, a good mix of dark and interesting items for people to read.

8/09/2005 09:19:00 PM  
Blogger protected static said...

Yeah, neither did I when I was an observant Catholic... But then, Catholicism (certainly post-Vatican II Catholicism) has had a more comfortable relationship with science per se, even if it has been disquieted by its fruits. And while the issues that drove me away were more about creepy blurrings of "...rendering unto..." than anything else, more examples of (true) grace might have made a difference.

Or perhaps not - I can be willful, a fault I cheerfully acknowledge... ;-)

Have a good time with your family - I promise not to redecorate MotHV or anything like that. So far, it's looking like a good balance.

8/09/2005 10:58:00 PM  

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[politics] Oy

Iranian weapons are found in Iraq (according to Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld, that is...) While I wouldn't doubt that the Iranians are helping at least some elements of the Iraqi insurgency, I'm also afraid that this is the start of more drum-beating by the Administration. And the Iranians haven't exactly been helping their position lately...

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Monday, August 08, 2005

[random][geek][politics] Move along, nothing to see here...

Just helping an online acquaintance rebuild her Google ranking... She suffered some sort of blogspot mishap and had her blog about the Religious Left swiped by a right-wing squatter... If you go to the Wayback Machine, you can see what her blog looked like before the hijack; this little stunt has cost her a fair amount of Internet mojo, so I figured I'd send her a little Google bomblet to boost her exposure in whatever little way I can. I don't come from the same theoretical orientation as the Religious Left, but I applaud what these folx are trying to do as far as reclaim their heritage from the so-called Christian Right.

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[politics] Bolton appointment illegal?

Interesting... When is a 'recess appointment' not a 'recess appointment'? Apparently, when the recess doesn't occur between sessions of the Senate - the current "Summer District Work Period" of the 109th Congress is not such a recess, occuring as it does during the 109th Congress. That, at least, is the interpretation of some lawyers; the conclusion: Bolton's appointment is unconstitutional. Of course, by this standard, most (if not all) of Clinton's recess appointments were unconstitutional as well. And as this practice has been supported by the judiciary since 1921, this apparent abuseevolution of power is too good to pass up for the Executive branch and is unlikely to go away any time soon... I'm not sure if this is a good thing or bad, just interesting. (thanks, Siva!)

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Sunday, August 07, 2005

[politics] Gay Pride in Belfast, Northern Ireland

While the description of Belfast Pride 2005 is interesting in and of itself (being one of Belfast's only major city-wide events that crosses sectarian lines, joining Protestant and Caatholic queers alike), what I found to be almost more interesting was the snapshot of gay rights and queerness itself in Europe:
Some costumes at the [Belfast] 2005 Pride may have been a bit risque but probably no worse than at the cabaret in the old French comedy La Cage Aux Folles. And certainly not a patch on the outfits I saw earlier this summer on a weekend in Cologne which coincided with its vast Pride events. Yet at the German event, straight people on the streets did not appear to bat an eyelid as gay men and women thronged the Old City where every other cafe or pub displayed rainbow flags. There was a feeling that these gay people were accepted as an organic part of the community, free to live differently but equally in modern Europe. By contrast, furious protests accompanied Prides in Riga and Bucharest while Warsaw banned its event, although Polish gays marched anyway. And a major test for gay rights is looming in May 2006, if Russia's gay community presses ahead with the first Moscow Pride - something the mayor has vowed to ban. In the event, Belfast's parade passed off without incident but its organisers remain determined to maintain public awareness of their pride in their orientation and their rights[.]
The article has an accompanying anecdotal piece about being gay in Belfast; one of the more interesting observations made in both articles is that as the Troubles have subsided, people are seeing more overt expressions of homophobia. Color me shocked. Not.

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[geek] 30-second science blogging - it isn't telepathy, but...

...the above-linked BBC article is about 2 recently-published scientific articles that each demonstrate the feasability of reading someone's thoughts:
The US study, published in Science, [...] used electrodes placed inside the skull to monitor the responses of brain cells in the auditory cortex of two surgical patients as they watched a clip of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". They used this data to accurately predict the fMRI [*] signals from the brains of another 11 healthy patients who watched the clip while lying in a scanner. Professor Itzhak Fried, the neurosurgeon who led the research, said: "We were able to tell one part of a scene from another, and we could tell one type of sound from another."
Yoiks! File this under 'How cool is that?' and cross-file under 'Proof of the continued need for tinfoil hats'. * fMRI: functional MRI, an MRI capable of combining structural scans while tracking electrical activity in the brain

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

[geek][politics] Great losses to world culture, part # 52,141

The article linked to in the title describes the wholesale destruction that the Saudis are inflicting on Mecca and Medina:
Historic Mecca, the cradle of Islam, is being buried in an unprecedented onslaught by religious zealots. Almost all of the rich and multi-layered history of the holy city is gone. The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades. Now the actual birthplace of the Prophet Mohamed is facing the bulldozers, with the connivance of Saudi religious authorities whose hardline interpretation of Islam is compelling them to wipe out their own heritage.
My sniff-test of the above-cited Gulf Institute is that they're a Right-leaning foundation - one of their in-house scholars seems to do an awful lot of writing for the Washington Times, for instance - but I still find this credible... and incredibly sad. For all the anti-Islamic sound and fury out there, we are too quick to forget(or perhaps we wish to forget) that while Europe was in the Dark Ages, it was the Islamic world that represented science, inquiry, and, yes, religious tolerance. That the Saudis should be so willfully destroying a religion's history in the name of preserving its purity is depressing, indeed. [Updated 9 August 2005 11:11 PM (PDT) - courtesy of a comment by nymole over at Agonist, a pointer to an article in the WSJ from 2004 about the same thing.]

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Friday, August 05, 2005

[geek][politics] Eppur si muove, redux

Seems the Vatican's chief astronomer isn't terribly happy with the tack the Church is making on science:
The conflict at the highest level of the Catholic Church about the truth of Darwin's theory of evolution breaks out publicly today. Recent comments by a cardinal close to the Pope that random evolution was incompatible with belief in "God the creator" are fiercely assailed in today's edition of The Tablet, Britain's Catholic weekly, by the Vatican astronomer. In an article with explosive implications for the Church, Father George Coyne, an American Jesuit priest who is a distinguished astronomy professor, attacks head-on the views of Cardinal Christoph Shönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna and a long-standing associate of Joseph Ratzinger, the German cardinal who was elected as Pope Benedict XVI in April.
'Explosive implications' is right. One word: Good.

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

[geek] 30-second science blogging - Alien invaders create new species

Before you think I've gotten all 'Area 51'/Weekly World News on you, listen to this - a non-native plant in North America has created a new ecological niche, becoming a de facto native species; a new species has stepped in to fill that niche:
The tephritid fruit fly loves this kind of plant. In fact, there's a fly species specifically adapted to exploit each species of berry-producing plants. For instance, the blueberry fly goes through its entire life cycle on blueberry bushes. It can't live on any other type of plant. That's how the fly-plant relationship has evolved naturally. The Japanese honeysuckle also has its fly. But that fly didn't originate with the plant. A Pennsylvania State University research team traced its ancestry to a hybrid produced by flies that live on blueberry and snowberry plants, respectively. Normally, such a hybrid fly strain would die out. It can't compete with either of its parent species on their host plants. Honeysuckle offered a niche with no such competition where the hybrid became a new species. The family outcast found an empty house on the block and moved in.
How cool is that? Too bad our President doesn't read the newspaper... Tidbits like this might force him to acknowldge that there is no debate over evolution.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

[politics] There is no debate

So now our President thinks the so-called theory of Intelligent Design needs to be given equal time in the classroom:
"Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about[emphasis mine]," he said, according to an official transcript of the session. Bush added: "Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. . . . You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."
So here's a 'different idea', Mr. President - if both sides 'ought to be properly taught', can I teach Darwinism at church? Oh, that's right - you don't attent church, so it won't affect you any. In that case, let me break it down in language you can grok, Mr. President: I.D. ain't science. Not now. Not ever. Equating it with science won't make it so, just as declaring "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq hasn't stopped the carnage. So, everyone else who fears the coming New Counter Reformation, repeat after me: There. Is. No. Debate. Any questions? [updated 12:14 PM 5 Aug 2005 to include addn'l link and correct a typo]

2 Comments:

Blogger Carnacki said...

Last fall I asked several people who told me they were for Bush because they wanted prayer back in schools where they attended church. Needless to say those most in favor of tearing down the walls between church and state don't even bother attending church. They want the government to provide the religion they are too lazy to get on their own.

8/04/2005 09:39:00 PM  
Blogger protected static said...

I'd say "don't get me started", but it's kinda late for that now... Isn't it ironic how the people who often are the loudest about 'personal responsibility' really want the government to impose it for them?

8/04/2005 10:02:00 PM  

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[random] new gig

Blogging, that is... Thanks to Carnacki, the owner/operator of The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire, a decidedly not-too-serious-about-itself horror blog. I guess he got annoyed enough with the URLs I was sending him that he figured allowing me to post directly would cut down on the crap cluttering his inbox :) Thanks again, Carnacki; this should be fun...

2 Comments:

Blogger Carnacki said...

I'm enjoying the company on the site. ;)

8/04/2005 09:39:00 PM  
Blogger protected static said...

I'm having fun - I haven't really indulged my macabre streak in a while. Thanks again...

8/04/2005 10:03:00 PM  

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

[culcha] Terry Gilliam takes on fairy tales

I read about this quite some time ago (I don't remember where - the article's photo spread says Gilliam finished filming 2 years ago but only wrapped up the special effects work in June.) and I'm glad to see it coming to fruition:
Little Red Riding Hood has good reason to be afraid in Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm. The Grimms - Will (Matt Damon) and Jake (Heath Ledger), whom Gilliam presents as itinerant hucksters doing a brisk trade in fake exorcisms - don't much care whether a certain little girl makes it to Grandmother's house intact. But when ordered by the authorities to find out why kids have been disappearing, the brothers come face-to-face with a 500-year-old witch whose beauty regimen requires the sacrifice of virgins. Not for Gilliam the saccharine fairy tales beloved by children: In his version, Will and Jake learn firsthand the horrors of enchantment.
As a longtime Gilliam fan, I am so there...

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Monday, August 01, 2005

[politics] Without adjectives

I don't have a lot of patience for dogma - never have, probably never really will. I know the things that I resonate to, and they're all over the idological map, but mostly they cluster around what Political Compass would describe as left/anti-authoritarian. Leaving the exact nature of my philosophy unexamined was, up until recently, okay with me: it was consistent enough to get by, and it covered as many bases as I cared to think about. Don't get me wrong - I'd tried before... A number of my friends and lovers have been much more dogmatic about their politics than I. They gave me books of essays and monographs about Bakunin and collective villages during the Spanish Civil War, Marx and Mao, and so on and so forth. I thought much of this sucked, to be frank. At turns dry, bombastic, jargon-laden and pedantic, every chapter felt like a class struggle unto itself. The state-centric views of Communism seemed leaden and oppressive; Maoism seemed too much like a flash in the pan, a product of a unique situation unlikely to be replicated successfully anywhere else. And this is even before we get to the horrific abuses of state power committed under Stalin, Mao and their successors and imitators... Maybe I was reading the wrong stuff, but they insisted. I had much better luck reading closer to the source: Emma Goldman's autobiography? Sure. Camus' Resistance, Rebellion and Death? You bet. These seemed vital and alive, and not overly concerned with rigid rules and procedures. What was important in books like these was an overall commitment to ideas: let others worry about the implementation details, there were secrets to uncover, truths to validate, ideas to uphold. So much of the other stuff seemed like, well, particularly poorly done typeface versions of Maoist-era Heroic Tractor paintings. At least the Socialist Realist art has some redeeming features as kitsch - to me, much of the theory and history only had value as a doorstop. But recently among the political blogs that I subscribe to I've been reading a couple that are written by people with very distinct and well-thought out philosophies that have forced me to think. I don't always agree with them, but I do find myself spurred to think when I read them. And so I recently found myself spending much more time than I'd intended in the Wikipedia's sections on Anarchism. You see, I recently indulged myself and ordered a "Sabo Cat" t-shirt from Northern Sun:

The Sabo Cat is one of the symbols used by the IWW, better known as the Wobblies. On a lark more than anything else, I started poking around Wikipedia's pages about the IWW. Being the trivia sponge that I am, I really enjoy Wikipedia's combination of easily-digestible bites of information combined with organic, eclectic and idiosyncratic topical cross-linking. Given the right topic, I could probably spend hours on Wikipedia, despite its shortcomings... And so it was that I would up spending more time than I care to think about on various and sundry pages about Anarchism and Anarchists through history. It was through this process that I discovered a not-terribly-well-written piece on "Anarchism without adjectives". But something in the piece clicked... one sentence in particular leaped out at me:
Over time, most anarchists... started to stress what they had in common, rather than the different visions of how a free society would operate.
Click. You see, I know I'm not going to be accepted by any hardcore partisan, be they Democrat, Green, Socialist, Revolutionary Worker or what have you. There will always be something I believe in that they won't find ideologically palatable. And I'm okay with that, because, well, I don't share a rigid world view with any one particular philosophy or political alignment. My views trend together and cluster together, but there's at least one component that's gonna make someone else squirm. Like I said, I'm okay with that. For now I think I've found myself a label of sorts, a label I can live with. I'm okay being a Leftist. Without adjectives. Without apology.

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