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


Nice Fastball, Man

Best story I’ve heard in a while: how Jim Morris became the oldest rookie in Major League history. Morris was a former minor leaguer who quit sports and became a teacher and coach for a high school in Texas. At the age of 38, his team bet him if they would win the state championship he would have to go to a tryout with the Big Leagues. The rest of the story is fairy tale; they won, he tried out, and now he pitches for the Devil Rays. Life is sure weird, ain’t it?

However, the best comeback story ongoing now is that of Jennifer Capriati. A tennis wunderkind hailed by many before she even turned pro as the future queen of the sport, she rose meteorically and then crashed to earth eight years ago. After burning out, she put herself back in order and has now won two consecutive Grand Slams in a row. Nice work, Jen.

These stories remind me of The Natural, a movie I like not just because the hero is named Hobbs; stories of failure and redemption are very encouraging to the human spirit. I realize at the age of 26 I’m not terribly old, but it is odd to think that by my age Maggie’s mom had already given birth twice; my mom and dad had both been married, and I’m definitely not ever making the Major Leagues (actually, I am the answer to the trivia question “Who was the worst Little League player of all time?”). I got into trouble at school because I was always told I was super-gifted. I thought somehow that meant everything was going to be easy, and that people would just tell me what to do to go get paid. I feel like Roy Hobbs coming out of obscurity now, as I prepare to go to Law School. I’ve moped around for four years, experienced the real world and I want no part of it. It’s time to change the equation and get on top of the game.


The Condit saga, which I pointed out should be paid attention to, is getting worse. Apparently his new story is that he broke off his “close friendship” with intern Chandra Levy just two days before she disappeared. The strong stench of Rat hangs tightly on Mr. Condit.

More evidence that Anita Hill was right. Professor Hill lived in Norman, of course, at the time the confirmation hearings were happening. As I recall, she lived down on campus and her entire street was packed with media for a month solid. To this day, I can’t believe they confirmed that little toadie.


Happy Trails

When I was a kid, the vacations that me and my brother always looked forward to were the trips out to Kenton. Kenton is a little community at the end of the Panhandle of Oklahoma; a tiny community that typically merits an entry in various Ghost Town listings. Kenton is a boy’s paradise. It is real cowboy country; a sagebrush valley of cacti, cattle, and rattlesnakes. There are mesas to climb, caves to visit, dinosaur tracks to see, arrowheads to pick up, and neat rock formations to look at. Many relatives of mine have lived out there in the past, and currently my mom’s cousins (making them my First Cousins Once Removed) Monty Joe and Vicki run a Bed and Breakfast out there at the foot of the Black Mesa, the tallest point in Oklahoma at just shy of a mile high. I have only managed to visit there three times in the last seven years, so I am very excited at getting to visit there again next month. I hope to have pictures.

Anyway, I was checking out satellite pictures of the area and suddenly thought to look for traces from space of the Santa Fe trail, the old road that carried commerce from the trailheads in Eastern Kansas to Santa Fe. As the sign indicates, the trail was in use from 1826 through around 1880, peaking in use around 1849 due to the California gold rush. Nonetheless, even 121 years after its last real use, the trail is still easily visible from space. This picture is of the road crossing the trail; look for the wide trough of beaten land that crosses perpindicular to the road at the small turnoff, which is the same historical marker shown in the link immediately previous. I was emboldened by this discovery, so I remembered a reference I had heard years before to a small fort in the area. The Cimarron County Chamber of Commerce says about Camp Nichols:
CAMP NICHOLS was established by Kit Carson in May 1865, to protect wagon trains along the trail from plains Indians and outlaws in the vicinity (mainly the gang of William Coe) who preyed on travelers. At one time 300 soldiers were stationed at Camp Nichols. It has an advantageous high location, with canyons on three sides, which allowed the soldiers to view the surrounding country, and the nearby canyon contained an ample supply of water. The camp was "lost" for many years, having been recorded as located in New Mexico Territory.

I never knew where it was, so I followed the trail visually via the satellite pictures until I found it. I am surely going to try to find this site and hike out to it next month. What a neat discovery.

In trying to find out more about the trail, I found a couple of very interesting personal accounts of the life. This story was transcribed in 1936 from an old timer who remembered the old trail days. The coot repeats himself, is a bit racist, but that’s par for the course in the time and era he lived in. Still, it’s fascinating. Better still is the diary of William Anderson Thornton, an officer on an expedition along the trail in 1855. Absolutely gripping; he records mishaps, innumerable deaths by cholera, and observations of local Indians and villagers in a dry, seemingly unfeeling manner. Now, the implications of settlement of the Southwest and all the attendent baggage that is carried with our campaign of Western colonization are complex and still being shaken out, but I can’t help but admire the strength and bravery of those that had to take their entire lives, pack them in a wagon, and set out for a journey of several months with an outcome that was by no means clear.

Thanks again, pigs

A group of St. Paul sheriff’s deputies attempting to serve a warrant at the wrong house shot the family Labrador to death on Saturday. The poor dog was only doing its job; and the five deputies were carrying billy clubs, mace, and pepper spray. Surely they could have done something else to the thing besides shoot it. What a cowardly, unjust act of state sanctioned violence.


Serious hodgepodge

This Metafilter thread about the disappearance of languages got me thinking about the everyday use of the language you are reading in this. See, language is a rather fluid construct, and it is my position that there is little inherent value to it. If we use it, it’s because the language is a useful way to communicate from one person to another (or many others). That doesn’t mean that we should just kill off all the minority languages; I think that every culture has value and ought to attempt to pass on its traditions as best it can. The example of Welsh kept popping up in the thread, and I’m likely to try to take it up later in life, as I do have some Welsh in me and I’ve always been fascinated by the tongue. By the way, my position led to Rodii referring to me as a Cold, Heartless, Unfeeling Man.

Unfortunately for me, my biggest problem with languages is my biggest problem with all other type of work: I’m lazy. I’m willing to admit it, and in reality I think a bit of laziness is built in to the human spirit. It jibes well with my personal philosophy; recall that my first tenet is Efficiency, meaning don’t expend extra effort. Nonetheless, I wonder what sort of person I would have been if I had been a little less informed going in to school. Knowing and having reinforced the fact that I already know most of what each class will teach me led me to believe all I have to do is show up and take the tests and everything else falls in to place. Work is not helping me on that front either. I just don’t really care about the meaningless stacks of numbers that the company keeps track of to deal with its stock. I reformed this office from the time I showed up to now and just don’t have the gumption to make it any better. Hence, the blog.

RIP, John Lee Hooker.

Minnesota News Update

In Minnesota news, the reputation of “Minnesota Nice” continues to take a beating. Currently it’s Somali Week, recognizing the fact that we have an enormous population of recent Somali immigrants here in the Twin Cities. A visiting team of Somali teenagers on a basketball team from Seattle was questioned not once but three times by Minneapolis police yesterday, culminating in being frisked and asked to leave the area. They were simply waiting for rides back to their host families. Nice work, piggers.

Finally, the stage for the state government train wreck is officially set: the Senate has introduced a Lights On bill to keep the government running, but with no property tax “reform.” This will enable the Democrats to say that the shutdown is the Republicans’ fault for not passing this continuation bill. Meanwhile, Gov. Turnbuckle and the Republicans have consistently rejected such a solution because it merely prolongs the impasse. Now both sides have a way to blame each other when the shutdown happens. “And always bear in mind this question: que bono? Who benefits?” Not us.
Unserious hodgepodge

Blue Mountain? Screw that. Try a Crude Greeting. When you care enough to offend…

It may be extinct, but this picture of a frog giving birth through its mouth is incredible.

Carrie (I hope I’m spelling this right) came over with Scott yesterday and showed us this site. It’s a comparative site showing representative samples of brains of various mammals. It’s extremely fascinating.

We’re going camping again here. Another canoe-in only site. I’m extra excited. It will be good to get out of the city.

Finally, allow me to plug a very good cause. The Women's Debate Institute is having its inaugural clinic in August. If you know a high school aged lady, or are a high school young lady, please consider this outstanding camp to get involved in debate or get your skills honed. I personally know a few of the instructors and they are all top notch debate minds.


It’s all downhill from here

Tomorrow at 2:38 AM my time is the summer solstice. It’s very interesting to consider that we are on a big hunk of rock hurtling around a star at hundreds of thousands of miles an hour. More interesting than that is the knowledge that every day from here is going to get shorter and shorter. I refer to the darkness of the Minnesota winter as Despair Time, but we are still a long way from that point. Believe me, I’ll let ya know.

Many funky traditions surround the solstice. I have always been very fond of the ancient traditions; not because I actually follow through on them but just that things seemed so much more fun until those silly Christians went and messed up all the holidays. Those wacky pagans think that the solstice is a great place to practice magic(k), but I’ve already expressed my skepticism for such things. Chumash lore indicates that the summer solstice is a great time to go to a sacred spot and check out their sacred star, which is an embodiment of a coyote. Interestingly enough, anthropologists believe that star is none other than Sirius, or the Dog Star. Romans believed that the appearance of Sirius marked the start of the Dog Days of Summer. Strange that cultures on opposite sides of the globe would attribute the same star to a Canine.

Hmmm. Coyotes. Well, now I’m going off on a tangent. I can tell. Coyotes will eat your cat, so be careful. And the Arizona department of game is not likely to reimburse you for it. But is it art? I often have a periodic rant against modern art and its reliance on the preconceptions of the audience to give it any meaning or worth. There was a performance artist named Joseph Beuys who was in a well known work of “art” called “I Love America and it Loves Me,” where he spent a week in a dark room in 1974 wrapped in felt and smeared with fat with nothing but himself and a coyote.

Everyday the 'Wall Street Journal' was delivered to the cage, upon which the coyote promptly relieved itself - thereby making a piece of art and coprophological critique of capitalism at one and the same time.

It may not be art but it’s funny. Another funny piece of “art” involved this aborted sale of an artist’s hate on Ebay. They pulled the auction, but not before an interesting thing happened:

It was at this point that I noticed the price had risen from $0.25 to $26.00 to $51.00 and then, coming back from a long day at work, discovering a $50,100 bid. Which created several problems.
One: The bidder had no intention of purchasing the item. Two: Ebay charges a commission fee for any items sold. This left us in the hole for an estimate $687.00.
Contact with the offending bidder, a cell biology junior at UC Davis, revealed that he intended to pay, provided I could offer proof of delivery. Which, of course, we could not offer.
Ironically, he was recieving my hatred for free. At this stage, we were forced to cancel the bids, integrity of the "artwork" be damned.

Stupid lynx

In case you ever get in there, here’s a a Prisoner’s Dictionary. I never knew there were so many code words for The Authorities.

A collection of WWII ads featuring women. This is interesting stuff. I especially like Odo-ro-no, a deodorant. Regular lasts for seven days a dose, and instant lasts for three days. I feel so ripped off; I have to put mine on every day.


Anatomy of a wedding

Jeron and Beth got married on Saturday. Maggie made a syllabus to plan everything out. People made fun of it, but no one complained when everything ran super duper smoothly and nothing bad happened. I now feel like a wedding expert, having done one myself and been intimately involved in this one. Here’s what happened, blow by blow.

7:00 AM: Me, Mag, Jeron, and Kate all eat at Serlin’s Café. We each have the Steak and Eggs special, which at $6 is a great deal. Maggie deviates by having an omelette.
8:00 AM: Mag and I go decorate the church.
9:00 AM: Mag goes to work on the reception site, I go pick up the keg of Paulaner Hefeweizen. Afterwards I get a bouquet of balloons. Jeron goes home to deal with a last minute honeymoon issue.
10:30 AM: Finished with my stupid errands, I grab the clothing, rings, and license from the Home Base and go to meet Jeron.
11:00 AM: I introduce Jeron to my friend Glen, and we head to play a round of disc golf.
1:00 PM: We return back to Jeron’s place and change.
2:00 PM: We’re at the church ready to go.
3:00 PM: Official start of the wedding. Unfortunately, Jeron’s grandparents are late and it delays the wedding a good 10 minutes while we wait for them. They never do show up. While we’re waiting for the guests, Dianne goes inside to hug Jeron, leading to the outstanding quote “HUGGING IS NOT ON THE SYLLABUS!” from Mag. Much laughing results.
4:00 PM: Reception begins. A freak cloudburst hits right around this time, but only lasts about ten minutes and is quickly replaced by sun. The band is good, but not terribly respectful of the fact they are playing at a reception and not at a freaking concert. Despite repeated requests, they never do turn their music down. At its peak, the reception has around 120 people. People have a great time. Menu is Bratwurst, kraut, penne pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, Chinese Cole Slaw, and marinated vegetables.
7:00 PM: Band quits playing. People can start talking and everyone is happy. I set up a monster croquet course in the front yard.
8:00 PM: Keg runs dry. Jeron and friends go to get more beer. I have long since quit drinking by this point, but Jeron returns with a Salvator Doppelbock and hands it to me. I attempt to decline, but he says, almost pouting, “but I got this type because you like it.” I am touched, and of course I drink the beer. One of Jeron’s friends is arrested for a controversial DUI.
10:00 PM: Most older people are gone. Party continues. Some people are inebriated. People still having a fantastic time.
11:00 PM: Neighbors light a bonfire. Remaining people gather around and talk about various subjects.
12:00 AM: Exhausted, I exercise Denigrated Driver discretion and drag my charges from the party.

As you can see, the wedding itself is a very small part of the Wedding. When planning, put all of your preparation into the reception. And get good beer. The Paulaner is always a good bet.

Rare Double Bloggage

Let’s not forget that I started this stupid page as a place to collate my links and entertain myself and certain select people. Despite the fact that I keep getting sidetracked on my own semi-fruitless quest to pronounce a personal philosophy and political purpose, when I get down to it I’m after some web entertainment the same as everyone else is. With that in mind, I have collected a few rather amusing links in the last few days. First, I have blogged several instances of Pies Thrown in Faces, yet never before have I heard of Friendly Pie Fire. Yes, Calvin Klein, who is a friend to the animal rights community, was accidentally hit by several pieces of pie designated for Karl Lagerfeld, who is not. Worst of all, Karl got off relatively unscathed, while Calvin took it on the chin. Poor Calvin. Boy, does that Tofu Cream Pie sound good about now.

"Our activists won't win any prizes for their aim but they would for their compassion and devotion to animals," said Andrew Butler, a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

When you absolutely, positively, have to have more stupid southern similes than you can shake a stick at: the Dukes of Hazzard quote page. Boss: "She's slipperier than a water snake in a grease pit."

They don’t make them like they used to: This light bulb hanging in a fire station in Livermore, CA has been continuously burning since June 8, 1901. At 4 watts, it’s not exactly a flood light, but talk about reliable.

Maggie found this page on the Coriolis Effect and its relationship to the direction your toilets drain. Contrary to popular belief, the Coriolis effect isn’t powerful enough to make a difference in this mundane effect. However, there is a fascinating scam at the Equator in Kenya described in this page, where you go to one side of the equator and water drains one direction and on the other side it goes the other way. Despite the fact the author knows this is a fake, no one knows how they do it. Hmmmm.
Pluggin’ away for my buddy Jeff

The man with more indy cred in his scruffy goatee than I have in my whole body, Jeff, just got this fascinating article published in In These Times. Check it out. It’s really very interesting; a tale about a great grandmother in BC who has gone to jail getting in the way of logging trucks.


The limits of liberty

(Please note, this bloggage inspired by Frontline) I have stated before my position that the government should remain out of the economy unless there is a market failure. Ideally, all commodities from food to utilities to housing to consumer goods could be provided by the market, competition pushing down the prices of all products. In reality this isn’t possible in many cases. In the case of most utilities, however, most people in the US have lived their entire lives under a system of regulated monopolies. The reason for this is that in a monopolistic system, the monopoly can charge anything that it wants; and utilities provide necessities, meaning that they can gouge people for as much as they want. That’s why regulations exist; in the case of electricity, the bottom line is that rates charged must be “just and reasonable” and that’s where all regulations come down to.

Of course, monopolies don’t allocate resources efficiently; and regulated monopolies don’t really make that much money. Hence the problem. Theoretically, this inefficiency means that a competitive system will always outperform a monopoly, even a regulated monopoly. Starting in the late 60s, the tide began to turn in the US politically towards divesting the government of regulatory responsibilities. Air travel deregulation has mostly worked fine. Long distance telephony has worked fairly well. Local telephone deregulation is too new to call. And then there’s electricity. See, in the old system, the utilities weren’t doing very well, because they were big, bloated masses of industry that were inefficient from not having to be in a competitive market, yet they weren’t allowed to charge the rates to cover their costs as they had them. So the utilities began lobbying for deregulation.

California was the first to run into problems, but won’t be the last. More or less, the economic advisors (lobbyists) that explained what would happen to the legislature post deregulation were withholding key pieces of information. They were predicating their assumptions based on a model of perfect competition, which just doesn’t happen in an industry like this. In fact, major barriers to entry into the energy market exist. First, the power lines that get the electricity to the state are owned primarily by one company, the Southern Company. The pipelines getting natural gas, which fires many power plants in California are owned by one company, the El Paso company. Much of the electricity is traded by Enron. None of these companies existed in their modern forms ten years ago – they were cobbled together to respond to the tide of transmission deregulation that began to come together with federal legislation passed in the early nineties. To say that these new companies are making money is a ludicrous understatement. Service is down, prices are up; and the basic question now is “what do we do?”

Here’s the basic dilemma for me and my philosophy. Although the government tends to muck up things it gets involved with, there are few alternatives. Asking the basic question of “who benefits?” yields a very ugly answer. Since deregulation began, a very few large corporations have made literally billions and billions of dollars. Where once that money went to inefficient monopolies in state and into tax coffers, the same money (and much more money; remember that the prices have risen across the board at a far greater pace than the rate of inflation)is now going to compensate people like Kenneth Lay, (previously named as a corrupting influence in the Bush administration) to the tune of a nine figure paycheck last year. And it surprises people that the Bush administration doesn’t want to institute (wholesale) price caps? Follow the money.

Bottom line: monopolies may be inefficient, but that doesn’t answer the basic question of who should benefit from the fruits of the economy’s production. Should we set up a system to benefit the many (the ratepayers) or the few (the corporations set up to make money in the new system)? Despite my antipathy towards the government, my utilitarian focus indicates that the former option remains the best one.

AWL right!

I dare you to read this link about the short-lived WWF character known as the Shockmaster without laughing out loud. Check it out: the Shockmaster was this dumb guy wearing a Stormtrooper’s helmet painted blue. Upon his debut, he tripped on the threshold of the door, dropping the helmet on the ground. I mean, how ridiculous is that? Unless you compare it to the misadventures of Doink the Clown, and the other clown wrestling pretenders, it’s untoppable.

From MeFi: Our president is a pimp. Ok, that’s harsh. The article just says he likes to help with the matchmaking going on among his staffers. This just seems a little bit sick to me. It reminds me of when I got on the debate team in college. “Never date another debater,” I was told. Have I mentioned that my wife was my debate partner? Heh heh heh.


Blind Spots

In articulating my personal philosophy, I’ve run into a few problems in sorting out the Difficult Questions. I don’t think this means my thinking is overall a bad thing, because there are Difficult Questions for every philosophy to deal with, and anyone who claims they have all the answers is either trying to sell you something or trying to proselytize you. In neither case would I trust such a person. Nonetheless, I have most of the answers, and will gladly share them with you if you just buy this book from me.

Sean wrote me an email after my first round of political drivel asking what I’d do about the case of health care and seatbelt laws, especially for those that don’t pay for their own health care. That is a tough one. If you take my fundamental premise of society, which is that certain basic boundaries respecting individuals shouldn’t be compromise, it seems obvious that two come into conflict. One is the right to life, which could be construed as meaning a right to health care, as well. If health care exists and isn’t utilized for a dying person, that really is the same as causing that person to die on his or her own. (Such as the urban legend of Dr. Charles Drew’s death, who supposedly died when he was denied a blood transfusion after an auto accident. He did get a transfusion, but still died. Sorry for the non sequiter) Two is liberty; the liberty of the individual forced to buckle one’s seatbelt is constrained by such a law. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, my general feelings of Utilitarianism are itching to make people I pay for constrain to certain nonrisky behavior. On the other hand, a slippery slope of constraints seems fairly obvious. If we can force someone to wear a seatbelt, what else can we enforce using the same reasoning? I can think of several things, from banning cigarette smoking to forcing sterilization for welfare parents to outlawing buggery. In fact, to some degree, society has attempted to do many of these things, with profoundly negative results. I suppose that explains why seatbelt laws don’t seem like desirable uses of government power to me. Let people be stupid. Society may have to pay for it, but it’s someone else’s face through the window.

My feelings about electrical deregulation and the California energy crisis are also testing my libertarian resolve. As stated previously, I have a good background in understanding the basic premises of economics, and as such recognize the distorting effects that governments can have on markets, including energy markets, when price controls are instituted. I recall learning about the “Windfall Profits Act” in my microeconomics class, and specifically noting how this price ceiling helped send more money abroad to foreign producers of oil who weren’t subject to price controls while hurting domestic producers and on balance making us more dependent on foreign oil. Yet, there are strong reasons to support a governmental interest in our electrical markets. I’ll pick up there tomorrow.
”Blog” is so passe

The term Blog is a shortage of Weblog, and I’ve noticed that none of the Cool bloggers use it very much any more. I hereby declare that I will continue using blog until it is obvious that I don’t care about being cool; at which point I’ll be cool again due to my contrarian standing up against the masses. You watch. I’ll be cool yet.

The Null Device (yes, I took a link from him yesterday too. Unless he’s coming over from Australia to kick my arse, I don’t think that’s a problem) linked this article criticizing the Harry Potter books from a marxist perspective. I read the article fully expecting to guffaw and decry the author for picking such a stupid target, and then all I could really think was that the author really had a point. I submit this quote:
the institution of the Sorting Hat translates a very problematic form of repressive-productive (producing house members to fit a certain type) authority out of its real-world manifestations into a naturalized form: being suited perfectly to one's given social niche (given by Dumbledore or the Sorting Hat or genetics, who Know What's Best). And that is very dangerous indeed. More clearly, the same thing happens with the happy race of house-elf slaves in Goblet: they love being slaves and those who are freed (against their will) turn to drink and self-destruction. It's a paradigm familiar from Gone with the Wind: conveniently for the oppressors, the oppressed love and willingly choose their status.

This just makes me feel a bit guilty for enjoying those books.

From Jeff: perhaps we should do away with all the war rhetoric in use to describe professional sports. At center stage right now is the NBA finals. Big deal. The NBA disgusts me. I used to enjoy it, but the rank commercialism and amount of money flowing from the pockets of working class people to extremely rich morons fills my stomach with bile. I understand that criticism is the same for all professional sports, but my love for football makes me like the NFL for its quality of play and the team aspect of the game mitigates that nagging concern at the back of my mind. The NBA has Allen Iverson, the poster boy for childish, tantrum throwing, moronic, impulsive, decadent empty materialism as well as non team oriented ball-hoggery.


Minnesota Politics

A mile and a half away, at the Minnesota State Capitol, a special session is underway. The regular session ended on May 21 without eight major spending or budget bills passed, and unless there is legislation in place by the end of the month, the government will run out of money for the next fiscal year, beginning July 1. The issue is that the House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans, the Senate is controlled by Democrats, and neither side can agree on the amount of property tax relief, so here we are. There was an agreement in place, but when it came time for the conference committees to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bills, the Senate got cold feet because most of the tax relief was for businesses and very little would benefit residential property taxes, especially lower and middle income residences.

Neither side wanted to get the special session called until there was an agreement in place, and so were taken rather flat footed by Jesse’s call. Personally, I believe this is a masterstroke of political discourse executed by Governor Turnbuckle; if there is a government shutdown he now can point to the early call and indicate that he called the session with plenty of time, which there is. Did I say shutdown? Yes, I did. Some legislative leaders proposed existing in the stopgap limbo of the no-shutdown shutdown of two years ago, where Clinton signed measure after measure keeping the government afloat during a stalemate. However, in another move of the pawn, Jesse today refused to consider temporary solutions. This is also a good move, although it contributes to the game of “chicken” that all sides are playing. This is already getting the state into trouble. According to the contract with state employees, three week notice is required before laying off employees, and that means layoff notices went out today. There is no legal way to furlough or give leaves of absence to employees that the state can’t afford to pay, which gives the state little choice in the matter – they must get the budget passed.

Here are my prescriptions for the various sides.
House Republicans: Quit posturing. Drop your demands to append the stupid abortion waiting period ban to important legislation. That already bought one veto. Act professionally, too. Loudmouth morons.
Senate Democrats: What are you holding out for? If I don’t know, then neither does Sven nor Ole (stereotypical Minnesotans, FYI) . You have been outflanked. Give up.
Jesse: Lookin’ good. Don’t say anything too offensive, and you’ll crush anyone when re-election time comes around next year.

Old Favorites

Wow… a guy who threw a pie in the face of the Australian PM during an anti-globalization protest has been sentenced to a month in jail. Pretty harsh. It must have been made from shaving cream instead of glorious, beautiful whipped cream. From the Null Device.

I don’t usually go for the comics that most bloggers do, but this one depicting Dubya’s nomination of Satan to the Supreme Court genuinely made me laugh out loud.


Déjà vu, expanded

I’ve done this before. Ever since I was pretty young, I’ve been fascinated by islands and the idea that I could live on one. I think it started when the family would go out to visit great-grandfather Ray out on South Padre Island on the Gulf coast in Texas. We would often take a little thirty car ferry, which was pretty neat for a young boy, especially when porpoises would play in the wake of the boat.

One of the most enjoyable ways to poke around the web is to look at private islands. Of course, there are a lot of islands for sale out there. People often think that private islands are for the extremely rich, but in reality there are a number of cheap islands available too. The one I just linked is less than 30,000 Canadian (fake) dollars, and it even has a little one room cabin on it. That would be a pretty neat place to spend a summer vacation. Of course, there are plenty of expensive islands too. You can find private islands in Belize, or Greece, or even Vanuatu, although you don’t have to get as exotic as that. A 110 acre island in Northern Minnesota is available for under a million. You can go looking for your own here. Maggie has chosen this one, which must be the most expensive one I’ve ever seen. “Price available by request,” it says, on a site that puts six million dollar price tags up without batting an eye.

I always feel a little bit guilty when I look at private islands. It’s because I recognize my instinct to get one is not only a decadent, extravagant act, but also is an insular one that separates me from my fellow mass of humanity. On the other hand, it is not inconsistent with my nature to have essential doubts about the character of my fellow human beings (my mom says it isn’t paranoia if they really are out to get you). I will just consider my hunt for private islands to be an escapist exercise, not harmful to anyone and pretty fun to boot.

(Meta-section; I got onto the island kick today by finding this article about a storm that hit Tristan de Cunha island two weeks ago. No one outside the island knew about it until a few days ago because all communication was cut off. I told Maggie, who found a link to the island and thought it looked neat. )

LAPI (HBII newcomers; that’s a Link Appealing to the Prurient Interest): Ernie’s House of WhoopAss, which is an old school E/N site full of gross and dirty pictures. I cannot help but be strangely fascinated by such sites. I tried to think of redeeming qualities of it to recommend, but no, it is what it is. Thus is the web.

My old friend Alana has surfaced in South Carolina. The Carolinas are fascinating states. They are so pretty, and the food is great, the people are nice, and the culture is very weird. The SC legislature has gotten itself in a bit of a stink by an anonymous memo, apparently written by a Republican congressman, which advised female pages to ignore a previous dress code directive and generally told them to expect some sexual harassment. Alana, please explain your elected officials. Including that Helms guy, too.


Old Favorites

In my time Before Blogging (BB), I had a definite websurfing routine. It involved going first to check out the news, weather, and sports, and then I went to a couple of sites that were funny and checked them out. After a while, this got somewhat boring, and so I started branching out a bit more. The first place I ever ventured off the Beaten Path was to the Obscure Store, which remains one of my very very favorites. I read a few blogs at first, and always have enjoyed the idea of someone going through all the weird pages on the web for me so I didn’t have to. As for how I took up blogging myself; well, I used to email links I found to Maggie and other people, and at some point I figured it would be about as much effort to just code those on a website instead of emailing them out. I was wrong, but that’s how this site you are reading came to be.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to find some of the links I used to check out on a regular basis but now forget to, because I am more busy, if not focused, with my Web Time. First and foremost on the list has to be the News of the Weird site. This site comes out with new material every Monday (or so) and I’ve even had an item or two used in it. I am especially fond of the weird search engine, where you may enter in any term to search through the database. I suggest you enter in your city or state. Consider this:
1997 -- A 21-year-old, allegedly intoxicated man was spotted by police on an Austin, Minn., street in January urinating on a car but was let go with a warning when he persuaded police it was his own car. A few minutes later police returned and arrested the man for DUI, having figured out that he was urinating on the car's door lock to melt the ice so that he could get in and drive away.

Next up is the Straight Dope site, which answers stupid and not-so-stupid questions about various things. Vastly entertaining. Of course there is the Onion, but everyone goes there. Except maybe my mom. Maybe that’s because she still doesn’t know what a beeyotch is. I always ended up my weeks with Friday’s edition of the Economist, which is the place hippies love to hate. Nothing worse than good economics! Well, and news. It’s one of the few places that will report on the 2/3 of the world that the US media ignores. Also out on Fridays is Failure magazine, which more often reports on things that aren’t failures than things that are, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

How do I know so much about Art?

Answer: I have a bachelor’s degree. In ART! Similarly, Dr. Science may not really be a doctor, but he knows his science. Remember, he has a Master’s degree. IN SCIENCE! Dr. Sciences’ whois page is really funny. It starts out:
For a man who weighs over 300 pounds, who is well past the prime of his life, who has neither bathed nor dabbled in social intercourse for over a decade, Dr. Science is surprisingly normal.

Maggie sent that page to me. She knows I love Dr. Science because I used to listen to Dr. Demento. Rhyming with that, she did a new review earlier this week on Memento. Read it if you haven’t already.

An update on Courtney Love’s fight against the record labels. Via MeFi.


Florida in Minnesota

A few days ago I blogged the ongoing Twin Cities nurses’ strike, and mentioned that in the end only two of fifteen hospitals originally threatening work stoppages rejected final contract offers and actually went on the picket lines. It now seems that number should have been one higher: a mistake in the counting of the ballots at Abbott Northwestern, a big hospital in Minneapolis, means that the contract should have been defeated by a one vote margin. However, after counting the ballots wrong, the union verbally told the hospital that the contract was approved, and according to law that is all that is needed. Now, the union has locked over 1500 workers into a contract they rejected for three years. Try that on for size. Obviously, the nurses are not happy at the union, but what can you do at this point?

I like online quizzes; especially political ones. This one, which I took from Lia, is good because it measures not only a left-right economics slant, but also an up-down authoritarianism bent. I am near the center, slightly left, but pretty far down on the liberty scale (down = more liberty). Maggie apparently scored similarly but on the right side of the center economically. I think the best question is (paraphrased): Should those who can work but do not work expect to eat? Good question! I’ll wait until later to take up that general line of thought.

More stupid links

An account of the softball game between the Playboy staff and the High Times staff. The best line from the article has to be this one:
… the Bunnies and the Bonghitters chatted amiably as they shared the grass for joint warm-ups…

Oh, man, that’s funny. Bwahahaha!

Another Bush Twin Link: Political cartoons weigh in on the subject. Some very good ones are in there. And another: the White House is pissed because apparently the twins will be on the cover of People Magazine next month (headline: “Oops! I did it again!”).

My gut tells me this story about a missing congressional intern will become a big one. I don’t know why; maybe it’s the fact that she slept over at Representative Gary Condit’s (D-CA) apartment. According to the congressman they were just good friends. I do not believe him. I’ll stay on top of this story so you don’t have to.


SPAM History (not Spam history)

Veterans have complained that the Korean War is the forgotten war in American history. Perhaps that is true to a degree, but I think there is a war that we have forgotten far more effectively than the Korean: the Spanish-American War (I use the mental mnemonic of SPAM to refer to this conflict.)

This was an enormous turning point in American History, much like the Mexican-American war, in that it cemented our role as an imperial power and sent the signal to the world that we were a force to be reckoned with. Consider the following events that were caused by the SPAM:
  • The rise to power of Theodore Roosevelt. At the time of the SPAM, he was an undersecretary of the Navy. He resigned his post, and led a volunteer force called the Rough Riders into battle. The resulting notoriety catapulted him to the Vice Presidency, and he became President following the unfortunate assassination of William McKinley at the Buffalo World’s Fair just six months after McKinley’s second inauguration. Roosevelt would later split the Republican vote when he childishly ran for president as a spoiler, causing Woodrow Wilson to become one of only two Democratic presidents between Buchanan and Franklin Roosevelt. This would arguably lead to our involvement in WWI.

  • The new, massive involvement in imperialist conflict of a previously isolationist USA. Prior to the SPAM, we were mainly interested in subduing our adjacent colony space, also known as the American West. Afterwards, we were suddenly involved in many nasty conflicts, like the extremely bloody and unnecessary Phillipine-American War. In this war, we killed well over half a million Filipinos, in addition to losing some 5,000 American soldiers, and never really did achieve our goal of subduing the whole archipelago. To illustrate how bloody this was, consider that the Colt .45 pistol first gained its popularity during this conflict. The old .38 caliber pistols didn’t kill the insurgents quickly enough, so large numbers of the new .45s were diverted from Alaska from Polar Bear killing use to use instead for Filipino killing.

  • The SPAM cemented the perceived need for the Panama Canal, due to the fact that the US had and determined it needed a two ocean navy. The Panama Canal was the first major globalizing piece of infrastructure in the Western Hemisphere and arguably has shaped our commercial and foreign policy development more than any other single public works project.

All this from a pathetically one sided and unnecessary war. My favorite anecdote from the SPAM concerns the capture of Guam, which we still possess. Steaming for the Phillipines, a couple of American ships stopped in the harbor of Guam to capture this important strategic outpost. Upon arriving in the harbor, the US ships fired a warning shot at the fort. Upon getting no reply, the Americans were puzzled, but then saw a small boat rowing out to meet the ships. The message from the fort was to the effect that “We have no gunpowder to return your salute.” The Americans informed the Spanish that a state of war existed between the two countries, at which point the Spanish surrendered.

By the way, this guy is an amateur historian with cool maps. I heartily recommend the site. From MeFi.

He also has an interesting perspective on Ayn Rand:
[L]ife is too short to waste precious days reading books that are endlessly pushed on me by people who -- how shall I put this delicately? -- lack credibility. The works of Ayn Rand easily rank as the philosophy most recommended by the least reliable people that I've ever encountered.

That is true. However, I often find myself agreeing with her conclusions, although her reasoning is not sharp and she gets into the realm of repugnance very quickly. I was surprised to find that the Ayn Rand Institute has a sub-page designed to get Objectivism into Debate rounds. There is even topic analysis with quotations. In one of these sections, I found this one:

If men want to oppose war, it is statism that they must oppose. So long as they hold the tribal notion that the individual is sacrificial fodder for the collective, that some men have the right to rule others by force, and that some (any) alleged “good” can justify it—there can be no peace within a nation and no peace among nations.

It may be true. Who knows? We’ve never tried being respectful of everyone’s rights before. It does, however, contradict the main philosophical background of Vulcanism: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (or one).

I had seen this before, but I don’t think I’ve blogged it – drop a virtual nuclear weapon anywhere you want! I dropped a Hiroshima sized one on my work and it doesn’t quite wipe out my home. That tells me my commute is too long.

A report by the US Commission on Human Rights has determined that the voting irregularities in Florida affected people of color in an amazingly disparate manner, which is important due to the fact that US civil rights law makes such disparate impact a justiciable issue. Expect lawsuits!

Semi-AWL: The ongoing case of the strip club/mob trial of Steve Kaplan and other Gold Club associates continues to get major athletes and figures within the wrestling world embroiled within the scandal. Those include Dennis Rodman, Patrick Ewing, Jerry Stackhouse, Reggie Miller, Andruw Jones, Charles Oakley, and Terrell Davis. Bet your mom doesn’t want to serve you any Chunky Soup now, TD.



Find a soul mate on line. Or better, get some love.com. Sure it redirects you to AOL personals, but there is some funny stuff in there. I’ve always been very amused by going through the personal advertisements. Some people are so obscure, and some are very open. In places like here and Portland, the weekly alternative paper is the best place to find them. “…Poppa bear wants baby bear for jockstrap wrestling…” Yeah, you know you’ve seen it.

One of the most fascinating monarchs I’ve heard about is Catherine the Great, the famous ruler of Russia. Catherine’s marriage to Peter III wasn’t exactly a healthy one:

It was discovered that all Peter did at night in bed with Catherine was play with wooden soldiers, miniature cannons and toy fortresses. Peter would make little cannon-firing noises with his mouth and shout orders to the inanimate armies on the bed, beg Catherine to join him, and hurriedly stash the playthings under the sheets whenever members of the court happened by to check on the odd assortment of noises emanating from behind their chamber door.

No, it isn’t true about Catherine and the Horse rumor. She died while straining at the commode. According to Charles Panati, Elvis Presley died the same way. Unfortunately, I cannot find any web sites to back me up on this claim. I can, however, find an obituary of the King written by Molly Ivins.


There is a minor hubbub in the news about a homeless homeschooled teenager who has scored a perfect 1600 on the SAT. Trevor Loflin has his own website and is going to college this fall. My observations: First, the media response to this is sickening. Guess what, folks? Poor people can be smart! Yeah, shocking. Second, Trevor is taking his awesome SAT scores and profound life experiences to Bob Jones University. If you don’t remember BJU, here’s are some refreshers. Links regarding its opposition to interracial dating; BJU’s antagonism towards gay people; and how our current president felt like he needed to apologize after a visit during the campaign strongly irritated Catholics, who also have been ritually abused by BJU.


Now I’m getting somewhere

This site is now more or less done and ready in the CSS world. I anticipate a few bugs to pop up here and there, so if any of you are having troubles, please email me posthaste. Especially if you have a weird browser. It’s been fairly well geeked out in IE 5.5 and 6. In addition to those thanked last time, I also want to give a big, hearty thanks to Anil, who looked at the code with a fine-toothed comb and came up with the fixes I needed. Anil rules. Now go see his web site.

Dominating news from our area of the world recently has been the story of a Nursing strike that has hit two of what originally was to have been around a dozen hospitals. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the worth/morality of such strikes – if it had been all the hospitals originally targeted, the whole of Twin Cities health care would likely have been in serious jeopardy, even taking into account the arrival of replacement nurses to fill the gap. In such a case, what duty do the nurses have to maintain the health of their patients?

On one hand, you have the argument that “There is no right to strike against the public safety, anytime.” These famous words were spoken by then-governor of Massachusetts Calvin Coolidge, who was later president and still the leading recipient of the term “taciturn” in the American pantheon of presidents (along with “laconic” and “frugal.” Check the fun fact in this link for an amusing anecdote to share with your friends). Coolidge was condemning the strike by Boston police, which caused a good amount of chaos in the city. Coolidge unleashed the National Guard on the picket lines, and generally crushed the strike. Six decades later, long after Coolidge had begun to symbolize the worst of the neglect and greed of the Roaring Twenties, Ronald Reagan used the same words to condemn and begin strikebreaking procedures against the Air Traffic Controller strike of 1981 (the story linked is terribly partisan towards our Great Communicator, and gives this incident indirect credit for winning the Cold War). If Air Traffic Controlling is key to the public safety, then so must the nurses be, and if the argument follows that there is no right to strike against the public safety, then nurses shouldn’t strike, either.

On the other hand, the strike or threat of a strike is many times the only leverage that workers have. To explain, I’ll have to get back into my personal philosophy. As you can deduce from reading previous entries, I believe generally that we should have the freedom to do what we want. This means that an ideal country would include a relatively unfettered market to operate in for the sale of goods, services, and labor. Where I deviate both from libertarians and from liberals is the nature of government intervention. I believe that government shouldn’t intervene in the market unless there is a case of market failure. As cited before, an example is that of the negative externality impacting the environment, or in English, the hidden costs of pollution. This is a market failure, because the market fails to account for the cost to the environment of the cost of cleanup and general damage to the environment. How do you value a mountain that doesn’t exist anymore because a mining company removed it and dumped the rubble in a valley? Thus, the government should intervene on behalf of the environment.

Labor conflict is not a market failure. Labor conflict is the inevitable result of a heirarchical relationship between the money that runs business and the people that run business. Marx may not have had a very good prescriptive basis for running a government, but he had one thing right – capitalism works because of the owners of the means of production are getting more out of the labor of their workers than what they pay them. I make no normative claims in this statement – it’s just true. The strike works as a concept because the labor is needed.

The government shouldn’t be involved in labor disputes, except to ameliorate dangers to public health that arise. My conclusion is that responsibility towards those that need health care must necessarily be on the operators of the hospitals, not the nurses. If nurses believe they can maximize their rights or compensation by a strike, so be it. They should have the right to do so. As for striking against the public safety, it is the necessity of such workers that makes the threat of a strike so chilling. On the other hand, such necessary workers should be valued highly anyway. I doubt the sorts of people that go into nursing would make a decision to strike lightly.


Back when I was a frosh in college, rooming with Dave Noyes (Dave: write me), we used to play a lot of Mad Libs. It was pretty fun, actually, because we would get together in our rooms, perhaps imbibing, and then we’d do a book or two. Maggie would usually get pressed into service reading them, because she had the best voice for reading them and also got the most shocked by obscene words that inevitably surfaced when a big group of leather-clad punks (and us) would show up to party. Now, thanks to the beauty of the internet (and PCJM) I present: Elibs, the online Mad Libs. Enjoy.

The update to the Everquest Baseball scandal I blogged a couple of weeks ago can be found here. Scroll down to the bottom, or do a “find in page” for “Cyber.”

Did you know that obituary writers have their own conventions? I didn’t. I do know that when I read obituaries, I involuntarily imagine major details of the lives of the people profiled and it makes me sad for their families. I also imagine the lives of roadkill when I see carcasses by the side of the road. Sometimes I think I have too much empathy.


New look, new problems

Well, I’ve jumped on the CSS bandwagon. Those who use old, crappy browsers may find that everything is unformatted and crappy looking. You should upgrade. I recommend IE 5.5. I’ve tried them all, now, and although Microsoft is evil, it is the best product. For those who aren’t using old, crappy browsers: You may find that everything is unformatted and crappy looking. Hey! I’m still figuring out this stuff. I am not as geeked out as everyone else on the web. Thanks go to Avogadro, cCranium, and the rest of the 1142 crew.

What’s Qiviut?

At some point Maggie and I are going to go to Alaska and visit this Musk Ox farm, where famous celebrities like Alex Trebek and Olivia Newton-John go to hang out with the fluffiest bovines on earth. If we can’t get there, but wind up with a lot of money, we’ll content ourselves with buying Qiviut goods from a native cooperative. That’s wool made from the undercoat of said Musk Oxen, and it’s supposedly very soft, fluffy, and comfortable. Sounds good!

Not related, but still cool, is the endangered Musk Deer, which have no antlers but do have fangs. Crazy!

Back to ironing out bugs.