Friday, July 29, 2005

Friday Quote Blogging

"He thinks he's an unborn caterpillar. He claims it's safer than being human."

-Disco Godfather (also known as Avenging Disco Godfather), a hilarious blaxploitation flick in which Rudy Ray Moore of Dolemite fame does battle with the evils of PCP.

And, of course, there'll be cats.

The shadowy and mysterious Codename F.

The shadowy and mysterious Codename F. is rather tricky to photograph, as she's one of those kitties who will make a beeline straight at you, trying to figure out what that weird thing on your face is. She's also an indoor kitty, so I didn't have much light to work with.Posted by Picasa

Out-Of-Context Literary Weirdness, Part II

You know how some books have a rundown of "dramatis personae" at the end? From the book I just finished (and will need to blog about when I have some more time), Ilium by Dan Simmons, this is quite possibly the greatest dramatis personae entry Of All Time:
Orphu of Io: eight-ton, six-meter-long, crab-shaped, heavily armored hard-vac moravec who works in the sulfur-torus of Io; Proust enthusiast.

Out-Of-Context Literary Weirdness

From the book I just started, Heaven by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen:
He knew that there would be squids in the lemon trees again, and most likely crabs in the sagegrass as well.
Like all of No-Moon's sailors, Second-best Sailor always carried a piece of his wife with him, locked away in a mesh closet in his cabin so that the waters could flow over her and keep her healthy. A wifepiece was the best way to maintain mental equilibrium and physical condition on the long voyages away from the home lagoon.
...Second-best Sailor's father, Talkative Forager, had won a sailor suit in a game of float-the-cube.
And that's just in the first twelve pages! I have high hopes.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

B&W Blogging From The Aeroport

Well, here I am in the Pittsburgh International Airport's wireless food court, having finished a wireless blueberry strawberry kiwi smoothie and having no other ideas on how to divert myself. So I present, for your viewing pleasure, the first in my acclaimed photographic series, Black & White Delivery Trucks Of Pittsburgh, taken entirely during my Grand Excursion To Get A Telephoto Zoom Lens.

Truly, we live in exciting times indeed. I'm sure the space aliens will agree.

Delivery truck, cleverly spotted by me as it tried to make itself small.

A completely different delivery truck altogether. They're everywhere! Posted by Picasa


I was testing out my new 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens yesterday, and when I tried to take a picture of the saint on top of a church, the exposure on my first attempt was way way over. But when I saw it on the computer, I realized that I kinda dug it that way.

I would probably find this even cooler if I was religious...

Or even more blasphemous, I dunno. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

You Know You Want To. Just Admit It.

The shadowy and mysterious Codename V. has made an excellent suggestion. I believe that future generations of space aliens can benefit immeasurably from my scintillating wisdom and prose. And photographs of my own hair.

The shadowy and mysterious Codename V. has also helpfully gathered 93.6% of the world's collective awesomeness in one convenient location. WARNING: You may need protective eyewear to protect yourself from all the concentrated awesomeness.


From one of the NY Daily News's gossip columns:

Famed editor Jason Epstein, husband of jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller, has lately been making himself scarce at the federal facility in Virginia where his wife has been incarcerated for the past three weeks.


In a frothy social column yesterday about a celeb-glutted Mediterranean cruise, featuring everyone from Isabella Rossellini to J.K. Rowling aboard the ocean liner Silver Shadow, the New York Sun's A.L. Gordon revealed:

"One passenger with his mind soberly on home is the literary icon Jason Epstein. ... Ms. Miller would have been on the cruise had she not gone to jail."

His wife's in the slammer and he cruises the Med?

"We all serve our time in our own way," quipped Miller's attorney Robert Bennett.

My pal Christopher Buckley, comic novelist and editor of Forbes FYI, imagined what Epstein might have said to Miller prior to his departure.

"Darling, I'm sure it's not going to be a very nice cruise. I hear they don't even have beluga caviar, just a slightly inferior grade of osetra, and I'm sure the Champagne will be, well, not too warm exactly, but probably not as chilled as I normally like it. And I'm sure people will get seasick and there won't be anyone interesting to talk to, nor any beautiful unattached women.

"Darling, I wouldn't be able to enjoy myself even if it were a nice cruise. While I'm dining on foie gras, I will be thinking only of you, sitting behind bars in 110-degree heat, eating baloney and being brutalized by prison matrons."

Ummm, I mean, that's terrible. Really.

Keep Trying, Tom!

Tom Friedman almost gets it right! Buried under quivering layers of flabby, clunky prose is a bright shiny kernel of what's-wrong-with-America truth:

Talk to U.S. business executives and they'll often comment on how many of China's leaders are engineers, people who can talk to you about numbers, long-term problem-solving and the national interest - not a bunch of lawyers looking for a sound bite to get through the evening news. America's most serious deficit today is a deficit of such leaders in politics and business.

I think Captain Obvious is really quite spot-on with this. Lawyers are not bad in and of themselves, but their role (at its best and purest) is to argue and persuade and advocate, not to manage or lead or fix or strategize (no offense intended to my legal friends - it's just that the words, "We need someone to run our business/country" are rarely followed by the words, "I know! Let's hire a lawyer!"). Unfortunately, the central problem with Republicans today is that their idea of problem-solving is to convince everyone that they've fixed the problem, or that there is no problem - as opposed to, you know, actually fixing the problem.

In addition to the usual bad writing, Friedman also misses on one of the key facets of his own premise ("America needs to be more like Lance Armstrong!") by not saying anything about integrity or decency. Does anyone remember a few years ago when one of Lance's chief rivals fell, and Lance hung back and waited for him rather than taking advantage to rack up a lead? He didn't think it would be fair or sportsmanlike. Sure, I can see a lot of Democrats doing this, but no Republicans - they might hang back too, but only to kick their fallen adversary in the nuts and then steal his tires.

I have the same why-aren't-more-politicians-like-this reaction when I hear about golfers like David Toms assessing stroke penalties or even disqualifying themselves from tournaments because they think they might have committed an infraction that no-one else even noticed. This is pretty much the exact opposite of what we have now, where the ruling party is trying (successfully) to minimize and deflect the impact of torture, treason, and election-gaming, rather than owning up to it and accepting appropriate penalties. Or, better yet, not perpetrating it in the first place.

I'm not 100% sure that we want engineers running everything (probably not realistic in an electoral democracy anyway), but I do agree that we need more accountable problem-solvers and fewer butt-covering problem-spinners.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Oh Well.

I ended my PC's continuous uptime streak a couple of hours shy of 135 days. There was a really bad thunderstorm (there were a couple of lightning strikes that blacked everything out very briefly and made my intercom squeal alarmingly), and pushing the envelope just wasn't worth a slagged PC. Of course, nothing happened, so I could have just let it keep rolling...

The upside is, I finally got the chance to install my no-longer-new DVD burner (arrived back in March) and my new superfast 10,000 RPM SATA hard drive, which I intend to use as my system drive. The downside is, the hard drive/hard drive cooler install was a nightmare, and I'm having all kinds of trouble switching over to use the new drive as my system drive (I couldn't even use Ghost to make an image of my current system drive, so I had to copy the partition with PartitionMagic). I could probably re-install Windows, but I really don't want to reinstall everything else, too.

In slightly less-geeky news, I bought a 70-300mm Nikon telephoto zoom lens, which should help with the softball action shots, and any wildlife I might happen to encounter in the (cough) wilds of Pittsburgh.

Probably pretty light posting for the next week, as I'll be pretty busy tomorrow, and then I'll be on vacation, visiting the shadowy and mysterious Codename V.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Random Photoblogging

No political rants coming to mind just yet (then again, I might just have something - no, wait, Gilliard's got it already), so I'll get a couple of random, completely unrelated photos out of my system.

It's a moth! It kinda looks like it's hitching a ride on the out-of-focus minivan reflection! It's...

I got nothin'.

I actually wanted to circle 'round in hopes of getting a freaky backlit shot of the moth's underside against a field of bright white light, but the door closing scared it off. I'll get you next time, Mr. Moth! And I got news for ya: That ain't no tree, dumbass!

Anxiety is trying to take pictures while waiting for the bus, knowing you're The Slowest Photographer In The World.

Dang. I just realized I used this one already...Posted by Picasa

Quote Of The Day

"Bad girl! Don't wipe your butt on the carpet through telekinesis!"

- The Andy Milonakis Show

This is quite possibly the stupidest show I have ever seen on television, and it made me laugh out loud. Repeatedly. By myself.

Other sketches (and I use the word loosely) include a rabid John Stamos in a tree; a commercial for spoons; lots of surrealistic mind games with hapless delivery guys; and a rather awkward tea with his turtle's parents, who are concerned that Andy is a bad influence.

A must-see if you are even remotely stupid.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


From NYMary...

List ten songs that you are currently doesn't matter what genre they are from, whether they have words, or even if they're no good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying right now. Post these instructions, the artists, and the ten songs in your blog. Then tag five other people to see what they're listening to.

Well, I generally just let my iPod cycle through in alphabetical order at work, so I don't really hone in on any specific songs. Generally speaking, when I need to put together a quick playlist at home, it's usually New Pornographers, Killers, and Keane. I'll try to "current-load" my favorite songs, but this is probably more of a mix of current favorites and all-time favorites, in no particular order:

1. "It's Only Divine Right", by The New Pornographers. Love the keyboard on this one. They have at least two other songs that could easily go on this list as well.

2. "Mr. Brightside"/"Somebody Told Me", by The Killers. Honestly, I just cannot choose here. Both absolutely great songs - I like "Somebody Told Me" more musically, but I just can't resist the bitterness and anger of "Mr. Brightside".

3. "Bend And Break", by Keane. I also like "Somewhere Only We Know", but I like the melody of this one better. Man, what a voice. Even sounds good live on SNL, which is rare, IMO.

4. "Hatred", by The Kinks. Not sure why this song never became popular. I find it catchy, and angry and bitter is always a plus.

5. "Asleep In Perfection", by Augie March. Just exquisite. Beautiful, beautiful song.

6. "Skin Deep", by The Stranglers. Smoothly sinister in both lyrics and music. Had a pretty keen video, too.

7. "I Go To Work", by Kool Moe Dee. I'm not a huge rap fan, but the lyrics are great, and the horns really make it work musically. Best. Rap. Song. Ever. I'm sure that's probably blasphemy, but what the hell.

8. "Please Remember Me", by The Swans. I found this song by accident, mislabeled as "100", by Nick Cave, who my girlfriend and I are big fans of. It turned out to not be Cave, or even anyone in Cave's orbit, and my girlfriend drove several huge Cave fans mad trying to figure out what it was. It's very spooky and haunting, and everyone I know of who's heard it has really dug it, including the Cave fans.

9. "Sonne", by Rammstein. I really like Rammstein, but most of their songs are relentlessly driving and ugly-in-a-good-way. "Sonne", however, has a chorus that mingles their usual German gutturals with very ethereal female vocals, and the effect is just beautiful. And the video where they're the Seven Dwarves and Snow White is a sexual sadist who shoots up the gold they mine, well, that's just icing on the cake. They also have a video with soccer-playing ants...

10. "I Believe In A Thing Called Love", by The Darkness. Very catchy, and I like how the lead singer's voice always seems to be just on the verge of spinning completely out of control. And yet another cool video. If this video were somehow beamed back in time to the 70s, these guys would have been worshipped as GODS.

Really, there's at least 10 more songs that could easily go on this list - I think it's probably just a matter of what day you catch me on. Some honorable mentions:

Rolling Stones - "Paint It Black"
Oingo Boingo - "Not My Slave"
Bach - "Singet Dem Herrn Ein Neues Lied"
AC/DC - "Thunderstruck"
Erasure - "I Love To Hate You"
Benny Goodman - "Sing Sing Sing (With A Swing)"
Nick Cave - "Nature Boy", "Supernaturally", "There She Goes My Beautiful World"
Delerium - "A Poem For Byzantium"
Sisters Of Mercy - "This Corrosion"
Europe - "The Final Countdown"
The Jack Rubies - "Wrecker Of Engines"

And so on (okay, more than 10)...

I'm not sure I can come up with 5 people who haven't been tagged already either, so if you want to list your Current Top Ten here or at your own place, please feel free.

Sunday Softball Blogging

Kind of a Jekyll & Hyde doubleheader today. I was only 2-for-7 in the first game, but I did great on defense - had an inning where I made all three putouts, had some good catches and was throwing really well (forced one runner out at second, made some strong throws to the plate to hold runners at third). I was 6-for-8 with a double in the second game, but my defense mostly fell apart. So an all-defense game, and an all-offense game, pretty much. Net result: 8-for-15 with a double, 5 runs, and 3 RBIs.

Oh, and my team got crushed in both games, despite reshuffling the teams between games. The good news, I think I have my stroke back after being pretty lost for a few games.

Current Stats: 21 games, .555 BA (86-155), 14 2B, 1 3B, 49 runs, 27 RBI.

Oh, perfect ball placement...

More excellent ball placement, although it'd be cool if it was just a little bit lower... Posted by Picasa

Pictures are a little grainy - I forgot to change my "film" speed back after some indoor shots. On the plus side, I had nice action-freezing shutter speeds... On the minus side, I was out in the field when the two deer appeared in right field. Dang.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Oops. Never Mind. Terribly Sorry About That Whole Shooting-You-To-Death Thing

Okay, raise your hand if this surprises you:
The British police said today that a man officers chased and then gunned down at point-blank range in front of horrified subway passengers on Friday had nothing to do with the inquiries into London’s wave of bombings.


"Nevertheless the man who was shot was under police observation because he had emerged from a house that was itself under observation because it was linked to the investigation of yesterday’s incidents," Friday’s statement said.

"He was then followed by surveillance officers to the station. His clothing and his behaviour at the station added to their suspicions," the statement said, apparently referring to reports that the man was wearing bulk jacket on a summer’s day.

Seems like the bar for use of deadly force has been set pretty low. In a civilized country like the U.S., he merely would have been put away in Gitmo for the rest of his natural life without legal recourse - that's how real democracies do things.

Speaking Treason Fluently

A friend of mine at work tipped me off to this David Corn post, which features absolutely devastating testimony from an former CIA case officer James Marcinkowski (I apologize for the length, but this was so good I had trouble cutting anything):
The secrets of Valerie Plame's cover are long gone. What has suffered perhaps irreversible damage is the credibility of our case officers when they try to convince our overseas contact that their safety is of primary importance to us. How are our case officers supposed to build and maintain that confidence when their own government cannot even guarantee the personal protection of the home team? While the loss of secrets in the world of espionage may be damaging, the stealing of the credibility of our CIA officers is unforgivable....

And so we are left with only one fundamental truth, the U.S. government exposed the identity of a covert operative. I am not convinced that the toothpaste can be put back into the tube. Great damage has been done and that damage has been increasing every single day for more than two years. The problem of the refusal to accept responsibility by senior government officials is ongoing and causing greater damage to our national security and our ability to collect human intelligence. But the problem lies not only with government officials but also with the media, commentators and other apologists who have no clue as to the workings of the intelligence community. Think about what we are doing from the perspective of our overseas human intelligence assets or potential assets.

I believe Bob Novak when he credited senior administration officials for the initial leak, or the simple, but not insignificant confirmation of that secret information, as I believe a CIA officer in some far away country will lose an opportunity to recruit an asset that may be of invaluable service to our covert war on terror because "promises of protection" will no longer carry the level of trust they once had.

Each time the leader of a political party opens his mouth in public to deflect responsibility, the word overseas is loud and clear--politics in this country does in fact trump national security.

Each time a distinguished ambassador is ruthlessly attacked for the information he provided, a foreign asset will contemplate why he should risk his life when his information will not be taken seriously.

Each time there is a perceived political "success" in deflecting responsibility by debating or re-debating some minutia, such actions are equally effective in undermining the ability of this country to protect itself against its enemies, because the two are indeed related. Each time the political machine made up of prime-time patriots and partisan ninnies display their ignorance by deriding Valerie Plame as a mere "paper-pusher," or belittling the varying degrees of cover used to protect our officers, or continuing to play partisan politics with our national security, it is a disservice to this country. By ridiculing, for example, the "degree" of cover or the use of post office boxes, you lessen the level of confidence that foreign nationals place in our covert capabilities.

Those who would advocate the "I'm ok, you're ok" politics of non-responsibility, should probably think about the impact of those actions on our foreign agents. Non-responsibility means we don't care. Not caring means a loss of security. A loss of security means a loss of an agent. The loss of an agent means the loss of information. The loss of information means an increase in the risk to the people of the United States.

There is a very serious message here. Before you shine up your American flag lapel pin and affix your patriotism to your sleeve, think about what the impact your actions will have on the security of the American people. Think about whether your partisan obfuscation is creating confidence in the United States in general and the CIA in particular. If not, a true patriot would shut up.

Those who take pride in their political ability to divert the issue from the fundamental truth ought to be prepared to take their share of the responsibility for the continuing damage done to our national security.

When this unprecedented act first occurred, the president could have immediately demanded the resignation of all persons even tangentially involved. Or, at a minimum, he could have suspended the security clearances of these persons and placed them on administrative leave. Such methods are routine with police forces throughout the country. That would have at least sent the right message around the globe, that we take the security of those risking their lives on behalf of the United States seriously. Instead, we have flooded the foreign airwaves with two years of inaction, political rhetoric, ignorance, and partisan bickering. That's the wrong message. In doing so we have not lessened, but increased the threat to the security and safety of the people of the United States.
I know I've probably over-excerpted here, but Marcinowski does a great job of cutting through all the Republican and media bullshit to remind us of the true magnitude of the crime, and the moral bankruptcy and recklessness of the coverup.

Your serve, Dr. Dean.

Friday, July 22, 2005

They Didn't Even Get Two Types Of Fruit!

(By way of Ol' Froth) For anyone who has ever played The Sims, or even knows anyone who has ever played The Sims, this is absolutely brilliant. This person is completely sick, and my new hero.

Friday Quote Blogging

"I don't want to alarm you, but every time you... do it, it takes two full pints of blood to replace it."

- from The Cement Garden, a rather creepy Australian movie where a teenage brother and sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) decide to keep their parents' recent deaths a secret so that the authorities won't come and take them and their little brother and sister away. They basically take on the roles of parents to the smaller children, but they, um, perhaps get a bit carried away as to the extent of their, ah, marital duties...

And, once again, someone else's cat...

Roger's kitty Mocha. Gotta love B&W for the B&W kitties. Posted by Picasa

Truck Me!

Way back in the dim, unremembered mists of my childhood, I loooooved trucks. And this one time, I was so excited by the sight of a toy truck, that I yelled "TRUUUUCK!!!!" at the top of my wee lungs in the middle of a crowded store.

Unfortunately, I was too young to pronounce "truck" 100% correctly...

Cool shadows on a payphone while I was waiting for the bus. Had to shoot a little faster than usual for fear of missing the bus - I'm usually molasses-slow and bracket obsessively.Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Wednesday Softball Blogging

Well, the average continues to slowly decline, but at least I was productive. 4-for-8, but with a bases-loaded 2-run double, a triple, 3 runs, and 3 RBIs. Discerning baseball fans will note that I was a home run shy of the cycle, which was not lost on me, and didn't really help my hitting too much. A home run would theoretically not be that hard for me to hit, even as power-deficient as I am - I just have to get the ball over, past, or between the outfielders in left, where it'll roll a long, long way - but it hasn't even come close to happening yet.

Not too shabby in the field, except for one line drive that I completely and utterly lost in the sun, which is just brutal in left, and had to fight off the sun to just barely catch another one. Pretty good day throwing - managed to hold one or two people to triples on balls to the wall, and helped throw someone out at home plate, so that's something. My arm is not that great, but throwing the ball just feels really good - and like with hitting, the better the throw/hit, the better it feels.

Went out with the other players afterwards, and a good time was had by all - but I probably stayed out a bit too late...

Current Stats: 19 games, .553 BA (78-141), 13 2B, 1 3B, 44 runs, 24 RBI.

Took some action shots this time, although it's a bit more difficult with the fading light and all. I'll try bumping up my "film" speed next week.

This was admittedly probably more impressive if you saw it live, but it was one hell of a catch. Please, take my word for it and make appropriate oohs and aahs.

Deep down, I know I really shouldn't use this shot, but I still kinda like it... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Well. Just got back (well, when I started writing this, anyway...) from Howard Dean's appearance at the Church Brew Works here in Pittsburgh, and it was a most excellent time, I must say. The food was good, the company was excellent - I sat at a table with both a fellow Liberal Drinker and a fellow Atriot (spork_incident, who I found to be a charming and erudite companion - I think Hoyt stopped by our table briefly as well, but he didn't recognize us, and I wasn't sure enough to say anything) - and El Medico Dean was fired up and brought lots of red meat, and he hit almost every possible target.

Money line of the night was early: "The Republicans have brought a culture of corruption to Washington," and he hammered at an overarching theme that the Democrats are the party with real morals and convictions. Some other noteworthy highlights, not necessarily in any kind of order, including chronological:

  • He challenged Bush to fire Rove, and show that he values the cover and safety of an undercover agent working for our security more than he values protecting a loyal crony and political operative.
  • He took a swipe at Santorum, referring to him as one of Virginia's senators, and also pointed out DeLay's ethics deficiencies as further examples of Republican "moral values".
  • He made the point (in defense of Bob Casey, Jr.) that he would much rather have a pro-life Democrat in his corner than a pro-life Republican - because pro-life Democrats at least care about children after they're born. And, of course, he mentioned that there were fewer abortions under Clinton than Bush.
  • He emphasized that Democrats must campaign and try to compete everywhere, not just in blue states and swing states. We can't just write off Mississippi, or we'll guarantee that we'll never win there.
  • He spoke of the need to count every vote - he expressed admiration for the Oregon law that prohibits use of any voting system that cannot be recounted by hand, and asked How Dare Republicans make a show of trying to attract blacks and Latinos while at the same time trying to repress their votes.
  • He pointed out Bush's cocoon and imperial arrogance in a very interesting way, saying that when he was governor of Vermont, he considered the people his boss, that even the ones who didn't vote for him still paid his salary. But President Bush, by contrast, will not even allow any of the 48% of the country who voted against him to participate in any of the town hall meetings he's been holding all across the country, and Dean drew a line from that to the incredible political incivility that has taken over this country.
  • He also shared an anecdote about when he asked a young evangelical Christian woman why she supported him - she said she disagreed with most of what he stood for, but the Texas Republicans had screwed over her family's healthcare, and she (and other evangelicals) placed a great value on convictions, especially in positions of high office, and she felt Dean had them, and Republicans didn't (he also disparaged the notion that Democrats should be centrist "Republican Lite").
I thought the convictions anecdote was telling, and seemed like it might be the start of a strategy to pre-emptively inoculate for whoever runs in 2008, so they don't get the same politically-expedient-waffler tag that Gore and Kerry got stuck with. Someone else (spork_incident, I believe) also observed that this appeared to be a concerted effort to encroach on the Republicans' own turf, by appealing to morality and convictions, and trying to make common cause with pro-lifers. Hopefully it will be enough to peel off some non-insane evangelicals, although I won't bet money on it.

Basically, if this is the message and strategy Dean wants the Democratic party to adopt, then I feel pretty good about it. The only major theme I'm sorry he didn't cover was The War On Terror - the Republicans have done a shite job at it before and after 9/11, and they need to be called on it, repeatedly. I would have liked to hear more about the Downing Street Memos and how Bush lied us into war, but Plamegate at least touches on that indirectly. I also would have liked to see him follow Hillary's lead and address the lapdogginess of the media, but that's maybe just my obsession, and might not have been appropriate or necessary for a fire-up-the-faithful address like this one.

And I realize this is a bit strange, but spork_incident backs me up (or at least humors me) on this: When Howard smiles, he looks a bit like the middle-aged, Monsieur Verdoux/Limelight-vintage Charlie Chaplin.

Ohhh, Doctor!

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that this is probably not ethical behavior...

The founder of a company that runs answering services for doctors tried to destroy a competitor by hacking into the firm's computer so that patients heard either a busy signal or sexual moaning when they tried to call their physicians, the Westchester district attorney said Tuesday.


The district attorney said the complaint specifies that for three days in November, Martin "interfered with the ability of Statcomm to conduct business" by hacking into the computer so that patients heard either a busy signal or "groaning, moaning in a sexual nature."

He also had a moving company show up at Statcomm with a phony order to pick up six boxes of Statcomm material for the state Department of Taxation and Finance, she said. In addition, he made "crank and threatening phone calls" to Statcomm employees and sent forged audit announcements to 160 Statcomm customers, Pirro said.

Ya know, Rove may need a successor pretty soon...

Do The Ends Justify The Meanness?

Interesting Paleo-CSI article in NYT's Science Times today:

After waiting 9 years to get a close look at Kennewick Man, the 9,000-year-old skeleton that was found on the banks of the Columbia River in 1996 and quickly became a fossil celebrity, a team of scientists spent 10 days this month examining it.

They looked at teeth, bones and plaque to determine how he lived, what he ate and how he died. They studied soil sedimentation and bone calcium for clues to whether he was ritually buried, or died in the place where he was found. They measured the skull, and produced a new model that looks vastly different from an earlier version.


American Indian tribes in the desert of the Columbia River Basin claimed the man as one of their own, calling him the Ancient One. The tribes planned to close off further examination and to bury the remains, in accordance with a federal law that says the government must turn over Indian remains to native groups that can claim affiliation with them.

A group of scientists sued, setting off a legal battle, while the bones remained in the custody of the Army Corps of Engineers.

In 2002, a federal magistrate, John Jelderks of Portland, Ore.,
ruled that there was little evidence to support the idea that Kennewick "is related to any identifiable group or culture, and the culture to which he belonged may have died out thousands of years ago."

I'm not really sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, I'm inclined to embrace the process of scientific discovery, but on the other, I sometimes cringe at the arrogance that
accompanies it. How do you draw the line where scientific discovery is "worth" this kind of cultural insensitivity, or subjecting animals to unimaginable torture?

I think this is perhaps an inevitable liberal conflict, where reverence for Science Advancing The Frontiers Of Human Knowledge And Banishing Ignorance butts up against the instinct to respect other cultures and defend animal rights - especially in a case like this where there is no clear profit motive (unlike, say, inhumane mistreatment of livestock, or using animals to test

I suppose the question ultimately comes down to whether the ends justify the means. Is it worth defiling someone's ancestor to learn a little bit more about prehistoric Americans? Is it worth subjecting helpless animals to excruciating pain to find a cure for cancer, or a new eyeliner formula? Is it worth defiling some embryos slated for destruction to find a cure for
cancer or paralysis? Is it worth invading another country without provocation to prevent an imminent WMD attack, defeat terrorism, liberate people from oppression, spread democracy, secure an oil supply, or just so you can prance around in a flightsuit and look like a tough guy?

I think we all draw the lines in different places, but I believe conservatives are willing to embrace more ruthless means in the pursuit of more speculative (and concealed) ends than liberals are, which makes me wonder once again if those political labels are really still appropriate.

How About That?

This kinda jumped out at me after the "You do not cut off Ernie Harwell" conversation on Eschaton a couple of nights ago - NY Newsday columnist Steve Zipay muses about Curt Smith's book, "Ranking Baseball's 101 All-Time Best Announcers".

Based on 10 categories, such as voice, longevity, knowledge, linguistic creativity and network exposure (and including TV announcers and analysts), Smith ranks [Vin] Scully No. 1, followed by Mel Allen, Harwell, Jack Buck, Red Barber, Harry Caray, Bob Prince, Jack Brickhouse, Dizzy Dean and Lindsey Nelson.

Some other notables: Curt Gowdy (12), [Bob] Uecker (13), Jon Miller (14), Joe Garagiola (15), Tim McCarver (17), Bob Costas (18), Bob Murphy (20), Ned Martin (21), Al Michaels (22), Bob Woolf (23), Harry Kalas (25), Niehaus (26), Phil Rizzuto (27), Tony Kubek (36), Dick .Enberg (38), Joe Buck (39), [Denny] Matthews (47), Sean McDonough (52), Joe Morgan (60), DeWayne Staats (67), [Bill] King (72), Gary Thorne (77), Bill White (80).

XM's random survey of 2,547 fans, conducted by Harris Interactive, is more a barometer of popularity. The top 20: Caray, Scully, Uecker, Allen, Dean, Harwell, Garagiola, Rizzuto, Jack Buck, Gowdy, Barber, Brickhouse, Michaels, Chuck Thompson, Kalas, Murphy, Marlins voice Rafael "Felo" Ramirez, Nelson, Milo Hamilton and Russ Hodges.

I might quibble about the order, but it's tough to argue with a Top 4 of Vin Scully, Mel Allen, Ernie Harwell, and Jack Buck. Red Barber's before my time, and Harry Caray I just don't get (although the Will Ferrell version cracks me right up). I would put Bob Murphy, voice of the Mets from their inception until just a couple of years ago, up a lot higher - he truly had one of the great baseball voices of all time, like a brassier Mel Allen. And for non-baseball, Pittsburgh's own Myron Cope is one of the all-time greats.

Anyone else have any favorite or least favorite baseball (or other) announcers)? I personally can't stand John Madden, Dick Vitale, Chris Berman, Bill Raftery, Hubie Brown, or Lon Simmons (IIRC, he's the guy with the annoyingly mannered, trailing-off "Tell it goodbye..." home run call).

Who Knew?

Apparently the girl who played Winnie on The Wonder Years is some kind of math genius.

"Her mathematics knowledge extends well beyond calculus. As a math major at the University of California, Los Angeles, she also took more esoteric classes, the ones with names like "complex analysis" and "real analysis," and she pondered making a career move to professional mathematician.

"I love that stuff," Ms. McKellar said last month during a visit to Manhattan after a play-reading in the Hamptons. Her conversation was peppered with terminology like "epsilons" and "limsups" (pronounced "lim soups").

"I love continuous functions and proving if functions are continuous or not," she said.

She may also be the only actress, now or ever, to prove a new mathematical theorem, one that bears her name. Certainly, she is the only theorem prover who appears wearing black lingerie in the July issue of Stuff magazine. Even in that interview, she mentioned math.

Who among us doesn't love continuous functions and proving if functions are continuous or not?

Life is strange indeed.

Monday, July 18, 2005


The shadowy and mysterious Codename V. has uncovered yet another sign of the Apocalypse.

Subtitles needed.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Thrown For A Lupica

Whoa. Didn't see this coming. NY Daily News sportswriter Mike Lupica, of all people:

I guess it's asking too much for Karl Rove to come out of the White House someday with a raincoat over his head, but that's just my upbeat, optimistic way of looking at things.

Rove's strategy on almost all things is just a variation of a line from "The Untouchables":

They send one of yours to the hospital, you send one of theirs to the morgue.

In the case of Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie, it wasn't quite as dramatic, but went something like this:

The White House philosophy, apparently, is that if you don't like what somebody like Wilson is saying - in this case, about the White House's nuke-scare pretext for going to war in Iraq - start telling reporters the guy's wife is a CIA agent.

That's how Rove operates and has always operated and why Paul Krugman accurately portrayed him as a "thug" the other day in the Times.

If it's made it to the sports pages, it must be in the zeitgeist, right?

Sunday Softball Blogging

Ugh. We squeaked out a one-run win, but a pretty crappy game for me. Started out well, 4 for my first 5 with 2 runs and and an RBI, but closed out with an unproductive 1-for-6 (so 5-for-11 overall), with much choking with runners in scoring position. Defense was okay except for one bad drop; not too many fly balls, but I was throwing pretty well...

Oh, and something stung or bit or stuck me really badly on my heel when I was trying to retrieve a batting practice home run. No idea what it was, but I saw something flying off after a really sharp, stabbing pain completely out of proportion to the size of the wound. I don't think it was a sting, it's not swollen or itchy or anything. And I had a ball ricochet off my other shin... Fun times.

Current Stats: 18 games, .556 BA (74-133), 12 2B, 41 runs, 21 RBI.

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No action shots today - we were 5-on-5, so when I wasn't hitting or baserunning, I was pitching, catching or playing first - not much time for photos.

To Frame Or Not To Frame?

Long, interesting article in this week's NYT Magazine about the Democrats' embrace of Lakoff and framing. It starts out with the Democrats finally realizing that they've been out-messaged by the Republicans shortly before the 2004 election (and much more so afterwards) and embracing Lakoff and various other framing experts, but then veers into wondering whether the recent Democratic successes in fighting off Social Security privatization and the nuclear option were due to expert framing, or just good old-fashioned party discipline.

Unfortunately, Matt Bai then veers even further, and suggests that framing isn't working for the Democrats because they don't even have a message to frame. That the Republican platform can be summed up in eight words, and the Democratic one takes 5-10 minutes. This, I think, is unfair. I think a core Democratic message can be boiled down pretty easily, to something centering on fairness and opportunity for everyone, in contrast to the Republicans' philosophy of soak-the-poor-and-coddle-the-rich. There are other elements, like fiscal responsibility, making sure the planet doesn't die, and not starting unnecessary wars, but I think fairness is what they need to lead with, to appeal to that core American mythology that anyone can make it in the land of opportunity, if they're just willing to work hard enough.

And as far as framing the other party, the Democrats must do a better job of portraying the Republicans as amoral, corrupt, unaccountable fatcats and intolerant religious fanatics who only care about the rich and corporate and uber-Christian, and who want to control everyone's private life and moral choices.

They also need to remind everyone that the media is owned by the very same corporations which benefit from Republican rule. It is vitally important that the "liberal media" myth be destroyed - until the media are either reformed or seen for the corporate shills they really are, the Republicans will keep coming back, and will continue running roughshod over this country without being held accountable for it. The best we could hope for would be 8-12 years of Republican dominance, followed by 4 years of an ineffectual Democratic president, followed by another 8-12 years of Republican dominance, and so forth.

So, are the recent successes due to expert framing or party discipline? I don't know. Just to be on the safe side, let's keep using both.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Literary Catching-Up

I'll get to my current book in a later post, but I wanted to cover the one I finished recently first. It's an anthology of Theodore Sturgeon short stories called Beyond. I'm sure I've read Sturgeon before, especially in my voracious youth, but I don't associate him with anything. I think that's changed now.

We have:

A story called "Need", where one of the characters can sense the needs of others, uncomfortably so. So he roams around as sort of a freelance fixer, working to satisfy everyone's needs (except junkies, who he runs out of town). The thing is, he's not a very nice or compassionate guy - he's kind of a shady jerk, really - but he acts like a humanitarian just to make the Need go away.

Another one where a tinkerer working on a special radio transmitter jerry-rigs a mutton-bone in tinfoil as a makeshift condenser, and discovers that anyone hooked up to the radio experiences the entire life of the bone's original owner.

Another one where the human race, dying off at the height of its powers, decides to designate a successor and hand off all its vast wealth of knowledge to... the otters.

But I think my personal favorite is the one about this broken-down drunken sailor, who has permanent DTs ("the horrors"), gets washed up on a desert island inhabited by intelligent, telepathic worms (well, more like twined pairs of tentacles with an underground body), who offer to obey his every whim if he agrees to kill the giant cannibalistic worm that lives in the middle of the island, and which will eventually grow large enough to reach anywhere on the island.

Strange, strange stuff. Will need to get my hands on some more Sturgeon, I think...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Friday Quote Blogging

From The Frisco Kid, a bizarro western comedy with Gene Wilder as a Jewish outlaw...

"Mister, would you help me please? I'm not much good at explaining myself - I mostly just start to cry."

And, of course, there'll be cats.

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Introducing... Mocha. She's my friend Roger's kitty, and very silly - she likes to lie on her side and hitch herself along by her claws.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Spins Of Omission

In contemplating the ongoing Rove/Plamegate shitstorm, I found myself wondering why the Republicans haven't resorted to spin along the lines of, "Hey, Rove just passed that as background information to a trusted reporter to warn him not to get too gung-ho about the yellowcake story, but he certainly had no intention for Cooper to publish her identity, and indeed he didn't. No harm, no foul. Now, the person who leaked to Novak, they wanted her name to get out there - that's the real bad guy, that's the one who really needs to be fired and imprisoned."

Of course, the best reason for not using this spin is that Rove is also the one who leaked to Novak (and others, who chose not to use it) with clear malicious intent.

Trans-Oceanic Bad Apples

I, for one, am completely shocked and amazed...
Interrogators at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, forced a stubborn detainee to wear women's underwear on his head, confronted him with snarling military working dogs and attached a leash to his chains, according to a newly released military investigation that shows the tactics were employed there months before military police used them on detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.


The report's findings are the strongest indication yet that the abusive practices seen in photographs at Abu Ghraib were not the invention of a small group of thrill-seeking military police officers. The report shows that they were used on Qahtani several months before the United States invaded Iraq.

The investigation also supports the idea that soldiers believed that placing hoods on detainees, forcing them to appear nude in front of women and sexually humiliating them were approved interrogation techniques for use on detainees.


[Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who commanded the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay] traveled to Iraq in September 2003 to assist in Abu Ghraib's startup, and he later sent in "Tiger Teams" of Guantanamo Bay interrogators and analysts as advisers and trainers. Within weeks of his departure from Abu Ghraib, military working dogs were being used in interrogations, and naked detainees were humiliated and abused by military police soldiers working the night shift.
Who could have seen this coming? Of course, Abu Ghraib is all water under the board, and hardly anyone remembers it, must less is angered or ashamed by it, and as long as there are no pictures out of Gitmo, and assuming the second wave of Abu Ghraib photos stays under wraps, this isn't going to make a ripple, especially in the heavy surf of Rovegate and the upcoming Supreme Court nomination battle(s). Actually, this might be another good reason not to nominate Gonzales - the White House probably doesn't want torture coming up as a discussion topic if they can possibly help it.

Headline Of The Day

Brazilian bandits pull off big boob job
More than 400 breast implants nipped from postal service van

Truly, we are in the End Times now.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


I just noticed - on the New York Times website, where they
have their little "INSIDE NYTIMES.COM" row of pics and links
for featured articles, there's a picture of John Tierney
captioned "Tierney: Worse Than Death".

Okay, so I'm easily amused, sue me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Dana Milbank (Snarkily) Nails It

From the end of his online WaPo chat about Plamegate:

"This is Karl Rove's town, and the rest of us -- President Bush included -- are just living in it."

I fear this may be too, too true. But we'll find out soon enough.

And now, symbolically enough, I'm off to make yet another attempt to see Sin City in a theater...

"We're Gonna Get Lynched, You Know That..."


As I feared, the missing-letters puzzle I inflicted over at Eschaton was written down incorrectly. It is not _ _ _ TITL _ _ _, but rather _ _ _ ITLEM _ _ _, which is, well, considerably easier. (For those of you who missed it, the object is to come up with three letters in the same order that will complete the word when placed in the blanks - there were also two-letter versions, with _ _ LIGHT _ _ and _ _ ARTAC _ _)

I can't apologize enough. Of course, if it had been written down correctly, I wouldn't have had to ask for help with it...

Monday, July 11, 2005


Random Nerdliness:

PC has now been running continuously for 120 straight days! Woohoo!
I now have a dual-layer DVD-burner and a 10,000 RPM hard drive cooling their heels, waiting to be installed because I don't want to break the streak...

Not much luck on any of the crap. Exchanged negative feedback with the wanker who sold me the cracked Xbox game; haven't heard anything more from the lady who failed to send me the PS2 game, then gave me a sob story and promised to re-send it and e-mail me a confirmation; and UPS won't investigate the missing package, because as far as they're concerned, they have a signature and it's a done deal - so what if the delivery guy was never actually there when they say he was...


See, the thing about living in the, um, medium-sized city is that there's not really a whole lot of nature out there to photograph. But I did manage to find some today.

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Ooo! A bird's nest! How cool!

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Umm... Is it supposed to be on the ground like that?

Grr. ImageShack is just pissing me right off. Either ImageShack or BloggerBot needs to get their act together, I don't care which.

Until that happy day, alternate links here and here.

Roviality Check

Just remember, peoples:

1) We still don't know for sure that Fitzgerald has his sights on Rove.

2) Anything less than a felony conviction for Rove, and this will all blow over. Without that, the best we would be able to hope for would be a sorrowful, "I have regretfully submitted my resignation so that the controversy generated by this Democratic witch hunt will not distract from the good work President Bush is doing," seguing into a consultancy gig with the RNC wherein he continues to carry on spinning and smearing with abandon.

Fingers crossed? Yes. Breath held? No.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Sunday Softball Blogging

Well, the highlight of today's game was when a cop car showed up to check up on us, then quickly hightailed it away when Stu (shown sliding below) hit a home run/double (over the fence is a double) right at it. Beautiful.

My team won a 19-18 nailbiter, although I didn't contribute a whole lot (3 for 7 with a double and 3 runs), except on the mound, where I served up a bunch of home run/doubles and hits to my teammates. Had a couple of nice catches, and even handled a grounder back to the mound, but muffed an easy fly ball pretty badly. Matt filled in as official photographer for a bit, so there are actually some pictures of me in action...

Current Stats: 17 games, .566 BA (69-122), 12 2B, 39 runs, 20 RBI.

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Stu hits the dirt.

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Bear in mind, I want them to hit it...

Grr... 99.79% uptime my ass. Until ImageShack gets their act together, pics can be found here and here.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Belated Overseer Wrap-Up

Well, I finished Jonathan Rabb's The Overseer (more here and here) about a month ago, and I've been terribly lax on the postmortem I intended. Ideally, I was thinking about going through the actual text of the fictional On Supremacy (think Machiavelli's The Prince on meth) and pointing out all the parallels with the current Republican party, but there were just too many of them...

But there was one quote that I wanted to put up, because it was such an intriguing take on states' rights, and one that I had never seen before:
"Your politics," broke in Zander, "are supposed to be about dismantling big government, giving power back to the people, or have I missed the point? It seems to me you folks on the Right are the ones who want to tell the people what's good for them, even when they don't realize it themselves."

"...[D]o you think we're giving up power by doing that? We're simply letting the states deal with the petty quarrels. 'Get government out of your backyard.' It's a clever slogan, isn't it? Keeps them preoccupied with the minutiae. Actually, we're taking their minds off the federal government, giving them something smaller to play with so that they leave us alone to handle the larger issues.

"Let government do what it's best designed for - turn a maximum profit without having to worry about the few who can't make it on their own. The more we focus the people's interest on state government, the less they focus on the federal, the less they get in our way. Once you create a thoroughly disjointed electorate - a group of people concerned only with their own backyards - you can achieve great things."

Friday, July 08, 2005

Friday Quote Blogging

This week's quote is from Gunshy, which I really don't have anything to say about...

"So, tell me - does the popcorn butter aid in your masturbation process?"

And now for something completely different - a cat with a tape recorder up his brother's nose:

Dozer, the mighty hunter...

Umm... Pat? Earth To Pat!

From New Republic, by way of Digby, by way of Atrios (pause for breath) - Ben Adler asked a bunch of prominent conservatives their views on evolution and intelligent design and creationism, and whether they should be taught in schools. Pat Buchanan seems to have a rather... shaky grasp on the scope of evolutionary theory:
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Do I believe in absolute evolution? No. I don't believe that evolution can explain the creation of matter. ... Do I believe in Darwinian evolution? The answer is no."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "Do I believe in a Darwinian evolutionary process which can be inspired by a creator? Yeah, that's a real possibility. I don't believe evolution can explain the creation of matter. I don't believe it can explain the intelligent design in the universe. I just don't believe it can explain the tremendous complexity of the human being when you get down to DNA and you get down to atomic particles, and molecules, atomic particles, subatomic particles, which we're only beginning to understand right now. I think to say it all happened by accident or by chance or simply evolved, I just don't believe it."

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "Evolution [has] been so powerful a theory in Western history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and often a malevolent force--it's been used by non-Christians and anti-Christians to justify polices which have been horrendous. I do believe that every American student should be introduced to the idea and its effects on society. But I don't think it ought to be taught as fact. It ought to be taught as theory. ... How do you answer a kid who says, 'Where did we all come from?' Do you say, 'We all evolved'? I think that's a theory. ... Now the biblical story of creation should be taught to children, not as dogma but every child should know first of all the famous biblical stories because they have had a tremendous influence as well. ... I don't think it should be taught as religion to kids who don't wanna learn it. ... I think in biology that honest teachers gotta say, 'Look the universe exhibits, betrays the idea that there is a first mover, that there is intelligent design.' ... You should leave the teaching of religion to a voluntary classes in my judgment and only those who wish to attend."
So is Pat's beef with evolution, or with SCIENCE? I certainly don't recall anyone ever claiming that evolution explained the origins of matter or subatomic particles...

And I'd like to hear more about how evolution has been used by non-Christians and anti-Christians to justify horrendous policies - the only ones I can think of are social darwinism and eugenics, and my recollection is that their advocates were mostly, if not all, Christians. Christians of Pat Buchanan's political persuasion. You almost have to admire the pair on Pat.

NYT Nails It... Again

Okay, yeah, their news reporting is... shaky, and their defense of Judy Miller and harboring of David Brooks and John Tierney is godawful, but the NYT editorial board really does have its moments:

We have been incredibly fortunate that there has not been a major terrorist attack in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001. But yesterday's horrific news from London is a reminder that to make the nation safer, the Bush administration and Congress need to do more than raising the terror alert.

Several important steps should be taken right away. But influential industries and members of Congress have blocked these common-sense solutions, putting their narrow interests ahead of the national interest. They have been helped by a growing sense of complacency, fueled by the idea that the absence of attacks means the threat is gone. If the Madrid train attack last year did not change that thinking, yesterday's events certainly should.

They then go on to give specific examples of commonsense anti-terror steps that Republicans are actively blocking (prioritizing funds for high-risk locations, improving security for mass transit and chemical plants, restricting travel routes of hazardous chemicals). As I have said before, Democrats cannot yell loudly enough about this: Republicans posture and talk tough on terror, but they put corporate and regional interests ahead of the safety of American citizens. The supposedly spineless and wimpy Democrats are the ones trying to pass concrete measures to actually make us safer.

Really, how hard could this be? We'll see if the dynamic changes now that people who look like us and even speak the same language have been killed in the heart of their capitol, but my suspicion is that the Republican prescription will be... more posturing and tough talk. Maybe larger flag pins.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Joys Of eBay...

I just have to vent my frustration with some eBay/ orders that have all gone horribly wrong in different ways...

Exhibit A: PS2 game never shows up. I wait 3 weeks and finally message the seller. No response for a week. I check my eBay messages: Nothing. I try to check Hotmail: Down. Finally leave negative feedback for seller, who it turns out finally did e-mail me today, asking if I got the package. Fab. She left me negative feedback and called me unprofessional, and now we're trading pissy e-mails (she just got out of the hospital, she was just about to send me a replacement...). What fun.

UPDATE: This one may actually work out okay - she sent me a mutual-negative-feedback-removal request form, and will send me a replacement with tracking and everything.

Exhibit B: Xbox game shows up, but is massively cracked and completely unreadable, much less playable. I message seller asking for replacement or refund, and he says it must have been cracked in shipping. I point out that the case is perfect, and that the disk looks fine from the front, and suggest that maybe they didn't inspect the back. No, no, they respond, they inspect everything before they send it - perhaps I somehow managed to crack the disk from hub to rim while removing it from the case, without even noticing it... Oh, and that has a process for resolving these sort of things. Yes, I'm sure that will go well. I suspect another exchange of negative feedback and pissy e-mails is in the offing, especially since they had perfect feedback up to now...

Exhibit C: Seller does everything right, but I have to redirect package to apartment leasing office so UPS will deliver. UPS tracking claims package was delivered and signed for by an actual leasing office person, but no sign of package; leasing office says UPS never even showed up on the day they supposedly delivered my package. Fabulous. I've asked the seller to open an investigation with UPS (receivers can't open investigations), God only knows how this one's gonna turn out.

Wanker(s) Of The Day

With apologies to my religious friends (RMJ, Prior A, left rev), yet another reminder of why I'm not religious - from an op-ed piece by the archbishop of Vienna. Count how many times your head explodes:

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.


[Pope John Paul II] went on: "...To speak of chance for a universe which presents such a complex organization in its elements and such marvelous finality in its life would be equivalent to giving up the search for an explanation of the world as it appears to us. In fact, this would be equivalent to admitting effects without a cause. It would be to abdicate human intelligence, which would thus refuse to think and to seek a solution for its problems."

Yes, that's right - evolution is ideology, and creationism/intelligent design is science. Invoking evolution means "giving up on the search for an explanation," but saying "It's God's will" does not. Just spectacular.

As a side note on the topic, there is an insidious aspect of intelligent design that I don't think I've ever seen mentioned anywhere: If the development of life on Earth is all according to God's plan rather than natural selection, then the same is true of extinctions. This effectively absolves mankind of all responsibility for protecting endangered species, because if they die out, well, it was just God's will, can't be helped. Kind of a Christian Scientist approach to the environment...

Corporate Cellouts

NYT addresses a subject near and dear to my heart... sort of.
In the great American debate about cellphone etiquette, some of the early turf battles seem to be settled, with winners and losers falling into camps familiar from Western Civ classes. Movie theaters, funerals and libraries appear to have been carried by the cell Rousseauists, who believe the social contract forbids such things as shouting intimate details into a piece of plastic in a room full of strangers.

Most public transportation systems, on the other hand, appear to belong to the cell Hobbesians, who believe that since life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short, there's no need to give the rider engrossed in her newspaper in the seat next to you a quiet commute. Restaurants constitute a middle ground, in a state of détente. Everyone knows it's rude to use a cellphone at dinner, but civilized people do it anyway.

The workplace, though, remains unsettled territory....


The points of friction... are numerous: the executive who takes a cell call in the middle of a meeting; the phones that blast impossible-to-ignore ring tones in a busy office; the seminar leader who interrupts his speech to take a call on his cell; the co-worker who, like clockwork, answers hers to discuss lunch choices with a child.


One reason office cell etiquette is so scattered is that different people use the phone differently. Some people flaunt their cellphones at work to show how important they are, said Ms. Hastings, whose office takes 400 calls a day for help with workplace issues. "In some office cultures, the more calls you get, the more powerful you seem," she said.

Others use the cell as an alternative communications network for the people they really want to talk to - children, paramours, baby sitters, plumbers, gurus - while the land line carries all the calls they want to screen out. "People tend to give their cellphone number out less frequently, and it's not printed in a phone book," Ms. Hastings said. "So they feel it's a little more direct to them. Whereas the desk phone, anybody could be calling you."

I'm amazed that talking on your cellphone is still considered a sign of status and power - any yahoo can get a cellphone and blather on it all day long, and it doesn't mean they're important, just narcisisstic and rude. I'm still waiting for a backlash where flaunting your cellphone is considered desperate and gauche, like someone obsessively showing off their keen digital watch.

Oh well, what do I know - I'm just a Luddite with three computers, a wireless network, and a digital camera...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Wednesday Softball Blogging

Well, given that third base and the entire home plate area was underwater, and only two other people showed up at gametime, it looked pretty bleak at first. But people showed up, and we made some adjustments, and ended up getting in what I'm pretty sure was a full game. Pretty productive day at the plate despite a coupla popups: 6 for 9 with two doubles, 5 runs, and 4 RBIs. Was really clubbing the ball by the end of the night, with a rocket sac fly and a bases-loaded double to the centerfield fence - or at least the corner of the wall and the Porta-Potty...

No screwups in the outfield, although there weren't many fly balls hit my way. With no left-field fence, one has to be all about cutting the ball off no matter what, and it's a fast track out there. So I'm a little bruised up. But I have my postgame Dr Pepper, so I'm happy.

Current Stats: 16 games, .574 BA (66-115), 11 2B, 36 runs, 20 RBI.

In theory, these numbers could be multiplied by 10 to project them out for a full baseball season...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

What Are These People SMOKING???

The main theme of today's WaPo White House Briefing is "the upcoming Supreme Court nomination will finally answer the question of just how conservative and ideological President Bush is." This encompasses both Froomkin himself and the various articles he excerpts from.

Um... hello? Where have these people been for the last five years? When has Bush ever shown himself to be any kind of pragmatic moderate in anything other than rhetoric (and even that is still pretty rare)? Haven't they paid any attention at all to Bush's other judicial nominees? The only possible nominee who is not ridiculously hard-right is Alberto Gonzales, thanks to his unwavering loyalty to the President, but the prospect of nominating someone so blasé about torture and indefinite detention without trial is not exactly cause for celebration.

My only question is whether Gonzales would be an upfront sacrifical lamb, setting the stage for a hard-right nominee without a record of cheerleading for torture (*unenthusiastic hooray*); or whether he would be packaged as the moderate, "compromise" nominee after some ridiculously unqualified raving right-wing gargoyle has been shot down. Either way, I think we're pretty screwed when Abu Gonzales is the best that we can hope for.

More Signs Of The End Times

Martha Stewart's prison nickname was "M. Diddy". Lord, take me now.

More Martha Madness:

Asked about the electronic monitoring bracelet she must wear on her ankle,— she has complained repeatedly that it irritates her skin. — Stewart says she knows how to remove it.

"I watched them put it on. You can figure out how to get it off," the magazine quotes her as saying. "It's on the Internet. I looked it up."

Her publicist's eyes "widened with alarm" when Stewart made the remark. The article did not say whether Stewart claimed ever to have actually taken the bracelet off.

Stone-cold house arrest gangsta, yo. I have to like anything that makes a publicist panic.

She tells the magazine her version of "Apprentice" will be different than Donald Trump's, and that she does not want to be portrayed as mean and harsh. She says she would never use the catchphrase "You're fired."

"We are trying to come up with other ways to say it," she says. "For instance, if someone is from Idaho, I could say, 'You're back in Boise for apple-picking time.' "

I'm not sure that Regional Festivities thing is going to catch on, but I have to concede that "We've decided to go in a different direction" would make a pretty piss-poor catchphrase.

Priorities, Priorities...

Ah, yes. Once again, Republicans place corporate welfare ahead of homeland security...

The weakest point in America's defense against terrorism may be an inconspicuous little bridge a few blocks from the Capitol. Rail tanker cars filled with deadly chemicals pass over the bridge, at Second Street and E Street SW, on their journeys up and down the East Coast. The bridge is highly vulnerable to an explosion from below, and if deadly chemicals were released on it, they would endanger every member of Congress and as many as 250,000 other federal employees.

This vulnerability could be easily eliminated by a federal law barring the transportation of hazardous materials through Washington and other locations at high risk of a terrorist attack. But the railroads have fought such legislation, which would increase their costs. If the Bush administration and Congress are serious about homeland security, they will get a chemical transportation law passed at once.


Earlier this year, the City Council in Washington passed a law prohibiting the transport of ultrahazardous materials within 2.2 miles of the Capitol. But CSX, the railroad that operates the two main lines running through the district, has gone to court to challenge the law, which would add to its costs. It claims that city governments do not have the power to interfere with interstate rail shipping. A federal court has blocked the law from taking effect, though CSX has temporarily stopped shipping ultrahazardous materials on the rail line closest to the Capitol.

The Bush administration filed a brief supporting CSX in its challenge to Washington's law, and, incredibly, it has made no effort to do the job with federal regulation. When it comes to defending the nation from terrorism, the president and the Republican leadership in Congress have been unwilling to make large corporations, many of them big campaign donors, shoulder their share of the burden. Washington's residents and employees should not have to risk their lives to save CSX the cost of rerouting shipments of ultrahazardous materials.

I'm glad the Dems have introduced legislation on this, but that isn't enough - they need to be screaming about this, or any of the Republicans' myriad other instances of looking the other way when it comes to our safety (port, chemical and nuke plant security, securing Russian nukes, that sort of thing). With all Bush and the Republicans' posturing about how tough on terror they are while Democrats are all sissy traitors, they must never be allowed to get away with shortchanging homeland security.

If Dean doesn't jump up on a table and start yelling about how the Republicans are soft-on-terror paper tigers, and if Democratic congressional candidates don't tie Republican votes against this legislation around their opponents' necks, then the Democrats are just going to have to cross their fingers and hope for a Watergate-type meltdown if they expect to win anything in 2006 or 2008. And even so, I would much rather see the Democrats win elections for an affirmative reason that sustains them for more than one measly election (and permanently establishing themselves as the serious-about-terror party would be sweet beyond measure).

You would at least think that Republicans would be in favor of something that might save their own asses, but I'm not gonna hold my breath, of course. It's all I can do to hope for something remotely positive to develop out of Plamegate or the attempt to stop Bush from installing someone to the right of Fred Phelps to the Supreme Court...

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Sunday Softball Blogging

Feh. Frustrating game. Hit almost everything hard, but right at people, mostly on the ground. Ended up 4 for 10 with 2 runs and an RBI, and we just squeaked it out in the bottom of the ninth. Very hit & miss in the outfield, either nice catches or ugly misplays.

Current Stats: 15 games, .566 BA (60-106), 9 2B, 31 runs, 16 RBI.

Whoo! Defense! Go defense! Whoo!

...I got nothin'.

More defense! Same play, actually...

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Worst Case/Best Case

Assuming that Lawrence O'Donnell knows what he's talking about when he says Rove was the one who blew Valerie Plame's CIA cover to every reporter he could find, here are the maximum downside and upside that I can envision:

Downside Scenario: White House and Republican media spin machine successfully sell the idea that the Plame outing was not a big deal (it's not like she had infiltrated al Qaeda; everyone already knew she was CIA, etc.). And not only that, but all the left-wing excitement about this is just further proof of how hysterical and out of touch with reality liberals are, that they would try to take down a great patriotic American like Karl Rove because they're resentful and jealous of his success at ushering in a Golden Age Of Republican Dominance. Oh, and no-one notices that Ann Coulter is nominated to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.

Upside Scenario: The Republicans are unable to convince a majority of Americans that outing a CIA agent is doubleplusuntreasonous, and Rove is unable to wriggle out of conviction for treason (or at least perjury). More importantly, as the story of a massive media cover-up surfaces, the myth of the "liberal media" is destroyed once and for all, and news organizations are forced to fire all their Republican mouthpieces and rededicate themselves to reporting the truth, in a desperate attempt to restore their shattered credibility. Without the media on its side, the Republican Party implodes, leaving nothing behind but a foul-smelling stain on the Congressional Record.

Of course, being a pessimist, and seeing how things have played out in the past, my money's on the downside scenario or something close to it. My sense of the past history of Plamegate is that the coverage has been sketchy, and the average American really doesn't see what the big deal is. I mainly mention the upside scenario because I believe that some kind of cleansing, cathartic scandal within the press corps itself, followed by a massive backlash against media corruption and complicity, is the only chance that we have of ever having a truly fair and balanced press in this country. And this story marks the first time that I have seen even the tiniest hint of a glimpse that it could happen.

The Democrats need to get better at playing the "corporate media" card every time a Republican scandal comes to light without media coverage, and every time a Democratic "scandal" gets breathless 24-hour coverage, only to be quietly dropped when it turns out to be bogus. As long as the media is firmly in Republican hands, Democrats and democracy don't stand a chance.

Well Said.

NYT's lead editorial today:
Before that fight begins, Mr. Bush should ask himself whether Americans want to live in a country where the handicapped cannot find a champion in the law, where women are stripped of all abortion rights, where universities are barred from offering a hand up to deserving minority students. Then he should ask himself how much of his own party's current success has been due to Justice O'Connor's ability to save the right wing from the worst consequences of its extremism.
And this is what the Democrats should be asking the American public as well. They should be prepared with a nice long list of all the decisions that would have gone the other way if Sandy had been another Scalia, and ask Americans if they really want to live in that alternate America.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Friday Quote Blogging

Today's quote is a very bizarre sentence from an NYT editorial:

Mr. Johanns said that more cows, some 388,000 annually, were being tested, enough to build what he called a "firewall."

Man, I'd love to know where Mr. Johanns got his networking certification.

And of course, there'll be cats...

Dozer in one of those awkward-looking positions cats seem to enjoy (apologies for the crap picture/scan quality)... Posted by Picasa

Crap. Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap.

News from the future:

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2007 - In a series of controversial 5-4 decisions penned by Chief Justice Antonin Scalia and Associate Justice [William Pryor/Priscilla Owen/Janice Rogers Brown/Ann Coulter/Rush Limbaugh/James Dobson/insert right-wing nutjob here], the United States Supreme Court has ruled all presidential and congressional elections unconstitutional, with all congressional seats to be filled by presidential appointment.

The Court abolished the Constitutional amendment limiting presidents to two terms, effectively making George W. Bush president for life. And in their most surprising ruling, they also held that it is unconstitutional for anyone who is not a direct descendant of a president to hold the office in the future.

Following the public announcement of the rulings, President-For-Life Bush made a brief statement heralding the demise of judicial activism.

Waiting For The Catch...

This seems like it should be a good thing:

With President Bush's announcement yesterday of $1.2 billion for a five-year campaign against malaria in Africa, this mosquito-borne disease is finally getting the high-level attention it deserves. The wonder is that it took so long. This ancient scourge is so deadly and pervasive, and effective remedies are so cheap, that there is no justification for the world's past indifference.


Africa's economic losses from malaria are about $12 billion a year. The toll could be cut in half by spending only $3 billion a year for such things as insecticide-treated bed nets, preventive drugs and early treatment. Still, that amount is well beyond the means of the most affected poor African nations.

If Congress delivers on Mr. Bush's promises - and it should - the new program will provide tens of millions of dollars to three African countries in the first year, eventually expanding to $1.2 billion for 15 countries where 175 million people are at risk.

I look forward to the administration's explanations of how abstinence education is the key to eliminating malaria...

Mostly B&W Blogging

Not a whole lot to say today politically-wise speaking, so here are some more photos:

Traffic cones in a parking lot - behold the power of color!

I liked how the lines of the cherrypickers kinda intersected with the lines of the lights.

Okay, I admit, the fact that it looked like a robot head didn't hurt... Posted by Picasa