the old, long abandoned blog; I don't come here much anymore
THE NEW BLOG
Monday, October 28, 2002
"Voices in the Wilderness" Indeed
I read thru it wondering if Mr. JOHN F. BURNS is reporting news from the same baghdad I live in. Nothing in the news about it, and no one at work making any "look at those poor deluded souls going at it again" comments (which is one of two responses to this sort of thing, the other being "I wonder how much money are they getting as a 'thank you' gift from saddam"). ...Dear american friends, please stop sending her over here, she is not helping. Some people might think that this sort of thing I like to see happening. It is NOT.
Go read it all. Salam is wickedly funny when he's going after us dumb Americans.
A name...any name
The post below this one brings up one of my pet peeves: no-name bloggers. I understand why some people choose to use a pseudonym. There are a number of very good reasons. But what I am talking about are bloggers who use no name at all. You get to the bottom of a post and....nothing. The lack of a name makes responding to their posts rather awkward. My message to these nameless bloggers: Give us something to call you or we will make something up, and you might not like the names we come up with.
"La la la la...I can't hear you...la la la"
First of all the plasticbag.org blogger does not have a name so I will just follow Andrea's lead and call him "Plasticboy." Plasticboy started out with a metaphor about the solar system and gravity, during which he nearly lost me and I still don't understand what it had to do with anything else he said but maybe I'm dense, seeing as how I associate with those "evil warbloggers" and all.
Finally he gets around to what looks like - gasp! could it be? - a point.
Let's move in a different direction for a moment. Must we as liberal individuals believe in a world that gives each and every opinion equal weight. Are all views equally "valid", "worthwhile", "right"?
Well, I don't know... Must we as libertarian individuals believe in a world that gives each and every opinion equal weight?
And where does this leave us when we vehemently disagree with the tactics that people promoting these views start to use?
Oh dear! People who disagree with Plasticboy actually dare to promote their opinions. Poor baby!
And where do we end up when the views we must consider "valid" are precisely those views which don't believe other views to be "valid", "worthwhile", "right" and are prepared to say so, and/or do something about it.
Ohh...a paradox! Owww, my head hurts. I can't take it anymore. [/sarcasm]
...a world in which we - as individuals or groups - are unable to extert any kind of pressure on anyone else for doing what we believe to be wrong resembles a solar system without gravity - an immediate explosion occurs, critical divergence, utter lack of stability. And a world in which we - as individuals or groups - are able to extert total pressure on anyone else for doing what we believe to be wrong resembles a solar system with absolute gravity - an immediate imposion occurs, monolithic thinking, totalitarianist repression, totally lack of motion, inertia, death.
Ahh...that solar system metaphor again. It's obvious why Plasticboy needs this metaphor. He dares not admit, even to himself, what he really believes. I'm sure my more intelligent readers have seen it already but I'll translate for anyone out there who's a little slow. What Plasticboy really means is: Freedom of expression should be reserved only for people who agree with me, and totalitarian repression is a good thing as long as it's my side who's doing the repressing.
He goes on: (and on and on)
And I now believe that as an individual operating responsibly in this sphere, I have to be aware of any and all potential abilities I have to legitimately (ie. without lying, cheating or unfairly manipulating the situation in any way) exert whatsoever influence I might have in order to stop what I perceive to be morally wrong, corrupt politics, cheap argument and potentially warmongering. ...
Do you get that? Plasticboy doesn't want any evil warbloggers to link to him. Now there's a paradox for you! Warbloggers are evil totalitarians who are trying to stifle dissent... by linking to people we disagree with! Wow...that is just too deep for my little peasant brain to handle. You give dissenting voices a place on your page and by doing so you are actually trying to supress those voices. To make it even more confusing, I have seen where anti-defense bloggers have criticized warbloggers for linking only to bloggers they agree with. So, if we link to bloggers who disagree with us we're being evil and repressive and if we don't link to them.... we're being evil and repressive. It seems the only answer for anyone who believes in freedom of expression is to quit blogging. (NOT!)
Perhaps Plasticboy needs to take the plastic bag off of his head and get some more oxygen to his brain.
Sunday, October 27, 2002
Canine Review (and Other Classical Follies)
People are often surprised to find that I am not the least bit impressed by studies apparently proving the beneficial effects of classical music. In fact, I think they do more harm than good when it comes to encouraging appreciation of classical music. I do tend to believe the findings but studies such as this one and the famous Mozart Effect study are flawed and inconclusive. Inevitably other researchers will come along and disprove the findings, providing more amunition for anyone who already has a negative opinion of classical music and the people who listen to it.
Perhaps even worse, some of these studies have gained some popular acceptance and created a market for CDs of blandly performed excerpts that are not even representative of the complete works they were lifted from let alone classical music as a whole. Thus another generation is indoctrinated in the misconception that classical music is soothing, relaxing, calming... in other words, bland, boring "elevator music." Truly, classical music is soothing. But it's also tremendously exciting and uplifting and encompasses a rich variety that few people are aware of.
But seriously, this result supports a bias of mine: that, while it may not make sense to characterize one kind of music as "better" than another, there does seem to be a sense in which some kinds of music are more "natural." That is, they seem to fit some basic sense of acoustic fitness that is shared by all human beings, and, it now seems, some higher animals as well. And paramount among these forms of music is the Western "classical" tradition, especially the baroque and classical periods.
My gut reaction is to agree with this completely. My personal bias is the belief that music reached the peak of perfection in the 18th century but I've had plenty of heated discussions with people who vehemently disagree, particularly devoted fans of modern 12-tone Art music. (which is part of the classical tradition) Perfection and "naturalness," like beauty are in the eye - or ear - of the beholder.
It does seem that people from many different cultures take to western classical music. A great many talented classical musicians and modern composers come from Japan and China. The fact that relatively few Westerners are interested in Eastern music could be from lack of exposure. The same could be said for 12-tone music, which most people find unpleasant on first listening. I'll bet they didn't play any Elliot Carter for the dogs in that study.
Later Dave responded to a question asked by Steven den Beste with lots of information about canine behaviour, a subject he knows much better than I do. I'm more of a cat person myself. My cats do not seem to care what I play, except for a cat I used to have that acted very nervous and agitated whenever Bach was on the stereo, especially the cello suites. Obviously a very strange creature.
Saturday, October 26, 2002
A Night at the Opera
Since last night was only the second time I've been to an opera performance I don't feel qualified to give a complete review. I can only say that I enjoyed it and my son, though not exactly an opera convert, said he wouldn't mind going again.
As I said in a comment below, which has since disappeared, my kids are normally not very resistant to stuff like this. If I have a problem child when it comes to culture it's my husband but since a lot of his negativity is in the form of jokes and I have never really pushed the issue, it's hard to tell what he really thinks.
My first opera was The Marriage of Figaro in the spring of 2001 and there's sort of a funny story behind that one. In the summer before that season, right after they had announced the schedule, my two boys were having one of those endless conversations about cars. Intending only to annoy, I interrupted with the casual announcement that The Marriage of Figaro was on the Tulsa Opera's schedule for the coming season. I was anticipating the customary eye roll and a couple of smart alec remarks, but to my surprise my younger son, then 16, lit up like a 5 year old on Christmas morning and said, "I'd like to go to that." Since he actually asked to go Figaro I thought I would press my luck and ask him if he would like to go to Mozart's Requiem also. The answer was yes!
Laughing at the Race Issue
Both of these are via Inoperable Terran.
This cartoon is too true to be very funny.
On the other hand, this bit about Jesse Jackson is hilarous. A group of black cosmetologists are threatening to sue if Jackson doesn't apologize for his remarks criticizing the movie Barbershop.
I am more optimistic about race relations than I have been in a long time. A lot of feathers are being ruffled but I think that's healthier than stifling all but a very narrow set of opinions.
Thursday, October 24, 2002
Tomorrow night is the night. Not all that big of a deal, really. Well, actually, it is a big deal, and when I'm looking forward to something I can't keep myself from expecting something horrible to happen.
This year is the first time I've ever bought season tickets for the opera. Tulsa only presents three operas each season. That works out perfectly for me - one for each of my guys to be dragged to kicking and screaming. (okay, actually, bitching and whining) The first one is La Boheme and it's number one son's turn. (number two son and his dad will be at the football game) He's actually being very good about it. I might have to allow myself to be dragged to a heavy metal concert at some point in the future but I'm okay with that.
The problem is, I'm a nervous wreck waiting for disaster to strike. A couple of weeks ago on the local news, during the usual closing banter, the anchor asked the meteorologist to predict the date of the first snow. Obviously just picking a date out of the air he said "October 25th." No, no, no! It never snows that early in Oklahoma, but all this time I've been thinking "what if?" Of course no snow is forecast for tomorrow, but there are still a dozen other possible disasters: son unexpectedly has to work, son decides whiney girlfriend is more interesting than going to the opera with mom, son meets new girl who is way more intersting than going to the opera with mom, son's truck dies, transmission on mom's truck quits, brakes on mom's truck quit, we die in a horrible accident on the way to Tulsa, terrorists.... and on and on.
Of course the chance of any of those things happening is as remote as the chance that it will snow tomorrow night. All this worrying may be a good thing though. The things I worry about happening never happen. When things get screwed up it's almost always totally unexpected. So I just have to think of everything that could possibly go wrong and drive myself nuts worrying about it and then everything will be fine. Right?
A country DJ at an Atlanta radio station has been fired because, according to the station's program director: "If you listened to Moby's dialect, it didn't reflect the average Atlanta day." In other words, Moby has a southern accent. Interestingly, a rock & roll station in the same city apparently had no problem with his "dialect" and hired him.
From the "Johnny Can't Read" Files
If the Warblogger Watch crowd is correct, then so is the following logic: If you haven't walked the walk, you can't talk the talk. Right? Well. Let's take a quick imaginary tour of what the world would be like under those rules:
She continues with a number of examples. Later she shares some of the mail she received in response to her post.
Bill Allison wanted to let me know that I was being unfair to modern American fathers in my line about how only women would be able to make the laws on abortion and child care.
Bill, what have you been overdosing on? It is obvious that Meryl does not believe that anyone who can't have kids shouldn't decide how they are cared for. It was an "if/then" example - if A is true then B must also be true - intended to prove that A is not true. Since she was obviously trying to prove that A is not true she would not have used examples that she believes are true. Am I making that too complicated?
Wednesday, October 23, 2002
A Noble Bird
Betrayed by the Left
Ariel Beery writes: (Oct. 23, 8:41am; permalinks don't work)
I even feel betrayed by my fellow human beings, by my friends on the left and by Europe in general. I feel betrayed because I, like most of the world, made the solemn promise of “never again;” and now, and for the half century, instead of fulfilling our pledge and learning from humanity’s mistakes we are forsaken those rights that give us the right to be free humans. By bickering and arguing about the external aspects of going to war in Iraq, and the abstract question of whether Iraq poses a threat to the world community, we are forgetting what reality has had in store for all of those Kurds and Shiites who have faced the very real threat of continued rule of Hussein.
Read it all. She has much to say about Germany, France, Russia and others.
Another Move to MT
Wow! Check out this hot new page.
Tuesday, October 22, 2002
From Inside Iraq
I need to add Where is Raed to my list. I have it in my bookmarks and read it once or twice a week. It is the blog of a couple of "regular guys" in Bagdad. (their English is very good) There are a couple of entries on Oct. 20 that are well worth reading for the inside view. This and this. I am a little hesitant to lift a quote from it for fear of taking something out of context so please go read it all, but I found this particularly interesting:
I'm afraid most Iraqis fail to see what will be brought about by an american "invasion" correctly. It should be seen as a catalyst for change. We have to do the hard work ourselves, change has to come from within, it is no use to sit and wait for others to solve our problems, and iraq will be ruled by foreigners if iraqis don't take an active part in whatever will happen. The problem is that years of being told what to do has turned us into a bunch fatalists who see whatever happens to us as "maktub" - written by the hand of god, and submit to it, like all good faithfull people should.
I wish I could find more English blogs (or translations) from that part of the world. It would be worthwhile to get to know the people we spend so much time talking about.
Update:I have to call attention to the most recent entry, which appeared a few minutes ago.
Getty Complex vs. The Acropolis
A comparison with photos.
More Starvation in Zimbabwe
Why isn't PETA trying to do something about this? I suppose it's okay to starve animals as long as you're not an American corporation insulting their dignity by using them in TV commercials.
Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the determination to make the right things happen.
The Origin of Abstract Art
Mystery has shrouded abstract art since it emerged in the late 19th century. Where did it come from? How did shape, color, and line -- in and of themselves -- come to be the vocabulary of the modern painter? I propose that two catalysts contributed to the precipitation of abstract art: the scientific worldview that developed after the publication in 1859 of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection and the secular concepts of the spiritual that developed thereafter.
A question that I have always had about abstract art - one that is sure to mark me as a philistine - is since I can paint stuff like that too why can't I be as famous as Pollock and Rothko? Of course, I know the answer. To be in the art world you have to be in the right place and know the right people but nobody wants to admit that. I could slap some paint on a few canvases and take them down to a local arts and crafts fair and watch the parade of rednecks walk by with puzzled or disdainful looks on their faces, many of them declaring - as if this is the most damning statement possible against a work of art - "I could do that. (Well yes, you could. So why don't you?)
Anyway, I seem to have gone off on a tangent there. I like abstract art but most ordinary people like me think art should look like the stuff Thomas Kinkade does. The supposed connection between Darwin and the rise of abstract art is interesting because it seems like both art and science reached a point where many people couldn't keep up. Of course new ideas have always been rejected but you would think that a hundred years would be enough time for most people to catch up, but here we are in the year 2002 and there are a surprising number of people who still reject both Darwin and modern art.
It's all about....Plastic?
From Heretical Ideas (permalinks not working correctly)
But gasoline isn't the only product of oil. So are plastics. And lubricants. And medicines. Have you ever stopped to think about just how much of your life is dependent on plastic? (insert obvious credit card debt joke here). It's the essential material of pacemakers and life support systems. It's used in building materials, computer components, grocery bags, picture frames, cell phones, and damn near anything else you can imagine.
Good point, but probably not good enough for the "no blood for oil" folks. I might be willing to respect those people if they were actually willing to live according to their convictions. To do that they would not only have to stop driving cars, they would also have to stop using computers, stop listening to the radio or CDs, stop wearing clothes with buttons or zippers, stop using ink pens, and on and on and on.
Alex concludes with some interesting speculation:
the argument against our "dependence on oil" isn't an attack on the use of oil. It's an attack on a particular use of oil. In automobiles. ...
Interesting, but I doubt any of the enviroweenies have put that much thought into it. The whole anti-oil, anti-SUV, anti-corporation thing is all just part of their particular fantasy ideology.
Monday, October 21, 2002
Remember all the lefty whining about conservatives trying to squash dissent? Remember those lefties who are so oppressed here in their own country that they have to go to England to be heard? We all know that liberals support freedom of speech and fight censorship in any form, right? Well, read this.
This sort of thing brings out my evil side. I know from my own experience with discussion forums that the administrator's power is actually more limited than he realizes. Like any ruler he only rules with the consent of the governed. (or however that saying goes) The dictatorial young admistrator of a message board I used to frequent once made the mistake of taking sides in a dispute and banned a popular member and learned just how limited his power as an adminstrator really was. So what I'm thinking is that we all need to go register at the Democratic Underground Message Boards and inundate them with anti-idiotarian messages. If there are enough of us we can register and post faster than he can delete and ban.
Ain't I a stinker?
Seriously, it would be fun but it would take too much time away from blogging.
If you think my right-hand sidebar is getting long you should see my bookmarks. Almost every day I find interesting new blogs. Here are a few recent finds.
Amax Weblog - So many facts it makes my head hurt. He has written a lot of stuff about the Slaver sunflowers from Larry Niven's Ringworld. He might even have written more about them than Niven did. He also posted an email from my son, who is a big fan of Niven's.
Inoperable Terran - Heavy linker, short comments. He reads some of the same blogs that I do.
Special K and Coffee - This one's brand new, started Oct. 18. I was attracted to the name of course. A diary style blog. American college student, Christian, football fan. Writes well.
American Sentimentalist - In depth, well written essays on recent events.
No More Tears
According to this article in New Scientist Japanese scientists have announced a no-tears onion may soon be possible.
Onions that taste as good as the original but do not have you weeping over the chopping board are now a possibility, say Japanese researchers.
Pardon me for being less than impressed. I have been using red onions for years because they rarely cause tears. The possiblity that they might be able to grow other varieties that are non tear-inducing is nice but not exactly miraculous.
Everybody's Doing It
Everybody is moving to Movable Type. The War Liberal is one of the latest. I'm normally not one to follow the crowd but the last few days I've been comparing hosting companies, thinking of possible domain names, designing my new site in my head and so forth. It will probably be a while, if ever, but don't be too surprised if I join the exodus.
Interesting Search String
Funny, I never thought about it before but I have no idea what is considered to be the typical platypus disposition. (Note how I'm carefully avoiding the plural of platypus...whatever that is) It doesn't seem like the kind of animal that would attack. I guess we Americans are just too fascinated with the weirdness of Australian wildlife to think about what the actual living animals might be like.
I suppose we’ve been luckier than some people but almost everywhere we have ever lived there has been at least one neighbor whom we could have happily lived without. My ultimate fantasy is to own an entire square mile and build my house exactly in the middle of it so that I would be at least half a mile away from my nearest neighbor.
Our first apartment was two rooms in a cement block building containing six identical apartments. The neighbors there were not usually a problem but there was a guy who got drunk one night and shot six holes into his ceiling. Fortunately he lived on the floor above us.
Our first house was in a small town in Arkansas. The lots in this neighborhood were very small, but fenced. The older lady next door was missing a few screws. She was, on several occasions, seen outside in nothing but her underwear. Her front yard was always a mess. She would walk to the Safeway store a few blocks away to shop and always took one of the store’s shopping carts home with her. Once in a while she would return one but there were always several shopping carts in her yard along with a variety of other junk. At one point she had as many as ten dogs. The smell coming from her house was horrible.
She was never a huge problem though until we decided to sell our house. She also owned the duplex on the other side of us and when she found out we were selling she got the notion that she had to buy our house so that she would own three houses in a row. Okay, no problem. A buyer is a buyer, right? The problem started when I found her in my yard, inside the fence, sweeping off the sidewalk leading to my front door. I was outraged that this old woman whose yard was the trashiest in the entire town had the nerve to come into my nice neat yard and start “tidying up.”
We exchanged a few words and she finally left. When my husband found out about the incident he decided that we were not going to sell the house to the old bat. That really pissed her off. She started throwing bricks at our house. Small town police have got to be the most useless creatures on Earth. Their response, “Oh, she’s just an old woman; she’ll settle down in a little while.” I don’t know if she ever settled down or not. She certainly didn’t while we were still living there. We heard several years after we moved that her family had finally come and taken her away.
We lived in New York for almost a year in 1982 and 1983. We didn’t really get know any of our neighbors there, but none of them were a problem to us other than keeping us awake half the night with car alarms and intimate lovers’ fights, of which a clearly heard “You better spread your legs, bitch,” was fairly typical.”
When we first moved to Portsmouth, Virginia we lived in a second story apartment for a few months where the woman on the other side of the stairs from us babysat with a large number of children. Her idea of childcare was to lock the babies and todlers inside and lock the older kids out. The kids were constantly knocking on her door, which was only about six feet away from ours, to get back in and whenever we went out there were always at least four to six kids sitting on the stairs and in no hurry to get out of the way.
There were several other places where the neighbors were a relatively minor annoyance. There were the people who loved the horribly ugly hedge on the property line between our yard and theirs. And there were the people who frequently parked their car in front of our house on garbage day so the garbage truck wouldn’t stop and pick up our garbage. There were the kids who were always hanging out in front of our house and sitting on our car. And the annoying old man who knew how to do absolutely everything and insisted on telling us that we just did everything from planting flowers to washing the car all wrong. And of course the all time most popular annoying neighbor activity: playing the stereo too loud until all hours of the night.
When we moved here in the mid ‘90s we felt that we had found neighbor heaven. On the north side there is an older couple. Occasionally we will help them and they will help us just like old fashioned neighbors but most of the time they stay to themselves. When I first saw the place to the south of us I was worried. There’s a large shop behind the house and there were about ten junk Volkswagens in the yard. I imagined engines revving and loud so-called music at all hours of the day and night. But I was pleasantly surprised. Kevin was one of the best neighbors we’ve ever had. He was friendly but never a bother.
Sadly, Kevin died last fall. The new people who moved in a few months ago seem okay so far. He plays his boom box outside sometimes but not terribly loud so it’s only a little annoying. I have been tempted to borrow my son’s boom box and take it outside and crank up Verdi’s Requiem but it’s best not to get into that kind of war. I do have one huge complaint. They have a big black dog that barks at everything that moves. We used to see deer in our yard almost daily, but since the dog moved in we haven’t seen a single one. I miss the deer. That big annoying dog has spoiled my little wildlife preserve.
I guess I should feel lucky. It could have been much worse. But I still think it would be nice to have a half mile between me and my nearest neighbor.
I'm stealing this quote from Heretical Ideas. (I was going to just link directly to it but the permalinks are not working correctly)
"Pacifism is a shifty doctrine under which a man accepts the benefits of the social group without being willing to pay - and claims a halo for his dishonesty."
Sunday, October 20, 2002
Bryce at Social Commentary (Oct. 20) has more thoughts on kids and newspapers, in response to the Dave Barry column that I linked a few days ago. He's absolutely right. To be honest, kids weren't so different when I was growing up, but these days it seems like adults, instead of providing mature guidance, are just playing along with the kids. Heaven forbid that we should risk damaging a child's delicate psyche by telling him that his attitudes about the world might actually be wrong.
Truth in Advertising
Take a look at these banner ads.
Friday, October 18, 2002
This student in Germany had some nice things to say about my blog so I'm linking back. I found this one via the Haloscan forums and I've just taken a quick look but I think there might be some mutual interest. He mentioned playing in an orchestra.
I received a courteous request for a link from this blogging newbie: The Gutless Pacifist. The description of this attractive weblog reads: "A Place for Dialogue about Faith, Politics and Peace". He is a minister. I'm not sure where he is from but his link to the Duke basketball schedule might be a cule.
My F score is 3.333333333
Via AC Douglas.
* F stands for Fascist. What were you thinking?
Found via my referral log: Out of Lascaux.
Interesting Search Strings
You know...I'm starting to seriously regret my choice of blog title. It seemed so clever at the time. I'll stick with it for now but if I move to MT I'd like to come up with something truly original. With the right title I'm sure I could attract some real weirdos.
Wisdom From The Simpsons
Judge on The Simpsons: “As for religion and science, I’m issuing a restraining order. Religion must stay 500 yards away from science at all times.”
If only it were that simple!
Thursday, October 17, 2002
Kids Don't Read Newspapers
A teacher at Crestview Middle School in Ellisville, MO used one of Dave Barry's columns for an English assignment. In the column Dave complained that young people don't read newspapers and care more about Britney Spears than they do about the Middle East. the students proved his point in their responses to the column.
''Dave Barry I suggest that you get a life you annoying little Baby Boomer!''
''Why do young people read newspapers? Two words: not Britney Spears.''
''Some things we are interested in are bands -- not boy bands, but like Slipknot, New Found Glory, MxPx, Jimmy Eat World.''
Some of the students had suggestions for making newspapers more interesting.
''I don't like reading about death, war and government. Write about things that we can relate to.''
''Make the newspaper more humorous, it is soooo boring. Talk about skateboarding, it is so huge now you don't even know.''
''Talk about not boring stuff. Like the peace thing. It's very important, I understand that. But it's boring.''
'Don't use jokes that we don't understand. In your article, you said, 'a much higher percentage than the general population voted for Stalin.' Who is Stalin? Put in jokes kids understand.'' (This one's just sad!)
''When you talk about this stuff make it interesting. Like when we kill a terrorist, don't just say he died, say he blew up in a million pieces or something like that.''
Oh horror of being bored! First of all, most of these kids need to learn to understand the purpose of a newspaper. HINT: It's not to entertain. I suspect that a lot of adults share their feelings of boredom with newspapers even if they understand a little better what's important and I do think there is room for improvement in newspapers. First of all get rid of the editors. Except for columns like Dave Barry's everything in a newspaper looks like it was written by the same person. There's no personality. If the writer can't write well enough that he doesn't need an editor get rid of him. Proofreaders are obviously still needed; in fact, they need more - or maybe just better - proofreaders. (Someone who at least knows the difference between "rein" and "reign" would be useful)
Hmmm... sounds like I'm trying to make newspapers more like weblogs. Now there's an idea. I'd like to see a teacher assign weblogs as homework. Maybe that would get kids interested in the news.
From Scott at AMCGLTD.
Coffee and the South
As my 2 or 3 regular readers know, I'm slightly fascinated by the number of blogs with "coffee" or "caffeine" in the title. I found another one this morning - Coffee Circles. It looks like it might be worth a daily read. (~sigh~ I have too many daily reads already)
A few days ago he had some comments on the South:
Having spent my entire life in the south this is home to me, but over the last few years I have considered moving away. As a technology worker who through the web is aware of the opportunities in other parts of the country, I have at times felt that the south is behind the times and that I could move to another place that is more modern in terms of race relations, technology, education, and simply overall economic development.
I'm surprised to read something like that from someone who actually lives in the South. This is more like the northern stereotype of the South. Certainly there is still racism, but racism is not limited to just the southern states. As for ecomonic development, I don't have facts and figures but I've been under the impression that the South is the fastest growing area in the U.S.
Later in the essay:
Many see all the confederate flags, civil war fanaticism, black pride parades, and calls for reparations as reminders of a history that America should just forget, I see all these are strong influences that keep us debating, keep us trying to work out a future in which historical oppression doesn't mean that your family is doomed to a life that you don't want for them.
Well, that's one way of looking at it, but once again, except for the Confederate flags, I don't think these things are limited to the South. I personally would like to seen an end to the civil war fanaticism, [any group] pride parades and calls for reparations, not because I think we should forget but because, after more than 100 years, it's time to move on. There are a lot of people, little more than a year after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and with a war barely started, let alone finished, who are already saying that it's time to get over it and move on. And yet some of the same people are still unwilling to get over a war which happened over a hundred years ago and which no living person experienced.
Well, come to think of it, I think I just argued against the point I was trying to make. There are some people in the South who still have "issues" but there's a lot that's great about the South too. The majority of people here are not racists. Quite a few are casual racists, ("some of my best friends are..." etc.) and there are a few who are racists of the hateful kind, but they tend to be cautious about speaking out when they're not in their own groups because they know their opinions are generally not acceptable.
But the main point I want to make is that racism is not the defining characteristic of the South.
(BTW - I know that Oklahoma is not really part of "the South" but I have lived most of my life in the South and eastern Oklahoma is sort of an area of cultural overlap between the South and Southwest)
for some south Asians Falwell's remarks are not just objectionable. They are not free speech or an exchange of ideas. They are insulting the Prophet, a crime that in Muslim history has traditionally been a quick ticket to capital punishment. In past centuries many Christians met their end by insulting the Prophet. Things have only become worse as Wahhabism has grown powerful. (The notion that Islam before Wahhabism was tolerant of these crimes is historically naive.)...
I think a lot of the criticism of Falwell over his latest ill-considered remarks are not so much concern for Muslim sensiblities as instinctive contempt for Falwell, who can't seem to open his mouth without saying something stupid and bigotted. His recent comments insulting Muhammed, however, are not very far from the opinions of many of us who also despise Falwell. On the other hand, I would like to see Falwell's reaction if a Muslim cleric publicly insulted Christianity, say for example, if a Muslim said that Jesus' Mother made up the whole virgin birth story to explain away the natural result of some pre-nuptiual hanky-panky. Yeah, that would be entertaining.
My point is, of course, that Falwell is no more open minded than the Muslim clerics who have issued a fatwa calling for his murder. Fortunately, in America we don't execute people for insulting God or His prophets. There will always be overly sensitive Muslim clerics just like there will always be Jerry Falwell's. Separation of Church and State is needed to keep their kind in their place.
Wednesday, October 16, 2002
Nimoy Book Controversy
Actor Leonard Nimoy has pulled out of a fund-raising event in Seattle over a dispute with organizers concerning his new book of photographs, which includes nude pictures and revealing images of women donning tefillin and prayer shawls.
A Letter From Iran
This deserves maximum exposure. Read it. Link to it. Forward it to your congressman. Print it out and give it to people who think they can get all the news they need from TV.
Everyday, my peers and I sit and talk. We want only one thing: Freedom. Basic human rights. The same thing those who fled Iran 20 years ago now enjoy in the suburbs of Los Angeles and Washington. Sometimes I check the Internet for news. At other times, my friends and I watch satellite television or listen to the short-wave radio broadcasts of the freed world.
Read it all. Then spread it around.
Via the Rottweiller.
Rating Blog Designs
Scott Wickstein is rating blog designs so with my usual morbid curiosity and masochistic tendency to invite verbal abuse, I asked him to rate mine. He graciously obliged and his review is better than I expected. In fact I plan to take his suggestions. It had crossed my mind that the archives could really get out of hand if I keep on blogging for years but I just hadn't thought of changing to monthly archiving. I have thought about the header. I've been thinking of changing to an italic or script font. It would be no problem to make it a little larger.
By the way, Scott guesses that I'm from Texas. I was born there but haven't lived there in a long long time. He probably saw my Texas Chili link. That's actually the link to my other blog, which I started just for silly, light-hearted stuff. I only update it once or twice a week so I got the idea that maybe I could let everyone know when it had been updated and attract more visitors by spotlighting the latest entry. It's not working. No one wanted to find Inner Peace and no one is interested in Texas Chili either. Oh well. The Texas Chili story is hilarious. (and very crude) If you haven't read it you are really missing something. For some reason I can't get the permalinks to work. I'll probably add something else soon so you'll have to scroll down to find it.
Getting back to the topic of blog designs, I agree with some of Scott's ratings and disagree with others. To be honest, I never thought much of Instapundit's page design. Not that there's anything wrong with it; it's just not very attractive.
I won't do ratings but, inspired by Scott, I want to review some of my favorite blog designs. Remember this is only about design not content.
The Spleenville Journal. Simple, readable and elegant. I like an appropriate graphic in the header or sidebar. It gives you a little clue at first glance about the blogger's personality.
Daniel Ehrlich. I can just hear everyone complaining about the bright colors burning out their retinas but I like it.
Caffeinspiration. I like the Coke can. Something has changed though. This page is now too wide for my screen. It wasn't always like that.
Common Sense and Wonder. This looks like a Blogger template that has been altered. I like the shell pink with light beige text boxes. Very attractive.
Dustbury. Another two tone beige color scheme. I love the bird. (goldfinch?) The blue title and links are a nice touch. Perfect.
Fuzzy Blogic. Soothing green color scheme and an intriguing header photo.
Sgt. Stryker. Not the most attractive color but it's a perfect fit for this particular blog.
Truth Laid Bear. Scott mentioned this one. I like the newspaper theme.
Hidden Thoughts and Interests. This looks like another Blogger template but I like what she's done with the colors and the borders.
I might add some more later. I can't believe how long I've been sitting here at the computer! "Real life" calls.
A.C. Douglas, with some encouragement from Pejman, has outlined what he would have done last fall if he had been president. I can't pick a representative quote from it so go read it then come back here.
I don't think there is only one right way to defend the U.S. but there are some clear advantages to ACD's plan. The main one I see is in the timing and having the support of the American people. In September and October 2001, eighty percent of us were ready and eager to go bomb someone. Lust for revenge? Of course. So what? The desire for revenge does not cancel out the need to defend our country so use it while you've got it. War is horrible. Contrary to the empty, knee-jerk accusations of peace-activists, we all know that. War is something to be avoided if possible. As time wears on with no action and no additional major attacks on the U.S. more and more people will be enticed by the pleasant fantasy that diplomacy can always work. It's not a matter of Bush "making the case for war." He's already made it. It doesn't matter. The longer we wait the less support there will be for war.
Last fall I was encouraged by the actions of the Bush administration. Though I was impatient, taking our time, building a coalition, seemed like the right thing to do. Now I'm not so sure. A precedent has been set and now we are expected to always have the approval of the rest of the world before we take any action. Sometimes I think our biggest problem is that we so desperately want to be "the good guys." I don't think our reputation would have sufferred very much if we had done what any other nation would have done in similar circumstances.
Old News By Now
Tim Blair is on his way to NY, or possibly already here by now. (This is what I was about to post when I discovered that Blogger was hosed)
Am I back on?
Well, I have my full editing page back but the last thing I posted still won't publish, so I don't know if this will work or not. I'm starting to get sick of Blogger. I haven't complained as much as some people. I can live with a few errors. After all it is free; how much should you expect. But when I can't post anything at all.... well, I've gotten used to having this little soapbox and I really hate being cut off and out of touch. It's tempting to move on to something else (Moveable Type, maybe?) but a couple of things stop me. One I can't justify paying for something that is nothing more than a hobby. Second - and this is probably the bigger reason - Blogger is easy for dummies like me who look at HTML and think it would make almost as much sense if were written in Farsi.
Anyway, here's hoping this works this time.... or soon.
Blogger is still hosed
Testing. The bottom half of this screen has a "page cannot be displayed" notice on it. I don't know if this will publish or not. I hope they get this fixed soon. I don't want to lose my few readers.
Tuesday, October 15, 2002
Here is an interesting essay on the history of optical illusions. Optical toys were once much more popular than they are now, which is not surprising since they had no magic electronic box to provide hours of visual "stimulation."
It's a beautiful day. The sun is shining through the trees at a low angle, producing a stunning effect never seen during the summer. The leaves are still green, barely touched with red and gold. Everything is beckoning, silently calling, "Come on...come outside." Everything, that is, except for the thermometer on the back porch which is pointing at 46 F/8 C, about 6 degrees warmer than it was an hour ago.
It will be much warmer later. We built our first fire of the season yesterday. Wood heat is wonderful when it's cold and stays cold all day, but this time of year we build a fire in the morning and by afternoon I have all the doors and windows open trying to cool down. So today we just skipped it, relying on our feeble electric furnace to take the worst edge off the morning chill. I hate being cold. I think it's time for another cup of tea.
Monday, October 14, 2002
More on the Harpsichord
Unlike a piano, the strings of a harpsichord are plucked from beneath by a device called a plectrum (made of either quill or hard leather in the period instrument), rather than struck from above by a felt-covered hammer as in the piano.
One of things that fascinates me about the harpsichord sound - and I'm just going by what my ears tell me; I don't know what I'm talking about the way ACD does - is the variations in tone quality. I'm not sure if that's the right way to describe what I'm talking about. On the piano there's a kind of uniformity between the higher and lower notes but on my favorite harpsichord recordings there's a noticeable difference between the higher notes, which are light and tinkly, sometimes almost piano-like, and the lower notes, which are very full and resonant. Overall these variations make the harpsichord a much richer sounding instrument than the piano.
Besides Ton Koopman's recording of the Goldberg Variations, which I have raved about repeatedly, another of my favorite recordings is a disc of sonatas by Marcello. The harpsichord on this recording has the most remarkable tone! It is very clear and distinct, the most guitar-like sound of any harpsichord I have heard, but of course much more than a guitar. The harpsichordist is Hans Ludwig Hirsch and the instrument is described as Harpsichord with two keyboards by William Dowd, Paris, 1978, built after a model by Nicholas and Francois Blanchet 1730.
Another intersting harpsichord recording is by harpsichordist Martin Souter, performing Handel, Thomas Arne, Johann Christian Bach, Thomas Chilcot and some very early Mozart, on a restored harpsichord that belonged to King George III. The sound of this instrument is a little more metallic than the one described above and slightly less pleasant to my ears but still one of the better ones that I have heard.
I should also add that my music collection is very small compared to those of most serious classical fans. I can describe what I like but I don't have much basis for comparison.
Bruce Baugh has moved back to Blogger. Good-bye Writer of Fortune, hello An Image of Truth. For sentimental reasons I'm leaving Writer of Fortune in my list for at least a little while. There were some very good posts there.
I received a very long, very strange email, titled Barenboim; August 28, Part 6-Plus, from an individual using the name "Jiwon," address email@example.com
I only saved the first of the three. I haven't taken the time to read through all of it. It seems to be a series of messages with the most recent first. I will just post a few "interesting" excerpts.
I'm not sure what the problem is with Haloscan. The comments link was missing; now it's back again. I have been thinking about trying a different commenting system. I don't see any way to ban trolls with Haloscan. Most of them though, seem to have one problem or another.
Whatever will be will be
I have decided that I need to try not to worry so much. I have been afraid that we will do nothing about Iraq and, contrary to the lame accusations of the anti-defense crowd, I have been dreading a war with large numbers of casualties. (see my post in Sgt. Stryker's comments) It is impossible to stop worrying completely but keeping certain things in mind will help.
When we were preparing to invade Afghanistan there was much hand-wringing over how difficult it was going to be - the American military was too soft; the Afghanis were brutal fighters whom even the Soviet Union couldn't defeat; and of course there was the "brutal Afghan winter." It's true that Iraq will be different. The pundits who are predicting high numbers of casualties could be right, but they could also be wrong.
I was one of those people who thought Bush was an idiot. In some ways I still do think he's an idiot. He's also an embarrassment to the country every time he opens his mouth. The president of Afghanistan speaks better English, for crying out loud! But last fall President Bush surpised us and did the all the right things. I'm impatient; I want to see some action - if not war then something. When we get impatient we should remember these words from Bush's September 20, 2001 speech: Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. There are things going on that none of us are aware of.
Arguing with the anti-defense bunch is about as useful as arguing with a doorknob but, one more time, I want to try to make a couple of points. First of all, it's not all about us. Like it or not the U.S. has a responsiblity, as the most powerful nation on Earth, to defend freedom around the world. We also have a responsiblity to clean up the mess we made.
Another reason that we should remove Saddam from power is that he supports terrorism. Whether or not there is a direct link with al Queada is irrelevant. There is a lot of talk about Weapons of Mass Destruction and I sense a tendency to think in military terms. We think of missles that can cross the ocean and destroy American cities and seeing that Saddam does not have any such weapons some people would say he's not a threat. Instead we should think in terms of car bombs and suitcase bombs. Think of a terrorist releasing poison gas in the NY subway system, or dumping smallpox in city water supplies. Think of the approximately 200 tourists in Bali who died in a bomb blast while they were out having fun and think of that happening in New York, Atlantic City, San Francisco, Las Vegas or any other American city. Think of it happening lots of times.
And finally, here you go... are you ready for it? OOOIIIIILLLL! Yes oil is a consideration. So what? What do you think powers the cultivators and harvesters used by American farmers to grow food that is shipped around the world? And so what if Bush and his cronies get richer? Most of the thousands of jobs in the U.S. wouldn't exist if someone hadn't seen a possibility of getting rich. If oil was the main consideration we wouldn't still be sitting around debating what to do about Iraq. We would have invaded and taken over a long time ago. But oil is something we have to keep in mind and for damn good reasons.
I read something at ACD this morning that literally made me laugh out loud:
I've received several eMails inquiring why I'm talking about Bach when our War On Terrorism is still ongoing, and our shooting war against Iraq is imminent.
So...because "war against Iraq is imminent" we should just stop talking about everything else? Unbelieveable! To find some other bloggers who also have other things to write about look in my "Different Keystrokes" category. C'mon...take a mental health break once in a while. As for myself, I want to try to get back to talking about Bach and harpsichords later, and I have some Mozart in mind too. I'm not saying I'm giving up on "warblogging;" I'm just saying that while we're waiting we might as well breathe a little.
No Bystanders Allowed
Another excellent essay by Steven den Beste:
There are many who believe that the kind of peace and freedom that we enjoy is the natural state of the human race, the default to which all will return if only they could somehow convince us all to disband our armies and stop fighting. But the natural state for humans is barbarism, cruelty, violence and death; our peace and prosperity is an artificial bubble which must actively be maintained and defended at all times. If we cease to be vigilant it will vanish. My ideological opponents think that armies cause wars, and that war can be prevented by getting rid of armies. But you don't need an army to fight a war; no army attacked Bali last night.
Our Guys and Gals in Uniform
This morning I found GI Party via Light of Reason. While we are fighting about whether or not we should fight let's go look and see what the men and women who will actually be doing the fighting have to say. I especially like this.
Sunday, October 13, 2002
Words Are Not Enough
I don't know what to say about the terrorist attack in Bali. Yes, I will call it what it is. No denial here. I am angered by how little attention this has gotten in the American media. As usual on the weekends, the TV has been on all day starting at 11:00am yesterday. If it weren't for the Internet I would not even be aware that this had happened. Well, we can't interrupt those all-important football games now can we?
At last count more than 180 people killed and 300 injured, out of a population that is only a fraction of ours. Surely this is as big to them as September 11 was to us. And what of the ecomomy of Bali? The tourists are leaving. What will Bali do without its tourists? Surely we could take a break from football to show a little concern and sympathy. We - all of us who value freedom - are in this together.
Saturday, October 12, 2002
What's wrong with these quotes?
Read all of these quotes, note the consistency, then be sure to read the sources at the end.
Friday, October 11, 2002
But I'm too young to have Alzheimer's!
Sometimes I worry about myself. Not to brag, but some people used to say I was a "walking dictionary" and my family are still always asking me how to spell words but in the last few years I've had a more difficult time with spelling than I used to. A few minutes ago, posting in the comments at Amber Bach, I typed the word fantasize. The end of it - the -size part - looked wrong and after trying a few variations that all looked wrong I reached for the dictionary that I keep by the computer (Sometimes I use an online dictionary. This time I was in the mood for paper.) and I immediately turned to the ph section. I had just typed fantasize with an f, knowing that part was correct, and I turned to ph to look it up to see how the last part of the word was spelled! How much more time do I have, Doc?
A Patriotic Left
Micheal Kazin writes:
I love my country. I love its passionate and endlessly inventive culture, its remarkably diverse landscape, its agonizing and wonderful history. I particularly cherish its civic ideals-social equality, individual liberty, a populist democracy-and the unending struggle to put their laudable, if often contradictory, claims into practice. I realize that patriotism, like any powerful ideology, is a "construction" with multiple uses, some of which I abhor. But I persist in drawing stimulation and pride from my American identity.
In the wake of September 11, the stakes have been raised for the American left. Even if the "war against terrorism" doesn't continue to overshadow all other issues, it will inevitably force activists of every stripe to make clear how they would achieve security for individual citizens and for the nation. How can one seriously engage in this conversation about protecting America if America holds no privileged place in one's heart? Most ordinary citizens understandably distrust a left that condemns military intervention abroad or a crackdown at home but expresses only a pro forma concern for the actual and potential victims of terrorism. Without empathy for one's neighbors, politics becomes a cold, censorious enterprise indeed.
If you haven't visited Polynym yet go check it out. It's a very unique blog featuring translated poetry and occasional quotes. The title at the top of the page changes at least weekly. When I first linked it it was "Truth and Aspirin;" now it's "mute cavalcade." I like the most recent poem, Cetacean. Unfortunately there are no permalinks.
"Fighting Good Science"
Thursday, October 10, 2002
The Link Changes Everything
Lileks on blogging:
The link changes everything. When someone derides or exalts a piece, the link lets you examine the thing itself without interference. TV can’t do that. Radio can’t do that. Newspapers and magazines don’t have the space. My time on the internet resembles eight hours at a coffeeshop stocked with every periodical in the world - if someone says “I read something stupid” or “there was this wonderful piece in the Atlantic” then conversation stops while you read the piece and make up your own mind.
Yes! He gets it! Now if only somebody could explain it to those sites that try to prohibit linking.
Support for War Against Saddam
I don't watch Oprah or any other daytime TV show but I'm sorry I missed this. My respect for Oprah just went up several notches.
The Visual Brain
Michael at Two Blowhards on visual people:
I find visual people to be in many ways like performers -- talented, rarely gifted with much in the way of intellect, and full of meaningless chatter, which is, however, interrupted now and then by brilliantly helpful, offhand observations and statements. Like performers, they seem to have no idea when they're being idiotic and when they're being insightful. Listening to them is a peculiar experience...
It seems to me that it would be a common experience. Aren't most people "visual"? A test that someone gave me on a diskette told me that I'm exactly 50% visual/50% verbal. (hmmm....maybe that's why I have trouble communicating with some people) Of course I don't put a lot of faith in tests like that. It also said a lot of flattering B.S. about me that made me think the real purpose of the test was to give the person taking it an ego boost.
A. C. Douglas has a very academic essay on Gould's two recordings of Bach's Goldberg Variations. I have to admit that I have never understood all the fuss over these recordings, but then I can't analyze a piece phrase by phrase either. I just listen.
Actually, I have considered that perhaps I should give Gould another chance. My first and only exposure to it was on the radio when I was still very new to classical music and I didn't really dislike it; the turn off for me was that the announcers were so over the top in their praise and I just thought it was nice but it didn't especially move me. So, being inexperienced at the time, I thought that if this was Bach's best maybe Bach just wasn't for me. Later, a knowledgeable friend whose opinions I respect had less than flattering things to say about Gould's recordings of the Goldbergs, so when I finally did get back around to Bach I sort of blamed Gould for delaying my "discovery" of Bach.
I am extremely fond of Ton Koopman's recording of the Goldbergs on the harpsichord and generally prefer to hear Bach's keyboard works on the harpsichord. I read a lot of praise for Murray Perahia's recording so I bought that one. It took a while for me to get used to hearing the Goldbergs on the piano but eventually I learned to like it. I don't know if this is a good thing or bad but sometimes I use Perahia's recording to put my grandson to sleep when he's staying here - it never fails.
Wednesday, October 09, 2002
More of My Best Stuff
Do you ever re-read stuff you wrote months ago? Anyone who's been reading this page for a while knows about my writing angst - my feelings that nothing I write is quite good enough. But reading my old stuff, I don't feel that anymore. Sometimes I read something I wrote and think "hey, that's pretty good," but then I'll sort of feel guilty about thinking it's good because we're supposed to be modest.
Anyway, I've been meaning to browse through my archives and find some more of my "good stuff" to post in my "Selected Rants and Musings" over in the left hand column and I finally got around to that tonight. There are five new links. Check them out.
Let me off the treadmill
I've heard many people declare that they never discuss religion or politics. In the case of religion I'm inclined to think that this is a wise policy. Am I going to make it my policy? No way. Right now I feel like I should but I know that sooner or later someone would bring it up and I would have to put my 2 cents worth in, or I would start getting ideas, musing on random, fleeting thoughts and I would simply have to write about it whether it was a good idea or not.
Dissent is the lifeblood of the blogosphere. Argument is more interesting, stimulating and even more enjoyable than a conversation in which everyone is in perfect agreement. So far in the current religion debate there has been very little disagreement, only misunderstanding. My "opponents" in the argument have repeatedly tried to "inform" me of facts that I had already stated.
I have been reading Sean's blog for a while and just recently discovered Justin's. Both are obviously intelligent and thoughtful. So why can't I communicate with them? I strongly believe that everyone has a right to their opinion and I do not feel compelled to convince everyone that I'm right and they are wrong. My policy has always been to state my opinion and move on. But I would like for people to at least understand what I'm actually saying.
And now, still frustrated, I will move on.
Unfortunately I can't read this blog but I love the graphic at the top.
A Wealth of Blogs
I have been finding a lot of great blogs lately. I found Lilac Rose in my referral log today. Lovely name, nice design and she's a smart Southern woman. This is another keeper.
I have several more that need to add to my list. I may not mention each one individually so if you're a regular just check my list once in a while.
Via The Sky Blog.
From the Most Recently Updated List
Wow! Another Okie Blogger! I didn't even know there were this many computers in Oklahoma. (JUST KIDDING!) This guy looks pretty geeky for Oklahoma. (Remember, "geeky" is a good thing) On top right now: Toward a Synthesis of the Newtonian and Darwinian Worldviews.
More on Religion
Sean Hackbarth has a response to my post yesterday.
Converting non-believers does not constitute forcing faith upon another nor should it. Faith requires the person to accept beliefs taught to them and incorporate them into their hearts. Islam means "surrender," and that same idea can be taken to Christian conversion....
I probably didn't make it clear enough that I wasn't talking about all religions or even all Christians. There's a fuzzy line somewhere between faith and fantacism. If someone preaches on TV that's fine; I can change the channel. If they come knock on my door, depending on the mood I'm in, they might meet with some rudeness. If a person wants to hand out pamplets on a street corner that's fine too, but if they step out in front of me they shouldn't be surprised if I shove them out of the way. More than just certain tactics, I object to the whole attitude that evangelism is a "calling." As Sean's response illustrates, there will never be any agreement on this point.
First, I must mention that the phrase "separation of church and state" is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution.
I'm not sure why Sean found it necessary to mention this since I said the same thing myself. This seems to be a standard argument of anyone who does not support separation of church and state.
To say that people of faith should not practice what they preach with regards to government is like saying a goldfish should just leap out of its fishbowl and start breathing air. It's a denial of their very nature.
People are not fish. People are capable of controlling some aspects of "human nature." The nature Sean is defending is the urge to force others to live the same kind of lifestyle they would choose for themselves. Again there is a fuzzy line. Christians have just as much right to be involved in government as anyone else but there is a highly vocal minority that uses dishonest arguments and misleading rhetoric to sway people to their side in an all out effort to deny people the right to legally do things which they have always done and which hurt nobody.
I argue that basing laws purely on human reason is also basing them on religious belief. Look at how strongly Dawkins attacks religion and defend rationality. That passion is almost religious. And to claim that human reason is the sole source of wisdom is as irrational a faith as Christianity.
I feel that this kind of argument is intellectually lazy. Claiming that the secular position is just another kind of religion is another standard tactic. The difference between rationality or reason and religious belief is that human reason can be questioned, is constantly being questioned. Dissent is not only welcomed but is an essential part of the process. It's true that many people are passionate in defending their secular beliefs and I might agree that some on the far Left are religious in the way they reject all dissenting opinions, but this is generally not the way secular reasoning works.
Obviously laws must always be, to a certain extent, based on morality, but I believe that true morality comes from the higher side of human nature. There is no denying that there's a dark side to human nature. One of the aspects of that dark side is the desire to deny others the right to make their own choices, whether through force, through legislation or through social pressure. The higher side of human nature is that part of us that wants everyone to be free, safe, well-fed and happy.
Again, I want to make it clear that I realize that not all religions are the same. As is often the case with any group, a few can give the whole a bad reputation. The few always speak the loudest and the majority rarely speaks at all.
Tuesday, October 08, 2002
Bank of Antarctica
Until a few minutes ago I had no idea that Antarctica has its own currency.
More images of currency from around the world.
Autumn in Oklahoma
Charles G. Hill reflects on the season. I think Charles is quite some distance from where I am but the weather here was much the same. Not much rain though, just a few sprinkles in the afternoon. The day was pleasantly gloomy and cool, about 60 F/15 C.
Some days seem to call for a particular kind of music and even a particular kind of tea. Today it was solo cello and Twinnings Lapsang Souchong. The tea has a pleasantly smoky aroma, like a campfire or leaves burning. I only drink it when the weather is cool. In the spring and summer it just seems wrong somehow.
I wish the perfect autumn weather could last forever but it seems to fly past faster than any other season. Too soon the weather will turn really cold. The first few winters we lived in Oklahoma were dry and not terribly cold but the last two or three years we've had snow and ice storms. I am not looking forward to winter.
Anti-Semitism in Academia
A personal observation. Read it at Tightly Wound. (a promising new blog that I just added to my list)
More News of the Easily Offended
From the "GET A FREAKIN' SENSE OF HUMOR ALREADY!" department: A women's group is protesting this billboard. Yes it's sexist. So what? The U.S. Constitution does not guarantee you the right to never be offended. Grow up!
"The word atheism sounds negative; let me call it rationalism. It is a rational view of the world where you stand up proudly, in your humanity, you look life straight in the face, you look the universe straight in the face, you do your level best to understand it, to understand why you exist, what the universe is about, you recognise that when you die that's it, and therefore life is very, very precious and you devote your life to making the world a better place, to leading a good life so when you die you can say to yourself I have led a good life. Now, that seems to me to be a worthwhile goal to put in place of the medieval superstition which is religion. Belief in God doesn't have to be a bad thing, but I think it's a very demeaning thing to the human mind to believe in a falsehood, especially as the truth about the universe is so immensely exciting.
Well, maybe some people prefer comfort over excitement. Religion is personally important to a great many people and I do not think the world would be a better place if we were able to wipe out religion. Those who now use religion as a tool of oppression would still commit the same acts of evil that their kind have been committing for thousands of years. I have three major problems with the practice of religion and I believe that it is these particular attitudes that need to be eliminated, not religion itself.
At the top of my list is the moral imperative in some religions - Christianity included - to convert non-believers. Can faith that is forced on a person be true faith, or is it mere compliance? Here in the West believers can no longer torture and burn non-believers so they instead spend huge amounts of money to pursue and annoy anyone who does not share their beliefs, and as missionaries they prey on the most vulnerable people, providing food and other humanitarian aid as a lure. We all like to share our beliefs and given the opportunity will try to convince other people that we are right. I expect religious people to do the same, but not to the point where it becomes a crusade. The attitude that everyone must be converted is simply wrong and leads to acts of evil and violations of individual rights.
The second problem with religion is closely tied to the first - government based on religion or the attempt to use religion to influence legislation. Too many religious people think that separation of church and state should only work one way - that the government must keep out of religion but that the church has no similar obligation to stay out of government. Some of these people will surely speak up and explain how the Constitution supports their point of view. First of all, it doesn't, but I'm not talking about the Constitution at all. I'm talking about a wise principle that is an important part of the foundation of all free nations. To pass laws based on religious beliefs, even if such passage does happen to be Constitutional, chips away at our freedom.
Finally, the third major problem I have with religion is that religious people demand that their beliefs not be questioned. The evil of blasphemy laws in some countries is obvious, but even relatively reasonable believers living in a free country strongly object to their beliefs being criticized, and strangely, except for a very few, even non-believers tend to play along. Religious beliefs are sacred and must not be criticized. Interestingly, I notice the same thing amoung certain political groups. Attack their beliefs and they start crying out about "oppression." If your belief is strong enough it should be able to stand up to a little dissent.
Of course, the big problem is that these attitudes are deeply ingrained in many religions. As far as many believers are concerned, to wipe out these attitudes you might as well wipe out the religion itself. This is sad. Religion, if it's important to you, should not be dependent on externals. Let it comfort and uplift, regardless of how the rest of the world might feel about it.