November 26, 2008

We Know What We Like

Lileks has a meditation on modern art:

It's not the humanism that ruined art, it was humanism that divorced itself from the possibility of transcendence. Which would be bad enough if it hadn't decided to splash around in the gutters as well.


Ah, but why was it influential? It recontextualized the commonplace and made us see it as Art, a process that continues to this day every time you see a book with a title like "The Art of Bread" or "The Art of Toad Sexing" or whatever else has to be elevated to the status of marble sculpture to make the user feel they're living a rarified life. It played a joke on the Stuffy Academics, which is something the adolescent temperament never tires of doing. This is not encouraged any more, since the Academics are on the side of Truth and Modernity, however defined today. Although I once knew an architecture student who took perverse and boundless glee in shocking his teacher by putting a pointy roof on the house each student had to design. A pointed roof. In other words, a useful roof, a functional roof that didn't collect rain water. Everyone else had a flat roof, of course. Machine for Living and all that. This was just around the time Post-Modernism made it okay to quote history, as long as everyone saw you wink, or could understand that your overscaled grotesque excretions were meant ironically.

An instructor might not know what to make of a house with a point roof, but if you called it "House In The Time of Reagan" he'd understand.

Read all.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:30 AM

November 24, 2008

A User-Hostile Service

As one can surmise from the previous test posts, I've been trying (after three quarters of a year) to fix the problems with my Movable Type installation.

I went to one of the providers listed at MT as consultants, to try to get some help (unnamed, to protect the guilty). They have been somewhat helpful, in that they have eliminated possibilities of what the problem might be, but they haven't actually determined what the problem is ($150 later, and asking for more).

But that's not the point. The point is the (to me) user hostility of their system.

When I get an email from them, it comes in the following form:

====== WHEN REPLYING DELETE THIS LINE AND EVERYTHING BELOW IT ======


[message from unnamed service...]

In my first response, I ignored it, and just replied below (as I always do, since as a long-time emailer, I bottom post to response).

The response was:

====== WHEN REPLYING DELETE THIS LINE AND EVERYTHING BELOW IT ======


Hi

Your reply was blank. I'm assuming this is because you were trying to quote
me instead of deleting everything and then replying. Please give it a try
again by deleting all the original text.

Oh. OK.

They were serious.

They were determined to allow nothing that they emailed me to be quoted in my response. And moreover, even if I top posted, they didn't want to see their response in my response.

Is it just me, or are they nuts?

Here was my second email in response to this absurd and deliberate policy (the first was minimal, and unreplied to):

One other point. Do you realize how annoying it is to:


1) not include my response in your response and

2) make me jump through hoops to include your response in mine?

Not to mention top posting (though in this case, it's almost meaningless to distinguish between top and bottom posting).

WHY DO YOU DO THIS?

Do you think that it enhances the customer relationship?

This alone is almost enough to make me want to write off my current investment in you as a bad one, and find someone who can help me without being such an email PITA.

The response?

Please help us understand why you feel like you should always include our response with ours? Our web based desk records everything, including our responses so we don't need to see it multiple times. This creates duplicate records.


We work with thousands of customers and didn't see this as a problem before.

Here is my response:

Please help us understand why you feel like you should always include our response with ours? Our web based desk records everything, including our responses so we don't need to see it multiple times. This creates duplicate records. ==========================================================

Yes, because bandwidth for a few lines of text is so expensive...

It is important because I would like to have some context for what I'm responding to, and you should have some context for what you're responding to, in the email to which you're responding. If I want to find out what we're talking about, I have to go back and dig into my outbox, to figure out WTF we're talking about. If you don't find this annoying, I don't frankly understand why. If you don't want excessive repetition, just delete the older stuff. That's how it worked on Usenet for years.

===========================================================

We work with thousands of customers and didn't see this as a problem before.
===========================================================

Then you must have worked with thousands of top-posting morons raised on Outlook and AOL, and who only know how to upload to blogs with FTP, thus opening themselves to attack. It drives old-timers like me, familiar with old-school email and Usenet, NUTS.
I have never before run into a system that MADE IT DIFFICULT (AND ATTEMPTED TO MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE, EVEN WARNED RESPONDENTS NOT TO DO IT) TO QUOTE AN EMAIL IN RESPONSE. This is a new, and infuriating system to me.

Can you point me to anyone else who has deliberately and maliciously set up their email responses this way, because it is a novel and off-putting approach, that has been making me angry with each exchange? I've been sort of happy with you, in that you seem to be attempting to help, even though you have made no progress whatsoever in solving my problem, other than telling me what it isn't, but you can't imagine how frustrating this is. Deliberately attempting (in futility, obviously) to make it impossible to include context of email responses is, to me, insane.

That's where it stands at this point. Who is nuts?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:20 PM

November 23, 2008

I'm A Man, Baby

At least according to this site, where this blog scored 84% male. I don't know if it goes by writing style, content, or both.

[Via that 54% nancy boy over at Gateway Pundit]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:36 AM

November 18, 2008

More Religiophobia Thoughts

In response to my previous post on the subject, from Eric Scheie:

If we see the two anti-freedom strains as "your money or your sex," it becomes quite obvious that it's easier -- a hell of a lot easier -- for the government to grab your money than your genitalia.


Yet even though the anti-sex people are by no means a majority in the GOP and cannot possibly implement their schemes, more people fear the Republicans.

A great con job, if you ask me.

Yup. And it continues on.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:21 AM
In The Deep End Of The Gene Pool

Kay Hymowitz writes about the chaos of Darwinist dating.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:19 AM

November 13, 2008

Too Much Self Esteem

Never before have so many been so proud of so little:

The findings, published in the November issue of Psychological Science, support the idea that the "self-esteem" movement popular among today's parents and teachers may have gone too far, the study's co-author said.


"What this shows is that confidence has crossed over into overconfidence," said Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University.

She believes that decades of relentless, uncritical boosterism by parents and school systems may be producing a generation of kids with expectations that are out of sync with the challenges of the real world.

"High school students' responses have crossed over into a really unrealistic realm, with three-fourths of them expecting performance that's effectively in the top 20 percent," Twenge said.

Don't they realize that half of them are below median intelligence? Probably not, because they got an "A" in math, even though they didn't understand it.

One of the perverse and tragic problems with incompetence is that it generally includes an inability to recognize it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:16 AM

October 16, 2008

Bride Of Frankenstein

More evidence that the fashion world is not mine.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:29 PM

October 15, 2008

She's Come Undone

Katherine Manju Ward says that Naomi Wolf has been driven completely around the bend.

She could have walked. Based on her previous writings, it was always bound to be a short trip.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:39 AM

October 11, 2008

A Hundred And Ten

As Glenn says, we're going to see more people living to be this old. And as a commenter notes, there aren't very many people left who were born in the nineteenth century. My maternal grandmother would have been two years older, had she lived, but she died at the ripe young age of ninety eight, fourteen years ago (whereupon I became a full orphan, and next in line, having no longer any living ancestors).

Of course, I take these folks' recommendations for a long life with a healthy bag of salt. Particularly when they recommend a life of celibacy. I think that it's good genes, and good luck, more than anything else.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:14 AM

October 07, 2008

Secession

Should American writers secede from the Nobel Prize for literature?

There was a brief moment, after World War II, when the Nobel Committee allowed that America might produce more sophisticated writers. No one on either side of the Atlantic would quarrel with the awards to William Faulkner in 1949 or Ernest Hemingway in 1954. But in the 32 years since Bellow won the Nobel, there has been exactly one American laureate, Toni Morrison, whose critical reputation in America is by no means secure. To judge by the Nobel roster, you would think that the last three decades have been a time of American cultural drought rather than the era when American culture and language conquered the globe.


But that, of course, is exactly the problem for the Swedes. As long as America could still be regarded as Europe's backwater--as long as a poet like T.S. Eliot had to leave America for England in order to become famous enough to win the Nobel--it was easy to give American literature the occasional pat on the head. But now that the situation is reversed, and it is Europe that looks culturally, economically, and politically dependent on the United States, European pride can be assuaged only by pretending that American literature doesn't exist. When Engdahl declares, "You can't get away from the fact that Europe still is the center of the literary world," there is a poignant echo of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard insisting that she is still big, it's the pictures that got smaller.

Nothing gives the lie to Engdahl's claim of European superiority more effectively than a glance at the Nobel Prize winners of the last decade or so. Even Austrians and Italians didn't think Elfriede Jelinek and Dario Fo deserved their prizes; Harold Pinter won the prize about 40 years after his significant work was done. To suggest that these writers are more talented or accomplished than the best Americans of the last 30 years is preposterous.

Other than that I think Hemingway is vastly overrated, and ample fodder for parody, I agree. The Peace prizes have been a joke since Arafat and Rigoberto Menchu (not to mention Jimmy Carter), and I think that the literature prizes have gone the same way, decades ago.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:10 PM

October 04, 2008

Justice, At Last

O.J. Simpson is finally going to do some hard time.

[Mid-afternoon update]

No smirking at this verdict. He's been getting away with bad behavior all of his life. He must be wondering what finally went wrong.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:25 AM

September 30, 2008

No Fascism Here

Nothing to see at all. Move along, move along.

As Jonah says:

All I need to know about your politics is whether you find this creepy or not.

Get out the crayolas and color me creeped out.

[Update mid afternoon]

Die Obamajugend Singt.

Roger Simon (who knows his fascists) has more thoughts.

[Update a few minutes later]

Some great comments at the Hit'n'Run link.:

[Olympics flashback]

The worst part is that the original singers were all replaced by much cuter kids.

[/Olympics flashback]

[Update about 3:15 PM EDT]

Exurban League has more, as does Confederate Yankee. It turns out to be astroturf:

Here's a partial list of those who helped produce this "grassroots" effort:

Jeff Zucker. This generation's Leni Riefenstahl. Except without the talent.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:48 AM

September 27, 2008

Death Of A Film Legend

RIP, Paul Newman.

You can't live a life much more full than he seemed to. And unlike many of his Hollywood colleagues, the one way that he didn't seem to fill it up was with promiscuity and infidelity. It's all too rare that an actor is faithful for decades. Of course, as he noted himself, it probably helps to be married to Joanne Woodward.

I hadn't realized that he was a flier in the Navy in the Pacific. It's always tempting to say that they don't make them like that any more, but I suspect that they still do. A lot of them probably served in Iraq in the last few years, and we'll be hearing from them in the future.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:43 AM

September 25, 2008

Defining Rape Down

Jeeeeez. Hint, ladies. Persuasion is not force.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:41 AM

September 21, 2008

Good Old Reliable

As is often the case, I agree with Glenn. They can have my land line when they pull the phone from my cold dead fingers.

Cells are simply not reliable enough for me to use them for everything, though I put up with it on a trip (when we were with T-Mobile, my cell phone didn't even work in the house). I wonder how many kids who have grown up with cell phones for voice and texting take their idiosyncrasies and unreliability for granted, because they don't have that much experience with a reliable and clean line? Plus, during the hurricanes, when all else failed, including power, cell service was out, but I always had phone service plus DSL on my land line. It allowed me to stay on line, by using a laptop and a voltage inverter plugged into the car.

The technology may continue to improve to the point at which I no longer feel the need for a land line, but we're nowhere near it yet, in my opinion.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:36 AM
Bigotry

What is it with the left and its hatred of cowboys?

And they wonder why they can't pull a majority of the vote.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:26 AM

September 20, 2008

John McCain's Secret Weapon

Lefty trolls.

And the amusing thing is that even when you tell them this, they don't believe it, and keep doing it anyway.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:26 AM

September 19, 2008

Full-Blown PDS

Man, do these "women" (assuming they really are women--obviously, since the advent of Sarah Palin, apparently gender has become a lifestyle choice) have "issues". This almost reads like something out of The Onion. These people are becoming parodies of themselves:

"When I see people crowing about her 'acceptable' speech last Wednesday ... I literally want to vomit with rage," a comment from Anibundel said.


"I am shocked by the depths of my hatred for this woman," another commenter, CJWeimar, wrote.

"It is impossible for me not to read about her in the newspaper in the subway every morning on my way to work and not come into the office angry and wanting to kick things," a commenter using the name ChampagneofBeers wrote. "My boxing class definitely helps."

Even some prominent figures admitted to being overcome by anti-Palin feelings. "I am having Sarah Palin nightmares," an acclaimed playwright and writer, Eve Ensler, wrote on the Huffington Post. She said she was disturbed by the chants about oil and gas drilling during Mrs. Palin's speech to the Republican convention. "I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination," Ms. Ensler wrote.

And people (OK, well, not people, trolls) accuse me of "hating" Barack Obama.

I'm always amused by the stereotype of the "hateful," "angry" white man. From where I sit, I see more, and a lot more hatred and rage on the left. I can understand, though. They thought that the Messiah would arise by universal acclamation, and now they're having panic attacks that he might actually lose. Which also explains all the angry anonymous moron trolls that I get here.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Jeez...here's a Sandra who really hates Sarah:

When Sandra warns Sarah Palin not to come into Manhattan lest she get gang-raped by some of Sandra's big black brothers, she's being provocative, combative, humorous, and yes, let's allow, disgusting.

Yes, please. Let's allow.

Somehow, I fail to see the humor in a woman being gang raped, but then, I've never been a big Bernhard fan.

Between Sandra Bernhard and Michael Moore, it makes one ashamed to be from the Flint area.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:11 AM

September 09, 2008

Of Course It Does

Restricting the top speed on automobiles "seems reasonably sensible" to Matthew Yglesias:

...of course the reason you're not allowed to go super-fast is that it isn't safe. A large proportion of car accidents are related to people driving too quickly. Thus, via Ezra Klein comes Kent Sepkowitz's suggestion that we design cars so as to make it impossible for them to drive over, say, 75 miles per hour.

Clearly spoken as someone woefully ignorant of the cause of accidents, and who probably doesn't drive much, at least outside a city, or in the west, or in mountains, or on curvy roads where rapid passing is occasionally necessary. Or someone to whom time (at least other peoples' time) has no value. I suspect that he agrees with Al Gore that cars are intrinsically evil, and wishes that everyone would ride a train, like those enlightened Europeans. It's similar to the idiocy (and yes, there's no other word for it) of a double nickel speed limit (something to which even Charles Krauthammer, who doesn't drive at all) has fallen prey.

Fortunately, most of his commenters take him to school.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:20 AM
Who Is Overpaid?

Not engineers.

Engineer's salaries, taking into consideration education and responsibilities, the stress of accelerated delivery schedules and their direct impact on corporate profits and overall success of the company, seem absolutely inadequate.

Well, I've known a few who were. But no, not in general.

In many of these overpaid professions, there's some kind of government-induced market failure going on (e.g., longshoremen), but in a lot of cases, it's just the occasional irrationality of the market place.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:10 AM

September 08, 2008

Building Character

Jessica Gavora, native Alaskan (and aka better half of Jonah Goldberg) has some thoughts on basketball and Sarah Palin:

We didn't play basketball to pad our college applications or fulfill some bureaucrat's notion of "gender equity." We played because the winters were long and cold and dark. There was nothing else to do. Maybe as a result, basketball was deadly serious business. Away games were played at the end of eight-hour bus rides or harrowing plane landings in frozen, remote villages. Our opponents were tough, and the fans were unforgiving. And even though the law that feminists like to credit with all female athletic success, Title IX, was then unenforced in high school sports, we girls wouldn't have dreamed of taking second place to the boys--nor did we.


Palin earned her now-famous nickname on the hardcourt--"Sarah Barracuda." Her enemies have tried to belittle her by pointing to her stint as a beauty queen, but it is clear that Palin's background in sports, more than any other experience, is what has made her the existential threat to liberal feminism (and possibly the Democratic ticket) that she is today.

I wonder how she'd do one on one with Senator Obama? Did he ever win a state championship for his team? Perhaps it's another comparison that his campaign should avoid.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:17 AM
That's Not A Man, Baby

The latest in frightening fashion.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:45 AM

September 04, 2008

How We Know Some People Have Too Much Money

Testicular implants for pets.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:11 PM

August 26, 2008

Harrison Bergeron, Call Your Office

A nine-year-old boy has been banned from Little League for being too good a pitcher.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:01 AM

August 21, 2008

Sex Is Associated With Sports?

Who knew?

Only people unfamiliar with history, going back to the original Olympic games. Or football, for that matter...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:01 PM
Sandwich Artists

Lileks explains why I rarely go to Subway.

I'd won a free 6" sub. This was timely, since I was planning to buy one for my wife. We finished our meal; I went back to the place where the Sandwich Artists labor in various degrees of surly disinterest, and presented the coupon. The Artist began to craft the meal out the chopped and processed carbclay arrayed before him - and that's when the manager walked over.


"For future reference," she said, "those are for the next visit."

I pointed to the small print on the back of the ticket. "Actually, it says for your next order."

"Well, it means visit. It's how we keep track of them in the back." She jerked a thumb towards the back of the store, where the Something wet and spiny sat in a crate, swallowing souls and dreams and crapping out rules and procedure.

If there are two things I don't like, it's someone who tells me that fine print doesn't mean what it says, and alludes to some company process that makes things simpler not for me, or for the employees, but some theoretical person on whose behalf the system was set in place years ago by a team of consultants who have already moved on to rejiggering something else that worked perfectly fine. On the other hand, after years of dealing with restaurant employees who couldn't give a fig about the job, it's difficult to carp when you find someone who does - unless, of course, that person has decided to make a point about a free sandwich for future reference.

Also, a trip to the museum.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:29 AM

August 16, 2008

Misanthropes

Do Democrats hate men?

It sure seems like it sometimes. And of course, if we object, we're misogynists (and probably racists as well).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:07 AM

August 14, 2008

The Jokes

...they almost write themselves. The headline itself is wonderful:

Giant inflatable turd escapes moorings and brings down electricity line

Read the last line, too.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:56 AM

August 07, 2008

Adrenaline Junkie

Eric Raymond is.

I am not. I've never been in a serious , or even mock fight, and never had a desire to be. I probably wouldn't have made it far in an earlier time. One of the many reasons I'm glad to live here and now.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:16 AM

August 05, 2008

It's That Time Of The Week Again

Lileks examines the train wreck that is Garrison Keillor's latest:

I'm sorry, but I'm just fascinated by his column. Each is nearly identical in formlessness, subject and general pointlessness. To be fair: we all write at haste and repent at leisure, unless we can somehow get it out of the Google cache. We all make inelegant remarks that seemed wonderfully writerly at the moment but curdle when exposed to another pair of eyes. It's the perils of blogging. But he has an entire week to write these things. Never does he attempt to make an argument or explore a line of thought - it's just flat assertions ladled out with nuance or shading. The sun rises, Bush is bad, life is long but also short and so you should sit outside and drink lemonade and think of the people who came before you and sat outside and drank lemonade and there is a comfort in that continuity and we need all the comfort we can get in these days when nihilists in golf pants are everywhere and the Republic lies in ruins. Also, he is given to run-on sentences. This week has perhaps the finest example yet.

If that's not enough, there is some cereal blogging, too.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:06 AM

August 04, 2008

Get Ready To Split A Gut

...at the world's oldest jokes.

Well, OK, not so much. It says they're old jokes, not good jokes.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:34 AM

July 31, 2008

Science As A Religion

And a fundamentalist one, at that:

When Salon interviewed me about my new book, "Saving Darwin," I suggested that science doesn't know everything, that there might be a reality beyond science, and that religion might be about God and not merely about the human quest for a nonexistent God. These remarks got me condemned to whatever hell Myers believes in.


Myers accused me of having "fantastic personal delusions" that could actually lead people astray. "I will have no truck with the perpetuation of fallacious illusions, whether honeyed or bitter," Myers wrote, "and consider the Gibersons of this world to be corruptors of a better truth. That's harsh, I know ... but he is undermining the core of rationalism we ought to be building, and I find his beliefs pernicious."

Myers' confident condemnations put me in mind of that great American preacher, Jonathan Edwards, who waxed eloquent in his famous 1741 speech, "Sinners at the Hands of an Angry God," about the miserable delusions that lead humans to reject the truth and spend eternity in hell. We still have preachers like Edwards today, of course; they can be found on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. But now we also have a new type of preacher, the Rev. PZ Myers.

And they don't even recognize it in themselves. Dawkins and Myers and Hitchens are doing more harm than good for science in their evangelizing, I think.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:35 PM

July 29, 2008

Watch Where You're Going

Randall Parker, on the newest dangerous addiction:

The texters would be less dangerous to themselves and others if they didn't have to look down to see the screen. What is needed: Head Up Display Glasses tied to a cell phone. Then one could look ahead and see the text mixed in with sidewalk or whatever else is in front of you.

It's all part of a larger problem as we become a multi-tasking society.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:53 AM

July 23, 2008

Can Women Be Explorers?

Of course they can, despite this misreading of my exploration piece on Monday. History is replete with them, though there are far fewer of them than men (more now, with more opportunities for them). For instance, the "mountain men" who explored much of the west were, pretty much to a...man, men.

I recently received an email from someone who made an analogy between what I wrote and saying that a "white" boy could be an explorer as long as the school system didn't "blacken" him. I find the analogy completely spurious. Briefly, race is not gender.

This was my point, and one that will no doubt set off a crowd of angry blank slaters who think that gender is purely a social construct charging up the hill to my mansion with pitchforks and torches.

There are such things as masculine and feminine traits. All people have some of both--they are androgynous to one degree or another. We define the two by noting that most men are (by definition) more masculine, and most women are more feminine, and viva la difference. So things that most men do, and few women do, are called masculine, and vice versa for feminine (and of course there is a wide range of things that are neither). When men cook, garden, sew, etc., (as I do, though I don't sew much) they are indulging in their feminine side, and when women explore, go shooting, chainsaw trees, drive Indy cars (among other things) they are being sort of manly. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with either doing either. There's plenty of femininity to Danica Patrick, from what I can see.

There are a number of evolutionary psychological reasons to think that an urge for exploration is more of a male trait, and the Economist piece gives one more. If such an urge is an attention-deficit issue, it's indisputable that (at least as it's currently diagnosed) the preponderance of occurrence of it is in boys. At least, it is they who are being medicated the most for it in the schools. There may be some girls who are being similarly abused who would also be good explorers, but girls can be good explorers even when they act like girls in the classroom, because it's a lot easier for them to act like girls in the classroom (even if they have some male characteristics) because they are, well...girls. They still learn, but aren't having their exploratory urges browbeaten out of them. So to the degree that we are inhibiting budding explorers with a misguided educational system which defines good behavior as feminized behavior, the boys are taking the brunt of it. I could have, when referring to the future Neil Armstrong, said "her," instead of "him," but it would have seemed a little strained in political correctness, not because Neil was a man, but because not that many girls are being diagnosed ADHD and getting Ritalin.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:49 AM
Rocket Racing Meets Fashion

Over at Alan Boyle's place. I think that this is a very encouraging development.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:41 AM

July 22, 2008

Just A Rant

And probably a futile one, and one that I've even probably kvetched about before. But when did top posting become the norm for email? Was it Microsoft and AOL's fault?

And is there anything that can be done at this point? In many extended discussions, I feel like I'm driving on the wrong side of the road in my own country.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:14 PM

July 21, 2008

Man Versus Nature

A few horrifyingly hilarious tales. Don't miss the exploding whales.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:51 AM
Lust Is Blind

Is anyone surprised by this?

Research involving a group of male students found that their levels of the hormone testosterone increased to the same extent whether they were talking to a young woman they found attractive - or to one they didn't fancy much at all.


After 300 seconds alone in the same room as a woman they had never met before, and in some cases did not find particularly attractive, the men's testosterone levels of the hormone had shot up by an average of around eight per cent.

It reminds me of the wisdom of Billy Crystal's character, Harry:

Sally: You're saying I'm having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry: No, what I'm saying is they all want to have sex with you.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally: How do you know?
Harry: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally: So you're saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive.
Harry: No, you pretty much want to nail them, too.

Science imitates art.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:39 AM
Fraud Detection

The (modern) difference between science and the humanities.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:25 AM
Do We Have An Urge To Explore?

I explore the proposition, over at The Space Review today. Also, editor Jeff Foust has a good writeup on a recent panel discussion on the prospects for government and private spaceflight.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:58 AM

July 07, 2008

Congratulations

To Tyson Homosexual.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:52 PM
The Problem With A Story Like This

...is that too many people will think that it's true.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:41 AM

July 02, 2008

Cultural Suicide?

That was Glenn's title for this post by Eric Raymond. I couldn't think of a better one.

This is a real problem and one that is dramatically underreported.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:24 PM
More WALL-E Thoughts

Lileks discusses the grief that he's gotten over the fact that he enjoyed the movie:

Shannen Coffin at the Corner notes that you never know how much hate mail you'll get until you take on a Pixar film. I'd add that the opposite is oddly true as well: I got a lot of very negative email about the review, some of which had to do with "shilling" (as one writer put it) for Disney, but most of which had to do with buying an eco-scary / anti-capitalist agenda because the characters were cute. Apparently I can write for years and demonstrate skepticism towards catastrophic doom-mongering, and it counts for nil. Ah well. Look, I think "JFK" is a pretty good piece of filmmaking. Its ideas are rubbish and its effect pernicious, but I still think it's a compelling work. Doesn't mean I believe a single frame.


Sometimes you separate the ideas from the movie, sometimes you can't, sometimes you shouldn't, and sometimes you don't want to because you approve of the ideas. Asking me to reject Wall-E because its unrealistic premise has contemporary overtones is like asking me to swear off Star Trek because Roddenberry wanted a post-religious collectivist one-world government that eschewed money and property.

He also chides Andrew Sullivan for stereotyping:

Apparently Andrew Sullivan took note of the review, and while I appreciate the patronage, this rankles a bit:


"Well Lileks loved it. Not all conservatives are stupid ideologues."

And not all liberals are stupid anti-consumerists who spaz out when someone praises the Works of Walt! Who'd have thunk it. Really, if one wants to cling, bitterly, to the notion that a believe in lower taxes and strong foreign policy and greater individual freedom re: speech and property automatically translates to a crimpled, reductive, censorious view of pop culture, go right ahead.

Last night, I watched the end of Ratatouille, and afterward was a history of Pixar. Interesting stuff. It was a great example of the powerful synergy you can get when you successfully meld C. P. Snow's two cultures and combine traditional animators with computer geeks.

As good as they're getting at this stuff, though, I don't think that it's the death of 2-D animation. I suspect that as the 3-D stuff continues to asymptotically approach verisimilitude, there will be rebellious young turks who want to draw cartoons, and so the cycle will begin anew.

In any event, the foofaraw makes me want to see the movie in the theater, something I haven't done with a Pixar movie since Toy Story (though I wanted to with Ratatouille).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:56 AM

June 30, 2008

Two Movie Reviews

Kyle Smith isn't impressed with WALL-E. Lileks loved it (though he's an admitted Disney/Pixarphile).

Guess I'll have to see for myself now.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:36 AM

June 29, 2008

Hooking Them Early

Behold, Space Camp Barbie. Maybe math isn't as hard as she thought.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:17 AM

June 22, 2008

Being All Judgmental

That's what Rachel Lucas is doing. Well, someone has to do it, since society at large seems to have abdicated its role.

Like her, I was struck by the stupidity of this, reported apparently completely unironically, as though it made, you know, sense:

The Gloucester baby boom is forcing this city of 30,000 to grapple with the question of providing easier access to birth control...

Well, hey folks. It's hard to see what that would do for this particular little baby boomlet.

There may be some problems that are solved by easier access to birth control, but brainless young women going out of their way to get knocked up isn't one of them. I think, for that, there will have to be some other solution (unless by "easier access," they mean tubal ligation).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:34 AM

June 19, 2008

Cyd And The Cape

Both are discussed today over at Lileks' place. Also, judicial overreach in the Great White North.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:39 AM

June 06, 2008

In Defense Of A Small Town

A lovely evocative essay, from Jim Manzi. Though it's not really the subject, it's an appropriate one somehow, for the anniversary of D-Day. This is what blogging is all about.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:44 AM

June 05, 2008

Pressing (Non)Human Rights Issue Du Jour

Do vampires have rights?

Jonah wants to know if an atheist would think that vampires have rights.

I guess that they probably have some rights. I mean, I'm willing to grant them the right to be a vampire. That is, if they want to live forever, turn into a bat occasionally, not show up in mirrors, and avoid sunlight and garlic and crosses, and so on, it's no skin off my nose (or blood out of my neck). But (like some conservatives' view of homosexuals), I'm not willing to grant them a right to indulge in their (un)natural desire to drink blood. Particularly mine. I think that the Christian formulation would be hate the blood sucking, but love the vampire. But of course, this was about what atheists think.

Though if the blood sucking is consensual, it might be all right. But can it really be consensual? I mean, the consent can't be very informed. You can describe what it's like to be a vampire until the cows (and vampires) come home, but is that enough to allow someone to enter into such an arrangement*? It seems like the argument against whether or not someone should have the freedom to sell themselves into slavery. Is it society's business to be regulating consensual blood-sucking activity, given that it has irreversible consequences (other than in the movies)? Perhaps.

The blood sucking aside, though, I don't see (given the limited thought I've given to the proposition) why vampires should have any fewer rights than the rest of us. It certainly seems discriminatory, and a hate crime of the first rank, to think that one has license to stick wooden stakes through their hearts, simply because they're vampires. But if they've been engaged in non-consensual insanguination and vampire recruitment, then it seems as though it would be a preemptive act of self defense, albeit taking the law into one's own hands.

Sorry, fascinating topic, but I think I'm starting to ramble. If I gave it more thought, I might come up with a more coherent treatise.

* Come to think of it, this has some parallels to some conservatives' argument that gays have to "recruit" young boys, because they're unable to procreate. This is a notion that I always thought nonsensical--no one can be "recruited" to be gay unless they're already at least bisexual. I have never been unsure about my sexuality--was approached once when I was fourteen or so, and I wasn't recruited--I was disgusted at the thought.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:22 AM

May 20, 2008

Irony At Epcot

A travelogue by Lileks:

The plot was hugely ironical: Timon and Roomba or whatever the warthog is named were building a resort in the jungle, and damning a stream to create a water feature. Simba showed up to demonstrate the error of their ways. The hilarity of any manifestation of the Disneyverse criticizing an artificial lake to build a resort goes without saying. And it did go without saying, of course. Simba said that Timon and Roomba or whatever were acting like another creature that did not behave in tune with nature, and that creature was . . . man.


BOO HISS, I guess. Jaysus, I tire of this. Big evil stupid man had done many stupid evil bad things, like pile abandoned cars in the river, dump chemicals into blue streams, and build factories that vomited great dark clouds into the sky. Like the People's State Lead Paint and Licensed Mickey Merchandise Factory in Shanghai Province, perhaps? Simba gave us a lecture about materialism and how it hurt the earth - cue the shot of trees actually being chopped down, and I'm surprised the sap didn't spurt like blood in a Peckinpah movie - and other horrors, like forests on fire because . . . well, because it was National Toss Glowing Coals Out the Car Window Month, I guess. I swear the footage all came from the mid-70s; it was grainy and cracked and the cars were all late-60s models. Because I'm pretty sure we're not dumping cars into the rivers as a matter of course any more. You're welcome to try to leave your car on the riverbank and see how that turns out for you.

At the end Timon and Phoomba decided to open a green resort, and everything's hakuna Montana.

Follow the link for the rest of the story.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:13 AM

May 08, 2008

The Logic Of Superstition

For what it's worth, I set my watch to the destination time zone when they close the plane doors.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:06 AM

May 01, 2008

The Banality Of Sedition

Some thoughts from Gerard Van der Leun, who really should be on my blog roll.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:42 PM
Green Fascism

There's an interesting post over at New Scientist on the new eugenicists. What's even more interesting, though, are the numerous comments, which repeat many of the myths about population growth and control, and feasibility of mitigating it through space technology, including space (to use the politically incorrect word) colonization.

I don't really have time to critique in any detail, other than to note that anyone who makes feasibility arguments on the latter subject by referring to Shuttle costs is completely clueless. Sadly though, years ago, Carl Sagan did exactly that.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:35 AM

April 29, 2008

What The Clintons Did For Feminism

[Note: I've bumped this post from yesterday to the top, because it has some new content today, and is getting a lot of commentary]

Could Obama do for race relations? It is a situation, with a history, steeped in irony.

Younger people might not be aware, but there was a time, back in the early nineties, when feminist principles like opposition to sexual harassment in the workplace (including consensual sexual relations between people of widely disparate power relations) were viewed with widespread societal approval, and even made subject to civil law suits. It was considered intolerable by many to have any physical contact in the work place whatsoever. Beyond that, women who accused men of sexual impropriety were to be protected and provided with credibility, not derided and slandered in an attempt to reduce their credibility. Whether one agrees with it or not, this was the cultural norm, and became established law.

Then came Bill and Hillary Clinton, ostensible supporters of all of this. Until...until...it became inconvenient for them. Oh, they continue to pay it lip service, but when Gennifer Flowers accused Bill of having a twelve-year affair with him, and had audio tape to prove it, she was attacked as a liar and a slut, by the Clintons' henchmen (and henchwomen), masterminded by Hillary. When Paula Jones, a lowly state employee, came forth with a story of being escorted by a state policeman to Governor Clinton's hotel suite, whereupon he demanded that she fellate him, she was called "trailer trash," and her lawsuit (perfectly legitimate) was fought on the basis that she had no right to bring a kingpresident to trial. When Kathleen Willey complained that she had been groped in the Oval Office when she came to ask the president for a job after her husband had committed suicide, she was essentially called a liar by the president's lawyer. Her tires were slashed, her children were threatened, and her family cat was found dead. When Monica Lewinski's activities were exposed, there was a back-channel whispering campaign by people like Sid Blumenthal that she was a "stalker," and mentally unstable, and not to be believed. This campaign would no doubt have continued ad infinitum had she not taken Linda Tripp's sage advice and hung on to the blue-stained dress, which ultimately revealed who was really the liar in the affair.

In each and every case, in order to quell (in the campaign and White House's own words) a "bimbo eruption," the "bimbos" were considered fair game.

This is hypocritical and appalling enough in its own right, but what is much worse, at least for the people who originally developed and defended those feminist ideals that were trampled by the Clintons, was the degree to which, like Hillary, they were cynically willing to completely abandon them in order to defend not only the first "black president," but the first "feminist" one. Gloria Steinem, yes the Gloria Steinem, wrote a famous piece in the New York Times in which she in essence said that the president was entitled to one free grope. Because it was the Clintons, the "sluts and nuts" defense became acceptable to the formerly easily oh-so-outraged gender warriors.

This sordid tale of hypocrisy, and destruction of feminist idealism by this cynical devotion to the Clintons was described extensively by libertarian feminist Cathy Young almost ten years ago.

Well, the Clintons have aged, and grown tiresome, and the media and the movement have "moved on" (so to speak), tossed the Clintons out like yesterday's news, and found a new paramour--a young, fresh face, in the form of an attractive (to many) articulate person of color, even if the hue is less than full due to the taint of his white ancestry. They don't need a faux black president, as Bill was--they can get a real one this time. Almost, anyway.

The parallels with the Clintons are in fact quite striking, in terms of the media love affair, the willingness to run interference for potential scandals, and now, in their willingness to toss overboard more supposed "liberal" shibboleths, in the interest of keeping his candidacy alive, just as they were willing to destroy feminism in order to save it, to keep a pro-abortion president in office (even though he would have been replaced with another pro-abortion president in the person of Al Gore had he been removed).

This time, it's race, as Victor Davis Hanson explains:

...Wright's speech on black-right brainers, white-left brainers -- replete with bogus stereotypes and crude voice imitations -- was about as racist as they come and at one time antithetical to what the NAACP was once all about. Again, the Obama campaign and its appendages have set back racial relations a generation. Just ten years ago, any candidate, black or white, would have rejected Wright making a speech about genetic differences in respective black and white brains. Now it's given to civil rights organizations by the possible next President's pastor and spiritual advisor -- and done to wild applause for an organization founded on the idea that we are innately the same, while being gushed over by ignorant "commentators."


As I said before, between Wright's racism and hatred, and Obama's contextualization of what he has said, we have so lowered the bar that the next racist (and he won't necessarily be black) who evokes hatred of other races and then offers a mish-mash pop theory of genetic differences will have plenty of "context" to ward off public fury.

And the amazing thing (or it would be if it hadn't become so depressingly familiar) is that the press doesn't merely acquiesce to such destruction of heretofore liberal ideals--it actively cheers it, through empty-headed mouthpieces like Soledad O'Brien. Because their hero, Barack Obama, will not separate himself from his former pastor, they choose not the solution of abandoning their hero. No, instead, they are compelled to make a new hero of, and treat like a rock star, a bigoted, paranoid scientific ignoramus. And in so doing, to turn their backs on, and leave in shreds, what they once thought were racially enlightened ideals.

But I would reassure Professor Hanson on one point. If the next ignoramus to come down the chute turns out to be a white man, opposing racism will become fashionable once again, with all the continuing attendant hypocrisy.

[Update in the evening]

In response to some questions in comments, here's an interesting quote from Reverend Wright, sure to put some soothing salve on the wounds of the nation's racial divide:

"Louis said 20 years ago that Zionism, not Judaism, was a gutter religion. He was talking about the same thing United Nations resolutions say, the same thing now that President Carter's being vilified for and Bishop Tutu's being vilified for. And everybody wants to paint me as if I'm anti-Semitic because of what Louis Farrakhan said 20 years ago. He is one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century; that's what I think about him. . . . Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains, he did not put me in slavery, and he didn't make me this color."

Let's leave aside for the moment the ludicrous hyperbole that Reverend Wright was ever put in chains, and ever put in slavery. Of course, no one living today put Reverend Wright, or any member of his flock, in chains or slavery. The closest slave to Reverend Wright would probably be his grandfather, if not his great-grandfather. And that person was at least two generations, and probably more, from being put into chains and being sold into that state.

But here's the most ironic part. Louis is a Muslim, or so he claims. Anyone familiar with the history of the slave trade knows the religion of the people who sold blacks into slavery to be sent to the New World. Hint: it was not Christian. For the most part, the slaves were sold in Africa to the British slavers by (Islamic) Arabs, who remain one of the most racist peoples on earth to this day.

Yet Reverend Wright defends the hateful (and racist--and he did call Judaism a "gutter religion," regardless of false denials that it was "only" about "Zionism") Farrakhan by attacking white people living today, who have put no one in chains, and sold no one into slavery. I wonder what he has to say about the real slavery, that continues today, in Sudan and other places (predominantly Islamic and Arabic)?

Be sure to read the Wright/Obama-defending insanity in the comments at Milbanks' post as well.

[Tuesday morning update]

Joe Katzman, on the mendacity and fascist nature of the Obama campaign and cult.

Errrr...but Joe? Just for the record, "belief" actually is a noun, not a verb.

One other thought. If Jeremiah Wright really does represent "the black church" and his beliefs mirror those of the black community, America is in trouble, and black America is in very deep trouble.

Fortunately, I think (and certainly fervently hope) that there are many black Americans who are as repulsed by Wright's racist beliefs and words as the rest of us are, and recognize what a disaster they have been for their community. But we (and even more, they) need a lot more Bill Cosbys, and many fewer Reverend Wrights.

[Update a couple minutes later]

From a comment at Joe's post, a good point. Obama has a much bigger problem than his pastor. He could have the mother of all Sister Souljah moments with Jeremiah Wright, and perhaps turn this around. But he can't disown his wife.

[8:30 AM update]

I didn't listen to Wright's whole speech, but Lileks did, so we don't have to:

Turns out that was just the warm-up act. I heard the entire Rev. Wright speech today, so I'm not talking anything out of context - unless there was some peculiar non-verbal aspect, like an aura or a thick cloud overhead that formed instructive and helpful shapes, the endorsement of Farrakhan, the attacks on "Zionism" in the context of UN resolutions, and the explanations of the effect on racially-distinctive brain structure on marching-band styles was pretty hard to misconstrue.


The most amusing response, aside from the sort of obdurate denial you might find in someone who just created a fantastic beach sculpture and sees a tsunami on the horizon, is the Conspiracy Theory. Who? Jews! Of course! On the radio today I heard someone who managed to combine the far trailing tips of leftist and right-wing nuttery, and tie them into a neat bow. The JEWS were doing this to shake Obama loose from Rev. Wright; the JEWS were the ones who had devised this non-issue and pushed it to the front through their tentacular media control. Apparently a team of crack Jewish Ninja Hypnotists got Rev. Wright to make these recent appearances, too.

Sorry, but there is no "context" that can change my opinion of the nuttiness, paranoia, and mindless anger of the excerpts that I've read and heard. I'm long on record of thinking that Obama can't win in November, and this only reinforces that view. Even if he Sister Souljahed Wright now, it's too late. It raises too many questions. How could he have associated with this man for twenty years, knowing what he believes, and preaches? Alternately, how could he have done so, and not known? He is either sympathetic to these views, or he's clueless. Either way, he'll be too thoroughly unacceptable to too many Americans at this point to be in any way electable.

I just hope that the Dems don't figure it out. Fortunately, based on a lot of the commentary from Obama defenders, both here and other places, they may remain in denial, right up until the convention and beyond. And if they do figure it out, they'll lose the black and youth vote. They are royally screwed, and it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of identity-politics mongers.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:23 AM

April 27, 2008

A British Perspective

On the peacefulness of an armed society:

Brits arriving in New York, hoping to avoid being slaughtered on day one of their shopping mission to Manhattan are, by day two, beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about. By day three they have had had the scales lifted from their eyes.


I have met incredulous British tourists who have been shocked to the core by the peacefulness of the place, the lack of the violent undercurrent so ubiquitous in British cities, even British market towns.

"It seems so nice here," they quaver.

Well, it is!

How about that. This kind of ignorance is what happens when you rely on the BBC (in general) for your news about the colonies. Which makes it all the more surprising and out of character for it to print a piece like this.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:12 AM

April 25, 2008

Five Social Fallacies

...of geeks.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:28 AM

April 24, 2008

Too Much Info

I really don't want to know about Eliot Spitzer's s3xual proclivities.

I'm just glad that he's no longer any threat to become president. And the fact that New York elected him governor (and Hillary! and Chuck Schumer Senators) is one of the many reasons that I'd never want to move to that state.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:11 AM

April 08, 2008

How Would They Tell?

Robert Bidinotto wants me to boycott Starbucks. It's a worthy cause, I guess, but I've been boycotting Starbucks ever since they opened their first store. I've never purchased anything there for my own personal consumption, with the possible exception of a bottle of water once.

The simple reason is that they have never offered anything for sale in which I have an interest in consuming. It's nothing but various forms of coffee, which I don't drink, and high-glycemic carbs, which I tend to avoid, particularly since there is no protein on offer to go with them (in my limited experience--I suppose it's possible that that's changed). And I'm not that into the "coffee house" experience.

So I can't really help make a dent in reducing their sales, because it's not possible for me to purchase less from them than I already do. If everyone were like me, they wouldn't exist at all to denigrate the capitalism that has made them so successful. But maybe some of my pro-free-market readers can reduce their consumption.

It occurs to me, while I'm on the subject, to write about a topic on which I've often mused, but never posted--what the world would be like if everyone were like me. Well, obviously, it would be a lot more boring place. With no s3x, other than self congress, because there's no way that I would get it on with me.

Just off the top of my head, there would be no rap music. In fact, most popular music wouldn't be popular at all. No dance clubs. There would be college football, assuming that some of me were willing and able to play (not obvious, as my athletic ability is marginal), but probably not pro. There would be baseball (again, my skills permitting), but no hockey or basketball. Or boxing or wrestling, or martial arts. There would be Formula 1, but no NASCAR. Lots of hiking trails in the mountains. No one would live in south Florida.

No coffee houses, as noted above, or coffee production, period. Same thing with tea. No tree nuts would be grown or harvested, because I'm allergic. The Asian restaurants would be much better, as would Mexican ones (they'd all be Sonoran style). No wraps or vegetarian places.

It would also be a much messier place, because I'm kind of a slob.

On the up side, though, traffic would move much faster, and much more smoothly. And we'd all get on and off airplanes extremely expeditiously. And there would be no wars, both because (I know that this will surprise some of the trolls here) I'm not that into them, and I'm not sure what we'd fight about. Oh, and we'd have a sensible space program.

So, what would the world be like if it consisted of only you?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:06 AM

March 19, 2008

I Wouldn't Have Guessed That

The last Soviet premiere was a Christian.

I find arguments (such as Dennett and Dawkins, and Hitchens) put forth that religion is the source of all evil in the world to be tendentious. Much evil has been (and continues to be) done in the name of a god, but the most nihilistic, murderous regimes in history, in the twentieth century, were godless. Belief in God (or lack thereof) is neither a necessary, or sufficient condition for evil acts. The real dividing line, as Jonah points out, is not whether or not one is a deist, but whether or not one is an individualist. Say whatever else you want about a classically liberal society--it might leave some behind, but it won't murder them wholesale.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:23 PM

March 17, 2008

Murderous Businessmen

Jonah is wondering why Hollywood types always imagine big businessmen knocking off their enemies, when this seems to happen so rarely (if ever) in real life.

I know I've blogged about this before, but a diligent search doesn't turn up the post, so I'll just repeat it.

Here's my theory. Even ignoring the fact that a lot of Hollywood writers tend to be leftist, some of them may actually have personal reasons to hate "big business" and think it venal. For them, it often is.

First of all--they work in Hollywood, for those well-known paragons of probity and above-board accounting, television and film studios, and production companies. And horror stories about them abound. One could easily see why, if that was the only experience one had with the business world, one would have a pretty jaundiced view toward business and businessmen.

But there's another part that is less obvious. People tend (rightly) to write what they know. And when screen writers are between screen-writing gigs, who do they work for?

Well, here's a clue. What is one of the most common businesses to be depicted in television and movies? Think, for example, "Bewitched." Or "Thirty Something."

That's right. Ad agencies. I haven't done the research (it would be a good thesis project), but I'll bet that television and film characters work at ad agencies vastly out of proportion to the number of people who do so in the real world.

After all, it's a natural fit for a creative writer.

But it's also (based on a lot of stories I've heard from people who have done it) one of the most vicious, back-stabbing industries in the nation, dominated by creative types rather than rational businessmen and good managers.

So, it only makes sense that if your only employment experience with business, big or otherwise, is working for the entertainment industry or the ad business, you're not going to have much appreciation for how a real business, where you have to actually develop and manufacture things that people go out and willingly buy, and has to be run by people with a talent for business (not murder and skullduggery), actually works. It's actually quite similar to the reason that life in the military is rarely depicted accurately. They have no real-life experience.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:35 AM

March 11, 2008

Heading Back South

Which in Florida, really means that I'm heading north, culturally. I'll be back down in Boca from Orlando this afternoon, God willing and if the creek (in this case, the St. Johns River) don't rise.

Though I'm not a believer in God.

And actually (did you know this?) the expression isn't referring to a trickling and burbling body of water, temporarily making its glass more than half full but, rather, an Indian tribe that was given to the occasional uprising, with a tendency to hinder travel, either temporarily or permanently. So I guess the word should have been capitalized. But that would have given away the game.

Or is it really just about flooding? Who knows? What would we do without the Intertubes?

Anyway, enough philosophy for now. See y'all later (I can still say that while I'm up south).

[Afternoon update]

Back in Boca, but busy (he alliterated).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:30 AM

March 06, 2008

Back To The Drawing Board

Lileks:

I just remembered that I called the Bob Davis show this morning to talk about the new theory re: Moses and the Ten Commandments: dude was high. Apparently a professor somewhere has suggested that the entire experience was the result of a mushroom or some such ceremonial intoxicant. I called to say I didn't believe it, because if Moses was tripping we wouldn't have ten commandments. We would have three. The first would make sense, more or less; the second, written half an hour later, would command profound respect for lizards who sit on stones and look at you, because they're freaking incredible when you think about it, and the third would be gibberish. Never mind the problem of getting the tablets down the mountain - anyone who has experience of watching stoners try to assemble pizza money when the doorbell rings doubts that Moses could have hauled stone tablets all the way down.
Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:51 AM

March 04, 2008

Idiot Alert

Over at Reason, the sad tale of a free-loader wannabe:

The group was now "out of food, hadn't slept in days and were really cold," and decided, in a grubby version of Dunkirk, to abandon the mission and head back to England. Boyles is disappointed-but not deterred. He is, the BBC reports, planning "to walk around the coast of Britain instead, learning French as he goes, so he can try again next year." At which point the cycle begins anew, when, upon reaching Baden-Baden, the poor lad will realize that he should have also studied German.

As Wilde said in another context, one would have to have a heart of stone to read this and not laugh out loud.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:22 AM
What's The Point?

Sarah Pullman is very unhappy with Facebook's privacy policy.

OK, I got a Facebook account last fall, at the urging of several people, who told me that I simply had to have one (though they could never actually explain why). I've yet to figure it out myself. I've gotten no discernible benefit from it (of course, I haven't invested much time in it, either). Can anyone explain to me what the big deal is, and what I'm missing out on if I don't have an account, or don't use the one I have?

[Update late morning]

While we're on the subject, here's an article on which is better for business: Facebook or LinkedIn?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:07 AM

March 02, 2008

Confused

Selena Zito writes that all of the remaining presidential candidates are Scots-Irish.

Really? This is the first I'd heard that Hillary! was of Scots-Irish descent. I'd always assumed that she was from Puritan stock. That's the way she's always acted. And Obama is obviously, at best, only half Scots-Irish.

Zito doesn't seem to quite get the concept, either:

How can there be such scant understanding of a 30 million-strong ethnic group that has produced so many leaders and swung most elections?


Perhaps because political academics and pollsters parse the Scottish half off with the WASP vote and define the Irish-Catholic half as blue-collar Democrats. They are neither.

There is no "Irish-Catholic half" of the Scots-Irish. Scots-Irish aren't Irish at all. Neither are they Scottish. They were mostly Anglo-Saxon, not Celtic. They were also a violent people with an honor culture, mercenaries from the border area between England and Scotland. As the article notes, they were sent by the English to colonize Ulster, to get them out of Britain after the war between England and Scotland was settled and they had no more need for them. The ones too violent for Ulster were shipped off to America, so they're a double distillation of the most violent culture that the British Isles produced. After they fought (mostly for the South) in the Civil War, many of them headed out west.

People who think that America is too violent blame it on the proliferation of guns. But they confuse cause and effect. We have a lot of guns because we have a lot of Scots-Irish (aka rednecks). But it comes in pretty handy during war time.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:29 AM

February 28, 2008

This Will Make The Left Crazy

Or, rather, crazier. Jonah's Book is numero uno on the New York Times best seller list.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:53 AM

February 27, 2008

There Is So Much I Could Write About This Subject

What criteria should you use to put books on your bookshelves?

So much to write, so little time. The same problem with reading the books on my bookshelf.

But for now, I will say that Ezra Klein is a pompous, pretentious ass. "Poseur" is too kind a word for him. Not that this is the only evidence of this, of course...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:46 PM

February 10, 2008

Men Are Different Than Women

If they weren't, this joke wouldn't be funny.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:29 AM

February 08, 2008

Blogging The Chicago Auto Show

...as only Iowahawk can.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:23 AM
Face(book) Value

Jay Garmon dissects a dumb statistical correlation between SAT scores and "favorite" SF&F books. I found it interesting that there were no works by Neil Stephenson on the chart.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:38 AM

February 06, 2008

One Toke Over The Line

Willie Nelson comes out as a Truther.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:18 PM

February 05, 2008

Humans, Chimps...

...and property rights. Some thoughts on the beginning of commerce and trade from Donald Sensing.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:51 AM

February 01, 2008

First African American Presidential Candidate from a Major Party?

Thomas Jefferson and the other major party candidates for the election of 1800. Washington didn't approve of political parties. At least according to my read of the census definition:

A person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa....

My understanding of current thinking on evolution is that we all have origins in Black racial groups of Africa. And that this is our only origin in a period spanning tens of thousands to millions of years.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at 08:04 PM

January 31, 2008

Ay Carumba

Nancy Cartwright gave ten megabucks to the Church of Scientology. P. T. Barnum had nothing on L. Ron Hubbard.

Like cocaine, this is life's way of telling you that you make too damn much money.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:27 AM

January 05, 2008

Social Security Giveth, IRS Taketh Away

Social security is trying give out debit cards instead of checks while IRS is moving to ban refund loans. I guess the IRS subscribes to the ostrich theory of micro financing: out of sight, out of their minds.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at 11:05 AM
Dopey and Dazed

Dopey

Does anyone find it dissonant that Iowan Democrats gave a victory to an admitted marijuana user to become President and the Senate is letting him keep his seat, while denying money to college students convicted of possessing illegal drugs?

The question that is begged is, "Does prior marijuana use help the chances of a Presidential candidate?"

Dazed

Obama's last speech had a fog index of 8.17 (higher is more academic). McCain, 8.14 (most recent 4 weeks old on hydrogen?!); Clinton, 9.5; Giuliani, 11.6; No speeches I could find on the Huckabee site, just responses to opponents jabs, his foreign affairs article got 13.05.

My prior beliefs were that veterans like Giuliani would speak at the lowest level of diction and Obama and Clinton would use their race and sex as license to be less "regular guys" and more intellectual. That the leaders for New Hampshire are the candidates with the lowest Fog index tells me that the other campaigns need to use the K.I.S.S. formula: "Keep it simple, stupid!"

Posted by Sam Dinkin at 08:11 AM

December 12, 2007

The Splendor Of Alpha Geeks

Here are a couple of posts on the dress code for top programmers. Beards seem to be required, unless you're a woman. And as he notes, nothing says programmer like flannel.

[Via Virginia]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:01 AM
Overtolerance

Apparently, many people (particularly young people) are unable to condemn, and are willing to tolerate anything. Except "intolerance," of course.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:22 AM

November 29, 2007

Groundbreaking Research

This isn't new, but I just ran across it. How hard is it to get laid via Craigslist?

It depends, and it's about what you'd expect. And yes, men are pretty pathetic.

And no, I don't think that these nerdy pickup lines will be very helpful, either.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:49 AM

November 12, 2007

Mars Versus Venus

Obviously, once the hypothesis was put forth, an experiment was required. Surely there are some women out there who would get this?

A side thought: does this explain why Rosie doesn't believe that fire melts steel? Of course, she didn't think it would make it explode...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:59 AM

November 03, 2007

Get Out The Hankies

Boo hoo.

Numerous young Washingtonians bemoan the improvisational and protracted career track of the area's public interest profession. They say the high competition for comparatively low-paying jobs saps their sense of adulthood, forcing them to spend their 20s or early 30s moving from college to work to graduate school and back to work that might or might not be temporary.

A couple points. First, the WaPo reporter is obviously sympathetic (not surprising--after all, journalists go into journalism because they too want to "make a difference"). He (or at least the copy editor who wrote the hed) calls them "altruists." But are they? As Mark Twain once wrote in an extensive essay, no one ever does anything they don't want to do. These folks engage in this because it makes them feel good. They're obviously not considering their psychic income when they complain about their compensation.

But the real problem is that many of these policy types, particularly at the NGOs, want to engage in the type of do goodery that the supposed beneficiaries aren't necessarily asking for, and don't value that much (or perhaps value negatively). And in the cases in which they do, they don't necessarily have the money to pay for it.

I've devoted a lot of my life to opening up space--a concept that much of the world has been able to do well without, to date (or at least it thinks it can), but I've never imagined that I'd make as much money doing it as I would doing things that people really do seem to value, regardless of how important I might think the goal. In fact, one of my biggest mistakes in life was not recognizing early that the most effective way to achieve my goals would have been to get wealthy first, then to apply that wealth toward them, as Elon Musk, John Carmack, Jeff Bezos and others have done.

But their fundamental premise is flawed. Who is it that really changes the world, and for the better?

I would argue that it is the people like Bill Gates, or Henry Ford, or Thomas Edison, or the Wright brothers, who have a much larger and more beneficial effect on the world than people who "want to make a difference."

Who is more of a humanitarian, a Norman Borlaug, who through his technological efforts saved untold millions from hunger, and even starvation, and was reasonably compensated for it, or an Albert Schweitzer or Mother Theresa, who labored to help a relatively few poor and ill, while living in relative poverty? Obviously the latter derived personal satisfaction from their hands-on retail efforts, but I don't think that they ever whined about their lifestyle.

These people do in fact need to grow up, and understand that there are other ways to help people than forming non-profits and NGOs, or working for a government bureaucracy. People are helped most by technological advances that make essential items--food, transportation, communication, shelter--more affordable and accessible to them, not by those who provide them with handouts and sympathy, and keep them in a state of perpetual dependency.

In many ways, Sam Walton was one of the great humanitarians of our time, in bringing our nation's poor closer to a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle, and he seemed to do pretty well by doing good. But don't expect very many of these idealistic overgrown adolescents to want to emulate him. Actually increasing wealth, for themselves and others, would go against everything they believe.

[Update a few minutes later]

I see that Ann Althouse's commenters have a lot of thoughts similar to mine.

[Monday morning update]

Well, this post has certainly drawn a lot of commentary (particularly after the Instapundit link).

One clarification. A couple commenters (missing the point by a mile), write:

Lots of animus here for non-science majors... and people who work in charitable fields.

and another (sarcastically):

Teachers suck! Journalists suck! They're idiots and we hate them! The only worthwhile people are people with degrees in the sciences. Oh, well, most scientists are a bunch of whiny lefties too. So the only really worthwhile people on this planet are the engineers! Yea engineers!

This isn't about C. P. Snow's cultural clash, or science being better than liberal arts, or the suckitude of teachers or journalists. It's about unrealistic expectations, not to mention self righteousness.

I mentioned Sam Walton as someone to be emulated. Last time I checked the man was neither a scientist or an engineer. But he was someone who created vast wealth, not only for himself and his family, but for many of the poorest citizens (and non-citizens) of our nation, because enabling someone to purchase better-quality products for lower prices does in fact increase their wealth.

And journalists and teachers have important jobs to do, and the best are paid far too little, but the mediocre in those professions (who are legion) are probably overpaid. This is one of the reasons that the newspaper industry is dying--if we had a government-run news agency with a powerful national compulsory reporters' union, they could probably do better at seeking rent, as the NEA has. But then, mediocre reporters would be even more overpaid than now.

The point is that if one wants to seek a degree in history, or French literature, there's nothing wrong with that, but that they should understand what their job and salary prospects are with those degrees. They should understand that if you're going to take on a huge student loan, it might be better not to simply follow one's muse, but to get an education that will enable one to pay off the loan, rather than to simply curse the philistines who unaccountably don't recognize the value to society of your interests.

And if one wants to be a social worker, or save the whales, they should understand the relative value that society places on those professions. They should also understand that if their goal really is to "make a difference," or help people, that neither whale saving or social work is necessarily the best profession for that, and unlikely to be a well-compensated one (or at least, as Lennie told Homer when the latter asks if being head of the union pays well, "Only if you're corrupt." Homer: "Woo hoo!").

And if despite that, they really get an endorphin rush from administering welfare checks, or managing Peace Corps workers, they should recognize that as part of their compensation, and that many of their idealistic cohorts do as well, and that the supply of their talent, such as it is, will always exceed demand in the marketplace.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:16 AM

October 15, 2007

People Who Care Too Much

Randall Parker has some thoughts on the Google Lunar Prize, prizes in general, and charity.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:04 AM

October 03, 2007

Great Moments In Golddiggery

Amusement aside, in what way is this different than prostitution, other than it is a long-term lease (depending on the pre-nup terms) rather than a short-term rental?

And why is one legal and the other not?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:47 PM

October 02, 2007

Must Be On-Line Sweeps Week

The Slate sex issue.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:18 AM

October 01, 2007

Is Florida Over?

As a reluctant resident, who has never been thrilled with the place, when I read articles like this, I always wonder what the attraction ever was.

My experience with people down here who like it is that they're from the north or northeast. I rarely meet anyone here who moved from the west, particularly the west coast. My theory is that people who don't like winter, but do like Atlantic beaches (the only kind with which they're familiar) think that this is heaven (at least in the winter). But that's because they've never lived any place that's actually nice, and they're indifferent to scenery.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:30 AM

September 17, 2007

Wish I'd Had A Camera

Posting from LA. I got off the plane to a beautiful South Bay day yesterday--clear skies, low humidity, mid seventies. And you could see mountains. What a contrast with Florida.

Anyway, driving up the 405 today from Long Beach to Torrance, I was behind a tow truck that had a banner on the back: "AAA Batteries Delivered And Installed." Unfortunately, the little Canon I carry was in my briefcase in the trunk.

Anyway, considering that I was in Fry's yesterday, where I could buy twenty four of the little suckers for seven bucks, and most of the plastic covers are pretty easy to get off, I think that the lack of handiness of the American male has gone too far.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:18 AM

August 23, 2007

My Kind Of Camping

Apparently, roughing it isn't what it used to be.

I am not a happy camper. I'm willing to camp if it's necessary to see something not otherwise available in the back country, but I don't intrinsically enjoy it. But this is overboard, to me. I don't mind the tents, and cooking, and cleaning, and knot tying, and fire building, but I really, really like plumbing. My ideal expedition would be with pack llamas to carry an inflatable hot tub and propane heater.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:42 AM

July 02, 2007

Utopian

Thomas James has some thoughts on ridiculous license agreements for software use.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:16 AM

June 28, 2007

The Overpraised Generation

I always thought that the "self esteem" movement was a lot of hooey. All of the bullies I knew as a kid didn't seem to suffer from lack of self esteem. If anything, they had an unjustified overabundance of it.

It's exactly the kind of untested, unsubstantiated nonsense you'd expect from the education establishment, and unfortunately, too many parents bought into it. Donald Sensing describes some of the effects.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:49 AM

June 22, 2007

Go To The Carnival

It's the eighth one for space, over at Universe Today.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:00 AM

June 20, 2007

Stupid Criminal Tricks, Part 1,543,789

You know, if you're going to steal a car, you ought to make sure you know how to drive it, first:

Two teenage robbers spent valuable getaway time Monday night trying to drive off in a stolen car — but gave up, police said, when they realized they couldn't navigate a sedan with manual transmission.

The teens bolted from the Honda Accord into some woods but were captured within minutes.

One more advantage of having and driving a stick. It reduces the potential pool of car thieves.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:09 AM

June 19, 2007

Just As Well

Who would want to work for morons like this, anyway? I expect that, with this news story, he'll get lots of job offers from non-morons.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:35 PM
"Get Off The Computer"

Here's an article at the WaPo on nature deficit disorder.

I wasn't that big on playing outside as a kid, myself, though I do remember messing around in a small woods near our house. I also used to fish at our cottage up in northern Michigan in the summer, and pick berries. But I always preferred to read.

But I enjoy nature now, as an adult, particularly when I lived out west, and there seemed to be so much more of it.

[Afternoon update]

Lileks has some related thoughts:

The reasons for the decline seem fairly obvious. The fewer kids growing up on farms or in small rural communities, the less hunting you have. The more expensive cabins get, the less access the middle-class has to the lakes, so kids don’t grow up fishing with dad like they used to. Plus, the culture’s changed. Thirty-four years ago, Gov. Anderson could hold up a fish without worrying that a miniscule but vocal portion of his constituency would criticize him for not choosing a cruelty-free Time cover photo op, such as composting melon rinds.

I don’t think it’ll ever come back, frankly; People will hunt, but in much smaller numbers. People will always fish, but video games have permanently altered the ability of millions to sit in one place for three hours, waiting for something to happen. Then again, the number of people who simply watch wildlife seems to be up: 13 percent since 1996. But everyone watches wildlife. It takes no skill, no equipment, no time. It would sad to think that it’s now considered a sport to look out the window at a bunny on the lawn. From the bunny's point of view, of course, this is just fine.

[Update at 4:20 PM EDT]

Continuing the conversation, Lileks has further thoughts:

Whatever the reason and whatever the eventual impact, it’s all changed; the idea that a parent wouldn’t know where their kid is, but trusted him to wander back by supper, tired and hungry, socks full of nettles, seems like pure hokey Norman-Rockwell stuff, quaint and outmoded, and downright dangerous in a world where creeps and pervs have their own chatrooms to marinate in their evil.

Then again, it’s summer; wouldn’t you want to ride your bike to the end of town, just to see what’s beyond?

When I was thirteen or fourteen, I used to ride my bike out to Bishop Airport in Flint, to watch the planes take off and land. I lived on the east side--the airport was on the southwest side, the other side of the freeway--it was several miles. On one such expedition, I was in fact propositioned by a perv*, to the point of being groped. In retrospect, it was stupid to accept the invitation into the house, but fortunately, he wasn't interested in someone clearly uninterested and unwilling, and I left without further incident. But I'm here, and I'm fine (and I wasn't "converted," despite the myths of those who believe that this is possible). And I'm glad I did it (the bike rides, not the perv encounter). I do think that today's children seem overprotected.

And not against just the big things, but the small. I recall reading reports recently that incidents of allergies are up in the younger generations, because they've spent so much time in cosseted and sterile environments that they never develop immunities. I don't know if it's true, but I certainly wouldn't be shocked.


*I use "perv" here in the colloquial sense of homosexual. He was probably in his twenties, and I don't think he was a pedophile--I was a teenager, and like many heterosexuals of dubious morals, he probably just preferred the targets of his lust to be young.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:47 AM

June 18, 2007

Is This Really A Younger Generation Thing?

I'm not in the cohort discussed in this article, but I'll often go weeks without carrying any cash. I find the only time that I need it is on business trips when dining out with others, and have to split a bill. Even then, though, we often either have the waitperson split the bill on separate cards, or I'll be the one to take the cash and put it on my mine (after which I have cash for the next time).

Maybe the difference between me and the people being discussed here is that I use credit, rather than debit cards. I can see how it would be tough to track your balance if you charged everything to your checking account.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:17 AM

June 07, 2007

Space Carnival

Lots of good stuff at this week's Carnival of Space (which seems so far to be a successful venture for Henry Cate), with a focus on ISDC. Lots of new space bloggers out there (including "Flying Singer, the carnival host) that I hadn't seen before, and should add to the blogroll.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:12 AM

May 24, 2007

Subway

Another dispatch from the strange mind of James Lileks:

Everyone loves Subway, after all. I don’t go there often, because you always get a beat-down from the employees. I don’t know what it is about Subway that produces such weary surlyness; probably the waiting, the waiting, the waiting for people to make up their minds about what shredded crap they want on their sliced crap. Everyone takes forever and they always say the same thing. Lettuce, onions, tomatoes. I try to know what I want before the process begins, so I don’t anger them too much.

(Prophylactic note to those who want to insist I don’t know anything about life in the service sector: I waited tables for eight years. The only honest work I ever did, really.)

Soon it was my turn; the burly, blank-faced clerk in hipster-specs behind the counter grunted “what do you want,” fully expecting me to say “uh, I’ll have a sub, the chicken, no the chicken ranch,” after which he would have to ask, for the gazillionth time, whether I wanted a six inch or a footlong, and after that, what kind of bread I wanted. Jeez.

“Three subs,” I said. “First is on Italian. Six Inch. Ham and cheese only. Toasted.”

See? That provides the relevant information in the order he needs it. Because the first thing he needs to know is the variety of bread, and then the size. I noted the toasting so the next sandwich artist – it’s always a two-person job, making a sub – wouldn’t start the difficult matter of adding the extras.

Ain’t I a peach? A regular pip?

I did the same thing with the other two, and I swear it made him more displeased, as if I’d taken away something precious from him. Maybe it’s me; I’m sure it’s me. I always feel ordering at Subway is a test, and the sandwich artists are giving me Fs, and their disappointment has curdled to anger.

And this:

Later in the piece, this:
Using their computer model, Cox and Loeb forecast that after the collision about 2 billion years from now, the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies will be pulled together by gravity and blend into a single, spherical super galaxy -- "Milkomeda," as Cox and Loeb call it.

I mention this only because it reminded me of something that’s annoyed me all my life, even more than attitude of Sandwich Artists: the name of our galaxy. “Andromeda” is a cool name. It is a sci-fi name. “Milky Way” sounds like the title of a 1930s Dairy Industry promotional pamphlet. I like “Sun” – “Sol” is better, but it’s still generic. Not as generic as “Earth,” which is utterly banal. If the aliens have universal translators, they’ll laugh when we say “We come from a planet known as Dirt. It orbits a Star we call Star.” Perhaps all cultures are like this though; maybe everyone calls their planet Dirt, and the eventual union of these intergalactic species will be the Dirtball Union, or the League of Orbiting Soil Clods.

Imagine if some Italian astronomer had amed the galaxy “Carnival.” We’d feel different about this joint, and our place in it.

Still reading...

Oh. He bludgeons an economic ignoramus:

Today’s local paper had a column from a fellow who has previously reminded us that he Knows Things, and thus has a leg up on those bloggers who thrash around in a slough of ignorance. He was angry about gas prices today: “The antitheft protection on my credit card doesn’t permit anyone buy more than $50 of gas. Not even me. That’s to make sure the crooks can’t get too much. But I never thought the bandits would own the pumps.”

As I’ve noted before, my family is in the gas station business, and since that makes us Bandits with a vested interest in the subject, my remarks can be automatically discounted. But. A reminder: the taxes on gas exceed the bandit’s profit by a significant margin. Stations make pennies – sometimes penny, singular – on a gallon. We make real money on the stuff you go into the store to buy. But then there’s this:

“Gouging? Nah. You’d have to be crazy to think the oil companies would rip anyone off. I’m sure there are many good, sound business reasons why the gas they put in the underground storage tank at your local service station last week is worth almost a buck a gallon more today. Right.”

Yes, I know: it’s rare you find such a keen grasp of the economics of commodities in a local paper, but there it is.

It’s not a question of seasonal demand, or refinery capacity, or the springtime switch to different blends, or any of those things. They’re ripping us off! Price go up! Mongo angry! Mongo shake fist at Gas God! At least New York City has it figured out: according to the Wall Street Journal – staffed with people who understand good, sound business reasons, i.e. LIARS AND APOLOGISTS.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:42 AM

April 10, 2007

Are Jews Too Smart For Their Own Good?

Maybe:

it is precisely the weirdness of Meon Nara that proves the stubbornness and ubiquity of the ugly ideological weed we call anti-Semitism. It is a weed most commonly found among those desperate for scapegoats -- such as failed Muslim societies and impoverished communist dictatorships. But South Korea ranks among the most dynamic, successful and well educated nations on Earth. The fact that Rhie's comic could become a best-seller in this sort of locale provides bizarre but convincing proof of Ruth Wisse's famous description of anti-Semitism as "the most successful ideology of the 20th century."

Why won't anti-Semitism die? The Muslim world's bloodthirsty demonization of Israel and the Jews who inhabit it obviously plays a major role. But another factor -- which is more relevant in capitalist, secular nations such as Korea -- is that Rhie's caricature of the all-powerful Jew, like all stereotypes and prejudices, has a tiny grain of truth behind it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:18 AM

March 19, 2007

Driving Mazdas Up Xerxes

Lileks has two good reviews today, one of a protest march, one of a movie:

Let me be clear: There are serious, reasonable critics of the war whose arguments deserve attention and consideration. You generally don’t find them at protest rallies. There are people on the left who are concerned about, say, losing the values of the Enlightenment in order to accommodate misogyny in the name of cultural tolerance; they promote different responses to the problem than those offered by the right, but are unlikely to march next to a fellow wearing a Hamas T-shirt or a Truther who thinks the Jews got advance warning on 9/11 so they could move their tanks of Gentile blood out of the giant Zionist Abbatoir on the 94th floor. So I don’t think that the march spoke for all critics of the war. It spoke for those who think that “Halliburton” and “Mission Accomplished” represent piercing arguments that dispense with the need to even consider the matter of radical Islam and its enablers, or the possible downside of ceding the battleground. No, the world is a garden of flowers and lambs, with one bad wolf. (Who is also a racist wolf.) Remove it, and peace can only flourish...

...this is something many people cannot bring themselves to do: draw inspiration from a particular culture at a particular time without glossing over the defects. The people who can’t do that are, in my limited experience, the ones most likely to excuse evil in other cultures, and exaggerate evil in their own.

And on a related note, Michael Barone has some thoughts about the "blame America first" crowd. So does Gerard Vanderleun:

Four years in and the foolish and credulous among us yearn to get out. Their feelings require it. The power of their Holy Gospel of "Imagine" compels them. Their overflowing pools of compassion for the enslavers of women, the killers of homosexuals, the beheaders of reporters, and the incinerators of men and women working quietly at their desks, rise and flood their minds until their eyes flow with crocodile tears while their mouths emit slogans made of cardboard. They believe the world is run on wishes and that they will always have three more...

...Four years into the most gentle war ever fought, a war fought on the cheap at every level, a war fought to avoid civilian harm rather than maximize it. Picnic on the grass at Shiloh. Walk the Western Front. Speak to the smoke of Dresden. Kneel down and peek into the ovens of Auschwitz. Sit on the stones near ground zero at Hiroshima and converse with the shadows singed into the wall. Listen to those ghost whisperers of war.

Four years in and the people of the Perfect World ramble through the avenues of Washington, stamping their feet and holding their breath, having their tantrums, and telling all who cannot avoid listening that "War is bad for children and other living things." They have flowers painted on their cheeks. For emphasis. Just in case you thought that war was good for children and other living things.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:19 AM

March 05, 2007

Thoughts On Urban Design

...and on urban designers. From Lileks.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:47 AM

February 28, 2007

Anna Nicole Died For Her Sins

Douglas Kern has a very interesting essay on sex and stupidity. And freedom.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:58 AM

February 14, 2007

In The Eye Of The Beholder

While I take Virginia Postrel's general point that beauty is as genetic as any other attribute, I think that there's a slight category error here, in that it is much more subjective than the other characteristics (taller, more agile, smarter). For this reason, we have a better shot at all being beautiful, since it might be possible to be beautiful to someone, and this isn't subject to objective dispute.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:30 AM

January 10, 2007

Ineffective

This story, about parents who believe that discipline doesn't work, reminds me of the Simpsons episode about the young Ned Flanders and his (speaking of the sixties) hippie/beatnik parents:

Dr. Foster: Would you please tell your son to stop?

Ned's Dad: We can't do it, man! That's discipline! That's like tellin' Gene Krupa not to go [starts banging on the desk] "boom boom bam bam bam, boom boom bam bam bam, boom boom boom bam ba ba ba ba, da boo boo tss!"

Ned's Dad: We don't believe in rules, like, we gave them up when we started livin' like freaky beatniks!

Dr. Foster: You don't believe in rules, yet you want to control Ned's anger.

Ned's Mom: Yeah. You gotta help us, Doc. We've tried nothin' and we're all out of ideas.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:29 AM

December 19, 2006

Water Wants To Be Free

Here's one of the dumbest things I've seen in a while. Some (probably lefty) religious groups claim that it's immoral to bottle water.

First they came for the water bottles, and I said nothing, because I drink from the tap. Then they came for the scuba tanks...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:54 AM

December 15, 2006

Historical Ignorance

Target has decided to make itself into Che-mart. Head over to the real Che-mart--it's much better.

As one of the tee shirts says, "Che--fooling middle-class white kids since 1967."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:41 AM

November 26, 2006

Whose Stewardship?

Mark Steyn says that demography is destiny.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:51 AM

November 15, 2006

It Stinks

Jonah Goldberg writes about institutionalized racism in the academy.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:28 AM

September 12, 2006

Taking Back Manhood

"Grim" says that we need to go back to wearing arms.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:47 AM

August 21, 2006

The Evil Walt Disney

Lileks has a long but entertaining (and, can you believe it?--dripping with snark) screed disguised as a bleat today, on childish pseudointellectuals who fancy themselves courageous for speaking truth to the Man. Errrr...actually to the Mouse.

Three hundred years from now they’ll be performing plays about the Red Scare ( it’s really an allegory about the Salem Witch Trials!) or showing “The Front” to adoring cineastes who secretly wish they’d been Communists in the 50s. It was so romantic. Oh, to live in an age where you could be blacklisted. you didn't go to jail, you were ever so tragic, and you had lovers and smoked angrily and wrote a novel about it that just showed everyone. But this play, as noted, has a new twist on the usual scenario: it’s about brave young idealists working for Walt Disney, who, as we know, was an FBI agent and rabid anti-Semite. Hence those famous cartoons “Pinocchio the Jew,” “Snow Aryan and the Seven Undermenschen,” and all those pro-Allied cartoons. Why did Donald make fun of Hitler? Because he wasn’t getting the job done fast enough, that’s why.

For a notorious Jew-hater, Walt did a remarkable job of keeping it out of his work; after all, the point of Dumbo isn’t the need to sterilize the defective elephant.

In any case, the play seems to get a little bit of history wrong. As the Cartoon Brew review notes, a brash idealistic newcomer who tried to unionize the cartoonists in the 50s would have been informed that they’d had a union since 1942. But that matters little to the playwright, because the premise is so delicious. It matters not a bit that millions of people enjoyed Mickey cartoons; what counts is pointing out that an actual mouse would have carried disease and left behind fecal matter. And here it is! Fecal matter! We found it! Ergo . . . uh, well, ergo something, and thank you, we are brave. Very.

He's not impressed with his generation, the boomers.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:47 AM

August 03, 2006

The End Of Childhood

They only arrested them and threw them in jail? Why didn't they simply hang them from the tree? After all, trees are much more important than children.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:47 PM

July 24, 2006

Installment Plan

Lileks:

If the devil was smart, of course, he’d find a way for you to sell your soul in small increments, using some sort of debit card; once you went over 50 percent, it would be his. Half the country would hit 49 percent in three months.
Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:34 AM

July 17, 2006

Number Two Is Number One

...at least for me. No, get your mind out of the toilet--that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the top ten irritating things that other drivers do. And hogging the left lane is much more irritating to me than someone on a cell phone. My attitude toward cell phone use is like my attitude toward drug use--if it impairs your driving, then don't do it, but I don't care about it intrinsically.

The Freepers have comments, and I agree with this one (slightly edited):

No.2 is the worst.

In fact. No.2 causes every single one of the other annoyances.

All of them.

The slow "safe" drivers are the most unsafe drivers around.

They are indecisive, scared, do not follow the flow, have no clue about the passing lane, and do not use their blinkers.

They cause people rage, especially because they will not get ticketed, even though they are causing the biggest problems.

Someone speeding 10 mph over the speed limit with the flow and control of a car is not a safety hazard at all.

Slow idiots with no clue are.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:35 AM

July 08, 2006

Nature Lovers

The "Rainbow People" have apparently shat in their own nest. I'm shocked, shocked!

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:00 PM

July 05, 2006

Little Far North For Rednecks, But...

...hey, I guess it can happen anywhere:

State fire officials say a Woodside-area man was seriously burned last night in an explosion after he poured gunpowder into a charcoal grill and ignited it.

And imagine my surprise to read this:

Investigators believe alcohol played a part in the incident.

Guess they left out the part about "Hold muh beer...."

And yes, these are getting more and more difficult to categorize. I need more categories, but I suspect that the need will be bottomless, given the nature of the world...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:48 PM

July 03, 2006

Life In A Fishbowl

Lileks comments:

Let us set aside the traffic noise, for a moment. You could never open the drapes. Ever. The giant plate-glass windows look right into the kitchen. Anyone walking past can look right in, so you can’t sit at your kitchen table and have a cup of morning coffee in your underwear. I cannot think of a situation in which you’d open your drapes, frankly.

What if you preferred to walk around the house naked as the day you were born? And likewise smeared with blood and lubricants? If you didn’t close your drapes – for that matter if you just didn’t buy any – could people complain? Even if you get around the matter of literal nakedness, there’s the matter of psychic nudity; living so close to the sidewalk with only glass between you and the thronging masses would feel like living in a department store window. No, it would be worse: store windows are set up a foot, so you have to look up and marvel; these units place you at the same elevation of the street, denying you any sort of mental distance between your space and public space. I cannot imagine who would want to live there.

This is why in all the time I lived in the South Bay of LA, I never wanted to live on The Strand. I would walk along and be looking right into people's kitchens, living rooms, home gyms. Perhaps some people are exhibitionists, but if I lived there, it would be to enjoy a view, not provide one, and I'd do most of my living on the upper floors.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:20 AM

June 30, 2006

Diversity Over Freedom?

A look at the values of academia.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:33 AM

June 21, 2006

Fashionable Criminals

And idiotic ones:

...As she recounts the incident, he snatched the purse and took off.

But then he ran into trouble. As he ran, his loose trousers slipped down below his hips. As he reached down to hold them up, the teen was forced to throw the purse aside.

"That boy, he could run fast but he got caught up by his pants, which were real big and baggy," says Ms. Chandler, whose purse was retrieved by a parking attendant who had heard her cries for help.

It's a problem for perpetrators. Young men and teens wearing low-slung, baggy pants fairly regularly get tripped up in their getaways, a development that has given amused police officers and law-abiding citizens a welcome edge in the fight against crime...

...Mr. Green, 30, rode away on a bicycle, with copies of "Donnie Brasco," "The Bourne Identity" and "Sin City." When a patrol car knocked over the bike, he fled on foot. As he ran, his trousers slipped down past his hips, and he tripped. He hitched up his pants and ran a few more yards before falling again.

Things got worse and worse for Mr. Green. He finally kicked off his pants and shoes and "ran into the yard of 1720 Beaufield," police officer Kenneth Jaklic said in a report of the incident. "I ran after [Mr. Green], yelling at him to stop." Instead, Mr. Green jumped over a fence behind a garage, and Mr. Jaklic immobilized him with two Taser darts in the back...

...Karl Franklin tried to run from police in Tallahassee, Fla., in pants that were on fire. According to a police report, the 30-year-old had stashed a lighted cigarette in his baggy pants and appeared to be preparing to urinate at a traffic intersection.

Seth Stoughton, a police officer at the time, approached Mr. Franklin and noticed the man's pocket was smoldering. Mr. Franklin, who could not be reached, started to run, but his pants dropped and tripped him up.

Sorry, link is for subscribers only, but I thought that this article was a hoot. I guess I'm supposed to be an old coot because I have such a low opinion of young men's fashions, but baggy pants don't just look stupid--you'd have to be stupid to put up with such dysfunctional clothing just to be fashionable.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:06 PM

May 23, 2006

Heard Any Good Ones Lately?

That (as a result of reading a collection of dirty jokes in my parent's bathroom in the sixties) is what I always ask when hearing or reading about cocktails.

And it's worth noting that:

“Whenever you talk cocktail history, it’s always the Democratic party that’s involved, Lord knows why,” Wondrich said.
Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:54 PM

May 20, 2006

Kettle, Pot On Line One

While it's hard to disagree with their opinion about the French, it seems to me the height of chutzpah for people who think that critter innards are haute cuisine, and have names for their weird gustatory atrocities like "bubble and squeak" and "spotted dick," to be saying that the US has lousy food.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:25 AM

May 05, 2006

The Profundity Of Lileks

...on bubble gum:

I thought “Double Bubble” was one of those brands that upped the ante, put the industry on notice, threatened to set off a race: gentlemen, we have a Bubble Gap. But if there was a Treble Bubble, no evidence survives. Maybe everyone just pulled back from the brink, realizing where this could lead. But if “Double Bubble” was the first bubble gum, why emphasize the doubled quantity? For one thing, bubble-blowing is usually performed one at a time, and if you were introducing the product you wouldn’t want people to think they could exhale a perfect set of chicle-based mammaries. Instead of making them amazed by the ability to blow one bubble, they’d be instantly disappointed by their inability to blow two.

People are like that.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:12 AM

April 19, 2006

A Once-Great Nation

Dr. Dalrymple has a depressing essay on the current state of Britain:

One definition of decadence is the concentration on the gratifyingly imaginary to the disregard of the disconcertingly real. No one who knows Britain could doubt that it has very serious problems—economic, social, and cultural. Its public services—which already consume a vast proportion of the national wealth—are not only inefficient but completely beyond amelioration by the expenditure of yet more money. Its population is abysmally educated, to the extent that in a few more years Britain will not even have a well-educated elite. An often cynical and criminally minded population has been indoctrinated with shallow and gimcrack notions—for example, about social justice—that render it singularly unfit to compete in an increasingly competitive world. Not coincidentally, Britain has serious economic problems, even if the government has managed so far—in the eyes of the world, at least—to paper over the cracks. Unpleasant realities cannot be indefinitely disguised or conjured away, however.
Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:33 PM

April 17, 2006

The Sequel You Never Wanted To See

Jack...is back.

Hey, who knew what the frigid north Atlantic could wrought?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:36 PM
Not So Homogenous?

So, I was speculating the other day that regional accents and dialects in the US were dying out, when here comes an article on the Colorado accent [there is one?--ed Apparently.] that says they're actually getting strengthened:

One might assume that in this era of universal education and media saturation, accents throughout the country would be getting smoothed out. (On the TV show "Boston Legal," it's hard to find a character who speaks with even a hint of a Boston accent.)

But surprisingly, Labov and his associates have found the opposite is true. They report that "regional dialects are becoming increasingly differentiated from each other."

In other words, people seem to be accentuating their accents.

The reason for this, Bright suggests, may be that many Americans view the way they talk as a badge of honor.

"I think what it comes down to is a matter of regional loyalty," he says. "People are conscious of it and proud of it. New Yorkers and Bostonians don't want to sound like they're from Omaha."

This clearly resonates with Allison Myers, who has retained the soft drawl of her native Georgia even though she has lived in Colorado for 14 years.

"People ask me, 'Where are you from?' I find it intriguing," she says. "My accent is not something that defines me in all ways, but it's something unique about me."

On occasion, Myers adds, her manner of speaking has even proved to be an asset rather than a handicap, as accents often have become in the past.

"When I first came here, I worked in a restaurant, and we'd sometimes have contests to see who could sell the most bottles of wine," she recalls. "I won every time, and I do think it was because of my accent. I'd say, 'Oh, you should trah this wah-un,' and they always would."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:35 PM

April 15, 2006

For The Singles In The Audience

Sitting home, reading my blog, on a Saturday night? Good on-line matchmaking advice, over at Volokh's place.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:05 PM

April 14, 2006

Sixty Years

...of bikinis. One of the great inventions of the twentieth century. Once in a while, the French come up with something worthwhile.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:51 PM

April 10, 2006

Camp Runnamok

PC Runnamok, that is. A discussion on a lost hat in Park Slope. It's simultaneously hilarious, and sad.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:11 PM

April 09, 2006

Homogenization?

So I was looking at this map of how people pronounce things in the US, and I noticed that very few of them showed any distinct regional differences. The most striking of the few that do are what people call sweetened carbonated beverages, that thing you drink water from, and what you call Halloween eve. Bubbler people seem to reside mostly in Wisconsin, and Devil's Night seems to be a mostly Wolverine thing. I also notice that while they ask what people call drive-through liquor stores, they don't ask about liquor stores in general. An appellation that's apparently unique to Michigan (I didn't realize this until others pointed it out to me, having grown up with it) was "party store."

Most of them just showed that the distribution of people who called them different things was pretty evenly distributed (that is if 80% called it one and 20% another, that would be as true in the deep south as in New England).

I wonder to what degree mass media and migration has been wiping out regional dialects? How different would these maps have looked a hundred years ago?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:01 AM

April 06, 2006

Recognition

The new Battlestar Galactica (not the old one) has won a Peabody Award, a well-deserved first for the Sci Fi Channel.

I think this is a good sign of the mainstreaming of this important genre of literature, for too long ghettoized, when it's becoming more and more relevant to the technological future rapidly closing in.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:08 AM

April 03, 2006

No Surprise To Me

Other studies (one in New Jersey, I believe) have shown this as well. HOV lanes increase traffic congestion. This carpool lane thing was always more about social engineering than it was about improving traffic flow.

This is also no shocker:

A report released last year also shows that the most common form of HOV lane, where general and restricted traffic is not separated by a physical barrier, causes a fifty percent increase in accidents.

Car pool lanes with no barriers are nuts, and single-lane carpool lanes are pointless, because one slowpoke can hold up everyone behind. Get rid of them all. Now.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:31 AM

March 28, 2006

Keeping It Clean

We aren't doing a very good job of it:

Nearly three-quarters of Americans questioned last week — 74 percent — said they encounter profanity in public frequently or occasionally, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll. Two-thirds said they think people swear more than they did 20 years ago. And as for, well, the gold standard of foul words, a healthy 64 percent said they use the F-word — ranging from several times a day (8 percent) to a few times a year (15 percent).

I'll occasionally curse, but I try to reserve it for occasions in which strong language is demanded. I'm appalled at the conversations I hear in which every other word is obscene or profane (and when it happens, I suspect that the utterer has no idea of the meaning of either of those words). Unlike many leftist web sites (I won't mention any names, but they start with "K") I don't think that the conversation is advanced with foul language, and I undertake great effort to refrain from it here. I hope I'm successful.

The point of the article is that this is one of those things that's won one battle at a time--at the grocery, at restaurants and bars, at parties. The culture doesn't have to deteriorate. We can be an army of judgmental people (yes, I know that the only thing that's apparently allowed to be judged these days is being "judgmental"), and perhaps arrest this trend.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:00 PM

March 27, 2006

Where's Duane Allman?

Here's a list of the top ten (rock) guitar solos. I'm only familiar with about half of them (I largely quit listening to pop music in the eighties), but as the post title indicates, I think there's a notable absence there.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:06 PM

March 24, 2006

The War On The Easter Bunny

They're at it again:

A small Easter display was removed from the City Hall lobby on Wednesday out of concern that it would offend non-Christians.

The display - a cloth Easter bunny, pastel-colored eggs and a sign with the words "Happy Easter'' - was put up by a City Council secretary. They were not purchased with city money.

Tyrone Terrill, the city's human rights director, asked that the decorations be removed. Terrill said no citizen had complained to him.

This is getting ridiculous.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:30 AM
Life's Pleasures Lost?

John Derbyshire says that Peter Sellers isn't funny any more:

We all know, of course, that humor is perishable, and that what made our parents -- or even our younger selves -- laugh can leave us stone faced. There are degrees of perishability, though, and the very best humor can stay funny for decades. I thought Sellers was in that league. Nope. His repertoire was narrower than I'd remembered -- really just two or three funny voices and a couple of facial expressions.

Yes, I've noticed that things that I thought uproariously funny when I was younger (and I don't necessarily mean a child) no longer so. I don't know if it's a difference in my sensibilities as I've matured (or at least grown older) or that humor has its own fashion and milieu. I haven't lost my sense of humor, but it's clearly changed. I wonder what would happen to it after a couple hundred years? What will I find funny then?

Anyway, as further recent illustration, on a flight back from California a couple weeks ago, I saw The Bellboy, Jerry Lewis' directing debut, and thought by many to be his greatest work. I have vague memories of my parents taking me to see it in the theatres (the only way one generally saw movies then) as a little kid. I don't remember particularly enjoying it at the time, but I can say that on the more recent viewing, I not only never laughed, there was only one scene that even elicited a smile from me. I can't remember what it was, now.

I kept watching, hoping for something actually funny to happen, and when the plane landed before it was over, I had no sense of disappointment, because I'd given up. I was astounded in fact at how unfunny the movie was. I'd always thought that he was overrated, but I hadn't previously comprehended just how much so. One more reason to think that the French are not just a different nationality, but a different species.

[Update a few minutes later]

Just to show I haven't lost it completely, this joke (found over on Free Republic) got a chuckle out of me:

An old sergeant once went up to an attractive young woman.

"Ma'am, can you please help a lonely soldier? I haven't made love since 1955."

"Oh, you poor thing!" The young woman took the sergeant back to her apartment, where they enjoyed a more-than-mutually-satisfactory romp. Afterwards the woman leaned back and purred at the sergeant:

"For a man who hasn't had sex since 1955, you certainly haven't forgotten much!"

The sergeant checked his watch. "No reason why I would have, Ma'am; it's only 2130."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:02 AM

March 23, 2006

Don't Fool Yourself

Here's an essay by a home-schooled college student, who thinks that it's a lousy way to get an education:

Raposa told us that prior to the founding of Jamestown, England's only other experience with colonization was in Ireland. Raising my hand, I suggested that the English rule of Normandy constituted a sort of reverse colonization. "I've never thought of that," said the professor, who then felt obligated to explain to the rest of the historically ignorant class why England was connected to Normandy. Further research reminded me that Wales was also a pre-Jamestown English colonization experience.

One obstacle to actual education during this class was that the lacking education of my obviously public-schooled classmates required precious lecture time be spent discussing historical facts any high-school graduate should already know.

"Washington didn't actually chop down a cherry tree," the professor told us, eliciting a surprised response from the students. Ferdinand and Isabella drove the Moors from Spain in addition to funding Columbus' voyage, taught the professor, who astounded my classmates when he said scientists in Columbus' time didn't actually believe in a flat earth. Only my hand went up when the professor asked how many of us knew what the Crusades were, so he had to spend twenty minutes explaining them. The incident I'll never forget because it was so indicative of the ignorance of both the students and the professor came a few weeks into the course. During a break, one student mentioned to Raposa that he'd been reading and came across an unfamiliar term. "What does 'Anglo-Saxon' mean?" Professor Raposa hesitated a minute, saying he wasn't entirely certain of the term's origin. The answer is pretty simple, especially for a history major like our professor. The Anglo-Saxons were the pre-Norman inhabitants of England. The term is derived from the coupling of the Angle tribe and the Saxons of Saxony, Germany.

I didn't learn a thing from my entire history class. Well, no. That's not true. I did learn about staple crop economies. I told my family about this at dinner one night, however, and my 14-year-old sister piped up. "Oh, I already know about those. I just read about them in a book the other day."

Well, I did learn one other thing. Remember those papers about Garrison's essays I mentioned? I paid special attention to the first two papers, researching Garrison's essays, analyzing them, and refuting them. I met all the requirements for the assignment, even abiding by the page-limit, yet both my articles only received B's. The professor explained that he didn't want us going beyond the assignment requirements, so he marked my papers down. I learned that if you want to succeed in college, you should only do the bare minimum.

This was just one class. I could mention my journalism class, which taught me nothing. Or my argumentation class, which taught me nothing. Or even my American government class at the highly-regarded Patrick Henry College, which taught me (you guessed it!) nothing. This isn't intended as a commentary on my own intelligence, as I'm a mediocre student at best. Rather, the problem is that college classes these days don't teach anything that the average student from a good homeschool high-school hasn't already learned.

The whole systems seems to be broken, from K12 through grad school. I suspect that it's got the same problem that the health-care system does--the people who are getting the service aren't the ones paying for it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:09 AM

March 20, 2006

Good, I'm Not The Only One

You know how "everyone loves Lucy"? I never did. I always thought that she was an embarrassment to womankind, and never found the show all that funny. Apparently, Lileks wasn't impressed, either:

Lucille Ball also shows up, and you can smell the cigarette smoke from 30 years away. She did not give the impression of being a particularly pleasant person.

[Warning, just a small snippet from a much larger, mostly unrelated Bleat. But it's Lileks--go read it anyway.]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:53 AM

March 17, 2006

Happy St. Pat's Day

Posts will be green today, in celebration. The beer, however, will not. Also, I'll keep this post at the top all day, as a warning.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:59 PM

March 15, 2006

Half A Century

That's how long it's been since My Fair Lady was first staged. I recall my parents taking me to see the movie when it first came out in the early sixties. As the article points out, it was a groundbreaking show, in several ways, and has some of the best songs ever written.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:59 PM
Heinleinian or Asimovian?

Jane Galt asks an interesting question. I match to type, preferring Heinlein and being basically libertarian. The fact that Paul Krugman is an Asimov fan only confirms my preference.

I also think that people who are SF readers in general are much more prepared to deal with the future than those who are not, and this is becoming more the case over time as the pace of technological innovation continues to accelerate.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:45 PM

March 07, 2006

Back To Normal?

New Orleans has had its first bank robbery since Katrina.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:56 AM

March 03, 2006

A Humble Suggestion

Lileks discusses a major decision at his newspaper:

Everyone was casting votes on new comics to replace Boondocks. It’s going on indefinite hiatus; the strain of drawing three panels of oversized TV sets illustrating sixteen consecutive “Brokeback” jokes has taken its toll, and the creator is stepping away for a while. The options were grim. You have no idea how many lame, derivative and unfunny strips the syndicates have – and those are the ones that got the syndie deals. Made me appreciate “Chickwood Lane” all the more, even though it annoys me for some reason. (It seems basted in its own self-regard. Still read it, though.) The editor had looked at the column I recommended, but said it wasn’t syndicated yet. It goes without saying that the brilliant Achewood comic cannot be featured in a family paper, and Penny Arcade would never bother to recalibrate its language just to be in the paper. I say that without sarcasm, incidentally: “being in the paper” isn’t the high holy calling it once was. Why should it be? There’s something about shooting for the mass market that blandifies comics into tepid farina. “Get Fuzzy” works, as does “Pearls Before Swine,” but they’re rare.

Let's say we start a blog campaign to replace Boondocks with this guy. I can just imagine the fusillade of simultaneously exploding liberal heads all over the nation. It would be hard to avoid bloggy triumphalism if that were to happen.

And of course, today Boondocks, tomorrow...Doonesbury. That would be the apocalypse.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:57 AM

February 23, 2006

Do You Defile Books?

This post (related to e-books) brought up an interesting subject in comments. There are people who think nothing (and in fact find it necessary) to highlight or make margin notes in books, and there are others (like me) who consider this sacrilege, and would never consider doing such a thing. I remember being in awe of books as a child, and even though they're now mass produced, and it's not a rational thing, I still can't bring myself to write in one (except perhaps to sign it, if I were to write one myself). And frankly, I never found it useful as a study aid, so there was never much pressure for me to do it.

It's not something that anyone ever taught me, or lectured me about, it's just a visceral repugnance at the thought. How weird am I (always a dangerous question with this crowd, I know...)?

The comments section is open.

[Update in the early evening]

Look, just to clarify here, I'm not saying that my position is rational, or anything. I'm just curious to see how many share it. It's really psychology research. I guess I'm wondering if it's some kind of intrinsic personality trait (like being interested in space) that's not (obviously) explainable either by upbringing or genetics.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:13 PM

February 21, 2006

The Slide Down The Hill Continues

So much for childhood memories--Detroit might be closing its zoo. And of course, it's because of the evil racists:

Council member Barbara-Rose Collins said the state’s deadline for the city to sign over zoo operations to the Zoological society boiled down to disrespect. Many council members felt they were being bullied into handing over zoo operations without an agreement they were comfortable with.

Collins said, "The symbolism is that Detroit is a black city and that we’re unable to govern ourselves. So we need an overseer, the state legislature, or what have you, to step in and tell us what we must do and how to do it."

She said she will not sign off on an operating agreement until it protects Detroit’s interests and the state should not try to force them with a funding deadline.

"That is a racist attitude. I resent it very much. I’m trying not to let it color my judgments, but we’re not a plantation, blacks aren’t owned by white folks anymore," said Collins.

No, it has nothing to do with the fact that the people who run Detroit, whether white, black or purple, have run it into the ground.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:55 AM

February 14, 2006

Good Valentine's Day Advice For The Ladies

Don't get your love-life advice from Hollywood.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:53 PM

January 10, 2006

Another Mockingbird In The Gunsights

In the twenty-first century, this is very disturbing.

For those who don't get the reference, here's a clue.

[Wednesday update]

A commenter asks who Cory Maye is. Here's the story at Wikipedia.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:23 PM

January 09, 2006

More Of This, Please

The UCLA Alumni Association is fed up with nutty professors. Alumni associations actually have a lot of power in the war to take back academia from the radical left, but they have to care, and exercise it.

[Update on Monday evening]

As Jane Bernstein points out in comments, if you read the fine print, it's not the UCLA Alumni Association--it's another group (probably less official) called the Bruin Alumni Association. Kudos to them anyway.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:51 AM

January 08, 2006

Polywhatever

Glenn thinks that a lot of the current concern about polygamy is an offshoot of the gay marriage debate. I think that's right, but we need to clarify terms here:

There's a pretty good argument that polygamy is usually bad for the societies it appears in, producing a large surplus of sullen, unmarriageable young men.

Polygamy per se (a marriage of more than two individuals) doesn't result in frustrated young men--that would be polygyny (the specific case in which it is one man married to multiple women). It could be balanced out with polyandry (in which one woman has several husbands). Judging by the fact that males are...ummmmm...orgasm challenged relative to healthy females, and the prevalence of porn fantasies (and perhaps real incidents, though I have no personal experience) about one woman satisfying a number of men, and all enjoying it, at least at the time, could in fact be popular if it weren't for that pesky male imperative to know whether or not your kids are really yours.

But I'm not aware of many societies that have general polygamy--it seems to be one or the other, with polygyny dominating for fairly obvious evolutionary-psychological reasons.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:21 AM

January 07, 2006

How Low Can He Go?

Just when you thought that twisted f**k Fred Phelps, and his "congregation" couldn't get any sicker, guess what they're protesting now?

A hate group based in Topeka, Kan. released a press release on Wednesday entitled “Thank God for 12 dead miners” and promises to picket the funerals for the slain men.

The hate group, which operates as Westboro Baptist Church, runs the website www.godhatesfags.com.

The release states, “God is laughing, mocking and deriding hypocritical fag-infested West Virginia.”

The release also says the WBC will picket the funerals of the miners.

When reached by phone, member Shirley Phelps-Roper confirmed that 10 to 15 picketers were making plans to protest at the funerals of the West Virginia miners.

When asked why the group was planning protests at the miners’ funerals, she responded with questions of her own.

According to the press release, “They died in shame and disgrace, citizens of a cursed nation of unthankful, unholy perverts who have departed from the living God to worship on ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and who have replaced the Bible with ‘The Da Vinci Code.’”

You know, military people tend to be pretty disciplined, so they're relatively safe when they do this at military funerals, but I'm not sure they'll get such a safe reception at a funeral for West Virginia coal miners. And while I don't approve of violence, it will be hard to feel much sympathy if they get exactly what they deserve. These people make Pat Robertson look like a benificent genius by comparison.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:15 AM

January 04, 2006

What Do Our Youth Know?

A very disturbing (at least to me) article on the state of higher education:

To be sure, the current crop of students is the most educated and affluent ever. Their enrollment rates in college surpass those of their baby-boomer parents and Generation X, and their purchasing power is so strong that it dominates the retail and entertainment sectors. Credit-card debt for 18-to-24-year-olds doubled from $1,500 in 1992 to $3,000 in 2001, much of it due to the new array of tools, such as BlackBerries, that keep them up to date with contemporaries and youth culture. Students have grown up in a society of increasing prosperity and education levels, and technology outfits them with instant access to news, music, sports, fashion, and one another. Their parents' experience — LP records, typewriters, the cold war — seems a far-gone reality. As drivers of consumer culture, mirrored constantly by mass entertainment, young adults understandably heed one another and ignore their seniors — including professors.

But what do they know? What have they learned from their classes and their privilege?

We can be certain that they have mastered the fare that fills their five hours per day with screens — TV, DVD, video games, computers for fun — leaving young adults with extraordinarily precise knowledge of popular music, celebrities, sports, and fashion. But when it comes to the traditional subjects of liberal education, the young mind goes nearly blank. In the last few years, an accumulation of survey research on civics, history, literature, the fine arts, geography, and politics reveals one dismal finding after another. The surveys vary in sample size and question design, and they tend to focus on basic facts, but they consistently draw the same general inference: Young people are cut off from the worlds beyond their social circuit.

Sadly, the generation that treats Jon Steward as the sixties generation did Walter Cronkite vote, despite their profound ignorance. Fortunately, many of them don't.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:11 AM

December 19, 2005

More On Gay Sheepboys

From Ann Althouse, who makes an interesting point about the real victims of the insistence of society that men be heterosexual:

I've made fun of the Oscar ads for the movie, because of the way they emphasize the relationship between the men and their wives. This ad campaign is laughable for intentionally hiding the nature of the central love story. Nevertheless, the story of the wives interests me greatly. And the political argument inherent in this part of the story is, I think, especially strong. Those who would try to prevent or inhibit men from forming lifetime bonds with each other ought to give more thought to what happens to the women they marry. Those who think a man should struggle against his sexual orientation and find a way to form the classic marriage relationship with a woman ought to think about what they are advocating for the woman: a lifetime relationship with a man who has only feigned sexual attraction to her.

Lots of good discussion as well.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:10 PM
A Pack, Not A Herd

I heard on the radio that when the plane went down off Miami Beach this afternoon, a flotilla of private boats were on it almost immediately to try to find survivors. It's similar to what happened in 911, when a large number of people spontaneously evacuated lower Manhattan across the rivers to New Jersey and Brooklyn.

Unfortunately, this time, even as rapid as the response was, it looks like the people were beyond saving.

[Update at 7:30 PM EST]

Here's a link from a local blogger.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:35 PM

December 16, 2005

What's The Value Of A College Degree?

A recent survey indicated that most people graduating from college are not proficient in English.

Of course, as usual, they break it down by race. But what would interest me much more is how it breaks down by major. How do engineers compare to science majors compare to English majors? How about "Womens" or "Ethnic Studies"?

Especially sad, I suspect, might be the results for schools of education, and journalism. But they don't show them.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:10 AM
A Noble Sacrifice

Andrew Stuttaford has watched all of the Kong movies, so you don't have to.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:34 AM

December 13, 2005

Ah, An Explanation...

I haven't seen the movie (and have no intention to, based on anything I've read about it) but apparently it isn't about gay cowboys, but rather, it's about gay sheepboys. That actually makes more sense (and I'll grant a lot of credibility to the take, given that it's a lesbian source). They'll put it in anything...

[Wednesday morning update]

Mickey Kaus explains to the apparently clueless why many of us are uninterested in seeing the movie:

My wild hypothesis is that more people will go see a movie if it features an actor or actress they find attractive! If heterosexual men in heartland America don't flock to see Brokeback Mountain it's not because they're bigoted. It's because they're heterosexual. "Heterosexuals Attracted to Members of the Opposite Sex"--for those cultural critics wondering what a commercial disappointment for this much-heralded movie will Tell Us About America Today, there's your headline...
Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:24 PM
In The Minority

I'm not part of the 94% of the public who believes in God.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:25 PM
He Missed The Boat

King Kong barely got a mention at the Golden Globes. If Peter Jackson had been smart, he would have remade it with Kong as a giant, gentle, misunderstood gay gorilla, and replaced Naomi Watts with Jake Gyllenhaal as the love interest.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:42 AM

December 08, 2005

No Thanks

No matter how much the media and the glitteratti want me to, I simply cannot muster up the will to even contemplate, let alone actually drag my weary carcass to a movie theatre, to watch a love story about gay cowboys.

I guess that makes me a homophobe.

Just who is the demo for this flick?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:24 AM

December 06, 2005

Happy Holidays, Charlie Brown

Tom Purcell writes about a perennial yuletime classic television show that probably couldn't be made today.

[Update at 8:40 PM EST

Apparently, it was hard to make it even then:

"We told Schulz, 'Look, you can't read from the Bible on network television,' " Mendelson says. "When we finished the show and watched it, Melendez and I looked at each other and I said, 'We've ruined Charlie Brown.' "

Good grief, were they wrong. The first broadcast was watched by almost 50% of the nation's viewers. "When I started reading the reviews, I was absolutely shocked," says Melendez, 89. "They actually liked it!"

I have to confess, that I wasn't a great fan of it, though I did like the Guaraldi soundtrack.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:14 PM

December 05, 2005

Where's Amnesty International?

Jeez.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:54 AM

December 02, 2005

Just A Big Gorilla

Here's a rave review of Peter Jackson's latest--a remake of King Kong. I have a confession to make, though:

Jack tells me all children - "at least all boys" - love King Kong.

"He is the king of all the monsters, even better than Godzilla. Kong is stronger and smarter than Godzilla, who's just a stupid, slimy lizard."

Sorry, but I was never a big (or even little) King Kong fan. I've still never watched the original all the way through. I tried one night a few years ago, and gave up. It simply didn't hold my interest, either as a boy, or as a man. The prospect of three hours of it, even with new spectacular effects, simply doesn't motivate me to go to the theater.

Of course, I've never been a fan of horror or monster movies in general (I've never seen any of the classics--Frankenstein, the Mummy, Dracula--and have no interest in them). Lest my all-American red-blooded male credentials be questioned, though, I do like (or at least did as a youth) the Three Stooges.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:53 AM

November 28, 2005

Happy Eightieth Birthday

To the Grand Ol' Opry.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:07 PM

November 20, 2005

Why I Love "King Of The Hill"

Hank: "If we tell people that our town was founded by prostitutes, they'll know."

and

"Not Miss Kitty."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:03 PM

November 11, 2005

Changing Times

I'm watching PBS (more specifically, KCET), and they're doing a Veterans Day show hosted by Huell Howser, in which I'm watching a group of Civil War reenactors singing "When Johnnie Comes Marching Home." It's been a long time since I heard the whole song, and in 2005, one feels more than a little sympathy for them, wondering what has to be going through their minds as they have to sing "...and we'll all feel gay when Johnnie comes marching home..."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:32 PM

November 09, 2005

Making A Real Difference

One of my biggest concerns about our nation is the educational system, but I rarely blog about it, because I find the problem so intractable and depressing that I don't know what to do about it. But Joanne Jacobs has devoted much of her (at least recent) life to the subject, and she has a new book out. Go ye forth and buy it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:59 PM

November 04, 2005

Poetic Justice

This moron would have been better off if he'd stolen a belt.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:27 AM

October 24, 2005

Death Of An American Hero

Rosa Parks has died. Her bravery moved many Americans to the front of many buses, both literally and metaphorically.

I can imagine that the left wingnuts who think that all "right wingers" and "conservatives" are racists, will imagine that Free Republic will be saying things like "good riddance." Defying the stupid stereotype, au contraire.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:04 PM

September 28, 2005

Surprising Source

John Derbyshire, of all people, has an eloquent tribute to Bob Dylan. He's mistaken about Mr. Bojangles, though--it was written by Jerry Jeff Walker, not Dylan.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:47 AM

September 27, 2005

Higher Education In Crisis

Somehow, I can't help but think that there's some kind of relationship between this piece, by Professor Reynolds on the growing paucity of males on campus, and this one, by Professor Hanson, on the feminization, hypocrisy and intellectual bullying, and celebration of mediocrity there.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:17 AM

September 26, 2005

I Asked You Not To Tell Me That

I'm hearing that Don Adams died yesterday, but I haven't seen anything yet to link to about it.

[Update in the late afternoon of the east coast]

Dang. I suggest a minute of cone of silence.

[Evening update]

Cathy Seipp remembers him, though I would have thought her too young.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:51 AM
No-Win Situation

Derek Jeter has gotten hate mail for dating white women, accusing him of being a "traitor to his race." But he reportedly has a black father and a white mother. So what race is he being a "traitor" to? Who should he date?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:00 AM

September 16, 2005

Ingrates

Commenter Josh Reiter has some second-hand reporting from the Houston evacuee site:

Many of the people while screaming in anger, spitting, and fist pounding while demanding that they receive better food. Note above that my girlfriend has eaten the food there at the convention center and describes it as the same quality that you'd get at a Chili's, Fridays, or at worst a Boston Market. They were angrily demanding McDonalds' value meals to satiate their palates.

One young girl who was pregnant was asked where she was from. She very quietly mumbled something while several people were talking loudly and the buzz of lighting ballasts blared overhead. When asked to repeat herself the girl grabbed the clipboard and pen out of her hand and scribbled a series of indecipherable letters on the form. Then, threw them back down in disgust...

...I understand that anger is one of the natural reponses to a tragic situation. But there is a difference between venting types of anger and those in which someone really shows their true colors. They did nothing but display direct anger at those things and people around them that they truly despise. I think we see here the reason these people are in the situation that they are in for a reason. These people have been giving shelter, comfortable beds, good food, free medical care, free medicine, and money. For which they have little or no consideration for those who are trying to help them or appreciation for what they are being given.

Mark Twain once wrote "...a dog will not bite the hand that feeds him. This is the principal difference between a man and a dog."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:22 AM

September 06, 2005

Spiritual Stupidity

I'm listening to Neil Cavuto let Deepak Chopra make an ass of himself on Fox News right now, about how New Orleans is our fault, from global warming, etc.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:47 PM

September 01, 2005

New Orleans And Haiti

I'll probably write more on this, but I'm working on another piece right now about price gouging. Glenn has a sobering email from a colleague that demonstrates that we are always just one brief disaster away from being a third-world country, and how thin and fragile is the veneer of what we call civilization. Lee Harris has additional thoughts.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:41 AM

August 19, 2005

They Say That Like It's A Bad Thing

The number of PhDs being granted to Americans is apparently declining. I found this interesting, though unsurprising:

...many doctoral programs have low completion rates. Only about 40 percent of Ph.D. candidates in the humanities finish, compared with a 75 percent completion rate for doctoral candidates in the biological sciences.

Now, I am concerned about the lack of native borns (and hence people more likely to stay here after graduation) getting graduate science and technical degrees. But who thinks that fewer English, Women's or Ethnic or Gay Studies, Communication, Journalism, Education, Psychology, or Anthropology doctorates will bring down the curtain on American civilization?

Along that note, I found this last part depressing:

The U.S. Department of Education reported that there were 6,967 degrees awarded for education in 2002, the most for any academic field...

An academic field that, in my opinion, shouldn't even exist.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:58 AM

July 23, 2005

Weird Bleg

For any Catholics out there (and I don't mean cafeteria Catholics), is gambling a sin? If you went to the Vatican, and asked the Pope if it's OK to lay some money down on the horses, would he say, "go for it"?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:20 PM

July 19, 2005

Another Newsflash

Not only do men like to look at unclothed women, but it turns out that rich guys get laid more.

What would we do without studies?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:14 PM

July 11, 2005

Who Woulda Thought?

You'll all be shocked to learn, as I was, that men aren't totally averse to seeing women naked:

Women were more frequently bothered by nude sunbathing than men. Just over 40 percent of women said they did not like seeing other naked females on the beach, while just 5 percent of men shared their opinion about nude women.

What would we do without opinion polls?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:02 PM

July 10, 2005

They Still Don't Get It

Speaking of going out to the movies, the summer slump in Hollywood output apparently continues:

Fans complain that high ticket prices and concessions make going to theaters too costly. But industry players hear that gripe often, and note the average ticket price is up 3 percent this year, roughly equal to the increase in 2004 when the box office hit a high of $9.54 billion.

The only reason everyone seems to agree on for 2005's box office slump is that this year's films of familiar remakes, sequels, comic book capers and science-fiction adventures simply failed to connect with broad audiences.

"Audiences have gotten more sophisticated, and movies do have to catch up," Dergarabedian said.

I've certainly done my bit to suppress sales. The movie I saw yesterday was the first one I've seen in a theatre in well over a year, and the above reasons are why. Thirteen dollars for a tub of popcorn and two soft drinks seems ridiculous when one can pop it oneself in the house, and not have to put up with noisy kids, sticky floors, etc.

And they do seem in a rut thematically. Of all of the previews that I saw before Star Wars yesterday, only one (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) wasn't either SF or fantasy (Chronicles of Narnia), which also made me realize how mainstream the genre has become compared to when I was a youth, though I suspect that it doesn't dominate the book-reading public to anywhere near the same degree. In fact, I imagine that few people even realize that these are SF movies at all, so common have they become. Of course, they may have chosen those previews precisely because the movie we were seeing was SF (well, as SF as Star Wars ever was). But that does seem to be the trend this summer, judging from the paper and the buzz.

But Reuters (unsurprisingly) misses another reason that people may be staying away--the fact that so many in Tinseltown can't keep their idiot yaps shut about politics, and other subjects. I'll almost certainly skip (without missing) Oliver Stone's upcoming movie about 911, for no other reason than that it's by Oliver Stone. I'd like to see War of the Worlds, but a reason not to is the foolish things that Stephen Spielberg does and says (including his apparent worship of Fidel Castro). Why line his pockets and reward him?

And then there's Tom Cruise.

Now, I've never been a person to go see a movie just because some "star" is in it (including Jennifer Connolly, though I'm often sorely tempted to see a movie in which I'd otherwise have no interest, if she graces the screen), and that goes double for Cruise, of whom the appeal is a mystery to me. I suppose that it would probably help if I were a heterosexual female. But even the latter audience may have been turned off by his latest antics. I talked to a twenty-something of my acquaintance yesterday, who said that she was going to boycott the movie simply because he was in it, and if she ever saw him in person, she'd be tempted to slug him over the things that he's said recently about mental health (a subject with which he perhaps needs to become more familiar) and his induction of Katie Holmes into his weird cult.

If she's in any way typical of her generation, instead of a box-office draw, he may becoming box-office poison, and cratering his career. And I don't think it will be very easy for me to dredge up any sympathy if he does.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:21 AM

July 09, 2005

Eh

So I decided to go see Star Wars, Episode 3, before it left the theatres. I'd seen every one up till now on its first run in the theatres, and it's apparently part of the zeitgeist of my generation that the ticket get punched for each one. I saw the first one at a less impressionable age than some, and so wasn't as impressed with it as that generation--my lodestone for SF movies remains 2001, having grown up on a steady diet of Heinlein, Clarke and Asimov, and that was the first SF movie that really tried to get it right (unlike Star Wars, which simply tried to get the effects spectacular, physics notwithstanding).

I know I'm a little late to the party, in terms of reviewing this film, but it's tough, given today's technology, for a movie to ride on special effects any more, just as it was easy to do so in 1977, because so much of the field laid unplowed. So the effects were simply what was expected, and had lost their capability to amaze.

How did I like the movie?

As I've already said, not being a Star Wars fanatic, I had no expectations. Or rather, given the previous two pathetic Lucas efforts, my expectations were that it would be bad. It lived down to them, but managed to barely maintain my interest for a couple hours, if only to see if it could manage to not be as bad as its predecessors. In that, it succeeded. Barely. I do think that, that had I been Lucas, and wanted to goose the box office draw, I would have at least put out a rumor that Jar-Jar Binks would be killed in some drawn-out and gruesome manner, if not actually doing it in the movie. I'd have paid double the price to see that.

I'm putting together case studies for system failures as part of my day job, and I think I may do this as one for a failure of management. The Jedi screwed the puppy big time, though the Anakin character seemed too weak and pussilanimous to begin with to be the appropriate subject of a proper Greek tragedy.

But mainly, it increased my admiration for Natalie Portman as an actress. She was given a role so pedestrian and devoid of character (unlike her putative daughter, Leia, in the pre-sequels) that it seemed a travesty of her talent. I'd always thought her a good actress, but the first two movies of this series were disappointing. But in this one, George Lucas' wooden dialogue skills brought her talents fully to the fore. Any intelligent woman who can mouth the words "Hold me, Anakin, hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo," and keep a straight face deserves the Oscar.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:58 PM

June 26, 2005

Europeans Drop Suit

Reporting to you from Tenerife, Spain. It is a Canary Island in the Atlantic on London time with a decidedly Mediterranean culture. Tenerife claims to have the highest point in Spain, which I am told is the top of Mt. Teide the volcano, but the high point for me is the beach. This is my first trip ever to a European beach. I was in Denmark in the summer ten years ago, but it was not a "beach year" that year.

There are many people from the UK and the nordic countries that spend every waking minute in the sun. You can see hundreds of people sunning themself with or without (cloud) cover. Nothing tops (seeing) them.

The difference in the suit laws and custom explains many of the other cultural differences between Europe and the States. Topless bars are probably more lucrative in the States. US titillation in the movies plays ho hum in Europe. Foreign ho hum scenes titillate in the states. I prefer the pure tan to the Puritan.

Sundae toppings are also missing. One restaurant had 30 desserts including banana splits and a dozen ice cream sundaes and no chocolate sauce. I think that chocholate sauce has been devalued because Nutello (chocolate hazel nut butter) is what substitutes for peanut butter here. ¿If you can have chocolate sauce for lunch, who needs it for dessert?

I am already growing numb without topping for my visual dessert at the beach, though. Part of the reason may be why my friend took up a petition to sue for more clothing. Good luck with his suit.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at 04:13 AM

June 24, 2005

Still Uptight

(Democrat) Victor Davis Hanson reviews the book "South Park Republicans," and notes that the new puritans are on the left:

Dour, humorless, self-righteous, eager to use the coercive power of the state to impose ideological orthodoxy, so-called "liberals" and "progressives" had become enemies of freedom. These days the humorless, repressed enforcers of rigid standards of behavior are the politically correct professors and media pundits, the dour feminists ("That's not funny!"), the race-tribunes, and the identity-politics hacks that monitor the media and popular culture for any deviations from the party line of liberal dogma, multiculturalism, and victim-politics.

He's correct, in my opinion. It's not just coincidence that Massachusetts is one of the bluest of the blue states. Modern (il)liberal nannyism is a direct descendant of the Puritan strain in American history, brought there by the East Anglians who settled that region, as described by David Hackett Fischer in Albion's Seed. It continues to echo down the generations.

[Update on Saturday morning]

Someone notes that I didn't read carefully--it's on VDH's web site, but the review is actually by Bruce Thornton.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:55 AM

June 07, 2005

Farewell To You

...Mrs. Robinson.

I don't know if Jesus loves you more than you will know, but I can tell you that many adolescent boys did.

She was, of course, much more than that, but she was that.

My deepest condolences to Mr. Brooks, and family. Anne, we loved ya.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:44 PM

May 30, 2005

"Unwarranted Self Regard"

One fears for the future if these students are typical of today's crop:

Once again, I explained how to answer the question, and once again the student was pleased. The error was just a trivial difference of opinion. "Yeah, I get it," she said. "I was just thinking of it differently." You say tomayto, I say tomahto.

No, I wanted to say, you weren't thinking of it differently, you had it completely wrong; you didn't understand it at all. But like her many compatriots, she was unlikely to acknowledge that, or admit to a mistake even when she created a version of reality never seen on a map, or in the actions of a blackbird.

Students have always deluded themselves, of course, and hope has always sprung eternal, or at least until final grades appear. And at least some in my classes really do eventually master the material. But confident placidity in the face of error seems to be on the rise.

Maybe it's all that self-esteem this generation of students was inculcated with as youngsters, or maybe it's the emphasis on respecting everyone else's opinion, to the point where no answer, even a mathematical one, can be truly wrong because that might offend the one who gave it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:34 AM

May 27, 2005

Mazel Tov

Herman Wouk is ninety years old today.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:31 PM
Nanny State?

KLo is upset by this apparent meddling by the New York City Council in the number of male/female restrooms required in public facilities.

I fail to see the cause for umbrage. Given that there are going to be ordinances specifying that there be restrooms at all (and there are much more serious depredations on liberty than such ordinances to be concerned with), why not respond to clear demand, and establish a sufficient number of each type? It's blindingly obvious that (mostly male) architects seem clueless as to the disparity between male/female toiletry issues. When there are consistently long lines for something, it's an indication of a shortage of supply, and one to which the market seems impervious, given the captive-audience nature of the situation in, say, a sports stadium. I remember when the Getty first opened, it had a serious shortage of bathrooms for both sexes, and as an engineer was appalled at Meier's apparent lack of common sense, focusing instead on pure aesthetics. It would be nice if the designers would get a clue, but given that they continue not to, I've got a lot bigger things to worry about than this.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:52 AM

May 10, 2005

No Consensus

John Podhoretz says that the Revenge of the Sith, well, sux. But here's a much different (and longer) opinion, with lots of spoilers, for those who care about such things.

I have trouble worrying about spoilers for a movie like this. I mean, even someone with the minimal mental acuity of Jar Jar Binks ought to be able to intelligently interpolate between movies 2 and 4, such that the major plot points are obvious. The only question is how well Lucas pulls them all off.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:08 AM

May 09, 2005

Brought Down By Arrogance

Darth Groznii says that the Order of the Jedi deserved to be destroyed. It seems like a sound analysis to me.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:04 AM

April 26, 2005

Ay Caramba!

There are now 350 episodes of The Simpsons.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:59 AM

April 16, 2005

Walking Eagle

I don't know if this will be the last word on the subject, but Matt Labash certainly has the best take so far on Lord Minniehaha:

All this anarchism has made me thirsty, so I cross the street to get a Diet Coke, and take a coffee order from Churchill and Saito. All I can find, however, is a Starbucks. When I come back to the fair with two venti something-or-anothers, surly anarchists look like they want to kick my windows in, just like they did the Seattle Starbucks back at WTO '99.

Churchill, to his credit, doesn't subscribe to any meaningless "praxis of personal purity," so he takes his coffee (black) with a shrug and lights a Pall Mall. I ask if he's an anarchist, and though they have an affinity, he says no. He's an Indigenist. Not quite sure what that entails, I ask him to explain. He's a wordy bugger, and goes on for a good while about a "consciously synchronous level of population" and a "latitude of action that is governed in a self-regulating manner" and a "unity in the differentiation that's consonant with natural order." I figure this would all go down a lot easier if I'd first eaten peyote.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:17 AM

April 15, 2005

Just Say No To Kofi

Kofi "Look The Other Way" Annan is slated to give the commencement address at the University of Pennsylvania. Some of the students, unsurprisingly, aren't happy about it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:52 AM

April 13, 2005

Has There Ever Been A Pretty One?

The Boston Herald bravely reports that the "Kennedy Feud May Turn Ugly."

Actually, they're pretty hard on my eyeballs even when they're getting along...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:33 AM

March 25, 2005

"World To End"

"Women, Minorities Hardest Hit."

That's the old joke about how the New York Times would headline a story about the apocalypse.

Well, in the case of the tsunami, life imitates satire.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:23 AM

March 24, 2005

What's The Rush?

While a little skeptical of the merits of the case, I find it a little surprising that none of the judicial rulings have erred on the side of keeping Mrs. Schiavo alive until all can be resolved with some degree of certainty. After all, there's no harm in doing so.

Those who want to kill her (and no matter what kind of gloss they wish to put on it, that's exactly what they're doing) shouldn't be in such a hurry--after all, there's plenty of time to pull the tube later if the de novo investigation comes to the same conclusion. Why are they determined to act with such alacrity, almost desperate to end her life? Some might argue that if it's her wish to do so, it's an injustice to her to continue to delay it. But those who argue that also claim that she has no awareness, so why should she care--she'll never know?

The only rationale that I can think of is that they want to create a fait accompli, because once she's dead (assuming that no cryonic suspension has been arranged), she's not coming back. There's no patient to examine, and the entire issue becomes moot. What are they so frightened of in a potential review that they want so quickly to destroy any of the evidence, put a stake through the heart of the case?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:54 PM
Doing The Right Thing?

It sounds like, so far, the University of Colorado has it right. If he's canned, it should be for his fraud and plagiarism, not his inspeakably vile utterings (or character).

I have mixed feelings about what the eventual outcome should be. In the interests of academic integrity, the university should get rid of him (and I suspect that it will, and I hope not with a buyout). On the other hand, I think that in a just world, they should have to live with him as punishment for hiring him in the first place, and as a constant reminder to be more careful when granting tenure.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:45 PM

March 23, 2005

Unfounded Assumptions

Hugh Hewitt writes, about the recent school shooting incident in northern Minnesota:

...[the] MSM is not distinguishing itself in this instance, and will again move past this terrible story without ever asking what has happened to youth culture in America that it turns out such killers.

Hugh is making a couple assumptions here for which he provides no basis. First, that these types of incidents are more prevalent today than they've been at various times in the past and, second, that they're caused by something in "youth culture."

Both may be true, but I'm not aware of any evidence for either. Does he have any data to indicate that mass shootings by young people are at some kind of all-time high, on a per capita basis, or are we just more aware of them, because of modern communications technology? If so, does he have any data to indicate that it's caused by "youth culture," as opposed to (for example) increases in psychoses due to environmental factors (e.g. Ritalin, or non-prescribed drugs), or increased availability of rapid-fire weaponry?

It's not like this is a unique period in American history, after all. Remember Billy the Kid? And if this didn't happen in the early nineteenth century, it wasn't so much because it was discouraged by "youth culture" (to the limited degree that such a thing existed) so much as the fact that muzzle-loading muskets weren't very handy tools for shooting and killing many people in a short period of time. It would actually be interesting to see how gang murder rates compare with, say, the range wars of the old west (which both have a lot of young shooters involved).

I'm not proposing gun control as a solution to this problem--Kliebold's and Harris' guns were "controlled" (which is to say illegal), after all. My point is that it's very easy to simply say "O tempora, O mores!" when something like this happens, when the reality is that in a population of three hundred million people, sometimes a few of them out on the tail end of the bell curve are going to go nuts, pick up a gun, and shoot some folks. Short of a draconian reining in of our freedoms, there's probably some irreduceable amount of this thing that we'll have to accept. I'm in fact surprised that it happens as seldom as it does.

In my opinion, the solution is likely to not be fewer guns, or "gun-free zones" (which are basically the equivalent of a sign saying "Welcome, mass murderers! Unarmed victims in abundance here!") but more guns, in the hands of trained teachers and other school authorities, to end such incidents as quickly as possible with a minimum loss of life.

What concerns me is the future, as technology evolves, and some demented kid gets a hold of something really nasty, that can create a great deal more havoc in an even shorter amount of time.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:23 AM

March 11, 2005

More Foul Deeds

Now Chief Pants-on-Fire is being accused of plagiarism, and threats to the woman whose paper he plagiarized:

Dalhousie began an investigation after professor Fay G. Cohen complained that Churchill used her research and writing in an essay without her permission and without giving her credit. Although the investigation substantiated her allegations, Cohen didn't pursue the matter because she felt threatened by Churchill, Crosby said.

Crosby said Cohen told Dalhousie officials in 1997 that Churchill had called her in the middle of the night and said, "I'll get you for this."

This happened over eight years ago, with no repercussions until now.

Giving him a buyout would be a travesty. The money would be much better spent defending any lawsuit that he attempts to bring, should the university finally do the right thing, and boot him out on the street. And the people who continue to defend him should be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:30 PM

February 25, 2005

Just When You Thought It Couldn't Get Worse

Professor Minehaha is just the gift that keeps on giving. Now it turns out that he's not just a fake Indian--his "native American artwork" is plagiarized, and in violation of copyright.

Placing Churchill's work beside that of renowned artist Thomas E. Mails and the two look like mirror images. But one is a copyrighted drawing. The other is an autographed print by Churchill...

...Compare it side-by-side to the serigraph by Churchill, created some 20 years later: the composition, the images, the placement are nearly identical.

Intellectual property attorney Jim Hubbell said it's clearly no accident.

"It's very obvious that the Churchill piece was taken directly from the Mails piece," Hubbell said. "There's just too many similarities between the two for it to have been coincidence."

This guy surely is a piece of work. I'd love to seem him stay on as a poster child for everything that's wrong with academia and the tenure system, but it's hard to see how the University of Colorado can keep him on.

[Update a few minutes later]

Michelle Malkin has more, with pictures.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:41 PM

February 18, 2005

How Is It?

...that the people we're told are our greatest intellectuals seem so incapable of basic critical thinking, or English comprehension?

Several Harvard professors said they were more furious after reading the precise remarks, saying they felt he believed women were intellectually inferior to men.

Everett I. Mendelsohn, a professor of the history of science, said that once he read the transcript, he understood why Dr. Summers "might have wanted to keep it a secret."

I'm very glad that I don't have to be in college today.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:25 AM

February 17, 2005

Lousy Salesmen

A company threw away thirty-five thousand pairs of shoes, because they were like bi-pedal whoopie cushions:

Customers complained that with every step, their shoes made the sound of someone passing gas.

The problem wasn't the shoes--the problem was that they accidentally sold them to the wrong customers, who weren't in the market for that particular feature.

If the numbers here are right, the shoes cost them about six to eight bucks a pair. I simply cannot believe that they wouldn't have quickly emptied the shelves of them for much more than that had they made a minimal attempt to market them, as gag gifts, or a way to keep track of toddlers, or just for kids (of all ages) to annoy adults. Even without bothering to rebrand, or come up with a clever name (feel free to offer suggestions in comments), they could have gotten their money back with profit just by tossing them up on Ebay as is.

Heck, they might have even ended up with a whole new product line. They could have been partnering with the supplier who screwed up, instead of paying lawyers. It could go down in the history of accidental techological innovation, kind of like vulcanizing rubber.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:23 AM

February 16, 2005

Striking Out

I've always thought of myself as somewhat of a geek, but it turns out that I'm probably just nerdy. I am now confirmed in my non-geekiness, because I don't now have, and never in my life have had, any of these hobbies.

[via Geek Press]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:27 AM

February 11, 2005

We Ain't Got No Rhythm

In North America, that is:

Hannon and Sandra Trehub of the University of Toronto began their study with knowledge that other studies had shown people in North America struggle to grasp irregular rhythms. Balkan music proves troubling, for example. So the researchers studied 50 college students, mostly from the United States and Canada, and 17 first- or second-generation Bulgarian and Macedonian immigrants. Songs with simple meters were made more complex, and complex songs were simplified.

The North Americans recognized when things got trickier, but couldn't tell when things got simpler. The immigrants figured both out.

I have an old album by the Irish folk musician Andy Irvine, who spent a lot of time in the Balkans, and plays bouzouki, on which he plays a number of horas. I can't imagine how in the world folks dance to them.

But I was particularly appalled a few years ago when in an elevator, I heard a version of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" done in 4/4 time (it was originally written, as hinted at by the title, in 5/4--another Brubeck classic, on the same album, is Blue Rondo A La Turk, in 9/8). They had apparently dumbed it down for less sophisticated American ears. I almost couldn't believe what I was hearing.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:39 AM

February 10, 2005

Setting Him Up For The Fall

Sounds like Professor Minehaha is going to get his walking papers--for academic fraud.

It's too bad. I'd actually like to see him keep his job, and continue to embarrass the University of Colorado. As someone said on Brit Hume's panel last night, he's a poster child for everything that's wrong with academia.

Then again, he may survive. After all, an endorsement like this is hard to beat:

"I've read a fair amount of his work, and a lot of it is excellent, penetrating and of high scholarly quality," said Noam Chomsky, linguistics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an anti-war activist.
Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:49 AM
Equality

So sayeth Jane Galt, on Carly Fiorina's metaphorical defenestration:

The highlight of Ms Fiorina's tenure was, of course, the disastrous merger with Compaq, in which Ms Fiorina demonstrated that women are every bit as good as men at senseless, megalomaniacal empire-building.
Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:57 AM

January 21, 2005

An Overrated Skill

In my opinion, any way, is what cursive handwriting is. I knew how to do it, once upon a time, but I quit in junior high school, when I realized that I could write more legibly and quickly by printing. I understand the theory that things go faster when you don't have to pick up the pen, but I never found that it went that much faster, and it was unreadable, often even by me.

Now comes an old-school teacher who wants to revive the skill, which is apparently dying out among the nation's youth, because many teachers can't do it themselves, and if they can, don't want to take the time to teach it, or have the students practice.

In high school and college, any student without a 24/7 laptop cannot hope to keep accurate notes on a lecture course. Kate Gladstone, a handwriting specialist based in Albany, estimates that while a student needs to jot down 100 legible words a minute to follow a typical lecture, someone using print can manage only 30. "That's fine for class," she said, "if the class is first grade."

Sorry, but I just don't buy the necessity of this in a world in which keyboards cost five bucks and laptops continue to drop in price and size. Committing thoughts to paper with pen or pencil is pure drudgery for me. If I hadn't had access to a typewriter in high school and college (this was before word processors, which would have been a godsend), it's quite possible that I'd have flunked out, so extreme is my aversion to handwriting in any form. And in fact, I can only think of one time that my inability to write script has had any noticeable impact on my academic or professional career. In 1981, when I took the GRE, I had to write on the front of the book an honor pledge of some sort that I wouldn't cheat. It said that it must be written, not printed. I dredged up out of memories of elementary school how the letters were formed, and carefully and laboriously dragged the pen across the page to write the words. That was the first time I'd done so since about eighth grade, and I've never done it since.

And I don't buy her speed estimates. As already noted, there was little difference in speed between printing and cursive writing for me, and a huge difference in legibility.

I absolutely disagree with this statement:

Once you learn to walk, you won't go back to crawling again."

Perhaps not, but the analogy is poor. For me, cursive writing is stumbling along, printing is walking (painfully), and typing is running like the wind, in which my thoughts simply magically and effortlessly appear on the screen, with no intermediary between. If it be dying, I refuse to mourn the loss of handwriting, or support efforts to revive it.

[Update at 1 PM EST]

One more point. I also disagree with this:

"...you're probably going to be taking notes for the rest of your lives. I don't know anybody who works on a computer and doesn't also have a pad nearby."

This must be like Pauline Kael's famous comment that Nixon couldn't have won, because she didn't know anyone who voted for him.

In fact, I work extensively on a computer, and have no physical notepads nearby, and haven't for years. That's what text editors (e.g., Microsoft Notepad) are for.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:03 AM

December 20, 2004

The Love Generation

Here's an interesting read from Christopher Hitchens on hippies:

Eleanor Agnew's lovely memoir of this movement of primal innocence is at once honest and hilarious. She recaptures the period with unerring skill: a period when the Apollo mission had shown us our fragile, blue planetary home from outer space, thus promoting (first) ''The Whole Earth Catalog'' and (second) a mentality that despised the science and innovation necessary for the taking of that photograph in the first place.

RTWT

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:47 PM

February 12, 2002

Jack Henry Abbot, Killer

Jack Abbott did the universe a big favor and threw himself a private necktie party. Stormin' Norman Mailer issued his usual predictable numbskullian apologia:

"His life was tragic from beginning to end," Mr. Mailer said yesterday in a prepared statement. "I never knew a man who had a worse life."

Don't get out much, Norm?

Actually the tragedy was for those who had the misfortune to cross his path. And, yes, perhaps few had worse lives, but it was worse only in the sense that it was a life lived extremely badly. He wasn't misunderstood, except by the Norman Mailers of the world--he was just a thug who could occasionally put words together. I wonder how long it will be before Mailer's fellow sob sisters start lamenting his passing?

Anyway, if a beast exists, I'm pretty sure that Jack Abbott is now truly in the belly of it. And Mr. Mailer may not be too far, in time or morality, from joining him.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:53 AM