Saturday, June 04, 2005

musical styles

Dean has a really cool post up about music. Can't say I agree too much with his argument, but the songs he links to are cool. Here are my answers to his quiz (I didn't cheat and look these up):

"How you want it done": the only real blues in the set. I'd guess the singer is black.
"Prisoner's Song": hardcore Country/Western (and ick). I'd guess the singer is white.
"Georgia Rag": a Ragtime song. Ragtime was considered black music, but lot's of white musicians played it too and this sounds kind of white to me. And since it has "rag" in the title, I'm going to guess that this was a misdirection and the singer is white.
"Danville Girl": reminds me of "House of the Rising Sun", but I don't know whether to classify that as R&B or Country. It was done a lot by artists in both camps. I'm going to guess that the singer is black just because I only have a black guy left.

Even if Dean gets me with the last two though, it doesn't really prove his point (the first two would be more of a problem for me). There have always been crossovers. Let him put up some songs by Robert Johnson and see if they sound at all Country.

Of course there was a lot of cross pollination between the different southern music styles, but I don't think they sound much alike. I love Blues and R&B but don't care much for most Country (on the other hand, I don't care for Jazz either, and that's another music style that is allegedly similar to Blues).

Dean clarified his thesis in the comments (I didn't read them before I posted because I didn't want to see any spoilers). He claims that before the Grand Ole Opry there was no difference at all between black and white music and that the styles diverged after that due to commercial considerations. I'm not knowledgeable about music history, but that strikes me as unlikely for two reasons. First, I can think of several old songs by white people that sound distinctly Country, but none that sound R&B, and I can think of several old songs by black people that sound distinctly R&B but none that sound Country. Second, I don't believe the poor blacks and poor whites in the old South shared that much culture. They certainly went to different nightclubs and different churches: the two places where they would have heard most of their music.

On the other hand, I'm no music historian, so you should completely ignore my opinion on this.

Scale 7 Artifact, part 5


Exploration (part 3)

In a dim room, four figures watched Daniel edging around behind Sarah.

The room was a small theater with five rows of elegant leather chairs, six chairs to a row, with an isle down the middle. All the chairs faced the front screen where Daniel was the center of attention. The man sitting alone in the front row spoke to the rest without turning around, "What's he doing? Are we about to witness a murder?"

Another man just behind the first lifted a cup of coffee to his lips and levered open the top with his thumb. Steam rose reluctantly from the hot liquid, balling up in the low gravity. He answered through the hovering vapor before taking a sip, "Only if the girl murders him when he surprises her. She's the genhance."

"That might solve our problem." the woman across the aisle from him said.

There was a moment of silence in the room as Daniel came up behind the girl and she suddenly heard him or caught movement from the corner of her eye. She whirled around and then with startling quickness leaped for Daniel. There had not even been a hint of a pause for her to identify him, no moment of recognition. Yet she was embracing him almost before he realized he had been detected. She trapped his arms, making it a one-way hug. His startled look was comical.

"No such luck." the one in front said.

"Damn she's quick," the one with the coffee said. "But I wish you two would stop harping on old Dr. Greaves. He isn't going to cause us any problems." He glanced back at the silent figure in the back corner. It was too dark to read the face.

The man in front said, "His snooping already has them a day ahead of schedule." On the screen, Daniel had extracted his arms to return the hug. He squeezed vigorously and picked her up from the floor in the light gravity. Her giggling could be heard from the speakers.

"So, they are one day ahead," said the man with the coffee. "in a schedule of several weeks. Is there no tolerance in the timing?"

"It is a matter of rates," the woman answered pedantically. "In less than an hour, they are a day ahead of our projections. This doesn't just mean they are a day ahead, it means they are progressing much faster than we projected. By the end of the day they may be three days ahead. And by the end of tomorrow they may be a week ahead." She turned partly to the shadowed figure in back, but it was too far to turn her head, so she just glanced at him out of the corner of her eyes.

The man in front said, "Let's put him back under. Or remove him from the team. We'd be doing him and ourselves both a favor." On the screen, Sarah was gabbling excitedly as Daniel listened, smiling, an indulgent grandfather. Her words could be heard clearly in the small theater.

"It won't make any difference," the woman said. "We have eight extra-ordinarily talented people. Now that Dr. Greaves has them searching, they will not stop until they know everything."

"If you want to get rid of someone dangerous, put the genhance back under." the man with the coffee said. "If she finds out what we're doing before we're out of reach, she could be a serious problem." The dangerous someone in question was now bouncing excitedly on her toes, grinning hugely and trying to tell Daniel in a few minutes all that had happened in the years since they last saw each other.

"Dr. Li is more dangerous than that little girl," the woman said. "He may not be as strong or as quick as her, but he is bio-enhanced and he has been in combat."

"The girl is a genius and a master ship's tech," the man with the coffee answered. "She could invade the ship's systems and take control."

"In that area, the most dangerous is the primetech," said the man in front, wanting to get in on the game, "He knows more about spacecraft than anyone. And he can survive in space without a spacesuit."

The game paused as someone else entered the view of the security camera. Jackie had come over to introduce herself to Sarah. They listened to the introductions for a moment.

"We have to reschedule the launch." the woman said suddenly. "Give them the four weeks we planned on and it will be too late. They will figure it out."

The man with the coffee sipped again. "We would have to cut corners. It would increase the risk of mission failure." He glanced back again to the shadowed figure.

"If they figure out what we are doing to them, it will be a 100% chance of mission failure," the woman said.

"Let's see what else they discover today." suggested the man in front. "If they show any interest in failure rates or other dangerous subjects, or if they manage to figure out why they were woken up, then we have to launch as quickly as possible. Get them past the point of no return."

"Why if they figure out the mission?" asked the man with the coffee. "We were going to tell them that anyway."

"It is just another sign that our projections were far to conservative."

There were a few more moments of silence in the room. On the screen, someone had finally revealed the big news to Sarah. She looked ready to pop with excitement.

"Remember when we were that excited about the news?" asked the man with the coffee. "I wish I could still be so thrilled."

The woman looked at him impatiently. "It's eight people or twenty billion, Fred. What choice do we have?"

Fred sipped again and then gently blew the vapor away from his face like a horizontal fountain of mist. "No choice at all," he said finally, "I'll go along with the Dwayne's plan."

Dwayne and the woman now turned in their seats to look at the shadowy figure in back. Fred kept his eyes on the screen.

"That's the plan, then," came a voice from the shadows, deep and commanding. "We'll need to have the four of us monitoring them for the rest of the day."

The four conspirators turned back to the screen where Jackie was telling the pretty girl and sweet old man what they had found out over the last few minutes. They were both grinning in excitement. And why not, it was incredible news. Fred's eyes became moist but he refused to wipe them.

"You're all wrong." said the man in the shadows, so suddenly and loudly that it startled the rest. The screen zoomed in on the face of the gentle old man. "It's not what you can do, but what you will do. The most dangerous man on that team is sweet old Dr. Daniel Greaves. If you don't understand that, I suggest you all re-read the team bios."


Thursday, June 02, 2005

a good deed never goes unpunished

I made a donation to help save Terri Schiavo and I'm starting to pay the consequences in beg mail. That's like junk mail only instead of trying to sell you junk they are begging you for money. Terri's father is a greedy rat bastard. He sold the names and addresses of all the people who were kind enough to try to help save his daughter to a junk mailer. Almost makes me feel sorry for Terri's husband.

It'll be a long time before I contribute to an Internet cause again.

And what the heck are these so-called Christian organizations doing, buying a list from a source like that? They think God works through a program that victimizes people for doing a good deed? One that annoys 90 people for every one that responds? Does God need them to hit up thousands of random people to find the money to do his will? You don't think God knows where the money is and how to get it to the people who need it? Does God bless the work of people who are rude and inconsiderate (like beg mailers)?

I'm not opposed to modern technology in ministry, but there are proprieties. Beg mail (with a purchased list) is an attempt to take the issue out of God's hands and do it on your own. It's a sign of a lack of faith. It's a sign that the organization is out of God's will.


I forgot to announce the impending Storyblogging Carnival. Oh well, Donald forgot too and it's his carnival...

Please send your submissions to, with the following information:

* Name of your blog
* URL of your blog
* Title of the story
* URL for the blog entry where the story is posted
* A word count
* A suggested rating for adult content (G, PG, PG-13, R)
* A short blurb describing the story

Entries are due by Saturday, at 11:59 pm EDT.

I wuz robbed

The Carnival of Comedy is up and my entry isn't in it. Right Wing Duck blames a "copy and paste" error. All I can say is "likely story". I suspect that Right Wing Duck and the entire IMAO crew are terrified of my growing comedy popularity and are trying to oppress me.

Get even with them though. Don't follow the link. Do you really need to read Michael Jackson's TODO list?

faith and credit

Eugene Volokh has more on secular vs. religious morality. All interesting stuff. It seems to me that his correspondents are just not grasping a fact that Volokh is assuming: that all beliefs ultimately come down to non-rational premises: non-rational in the sense that they can't be argued for, there are no objective reasons for believing them, you just believe them or you don't.

The failure to understand this fact is common to both religious and non-religious people, but it seems to me much less common among Christians. That is, after all, what faith is all about. Faith is often mocked by people who think that it means being irrational, following authority mindlessly, giving up intellectual curiosity. None of these things is true.

Faith is to some extent an acknowledgment that our most fundamental beliefs are inherently non-rational. That isn't the same as irrational. It would be irrational to refuse to believe in any non-rational premises, because then you could believe nothing. This is a point that escapes many people who think of themselves as hyper-rational and above superstitious nonsense.

I once had a conversation with one of the hyper-rational people where he mentioned that he didn't see how anyone could avoid the logical superiority of democracy. There was a perfectly objective, logical argument, he assured me, that proves that democracy is the best form of government. I was intrigued. Although I had some familiarity with logic and philosophy, I had never heard of such a program being successfully carried out.

On questioning, it turned out that he not only had no argument, he had not even a sketch of an argument. I pressed him, not out of cruelty, but curiosity, because it didn't occur to me that he was just spewing in the wind. Eventually he waved his hands about how it would start with the idea that people are all equal. I asked him how one would prove that proposition (there are plenty of people who don't find it axiomatic) and how one would go from a judgment about personal value to one about optimal institutions. There are no obvious connections. And furthermore, how was he defining "best" government?

My interlocutor hadn't thought about any of those things, yet he was absolutely convinced that democracy was the most logical form of government. Even after my questioning had to have made him painfully aware that he had no idea what the argument would be, he was convinced that it existed. He was equally convinced that all religions are illogical. And these were simply facts to him. He had no empirical or rational evidence to back them up. He was, in fact, relying entirely on the authority of various people who had informed his opinions throughout his life and he didn't even realize it. Yet he scorned Christians for relying too much on authority.

At least Christians know when we are relying on authority. How many people who scorn creationists know anything about the evidence for evolution? The large majority of them are relying entirely on the authority of Science for their contemptuous dismissal of those creationists who rely on authority. My point here is not about evolution, but about the rhetoric that surrounds it. Evolutionists who claim to disdain authority and follow only the evidence of their senses, relying entirely on authority, never having seen a fossil in their lives.

Ah, but don't they appeal to the evidence of their senses indirectly through the work of scientists? Of course they do. Actual scientists have actually dug fossils out of the ground and drawn conclusions from them. These people are able to look at a fossil and tell you whether the animal was a mammal or not, and how "advanced" it was. They can measure how old it is, and they have done all kinds of measurements and maps and graphs about where fossils are found. And they have studied genetics and inheritance and how animal species change over time. And from all of this they have drawn conclusions about things that happened in the distant past.

And why does the evolutionist believe their conclusions? Faith.

The evolutionist (which I am using as a shorthand for "people who believe that all life evolved from simple organisms") has faith that the scientists have done their job well, that they can actually tell the things about fossils that they say they can, that they have been honest, and, most importantly, that they started with the right premises. Because all of their conclusions depend on the premises they started with. Science is based on faith no less than religion is.

It is rather shameful that so few scientists realize this, and it is a way in which Christianity is intellectually superior to science. Christianity has the courage to face the nature of knowledge, belief and uncertainty. Christianity has the will to name and embrace the faculty that gives rise to their religious premises. Many scientists, by contrast, often don't even recognize that an epistemological problem exists. They just assume that their premises are inherently rational and haven't the intellectual curiosity to delve deeper.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


From Instapundit, Ben Stein defends Nixon. He even blames Woodward and Bernstein for the genocide in Cambodia. Reynolds thinks he's going to far, but I'm not so sure. If South Vietnam hadn't fallen to the communists, would Pol Pot have been able to conquer Cambodia? It's hard to say. And if America had maintained Nixon's aggressive Asia policy America could have been there to help.

It is a tenet of leftist mythology that the North Vietnamese beat the US, but that is just a myth. What happened is that the US destroyed North Vietnam's war-making ability and then left South Vietnam in a position to defend itself, with a promise that we would continue to keep it supplied with arms. When Nixon was weakened by Watergate, the Democrat Congress reneged on that promise and Nixon could do nothing to bring it to America's attention because the press would cover nothing but the scandal. At the end, South Vietnamese soldiers were being issued just five bullets (according to a Vietnamese friend of mine) to defend the city with.

America wasn't defeated in Vietnam. We abandoned and betrayed an ally. And that loss of American honor strengthened the communists enough that it made Cambodia possible.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

is this really necessary?

Michelle Malkin links to this site mocking George Voinovich because his voice broke emotionally during a Senate speech. Michelle said at the time that he was "blubbering and sniveling on the Senate floor".

But I listened to the speech and it convinced me that Voinovich's opposition to Bolton is a principled one. He really is deeply worried about the message that nomination will send people. Now, I, like Michelle, consider his desire to suck up to the Europeans contemptable, but it's no longer tenable to think that he is going against his party for cyncial reasons.

Voinovich is acting from principle. And although I don't agree with his principles, I have to respect the fact that he has them. If more politicians and voters had them, we would be a lot better off.

law, grace, and abortion

Eugene Volokh has another good post arguing that religiously-motivated ethics are no less legitimate than ethics from other sources. However, I believe he might contribute to a misunderstanding with this line:
How is (1) someone's gut feeling that an eight-month old fetus is so much like a baby that surely it shouldn't be killed a more legitimate basis to write laws than (2) someone's deduction from the Bible that any fetus can't be killed?
Although there are arguments from the Bible about abortion, they are far from conclusive. The so-called religious view on abortion --at least among evangelicals-- is really much more like the "gut feeling" approach than like a response to a direct commandment like "thou shalt not kill". It requires an appeal to the conscience.

I think a lot of non-Christians have the idea that the Bible is this long detailed instruction book on what to do in every situation ("First, shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three. No more, no less. Three shall be the number of the counting,...") and that Christians are trying to force everyone else to follow the rules. But although there are a couple of books in the Bible that look like that ("the Law"), almost all Christians believe that the Law no longer applies, it was superceded by Grace. And furthermore, most Christians believe that virtuous acts must be voluntary, even glad, or it is not virtue at all. There would be no point in forcing non-Christians to follow a set of dogmatic rules, except for the effect those rules have on others.

Christians don't want to outlaw abortion because they want to force people to follow a set of arcane religious rules, they want to outlaw abortion to save the lives of the most innocent and helpless human beings.

This isn't the first time that Christians have tried to force their idea of morality on the world in behalf of the helpless. The first time was when they opposed slavery. There is nothing in the Bible that says slavery is not allowed, yet Christians campaigned against it for centuries, eventually even fighting a war to free slaves. Abortion is just another case of the powerful oppressing the helpless, and just as on the slavery issue, Christians stand nearly alone on the side of the helpless.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

bad idea ...

... posting those pictures of Jessica Alba. Now every time I go to my blog I see the photos and get distracted. I don't even remember all those great ideas I had for blog posts.

By the way, you all narrowly escaped another story about a horrendous embarrassment. I went to a nightclub last night with some friends, including one very attractive young woman who put the full-court press on, trying to get me to dance with her.

I almost broke down, but you can all be thankful that I held strong to my rule: no physical humor. Otherwise I would have been whining for weeks about how humiliated I was.

The young woman was complaining that she's too old for the club scene. She's about fifteen years younger than me.


But heck. I'm a guy! I'm not competing on youth and good looks, I'm competing on wealth!

Just kidding. Well, half-kidding. An awful lot of the young ladies there are impressed by displays of wealth. Guys too I suppose. It's just a part of normal human interaction that I don't really understand. I observe the phenomenon, I'm not part of it.

Like I don't understand why people like to get drunk or smoke. Tried both, didn't like either. I'm not saying that I felt guilty or that there were some other negatives that outweighed the pleasure, I'm saying that there was no pleasure involved. It was a big "OK, now when does the fun start?" moment.

I expect that other drugs would leave me with the same reaction. I've taken narcotics and other powerful drugs prescribed by a physician and never found them anything except unpleasant. Sure, it's nice that the pain goes away, but the other effects are unpleasant.

I wonder if I'm so chemically unusual or if there are lots of people like me. Maybe it's just that the only people who ever talk about alcohol and other drugs are people who enjoy them. That would leave you with the impression that everyone enjoys them even if it weren't true.

But I suspect that this actually is unusual, that it's another one of my mutations. Oh, did I ever mention that my two middle toes on each foot are longer than the big toe? That's right. I'm a mutant.

No, it's not like my toes are webbed like that guy in Water World, but it's a well-known fact that the toes are a common give-away of mutants. Yep. Weird feet and an inhuman constitution that doesn't respond well to drugs. And another thing: although I didn't take especially good care of my teeth, I never had a cavity until my mid thirties. This is clearly a mutant power like being able to heal instantly from wounds. And my eyes are a funny color too. About half-way between blue and green. They're not blue. They're not green. They're a totally unique mutant color.

You know, this has made me realize something. I'm a monster! A freak! How could I ever have thought that Jessica Alba could love a miscreation like me? She's one of the most beautiful women in film and I, I am a grotesque: a malformed freak of nature. I should be grateful if she would look upon me with pity instead of turning her eyes away in revulsion.

But even if I am an aberration, an ill-formed mutant, I am not an animal! I am a human being!

OK, I wasn't actually planning to go there. I guess you all would have been better off with a post about my humiliating experience trying to dance. Well, maybe next week.