Monday, July 31, 2006

Stephen Colbert's Nightmare
I swear I had this exact same conversation on Friday (except about the ten commandments being the basis of our legal system) and it was close to midnight before I could stop banging my head against the wall.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


This is the sort of post that's likely to get me into trouble with Christie, but I can't resist on account of this picture being so damn cute.

Besides, it's really Kate's fault for sending it to me in the first place.
Salon reviews a new book on Homer. It revisits old questions of who wrote the Iliad and Oddysey, and under what circumstances, adding the rarely asked question, And might it very likely have been a woman?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Overheard in the Drugstore
Girl 1: I don't know what's up, but lately it's either diarrhea or constipation.

Girl 2: Feast or famine, huh?

Girl 1: That is the most disgusting thing I have ever heard.

Girl 2: Oh. Yeah. Sorry. Wow, I really didn't think about that.
Good news from Blogger this morning. I've been having to type in a word verification thingy for the last week or so because they flagged my blog as a "potential spam blog". But now they've verified that I am an actual person, so it's back to seamless posting.

What's a spam blog, you ask? According to Blogger, "The ease of creating and updating webpages with Blogger has made it particularly prone to a form of behavior known as link spamming. Blogs engaged in this behavior are called spam blogs, and can be recognized by their irrelevant, repetitive, or nonsensical text, along with a large number of links"

Irrelevant, repetitive, and nonsensical? Dude, that's harsh.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I'll come right to the point. I think the works common attributed to William Shakespeare were actually written by ... William Shakespeare. The arguments for other authors generally boil down to snobbery about class or education level, and ignore that Shakespeare's earliest plays are really not all that great, to put it kindly. There are seeds of greatness there, sure, but they wouldn't be widely known or read if Two Gentlemen of Verona was all of his work that survived. Shakespeare learned the craft of writing by writing, not by education. And as far as class goes, most of the plays produced by the upper classes focus on the upper classes almost exclusively. Shakespeare covered a full spectrum of the human experience, irrespective of class. To me, that argues for someone with experience of both upper and lower class life, Shakespeare's biography fits that criteria better than most of the candidates put forward.

But there's a book out that suggests a new candidate for the authorship of Shakespeare's plays, and I'm at least curious enough to want to read it. The candidate is Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The New York Times has a very good explanation of why it's a good idea for a man to know how to fix things around the house: The Allure of the Tool Belt.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Roger Ebert really didn't like The Lady in the Water:
"Were I the late Joseph Campbell, who devoted his life to exploring how myths are not arbitrary shaggy dog stories but speak to the hunger for meaning deep within our species, I would will my spirit to return from the Land of the Dead, raise my hollowed body from my grave, and pelt this movie with rotten lotuses."

And there's a nice Colbert Report reference in the first paragraph.
Let's Not and Say We Did
As I was growing up, my Dad had several, well, I guess you'd call them catchphrases. It was a little like being raised by Stan Lee, or maybe Howard Cosell. He called us "Sports fans" and woke us up in the morning with "Let's see a little vim! Vigor! And enthusiasm!" Exactly like that, with little exclamation points and everything. I have a feeling most of them were pop culture references I never got, but a few of them were punchlines to often-told jokes, like "What you mean 'we' white man?"

And then there was the title of this post, which he often said in response to his own suggestions. He'd think of something funny, suggest we do it, then pause and say, "Ah, let's not and say we did."

Why am I telling you this now? Because I just ran across this title in the database and thought about getting it for Christie as a gift. I'd take it home and before giving it to her, explain that I was absolutely, positively not a doubt in my mind sure it was going to be a surprise. Then she'd ask why, and I'd whip the book out from behind my back and say "Because no one expects The Spanish Inqisition!"

I'd laugh hilariously, while Christie gives me that look she gets when I've done something very mildly amusing that I think is much, much funnier, and then she'd ask how much money I spent on this stupid joke.

And then I thought, "Nah. Let's not, and blog about it."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

So, Harpers.org found a message board devoted to the Rapture, populated by gleeful folk pondering the implications of the current fighting. I suppose this could be one of those "look at the kooky Christians" kind of posts, but I can't really get past appalled and pissed off. I haven't written about the latest round of fighting in the mideast because I don't know what to say or what the point would be, even. Israel's government seems to be responding in exactly the wrong way to an attack, and have entered into a course of action with no defined endpoint and no rules of engagement. There seems to be no voice of reason in the region, and no one who would listen to reason even if there were. The only constant is lives being ruined and people dying. Meanwhile, a group of safe, comfortable people are watching the violence on CNN and celebrating as things get worse, claiming it's in the name of religion. Yeah, appalled and pissed off pretty much covers it.

On the plus side, though, I did find this rapture smiley face which makes it hard to take anything on that site seriously.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

WordQuest and Weird Stuff
I'm looking for a word, one that probably doesn't exist. Well, maybe in German. The word I'm looking for would refer to a sudden and complete loss of credibility due to the contents of a single paragraph or, in the case of film, a moment. If you'd like an example, I'd invite you to read The Oil We Eat at Harpers.org.

It's an interesting essay, talking about the energy human beings consume in biomass, and our impact on the globe. There are lots of threads he's tying together, and most of them lie just to the outside of areas I've studied, so that I can't decide for myself whether what he's saying is bull or not. And then comes the paragraph where he calls Cro-Magnon a "different race of humans" and then asserts "The Basque people are probably the lone remnant descendants of Cro-Magnons, the only trace."

Okay, depending on how you define "race" (a huge, huge issue), this is not an impossibility. But even a casual look through the scholarship on the issue shows this to be a contentious issue, to say the least, and definitely not something to be put forward as 'probable' without even a nod to the controversy. So when I read that paraphraph, I mentally went back over the entire essay so far and retracted the benefit of the doubt I had given the author. Once that had happened, there was little point in continuing. Information I knew to be correct was nothing new, and anything new was suddenly questionable.

I had the same thing happen the other day reading an article on cryptozoology and the Bible. There are a number of unidentifiable or otherwise weird creatures mentioned in the Bible, but the one most often cited is the unicorn. This is handy, because the unicorn reference comes from the King James version, and is a mistranslation of a word that almost certainly refers to a now-extinct species of wild ox. It doesn't take long with Google to find this out, and it's so clearly the simplest explanation that it makes a handy Shibboleth. Folks who talk about unicorns in the Bible clearly either haven't done the research, or have let their will to believe in weird stuff overcome their will to reason. Which is fine, but I'm only willing to believe in weird stuff that I can actually believe in, and if there's a reasonable explanation, I can't believe.

Of course, these little moments for me aren't always based in reason. There was once a time when I believed in all sorts of stuff, and spent a fair amount of time and money in the New Age sections of various bookstores. And I could be cruising along, learning how to rebuild my energy fields by doing this or that and then the author would throw out a line about when the aliens would come and usher in a new age of peace and understanding, and I'd want to throw the book across the room. And as I got older and learned more and studied more, I started having more and more of those moments, which is why, I suppose, I no longer go to the New Age section.

Speaking of which, I had one of those moments watching "What the Bleep Do We Know?", right at the end. See, the whole movie is interspersed with expert testimony about quantum physics and health and so on, and it was all very convincing, but they left the experts' qualifications until the very end of the movie, at which point I found out that one of the guys talking to me about physics was a chiropractor, and that the woman spouting vague platitudes about man's role in the universe was actually a channeler, and bloop, there went the benefit of the doubt.

So is there a word for that? Other than "bloop"?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Husbands, are you worried about your wives and daughters showing too much skin at the pool? Now, there's WholesomeWear. 21st century technology, 18th century aesthetics. Oh, brave new world that has such people in it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Congress is getting ready to vote on Educational Technology again. Their track record is pretty lousy regarding funding ET, so it's pretty crucial that as many people squawk about it as possible. Go to EdTech Action Network to contact your rep and senators the easy way, or just call them up.

If these programs were just about teaching kids how to use computers, they'd still be crucial, since there isn't an industry in America that hasn't been overhauled with tech. But they do a lot more. Technology is just the spoonful of sugar that lets in a revolution in pedagogy, replacing 1950s teaching styles with ones better suited to the world we actually live in. There are some amazing programs out there that depend on this funding for survival, and that funding depends on we the people letting our elected representatives know that we want our money invested in the future of our country, not pissed away on no-bid contracts, tax cuts for Paris Hilton, etc. etc.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

For those of you who thought Chuck Norris was a bad-ass (Kate, I'm looking at you), I give you: Thirty Facts About Alton Brown

Monday, July 10, 2006

Jon Udell: The LibraryLookup Bookmarklet Generator
If you're looking at a book on Amazon, you can use this bookmarklet to check if your library has it available, assuming your library uses one of the common software suites. For our local library, use http://catalog.dbrl.org as the base URL, and Sirsi (WebCat) for the software system. It works great for me, but your mileage may vary.

Update: If you're local, just drag this link to your toolbar: DBRL Check.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

First vacation pics are up.
Spoiler Alert: There has been much discussion on the internets about the exact flavor of Blue Moon ice cream, a flavor found in some northern sections of the US. Well, click on the pic to see the solution, made public at long last, thanks to the House of Flavors in Ludington, MI. Posted by Picasa