Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nothing like kindly being chastised by an atheist...

And Michael has chastised me before along the same lines:

"How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?" -- Penn Gillette

Video here.


The Boy Scouts are going to attempt a world record rocket launch on October 9 in College Station and invited the Cub Scouts to help.  Here's our pack yesterday testing some rockets. 

Charlie, I can't see a thing...

Charlie, I can't see a thing in here, where are you?  Wait.  OK.  Here, hold out your hand.  Here's your whistle.  Got it?  OK, later.

October Sky is an anagram of Rocket Boys

Scooter:  It's October Sky on P______ H______!

Michael: It's more Simpson than Hickam...

Friday, September 17, 2010

I guess I've been behind the Pine Curtain too long...

If this is my new fantasy love interest and new favorite sport's league:

Kenda Lenseigne and Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association. Videos here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I would not have guessed that Kanye was a fan of classic lit, but here you have it:

Blogging mystery

Why is my proof-reading proofreading more thorough and accurate after I post than it is before I post?

Update:  You'll think I misspelled proofreading for effect, but I did not.

Was going to put this as a subhead

but still can't take down "man-biz".

Mr. O'Rourke describing Scooter in the last paragraph of All the Trouble in the World:

Maybe this isn't such a hopeful moment in history. Really, it's something of a disappointment to know that when mankind--through noble struggles, grim sacrifices (and a lot of money-making)--does achieve such things as property rights, rule of law, responsible government, and universal education, the fruit borne of these splendid achievements is, um, me.

The Fourth Branch on D'Souza

If anyone is looking for a more detailed take-down of D'Souza's nonsense, try this post at The Fourth Branch. Have a few key points, but do read the whole thing:

1) D'Souza ascribes a policy choice (loans to Brazil's oil industry for off-shore drilling) to Obama, but that choice was actually made by a board that had more Repbulicans Republicans than Democrats, every one of whom had been appointed by Bush.

2) Obama's speech about the BP spill DID spend several paragraphs talking about the clean-up. Besides, since when is it Kenyan-anti-colonial to talk about the dangers of dependence on non-renewable sources of energy?

3) Bailout money is actually getting repaid. TARP was under Bush.

4) Military:

Perhaps D’Souza is unaware that Obama has escalated the war in Afghanistan since taking office and left troops in Iraq longer than he said he would as a candidate. He has also increased predator drone attacks into Pakistan and deployed troops to the US border with Mexico. Are these honestly the acts of a man driven by an impassioned hatred of the US military or who views the US military as a neocolonial force?

Adam Serwer on D'Souza

Adam Serwer on Sept. 13:

For whatever reason, elements of the right have chosen not to evaluate Barack Obama based on his actions or his policies but through the kind of postmodern literary interpretation that wouldn't make it through the vetting process of a freshman bong circle at Wesleyan. In these retellings of Obama's personal history, the president's life is an epic, Marxist, sinister version of a Joseph Campbell-style heroic journey, with its hero ultimately falling, like Anakin Skywalker, to the dark side of the force.

Emerging from his sinecure as president of a small religious college in New York, Dinesh D'Souza, who has been laundering the racism of the right through an "intellectual" filter since his days at Dartmouth, gets back to where his career began. In an essay for Forbes, he concludes that the animating philosophy of the president is "Kenyan anti-colonialism." The purpose of the essay is to synthesize the most idiotic conservative criticisms of Obama into one handy term...


This is birtherism with big words. This is the witchdoctor sign without Photoshop, WorldNetDaily without the exclamation points. D'Souza doesn't need to stare at Obama's birth certificate for hours to come to the same conclusion as the birthers, which is that the president is a foreigner. But neither is "Kenyan anti-colonialism" a superficial term. At once, it engages all the racialized elements of the conservative critique of Obama -- not just that having an African father means he isn't really an American but that his inner life consists of a deep anger toward white people, and the office of the presidency is merely the means to secure a collective payback. It also manages to nod in the direction of another conservative racist meme, that having a black president makes the United States somehow analogous to African Third World countries run by bloodthirsty despots.

Shariah is the fault line

We've been arguing about the wrong thing: who is moderate, who is not, who is more moderate than whom.

"Shariah is the crucial fault line of Islam's internecine struggle. On one side of the divide are Muslim reformers and authentic moderates - figures like Abdurrahman Wahid, the late president of Indonesia and leader of the world's largest liberal Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama - who embrace the Enlightenment's veneration of reason and, in particular, its separation of the spiritual and secular realms. On that side of the divide, Shariah is defined as but a reference point for a Muslim's personal conduct, not a corpus to be imposed on the life of a pluralistic society.
The other side of the divide is dominated by "Islamists," who are Muslim supremacists. Like erstwhile proponents of communism and Nazism, these supremacists - some terrorists, others employing stealthier means - seek to impose a global theocratic and authoritarian regime, called a caliphate. On this side of the divide, Shariah is a compulsory system that Muslims are obliged to wage jihad to install and to which the rest of the world is required to submit.
For these ideologues, Shariah is not a private matter. They see the West as an infidel enemy to be conquered, not a culture and civilization to be embraced or at least tolerated. It is impossible, they maintain, for alternative legal systems and forms of government like ours to coexist peacefully with the end-state they seek."
Does Rauf support or reject Shariah?

D'Souza's new book

The Roots of Obama's Rage:

"In The Roots of Obama’s Rage you’ll learn: Why Obama’s economic policies are actually designed to make America poorer compared to the rest of the world; Why Obama will welcome a nuclear Iran; Why Obama sees America as a rogue nation—worse than North Korea; The real reason Obama banished a bust of Winston Churchill from the White House and ordered NASA to praise the scientific contributions of Muslims; Why Obama would like to make America’s superpower status a thing of the past.

Stunning, provocative, original, and telling—no one has better diagnosed who Obama is, what he intends to do, and why he poses an existential threat to America than Dinesh D’Souza in The Roots of Obama’s Rage."

October 4!

D'Souza: "How Obama Thinks"

I would advise Steph to duct tape her head before reading the whole thing.

"But instead of readying us for the challenge, our President is trapped in his father's time machine. Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stewart on Imam Rauf's "threat"

Stewart was in fine form last night.  In this segment, Jon highlights the response of the right-wing media to Imam Rauf's purported threat.  Stewart's take jives jibes with mine.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Giddy for public domain poetry: Kipling

One of my dad's favorite Kipling poems.

The Female of the Species (1911)

When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When Nag the basking cobra hears the careless foot of man,
He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can.
But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When the early Jesuit fathers preached to Hurons and Choctaws,
They prayed to be delivered from the vengeance of the squaws.
'Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man's timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
For the Woman that God gave him isn't his to give away;
But when hunter meets with husband, each confirms the other's tale --
The female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man, a bear in most relations-worm and savage otherwise, --
Man propounds negotiations, Man accepts the compromise.
Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.

Fear, or foolishness, impels him, ere he lay the wicked low,
To concede some form of trial even to his fiercest foe.
Mirth obscene diverts his anger --- Doubt and Pity oft perplex
Him in dealing with an issue -- to the scandal of The Sex!

But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame
Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same;
And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail,
The female of the species must be deadlier than the male.

She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
May not deal in doubt or pity -- must not swerve for fact or jest.
These be purely male diversions -- not in these her honour dwells.
She the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else.

She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great
As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate.
And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unclaimed to claim
Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.

She is wedded to convictions -- in default of grosser ties;
Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies! --
He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild,
Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.

Unprovoked and awful charges -- even so the she-bear fights,
Speech that drips, corrodes, and poisons -- even so the cobra bites,
Scientific vivisection of one nerve till it is raw
And the victim writhes in anguish -- like the Jesuit with the squaw!

So it cames that Man, the coward, when he gathers to confer
With his fellow-braves in council, dare not leave a place for her
Where, at war with Life and Conscience, he uplifts his erring hands
To some God of Abstract Justice -- which no woman understands.

And Man knows it! Knows, moreover, that the Woman that God gave him
Must command but may not govern -- shall enthral but not enslave him.
And She knows, because She warns him, and Her instincts never fail,
That the Female of Her Species is more deadly than the Male.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Check list for my dad's reading list

Here's a table to keep track of Michael's progress on the list. (Scooter and LJ, if you want in on this, just let me know.)

Uncle Johnny's reading list - part 1, Poe

See here for background.

What's not included in the comments is an off-line discussion with Steph in which I marveled at the breadth of Johnny's list and lamented my own illiteracy. That led to Steph's comment that the list could be read in six months and my comment that I was going to give it a try.

I have given various reading lists a go before, with little success, so we'll see.

In the comments to Steph's post I said I was going to start in chronological order (Hawthorne, Three Musketeers, Poe, Tom Sawyer and Prince and Pauper, and Treasure Island).

[All of the background/history noted below comes from my extensive research on Wikipedia or from the introductions to the Poe collection or The Scarlett Letter. The links below take you to the Wikipedia articles.]

Hawthorne and Poe were contemporaries (Poe even reviewed one of Hawthorne's short story collections). Poe died in 1849. Many of Hawthorne's better known short stories were published before then; however, The Scarlett Letter, which I'm reading now, was published in 1850. The Three Musketeers was published in 1844.

I found a Poe short story collection in my bookcase and so started with it. So the initial order will be Poe, Hawthorne, Musketeers, which is close enough to chronological.

Johnny's list called for four Edgar Allan Poe short stories.

I read The Black Cat, The Cask of Amontillado, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Gold Bug, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Mystery of Marie Roget, and The Purloined Letter. I started The Fall of the House of Usher, but could not get past the convoluted sentence structure and overwhelming dreariness. How about a little sample?

I learned, moreover, at intervals, and through broken and equivocal hints, another singular feature of his mental condition. He was enchained by certain superstitious impressions in regard to the dwelling which he tenanted, and whence, for many years, he had never ventured forth--in regard to an influence whose supposititious force was conveyed in terms too shadowy here to be restated--an influence which some peculiarities in the mere form and substance of his family mansion, had, by dint of long sufferance, he said, obtained over his spirit--an effect which the physique of the gray walls and turrets, and of the dim tarn into which they all looked down, had, at length, brought about upon the morale of his existence.
[I'm not going to attempt to summarize the stories or critique them; the Wiki people can do that better than I.]

The first three in the list are very short "horror" stories with a twist at the end. The Gold Bug is one of the earliest "detective" stories and reflects the popularity of cryptology at the time.

The last three in the list star the first private detective in fiction, C. Auguste Dupin.

"As the first true detective in fiction, the Dupin character established many literary devices which would be used in future fictional detectives including Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. Many later characters, for example, follow Poe's model of the brilliant detective, his personal friend who serves as narrator, and the final revelation being presented before the reasoning that leads up to it."
Add to those factors the bumbling city cop who relies on the detective for help and you see that Conan Doyle had the structure laid out for him by Poe.

All of Poe can be found on Gutenberg for reasons our copyright attorney can explain.

My general thoughts on reading Poe to follow.

Bated breath

World Wide Words says:
Q: From Steve Gearhart: Where does the term baited breath come from, as in: ‘I am waiting with baited breath for your answer’?
A: The correct spelling is actually bated breath but it’s so common these days to see it written as baited breath that there’s every chance that it will soon become the usual form, to the disgust of conservative speakers and the confusion of dictionary writers.
It’s easy to mock, but there’s a real problem here. Bated and baited sound the same and we no longer use bated (let alone the verb to bate), outside this one set phrase, which has become an idiom. Confusion is almost inevitable. Bated here is a contraction of abated through loss of the unstressed first vowel (a process called aphesis); it means “reduced, lessened, lowered in force”. So bated breath refers to a state in which you almost stop breathing as a result of some strong emotion, such as terror or awe.

Annabel Lee

While we're waiting with baited bated breath for Michael to post something about his recent Poe readings, have a little Poe poetry.  This is Annabelle Annabel Lee in its entirety.  (Yay for expiration of copyright.)

Annabel Lee
It was many and many a year ago,
          In a kingdom by the sea,
    That a maiden there lived whom you may know
          By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
    And this maiden she lived with no other thought
          Than to love and be loved by me.

    I was a child and she was a child,
          In this kingdom by the sea;
    But we loved with a love that was more than love-
          I and my Annabel Lee;
    With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
          Coveted her and me.

    And this was the reason that, long ago,
          In this kingdom by the sea,
    A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
          My beautiful Annabel Lee;
    So that her highborn kinsman came
          And bore her away from me,
    To shut her up in a sepulchre
          In this kingdom by the sea.

    The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
          Went envying her and me-
    Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
          In this kingdom by the sea)
    That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
          Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

    But our love it was stronger by far than the love
          Of those who were older than we-
          Of many far wiser than we-
    And neither the angels in heaven above,
          Nor the demons down under the sea,
    Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
          Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

    For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
          Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
    And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
          Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
    And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
    Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
          In the sepulchre there by the sea,
          In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Imam Rauf on Larry King

I'm days late with this, but I just saw the rerun of Imam Rauf on Larry King last night.  I'd missed the original.

Imam Rauf was "interviewed" by Soledad O'Brien.  Those inclined to be hateful of him are willfully misunderstanding his words and twisting his meaning.  Soledad asked an annoying number of times: "Why build at this location when 71% of the American population is against putting the center at that location?"  He answered the question patiently over and over.  One of the many points he made was that he held concerns that if he aborted the mosque/community center project or moved it in response to protests, that it would be fuel for terrorism, that worldwide headlines that the project was disallowed by the American people would fuel anti-West sentiments and spur violent responses.  At one point he described that he feared there was greater danger from violent acts from radical Muslims than from the radical right.   It was an assessment that you would think the right would embrace:  he just characterized radical Muslims as more violent than radical Christians.  Isn't that what right-wing blogs shout every day? But no, the radical right has construed his comment as a threat.  It wasn't a threat. (Media Matter points out that Gen. Petraeus has said something similar.)

I want to give Imam Rauf credit for not losing his temper with Soledad.  Good grief.  She could not have been more hostile.  Kudos to him for pointing out that calling this location, blocks from Ground Zero, "sacred ground" when there's a strip club in the block is "inconsistent".

He also acknowledged that Hamas is responsible for terrorist acts and that he condemns all acts of terrorism.  I know, I know; he refused to say the sentence "I condemn Hamas" so his statement will be insufficient to prove to some that he's not...whatever horrible thing you think he is.  Knock yourself out with that, as long as you are also suspicious of people who say they condemn the child abuse committed by Catholic priests without being willing to say "I condemn the Catholic Church."

Meanwhile, Media Matters has prepared a timeline of the news stories about the Cordoba house.  It's instructive is you are wondering how to whip the public into a frenzy over something they weren't initially inclined to be opposed to.  It has, by the way, very little to do with uncovering new facts and much more to do with shading and characterizing the facts and playing Six Degrees of People Who Don't Eat Bacon.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Squirrel revenge

As K was walking through our back yard yesterday, an object fell out of a tree.  He looked into the tree and saw that a squirrel had dropped it.  K examined the object and identified it as one of Karma's bones.  That's right.  A squirrel stole Karma's bone and dragged it into the tree.

Since squirrels are vegetarians, I can only figure that the squirrel stole the bone to get back at Karma for killing its friends/relatives in the backyard.  She has caught and killed three squirrels in the back yard, and another two at the dog park, that I know of.