Saturday, July 03, 2004

who are you?

I went through a short period of disappointment recently about the fact that my blog can't seem to get any traction. My readership tends to hover around 15 to 20 unique hits per day. And then I suddenly realized --there are around 15 to 20 people reading my site every day! That's pretty cool. I should be, and now that I think about it I am, thrilled to have that kind of readership.

My goals were completely off the wall. What did I expect, to become the next Instapundit? Or the next One Hand Clapping? Those guys and the other big bloggers are extremely talented writers. Most of them have areas of expertise that are interesting to lots of people. Me, I write about lots of things but I'm no expert on constitutional law or the military or religion or public policy.

I'm an expert on the design and implementation of programming languages. When I was at the top of my game I was a world-class expert in the design and implementation of programming languages. Anyone want to read about the design and implementation of programming languages? I didn't think so.

I also claim some knowledge of the philosophy of science and mathematics. Anyone want to read philosophy of science and mathematics? I didn't think so. (Although I'm still planning to post that argument that the idea of time travel is incoherent).

And I now realize what I didn't before, that my writing needs work. For example this post is very awkward. I felt like I had something important to say, but I just couldn't make it come out right. Part of that is because I was writing long after bedtime and my contacts were blurring up and my back was killing me so I rushed it. But still, I just couldn't make it come out right. The big name bloggers don't seem to have problems like that.

So, getting back to you 15 or 20 readers. Who the heck are you guys? I know maybe four or five. I know who the occasional commenters Zantar and Cliff are. La Shawn leaves nice notes occasionally. Donald Crankshaw mentions me on his blog once in a while. My mom claims to read my blog but I think she's, uh, dissembling.

So how come the rest of you never post a comment or drop me an email? How about a little feedback? Do you think I'm just doing this for my own entertainment? Well OK, I am just doing this for my own entertainment, but still.

Seriously, I don't want to impose on any one-time readers, but if you visit my site with any regularity, I'd really appreciate a note introducing yourself and telling me how you found my site. You can post a comment to this article or send me an email.

Some people have had trouble with my mangled email address. You have to click on the email address at the upper right-hand corner. That should bring up your email program, but it's sending an email to You have to click on the address in your email program and delete the "REMOVE." part. I do this to keep from getting spam.

I look forward to hearing from you.

UPDATE: I got several good replies. I had to edit one of them because the URL Tom Harrison gave was screwing up the commenting system. His slashdot journal is here. It's worth checking out, too.


John Podhertz has a bad article on comic books and comic-book movies. I'm sorry to have to say that, especially as the conservative movement (in the form of the NRO Corner) is now trying to drive out Podhertz and everyone else who isn't in lock step on the comic book issue, but really, he's got it all wrong. Jonah Goldberg responds. Jonah is my super hero. As Jonah's metahero sidekick, I'd like to add a few points.

Podhertz makes the reckless statement
Movies and television shows based on comic books constitute the worst single genre in the history of filmed entertainment (with the exception of porn).
Let's look at some examples shall we? First, The Incredible Hulk. Not the movie (which could have been made passable by editing out about an hour of the film) but the TV show staring Bill Bixby/Lou Ferigno as David Banner/The Hulk. One of the greatest TV series ever. Sure, the ongoing plot line was ripped off from The Fugitive, but The Fugitive hadn't made it in re-runs, so it was all new to most of us.

The first Superman with those tremendous flying scenes. Annoying main actors, sure. But you can hardly blame the genre for the casting. And the deux ex machina at the end was a DC-ism. Those were always inferior comics.

The first two Batman movies. Tremendous.

The Batman TV series. Also tremendous if you are either sophisticated enough to enjoy the camp or unsophisticated enough not to notice it. The series works at both levels.

The Flash TV series was pretty good too.

OK, compare all the above with the TV series Alice, One Day at a Time, Maud, The Jeffersons and The Golden Girls. Add the movies On Golden Pond, Steele Magnolias and Thelma and Louise.

Now with this stark listing of the candidates, is Podhertz really going to conclude that the genre of comic-book-inspired shows is worse than the genre of liberal chick flicks? For shame.

I'd also like to add a defensive psychological note in regards to this quote:
Gerard Jones's terrific book Killing Monsters makes an unimpeachable case for the depictions of violence in these fantasies, arguing that they offer a comforting outlet for those who feel totally powerless.
I think that Podhertz has it exactly backwards. Maybe Superman is attractive to such kids because the idea of being invulnerable would sooth them. I wouldn't know. I never cared for Superman and neither did most of the comic book fans I knew. Superman was a god. I was drawn to heroes, not gods. Heroes who were all too vulnerable. Heroes who were often overmatched and injured. Heroes who suffered many setbacks but never gave up and always triumphed in the end.

I doubt that boys who feel powerless are drawn to heroes. The pain and (temporary) defeat and the need for courage in the face of overwhelming odds would not be comfortable for them. Boys (and men) who enjoy heroic fiction do because they identify with heroes. Because they can see themselves in the role.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

oil for graft

Claudia Rosett (via Instapundit) is doing a great job of investigating the UN oil-for-food scandal. Her latest piece includes this paragraph:
Sevan did not reply to requests for his comments on this matter. Annan's office, asked to clarify if it was U.N. procedure to relay bribe allegations to Saddam before informing the Security Council, gave a pro forma response that the Secretariat is not commenting these days on anything that is "within the purview" of the oil-for-food investigation led by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker.
I think it's interesting that several times now the UN has refused to cooperate with outside investigators on the grounds that there is an official UN investigation to cooperate with. It looks suspiciously like the whole purpose of the official investigation is to whitewash the investigation while giving cover against other investigations. I really hope Volcker doesn't cooperate, but the fact that Annan chose him suggests to me that Annan thought he could control Volcker. Time will tell.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

prime tears

I just saw an ABC news segment on how the quarter-point raise in the prime rate is going to hurt American families. It was a fairly long segment with interviews of two couples: one was going to have to pay an extra $200 per year in interest because they were carrying a huge credit card debt. The other was going to have to buy an infinitesimally smaller home. I was almost weeping by the end of the segment.

You know, I can't recall ever seeing a news segment on how a quarter-point raise in the prime rate would hurt families before. Do these segments only air during campaign season and only when there's a Republican presidential incumbent running?

the coming crisis in Iraq

The hand-over of sovereignty seems to have been highly cathartic in Iraq. The US reputation has soared in that country for the moment but there is still an opportunity to screw things up royally. At some point, there is going to be a serious disagreement between the US forces and the Iraqi government. Perhaps rebels will attack US forces and the Iraqis will demand that the US not pursue them. Perhaps the Iraqis will demand that the US forces vacate a position that is necessary for security. There are many opportunities for conflict between a local government and a large foreign military force. How the US responds to these conflicts is going to be pivotal.

If the US ignores the express demands of the new Iraqi government then this will constitute evidence that the US really is an invader. Fair or not, that's how it will be perceived (and it's more fair than not). If the Iraqis really are sovereign in their own country, then the US forces are present at their sufferance. The US should not forget that. If the Iraqi demand is anything that the US can live with, then they should live with it. The US owes it to the host country to respect their rules.

If it's something that the US cannot live with, then the US has an important bit of leverage, an ultimatum: they do what they need to do or they pull out completely. This is a last resort because once they say it they have to stick by it. The ultimatum will likely motivate the Iraqis to find a way around the impasse. If not, then the US has to pull out. This could lead to civil war in Iraq, but it's their decision. And we can hope. Maybe there would be no civil war. Maybe Iraq would stand up on its own as a fine new democracy.

This could even end up being a great good. If the US is forced out of Iraq in this way (or even by a direct demand of the Iraqi government) then the world will see a Muslim proto-democratic government succeed where the most feared Muslim dictator and the most feared Muslim terrorist failed. And failed miserably. Democracy will be the new strong horse. Ultimately, that could be the best of all possible outcomes.

Monday, June 28, 2004

the REAL reason

Could Robert Alt have stumbled on the real reason for doing the Iraq handover two days early?
As someone who was in the Press Room in Baghdad when the announcement was made to the Press via a phone call, I can tell you that there were flacks who visibly angry at being “duped.” This was but a small reaction, however, because most of the press had not come in yet, because nothing was formally on the schedule for today. And of course, this fails to take into account the super-egos, such as Brokaw, who were rumored to be in Baghdad already, just waiting to make their appearances.
I'd like to think so. A shot from Bush back at all the press ninnies that have made his life so miserable.


Cluebat's father, William Meyer, was in a concentration camp in Germany during WWII. A reporter for the Decatur Daily Democrat is now publishing his story in installments. It's tough reading, but highly recommended. The Nazis sent a ten-year-old kid to a concentration camp for the crime of delivering travel documents to Corrie Ten Boom's book shop. The documents were intended for Jews that were trying to escape Germany.

I think it's worth remembering that the Nazis sent lots of Aryans to concentration camps where many died of starvation, exposure, and brutality. The left blames the Nazi horror on racism, but that's historically naive. Most people in history have been racist, and most of them didn't go around trying to exterminate other races. The evil aspect of Nazism is the same as the evil aspect of Spanish Inquisition, Stalinism, and today's Islamism. It is the evil of an ideology that places it's own corporate goals above the goal of simple humanity to individuals.

In the ancient world, such ideologies were not needed. Alexander and Genghis Kahn didn't need an excuse to exterminate entire cities. They had the bigger army and they wanted to rape, pillage and kill, so they did it. But Christianity has changed the formula. Almost everyone today, from the most extreme left to the most extreme Islamist, agrees, at least publicly, that the default is to treat all human beings as you would like to be treated. Today, you need a higher reason to brutalize other people, whether that reason is racial purity, social justice, or the Will of Allah.

Of course for some people the bar is lower than others. One of the things that is most shocking about the left is their phlegmatic attitude toward horrors committed by anyone who is seen as opposed to the US. From Stalin to Saddam. They are horrified by relatively (and I stress relatively) minor brutality committed by the US and it's allies, but oh-so-understanding and forgiving of the most heinous mass murders and genocides committed by the other side.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

This is great news about Darfur. People all across the political spectrum are starting to notice. It's not enough from my point of view, but at least people are starting to notice.

Here's my fantasy scenario: Kerry starts making Darfur a major part of his campaign, accusing Bush of letting the Iraq invasion sidetrack him not only from the WOT, but also on other horrors going on around the world like Darfur. He even goes so far as to say that if he were president, he would be pulling troops out of Iraq and sending them to Darfur where they are needed more urgently. Bush says that's a great idea and sends troops to Darfur (not necessarily pulling any out of Iraq). The Demos are left having to pretend to support the deployment for at least a few months until they come up with something to rag on Bush about.

We could have troops in Darfur protecting those people before the election.

Thanks to Instapundit for the link. How does he keep up with all this stuff?

bicycles and Mexian restaurants

I just saw the last four laps of a bicycle race in downtown Burlingame. Real teams with uniforms and crews and everything. I have no idea who they were. It was fun watching the race though, especially at one point where I was waiting to cross the street at an inside corner when the race came around. They wizzed by less than three feet away. If you count the lean, it was more like eighteen inches. I thought at first I might be interfering with the race and started to step back, but then I realized I was already on the other side of a barricade. They were just cutting it real close.

By the end of the race I was sitting in the Mexican restaurant on Burlingame Ave. and Lorton near where the team pavilions were set up (Bay-area Mexican food isn't bad, but I really miss Sonoran style). None of the bikers looked tired. They had just completed a race at the end of a day of racing, and they all looked ready to start again.

It was sort of depressing. Reminded me of when I was in that kind of shape a lo-o-ong time ago.