June 15, 2006

A week off....

from - Buck

is followed by an off week.

It is hard trying to get back into the swing of things after a vacation. That is true every year as far as I am concerned. Things pile up on the work front and the home front and I have spent days feeling like a lost explorer in the deep, dark jungle hacking my way through with a dull machete.

I have tried to catch up on some of my blog reading and I found this classic poem by Buddy Don. It sums up the ho-hum death of Zarqawi perfectly

So many turning points have come before –
Are we marching in circles through this war?

When I heard the news of Zarqawi's death it was announced by a disc jockey blasting out tunes around a swimming pool. So many of the vacationers pumped their fists and immediately started dancing to the timeless classic "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue".

Hey Uncle Sam Put your name at the top of his list And the Statue of Liberty Started shakin' her fist And the eagle will fly Man, it's gonna be hell When you hear Mother Freedom Start ringin' her bell And it feels like the whole wide world is raining down on you Brought to you Courtesy of the Red White and Blue

When I heard these words and thought of the tens of thousands who have been killed or maimed during the current debacle in the desert I could not help but wonder what there was to sing, laugh and dance about.

So I went back up to my room and spent the rest of the afternoon on the balcony staring out across the vast ocean.

That always puts things into their proper perspective.


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June 14, 2006

Work thoughts

from - RSA

I think I have a great job, but I can only dream of one like this. . .

Me: After a three year investigation, it turns out that I'm not going to be indicted.

Boss: I trust you implicitly.

Hmm. . .

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June 08, 2006

Pure narcissism

from - RSA

Here's a funny thing: It turns out I have the second best job in America. Okay, not me, but college professors in general. I wouldn't disagree with CNN Money's overall rating, but I don't really know what the component grades mean.

  • Stress: B. If a 'B' means low stress, it's not quite accurate. There's a reason the phrase "Publish or perish" has come into being. These days it should probably be expanded as follows: "Publish or perish. Get funding or perish. Graduate students or perish."

  • Flexibility: A. I even have time to contribute to this blog.

  • Creativity: A. Modesty prevents my saying more. Cough, cough. Actually, creativity is in the eye of the beholder; I'd bump this down a notch or two. Some professors are creative, while others just do the job.

  • Difficulty: C. Is a 'C' high or low difficulty? I can see many, many people doing the job I do, but having to spend the greater part of a decade in school after an undergraduate degree is a high entry bar.

What I really do is better described here, though. The job market aside, I really do think I have the best job in the world; I'd add Fun: A to the list.

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June 03, 2006

Storming the Beach

from - Buck

Okay guys and gals. I'm on my way to Myrtle Beach for a week. The air conditioner broke down in my car yesterday so it is off to the beach with one of those automobile fans attached to the dashboard.

It was either that or $200.00 for a rental.

I will fill like I am driving to the beach in a trash truck.

I'll check back in with ya'll on the 12th!

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May 31, 2006

Driving and crying

from - RSA

I filled up my car today at the gas pump. Total cost: about $30. I realized, in thinking about it, that while I find the topic of rising gas prices interesting in the abstract, it hasn't seemed to affect me much personally. (I already have a very low opinion of George W. Bush, independent of gas prices, apparently unlike the average American.)

Here's one possible explanation for my attitude. My car gets about 30 miles to the gallon. I drive it about 9,000 miles a year. With gas around $3.00 a gallon, that works out to $900 per year. If the average price, say, three years ago was about $1.50, then I'm paying twice as much as I used to, an extra $450 per year, or $37.50 per month.

Is that a lot? It could be that I'm not representative. Let's check out the numbers for the average person in the U.S. The average car is driven about 12,200 miles per year, and the average new car/SUV mileage is 21 mpg. Using the same computation as above, that gives $1740 per year, or $145 per month. That's an extra $72.50 per month, compared with three years ago. Let's estimate the after-tax income of this average person (household, actually) at a conservative $35,000. Instead of paying 2.5% of this in gas, it's up to 5%. Hmm.

The numbers above are in non-adjusted dollars; they're just ball park estimates, and of course the "average person" doesn't really exist. Still, I thought it would be interesting to see where potential boundaries could lie between those affected and those not affected by the price of gas.

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May 26, 2006

More Headlines

from - Buck

Military Expected to Report Marines Killed Iraqi Civilians

Well hell, the Air Force does that all of the time!

'Tis a fine line that separates cold blood from collateral damage I guess.

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May 19, 2006

A rose is a rose

from - RSA

Buck's recent post on the cluelessness of Donald Rumsfeld, plus a comment by Michael Hayden during his confirmation hearing on the radio yesterday, reminded me of one of my hobby horses: the misuse of metaphorical language. Here's Rumsfeld in a speech a while ago:

If I were grading I would say we probably deserve a 'D' or a 'D-plus' as a country as to how well we're doing in the battle of ideas that's taking place in the world today.

The phrase "battle of ideas" or "war of ideas" comes up often when we talk about the war in Iraq; Hayden used the latter phrase today. If I'd been the Senator questioning Hayden, I might have asked, "So we're fighting a metaphorical war?" And Hayden naturally would have replied, "We're fighting a real war, but part of it is which side's set of ideas is accepted in the end, and that's what I meant by a 'war of ideas'."

All this is fine. What's problematic, though, is when the distinction between the metaphorical war and the real war is blurred. If you say that you're fighting terrorism, when what you're really doing is promoting the ideas of democracy, peace, moderation, and so forth, then you're fighting only in a metaphorical sense. You won't get killed or injured in your fight if you lose; you won't get as much as a bloody nose (unless perhaps you pursue your metaphorical battles with drunks in a bar).

What are the dangers of conflating a war of ideas with an actual war? The first danger is obvious and relatively minor: confusing talking with actual fighting. The 101st Fighting Keyboardists are possibly the worst offenders, by giving themselves a name that implies that they're in some sense doing the same job as soldiers who are doing the actual work of fighting in a war. Soldiers themselves have traditionally ridiculed such comparisons; fans of Bill Mauldin, for example, will be familiar with the contrasts between soldiers working on the front line and those in the rear echelon. The second, more insidious danger is thinking that the war of ideas can be won using tactics appropriate for real war. We've seen this in Tom Tancredo's infamous suggestion that Mecca might be bombed. Bombing Mecca was suggested as an appropriate retaliation for a nuclear attack on the U.S. by Islamic terrorists. Consider that none of these terrorists would presumably be in Mecca at the time, which undercuts the retaliation aspect of such an action. Tancredo's view seems to have been that the ideas behind Islamic extremism could be eliminated by force, which is questionable at best. For another example, we see a constant stream of commentary on the right calling for the imprisonment and sometimes even the execution of those holding liberal views, based not on their actions (e.g., releasing classified information to the public) but on their opinions alone (e.g., we are losing the war in Iraq; Bush is incompetent; some U.S. soldiers have committed atrocities and their superiors should be held accountable). In the battle for people's hearts and minds, it should be obvious that killing people is not an effective means of persuasion, either for those who have been killed or those who share their views. In a war of ideas, you win not by killing anyone who disagrees with you, but rather by persuading them to move to your side.

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I got a real kick out of this one

Americans Predict New War in 10 Years

What makes Americans think that the war we are currently in will be over in 10 years?

The Global War on Terror is perpetual and is a politicians dream come true. It will be the rallying cry for every power grabbing politician who comes on the scene from this day forward. It provides a never ending pasture of funding from which the military industrial complex and the C.O.W.'s can forever graze.

Get comfortable with this "war" because the only thing that can stop it is The Second Coming.

I hope that despite all of this ya'll will have a fantabulous weekend.


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He Bows to the Pressure

from - smijer

I'm giving in today - I'm blogging from a Krystal wireless hotspot. As you may have guessed by my lack of posts this week, I am on vacation. And, one thing led to another and I find myself doing something I never thought I'd do. From a hotel room? Maybe. But I really didn't see myself as the sort of SOB who would pull out a computer in the middle of a fast food restaraunt and start surfing the internet. I'm waiting on a car to be serviced and I don't want to go all the way home, so this is how I'm killing time. If I could log on VPN to work on my side project, I would be doing that instead of this, but the VPN is wisely configured not to work on an unsecured wireless network.

And, I'm going to watch the horrid Da Vinci Code movie today. Yes, I resisted, but I have a friend who liked the book (a), and (b), I like Tom Hanks... and, well, the Google game with its previews promising action and suspense managed to get me hooked. Maybe, if I catch up enough to do it, I'll blog all of the poor reasoning, wrong facts, and sly hoodwinks in it afterward. But probably not - I'll just be another Rube shelling out $7.50 to help Dan Brown and his Hollywood sponsors get lots of $7.50's.

I'll try to check back in later. I'm going to go kill precious time at the Barnes & Nobles now.

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May 18, 2006

Rumsfeld speaks

from - Buck

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,
the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."
Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

But Rumsfeld says

Armed militias in a country with a democracy is inconsistent with the success of that democracy."

I guess according to Rumsfeld the operative phrase is "well regulated".

Nation building is a pain in the ass.

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May 10, 2006

What is a blogger?

from - Buck

I guess this pretty much covers it.

Maybe it ain't only the Left that is angry.

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May 08, 2006

The price of oil

from - Buck

I read today that the price of oil fell by $1.00 per barrel simply because of a letter written to President George Bush from Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

I'll bet that dumb-ass doesn't write another one any time soon. If he wants the price of the product he is peddling to increase in value he needs to have guys dancing around in front of camera's holding vials of enriched uranium while chanting things like, "Eat shit Georgie Boy!"

Some people just do not understand the free market.

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April 23, 2006

...and based on my observations of how those who wear the bumper sticker proudly on their SUVs have reacted to the political climate of the last four years, ... I conclude that the saying is wrong. It should read, "if you do stand for something, you'll fall for anything".

I don't mean this in a bad way, but it is a little to easy to "fall for" things that go along with what you "believe in".

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April 19, 2006

Remembering

from - Buck

April 19th is a day that will always live in infamy in my mind.

This day marks the dual tragedies of Waco, Texas and Oklahoma City.

I was no more appalled by the actions of Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City than I was appalled by the action of the government of the United States in Waco, Texas. Violence begets violence and one of these days that is going to stop surprising us.

But probably not in my lifetime.

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April 10, 2006

Innocents abroad

from - RSA

Just back from a trip to northern Italy, where I gave a couple of talks at a conference. I couldn't resist taking a few personal days to tour around; my wife and I flew into Milan and drove to Trieste, stopping in Venice in between. Here are a few of the highlights, from the viewpoint of a tourist's camera.

This picture shows some of the decorations on the top of the cathedral in Milan (il Duomo). The front was entirely covered for renovation, unfortunately, but it was possible to go up on the roof and wander around. Mark Twain wrote, "They say that the Cathedral of Milan is second only to St. Peter's at Rome. I cannot understand how it can be second to anything made by human hands."

milano-duomo.jpg

This is a typical snap of the Basilica on the Piazza San Marco. It had just rained in the late afternoon, but the sun was coming out. (It would rain again, heavily, into the evening.) The little kid in red in the center of the picture is typical of kids on the square: he's ignoring one of the grandest spectacles in the world, wondering how to catch one of those pigeons.

venezia-basilica.jpg

This is a late afternoon shot of the Canal Grande in Trieste. It's one way to enter a walking district where we spent some time in the cafes and shops. The Adriatic Sea is directly behind.

trieste-canal.jpg

I wish we could have spent more time in Italy, though even a week was long enough to require readjustment of my taste buds in the way of coffee and red wine.

Posted by RSA in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0)

Only if you speak Portuguese, though. Unfortunately, I do not - Fernando Gabeira - in fairness, he is an ex-terrorist. Further, he was the kidnapping-American-ambassadors type of terrorist, rather than the flying airplanes into sky-scrapers type of terrorist. Now, he is a Brazilian politician.

I watched a movie, based on a book he wrote about his organization's activities, entitled Four Days in September. From a review on this page:

The year is 1969. Brazil is under a brutal military dictatorship. Political prisoners are being held and tortured. In order to get the junta to free some of their comrades, a group of ragtag "revolutionaries" kidnap the U.S. Ambassabor and threaten his life unless their demands are met.

Well-written and tense, the film ably demonstrates the flaws of people trying to fight fire with fire: "an eye for and eye". Alan Arkin is wonderful as the ambassador. His character gives incisive psychological sketches of his kidnappers: fervent and brooding; yearning and lost.

I'll say, it was one of the most interesting movies I've seen in quite a while. I have little else to say about it.

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April 07, 2006

A few links to fill in where knowledge has been sketchy before:
Tiktaalik roseae is mostly fish. As PZ points out, it fills a pretty critical gap - satisfying scientists, and creates two more - satisfying creationists.

Another sort of missing link. The long lost text of the Gospel of Judas has surfaced, and been handily translated by National Geographic. Unfortunately, Early Christian Writings has not yet included a link to the translation. There is info on what was already known of the Gospel before its discovery, though.

A leaking link to an unsurprising source. The President has the power (wisely or not) to authorize the revelation of classified info. His promise to fire the leaker wasn't binding, so it's only a matter of whether he will keep his word. I find it unlikely that he will. So, anyway - we find that the President sees himself as having unhindered authority to both collect secrets about U.S. Citizens (through warrantless wiretapping) and to discharge secrets about U.S. Citizens to the press (through authorized leaks), in order to attack political enemies. Anyone else concerned about this?

Here's to filling in the gaps.

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April 03, 2006

Make your own music

from - Buck

It can be a lot of fun!

Like everything else, I stole this from somewhere else.

Hope ya'll had a good weekend because this has definitely turned into a stormy Monday here in North Georgia.

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March 28, 2006

My Civic Duty

from - Buck

Well, I have jury duty this week. I spent 4 ½ hours inside a holding tank with about 72 other people yesterday. I was released for today and will have to report back tomorrow.

The wheels of justice turn slowly and there is never a time when that is more obvious than when you have jury duty.

I guess it could be worse. I could be the one on trial.

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March 24, 2006

Never say never

from - Buck

Five years ago, when we purchased the house we are now living in, I told my wife that this should be the last time we have to borrow any more money for anything. I told her that I was getting too damned old to keep stringing payments out for the benefit of the bankers.

This afternoon I will meet yet again with the bankers. With two weddings coming up within the next year and a half and a roof that desperately needs shingles not to mention two daughters still in college I had no choice but to suck a little equity out of the place in order to stay afloat.

I know we need a roof so I can accept that with dignity.

But Godamighty! Have any of ya’ll had to pay for weddings yet? I had no idea that the friggin’ flower and cake businesses were so lucrative. Now I understand the feelings of Mr. Banks when he said, “A cake, Franck, is made of flour and water. My first car didn't cost this much!”
I know that the amount one spends on a wedding should be considered discretionary but believe me with a wife and two daughters glaring at him a man would have to have the personality of Pol Pot to piss on that parade.

And after the girls are gone I am still going to have to live with their mother. I have accumulated enough stuff for her to throw up into my face over the last 25 years. I don’t need to add to that pile.

So this afternoon at about 3:00 PM I will limp, emasculated, into a room with moneylenders and legal experts. I will sign on countless dotted lines while everybody in the room, my wife included, smiles. Even I will put on my losers grin and shake hands with everyone when it is over and agree that borrowing money is a wonderful privilege.

And there is no way that I will even entertain the notion that this will be the last time it will ever happen.

Posted by Buck in Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0)
More entries in Miscellaneous... The high cost of travel
V for Vendetta
Cowboys
Sharing the pain
The Butler Act
Choose your watch carefully
The war is over, now what?
WOW!
Money matters
The Evil Lottery
Links With Your Eye Boogers
It's a tough job........
Time is running out
What's a man to do?
Mixed Messages
Links and an Answer with Your Eye Boogers
The Birthday Calculator
Troop Support?
The Lord of War
Tagged, &c.
My scar is bigger than your scar
Mystery Photo from Sky
HPAPY BIRHTADY!
"A Little Dab'll Do Ya!"
Pat Robertson speaks
A great season
Almost heaven, West Virginia
Some Notes
It's Over
Santa Claus Came Early
Links With Your Eye Boogers - No Doggie Friday Edition
Way Over My Head
Penis Empathy
Things I Didn't Do This Weekend
Links With Your Eye Boogers.... Wednesday
Living with Autism
Stormy Monday
Grab a Cup, and Let's Talk About the Weekend
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
First Log Entry
The Dancing Outlaw
Red Friday's
The John Cowan Band
Links With Your Eye Boogers, Monday
Jarhead
A Fine Weekend
Happy Halloween!
Movin' Day
Unexpected?
Long awaited weekend
The Bird Flu Mask
What's going on?
The Sweet Smell of Friday
Pat and Hugo
Beating a dead horse
Fact or Fiction?
Truth in Advertising
Lives on the line
Please God
Ready, Aim, Fire!
September, October
TGIF
Not a bad idea
2 + 2 = 4
Tea in the Sahara
In Search Of.....
Friday
Slower than the government
Bush Vacation
After doing a heckuva job...
Links with Your Eye Boogers Monday
Still a beautiful world
Blog Comments
Speaking of Wine....
Speaking of God in a box...
National Nightmare
Death to the Looters!
Why Couldn't I have been born in 1968?
R.I.P.
Five Minutes to Post: Links with your Eye Boogers
Links, General Wierdness, with your Eye Boogers
Friends in Low Places, Indeed
When it Rains, it Pours
Whatever you say, Dear
Shoot first, ask questions later
Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming...
Honesty is the best policy
Close to home
Public Servant Perks
Links With Your Eye Boogers; Wednesday
Light at the end of the tunnel
Chattanooga anti-Boortz?
American Slave Narratives
I said I will and I have
Similar operating styles
Race to save the children
Links; Eye Boogers; Thursday
Closet Anglophilia
It’s a small, small world….
It Only Looks Like I'm Not Doing Anything