Saturday, December 22, 2007

Democrat turnaround on Iraq?

I have lost count of the conservative or pro-WoT blogs featuring posts about various Democrats being "forced" to acknowledge that we can't pull out of Iraq any time soon or that the surge is working. These pro-WoT bloggers seem to think that such admissions are being forced from unwilling Democrats who can no longer ignore the facts.

I have my doubts. It is hard to imagine that the facts at this point are so overwhelming that the party that claims that Iraq was at one time an American client state under Saddam or that Iran is not working on nuclear weapons, or that George Bush lied when he said that intelligence sources thought that Saddam was still interested in nuclear weapons, or that the US lost militarily in Vietnam, or that the Russians were never a genuine threat, or that Islam is a religion of peace, or that ... well, you get the point. It's hard to believe that such a group of people would be bludgeoned into submission by the still-ambiguous situation in Iraq.

What is really going on is something that Republicans don't see because they don't share the assumptions of Democrats. How many times have Democrats claimed that Bush lied us into war because it helped him politically? Republicans, I believe, just ignore this rhetoric because they view it as obviously silly. Intuitively it doesn't make any sense to most Republicans that just being in a war would get you political support, and clearly the war has not helped Bush much, so it's just a silly idea. The Democrats are apparently just flailing around and throwing random, incoherent accusations at Bush.

But I don't think this statement should be dismissed so quickly. After all, why would they make the accusation if they didn't think that it has some force? And why would they think the accusation has some force unless they actually believed it? That is what this means: Democrats, by and large, believe that it is politically beneficial for a president to be in a war.

This is particularly true of the Clintons. Bill Clinton obviously believes that war is good for the president because he had a habit of starting wars or bombing aspirin factories whenever he was in political trouble. And if Bill believed it, then Hillary probably believes it. And since the Clintons expect to take back the White House in the next election, they would like to have a war still going on for them to take advantage of.

On the bright side, if I'm right then maybe having a Democrat president would actually be good for the country in one way, that it would finally unify the country around our need for self defense.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sunday, December 16, 2007

the world's most toxic value system

I got this link from a comment on Maverick Philosopher: an essay on The World's Most Toxic Value System by Steven Dutch, a geology professor at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay.

It's surprising to see something this non-PC coming from a university professor. And it's depressing that it's surprising.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

rain blogging

I'm sitting here, drinking coffee, listening to the rain, and watching the white ocean surge and foam below me. Even where the water is clear of foam it is white. The sand is a grainy dark yellow or brown with dark and light patches. It looks like a mixture of gold dust and charcoal grains. I can't really see the waves coming in because the fog is so thick that it hides the ocean just a few dozen feet off shore. All I can see is a foamy surface dotted with patchy areas of white water fading away from the gold and charcoal beach, suddenly overrun by an incoming tide of eager fresh foam, surging and rolling like a herd of white horses, which also finds itself disappointed by the beach, only to fade away in its own turn.

When I tell people that I live in Pacifica, they want to commiserate with me --so rainy and foggy. They are Philistines, the lot of them. The weather here isn't oppressive, it is exciting. It changes. It breaths. Every morning I wake up, wondering what I will see when I look out my window. The fog isn't a hardship, it is an adventure. It limits the eyes and frees the imagination. What could be out there just beyond the event horizon? Perhaps a ghostly pirate ship, sailing forlornly in search of its lost crew. Or a monstrous kraken seeking to pull innocent mariners below the waves with its many tentacles. Or maybe the doorway to a lost world. Could I swim out into the fog and find myself in another place, another time, where men still have fast-paced adventures instead of slow, grinding responsibilities?

I like the rain and fog. I like the clammy feel on my skin because I know that warmth and comfort and coffee await me only minutes away. There is something about sitting behind clear glass, watching the wet misery outside while you sit comfortable and dry. Perhaps to understand it you have to have grown up in Phoenix, city of Lovely Days. In Phoenix, you can always tell the natives from the visitors because the visitors think that weather is a fit topic of conversation: "Well! Lovely Day today, isn't it?" "Yes, Lovely Day, just like the last twenty days and the next twenty days." To someone raised in Phoenix, Lovely Days are boring. Boring and hot.

One of my most pleasant memories from childhood is a rainy early morning. My mother woke me while it was still dark to help load the car. We packed suitcases on the luggage rack of the brown panel-sided Pontiac station wagon and then piled in the car to head for Indiana where I would see my grandparents and cousins. An adventure was beginning! And against all odds it was beginning properly --on a rainy morning. I vaguely recall that my father was concerned about driving in the rain, but didn't see why because I knew that he would get us safely to our destination. I watched the sky lightening through the thick clouds and the rain splattering against the window as I sat in warmth and comfort, and I wondered why all of life couldn't be such an adventure.

That's why I'm sitting here watching the rain and fog and waves and drinking a now-cooling cup of coffee instead of heading to work. I'll have to skip my workout this morning, but my soul needed the exercise more.

The fog is retreating now under threat of day. I can see the gray water in the distance heaving up in waves to crash down on the disappointed foam, and the pirate ship has receded so that I still cannot see it behind the fog.

But it is always that way, isn't it? The great adventures are always somewhere else. The present is too filled up with consequences and responsibilities; it has no room for enchantment.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I'm published!

It's in a self-published book, but I didn't publish it myself; Lyn Perry at Residential Aliens did. So technically, Lyn published me meaning that I've been published rather than I published myself. The difference is critical. Lyn is a (very) small publisher but she did a great job at rounding up temperamental authors (meaning me) and making it happen, so I predict a successful future.

The book is a collection of short stories titled Residential Aliens Anthology, Volume 1. My story is "Trancendence".

I probably won't be in any more anthologies because most of my writing doesn't fit Lyn's requirements, so you'd better buy this one.

Friday, October 26, 2007

who's left?

Well, nuts. I guess I can't support Huckabee after all. He sounds like a carbon copy of Bill Clinton/George Bush (link from Instapundit). The thing is, I could have sworn during the first debate I saw him in that he was talking about closing down some federal agencies. I must have been confusing him with someone else since I didn't know him at the time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

could Rudy really beat Hillary?

In this amazing discussion over at Patterico, anti-war types are defending a bunch of anti-war military men against a blogger on the grounds that the blogger doesn't have their experience. Completely missing from their comments is any hint of self-consciousness over the blatant double standards that they have endorsed. When General Patreus was attacked by Moveon.org, they supported Moveon.org, and this idea that someone without military experience is in no position to criticize someone with military experience was no where to be found.

This is typical of the Left. They could not care less about military men who want us to win in Iraq, but they insist on the absolute practical experience of military men who want us to retreat. They could not care less about family of men killed in Iraq when those family members want us to win, but they insist on the absolute moral authority of family members who want us to retreat. They get hysterical at any faintest trace of a comment that might call into question their unqualified love and support of America, but they call us unpatriotic constantly, and based on the most contrived of reasoning.

Consistency and honesty is not a virtue on the Left. Twisting words and facts and situations to suit their propaganda is a virtue. That's why they are so in love with widows, children, handicapped veterans, and other sympathetic characters as their spokesmen. They know that they have no facts on their side, so instead they look for spokesmen that they can support with the "how dare you!" argument.

So what does this have to do with Rudy and Hillary? Basically, if people think that being a serial adulterer is now politically acceptable because of Bill Clinton, they are failing to take into account the blatant hypocrisy of the Left. Soon after Rudy is elected you will start seeing editorials from Leftists who supported Bill Clinton saying, "Can we really trust a man when his own wife couldn't trust him?" and "What does it say about a man that he can't keep a marriage vow?" and "I've grown older and wiser since the days when I foolishly defended Bill Clinton. I now realize what a terrible thing is is to cheat on the woman who bore your children."

Hillary already has this campaign scoped out. Bill Clinton will give a tearful interview where he bites his lower lip a lot and says how bad he feels that he cheated on Hillary --but at least he didn't divorce his beloved wife while she lay sick in the hospital from cancer like Rudy did. Bill Clinton will manage to leave the viewer with the understanding that at least he had the character to work and overcome his lechery. Rudy didn't.

There will be articles in women's magazines about the agony that women go through when their husbands cheat on them. There will be scientific studies showing that men who cheat on their wives have other untrustworthy traits. There will be specials on the history channel about the evil dictators of the past who cheated on their wives. There will be episodes on popular TV series about selfish cheaters who divorced their sick wives to go indulge their worst nature with younger hussies. America will once again learn that keeping your promises is a good thing and adultery is a bad thing.

Against the money of the Democrat machine and the Democrat-controlled mass media, there is no way --no way-- that a philanderer can win a presidential election against a woman who was hurt by a philanderer. No way.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

sigh, I really prefer Miller Light

Miller Light is my favorite beer. Actually, it's one of the few beers that I don't dislike, but I'll be switching to cocktails when I do my social drinking because as of now, I'm boycotting Miller (link from The God Fearin' Forum). Two things about this: first, Miller's offense isn't just against Catholics. The Folsom Street Fair is an open and public celebration of sexual libertinism. It is the focal point of the libertine efforts to push the boundaries of what is socially acceptable. By supporting it, Miller is funding an effort to expand those boundaries. I think the boundaries have gone far enough already, and Miller won't be using my money to push them further.

So, sure, it's going to be a little awkward when all the guys are having beer and me and the chicks are having margaritas, but on the bright side, I really like margaritas better anyway --on the rocks, with salt on the rim. Out here in the Bay Area, you have to actually ask for them that way or they might give you one of those headache-inducing frozen concoctions with no salt. Some of these barbarians even put fruit in their margaritas and make it a sweet drink. It's almost more than an old Tucsonan can tolerate.

By the way, the Folsom Street Fair was the occasion for number 7 in my list of things that I've seen in San Francisco that I never saw in Tucson. I had no idea what was going on, just that a bunch of men were wandering around the streets in leather thongs and vests. This wasn't in an isolated area, it was spillover from Folsom Street to Market where innocent tourists were wandering around with their kids.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

grievance mongering from the Right?

This story about some US marines returning from Iraq who were not allowed to enter the Oakland terminal is making the rounds. There is a lot of wailing and chest pounding over this incident, but I don't think it is any more than a bureaucratic mix up. There is no evidence to justify the accusations of a deliberate snub by Left-coast liberals, and certainly nothing here is comparable to the disgraceful way that some troops were treated when they returned from Vietnam.

This looks suspiciously like the Right is trying on the tactic of grievance mongering that the Left has used so successfully. You know: any time that a white does something to a black, it's racism; any time a social conservative does something to a gay it's homophobia. Now is it any time a liberal does something to a soldier it's martiophobia?

Frankly, I would like my side to be better than that. It may be an effective tactic but it is not an ethical tactic. The Right has been doing pretty well so far by just confronting the self-serving lies of the Left with the truth. I suggest we stick with that tactic.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

more lies from the History Channel

The History Channel is running a series on Megadisasters (or Mega Disasters). The one on climate change is the most dishonest show I've seen yet on the History Channel, and that's saying something.

They spend a long time talking about the glaciers melting and the ocean rising. They say that a one-foot rise in the oceans could lead to losing a hundred, or even a thousand feet of land. That wasn't the dishonest part (as far as I know; I'm no climate scientist). But then they talk about six islands off the East Coast disappearing under the water over the last couple of generations and have a tearful tale of one guy trying to save a civil-war era graveyard on another island that is disappearing. Then they talk about the fact that wetlands along the coast have disappeared and how the loss of barrier islands and wetlands is such a huge danger to big East-coast cities if a hurricane ever hits. Then they start talking about what will happen to Washington D.C. if the ocean rises a foot.

Did you catch the sleight of hand there? They never actually said that rising sea levels caused the islands or wetlands to disappear, they just left that impression. Only if you were really paying attention and you know how coastal erosion works did you eke out the information that the island with the graveyard is disappearing due to natural erosion, and then you would realize that this is no doubt what happened to the other islands as well. If I hadn't spent the last two year taking walks along the beach and observing coastal erosion in action, I probably would have missed this point. Yet the History Channel deliberately left the false impression that rising oceans due to global warming have already drowned islands on the East Coast.

They also deliberately left that impression with regard to wetlands and gave no hints to why the wetlands are really disappearing. I suspect that what they are really referring to is the development of the wetlands, which is often cited as a reason that hurricanes cause so much more damage than they used to.

But that wasn't all. They then switched to the Little Ice Age. They said that the Little Ice Age caused severe storms just like global warming is going to cause severe storms. See, if the climate gets slightly warmer we have severe storms and if the climate gets slightly colder we have severe storms. I guess right now the Earth is in an ideal climate cusp. Move just a smidgen in either direction and everything just goes to hell.

But that wasn't all. They suggested that the changing climate somehow caused the black plague. They never really explained how this happened, just waived their hands a bit and then went on as if the idea were proven, attributing all of the deaths of the black plague to climate change. According to this theory, millions and millions of people died due to the Little Ice Age. And then there were famines and wars in that period --more deaths attributed to the Little Ice Age just to pump the fear of the viewer. With the choppy editing and the pictures of people suffering in the cold, if you weren't paying attention, you were left with the impression that all of these millions of people died from cold and exposure due to climate change.

float like a butterfly, pedal like a penguin

Here is a cool idea: the Hobie mirage drive converts bicycle-style pedaling into penguin-style paddling to drive a kayak. They claim that you can get twice the power with this technique as you can get by paddling.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Democrats and scoundrels

The recent theatrics surrounding the Jena 6, the dictator of Iran speaking at Columbia, and the revival of the O. J. story provoke me to ask a question. Why is the Democratic party always sticking up for thugs, brutal dictators, murderers and other scoundrels?

The Jena 6 are 6 black high-school students who beat the crap out of a single white guy at their high school. They hit him from behind, knocking him unconscious, and then kicked him in the head when he was on the ground unmoving. These are the people that the Democrats think deserve their support. Why? Oh, because there is alleged racism involved. Apparently, the Democrats can't imagine any other reason why a prosecutor may have charged the kids with attempted murder other than racism, never mind that that they kicked him in the freaking head while he was on the ground unconscious and had to be pulled off by bystanders or who knows what they would have done. But even assuming that the prosecutor was actually a racist, is that any reason to defend a pack of violent juvenile thugs out to terrorize their high school? Can't you go after the prosecutor for racism without defending the violent criminals that he prosecuted? Don't the Democrats have that little module that sits in the back of the mind (it's called a "conscience") that is shocked by brutality? How can anyone with a conscience actively seek to help the Jena 6 avoid the consequences of their actions?

And then there is Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, who endorses the killing of homosexuals, the enslavement of all women, and the forced conversion of the entire world to his religion. He spoke at Columbia University this week to wild cheering by a group of people that I can guarantee you are largely fanatics in favor of gay rights, women's rights, and religious freedom, and always vote Democrat. And that in spite of the fact that these Democrats claim to care deeply about other people in other countries when there is any excuse at all to blame the US for bad things that happen, they still don't give a damn what happens to gays, women, and non-Muslims in those countries. Don't these people ever get tired of cheering on brutal dictators? From Stalin and Mao to Saddam, Arafat and Ahmadinejad, these people will cheer on any mass murderer, no matter how grotesque, as long as that mass murderer is sufficiently opposed to the United States. OK, I get it --they think that the United States has too much power, is too arrogant, and needs to be taken down a few pegs. But even believing that, don't they ever get tired of defending, honoring, and siding with mass murderers? Don't they ever stop and think to themselves, "Hey, this guy may be doing what I want in attacking the US, but geeze, he murders and imprisons a lot of people. Maybe I should tone down my hero worship a bit." Don't they ever think that?

And then there is O. J. Simpson, who murdered his wife and the party of hysterical measures against wife-abuse leaped to his defense. And when Ted Kennedy killed a woman while drunk driving, the party of hysterical penalties for drunk drivers sent him back to the Senate. Then there are all of the women who have murdered their own husbands or their own (already born) children that the Democrats have defended on the basis that they were really depressed and/or frightened when they did it. Well, OK, have some sympathy for depressed people, but crimeny, when a woman murders five of her own children, she needs to spend the rest of her freakin' life confined. Surely anyone with a healthy conscience recognizes that, don't they?

And it's not just thugs, despots, and murderers. The democrats also defend adulterous presidents, former-KKK senators, bribe-taking Congressmen, cocaine-snorting mayors and other scoundrels. It seems that being a Democrat (or anti-Republican, or in the international arena, an anti-American) is a free pass for just about any form unethical or criminal behavior imaginable. But don't they ever just get exhausted defending the indefensible? I know I get exhausted watching them do it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

the truth about Star Trek

Ilya Somin has an astonishing and well-reasoned theory about the truth behind the contradictory Star Trek universe. Ever wonder why a supposedly pacifist Earth seems to be run by the military? Every wonder, in this supposed Federation, how come only Earth seems to have a significant military? Why they claim that everything they need can be replicated but they still have missions that involve finding or delivering rare items or substances? Why they claim to have done away with currency, but there are still very rare items that seem to find their way into the possession of top military officers? Why in a supposedly egalitarian society, in a ship of a thousand people and four holo-decks, the decks always seem to be unoccupied when the top officers want to use them? Why they are always running into individual humans and human societies that are trying to avoid the Federation? Why all of the telepaths seem to be in government or the military? Why all alien races look like oddly-colored humans with strange faces?

He is a little off on the Prime Directive. It is both more sinister and more pernicious than Ilya imagines. Maybe I'll have time to set the record straight later this week.

And what's up with that snotty, self-righteous line "We no longer enslave animals for food" by someone who can get all the replicated Chateau Brignon, Dungeness crab, and bratwurst he wants for free? What a dork.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I really need one of these

Ever look out into your back yard and think, "Geeze, those hundreds of chickens are pooping in the swimming pool, eating all the flower seeds, and giving the cat a nervous twitch. Sure wish I could find some entertaining way of rounding them all up"? Me neither. But if I did, I'd know the solution: the revolutionary new EZ Catch Chicken Harvester.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

evil food design

Potato chips are about the worst thing you can eat and I hadn't had any significant number of chips for fifteen or twenty years. Then they came out with jalapeno and jabanero chips. I love spicy food and I love the taste of jalapeno peppers. I've had about ten bags of chips in the last month.

Have they no shame?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

reductionism and God

Donald Crankshaw mentions this post by Joe Carter about Roy Clauser's account of reductionism. I've called reductionism an intellectual disease in the past, and argued against it elsewhere, so I was predictably interested when someone claimed that reductionism is a consequence of the godless intellect. But Clauster's argument is disapointing on two scores. First, he mischaracterizes Platonism, and second, he defines "reductionism" to include everything, even the opposite of reductionism, as long as God isn't invoked.

First on Platonism: it is very difficult to try to summarize a complex philosophical position in one or two paragraphs, and even more difficult to do so when you are not sympathetic with the position. But Clauster should know this, and so he should take extra care when doing so. In particular, his description of Platonism refers to abstract objects as existing in "another dimension of reality in which there are real things called numbers". Dimensions are spatial objects, and the implication is that abstract objects are sitting around somewhere as if the set of even numbers might have been left on top of the set of primes, so that it must be moved to get to the primes.

Platonism is not like this. To a Platonist, numbers and sets are real in this dimension, not some other dimension. When a Platonist says that numbers and sets are real, we don't mean that they are real like chairs and planets; we mean that they are real like numbers and sets. They have no mass, no position, no time. Questions like "Where are they?", "When are they?", "Where did they come from?", "What is going to happen to them?" simply do not apply. Platonism isn't even a subtle philosophical position; it is the natural position. Why is 1+1=2? Well, just because 1 is the sort of thing that when added to itself give you another thing, 2. By calling them things, you are implying that they exist.

Platonism is just the rejection of complex philosophy about what numbers are. Some people, for example, have argued that numbers are just marks on paper and that the rules of mathematics are just arbitrary rules. But then they have to answer questions like this: in the equation 1+1=2, what do the first 1 and the second 1 have in common? On paper they are different marks. And what do they have in common with the other instances of the mark that would be written in the rules? The simple, natural, pre-philosophical answer is just this: the equation isn't about the marks. Rather, the mark 1 represents a thing, a number. And the rules are written to be correct rules that go with the numbers.

Platonism is a form of realism. It is the claim that numbers are real in themselves and cannot be reduced to anything else. This is the opposite of reductionism. Reductionism (of numbers) is the claim that numbers aren't real in themselves; they are in fact something else: marks on paper, thoughts in the head, collections of physical objects, etc. By taking a realist theory and calling it reductionist, Clauser is making the word apply to the very thing that it is supposed to exclude, thereby twisting the word into something entirely different than its common meaning.

What is even more peculiar is that Clauser seems to be a Platonist and not realize it. At least his account of numbers is something that sounds perfectly fine to a Platonist:
We abstract that quantity and set up a symbol system to represent it. And we discover relationships among those quantities. The symbol system is our invention, but we find quantities and their relations in God’s creation.
You can't "find" quantities and "discover" relationships among quantities unless the quantities are real. If quantities (that is, numbers) were fictitious then you could invent them and their relationships, but not discover them. To discover relationships among things, the things have to be there to be investigated and understood. They have to be real.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Mist Magic part 30

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
I knew it was over when I saw that fourth police car arrive. The narrow gravel road would not even let two cars pass each other, much less leave room to hide in the fog. Before, I had been a man with an unbelievable story; now I was a man with an unbelievable story caught trying to get away. Close to losing control of the car in the dense murk, I closed the door and reached for the handbrake. A pothole sent the car bouncing, slamming my head hard against the roof. Dazed by the blow, I could not find the handbrake in the dark, and my feet seemed all tangled up and unable to get to the foot brake. The car rattled and shook down the road, barely under control. Ahead of me, the pulsing lights came slowly up the main road and ... right past the turnoff. The cop had missed the gravel road in the fog.

The front of the car scraped alarmingly as I hit the pavement and the car drifted as I jerked the wheel around to take me in the opposite direction from the police car. I corrected by turning into the drift and straightened out to head in the direction that I thought the road led. The cop's backup lights came on and I coasted down the main road, watching to see what he would do. He tuned onto the gravel road and a few second later, I braked to a stop, started my engine, turned on my lights and began the slow drive home.

Later that evening, I answered a firm knock at the door. Two policemen greeted me sternly. When I made my call to 911 my voice had been tight, so I relaxed my throat as much as I could and lowered my voice an octave from my usual tone. I also added a slight Texas accent. "Yes, officers, how can I help you?"

"May we come in?"

I stepped out and closed the door behind me. "I'd rather talk out here. What is the problem?"

"You don't want your neighbors overhearing this, we should probably go inside."

"Why? What is it about?"

"Is this your jacket, sir?"

"Well, I have a jacket like that but I think mine is in my closet. Do you want me to go check?"

"We'll go check if you don't mind."

"I'll go check. No offense, but I anyone who watches NYPD Blue knows not to let a police man in the house." The cop looked annoyed, but he let me go into my house and come out a few seconds later. "The jacket isn't in my closet where I usually put it so that could be mine. I also can't find my cell phone. Is it in the jacket pocket?"

"Any idea how you lost the jacket?"

"Well, I was wearing it this morning, so I probably took it off somewhere and left it. Did you find my cell phone too?"

"Any idea where you might have left it?"

I told them where I had eaten lunch and where I had stopped for coffee that day.

"Your cell phone," one of the them told me dramatically, "was used to lure police to a location where they were ambushed."

"Oh, crap. Was anyone killed?"

"Did you call 911 earlier today?"

"Sorry, if I'm suspected of a homicide, I'm not going to answer any more questions without a lawyer."

"No officers were injured. We are just investigating how this call was made."

"I'm sorry. I know you are just doing your job, but I'm suddenly at a huge risk and I have to protect myself. No more answers without my lawyer."

I must have put on a convincing show because they didn't detain me. They just said that detectives would be in touch with me, but no one ever called.

A few weeks later, I decided to tell the story on my blog, and you pretty much know the rest. It's a fanciful tale, of course. Alternative worlds, ancient gods, sea monsters and mythology. But who was that guy and why did he pause in his murder to tell me the story? I'll leave it to you to wonder.
the end

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mist Magic part 29

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
As I approached the open gate, police lights flashed and glowed through the thick fog like pulsing alien monsters from an old science fiction movie. I had parked further up the road so the cops probably had not seen my small white car. I crept in to the driver seat and pulled the door closed without latching it. The ignition switch clicked loudly as I turned the key just far enough to unlock the steering wheel. Red brake lights flashed briefly as I pressed the pedal to shift out of park and I held my breath, listening for a sign that I had been seen. The shift clicked smoothly from reverse into neutral and the car drifted down the gravel road, a white ghost in the fog except for the gravel crunching like corn flakes under its tires.

But now there were three alien monsters ahead of me; there had been just two when I passed through the gate. When had the third cop arrived? Was he still in his car or standing by the gate? I had no choice but to drift close past the two police cars because there was no room on the road. And in the murk, it was only the police cars that told me where the road was. I heard a man speaking somewhere ahead of me and pulled my parking break to stop suddenly. The gravel bunching up under my tires sounded like a gunshot to me, but the voice wandered off into the night.

I released the hand break and the car started to roll again. Once past the police cars, I realized that I had another problem: there was no light to show me the road. From memory, I knew that there were trees to the left and a sharp drop off to the right and this whole plan was starting to seem ill-considered. How was I going to get down this hill without light? Then I heard the zing of a branch against my car and the problem was solved. The left side of the road was crowded with thick brush. All I had to do was hold my door half open and guide myself by the thickness of the brush it was hitting. Too much resistance and I would be in danger of a tree, too little and I would be in danger of the cliff.

This strategy worked for a few moments, but when I started picking up speed, another flaw in my plan came to light. With one hand on the wheel an another on the door, how was I going to use the handbrake? A steepening slope sent my car careening downward at an ever faster pace, faster than I would normally have driven even in daylight in clear weather. With the road invisible beneath me, this speed would wreck me in seconds. I was about to take a chance and use my foot brake when the fourth of those pulsing alien monsters appeared ahead of me.
continued

storyblogging

The new Storyblogging Carnival is up.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mist Magic part 28

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
The footsteps echoed in my mind like visions. In this peculiar state of concentration, I fancied that I could see the visitors through the vale of fog --shadowy figures waking forward with purposeful steps, one large and the other medium size. Was my mind playing tricks on me or had I really entered into a state of heightened awareness, able to judge a man's size and pace just from the faint crunching on gravel? I will never know.

Timing was everything. My life hung in the balance. I focused my eyes in the direction of the approaching footfalls. When I saw the light, I screamed. I am not much of a screamer, or even a shouter, but I did my best to give a convincing scream of pain and terror. I fear that my performance was lackluster, but good enough for the effect that I was looking for. The man was so hidden in fog that I could not see his reaction, but I heard a voice shout out, "Police! Get down on the ground!"

The shout was what I wanted. The man would be startled, distracted, but only for a moment. I waited half a heartbeat for the man to refocus his attention in the direction of the shout and then I rolled away from the spotlight into the darkness, leaving my dark jacket behind. Gunshots sounded just feet away from me, two shots, close together. They left my ears ringing.

"Gun!"

"Drop your weapon!"

"Shots fired!"

"Drop your weapon and get down on the ground!"

"Subject is fleeing!"

Footsteps pounded past as I lay still on the ground. I rolled back to my jacket, and out of a morbid curiosity, felt over the chest area. There were two holes in the jacket, near where the man would have seen my heart as he looked down on the dark form of my jacket in the fog. I rolled to my back and forced myself to breath deep and evenly for a moment. How would I explain this to the police? "Well, officer, I broke into this area to watch the sunset and this strange guy came over and said he was going to kill me and then jumped off the tower, so I called 911 and then when I climbed to the bottom of the latter, he knocked me down and started telling me stories until you showed up and then he tried to shoot me before he ran away."

Ri-i-i-ight. They would never catch the skeleton man --I was certain of that. The police would think that I had fired the shots myself, and then threw the gun away as some sort of prank. They had already identified my phone from the call to 911, but they hadn't yet identified me as the caller. After a moment of thought, I took the cell phone from my pocket, quickly wiped it across my pants to remove most of the finger prints and then put it in the pocket of the jacket. I crept away through the fog.
continued

Residential Aliens

I should have mentioned this a long time ago: Lyn Perry has started a webzine for speculative fiction called Residential Aliens. One of my stories is in the second edition. On sampling one of the other entries, A Ship of Heaven?, which is very good, I'm thinking that I should have made a couple of more passes over Trancendence to clean it up.

Also, Sheya and one or two other people will be glad to know that I've finished Mist Magic. Now it's just a matter of posting the three remaining sections. We will see if I have time to do that...

Mist Magic part 27

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
As I listened to the droning of the assassin, a tremor shook me; the damp cold had seeped from the ground into my body. The faint sound of tires on a gravel road seeped through the fog and the odd story, which had temporarily engrossed me, fled to the background of my thoughts. I confess that I recall no more of it from this point. Intently I listened until my ears caught the resonant thunk of a car door closing ... and then another ... and was that the sound of distant voices?

As I concentrated on the sounds of rescue, the strange man ignored them; either engrossed in his own story or hard of hearing. I rather suspected that his hearing was not good, or he should have heard me call 911 from the top of the tower. Or was he really so unconcerned about the arrival of the police?

A chain rattled and a latch clicked. Somewhere, invisible in the fog, the interlopers were approaching. Were they here to rescue me from the crazy man or here to help the crazy man hide the body? For it suddenly occurred to me that the man could have been calling his friends while I was calling 911. And what if they were police? Would the man fight? I worried that he had a gun, and that as soon as he saw the police he would shoot me to keep his story a secret.

How can I describe the odd sensation of that moment? Not fear, really; I should call it focus. The cold ground had numbed my body. The fog obscured my vision as the spotlight dazzled it. Only sound existed, and not even all sounds. The droning of the story teller passed through my ears like a ghost, leaving no impression. All of my concentration focused on that small patch of ground between where I lay and where the gate stood, newly open.

I must have lay in that mode for a minute or two, but it seemed timeless. Suddenly I heard it --the crunch of shoes on gravel. The visitors had arrived.
continued

Saturday, August 18, 2007

kids learn self-reliance, adults whine about it

Instapundit links disapprovingly to this story about kids in a reality TV show where the kids are on their own for several weeks. Then he links approvingly to this moralizing comment about the show.

I thought Glenn Reynolds believed in teaching kids to be tough and self-reliant. The show sounds great for a kid, something that I would have loved to do at that age. You think you know better than your parents? Well now's the time to prove it.

So some kid got splattered with hot cooking grease and another kid drank bleach (there's no way that happened to more than one kid unless it was a deliberate prank). Bad stuff happens. Bad stuff happens to kids every day. It's life. And if bad stuff is going to happen to kids, they may as well have a fun and exciting life in between.

You don't do your kids any favors by protecting them from the dangers inherent in fun activities. Some of my fondest memories as a kid involve doing things that parents would never have allowed. And the idea that we can let them have fun with careful supervision is just missing the point. They need to be outside of adult supervision so they can learn for themselves what is a good idea and what isn't. Kids that are constantly under responsible supervision learn that the highest priority in life is to not get hurt. Such kids grow up to be liberal pansies.

You know, liberal pansies --the ones who tell you that if you get mugged, you should just give up your wallet because money isn't worth getting hurt over. Liberal pansies are the ones who don't think you should own a gun, only the government --the surrogate adults-- should use guns. And liberal pansies are the ones who think that the government --the adults that they never had a chance to outgrow-- should take care of all of their needs.

Kids need to grow up. And to do that, they need to be on their own, they need to take risks, and yes, they need to get hurt. And when they get hurt they need to get up and go on having fun without going crying to their mommy or their government for solace. That's what makes them an adult.

UPDATE: Just saw another article on Captain's Quarters. Ed Morrissey and Glenn Reynolds deserve a lot of credit for their valid and pointed criticism of the Networks. But I suspect that they have gotten so used to the major networks being run by dicks that they sometimes criticize the networks reflexively, even when the networks didn't do anything wrong. Those child-actor laws that Morrissey is talking about are pretty overbearing (as are most child-labor laws in this country). And the laws are intended to protect professional, long-term child actors, not kids involved in one six-week show.

A lot of the Captain's commenters seem to agree with me.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Huckabee wins Ames (in a manner of speaking)

I've been reading the Corner's blogging on the Iowa Ames straw poll. The surprise second-place finisher at the Ames straw poll was Mike Huckabee. My first introduction to Mike Huckabee was in the FOX News Republican presidential debate when he was ambushed with a question about evolution. I'd never heard of him before, but the wording of the question warned me that Huckabee was a religious conservative who was about to embarrass* the Republican party by ranting about the godless evolutionists in our school system; instead, he surprised me with a very measured, humble, and forthright response. I was especially happy that he took the questioner to task for bringing up the subject in the first place.

Huckabee continued to impress me in the debate, and I recall thinking afterward that I would like to support him, but that there were two contraindications. First, he was not one of the front runners --better to support Romney and see him win than support someone who has no chance and see Giuliani win. Second, Huckabee is a religiously-conservative former Baptist minister and I've always felt that a large proportion of the Bush hatred is inspired by religious bigotry against religiously conservative Christians. I'm not sure if the country can take another four years of this sort of animosity.

But this implies that we can never have another openly-Christian, openly-conservative person in the presidency without having 40% of the country hate, despise and revile him for the entire duration of his term. Has the social breakdown gone so far? I don't think I'm ready to throw in the towel on that score yet, and anyway, the Left has never seen a defeat that didn't call for a long, drawn out, vicious, intemperate, defamatory, mass hissy fit. So I decided that reason 2 was not a good reason; such thinking is a surrender to spite and hatred. It would be unjust if it were impossible for any committed Christian to be president just because so many Americans hate Christians. I want peace among Americans, but not more than I want justice.

And now, it seems that reason number 1 may no longer be valid. Noam Scheiber writes:
there seem to be a lot of social conservatives currently supporting Romney because he's running as the most conservative of the top-tier candidates. Now that Huckabee has demonstrated his viability, it's not hard to imagine him peeling off a decent number of Romney's conservative backers.
I read this and though, "Hey, that's me!" Romney is a good guy and I would be happy to vote for him as president. But he's not a great guy. I'm not sure I can trust him on immigration or court nominees, and he's not talking about killing federal programs. Huckabee is probably to my right on the first two issues, which makes him a good balance to the Washington machine, and he's as far right as you can get on the third issue and still have any chance of being elected --which is still well to my left :-).

There's another good reason to like Huckabee: he's cool. Here's a music video of him playing the Credence tune Green River I never particularly liked CCR's album version, but this band makes it sound good. In the clip, Huckabee says that he has a band called "Capitol Offense" (I'm guessing at the spelling of "Capitol" as a pun on the fact that the band members came from the state capitol). Huckabee plays an electric bass, which is way cooler than a saxophone. I found another clip where he's playing Sweet Home Alabama, but the audio is so bad that it's not worth linking. And according to the Des Moines Register, he was doing Free Bird at Ames. I'm not crazy about Free Bird, but the guy's been seen playing two Skynard tunes and one CCR, so he's officially cool even if he does play an occasional song by the Beetles --the most over-rated band in all of world history. This coolness factor, if played right, has the potential to suppress a lot of the anti-Christian hostility (in the voice of Bart Simpson's bus driver): "Hey, dude, sure he's like a preacher-dude, but he also plays the Stones, dude. Rock on!"

footnotes
* Not that I think it is embarrassing to be skeptical about evolution, just that in the current debate-stifling environment, you can't possibly argue such a position in a way that won't leave a substantial proportion of Americans thinking that you are a loon, even in a supposedly open-minded academic environment, much less in a political arena dominated by reporters and commentators who have been conditioned to think of evolution skeptics as loons.

acknowledgements
Several of the links here came from the Corner.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Fred Thompson for Vice President

Dean Barnett is one of the few commentators who can actually make the elections interesting this far ahead of the event. He says that Fred Thompson has to get in the race now, but I wonder if he really knows what Thompson wants. Mabye Fred realizes that he doesn't have the experience to be president and what he has really been shooting for all along is the VP slot. He has proven that he can generate enthusiasm and that he can attack the Democrats effectively. I wasn't thrilled about Thompson as a president since his main qualification seemed to be gravitas, but as a VP, I think he would be awesome. And after a stint as VP, maybe he would be qualified to run for president.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

I've been tagged

I've been tagged by Xrlq.

For those of you who don't know, tagging games are the linking pyramid schemes of the blogosphere. Some enterprising young whippersnapper tags five other blogs and asks them to write something or answer a question. Then those five blogs are supposed to do another five blogs. The exponential growth should very quickly cover the entire blog world. So how come this is the first time I've ever been tagged?

I'm guessing it's because the blogger who started this one came up with an amazing new innovation. Instead of tagging five people, you have to tag eight. Where do people get these ideas from? And since I'm not sure I know eight bloggers who are still active, I'm going to have to stretch on my tags.

By the way, I tried to trace the path back to the original genius who thought of an 8-way pyramid scheme, but after a grueling slog through a chain of chick blogs, I came to a dead end where the bloggeress seemed to have gotten the meme from elsewhere but didn't say where.

So anyhow, here are the rules:
The rules are simple…Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.


1. I typically eat meals at 7/11 several times per month.

2. I own 8 different long-sleeve pseudo-dress shirts with Loony Tunes characters on them. This highly unorthodox apparel doesn't seem to impress the ladies all that much. Go figure.

3. I believe that the finest contribution that the show South Park has made to our culture is by reviving the word "hippie" as a pejorative term.

4. When I open a package that contains a pastry of some sort and part of the pastry sticks to the cellophane, I lick it off before I start on the main pastry.

5. I don't blog in pajamas; I find them too restricting.

6. My favorite musical styles are blues and 70's pop. What's the connection? Probably I like 70's pop because when I was a kid the only things on the radio were pop and heavy metal --and I hate heavy metal. I probably like the blues because it is my natural musical form: the blues makes heavy use of syncopation and I have no rhythm. The blues uses a flattened scale and I sing a lot of flat notes. I'm a born blues singer!

7. I can sort of play the blues harp. For those of you who aren't into the scene, a blues harp is a harmonica played in the blues style. What I mean by "sort of play" is that I can do a lot of the blues effects but I don't put in the necessary practice time to actually perform any numbers other than Amazing Grace.

8. My favorite colors are purple, gold, and turquoise. When I gave this answer to my grandmother many years ago, she dutifully knit me an afghan in those very colors. She is gone now, but I think of her every time I see that afghan.

So, for those of you who made it through the entire list, here are my tags:

La Shawn Barber
Back of the Envelope
Mostly Cajun
Monday Evening (BTW, Tom, I haven't been able to leave a comment at your site for about a year now. I keep meaning to send you an email about it...)
Spacemonkey
Master of None
TheGodFearinForum
Maverick Philosopher

where are the calls for an investigation?

Dean Barnett has written a very good summary of that New Republic article, "Shock Troops", on events in Iraq. "Shock Troops" describes some grotesque and possibly illegal behavior by American soldiers in Iraq. It makes them out to be cruel and sociopathic. However, the story is highly implausible and has been soundly thrashed on the right side of the blogosphere.

Barnett observes that the New Republic seems to have failed to do any fact-checking before publishing the story and wonders how that could have happened. He offers that the reason that this happened is because the editors of the New Republic didn't find the story at all remarkable. They really do believe, deep in their little Leftist souls, that American soldiers are a bunch of hateful sociopaths, just the kind of warmongers who would do these sorts of things, and so the editors didn't think the story was doubtful enough to be worth checking.

I beg to differ. Barnett's is a reasonable interpretation but it fails to explain the peculiar fact that neither the New Republic nor the Left blogosphere is jumping on this story and demanding an investigation. Name one plausible event of this kind in the last twenty years that the left didn't want investigated --didn't hysterically demand be investigated. I can't think of one. If a report leaves the military in a bad light then the Left invariably wants a long and rectally thorough public examination of the events. They want all of the dirty laundry aired in order to bring maximum discredit upon our military forces and in order to extend the story and weld it into public perception.

Where are the calls for an investigation over this incident? You won't hear any from the Left because no one, on left or right, really believes that this story is true.

Well, I call for an investigation. If these things really are true then we need to know about it. We need to punish the soldiers involved and retire the officers that let it go on. We should all demand an investigation into these allegations. Let's air the dirty laundry. Let's find out who is mocking women who were disfigured by an enemy attack, let's find out who is running over dogs with military equipment, and let's find out who is lying.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Volkswagen as Jesus

Have you seen the new TV commercial where a ride in a Volkswagen redeems a sinner? No, really. A car thief steals the Volkswagen and drives it away. During the ride his life is changed by the spiritual transforming grace of the automobile and he returns it to its owner. The announcer says in a gentle voice: "When you get into a Volkswagen, it gets into you."

I kid you not.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

of babes and babies

As I was walking out of the gym this morning past the rows of exercise machines, I noticed that all of the women were looking to the right and all of the men were looking straight ahead. What was going on? I couldn't see what the women were looking at, but when I scanned my sensory inputs, I heard a baby crying. It was actually pretty loud but it hadn't impinged on my awareness at first. Apparently it hadn't impinged on the awareness of any of the other men in the gym either, but every woman in the place had zeroed in on it like a cat spotting a mouse.

I thought it was cute.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I think I'm in love with Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Hot Air has an "interview" of Ayaan Hirsi Ali by some smug America-hating prick. I put "interview" in sneer quotes because it's clear that the "interviewer" was really only interested in scolding her. This ignorant twit who has never lived outside of Canada wants to lecture a woman who grew up in a Muslim society about what Islam really is all about. Then he tries to explain to this woman who as a child, was sexually mutilated by her own Muslim society, he wants to explain to her how awful American society is for Muslims. People stare at them! They have to go through airport security for heaven's sake! Doesn't she understand what an outrage that is?!

Hirsi Ali kicked his pretentious butt all up and down that interview room. She remained poised and confident, answering all of his barbed comments with logic and slapped him down like a begging dog when he attacked her.

Hirsi Ali, in case you don't know is the woman who wrote the film that got producer Theo Van Gogh murdered by Muslims. Hirsi Ali had to go into hiding to avoid meeting the same fate.

Here's a funny quote from the site that aired the interview:
... Until she [Hirsi Ali] went into politics and ended up with the rightwing Liberal Party, which was exploiting a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment at the time.
So, uh, an immigrant got elected on a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment in an anti-immigrant party. Ri-i-i-ight. You don't think maybe it was something besides the fact that these people are immigrants that got everyone so riled up, do you?

Ayaan is smart, beautiful and deadly in a debate. And if you hang around with her you could get killed. She's sort of a female Jason Bourne. I think I'm in love.

UPDATE: Not that I have anything going on for Matt Damon or anything.

UPDATE2: I mean, since I said she was a female Jason Bourne and then said I was in love with her, you might have thought that I was in love with Matt Damon who played Bourne. Ick.

UPDATE3: Not that Matt Damon is icky, he's very good looking.

UPDATE4: I'm just saying that he's objectively good looking, not that I personally think he's good looking.

UPDATE5: In other words, I'm not gay or anything.

UPDATE6: Not that you would have to be gay to think another man is good looking. I had a roommate once and he liked to read Muscle Magazine and he wasn't gay.

UPDATE7: Actually, I thought reading Muscle Magazine was pretty gay but I never told him that because I didn't want to hurt his feelings.

UPDATE8: And I've never actually slapped down a begging dog. That would be mean.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I'm so smart. I must have a big brain.

At least that's what this quiz says...

You Are a Smart American

You know a lot about US history, and you're opinions are probably well informed.
Congratulations on bucking stereotypes. Now go show some foreigners how smart Americans can be.


This beats the crap out of Xrlq's score.

Monday, July 09, 2007

giving hope to the terrorists

If you were a terrorist in Iraq, you could have been having a very bad week. The population is turning against you, your allies are being killed at a rate of ten to one by the enemy, and you can hardly poke your nose out the door without it getting shot off. It's enough to make most people think about surrender or at least retreat.

But no, once again the American left has come to the rescue of the terrorists and given them a very good week. Four Republican senators under pressure from leftist opposition this last week openly called for troop withdrawals, and now this article suggests that the Bush administration itself is thinking about it.

Yep, why wait to see how the latest push works before making a decision? It might be good news that validates Bush's strategy. So instead we have to announce to the terrorists that if they can hang on just a little longer, they can still win. Just hunker down and wait for their allies in America to win the war for them. Of course their part of the deal is to kill an occasional American soldier for the news, but other than that, they don't have to do much of anything.

So it looks like the left may win this one just like they did Vietnam. You know, Vietnam where the US won the war and pulled out, leaving South Vietnam in a defendable position as long as they had America sending guns and ammunition. Then the Democrat congress refused to continue funding them, allowing the North to win, murder a million people and send another million to concentration camps. But the Democrats didn't care. They prevented Nixon from getting a win and that's all that counted for them.

So, Iraq, it looks like you're next. You can probably look forward to a rash of hundreds of thousands of murders followed by decades of cruel religious repression. But it's necessary to keep Bush and the Republicans from getting a win. So sorry.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

the moment

Over the last few years of blogging I've written political commentary and mathematical analysis, philosophy and personal anecdotes, comedy and drama, prose and scripts, and a recipe. What else is there but to add but poetry?

The Moment

In the dusk I ride
and the rain arrives
with a stinging on my hand.
The scent refrain
of desert rain
warned me it would land.

To urge more speed
from iron steed
I crank the throttle high.
The engine wails
above the gales;
white lines go streaking by.

The thunder storm
falls like a swarm
of bees and lightning flash.
There's cold and pain
of high-speed rain;
the wind is like a lash.

I hug my mount
on the gale's account
and the engine cooks my knees
but my arms are bare
in the chilly air
and my hands begin to freeze.

A searing flash,
a roaring crash,
the thunder follows fast.
The count tells me,
at less than three,
it's nearer than the last.

I ride alone
on a barren road,
no building, bush, or tree.
If lightning seeks
the local peaks,
it must be seeking me.

As the needle ticks
to eighty six
there's a pale horse giving chase.
I can barely see
ahead of me.
It's a suicidal race.

The rains release
a film of grease
and the tires start to wend.
They once hugged the road
with a lover's hold,
but now it's just a friend.

Blinding light
rips through the night
no time to count to one.
The thunder hits
like a load of bricks.
It was close enough to stun.

Hard I ride
at the horseman's side.
This moment may be my last.

But what a moment!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

in partial defense of George Bush over shamnesty

I'm not exactly a George Bush supporter. I've been a fairly harsh critic at times. But he always told the truth. The Medicare outrage, for example, was an actual campaign promise. If Republicans didn't want it, then they shouldn't have voted for him. I didn't.

But George Bush had a good reason for pushing the shamnesty bill so hard. I'm not talking about "good" reasons like that he is trying to come up with a legacy or that he wants to move the Hispanic vote toward the R column or that he is paid off by big business. I'm talking about the very real moral debt that Bush owes to so many illegals, the debt that comes from luring people to your country to work as an illegal underclass.

And make no mistake, Bush did lure them here. Deliberately. Not only his lax border enforcement and lax internal immigration enforcement, but also his silence about sanctuary cities and the Mexican illegal-alien ID card, and his warm friendship with a corrupt Mexican president who openly encouraged border-jumping, all of this clearly signaled to Mexicans and others that the US government was not serious about border laws, that America was wide open for anyone with the courage and temerity to enter illegally or to overstay their visa.

In addition, Bush has been signaling for years that he intended to give a broad amnesty. That alone was surely the motivation for many of the illegal entries, and deliberately so. These illegals were lured here not only by George Bush, but also by Clinton and the previous Bush, and arguably Reagan as well. And Congress has not been innocent. This has been an ongoing, underground policy by our political class for a generation.

And can you really blame them for coming? I know it's easy to moralize about THE LAW and how we don't want lawbreakers immigrating. But there are laws and laws. Illegal immigration isn't like robbery, it's more like speeding. Just like speeding, illegal immigration doesn't directly hurt anyone. Sure, it may indirectly take away jobs from people, but then speeding has a chance of killing someone. And more importantly, just like the government isn't really serious about stopping people who go five miles per hour over the speed limit, so they aren't serious about stopping illegal immigration. Sure you can get a ticket for going plus five, but no one ever does. And sure, you can get deported for overstaying your visa, but no one ever does. The government's consistent and deliberate failure to enforce the law diminishes the law and makes it almost no law at all. Because of the government's attitude, in terms of moral culpability, overstaying your visa is really not much more serious than plus-five speeding. By luring people into this violation, our leaders have taken on a moral debt that they do have an obligation to pay.

America's political class has lured illegals here because they believe that our economy needs the cheap labor and because they were unwilling to have an open and honest discussion with America about a large increase in legal immigration. Why were they unwilling to have this conversation? I don't know. Judging by their rhetoric over the shamnesty bill, maybe it's because they really believe that America is full of inbred, redneck racists that don't like Mexicans. Maybe it's because they knew that if there were a real debate, then the unions and minority groups would oppose the import of cheap labor. Maybe it's because they wanted to raise the minimum wage but not destroy the economy so they needed a large pool of illegal labor that would work for illegal wages. Maybe it's because they want to be able to hire their maids, nannies and gardeners from a shadowy underclass that is afraid to make any complaints if they don't like their working conditions. More likely it's a combination of the above and some other reasons that I've not thought of.

And maybe they are right about the economy. Maybe our economy does need a large increase in legal immigration. It's certainly worth a debate. Is cheap labor good? Or is it better to have expensive labor which encourage automation, which is more efficient in the end? I don't know. Let's talk about it. But let's not continue this outrageous, anti-democratic shadow policy of thwarting the will of the electorate by refusing to enforce democratically-passed laws. No doubt Bush thought he was doing this for good reasons, but there is no excuse for a democratically-elected president to violate his oath of office by failing to uphold the laws of the United States. No excuse.

Although George Bush does owe these immigrants something, he only owes it to them because of prior bad faith to us, the people that he is supposed to be serving. He needs to come clean about this. Admit to the American people what is going on, apologize for his part in political malpractice and then argue about what we owe the immigrants currently in the country and how many additional immigrants we need. I think that if he told us the truth, he might be surprised at the reaction that he gets.

storyblogging

The latest Storyblogging Carnival is up at Back of the Envelope.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Nova and history-channel distortions

I just finished watching an episode of Nova called "The Great Inca Rebellion". It was interesting, but I kept being struck by the deceptive way that the show was presented for dramatic effect. The show focused on a graveyard. There were bones of people who were bludgeoned, shot, and stabbed to death. The forensic evidence was used to "prove" that Pizarro had Indian allies when he conquered the Inca empire.

One part of the dishonesty was the theme of the show, that everyone believed the ridiculous story about 200 Spaniards conquering the Inca empire until these bones came to life and disproved the story. One Peruvian interviewed for the show even referred to this ridiculous story as the "official" account, as though there were an Office of Conquistador History that enforces unbelievable fantasies about ancient Spanish adventurers and only the brave grave-robbing archeologists featured on the show had the audacity to disagree.

Another part of the dishonesty was the fanciful tale they told of how these people died. With no evidence presented on the show, Nova decided that these people had died at the Battle of Lima. I noticed that none of the historians or archeologists that they interviewed would supported the story.

I've seen the same lose concern for accuracy on the history channel -accuracy sacrificed for drama. You know, I don't mind it so much in historical fiction because fiction is, you know, fiction. But it seems to me that a show that purports to be a historical documentary owes its audience a best effort at presenting the truth.

Monday, June 25, 2007

human rights and Iran

I know someone who has some Iranian friends and he insists based on what they say that Iran is a liberal and democratic state and the US should stop worrying about it so much. I think his Iranian friends might be lying to him.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Islands and Lakes

This is a cool page I found from Instapundit: Largest island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island.

I tried looking up some of the sites on Google Earth, but it didn't work very well; it was hard to find the locations and then hard to make out the geography once I found it.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Driving in India

I've been a passenger or driver in several countries including the US, Mexico, Japan, Spain, France, Morocco, and India. Until I visited Morocco, I though Spanish driving was scary. Now that I've been in India, I think Moroccan driving is child's play.

Shreya, an Indian woman I know from the US, told me that she used to ride a motorcycle in India; about half of the vehicles on the road there are motorcycles. Since I used to ride a motorcycle back in college, I was actually thinking about renting one to travel around the city. After a few minutes of watching Indian traffic, I decided that I could find less painful ways to commit suicide.

As I rode in the car in India, I saw a narrowly-averted accident an average of about once a minute. After the first day, I honestly expected that by the end of my trip I would have witnessed several accidents in which a motorcycle or bicycle rider would be killed or maimed. I just didn't see how I could ride around in that traffic for ten days and not see such things.

It was so bad that at one point, I asked someone why there were lane markings on the road since the markers seemed to have no significance. Even the center lane line meant to keep oncoming traffic separate received minimal consideration. If the guy in front of you is going too slow, you go around. If there is no room on this side of the road, you just drive into oncoming traffic. And once you get your vehicle about half-way past the slow vehicle, you just merge back in and he has to slow down or get side-swiped. If the other vehicle is a motorcycle, this amounts to threatening their life to force them to let you in.

Another thing: if you stop for a red light when there is no cross traffic, you can expect a traffic cop to wave you through impatiently. No one stops for a red light unless there is heavy (and I mean HEAVY) cross traffic. If it's just light or medium cross-traffic then you edge your nose out there and force traffic to flow around you until you are through the intersection.

And yet, to my great astonishment, I didn't see one accident happen. The only explanation is that there are, all appearances to the contrary, some rules of the road that people follow. I couldn't figure them out entirely but one rule seems to be an extreme form of the last-chance rule in Arizona. In Arizona, if there is a traffic accident because someone broke the law (say they didn't stop at a red light, for example), the responsibility for the accident doesn't necessarily fall on them; it falls on the person who had the last chance to avoid the accident.

In India, it seems that you can do pretty much anything you want in traffic as long as you give the other vehicle a chance to avoid an accident. And it seems to work. Who'd a thunk it?

Monday, June 04, 2007

libertinism in India

There are some striking ways in which Indian culture reflects American culture of a few decades ago. In India, you can still get in trouble for kissing in public. Families are very strong and parents are respected. Women wear dresses (very colorful, beautiful dresses), and men wear slacks and dress shirts.

Another striking similarity is that you can see the media in India striving to change Indian culture toward libertinism just as our media did (and does). It seems to be working; if you bring up this subject with Indians, they will usually describe their culture as being "behind" the US, implying that they think our culture is more advanced.

Is that sad or what? The sexual revolution has been a social disaster. The bed-hopping search for "true love" has led to far more broken hearts and ruined lives (and ruined children's lives) than life-long commitments, and those life-long commitments are always disillusioning for people who thought their life was going to be like a Hollywood romantic comedy.

But the media knows better than everyone else, and they are going to use their power to change India. In the newspaper, I read a review of a book. The book was an autobiography by a woman from southern India who concentrates on how mean her mother was to her. The reviewer takes this opportunity to pontificate on the "disgraceful" conditions of this conservative area of India. Presumably, one mother that didn't care about her daughter's feelings (assuming you take the book at face value) proves that there are no mothers in southern India that love their children. It's just one huge semi-continental cauldron of child-hating mothers.

The entertainment pages sported stored that could have been copied with minor changes from the entertainment pages of my youth --actresses being interviewed about their love scenes and partial nudity on screen. Just like American actresses of decades past, these Indian actresses insisted that they don't enjoy the love scenes and it's all business, and they only do those things when "the character calls for it". Meaning that if you are a screenplay writer and you want to have your actress doing partial nudity or a love scene, then you better make your character a slut because an actress playing a chaste character would refuse to do it. Unless you can make it compelling, of course. In other words, "the character calls for it" is no limit at all. These actresses are invariably --invariably-- treated by the newspaper as courageous heroines for flaunting traditional modesty. Sound familiar?

And then there was the Entertainment Tonight ripoff show where the hostess effused over slutty women from India and around the world, talking about how smart and powerful and popular and just plain wonderful they are. The clear message to all the twelve-year-old Indian girls watching the show: if you want to be smart and powerful and popular and just plain wonderful, you should be a slut.

It was sad watching India follow the steps of the West into the bleak morass of libertinism. I wanted to yell at them: "Don't do it! I've tried it and it won't make you happy. Don't let the libertines control the media here like they do in the US, your entire nation will suffer horribly for it." But they don't see the dark side of libertinism. All they can see of the American sexual revolution is the movies that the libertines want them to see. They just don't know.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

India

I just got back from India a couple of weeks ago. This wasn't a vacation; it was a business trip, but I still have lots to say about it (assuming I can get back into writing).

First thing you need to know about India is that they have this stuff they call "pickle". It isn't anything like an American pickle. It isn't even pickled (that is, preserved in vinegar). It's just a mishmash of peppers, spices, salt, and (in the case of mango pickle) diced mango. This stuff is really, really good. You spread a small amount (the word "small" is significant here) on these Indian cracker-like things or mix a small amount (note repetition of "small") with a bit of rice and eat it.

Indian pickle is spicy, but not so you would notice it once you've been eating Indian food for a week. Just yesterday I tried some homemade chili from a friend and a few minutes after I ate it, he told me that it has habanero peppers in it. I said, "Really, you must not have used very much because habanero's are really hot and the chili wasn't spicy." He looked at me like I'd suddenly grown a third eye. So, I tried some more and paid attention this time. And, by golly, that chili was pretty spicy. You just stop noticing it after a lot of exposure.

So it was the same with the Indian pickle. The flavor is really tremendous, so when I sat down in my hotel restaurant and they put a jar of mango pickle and some of those cracker thingies on my table, I just went to town on it. After all, why did they give me a whole jar if I'm only supposed to have a small spoon full? So, I ended up eating half a jar of the stuff in addition to a lot of other spicy food that meal.

Now, you might recall earlier that I noted the significance of "small amount" when describing how one is to consume mango pickle. The significance of this term is that mango acts as a gentle but forceful laxative and peppers act as a not so gentle laxative. The combination is ... well ... impressive.

I think I should skip further details except to note that the hotel staff asked me to fill out an evaluation of the hotel to help them improve their service, and I took the opportunity to complain bitterly about their miserly rolls of toilet paper. Seriously, Indian toilet paper rolls have about a fourth (rough estimate) of the paper of normal American rolls, and they only gave me two rolls. After half a jar of mango pickle, this is really not adequate coverage.

After that experience, my stomach was so sensitive to spicy food that I had to avoid Indian cuisine for the remainder of my trip, a real disappointment because I love Indian food. And their interpretation of American food leaves something to be desired.

Friday, June 01, 2007

I'm still alive

I haven't posted in a long time. It's funny because there have been many times when had something to post but I'm always thinking that if I'm going to start blogging again, then the first thing I should do is finish Mist Magic, and I can't get myself to finish Mist Magic. And that's funny because I've only got about three or four more postings to finish it. Why can't I get motivated to write three or four more postings?

I think part of the reason I feel burnt-out on Mist Magic is that I was putting a lot more effort into it than I usually put into posting and it was discouraging to know that after all that effort, no more than two or three people were reading it. Even when the Storyblogging Carnival was hosted at a big site like Dean's World, I didn't get any more hits on my blog. And that was discouraging.

Either people just aren't interested in reading fiction on the internet or people just aren't interested in reading my fiction. Either way, it seems pointless to spend a lot of time writing fiction for the blog.

Oh well. Now that I got that off my chest, maybe I will start posting other stuff. And maybe I'll eventually get around to finishing Mist Magic, just because I hate to leave things undone. And because there are two or three people who want to read it.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

yeah, yeah, I know

I've gone several days without posting Mist Magic. And I was really planning to get that done, along with a lot of other things I haven't gotten done. Blame Blizzard Entertainment.

On the bright side, I've beat Starcraft and I'm working through the expansion pack.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Mist Magic part 26

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
Magic returned to the sea battles. The interventions of the gods became more vigorous, more extreme. The battling gods assigned many powerful minions to serve their proxies on Earth, for these princes of Rodona are not gods of the sort that we think of today. They are powerful, but they are not omnipresent and they must do most of their work through servants --the demigods and the demons of Rodona.

Yasasarame of the Philistines joined Azdior, and Hades joined Poseidon --that very Hades who was god of all the dead peoples that the Greeks had destroyed when invaded the Aegean Peninsula. Then Baal of the Canaanites joined Azdior and others joined Poseidon. Now it truly became a war of two worlds. In Earth it was the Greeks and Kadlandith against the rest of the Aghianar. In Rodona it was Poseidon and the gods of the Aegean peninsula and Asia Minor against Azdior and the gods of Egypt and the Levant.

With the aid of warring gods the sorcerers grew in power until a single Valangzar or Kurete was more feared than a fleet of ships. Poseidon lent to the Kuretes the great wyrm Charybdis who could flood the land. Yasasarame lent to the Valangzar the Laelaps, a black-liquid demon in the shape of a hound, an unstoppable assassin with the power to seek out and kill anyone that it was sent after. Some of the Kuretes rode hypogryphs and Crete was guarded by a giant man of bronze. There were great magics in those days and periapts of great power.
continued

Friday, February 23, 2007

Mist Magic part 25

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
The Greeks had learned from the Kadlandithar, and now the Kadlandithar learned from the Greeks. The Kadlandithar learned to raid and pillage. They learned to be slavers. And they learned to worship Poseidon and pray to him as though he cared anything about their daily lives.

And by raiding and enslaving their brothers, the Kadlandithar became a stench to the Aghianar and the Aghianar determined to annihilate them for the treason of a brother is more bitter than the hatred of an enemy.

As for Azdior, he cared nothing for worship; to him humans were nothing but allies and trading partners. But Azdior despised Poseidon, holding Poseidon in contempt for the weakness of craving the attention and worship of lesser creatures like humans. It perhaps would have meant little to Azdior if Kadlandith had merely stopped trading with him in preference for another Rhodonaar prince, but to leave Azdior for Poseidon and worse, to give Poseidon the worship that he craved, this infuriated Azdior.

And was not a sweet temper that caused Azdior to be known as the Bull God.
continued

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mist Magic part 24

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
The Kuretes were kept secret for nearly two years, but soon the rest of the Aghianar learned of this betrayal and they demanded an immediate end to the teaching and they demanded that all of the Kuretes be turned over to them for elimination for the Aghianar recognized the danger of giving away all of their secrets to barbarians. Yet the fool Presaron defied them all and there was civil war among the Aghianar with the Greeks on the side of Kadlandith.

The Greek ships --now based on Aghianar designs-- were commanded by Kuretes with the powers of mist magic and the ships of all the Aghianar had Valangzus. At first there were battles of magic, but Azdior learned what was happening and began to refuse his power. The Kadlandithar knew that this was the end of them and they were about to kill Presaron when Poseidon intervened and saved him, for Poseidon wanted to destroy all the Aghianar and he wanted the civil war to continue. After that, Poseidon and his minions were taught to use the mist magic as well, and all of Kadlandith turned to Poseidon.
continued

Monday, February 19, 2007

Mist Magic part 23

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
Aegus demanded as his ransom the right to send nine young men per year to the school in Kadlandith known as Delzhenith (the "zh" represents a voiced "sh" sound). The students and masters of that school were known as or the Delzhenidar or the Telchenides in the mispronunciation descended from the Greeks.

The nine young men were called the Kuretes after the Greek mispronunciation of Kadlandith and the first nine were a remarkable lot --mental and physical prodigies, every one of them, chosen by direct intervention of Poseidon through an oracle. The Kuretes quickly learned the writing, arithmetic, navigation, and engineering of the Aghianar; they learned the forging of the Philistines and the geometry of the Egyptians. This was the true beginning of Greek greatness, all stolen like everything else good in Greece, from others by threat of murder.

Those nine young men --you would recognized some of their names even today-- became great teachers and wizards, so influential that they almost alone raised the Greeks from a few scattered tribes of scrounging barbarians into a thriving civilization on the road to the Classical Age.

The Kuretes were also taught martial skills by a former captain of Pharaoh's personal guard, a form of training reserved for select guardsmen and Valangzar. The training involved dancing in their armor, which is the primary non-mythological story that the Kuretes are remembered for today.

Finally, the Kuretes were taught the magic of mists. Yes, the fools of the Delzhenith actually taught the Greeks how to empower their gods.
continued

storyblogging and trivia

The Storyblogging Carnival is up on Dean's World. Dean's World is a huge blog, so it will be interesting to see what this does to my hit count. I couldn't believe that there were only five entries in this Carnival, what with being advertised on Dean's World and with the opportunity to get a link on Dean's World.

Anyway, I'd like to thank Trudy for her efforts and wish her a speedy recovery from the flu.

You may have noticed that I've now posted Mist Magic sections for two days in a row. I'm planning to do one per day until it's finished. We'll see. The next section will go up tonight some time.

I'm pretty sure I have today off so I'm not going into work. I guess I'll find out for sure tomorrow.

I should spend the day catching up on work, but I'll probably spend a good chunk playing Star Craft. I hate those evil Zerg. Except when I am the evil Zerg; when I'm playing the evil Zerg, I recognize that we aren't an evil race, just misunderstood. We have to consume the rest of the races in the universe because we are really hungry. Those other races just don't understand how hungry we are.

I keep imagining Jerry Zeinfield doing his line "BE-E-E-ERG. I love to say that. Alec BE-E-ERG", only he's doing it with "ZE-E-ERG" instead.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mist Magic part 22

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
It was a surreal experience, lying on the damp ground, shrouded in mist, listening to the odd story full of obscure bronze-age anecdotes, bronze-age Greek hatred and the occasional quote from purported bronze-age writings, from a man that looked frail but who could jump off of towers without injury, claim to be a ancient priest with a straight face, and toss me around like a crumpled fast-food hamburger wrapper. He paused in his story telling, staring off into the distance, whether in memory or delusion I know not.

"So, what happened to the Aghianar?" I asked, sitting up slightly and slipping my arms out of my jacket sleeves to wrap it around me, feigning much more pain than I felt.

He looked down at me as I settled back into the swirling whiteness. When I lay down like this, we were almost invisible to each other in the fog. "Aegus was clever," he finally confided. "He knew that the value of a hostage is fleeting. He knew that soon Androgiar would die, or Presaron would lose power, or the Valangzus would take action in spite of Presaron's wishes. So Aegus didn't demand gold or trade goods; he demanded knowledge."

"... the young people that were sent to Crete to be eaten by the Minotaur." I surmised, "They came back with Aghianar knowledge, customs, and attitudes and this was described figuratively as being eaten by the Aghianar god."

"Possibly that is the source of the myth," the man acknowledge. "Although these young men were sent to Kadlandith, not Crete, and there were other incidents through the centuries were young Greeks were sent to Crete as hostages. The story of people being devoured by a huge man bull are somewhat exaggerated."
continued

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Mist Magic part 21

The story begins here. The previous week begins here.
I am about to return to telling this story, but I feel that first I owe an explanation for my long absence.

Back in November, I was accosted by three men who intended to murder me in order to prevent the finishing of this story. I managed to convince them that if they wanted secrecy, the last thing they wanted to do was to murder the man who was telling this story, especially since (or so I told them) I had already written the entire story and had arranged for it to be released to the police in the case of my untimely demise.

I convinced my assassins that if they left me alone, this story would never reach more than my tiny blog readership, and everyone would assume that it is mere fiction. However, if they were to kill me, it would suddenly raise questions and start an investigation, an investigation that they very much wanted to avoid. This led to some negotiations, some threats, and eventually a decision to leave the decision to some "council" that the assassins report to.

Well, this morning they finally got back to me and told me that I would be allowed to live as long as I wrote no more of the story. I countered by telling them that now I really did have the entire story written and put away for safe-keeping along with the story of their threats, descriptions of all of them and the license plate of the car they had been driving (it was not a rental). I also showed them the camera on my laptop which was at that very moment recording all of their faces and sending the video by internet to a place of safekeeping.

Then I told them that I would resume the story this very evening, and that if they wanted to turn it from a minor work of fiction on a blog with a small readership into a national story with all of their pictures on the news, they could best accomplish that by carrying out their threats.

When the men left they seemed a bit unhappy, but I think they realize that I'm right. The only hope they have of keeping this secret is to let me write whatever I want to. I have a lot of fiction on this blog, so all of you are going to assume that this story is fiction, and that's OK; I'm not going to argue otherwise.
continued

Sunday, January 28, 2007

the gurgle from below

A half hour ago I was sitting here wondering what that gurgling sound was. After a big of searching, I discovered that both my toilet and bathtub are full of dirty brown water, and the toilet is overflowing what is probably raw sewage onto my bathroom floor. I like to think that if it weren't for the cold medicine I took a few days ago I would have been alert enough to note this before stepping onto the flooded floor in my stocking feet. Ick.

Now I'm sitting here wondering if I should pack an overnight bag before the carpeting is likewise flooded... And I have to pee.

UPDATE: Well, the crisis has ended. Someone came over and vacuumed up the water. I guess I'm going to have to bleach the floor and tub. And throw out my bathroom rug.

UPDATE 2: The negative consequences keep piling up. My nextdoor neighbor's bathroom has also been disabled while they clean things up and apparently I wasn't the only one who had to pee. I just walked by his four-year-old sun whizzing through the guard rail onto the courtyard of the floor below. Why didn't I think of that?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

it's not the cold; it's the cold medicine

A few weeks ago a friend of mine came to work with a cold (no doubt because he wanted the rest of us to share it) and he complained that the cold was making him feel "not all there". I told him it was the cold medicine that gave him that feeling, not the cold. He didn't believe me, insisting that cold always make him feel this way. Of course when I asked him if he ever had a cold without taking cold medicine, he said "no".

I'll bet that a lot of people think this. Since they were children, they have started taking cold medicine at the first sign of a cold or flu, and as a result they think the resulting symptoms of cold medicine --drowsiness or racing heart, inability to find a comfortable sleeping position, a feeling of being disconnected-- are cold and flu symptoms but they are more likely drug symptoms.

I've been suffering from the flu all week. It started with a sore throat on Sunday, moved into my ears and chest for Monday, chest and stomach issues on Tuesday, etc. as my immune system chased it around my organs all week (that's why the flu is so exciting, it's like a new surprise disease every day).

I didn't take antihistimines or cough syrup or those combo cold medicines (I only took Pepto-bismol-like medicines for my stomach and those throat-numbing cough drops for the cough) and I felt pretty good all week except for the particular symptoms that I was suffering from. Sure, the ear-ache and chest cough were unpleasant, but I had very little trouble getting comfortable or getting to sleep, and when I was awake I felt alert and connected. I was able to put in a full day's work from home, and when people asked me how I was feeling, I always had to answer, "Not bad actually, I'm just staying home so as not to pass this on." (hoping that some of them would get the hint).

Then one night, my nose was so blocked up that I knew it would keep me from sleeping so I took one of those combo cold medicines. Within minutes I had those other "cold" symptoms. I was feeling disconnected, my heart was racing, I tossed and turned all night unable to get comfortable, and the feeling of being disconnected lasted well into the next day.

So anyway, I'm not a medical doctor so take this for what it's worth, but I find that a cold or flu is much less miserable if I avoid the cold medicine (specifically, anything continging antihistimines or decongestants).