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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Daily Kos on Chickenhawks
Or, put another way, >>>Yawn<<<

Soooo old. This kind of thinking ignores the fact that majority of the military supports the war effort. At the polls, anyway.

And how about this: I'm for the police fighting crime, but I'm not enlisting in the police academy. Ditto for firefighting. That doesn't make me a hypocrite, or mean that the police should stop doing their jobs.

Hat tip: Galley Slaves
Deep Throat uncovered
Wow. How incredibly uninteresting now that the secret is out.

The most fascinating revelation in this article, to me, is that Bob Woodward is only an assistant managing editor at the Washington Post. Hey guys, he's done a lot for the paper - give him a promotion already!
Team America: World Police
You must see this movie immediately. Not for the timid. But if you can stand the constant stream of obscenities; juvenile fixation with sexuality; nude, anatomically incorrect puppet fornication; and Michael Moore as a suicide bomber, this movie is for you.
Movies for the Ultra-Orthodox Crowd
I just wanted to use the phrase "Ultra-Orthodox Crowd."
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Freaks and Geeks
The missus and I just finished the 18th and final episode of "Freaks and Geeks," a series from the 1999-2000 season that takes place in the early 80s. Aside from an annoying swipe at Republicans late in the series, a stupendous show. I recommend it very, very highly.

Now, I just gotta wait til the Aug 15 DVD release of the follow-up sitcom, Undeclared.
Friday, May 27, 2005
Crossing currents
Whoo-hoo! Made it onto a post - not a comment - at Cross Currents.

That should raise our ultra-orthodox readership significantly.

(regular readers - both of you - know that I hold Cross-Currents in high regard)
Weird Science?
I'm not trying to open up the stem cell debate here at the coffeehouse, but when Andrew Sullivan says that "The female body disposes of countless such embryos" ("such" referring to "embryos that never make it to implantation in the uterus"), is there any chance he really means "unfertilized eggs" and therefore is really not talking about the same thing?
In Grateful Memory
I have dozens of work and family obligations to fulfill before this weekend, but it would be wrong to let Memorial Day come without some reflection on its meaning.

I own my home and my own business because of property rights we usually take for granted that do not exist in many countries. I worship as I please, which can not be said in Saudi Arabia or Yemen. My family is safe, which would not be true in much of Africa. I can criticize my government publicly, and frequently do right here in the Coffeehouse, which would be a criminal act in China.

These freedoms are the bedrock of our lives upon which everything else is built. Our families, our individual traditions, our professions and our leisure would all be swept aside in an instant if tyranny replaced liberty.

All these abundant blessings were bought with the lives of American soldiers. On Memorial Day, we stop to realize this; we honor their sacrifice; we offer our heartfelt thanks to the families who grieve for the loss which helped sustain our nation. May we all strive to live in a way that is worthy of such sacrifice.

Here's a concrete way we can show our appreciation. I'm going to ask ball-and-chain to break out a credit card and donate to one of these. Please do the same.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Cheerleading is Hard?
A real self-esteem builder, courtesy of the St. Louis Rams: "But don’t be fooled, cheerleading is not as easy as it looks. They’re athletes; they practice, eat right, and have a workout routine. In fact, they start practicing immediately after tryouts in May." Gosh, no time to rest in-between? "Then, they devote six hours a week learning new dances, perfecting old ones, and getting themselves ready to perform." Wow - six hours a week - that's like Doctor Bean's schedule.

"So the next time you go to a Rams game and watch the team make tackles and plays down on the field, you might want to give those cheerleaders on the sidelines a second glance." You know, unless you're gay.
International Flush a Quran Day
It occurs to me that for only about $17 you can buy your own Quran to flush. I'm trying to think of good reasons not to do this, and I'm not coming up with any. Could Muslim rioting be extended in perpetuity if once a week a different American flushed a Quran? Might fatigue eventually set in, and instead of rioting, might Muslims send angry letters to the editor? Is there any number of Qurans that would have to be flushed after which Muslims would reach the moral conclusion other people have reached millennia ago -- that no desecration of a holy object justifies murder? These are important questions, and I think only an experiment will give us answers.

I think the very popular conservative blogs would have to get behind something this large if it's really going to catch on. If any of you can get their attention, I'd be grateful.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Villaraigosa on the cover of Newsweek

The majority of people in Los Angeles don't know who he is (our new mayor, in case you're one of them), not to mention the world. Now more people will read about him than voted in the election (for either candidate).
Researchers Pinpoint Brain's Sarcasm Sensor
Researchers Pinpoint Brain's Sarcasm Sensor - Yahoo! News:

"...some brain-damaged people can't comprehend sarcasm, and Israeli researchers think it's because a specific brain region has gone dark.

The region, according to the researchers, handles the task of detecting hidden meaning, a crucial component of sarcasm. If that part of the brain is out of commission, the irony doesn't come through, the scientists report in the May issue of Neuropsychology.

'People with prefrontal brain damage suffer from difficulties in understanding other people's mental states, and they lack empathy,' said study co-author Simone Shamay-Tsoory, a researcher at the University of Haifa. 'Therefore, they can't understand what the speaker really is talking about, and get only the literal meaning.'"

As if...
Monday, May 23, 2005
If America Is Dead, Why Won't We Lie Down?
Reports of our nation's death have been premature. Once again, the mainstream media abandons facts for the opportunity to bash America.

The February 2 Japanese edition of Newsweek (yes, Newsweek again) ran this lovely cover story.

The title translates to "The Day America Died — The ideal of ‘freedom’ falls to the ground due to Bush continuing in office". Of course, the domestic Newsweek didn't run the story and had a story about the Oscars on the cover. Thank goodness that Riding Sun, a conservative New Yorker living and blogging in Japan, jumped on the story. It then got noticed by Little Green Footballs and James Lileks (who insists that we're not dead, just pining for the fjords).

I haven't actually seen an English translation of the article, though I didn't look very hard, and if someone leaves a link to it, I'd appreciate it. I heard radio talk-show host Larry Elder today say that the article was an anti-American hit piece arguing that the American dream is dead. The author of the article is apparently a professor at a lefty (American) think tank. Startling.

Well, this made me worried. Maybe Newsweek is onto something and just doesn't want to incite a panic at home. Maybe we are dead, as the article claims, but too self-deluded to realize it. Better do a quick national pulse check before reaching for the defibrillator paddles.

Let's see… One of the things a non-dead country does is make stuff. How're our gross national product (GNP) and gross domestic product (GDP) doing, given our recent demise? According to Wikipedia in 2004 we were the most productive country on Earth. Oh, good. We're not dead yet! We're feeling much better. "Ah," the wise skeptic will say "but this is simply because of your enormous population. You aren't more productive; you're just huge." OK. Fair enough. Let's look at per capita GDP. Depending on how you calculate that, we're either eighth (following Luxembourg and a bunch of northern European countries, with Japan coming in at 15) or third (behind Luxembourg and Norway, with Japan number 12). Well, now. If this was the Luxembourg edition of Newsweek they may certainly have a point, but for Newsweek in Japan to call us dead, makes Japan what? Decomposed? Japan has about 40% of our population and can boast one Nobel Prize compared to over thirty won by Americans, the most of any nation. Oh, and our military is unmatched. It looks like America may have a few more years in her yet.

Newsweek should ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for the mainstream media.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Part 5 of 5: If I could be a doctor...
If I could be a doctor (I could, and I am), I would have to periodically update my Continuing Medical Education (CME) and my certification to prove to myself, my patients, and various government agencies that I still know a thing or two about a field that changes all the time.

Being a horrible procrastinator, I always fall very far behind with anything that isn't due in the next eight minutes. So with CME which is due every two years, I've fallen about two years behind, and with recertification, I don't even want to talk about it. So after a kick in the pants helpful encouragement from ball-and-chain and Psychotoddler, I sat down and scheduled specific times in which I would catch up on my educational obligations.

The nice thing is that nowadays I can do all of it on the web. A Giant And Highly Reputed Internal Medicine Organization has a series of open-book tests that we have to take. We're allowed to use any information source, even colleagues. The goal isn't to trick us to get the wrong answer; the goal is to make us learn some medicine while searching for the right answer.

Let's work through a question together, shall we?
Question 5

Two men dined at a restaurant where they each had onion soup, a salad, grilled tuna, steamed vegetables, cheese, and coffee.
What? Hold it right there! This is an important clue. Grown men only go out to dinner and share all of their dishes if (1) they are at a Chinese restaurant (not that there's anything wrong with that), or if (2) they are lovers (not that there's anything wrong with that). Since they are clearly not having Chinese food, we must deduce that they are sharing bodily fluids. Immediately I skip the rest of the question and look at the choices to see if any of the choices are diseases which are more common in men who "go out to dinner" with men.
Which of the following is the most likely cause of their symptoms?

(A) Scombroid fish poisoning
(B) Ciguatera fish poisoning
(C) Clostridial food poisoning
(D) Bacillus cereus food poisoning
(E) Reaction to tyramine
Huh!? Not only, as far as I know, aren't any of these especially prevalent in very well dressed men who accessorize, but I've never even heard of A, B or D. Looks like I'll have to actually read the rest of the question.
Two men dined at a restaurant where they each had onion soup, a salad, grilled tuna, steamed vegetables, cheese, and coffee. They shared a bottle of wine.
Hmmmm... Still sounds romantic to me, and red wine can cause a idiosyncratic tyramine reaction. OK. Keep reading.
As they completed the meal, both men began to have severe headache, intense flushing, urticaria, palpitation, nausea, and abdominal cramping. One man also had bronchospasm and tightness of the throat.

Which of the following is the most likely cause of their symptoms?
Ahhh… It looks like the whole homoeroticism thing was a red herring. The reason we are told that two of them dined together is because they both got sick, so that eliminates idiosyncratic reactions. Cross out E. So they both got sick because they got some kind of food poisoning, but of A through D, I've only heard of C, and this is nothing like it. They're having a histamine reaction. Looks like I need help from the website of Yet Another Giant And Highly Reputed Internal Medicine Organization. Let's see if they can point me to an article. Aha! Look at this:
Infectious Disease Clinics of North America 1987 Sep;1(3):665-76.

Intoxications from the seas: ciguatera, scombroid, and paralytic shellfish poisoning
There's an article you don't read everyday.
Sporadic cases and outbreaks of intoxications borne by fish and shellfish have increased in frequency during recent years. Ciguatera, scombroid, and paralytic shellfish poisoning account for nearly 16 per cent of all reported foodborne outbreaks of disease in the United States.
Blah, blah, blah. Skim...
Scombroid fish intoxication resembles histamine poisoning and may be treated effectively with antihistamines.
Yay! The answer is A!

Only 55 more questions to go.

And that completes the fascinating "If I could be…" challenge that Psychotoddler punished me with. So to which three lucky slobs do I pass the plague challenge? To no one. My conscience is clean. I'm taking this little socially transmitted disease to the grave with me.

My previous reflections on doctoring:

Going Around
What Is It?
The Secret To Longevity
Thank You, Doctor
Senior Sadness
Laura Bush Faces Protesters in Jerusalem
Man, I'm upset that Jews protested her appearance at the Western Wall. I'm hoping it was just a few Pollard supporters and then a general throng of reporters, as the story indicates.

Above all else, this story shows that the lady is a class act.
The Hatching of a New Blog
Ralphie and I have a good friend who used to go to our synagogue. He was one of the few Republicans in our lefty congregations, so, of course we bonded. He's a very smart guy and has the pleasant combination of taking ideas very seriously while not taking himself very seriously. We would get together about monthly for a carnivorous lunch which was always the highlight of my day.

Then, finally heeding the call of his wife's and his commitment to contribute to the success of the ongoing experiment that is the State of Israel, they moved there. So a smart ideological right-winger raised in the South found himself in a more-or-less socialist state. To prevent the insanity that might result, a week ago he started a blog.

All hail the birth of The Western Word!

So far it looks like it's mostly about Israeli news from a legal / individual rights perspective.

Take a look. He would definitely value feedback. I've already suggested he turn on commenting, but for now just leave a comment here, and I'll be sure he sees it. (He also needs an on-line name, so we can call him something.)

Update: He has now turned commenting on. So go leave him one.
Friday, May 20, 2005
Air Force Harassment and the Holy Tongue
I haven't been following this story at all. Something about anti-Semitism at the Air Force Academy. If it's there, that's certainly bad. But I don't see how writing in Hebrew, especially the phrase "Peace be upon you," warrants starting a "war." At best it's an awkward move by a guy who doesn't necessarily know how to relate to people.

Weinstein's assertion that Hebrew is an "ancient language that almost no Jew is conversant in" is, well, at least half false. I think we can all agree that it is ancient, but it has made a comeback and in fact it's not a stretch to say that a majority of Jews are conversant in it, if you look at the world Jewish population. Surely that vast majority would recognize "Shalom Aleichem." Its use in this context is weird, nonetheless.

Anyway, this article (also linked in this post's title) was confusing to me 'cause it starts out mentioning "An Air Force Academy graduate who accused the school of religious intolerance..." and it turns out he graduated in 1977. Not until the penultimate paragraph do we learn that it's his son who is currently experiencing harassment. Maybe that would have been obvious if I'd been following the story.
If they should bar wars...
Okay, just one little additional comment. There's a lot of press about Episode III's supposedly anti-Bush message. According to the Wall Street Journal, Lucas claims he was thinking about the past, such as Nazism. Aside from Obi Wan's line stating "Only the Sith speak in absolutes," which was a response to Anakin's "You're with me or you're my enemy" line, that's what I was thinking. After all, his use of the term "stormtroopers" was not too subtle.

And the stuff the emperor does - such as press the senate to give him additional powers and make overwrought speeches to thronging masses - is Hitlerian indeed. So the only people who would think this is anti-Bush message (including Lucas, if that was his intent) would be those who carry the Bush=Hitler signs. And, as we already know, these people know nothing about Hitler, or Bush.
Those crazy Star Wars
Saw it yesterday. There's enough commentary out there that I don't need to add. John Podhoretz pretty much sums up my thoughts, anyway.

All I'll say is, if I hear the word "younglings" again I'm gonna lightsaber somebody.
More Gaza Fun
Here's a not-new idea: It is hard to gauge the opinion of the Arab "street" since it is not truly free to express itself. The title of this post links to an article expressing this truth, this time in good ol' Gaza (bonus - the destination page includes a Cox & Forkum cartoon). Here's a sample:

"During a break in the shift, I ask some of workers if they like their jobs. They shrug - rinsing and bagging lettuce is no one's idea of exciting work. But when I ask what they think of the coming Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, they grow animated. If the Israelis go, some of them tell me through an interpreter, they'll lose their jobs. If this plant shuts down, they'll be out of work, and if the Palestinian Authority takes it over, they'll still be out of work - the jobs will go to workers with better connections to the PA's ruling thugs.

'If that's how you feel,' I ask, 'why don't you oppose the disengagement publicly? Why don't you tell the PA that you want your Jewish neighbors to stay?'

When my question is translated, the men look at me as if I'm crazy.

'It's forbidden!' replies Randoor, the only one of the workers who would give even his first name. 'We're not allowed to say that!' "

I found this link in the comments to a recent Cross-Currents post about responding to someone who denigrates the Muslim world.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Part 4 of 5: If I could be an astronaut...
Regular Coffeehouse patrons know that I love astronomy. I also have an interest in space medicine. I'm also way too old (37) and way too out of shape to become an astronaut. So if I could be an astronaut… I wouldn't be an astronaut; I'd be a flight surgeon for NASA on the first manned mission to Mars. The flight surgeon is the doctor who's in charge of maintenance of the most complicated, most reliable, least expendable, and least well understood system in manned space flight – the astronauts. He reviews the medical records of the flight crew, examines them before the mission, and sits in mission control during the mission watching the biotelemetry -- the vital data about the health of the crew. The crew doesn't really like the flight surgeon. They've trained all their lives to take great risks for the sake of completing a mission that will take them farther than any human has ever gone; it's my job to ground them if I think that risk is too high. They see me as a hurdle to get over or around so they can do their job; I see them as highly dedicated brilliant well-trained daredevils that have to be stopped from killing themselves.

The greatest challenges of the first manned mission to Mars will not be technical. Witness the extraordinary accomplishments of NASAs two semi-autonomous rovers that have been exploring Mars now for over a year. We understand well what it takes to get there, what awaits us, and how to work there. The greatest challenges will be medical, and they will be substantial. No human has ever been farther than the moon, a trip of a few weeks; a mission to Mars would last several months one way. That's longer than anyone has ever been out of Earth's magnetic field, which protects us from high-energy ionizing solar radiation. No one really knows if that radiation will have long-term adverse consequences. The astronauts know they may all get lymphoma in ten years. Do you think that will dissuade any of them?

Zero gravity for that long is also a big problem. The crew will have to do daily exercises to slow the steady loss of bone and muscle tissue in zero G, and even with a rigorous program they will arrive at Mars much weaker than they left Earth. Mars has only about a third of the gravity of Earth, so they won't need to have their full strength to do their work on the planet surface. But when they return to Earth, back in normal gravity, they will be weak as kittens, and will need prolonged physical therapy to rebuild their lost muscle mass. They'll all know that. That won't dissuade any of them either.

One of the most difficult issues will be psychological. The crew will have to endure isolation that is as difficult and as prolonged as any humans ever have. Psychologists are studying submarine crews and South Pole science station crews to try to predict the psychological challenges that a crew to Mars will face. The crew will spend every waking moment with each other and without direct contact with any other human. That's a lot of togetherness, and it's easy to imagine how small interpersonal friction could simmer for months into homicidal frustration. Even on the moon, astronauts were only 1.2 light seconds from Earth, meaning that a message took only 1.2 seconds to go each way. That's a noticeable delay, but still allows normal conversations. Depending on their positions around the sun, Earth and Mars are between about 6 and about 20 light minutes apart. That means that as the crew gets farther and farther from Earth, messages will take longer and longer to go back and forth. At delays of tens of seconds, a normal conversation becomes impossible. Once the delay is several minutes, communication becomes essentially leaving voicemail (or video messages) for the other party, and waiting for an answer. That may seem like an insignificant difference, but to an astronaut who can only get voice mail from his wife for a year and never actually feels like he's talking to her, that's very isolating. The crew will in a very real way be entirely alone, and any critical help, or information, or moral support will always arrive many minutes after it is requested. And unlike submariners or South Pole explorers, even in the worst case scenario, if the mission is aborted and they return home, home is months away.

So before every irreversible step in the mission, there is a go/no-go decision – a decision whether to proceed with the next step or to abort. That decision is made by the flight controller by going around the room at ground control and polling the people in charge with every mission system. Each person decides if the system he's responsible for can proceed through the next step. The various systems have jargony names, and I have no clue what most of them refer to. The flight surgeon is usually polled last.

Flight control: OK. I need a final go/no-go on Mars orbit insertion, which is scheduled in about 46 minutes, Earth receive time. Telmu?
Telmu: Go, flight.
Flight: Guidance?
Guidance: We're a little fast, but within parameters. Guidance is go.
Flight: Fido?
Fido: Fido is go.
Flight: E comm.?
E comm.: Go.
Flight: GNC?
GNC: GNC is go.
Flight: Surgeon?

And that would be me. And I would be thinking that fortunately there had been no disasters so far. The constant nightmare of an unpredictable catastrophe, like appendicitis, hadn't materialized, thank Heavens. I'd be worried because Mission Specialist Gonzales had some vomiting about 16 hours earlier despite the anti-emetics he was taking. He's a pretty small guy and the dehydration made him tachycardic for a while, but he hasn't thrown up since then and has been drinking lots of fluids, and his urine output is back up. Everybody else looks great, although, of course, all my data is 12 minutes old now.

Doctor Bean: Go, flight.
Flight: Liberty, this is Houston. You're Go for Mars orbit insertion.

The answer would arrive a very boring 24 minutes later.

Flight Commander Smith: Houston, this is Liberty. We copy Go for Mars orbit insertion. Computer shows engine burn starting in 20 minutes. We'll talk to you next from Mars orbit. Liberty out.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Part 3 of 5: If I could be a world famous blogger...
I would try to convince my readers of some important general principles. Among these are
Oh, and I would definitely have a bunch of Google ads so I could rake in the dough.
Prelude to a Scary Summer
Israeli Airstrike Hits Hamas Militants

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — An Israeli aircraft Wednesday fired at a group of Hamas militants who were about to shoot mortar shells at a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip, the army and witnesses said. The new violence threatened a fragile cease-fire declared in February.

The airstrike came minutes after militants fired four mortar shells at the Gush Katif settlement bloc. The army said it spotted two Palestinians preparing to fire more mortars when it attacked.
These questions plague me. Will the Israelis currently living in Gaza leave peacefully when Israel evacuates in August? How aggressive will Palestinian violence against the IDF be during the withdrawal? Notice, I'm not asking if Palestinians will attack the IDF. That's a given. They have to, so as to make it look like Israel is withdrawing under fire. The only question is, will it be disorganized hoodlums, or will Hamas and Fatah throw everything they have into the fight? How aggressive and broad will be the IDF's retaliation? This may be its last opportunity to degrade Hamas and Fatah's capabilities from inside Gaza. Who will deal with Hamas in Gaza after Israel withdraws? Gaza will rapidly deteriorate into a war zone of competing gangsters, no productive economy, and no vision for any meaningful social or economic development. Hey! That sounds just like all the other Arab states.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Part 2 of 5: If I Had Either Talent Or a Hammer
If I could be a musician... I'd have to figure out how to get by with very little talent. The best strategy would be to do parodies of existing songs, so I could capitalize on the talent of others. I would try to model myself after Weird Al Yancovic, with the major difference being that he was talented and funny.

There is a rich treasure trove of very popular 60s and 70s songs with really really bad ideas in them. They captivated a generation and persuaded them to believe lefty falsehoods while they held hands around campfires and smoked copious quantities of marijuana. My career would be dedicated to at least undoing the musical propaganda, about 30 years too late.

I'm sure you have your favorite very-bad-idea-in-a-song. There are so many.

Stephen Stills suggests "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." That may have sounded good in the 60s, but nowadays, I really would recommend that you wait as long as it takes to get back with the one you love, 'cause the one you're with is a skank. Don't love her. Trust me. She has human papilloma virus.

The winner of the "Most Bad Ideas In A Single Song" competition would have to be Lennon's Imagine. I know everyone loves it, and as a lefty college student, I did too, but just look at the lyrics again with fresh eyes. It's all wrong, even the words "and" and "the".

So with that in mind, and with apologies to Peter, Paul and Mary, who have beautiful voices and bad ideas, I offer the following.

If I had a hammer
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening
All over this land
I'd hammer out danger
I'd hammer out a warning
I'd redistribute wealth between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

If I had a sickle
I'd harvest in the morning
I'd harvest in the evening
All over this land
I'd harvest danger
I'd harvest a warning
I'd redistribute wealth between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

If I had a red flag
I'd wave it in the morning
I'd wave it in the evening
All over this land
I'd wave out danger
I'd wave out a warning
I'd redistribute wealth between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

Well I've got a hammer
And I've got a sickle
And I've got a red flag
All over this land
It's the hammer of gov'ment
It's the sickle of taxes
It's the flag of oppression for my brothers and my sisters
All over this land
Thank you! I'll be here all week.
Monday, May 16, 2005
If I Could Be A Good Sport…
Oh, for the love of all things malodorous! This really stinks. Psychotoddler, a swell dude whose blog I read daily, challenged me to one of these chain-reaction blog meme things. Why? ‘Cause some Nobel laureate challenged him. Why? ‘Cause some other rocket scientist… Well, you get the idea. Here’s the challenge. I have to pick five of these “If I could be …” to complete, then I have to challenge three other bloggers to do the same.

If I could be a scientist...If I could be a farmer...If I could be a musician...If I could be a doctor...If I could be a painter...If I could be a gardener...If I could be a missionary...If I could be a chef...If I could be an architect...If I could be a linguist...If I could be a psychologist...If I could be a librarian...If I could be an athlete...If I could be a lawyer...If I could be an inn-keeper...If I could be a professor...If I could be a writer...If I could be a llama-rider...If I could be a bonnie pirate...If I could be an astronaut...If I could be a world famous blogger...If I could be a justice on any one court in the world...If I could be married to any current famous political figure…
I guess I should explain my irritability. I'm sure many would be tickled to be tagged with such a challenge. The thing is, chain letters and emails really bug me. As far as I'm concerned, anything that says "send me along to 4 or 5 other people" is a virus that uses gullible human brains to replicate. I will not contribute to such tomfoolery. In fact, whenever I get emails like that (they're almost always about some outlandish scam) from a friend I usually write back and gently try to chide them into ceasing future chain-email forwarding. (I once totally humiliated myself doing this, but that's a post for another day. b&c makes fun of me to this day for that…)

So why am I even bothering? Well, just 'cause Psychotoddler is such a nice guy, and I don't want to be a total jerk. But I'm making it better by going into it with a horrible attitude.

Now before jumping right into the challenge, let's step back a step or two and think about it a little more generally. One fun thing I noticed is that you can play blog epidemiologist and trace this challenge back pretty far. You can go back half a dozen blogs in just a few minutes and realize how quickly this thing has traveled in a few days, and how by going from acquaintance to acquaintance you very quickly find yourself at blogs of people that you'll never know. Despite the fact that these people are only about 6 degrees of acquaintanceship from me, I found their blogs extraordinarily dull. I suspect they would say the same of mine. I wondered if you actually were doing a paper on this, if you could make a huge "infection tree" showing who challenged whom going way back. Then, maybe you could find the person who started this, Patient Zero, and shoot him.

The other thing that struck me about this was the wording of the sentences. Not "If I was…" but "If I could be…" implying that I'm not because I can't be. That's overly pessimistic, I think. For example, Psychotoddler is a doctor and a musician, and by all accounts is excellent at both. That suggests that he could be many of the other things on the list, but doesn't want to. Ball-and-chain has a Ph.D. in immunology, so she could be a scientist, but is a full-time mom. There are several things on the list that I couldn't be, like an athlete or an astronaut, just because I don't have the physical talent it would take to get through the training, but I have to think that most people could do many of the things on the list. (Extra points for guessing which one of the things I currently am, other than doctor.)

So with that fiendishly long and malignantly dull introduction, I will plunge into the challenges. I may have a little bit to say about each one, so I think I'll give each one its own post, so I can really blither at length. So I'll start now with the shortest. I'll try to do one a day.

If I could be married to any current famous political figure… I would leave her and beg ball-and-chain to take me back.
Save Toby
Here's a cute li'l website - some guy threatening to eat a bunny unless he receives $50,000. Careful reading this one at work - you will laugh out loud.

(Hat tip - Sports Guy Intern)
Jews on the tube
The Grey's Anatomy Jew-related episode aired last night. It was so minor I wasn't gonna bother commenting, but since I brought it up...

The bottom line is, it was silly. As discussed, a pig valve should have no halachic implications. But the rabbi was not brought in to discuss this with the girl receiving the implant - by then, they had already switched to cow valves (no word on whether kosher slaughter was involved). No, the rabi was brought in merely to chant (yes, chant) the prayer for the sick (only half was used) in the operating room!

So, someone correct me if I'm wrong here, but this is preposterous not only in Jewish practice but in medical practice as well.

I do have to give crazy mad props to casting - the Jewish girl was played by the chick who played Millie in Freaks and Geeks.

The entire (single) season of Freaks and Geeks was recently released on DVD. If you never saw this show you must add it to your DVD list immediately. The wife and I are halfway through the six-disk set. We cannot get enough. Do yourself a favor and give it a look-see.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
So Would You Riot If We Just Said Your Religion Is Crap?
Newsweek Apologizes for Quran Story

This story is so maddening on so many levels because it has perfect displays of Muslims and of the media behaving exactly according to their stereotypes.

Newsweek, the bastion of accurate information dissemination, on May 9 published a story alleging that interrogators in Guantanamo Bay flushed a copy of the Quran down a toilet in efforts to extract information from inmates. Now, at first blush, this struck me as perfectly reasonable tactics. After all, in any Arab prison, these inmates would simply be tortured the old-fashioned way, by having their bones broken, by having acid dripped on their skin, by having their genitals electrocuted. Americans hold ourselves to a higher standard. We are not allowed to do such things so we have to resort to more finesse. We sleep-deprive inmates and use psychological tools against them. Flushing a holy book seems like a perfectly permissible tool to use the inmate’s passions against him. It is also worth noting that there is no Jewish holy site that in Arab hands has not been intentionally defiled. (I’d be delighted to be corrected.) So there’s no generally accepted code of “you’ll respect our holy items, and we’ll respect yours” that Arabs can cite when filing their grievances.

For an equivalent situation, imagine, hypothetically, the Jewish reaction if a Jewish cemetery in France was desecrated with swastikas. Oh, wait, that’s not hypothetical. OK, then, imagine the Christian reaction if an artist put on exhibit a crucifix defiled by being placed in a glass of urine. Hmmm… That also unfortunately isn’t fictional. In both cases the offended groups complained, quietly, peacefully, and then went about their business.

What was the Muslim reaction to the Newsweek story? Rioting and violence, some directed at American troops, broke out in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Gaza, and persisted for days. (I'm very tempted to follow a tangent pondering what, if anything, this tells us of the behavior of Gaza residents after this summer’s Israeli withdrawal, but I won’t.) This was a typical display of the Muslim honor/shame dynamic. Was there rioting when Saddam was chopping limbs off in Iraqi prisons? Not so much. Was there rioting when insurgents used mosques as armories? Don’t think so. These acts do not bring shame, because it is not shameful when the strong abuses the weak, it is simply expected. But if one who is at a lower station abuses one who should be at a higher station, that is shameful, and requires immediate rectification. For example, if the infidel mistreats the Quran that is intolerable, because that is humiliating. Then honor can only be restored through violence. Just as if a Muslim daughter has sex out of wedlock, they must kill her to restore the family honor.

So after all that, it turns out the story was wrong! Oops. Newsweek apologized. This is, of course, a perfect example of media sloppiness, and always in the anti-American direction. You’ll never find a sloppy editor allowing through a false story of American interrogators taking special care not to abuse their inmates. If there’s going to be a mistake, and there frequently is, it will always make America look bad.

Muslims are about six centuries behind on some serious introspection. Meanwhile, we should flush Newsweek.
Friday, May 13, 2005
"God Bless America"
I was having a discussion with some folks on a sports discussion board about first baseman, Carlos Delgado, of the Florida Marlins, and his protest refusal to stand for the singing of "God Bless America" during the seventh inning stretch. Someone posed the question: "What exactly about "God Bless America" deserves respect?" Here were my thoughts:

On "God Bless America"... after 9/11, that song will (at least for me) be forever associated with the terrorist attacks on our country, and our national response of defiance in the face of those attacks.

In the days after the attacks, the feeling among most of us (even if we've forgotten it a bit as time has passed) was that the airliner attacks were just the start. Sure enough, shortly after the attacks, the appearance of Anthrax letters seemed to confirm that our country's enemies were just getting started. There were rumors of stolen crop-dusters potentially laden with chemical or biological weapons. Living in an area where there's a lot of agriculture, that sure wasn't a comforting thought.

Our national reaction to this situation could have been to crawl into a shell of fear. That would have been a major victory for bin Laden and his allies.

But, the response of our citizens wasn't fear. It was defiance. When I hung my flag outside my front door the day after the attack, I was doing so in part as a big "**** you" to whoever was going to try to kill me, my family and my countrymen. I figured I was placing a big giant bullseye to the first son of a ***** with a crop duster that wanted me to die. I was telling them that I wasn't afraid of them.

As flags went up throughout my neighborhood, and throughout the country, I imagine a lot of other citizens with similar feelings.

In another show of defiance, unity, and mourning (those feeling all got mingled together in those days), we, after a brief hiatus, resumed our national sports. It would have been easy to cancel the baseball season. It seemed like such a trivial issue compared to what had just occurred, and what seemed likely to occur in the months and years ahead.

But, cancelling the baseball season would have been a capitulation to the terrorists. And, as a nation, we determined that we would not allow them that victory either. So, we resumed the season.

And, when we did, we also made sure to take a moment of every game (the 7th inning stretch) to remind ourselves of the events that had just taken place, of how unified we were, of how determined we were to refuse to let craven murderers destroy our way of life. This was the moment when we sang "God Bless America." We sang it as brothers and sisters, as a show of strength, and we sang it as grief-stricken mourners in memory of those whose lives had been taken.

I went to a game at Pac Bell Park shortly after the attacks. The thousands of people that went to that game went there despite the fact that we all knew that doing so placed us right in the middle of a prime terrorist target. I wore a rugby shirt that is modeled after the flag. Stars and Stripes. A gigantic sign to my enemies that I wasn't scared. I would occasionally see a plane that had just taken off from SFO, and I imagined them veering into the ballpark. I wanted to be sure that the son of a ***** in the cockpit saw that I wasn't afraid of him. And, when I stood up in the 7th inning to sing "God Bless America", I sang it as loud and clear as I possibly could, as did everyone else in the ballpark.

So, no: "God Bless America" isn't a 70 year old song. It's not a tradition from my great grandparents' generation. "God Bless America" is about my generation's test, and my generation's response to that test. It's about standing up and saying, "I believe in America. I love America. No cowardly murderer is going to frighten me away from that belief or that love. And, I will never forget."

I could be wrong, but I don't think I'm alone in my feelings about the song. I think a lot of those Americans that sang along with me at Pac Bell, and those Americans who sang along with me when we all sang the song from our homes during every playoff and World Series game that season… I think a lot of those Americans feel exactly as I do about "God Bless America". Carlos Delgado clearly doesn't feel that way. But, Carlos Delgado was here in 2001, even if he was a couple miles over the border in Toronto. Carlos should understand the meaning of that song to his fellow American citizens, and particularly to the people whose families were destroyed by terrorists. 24 of his teammates stood up. His decision to sit while they stood is a slap in my face, and a show of disrespect to all the people of this great country.
Take our Music Forward
A lot of honking outside the building. Some yelling, too. I go to the window to see what's going on. Looks like there are about 10 protesters in front of the Major Music Distributor across the street. And at least 3 photographers. Quite a ratio there.

I don't know exactly what the protest is about, but the posters read, "Take our music forward." No idea. There is also the obligatory, "Stop Corporate Racism."

As I gaze wistfully in their directions, two thoughts come to mind:

1.) These people are really sacrificing by giving up their lunch hour to exhort drivers to honk at them.
2.) I wonder if I can hit them with half a tuna sandwich from our balcony?


The protesters are upset about rap music's depiction of certain people. Like most protesters of their ilk, they don't seem to understand how a market works. But, hey, I don't enjoy the stuff they're talking about, either. So more power to 'em - although not for very much longer because they're interfering with my work (hard to concentrate with all the slogan shouting and honking).

The really sad thing is, this is their big protest of the year. And it's 10 people.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Panel: European Pols Took Saddam Bribes
UNITED NATIONS — Two European politicians received millions of barrels of Iraqi oil in exchange for their support of Saddam Hussein's regime, a U.S. Senate committee probing corruption in the U.N. Oil-for-Food program found. The report, released late Wednesday, accused British lawmaker George Galloway and former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua accepted oil allocations under the Oil-for-Food scheme.
This is truly nauseating. You remember George Galloway? Another article reminds us:
Former Labour Party Parliament Member George Galloway, who was removed from the party in 2003 for his strong opposition to the Iraq war, has regained a seat in Britain's House of Commons. Galloway was thrown out after an infamous meeting with Saddam Hussein shortly before the war, in which Galloway told Hussein, "I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability." So he joined the "Respect Party" and ran on an anti-war platform in a largely Muslim district, handing Labour its first defeat in that district since 1945."
So the most vocal European voices against the war were making a lot of money by having Saddam in power. Nice. That underlines Blair’s extraordinary bravery for standing up to his party and standing with the US.

Oh, and George Bush hasn’t sent me a million barrels of oil to say this.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Think Clear
I promise I have no intention of turning this into an all-puzzle blog, but I love puzzles, and occasionally I find one I think you may enjoy.

My mother-in-law, Svenmom, sent me a link to a fun website that is an ad for 7up. (Click the title of this post to go there.) The site isn't a puzzle; it's a trick that "reads your mind". The puzzle is my challenge to you: explain how it works. I'll put up the answer in about 2 days.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Twilight of Conservatism -- John Derbyshire on NRO
One of the reasons I love John Derbyshire is that he is so cynical. (Another is that he trained as a mathematician, and wrote a great book about the Reimann Hypothesis, but that is a post for another day.) While other writers in National Review cheerfully make the case for conservative principles, Derbyshire always gently reminds us that things are going to hell. He reminds us that at the heart of conservatism are a deep suspicion of both state power and of human nature.

His most recent article is even more pessimistic than usual. He makes the case that Labor's recent victory marks the end of conservatism in England and that conservatism in America is also in its last era. He concludes
I believe, in fact, the trend lines show that we in the conservative movement are living in false hope. Our recent apparent advances — the breaking of the media monopoly, the defeat of Jean-Jacques Kerry and his sidekick John "ATLA" Edwards — are not indicative of any permanent revival, but only transient death-fevers, like the bright flushed complexion that comes at the last stages of tuberculosis.

Britain today, the U.S. tomorrow. There will be no more Churchills or Thatchers, no more Coolidges or Reagans, no more Rehnquists or Scalias. We are living in the twilight of conservatism.
Read the whole thing. I need a drink.
Grenade thrown at Bush
Sorry for the alarming headline. It did not explode.
Monday, May 09, 2005
U.S. Attack in Iraq Kills 100 Insurgents
U.S. Attack in Iraq Kills 100 Insurgents

I love dead insurgents.
The Huffington Post
For those of you who have been hiding under a rock, today is the debut of Arrianna Huffington's mega blog. The centerpiece is a bunch of posts from America's favorite and not-so-favorite left-leaning commentators and celebrities.

My favorite? Newsweek's Michael Isikoff, who uses his (paid-for?) space to devote one line linking to an article... by Michael Isikoff, of Newsweek!

Other gems include Larry David's wife, Laurie, revealing that her husband watches American Idol before launching into a tiresome anti-gas-guzzler automobile tirade; Mr. David himself, in a slightly amusing riff on John Bolton; Ellen DeGeneres (whom, for the record, I find hilarious normally) with an entirely humorless lament for wild, yet dead, horses; Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (yes, the Seinfeld universe is over-represented) and her husband apparently making some sort of joke about gay marriage (they seem to be making fun of the non-existent idea that official recognition of gay marriage would impact current marriages); a senator and a congressman berating the Bush administration for ignoring the Darfur genocide and the North Koren nuke buildup, respectively; and other items that will make you want to harm yourself to some degree. Also present as token dissenting voice is the National Review's David Frum.

For some reason, the Coffeehouse has been left off of Arianna's hefty blogroll. Surely an accidental oversight.


The main blog actually contains a whole, whole, lotta contributors (including at least one more token righty, Byron York). The page I linked above is, >shudder< apparently the highlights...

Be afraid, etc.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
Movie Review -- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Whenever a classic book is made into a movie there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The hard-core fans always dread the inevitable deviations, deletions, and insertions to their revered gospel. Well, don't panic.

ball-and-chain and I took our 9 year-old son to see it last week and we were pleasantly surprised. The movie had plenty of laughs, and even our son could follow and enjoy it. Obviously much that is in the book didn't make the movie. There is also some of the movie that was not in the book that was required to make the story make at least a little sense, but it worked well. The other notable difference is the satisfying romantic Hollywood plot line complete with a kiss at the end. The book, if I remember it correctly, only had admiration from afar and frustration in the romance department. There was never anything as satisfying as a kiss.

Mos Def perfectly captures the hoopy Ford Prefect. Stephen Fry, the frood who played Jeeves in the BBC production of the Wodehouse classics, if you sass who I mean, narrates the movie with perfect style. His voice is classically British, but he enunciates so clearly that even us Yanks have no problem understanding. Trillian is played by Zooey Deschanel, who could easily be a drug rep, and Arthur Dent is played by Martin Freeman, an actor who really knows where his towel is. The special effects are a lot of fun and involve both puppetry and digital effects.

So we really liked it. The best thing is that we're all reading the book together as a family now.

If you want to do more research on all things related to Hitchhiker's, including the book, the film, and the original British radio series, there's no better place to start than this Wikipedia entry.
Friday, May 06, 2005
Gawsh, You’re Awful Purdy!
(Important disclaimer: none of the women referred to below are nearly as attractive as the lovely ball-and-chain.)

Doctors are visited by pharmaceutical industry representatives a lot. We call them “drug reps” for short. They occasionally bring us lunch and occasionally bring us small gifts, like plush toys for our kids, and they tell us about the drugs their company is promoting in the hopes that we will prescribe them more often. (I wrote about them and their toys in a previous post. The comments in that thread are worth reading, too.) So far, so good. This is all just an expected part of free markets. Engineers get visits from salesmen touting the latest gadgets. Mechanics, I’m sure get visits from salesmen pushing engine diagnostic equipment, and so on.

What’s distractingly unusual about drug reps is that they are almost all incredibly beautiful women. I know you’re thinking that this makes perfect sense in terms of capitalism, since gorgeous women probably sell stuff much better than men or non-gorgeous women, but from what I hear from friends in other fields, their salespeople aren’t babes. A friend who works for Northrop says that his salesmen are geeky guys in shirtsleeves. Maybe some of you can correct me, but I haven’t heard of this in other fields, though you would think it would be universal.

I’m sure the pharmaceutical companies are very smart and know what they’re doing, but I have to wonder, are female doctors also persuaded by beautiful female drug reps? And am I so shallow and horny that I am more persuaded by a pretty woman than a friendly guy? Quite possibly. I certainly don’t deny it. The weird thing is that I really can pay a lot more attention to the technical details of the medicine I’m supposed to be hearing about when the speaker isn’t distractingly pretty. Otherwise, when she says “So you can see that unlike other SSRIs, Lexapro interacts much less with the cytochrome P450 system.” All I can think is “Gawsh, You’re Awful Purdy!” Is that what her company wants?
I bank at a small independent bank in the town where I live. No bullet-proof glass. No claustraphobia-inducing vestibule through which to be “buzzed in.” I love this bank. The people know my name and have even called me when I was about to be overdrawn to give me time to race to the bank and deposit money. The tellers know my kids. One lady even keeps a stash of cookies just to cajole my youngest to smile and talk to her. The tellers frequently change, but they are always friendly. A fixture at the bank however, is Pat. I’m not sure what Pat’s actual title is, but she is the one you go to if you have a problem. She is always smiling and social. She always asks about my kids. I don’t usually have occasion to work with Pat. I usually run in, hand the deposit to the teller and run out.

Yesterday however, I went to the bank to straighten out what I thought was an error on their part. While I was sitting at her desk, I overheard her saying that she was leaving the bank to be home with her kids (two boys, ages 3 and 9). Being a stay-at-home mom myself, I told her that I thought it was a great idea that she was going to be home with her kids. She told me “Well, you know, I lost my husband in July and my father the month after that. Then, my sister was deployed to Kuwait. My mom has been watching all the kids. She’s 75. She needs a break, so I’m going to help her. I have no debts and my parents always taught me to save, so I’m stepping off onto faith.” I was stunned. I had never heard that her husband had died! She explained that she didn’t want to dampen the spirits of the customers, so she never mentioned it to us. Still shocked, I asked if her husband had been ill. She said “Ball-and-chain, he was murdered.” I picked my jaw up off the floor while she explained that he had been doing mentoring in a “bad” part of town and had been killed while he was there. I didn’t know what to say. She breezily said “God doesn’t make mistakes” and moved off to check what had happened with my account. It turned out the error had been mine, not the bank’s and I left.

Needless to say, I have been pretty bummed-out since then. Later in the day it occurred to me that I have never made this kind of error with my account before. In an odd way it feels like I was supposed to talk to Pat that day. If not, she would have left and I never would have found out why. I also have a strange feeling that I am supposed to help her. But how?
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Forward Newspaper Online: Tinseltown Rabbi Saves a Prayer for Prime-time Show
My wife and I are into this new show, Grey's Anatomy. It's the new ER, I guess. Nothing too heavy, just a slighty interesting little show with attractive people to look at.

The episode profiled here is sure to be cringe-worthy, however, as the article implies. I am already wincing in anticipation. Not just the part about an orthodox girl consulting a female rabbi. (It's not the female part in and of itself that's odd, but the fact that since she's female she must be a non-orthodox rabbi. People not in-the-know might not care, and even those of us who know the scoop could easily imagine the scenario mentioned in the article but not in the script, that the woman is the girl's previous rabbi or something similar.)

No, the cringes, for gentiles and Jews alike, will be when the rabbi starts singing the prayer. That kind of stuff can make a show stand still, and not in a good way.

Regarding the issue in the show, about the kid's reluctance to accept a heart valve from a pig, I can't imagine that would really be an issue (although a kid, especially newly-religiously observant, might think it is). Not only is she not gonna eat it, but pretty much anything goes if it's gonna save a life. If you're literally starving and the only food around is bacon, you can eat that bacon.

Always fun when a TV show gets all Jewy.
Serenity Now!
I have no connection to the world of Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But I thought it was interested that he took a failed movie (the aforementioned Buffy) and made it into a TV series, and now he has taken a failed TV series ("Firefly") and made it into a movie "Serenity."

Gotta be a first.
On a lighter note...
Happy Cinco de Mayo!

And what notice of Cinco de Mayo on a right-leaning blog would be complete without mentioning the fact that the holiday celebrates a victory over France?

Also, according to this summary, it's a modern commemoration invented by some California college students who "...wanted something to recapture their history and identity and decided that the Battle of Puebla was symbolic and they could connect it to their struggle for the formation of a Chicano Studies program at the university."

Kind of makes you want to have a drink, doesn't it?
Today is Yom Hashoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Through LGF, I found this article by Caroline Glick that describes Europe’s misguided Holocaust fetish.
Sadly, Europe has avoided serious self-examination and instead has turned the Holocaust into a fetish. Holocaust memorials spring up like mushrooms after the rainfall throughout the continent. But what do they signify? A sop to Holocaust-obsessed Jews, they are used to teach Europeans that nationalism is bad.
The article is not long, and worth reading in its entirety. It states much more eloquently than I could my impression of what the Holocaust has become to many Jews. For many American Jews, especially secular Jews, the Holocaust is the main reason they are Jewish. Their primary motives are the transmission of Jewish ethnicity and culture and the transmission of Holocaust remembrance to the next generation.

Rabbi Brad Artson, who is the Dean of the Rabbinic School at the University of Judaism, speaks of two general groups of Jews. He calls them Column A and Column B. Column A believes that God gave the commandments to the Jews as an eternal covenant, and that it is the unique mission of the Jews to do His will. In short Column A are religious Jews (in any denomination). Column B believe that Judaism is about the transmission of collective memory and ethnicity and peoplehood. For Column B, being Jewish involves donating to Holocaust museums, eating bagels, sprinkling your sentences with Yiddish, voting Democrat, and raising kids who do the same. After his/her Bar/Bat Mitzva as an adolescent, a Column B Jew has no further religious expectations.

Rabbi Artson makes the point that Column B fails even by its own goals. The children of Column B Jews are overwhelmingly assimilating, intermarrying, and raising children of their own who are not in any column, as they are not self-identifying as Jews. Judaism works as Column A or not at all.

I actually figured this out relatively early in life. The Holocaust is not a reason to be Jewish. The Holocaust is a powerful reason to assimilate, intermarry, and try to see to it that one’s grandchildren are not identifiably Jewish. Judaism, as a religion, is either a fulfilling way to live and a path to ultimate truths, or it is not, regardless of the Holocaust. If Judaism is valuable as a religion, then it is worth living and dying for. If not, then Jews should find something else to do, and the fact that millions of Jews were murdered doesn’t change that. Many have been martyred for lots of other causes, after all. I am not obligated to live as a Christian or as an Armenian because of the massacres that befell those groups, and if a man who was raised as a Christian decides he can not believe in the teachings of Christianity, the martyrdom of all those who died for Christianity is irrelevant.

So my wife and I do the best we can in Column A, knowing that our children or grandchildren may be around when homicidal Jew-hatred appears again. And we remember what befell my parents and their generation, not because we worship the Holocaust, but because the victims deserve remembrance and because we must remember that it will happen again.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Field trips in Gaza and Israel
Rabbi Daniel Gordis outdoes himself in his latest dispatch.
The Guardian: Perhaps the neocons got it right in the Middle East
I was so surprised and happy reading this article I nearly lost bladder control. Remember, this is The Guardian.

The greatest danger for those of us who dislike George Bush is that our instincts may tip over into a desire to see his foreign policy objectives fail. No reasonable person can oppose the president's commitment to Islamic democracy. Most western Bushophobes are motivated not by dissent about objectives, but by a belief that the Washington neocons' methods are crass, and more likely to escalate a confrontation between the west and Islam than to defuse it.


We must respect American power, and also acknowledge that the world sometimes has much need of it. As Sir Michael Howard, wisest of British strategic thinkers, often remarks: "If America does not do things, nobody else will." We should acknowledge the limitations of the UN. The pitiful performance of many international peacekeeping contingents, not least in Afghanistan, highlights the feebleness of what passes for European security policy.
Read the whole thing, but go to the bathroom first.

Who's next? Michael Moore?
(Via LGF.)
Pakistan Arrests Al Qaeda's No. 3 Leader

Oooh, in the name of The Most Merciful and His faithful servant Mohammad, I am so sleepy. These Pakis have been most unkind to me, their Muslim brother. Why do they side with the Jews and homosexuals? Why do they torment me so? I have not slept in so long and my vitiligo is flaring like a rash on a camel's scrotum. In the name of The Most Holy, I will avenge this humiliation, just as soon as I can take a nap. All night they ask me questions, and I'm sure one of them is an American. They play their Jewish mind games with me, but Allah gives me strength. I am beginning to hallucinate. Yesterday I thought I saw a very attractive goat...
Monday, May 02, 2005
Boolean Underpants
Those who don't like logic puzzles should read no further.

I was digging through archives of an old hard drive from an office I worked in a few years ago, and I found this puzzle I created.

(Yes, I sometimes make up logic puzzles. That's perfectly normal. Stop laughing.)

For those who enjoy this kind of thing it will be a pleasant waste of about 15 minutes. I'll put the solution as a comment in a couple of days. Come on, Godby. I know you can do it.


Larry, Moe and Curly are having a pleasant chat. One of the three always tells the truth. One of the three always lies. One of the three faithfully alternates true statements with false statements. A contiguous portion of their conversation is transcribed below.

Larry: I am wearing underwear.
Larry: Moe always lies.
Moe: Curly always lies.
Curly: Larry always lies.
Moe: I am wearing underwear.
Larry: Curly alternates true statements with lies.
Moe: Larry alternates true statements with lies.
Curly: Moe alternates true statements with lies.
Curly: I am wearing underwear.

Please determine who is the truth-teller, who is the liar, and who alternates. Also, who is wearing underwear?
Book Review -- Ender's Game
It was nice to leave on vacation, and it's nice to be back. I can tell my life is good when I enjoy my vacation but it feels about a day too long (or it means I've got so many kids that my workaday life is less strenuous than my vacation).

During the week, I read Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Card initially wrote it as a short story, and later, in 1977 as a novel. Among sci-fi aficionados it has a well-deserved reputation as a classic. The protagonist is Ender Wiggins, a six year-old boy who is drafted into the military. A generation ago, the world was attacked twice by an alien species, and humanity has been preparing for war ever since.

The story is brilliant, and the plot is very engaging. The sad thing about reading classics this late in life, though, is that all good ideas have been recycled countless times. The alien species share important characteristics with Star Trek's Borg, and some plot twists (which I won't divulge) deal with virtual reality in a way that has been echoed in many movies including The Matrix. It's not surprising that good ideas are reused in popular culture, I just wish I'd read the classic first, and seen the derivatives later.

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