Cost to telco: $0.00. Cost to customers: $0.20. Number of text messages sent per year (worldwide): 2.5 trillion. We'll leave you to do the math.Is there anyone out there who doesn't hate their cell phone provider?
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Happily, both pieces move to the moral argument, which I find far stronger. And a lot simpler. Whether or not torture is a useful tool in counterterrorism (and the relative safety of such torture-happy places as Egypt attest it can't be wholly discounted) is completely irrelevant. Even if by aschewing torture we're fighting with one hand tied behind our back, it's still the right thing to do. We can still win that fight, and when we have, we will still be America.
Monday, December 29, 2008
As to MacDonald's question about the reaction to widespread use of "Eid Mubarak", since it just means "Happy Holiday" I'd assume they were referring to Christmas. That aside, I seriously doubt whether anyone of such a cultural bent to be automatically suspicious of an Arabic greeting would be likely to recognize it as such.
Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good. [...]I particularly applaud Parris's rejection of the forced equivalence of "traditional" African culture and Western civilization. Since Decolonization, nothing has done more to keep Africa in the dark than the indefensible claim that cultures based on collectivist groupthink, corrosive jealousy, and brutal misogyny are intrinsically valid and deserving not just of respect but of proactive protection and encouragement.
There's long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours. I don't follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. [...]
Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.
Part of the problem, [22-year Secret Service veteran] Green said, is that the government has changed the money so much to foil counterfeiting. With all the new bills out there, citizens and even many police officers don’t know what they’re supposed to look like.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
If you are really, really good at what you do, you come up with an incredibly brilliant scheme to drive off actual potential recruits while simultaneously impressing your superiors with your ability to "reach out" to and "connect" with today's youth. The name of that scheme? MAX IMPACT, the Air Force's official nu-metal band. What could be better than a "high-energy band [that] has everything needed to ignite a party and keep the flame burning for hours"? Really, just take a listen.
A buddy and I had a great conversation on this, by the way, which he's posted since it contains "everything I know about soldiers".
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
There is a widespread misconception in this country — which extends, I might note, to the makers of most calendars, dictionaries, and encyclopedias — that summer "officially" starts on the day of the summer solstice, June 21 or 22, which is the longest day of the year. Americans also believe (1) that there is some valid scientific reason for doing it that way, and (2) that everybody in the Northern Hemisphere does it that way, and always has. None of these things is true. So far as I have been able to discover, no scientific or governmental body has ever formally declared that summer starts on the solstice.Hear that, people, Washington has left you to your own devices to decide what season it is on any given day! Madness! Chaos!
Things were much simpler in the mid-20th century, when it was generally accepted that winter comprised December, January, and February; spring March, April, and May; summer June, July, and August, and fall was September, October, and November. It's nice and simple, and lines up pretty well with the weather. As far as I'm concerned, spring starts with the first flowers, summer on the first day I break a sweat (without exerting myself), fall when it smells like fall, and winter with the first snow that sticks. But that's just me. Incidentally, nobody seems to know where the rather strange idea originated that the equinoxes and solstices mark the beginnings of the seasons. It's one of those things that everyone just started telling each other with the assumption that it was backed by some sort of authority, but now it's gotten so ingrained in the American consciousness that I'm surely guaranteed an absolute minimum of four days of frustration per year for the rest of my life. You could argue, I suppose, that I should just lighten up. You clearly don't know me very well.
Monday, December 22, 2008
In my "free speech" crusade up in Canada [Steyn is being prosecuted under Canada's "hate speech" laws for his writing highlighting the failure of Muslim immigrants to integrate], I'm frequently lectured by lazy cliche-recyclers that there's no freedom to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theatre. But in a burning city feel free to shout "Nothing to see here!" for another decade or three.But just remember, Best Beloved, we're the ones who are hopelessly backward. Europe should be our model. Europe is "progressive"; Europe is the future. Everything would be better if only we would be more like Europe. Well, folks, Europe is burning. Wake up.
So, less than a month after the election of the first African-American president of the United States, less than a month after over 70 percent of African Americans support Proposition 8... a high ranking black woman at an American university gets fired by a white guy because she doesn’t think that gay rights is morally or legally equivalent to the long struggle of black Americans for civil rights.Strange days, indeed.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (Several, even. Up to and including the German Band).
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain (I guess that depends on the definition of "mountain").
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris (No, but I've been to Perris, CA)
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train (best way to travel, hands-down).
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse (just lunar)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset (pretty much every day. And usually have the pleasure of being at work for both.)
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language (well, mostly pretty old ones, actually)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (it takes less than some people think)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving (if you count airborne jumps, but I'd still like to go civilian skydiving sometime)
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life (No way to know in my job. I like to think my work makes people safer, so, maybe?)
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person (it's really small)
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day (hahhhaha... sigh)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Man, cephalopods are just creepy.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
You can get short-term popularity in the Middle East if you want, by blaming all problems on Israel. That’ll make you popular. You can be popular in certain salons of Europe if you say, ‘Okay, we’ll join the International Criminal Court.’ I could have been popular if I’d said, ‘Oh, Kyoto is the way to deal with the environmental problem.’ That would have made me liked. It would have made me wrong, however. And, ultimately, you earn people’s respect by articulating a set of principles and standing by them. You know, popularity comes and goes. It just does. It comes and goes for an individual or a nation. But principles are enduring.Well put, Mr. President.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
How soon hath thy prediction, Seer blest,
Measur'd this transient World, the Race of time,
Till time stand fixt: beyond is all abyss,
Eternitie, whose end no eye can reach.
Greatly instructed I shall hence depart,
Greatly in peace of thought, and have my fill
Of knowledge, what this vessel can containe;
Beyond which was my folly to aspire.
Henceforth I learne, that to obey is best,
And love with feare the onely God, to walk
As in his presence, ever to observe
His providence, and on him sole depend,
Merciful over all his works, with good
Still overcoming evil, and by small
Accomplishing great things, by things deemd weak
Subverting worldly strong, and worldly wise
By simply meek; that suffering for Truths sake
Is fortitude to highest victorie,
And to the faithful Death the Gate of Life;
Taught this by his example whom I now
Acknowledge my Redeemer ever blest.
To whom thus also th' Angel last repli'd:
This having learnt, thou hast attaind the summe
Of wisdom; hope no higher, though all the Starrs
Thou knewst by name, and all th' ethereal Powers,
All secrets of the deep, all Natures works,
Or works of God in Heav'n, Air, Earth, or Sea,
And all the riches of this World enjoydst,
And all the rule, one Empire; onely add
Deeds to thy knowledge answerable, add Faith,
Add Vertue, Patience, Temperance, add Love,
By name to come call'd Charitie, the soul
Of all the rest: then wilt thou not be loath
To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess
A Paradise within thee, happier farr.
--John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1667.
Monday, December 8, 2008
I know that individual mass transit projects are often boondoggles. It's ridiculously expensive to build and never pays for itself. On the other hand, how often do roads pay for themselves, even with your fancy-schmancy open-road tolling? That's right, never. We're just so accustomed to lavishing absolutely ridiculous amounts of money on one sort of mass transportation infrastructure that we don't even think of it in the same category as others. And all that money goes to a transportation infrastructure that you only get to use if you choose (or can afford) to own a car. Now, I also know what an economic engine America's roads and highways are, and I know what a country without them looks like: I've visited India and subsaharan Africa. So I'm a big fan of roads. I guess I'm just sayin', give the trains a little love, too.
In my year-and-a-half since putting on ACUs I've heard only bad things said about him by the rank and file, and that's for something unrelated to Iraq: Shinseki is apparently the genius who decided that we should all wear the beret (which is useless as it provides no shade or or rain or wind protection, and particularly nasty because it takes two hands to put on right, and weighs a ton when wet) as part of our regular uniform in garrison. For that, well, I resent the dude a little as do I think most soldiers.Oh, and it's a multi-day process to shave (yes shave, or it'll look like you skinned a Muppet), shape, and fit a beret so it looks "just right". But it's the two-hand thing that's the worst. I used to be in a class including mixed students from all four services. Some classes were held in a building adjacent to our schoolhouse, so we'd all head over there a few times a day. Every time, the sailors, airmen, and marines would happily file out, jauntily flipping their caps onto their heads as they casually sauntered out the door past the gaggle of soldiers awkwardly pausing in the doorway, clamping our books under our elbows as we stretched and smoothed our berets onto our heads.
We can all eat less meat (well, I guess vegetarians can't eat any less), or choose less resource-intensive meats like chicken or fish (though the issues of ocean fisheries would cover a few blog posts in their own right; there are a lot of words you could apply to mankind's current treatment of the oceans, "stewardship" is most certainly not one of them). The piece linked above also doesn't mention one major carbon-neutral source of cheap meat for some families: hunting, which has been in slow decline nationwide for decades. Livestock reared at home would be in nearly the same category, so all the happy hunters and homesteaders are already doing more than their part, even if they don't drive Priuses. Clearly, there's a lot individual people can do, though the ones doing it are likely doing it for themselves rather than to save the planet. Government's hands aren't clean here, though. It's a great example of the stubbornness of American tastes that years and years worth of harping about the dangers of red meat haven't slowed our appetite for the stuff one bit, so I'm certainly not going to advocate yet another nannying public awareness campaign. It's not necessary, anyway. If the government would just stop actively supporting the mass consumption of unhealthy, low-quality industrial meats (and refined flours, and white sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup) through its distortionary agricultural subsidies, that'd be a big step forward for American health, and encourage a far more defensible use of our nation's resources, both fiscal and natural. But I'm not holding my breath.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
It had been a strange morning, to say the least, of the kind that could happen only in India. I have loved the country ever since I first went there as a student aged 19, and think I would be perfectly happy to live there, though I recognise that what attracts me about it repels others. For me, it is the most profoundly human place on earth, the glory and desolation of human existence being constantly before one there in a way that is matched nowhere else.Precisely.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
The men are not true followers of the Islamic faith, according to the influential Muslim Jama Masjid Trust, which runs the 7.5-acre Badakabrastan graveyard in downtown Mumbai. "People who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslim," said Hanif Nalkhande, a trustee. "Islam does not permit this sort of barbaric crime."Sadly, I'm afraid the history of Muhammad's terror war against rival tribes of Arabia doesn't exactly support Ustadh Hanif's sentiment, but it's appreciated all the same.
Amid the arsenal of military hardware, it was the use of humble mobile phones and internet technology that proved a key weapon – one which caught the anti-terrorist forces by surprise. The use of BlackBerrys by the terrorists to monitor international reaction to the atrocities, and to check on the police response via the internet, provided further evidence of the highly organised and sophisticated nature of the attacks. The gunmen were able to trawl the internet for information after cable television feeds to the two luxury hotels and office block were cut by the authorities. The men looked beyond the instant updates of the Indian media to find worldwide reaction to the events in Mumbai, and to keep abreast of the movements of the soldiers sent to stop them.This makes you stop and ask, Who precisely is served when Western reporters give minute by minute accounts of the locations, strength, and armaments of the counter-terrorist response:
Date: Fri, 28 Nov 2008 04:56:03Seriously, this is practically a SALUTE report. I guess anyone planning this sort of attack in the future will know that they don't have to bother posting scouts; the media will take care of that for them. How much shorter would the Mumbai siege have been if the terrorists hadn't had intel support from the media? How many lives were ended to support the people's "right to know"? Lets hope municipal authorities take note and immediately bring down the cell networks the next time this sort of attack is attempted.
After 15 minutes of silence, five commandos in black with heavy-duty body armor have approached the building. Four are carrying assault rifles, and the fifth, possibly their officer, has a radio in his right hand.
Friday, November 28, 2008
ANC leader Jacob Zuma has asked the sensible question, “Why should Afrikaners not remember their heroes?” Apparently this song is now frequently sung spontaneously at rugby matches, complete with the waving of the old South African national flag. Nelson Mandela has called van Blerk one of his favorite singers. Another reason to put his picture in every dictionary by the entry for magnanimity.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
UPDATE: Danger Room links to the Twittering, YouTubing, GoogleMapping, and Flickring developments.
UPDATE 1120ET: Times of India now reporting 101 dead, with 6 confirmed to be foreigners.
It transpires that half the food-vehicle miles associated with British food are travelled by cars driving to and from the shops. Each trip is short, but there are millions of them every day. Another surprising finding was that a shift towards a local food system, and away from a supermarket-based food system, with its central distribution depots, lean supply chains and big, full trucks, might actually increase the number of food-vehicle miles being travelled locally, because things would move around in a larger number of smaller, less efficiently packed vehicles.This study was in compact, crowded Britain. The situation can only be worse in spacious America. This excerpt uses the phrase food-vehicle miles. Maybe we can come up with a better term than that, but it hinges on thinking not about total miles traveled, but on miles traveled per item of produce in a given shipment. Think of it this way: you buy a local tomato at the trendy farmers' market instead of one that's been shipped from California, thus reducing "food miles". What you fail to account for is "food-vehicle miles": the local tomato might have ridden thirty miles in the back of a pickup with maybe 50 other tomatoes. The California tomato was shipped cross-country, true, but in a semi-load of millions. The amount of fuel burned per tomato to get it from the field to your house ends up being far less for the mass-market tomato, particularly if you drive further to the farmers' market than the grocery store.
This is all such a great example of the sort of environmentalism that cares more about labels and trends than about actually accomplishing anything. Some of the political motivations are suspect as well; much of the local-food movement has an ugly strain of protectionism to it. Indeed, Kenya has been forced to defend her cut-flower industry from the "food miles" concept, with an ad campaign point out that Kenyan flowers are "Grown Under The Sun" instead of in heated greenhouses and are thus "greener" than British or Dutch cut-flowers. Again, we're back to growing things where they grow best. Crazy talk, I know.
All this is most certainly not to suggest that I'm against buying locally. I think there's a great food security argument to a more distributed agricultural production. There may be some nutritional benefits (though studies are inconclusive). For me, there is without a doubt a mental health benefit; it just feels right to be eating food grown in the community. It supports a more localized economy, a sense of civil interdependence, and a healthier, more traditional lifestyle. So in the end I'm all for local produce, or best of all, food you grow yourself. Just don't try to convince me I'm saving the world by buying it.
Oh yeah, and I'm thankful for stuff. But I don't think I really need an allotted day to acknowledge that.
UPDATE 27NOV08 2352: Yepp, there are heritage turkeys out there. No word on how pricey, but they do exist.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
What worries me considerably more is the possibility floated by Todd Zywicki at The Volokh Conspiracy, that the bailout money might just tide the automakers over until "card check" empowers the UAW to get those peskily profitable foreign automakers under control.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Step one: remove dead pine needles from base of tree. Step two: replace with slightly less dead pine needles. Step three: repeat. I would go TDY to the moon, butt-@$$ naked from a slingshot, if it got me out of this.
UPDATE: Kenneth Anderson at Opinio Juris suggests that Somali pirates could be low-hanging fruit for an Obama administration eager to gain some serious security credibility while simultaneously demonstrating its commitment to internationalism. He also notes how Great Britain, once the lonely guardian of shipping lanes worldwide, has abdicated any responsibility to fight pirates:
Meanwhile, the British have instructed their navy to ignore pirates, out of the remarkable fear that any captured Somali pirates might have asylum claims on metropolitan Britain. I am not alone in thinking this an ignominious day for Britain.Not alone, indeed.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
This thing needs to be destroyed. (HT Mike Elgan). Also, is it just me, or does it look like a creepy android Paul Dano (who is himself wandering awfully close to the brink of the Uncanny Valley)?
Arizona State University student Alex Botsios said he had no problem giving a nighttime intruder his wallet and guitars.
When the man asked for Botsios' laptop, however, the first-year law student drew the line.
"I was like, 'Dude, no -- please, no!" Botsios said. "I have all my case notes…that's four months of work!"
He then proceeded to beat the snot out of the burglar. I particularly love that his mom attributes his hand-to-hand skills to watching cop shows on TV.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
There are about 1,460 days until the next Presidential election, and I assume that I will spend approximately the next 1,459 of them opposing Barack Obama. But I'm spending today proud about what my country has overcome.
Look, I expect to be one of the most severe critics of the Obama administration and the Democrats generally in the years ahead (though I sincerely hope I won't find that necessary). But Obama ran a brilliant race and he should be congratulated for it. Moreover, during the debate over the financial crisis, Obama said that a president should be able to do more than one thing at a time. Well, I think we members of the loyal opposition should be able to make distinctions simultaneously. It is a wonderful thing to have the first African-American president. It is a wonderful thing that in a country where feelings are so intense that power can be transferred so peacefully. Let us hope that the Obama his most dedicated -- and most sensible! -- fans see turns out to be the real Obama. Let us hope that Obama succeeds and becomes a great president, for all the right reasons. As for John McCain, he is an American hero and arguably the best candidate we could have fielded. I will in the days to come offer no small amount of criticism about his campaign. But where his campaign may have lacked qualities that would have helped it win, the candidate never lacked for honor and integrity. Thank you John McCain for your sacrifice, commitment, and honor. God bless America, and may He guide Obama to be the best president possible.Amen.
I hereby vow that if Obama wins:
- I will remove my McCain campaign bumper stickers shortly after he is sworn in. I will not leave them on my bumper until Obama leaves office.
- I will never refer to the election as "stolen" or a "coup d'etat". Massive voting problems should prompt future reforms, not invalidate the election. No matter how dirty the election, he will still be my President.
- I will never own a "days until Obama is out of office" countdown calendar.
- I will never pass on every verbal stumble as proof he is a moron, or buy books or calendars asserting such. Caveat: Joe Biden is fair game.
- I will not adopt a cutesy insulting nickname for Obama and use that whenever referring to him in order to avoid calling him the President of the United States.
- I will never call Obama "Hitler" or a "Nazi". Similarly, no pictures or photos will ever be digitally altered to give him a Hitler mustache.
- If any organization affiliated with Obama is enriched due to the direction of the country under Obama, I will not insist that Obama's motivations are wholly to enrich that organization.
- If Obama makes reasonable, logical statements that are backed up by the information known at the time, but these facts prove to be incorrect, I will not call him a liar.
- I will admonish any right-wing blog which dismisses Michelle Obama for being a woman, or which photo manipulates her image in a sleazy way. I will not adopt any kind of rude nickname for her, or hold her up for mockery for anything unrelated to political statements which she makes.
- Obama's daughters are totally off-limits. If they do something stupid, I will admonish any blogs which gossip about them. Their parents are in politics; they aren't.
- I will not demand Obama's resignation or impeachment for making decisions that are consistent with being President.
- Obama will take office while the War on Terror is still going on, and unless he is even dumber than he appears to be I can only assume he will take some steps to fight terrorism, regardless of what actions he takes in the current fronts of the war (Iraq and Afghanistan). I will not assume that Obama's every action in this is a malicious move towards oppressing the American people.
- If Obama, too, fails to capture Osama bin Laden, I will not assume he is not trying.
- Obama's judges, U.N. representatives, cabinet officials, diplomats, etc. are his to appoint. If elected, he is the President and he does not have to appoint people who are ideologically acceptable to Republicans.
- I will never threaten to move to Canada because Obama is taking our country to Hell in a handbasket.
- Should things ever become so dire under Obama's Presidency that I would have to leave the land that I love to flee to Australia, I will not threaten to do so. I will move and then verify my change of residency with a photo of me in front of that weird horseshoe crab opera house or the big rock.
I hesitated. The little angel on my right shoulder was saying: "Purity, Derb, purity and a clean conscience! How could you live with yourself, voting for Ted Kennnedy's and Joe Lieberman's best friend? You're a conservative, man! Go into the darkness unsullied, with your head held high!" Meanwhile the Father of Temptation had a representative sitting on my other shoulder, waving the Delonas cartoon at me, whispering: "Remember your Kipling, Derb! Stick to the Devil you know! At least when you're breaking rocks in that labor camp in the Aleutians, you'll be able to tell yourself you did what you could to stop it." I succumbed. By an effort of will, I reached out a trembling finger and turned down the tag. Then I shut my eyes and pulled hard on the lever. Yes, my friends, I voted for John McCain.
I'm appalled. I'd always thought of anti-Mormon feelings in connection with wary evangelicals unsure what to make of the LDS. I just never really thought what the LDS must represent to some of the more paranoid-leaning lefties out there.
Monday, November 3, 2008
About the only one I agree with on this list is the scanner, and that's just because it's been made obsolete by my digital camera. They're right that home printers and fax machines should be obsolete, but there are still agencies and employers out there who still deal stubbornly in hard copy, and until they start accepting things digitally, I'll still be relying on my trusty printer and occasionally scrambling to find someplace I can send and receive faxes. I agree the situation is completely ridiculous when I'm emailing documents to myself so I can print them out in my room and drive to the UPS Store to fax them off, but there's not a lot I can do about that.
As to optical drives, flash memory and functionally limitless hard drives are pretty much making the disc obsolete, but software and media haven't moved completely into the cloud yet, so until that happens I still need to be able to install programs and play my DVDs.
My real disagreement is the landline phone, which I think I've mentioned before. The authors just don't seem to take seriously the implications of an entire city being rendered incommunicado after a major disaster, and how easily cell networks could be brought down by malicious actors.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
What a fool I was. It was all a vast waste of time... Oh, it was fun while it lasted but, seriously, I should have been a mailman out of high school!! Like yourself, I have advised my grandchildren accordingly.It does make me want to cry. It makes me fear for the future of our nation, regardless of who wins the election on Tuesday.
Let me be clear, this is a catastrophic development for our country. When the private sector can no longer compete with the public sector, you know that society is on its way out... At this point, my wife and I are planning to make the most of it and have as much fun as we possibly can for as long as we possibly can. Frankly, nothing else makes sense anymore. The old beliefs, the old gods, the old standards have gone a-glimmering. I now answer the deep questions of the day with a cosmic shrug, a "whatever" and an inquiry as to when the Chargers are playing this Sunday. It is wise not to have opinions in the new America. Opinions are dangerous.
I have visited Philadelphia, the cradle of our freedom. I have been astonished at the modest rooms where the great men of that time gave birth to our country. I think of Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Franklin spinning in their graves. They would be appalled that it has come to this. Ask yourself, would you sacrifice your life, your sacred honor and your fortune for what you see around you today? The answer is self evident. We are a de facto colony of China. It is enough to make you cry.
My boyhood, and the Arab political culture I have been chronicling for well over three decades, are anchored in the Arab world. And the tragedy of Arab political culture has been the unending expectation of the crowd -- the street, we call it -- in the redeemer who will put an end to the decline, who will restore faded splendor and greatness. When I came into my own, in the late 1950s and '60s, those hopes were invested in the Egyptian Gamal Abdul Nasser. He faltered, and broke the hearts of generations of Arabs. But the faith in the Awaited One lives on, and it would forever circle the Arab world looking for the next redeemer.
America is a different land, for me exceptional in all the ways that matter. In recent days, those vast Obama crowds, though, have recalled for me the politics of charisma that wrecked Arab and Muslim societies. A leader does not have to say much, or be much. The crowd is left to its most powerful possession -- its imagination.
On a totally unrelated note: 300th post!
Saturday, November 1, 2008
But unlike stealing a lawn gnome or a plastic pink flamingo, I admit, stealing a lawn sign is a more heinous crime. There is moral and ethical guilt. I believe in free speech, and also believe and encourage political expression. I guess I could argue that I was flexing my free expression to say "shut up." But that would put me at the same low-level of political discourse as Bill O'Reilly, who consistently steamrolls over anyone who disagrees with him. If I need to justify my actions, I could argue that I was trying to achieve some great public service for rural voters. In his 2004 book, What's The Matter With Kansas, Frank Rich explains that working class and family farmers, like these in Minnesota, increasingly vote conservative and against their own interests. By pulling out the McCain signs, I was hoping to curb the impression for passing motorists that family farmers in Minnesota supported McCain. Or, at least that's the most high-minded explanation that I can offer.Sir, your free expression is in your yard. Your act is not equivalent to O'Reilly's (admittedly annoying) railroading of interlocators whom he has provided with a platform on his own show. It is, rather, equivalent to O'Reilly sabotaging the satellite feed of someone else's show. And I can't even bring myself to discuss how Professor Busse considers "high-minded" his rationalization that he was censoring less enlightened citizens for their own good. Just last week I came across the Arabic expression "an excuse more damnable than the offense", and didn't entirely understand its application. Now I do.
UPDATE 04NOV08: Phil Busse has resigned his position at St. Olaf. Good riddance.
Friday, October 31, 2008
In other words, the terrorists may have found a trump card over the drones. The terrorists can't kill the pilots who operate the drones from the United States. But the terrorists can kill local civilians, thereby generating political pressure on the local government to pressure the United States to call off the drones. And because the drones are operated by humans who answer to other humans who are susceptible to pressure over the loss of life, the terrorists win.The only way to end the moral sway the terrorists hold over us, Saletan notes, is to move from drones to fully autonomous robots. A lot of people seem to think this sort of thing is a joke, but it's not. Within a decade at the very latest, the Department of Defense will be facing pressure to allow autonomous military robots — which have already been demonstrated to be significantly better than human soldiers at differentiating civilians from enemy combatants — to pull the trigger themselves.