Wednesday, July 31, 2002

For people, especially guys, who hate opera.

Via Intelligent Life.

Just a Thought

Some people have decided that it is their inalienable right to never be offended by anything. Okay, let's say I go along with that and agree that everyone has the right to never be offended by anything. Since we all supposedly have equal rights this means we have to agree that we all have the right to never be offended by anything. Fine. Now, it deeply offends me when people are offended by something I love, especially if it happens to be music. (see Andante article linked below) Therefore, since I have the inalienable right to never be offended, no one has a right to be offended by anything I like. So there!

Mixing Art and Politics

This is sad. Of course I can understand backing out of a commitment due to the fear of being blown to bits, but I just can't get over this silly notion I've always had that art should transcend politics. And the insurance companies....don't get me started on insurance companies! (via Spleenville)


Andante has a good article on music and politics. Not much I can add to this call for common sense.

More on Writing

I have to apologize to A.C. Douglas for the forcefulness of my response to his comments on writing. I did not mean for it to come out as a "drubbing." It just happens that he touched on one of the major frustrations in my life. A lot of people I know tell me that I write very well and at one place where I worked I somehow got an undeserved reputation as a "walking dictionary." I suppose I can communicate well enough but none of these people who think I write well are professional writers and, more importantly, none of them know the huge difference between the ideas in my head and the way they come out on paper. (or on screen)

A. C. says keep practicing. Practice is good but I don't have much faith in it. I think there are some things you simply must learn while you're young. Throughout my years in public schools I was required to actually write something once or twice a year. Oh how the other kids moaned and groaned and whined every time a teacher gave a writing assignment! I thought we should have one at least once a week. I always got an A so I thought I was good at writing. Now I know I was cheated. I didn't learn anything from all those A's. Getting an A doesn't give you any incentive to work at getting better; it just makes you feel smug. It made me think I was better than I really am.

I love beautiful writing but I can't write beautifully. That is more frustating to me than not being able to sing or play an instrument or paint a picture because sometimes I feel like I'm so close. People who don't care much about their writing are actually lucky because caring always hurts.

*UPDATE(10 hours later) I've been accused of "whining." Maybe it looks like whining because I obsess over things most people don't care anything about. What is it about the Interent that makes us want to expose ourselves like this? I considered deleting this but it's already been quoted and linked so I'll leave it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Here's another beautifully written blog. I just added it to my permanent list.

Clever Line

Thanks to Don W. Strickland for this quote:

"I don't give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way."
--Mark Twain

I should have known that ol' Mark Twain would have the right quip for the occasion.

Inspired by A. C. Douglas

Several items on A. C. Douglas's page have set my mind off in various directions, in its usual undisciplined manner. A couple of weeks ago he responded to Brendan O' Neill's comments about writing in the Blogosphere.

Blog entries may be far from formally written essays or columns, but a minimum fundamental respect for one's readers is expected of bloggers just as it's expected of all who write for publication (i.e., for the public). Misspellings are nothing less than a slap in the face of the reader as it tells him the writer didn't have enough respect for him to subject his copy to the most basic sort of proofreading. There's simply no excuse for misspellings in a blogged post (as opposed to the inevitable occasional typo) given the widespread availability of first-rate digital spell-checkers.

I have to confess that I do get annoyed at sloppy writing even though I realize that mine isn't much better. Is it still a slap in the face to readers if you really try and still make mistakes? Spell-checkers catch some mistakes but cause others. A spell-checker is no help if you use the word "there" when you should have used "their." There's no substitute for knowing how to spell and knowing how to use a dictionary. However, even professionals make mistakes. I still remember seeing an article on CNN's website in which the word "reigns" was mistakenly used in place of "reins." I caught that. Why did the professional journalist miss it?

I'm sure ACD knows much more about these matters than I do but I'm going to boldly disagree with him on one point: I think the word "Blogosphere" should be capitalized for the same reason "Internet" is customarily capitalized. I also partially disagree with his opinions on the proper length of blog posts. It depends on content. It is possible to ramble on for two or three thousand words without saying anything that couldn't be said in just a paragraph or two, but not every subject can be covered in 1000 words or less. As just one example, I refer ACD to the Muslim Pundit (linked below). Read his writing and then come back and talk about blog entry length.

I do have problems with my writing especially concerning grammar and style. ACD says "And there's no excuse for clumsy sentences..." Okay, you're right. I have no excuse but I still can't do any better. I take what seems to me an unreasonably long time time writing and editing most of my posts, but no matter how hard I try I still find mistakes, clumsy sentences and sentences that don't effectively express the thoughts I would like to express. When I let myself think about it, this bothers me a great deal, especially since many of my readers are not my equals but people who are far superior in skill and experience. I don't know how I manage to attract such people in the first place. So what should I do? Should I just be content to read the work of professionals - professionals who occasionally confuse words like "reigns" and "reins?"

Of all the things I want to write about, I feel the least able to write about what I love the most: music. There's so much I want to say that I don't know how to say. In a more recent post ACD comments on Wagner's treatise On Conducting.

In short, and with apologies to Kipling, what should they know of music who only music know?

Not directly related to ACD's post but this sentence started me thinking. It seems to me that this could be applied to many contemporary composers. It seems like there is very little healthy middle ground between cheesy crossovers and navel-gazing academics. Maybe I've just been hanging out with the wrong group for too long but I've noticed that amoung the "best" contemporary composers there seems to be an attitude that the audience doesn't matter - that, in fact, the tastes of typical classical music lovers is hidebound and inferior.

I do like some music that is usually considered "difficult" and I detest attempts to popularize classical music by dumbing it down or mixing it with other genres, but it seems to me that the best thing for the future of classical music would be for composers to leave their ivory towers and get in touch with the audience. I think I saw this statement on a t-shirt: Just because no one understands you doesn't mean you're smarter than everyone else. Somebody needs to send that message to some of today's avant garde composers.

Monday, July 29, 2002
Welcome Back, Adil

The Muslim Pundit was one of the first blogs I bookmarked. He's back now after several months of not blogging. I have missed his excellent essays. He has posted a very long one on the subject of jihad, which I am saving for a quiet hour when I can give it proper attention.

Question for Bloggers

Jim has a question:

How has blogging affected you? Has it helped you to stay more informed (fishing for blog subjects, reading other blogs to comment on, and following the links to news stories, etc)? Has it helped you organize your thoughts better?

I'm not sure if blogging has had a significant effect on my life or not. One thing it has done is make me realize how lame TV news is. I never watched the national news much before September 11th, but after, I became almost addicted to it. I started watching ABC news and felt like I couldn't miss it. I still watch it most days but I don't rely on it for real news. Comments from a variety of viewpoints helps to get a better overall perspective.

I'm not sure about the last part of the question either. Probably not. It's given me different things to think about but I don't think my thoughts are any better organized now than they were before blogging.

By far the biggest change is in how I spend my time online. I used to be a message board junkie, spending more than half my time online reading and posting on classical music message boards - one in particular. Other than that I checked Arts and Letters Daily and SciTech Daily every day and read some of the articles there. Now I think I get more out of the Web than I did before blogging.

"Joy"ful Blogger

I found this via Hot or Not. Nice blog with lots of personal stories and musings.

I-40 Bridge Re-Opens

The bridge on Interstate 40 near Webber's Falls, Oklahoma, which collapsed in May when it was hit by a barge, re-opened today ahead of schedule.

Reading All the Lyrics May Prevent Foot-in-Mouth

William Slawski of Bragadocchio has a good point about politicians who refer to a rousing song in an attempt to rally supporters without knowing all the lyrics.

Mental Lethargy

Remember I was complaining about the heat yesterday? Well today, right now at about 1:30pm, it's only 70 F. It rained most of the night and early this morning and it's still cloudy and damp. I don't know if that's the reason I just can't seem to get my brain in gear today but that's what I'm going to blame it on anyway. I have started to write about a couple of different things and the words just wouldn't come to me. I had the words in my head earlier but when I finally got the chance to sit down at the computer they left me. I hate when that happens.

Today just feels like a the right kind of day for doing nothing or for sitting with a cup of tea, listening to music and gazing out the window, or maybe reading a good book. I just finished reading Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and I'm not sure what to start next. I'd like to go ahead and read the next book in that series, Speaker for the Dead, but it's a 75 mile round trip to the nearest bookstore that's likely to have it. I have several other books laying around that I haven't read and as always a wealth of stuff to read online but I'm not sure what I'm in the mood for.

Music. Earlier this week a bought a CD of solo cello music. I want to write about that later, when I get to know it better, but maybe that's what I'm in the mood for right now. Unaccompanied cello always seems to fit lazy days.

Sunday, July 28, 2002
Sunday Morning Ramblings

Blogging: There's that error 503 again. I've noticed that sometimes I get that even though Blogger is publishing and everything looks okay but other times I get it and it won't publish.

I've been browsing through a lot of other blogs, finding more that I wanted to link to and doing a lot of reading. I keep finding a lot of great stuff. From where I sit it seems like quality in the Blogoshere is improving. When I first started most of what I found were teenage diaries, lots of: "welcome to my boring life i didn't do anything interesting yesterday and i'm not doing anything interesting today i don't understand why anyone would want to read stuff about my boring life everything is so lame" and yadda yadda yadda. I used to bookmark practically any blog I found that used punctuation and capital letters. Now most of the blogs I'm finding actually have something to say and are at least fairly well-written, many very well-written.

The downside of finding all these great blogs is that I've been doing little more than blogging about blogging. I need to find a balance between browsing/reading and writing. I also want to get back to doing more of the kind of reading I used to enjoy - more books and longer essays. Blogging has made me impatient. Several times lately I've started reading an interesting article then noticed that the button over on the scroll-bar is very small, meaning that it's a very long article, and I quit reading, thinking "I'll come back to this later; I don't have time right now." There are also a number of things I have in mind to write about but I can't make my mind focus on them enough to write the kind of post I want to write. I have been getting more visitors. Now I have to try to concentrate on making this page worth coming back to.

Dreams:Last night or this morning I dreamed I was in New York. Nothing special happened. I just walked around and went in a few stores. I didn't want to talk to anyone because I knew that heads would turn and everyone would give me funny looks as soon as they heard my southern accent - just like people did when I was really there 20 years ago. Many of my dreams are very interesting. I've had a few that would make great sci-fi movies. If it weren't for dreams I would deeply resent having to sleep. It's such a waste of time, sleeping a third of your life away, but dreams are a good reason for sleeping.

The Weather:Well, I'm down to talking about the weather so I guess that means I really need to go do something else for a while, to wake up some more of these tired old brain cells. The pleasant weather we were having in June and early July is over. It's starting to look more like a typical Oklahoma summer - temperatures near 100 F or higher and a "20% chance of rain" that might as well be a 0% chance. My roses are not doing well this year. Most years they are always covered with blooms no matter what the weather. I don't know what the problem is this year but they only get a bloom once in a while and one hasn't bloomed at all. I've never thought roses were as "difficult" as many people claim they are. I always thought that was sort of an ego thing: "Look at me, I've got roses. See what a dedicated gardener I am?" But this year my roses are being difficult so maybe I've just been lucky up until now.

Rankings and Ratings

The Blogoshpere Ecosystem has been updated. There are some new kinds of beasties on it this time: Multicellular Microorganisms, Wiggly Worms, Crunchy Crustaceans, Slimy Molluscs have been added to the already existing categories. (Crawly Amphibians and Flippery Fish might be new also. I don't remember them) These additions of multicellular creatures is obviously a clever move on the part of N.Z. Bear to quell the second uprising of the lower orders.

I have made it all the way up to Flappy Bird status with 36 links. Wow! Last week I would have been pleased to be a lowly insect. Thanks to everyone who linked to me. Fred First is a Crawly Amphibian. I know he will be happy to be multicellular and no longer a microorganism. I expect that he will keep moving up and eventually pass me if writing skills count for anything.

In the Hot or Not ratings, the very first person to rate Poet and Peasant, just seconds after I signed up, gave me a rating of 9. That was a nice ego boost but this morning I'm down to a 6.3. I noticed that most of the blogs I rate highly have very low ratings and those I rate low have higher ratings so I think this is mainly a matter of different tastes, although my last few days of blogging haven't been my best. I think being in the middle is worse than being rated low because it would mean that no one has a very strong opinion about my blog. However the graph shows that there are actually more people rating me high or low than in the middle so I'm happy with that. I expect to keep sinking and in a few days I'll be down to a 2 or 3. I'm not taking the Hot or Not ratings seriously though. I see it as just another way to increase traffic.

Saturday, July 27, 2002
What does your blog smell like.

According to Silflay Hraka "Poet and Peasant" smells like "a bag of non-pareils, ebony wood, and metal salts". I guess I can live with that.

New to my list: A C Douglas and Writer of Fortune. Check them out.

Everybody's Doing It

or NOT?

First spotted at Quantum Tea.

Friday, July 26, 2002
M.A.D. Calls for Second Uprising

Fred First, of Fragments from Floyd objects to being classified as a "microbe" and demands recognition as a multicellular organism. He is calling on other bloggers at the bottom of the food chain to join Multicellular And Defiant, the organization he has formed to fight for the rights of "hierarchy-impaired" bloggers. This comes at a time when the situation in the Blogosphere is already touchy due to Bear's delay in updating the standings.

Personally, though I am not above pulling stunts to get attention, I've never seriously objected to being called a microbe. I feel that I'm in good company since some fairly illustrious names can be found amoung the so-called microbes, including Wil Wheaton, Jerry Pournelle and at one time even Doc Searls. Besides I think the whole ecosystem idea is sort of cute and I wouldn't want to screw it up, but still....Fred does have a point. We are, in fact, multicellular organisms. I'm interested to how this plays out.

Thursday, July 25, 2002
Mildly Fascinating

I don't know if I like this or not but I'm going to watch it for a while. Cute answer to the question "Why blog?" Because vanity plates are too restricting, and Play Dough is no longer a viable option.

Uh oh.... Scrolling down a bit farther I notice...... Oh well, I'll ignore the politics and still look in on it once in a while for the other stuff, but definitely no permanent link.


Here's a blog devoted to one of my favorite foods!

A Quick Laugh

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you might have noticed that I don't often use "four-letter-words" but I have to say the new sub-title at Hot Buttered Death is hilarious! Man, what a mental picture! Glad I wasn't eating or drinking anything when I read that.

And after you've read that, keep on reading. He has some good stuff - angry mobs, human sacrifice, poetry....

Still Alive After All These Years?

This is interesting.

Dr. Vladelen Sirotkin, a historian, reported on an Izvestia website forum that Anastasia Romanova is still living. He maintains that genetics experts carried out 22 specialized studies. Besides that, photograph specialists also conducted comparative expertise studies of young Anastasia and the present elderly woman. Handwriting analyses were also carried out.

All these studies have confirmed that the youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas II, Anastasia (Nikolayevna) Romanova and a woman by the name of Natalia (Petrovna) Pelikhodze are one and the same person. The genetic expertise studies were carried out in Japan and Germany.

Besides that, Sirotkin maintains that there is documentary proof that Anastasia managed to escape from the murderer of the Czarist family - Yurovsky. There are archive documents that confirm that on the eve of the execution of the royal family, Anastasia's godfather, a former officer of the Czarist army by the name of Verkhovsky who then served in the dreaded Checka (secret police and forerunner of the KGB) managed to secretively get Anastasia out of the Ipatiyev house (where the Czarist family was held) and together with the young girl found a hiding place in Yekaterinburg.

I'm tempted to make a smart alec remark about Elvis, but I'm enough of a romantic to hope it's true.

What does your grocery list say about you?

Another Big Brother is watching story. ~yawn~

I'm not seriously worried about any of this stuff but still....I'm glad I always refuse "preferred customer" cards.

Another Tower Design

I wish this guy had been able to submit a better picture. I think he's got a good idea but it takes some imagination to visualize. The main thing I like about it is that it looks like more than just another variation on the standard glass box. Vote for it.

BTW, I probably should tell you that I know the designer.


That's the title of this attractively designed, well-written blog. Bess has some words about the new WTC designs.

I'll bet you there's some brilliant young architect out there -- of the Roarkian school of thought -- who's come up with the perfect solution to the World Trade Center Redesign/Space Issue. But since he or she won't sell out by creating a model based on what's in vogue / what's communally acceptable / what everyone wants to see, his or her designs are more than likely being dismissed at every turn -- out of the public fear that they're too radical and controversial, even if they do in fact utilize the space in the most efficient way possible while designating a tasteful / appropriate memorial area.

Thus, we're stuck with these considerably lame project ideas, .... Could any less creativity and/or "thinking out of the box" have gone into all six of these models? Each one is basically just one huge pathetic mass conglomeration of public pacification. They've got the modest, closer-to-the-ground grouping of towers and the memorial gardens. They're killing two birds with one stone, via accounting for both capitalism and spirituality, in 50/50 doses. They're covering their asses.

As I said a few days ago, I like the proposed designs fairly well. I especially like the idea of two sunken areas where the Towers once stood, but Bess does have a very good point. The new designs are nice but they are not daring. I think serving the needs of the public - both practical and emotional - should come before making a statement, but a lot of us need a new symbol - something bold enough that it will not merely fade into the rest of the NY skyline.

I hate to break this to all you New Yorkers but the Twin Towers didn't just belong to New York. They were an important symbol to the entire nation. We all know that you have sufferred more than most of us and that you are the ones who will have to live with whatever goes up on the WTC site but all of us, no matter where we live, had something taken away from us on September 11, 2001. The most important things we lost cannot be replaced, but that is no excuse to retreat into inoffensive blandness. Let's build something truly magnificent.

The Constitution

Yes, I bet that title made everyone sit up and take notice. Hot topic these days. I haven't looked in on this site for quite a while. This month there are several articles about the U.S. Constitution. I found this from an article by Cass R. Sunstein interesting:

At the same time, new technologies create some new risks, especially if like-minded people engage in deliberation mostly with one another. On the Internet, for example, it is easy to spend most of your time reading material by people who agree with you, and to talk only with those who share your interests and commitments. One of the most striking findings in social psychology is that when like-minded people speak mostly with one another, they tend to go to extremes--to a more extreme point in line with their original tendencies. This means that if people of one ideological stripe congregate together, they might well end up taking an extreme position. This is no truer, of course, now than in the founding era, and the Framers were aware of risks of this sort. But in some ways, new technologies have aggravated the problem, because they make it so easy for people to live in echo chambers of their own devising.

In terms of founding ideals, the resulting picture is mixed. Information is crucial to deliberation, and people are able to have a lot more information from many more places a lot more quickly. But there is fresh reason to pay attention to the Framers' fear that factions, organized by passion or interest, can overwhelm deliberative processes and obtain ill considered legislation. With new technologies, people are increasingly able to sort themselves into groups of the like-minded, and this can undermine the Constitution's institutions. Here again a recent example is the unconstitutional impeachment of President Clinton. Another is the use of the Internet to spread hatred, not least the kind of hatred that leads to violence and even terrorism.

He doesn't mean us, right? He's talking about the other guys.

Music to Wake Up To

A reader named Josh sent me this wonderful personal story along with permission to quote it:

In 1995, I had a heart bypass operation. A friend told me that he had been allowed to choose the music to listen to, to lessen his apprehension just before anaesthesia for the same operation. This gave me the idea that it would be much better to have something nice to wake up to, instead. Accordingly, I arranged with the hospital (Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital) that they would connect me up to my CD player while I was in the recovery room. My written instructions included the suggestion that the staff should watch the smile steal over my face as I came round.

Of course, the choice of music was almost automatic: Mozart's Requiem. This was partly intended as a wholehearted thumbing of my nose at superstition. What, after all, is wrong with waking from a perilous procedure to music intended as a salute to the dead? Most of all, the requiem is an exquisite piece of music. I had toyed with the idea of one of the piano concertos (K489 in C minor, perhaps) or an opera (The Marriage of Figaro/ The Magic Flute) but The Requiem just tipped the balance.

I awoke just before the Lachrymosa and I grinned at Sussmayr's taking over. What the nurses thought, I do not know. I think that they were simply pleased to be rid of a troublesome patient. They cannot have realised the importance of Mozart in my recovery.

Mozart's music is very special to me. I've stopped trying to explain why. It just is. Listening to the Requiem and some of Mozart's other late works - the last four symphonies, for example - I can't help wondering what might have come next if he had lived just a few more years. I don't know a lot about music other than listening to it. I know roughly which parts of the Requiem were completed by Sussmayr but it seems almost perfectly seemless to me. The whole thing is beautiful. Was there possibly some deathbed coaching that we don't know about? I have to admit, the opening section and the Dies Irae are my favorite parts, though I always look forward to the Sanctus also.

Thanks again, Josh.

The Light In Her Eyes

I saw a beautiful thing on the local news last night and I don't quite know how to tell about it so that people reading this don't say "So?" but here goes.

The story was about a "forensic science summer camp." They showed a group of teenagers and talked about how they followed a crime investigation from the gathering of evidence to the courtroom. Then they talked to one girl. She had the kind of face that made me think she probably spends a lot of time sitting around looking bored and sullen. She talked very quietly. She told the reporter that she was never interested in the law before but after going to the "camp" she wanted to be a lawyer.

Well, big deal, right? But you would have to have seen her face - her smile. You could tell this was an epiphany for her. It got me to thinking. There should be more programs like that for kids. Most teenagers sit in classrooms bored out of their skulls, thinking "What does any of this have to do with me?" No matter how much teachers tell them "You're going to need this someday; you'll see," they're not going to be motivated. They're sitting there thinking about other things. We need to be showing them things that they could do with their lives and give them reasons to want to learn.

All of us are born pre-wired to learn but schools make learning boring by separating it from the real world. So we end up with a lot of adults who are so ready to leave school behind them they shun anything related to learning - book-reading, museums, PBS, etc. We don't need to teach kids so much as we need to inspire them. They all start out wanting to learn. The most important thing we can do for them is to provide an environment that encourages this natural instinct.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002
What is Good Poetry?

Recently I got a few emails from a nice person who first asked about my poetry then encouraged me to write some. I think he was confused by the title "Poet and Peasant." (I expected that to happen sooner or later.) I don't write poetry, or at least I don't normally admit it. Probably almost everyone has taken a stab at it at least once. In school we had to. That was enough to convince me that I was absolutely not a poet.

Much much later - not too many years ago, in fact - I discovered that poems don't have to rhyme anymore. Well of course they never did have to rhyme. I had read a number of free verse poems but I used to feel that unless you were someone incredibly famous like Carl Sandburg free verse was cheating.

When I found out that a lot of people were writing poems that don't rhyme I started playing around with it. It only lasted a few months and I ended up with no more than fifteen or twenty unbelievably silly and amateurish "poems." Nothing poetic about them really and since that brief burst of "creativity" I haven't felt the least bit inspired.

But I wonder....how do you tell if a poem is good? "Fog" is incredibly simple. What is it about those six little lines that merit them a place in almost every junior high school literature book ever printed? I've read a few poems on amateur poetry websites. Other than the tiresomely gloomy teen angst poems I like most of them fairly well but I haven't read a lot of poetry so I have nothing to judge it by.

Fun With Telemarketers

My son came up with a simple and fun way to deal with telemarketers. He started answering the phone: "Friend, family or telemarketer?" We're all doing it now. Family and friends think it's funny and telemarketers....well, I found out there's a good reason those folks can't get better jobs. Not a one of them can answer a simple multiple choice question.

Here's some more telemarketer fun. These sound clips are hilarious.

Two Funny

That's a pun, ya'll. Get it? Two funny/Too funny. ha ha

Anyway, both of these are from Andrea at Spleenville World Domination Headquarters.

Liberal 8-ball

Gnome Chompsky

Soft Drinks

Ben Domenech has comments on lots of new soft drinks. Some of these I had not heard of yet. (Pepsi Blue? gotta go back and check out that link.) I love Vanilla Coke! I think it's the greatest thing to happen to soft drinks in my lifetime! I just discovered Dr. Pepper Red Fusion this past weekend. Not bad. I'm a long time Dr. Pepper fan. The new stuff is almost the same as the regular but with a little cherry taste.

My problem with all these new soft drinks is availablity. You can't get most of them in individual cans. The old 10 once bottles would be even better but the 20 once bottles, which is all you can get in any but a few old standards, is way way too much. I usually buy it anyway. I sometimes drink it all but often I'll only drink about two thirds of it and pour out the rest. The soft drink companies don't care. They get their money either way. (bastards!)

This weekend I bought two twelve packs of canned drinks - one of Vanilla Coke and one of Dr. Pepper Red Fusion. They were on sale 2 packs for $5. That seems like the way to go. You get the drinks you want in a reasonable size container. The trouble with having it in your house though is that you drink a lot more of it if all you have to do is reach in the refrigerator for it. I could limit myself to one a day but my guys absolutely will not. It has to be three or four a day until they're all gone. It took only two days for four of us to go through two 12 packs. Ridiculous!

Appropriately, via Caffeinspiration.

How much should you expect for free?

I keep getting that damned 503 error. Sometimes I can publish and sometimes I can't. Worst of all is when I notice a stupid mistake after I publish; I edit it but then I can't publish so the error stays there to embarrass me. Sitemeter is another free service that is often worth exactly what I pay for it - nothing.

I tell myself I shouldn't complain. After all it's FREE. Beggers can't be choosers, right? Still....when I'm offerred something whether it's free or for a price I expect it to perform as advertised.

The War Against Boys

I have heard of the book titled The War Against Boys; now there's a weblog. I think calling it a "war" is overstating the situation somewhat (why do we have to label everything a war?) but as a mother of boys I've seen some of what she's talking about.

In short, one of Gilligan’s most famous roles in the feminist movement is her later studies of adolescent girls and their behavior, and the thesis that young women are treated as second-class citizens. According to Gilligan, in a 1990 New York Times Magazine article, as young girls mature, they lose their confidence as they became silenced, ignored, and treated indifferently by a cruel patriarchal society that favors boys. What this means is, to quote Gilligan: “By 15 or 16...girls start saying, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.’ They start not knowing what they had known.”

Ummm, huh? Yes, this is the thesis that made Gilligan a celebrated phenomenon in the world of female adolescent psychology in the 1990s. And of course, she blames much of it on schools and their treatment of girls as second-class persons.


In the New Republic piece, Talbot takes some interesting twists in reviewing Gilligan’s latest book. She correctly points out that all current studies show that it is girls, and not boys, who are succeeding in school. They are scoring higher on tests and paying attention more. But what she doesn’t say is that girls are thriving because of the overall feminization of society via the public school organism that indeed tries to subvert the successes of boys, while diagnosing them with pop-age disorders and loading them up on Ritalin. That is the essence of a feminized society of forced equality.

I don't want to make this too personal but I have personally seen some of what she's talking about. I don't know why parents put up with all the nonsense from the schools these days. Not only has being a boy become a condition that must be medicated but it's always the parent's fault. Parents are treated like criminals and we're guilty until proven innocent. No, never mind the "until proven innocent" part. Parents are just guilty, no defense accepted. The media has been feeding this to the public so forcefully that it's become a mantra. Bring up problems in the schools and everyone just automatically repeats the line they've been fed - "Parents need to get involved" - without even knowing the parents they're talking about. To anyone who's ever said this: Trust me hon, most parents would love to get involved but that's actually the last thing schools want in spite of the fact that they're always talking about parent involvment. What they really mean when they say that is "Just shut up and make sure your kid does his homework. Oh, and make sure he sits still and pays attention when he's in class even though you're not here."

Well, I guess I went off on a tangent there. I think schools, parents and everyone need to quit listening to pop psychologists. Someone comes up with a theory, writes a book about it and that book becomes the bible for the next ten to twenty years. Then someone notices the huge problems caused by this unchallengable theory. Oops...made a mistake. Too bad about all those boys. Let's try this new theory instead. Don't worry, we know we're right this time. No mistake about it. We know what's best for your kids so no back talk. Just shut up and raise your kids the way we tell you to.

Another Day

Last night I got some good advice from Andy. (see the comments) I don't know what was the matter with me yesterday that I needed someone else to tell me to take the high road, but this morning I'm going to clean up the mess I made here yesterday and just forget about all the unpleasantness that I wasted half a day on.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Another Blogger Joins the Debate

Michael Porter of Views from the Outside has joined the discussion. He says: "Seems that I'm coming in at the end and the chances of any of the participants coming here seems pretty slim." I hope that's not true. I hope everyone will go read his very thoughtful and well-written essay.

The problem with claiming that God is one thing or God is another lies in the finite trying to define the infinite. By logical reason it cannot be done. Whatever ‘God’ is it is a certainty that we’ve got it wrong.

Whether God exists or not is really secondary to how our belief in the existence of God affects our lives. If our belief has no effect beyond a few hours spent in Church or a handful of presents exchanged because it’s a holiday then God might as well not exist.

There's more. Well worth reading.

Leaping Into the God Debate

I guess I was sort of a weird kid. I always liked to read the dictionary. Most people, if they think they know what a word means, won’t bother to look it up. Everyone I knew when I was a kid used the words “aetheist” and “agnostic” almost interchangeably. What did it matter if there was some subtle difference between the two? Both were going to Hell so why bother with irrelevant details. But I was curious and wanted to know the difference, so I looked up “agnostic” in the dictionary: a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and prob. Unknowable

Back then we had not yet discovered the useful expression “Well DUH!” which is too bad because that was just about the biggest “Well, DUH!” that I’ve ever read. Of course we probably can’t ever know whether or not God exists or, if He (or She) does exist, what His will and general nature might be. When I was kid not even the most devout believers would deny that. You could ask anyone and they would tell you “Well of course we can never know but we have to have faith. I had to assume that most people just didn’t know what “agnostic” really meant. They hadn’t ever bothered to look it up. I was about 10 or 11 then – old enough to know that nobody likes a smart kid so I didn’t try to enlighten anyone with my discovery.

Agnostics are often more reviled than aetheists. An agnostic is seen as a wishy-washy kind of person who lacks the courage to either fully believe in or completely deny God. However, people who describe themselves as agnostics cover a wide range of beliefs from those who are pretty sure God doesn’t exist to those who believe in God but make no claims regarding the nature of God or “God’s Will.” You can count me closer to the latter group.

Let it be known that you are a “non-believer” or that you hold a different set of beliefs and “Christians” will come pouring out of the wood-work determined to “save” you, quoting their “proof” from the pages of the Bible. If only they could understand that it was the Bible that first made me start to disbelieve, and it was unwritten, impossible-to-put-into-words feelings and wonders that made me start to believe again.

Fundamentalists would have us believe that God is a capricious magician who created the world in six days, then later destroyed everything but a handful of humans and two of each kind of animal; who gave us free will and minds to think with yet demands unquestioning child-like obedience; who will throw His “beloved children” into a fire to burn for eternity if they are unable to believe in Him. The Fundies’ god is a psychotic, manic-depressive child abuser. This and chapter upon chapter of illogic is what makes me disbelieve, and no amount of preaching will accomplish anything but to drive me farther away.

So what makes me believe? Well, for one thing… Mozart. No, not because I think that such incredible talent could only be a “gift from God” or any other such childish nonsense, but because of what it makes me feel. When I listen to Mozart I feel that I have a soul. It’s similar to the feeling I get from a walk in the woods or from reading intriguing and challenging ideas or seeing the American flag flying in the breeze. It’s like a light coming on inside.

The idea that life could emerge from a primordial chemical broth and over billions of years evolve into a species from which could be born the likes of Mozart, Da Vinci, Einstein, and me, is far more wonderous than an ancient myth of God magically creating the world in six days. And I am not supporting the idea of “Intelligent Design” either. God is something our souls can feel. The notion that God controls the physical universe is a child’s tale, comforting to those whose minds are not capable of stretching.

I don’t know what God is but I know what He isn’t. God isn’t a magician, or a warlord, or a schoolmaster standing over us with a rod to punish us for wrongdoing. I don’t think God cares what religion we follow, or even whether we follow any at all. I think God is only concerned with the condition of our souls. Those are just my feelings of course, and if God won’t forgive me for being mistaken that’s just too bad because I would never have been able to sincerely worship such a petty being anyway.

* * * * *

Andy and Eric (and others) have been discussing this topic.

*Note: Edited to remove one sentence that shouldn't have been there in the first place. My apologies.

Anti-PC Rant

Long live Freedom of Speech. This lady pulls no punches.

Why does the time-stamp say 2:33:06 PM? It's actually 8:33 AM.

Another Great Weblog

I nearly choked on my bagel reading Scott's interview with himself. Don't say I didn't warn you. What are you doing eating at the computer anyway?

Via JimSpot.

Word Puzzle

The MinuteMan asks for pairs of words that look like they should be opposites but are actually synonyms or near synonyms. Example: canny and uncanny.

Off the top of my head I can only think of one more such pair: flammable and inflammable.

Here's another puzzle: How many "un" words can you think of that have no corresponding word without the "un" in common use? Example: uncouth

Monday, July 22, 2002


New Look of HB Death

Hot Buttered Death has a new look. I have mixed feelings. I've never liked light text on a dark background but I did think the old look was very attractive. Oh well, I will get used to it. It's the content that matters.

Apparently quite a bit of work has gone into the new look. Regarding the problem with blockquoting: It might be the template. I started out using the "Yellow Rocks" template and any text I tried to blockquote ended up right justified. With this template it works just fine. I know that's not any help; just an observation.

It hasn't been long since the last time I made changes but I'm already tempted to tinker some more. That might be partly because I know very very little HTML and so I'm excessively pleased with myself for the little things I have figured out how to do, like changing the colors. Also, like I said before, it's a feminine thing - sometimes we gals just have to redecorate. Nothing anytime soon though. I said I have just been thinking about it. Every time I catch myself having such thoughts I just mentally slap my own hands tell myself 'this looks fine; get on with blogging.'

The Great Restoration

A hopeful vision of the future and it's already happening, much to the dismay of the evangelists of doom. I like this sentence from the first of these two articles:

And we must not be fooled into thinking that the talk of politicians and diplomats will achieve our goals.

That's the key difference between the whiners and the doers, isn't it? The clueless whiners, the doomsayers, are always demanding that something be done - usually the wrong thing - while the doers ignore the protests and continue to achieve the progress that all of us, including the whiners, enjoy.

Intriguing Topic

Kevin McGehee merits a link here for his interesting post Lost Souls and Lucid Dreaming.

"Lucid dreaming" refers to dreams in which the sleeper suddenly realizes, perhaps due to some anomaly in the world as perceived in the dream, that one is dreaming. And research into near-death experiences suggests that the mind may be active even when the brain appears to be flatlined. So we really can't be sure that a frozen brain necessarily means total mental shutdown.

Suppose that our friend Ted, whiling away the decades in his tinfoil shroud (or whatever they use), is still sufficiently alive, and his brain still sufficiently engaged, as to have dreams. I figure ordinary dreams probably won't affect his mental health anymore than such dreams affect coma victims who are out of it for years at a time. But what if he has a dream and somehow realizes that it is a dream? His perceptions in this state are on a decidedly different timescale than his waking perceptions would have been -- partly because it is, after all, a dream, and partly because his brain is frozen.

Fascinating stuff. I've always been fascinated by dreams. If it weren't for dreaming I would seriously resent the necessity of sleep - such a waste of time. I might have more to say about this later.

Very Nice Tech Blog

Speaking of cloning (see below) NanoDot has a poll on that topic. Is it too much to hope that the "real world" matches the results of the poll so far?

MinuteMan Rules

The MinuteMan has 5 rules for all of us bloggers. Sounds okay to me. I especially like "D."

Thoughts on Cloning

From CyberLudite:

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that there's nothing inherently wrong with cloning, but we should really think before rushing things too much. After all, the result is a human being & should be treated with respect.

I agree. I think it would be a bad idea to go ahead with human reproductive cloning as things stand right now but I see nothing wrong with continuing the research.

Emergency Plan, Just in Case

N.Z. Bear has a plan to keep us blogging even if the collapse of WorldCom causes the Internet to go dark.

Seen on a T-shirt

Man made beer.
God made pot.
Who do you trust?

Past Life

According to this test I was a philosopher in my past life. Well, I suppose that's not too bad but, like all of these multiple choice quizzes, about half of the questions didn't have a answer that was anywhere close to what I would really answer. For example:

You often think about: I hardly ever think about any of those things. I mostly think about music and stuff I find on the Internet.

Next is: Your relationship with nature: I like nature but none of the answers offerred is really right. It would probably take me a couple of paragraphs to answer.

Favorite type of film: Sci-fi of course. Why didn't the test list sci-fi? What kind of idiot......

Anyway, moving on. Sleep: More or less eight hours but that little thing they added about "beauty" and a "well rested face" is obviously aimed at a completely different kind of personality. I sleep for about 8 hours just because that's how long I seem to need. I'd love to be able to get by on just 2 or 3 hours. Sleep is a waste of time.

You find comfort in: I picked "Solitude" but you know why that is? Because solitude is needed for what I really find the most comfort in: listening to music, which of course is not on the list.

Shoes:Different shoes for different occasions. Duh!

Favorite magazine: It's really Smithsonian but why didn't they list any truly interesting magazines? National Geographic, Discover, Scientific American, Omni....

Worst nightmare: Never mind; I don't even want to think about it. But it's not on the list.

Dream home:A sturdy home in the woods sounds good but not if I have to build it myself.

Now I know someone is going to say something like "These tests are just for fun. Don't take it so seriously." Well, I'm not. I'm having fun picking it apart. :-)

Thanks to Andrea, who was a cat in her former life. (hmmm...sounds like that might be more fun than being a philosopher......maybe)

Sunday, July 21, 2002
The Power of Common Citizens

This essay by David Brin is one of the most common sense commentaries I've seen since September 11th. Of particular interest is the idea that there is no dichotomy between security and liberty. This is what I have believed all along and I have spent some hours trying figure out how to say it effectively.

Brin has also written a book on this topic.

I knew that!

I hate spelling mistakes. I mean I really, really hate spelling mistakes. Why is it that I can always spot other people's mistakes but often fail to notice my own? This blogger pointed out a couple of mistakes in my post about Australia and when I looked I caught another one myself.

I know some people disapprove of editing what has already been published but, sorry, I had to fix it.

Time to Rebuild

From what I've been reading, most people don't like any of the six proposed plans for the World Trade Center site. I was prepared to be disappointed but these plans are not bad. The problem is that they are not great either. I think that's what everyone wanted - something spectacular. Something that would respect the memory of those who died and at the same time be proud and defiant, and rival the Twin Towers in grandeur. The plans that are being presented are merely ordinary. Very nice, but still ordinary. But I wonder....if a truly spectacular plan was presented would we like that any better?

I don't want to have a favorite plan or form an idea in my head of what I think it should look like, but I think I like plan #4 best. The pictures do not any show architectural details. I sincerely hope that someone has the imagination and foresight to build something better than a group of featureless glass boxes.

Saturday, July 20, 2002
My apologies to Dave Trowbridge for my misspelling of his name yesterday.

The Coarse Pen of Genius

Speaking of Mozart...

September 11th Requiem

This is incredible. I am moved beyond words and it hasn't even happened yet.

It all began with one imaginative — and still anonymous — music lover in Seattle who wanted a nationwide Mozart Requiem performance in commemoration of Sept. 11.

The idea has snowballed around the world into a minor Mozartean miracle, with a lot of help from the Seattle Symphony Chorale, conductor Gerard Schwarz and a full roster of international organizers.

Here's what will happen: On Sept. 11, 2002, a "Rolling Requiem" of individual worldwide performances will begin at the international date line and will move from time zone to time zone, with each Mozart Requiem performance starting at 8:46 a.m. local time (the moment of the first attack on the World Trade Center). The concerts will follow the sun around the world, providing 24 hours of musical unity, reflection and solace.


I've already read a few negative reactions - people who think it should be something by an American composer, people who want something shorter - but personally I can think of nothing more appropriate. Mozart's Requiem is uniquely beautiful and moving, and the fact that it is nearly an hour in length will make the "Rolling Requiem" a twenty-four hour, worldwide tribute.

The Land Down Under

You must read Bill Bryson’s book about his travels in Australia, In a Sunburned Country. As I was reading this book I kept making mental notes of interesting things that I wanted to comment on specifically, but there is just too much. Virtually every page reveals some amazing fact or particularly amusing turn of phrase. What should I write about and what should I leave out? And where do I begin?

Most amazing of all is how little is known about Australia. We Americans know Australia mostly from the Crocodile Dundee movies and the Foster’s beer commercials – amusing stereotypes that are probably not typical, if such people exist at all. I have “met” a few Australians online and they seem just like Americans. (Most people online seem just like Americans) It’s easy to think of Australia as just a faraway, underpopulated twin of America. That’s sad because the truth is far more interesting.

We all know about some of the unusual things to be found in Australia – the wild Outback, strange animals such as the platypus and the kangaroo – but what we know is not even a fair sampling. Australia is the kind of place that any science fiction writer would be proud to have made up. You think the platypus is about as weird as animals get? How about a frog that gives birth through its mouth? Wow… creepy. That’s just one of many animals that were discovered and cataloged by scientists and then never seen again. There are still thousands of animals and plants that have not been officially cataloged. There is actually a species of tree growing in Sydney that was not officially discovered until 1989!

Australia has a number of national parks which should be amoung the worlds most famous tourist destinations, and yet they are completely unknown outside Australia, including one where you can follow an elevated walkway through trees that rival California’s redwoods. In spite of being in the remote interior of Australia Ayer’s Rock, also known by it’s native name Uluru, attracts a fair number of visitors. Those are only two of several parks mentioned in the book.

Australia’s history is rich with characters far more interesting than any movie hero. Truth is truly far more fascinating than fiction. Recent events in Australia are equally ignored by the rest of the world. For example, did you know that the same Japanese cult which released nerve gas into the Tokyo subway system in 1995 may have set off a nuclear explosion in a remote area of western Australia in May 1993? This explanation is not confirmed but a major disturbance which was neither an earthquake nor a meteor was detected by seismograph equipment all over the south Pacific. And we never heard anything about it! Imagine the uproar in the media if a similar event, even half as big, happened in a remote area of the U.S. or in the middle of the Atlantic.

In a Sunburned Country is full of fascinating stuff like this, but it’s more than just a list of fascinating facts. You’ll feel like you are accompanying Bryson on every step of his travels. His writing is often gently sarcastic but a great deal of reverence for the wonders of Australia is evident. It almost makes me want to get on a plane and go there myself.

Pictures of Australia:




Alice Springs


I have had so many great blogs find me this week that I have barely had time to go through N.Z. Bear's Ecosystem, but that's okay. The important thing is that I'm making new contacts and finding more great reading. Now if someone can just figure out how to add another 6 hours or so to my day life will be perfect.

One of the bloggers who found me is Dave Towbridge of Redwood Dragon and I am truly excited about this one. Dave is interested in both classical music and science fiction amoung other things. Irresistable!

Friday, July 19, 2002
Rural Woes

Actually not so much "rural woes" as "We're not all that far out in the damned woods so when the hell are we going to get broadband?" woes. I've been getting a few visitors from the adelphia.net domain and Adelphia is the local cable TV provider (which we do not subscribe to) so I decided to call them up and ask about Internet service. It's not available and according to the receptionist will not be available for at least two years. (~sigh~)

We could get satellite service from Starband but, aside from the up front cost for equipment and installation and the ridiculously exhorbitant monthly fee, I have some unanswered questions. They say that I must have a "clear view of the southern sky." Well, I do...sort of. There are no skyscrapers in the way but what about trees? Do trees interfere with satellite signals? And just how low in the southern sky? There is a hill nearby. Also, they mentioned something about bad weather possibly being a problem. That doesn't sound good. Nothing about it sounds good. You shouldn't be asking in the neighborhood of $100 a month for Internet service unless you can absolutely guarantee a perfect connection anytime, no matter what....and even then it's still too much. I think I'll stick with my slow but actually works 99.9% of the time, $9.95 a month dial up connection.

Grammar Puzzle

By the way, when referring to stuff seen "on" websites is it preferrable to say "on," "in" or "at"? (hmmm.....I'm sure Brendan would know)

Are other languages as entertaining as English? A few weeks ago when my grandson was here he asked where I was (he has to check on everyone's whereabouts every few minutes if we're not in the same room, or sometimes even if we are) He was told "Nana is on the computer." Is that like "Nana is on the sofa?" I assure you, I was sitting on the chair as always. I wonder what it's like to be a two-year-old having to deal with all the inconsistencies of our language.

I just found...

Hot Buttered Death in N.Z. Bear's comments this morning. When I saw that HBD had linked to this article in Andante I had to add him to my list.

Strange Morning

I woke up after 7 o'clock this morning. I hate sleeping that late because it makes me feel stiff and groggy. The strange thing about this morning is that as soon as I woke up I wanted to hear Mahler's 3rd Symphony. I like it but for some reason it seems strange to want to listen to it first thing in the morning.

Thursday, July 18, 2002
Temptation arrived in the mail today.

I got a flyer in the mail from Berkshire today. I order online but I like getting their paper catalogs because I find things browsing through those that I would never think to search for online. I've made some great discoveries that way. For example, I found this description from Berkshire's catalog irresistable:

Suslin, Viktor {b.1942}, Midnight Music for Violin, Harpsichord {w.live electronics} & Double Bass; Crossing Beyond for Viola, Cello & Double Bass; Trio Sonata for Flute, Guitar & Cello; Dawn Music for Double Bass; Sonata Capricciosa for Viola & Harpsichord; Le Deuil Blanc for Bass Flute, Guitar, Cello & Percussion. (T.Grindenko, violin. A.Lubimov, harpsichord. A.Suslin, double bass et al. Total time: 76'08')

When I came across this a couple of years ago I had never heard of Viktor Suslin. By that time I had enough experience with contemporary classical to know that, going by the composer's birth year, 1942, this could be anything from bland little melodies to something radically freak-out weird. But the instrumentation - a double bass solo! and the piece for bass flute, guitar, cello and percussion (bass flute???) - wow! how could I resist? Happily, it turned out to be fantastic. This music is atonal but not at all harsh. The double bass solo is even more exciting than I expected - a work of genius that gets more out of this intrument than you ever imagined possible. The piece for bass flute, guitar, etc. is the quietest of the six pieces - gentle and actually very beautiful in a non-melodious, mystical sort of way.

I would have to say that was probably my best Berkshire discovery but I've done very well with my musical experimentation. I didn't find any intriguing unknowns this time though. Everything I'm looking at is familiar - Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Bach, a couple of others I haven't decided on yet. My CD collection is actually quite small and very strange. It's almost half Mozart, Dvorak, and Beethoven plus a sampling of many others, both well-known and obscure. I haven't gone about collecting in what most people would consider a logical manner so there are many "essential" works that are missing from my collection. I rather like it that way.

Well, I could go on for a while longer but I think I'll go and give in to temptation now.

uh oh...

Does anyone else get a little bit nervous when you see .gov in your Sitemeter statistics?

New Discoveries

Some of these I found through referrer logs and some through the comments at TTLB.

JimSpot - Music, baseball, news, politics, etc.

Mindless Bureaucrat linked to me with an exclamation point after my name! I wonder what that means. Anyway, I like his essay on "Koba the Dread."

I'm considering adding Views from the Outside but I have just one problem with it - the Chomsky quote at the top. Not that I disagree with that specific quote - and complete agreement is not one of my requirements for linking anyway - but.....Chomsky!

Looks like error 503 is back.

To Email or Not to Email

There is quite a discussion going on at The Truth Laid Bear, partly about "trolling" and partly about email. I guess it's because I don't get very much but it never occurred to me that some people might not want to get any email from people other than friends and family. I was surprised to come across the idea that any unsolicited email is spam. (i.e. If I didn't specifically ask you to email me it's spam)

From what I'm seeing, there is little or no general consensus regarding email etiquette. There are a few things that seem to be generally frowned upon, like sending an email to a long list of people just to call attention to yourself, replying to all recipients of such a message, not using BCC when sending email to a list, etc. In addition to these I would also add forwarding messages without bothering to remove the original headers, and forwarding chain mail. Apparently though, quite a lot of people haven't been clued in on these little matters of courtesy. I often receive forwarded emails, including original headers, from people who apparently see nothing wrong with it.

I occasionally get the feeling from a few people that almost any email is unwelcome. I find that very strange myself but I suppose if you were so popular you received dozens of emails a day you might have good reason to want to limit the number. I rarely send email just to call attention to myself and certainly would never send that kind of email to a long list of people but I think the choice of what, when and why to send email is up to the sender and which emails to read and which to delete is up to reciever, plain and simple.

"General consensus" sometimes varies from one community to the next. On the message board where I used to hang out a lot email was considered private and was never to be quoted publicly or even referred to in public. Most people were very sensitive to this and there was always outrage whenever some newbie violated this "rule," but I've noticed that among bloggers it's no big deal to quote email.

There are only two things I consider to be abosolute no-nos: (and both are done all the time) 1)Making addresses available without permission. That includes both sending to lists without hiding the addresses on the list and forwarding emails without removing the original header. 2)Hiding your own address from the person you're sending the email to or otherwise blocking mail from the people you send mail to. Anyone you send mail to should be able to reply.

Leaving messages in Comments seems to be the preferred method of communicating in the Blogosphere. I welcome comments via email but I am reluctant to add a comments feature here. I don't really have any specific reason against it. The idea just doesn't appeal to me. However, I'm not saying that I will never add a comments feature. Anyway, as I've said before, I welcome email, postive or negative.

What’s funny?

Years ago, the year my husband and I got married, we knew another young couple, (I’ll call them Tom and Sue) the memory of whom has provided us with a bit of amusement over the years. Along with a third couple we were all showing off our wallet photos. My husband had a picture of his sister and he jokingly identified her as his “old girlfired.” Sue leaned over to me and whispered, “I wouldn’t let him keep a picture of his old girlfriends if I were you.” Of course this was only the beginning. Hubby went on to identify a picture of himself as his “twin brother” and continued with a series of false statements delivered in a tone of voice which I thought anyone should have been able to recognize as joking. “Tom” and “Sue” took every word as gospel.

Those two were an extreme example, but I have often run into other people who tend to take everything literally and will believe the utterly ridiculous rather than recognize it as a joke – sort of like the Chinese believing an essay in The Onion was a genuine news article. Maybe I’m a humor snob but it’s hard not to think of these people as being “dumb as a brick.”

On the other hand, I have occasionally been accused of having “no sense of humor,” not because I failed to “get” a joke but because I did not think it was funny. It seems strange to me that people will actually get offended if you don’t laugh at the same jokes they do. Think about it. Would you get offended if I didn’t like the same food you like? Would you get offended that my favorite color is yellow, not blue or green? If our tastes in food and colors can differ, why not our tastes in humor?

On the third hand, is there no such thing as “bad taste?” Do we have to accept that anything can be the target of a joke? In other words, is nothing sacred? I know that different individuals may draw the line at different places but isn’t there some point where we can say “No decent person would consider that funny?” I’m sure those who disagree would say that I just need to “get a sense of humor” but I would turn that around on them and say: you are the one who needs to get a sense of humor. Laughing at everything shows no better sense of humor than never laughing at anything. It seems to me that having a sense of humor means having the good sense to know what’s funny and what isn’t.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002
Appreciating Summer

This has been the most unusual summer. Normally by mid July temperatures have reached 100 F or a little above and there's talk about water restrictions. (No watering lawns or washing cars) From early July through mid September we get little rain and grass fires are a serious concern.

Amazingly, this year the daily highs have been in the upper 80s to low 90s except for about three days when it got up to 98. We've had rain one or two days a week since spring, and yet, no real storms. No tornados, no hail, only relatively mild thunderstorms. It is truly a summer to appreciate, not a summer to be sitting indoors at the computer.

Oh don't worry...I'll still be here blogging almost every day, but this morning when I woke up, instead of heading straight for the computer, I took my cup of tea out on the back porch and just sat there and enjoyed being outdoors, and I'm going to do the same thing tomorrow and the next day for as long as this great weather lasts.

Good Things

The first good thing is that Blogger seems to be working right now. Another good thing is Little Orange Crow, a book blog that I found through Blogger's mini-ad. I don't know if I'll make this one of my regulars or not though. I'm sure I would just end up finding more wonderful books that I don't have time to read.

I have added several more links to my list.

Birds Etcetera is about birds. (Well, of course that's what the title says but in the blogosphere you never know)

So far I've only had a quick look at Dawson Speaks but I love the Tabasco Sauce.

And there's Alan's Sporadically Updated Blog. Alan likes to play with Paint Shop Pro. Nice work, Alan.

There are more but I won't list each one here.

Intricate Plot has a nice new look. I sort of liked the color-changing template but I know there are some people who won't miss it. Aside to Mark: Good grief! I'm glad I didn't have anyone standing behind me when I opened your page this evening.

Stay Tuned

Due to constant problems with both Blogger and my ISP I might not be able to do much blogging in the next few days. Keep checking back though. I'm almost finished reading Bill Bryson's book In a Sunburned Country and I have paragraphs to write about that. In addition, expect comments on the unusual weather in Oklahoma, aggressive garden plants, and more. I also have more links to add to my list and comments on some of the new blogs I've been finding. I'm excited about the increase in traffic and I sincerely appreciate all the links. I'll try not to disappoint.

Archive Error

I just tried the "republish archives" fix suggested by Bobby at Caffeinspiration and got an error message. "203" I think but I'm not sure.

More Than Just the Veil

I have received a response to my outburst last night. It's thoughtful and well written even if it is way too relativistic for my tastes.

First of all, I think it should be fairly clear that my outburst was just that - an emotional outburst, a gut reaction. Obviously not a lot of thought went into it. Second, although it was prompted by my seeing a TV show it was fueled by much more. I have read numerous articles from various sources expressing various points of view on both sides of the issue. Third, my wrath was not directed at all Muslims as Joan' s essay seems to suggest. Of course laws and customs vary from one country to the next within the Muslim world. I was, as I said, talking about Saudi Arabia.

Many of the articles I've read say that we Westerners are too obsessed with the veil (in its various forms). It seems to me that you can't even mention the veil without being unfairly accused of being shallow. It's not so much that Muslim women conceal their faces but that they are forced to do so, whether by law or social pressure. And it is more than just the manner of dress that concerns me and the many others who have written about this topic. Saudia Arabian women are not allowed to drive or even to sit in the front seat of a car.

I think it's also important to look behind the reasons for the veil. The reason given is modesty. I personally am very much in favor of modesty. I mentioned bikinis for the shock value it would likely have on people accustomed to the Saudi Arabian culture. I wouldn't be caught dead in one myself, nor will you ever see me in tight low-rider jeans, hot pants (short shorts or whatever they're calling them this year) a halter top or any other garment designed to show off as much flesh as possible. But the standards of modesty represented by the abaya, the burqa and other totally concealing clothing is extreme, and the reason for it lies with the men.

The reason for women wearing concealing clothing is so that men won't be tempted. I can't remember what country this was in but I recall reading a year or more ago about the case of a young muslim woman who was raped. The case was dismissed because she happened to be wearing jeans so the man was judged to be not responsible for his actions and even the girl's own mother publicly stated that she deserved it. Here is the difference between the West and much of the Muslim world. Here in America men as well as women are held responsible for their actions. This is one of the main reasons that I feel the Muslim culture is sick and immoral. If you must hide the things that tempt you in order to avoid temptation you're no better than the person who gives in to temptation.

I'm not saying that Western culture is perfect or that everyone in the world should emulate us. I think we could make some changes ourselves, such as respecting women for their natural roles instead of insisting that we should be just like men. (but that's another screed) And a bit more modesty wouldn't hurt at all. But our shortcomings don't excuse other cultures for their worse shortcomings and I strongly disagree with the idea that we must "respect" other cultures to the point of excusing oppression, inequality and other obvious wrongs.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002
On the Warpath Again

This evening the master of the TV remote landed on JAG about halfway through the show and decided to stay there. It was a rerun of the episode about the female Navy officer who protested the requirement for female personnel in Saudi Arabia to wear an abaya when off base. I saw this episode in its entirety earlier in the year when it was first aired. Tonight I got all worked up over it again. The only thing that makes my blood boil worse than those medieval, misogynistic freaks over there is the way our own government cooperates with them. This makes me so damn mad every time I think about it I can't think straight. I'd like to see an army of women go to Saudi Arabia wearing bikinis and driving open top jeeps. I want to see us rip that ridiculous tent off every woman we see and burn every yard of fabric in the whole damned country in a huge bonfire! I want to beat all Saudi Arabian men with canes and force them to say: "Please ma'am. Have mercy. I am a miserable worm fit only to sit at the foot of a woman and obey her every command."

I guess I have some scary fantasies, huh?


My call for my fellow Insignificant Microbes to attempt to move up the food chain my linking to each other has generated a response far beyond anything I expected. I don't know how many links, but according to Sitemeter I've had 139 visits so far today. I usually get about 40 to 50 visits per day. My sincere thanks to everyone who has visited and especially to those who have linked.

I will continue to check out more blogs and add links but I don't want to let this "game" take over. Tomorrow, for the most part, I'm going back to blogging as usual. I want my new visitors to see what I'm all about and hopefully a few of them will come back.

BTW, a couple of people have mentioned the "blogger archive problem fix." Sorry about that. I need to go back and read the instructions again. I'm not exactly a geek (but I married one) so I'm always hesitant to mess with stuff.

Some Words for the Journalistic Standards Folks

Andrea has some words - lots of words - for uppity journalists who would like to put the blogosphere in a staight-jacket. Give the lady a standing ovation!

Another Significant Blog and Comments on a Significant Day

Continuing my survey of the Microbes, I have found WylieBlog and added it to my list.

Of particular interest, Wylie linked to Kathleen Parker's column calling for a new name for September 11. I was prepared to disagree but after reading the column I think she does make a good point about the common abbreviations of September 11 to "nine-eleven" or "9/11."

My position was and is that 9-11 is too glib, too abbreviated, too breezy to describe the horror of that day. ...I don't insist that we need something long-winded or studiously contrived, but we might settle on something that at least requires us to move our lips. Thus, even September 11th works just fine. We say July 4th after all, not 7/4. And December 7th for Pearl Harbor, not 12/7.

I believe that we started referring to the events of that day simply as "September 11" because no words seemed adequate to describe the horrors. The words September Eleventh will always have emotional impact for many. I don't think it would be possible to simply decide to call it something else, but PLEASE....can't we stop abbreviating it?

Shaken vs. Stirred

Philip Murphy of The Invisible Hand has an alternative to the Liberal/Conservative model of the political universe. It makes some sense but I'm not sure if dividing everyone into just two camps can ever adequately describe reality. Like Philip, I reject the labels "Liberal" and "Conservative" although I am guilty of using the terms "Left" and "Right" to describe the extremes. My own mental picture of the political universe is a vast sphere, with each political position represented by a tiny point within the sphere. What we call "Liberal" and "Conservative" or "Left" and "Right" are merely a pair of clusters off to one side. These two clusters make so much noise that those within and close to the clusters have trouble hearing the vast universe outside and therefore do not realize how insignificant they really are.

Evironmentally Friendly Throw-aways

A company called EarthShell is marketing biodegradable picnic plates and cups made from potatoes, and some McDonald's are already using containers made from the same material. Read the article at Wired News.

Calling All Microbes!

To all bloggers who are listed as "Insignificant Microbes" in N.Z. Bear's Blogshpere Ecosystem: I'm sure you've noticed that there are more of us than all the Higher Beings, Mortal Humans, Large Mammals, Rodents, Flappy Birds, Slithering Reptiles and Lowly Insects put together. (I don't know if that's literally true. I didn't actually count them all) We can help each other. If all of us Insignificant Microbes make an effort to link to other Insiginificant Microbes we can all move up in rank.

Of course I'm not suggesting that anyone link to a blog just because it's an Insignificant Microbe. I don't agree politically with everyone I link to but I do have my standards, but I've been slowly going through the list of Microbes searching for worthy blogs and it looks like there are quite a few. I have added Tonecluster, Voice From the Commonwealth, Caffeinspiration and Quantum Tea, in addition to several other Microbes who were already on my list, and I will be adding more.

So come on, Microbes. If we work together we can move up the food chain.

Monday, July 15, 2002
New CDs

I recently mentioned a couple of new CDs that I have. I've been wanting to write about them but hesitant at the same time because I never know how to say the things I want to say when I write about music.

One is a CD by Hovhaness titled "Mountains and Rivers Without End." The title track is a chamber symphony for wind instruments. At first I found the trombone annoying but after listening to it several times I'm getting used it. It's actually a lovely little symphony with gentle, mysterious passages in between the heavy, overbearing trombone. "The Prayer of St. Gregory" is the one piece on this disc that I'm already familar with - a very beautiful little piece for trumpet and strings. It's followed by the similarly scored Aria from Horoutiun. Next is Symphony No. 6, Celestial Gate. How did Hovhaness come up with the names for his his compositions? Or did someone else name them? Like several others, Celestial Gate doesn't seem to fit this mostly dark mysterious work. I'm not complaining though. This is up there with the much more well-known Mysterious Mountain. Beautiful and interesting. The last track is a ten minute long piece titled Return and Rebuild the Desolate Places. In this instance the title feels much more appropriate. There are passages that seem to suggest desolation, but not utter hopelessness. There are some beautiful trumpet solos in this one also.

My other new CD is "Fire and Ice featuring violinist Sarah Chang performing familar pieces: Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy, Dvorak's Romance in F minor, Beethoven's Romance No. 1, Bach's Air and a couple of other short pieces. I am very satisfied with it overall.

Symphonies in Prose

For most of us language is merely the tool we use to communicate, but there are a few rare individuals who use words like Mozart used musical notes. Visit Fred First and scroll down to "The Story of the Stranger Farmer From Erehwon."


I've rearranged my list. The categories just weren't working for me. I'm sure someone will notice that there are not a dozen links in my Daily Dozen. I haven't decided yet who else should go there, but I can assure you Brendan O'Neill won't be included.

Sunday, July 14, 2002
Wishful Thinking?

Googled: +did+Vanessa+Mae+quit+show+business

Worth Reading On a Daily Basis

Brendan O'Neill thinks we bloggers need a "sub-editor." Now I have to confess that since I am not a professional journalist I have no idea how a sub-editor might differ from any other editor, but I think one of the great things about weblogs is the lack of editors. Most of the stuff that comes from professional journalists sounds like it was all written by the same person. Blogs come straight from the writer to the reader.

Mr. O'Neill has a problem with opinions. He repeated that old quip "Opinions are like assholes. Everybody's got one..." Well here's another cute little quip for you, Brendan: "Opinions are like farts. Only your own smell good." It seems to me that some people have a problem with the whole idea of "freedom of speech" and "freedom of the press." They like to talk it up but they really only want freedom of speech for themselves. When it comes to someone else's speech, if it can't be suppressed it must be discredited.

Andrea Harris has more to say.

Recently Noticed

I like the design of this page.

Saturday, July 13, 2002
Courageous Fighter for Secularism

The fundamentalist prescription for all ills of society is severely questionable. Obviously they cannot go far. Even if they assume power here and there they cannot run a state on just religious rules, and I am sure they will also be challenged by the people after some time.

Fundamentalism is an ideology that diverts people from the path of natural development of consciousness and individuality, and undermines their personal rights. I find it impossible to accept fundamentalism as an alternative to secular ideas. My first reason is the insistence of the fundamentalists on divine justification for human laws.

Second, the insistence of fundamentalists upon the superior authority of faith, as opposed to reason.

Third, the insistence of fundamentalists that the individual does not count, that the individual is immaterial. Group loyalty over individual rights and personal achievements is a peculiar feature of fundamentalism. Fundamentalists believe in a particular way of life; they want to put everybody in their particular straightjacket and dictate what an individual should eat, what an individual should wear, how an individual should live everyday life -- everything would be determined by the fundamentalist authority.

Finally, though they proclaim themselves a moral force, their language is hatred and violence. Is it possible for a rationalist and humanist to accept this sort of terrible repression?

--Taslima Nasrin

Read more.

Friday, July 12, 2002
Family Connections

When I was little kid we usually spent Easter Sunday at the home of my great aunt and uncle, and my grandmother, who lived with them from the time I was about 6 years old. My mother's brothers and sisters and my cousins would be there too. My cousins and I would spend the whole day playing the kind of games you don't need any toys or equipment to play. Time didn't mean a lot to us. We played as if we had seen each other just the day before and would see each other again the next day. Some years we got together more than once, if the Fourth of July was on a weekend, or if there was a funeral. It seems like there were also a few years when we missed getting together.

In time we kids grew up and took off in different directions. Some of us in farther off directions than others. For a couple of decades I didn't see this side of my family at all. (except for immediate family) We didn't communicate or try to keep up with each other. My mom would always try catch me up on the latest family news of weddings and births but I could never remember any of it for very long.

Just recently, after all those years, I've seen some of these aunts, uncles and cousins again. When I add up all the hours I spent with these people earlier in my life it doesn't even total one month. A few Easters, fewer Independence Days, and then many years when I didn't see them at all. You would think that getting together again after all these years would feel strange. It didn't. It was almost like I had seen them just the day before. What felt strange (at first) was how much they had aged. It seemed like they should still look the same as they did when I last saw them. After all, wasn't it only yesterday?

I wonder why it is that people whom I've seen so little of, and so long ago, can seem so familar. Is it just me? Just my weird little brain somehow compensating for all the years apart? Or is there really some kind of special "family bond?" I haven't had many close friends. Strangely, I've had a few online friends that have felt as close as family. They've mostly drifted away but I still think about them, like I think about family that I don't see for years. So....yeah, I think it must be just my weird little brain....reaching for any kind of connection I can find.


The World Wide Rant has a great new look.

The Other Reason Why They Hate Us

Last night I watched a show on the local PBS station about Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons against his own people. It was mentioned during the show that the Kurdish people feel resentment toward the United States because they believe we "abandoned them." It occurred to me - not for the first time - that the real reason people in some parts of the world hate us is not because we try to police the world, but because we don't police the world. I'm not necessarily saying that we should be the world's policeman, just that some people have this idea that the U.S. is the supposed to be the savior of the world's downtrodden and when we fail to immediately right every single wrong committed anywhere in the world attitudes turn around and we're perceived as decadent and self-involved.

Don't Deny Your Inner Bitch

Hey, this lady is funny! We are on the same wavelength on at least one subject. Scroll down to Tuesday, July 09, Slur Syndrome.

Why is it that middle-aged women insist on speaking in an obnoxiously saccharine baby-pitch or ear-piercingly high whine when they find something to be entertaining and worthy of their banal, trite commentary?

I agree. Women like that (of any age) just about drive me over the edge. I can't stand those silly, whiney, fluttery females who always talk in that sing-songy kind of voice that sounds like they are talking to a room full of three year olds. And on top of that they usually go out of their way to play dumb. I have a theory about these women. They are afraid of their inner bitch. Have you ever baked a cake that turned out horribly ugly so you dumped a truckload of frosting on it to try to dress it up and hide the fact that it was flat or lopsided? What you ended up with looked something like a normal cake but it was actually a sickly sweet, disgusting mess. The aforementioned fluttery females are like that cake. They're trying to hide their inner bitch under a load of sweetness but they're not fooling anybody over 7 years of age.

Look girls, we all have an inner bitch. And we all know that most of the time it's not a good idea to let her have her way but trying to deny her existance and covering her up with excessive sweetness just makes us disgusting. Get rid of the sickly sweet frosting. A light sprinkling of cinnamon sugar will suffice.

Thursday, July 11, 2002
FU@#&!* #@%^#@!

I'm am sick and tired of our government "repecting Saudi law." It's past time we had a little mutual respect, and failing that we should at least protect our citizens first!

Via Ye Olde Blogge.

This is Interesting

The Legal Bean addresses various topics at considerable length. I am especially interested in Dennis' comments on Art Appreciation. I suppose I'm just a philistine but I think he's going through way too many contortions trying to figure out what art means. Asking "What is Art?" is a fascinating excercise but we shouldn't let it get in the way of actually enjoying works of art. The most important question is not "What does it mean?" but "How does it make me feel?"