Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Black Sabbath in the Hall of Fame

Black Sabbath is to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March.

That's not the real news. The real news is that up until now they weren't in it.

Seriously. Did they think that maybe this whole "heavy metal" thing will just blow over? They had to wait to be inducted at the same time as freaking Blondie, who started about ten years later than they did.
Artists are eligible to be inducted into the Rock Hall after at least 25 years have passed since their first record was released.
Oh, that explains it. . . . Wait, they released their first album in 1970. That means that they've waited ten years too long. Are they going to make Metallica wait until 2018? If I'm not mistaken, Randy Rhoads was already inducted. And he was Ozzy's guitar player starting about ten years after Tony Iommi. What exactly is the holdup?

“I Wish I Could Do That”

In high school some of my friends and I started a band. We sucked (and I particularly sucked on bass) but it was fun, and an excuse to hang out after school.
Anyway, one day we finished practicing and went downstairs. My friend’s dog was licking his genitals (some would say he was “on vacation”). The conversation went thus:
Friend X: “Man, I wish I could do that.”
Friend Y: “I don’t know . . . that dog looks pretty mean.”

I still laugh when I think about that. Just in case you don’t get it (and it won’t be funny now if you didn’t), the implication of Y’s statement was that he understood X to desire the ability to lick the dog’s genitals.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Gender Roles

This began as a response to this post on sexism in language, but it got way too long and so I transplanted it here.

Excellent post, LG, (you got me on the "man on the street") and everyone has made excellent comments. But alas, too many people are in agreement, so I feel a need to stir things up.

As to the rape/date rape distinction:
Recently in my Evidence class we discussed certain federal evidence rules that make it much easier to convict alleged sex offenders. What struck me was the assumption, by each female (and most male) student who took part in the discussion, that the alleged offender was guilty. Therefore they believed all of the rules that made this easier a good thing.
But why this assumption? In no other area of the law is there this assumption. If I walked into my state legislature today and asked them to pass laws making it easier to convict alleged murderers, how would that go over? The rules assume guilt, and I find this abhorrent.
I think this PC way of speaking about rape has led us all to believe that no woman would file a false report of a rape. While I will not dispute the figures that tend to show a large number of unreported rapes, I would argue that reported rapes are much more likely to be fabricated, whether a lie or a regret turned to altered memory. This is especially true in a date rape situation. But does it make sense to make it easier to convict innocent people because so many guilty people go free?
One of the rules in particular makes it more difficult to attack the character of the alleged victim. Which I suppose is good if you want to encourage people to report crimes. But what if the "victim" is a pathological liar, or a sex addict, or bi-polar? Any of these could easily lead to a false date-rape claim, and I suspect that there are probably other personality characteristics which could also lead to this result.

As to sex roles:
I think SusieQ is perhaps on the right track. If we can agree that there are biological differences between men and women, does it not also follow that there are other differences? Isn't it logical to assume that men may be more suited to different roles than are women? Is there inherently anything wrong with that as long as it is not misused in a degrading way?
My fiancee and I recently spoke with my pastor in a pre-marriage counseling session. He described the husband a the wife's head. The head does not abuse the body or use it for its own ends. The head does what is best for the whole of the body, and coordinates the actions of the whole so that each part does what it is best suited to do.

This brought to mind what I believe is an ancient Chinese statement: that the man is the head but the woman is the neck, and she can make the head face in whatever direction she pleases. Who is more degraded in this metaphor?

And that brings me to the western proverb "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." What is wrong with ruling in this way?

And finally, I would like to make the point that many women abuse the gender roles as well as do men, by using sex for personal gain or by abusing the over-protectiveness of men over women. It's simply biological fact (hormones and tissue development) that makes it easier for men to abuse women. I submit that if women were physically as strong as men the incidence of women abusing men would be nearly as high as the more familiar situation.

William L. Prossner Quote

Your lawyer in practice spends a considerable part of his life in doing distasteful things for disagreeable people who must be satisfied against an impossible time limit in which there are hourly interruptions from other disagreeable people who want to derail the train; and for his blood, sweat, and tears, he receives in the end a few unkind words to the effect that it might have been done better, and a protest at the size of the fee.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Ironic

Apparently, Ronald MacDonald is the Hamburglar.

Talking About Myself for a Change

When people use their blogs mostly to talk about themselves and their lives, it’s usually boring. So normally I eschew that in favor of more entertaining and educational ventures.

And this Friday I promise to post about a big subject in many people’s minds today: war.

But with my wedding coming up in about three weeks, I thought that just for once I could discuss where I’ve been and how I got here. It’s my blog, after all.

To save you a lot of time talking about what a dork I was as a kid (I have pictures to prove it, but not in digital format), or how cool I thought I was in high school wearing my fedora and driving around in my Towncar smoking cigars and listening to (*gasp*) Kid Rock, I’ll start at my college days.

The Early College Chapter

When I got to college I was already cool, as you can plainly see from this picture.
(This is the best excuse for a goatee I could come up with.)
That was taken my freshman year with my spiffy webcam, which I have never installed on my new computer. That year and the next I skipped a lot of classes, watched a lot of movies and played a lot of Starcraft. My usual day had me waking up at noon or one and finally going to sleep any time from three to six thirty in the morning.
I was very much into body modification.
Moving counterclockwise from bottom left: my first piercing in my lobe, given to me by my friend Adam, my second piercing which I gave myself in the bathroom of my dorm, and the cartilage piercing I got at Wal-Mart.

And finally, the eyebrow piercing I gave myself in my dorm room sophomore year.
And let’s not forget my three tattoos. Here’s the evolution of one of them:


I was definitely a dork, as I am now, and probably a rebel. Check out this badass ring, or something, which my friends and I affectionately called the “Death Claw”:

And let’s not forget the goofing around I did, this time with a guy named Dan.

(Yes, I painted my fingernails black.)

The Walter Fisette Chapter


But that all changed when I started working for Walt. He had been in the moving business for thirty-some years, and he always had something to say about everything. He appreciated all kinds of people and could get along with anyone. I worked with him for two summers, and they were probably the best two summers of my life. We moved doctors, pastors, power company workers, soldiers, and even a cattle baron. We went to Albuquerque, New Mexico; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Billings, South Dakota; Iowa City, Iowa, and Manhattan, Kansas; among other places. It was hard work, but rewarding, to lift all kinds of heavy stuff, emptying a whole house, and then helping someone start anew. Walt in many ways convinced me to realize my potential and stop screwing around. By the way, in that picture he is driving in a parade in a truck for the Orphan Grain Train, a charity that helps a lot of people, mostly in Russia. He drove the first truck ever for that charity.

Over Thanksgiving break my junior year I was helping him with another move, this time in York, Nebraska. A day (or was it two?) before Thanksgiving, we were sitting in the truck waiting for it to warm up. I was lying in the top bunk trying to get some sleep before we left. And Walt was having a bad case of acid reflux, so he was waiting for it to subside before departing. He couldn’t get over how bad the pain was, and he thought he was going to throw up. He said, “Harold, get a bag, quick!” (Harold was a long-time helper of Walt’s.) After that he passed out and started gurgling. His wife Louise started administering CPR (she’s an RN) and Mike, another helper (Walt said he’s good for a day or two, but if you work past four or work him for more than two days he’s worthless), dialed 911. The ambulance arrived and took him away. I went home, with blind and complete faith in our medical professionals and the advancement of medical science. I got a call from Dennis (my dad’s best friend from high school and a dispatcher for Andrew’s Van Lines) a few hours later. He asked me how I was doing. I said I was ok. He said he thought I’d take it worse than that. It was then that he informed me Walt had died at the ripe young age of 52.

I’m not really sure what to say about that.

At the funeral, I cried. Clayton Andrew, the 90-some-odd-year-old owner of Andrew’s, stood up and talked about what a great, reliable guy Walt was, and how he will be missed. Other people stood up and talked about how he knew a lot of things and could talk your ear off, and about how he really cared about what he was doing and knew that he was working with people’s lives. Harold, the quiet-spoken farmboy, however goofy-looking he may be, looked nice in a suit. Louise handled it well, I think. I even met Walt’s mother and sister. His mother has the most beautiful German accent, and it’s rare to see someone that sad. His sister has Downs syndrome, and I don’t think she completely grasped what was happening.

Walt had a huge impact on my life. Not many people can say that about their boss at a college job. He’s certainly much better than the lying bitches who smoke every fifteen minutes and meth manufacturers that I worked for and with at the deli in Pac ‘N Save.

One last thing:
On the way from Seward (my college town) to Hadar, Nebraska, for Walt’s funeral, it was probably the most beautiful day I have ever seen. The ground was covered in pristine white snow and the trees were lovingly frosted by a benevolent God.

Finally, to My Bride-To-Be

I was already dating Laura at the time Walt died. She knew how hard it was for me.
She has continued to be a good influence on me in Walt’s stead. Just look at how much more clean-cut I am in the picture. She loves me, and I love her. She’s a good small-town Nebraska girl, and she’s smart. And most importantly, she loves dogs almost as much as I do. What more could I possibly ask for? Now she has her BSN and is working as an RN. She ultimately gave the suggestions that put me over the edge and made me decide to go to law school.

And now look at me.
I’m all clean-cut and dressed up with nowhere to go. Of course, that’s because I took the picture after oral arguments for Legal Writing class. And check out the samurai sword set and the bamboo. And that amazing receding hairline! What could be sexier than a bald man in a suit wielding a katana in one hand and a legal textbook in the other?

Well, that’s it. I’ll try not to talk about myself for a while, if only to keep people coming back to the blog.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hypnotize

I picked up the new System of a Down CD, Hypnotize yesterday. And I have to say, it's very good. It continues in their tradition of bizarre, eclectic styles and their highly relevant lyrics. They also continue to use nonsensical lyrics for the sheer sonic effect of those lyrics. The song that stands out the most so far is "Vicinity of Obscenity" because of the nice funk riff in there.

It is intended as the second CD in a Mezmerize/Hypnotize two-disc set. And in that vein, it's right up there with others such as the Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Metallica's Load and Reload. The two mesh well, with no significant departures in style or production. And since "Soldier Side (Intro)" opens the first and "Soldier Side" closes the second, there is a beatufiul sense of closure when you finish listening to the pair. Incidentally, they would actually both fit on the same 80-minute disc.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Lawyer Advertising

The Florida Supreme Court isn't going to allow a law firm to use pit bulls as a mascot/advertising scheme/phone number. Read about it here, if you want.

Apparently they're also worried about lawyers being compared to sharks. Like that would ever happen. :)
So, apparenlty the First Amendment doesn't apply to lawyers.

Can I use a Terminator as a mascot? Or what about a ninja? A noble samurai warrior, perhaps?

Stupid Miranda Rules

Miranda v. Arizona excludes evidence of anything you say, while under arrest, until after the officers tell you that you have the right to remain silent. Doyle v. Ohio, to make this a real right, disallows prosecutors from commenting on the silence of a defendant who has been read his rights. But Jenkins v. Anderson, on the other hand, allows prosecutors to comment on a defendant’s pre-arrest silence when he has not been read his rights. And Weir v. Fletcher says that they can comment on your silence even after arrest, but before the warnings are given. So, before they read you your rights, you don’t have the right to remain silent, but you have the right to say anything you want (although it can be used to impeach you at trial). After they read you your rights, you have the right to remain silent, but anything you do say can be used against you.

Why does your right depend on whether they told you about it?
Why are the rights reversed (and ill-protected) upon receiving warnings?
Doesn’t this put people who know their rights at a disadvantage?

This stupid mosaic of law is brought to you by the politicians in cheap robes, and the number 9.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Giant Robots

Giant robots are really freakin’ cool. So much so that I can’t even put it into words. So I’ll have to make up a new one: spiffy-dynamitacularasticalesque. And even that word doesn’t completely capture the awe and majesty that giant robots inspire, because, well, it’s kind of a silly word. And there is nothing silly about giant robots.
I’ve always wanted my own giant robot, ever since my youth, when I watched Transformers, Robotech, and even the sub-par Gundam Wing. But that’s just the thing. You can take any show or movie, and add giant robots, and it’s at least 84% better (as studies have shown). This is particularly impressive when you realize that ninjas only make fiction 76% better, pirates 24%, and hobbits a mere 2%. Only Kurt Russell has a larger effect, making all fiction 91% better than it would have been without him.
When I was in sixth grade, I read the BattleTech novels, and before that I even had a computer game based on that franchise. I also read the Robotech novels in the fifth grade (long before I saw the television series). Hell, I even watched a really crappy movie called Robot Jox, and, you know what? It was at least eighty-five percent better than it would have been without the giant robots. And let’s not forget the AT-ST’s and AT-AT’s of the venerable Star Wars trilogy. Or their short appearance in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

Video games on the subject also capture our imagination, for example, the MechWarrior series (based on the BattleTech universe) and the Armored Core series.
Even today, in the early years of my adulthood, giant robots are still fascinating. I particularly recommend Neon Genesis Evangelion, a superbly written (and above-average animated) anime series. It combines giant robots with Biblical Apocalyptic themes (which have been known to make fiction 43% better, yet still failed to make Left Behind readable at all).

Let me know if I failed to mention any giant robot stuff that’s worth mentioning. I know about Nadesico but I’m not really familiar with it. Terminator and Ghost in the Shell don’t really count because the larger robots play a minor role.

What many people don’t know is the long history of giant robots. In Japan, for example, they have been a regular part of daily life for thousands of years, as this famous Hokusai painting illustrates:


They’ve also been a big part of American history:


But the history goes back even further, as you can see from this primitive cave painting of a Timber Wolf OmniMech (Mad Cat to you Inner Sphere dogs):


Today, giant robots don’t seem like such a big deal. They’ve become as American as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We even elect them to public office!


Now, to get your giant robot noticed, you have to add some extras. Pimp them out, to use the vernacular.


Where do we go from here? Do we make bigger (dare I say gianter?) robots than before? Or do we concentrate instead on regaining the long-lost Jedi powers that humans once had? The sky’s the limit now that all the world’s problems have been solved.

(I make no pretense that any of these pictures are my own. They have been lifted from Fark and Something Awful.)

For more robot-related (some giant, some not) information, look here and here.

Thus ends a post about longed-for childhood dreams.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Where Did Tort Reform Go? or, Torts Are Funny

Tort reform was a big part of Bush’s original campaign. After 9/11, however, it seems to have disappeared off the map entirely, while Social Security reform is probably just recharging its power scooter. Perhaps Bin-Laden and his flunkies sat around and said, “You know, American tort law is really screwed up. Let’s distract them, and eventually it will bring down their economy.” Far-fetched? At least as much so as a world with a jet pack in every home (which would be pretty sweet), but maybe it’s not entirely off the mark.

The Purposes of Tort Law

Tort law is intended as a method to make someone whole again when they are injured. If, for example, Tortfeasor sits next to you in class, and he kicks you in the shin (like the bastard he is), you will be injured. (Thanks Vosburg v. Putney.) Assume your leg breaks. You have a doctor bill, and tort law makes Tortfeasor foot the bill. Assume also that you are a field goal kicker for a professional football team, and the season opener is tomorrow. Your contract is not very good for you, so you miss out on some pay. Tortfeasor will also have to pay all of this back. Tort law doesn’t care that Tortfeasor works in a factory for $40K a year and you still make $1mil even after the injury. But it does do one thing right: you are obligated to try to find comparable work to mitigate the damages. There probably is no comparable work to playing football, but let’s assume you work at McDonald’s anyway for $10K (and you’re lovin’ it). Your damages from lost wages will be reduced by that amount.

The Problems with Tort Law

Of course, I have a problem with the current state of tort law and some of the assumptions it makes. Take the hypothetical situation of X and Y. (Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.) X and Y are driving their cars. X and Y are both talking on their cell phones. Y hangs up his phone, and ten seconds later X and Y collide. X will probably be found negligent because he was talking on his phone, and so he will have to pay for Y’s damages. But this is about as fair as a fight between Kurt Russell and Metal Gear Ray. The Metal Gear doesn’t stand a chance. Both of these guys were talking on their cell phones, as many people do when they’re driving. It was purely coincidence that X was still talking when the accident happened. We’re all negligent every day. Hell, I’ve seen my torts professor talking on her cell phone while driving. Not to minimize the victimization of the injured party, but the other party is also a victim of the system. (Although, I do have to admit that a kind of social insurance program would be at least equally as reprehensible.)

Now assume Y became a quadriplegic. X will have to pay Y’s lost wages for Y’s full life expectancy. Recall that the purpose of tort law is to make the injured party whole again. Let’s look at it this way:
Before the accident: Y worked for his wages.
After the accident: Y gets free money for just sitting around and watching TV!
Let’s not forget pain and suffering damages. Yes, I’m sure that pain and suffering is worth something, but juries tend to inflate it unrealistically, to the point that Y can buy a nice big screen TV and a mansion to ease his suffering.
And there will also be loss of enjoyment, because now Y will never again know the pure joy of scratching an itch, or of playing hopscotch. These damages are similarly difficult to quantify.

Now, let’s assume that Y died in the accident. The executor of his estate gets to sue X for Y’s lost wages as well as other things. Funeral costs are one that particularly irks me. Y would eventually have died and had a funeral anyway. If anything, Y is actually saving money on funeral costs, because they go up annually as surely as Santa Claus delivers presents or George Lucas ruins Star Wars with a new edition every year. (I heard that next time he’s going to change Leia’s slave girl outfit into a wookie costume.)
Oh yeah, and Y’s wife also gets to sue for loss of consortium.

Let’s take one final hypothetical, more related to the topic of tort reform as Bush saw it. Hypothetically, let’s just say there is a car manufacturer. Let’s call it Ford, just for fun. Also, let’s assume that they built a car that explodes when it’s hit from behind. Let’s just call that car a Pinto. Let’s further assume that Ford decides not to recall said vehicle. Now, let’s assume that a guy named Poor Bastard suffers third-degree burns in the accident and dies. His next of kin, Lucky Bastard, sues Ford. In many states, not only will he get all of the damages I’ve set out above, but also punitive damages, assuming that the jury decides Ford’s conduct was egregious enough. This is where Ford’s wealth comes in. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that this is a multi-billion dollar company. The punitive damages, instead of being designed to make the victim whole again, are designed to be, well, punitive. So the jury thinks a $100million award might punish Ford a bit. And Lucky Bastard, being no one in particular except for a guy whose brother bought a damn ugly car, gets all that money. He will, of course, by a Volvo with that money. Yeah, right.

Conclusion

Well, the only conclusion I can make is that tort law starts out with an excellent premise, and then turns the tortfeasor into the real victim. Most of the time it’s just somebody who was a little careless, as we all are. And he better hope that he makes twice as much at his job as the other guy, otherwise he won’t have any money left for himself. And, of course, we can’t forget all the Lucky Bastards out there who get a windfall profit out of the deal.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Exactly a month from today, I will be married.
Any advice, tips, comments, well-wishing, cries of despair at knowing I’m taken, or insults and curses welcome.

CBS’s “Tribute” to Johnny Cash

Warning: this is both a review and a rant.

Last night, CBS did a “tribute” to Johnny Cash, which is just another way of saying that they wanted to capitalize on the CMA awards from the night before and the upcoming movie I Walk the Line.

You’d think that a tribute would involve paying homage to the man and his music. But country star Brad Paisley decided to dance around on his grave to the tune of “Folsom Prison Blues.” I always thought that “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” was kind of a downer of a line, as is the whole song. But Mr. Paisley decided that it was a good song for a hoe-down, turning Cash’s usual downbeat style into some kind of upbeat, twangy thing that most people hate about country music (and Johnny Cash was never twangy).

Sheryl Crow then came out on stage. And you’d think dancing around on his grave would be bad enough. But no, one of rock music’s worst performers (and definitely the most overrated) decided that she would dig up Cash’s body and sodomize his corpse with her 9-inch member (you know it’s true), all to the tune of “Ring of Fire.” She tried way too hard to be country and failed miserably at it. One would think that her “All I want to do is have some fun” song would be Crow’s worst performance ever. One would be wrong.

I apologize for any hermaphrodite Sheryl Crow nightmares that you may have. But I’ve had to live with them for years, so you should too. I promise the rest of the post is less scary.

Martina McBride decided to put some class and respect back into the show by performing “I Still Miss Someone.” Her rendition was decent, and at the very least her style fit the song’s message and feel.

Jerry Lee Louis then began a fast version of “I Walk the Line,” and I have to say that up to this point it was the best performance on the show. It was very much listenable. But then Kid Rock crashed the party like some drunk sorority slut, completely eschewing harmony in favor of being Kid Rock. He was tolerable at best when “singing” his own lines, but the two should have stuck to singing separately. Kid Rock would have been much more in his own game if he would have done “A Boy Named Sue.”

U2 then performed a song that I didn’t recognize. Overall they seemed faithful to Cash’s style, but it was about as entertaining as watching sloths mate. Also, the simple fact that it was U2 annoyed me. It’s like they think they’re God’s gift to rock music, when in reality they’re just cocky liberal activists that have just played their instruments decently for a long time.

Next up was Montgomery Gentry performing “Get Rhythm.” It wasn’t too bad, actually. My only complaint is that it seemed a little on the homosexual side, not something that mixes well with country music. And why can’t they play their own guitar solo?

Norah Jones then came out with what was to that point the highlight of the night, with her rendition of “Home of the Blues.” She has a good voice, and she was true to Cash’s subdued tempo and mood. Kris Kristofferson joined her on another song immediately after, one which was originally a duet with June Carter, but which I didn’t recognize. It too was enjoyable.

Then came the best performance of the night, “Sunday Morning Coming Down” by Kris Kristofferson and the Foo Fighters. I really don’t know what to say about it except that it was truly fitting of the term “tribute.”

Allyson Kraus and Dwight Yokam came out with their rendition of “If I Were a Carpenter,” and it wasn’t bad at all. The tone and tempo were good.

Finally, Jerry Lee Louis came back out with a song I recognized, but for which I don’t recall the name. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either, especially since most or all of the other performers joined him on stage in an attempt to ruin it.

Well CBS, I hope you’re happy now that you’ve let Sheryl Crow destroy Cash’s lifeless pelvic bone. It doesn’t matter how many tolerable/good performances you bring out after that. You can never repair the damage. Thanks for the most mediocre and insulting “tribute” possible. If you wanted to do a real tribute to him you should have asked Glenn Danzig to perform at least one song, perhaps “Thirteen,” which he wrote for Johnny Cash (and which appeared on Unchained) and later performed himself. Or how about Nick Cave? Or freaking Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for God’s sake. They were his backup band, or didn’t you remember that? Why didn’t anyone perform any of his later songs? “The Man Comes Around” is definitely one of the top ten songs Cash ever wrote, and yet there wasn’t anything from his days at the American label—the only time when his producer and label let him do whatever he wanted. Your speakers were also poorly chosen. I doubt they even asked Rick Rubin to come.

Your speakers made a big deal (correctly) about the fact that Cash defied categorization and appealed to all generations of lovers of both country and rock. So why did everyone go out of their way to be country? In all honesty, while Elvis Presley was considered rock, he has had a much larger influence on country. Likewise, while Cash was considered country, he’s influenced rock music to a much larger extent.

In any case, this was not a tribute by any stretch of the word. It was a blatant promotional scheme.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Peacemonger

As I was driving to school this morning, I saw a mini-van with a large bumper sticker on it. The single word on that sticker was "Peacemonger." I assume that this soccer mom thought it was rather clever. But the word strikes me as odd. Indeed, I would rather be a warmonger than a peacemonger. A warmonger seems to be someone who advocates going to war when it is not the best answer to the situation. A peacemonger, on the other hand, would be someone who would either never advocate going to war, or who would only accede to the demands of others to go to war when it's already too late.
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
--John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873). And, to quote a friend and colleague:
I also believe that when John Lennon sings "nothing to kill or die for" he has created a world in which there is conversly nothing to live for.
--Moise. And finally, a quote which he pointed out to me:
We make war that we may live in peace
--Aristotle

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Outrage

HR Giger has been ordered to remove one of his Alien sculptures from in front of his museum. Read more here. This angers me, because I'm a huge fan of his work. You know, he could have put something a little worse out in front, like Necronom V or one of his many other disturbing erotic images.

You think you're a hardcore sports fan?

You're not. At least not like Geoffrey Huish.
Jobless Geoffrey finally collapsed with blood pouring from his groin as horrified drinkers put his testicles in a pint glass of ice.
Suddenly, your team logo tattoo doesn't seem so hardcore, now, does it?

Snow

It's snowing for the first time of the year here in Nebraska, and it's only about 15 days late. And instead of the beautiful white, fluffy snow that many people hope to see on Christmas, it's wet, wet, wet, and sloppy. When I brushed it off my car this morning it stuck to the brush. A big chunk of it fell of the roof of my building and landed on my leg, instantly soaking me. It's disgusting, and it will be even worse in a couple of days, after the car exhaust starts to settle in to whatever's left of it. That is, assuming it doesn't all melt.

Monday, November 14, 2005

iBuzz

She added: "The iPod is this era’s must-have accessory, while a vibrator is a timeless addition to every girl’s gadget drawer."
What do these two things have in common?

Starcraft Anecdote & Sentence Structure Analysis

I’m not sure about the twisted inner workings of my mind, but it’s possible that this post was partly inspired by Copernicus Now’s post here.

The Story

Much of my freshman year at my undergrad was spent playing the real-time strategy game Starcraft, by Blizzard, the makers of the most addictive games known to man. My friends and I would play over the network (that was before the jerks in IT put “switches” between all the Ethernet ports, effectively preventing all such network gaming). For those who don’t know, in Starcraft you start with a few builder units, and must collect resources and make buildings so that you can build up an army to take on other armies. I think I learned more about that game that year than I learned in all of my classes combined.

We always played cooperatively, usually with three of us against five computer opponents. Of course, there is always the fear that one or more of your allies will “backstab” you. All they need to do is change your status from ally to enemy, and run an offensive. It’s often most effective if you let your target take the brunt of the damage from the common enemy (pretending that you’re having trouble with controls), and just before that enemy is defeated you turn your weapons in your friend’s direction.

One time, just before we were ready to go on the offensive, I received a private message from someone we will call X. X suggested that he and I should backstab C, our other ally. I informed X that I agreed with his diabolical little scheme. Immediately I informed C of the plan, and that’s where the real fun began.
C in fact took much of the damage when we attacked the common enemies, and just before victory, X and I started heading toward C’s base. When we arrived, X’s forces began attacking the base. Thinking I was his ally, X’s forces didn’t last long against mine, and C’s forces easily destroyed X’s base.

Where am I going with this? Well, immediately afterwards, I was in C’s room, along with C’s roommate, and we were laughing pretty hard about the ordeal. X barged in, furious, and pointed at each one of us in turn.

“F*ck you! F*ck you! And F*ck you!”

He then proceeded to lock himself in his room like a little girl. Come on, if he was willing to backstab someone then he can hardly have his feelings hurt when we backstab him instead.

”F*ck You”: An Analysis

That sentence strikes me as odd. “F*ck you.” It has a verb and a direct object. That is, the “f*cking” is to happen to “you.” But what else do we know about the sentence? If we had more verb conjugation in the English language it would probably be clearer.

At first it seems to be an imperative sentence, that is, it’s giving a command. This is usually the case in the English language when the subject of the sentence is implied. (As in “Drink this” as opposed to “I drink this” or “He drinks way too much for his own good.”) But this can’t be, because the object of the sentence would then make no sense. It should be reflexive (I believe that’s the correct term) as in the Spanish masturbarse. If this is the case, it should be “F*ck yourself.” And imperative sentences are always phrased in the second person, so it can’t be directed at anyone else.

It clearly is not an interrogatory sentence (a question), so the only other possibility is a declaratory sentence. The verb “f*ck” would agree with just about any subject, as long as it’s not third-person singular. So, it could mean, “They f*ck you,” “I f*ck you,” “We f*ck you,” or “You f*ck you,” but not “Big Jimmy over here f*ck you.” Of course, these nouns are never implied in English. If you had a houseguest at the bottom of a pit in your basement, you wouldn’t say “Puts the lotion on its skin,” now, would you?

So clearly this sentence is an anachronism in the English language, and follows none of the standard rules. It could be that it’s like the sentence “Damn you,” in which case it’s an imperative sentence directed at God. Because no one else can damn anybody, it may be acceptable to imply the subject. So in this case it would mean that “f*ck” actually means “damn.” But if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t make any sense because just about anybody can f*ck you, rich or poor, gay or straight, Chinese, Kenyan, or even Canadian. Or it could be a more generalized statement, like “I hope you get f*cked,” but in that way it might sound like they’re wishing you well.

At least the sentence isn’t commonly phrased as “F*cks you,” because that would be even more damn confusing.

I wonder if the Language Guy would (perhaps) lower himself to address this question. Perhaps it’s a carry-over from a language where it makes more sense, in view of the heavy influences of German and French on the English language. My background in communications has nothing to do with linguistics (you’d think the two would be more related, since both have close ties to philosophy, sociology, and psychology).

Anyway, I hope that someone f*cks X in a bad way, like Shawshank Redemption style. He was a lying, disgusting, bastard. (And since he’s a bastard anyway, it’s okay to point out his physical shortcomings. So he’s a lying, disgusting, fat bastard.) He got kicked out of school because he never went to class after getting addicted to another Blizzard game, Diablo II, our sophomore year. Maybe I’ll post on that some other time though.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Gay Marriage vs. Smoking & Gambling

Edit: some people seem to think that anything less than unquestioned acceptance is a criticism. My discussion is limited to the sole question of what judges should do. Legislators can do whatever they want, as far as I'm concerned, in this arena. My goal is to get people to think about their own arguments and come up with better, more well-reasoned arguments in the end, regardless of which side they fall on (and maybe even to jump the fence).

The other day I heard the beginning of a conversation on the radio morning show on KIBZ 104.1. (Normally I plug my iPod into my car stereo, so this was rather fortuitous.) They brought up the subject of a legal challenge to Nebraska’s gay marriage ban (at least, I think it was Nebraska’s). Then they raised the interesting question:



What makes gay marriage more worthy of judicial protection than smoking and gambling when the majority has spoken?

By raising smoking they are referring to Lincoln’s ban on smoking in bars or restaurants. This subject can of course be dismissed out of hand because smoking affects people other than the one who partakes. (Although personally I am sympathetic to a bar owner’s claim of right to choose on this issue.) A different issue might be raised in a challenge to an employer’s disallowance of smoking off the job, but I won’t discuss that here.

But when you compare gay marriage to gambling, the question gets very interesting. I would like to point out that, based purely on Supreme Court precedent, any state’s gay marriage ban would be upheld, even in light of so-called “right to privacy” cases. That is, of course, unless the Supremes want to extend that right.

Gambling can normally be illegalized under what is commonly referred to as the state police power, generally defined as the power a state has to protect the health and general welfare of its people. Laws like this are upheld as long as the legislature had a rational basis for concluding that gambling is harmful to health, the economy, or yes, even morals. There is enough empirical information that gambling is harmful in order to uphold laws against it, even if the state legislature never looked at that information. Even masses of information to the contrary can’t change this result. Even if a court thinks that other data, in favor of gambling, is more convincing, they can’t substitute their own judgment for that of the legislature as long as there is information in support of its decision. Gambling laws are relatively uncontroversial, so let’s go on to the gay marriage issue.

A state could easily conclude that it wants to reserve marriage for a man and a woman on the basis that marriage is, to that state, primarily for reproductive purposes. (I believe a statute forbidding marriage between first cousins was actually struck down in a southern court because the likelihood of having birth defects isn’t significantly higher among that group. Don’t quote me on that.) And, like gambling, there is a wealth of information pointing to adverse health and psychological effects of homosexuality (or at least male homosexuality) such as throat cancer, higher incidence of STDs, depression, and “gay bowel syndrome.” Whether you want to believe that information or the contrary information, a state legislature is free to believe it and act accordingly. (Side note: many of you may be surprised that there is such a wealth of information, probably because of the strong gay rights lobby, but of course my undergrad adopts it whole-heartedly. Some academics compare homosexuality to alcoholism, and the similarities are striking as long as you believe the studies, which, as far as I can tell, are at least as fairly administered as the studies which reach the opposite conclusion.)

While it is certainly debatable, a state could certainly conclude that homosexuality is actually worse than gambling. So the only thing that gives gay marriage a better foothold in the courts is the “right to privacy.” But I pose this question: why is the right to privacy seemingly limited to sexuality and reproduction? (It has been used to strike down laws forbidding the sale of contraceptives, abortion, and anal intercourse.) The subject of sexuality isn’t mentioned in the Constitution, so why does it get special treatment by the courts? It seems to me that anything you do in your own home should get some protection from this right as long as it’s recognized. So in that sense, take the case of two women. Why do the courts protect their right to get frisky with each other while they don’t protect their right to bet $100 on the Superbowl? Or to make it even more equal, their choice to play strip poker as opposed to their choice to bet quarters on the same game of poker?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sick

OK, this is sick. People find my blog by searching for the wrong things. Like the person who lives in Pinellas Park, Florida, who searched for "naked 13 year olds" on MSN, and ended up at this post. This has happened many, many times. So, here you go.
Now a picture of your place is here, too.

Anti-Gravity

A patent has been issued for an anti-gravity device, in flagrant disregard for the laws of physics. Isaac Asimov reportedly turning over in his grave.

You see, if there is no gravity, then particles fly apart. They might even turn into energy, although I'm not entirely clear on that point. Mr. asimov wrote a story about something like this. Two physicists were often in competition with each other. Physicist A was a nice, quiet guy and a serious scientist. Physicist B was a showoff who just worked on making inventions without understanding everything behind them. B made an anti-gravity device, and invited a bunch of important people to see it. He asked A to help him demonstrate it by shooting a pool ball into the anti-gravity field. (They also competed on the pool table, as you might expect physics-types to do.) When the ball entered the field, instead of floating in place as a non-physicist might think, it shot out at just under the speed of light, flying directly through the head of B. A explained later that when matter has no gravity, it must travel at the speed of light. I didn't quite understand that, but it was pretty cool nonetheless.

Multiple Jesus Phenomenon

I’ve noticed a certain phenomenon within my own mind. I am a Christian. Yet, I find humor involving Jesus to be not offensive, but humorous, as long as they aren’t done in a mean-spirited way. This includes the movie Dogma as well as images like the following, lifted from a Fark Photoshop contest:

(In case you don’t get it, I’ll post why it’s funny in the comments.)

Why do these not offend me? Is it a symptom of dissociative identity disorder? No, I don’t think so. For one thing, many jokes done in very bad taste are extremely amusing to me, like Photoshopped pictures of the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby playing together in a band or the woman in the “slave” shirt standing over a dead Kenny from South Park.

Also, as someone training to be an attorney, I need to be able to separate myself and my own opinions from a situation. But you’d think that since Jesus is a more personal matter, it would be more likely to offend. But it doesn’t offend me, and I call this the Multiple Jesus Phenomenon. Allow me to explain.

In my mind, Jesus has become two separate and distinct entities: the Biblical Jesus and the pop culture Jesus. They are as different as the character Jesus in The Passion and the actor who played the Christ in that movie, or Christ as depicted on the crucifix as compared to Buddy Christ. The pop culture Jesus is a caricature of the historical and Biblical Jesus, picking one aspect of the Bible’s story of his life and exaggerating it to suit whatever story that pop culture wants to tell. It’s not entirely unlike the distinction between Godzilla in the movies and the historical Godira, which is, as few people know, the real reason for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.



Ok, I wasn't going to post this because it's off topic, but it's too good to keep to myself, so here you go.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Raccoon

I saw a raccoon last night on city campus. He was happily munching on garbage near a busy sidewalk, apparently not bothered by the proximity of many two-legged types. He let me get about ten feet from him (Lord knows where he got all those feet) before he calmly put a bit more distance between us. I’ve never seen a living raccoon before, as far as I can remember. It was fascinating.

Attorney Misconduct

Jack Thompson, the highly publicized anti-video-game lawyer, has been removed from a case against Sony and other defendants.
Thompson's withdrawl follows a motion by filed by Blank Rome, the defendents' law firm, that Thompson be removed from the case as well as have his license to practice law in Alabama revoked for ethical lapses such as "attacking and threatening" the Blank Rome attorneys as well as accusing the firm of conspiracy. According to Blank Rome's Jim Smith, Thompson "[couldn't] proceed with the civility the rules require. All lawyers have to conduct themselves with honesty, integrity and civility. This isn't a street fight."
Let's hope he gets disbarred, because not only has he threatened other attorneys, but he has filed complaints in bad faith against the good people of Penny Arcade. Jack Thompson, you give lawyers a bad name.

New Tax System

[I had some qualms about posting this, qualms of the qualmiest sort, the kind that qualm about out of fear that I will come off as pretentious or dull. But, you guys seem to like the posts that I’m scared about posting, so here you go.]

Be it enacted, by the People of the United States of America:
(a) The Income Tax, as it applies to individuals, is hereby abolished.
(b) An Asshole Tax of fifty dollars per instance shall be imposed on any person who
(1) Vandalizes another person’s vehicle;
(2) Parks in handicapped spot without the proper permit;
(3) Uses the middle urinal in a public restroom;
(4) Abuses a dog; or
(5) Promotes the terrorist organization known as Cobra.
(c) An Idiot Tax of one dollar per instance shall be imposed on any person who
(1) Listens to “pop” or “rap” music at any volume which can be heard by neighbors or other drivers;
(2) Plays Dance Dance Revolution while drunk;
(3) Posts on an Internet message board for the sole purpose of having the “first post”;
(4) Rents or buys any movie, other than Pitch Black, in which Vin Diesel is the star; or
(5) Drives a Mini Cooper.
(d) A tax return may be had on up to half of the taxed dollars for any individual in the amount of two dollars per instance for any of the following acts:
(1) Adopting an animal from a pet shelter;
(2) Helping an elderly person in need;
(3) Holding a door open to allow others to pass;
(4) Buying a round of drinks for everyone; or
(5) Putting a link on his or her site which links to Full Metal Attorney.
(e) To supplement the National Treasury, the Secretary shall have the authority to put slot machines on any property owned by the Federal Government, and to establish any casinos that he deems necessary.
Amendments to this statute can be proposed in the comments section.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Is the picture at left too distracting? I think it looks nifty-riffic, so let me know.

Wacky Domain Names

Source for these domain names:
Who Represents? (and a gift for your bitch)
Experts Exchange (and you wouldn't want an amateur cutting down there, now would you?)
Pen Island (you get all your ball-points there, but watch your balls)
Therapist Finder (find not only the person to help you through your problems, but the bastard that took advantage of you)
Mole Station Nursery (I don't think I'd want to take my kids there)
Power-Gen of Italy (because it's so much better than the manual kind)

Constitutional Amendment

§ 1. The Electoral College is hereby abolished.
§ 2. A Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament shall be held in each state. The winner of each state’s tournament shall move on to an Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament to be held in Washington, D.C. The incumbent, if he has served only one term, shall, at his option, have a by to the final table.
§ 3. The winner of the Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament shall become President of the United States. Second place shall become Vice President of the United States. The remaining places shall have reserved for them a seat in the President’s cabinet.
§ 4. Each State shall determine the details (buy-in, blinds, etc.) of its own Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament, provided they do not discriminate on the basis of race or sex, and all candidates meet the eligibility requirements of Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution. The Congress of the United States shall determine the details of the Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament, provided they do not discriminate on the basis of race or sex, and that candidates from all States are treated equally.

Proposed by Senator Hoffart, Ninja Party--Nebraska, November 8, 2018.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Judicial Philosophy

While this probably isn't my most exciting post, it is informative and will help to understand a much more exciting post that I've been working on for later in the week.

With all the hubbub about Supreme Court nominees lately, I think it would be useful to speak for a moment about judicial philosophy as it relates to Constitutional law. In my class on that very subject, we learned on the first day that there are seven primary methods of constitutional interpretation.
1. Textual
2. Original Understanding
3. Ongoing History
4. Doctrinal/Precedential
5. Structural
6. Ethics/Values
7. International Practices
Textual interpretation involves looking at only the words in the text of the Constitution. Since we all know that words have no set meaning, this clearly can’t stand alone. So Justice Scalia (among others) moves on to the second, which asks the question, “What did they mean when they wrote that text?” The ongoing history (or evolving Constitution) method looks at the Constitution as a document that changes to meet the needs of the present. The doctrinal method looks at prior cases from the Court and attempts to apply the principles in those cases to the present one. The structural method looks at the whole document and tries to find overarching principles in that document and the functions that it has put into place. The ethics approach looks not only at the document itself, but also at the values contained within, and is inextricably related to the ongoing history method. And the international practices approach, while not fully accepted, looks at what other nations have done and reads the text in light of international experience.

Where am I going with this? The answer is this: I like the first, second, fourth, and fifth methods because they keep the balance in the checks and balances and the separation in the separation of powers. They respect the intent of the people who wrote and enacted the Constitution. I don’t like the third, sixth, and seventh methods at all. And the reason is that they evidence a lack of faith in the democratic process that overarches the whole Constitution.

How would you like it if, after you die, the judge looked at your will and, instead of trying to do what you wanted, he did what he thought was fair?

These (questionable) methods are based on a few lines in the Constitution. The Ninth Amendment reads: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The Tenth Amendment reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people.” And § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment reads, in part, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

If you wanted to look at the original understanding of the 9th and 10th, as I would suggest, you would know that they were intended to limit the power of the federal government and retain power in the states. But some justices like to look at the phrases “other[ rights] retained by the people,” the rights “reserved . . . to the people,” and “the privileges or immunities of citizens” and extrapolate new rights, not written into the Constitution or intended by the people who wrote it, thereby expanding the power of the federal judiciary.

This concept, known as substantive due process, is used to put power in the hands of the unelected judges so they can put their own policies into place. How do they explain it? Well, Justice Douglas (the bastard), in Griswold v. Connecticut, said it this way: “[S]pecific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.” That’s right. He thinks there are penumbras surrounding the rights, and that said penumbras are apparently emanating in such a way as to let the justices of the Supreme Court to do whatever they want.

They use this to strike down laws they don’t like, such as those that prohibit the use of contraceptives or abortion.

When people accept these methods, they accept rule by philosopher kings rather than by democracy.

My lack of faith in this method of constitutional interpretation knows no bounds. Many people find themselves unable to say that the Court shouldn’t strike down anti-contraceptive laws, or other equally silly and unpopular laws. However, I say this is none of the Court’s business. As the dissenters in Griswold pointed out, the Framers of the Constitution allowed for change within the document, through the process of amendment. They didn’t entrust this to the judiciary. And the political and democratic processes will solve all the problems the Court sees, given time. And when it does, people won’t be pissed at the Court for it. The Court is unaccountable, and shouldn’t be making any kinds of policy decisions.

Of course, it’s different when a law infringes on free speech, free exercise of religion, or the rights of the criminal accused. These rights are already protected, and the 14th Amendment applies those same restrictions to the states. But if we really want the Court to be doing what it does every single term, then I suggest we enact the following amendment:
“The rights protected in the Constitution shall be construed to have penumbras, formed by the emanations from these rights, so that those guarantees will have life and substance.”

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Return of Eternal Twilight

OMFG!!!!11eleven!!!
They're apparently back! I posted on them previously, thinking they were gone forever, but we are in luck!
Buy this thong!
Yes! Eternal Twilight, the "Shadow Gods of the New Age," are still around. (And are apparently looking for a new bass player as well as a drummer.)

You can even listen to them! (Actually, they're worse than I remember.) They even have a new album, Eat the Weak.
According to their website, "Fantasy and reality, sanity and madness, light and shadow. We live in the place between dreaming and awakening, in the eternal now. We have escaped the prison."

And, according to RockKansas.com, "Eternal Twilight draws from ancient shamanism, sci-fi and horror to create a memorable concert and album experience. The band uses masks and costuming to become avatars of the gods." You read that right. They become avatars of the gods. Also, check out this link, because apparently the University of Nebraska's own Tommy Lee called them "scary."
By the way, Lucifer has changed his name to "Samuel Morningstar." You can reach him at (913)980-7775 on the phone, morningstar72@comcast.net on the old e-mail machine, or for their snail-mail address:

Eternal Twilight
13505 S Mur-len
Olathe, KS 66062

Three 6's in their zip code . . . coincidence? I think not!

Edit: more pictures!



Stay away from Meth

This past weekend I stopped at a gas station. While standing in line, I witnessed very odd behavior from the man in front of me. He was wearing blue sweatpants and had a lot of change in his pocket. Classic rock music was playing on the radio and this guy couldn't sit still. He was rocking back and forth and tapping the change in his pocket in tune with the music. At first I thought he was maybe a mentally handicapped person who really loves classic rock, because he was really getting into it without any regard for the possibility that people may be staring at him. This continued until he was at the counter, at which point he dumped out at least five dollars in change on the counter, and, while counting it out, he rocked back and forth wildly. It was kind of like an exaggerated impression of a six-year-old who has to go to the bathroom. After paying, he scooped up the change and left in quite a hurry.

The lesson is, kids, stay away from meth. It makes you act like a total jackass. (And let's not forget the other things, like losing all your teeth.)

In an unrelated event, this past winter we had a fairly substantial blizzard. In the news was a story about two people who got stranded. Instead of waiting in their vehicle for help, or using their cell phone (which they had) they got out and went looking for help. When you're on meth, it doesn't make any sense to stand still. They called for help, eventually. They told the 911 operator that they had just found a shelter, but there were a bunch of people on the roof. They went into the shelter. The 911 operator asked them if they were on meth, informing them that they would not be punished if they were. They hung up, and were found later frozen to death, obviously not in the shelter (or they would have survived).

Yeah, let's not forget about dying. That's another side effect.

I don't know why I chose to write about this today. I just thought about it, and I can't get over how bad that stuff is. I doubt anyone who visits this site is on meth (hell, you wouldn't be able to sit still long enough to read it). Just stay away from it. And if you suspect anyone of making it, report it. It's probably more dangerous than someone selling handguns illegally.

Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479

The case concerns a Connecticut law outlawing the use of contraceptives.
The Court struck down the law on the basis of their newly discovered right to privacy.
Justice Black dissented: “I do not to any extent whatever base my view that this Connecticut law is constitutional on a belief that the law is wise or that its policy is a good one. . . . There is no single one of the graphic and eloquent strictures and criticisms fired at the policy of this Connecticut law either by the Court’s opinion or by those of my concurring Brethren to which I cannot subscribe—except their conclusion that the evil qualities they see in the law make it unconstitutional. . . . The Constitution makers knew the need for change and provided for it. Amendments suggested by the people’s elected representatives can be submitted to the people or their selected agents for ratification. . . . I cannot rely on the Due Process Clause or the Ninth Amendment or any mysterious and uncertain natural law concept as a reason for striking down this state law.”


Justice Stewart also dissented: “I think this is an uncommonly silly law. As a practical matter, the law is obviously unenforceable . . . . As a philosophical matter, I believe the use of contraceptives in the relationship of marriage should be left to personal and private choice . . . . But we are not asked in this case to say whether we think this law is unwise, or even asinine. We are asked to hold that it violates the United States Constitution. And that I cannot do.”

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pluralism: The Solution to the ID Debate?

Copernicus Now has written an extremely interesting allegory about the “conflict” between religion and science. (Okay, maybe it’s a metaphor. Stop splitting hairs.) I suggest you read it, lest ye become one of the unwashed barbarians (or paranoid peasants) of which he speaks.

Instead of discussing the relative merits of evolution and intelligent design, today I’m going to take a more pragmatic approach.

At my undergraduate university, I took a class called “The Gospel in a Pluralistic World.” (Well, I didn’t so much take it as I stopped showing up after three weeks and then dropped it on the last possible day.) Anyway, that class was about addressing the different ideologies that Christians can encounter in a productive way. And in my short time there, pluralism was a four-letter word. (No, they didn’t spell it prsm, or plsm, or plrm. You know what I meant.) This is because pluralism was seen as an attempt to accept all points of view, and if you’ve read the Bible (especially the first chapter of Ezekiel and the 28th Chapter of Matthew) you know that it is the Christian’s duty to present God’s Word in the hopes that everyone will accept it. Along with pluralism, in the eyes of some academics, comes relativism.
Also, pluralism was equated with a common understanding of tolerance, that all points of view are to be embraced unless those views are intolerant of other views, or they are absolutist. But I’ve realized (probably partly due to a South Park episode and Philosophy 201) that tolerance should mean purely a pragmatic acceptance of all views (as opposed to an academic acceptance), with the caveat that we are free not to embrace those views with which we don’t agree, and even to criticize those views. (In the future I’ll try to avoid sentences with 7 or more phrases embedded within them.)

This brings me up to yesterday. I attended a lecture on the ID debate. It was excellent. He went through the history of the Bible’s relationship to public schools. A couple of things became clear. One, that religion as we know it in the US is not anti-science, or anti-intellectual, but instead anti-elitist. From that we can understand that historically religion is not opposed to the teaching of evolution, but instead it wants its side of the story presented as well. Two, the traditional debate about the Bible’s relationship to public schools was never about Christians versus non-Christians, but instead about Protestants versus Catholics, and it goes back as far as the 1830’s or 40’s. The conflict between these two groups is based on the former’s reliance on the Bible as authority and the latter’s reliance on earthly leaders (i.e. the Pope) as authority. And three, that ID is just the latest controversy in this ongoing debate that will likely never end.

Proposal

So that brings me up to the lecturer’s suggestion. He implied that ID should be disregarded altogether. He also implied that ID (or any variant formulation thereof) should stay out of the science classrooms. However, he would have a sort of epistemology class offered. Call it introductory philosophy if you will. He didn’t go into much detail on it, but here’s how I would do it.
The class would go over the very basics of epistemology. Addressing Parmenides would make an excellent introduction to the class, and would make the kids more likely to listen and open to different suggestions. It would discuss popular epistemological traditions such as revelation, reason, and, of course, the scientific method. The course would promote pluralism and would hopefully make everyone happy.
In my world, it would be a required class in order to graduate.

Basically, the reasoning behind this is that science, while extremely important in our society, is not the only way to know. It gets put up on a pedestal while other epistemological methods are scoffed at. There is no good reason for this state of affairs. (Of course, maybe I’m biased because of my belief in a liberal arts education.)

This idea is not susceptible to the slippery-slope problem that FSM points out in ID. Plus, it has the added bonus of being pretty much impervious to legal attack (quite unlike ID, which, were it ever to come before the Supreme Court, would likely be struck down).

There may be problems with my proposed solution. Introducing these kinds of questions could undermine the atmosphere of authority that teachers and administrators need to keep control in the classrooms. If you introduce it at a middle school level, the children may not be capable of grasping the concepts. If you introduce it to high school seniors, many dropouts won’t ever get to hear it and the kids may already have an unquestioned acceptance of certain views (and also, everyone knows that senioritis can seriously interfere with learning).

Despite these problems (and any others I may have missed), it’s still a worthy proposal. And I definitely believe it to be important enough to be a graduating requirement. Isn’t it certainly at least as important as social studies? Or a year of history? Or reducing the kids’ options to take one of their many elective courses? Or a year of English when the students take an English class every year from kindergarten through the 12th grade?

Certainly, the question “How do we know what we know?” has been the mort important question for all philosophers since the beginning of that great tradition. Could they all be wrong?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Pirate Name

My pirate name is Bloody Harry Kidd.
Every pirate lives for something different. For some, it's the open sea. For others (the masochists), it's the food. For you, it's definitely the fighting. Even though you're not always the traditional swaggering gallant, your steadiness and planning make you a fine, reliable pirate. Arr!

Someone said this was messing with another post, so I've taken out all the excess code.

Get your own pirate name from fidius.org.

Holy Crap

A man killed an intruder at home. Normally this wouldn't be big news. But the identity of the intruder can make it news.
For 40 exhausting minutes, Wayne Goldsberry battled a buck with his bare hands in his daughter's bedroom.

Goldsberry finally subdued the five-point whitetail deer that crashed through a bedroom window at his daughter's home Friday. When it was over, blood splattered the walls and the deer lay dead on the bedroom floor, its neck broken.
Found it here. That's right. The guy killed a deer with his bare hands. My guess is, the guy looks something like this:

He also probably fights animated statues, Lachupacabra, hordes of ninja, and other nasty things with nothing but his kinfe.

Throat Slashing


Here is one of many articles about the recent controversy surrounding Nebraska's head footbal coach Callahan. In case you haven't heard, here's the problem:
Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said Monday that he didn't make a throat-slashing gesture toward an official after Oklahoma scored a touchdown Saturday.
And that's the way everyone is writing the story. They say he denied making the gesture. But here's another problem:
Videotape showed Callahan raising his right arm, index finger extended, and making a motion from left to right across his throat.
Sounds like a throat slash gesture to me. But it doesn't sound like Callahan actually denied making the gesture, as all the reporters would have you believe:
Callahan said, "Oh, no. No. I was frustrated and emotional. There was no malicious intent toward anyone or any referee."
It sounds to me like he just didn't mean anything by it. As in, he didn't actually intend it as a death threat. It certainly couldn't mean that the gesture wasn't directed at anyone. You don't just throat slash in a vacuum, just like you don't extend your middle finger generally. It's always directed at someone. Of course, there is an alternative, unlikely explanation:
Callahan declined to comment on whether he intended the slashing motion to be a demonstration of how cornerback Cortney Grixby was held on the play.
Good call on that, because I don't think anyone would believe you.

But what's the big deal, really? I think of the movie 12 Angry Men with this situation. How many times do you make what could be construed as a death threat without actually meaning it? "I'm gonna kill you!" could just mean "I'm really pissed and I'm gonna spank you and send you to bed early."

The article also says that the NCAA has classified the gesture as unsportsmanlike conduct, and it should result in a 15-yard penalty. They didn't give the team a penalty (just like they didn't give OU a holding penalty). So, should it be just as big a deal any time someone does pass interference (another 15-yard penalty) and it doesn't get called? It's really not a big deal, even if it was really stupid for Callahan to make the gesture. In the end, the coach said it best:
"Someone is making a big deal out of something that's nothing," Callahan said. "I really don't know what you're talking about."


Edit: in other, completely unrelated NCAA news, there's this picture:

If you have to ask why this is funny, you don't want to know.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Parking: American Neuroticism

Every culture, I suppose, has its neuroticisms. Korea, for example, is probably the most neurotic area in the world. I learned much of this through The Shaved Ape Chronicles, but also from other sources. In the South, they’re obsessed with video games. A few men have died after gaming binges through which they don’t eat or sleep or practice even a primitive caveman form of hygiene. Their government estimates that over 30% of their population is addicted to video games (I can’t remember if that’s 30% of all or just the males). Some form real-life gangs to exact violent revenge on people who mess with them in online games. In the North, they believe the most bizarre claims of their government, like when Kim Jong Il played his first ever game of golf and got a hole-in-one on over half of the holes. (I’m not really sure if that qualifies as neurotic, but it’s crazy nonetheless.)

I’m not too well-versed in the insanity of other countries, aside from religious or political nuttitude that ends up killing people in places like Arabia, Ireland, East Europe, and other places.

In America, we have parking spots. But not just any parking spots. Oh, no. In America, only the best gets our attention. The best parking spots make us go crazy. The closest spot is like freakin’ nirvana, but with more beer and pizza (and without the mediocre grunge music).

My first inklings of this insanity came to me in my old job as a cart attendant at Target. I spent a lot of time in the parking lot at that job, and observed what I thought to be odd behavior. (Khorbin did the same job at the same store.)
Some people would park in the loading/unloading zone and leave the engine running, even if they were going to take a half hour or more. Regardless of what this does to your engine and your gas prices (they were around $1.50 at that time), it’s risking your car to thieves. Sure, Norfolk, Nebraska is a town of 23,000+, but it could still happen.
Some people would sit in their car and wait for someone with a close parking spot to pull out so they could take it. They would do this even if it took the other people several minutes to put their bags in the trunk and buckle the kids into their car seats.
This seemed bizarre to me even at that time. I had discovered that trying to find a good parking spot takes more time than it’s worth, especially when you have to wait for someone else to pull out (inevitably making their job more difficult in the process when you get close enough to exclude any usurpers). In addition, Winston was my pimpin’ ride and when you park far away you’re less likely to get dents. People with Corvettes know that, too, as I observed. And have you ever tried to park a 1988 Lincoln Towncar in a perpendicular spot when there’s a car on either side?

(Despite my utter disdain for the entire hip-hop/rap subculture, I must admit the coolness.)

It was clear to me that finding a close parking spot does not save time. So I assumed that it must be about walking distance, that Americans at large don’t like exercise. (HA! Puns make me chuckle.)

But then, in my senior year of undergrad, something happened to shatter any illusions of sanity in American parking practices. Here’s a pretty picture that I’m sure will win me some kind of award:

As you can see, the most coveted spot in the universe was open: the spot closest to the door. Now, maybe I could understand someone being excited to come back from buying cheap crap at Wal-Mart to find that parking spot open. But that’s not what happened. No fewer than five sophomores ran out of the dorm to their cars. At least three of them got into their cars, and two engines started. The one in the spot directly north of the open spot pulled out first and obtained the Holy Grail of parking spots. His car was no more than 15 feet closer to the building than it was before. He shut his engine off, got out, threw his fists in the air and yelled “Yes!” I smacked myself on the head in disbelief. His friends taunted him, saying that they would take the spot as soon as he went somewhere. He replied that he would avoid moving his car at all costs.

Assuming that this young man lived on the first floor of the building, rather than the second or third, and he was in the room closest to the door, he had to run a minimum of 50 feet and take 2 or 3 minutes out of his life to get a parking spot that was perhaps 15 feet closer to the door of his dorm building. Utter madness! Seeing this spectacle was nearly enough to alter my brain’s physical size and chemical makeup, giving me a nasty case of schizophrenia for which I have no genetic susceptibility, but alas, I fought these strange forces at work by sheer will.

This is not an isolated incident.

Now I live in Lincoln, home of the famous Huskers football team. Even though they’ve fallen on hard times, they’ve sold out every game for more than the past 30 years, and parking anywhere within a mile and a half of the stadium is a premium.

Now here’s the madness: people will go to the close parking spots the night before and pay the $5 or more parking fee. They then walk to wherever they’re staying overnight, whether it be home, a friend’s place, or a hotel room. Before the game starts, they walk back from that place to the stadium. And, after the game, they get the benefit of being close to the stadium and having to wait much longer for traffic. (Everyone loves to sit in traffic!) Yes, some people get picked up in another car and then dropped off at the game. But in either case, does it make any sense to park there? If you’re going to walk, just walk to the game and back to wherever you were staying. If you’re going to get dropped off, can’t they drop you off before the game and pick you up after the game?

I just get this terrible feeling, like a million voices crying out and then being silenced.

The only explanation for this behavior is that the parking spot has ceased to be a means to an end and has become the end in itself. That. Is. Neurotic.

It kind of makes me want to move to Germany, where absolutely no one is crazy or weird.