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


…Is the Hobgoblin of Little Minds

It is very curious to me to see that people actually care somewhat when I write political posts. I don’t get any feedback when I write long posts about electric fish, but then one little politics post and I actually get emails. Cool!

Well, since I have gotten some people’s attention, I might as well clarify some of yesterday’s bloggage. My mom asks what I think of torture. In this link, the author makes the case that utility demands that we weigh a hypothetical terrorist’s right to not get tortured versus millions of lives. This is a tough call, because it pits two fundamental pillars of my philosophy against each other. On the one hand, my utilitarian side says, “why not?” The greatest good for the greatest number would be better served by torturing a terrorist into disclosing the location of a hidden bomb. On the other hand, a fundamental right to be secure in your person from state violence is also at play. Despite the unfairness of this particular example, I would probably come down on the torturers’ side in this case, given all of the necessary conditions; those being assuredness of guilt, extremely limited time, and massive numbers of life at risk. However, this is quite literally the only case when torture is justified by utility, mainly because in just about every other case utility has to be limited by some sort of measurement of sanctity of the individual, which is what I refer to as rights.

In a way, this is remarkably similar to the famous strawfigure argument against utilitarian philosophy. A person walks by a hospital. Inside the hospital are ten people that could be saved if this one person was murdered and dismembered for organs. Shouldn’t utility mean that we should kill some people just to harvest their hearts and livers and kidneys? It does, as long as the greatest good is merely a quantitative measure, and not a qualitative one. I argue that the reason we speak of rights to guard a person’s bodily and mental integrity is because there is something qualitatively superior about protection of mind that is the basis for the very existence of society. As my namesake philosopher Thomas Hobbes argues, the worst thing for humans is bodily harm. The reason we band together as societies is the common protection of each citizen. Thus, the murder of the pedestrian by the hospital creates such a negative good that it overwhelms the positive good done by the organ harvesting and is on balance not beneficial.

One of the most famous utilitarian philosophers ever, John Stuart Mill, faced the exact same problem in his legendary treatise On Liberty. In society, sometimes the strict majority rule doesn’t always mean the greatest good for the greatest number. Take the example of the antebellum United States. The body politic, a majority of them white, determined that they would enslave a race of people and maintained that this was justified because of the economic benefits of this slavery. Yet, although the majority maintained that this was a good system, it wasn’t. Mill’s expression of this problem was the Tyranny of the Majority; an interesting proposition, considering that we usually consider tyranny to be an exclusively minority or despotic rule phenomenon. By stating and sticking to our expressions of liberty, we ensure that the determinations of utility within our society don’t tread over the most important units of polity – ourselves.

Cheap entertainment

Holy shite, the Kaycee thing has made the New York Times.

Time to start a new random acronym, like the LAPI thing. I shall dub it AWL, Another Wrestling Link. Today’s is on the subject of Ring Terrorists, the crazed fans who take matters into their own hands and get into the ring to exact justice. I can just imagine some freaky guy with a mullet getting in the face of a wrassler.

Metafilter has moved to its new home, hosted by a blogger out in New York that I’ve linked before, Queso. While I was poking around over there I found this link, a photo essay of a woman who followed a hairy guy wearing only dirty leather chaps around a gay pride parade. I genuinely laughed out loud.


A foolish consistency

On the way up to Canada, I amused myself by continuing my attempt to come up with a coherent political philosophy. Basically, it went like this: I thought of an issue, and attempted to synthesize what my position should be based on my previously stated opinions. This is a fun game. Try it yourself. I am a hardcore libertarian when it comes to individual rights. I don’t believe the government should intervene in one’s private life unless there is a compelling societal cause. That compelling societal cause is the protection of other individuals.

My reasoning is shaped by a few things. First, is a general belief in government as the Strong Arm of society, shaped by agreement with a Lockean vision of the Social Contract. The Social Contract is out of fashion these days, but basically it’s the idea that we enter into society with the agreement that out of a set of Natural Rights (Life, Liberty, Property [the last one being debatable past the scope of my meager commentary]) we surrender some of our freedoms to the government for the purposes of the general protection and maximization of the remainder of the rights that we enjoy. Thus, society exists to protect rights, not unnecessarily curtail them. In fact, the abridgement of freedom should only happen when the aforementioned compelling societal cause is needed. Second, I’m basically an ends-based thinker in my political philosophy (utility). For me, most decisions should be made based on the benefit to society of the chosen policy, weighed against alternatives. Given this general framework of political philosophy, issues tend to resolve themselves without my having to rely on my knee jerk reaction to events. Let me use an inflammatory issue to demonstrate the product of my philosophy: drug legalization.

Opponents of legalization say that drugs should remain illegal because of the harm to individuals, the harm to families, and the crime associated with addicts. However, it’s my position that society shouldn’t use its police power to save people from themselves. Drug addicts have a medical problem that adding legal issues on top of it is piling on. The crime associated with the War on Drugs is a self fulfilling prophecy. Not one shred of evidence suggests that the WOD has been even slightly successful in curtailing supply or demand. Moreover, populating our prisons with small time users does not ameliorate the harm to families done by drug use. In fact, it’s far more difficult to solve problems behind bars. Legalize, regulate, tax the stuff, and if the problems don’t entirely go away, at least there is a revenue base to pay for dealing with it. This commentary (link found on wood_s lot) on the recent Supreme Court ruling about medicinal marijuana makes a good point; by the Supreme Court’s reasoning, it would be very difficult to have the ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut repeated in today’s court. Griswold, for those not familiar with SC cases by name, is the case that ruled that because of our right to privacy, the government has no compelling interest in banning contraceptive use. If only the right to privacy was something that a majority of our high court justices even believed in.

If someone sends me a list of political issues, I’ll apply my philosophy to each of those issues to see how it applies.
Stupid links that amused me

As part of my never ending quest to keep up with the First Daughters, I have the duty to point you to the fact that Jenna and Barbara got busted again for use of a fake ID.

Apparently online love columnists are recommending picking up ladies at New Age events. (from FMH)

Update: the New York Times is beginning to note the depopulation of the Great Plains. I’ve been very much in favor of tearing down the fences, reintroducing large herds of bison, and letting the Plains revert back to a natural ecosystem ever since Jeff and I ran a debate case in college to create a Buffalo Commons. More background can be found here. First link from Randomwalks.

Finally, from the Onion: is there more to life than just traveling around and meeting interesting people? Or should we just sit around and play Donkey Kong 64?


Only I can call her "Skunko"

Maggie and I are back from our camping trip to Canada. Interesting observations:

Moose are big. Porcupines move slowly and are bigger than I thought. Mike's Hard Lemonade is an entirely different product in Canada than our side of the border. (Canadians definitely get the better deal, too. American MHL is a 5.7% alcohol by volume malt beverage that is a disconcertingly milky white color. This isn't that weird until you put it next to the Canadian MHL, which is a 7.0% alcohol by volume vodka spiked beverage that is a yellow color. Basically, Matt [Krista's B-friend] brought a sixer of MHL that was liked, and so went into town to buy more and bought Canadian MHL; we had a couple left and so could compare.) Stoned Wheat Thins brand grilled pepper (Poivrons Grilles, en française) are the best crackers on earth. Kit Kats taste better in Canada. Canadian highway 502 is a bad, bad, road. Important: Avoid drinking Bushmill's whisky straight from the bottle. The strong US dollar is a good thing. And most importantly, never let your dog go after a skunk. I guess I have to explain that one.

We were there for three days. It rained every day, and was not exactly ideal conditions. On the last night, we were considering turning in, and we heard a noise over by our tent. All flashlights in the area were rapidly turned that way, and sure enough, a black and white visitor was spotted. It wasn't going anywhere fast, despite our "HOLY CRAP! IT'S A SKUNK!" shouts. At this time, Relffits was sitting in my lap dozing. When she heard the commotion, she shot out of my arms like a bat out of hell. I did have her leash attached, but unfortunately, her collar was not affixed very tightly. With a deft forward and back move, she slipped out of the collar and after the intruder. The skunk ran away into the darkness, our dog in hot pursuit. I was shouting for Relffits to return, but she didn't. When I went over to the tent area, a putrid cloud hung over the area, and I knew it was bad. Relffits returned a very sad and sorry looking dog. She was immediately tossed in the lake and washed twice with Herbal Essences shampoo, but the damage was done. Fortunately, the skunk hit was a glancing blow; it is my theory that Relffits pounced on the skunk, causing the skunk to run hard and discharge, and Relffits ran through the area on the forest floor that was freshly skunkified. This is why her right front paw seems to be the skunkiest portion of her anatomy. As I told Maggie, if she had gotten sprayed in the face, she would have ridden home in a garbage bag with a hole cut for ventilation. As it is, she still smells pretty bad, but at least she hasn't contaminated our car/house/carpet with that smell. It is very localized. Because of this, I started calling her "Skunko," but after a while Maggie got afraid I was going to either traumatize her with this moniker or she would start to answer to it, so I have attempted to call her that only when she isn't in the room.

Bush Lynx

As part of my never-ending quest to chronicle the Jenna and Barbara Bush on the Web phenomenon, it is my duty to share with you the How to Raise Christian, Republican Young Ladies page on the Betty Bowers site. This is the most hilarious, spot-on, MEAN site I've ever seen devoted to Laura/Jenna/Barbara. Meaner still is the Laura Bush Guide to Republican Glamor, which mercilessly skewers the First Lady for her terrible choices in outfits. Via the best damn blog from the Philippines (that I've read), Cheesedip.

And then there's the Bushblog, a blog that is done from the viewpoint of GWB. It is somewhat childish and predictable, but good for some funny links, like the collection of Bushisms.

Example: "Neither in French nor in English nor in Mexican." -George W. Bush, declining to take reporters' questions during a photo op with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, April 21, 2001


Snap, Crackle, Pop!

Going camping again tomorrow to Ojibway Provincial Park in Northwest Ontario, Canada. Northwest Ontario makes it sound like I'm going to Hudson Bay or something; but in actuality N.W.O. is the part of Ontario that extends above Lake Superior. It's amazing how big Canadian provinces are. The bulk of Ontario's population is north of the US across from lake Erie, with Toronto and the other metropoles in that area. That's by New York. Same province, but HUGE. Going along with us is Krista and her boyfriend Matt. I would be far more annoyed by that if they didn't have their own tent. That tent - it was the present that Jerry gave Krista for her birthday on the night we went out to the Gasthaus - the night before he died. (Maggie keeps calling while I write this to go over the food list. Incidentally, crunchy kicks ass over creamy peanut butter.)

I feel like I've been doing substandard bloggages recently. To compensate, I've decided to fill up today's blog with links to stuff that interests me. It's common knowledge that we have five senses - Sight, Hearing, Taste, Smell, and Touch. What if we had more? It's not that weird; in the animal kingdom I can think of at least three additional senses that some animals have.
  • Pit Vipers are a family of poisonous snake that can sense heat through an organ underneath their eyes. Think of it as night vision. On the other hand, they are deaf, so they get a make-up sense, right?

  • Elephants can feel ultra- and infrasonic vibrations through their feet, making them able to detect sounds through non-auditory means over many miles.

  • Certain fish can feel their way around by generating an electrical aura that allows them to feel their surroundings.

Now that's cool. Usually when we think of electric fish the Electric Eel comes to mind. These fish (they are not really eels) can produce an immense amount of electricity, delivering shocks up to 650 volts at a shot. That's enough to kill a human, stun a horse, or briefly light a light bulb, or start a car. They live in the Amazon basin.

Then there's the electric catfish, which is apparently a fairly popular aquarium fish. I think it would be a neat conversation piece to have a large electric catfish in my house, but I don't think I'd want to deal with cleaning the aquarium. A more scientific description of the electric Catfish can be found here. Interestingly enough, the ancient Egyptians knew about the Electric Catfish. We know this because there are heiroglyphs that depict these critters. Electric Catfish can deliver a beefy 400 volts or so; certainly enough to hurt.

There are another 3000 species of fish known as electric rays. Some of them can deliver charges strong enough to endanger divers or even photography equipment.

By the way, I have secured my place as a footnote to history by shipping the batteries for the Tortoise Battlebot to Oakland. The competition will be this weekend. Although it is against the Rules for competitors to tell the rest of the world what happened before they air the episodes for season 3, I may drop tantalizing hints of what to watch for. Hee hee. After dealing with 120 pounds worth of batteries, I wish they had just brought along an eel or two. That would be a novel power supply.


I still get several hits a week looking for information on the "Brad the Cad" email scandal. Reminiscent of this, but fortunately less exploitative of any women is the recent "Chung King" email unpleasantness. Peter Chung, a new associate for an equities firm stationed in Korea, was caught bragging about his pants being down and the bragging email was, similarly to the BTC scandal, quickly forwarded everywhere. He has been, needless to say, fired. The actual email can be found here. Thanks to the Obscure Store, once again, for the blog fodder.

From 13: early reports indicate that the Lord of the Rings movies, the first of which will be out this Xmas, indeed will kick ass.

Finally, from one geeked out fan group to another; the church of the Jedi has their own website, at least for Australia. Now that's geeky. From the Null Device.


Another assault on art

But probably the main reason Tolkien has not been accepted by most critics is his writings do not conform to the tenets of literary modernism. Tolkien's language largely eschews irony, his imagery tends to be generic, and, with some exceptions, his characters go unexplored. In Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forster's blueprint of modernist literary theory, story and plot are gently derided. But in The Lord of the Rings, plot is probably the most compelling literary element. Readers steeped in modernist literature simply don't know how to respond to Tolkien's prose.

(Slaps hand to forehead) Eureka! I've got it! The defining factor of all the art I hate these days is the lack of storytelling. This quote, taken from this very interesting article on whether or not The Lord of the Rings is good literature. For me, it's obvious. Of course it's good literature. I reached an epiphany with Maggie a few months ago about reading. I am not interested in reading anything because it's what I'm Supposed To Read; I want to read stuff that is interesting. I want a story. Tolkien is an artist of the story. He weaves his plot in and out of literally thousands of years of invented history. In our modern literature, plot and story are ignored as "too obvious," and character and nuance are emphasized, leaving plot more to the imagination. LOTR is the opposite; it is almost entirely focused on plot, and leaves nuances of character to the imagination. A much better arrangement, in most cases. I have been trying to slog through The Fountainhead for a couple of months now, and I am being held up by the fact that this is a boring, boring book. Literature = good books. Have I said this before?

It's cold as hell here. It's snowing up north, about 40 degrees in the Cities, I can't believe how narsty it is. And we're going camping in two days. Looks like good snuggling weather. One week ago it was 94. That's Minnesota for ya.

Those in the Weblog scene are aware of this; oh boy, are you. Those who are not may be interested. I need to put this in my blog anyway for completeness of archives. Kaycee Nicole did not exist. I first learned about Kaycee from this MeFi thread, but never was terribly interested because the blog looked like floofy sentimentalist tripe (the message boards were even worse). Although, I never doubted it. And it was all forgotten until she died. That's when the shit hit the fan. Metafilter sleuths have uncovered an elaborate hoax to fool the blogging world. Read the first link to get a good synopsis.

Check out the unit on that droid!
I found that link yesterday but forgot where I got it. If you can let me know where I got it I will credit it.


A Brief Respite

We got back from camping yesterday. It was great. We have a 17-foot We-no-nah Spirit II, made for wilderness tripping, so we have lots of capacity. Thus, we bring the following:

  • Two duffles, large, from the Army-Navy surplus store. Stuffed into them are sleeping bags, tent, tarp, folding camp chairs, clothes, etc.

  • One 30 liter dry bag. This has the food, towels, and anything else that must not get wet.
    One big cooler. An official Luxury Item. In it goes beer, bratwurst, cheese, and anything else that must stay cold.

  • My backpack. For day trips and toiletries.

We arrived at the campsite around 2 pm on Friday. It was a beautiful day; wind around 5 mph in our face, super smooth water, temperature around 70. We paddled out to the campsite and were set up by 3. And then came the mosquitos. They were thick. It's not so much the bites that bug, although they are very annoying. The sound of dozens of them hanging around your ears is damn near enough to drive you nuts. I don't know what the voyageurs did back in The Day. It must have driven them to drink. Anyhoo, we paddled around the lake, and did some fishing (caught some sunnies and a couple of nice sized crappies, but tossed them back), and hiked a few miles, and generally had a great time. I wish I had a digital camera to take pictures of what everything looked like. That or a digital recorder to get the call of the loon posted on here. That's a really impressive, eerily haunting noise. As part of my general fixation on history and the land it happened on, I made a point of looking for charred stumps left over from the forest fires that ravaged the area between 1911 and 1913. We found several on our hikes, and even a few from the area immediately around our campsite. The whole of Minnesota has been clearcut, except for a few patches in remote areas, and Bearhead Lake is no exception. However, since the forest fires, little or no logging has happened. Seeing how big 90 year old pines can get was heartening because it encourages me that forests recover if we just stop chopping them down.

Enough about camping. I'll be doing it again starting Thursday.


Hardcore HBII readers will remember I coined a term known as the Google Spike several months ago. I have a new target - an obscene caller who keeps calling and leaving nasty messages for Maggie. Potential Employers, please note that Don Kassekert, phone number 651-793-9978, is a sick individual, mentally imbalanced, who leaves extremely disturbingly explicit phone messages on our voice mail. He is obviously very stupid, as well. He calls from home even though we have caller ID. The phone company will not block his phone calls unless we pay money, so we're embarking on a documentation quest for the police. I am not worried about him because he sounds retarded, but that doesn't mean he isn't bugging the crap out of me.

Been a long time without a LAPI

If it was done by Jackson Pollock it would sell for a million dollars. Instead, it was done by some random schmoe and is worth a few T-shirts. Ladies and Germs, the Tulip Butt painting. From Randomwalks.

A quotable article about My Life In Porn.
Early on, the bosses assigned me to pulling back issues from the vast pornography reserves the company maintained on the seventh floor. Copies of every magazine the company ever (festive holiday editions, et al.) were archived there on a huge series of racks. Walking into that room was like that scene in The Matrix when Keanu Reeves says, "We need guns. Lots of guns," only with porn instead of firearms.

Just be glad you live in America and not in Iran, where they stone porn actresses to death.

From the original Metafilter secret society, the real story about why Doug Glanville was so mad at Curt Shilling he had to hit two home runs off of him. Yes, Curt screwed him over in a game of Everquest, an online Dungeons and Dragons type graphically enhanced role playing game.
Not enough attention is paid to the off-the-field motivators that create nasty on-field grudges," Glanville revealed. "I believe video atrocities top the list. Curt Schilling assassinated my lovable Dwarf Paladin in EverQuest, happily smiling as his character stood in the safety of the town guards. That can create serious internal friction."


Camping time!

Maggie and I leave for our next camping trip tomorrow. We’re super stoked. We have been going over our checklist and getting everything ready. For me, this has consisted mostly of getting the automobile ready and making sure the beer and meat supplies are built up. As I’ve pointed out before, although I am a green, I have no problems eating animals. It’s entirely based out of my sympathy for evolutionary science, as well as my personal experience with meat being tasty. If it was good enough for my ancestors, it’s good enough for me. Besides, if you’re eating the quality of bratwurst I’m bringing, it’s all worth it.

As for the camping, it will be awesome. After driving for four hours due north, we will wind up at Bear Head Lake. Bear Head’s boat launch is on the north, narrowest arm of the lake. Our campsite is just more than a mile away from there on the southwest shore. Separated by a whole lake from all other humans, we will have the woods to ourselves. By the way, you can find aerial maps of most of the cool places in Minnesota here. It’s false color, so the red you see is actually green. As in forest.

Polygyny, anyone?

Been following the Utah Polygamy trial? My position on this is that it’s absolutely ridiculous. The people justifying this monstrous miscarriage of justice are doing so based on false premises. Welfare abuse, child molestation, and neglect are being used to prosecute a nontraditional family, and if those were the real offense they’d be among the charges (one charge of criminal nonsupport is among the charges, but the main event is definitely the charges of polygamy against the patriarch). If there is fraud underway, charge him with it. If there is child molestation, charge him with it. Otherwise, this just smacks of unjustifiable intrusion into the privacy of a family that wasn’t doing anything to anyone else.

By the way, there are still several clusters of polygynous Mormon splinter groups still in the Great Basin. This page is the best one by far, entitled “Women want polygamy.” I sent that to Maggie with the header “Can we get another wife?” She wasn’t too keen on the subject, until I promised that the new wife could do all the household chores and cooking.

Hey, anyone wanting to laugh can check out me with a ridiculous moustache that I had for the Mystery Party last February. I finally have pictures and will have to upload it soon. Has everyone read Maggie’s review of A Knight’s Tale yet?



While poking around the Null Device I found this article about a fracas in Australia surrounding a Serbian soccer player who incited a riot with a famous Serbian salute. This salute is described only as a "three fingered salute," which of course made me think of our Commander-in-chief and his signature Dubya Sign. However, Shrub isn't aligning himself with fascist/racist/war criminals, as the Serbian gesture is done with different fingers. While the Australians and British and Scots have soccer hooligans, we here in Minnesota have Chess hooligans. (Hey. Don't screw with me.) I'll lock you down with my sicilian opener and cut you up. Several of my friends, including Haygruh and Jeron, are pretty good at chess. I tried to figure it out, but I have a problem that seriously hampers my chess skillz. I have a short attention span. Chess turns are way too long, which makes it boooooring. So I lose interest and make hasty moves.

I went and saw A Knight's Tale last night with Maggie. I thought it was extremely bad. It was so bad, the question is whether it was So Bad it's Good or So Bad it's Awful. Let me tell you, it was riding the line. But the guy playing Chaucer was great. This movie is proving to be the event that gets Maggie to start her own blog. It will be called M5, and that will be the link when she publishes. Mag is going to put her opinionated pronouncements to good use there, I tell you whut.

In an IM conversation with Jeff, I discovered that he has been coaching high school Lincoln Douglas debate for years without knowing The Philosopher's Drinking Song. How can any LDer not learn this? If you know nothing else about Heidegger in a debate round, at least you can say something about him being a boozy beggar and hope the judge gets the joke and decides you're worth voting for on Humor Value. Believe you me, when they've pressed a bus driver into service to sit behind the ballot, you need all the edge you can get. I then remembered my days back at Norman High School where all the LDers were required to memorize the PDS. Thanks, Dr. Ballard!

Same Randomness, less verbiage

Why does Tom Cruise sue for libel when he is accused of being gay? Featuring the great quote:

Tom Cruise sues the way Robert Downey Jr. violates his parole. Downey can't pass up a snort and Cruise can't resist a tort.

A more subtle, bizarre, Scottish version of the Onion is the Glen Lachart Star site. The first page I just didn't get at all. Digging deeper, however, there are some pretty weird, funny things here.



There is a long running feature in the St. Paul Pioneer Press called Bulletin Board, which is a reader-submitted half page of whimsy, humor, and amusing, or sometimes not very amusing anecdotes. It features a series of inside jokes and running gags, like "Warning! Cute kid story ahead! Which is, of course, for cute kid stories. One of the ongoing set pieces is what BB refers to as the "Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon." It's rather interesting, but I think the term was coined on the site. A search of Google results in the only hits for this phenomenon on the official site for studying the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany in the 1970s (a rather interesting time period, but I don't understand the connection) and Bulletin Board itself.

What is Baader-Meinhof? It is the phenomenon by which if you hear of some event, you then notice references to that event over and over again. This happens to me quite a bit. What made me think of it is that when we went to see Bill and Kelly the other night, we were introduced to a series of videos known as Veggie Tales. Bill and Kelly are raising their children as vegetarian Christians, which is interesting in and of itself, but contributed to me misunderstanding their purpose. Based on the bit that I watched, the videos seemed kind of neat. They feature a tomato and a cucumber living their lives like any good couple; resisting the allure of rampant commercialism, and being in favor of good clean living. When I visited Randomwalks I found this sarcastic review of the author's trip to a Veggie Tales premiere in Orange County. It's weird enough that I should see anything about this thing, but to see it two days after I had first heard of it? That's weird. I didn't figure this out the other day, but the Veggie Tales themselves are Christian, but not necessarily Vegetarian. So I didn't really get it anyway. But apparently they're very popular! (Disclaimer: I thought the Veggie Tales were very entertaining. But I am a big fan of good children's entertainment.)

Extra linkage

Hey! Remember the last election? I thought this Q and A about the Supreme Court's decision was very instructive.

From the Jeff Shaw file: why Deion Sanders is the embodiment of all that is bad and evil in professional sports. Wow. And I thought I disliked him before I read that.

Update on Ellen Ripstein, the Susan Lucci of the professional crossword scene. The full story of her stunning victory at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament this year after 18 years in a row in the top five without a win.

"Some people think the people who come here are nerdy," says Hovanec, "but I think we're all nerdy in some way." Many self-deprecating crossword fanatics might agree with her assessment. At one point during the 2001 final, announcer and famed constructor Henry Rathvon referred to Conan as "a man you can't have a normal conversation with." Conan's quick-witted response-"unlike so many others in this room"-was punctuated by an outburst of laughter from the crowd.


Hot Damn!

(As opposed to cold damn, of course.) It was an interesting weekend. After a long time, Mag and I hooked up with some friends from debater days that have recently moved into the Twin Cities. Seeing Bill and Kelly was pretty cool, but it was also unnerving to see them with not one but two kids. Wow! That’s a real wake up call. People our age are actually late to start families, by world standards. I don’t feel like a grown-up all the time anyway, and compared to them I am not. Seeing them was one of the most fun events we’ve had since we moved here. There was excellent conversation, good food, and their kids were well behaved. I even got to read “Fox in Socks” to their older one. Yesterday I received an email from another dear friend from back in The Day. Alana writes that she is now in South Carolina about to start law school as well at the USC. She has a child, too.

I like to include little personal updates from time to time. It’s because this is my own archive, and it’s fun to look back and see the order that things happened in. One of the cool side effects of maintaining a blog is the ability to correlate dates with memories. Already I can look at a day that I shouldn’t be able to remember anything about and get a good idea about what I was thinking based on my bloggages. Also, this site is a big Google beacon anyway. I want people I knew but lost track of to find me. I’m trying to get more Google Results for “Nathan Hobbs” than the other Nathan Hobbses. I notice that my Law School essay is getting the first hit on Google amongst my pages. I better go add a link back here.

Ok, now that I’ve done that I’ve noticed that I’m Top Ten among the weblogs they have listed – well, number 10. Among the Hs. But I am beating Hanging On by a nose. In your face, Eric!

I saw this article in The Onion and was really having to restrain my tacky guffaws.
To cope with this incalculable loss of life, within hours of the accident, the citizens of Mound City responded with a spontaneous outpouring of crappy mementos. Despite the presence of such disturbing reminders of the crash as tire marks, headlight shards, and blood-stained pavement, Mound City residents have come here day after day, adding more tacky shit to the steadily growing pile.

The Onion always is the funniest when they strike close to The Truth. For instance, those roadside memorials. There are no shortage of news articles dealing with them – this one, written about a year ago, is perhaps the stupidest piece of “journalism” I’ve ever seen. Wow, did someone really create a roadside memorial? No. You’re putting me on. In other places, law enforcement officials are removing these shrines, often to the chagrin of the mourners. Photographers are particularly fond of crosses. Of course, my mom is the proper authority to comment on these things. She’s very involved in the field of gravestone studies and the relationship of us with the dead. (I see dead people!) I’ve been trying to get her to start a graveblog like ColdMarble Musings, but she’s been busy.


Soft drink snobs unite! Get your super funky non-alcoholic fizzy beverages here. Does not answer the question of whether it is Soda or Pop (or Coke, as I still refer to any beverage of this category).


Could be worse

Today has been a tough day to blog for. My internet here at the office was down for much of the afternoon, and I had to actually work for most of the morning, which means my normal routine has been disrupted. Garn. I've essentially decided that barring any major developments, I am going to throw my deposit for Hamline into the crapper and go to the U of M. My decisionmaking process has been a fairly thorough one, and although this choice makes things rather difficult financially for the next three years, I am not unhappy with it. After all, after I graduate, I don't anticipate there being any major financial problems from that point. I guess my decision is mainly based on what mom said, about taking into account the factors that don't have anything to do with the shallow considerations of money and prestige. Although those are important things to think about, I'm mostly enervated by the possibility that for once I can match my skills versus some of the best out there and see how much I can learn and excel in a difficult academic environment. I have coasted through school my entire life on knowledge I had before I took any of the courses. I am excited to consider learning something new and actually trying. It's going to be a great, hellish three years.

Does William Butler Yeats look like me? (Compare to the Bio picture. I'll post them side to side later.)


This isn't art, so I have no problem getting it excluded from an art exhibit. Basically, a big collection of roadkill parts got smacked together, called art, and then put up at a student art show. Art is a frustrating thing for me; I am convinced that society in general has lost its sense of taste. Whatever happened to art being pretty?

Why I don't have the stomach to be a proper libertarian: the SEC (that's Securities and Exchange Commission, not the South Eastern Conference). The SEC is a critical arm of government regulation over the stock market. It does things like make sure the Ivan Boeskys and Michael Milkens of the world don't utilize inside information to manipulate the stock market for private enrichment to the detriment of the mass of investors. Speaking of which, Ivan Boesky's lawyer has just been nominated by our president to head the SEC. Uh, oh. Another case of the fox guarding the henhouse, it seems.

For those who come here looking for Bush Twin gossip, go here instead. It's got everything, from Jenna's dress incident to Jenna's dope smoking to Barbara's attempted escape of the Secret Service to their Am I hot or not? scores, to the party pictures of Jenna smoking a cigarette and falling over drunk. BTW, Barbara is beating Jenna in Am I hot or not? by 9 to 8.4. Close race.


I wish you'd quit harping on that…

Yesterday I went to Duluth for work. I enjoy going to the other sites around the state; it's very much preferable to sitting in the dingy basement with no natural light and flies and no air conditioning. On the other hand, it's sitting in this dank hole that is most conducive to my blogging, so there is a tradeoff. I go through these bloggage cycles; I have periods where everything is easy and the writing goes well and quickly and I have plenty of time to surf and blogging is a breeze then. Other days I don't have as much time to surf, which means that I don't have the time to come up with as many cool links and nothing exactly fits. Today is in the middle. In fact, today is just a big tangent and I'll just go through what happened and you can see how my brain works.

There's this member of MeFi who goes by the name Gluechunk. On 1142 he goes by Gluey. Gluey made me think of this debater I knew from Eastern New Mexico University who went by Glue Boy. I don't know what Glue Boy's real name is, although he debated with Matt Barretto for awhile, and we got along well. Glue Boy and Matt ran this case that was to ban the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Project, otherwise known as HAARP. HAARP was known as having the most ridiculous impacts I've ever heard from any debate case, with the possible exception of some of the Artificial Life scenarios. Or the Omega Point. What kind of weird impacts, you ask? Well, let's see. There's mind control, weather control, implanted memories, you get the idea. That's just the nice ones. Don't forget the "weapon of Mass Destruction" angle. (incidentally, WMD is the High School topic next year, so get ready for HAARP, kiddos!)

Anyway, so I thought of Glueboy, that made me think of HAARP, which made me think of HARP. HARP is the High Altitude Research Program, which was a joint US-Canadian Supergun project. By the time it was canceled, HARP had fired projectiles 180km up there. Yeah, that's pretty high. An interesting subnote to HARP; the main scientist, a guy named Gerald Bull, had to go somewhere to find work after it was canceled. So he wound up working with South Africa, which eventually led to his being jailed for illegal arms transfers in 1980. After he got out, he went around selling his services to the highest bidder until he wound up in Iraq just prior to the Gulf War. He worked on the Babylon supergun and a Scud cluster firing mechanism, and because of this work was assassinated by the Israelis in 1990.

Of course, both of these things reminds me of the Harp Seal, which is that cute white coated one that only the meanest people ever could possibly club. Also, Harp Lager, which is an ok lighter Irish beer. So, that's kind of the way I blog. I get fixated on something that interests me, and get some links for it, and just keep writing.

More than one way to skin a cat

Apparently there is some research that suggests that owning cats can give you schizophrenia. It's a well known stereotype that crazy people have cats, but now I guess the cats make the person crazy.

More great news from the Dalai Lama's visit to Minnesota; our governor may be the first ever to ask His Holiness if he's ever seen Caddyshack.


Dreaming in technicolor

I think the reason I liked the color pictures from Russia that I linked yesterday is because they allow a look in memory terms of an era that is beyond historical memory. I've always been fascinated by history, of all types. I get chills when I think about things that were done on the land that I am standing on; as if it's the land rather than the people that make history happen. Nonetheless, our scope of history in the West is really quite narrow; we are a young country and that tends to create a small set of data to conceive of our history in. Therefore, something that happens in the nineteenth century is A Long Time Ago, but for other countries they have much older historic antecedents. I think a neat way to think about history is in terms of living memories and how they correspond to the previous era. Our parents' parents could remember seeing the last Civil War veterans die, as they passed on in the forties; these same Civil War vets could have talked with those who served in the war of 1812, and those people certainly knew people who remember the revolutionary war. We're not very good at dealing with oral history in the United States; I see it all the time on the Antiques Roadshow, where people bring in some artifact that has been in their family for 150 years and they don't know anything about it. It's sad.

Every generation henceforth is far more lucky than the previous one, as each aspect of our lives get chronicled ad nauseum. The basic history of the last hundred years is documented well, as well as pictures to aid our visual memory, but it's shocking to think how much basic things have changed. The awesome show the 1900 House that aired last year was an excellent example of this phenomenon. Who could imagine the way life is lived without the washing machine, safety razor, or comfortable clothes? So, since I liked the pictures, I went looking for more. None of these are quite as cool as the shots from yesterday, but they're all pretty neat.
This is the world's oldest color photograph; it was taken in 1872. It's a landscape of a French town. Here are some more very old pictures, many of them taken using the Autochrome method. The Autochrome was the first mass-produced color system; it involved using starches on glass to capture the color. One drawback to this system is that each exposure took much longer than B/W pictures; that helps explain the dearth of people in picture collections like this one of Kansas City in the 1930s. Unfortunately, it's the people that seem to be the most interesting facet of the old photographs. Some more old Autochromes can be found here. Lastly, this history of color photographs is very informative of the processes and has some cool pics as well.

Some neat color WWII pictures can be found here and here.

Updates! (and sports, sorta)

On the Dartmouth fratboy sex rag scandal; the school president is now under fire for not reining in the power of the hegemony of the Greeks. One of the things I am most happy about my undergraduate experience is that I didn't go to a school that had any fraternities (or sororities). Well, they tried to, but the only people who were part of the Greeks at LC were the same people that tried to start the LC Gun Club, and that went over like a lead balloon. The debate squad room happened to be the only place the 'frat boys' at LC hung out, my freshman year (1993). They were also known for throwing raw meat through the window of the Resident Assistant, who was a shrewish woman named Jenny Horvat. Jenny finally got her revenge by chasing the frats off campus for good and getting the debate team kicked out of our squad room under her window. I liked that room; it was out of the way, quiet, and featured a closet that homeless members of the team could live in for weeks (or months, like Steve Pointer) at a time.

Update on cranky cartoonists (see also Jack Chick): A brief history of the cranks that have been cartoonists over the last 100 years. Thanks to the Null Device for the link.

News flash: Shaquille O'neal is an asshole. And how to get to first base without Barry White playing in the background. Thanks for the links, Jeff.

(confidential to Shawnee Keck: Write me! I know you're out there.)


I am a bad blogger

It's now been since last Wednesday that I've done a real bloggage. What's my problem? I'm not sure. Let me tell you, though; I have a lot of words ready to go, so if you're easily bored with collegiate discussion, skip to the links section. When last I checked in, I was recounting my dilemma of law school. I've since begun to document the advice/preferences of the various people who have weighed in on my dilemma.

Mom: No Stated Preference (she says if I make my decision based solely on money and prestige, that I will make the wrong one. She says it's not morally right. As I told her, it's a tough enough decision to make without having to think about morals.)
Dad: Hamline, but bets hedged due to…
Sherri: She discussed my problem with the TU (Tulsa U) Law Dean, who says go to U of M.
Mag: U of M
Haygruh: U of M
Aleava: U of M
Jeron: Hamline
Lia: U of M, after negotiation (nice suggestion. I'll give it a shot)
Other suggestions?

While I'm in the collegiate choice business, my sister Valerie is a high school junior and is in the pre-college stage of stuff. Her standardized scores are good, and she currently lives in the backwoods of North Carolina. Her stated leaning is to go to another school in the backwoods of North Carolina, Mars Hill. I am not enthused about this choice. I believe strongly that college should be a time of independence; forced if need be. Remove oneself from the environment that you are raised in and prove that you can survive and flourish in a different environment. My mom thinks she's made a major concession in not allowing Val to go to the school where mom teaches, but Mars Hill is only an hour away, and popped out of the same cookie cutter (ie, small, Baptist, in the Piedmont, probably not a diverse student body). Besides, I think you can learn a lot about the school from the student newspaper. This is an example of what I find there, a badly edited screed about how there is too much Britney Spears music (and Christian Pop) being played on the campus radio station. Well, besides the reporting of sorority events. VAL: WAKE UP! Go to a bigger or more cosmopolitan school! Valerie has more of an online social life than I do. Recently she started her own community site, which is called the LNPC, for the Late Night Psycho Clan. These are people that have spun off of another site called the Fan Forum. When I originally went through these sites, I couldn't believe how little posting of substance there is in sites like this.

Then I got off my high horse. It's true; these boards are not exactly the height of intellectual banter, but the community-within-a-community that I have been most involved with, the 1142 group, doesn't usually post much of substance either, at least that an outsider would understand it. So, I'll just chalk most of what goes on to shared experience and give up trying to figure out what's going on.

(end geekiness)

This is newsworthy? In Woodbury (TC suburb to the East), a student was not allowed to wear a shirt that says "Straight Pride." Today, the Reverend (sic) Fred Phelps showed up to protest the school's decision. You may remember Fred Phelps, he's the teacher of the gospel of love behind the Godhatesfags.com site. The student in question has disavowed the protest, and all of five people showed up. Fifteen counterprotesters did, for a grand total of twenty protestors on both sides. Please. I bet the media outnumbered both. Tangentially, did you know that in Bellingham, Washington, the prom king this year is a woman? Yep, the lesbian prom king. There's a SNL skit in there somewhere. By the way, Jeff's wife Kari wrote the article.

Hey, guess what, Buddhist friends? The Dalai Lama is in town. Although the leader of a cult, the Dalai Lama is generally well respected. I took a class on Buddhism during college. In looking around the class for the first session, it was chock full of hippies, stoners, and generally what might be referred to as Mooks. For the first assignment, the professor asked why it was that we wanted to learn about buddhism. For my essay, I wrote that I was interested in learning about a non-patriarchal tradition that was respectful of women, tolerant of others, and mindful of the environment. I was disappointed to learn that Buddhism springs from a deeply patriarchal structure as well; heirarchical in the extreme, to the point where women are thought to be inferior incarnations of their past forms, like animals. In fact, the best that most women can expect in Buddhism is to be reincarnated as a man next time so that one could find enlightenment. By the way, a comment from my essay was singled out by my prof as a reason why the course was so popular: "It's a Beastie Boys thing." Although written tongue in cheek, it's true...

Before I get the flames, I acknowledge that there has been a move to reform Buddhism into a more egalitarian view and the Dalai Lama is one of those attempting to reform it - but it just goes to show that just about all organized religion bankrupts itself somewhere along the line. I point this out mainly because it's bizarre that those liberals within the blogging world have no problem linking anti-religion sites like the Church of Reality right next to their pro-Buddhist sites. At least be consistent…

Finally, this link was on Metafilter and I don't usually link good sites from there; you can look and find them yourself. BUT. This is so freaking cool I can't even express it: a collection of color photographs from Tsarist Russia, that is, pre-revolution. These photos are unreal. And I thought my great-great-grandparents lived in a black and white world. Wow. WOW. Check out the Emir of Bukhara. Incredible.


Begin summer rut

I realized something was amiss in my online presence when I called my mom yesterday and she said expectently, "I checked your blog several times today and you never updated."

Sooooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry. Really. Jeez. (don't worry about it, mom.)

Yesterday I made an impromptu trip to Rochester. I am not going to be able to do a real bloggage today, I don't think, either. Mag's mom Dianne was taken to the Horsepistol, er, Hospital and I'm about to go visit. (She's ok, btw.)

On the other hand, to Thicken the Plot further on the law school question, the U of M offered me a token scholarship in the amount of $2500/year. That brings the cost down to $8k a year, versus the uncovered $4k a year for the less prestigious Hamline. What do I do? Please utilize the discuss function if you have any advice. I'm really stuck and I'm not sure.

For links? Hell, I haven't seen any good links in days. I'll share them if I see them. Meanwhile, off to the health care repository. I thank providence for health care workers like Al. From the only blogger who has ever made me get a bit misty. Ok, besides Patti.


Now what?

You may recall on Monday I was going to drop off the deposit securing my place in the Hamline University Law School class of 2004. A funny thing happened since then. The first is that in my hurry to get to Hamline before 5:00 pm Monday I ran the thing out of gas. This was annoying, but in my traditional Zen response to minor setbacks like this, I stoically trudged to the gas station, filled up the vehicle, and sped on to Hamline. Arriving at 5:00 pm, I discovered the office to be closed. I was minorly peeved.

Thus, yesterday prior to going to work, I stopped by Hamline and gave them my deposit. No big deal; at least until I got home. There in the mail was an acceptance letter to the University of Minnesota. THOSE JERKS!! WHY couldn't they have told me that last week? Two weeks ago? Back when I could have let that affect my decision? ARGGGHHHH. Now what do I do? The choice isn't an easy one, either. On the one hand, I have the U of M. They have an excellent reputation, graduates make a lot of money, and Haygruh and Aleava are going there. Then there's Hamline; it's a fourth tier law school, not as good of a reputation, but they actually want me, offering a big scholarship to go there (by the way, enter "minnesota" in the comparison line of the servlet I just linked to get the comparison I'm making in depth). I can graduate from Hamline with a minimum of extra debt, but have the tradeoff of reputation and possibly post graduate salary. Or I can go to the U of M, get another $25k in debt, but possibly get a better job out of school. What do I do? What would you do?

By the way, I'm also sulking because I'm not going to be able to hold a grudge and hate the U of M like I do Georgetown. (Note to humorless lawyers; all threats issued on this page are not serious. My tone should make that clear, but this is a litigious society, and since I don't want that to stop anytime soon, I should cover my buttocks)

Not Herve Villachaize, but…

I've thought several times about getting a tattoo. I have a friend (the aforementioned Chris Hangsleben) who impulsively had a giant tattoo of a shining smily-faced sun placed on the top of his typically shaven pate. It is this standard to which I always compare my fleeting desires for permanent markings on my body; I imagine that Chris is going to eventually go straight-edge and then be left with male pattern baldness permanently revealing the folly of his youth (although his tatt is really neat looking, of course). However, this may make me reconsider my decision to stay ink-free. You see, the Newport brewing company in Rhode Island has an offer where people who choose to get the company logo tattooed on their arm, leg, or back are entitled to a free six pack every month for the rest of their lives. WOW! If only this brewery was a little closer, or a beer I really loved. Mmmm, beer. I hereby propose to ink my body for one of the following brewing companies for similar terms: Deschutes, Rogue, Anchor, Paulaner and associated Deutsche imports, Henry's, and Sam Adam's. These are not the only ones, just the ones I thought of first. Any brewing companies please contact me! (linkage inspired by Unxmaal)

This brewing company is not the only business that's tried this. A Mexican restaurant in San Francisco has a deal where those who ink the logo of Jimmy the Corn Man on their bodies get free lunches for life, including a beer. If I was in San Francisco, I'd do it no problem. It's an easy choice to make. I'd probably do it for Chipotle, too. Their burritos are Fat, and I mean that both in the traditional and pop culture uses of the word.


Damn cults

A very impressive Minnesota legislator has decried the upcoming speech by the Dalai Lama in front of the Minnesota Legislature as promotion of a cult. That cult being, of course, Buddhism. I posted this to MeFi and this discussion resulted. Metafilter is still the best site on the web, but the volume can be rather overwhelming. I have become rather attached to thread 1142 and usually go there first.

It's quite literally all I can do to not post another entire day about Cheney's scornful dismissal of energy conservation measures, or the Bush administration promise to unilaterally abrogate the ABM treaty if Russia doesn't amend it to allow National Missile Defense, etc.

Maggie thinks that many of my links are too geared towards men and geeks. Well, sorry. I don't mean it to be - this site is just a big reflection of my own interests and current preoccupations. She suggests that I should make a "girl's link" week or something. I would do that but I don't know exactly what to do with it. I mean, Lia is a girl, and has a blog, and I like what she does. Maybe I can get an inspiration. But, in that vein, I want to put a link that my wife will actually like, so allow me to introduce the "Jumping the Shark" page. This is the site that documents when each of just about every TV show that has ever aired went downhill (or Jumped the Shark, as the parlance goes). I'll specifically point you to Little House on the Prairie, which is Maggie's favorite show. The comments on this page start boring and quickly get very interesting as later posters reference earlier posters. Example:

" Well, what REALLY made this show shark-bait was them showing the usually sensitive and caring Alice Garvey getting stuck in the middle of the inferno, pick up the helpless baby and SMASH THE WINDOWS USING THE HELPLESS BABY LIKE A BATTERING RAM!!" …
"But Alice DID NOT use that baby as a battering ram!! She was holding the baby in one arm and ramming her other elbow through the window. Check it out if you don't believe me!!!" …
"I have to agree with the above posters concerning the Great fire /Baby as Battering episode as the point where the show JTS'd. But what I can't understand is all of this hand wringing over the baby used as the battering ram. Hey, people, life was tough on the 19th century American frontier!" …

I watched this particular episode off the TiVo and I have to throw my weight behind the "baby as battering ram" camp. Not only that, but Alice and the baby were going to die, anyway. Why the hell didn't she just toss the baby out of the window? I mean, what's the worst that can happen? The baby will die? For that matter, I would have just yelled "KOOL-AID!" and jumped out the window myself. Sure beats burning to death inside a blind school. Speaking of which…

The most ridiculous moment in TV history? When Mary and Adam take the kids from the school of the blind to the circus...HELLO!!!...What the hell were they doing there???? "Listening" to the circus???

Old, older, oldest, whoops!

4600 years ago the oldest metropolis yet found in the Americas was founded. This is so long ago there was no pottery around at the time, which is why earlier archaeologists didn't bother with excavating it. However, the oldest living thing on Earth was already nearly 200 years old -- Methuselah, the bristlecone pine. Older than that was another bristlecone named Prometheus. Back in '64, a student named Donald Curry was doing some core samples and his coring tool broke. Rather than waiting for another one, he CUT IT DOWN. At 4900 years old, this thing had survived Ice Ages, amazing droughts, storms, maybe even a Sabre-tooth tiger sharpening its claws on it- and it was killed by a stupid human in the name of SCIENCE?!?!?!?!