Friday, May 30, 2008

The Circus Continues

Now Chelsea Clinton is coming here. Hillary caused a commotion in Madison. Obama is due back again this weekend. All trying to kiss up to 193,131 Democrats, according to the latest figures. It really is something to watch.

Those figures are interesting in another way. Independent voters had the largest percentage increase, twice as much as Democrats and 10 times as much as Republicans. They're now 15 percent of registered voters, enough to help give a Democrat at least a theoretical shot at winning. Most information I can find gives the state to McCain, though, which is why we should enjoy the attention while we can; it will vanish quickly.

I also just got an automated phone call from Ron Paul. He's still going.

Start Walking

There's no doubt this would suck. They weren't exactly smooth about it.....

The doors to the Silverjet departure lounge were locked all morning, with only a sign taped to the door to inform passengers expecting to travel of the situation.

The employees weren't any better informed....

One female employee, who did not wish to be named, said: “We got a phone call this morning, saying we had to come and collect our stuff. We don’t know if we’re even getting paid. What next? I don’t know - the pub?”

I remember a restaurant in Vermillion closing like this. Employees showed up to open the doors and found a sign on the door saying it was out of business. As I recall only certain locations were affected, so the whole company didn't just fold up.

Next Up: A New Jaws Movie

Rambo, Indiana Jones, now this. Is Eddie Murphy still a bankable leading man? It's a shame William Powell is dead, or they could do another Thin Man movie.

Gordon Brown Calling

This is cool, particularly because it doesn't seem in keeping with what I've read about the man.

Can you imagine George Bush doing this?

Job Interview Don'ts

Lisa Cullen at Time passes on a list of stupid/unfortunate things people have done at job interviews. Check out the comments for additional examples.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Moving On Without Us

Slate has an interview with the leader of Hamas. It contains a number of notable statements.....

Mishaal was all about divining the recent momentous events in the region: Israeli-Syria peace talks brokered by Turkey and an agreement, mediated by Qatar, to avert a new Lebanese civil war.

Both deals, seemingly concluded without U.S. involvement and counter to the Bush administration's policies, will affect Palestinian politics.

"The question has been asked," says Mishaal, "why did the Arabs move because of Lebanon, but they can't do this for the Palestinians?" He was referring to the successful compromises that sealed the Lebanon deal, a model of what Mishaal called a "no-win, no-lose" formula where local adversaries agree to share power. "This is what we want internally—reconciliation on the Palestinian side."

After the Syria-Israel talks were confirmed last week, former Syrian Information Minister Mahdi Dahlallah was quoted as saying that if there is a peace agreement, "There will no longer be any need for resistance," a reference to Hezbollah in Lebanon but also to Hamas.

Despite the Bush administration's warning against "appeasing extremists" through dialogue, Hamas has had a flurry of contacts in the waning months of the Bush administration. Mishaal confirmed that the French government has opened a political dialogue with Hamas, despite a rebuke from Washington. There is also "communication" with other European countries, he said.

Even Israel is talking to Hamas, with Egypt serving as the go-between in indirect negotiations over a cease-fire in Gaza.

Mishaal dismissed the prospects of progress on Palestinian issues during the remainder of Bush's term.

The Arab countries there are tired of fighting, and can make peace deals with each other when motivated, with or without us. It's only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that really needs us, and everyone is waiting for Bush and his gang of idiots to be replaced by someone who is willing to facilitate real negotiations. Of course, an Israeli government not under threat of indictment would help,too. Then there's this regarding the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin, the last Prime Minister who tried peace........

A recent poll showed that 26 per cent of Israelis – and 42 per cent who define themselves as religious – support freeing Amir after he has served 20 years, in eight years’ time.

There's a long way to go.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More Attention

The local news just reported that Hillary Clinton is coming back to South Dakota this week. She may be delusional about the nomination, but the local reporters aren't complaining. This is the kind of action many of them dream about; a potential resume-builder.

The news says she's going to Kyle on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Bill was down that way earlier. I'm not entirely sure why they go there; although the reservations have been Democratic strongholds in a largely Republican state, they tend to be more active for the general election. On the other hand, given the relatively small size of the Democratic Party here, the Native vote could be a big factor in the primary.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bathroom Electronics

Jeremy Clarkson likes visiting Japan, except......

Unfortunately, though, the Japanese have examined the simple water closet and decided that it could be improved with some electronics. The result, I’m afraid, is a disaster.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Via Refdesk:

On this day in 1521, at the conclusion of the Diet of Worms, the Edict of Worms was issued declaring Martin Luther an outlaw and a heretic. The effect of the Diet of Worms on the participants' intestinal tracts is not mentioned. (Sorry)

I once worked with a heretic; he had the documents to prove it. While attending an Episcopal (as I recall) seminary he had disagreed with the church over some point of doctrine that frankly made my eyes glaze over when he explained it to me. I remember thinking (1) Churches still actually declare people to be heretics? (Of course it doesn't have the ramifications it did for Luther.) (2) How cool that he has an official certificate. If it were me I'd definitely hang it on my wall. (3) There's a good conversation-starter at parties or an item for the resume.

What really struck me was the obscurity of the disagreement. I can't remember it's exact nature, but it was well beyond the level of a typical churchgoer. I think this is a partial answer to the question of why people stick with certain churches; most of the doctrinal differences are minute enough that people don't see the point of giving up the social network they've built up.

I imagine many people would consider a lot of the disputes that caused the formation of the various Protestant churches to be silly. I think most parishioners just don't worry about such details, or maybe they don't want to know. They might be unpleasantly surprised to find themselves thinking like heretics if they looked into their church's doctrine.

Friday, May 23, 2008


James Lileks at his daughter's school track-and-field day.........

It made her very happy to see me. Odd how expectations change – my mom never came to watch, even though she was the model of an Involved Parent. My dad? He was working. Dads didn’t leave work to watch their kids kick a soccer ball. For that matter, kids didn’t kick soccer balls. I don’t think they had soccer balls in North Dakota until 1981; it was brought in on a special train and placed behind glass and people got to walk around it and get close, if they felt comfortable, and become accustomed to its strange surface. It is faceted, yet round. It doesn’t seem like a gateway sport that leads inevitably to socialism. Maybe we should give it a try. No, we had baseballs. Hard, unforgiving, painful, American baseballs. When it came at your head you got out of the way. Now in the space of a single generation we’ve trained the young to stick their heads into the path of an oncoming ball.

I recall playing a pseudo-soccer game that allowed handling the ball if you could catch it in the air or kick it up to yourself. We played on the football field so we could use the goal posts. Actual soccer was pretty much nonexistent.

This confirms what we've all suspected.....

She did as well as expected – second place in the soccer-ball kick, a “participant” in the 500-yard-dash. Adults use that word to boost self-esteem, but the kids know what it means. “I got a loser ribbon,” she said.

How To Handle This

I was looking back at this humble blog and trying to decide how to handle it. I see and greatly appreciate the comments the posts get, but I still don't know if I should respond to them or not.
So I ask the 3 or 4 of you who stop by; do you go back and look for replies to comments you may have left? I know I check up on posts at other blogs to see if a thread develops or if someone responds to a comment I leave, but I'm still new at handling my own posts. Feel free to make any other suggestions for improvement while you're at it.

Not His Castle

Over at Salon, Steve Almond bemoans his shortcomings as a homeowner.

To say that I was naive about the ensuing realities would be fair, but inadequate.

This first shock of homeownership (that property values sometimes go down) was followed by a second: hidden costs. And by "hidden" I mean, of course, "those costs I was too lazy or negligent to consider beforehand."

He also makes a point that has occurred to me......

In a sense, our political leaders, in tandem with the retail sector, have offered the same cheap coverup. They've portrayed homeownership as a birthright and a breeze. Just plunk down your 10 percent, zip over to Home Depot, and you're home free.

But maybe it's time to admit that many Americans are like me: unfit for the privilege.

I split the difference in this regard. I own (or will when the loan is paid) a mobile home but have it on a rented lot in a nice court that has underground sprinklers and someone to mow the lawn.
It's not an appreciating asset like a home (until recently), but that wasn't my goal. I just wanted a place of my own in which to live, and I could afford to purchase and maintain a new mobile home with new appliances, etc., whereas a regular house was out of reach. I was also able to use it as a shipping container when I moved from Vermillion to Pierre, and I didn't have to find housing when I got here. It's not perfect (relative lack of space, no storm shelter) and it's not for everyone, but it's been a positive experience for me.

The Vicar of Baghdad

The Times of London's Catherine O'Brien interviews a man of indisputable fortitude.

He copes with MS, he says, in the way that he copes with everything: “By keeping going and not worrying about it.”

Two years ago, at a rendezvous just outside Baghdad with the kidnappers of a Brazilian, he describes being held in a room for several hours where chopped-off fingers and toes littered the floor. “They were quite fresh,” he says, when I press for more details. And how did he get out unscathed? “I gave them money. About $35,000.”

“Three years ago the Church of England told me that I was too ill to carry on working. There was no longer a place for me in the UK, but I was already working in Baghdad and that is one of the main reasons why I've ended up there.”

You Make the Rockin' World Go Round

Via 2 Blowhards, a possible use for a certain type of body fat.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Getting Tired of Us

Odsidian Wings led me to this story saying that things in Iraq could get even uglier......

Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric has been quietly issuing religious edicts declaring that armed resistance against U.S.-led foreign troops is permissible — a potentially significant shift by a key supporter of the Washington-backed government in Baghdad.

The edicts, or fatwas, by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani suggest he seeks to sharpen his long-held opposition to American troops and counter the populist appeal of his main rivals, firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia.

Al-Sistani's new edicts — which did not specifically mention Americans but refer to foreign occupiers — were in response to the question of whether it's permitted to "wage armed resistance," according to the two Shiites who received them.

Al-Sistani's affirmative response also carried a stern warning that "public interest" should not be harmed and every effort must be made to ensure that no harm comes to Iraqis or their property during "acts of resistance," they said.

I agree with Eric Martin at Obsidian Wings that a similar public announcement would make our occupation almost completely untenable. Al-Sistani's restraint is what keeps what passes for an Iraqi government and military together and cooperating with us. Al-Maliki would have to disown us in order to save his skin. We would then be there against the wishes of the elected government and the most prominent Shiite religious leaders. All we'd have are the Sunnis we've been able to buy off, and considering the edicts' specific prohibition of harming Iraqis I don't see why the Sunnis would help us. We'd be forced to either leave under duress or violently suppress most of the population, which (1) would completely destroy our international standing and (2) we lack the means to do anyway.

This story is the type of reminder we need - Iraqis don't trust our intentions and don't want us there, and the clock is ticking. I just hope the next administration takes notice.

P.J. Then and Now

Via Arts and Letters Daily, P.J. O'Rourke writes about a trip he took to China in 2006.

“If the old days were so terrible,” said the British woman, “why the long queue at Mao’s tomb?” I resisted the temptation to say, “They’re making sure he’s dead.”

For contrast, P.J. vintage 1978.

Trouble at the Top

The Times of London has an excellent article on the letdown often experienced by people when they've achieved a long-desired goal. Gordon Brown's current problems are used as an example. Quoting......

Brown viewed elevation to the Premiership as the be all and end all of his political career: it was the goal towards which he was striving from the moment he conceded the leadership of the Labour Party to his close friend. Anticlimax was inevitable.
Thatcher, on the other hand, was no less ruthless or determined, but her guiding ambition was to change Britain. Becoming Prime Minister was, in her schema, a stepping-stone to a grander destiny.

I think Brown had an additional handicap, in that since he had been part of the ruling government, he was (is) in the awkward position of having already implemented many of his ideas. The elder George Bush had a similar problem. "More of the Same" is not an inspiring theme, especially when the Same is looking tired.

The overall theme of the article is quite correct, however. Having goals is admirable, but when they are essentially closed-ended with no idea of where to go from there, attaining them can be disorienting.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Grinding It Out

While I was waiting in the Wal-mart parking lot for my wife,who works there part-time, I watched the other employees who left at that same time (10 PM). There were senior citizens and people with physical problems both small and large, such as the woman in the wheelchair checking receipts. I wondered what these people would be doing if they couldn't work there. I don't know about other Wal-marts, but this one seems to give just about everyone a chance to show they can hold down a job there, and that's nice to see.

Watching them and the customers going in and coming out also reminded me that Wal-mart is in the hardscrabble sector of retailing, which is itself a tough business. It doesn't deal with those seeking couture and gourmet; it caters to people trying to put food on the table and clothes on the kids and maybe something fun if they can afford it. It's main business is needs, not desires. There aren't many revolutionary products or high-margin cash cows. Wal-mart makes it's money the way Andrew Carnegie made his over a century ago; by keeping costs as low as possible, and passing at least some of it on to customers, who are often the type who need any savings they can get (although not exclusively, of course; the Governor shops there). I read that economists anticipate Wal-mart holding up well during the current slump, because it deals in necessities at low prices. It's where people who can no longer afford to shop elsewhere will go.

It can be ruthless and stupid and generally show the usual symptoms of corporate giantism, but it is worth remembering that it didn't get where it is by riding a fad or incredible good luck. It clawed it's way up by giving people what they wanted (and sometimes needed) while being spit on most of the way. I know there are people who say they will never shop there for a variety of frequently legitimate reasons, and that's fine; it's what makes the economy work. We have other grocery stores here for those people. But the fact is that those other retailers would like to be in Wal-mart's position.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Kids No More

Lemmonex led off a post on a Mother's Day get-together with one of those Universal Truths, the ones that make people nod their heads and usually aren't spoken because they're almost intuitive....

No matter how old you are, you will always be your parent’s babies.

The psychological fallout from that has been immense throughout human history, and I'm certainly not qualified to analyze it. It occurred to me, though, that from what I've seen, it’s usually the arrival of grand kids that shakes off most of the “parent’s babies” vibe. It changes into a combination of Senior Advisor, as in "I remember when that happened with you - here's what to do"; and Revenge, as in "Grand kids are a Parent's Revenge", or the fulfillment of the old parental jab,"Just wait until you have children!"

My family has been in this mode for a while. My three brothers and I all have at least one child, and my oldest niece will be 20 in August (I remember when she crawled out of her diaper and wet on my floor.... oh,Mike, stop that!). Both my parents are alive and well and relatively young(sub-70), so I guess the next milestone is the first great-grandkid.

It gets really interesting when the generations build up. My wife’s Mother and maternal Grandmother are still alive and fairly healthy, and she also has three granddaughters. The interplay can be fun to watch as I stay quietly out of the way.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I Don't Forsee Any Problems

Dom Joly of The Independent is planning his son's fourth-birthday party......

I'm determined to get everyone plastered and on to the bouncy castle. I love bouncy castles, but they are always for kids. I'm going to have a private half-hour for adults – drunk adults.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Einstein + God = Big Money

A letter written by Einstein sells for major cash. As the quotes show, he was no fan of religion.

......he wrote that “the word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.”

As for his fellow Jews, he said that Judaism, like all other religions, was “an incarnation of the most childish superstitions.”

Reuters Tidbits

A museum to see if you're ever in Iceland. Would contributing to the collection be considered organ donation?

In Italy, a unique training program at a women's prison.

The Pressures of Equal Rights

Once again The Onion had the different angle. This is from 2004.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Jazz Done

Not too surprising, but rats....... now I'll have to get by with baseball until football season.

1,000 Years

An Egyptian con man gets an enormous jail term. He's apparently been doing it for over 20 years. Notable excerpt.....

As an unemployed man, his family argue, Mohammed was merely trying to make a living.

Maybe, but a guy with that sales ability should have been able to find honest work. Not that he was unique.......

Such cases come to light regularly in Egypt, where working middle class people seem ready to hand their life savings to a person they hardly know in return of a promise of 20% profit to be returned on monthly basis.

Greed and gullibility are indeed worldwide phenomena.


Via Arts & Letters Daily, a Weekly Standard article on words "that feel right when we say them: accurate expressions, somehow, for themselves." I think pus would be a good example; it just sounds like what it is.

Obama in South Dakota

Obama actually said something worthy of reporting while he was here. That's a nice departure from the usual stops national candidates make in South Dakota. Typically they toss out a generic speech with fill-in-the-blank South Dakota references, then move on. Of course, it's hard to ignore George Bush when he's out embarrassing himself overseas.

I agree with Doug Wiken at Dakota Today that all the candidates will forget about us after the election. At least John Thune is getting some attention as a VP candidate, though I can't imagine McCain actually picking him. It got me to thinking though; how long has it been since a South Dakota Republican got some positive national notice? Considering the heavily Republican leanings here, it's interesting how often we send Democrats to DC.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Will the Honorable Senator Please Put a Sock in It?

John McCain recently said (from Slate):

I will ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both houses to take questions, and address criticism, much the same as the Prime Minister of Great Britain appears regularly before the House of Commons."

I've watched the British Question Time on C-SPAN, and it can be a hoot. I agree with the author that it probably wouldn't be the same here, but it's a neat idea. I do wonder if McCain wouldn't regret this, given his temperamental reputation.

The lonely RV buyer

Slate notes that recreational vehicle sales have plummeted, and it's probably going to get worse. The author seems a bit surprised, arguing that the factors that are hurting other types of vacationing should help RV sales. I think he underestimates the importance of one of his own statements.

Americans seem to lump recreational vehicles in the same category as powerboats: discretionary, big-ticket purchases that guzzle too much gas.

While it may be true, as the article states, that RV vacations can be a great deal cheaper than other types, you don't have to make payments or pay insurance on the hotel room when you're done vacationing. The cost and hassle of maintaining an RV when you're not using it would easily overtake the vacation savings unless you vacation frequently, in which case money probably isn't that big a concern.

Applying Kennedy in Africa

Via Andrew Sullivan, an article in The American contrasting Botswana's relative success with it's neighbor Zimbabwe. Basically it came down to different applications of JFK: in Zimbabwe the leaders asked what the country can do for them, while in Botswana the leaders asked what they can do for their country.

Another item in the article caught my eye for a different reason:

It is surely a sign of Botswana’s relative comfort with racial diversity that on April 1, 2008, Ian Khama, the first-born son of the country’s founder, took over the reigns of power in Botswana, thus becoming the first half-white leader of an African democracy.

Although it's almost never mentioned that way, we here in the US have a half-white person in contention for the Presidency as well. If Obama wins, I hope he gets together with Ian Khama.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Oil Supply Hijacking

This does not bode well. Imagine the chaos in the oil markets if someone starts grabbing tankers. I've never heard of any efforts to prevent such a thing.

How to Handle Women

Via the Times of London, a 1943 collection of tips for male supervisors of women in the workplace. I sometimes think they're still used in certain places.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sterner Stuff

An obituary in the Times of London for a heroine of the Warsaw Ghetto. Money quote from her last year in response to being honored by the Polish Senate.....

“Every child saved with my help and the help of all the wonderful secret messengers, who today are no longer living, is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory.”

The kind of person who makes me feel a little ashamed of myself for not doing more good in life.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

Mark Vernon has a post speculating about altruism in animals. It reminded me of a story I once saw a farmer tell on television of a chicken who didn't have chicks until relatively late in life. She was out in the yard watching them when a hawk suddenly appeared. With no time to get them to safety, she gathered the chicks underneath her and took the hit herself. Miraculously the hawk missed by enough that a kill was avoided, and the farmer scared it off. It's hard to explain that without altruism, or the famed maternal instinct we celebrate today.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

More on Lab-Grown Meat

The Times of London has a fairly detailed article on a subject I've mentioned before: growing meat in a laboratory. It offers more details on the current state of the science (mincemeat for burgers or sausages likely within 10 years: steaks, etc need technology that doesn't exist yet) from New Harvest, an organization that is promoting it.

The recent kerfuffle here over a new hog farm being built in SE South Dakota demonstrates the potential support this idea could get once the technology matures. Anyone who has been to one of those places would be in favor of anything that could replace them.

If It Doesn't Feel Good, Don't Do It

Again via 2 Blowhards, a report in the Telegraph noting an increase in the number of men not interested in sex. Excerpts:

The main sufferers who call its helpline with the problem are generally aged between 30 and 50 and are married.

Peter Bell, Relate’s head of practice, said: “Men used to come to us with impotence – now known as erectile insufficiency – but Viagra has sorted some of that problem. What we have is a lot of men who say, as women did in the 1950s: 'I can have sex but I do not want to. It’s not rewarding’.

“It is a serious issue. It counts as a pychosexual dysfunction rather than just a relationship problem, because these men haven’t simply gone off their partner but off sex altogether.”

Dysfunction? The listed age range does complicate this: the differences between a 30yo and a 50yo are many and varied. But I recall a time when loss of libido was considered a natural result of aging. It's only relatively recently in human history that a man could expect to be alive at 50, much less interested in sex.

The mention of Viagra is notable. That type of medication, and the hype behind it, has created a "since you can, you should" expectation that may not jibe with some men's (and women's) natural feelings. Sex drive is a function of hormones designed to encourage reproduction. Once the hormones begin to decline and reproduction is no longer involved, sex becomes a function of pleasure and intimacy. The intimacy issue with the partner would need to be addressed, but otherwise, if sex isn't enjoyable,why bother? Despite what popular culture depicts, there is more to life.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What is Education?

Via 2blowhards, I came across an article that argues that today's educators operate under various false assumptions, and that the No Child Left Behind program exacerbates them. I'll leave you to agree or disagree with it, but a particular paragraph struck home with me.

American schools have never been able to teach everyone how to read, write, and do arithmetic. The myth that they could has arisen because schools a hundred years ago did not have to educate the least able. When the twentieth century began, about a quarter of all adults had not reached fifth grade and half had not reached eighth grade. The relationship between school dropout and intellectual ability was not perfect, but it was strong. Today’s elementary and middle schools are dealing with 99 percent of all children in the eligible age groups.

My wife is a special ed tutor, so she deals with the very bottom of that 99 percent. She helps handle several kids, but one young lady in particular is her focus. This girl, a senior, almost never speaks. I don't know what her so-called mental age is, but I'm fairly sure she's never going to be able to live on her own. She's a prime example of a child who probably never would have gone to school 100 years ago, because she can't function in a normal classroom and no special programs existed. My wife's job is to teach her, and the others, as much of what their classmates learn as possible.

I attended a music program put on by that girl and other special ed kids today. The level of handicap varies widely in the group, but all have definite difficulties. They put a lot of work into the program, and they were rightly quite proud of what they accomplished, as were the parents who were there. A good time was had by all. The Superintendent of schools was there as well, and as we left, he said "I'm glad I was able to make it."

Most of these kids face uncertain futures at best. What they're doing now may be a high point in their lives, one that they never would have experienced 100 years ago, or probably 40 years ago for that matter, and one that had they had to be taught to experience. Here one premise of the article comes into the picture: that the education system needs to understand that an individual student only has so much ability, and no magic teaching method is going to increase it. So teach the student to maximize that ability, even (I would say especially) if that maximum isn't going to be very high. It may not help test scores, but it will improve students' lives.

Jimmy in Demand

The Nigerian rebels who helped drive up the price of oil by attacking pipelines,etc. want Jimmy Carter to mediate. Whatever you think of Jimmy's politics, the esteem in which he is held worldwide should be noted as an example of how integrity can benefit a person long-term.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Christian Pop Culture

Slate has a review of a book by a man who investigated the problems inherent in making Christian versions of various forms of pop culture, particularly music. Notable excerpts:

.....You shoehorn a message that's essentially about obeying authority into a genre that's rebellious and nihilistic, and the result can be ugly, fake, or just limp.

The entertainers in Radosh's book complain about watchdog groups that count the number of times a song mentions Jesus or about the lockstep political agenda a Christian audience expects.

A Christian friend who'd grown up totally sheltered once wrote to me that the first time he heard a Top 40 station he was horrified, and not because of the racy lyrics: "Suddenly, my lifelong suspicions became crystal clear," he wrote. "Christian subculture was nothing but a commercialized rip-off of the mainstream, done with wretched quality and an apocryphal insistence on the sanitization of reality."

My contact with such music has been limited to sporadic listening to a local Christian radio station in my car when nothing else was available. I have found most of it (at least what that station plays) to be roughly comparable to the kind of insipid "easy-listening" dreck that might help a baby fall asleep. That said, the production values were acceptable, and the performances competent.

I recall the flak Amy Grant took when she recorded some perfectly inoffensive songs that were considered "not Christian enough". I believe Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life" had similar problems. (Although nothing like her dad Pat had when he put out an album covering heavy-metal songs. The sight of him dressed in a black leather vest and pants, on stage at an awards show with Alice Cooper, was just fabulous. I think all those years as Mr. Squeaky-Clean caused him to blow a gasket, and it was great.)

Artists have to accept that if they're going to work in the Christian subculture, their creativity is going to be limited by the dogma of the religions that created that subculture. Not that this is new: artists and scientific researchers have had to deal with religious-based limits for centuries. At least the current artists can be thankful that it's a subculture they can leave. In the past the limits were the mainstream, and there weren't many options.

Microsoft May Have to Work for Something

Microsoft gave up on buying Yahoo, at least for now. Microsoft's standard procedure of using large amounts of cash to solve a problem didn't work out.

It's worth remembering that Microsoft rode a stroke of luck (as noted in the History portion of the Wikipedia entry on DOS,the original IBM PC operating system) and IBM's name to the top, although they did have the sense to license their software to other PC manufacturers (again, helped by IBM's blunder in letting that happen). They have done well to stay there, admittedly, but they've done so largely because the IBM-compatible PC has remained (and likely will remain for some time) the dominant personal computer and a consistent cash machine.

Now the big thing is internet-based software, and Microsoft tried to buy a solution just like Bill Gates did when he had to run out and buy the operating system software to sell to IBM. But now no one is going to let them have it cheaply, and there's already someone ahead of them. Google doesn't seem like they're going to make the mistakes that helped Microsoft before. Maybe actually having to compete will bring something out of Microsoft that we haven't seen.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Is Horse Racing Brutal?

Via Incertus, a New York Times article by William Rhoden castigating horse racing in light of the putting down of a horse at the Kentucky Derby. Quoting.....

The sport is at least as inhumane as greyhound racing and only a couple of steps removed from animal fighting.

I'm not sure I entirely agree, if only because greyhound racing has a horrible reputation. Racehorses are treated pretty well in comparison; too much money is spent on them to risk their health, at least while they can race and/or breed. Of course, not much is said about what happens to the has-beens, but from what I gather many still enjoy a typical horse life after they're done racing. I do see the possibility of more injuries,though, because of the way these horses have been bred to be strong and fast and almost impossibly thin-legged.

In other horse-related items I've happened across, Dale over at Faith in Honest Doubt expressed his bafflement at people who enjoy horse racing (and NASCAR), and Slate has a number of posts, including the decline in track attendance, whether racehorses live up to an old saying, and the attempts of an Arab Sheik to win the Kentucky Derby.

No Ferraris

At The Smart Set, an article on the life of a private investigator. It seems training as a therapist would be a plus.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Women's Golf

ESPN2 has an LPGA tournament on. I'm not sure if I can say this without sounding sexist, so let me say up front that it's just a comparison to the LPGA of the past: there are more young, fairly attractive women on the tour. I remember watching the LPGA in the 70's, when Nancy Lopez made a splash because,besides being a fine golfer, she was cute. It was considered noteworthy. Part of it could be that fashions have improved as well; I recall women's golf clothing looking pretty much like men's in the 70's.

I must say there seems to be plenty of personality on the LPGA tour,more than the PGA, which is generally pretty bland compared to the past with the likes of Lee Trevino, Gary Player, and Chi Chi Rodriguez. I was working at a TV station years ago that broadcast a Skins Game that had the legendary Sam Snead in the group. He had played before the boom-microphone era, so he said what he felt; if he hit a shitty shot,that's what he called it,usually loudly. It was great fun, although I imagine the poor NBC people held their breath every time it was Sam's turn.

Sex Determination Reconsidered

After posting my essentially guesswork-based opinion on what criteria should be used for determining a person's sex, I went Googling for information from people who actually have studied this. I found a good report (pdf) from the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine which gave a rundown of the history of testing in international track and field. It discusses the attempt to determine whether the athlete's "gender"offered any competitive advantage.

This emphasis on practical consequences stuck me as exactly right, and caused me to reconsider my original statement that DNA testing would be the "better" way to go. If you've taken on all the physical characteristics of a woman and are living as a woman, accepting all the advantages and disadvantages of femininity,then how you were born is no longer of any relevance. If I lose a leg or my sight, or my hair color goes gray, the fact that I was born differently doesn't matter, nor does whether or not it was voluntary like a sex change. I'm still living with my current status, and it should be considered as part of my legal situation.

Mind you, this would screw over the couple in the New York Times article. I would suggest they draw up the appropriate legal documents to make sure inheritance and other issues are handled according to their wishes.

I still ponder the sexual-preference consequences, particularly considering the idea that sexual preference is genetic. Loving a person enough to go against your personal sexual preference in order to have sex with that person would be a decision few people could make. Then imagine explaining it: "Well, she was a man when we married, but I love her enough to have lesbian sex now that she has become a woman."

Weather Galore

Tornadoes in Iowa; serious snow in the Black Hills (they're talking about 3-5 feet, with more in spots, by the time it's done,which will probably mean flooding in a few days). It's been raining since yesterday here. The TV weather guy says it's snowing here, but I don't see any yet.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another Health Tip Debunked

Via 2 Blowhards, This New York Times article reporting the lack of any scientific basis for drinking copious amounts on water. The idea always seemed a little silly to me., unless you're a big fan of urination. Thirst has been getting a bad rap. It's always been a pretty good indicator, just like hunger. Drinking when you're not thirsty isn't any better for you than eating when you're not hungry, although it also probably doesn't have the downside of overeating. It seems like good health always comes back to the old standard of common-sense moderation.