Minutiae
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"The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth."
- Pierre Abelard

Monday, November 27, 2006
So very
worth reading.

posted by Rachel 11/27/2006
. . .
Holy shit.

posted by Rachel 11/27/2006
. . .
"What I'm doing, really, is to look at things as they are. It's what you must do. Forget your ideals, your theories, your notions as to what people OUGHT to do. Consider what they ARE doing. Once a person is oriented to face facts rather than delusions, problems tend to disappear. At the very least, they fall into their true perspective and become soluble."
- Isaac Asimov

"If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them."
- Isaac Asimov

"Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not."
- Isaac Asimov

"Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is."
- Isaac Asimov

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'"
- Isaac Asimov

"The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom."
- Isaac Asimov

"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do."
- Isaac Asimov

"To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today."
- Isaac Asimov

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."
- Isaac Asimov

"Reality is completely indifferent to your feelings, wishes, or your unresolved issues."
- Dr. Sanity

posted by Rachel 11/27/2006
. . .
Friday, November 24, 2006
This is an inside the park
home run. This is superb. Both are very worthwhile reads.

I have this to add: I studied a little paleoclimatology. One of my advisors was big into ice cores. I spent several weeks feeding twelve decades worth of data from India into a computer model. Michael Crichton is absolutely correct. It is narcissism of the highest order to insist that current observed climate change is a result of human industrial activity.

Our climate is in a constant state of flux and we are very small. A volcanic winter was a major contributing factor in the European fall into the Dark Ages. Global Warming, desertification, and war, most likely caused the Maya collapse. The Renaissance was a mini ice age, (hence the clothing, and all that indoor art and science.) There were several massive volcanic eruptions during the 1800s. The global climate was affected by those events well into the twentieth century.

The glaciers that covered Minnesota melted on their own. The sea level rose and cut off the Bering land bridge when the height of human technology was chipped stone. The Dustbowl was not caused by SUVs. Neither is El Nino.

A single large volcanic eruption can release more explosive energy than the simultaneous detonation of every nuclear weapon on the planet. It can throw more particulate matter and hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere than centuries worth of human activity. The dinosaurs died out without any human influence. We can certainly deplete and mismanage our resources until we collapse and die out, but we are still very small. The solution to risk is not shortsightedness.

In the year 1900: Women could not vote. The automobile did not exist. Humans had never flown. The mortality rate for children under the age of 5 was 25%. 8,000 people died in the Galveston hurricane.

Those facts should be enough to give anyone pause. If you lack a sense of scale and perspective you can arrive at all sorts of goofy conclusions. The problem with extrapolating the future from the present is that we can never account for all of the unknown and unknowable variables. Consensus is not science. Science is not truth.

posted by Rachel 11/24/2006
. . .
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Yet another
victim of the war on drugs.

Because criminals never dress up as cops... Because the police always make sure they've got the correct address... Because police always knock first and identify themselves when busting drug dealers... Because prohibition works... Because police who'd just killed a 92 year old woman would have no motive or opportunity to plant or conceal evidence...

posted by Rachel 11/22/2006
. . .
Male thieves
disguised in Burqas... It was only a matter of time. The Puppetmasters featured an exploration of the cultural discomfort that mandatory nudity might cause.

A bare face is a pretty mild social norm to be expected to conform to when assimilating into a larger existing culture. There is a difference between sensitivity and hypersensitivity. Compromise must be a two way street or else it's just submission.

posted by Rachel 11/22/2006
. . .
Yup. The
use of human shields is a war crime. What a novel thought. I wonder why it's one of the oldest rules of war that combatants should wear uniforms... Perhaps because anyone with an ounce of honor understands that deliberately targeting women and children is barbaric.

posted by Rachel 11/22/2006
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Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Hey hey ho ho...
DRM has got to go. Don't believe the hype. The future lies this way.

posted by Rachel 11/21/2006
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Oh
that makes me excited to fly. So if you were a muslim cleric, would you ever possibly consider showing sensitivity to the feelings of the people around you? Not if you were connected to a terrorist group and friends with Bin Laden you wouldn't. Notice how those connections never quite find their way into the news though.

posted by Rachel 11/21/2006
. . .
Grrr. One of the most civic minded things that any of us can do between now and 2008 is to squeak and whine and wail and kick shins and send letters, to get these problems fixed. We do too have the technology to have a secure and transparent election system. Witness: Powerball tickets. The fact that these problems exist at all in this country indicates a lack of will, or worse.

posted by Rachel 11/21/2006
. . .
New
math.

posted by Rachel 11/21/2006
. . .
That's a
funny picture. Takes me back to school plays.

posted by Rachel 11/21/2006
. . .
Eeew.

posted by Rachel 11/21/2006
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Monday, November 20, 2006
Snort.

posted by Rachel 11/20/2006
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Sunday, November 19, 2006
Mmmm.

posted by Rachel 11/19/2006
. . .
Head. Wall. Smack
repeatedly.

posted by Rachel 11/19/2006
. . .
You have to click on
this, just to see the little animated wine glass on the right side of the page.

posted by Rachel 11/19/2006
. . .
Well, except for terminal infection with buzzwords (it's Berkeley,)
this is really neat.

posted by Rachel 11/19/2006
. . .
Truth may
indeed be stranger than fiction.

posted by Rachel 11/19/2006
. . .
Wow. Yeah, it may be
time to start ignoring politics again. DFG, what the hell is wrong with the democratic party that they still haven't learned that crap like this costs votes? I hope someone digs up some dirt on Pelosi and they replace her.

She's determined to turn their victory march into a polka. Nothing will energize the republican voters like cheerleading for Murtha and Hastings. Did she miss that huge memo from the voters on the issue of corruption? We can draft better leadership than this from the pool we've got. This is just naked stupidity.

posted by Rachel 11/19/2006
. . .
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Hmm. Read the whole thing.

posted by Rachel 11/18/2006
. . .
Argh! Freedom of religion means all religions. *&%$#*! It doesn't mean freedom from exposure to religion. It means freedom from religious coercion. That means that atheists have to put up with evangelicals praying right out in the open on public property and that muslims have to put up with women wandering around in bikinis.

Wearing a burka is a choice. Does the democratic government of a free country have any business telling people what they can and cannot wear? Does that seem likely to end well?

That's why tolerance is the essential feature of assimilation into a pluralistic society. Free speech for everyone guarantees that your delicate sensibilities will be offended on a regular basis. Tolerance isn't the same as acceptance, much less approval. But we do not ban everything that we don't approve of.

Did everyone misplace their brains? Can you imagine the howling if Utah tried to ban short hemlines from being worn in public? Those MPs are going to end up looking sooo stupid when bird flu finally does mutate and half the people in public places are wearing surgical masks. Ban that, ya morons. Oy. This is where the refusal to call supremacist thugs on their BS will lead you. Address the real problem.

posted by Rachel 11/18/2006
. . .
Friday, November 17, 2006
Ooh. Holy crap dude!

posted by Rachel 11/17/2006
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Thursday, November 16, 2006
Leggings?

posted by Rachel 11/16/2006
. . .
Sad he was a really smart man.

posted by Rachel 11/16/2006
. . .
Hurray maybe the kook to not kook ratio has shifted. Here's hoping.

posted by Rachel 11/16/2006
. . .
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Well except for a perfect disagreement on every point, I think that
this has the potential to be quite prophetic. I'd love to vote for Lieberman in '08. In fact, a Lieberman and Rice ticket would make me unspeakably happy... Hmmm, now that he knows that people like his ideas more than his party, I wouldn't be at all suprised if he ended up being a sort of dark horse.

"The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud."
- Coco Chanel

posted by Rachel 11/15/2006
. . .
Tsunami drills, what a sensible idea. I hope people on our west coast will take note.

posted by Rachel 11/15/2006
. . .
Snicker. I think most people can relate. Kinda like how everything seems to shrink as you age. Nostalgia is nice every few years, but the idea of anyone else seeing those embarrassing shoes and hairstyles is perhaps better avoided. Some things should never see the light of day again. Shop carefully friends, hideous fashion is everywhere at the moment.
I made the decision to throw away a series of journals from 1976 and 1977, because they’re useless and embarrassing and contain absolutely nothing of interest; a record of attenuated adolescent despair and maladjustment, expressed in the gawps of a stripling who thinks that a Led Zep lyric reference somehow says it all. I know, I know: Lord Byron burned his diaries, and History Wept, but I am not Byron and these books tell me nothing I don’t already remember. The same might go for the juvenilia – reams of poetry and meretricious fiction written in fountain pen on onion-skin paper – but I can’t quite throw that crap away. At least I was trying. I was filtering raw youth through artifice and schemes borrowed from my betters, and the result is less horrifying than the cri de coeurs of the journals.

And they’re not even the real journals. Those began in earnest in 1978 and continued for nine years in identical books. A stupendous quantity of drivel. The plotline was unvarying:

* I need a girlfriend! I am but miserable and worthless protozoa clinging to the gum stuck on a bum’s wretched shoe!

* I have a girlfriend! No one has known love like this before, except for selected poets and musicians whose works speak directly to me with unencumbered connections!

* She has dumped me! Gouge my heart with a spork, I shall never love again!

* She called! She said she wanted her stuff back, but I detected a note of ambivilance, and soon she will realize her mistake and rush back to my arms, unless she doesn’t, like in “Annie Hall,” but if that’s the case I’ll make Art out of it

Occasionally I would mix it up with the Romantic Mistake, which would require me to do the dumping – thereby realizing what a relief it is, an insight that didn’t help at all when contemplating She Who Did You Wrong. There was an interminably attenuated Romantic Mistake that spanned a year or so, and just peeking at those diaries makes me feel heavy and ill and tired. It was also a period of Great Creativity, partly because there was nothing in my inner life I could put into my columns. Then came a smattering of dalliances, post-college life, the move to Uptown into a building of singles (and there’s a tale: the mean-faced scrawny beer-hound homunculus across the hall, the brittle chipper Professional Gal down the hall, the nubile tease whose unit abutted mine, and who used to come over after sunbathing outside and sprawl on the sofa in a bikini and talk about her lousy boyfriend [who later proved her right when she broke up with him, and he embarked on one of those crockery-destruction episodes that brought the cops], the strange secretive fellow in the basement who told Ms. Nubile he was Sean Connery’s bastard son [we all laughed at that one – sure, he was handsome, and you could see the resemblance, but please. Then one day a limo pulled up outside the building and he got inside] ) and the life of a Writer, tapping out my novel on the Leading Edge computer in the summer with the windows open, smoking cigarettes, waiting for the 11 PM train to thunder by and part the night.

Then I met my wife, and the journals stopped. I had better things to do now.

I won’t throw them all away.

posted by Rachel 11/15/2006
. . .
Heh. I never got into fantasy football but this could be loads of fun. I may create a team myself.

posted by Rachel 11/15/2006
. . .
Well,
this may just be an early stumble, but I really don't think she's smart enough for the job.
What irony. One of the left's main knocks on President Bush over the years is that he's been too blinded by loyalty and that his administration has suffered from cronyism. Yet here you have the new Speaker of the House, whose drapes haven't even been measured or hung yet, pulling out all the stops to install an ethically-challenged pal for Majority Leader out of blind loyalty and passing over another perfectly competent member (Jane Harman) out of pure pique to turn over the Chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee to a man who was impeached for taking bribes. Not the most auspicious of beginnings, I'd say.
By pulling this crap so early and so foolishly, she's making it much easier for the more centrist democrats, (who paid attention to what the voters said,) to take a swift step back from her leadership. This is like leaving Dean as the head of the DNC, it tells me that the people making decisions still aren't serious.

Trent Lott is not adept and suffers from recurring foot in mouth disease. Alcee Hastings should not be sitting on the Intelligence comittee while we're at war, much less running it. How on earth could he even get a security clearance? (Let me add that I am deeply underwhelmed by the basic sense of Florida voters, yet again.)

If you want a functioning government, don't insist that a judge who was indicted for bribery and perjury be put in charge of one of the most important roles of the legislature. He was a JUDGE. He KNEW BETTER. He was freaking removed from office by the senate. He can be bought. He's not sorry. This is a formula for disaster.

(Update: upon further reflection, considering how deadlocked the congress is likely to be, this may be a blessing in disguise. Two years of media coverage as these yahoos bumble may lead to another round of clearing out dead wood in the '08 elections. It's something to hope for anyway.)

posted by Rachel 11/15/2006
. . .
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
How is it possible that it's Thanksgiving time again? I swear we did this six months ago.

posted by Rachel 11/14/2006
. . .
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Wow. Grab some popcorn and
check out some real philosophical debate. It's great because it's the same guy who's willing to go argue with those guys in person too. This is what intellectually engaging the enemy looks like. Look at the comments too.

posted by Rachel 11/12/2006
. . .
Public Service Announcement: It is actually possible to overbrush one's teeth. This seems counter-intuitive. How can my toothbrush be bad for my gums? The bristles aren't frayed willow twigs, they're soft nylon. It's not as though I'm putting elbow grease into my scrubbing.

Apparently medium bristles aren't gentle enough for me though. So the dentist gave me a smaller
toothbrush with softer bristles. It's quite nice. (It helps with that whole fliptop head problem too.)

posted by Rachel 11/12/2006
. . .
Well that's probably a
good thing. Of course, tax cuts for people making more than $100,000, as one of the first orders of business, does make the corners of my mouth twitch just a bit. (I don't yet see how they propose to replace that trillion dollars in the budget, especially with the new prescription drug benefit and all the other underfunded obligations.)

People do tend to treat new tax breaks as found money though, and so rush to spend them. Since consumer spending is the main engine of the economy, it may be a smart move to offset a slowdown in refinancing related spending. (The next few years are going to reveal an almost unbelievable amount of fraud and shoddy construction.)

Simplification of the tax code would help reduce the opportunities for accounting irregularities and improve transparency.
byzantine
A term describing any system that has so many labyrinthine internal interconnections that it would be impossible to simplify by separation into loosely coupled or linked components.

The city of Byzantium, later renamed Constantinople and then Istanbul, and the Byzantine Empire were vitiated by a bureaucratic overelaboration bordering on lunacy: quadruple banked agencies, dozens or even scores of superfluous levels and officials with high flown titles unrelated to their actual function, if any.

Access to the Emperor and his council was controlled by powerful and inscrutable eunuchs and by rival sports factions.
[Edward Gibbon, "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire"].
If that doesn't make you laugh then I say you have no sense of humor.

posted by Rachel 11/12/2006
. . .
"All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Confound those who have made our comments before us."
- Aelius Donatus

"In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants and the other is getting it."
- Oscar Wilde

"More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones."
- Mother Teresa

"Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness."
- George Orwell

"Who shrinks from knowledge of his calamities aggravates his fear; troubles half seen do torture."
- Seneca

"We often despise what is most useful to us."
- Aesop

"Please all, and you will please none."
- Aesop

"Play so that you may be serious."
- Anacharsis

"A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."
- Mark Twain

"Calvo turpis est nihil compto."
There's nothing more contemptible than a bald man who pretends to have hair.
- Martial

posted by Rachel 11/12/2006
. . .
Oh man. If you haven't watched
Dr. Strangelove recently, you should. I just fell in love all over again.

posted by Rachel 11/12/2006
. . .
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Well, I still say that the Supreme Court should have
known better, but this is cause for a happy dance.

posted by Rachel 11/11/2006
. . .
Offered without comment.

posted by Rachel 11/11/2006
. . .
Friday, November 10, 2006
"Most of the members of the covent were old-fashioned Satanists, like their parents and grandparents before them. They'd been brought up to it and weren't, when you got right down to it, particularly evil. Human beings mostly aren't. They just get carried away by new ideas, like dressing up in jackboots and shooting people, or dressing up in white sheets and lynching people, or dressing up in tie-dye jeans and playing guitars at people. Offer people a new creed with a costume and their hearts and minds will follow."
***

"It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people."
***

"Humans suffering from a conflict of signals aren't the best people to be holding guns, especially when they've just witnessed a natural childbirth, which definitely looked an un-American way of bringing new citizens into the world."
***

"There are some dogs which, when you meet them, remind you that, despite thousands of years of manmade evolution, every dog is still only two meals away from being a wolf."
***

"She'd stopped reading the kind of women's magazine that talked about romance and knitting and started reading the kind of women's magazine that talked about orgasms, but apart from making a mental note to have one if ever the occasion presented itself she dismissed them as only romance and knitting in a new form."
***

"That sort of thing doesn't happen any more," reiterated Wensleydale, the rational thinking person. "'Cos we invented Science and all the vicars set fire to the witches for their own good. It was called the Spanish Inquisition."
***

"I saw a program. It had David Attenborough, so it's true."
***

"He'd have liked to believe in a supreme God, although he'd have preferred a half-hour's chat with Him before committing himself, to clear up one or two points."
***

"Plan A had worked. Plan B had failed. Everything depended on Plan C, and there was one drawback to this: he had only ever planned as far as B."
***

Adam: "Serve everyone right if all the nuclear bombs went off and it all started again, only prop'ly organized. Sometimes I think that's what I'd like to happen. An' then we could sort everythin' out."

Pepper: "Well, I dunno about we. Dunno about the we, because, if there's all these bombs goin' off, we all get blown up. Speaking as a mother of unborn generations, I'm against it."

***

"Don't see why you have to take sides," said Wensleydale.

"Of course I have to take sides," said Pepper. "Everyone has to take sides in something."

Adam appeared to reach a decision.

"Yes. But I reckon you can make your own side."
***

"I don't see what's so triffic about creating people as people and then gettin' upset 'cos they act like people," said Adam severely. "Anyway, if you stopped tellin' people it's all sorted out after they're dead, they might try sorting it all out while they're alive."
***

"If you sit down and think about God sensibly, you come up with some very funny ideas. Like: why make people inquisitive, and then put some forbidden fruit where they can see it with a big neon finger flashing on and off saying 'THIS IS IT!'?"
***

"Perhaps this isn't just a test of the world," said Crowley. "It might be a test of you people, too. Hmmm?"

"God does not play games with His loyal servants," said the Metatron, but in a worried tone of voice.

"Whooo-eee," said Crowley. "Where have you been?"
- Pratchett & Gaiman

posted by Rachel 11/10/2006
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