Friday, August 30, 2002

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Funny Intersection Names - State Farm has a page up with funny intersection names, which I take as proof that every good idea I have will eventually be arrived at by someone else if I just do nothing about it for a long enough period of time. But as proof that I've been thinking about this for a long time, here's a picture I took this summer of the intersection of Haight & Rath in Ludington, MI. I'd hoped a few weeks ago to get a picture of High & Normal in Kirksville, MO, but I left my camera at home, alas.
Kansas City Performing Arts Center - KC's been talking about this for a long time, but I hadn't heard anything about it lately, so I decided to check in. Well, now you can see pictures and read descriptive text of what the new performing arts center is going to be like, and let me tell you, it looks impressive. Loads of credit to Moshe Safdie and Associates for a very, very cool design. Here's another article, but it's mostly text.

Monday, August 26, 2002

Flashback to the 80s - My strongest memories of the Reagan years are more emotional than factual. I remember feeling like there were people in the White House who didn't give a shit what I thought, didn't care, except in the most abstract way, about what happened to me or to people like me, and who were going to do whatever the hell they wanted to no matter what I said. Needless to say, Bush I was more of the same.

Everytime I hear or read another story about Iraq, it's like being back there again. The posers that be have decided that war with Iraq is good, right and necessary, and they tell us that it is every night, if possible. Sure, there's some debate about how we're gonna do it and when we're gonna do it, but we're still definitely gonna do it. Just for the record, I want to register my objections, on the off chance that enough people agree with me and will say so that Shrub, et al. will realize that they'll be out of a job in 2 years if he doesn't listen to us.

I think Saddam Hussein is a bad man. Very bad. And dangerous, in the way that a pit bull that's locked in a cage on an island surrounded by sharks is dangerous to the man standing on shore. Yes, there are two stories out there: the one that he is a clear and present danger to the U.S., and one that he isn't. But the folks who say he isn't have no stake in the fight, credentials to back themselves up, and they give very clear evidence to back it up. The folks in favor of invasion say things like "I just know."

The fact that he is a bad man does not give us the right to remove him, kill him, imprison him, or whatever, as long as he stays within the borders of Iraq and doesn't try to attack us or any other sovereign nation.

Imagine this: You're sitting at a bar with some friends. You look up, and notice somebody across the bar looking at you. He looks mean, and he looks mad. You know for a fact that he's beaten the shit out of people before, and as you're thinking about this, he narrows his gaze and mouths the words, "You're next." At this point, it's perfectly reasonable for a normal person to feel nervous. Maybe even scared. But if you were to walk over to him, pick up a bar stool and whack him with, that would be assault, no matter how sure you are that this guy wants to hurt you.

Oh, and one more thing: you're not exactly a normal person. You're six foot five, built like a linebacker, and you've got black belts in 5 different martial arts. And the guy giving you the stinkeye is about 5'4". And your friends are all telling you to walk away and forget about it.

I'm back at work after a busy, fun, friends-and-family-filled, and occasionally emotionally intense weekend. At the emotional crescendo of it all, I stopped to make a peach and blackberry pie, which helped tremendously. I don't know how or why, but somewhere in the alchemy of making food, magic happens. The trick is knowing what kind of food to make for what emotional state. For instance, pie was exactly what I needed to make yesterday; it just happened that my need to make pie coincided with the last weekend of peach season (that god it didn't happen next weekend, when it would have been too late for peach pie). Other times, nothing but bread will do the trick. Here's what I think: Pie is for hands-on problems, and bread is for ones that I need to put away in a dark place for a while and let them sit. But that's just a theory, and not a very good one.

There is definitely a poem in this.

Friday, August 23, 2002

How much does consciousness shape the universe? - An interview with John Archibald Wheeler dealing with quantum theory on his intuitions (supported by evidence, of course) that the universe is largely shaped by our perceptions of it. He's old, he knows he doesn't have very many years left, and so he's dedicated whatever ones he does have left to the big questions. Very admirable. Other physicists make appearances, like Andrei Linde, who tells this charming story:

"You know, if you say that we're smart enough to figure everything out, that is a very arrogant thought. If you say that we're not smart enough, that is a very humiliating thought. I come from Russia, where there is a fairy tale about two frogs in a can of sour cream. The frogs were drowning in the cream. There was nothing solid there; they could not jump from the can. One of the frogs understood there was no hope, and he stopped beating the sour cream with his legs. He just died. He drowned in sour cream. The other one did not want to give up. There was absolutely no way it could change anything, but it just kept kicking and kicking and kicking. And then all of a sudden, the sour cream was churned into butter. Then the frog stood on the butter and jumped out of the can. So you look at the sour cream and you think, 'There is no way I can do anything with that.' But sometimes, unexpected things happen."

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Yahoo doesn't get it - This is how they describe Blue Crush: "The film is about two young women working as hotel maids in a remote Maui community who have nothing else to do with their time, so they surf and enter a traditionally all-male surf competition." I'll admit it, I haven't been to see this movie yet, so I can't say for sure just how totally clueless this description is, but based on the reviews I've read and the adrenaline junkies I know, I find it very hard to believe that the girls in this film surf because they "have nothing else to do with their time."

Monday, August 12, 2002

Thanks Largely to This Review, I went out and bought John Adams' Naive and Sentimental Music. It's a piece in three movements for full orchestra, and manages to convey the the grandeur of a Beethoven piece, but still having an unmistakeably contemporary feel, due to odd dissonances, funky rhythms, and influences from all over the musical map. It's beautiful without falling into prettiness, contemporary without being ugly, intelligent without being esoteric.

I would never claim to be an expert in classical music, but I did used to be married to a classically trained violist, so I've heard enough to know what I like. And I like this CD.

Friday, August 09, 2002

I don't know what it is about these quizzes, but I do indeed dig 'em.

Which Buffy Guy Are You? Find out @ She's Crafty

And it's pretty much right on, except that "of few words" part.
New and Improved Geek Quiz - I like the results from this one better. Keep in mind, this is about geek culture, not geek skills. Skillwise, I'm about 5% geek. But I got culture, baby!
You are 44% geek
You are a geek liaison, which means you go both ways. You can hang out with normal people or you can hang out with geeks which means you often have geeks as friends and/or have a job where you have to mediate between geeks and normal people. This is an important role and one of which you should be proud. In fact, you can make a good deal of money as a translator.
Normal: Tell our geek we need him to work this weekend.

You [to Geek]: We need more than that, Scotty. You'll have to stay until you can squeeze more outta them engines!

Geek [to You]: I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain, but we need more dilithium crystals!

You [to Normal]: He wants to know if he gets overtime.

Take the Polygeek Quiz at Thudfactor.com

The funny thing about this is that I have more than once described my job as "Geek to English Translator".

Thursday, August 08, 2002

For no particular reason, a cartoon popped into my head from years and years and years ago. But I tracked it down, and now I feel better. And if you don't like that one, there's always this one.
Guns and Crime - A friend sent me a link to Glenn Reynolds latest column, which happens to deal with the relationship between guns and crime. Glenn, being Glenn, takes the position that more guns lead to less crime, and Billie, being Billie, sent me the link because he probably thinks I'll take issue with this. Normally, I would. The classic on this topic is John Lott's More Guns, Less Crime, which was full of bad statistics, gross misinterpretations, and that sort of thing. But Glenn's source on this is Bentley College historian Joyce Malcolm's new book, Guns and Violence: The English Experience, which I don't know much about. Also, it's a fairly new book (May, 2002), so I haven't been able to find any refutations by people smarter than me, which is what I often have to depend on when it comes to books that make policy arguments based on subject I don't know much about. And, let's face it, not many books out there make policy arguments based on poetry, shamanism, or Old English literature.

Glenn's a smart guy. But I'm a smart guy too, and I know I tend to be less critical of sources that I agree with than sources I disagree with. I read a statistic that says that a gun in the home is much, much more likely to be used on a family member than on an intruder, and I think, "Yeah, that sounds right" and I don't bother trying to find out what's wrong with it. But somebody comes along and tells me that having more guns out there will actually decrease the amount of gun violence, and this little bell starts to ring in my head telling me to look harder.

Like every other redneck out there, I grew up around guns. I'm not a great shot, but I know enough about guns to avoid shooting myself in the foot. I'm not scared of guns, nor am I stupid about them. But I don't own a gun, and, for a variety of reason, have no interest in owning one. I think the NRA is intellectually dishonest, and their representatives and afficionados pretty well manage to piss me off every time they open their mouths. I think the gun control lobby are elitists with no understanding of the way half of this country lives. I am equally annoyed by hunters who call themselves "sportsmen" and bambi-lovers who go on and on about the evils of hunting while eating a chicken burrito. As far as I am concerned, the fact that I don't hunt but do eat meat makes me, if nothing else, a coward who pays someone else to do his killing for him.

But I also think that the First Amendment is much more important than the Second when it comes to the defense about tyranny, and it really pisses me off that there are thousands of cases that tell us exactly what the limits of free speech are, while the last time we really had a definitive 2nd Amendment test case was in the '30s sometime. It pisses me off that a handgun has a effective life of a hundred years with only moderate care, but there are factories cranking them out and shipping them to be sold in places with low regulation from which they quickly find their way into the hands of criminals. It pisses me off that a couple of deranged teenages were able to buy TEC-9s, a gun designed to kill people efficiently while not taking fingerprints, at a fucking gun show, and the next day our fearless leaders were laying the blame on movies and video games. Most of all, it pisses me off that what passes for dialogue on this issue consists of the two extremes calling each other names and torpedoing any attempt at compromise, and that the entire issue has become so saturated with politics that it's no longer safe to assume anyone, on either side, is telling the truth.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Okay, I give in. Since this blog is all about self-indulgence and massaging my ego: Is my Blog HOT or NOT?

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Cougar Sighting Near Ludington, MI - Last spring, as I was driving from Battle Creek, MI to Ludington, I saw a cat run across the road. It was a little above bumper height, dark gray/brown in color, and had a tail almost as long as its body, if not actually a bit longer. From head to tail, it was almost as long as a single highway lane is wide. I've researched it since then, and found two incontrovertable facts: I saw a small cougar, and there are no cougars (officially) in the lower peninsula. Of course, I live in Missouri, where there are, officially, no cougars either, but pretty much everybody knows someone who's seen one.

I actually read a pretty good explanation of this from an anonymous wildlife agent who said that as long as the cougars don't cause any problems, then the government can continue to ignore them and do nothing, which is the best thing the government can do for the cougars and the landowners. Makes sense to me.

Friday, August 02, 2002

The National Review Wants You to be Miserable - John Derbyshire gives us a 21-item refutation of happiness and optimism. In the end, he sums it up nicely for us all: "We are living in a golden age. The past was pretty awful; the future will be far worse." I don't know why, but this kind of cheerful pessimism always makes me smile.
I am 32% Tortured Artist

I have some artistic ability, but it is probably a hobby and doesn't drive my life into a dark abysmal hole were I am alone and against the world.

Take the Tortured Artist Test at fuali.com
I am 42% Geek

You probably work in computers, or a history deptartment at a college. You never really fit in with the "normal" crowd. But you have friends, and this is a good thing.

Take the Geek Test at fuali.com

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Great Blog - That's all really. Just a thought-provoking, well-written blog for your edification.
The WTF World of Windows - Can anyone explain to me how this makes sense? And what, exactly, am I supposed to do about it?