Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Smacked

There's a new picture up at FMPhoto.


I got smacked, and as Trusty Getto said, it's ugly. I think a better word would be "scathing." I enjoyed it though, because everyone could stand to get cut down to size every now and then. Submit your blog, if you haven't, and if you can stomach it.

I suppose that I'm the "geek" in the title, because, well, I'm certainly not the other two. Maybe I should drop the ads and some of the other crap in the sidebar. They did say the writing's fine.
Speaking of, you’re not using amici curiae correctly. Do yourself a favor before clients run across your blog: grab yourself a copy of Black’s and look it up.
Yes, I'm quite aware of that. I was just throwing around legal terms that could possibly describe links.

I think Bitch, Esq.'s opinion can be summed up like this:
This blog sums up the problem with about every fucking attorney or dumb ass law student that I know: THEY ARE ALL FUCKING SELF PRETENTIOUS ASSHOLES WHO LIKE TO HEAR THEMSELVES TALK AND TALK AND TALK.
We do like to talk. Self pretentious? I assume that's the same thing as just regular pretentious (wow, that was a really pretentious sentence). It's kind of ironic, actually, because I Talk Too Much is probably the most pretentious web site I've ever seen. I like it though, so pretentious doesn't seem to bother me. And hearing myself "TALK AND TALK AND TALK"? Well, that's the point of having a blog. At least that's what I thought. A blog without that would lack . . . content.

Anyway, I think she just doesn't want to read about important issues or about argument. That's fine. If you'd rather read a personal blog, then read a personal blog. But usually the bitches will say something like "It's not my kind of thing, but it's well written" and give the blogger the benefit of the doubt. I think she got bored too quickly with it, because I don't just ramble on about my opinions. I talk about everyone's opinions and try to find the flaws and points of agreement in all of them. That's my personal mission with this blog.

All in all, my content won't change. It's what I do, and what I'm good at. And I read other reviews on their site. I knew what I was getting into. And I enjoyed it.

Thanks!

Monday, February 27, 2006

On the Twisting of Arguments, or Gummy Auschwitz

In a recent thread on the Language Guy’s blog, I have been reminded that many people still don’t take the time to understand and appreciate what others believe or are trying to say. Bob Schieffer yesterday morning on Face the Nation speculated that the Internet and cell phones, by giving us the ability to communicate instantaneously, have contributed to our habit of speaking before we think, or that we are overall losing the habit of thinking. I will attempt to help people to think about what the other side is trying to say, rather than simply reflexively attacking them for saying something that they didn’t.

Do the Twist: 1.3 ≠ 2

Take the example of gummy bears. Let’s say for a moment that gummy bears have 2 grams of protein per serving. This is a pretty insignificant amount, but some gummy bears like to go around telling everyone how healthy they are simply because of this protein. I don’t approve of this. While I understand that gummy bears didn’t choose to have 2 grams of protein per serving (and there’s nothing wrong with having only this amount), I don’t think they should go around bragging about it and telling everyone that it’s healthy to eat them. This is called disapproval. It looks something like this:
disapproval
(Sadly, that’s about 2-3 days’ growth on my chin. Pinocchio, some day you’ll be a real man.)
Now, some gummy bears don’t like this disapproval. They think that because they have 2 grams of protein per serving that it follows that they must promote themselves based on their healthfulness. In fact, the gummy bears have seen fit to call this minimal amount of protein their defining characteristic. And because I disapprove of the way they go around being dishonest, they call this persecution. Persecution of gummy bears would look something like this:
Gummy Bear Crucifixion
(Three gummy bears were harmed in the making of this photograph. They gave their lives, submitting to crucifixion, so that I could make a point.)
As you can clearly see, persecution is not the same thing as disapproval. The difference may seem subtle, but it’s there, as you can see either from the illustrative photos or from the linked dictionary definitions. Extreme disapproval could, surely, lead to persecution, but those who understand that all tasty treats are God’s children would refrain from actual persecution of gummy bears.

Take also the example of two colors. Even assuming that they are both blue, it does not follow that they are the same hue. Sky blue is not the same thing as navy.

Conversely, were I to believe that claiming healthfulness based on a 2 gram per serving protein content is okay, that would not necessarily mean that I am signing on to the “gummy bear agenda.”

Do the Twist: Up ≠ Down

Now, you would think that everyone could agree with the statement that up is not the same thing as down. But alas, some people don’t agree, at least when they think it helps their position. I could say, for example, that gummy bears are tasty. But some people think that I should let gummy bears tell everyone that they’re high in protein. Some of those people think this way:
Premise 1: Kelly said that gummy bears shouldn’t tell everyone they’re high in protein.
Premise 2: I disagree with Kelly’s statement.
Premise 3: Ad hominem attacks are a valid way to make a point.
Conclusion: Even though Kelly said that gummy bears are tasty, I will say that he in fact doesn’t believe that gummy bears are tasty. I will go so far as to say that he even said that gummy bears taste terrible!
Now, as you can plainly see, the problem with this argument is that Premise 3 is flawed. In fact, the conclusion doesn’t even normally follow from the rest of the argument. Most of the time an ad hominem attack will be either a true statement or a statement that could logically follow from other facts, assuming you pick which facts to ignore. But this ad hominem attack does neither.
It states an outright lie.

Even normal ad hominem attacks are bad though. If you disagree with my position on gummy bears, it doesn’t make any sense to attack my position on licorice or my overindulgence in coffee.

Perhaps these people simply want to start some Internet drama. But, as the late Patches O’Houlihan might say, Internet drama makes you “look like a bunch of retards trying to hump a doorknob.”

Do the Twist: Assume Improper Motive

Now, let’s assume for a moment that I say that gelatin is made out of people. You don’t believe what I said. You find it to be a patently ridiculous statement.

Gummy bears contain gelatin.
Cannibalism
(Monstrous!)

Naturally, I say that you shouldn’t eat gummy bears. If I think they’re made from people, then I would want to prevent the killing of people to make gummy bears. You, not believing my premise (that gelatin is people) don’t agree that we should stop eating gummy bears. You should not, however, assume that I just don’t want you to eat tasty treats. Just because you find my conclusion preposterous does not create the presumption that I have an improper motive. If you think about it, it’s even more preposterous that someone would want to interfere with your right to eat tasty treats than any other conclusion could be.

On the other hand, anyone who doesn’t believe that gelatin is made of people is not a callous murderer. If you don’t think it’s murder, then you are a champion of the right to eat tasty treats.

Persecution Gone Wild!

I leave you with more pictures of gummy bear persecution. Not to make a point, mind you, but because I’m cruel and heartless. Essentially, for a few short minutes, my home became Gummy Auschwitz.
Gummy Bear Decapitation
Gummy Bear Persecution by Fire
Gummy Bear Persecution, Vlad the Impaler Style
Gummy Bear Persecution by BB Gun

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Almost-Great Shots

Here are a couple of shots that were almost great, i.e., there are great aspects about them but something went awry. But the more I plug away at getting action shots the more good ones I'll get, and hopefully a few great ones.

This shot of a troupe of beagles (or the like) would have been perfect--look at the way the one in the center has his mouth wide open--if only the focus had been correct. It's quite difficult to do everything at once, and to get the timing right.

Look at the way Russell is jumping here. He is such a stud. But he's going off the edge of the pic and obscured by crap. The focus is right, and so's the timing, but everything else went wrong.

Also see my latest post on FMP.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Capital Punishment: Implementation

Last week I discussed the moral issues involving the death penalty. Now, I will move on to the application of the death penalty.

Some major goals of the criminal justice system are
1. Rehabilitation
2. Removing dangerous persons from society
3. Retribution
4. Maintaining respect for and enforcing the law (this includes but is not limited to deterrence)
Mr. K has suggested that he doesn’t believe in free will. If you don’t, then the retribution goal doesn’t make much sense, but I think overall my scheme will still make sense (except for execution for particularly heinous crimes).

The major problems with the death penalty that I have identified (with your help) are
1. The possibility that we are wrong
2. That life in prison is just as good as far as removing dangerous persons from society
3. It does not meet the rehabilitation goal of the law
4. It’s randomly and prejudicially applied

The random application problem cannot be addressed unless SCOTUS changes its position (that mercy must always be allowed to be applied on an individual basis) so that it applies automatically in certain situations. Justice Scalia has expressed support for this position, so time will tell whether we ever get there. The interesting thing is that mercy is applied today simply as reverse prejudice. Once we get over this hump, we can move on.

Capital punishment should only apply when
1. One of the following is met:
a. The crime is particularly deserving of retribution
b. The crime directly undermines the criminal justice or penal system
2. AND there is a very low chance for executing the wrong person

Is this a good summary? Of course, the issue remains that some people would be against the death penalty in all cases, or if there is any chance for executing the wrong person. Speak up if that’s the case. But if you apply it automatically under certain extraordinary circumstances, then it better meets the retribution rationale. Also, if it remains an extraordinary punishment, and is applied automatically, then it will better serve the deterrence rationale.

How do we reduce the chance for error?

One thought that I had is that it would require an overwhelming evidence standard. This would be met by any number of factors, such as multiple murders (a pattern reduces the chance for error), little or no exculpatory evidence, video evidence, the culprit was captured immediately after committing the crime with no chance for mistaken identity, a large number of eye witnesses, or DNA evidence with no reasonable alternative explanation. Some of these could possibly stand alone, while others would need to be in combination.

The good thing, though, is that this standard is likely to be met in most situations when the death penalty should apply.

What crimes meet the other criteria?

Of course, to some extent all crimes undermine the legal system, but not all of them directly undermine the criminal justice system or the penal system. An obvious answer is that capital punishment should apply when someone commits murder while in prison. When someone has done this, they are interfering with the penal system—in fact, they are interfering with the right of others to rehabilitation and they have exhibited an abandonment of their own right to rehabilitation. I do have some concern for abuse in this category (it would be easy to frame someone for murder in prison) but the overwhelming evidence requirement should rectify this.

Other crimes that undermine all the goals of the criminal justice system are also especially deserving of extreme punishment. The criminal justice system deserves special protection from crime so it can more adequately perform its duties and to increase respect for the workings of the system. Crimes that fit this criteria include murders of people involved in investigations, law enforcement, criminal trials, or grand jury proceedings, including
1. Judges
2. Prosecutors (or possibly even a defense attorney in some circumstances)
3. Witnesses
4. Jurors
5. Investigators
6. Police officers
7. Others?

Finally, crimes that are extraordinarily heinous are more deserving of retribution. This is a category of aggravating circumstance that has received much abuse because it is very subjective. So we should restrict it and better define it. I would suggest allowing it only when the perpetrator has killed on more than one occasion (killing several people at once is less cold-blooded than killing, thinking about it, and killing again) and killing after torture (which should be narrowly defined). I actually can’t think of any other circumstances that should meet this criteria. This criterion, however, meets only the retribution rationale and does not better promote any other goals, and so it is probably the least useful instance for implementing the death penalty.

What am I missing here? Is this system morally acceptable? Is it practically possible? Does it still fail to do something significantly better than life imprisonment? Let me know what you think about my alternative capital punishment scheme.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Voting Guidelines (and incidentally a few tips—in my opinion—on improving your blog)

As some of you may be aware, I am a member of Blog Explosion, a blog traffic exchange service. Yes, I realize most of the hits I get from there are stop-and-go just to get “credits,” but for every 100 of those hits I might get 1 or 2 people to actually read my blog.

Anyway, one of the features of this service is called Battle of the Blogs. People wager credits on the battle, and 15 others view both blogs and then vote on which one they think is better. Some people have apparently formed voting blocs, and whatever, I’m going to vote on whichever blog I think is better. But I do have some guidelines that I use to speed up my own voting. Here they are:

Photoblogs have a massive advantage, because if they’re even decent I will vote for them. I like photoblog vs. photoblog battles because I judge them based on something I think I’m very good at judging.

All my other guidelines involve automatic no-votes (in order of priority):
1. Instant Messaging blog loses. Period.
2. If your blog is about sports, I will vote against it. It’s nothing against sports per se, but I just watch them now and then. I don’t really care about them in any sense beyond mild entertainment.
3. If two sports blogs are in competition, I have more rules. Baseball blogs always lose because baseball is the most boring sport ever invented. To watch, that is. Playing it’s not so bad. Soccer blogs are the next to go. Football blogs get voted above all other sports blogs.
4. If your blog has a black background behind the text, you lose. I know my blog used to have that style, but since changing it I’ve realized its evils.
5. Blogs where the author fails to capitalize or use punctuation are the next to go.
6. Next down are blogs with way too much pink.
7. And finally, if two equally sinful blogs are in competition, then I vote based on which template is the lesser of two evils. If I can’t decide, I’ll go through some pains to read each of them a bit to find overall writing style and topic.

As long as you don’t commit any of those sins, then I’ll give your blog a fair shake. And I try not to hold a grudge for people who beat me in battles, but sometimes I get the impression that I was beaten because somebody invited all their friends to vote, and this will affect my decision.

And try to take some of the implied advice if you commit any of the above blogging sins. I guess I can’t expect you to stop blogging about sports, but the rest is yours for the taking.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Know Your Audience: Axe vs. Bod

First things first: I have a brand new shot up at FMPhoto. Check it out.

Advertisers need to know their audience. Some do, some don't. One that stands out in my mind is Hallmark. They know that their target audience totally buys in to the bullshit contained in their commercials. Did you ever see the one, during the Christmas season, where a whole family is standing around some stupid singing doll and having a jolly good time singing along with it? Yeah, that never happens, but I know people who think it would. And the women in their commercials are always quietly dignified, standing aloof from their world. This is, of course, the exact opposite of the kind of person who shops there often, but they would all like to think of themselves that way.

In short, Hallmark knows their audience and has them nailed down in the advertisements. Who else does, and who doesn't?

vs.

Everyone's familiar with Axe. It smells pretty good, but that's not really important with any kind of scent-based product that's marketed to men. What's important is (1) packaging and (2) advertising. Axe products are black, a surefire color for marketing to young men. Not only that, but they have nifty symbols and names for the different scents like Phoenix (with phoenix emblem) and Essence (with dragon emblem). And it's named after what could be a weapon. What could appeal more to men?

But what's even better is the Axe advertisements. They have average-looking joes that get really hot chicks. This is what appeals to young men. Not only that, but the ads are hilarious. "Everyone deserves an eleventh chance" I believe was one of them, in which a young woman was angry at her boyfriend but gave him another chance because he smelled so good. Their original elevator ads were great too, where the young man would spray Axe on himself and then whoever got into the elevator with him found him irresistible. Also recall the ads where a mannequin had the spray applied to it, and it was immediately accosted by young women who just couldn't help themselves.

That appeals to young men.

Contrast: Bod. No one knows whether or not this smells good or lasts long because no one has ever tried it. Why? The packaging is blue, which isn't necessarily bad--but blue is conceived as more juvenile than black. The name, "bod," doesn't appeal to young men at all. It might appeal to young women, but young men don't want to think about a "bod."

And the ads. Oh, God, are they terrible. They show a bunch of young, muscly men with no shirts playing sports. A woman usually walks by and just looks at them. She doesn't find them irresistible. She looks at them and walks by, implying that she can see this sausage-fest and that they are actually a bunch of homosexuals hanging out with each other, so she might as well not even try.

You see, whether you like it or not young men are going to see the Bod advertisements as gay and young, straight men don't want any part of that. These ads are clearly inferior to the Axe ads. Are you listening, Bod? Fire your ad agency. Your target audience is straight young men, I presume, since they far outnumber gay young men. And you apparently have older women and gay men writing your ad campaign. It's not working, nor will it ever work. Try again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Powerball

A gas station here in Lincoln, Nebraska, sold a winning Powerball ticket. The perplexing thing to me is that several people have claimed to have the winning ticket. Why would someone do such a thing? I imagine it goes like this:
(Phone rings, chuckling in background)
Caller: Shut up, guys! Shut up, it's ringing.
Answer: Hello?
Caller: Yeah, I have the winning ticket.
(chuckling)
Caller: (muffled) Shut up. Sssshhhhhh.
Answer: Are you still there?
Caller: Yeah, um, so how do I get my money?
Then, in the Caller's ideal scenario, comes the meeting, where our friend the Caller shows up to claim his prize.
"Um, you give me the money first, then I'll give you the ticket." They hand over a briefcase like illegal arms dealers in the movies. Caller reaches into his pockets, says, "I must have left it in my other jeans. I'll just head home to get it. I'll be right back, I swear."
What kind of benefit do these hoaxers think they'll get? At least one of them made the announcement in a bar. It's not like anyone's going to buy you a drink for it. You just claimed to have an interest in over $300 million. At best, they'll expect you to buy a round of drinks. You might get some bimbo into bed, but it's not likely. At worst, the patrons will beat you and search your unconscious person, then steal your keys and ransack your car and house, then, failing to find the ticket, burn your house to the ground because "If I can't have it, no one can." Does this happen every time a winning lotto ticket is sold in a town?

Monday, February 20, 2006

New Blog

I've decided to start a separate blog at http://fmphoto.blogspot.com/, despite a compliment from Trusty Getto about the all-purpose blog.

For now I'll mostly be posting some older images just to get some content on there, but they'll be bigger and the template is a lot more conducive to enjoyment of the photos than this one is. Make sure to check it out anyway because I may post new stuff without warning.

Happy Birthday . . .

. . . to my brother, a man with a strange sense of humor and an even stranger sense of style. More straight men should wear pink shirts with the word "naughty" on them as a statement that says, "Yes, I am secure in my masculinity. Are you?"

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Two Things:

1. I have a new renter, Haunted House Dressing. He has a lot of pretty decent fiction there, so click the link in the sidebar to check it out!
2. Happy birthday to my wife!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Capital Punishment: Morals and Justice

Since I’ve already discussed abortion (rather extensively, I might add) and war, the last of the biggest three philosophical challenges, in my mind, is capital punishment.

People like to support the death penalty because they believe it deters crime. A simple Google search will quickly dispel this myth.
Others like to say that it provides closure to families of the victims. I’m not sure whether or not that’s true, but I have a hard time thinking that someone will feel a lot better after someone else is killed.

But those rationales are simply practical concerns. People tend to get caught up in the prevention-of-crime rationale. These are perfectly valid goals and, if the death penalty were applied differently, they might be achievable through that means. But, as the great legal scholar Guido Calabresi would observe, there’s a lot more to capital punishment than that. The law tends to try to achieve multiple goals simultaneously, and that’s why it never perfectly achieves any one goal. There are two related rationale for the death penalty, one that we don’t like to talk about and one that few know how to put into words.

More Honest Rationale: Punishment

Punishment is the third major reason for capital punishment that’s cited by average people. As a general matter, it incorporates both of my “more honest rationales.” Critics of capital punishment often say that life in prison is adequate punishment. In my mind, life in prison is worse than death for the perpetrator and less satisfying for society.

Retribution is one of the most powerful reasons to support the death penalty. I think people don’t like to talk about it because it’s often associated with revenge. But they’re not the same thing. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Tenth Edition) gives as one definition for revenge “an act or instance of retaliating in order to get even.” This is something that society doesn’t want to admit to, and rightly so. Retribution, on the other hand, is “the dispensing or receiving of reward or punishment esp. in the hereafter.” So retribution has an element of divine moral justice. Which brings me to the other honest rationale for the death penalty: natural justice.

Natural justice is something that courts avoid in their resolution of issues. This is largely because it’s very difficult to set out principled standards and rules to follow. But, at the same time, most people would agree that there is something to the concept. In natural justice, the punishment should fit the crime, almost like poetic justice. For example, rapists should be castrated, thieves should be stripped of their own belongings, and murderers should be put to death.

What separates natural justice from revenge? Revenge is taken by individuals on behalf of themselves or their loved ones. Revenge is primal and chaotic. Natural justice reaches the same result as revenge. But revenge can go too far because of emotional considerations. In revenge, X kills Y’s wife, then Y kills X’s entire extended family (thank you The Punisher). But in natural justice, there is an adjudication to determine whether the accused has actually committed the crime, and the punishment is meted out fairly. Natural justice is action by an ordered society rather than wronged individuals.

I could take the natural justice discussion further, and I may at some point. I could also go through recommendations for how capital punishment should b implemented in a criminal justice system or discuss the Supreme Court’s capital punishment jurisprudence. But for now, we can sum up the argument as such: capital punishment can be supported on punishment grounds, because society demands retribution for heinous crimes on the basis of natural justice.

Capital Punishment and Religion

People like to cite hypocrisy in religion. They find most Protestants’ approval of capital punishment as being at odds with their disapproval of abortion. I imagine both sides are absolutely astonished at the apparent disparity: D thinks it’s okay to kill an innocent baby but wants to save the life of a murdering bastard; R wants to protect tissue at the expense of a woman’s choice and lifestyle but doesn’t have the decency to want to protect a real human being.

The most obvious response to this charge of hypocrisy on the part of Christians is this: the fetus (which is seen as a full-fledged human) has done nothing wrong. The murderer, on the other hand, has forfeited his own life by taking another life.

I found another response to the apparent disparity between the attitudes of the Old and New Testaments in part of a paper I wrote in a class called “Ministry in a Changing World,” a graduation requirement at my undergraduate university, which I took in May of 2003:
[W]e can look . . . to the fifth chapter of Matthew, verses, 38-42.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
At first glance, this verse only tells us not to resist evil. But put in a historical context, it shows that God wants us to separate church and state.
Before this time, God’s people were also a nation, as Israel. God’s laws were not only a moral code, but also a code of law and order. “Eye for eye” was meant to be the rule of law for the people of Israel, so that they could keep the criminals in check. God’s new people, the Body of Christ, are no longer a nation. They are supposed to be members of all nations. And they will never be the majority. So the gospel of Jesus compels us to love our neighbor and not seek revenge. That is something up to the governments to do.
Finally, what are your thoughts on capital punishment? Is it morally required of a civilized nation? Is it morally acceptable yet practically ludicrous? Do you still think it’s hypocritical to support the death penalty while decrying abortion (or backwards to support abortion while opposing the death penalty)? Or do you agree with me that it is the best way to implement a natural justice and to punish murderers?

As my property professor would say, a "Preview of Coming Attractions":

Next Friday, I hope to tackle the more practical concerns surrounding capital punishment and how it could best be applied.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Minimalism: Less is More, but Here's One More Anyway

[Image © 2006 Kelly Hoffart] I hope you like it. It's sad, really, that the one time I get to take advantage of my sponsored TotalFark account for the new Farktography contest, I don't have any pictures that I think will do really well in it. None of them made me say "wow" when I first saw them, so they won't have that effect on anyone else. Damn theme. Go there and vote for them anyway (username: SirJello37) if you really love me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Dose of Minimalism


(Click for larger.) Minimalist black-and-white photography is really interesting. I think I may have to explore the genre a bit more, when I get the chance. [Images © 2006 Kelly Hoffart]

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Oh yeah . . . happy Valentine's.

Did you know? The tradition of giving valentines to people originated with St. Valentine, who would rip the hearts from the wicked with his bare hands and give them to poor children to eat.

Crazy Poker Hand

Last night we were playing with three people at the table. I had small blind (to left of dealer). I got the flat tire (Jack - 4), not a good hand by any means but with only three people at the table it's not bad.
Dealer called, I called, and large blind checked.

The flop: 4 - J - J

I flopped a full house. At this point, I was wondering how I could best cash in on it. So I checked, check, check.
The turn: 6 (I could be wrong on this but it's close enough)
I bid just over the minimum, to appear to be trying to scare them away. Predictable move, yes. Large blind folded, dealer called.
The river: 7
I grimaced a bit, and checked. Dealer bid, I raised, and dealer bid enough to put me all in.
So, as I was counting my chips so he could make his bid, I was thinking about how nice it would be to have twice that many as soon as I show my cards. I was thinking about the odds of things--there was a possibility of a straight or a flush (but not a straight flush) but I knew my hand would beat those.
The chances of him having the last Jack: 2.2%
The chances of him having a 6 or 7: 13.3%
Therefore, the chances of him having a better hand (both a Jack and a 6 or 7): about 0.29%

I called. He flipped his cards: Jack - Four. We had the same damn hand. What are the odds? A little less than 0.1% . . . or 1 in 1000 . . . .

So, we split the chips. Oh well.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cheese-Injection

On Saturday night Laura and I went to Pizza Hut. We had seen the commercials for the new "Cheesy Bites" pizza, and she wanted to try it. But, as I told her, "I see through their cheese-injection schemes." Turns out I was right. It wasn't that great. It was basically their stuffed-crust pizza with less "stuffed" and more "crust." Seriously, who wants to get their appetizers at the same time they get their main course? I once left a Pizza Hut waitress a tip of three cents ($0.03) because she brought out breadsticks less than two minutes before the pizza. (I like to leave nominal tips like that when I'm pissed about service; if you don't leave a tip at all there's a chance they could think you just forgot.) Sure, maybe it wasn't her fault, but I'm pretty sure they share tips with the cooks at places like that.

Well, since cheesy bites are just a poorly-done cover version of stuffed-crust pizza, I started to wonder what Pizza Hut will do next. They're running out of ways to serve cheese. So, in fulfillment of the prophecy, I will prophesy, and history will come to know me as the Nostradamus of cheese-injection. The question: what will Pizza Hut do next?

1. They will put cheese and toppings on the bottom of the pizza as well as the top, for a two-dimensional pizza experience.
2. The novelty having worn off, they will make three-dimensional pizza. This is something that our early-twenty-first-century minds cannot yet comprehend, but it will happen.
3. Having run out of places to put cheese on the pizza, they'll just slop it on you and directly on the table and seats.
4. Noting the popularity of "flavor shots" with many fountain drinks, they will give you a cheese flavor shot in your Pepsi.
5. Three words: rectal cheese injection. "Come on in and get the Good Stuff™. We fill up your colon and lower intestines with cheese." This is the first of their new ideas that will stick around for a long time (as has the stuffed-crust), largely because some of their regular clientele enjoy this kind of thing. Just wait until you feel that squishing around in your undergarments as it leaks out due to sphincter failure, or, as it will come to be known, "Pizza Hut Bowel Syndrome™."
6. At the dawn of the twenty-second century, they will immediately hook you up to a cheese IV when you walk in the door. Most Pizza Huts will clean the cheese needles before using them on someone else. (I just wanted to type "cheese needles.")
7. In an effort to attract more families with children, they will introduce a playland (a la McDonalds) which will include, among other attractions, a cheese pool for the kiddies to swim in.
8. Cheese Idols, Cheese Bishops, and the Cheese Pope. These prescient visions are too frightening to share in any more detail.
9. Finally, as the result of the Cheese Jihad (also known as Cheesageddon) there will be the Cheese Ragnarok (or Cheesapocalypse), the end of the world as we know it, which will be followed by a new heaven and a new earth, all filled with cheese. They will then inject cheese into the core of the new earth, leading to Cheesy Judgment Day.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

R2-D2


[Images © 2006 Kelly Hoffart]
This is an old keychain my parents got for me back in high school. Pretty nifty, I think, but not as nifty as this: I finally got Laura to sit and watch a Star Wars movie with me! Now, I know her parents aren’t “bad” people, but if there’s one thing they did wrong in raising their kids it’s that they didn’t start their kids on Star Wars early in life. In fact, they never started their kids on Star Wars. If I decided what constituted a culture in this world, people like that would probably be burned as witches.
I know my audience too, so I started her at the end, with Return of the Jedi. No one can resist the baby Ewoks, or the rush of pride you must inevitably feel when the tribe attacks the Imperial Storm Troopers.

Friday, February 10, 2006

My two or three cents on the Mohammed cartoons


I have a new renter! He appears to be a psychiatrist that wants to help you relax. So, click the thumbnail in the sidebar to check it out.

A couple of weeks ago, if someone had made any suggestion that Muslims would be burning Danish flags, it would have been a joke. The most offensive thing that ever came out of Denmark before that was King Diamond.

I wondered where they got the flags, before I found an article explaining that one store owner at least had purchased them after he found out about the offensive cartoon. My other theory is that there is a flag store somewhere in Damascus or some other Arabic capital city, and the owner has a stock of flags from every country in the world. He’s just waiting for the lucrative opportunity when someone from Mauritius will do something to anger the Muslim people so he can sell the flags, lighter fluid, and lighters. (He even has some flags pre-packaged with matches and flammable liquids to sell at discount package prices!)

But anyway, on to the cartoons. I don't see why everyone immediately thinks that this is an insult to "the prophet." The way I would interpret this offhand is that the cartoonist was making a statement about the current attitude of what everyone likes to call "the religion of peace." The statement: Mohammed would not have wanted people to go around killing other people for the sake of Islam. At least, not if it truly is "the religion of peace" as they would have us believe. And perhaps since I've been a long-time listener to heavy metal music I might have a better idea what northern Europeans are trying to say. Of course, the Arab people don't have a sense of humor. They're trying to make a series of comics poking fun at the Holocaust. I'm sure you could already find that if you searched the web for a little while, and it would probably be pretty funny if you can dissociate humor from reality.

In any case, even if he was trying to insult Islam, he's a hero for freedom of speech. If that is the case, he may be a dickhead, but still a hero in some sense.

It probably wasn't wise to make his statement the way he did. But the deed is done, and I, for one, would like to send my moral support to the cartoonist and to all the great people of Denmark.

And to all the people who thought it would be a good idea to burn Danish flags, I would like to send a message: lighten up. Sure, I understand why you're insulted, especially if you don't have a sense of humor or an education or anything like that. But in the end, it's not really a big deal.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Couple Tips on Referential Humor

Referential humor is a great way to make people laugh. But of course, some referential humor is better than others. Yesterday in Legal Profession class my professor made a reference to Mr. Big. I laughed my ass off, but then later found out that the one he was referring to is not the one who wants to be with me. He was apparently referring to some character from Sex and the City, a show I have never seen nor do I ever wish to see.
vs.
(Japandemonium, clearly the coolest and most culturally sensitive album title of all time, is much funnier than the dude on the right. I, too, wish my homeland to be associated with Satan's fortress from Paradise Lost.)

According the Restatement of Humor (Second) § 5.01:
The funniest referential humor is that which refers to
(a) a pop culture icon
(b) of which everyone was aware
(1) more than five years ago
(2) but which they have forgotten.
Comment [1] makes clear why this is so:
The added effect of this kind of referential humor is that people laugh at themselves for having been a fan of the pop culture icon and/or the fact that the joke comes completely out of left field.
Alternatively, a riskier form of referential humor can be found in the Restatement of Humor § 5.05:
If you must make a pop culture reference to an icon that is currently in the spotlight, it should be a more subtle reference. Fewer people will catch the reference, but those who do will be impressed at your cleverness and laugh all the more
An example can be found in my post on tort reform. I don't think anyone caught the joke, but I was explaining what pain and suffering damages are in tort law. The words "pain and suffering," however, were a link, as they are here, and people who follow the link get the joke. I don't think anyone did so, but you should do so now.

I hope this helps those of you who wish to emulate Family Guy in your everyday conversation.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Kurt Russell

I recently read a post which consisted of 17 little-known facts about Chuck Norris. Search for it, if you are so inclined. It brought to my mind an argument I had with the most frustrating person I’ve ever met. Minnesota Dave was in something like his 6th year of undergraduate college and still hadn’t found a major, and he would argue with you about anything. Normally I think that’s a good thing (the arguing part, not the loser part), but he did it competitively rather than for fun and intellectual enrichment (read: “It is because I say so, despite your useless appeals to ‘logic’ and ‘reason’ or your silly ‘examples from real life’ or other ‘evidence’”). Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. The point of it is, Kurt Russell is at least infinity times as cool as Chuck Norris. I’d like to make my case.

1. In Big Trouble in Little China, those bad guys were lucky that Kurt had his Chinese friend to kick their asses before he got his knife out of his boot. They would have really been in for it then. Remember, “It’s all in the reflexes.” Even if you’re some kind of immortal ghost-wizard, you better not throw a knife at Jack Burton, because he’ll just catch it and throw it right back at you. Then you’ll be dead, and that won’t be any fun. The driver of the Pork Chop Express (“coming to you on a dark and stormy night”) is not the trucker to mess with.

2. In The Thing, only MacCready (Russell) and the big badass black dude survive until the end of the movie. And at the end they pass a bottle of Jim Beam (or some other hard liquor) back and forth while the camp burns to the ground, just waiting to freeze to death, thereby making the best movie ending ever. You don’t want this helicopter pilot coming after you with a flame thrower if you’re infected by the alien cells.

3. In Escape from New York Kurt Russell (a.k.a. Snake Plissken) wears a freakin’ eye patch. “Got a smoke?” he asks. He hang glides into Manhattan to save the President from the Duke of New York and the other criminals in the anarchic island prison. But he doesn’t do it because he’s a good American. No, he’s a criminal, and they have to infect him with a poison or virus or some such that will kill him in 24 hours if he doesn’t succeed.

4. In Escape from L.A. the story s pretty much the same. But this movie has Steve Buscemi in it too, and that makes it just as cool. He surfs, plays basketball, hang glides, and does everything else that people thought was cool in the early ‘90s. And at the end, Snake plunges the world into a new dark age the likes of which would make Tyler Durden jealous. But the real lesson of the Escape movies is that only Kurt Russell could play a character cool enough to inspire Snake from the Metal Gear Solid video game series. And just in case you weren’t sure he was the inspiration, with the first name Snake and the love of nicotine and the eye patch on a certain Snake, he goes by the name “Plisskin” throughout most of Sons of Liberty.

5. Hey, he’s been nailing Goldie Hawn for like 20 years. OK, that was a little crass, but he’s a good family man that puts his priorities straight. That’s the only reason he’s not an A-list actor.



6. In Tombstone he plays Wyatt Earp. How cool is that? And in Backdraft he puts out fires. The real point is that, despite co-starring with Val Kilmer, a Baldwin, De Niro, and others, the only person he ever plays second fiddle to is Tom Cruise, and I didn’t understand that movie at all.

7. In Stargate, as a colonel, he kills Egyptian gods. How cool is it when he teleports half that guy while keeping the other half of him right there? And when he teleports the atomic weapon to kill Ra?

8. In Soldier he says this singularly delicious line: “I’m going to kill them all, sir.” And he makes good on that promise, using everything from a knife in the eye to a rocket launcher to, eventually, his bare hands. Not only that, but he carries this whole sci-fi western story with just a handful of lines and superb physical acting with only his face, particularly his eyes that my wife likes so much. I think if she cheated on me with him, I wouldn’t be mad. Just jealous. Now that this awkward moment is over, let’s move on. :) [Is he joking?]

9. In Breakdown and Unlawful Entry, J.T. Walsh and Ray Liotta (respectively) learn one very valuable life lesson the hard way: don’t mess with Kurt Russell’s woman. You will die.

10. Miracle shows us that not only can he kill people like no one else can, but he can also coach the world’s worst hockey team into being the world’s best.

11. Dark Blue has Mr. Russell brutalizing criminals and drinking on the job. . . . Well, maybe that’s not entirely cool, but he owns up to it in the end after arresting one of the guys who killed his partner and witnessing the brutal cinder block murder of the other one.

12. In Tango & Cash, Kurt Russell is a freakin’ super-cop, and we’re pretty sure he’s going to nail a certain “desperate housewife” in the end. And Stallone doesn’t do too bad either.

13. Kevin Costner co-stars in 3000 Miles to Graceland, and he certainly goes out with a bang. But Costner doesn’t get to bang Courtney Cox in the movie . . . and certainly not twice. That was a little crass again, wasn’t it?

14. He lands a plane in Executive Decision. But the cool thing is he actually knows how to do that (and Steven Segall (sp?) dies in the first ten minutes). Plus, he’s an expert on terrorism.

15. My mom loves him in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. She doesn’t like Chuck Norris at all. And we all loved him as the adult Copper in The Fox and the Hound.

Anyway, the point is, Kurt Russell is much cooler than Chuck Norris, and every one of those movies is worth watching. Well, Unlawful Entry might not be the greatest (unless you like to be creeped out by Ray Liotta), but the rest of them are. And I recently watched Used Cars as well, and if you want to see a movie with a stereotypical token black person, that’s the one. Also, after reviewing our movies, it turns out that only twelve of them have Kurt Russell while fifty do not. I guess I need to complete the Kurt Russell collection and get rid of all the rest to get it from 19% to 100%. Maybe I could be persuaded to hold on to the LotR and Star Wars movies though.

"For the love of God, Montresor!"

(Click for larger)







Images © 2006 Kelly Hoffart

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Random news

22-year-old dog addicted to cigarettes
"On average he eats about 10 cigarettes a day, but all of his teeth are fine and he is as fit as a puppy, even though he turned 22 this week."
I was wondering how they got those . . .
When entrepreneur Ahmed Abu Dayya first heard that Danish caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad were being reprinted across Europe, he knew exactly what his customers in Gaza would want: flags to burn.
If he doesn't get his dog back, he'll have one more reason to sing the blues. Good luck B.B.!
B.B. King's dog, Lucille, has disappeared, and the legendary bluesman is offering an autographed copy of one of his guitars in an effort to get her back.
Thanks, Fark.com!

Watch

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Images © 2006 Kelly Hoffart

Monday, February 06, 2006

I've added a few more photography-related links that I've run across. If you guys find any other good ones I would love to link to them.

UPDATE: I've also hijacked an old post to use as a running list of photography links without cluttering up my sidebar too much. So if you're looking for a starting point to look at some good photography, this is it.

More Puppy Pictures

Hey, who can resist pictures of puppies? I know I can't, and any man who says that he can is almost assuredly insecure about his masculinity. Today the pics are of the dog beds that my wife made for the kids. It should be noted that she doesn't have a sewing machine--she sewed them by hand. Top here is Lily on the Lily Pad, and bottom is Russell on the Bat Bed.
We get some Batman-related stuff for him because when he looks up at you his ears go back and he looks kind of like a bat. Enjoy the cuteness, or I have insulted the substantiality of your manhood. UPDATE: By the way, that's a hoof in his mouth. He loves to chew on those things, and they smell terrible, so I guess it's a win-win situation.

More Links

I've added two more links in addition to David Fokos: Lenscape and A Photo Journey. Neither awes me the way Fokos does, but the guy over at Lenscape has a distinct style all his own and the latter has at least a few amazing pictures, like this one.

Also, incidentally, I alphabetized each section of my links (before it was in order that I added them) with those with image links still at the top to keep out clutter.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Has-been & Great

Has-been

Has-been: The Rolling Stones. Did anyone else have the same thought during the Superbowl XL half-time show?

Great

Great: David Fokos. I've removed a photoblog that has been disappointing me as of late and added the website of David Fokos to my sidebar. There's not a whole lot there, but what he does have is amazing. He shoots minimalist landscapes with an antique camera that uses 8x10 film, develops the negatives, scans them into his computer, perfects them with Photoshop, and prints them on regular photo paper with lasers that expose it, and finally develops the paper using old-fashioned black-and-white developing chemicals.
Amazing.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Keeping the doctor away . . .

. . . in black and white. (Click for larger image)







[Images © 2006 Kelly Hoffart]

Should Employers Restrict Smoking?

While the subject of smoking is still fresh in my mind, I thought I'd bring up what I see as a big problem ahead. Some employers have prohibited their employees from smoking at any time. Not just on the job, but also in the comfort of their own homes. The reasoning behind it is that it reduces health insurance costs.

I think this opens a whole can of worms.

First, I don't think you can prevent this on constitutional grounds, at least not without doing more violence to the Constitution itself. Some day Congress is going to need to take action in this area.

The biggest problem: how can they extend this reasoning? Since most employers that provide health insurance for the employee also provide it to the employee's family, then can they prevent the employee's spouse from smoking? Can you be fired from a job for your spouse's smoking habit?

Obesity is currently touted as the #1 health problem among Americans. Can you fire someone for being fat? What if they have chubby kids? Alternatively, can they cut off the health insurance to the family members purely on the grounds that they are overweight, smokers, or alcoholics?

Can they go even further? Can they, on this reasoning, force you into a particular diet and exercise regime? And the rest of your family?

I don't know about you, but every one of these things scares me.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Words of Wisdom

I'm going to paraphrase what Professor Pitts just said. There's only three kinds of people in the world: lawyers, clients, and everybody else. Well, there's doctors, too, but we just sue them for malpractice.

Happy Groundhog's Day!

Just a few things:
1. I have a new renter, "Rock and Metal Forever." Click on the thumbnail in the sidebar and check out his site, filled with rock/metal videos (mostly of eras past).
2. If you have a Fark user account (or wouldn't mind signing up for one) go to the new Farktography contest and vote for my pictures (username = SirJello37).
3. I turned on the TV this morning while eating breakfast to find out that some Columbian drug runners were surgically inserting bags of heroin into the stomachs of puppies. I could be heard to say "I would fucking kill every last on of you with my bare hands."

On the Distinction between Grunge and Metal

Moise respectfully dissented to my list of ten essential metal albums on the ground that the list did not include Nirvana. After I asserted without explaining that Nirvana is not metal, but grunge, he responded thusly:
I suppose I am a silly person who cannot separate the subtle distinction between "Alice in Chains" as "Metal" with "Nirvana" which is so obviously grunge one would be an idiot for saying they're hardcore.

Now, a defense of Nirvana as Metal.

I agree that their most popular album "Nevermind" has little of anything to do with Metal. But their earlier work, Bleach and their later masterpiece, In Utero, are so obviously rooted in metal.

Maybe we would be helped by a definition Kelly? What does "metal" mean? If your saying that Nirvana can't be metal you must have a different definition than I.

(I understand you would never find Nirvana in the "metal" section at a Tower Records, but to me it has all the emotion and guitars that would make up metal) Sorry for the misused "quotes".
I certainly don't think the distinction between grunge and metal is that obvious, actually. My overstatement was meant to be humorous. But regardless, I can no more define "metal" or "grunge" than you can define "punk" or anyone can define "classical." Perhaps what we call classical or baroque was once seen as a diverse mixture of different genres which have disappeared with time, and perhaps in time grunge will be viewed as metal. I suppose only time will tell.

As a general matter, the view of grunge as distinct from metal came from its origins. Instead of growing out of a highly theatrical, bluesy European influence, it grew out of a pessimistic, punky Seattle influence. At the same time, however, they did borrow a lot from metal. This is why Alice in Chains is often confused with the grunge movement (as exemplified by Nirvana, Soundgarden, and probably also Pearl Jam). Alice in Chains was also very dark (what do you expect from rainy Seattle?) and they also came from Seattle. Alice in Chains is not as much punk-based as, say, Nirvana, even though they do have some punk roots (see some of their early demos).

Also, I've heard another characterization of the distinction: metal encourages channeling your rage outward, and this is healthy, whereas grunge is all about channeling rage inward, which is unhealthy. This was probably true at the time, but Alice in Chains is almost precisely on the border between the two. I think that recent history has claimed AiC for metal, however, because the metal artists cite them as an influence today where they don't cite Nirvana, and they borrow more from the AiC style.

So there was a lot of intermixing of punk and metal in the Seattle music scene of the late 80's and early 90's, which led in large part to the creation of grunge. Hence the confusion. But to add to this confusion, now today MTV and the "rock" radio stations have decided that all the distinctions are unimportant, and they no longer speak of metal or grunge but of "rock" music, and therefore Nickelback and their ilk (most certainly grunge bands) get played on the same air time as Disturbed, Metallica, and Static-X.

I think you need to look at the bands on the whole, on balance, and when you toss them into the graduated cylinder to find their specific gravity you find that Alice in Chains is metal and Nirvana is grunge. I suppose, if you wanted, you could enlarge the sphere of metal to include grunge, but I think if you did that then it would also swallow up a large amount of punk music, and that would offend the musical sensibilities of both punks and metalheads.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Too Much Video Games?

Before I left home this morning, I flipped on the radio for the kids to listen to. There were two on-air personalities speaking, one male and one female. The man intimated that he had played six hours of video games the previous day. The woman responded that she thought that was "too much" and that she could see one or two hours, "every now and then."

I should pause for a moment to explain that I used to play video games quite a bit. I haven't had time in the last couple years except for when Xenosaga II came out.

What, exactly, is the a priori assumption of many people that video games are somehow bad? This personality simply said that it was "too much," without any explanation of why it is too much or what she perceived to be the harm or inferiority of video games. I suspect that it's largely because of the environment in which she grew up. Then, video games were something meant for children. But what she and many other people don't realize is that as my generation has grown up, so have video games.

I then wondered whether she would say the same about other things. If instead he had said that he watched TV for six hours, would she say that it's "too much"? Perhaps, but I don't think that she would have added her recommendations for watching it only an hour or two "every now and then." I'm sure she herself watches TV more often than that, as most Americans do. Personally I think video games are healthier than the vast majority of television programs.
And what of reading? If he had claimed that he read a book for six hours, then would she say that it was "too much"? Most certainly not. But I submit that many video games (especially RPGs such as the Xenosaga and Final Fantasy series) are actually healthier than reading, for example, a romance novel.

No, playing video games for six hours at a sitting is not evidence in itself of anything less healthy. It's different with many MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games, such as Everquest [Evercrack] and World of Warcraft [WoW]). These games, rather than being an escape for a few hours to a different life, tend to become the important life for some people. I have a friend who leaves work each day to go home, shut off his cell phone, and play World of Warcraft until he nearly collapses from sleep. Then he gets up in time to go to work and repeats the process. Why am I not afraid that he'll read this and be offended? Because he's either at work, asleep, or playing WoW. He'll never see this. There was a short time when he quit playing Final Fantasy XI (the franchise's foray into the MMORPG genre) and he was really fun to hang out with again. But then he got into WoW and that was all over.
To take it to the extreme, the South Koreans are perhaps the perfect example of when video games become too much. Some die from extended video game binges without food or sleep. Others form real-life gangs to exact revenge on people who have, in their minds, wronged them within the online environment.

But playing a game for six hours on a particular day? That's certainly not "too much." And neither would be two or three hours on a daily basis, as long as it doesn't interfere with the rest of your life and your happiness. TV and books are equally able to do that. Before video games, many people delved into books as their sole source of faux human interaction, to the detriment of their health and lives. But does that make books bad? Does that making reading for six hours on a particular day "too much"?

I think not.