is older than it's ever been and now it's even older


Back to civilization

I'm back in the lovely Twin Cities after a weekend of camping. We had a tremendously good time, although the wind was blowing rather beefily. I don't know if most readers have a concept of what it's like to pilot a canoe with all of one's gear loaded in it trying to skirt a shoreline with 40-50 MPH gusts of wind buffeting your vessel, but it's somewhat disconcerting. Nevertheless, I had supreme confidence in our skills and our canoe, and we passed all tests with flying colors. Overall, a very nice kickoff to camping season. I am a full believer in harder to access camping spots, and canoe-in sites are the best of all. We were perched on the edge of a lake several miles away from the nearest people; we hiked for several miles without seeing anyone; and we saw numerous neat creatures. Among the mammals we saw were the beavers that lived in a lodge about 100 yards offshore of our campsite, as well as some muskrats. For the birds, we had common loons, geese, ducks, red-tailed hawks, storks, and even a blue heron. Reptiles were surprisingly well represented; we caught (and released, of course) a garter snake and an Eastern Painted turtle, and then there were the amphibians. We never actually saw any of the 40 billion frogs we heard, but I assure you they were there. Boy, were they.

Over the weekend this site received its 5,000th unique visit. Although I'm very impressed, I know most of these hits are not exactly looking for my site. It's very amusing to me to see how people are getting here, which is why I like to keep track of the hits. The best of these I occasionally post to Disturbing Search Requests, but for some reason I've been getting a bunch of these recently. These are some of the requests I've gotten since yesterday. People enter the following searches in Yahoo! or Google and get to my site:

The inventer of jelly;
Hardcore multiple sex partner;
Gay sadistic wrestling coach;
poetry criticism on Dorothy Parker's General Review of
the Sex Situation
(now that's disturbing);
doctor boy checkup pissing sex pictures;
cost 8ball of cocaine. My favorite. Like I know.

These are just the ones that have nothing to do with my subjects. I still get several hits a week looking for the Brad the Cad saga that I blogged a long time ago, plus people looking for John Ritter's scrotum. However, the search that I get the most referrals from bar none is anything about Jenna Bush. I swear, one little bloggage about her falling out of her dress and I get five hits a day looking for that, or rumors of her dope smoking, or whatever. Ok, here's my take on Jenna; I think she's a normal college frosh doing what college frosh do. I bet she isn't any worse than her dad was. But yes, she was cited for minor in possession, and I do not doubt she's smoked a little reefer, but big deal. I bet Chelsea Clinton has too. If you want more Bush daughter gossip, try here (interestingly enough, rumor has it that the Good Twin, Barbara, had a fake ID confiscated a couple of months ago).

Now what?

How much more politics can everyone here take? I have been getting a number of links to the site based on last week's political ramblings. I'm touched and humbled. I still need to do my Free Trade take, which is a work in progress (as are all of my political views). But, if you're not sick of it, check out this take on the current state of Strom Thurmond, a bona fide Recurring Theme.

Another Wrasslin' link, this time from Blue Ruin: Legends of the WWF. A must! Featuring Andre, Jesse, and some really old school guys like Killer Kowalski. Why do I post so many wrestling links? I don't watch it, I think it's pretty dumb, but the stories are so funny.

Finally, I'm delivering my tuition deposit today to Hamline, meaning I am going officially to Law School. My good buddies Haygruh and Aleava (picture in the Bio) are going to LS at the U of M, so I'm stoked about them moving to the Land o'Lakes. I hope I'm able to do well with blogging while in school. (I've been impressed with Eric's weblog as he's been finishing his Bidness Skool. He's also moving here.) I'm sure I'll always be able to blow a little time doing this; I consider it my daily writing exercise.


The antidote for seriousness

Some people are wondering why I suddenly got on my political kick. It's pretty simple really, if I don't have a crapload of really amusing links I come up with content on my own. Mainly, I have noticed that if I don't have a planned out portion for the topical part of the daily blogging, I can just start writing and stuff comes out. Two days ago, I was just a little ticked anyway because of the lack of any good political heroes and started bitching. I consider it part of the personality I'm trying to let filter through. Rarely do I have a chance to talk about politics in my "real life" so why not try to figure it out here? Everyone should do it, I think. Trying to articulate your politics is the best way to reconcile it in your mind. And I'll probably do it again. That being said, this is a double bloggage, considering that I likely won't blog tomorrow. Enjoy.

Maggie and I and Relffits are going camping this weekend at this campground. We're canoeing in to a boat-in site on Beers lake, and let me tell you, I'm going to have a few. (Beers, that is.) We'll likely be several miles away from the nearest human, and it should be an awesome time. Our canoe is designed for trips, so our excess capacity means we can bring just about anything we want, from a big cooler to plenty of food to camp chairs to… well, anything we want, more or less. I'm stoked. Jeff is also going into the great outdoors. He's taking a 17 mile hike to go check out some grey whales on the Washington coast. Pretty nifty, eh? We were comparing notes earlier and I started thinking about how lucky we are to get to do all these great recreational activities. Minnesota is a really neat place for outdoor activities, especially if you can survive seven months of cold. The people here are so fanatical about getting out and enjoying the warm weather. Starting this time of year, there are massive lineups of cars going north out of the Twin Cities every Friday. It's a well known fact that the American Dream, Minnesota version is to have a cabin up north on a lake to be able to retreat to. Preferably, one gets their cabin up north early as a retirement investment, and then after retirement you sell your city house and just go live up there. That is, unless you run off to Arizona during the winter (they call them Snowbirds) and come back during the summer. Check out some of these homes and cabins that are for sale. You can also buy an entire 100 acre island. Ahhh, feeling covetous.

Politics update

Of course I'm not leaving without updating my political diatribe. Upon further reading, I was disappointed I didn't provide any warrants to my claim that corporate welfare was out of control. Well, let me try. Arianna Huffington, a columnist that I generally agree with, outlined the hypocrisy of the Republican leadership with the types of corporate pork that is inconsistent with their campaign rhetoric yet consistently gets added into the budget. She's referring to the Dirty Dozen corporate pork list that was released nearly four years ago, yet keeps getting put back in there. Among the examples she cites:

One of the dirtiest of the Dirty Dozen, the ironically named Clean Coal Technology Program, not only survived the chopping block but gets a major funding bump, earmarked to receive $2 billion over the next 10 years to continue to do what it's failed to do so far -- and what environmentalists contend cannot be done: produce coal that burns without releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide and other toxic chemicals.

I'm also a fan of predictions that you can go back and check what happened with them. This Nation article details the amount of money getting poured into politics before last year's election and points out how corrupt it's getting. And if you don't think there's any impact to the lobbying and corporate money being poured into our system, please consider the amount of money at stake when a drug company tries to get a patent extension on a drug, in this case, the popular allergy medicine Claritin.
Pent up links

This is a fascinating link from the New Scientist about how monogamy may have developed. Basically, if we men don't know when the women are fertile, and the women keep having sex with us, then we're more likely to stay with them and not just dump them after our biological duty has been done. An interesting theory, but I can't help but think what the wives of these researchers (yes, they're all men) say when they come home and explain their hypothesis. "Oh, so you're only staying with me because of my ambiguous fertility signals, huh?"

A huge list of mistakes in movies, where movie makers have little problems with basic facts. Such as Highlander, otherwise a fine flick, but it gets several points about its swordwork wrong, including:

You just don't try to hit something with a Japanese sword unless you're capable of cutting right through that thing, and CERTAINLY not the impeccable swords shown here. It's the equivalent of smashing a Stradivarius into a brick wall.

From LMG. Along the same lines, an American film crew is currently filming a movie that features a castle on a snow capped mountain in Newcastle, England. Only problem? Newcastle is the flattest part of the whole country. (Link from Plastic Bag)

Finally, I would have had this done earlier except Jeff kept bombarding me with a bunch of Wrestlecrap links. This one made me just about lose it. I can't believe people get paid to do this stuff.


Ideology, part II

Yesterday I briefly sketched out why I don't like either major party. For me, the most important issues facing government are our continuing ratcheting down on the rights we are given. The more conservative the federal bench has been getting, the more our free speech, privacy, and equal protection rights get tossed to the wayside. I blame the Republicans primarily for this phenomenon, although as Ralph Nader pointed out during his Quixotic quest for president, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia wouldn't have been confirmed but for Democratic support. The minute a politician starts talking about legislation to protect what used to be our constitutional rights, I'm tuned in. Yet, I hear a lot more about tossing people in jail than I do about solving societal problems. Basically, the key political questions of the day aren't being answered by politicians. Hell, they aren't even being asked. The key questions are: Is x a problem? If so,who should solve this problem? Government is the biggest and most powerful tool of our society, but it isn't the only one, nor should it be the first one. It's also a lumbering, slow moving weapon. This is a good reason why more democracy is not necessarily a good thing for our government. Consider the Federal Reserve Board. Of the possible economic tools at the disposal of the government, fiscal policy is too slow and carries too many unintended consequences to use much. Thus, we have an unelected body make the bulk of the decisions that affect our daily economic lives.

So, if we need more liberty, and less government, that makes me a libertarian, right? Well, not exactly. Although the Libertarians start out very well, I'm not so naïve as to think that we can repeal all of our regulations and suddenly the market will take into account such problems as low paying jobs and the environment. It doesn't work like that, and for good economic reasons; they're called externalities and the market doesn't consider them at all. You have to regulate so the corporations don't just do anything you want. Speaking of which, many of these hardcore Libertarians seem to be largely pro-business. Many of our laws for business are complete corporate welfare. Defining corporations as people and giving them the same rights as us is absolutely unconscionable, as is the corporate welfare that is given out. But as far as I'm concerned, the most important thing is the rights, dammit. I mainly don't want people to be defined as more important than me then given the right to do virtually anything they want to, like arrest me for an invented traffic charge to get a reason to impound my car, or otherwise do things to me for arbitrary reasons. As my eighth grade civics teacher, Jim Akey, always said, "Rights? Tell me about rights when you're pulled over at three in the morning. You don't have any rights."

It's that reason primarily why I wasn't very keen on what Ralph Nader did in running for president. He knowingly tubed Gore in favor of Dubya, thus allowing the GOP proxy candidate to take over the White House. Both parties may be corrupt and bad for us, but the Republicans are definitely worse. The reason is that they are meaner. For eight years, the GOP dragged their feet on Federal Judge appointments so that Clinton couldn't have an impact on the makeup of the judiciary. In some cases, they justified these decisions by saying that the federal bench didn't need so many judges. Now that the Dubya administration is in power, you had better believe that not a single seat will be left empty, especially if they have a Scalia/Thomas clone to appoint. Remember that these are lifetime appointments - they will be there forever. The Democrats will predictably roll over and let this happen. Thanks, Nader!

To come - free trade.

Ugh. Too serious, too long

Cowbirds are a type of bird parasite that lay their eggs in other birds' nests and then have the host birds raise their chicks. How, then, do the kids know that they're cowbirds? New research is beginning to shed light on it, and it involves the "armpit hypothesis." Seriously. From Honeyguide.

Hidden in a mushroom gatherers' website, I found this account of an adventurous member's eating of a "poisonous" variety.
12:00 midnight - I have no appetite whatsoever. The mushroom seems to have removed any desire for food or, for that matter, any other sensual pleasures. There have been no "psychedelic" symptoms. No colors pulsating, no shapes changing, nothing like that. The effect is entirely cerebral. It might have been nice to do this with another member of the mycological association, I think, since there is so much to think and talk about. I find the roster of MAW phone numbers and begin calling people; most of them seem strangely groggy, irritated, and uninterested in chatting. Could there be a bug going around?



I suppose most people in the US go through life not concerned whatsoever with having a political philosophy; they only vote for candidates (and referenda, in our Progressive states) with little regard for anything except what strikes their fancy at the time, assuming they vote at all. Of the rest of the people, most will just identify themselves with one of the political parties, whether that's from heredity or general belief in most of the policies or whatnot. As for myself, I always identified myself as a Democrat when I was a young 'un, but by the time I became a registered voter I was widely disillusioned with the two parties. What do you do when no party represents your point of view? I've tried to formulate a personal philosophy that makes sense and it's tough. It's tougher when you have to deal with two parties that might as well be set in concrete in the middle of our political discourse.

The Republicans. I was going to link directly to their platform, but they've helpfully removed it from their page. Thus, you could go to their site, poke around, and still not find out anything they believe except a virtual pep rally for the Shrub. Fortunately, other sites still have it up. First observation; it's absolutely impossible to figure out what they mean when everything is ensconced in such linguistic curliques as the "American Dream Down Payment." (that's a proposed one time payment to anyone getting a federal rent credit, ostensibly so they can buy houses) Second, Republicans have a terrible grasp of priorities; they'd rather waste a lot of time trying to pass a flag burning amendment than pass legislation that would, say, create a more equitable dairy pricing mechanism than the one we have now. It goes without saying that the latter would certainly benefit more people, especially the GOP's supposed constituency, than the former. The GOP has some things right, of course; they want to restrain spending, and keep taxes down, and promote limited government. On the other hands, the Republicans are terrible hypocrites. They want to keep spending more on the ridiculous War on Drugs, on the military, and now to subsidize religious groups; they are for local determination unless that locality includes the Florida Supreme Court; and limited government only goes until we're talking about freedom to own a dildo, or have sex the way you want to, or otherwise exercise personal freedom. So, the GOP is pretty much morally bankrupt. I haven't even mentioned their demonstrated fealty to corporate types.

Then there's the Democrats. They've had all the issues for so long; benefitting the poor, aiding the environment, increasing access to health care, the works. But a funny thing happened on their way to power; the people didn't care. In fact, the Republicans, long the minority party, began making serious inroads into Democratic constituencies in the eighties and the Democrats caved. Soon they were couching their progressive platform in pithy platitudes; making mealy-mouthed mumblings about the moderate majority; and then electing Bill Clinton to be only the second Democratic president since LBJ. Unfortunately, Bill turned out to be the most polarizing figure yet, which is shocking because his politics resembled Goldwater's more than Johnson's. He moved the Democrats into their current position as the less corporate party of the center, but by no means a progressive party. Bought and paid for just like the Republicans, people got turned off of politics when they realized neither party was in favor of departing from the status quo in any real way.

On the other hand, what's so great about being progressive? Well, it depends what you're for. I'm not terribly sure that more democracy is such a great idea. Our founding fathers definitely wrote the constitution the way they did to shield the republic from the shifting proclivities of the populace. Hmmph. I'll pick this up tomorrow.

Running out of gumption, running out of the basement

I can tell that this spring and summer will be taxing on my blog time, mainly because I'm not going to be indoors so much. I guess I need to maximize my writing while at work, heh heh heh.
I've mentioned before that the existence of webcams is a good argument for what the internet is doing to bring the world together. This link is a collection of webcams by state. Go look for your city! It's awesome.

What was revolutionary about the Green Revolution? I bet you'd say it was Nitrogen. Unfortunately, Nitrogen has some very deleterious effects on our environment. This bodes ill for our future.


A done deal

Last Friday, shortly after leaving the confines of the dank dungeon I call Work, I arrived home to find a letter from the University of Minnesota Law School. I would quote it, but seeing as it’s now absorbing moisture from some sort of decaying vegetable matter, I can’t. What it said is that they are deferring the decision of my acceptance or rejection until at least May 31, when I will likely be offered a position on their waitlist. Fat chance. What sort of person gets to wait that long before they can tell other schools whether they will be matriculating at their institutions? So, another stupid school gets my eternal ire by denying me admission. But, revenge is a dish best served cold, and I will be sure to wait at least thirty years before I get them.

So, to Hamline I will go to law school. I’ll cheerfully accept their scholarship, graduate with no or little additional student debt, and remember that I am so lucky to be doing this in the US of A instead of growing up in, oh, say East Jerusalem. I’m mainly just bitter I paid $40 for the right to be told I wasn’t good enough for them. Hmmph. I’m not hurt.

Links updates, blah blah blah

I stumbled upon this examination of the Jesse Ventura Playboy Interview Controversy that gripped this fine state a year and a half ago. This is the one where he got into a bunch of trouble because of such statements as:

Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people's business. I want to live by the golden rule: Treat others as you'd want them to treat you. The religious right wants to tell people how to live.

Jesse continues to be a baffling political figure. On one hand, I think he’s got some puzzling political proclivities (such as wanting to put more guns in citizens’ pockets, and capping car titling fees for wealthy people). However, I’m with him on some key points:
1. The government shouldn’t pay money for new sports stadiums.
2. Flood relief should be of the permanent variety. (Don’t build in floodplains, you morons.)
3. It might be all right to not increase funds to the University of Minnesota by double digit percentiles every year.
4. Telling the truth is preferable to listening to focus groups all the time.
One final note not-quite-on the subject, some new research sheds extra light on religion. From the impeccable Null Device.
Oh, shit. I guess we have good reason to worry about smallpox.



It's hard to concentrate on high quality bloggage when I'm literally counting hours until I can get out into the outdoors. I work in a basement, people, and today is the first time over 70 degrees since last October. It's not easy to sit still. Moreover, I keep getting distracted by my ol' buddy Jeff, who keeps sending me silly links like this one that tells the story of Irwin R. Schyster, or IRS, a bad character from early 90s WWF.

The problem with the IRS gimmick wasn't with Rotundo at all. The problem was with druids. First of all, any angle with druids sucks. As soon as you see the hooded henchmen head to the ring, kill the angle. It won't get over. Never has, never will.

I couldn't have said it better myself. Nonetheless, I can't get too down on Jeff. He's always wont to give me a crazy link or two; the geoduck one was his, for instance. Where was I? I forgot the point that I was making. (bonus points if you name the TMBG song that is a quote from…)

At Dartmouth, a major scandal has erupted over a leaked newsletter from a frat house that features, among other things, calling out ladies by name who are supposedly easy; topless pictures, and promises "upcoming date rape tips." Copies of the newsletters in question are here and here. I'm glad that my alma mater didn't have the overprivileged rich kids in frat houses. No, our overprivileged rich kids stepped shoeless out of their Lincoln Navigators, grabbed their hemp collar wearing mutts, and went to play frisbee on the lawn, smelling strongly of Patchouli. As a note to these people: Happy 4/20. The squares are on to you.

I'd save up for a piece of string…

This is a great link: art from World War I. I mean, this is a really fascinating site. I think WWI is around the time when art started to go bad. Ever since I saw an exhibit in Norman featuring an orange circle on a white background, I have been shocked and appalled at how bad much of our modern art is. No, not all of it: I think Dale Chihuly is pretty cool. Damn, another tangent. Screw it. Time to go drop my canoe in the water. (Oh yeah; that link was from GMTplus9, a first class blog from Japan.)


Updates, delays

Last month, as part of my periodic rants about dumb people, I shared a story that culminated with the phrase "Poor people shouldn't breed." A study released today says that kids that spend more time in daycare act worse. Well, no shit. You don't say? The Metafilter discussion has come down to a "poor people shouldn't breed" versus poor breeder comments. If I ever procreate I will insist on as little childcare as possible.

I devoted a whole day's bloggage several months ago to the children of Republican politicians and their children. Well, Trent Lott's son just attempted to smuggle a dog into a Southwest Airlines flight on Tuesday, and when he was foiled he said, "I can't wait to tell Daddy about this. It's gonna be real interesting the next time y'all want some legislation passed." Besides the obvious parallels to my previous complaints about our American aristocracy, the dog in question is really ugly. A seven pound Maltese kickdog, "Bosco" is exactly the dog type that most irritates me. I've been taking Relffits to dog training for three weeks now, and seeing all of these dog types is really helping me figure out which breeds I like and which I don't like. I especially don't like yippy dogs that are very small, have high pitched barks, and massive tear stains around their inevitably dingy, curly masses of ill-kempt hair. Even though Relffits isn't exactly the tallest dog in the world, at least she has a big, authoritative, full throated bark.

I feel like I've been bitching about the lack of spring this spring forever. The ice is finally leaving our lakes, and this map
is helping me keep track of which areas of the state have full ice-out. It likely isn't going to come quick enough for our first scheduled camping trip next week to Scenic state park.


I'd say this was a LAPI, except it doesn't turn ME on. All this will likely do is buy me another Disturbing Search Request: The FAQ on how to have sex with a dolphin. I hope the author is kidding. Really. (via Webmutant of MeFi.)

Here's a column giving out awards to NBA players and teams based on lines in Rocky III. I pity the fool that isn't amused by this.

(By the way, "Rocky V" never happened. You hear me? It never happened. For years, I've been hoping to get my revenge when they release the Rockys on DVD, and I'll finally get my chance next week. I'm going to purchase the 5-DVD set at Suncoast Video, immediately open the package, rip out the "Rocky V" DVD and smash it on the floor to smithereens as the stunned salespeople look on. Then I'm walking out. Can you put a price on a moment like that? I think not.)


Neighborhood food

When we took our three week trip to Germany (and Austria and Italy) at the end of 1998 and beginning of 1999, one of the things I was struck by is the number of sausage stands scattered about. For me, it was a hell of a lot better to go pick up ein Wurst in der Semmel (that's a sausage, usually a Bratwurst, in a roll) than to go to a shitty American fast food restaurant. I mean, there's nothing worse than going to the Rialto in Venice and realizing that at one end of this bridge is a McDonald's. So, while we were tromping about if we got hungry I'd suggest to Jeron or Maggie or Jerry that it was time to go from bad to Wurst, which would draw a groan or a smack, depending on who I said it to, what mood they were in, or how many times I'd uttered that phrase on that particular day.

I'm thinking about the wurst because after eating so many in Deutschland, we began searching in earnest for good bratwurst here in St. Paul. Very close to our house we found them - there's a liquor store, deli, and semi-grocery store called Morelli's that is perhaps the most amazing store in the Twin Cities. For one, apparently it's so old it's been able to avoid all the weird liquor laws that govern all of the other liquor stores. There is literally nowhere else you can pick up food while you're getting beer, or whiskey, or wine. The deli is something from another era. Not only are the prices better than any other meat market in the Cities, but they actually make their own sausage. Those bratwurst are quite literally the best in the world - and they don't start making them until summer. Last year they were already making them but this year they haven't started yet. C'mon, Morelli's… make the bratwurst! How can we go camping without them?

Morelli's was started in the teens at the top of a hidden valley called Swede Hollow. Swede Hollow was the site of a bustling immigrant community from before statehood to the 1950s, when the city decided to rid themselves of what they considered a bit of an embarassment to their image. Now, Swede Hollow is a park. Despite the overgrown nature, a neat trail winds through there and if you go off the path you can see flagstones and foundations like a huge archaeological site. Next to Morelli's is a very working class, basic, and thoroughly charming southern Italian restaurant called Yarusso Bros, home of the fifteen dollar date. Yarusso's was founded in 1933 and thus is the oldest Italian Restaurant here. I have now talked myself into taking Maggie there tonight. Chicken Parmesan, Spaghetti, Antipasto and spicy fried ravioli!

Odds 'n' ends

A journal-style page I like is Squirrel bait. I have to say I was especially intrigued by this long entry about two Nathans. Of course I'm biased, being a Nathan myself, but I can't help but think that the description of them kinda sounds like me:

Nathan's twenty and boy-band cute; big blue eyes in a classic face framed by blonde hair, wiry muscles, the whole nine yards. He's funny, smart, has a continent-sized ego, tends to hide behind acting silly and cute, flirts shamelessly with everyone, and plays mind games for fun. When I first met him, he annoyed the crap out of me -- but as I got to know him, I was won over by his charm and obvious affection for me.

Ok, the "boy-band cute" and "blond hair" are a little off, but funny, smart, continent sized ego… HEY! It's me! To make this more interesting, the entry in question features the younger and older Nathans meeting. She assigns both of them the description I've just reproduced. After they meet:

As the intoxicants flowed, Nate and Mini-Nate came to the same realization."Dude! You're me, three years ago!" cried Big Nate."Dude! You're me, when I'm, like, old and stuff!" cried Little Nate

Dude, I'm both of you, three years older and stuff. Deal with it. Nice journal, Meg.

Anyone from the Northwest might be proud to know about the mysterious and large clam called the geoduck. That's pronounced "gooey duck." I never knew how to pronounce that until I read this article, seeing as I'd only seen the word written and never heard it. I've had the same problem with other words like "assuage" and "communique." Don't bother telling me how to pronounce them now. I looked them up. (Huh huh, he said "ass wage")


To the land where the Bong tree grows!

As a stereotypical member of my generation, I waited to do my taxes until last night. BIG MISTAKE. For the first time ever, I owe money and I'm not terribly happy about it. In fact, I have composed a short bit of doggerel to express how I feel.

We have until the deadline pushed,
The boxes on the form to fill.
When through the papers I have rushed,
Then forced to swallow a bitter pill.

Why did we have to pay so much geld?
Is it to support a lazy neighbor?
More money than all the year I've held
Worth so much of my labor.

The worthless government, I sniffed, quite cross.
Unnecessary! Run by fools!
Paying for pork, and crap, and dross.
I'm sure we don't need more schools.

A political change in my brain, I knew it!
To a demagogue I'd swear fealty.
The key proposal then, I intuit-
Is getting rid of the marriage penalty!

(Bows) Ok, ok. It's bad, but writing it made me feel better. My position on poetry is that it doesn't mean anything unless it has some form, so if I ever write any it will either rhyme or be set in a rigid arbitrary format. Isn't that the point? No surprise, then, that among my favorites are Ogden Nash and Edward Lear. Lear's The Owl and the Pussycat is a great poem that I'll always remember because my mom bribed me and Kevin several dollars if we could memorize it when we were very young. We both did and then spent our money on fireworks. I got the bonus fiver for memorizing the Gettysburg Address. Ahhh, childhood.

Ten years ago

Continuing the high school nostalgia kick I started yesterday, I thought I'd point out that REM's Out of Time is now ten years old. That album is one of five or six that will always mean "High School" to me; it's a real work of art and definitely the high point of REM's career. Everything they've done from there has been slowly but steadily downhill.

Around that same time, I got this black hat with a hammer 'n' sickle on it at a Dallas art museum. I loved that hat, and was really sorry when I lost it in college. The circumstances: I was out at the coast as one of the famous fall Oregon windstorms blew in. It was so windy that it was literally difficult to stand up. Anyhoo, the hat was picked up and within seconds was most likely miles away. It was a tragic loss, but not as bad as what someone else with us lost that night. (Let's just say it was a fungible good.) I could get a hat pretty close to it at this site that sells ex-Soviet memorabilia. I want one of those flasks. (Found via Boing Boing)

Finally, a gratuitous LAPI, unashamedly stolen from Al: A woman who prefers quickies. Wow! It even mentions the Boris Becker incident that I blogged earlier.


Life in Minnesota

I'm feeling very Minnesota at this point. On Friday we picked up our new canoe. It's gorgeous. We immediately got it licensed and dropped it into Lake Phalen and tooled around a bit. Saturday we rowed from Phalen to Keller to Round to Spoon to Gervais lakes, which are all connected by streams. Very nice. The weather was beautiful, and what little ice was left in Phalen had all been blown to the southern lobe of the lake so we could just bypass it. Yesterday Jeron and I got up before the butt crack of dawn and went to go stalk the elusive trout. Here in L'etoile du Nord the trout fishing season starts the second weekend in April, whilst walleye and bass seasons don't open until late May. I'd never trout fished before, but I had an extremely fun time. Just as the sun was rising, we were poised and ready to go on the creek, and the fish were hitting. You can only keep five fish apiece, and the first ones slipped easily into our ice packs. At nine, Jeron and I had one fish to go for our limit, and we got very picky (read: greedy). Jeron hooked into a fine but somewhat small fish, and we decided to let it go so we could get a bigger one. Sure enough, we caught no more fish the rest of the time there. Sad, but an important lesson: take the tenth fish. To complete the Minnesota feeling, it's snowing right now and the wind chill is 4 above. Lousy subarctic climate.

In the last few months the format of this site has evolved to its present version: a topical portion to start, set off by a medium sized headline, with a more normal weblog section below the small headline. More often recently I've been writing a journal-style entry in the top section, and few people have complained. I've always been somewhat nervous about writing much about myself. This isn't because I don't think I can do it; I'm sure I could. It's also not because I'm boring, although some people say I am. No, it's because I've noticed that many of the journal writers attract freaks. Seriously, I understand Noah is an important figure in the journaling world, and he's got psychological problems that he has laid out in detail, but folks: you don't know him. Lay off the crazy stalker like comments. If anyone ever wrote anything like that in my comment section, I think I'd quit. Another example, not quite as bad: check her comments. Borderline, people. Relax, she's just another person. Speaking of journalizers, Al mentioned me in his super awesome and popular journal. Al gets about a million hits a day and I haven't noticed any fawning stalkers in his discussions. I wonder how he does it.

Gabba Gabba Hey!

RIP, Joey Ramone. The Ramones were a fantastic band, and definitely an indelible part of my growing up. Kevin introduced me to them, which is really cool in and of itself. Kevin was PAF while I was in my early teens (that's Punk As Fuck, FYI). Many of his favorite bands were somewhat, errrr, esoteric and I didn't exactly get into them. The Ramones, on the other hand, were catchy, cool, and had insanely short songs. Then he brought home a ripped off copy of Rock 'n' Roll high school, and we watched that over and over and over again. Hell, my mom likes the Ramones. Then I went off to college (taking Kevin's taped copy of Ramones Mania with me - sorry, bro, but you aren't getting it back) and shared my love for the Ramones with my boy Jared Ellis. So, I'll always have several special places in my heart for the Ramones. I'll pour out a little bit of my next forty ounce bottle for ya, Joey. Finally, let me share this brief story of the WTO protests shared by Jeff to me via the wonders of Instant Messenger:

Jeff says:
Well, let me tell you this story real quick. I'm at the main havoc site in downtown Seattle. I am near the FAO Schwartz, with its giant teddy bear made of bronze. Cops are shrieking into megaphones. Tear gas is in the air. It is a scene of fierce surrealism.
Nathan says:
I bet.
Jeff says:
People are dressed as sea turtles to demonstrate the plight of the beasts. Everyone has a sign of some type. "Steelworkers for Fair Trade." "Smash Capitalism." "Free Burma." & etc. In the midst of all of the riff-raff signs I see a professionally printed sign in black block letters that says, simply, "Gabba Gabba Hey!"
Jeff says:
Holding the sign is Joey Ramone.



Johnny Hart, the creator of the BC comic strip has stepped in it with his upcoming Easter Sunday strip. Hart has been known to inflect his comics, especially on holidays, with his Christian beliefs. That's totally fine, but this one in particular has inflamed Jewish groups because it depicts a menorah burning out until it's a cross. Can we try to not antagonize other religions at a sensitive time? Thanks. (via Romenesko's Media News)

Upon further reading, I think I sound like a major league asshole in yesterday's screed. Oy vey. It happens. As Maude says in Harold and Maude, everyone "has the right to make an ass out of themselves." So true. Be stupid. See if I care. Besides, it's not the dumb people that really irritate me anyway. I'm mostly pissed about stupid people that are in better straits than I am. It's a question of privilege. If we were living in a merit-based society, people like George W. Bush would never be where he is. He's ridden the crest of nepotism and money his entire life. The myth of egalitarianism is a pervading one in America, but it's not true and never has been. Sure, the Horatio Alger theme of rags to riches is possible, and America's opportunity is likely unmatched, but the rich and well connected live their lives on another track from the rest of us. It's partially because of this that I decided to go to Law School; if you can't beat them, join them.

What do you do about it? Well, to draw back to this late unpleasantness with the law, the two tracked system has never been more evident to me. We shouldn't have the law be a bright line between the powerful and the powerless, and people should be treated like people whether they are legal professionals or not. Being tossed into the machine known as the Law illuminated one thing about myself; I'm most afraid of situations where I'm not treated like a person. Court, hospitals, dealing with civil servants - in all of these cases the workers dealing with you aren't thinking of me as Nathan Hobbs, the human being; I'm just another defendant, or patient, or license applicant, or whatever. They don't care, at all. And why would they? It's their job to deal with thousands of people. I'd just prefer to never deal with any of those people, but life doesn't work like that. The rich and famous don't have that problem. They live on a plane that is unknown to us, and that's why I resent them.

Updates and information

The FBI has a reading room set up for their most requested Freedom of Information Act requests. Among the highlights are Marilyn Monroe, MLK, and John Dillinger. I always have wondered if the FBI has a file on me. After all, I joined Amnesty International when I was 14. Don't all those stinkin' liberals have a file? (Frankly, I'd be disappointed if I didn't. That's why I've never requested it.)

Update on the Candiru, via Glish. Our buddy Cecil at the Straight Dope is skeptical about the swimming up the urethra thing, but concedes it's possible. I'm still not skinny dipping in the Amazon.

Okies unite! If you qualify, please submit your application. Via one of those Okie blogs I frequent and love. Start at Leaving Oklahoma and explore. That's how I found it.

Finally, go visit a gangster on the web. Henry Hill is the wiseguy portrayed by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas. I'll always remember seeing that movie. I saw it with my friend Jeremy Larchick in Norman at the long dead Heisman 4 movie theater. After seeing it, we snuck in to Silence of the Lambs. Now that's a double feature.


shenbiao qianyi? feichang baoqian?

As all of you are no doubt aware of by now, the Chinese Hostage crisis is now over. The last eleven days have been tied up in a linguistic tizzy that is bewildering to the mind. Even now the rhetoric still doesn't connect between the two sides, as the Chinese report that we used the term "shenbiao qianyi" in our letter (deep apology or regret) while the letter released by our embassy reports that it was "feichang baoqian" (extremely sorry). As sourced here. Personally, I consider this the crowning chapter in an empty contest of wills. I can't countenance the extreme importance placed on saving face. It seems like such a weak reason for any action. To go along with my previously stated philosophy of life, I have another major pet peeve: pride. I don't use this term as referring to, say, pride in one's accomplishments, but rather as pride in other's perception of you. This is worthless. People will perceive you as a good person or country if you are a good person or country. To actively seek and enforce this "pride," especially as a country, is a recipe to throw away people's lives. Unnecessarily. Now, before someone accuses me of being culturally insensitive, I'd like to point out that the US committed the same sin of pride in not wanting to appear to bend to the will of the Chinese government. Both sides demonstrated a boastful air that is really sickening to me, and should be stomped out. At least some of the far right pundits have admitted something terribly obvious: if Bill Clinton had acted the same way Dubya has throughout this standoff, the Republicans would be calling for his head. 'National disgrace.' AUGGGHHH.

A corollary to this tenet of my personal philosophy is a general lack of tolerance for vanity. It's debatable how far I should take this. Maggie and I differ; sometimes we'll go for a walk around the lake and I'll be wearing the nastiest, most ratty clothing I own. She points out that she is embarassed to be seen with me, and I just can't understand that. Why do I give a crap about what people think as they see me go by while I'm taking a walk?

As full disclosure, I must point out that I have sometimes been accused of being haughty or prideful myself. However, in my defense, I must point out that I'm not prideful nor haughty. I just don't like stupid people. Don't act stupid and I won't treat you like you're stupid, ok?! Moreover, I've never gotten into a fight because someone "insulted my honor." That's so stupid. It's like what Chris Rock says:

…if you go to a movie theater and someone steps on your foot, let it slide. Why spend the next 20 years in jail 'cause someone smudged your Puma?

I are very confused!

So, a cop stops famous football kicker Sebastian Janikowski, who was playing for the mighty Florida State Seminoles, and doesn't recognize him. Why is that, officer? "I are a Gators fan." I see. The misspelled headline to the story just completes the hilarity. As a footnote to the story, Janikowski faces deportation if he's convicted of this drug misdemeanor, just like thousands of other immigrants, some of whom lived here their entire lives and don't speak any other language than English. I wonder if the moneyed interests who own Congress would stop this injustice based on a need for a placekicker for the Raiders, when they wouldn't intervene for an average person. Somehow I suspect they might.

This should make your brain hurt: some scientists now think the precipitating factor of the Big Bang was the approach of another universe. What? How many universes do we need, anyway? I don't think my cerebrum is calibrated to consider this conundrum.

This is amazing work. These people have rigged an automatic kitty door to deny entry to their cat if it is attempting to bring a mouse or similar creature into the house. It depends on algorithms to judge the similarity of the profile of the cat as it passes a camera. Via the super nifty Pigs and Fishes.

Lastly, a highbrow LAPI: the lost sex scene of Pride and Prejudice. Oh, my! Lizzie isn't tucking lace in THAT PICTURE!



It's flooding time in Minnesota. On top of a massive melting snowpack, we've started to get some big rain on top of it. People are anxiously watching as the rivers rise, and stuff is already going under. Big rain is predicted over the next two days, so it can only get worse. As far as I'm concerned, rivers flood. People shouldn't build in a flood plain. When we bail out those people who do build in a flood plain, we are throwing away good money after bad. There's a reason that private insurance companies won't offer flood insurance, people. Besides, a big flood just gives the evil government within a government called FEMA practice (kidding, folks; Reagan is no longer in control).

Actually, moving people out of the flood plains is a big discussion in some of the executive agencies that have to deal with insurance and disaster relief. A new approach began to develop where houses in flood zones would get bought out and not rebuilt after floods. One of the first manifestations of this was, surprisingly enough, in Tulsa, where I was living and remember the big Memorial Day flood of 1984, which proved to be a seminal event in the area's flood strategy. Watching a flood is cool. Being in one is not. Fortunately, my parents weren't stupid and we weren't living in a flood plain.

So, the flood is coming, it should be big, and all I can think of is how that's going to affect my canoeing. Does that make me a bad person?

No, it doesn't. Here, have some links

Another alphabet link: this is an animated alphabet evolution page, and it's really neat. It's from Blue Ruin, which I have been avoiding so I don't get tempted to steal as many links. Whoops!

Maggie and I love to go to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival every fall. The turkey legs are great, and there's nothing like wandering around getting crazy food and watching people run around in stupid costumes shouting at each other in Monty Python accents and playing Dunk The Wench. For those not in in the land of L'Etoile du Nord, find the closest faire here. Mag sent me that link. She should get her own blog, so I don't get as much hell for posting such geeky crap.

Finally, this should really go on Debater's Corner, but I've recently found a huge site devoted to the world's number one psychedelic prophet, Terence McKenna. Mr. McKenna is always the key author when any debater runs a 'shrooms counterplan. Pretty crazy site, I say.


What price justice?

Well, today draws an end to what I'll call the "Kia clubbing incident". As you may recall, my car was damaged last January by a policeman that I would characterize with a expletive. He wrote a ticket at the time, and since then I've been fighting it. The first time I went to court they offered to let me out of it with $150 fine, pleading guilty to both. No thanks, said I. The second time I went to court I was offered a $100 fine, plus $30 court costs, pleading guilty to one. No thanks, said I. Today I went back, and although I still maintain that I did nothing, I did agree to their latest offer, which is $60 court costs only; no guilty pleas, and I must refrain from disobeying a police officer for six months. Although it really (let me make myself clear, I am VERY ANGRY STILL) ticks me off, I agreed to it because it's consistent with my previously stated philosophy of life, specifically the part about utility and efficiency. Simply put, it was worth $60 to not have to go back to court any more, even though I knew I would probably win. Even though I am the boss, it doesn't mean that I have unlimited time to leave from work, and I had a vision of being gone each day from work the week that the trial was scheduled. Additionally, I don't admit to anything this way, and nothing goes on my record. I almost feel it's a case of legal bribery. Pay the city and the (fraudulent) charge goes away.

The whole episode has left me very ambivalent about the field of law. On the one hand, I know I can do this. On the other hand, I saw the way that the lawyers in the courtroom behave and are perceived, and let's just say they're all assholes. Also, I can't believe I had to appear three times for a traffic ticket -- and I never did argue the merits of the charge! It would take someone with unlimited time to appear plus money for an attorney to fight a ticket successfully, I think, and who can do that? It seems to me that the law, at least as it relates to traffic cases, is less a tool of justice and more a fund collections agency. I'd also like to see a database showing makes of vehicles versus number of times stopped. In all of my court cases, I noticed that most of those with appearrances were, shall I say, minorities and other less advantaged people? So, I'm not exactly keen on the police right now. I think that most officers have carte blanche because the law is not equipped to assume they could do anything wrong. I'm going to post the police report here in the next week, annotated with all of the inaccuracies, and you'll see what I mean.

I still remember how to link stuff

Very interesting political happenings have been going on in Peru. Last year, the president (Alberto Fujimori) ran illegally for a third term, lost but rigged the election so that he won, and then finally fled the country. His intelligence officer fled at around the same time after secret videotapes that showed bribes going down began to surface. Now there's a clean election going on, but the spectre of these tapes still hang over the country -- although few businesspeople have been identified so far, it's known that thousands remain in an archive. For up to date information on this, continue to monitor my favorite Latin blog, GCI275. I've recommended it before, and it's still really good.

Fun with the alphabet! Try out this one (link via Thirteen Labs). Each letter of the alphabet gets a ghoulish drawing. Or if you like Flash, go with Bembo's Zoo, which is an animal for every letter. And I just had to grow up with Sesame Street.

If every other problem at Hanford Nuclear reservation wasn't enough, now they've got radioactive tumbleweeds.

Finally, I haven't had a good LAPI in a while: there's this site that shows women baring their mammaries as they go down the big hill at Splash Mountain in Disneyland. I'm shocked. Really.


Now we're in trouble

I try not to let Metafilter color the bloggage here too much, but I can't really help but draw some attention to this one. To explain, Metafilter is an experiment of Matt Haughey, a noted blogger, where each member can post links and comments to a collective weblog. Basically, since I joined the membership has gone from around 12-1500 members to around 5000 members, and the pace of posting has greatly increased and the quality of discussion has decreased. Matt has signalled that he's sick of it and is going to change everything. I personally feel like a kid in second grade whose class has just gotten really badly yelled at. I don't think I'm personally part of the problem, but then again, we're all in trouble. I also feel like a profound geek for even explaining this here. Every time I tell Mag anything about Metafilter she makes fun of me. Yesterday I cracked myself up on some inside MeFi joke and then had to explain to her the whole thing, at the end of which she just pronounced me the biggest nerd on earth. Great. But if not for MeFi, I wouldn't have known anything about Dahler Mehndi or AYBABTU. And then where would I be? (I think I've just answered my own question. Maybe I just need to swear the whole damn thing off for a while.)

Ok, let's start this whole bloggage over again, then.


Ignore the previous section. Tough to do, right? Well, that's another lesson the web could learn. If we write stuff without fact checking, then everything goes to hell. Case in point: two weeks ago, 'net gossipmonger Matt Drudge posted a link about how noted historian Doris Kearns Goodwin had optioned her latest book about Abraham Lincoln to Steven Spielberg for use as a movie. Within hours, this story was posted everywhere including this Mefi link (DOH! Ignore that, too). The reason it was newsworthy was the claim that Goodwin and Spielberg intended to portray Lincoln in an excessively negative light. The problem? It ain't true, says Goodwin herself. No one asked her what the angle was going to be. Of course, the corrections have been half-assed and also getting no publicity. This is a consistent problem with the 'net. I blogged the same day this came out about another case where this was true, that is, the Mexican butterfly slaughter. Want another example? I bet all of you heard the news that Bush was the rightful winner of Florida, according to the Miami Herald's major news release yesterday. How many of you heard that the paper backed off that conclusion today? No? All of us in the media need to do a better job getting the stories right and not just out there fast. Let's all remember what happened on election night. I feel better now.

I guess I am a nerd

My favorite recurring theme: PIES IN FACE. The latest update is an Aussie named Duff who pied himself and then laid a big wet one on the Australian prime minister. I notice in that last sentence that I have committed a major grammatical faux pas, in verbing the noun "pie." At least it's not nouning a verb, which is worse as I see it. The worst example in common usage is "disconnect," as in, "there's a logical disconnect in Bush's attitude towards China versus his stance on Cuba." That's almost as irritating as forgetting that hopefully is an adverb.

Anyone want an opportunity to put their elite hacker (1337 h4x0r) decoding skills to work? here ya go.

Finally, a novel way to tell if we're in a recession. Count the times the word "recession" is mentioned in major news outlet stories, and you have the "r word" recession guage. Very clever. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go re-tape the nosepiece of my glasses.

Happy Birthday, Valerie!

Val is my kid sister who lives in Boiling Springs, NC. She's only 17, although on this night she fooled some gullible waiters. Heh heh.


Grub the dead critter

I've noticed that there are many more vegetarians on the Left coast than in the rest of the country. I wonder why that is; here in the middle, many more animals are raised than on the coast, so you'd think that empathy would be stronger for the creatures here as opposed to more urban areas. As for myself, I have a problem with vegetarianism because of my natural predisposition to evolutionary explanations of our biology. We're evolved to eat anything, more or less, and I think it would be a crime against our nature to forswear meat products out of our artificial morality. After all, we're animals too, and plenty of animals kill to live. That being said, I don't think it's necessary to be cruel to our animals, for they really are doing us a favor by allowing us to eat them. That's why I don't eat veal or fois gras or other products of (inordinate) suffering. Notwithstanding my penchant for flesh, my views on animals overall are quite out of the ordinary, I would guess, because I do believe that the line between us and humans is a rather artificial one. I've read a number of Peter Singer's works, but the one that is currently getting a lot of attention is this article where he argues that perhaps bestiality isn't a bad thing. (I guess the Candiru thinks the same way, heh heh. Hmm. On further reading it sounds like I'm in favor of bestiality. Well, no. Some taboos aren't worth challenging, as far as I'm concerned.)

As long as I'm on the animals kick, I blogged about animal cognition quite a while ago and haven't updated much. There is finally an explanation for the long range communication that elephants seem to display in the wild: they can hear ultrasonic vibrations through their feet. This explains their behavior when they suddenly and seemingly instinctively move towards a major rainstorm many miles away, as well as providing a mechanism for hearing distress calls of other elephants hunted by poachers. Elephants are very impressive creatures and I don't believe we know very much at all of what goes on inside their massive craniums. For instance, I wonder what the elephant who was brought to Show and Tell at a Dallas kindergarten thought about toting a bunch of kids around a parking lot. Ok, one more Oliphaunt link: This one is to an elephant webcam in the Pittsburgh Zoo. There's a baby elephant there and it's pretty cute (cue: Henry Mancini).

Stupid links and a crude LAPI or two

In years past, when I saw the top censored stories of the year I was always amazed and disenheartened that those stories were suppressed. This year I'm feeling smug because I already knew about most of them. YES!

Here's a bizarre sex laws page. I note that Minnesota has the very first listing, in that we proscribe a male having sex with a live fish. Will someone please tell me how this is supposed to work? Fish have teeth, you know. OW. If that doesn't do it for you, you could always get a My Little Phallus (Jeff said that page was sophomoric. Well, duh.).

Finally, I leave you with the top 14 Luddite Films, as rated by the Luddite Reader. Am I the only one who finds the concept of a Luddite website ironic?


Water, water everywhere

The thaw is on. Today we have broken 50 degrees for the first time in 147 days. I'm pretty sick of cold. After my offhand comment about the lake we're camping by not being unfrozen by April 27, I went checking and found this page documenting historic ice-out dates on various lakes in Minnesota. According to this, the average ice out for lakes in the area of the state we're planning on going is between April 19 and 26th. Uh oh. We'll need some warmth to catch up to that. Otherwise, we'll be seeing how the new canoe works for icebreaking.

For some reason my thinking about boats is failing to confine itself to inland waterways. Actually, there is a reason; the pontificating about the international law questions arising out of the ongoing Hainan E-3P spy plane debacle have been tortuous and have included analogies about the national integrity of even sunken boats. Specifically, the US is arguing that China has no right to board or examine our plane (too late!). However, the US undercut its current position repeatedly during the Cold War. A good example of how they did so is the story of the Glomar Explorer, which is a big boat constructed in the early 70s for a very specific spy mission. In 1968, a Soviet submarine packed with ICBMs sunk off the coast of Hawaii. The US happened to know where it went down due to acoustic monitoring, so a mission was constructed named "Operation Jennifer" to salvage this sub and get some priceless intelligence in the process. For cover, they turned to eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes. Hughes agreed to build the massive Glomar Explorer purportedly to mine Manganese nodules off the ocean floor. In reality, it was constructed to have a massive hangar like structure in the middle with a big claw to reach down to the ocean floor and pluck the sub from the depths. Here are some pictures of the boat. Anyways, the Explorer performed its mission and actually recovered at least part of the sub in question, as well as the remains of six Soviet sailors. As an interesting aside, the US reburied these six at sea with full military honors, while not revealing this fact to the Russkies until 1992, after the end of the Cold War.

After Project Jennifer, Hughes gave the Glomar Explorer to the Navy, where it was placed in a mothball fleet until 1997. That's when it was leased to the Global Marine company, the descendant of the company that built it in the first place (hence GLOMAR). After six months or so of outfitting by Cascade General the Explorer sailed again as a deep sea drilling boat. The final footnote to this case was an exception to the Freedom of Information Act that was won by the intelligence community. Glomarization, as it became known, is the principle that the government may respond that they do not confirm or deny the existence of information about something in an FOIA request.

Updates, wincing, etc.

Mag and I have been watching the Eco Challenge for several years now, and although this year's production is not as awesome as it has been (I blame the switch of networks from the Discovery Channel to the USA network), there have been some rather gruesome moments. Last night's preview featured a competitor calling on the emergency radio that "a leech has disappeared up my urethra." OW OW OW OW. How do you let that happen? Well, it's not unheard of. There's a type of catfish in Brazil called the Candiru that has a nasty habit of swimming up your urethra and lodging itself there by dint of very spiny fins. It then gorges itself on your blood and swells up really big. I don't want to think much more about that. Thanks, I think, to My Dog Wants To Be On the Radio for the link.

Update on yesterday's bloggage; a feature on the obituary writer for the Orange County Register. She writes well, even though she cried when she originally got the assignment.

Finally, a tangential update on my pheromones entry from a while back. A recent study shows that men think that the shirts of women in the fertile part of their menstrual cycle smell better than the shirts of women in the non-fertile portion. Makes sense. Another piece of evidence for evolutionary biology.


Death and being dead

When evaluating a potential link to share with the world for blogworthiness, I have a key test. I call it the "mom test," since I consider my mother pretty middle-of-the-road in terms of what offends her. Thus, a little nudity or some language probably is fine, but I wouldn't include anything graphically violent or pornographic (BTW, I'm a firm believer in Potter Stewart's definition of pornography: "I know it when I see it."). On this particular subject, I think my mom's immune to even the most hardcore or gross information, so I'm chucking my usual standard out the window. She is, you know, a respected scholar in the field of gravestone studies, in addition to possessing a nearly definitive knowledge about many issues in death and dying. I recall the last time I visited her, she gave me a book to read that included a chapter about embalming. By about halfway through, I was officially Grossed Out. They do some weird stuff to bodies during this process. But I digress, and I haven't even started yet.

I found this collection of Australian obituaries from 1887 via World New York. These are eminently fascinating, mainly because they include a level of detail about the death that you don't find in newspapers nowadays. That's probably a function of making the families of the decendent pay for the funerary notices, but I can't help but notice it. In terms of when it's published, it makes sense; but for historical value it's really interesting to see what people died of. One of the things that struck me is the number of deaths caused by things that people nowadays wouldn't die from, including tuberculosis, cholera, snakebite, and burns. We really do have it much better than they did. Nevertheless, we still have that most primordial of fears still present, as evidenced by this Wired article, which is the fear of being buried alive (Chopin's last words are to request to be cut open to ensure this fate wouldn't happen to him). This article recounts some of the ways we've tried to avoid this problem, some of which are somewhat ghoulish but nothing like that book of mom's! However, the Wired article submits that a way around this is to use embalming, which is more often than not a waste of time and money.

Embalming costs are just one way that funeral homes defraud their customers, unfortunately. It takes some real vultures to make money off of grieving family members, but apparently there are plenty in the US. The industry uses factoids and figures to defend themselves, like one from that last article where they claim that 80% of customers are satisfied with the process. Unfortunately for them, that's not a very high total. When 20% of an industry's customers feel bilked and unhappy, that should be a key sign that something is wrong. So what should you do?

This article from Death and Dying (.com) suggests that a way to stop fraudulent charges is to prepay for your services. Unfortunately, these prepaid plans are also a target for unscrupulous funeral homes to squeeze extra money out of clients by being as rigid and uncooperative in honoring them as possible. My solution? I suggest getting buried in cardboard or something else very cheap, or being cremated. I'm a fan of the symbolism of my mortal body being returned to fertilize other living things as quickly as possible, so I don't want to be embalmed either. It's sad to me that people need to be vigilent about getting scammed at such a time, but it's just a fact of life.

As a final thought on the matter, I think it's neat that this column could theoretically be dredged up when I die as evidence for my wishes. It'll be part of this whole page, which is itself partially done as a test of the permanence of the new media which comprise the Internet.

A lighthearted (?) followup

After my Chick postings, I've heard it said that those comics read like agitprop designed to discredit Christians. So true, they really do. As Sean remarked, "With friends like that who needs enemies." I thought the same thing as I read this page in support of Creation Science (sic). There are 42 points that supposedly prove the Big Bang theory to be incorrect. I am not an Astronomer (IANAA), but even I can poke holes in most of these. Very funny. At the other end of the spectrum is this page on why Superheroes are evil and un-Christian, which really IS reverse propaganda (via LMG); among the points are…

But it is now known that in the next Spiderman movie, this character will be turned into a teenager who uses his powers to impress girls. He will also smoke marihuana with his friends. It is truly sad that one of America's fictional heroes has been converted into another degenerate. Next thing we know, Hollywood will release a movie about Paul Bunyan being a compulsive masturbator.

Finally, on being almost dead. Sir Alfred Ayer, an eminent British atheist and philosopher, had a profound near death experience in 1988, one year before he really died (via FMH). What he saw/experienced in those four minutes have been in dispute since, but apparently it was enough to alter his beliefs. If you read one of my links today, read this one.


IANAL… yet

I received the notice on Saturday, but weekends are my 'less dominated by the computer' time, so no time to post since then. I am officially accepted to a Law School. Hamline let me in first, and it will be tough to beat their offer. They gave me a big scholarship (the Presidential scholarship, as they term it) and for the first time I can conceive of a world where I don't graduate Law School with more student loans than before I went in. Basically this means that I will definitely go this fall, and I'm stoked.

Also, Mag and I picked out our canoe this weekend. It's a very good deal on a fiberglass/nylon composite 17' We-no-nah touring canoe. It'll be perfect for what we want to do, which is row every night and then go camping nearly every weekend. For instance, our first trip, to Scenic State Park (pdf link), features a park with two big campgrounds on the west side of the lake, and then four sites on the east side that are only accessible by canoe (or, in three sites, by a mile and a half's hike from the other side of the lake). Needless to say, we're going to the remote canoe-in site, assuming that the ice is off the lake, of course. Currently we still have ice on all the lakes here, but the forecasters are predicting sixty degrees by Friday. C'mon, spring!

Finally, I'm very very disappointed in what's going on in US Foreign Policy. In my previous indictment of the Bush II administration FP, I was voicing my concern over the unelected element of government taking control. With the E-3 plane incident, I'm more concerned that Bush might be in control after all. His China policy is reactive, and his other Foreign Initiatives have been rather pathetic so far. Bush's foreign policy team's ineptness aside, I really can't understand what the Chinese think they're doing by holding our crew incommunicado. I understand them wanting to seize the plane; that will precipitate a fairly major incident, but I can comprehend that they think the intelligence gained will outweigh the irritation caused to the U.S. Why must they hold our crew hostage? Don't they understand that nothing pisses us off worse than having our citizens held by hostile foreigners? Another day and we'll be ready to give Taiwan anything they want. Hi, Jiang. Have you met Jesse Helms? (The two last links were from MeFi)

Updates and randomness

Some scientists are analyzing hair found in Bhutan thought to come from a Yeti. Apparently there it's known as a Migyur.

Hey, a new Jack Chick tract! Always popular, this one is in support reading the Noah's flood story literally. Oh my. I especially dig the drawing of the nine hundred year old person riding the Triceratops. Really. And while I'm on another Chick kick, here's a parody of his tracts. The fake suicide element is directly from the D&D tract I posted last time.

Finally, a collection of funny stories from weddings as told by the ministers that witnessed them (from the Alt-log). I can't believe anyone would ever answer at the "Speak Now…" portion of the ceremony, but apparently they do sometimes, at least under influence of the "heroic dose" of mind altering chemicals. Nice.