Aug 30, 2004

tourist traps

There are some so egregious, so foul, so base they drive maddened travelers to post their bumper stickers, despite anything reason or rationality would dictate. "Where the heck is WALL DRUG?" screams from every other fender in America. If you've been there, you know. It lies two blocks south of the seventh circle of Hell, near the Corn Palace and the Oregon Vortex. (I refuse to link to these monstrosities, for good reason: they are monstrous.)

Nearly worth a nomination to the list is The Bridge That Shall Not Be Named, just north of Vancouver, British Columbia. Its charlatan purveyors have mastered the time-honored technique for luring in over 800,000 people per year, and it's brilliance, sheer brilliance. They make you pay for parking first. "Only three dollars--Canadian dollars," you think, and the bait is set. Hooked by the grand entrance, you stumble up closer to the price list. $21.95 per adult. Line. Sinker. Sucker.

It's worth half that. The bridge spans a nifty gorge (although on a cloudy day, it's only so nifty). It sways and gallops. Every lurch has you clutching the cable, until you get the hang of the thing and can march across with drunken confidence. (Do not take that literally; drinking and suspension bridges mix poorly.)

The walk through the treetops is somewhat redemptive. The displays are banal; the tour guides sugar-free. Graffiti covers every available inch--make that centimeter--of wood railing.

But the main attraction is the crowd, the jostling mix of foreigners, Americans figuring prominently in that number. If you listen carefully, you can hear "We were duped" in dozens of languages.

Vancouver

Which one? I spent the weekend there. I have much to blog about, but two days of fun-filled staff development await, so I'll have to procrastinate (the blogging, I mean). Non-stop Ruby Payne for sixteen hours. Lord ha' mercy.

Aug 27, 2004

the last Keyes post. maybe.

Writing for The New Republic, Sasha Issenberg finally discovers the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain of Alan Keyes' baffling Senate run.
But to the swing-state religious conservatives whose non-participation torments Rove, Keyes is one of the most capable messengers for Bush's cause. He's the political equivalent of a dog-whistle, reaching only those who would heed his urgent call. If Bush wins Iowa, Wisconsin, and Missouri on the strength of high turnout among religious conservatives in counties that border Illinois, then Alan Keyes--a disastrous Senate candidate who may take other Illinois Republicans down with him--will be able to return to Maryland having finally won an election.

I have a hard time believing that Keyes is a witting suicide candidate, or that the Illinois GOP is really willing to sacrifice votes just to put Bush back in office. But it's an explanation, at least.

funny / not funny

Jack / Oven Mitt

philosophy humor / philosophy of humor

The White House / Casa Blanca

beanies / beanie babies

blogging / flogging

Suggest your own!

slip and slide

From the New York Times:

Ms. Bumiller: Do you think Senator Kerry lied about his war record?

THE PRESIDENT: I think Senator Kerry should be proud of his record.

Ms. Bumiller: But do you think he lied?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't think he lied, and I think that he ought to be proud of his record. Let me talk about a larger issue, and that is 527s. I spoke to John McCain today, and I think these ought to be outlawed. I thought they ought to be outlawed a year ago, when I — whenever I signed the bill. I think they're bad for the system. And when you've got people — you know, billionaires writing checks, large checks to try to influence the outcome of the election. And so I —

Ms. Bumiller: But Mr. President, if you don't think he lied, why can't you talk about this one ad, why can't you denounce it —

THE PRESIDENT: Elisabeth, 527s, 527s; the larger issue of 527s.

Ms. Bumiller: I'm talking about this smaller issue of this attack on Senator Kerry by Swift Boat Veterans —

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I understand how Senator Kerry feels — I have been attacked by 527s, too. I think it's a — the issue is, let's get rid of them all. That's where we ought to be — that's where this debate ought to be, how to get rid of this money that's flowing into the system.

Ms. Bumiller: Can I just try one more time? You don't want to address that specific advertisement. Will you condemn it?

THE PRESIDENT: All those ads ought to go, Elisabeth, every one of them, including the ads that have been run on me. Millions of dollars have poured into this system in an unregulated fashion. And for 12 months there was silence. And all of a sudden now, people are taking exception to unregulated soft money. And John and I are going to work together to try to — we're going to file a lawsuit trying to end the process, not only for the money being on TV, but for the money that's involved in other parts of the process. And I hope you join us.

No out-and-out condemnation. Why not? What does Bush have to lose, except the support of disgruntled liars?

harsh words

If you're still planning to vote for this cretin in November, stand up and tell me why this is not an act of rank stupidity and hypocrisy and an attempt to destroy freedom of speech for his own political advantage. It's one thing for a politician to sell out his own principles to insure his reelection. That's loathsome enough. But selling out the first amendment to get reelected should, in a just and rational world, disqualify you from holding any office higher than drain commissioner. You are a sellout and a fraud, Mr. Bush, and you have betrayed your office and your oath. If you had any honor you'd resign in disgrace, if only because, after spending the last 2 years telling us that the terrorists want to destroy us because they "hate freedom", you've just revealed that you hate it as well.

What has Ed Brayton so riled up that he's blogging at 2:30 in the morning?

Aug 26, 2004

blah blah

First, go to Pharyngula and read. Then, go to freethoughtforum and watch the movie (Quicktime required). Next, read about how it works, and what it means. Last, try to stop laughing. It works. Brains are tricky things.

primary colours

Disenfranchisement! Out with the incumbents, all of them! If I'm a registered Republican and want to vote for the weakest candidate for governor in the Democratic primary (you know, that vox populi where the Democrats are forced to choose whomever the populi pick, too bad, sucka?), then that is my right, as an American, and no court, local, state, federal, global, or intergalactic, can take it away from me, not even from my cold, dead, hands, locked as they are in rigor mortis, clasping that right in their American clutches! If I'm an unregistered swing voter, I want to swing both ways! I will not be cajoled into submission by patronizing radio ads! I will not have my rights stripped by judicial hippie activists! I want my blanket primary back!

Aug 25, 2004

hold your nose

The title is "Rock band's effluent offence," which immediately brings to mind the musical byproducts of just about every rock band in recent memory.

Not that I'm bitter. I wasn't on the boat.

essential reading

As Salon's Todd Gitlin writes, the only victim in the Swift Boat crapfest is the truth.

Then this week, the same smear artists opened up with their bigger -- as it were -- guns. The second SBVFT commercial includes clips from Kerry's April 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "They had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads ... randomly shot at civilians ... cut off limbs, blown up bodies ... razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan ... crimes committed on a day-to-day basis ... ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam."

What happens during those ellipses is SBVFT members talking about Kerry's accusations in these terms: "Just devastating." "It hurt me." "John Kerry gave the enemy for free what I and many of my comrades in the North Vietnamese prison camps took torture to avoid saying. It demoralized us." "Betrayed us." "Dishonored his country and more importantly the people he served with. He just sold them out."

Note well: These bait-and-switch artists don't dare say that Kerry's statements were false. The anti-Kerry crusaders issue classic non-denial denials. The subtext of their outrage against Kerry is simple: They are still averse to facing the awfulness of the Vietnam War. What they are really saying with their slanders is that the truth hurts.


Read it all here. (Day pass required.)

holy shuttle launch, Batman!

Over on Pharyngula, reader aab points us to this article, wherein Bruce D. Callander of the Cheboygan Tribune blames NASA for bad weather. Read it to believe it.

A small sample:
If it takes that much power to raise a rocket, then according to Newton, the same amount of force is being exerted on the earth. Considering the earth's bulk, one lift-off may not have much effect, but think how many launches there are from Cape Kennedy every year and assume that each launch pushes the planet a few feet out of its normal orbit. In the course of a decade, that could amount to a major displacement, enough to have a major effect on the earth's climate.

To test the theory about landing on other planets, the only thing to do is to stop sending out those probes until we see if the weather returns to normal. If it doesn't, the problem probably is the launches themselves.

In this case, we can resume launching but set off a corresponding explosion on the other side of the world each time we fire one from Florida. Bangkok looks like about the best place to do it.

There is so much wrong with Callander's thinking, it's hard to know where to begin. First, he has no (zero, zip, zilch, etc.) data. How much force does an individual launch exert? How much of that force is absorbed by the earth's crust (which, by the way, "floats" atop magma)? How much force is required to knock an earth-sized planet off its usual orbit? If launches have already thrown Earth off, why would stopping them return the weather to normal? What about the effects of European and Chinese space programs?

Callander also makes the (laughable) assumption that since we always fire rockets in Florida, then setting off an equal number from Jakarta would blast us back the right way. He seems to forget a tiny, but crucial, fact: the earth not only rotates, but revolves, so each blast, if it has any measurable effect, would push the globe in a different direction relative to the sun.

I'm sure competent physicists are already debunking Callander's tripe. Or maybe they haven't yet stopped snorting their protractors in fits of uproarious laughter.

Update: The op-ed is too funny to be true. I received an email from the editor of the Tribune, who writes, "Mr. Callendar [sic] writes satire. This was satire." Too bad the robots at Google News can't figure that out, posting it in the Sci-Tech section.

It reminds me of the time I spoke at the Evergreen State College commencement, back in 2002. I gave a funny speech patched together from a letters-to-the-editor war in The Olympian. I got booed at several points, until I pointedly reminded the audience that "for those of you just joining us, this is satire." The best is obvious only in retrospect. Kudos to the Cheboygan Tribune.

Aug 24, 2004

trash talk

The wife and I spent the evening at a big-box art store putting in an order for custom frames--some Miro, Klee, and Kandinsky prints, tres chic. The fun part was yakking about art with the framer on duty. I have a formative understanding of art history (thanks to a sleep appreciation class), and love to gab in general. The framer, my wife, and I all shared a deep loathing for the Painter of Syrup, Herr Thomas Kinkade. The framer was especially vitriolic ("I hate his work, hate it, hate it. He's a master all right--a master salesman. Light isn't yellow"). Her rant made the trip--and the expense--worthwhile.

bleeding purple

When I correct papers, I use either a blue or black pen. I've never seriously considered using red--it's not my favorite color--but I remember hearing in grad school that it's a "bad" color, with all sorts of negative connotations. Blood! Pain! Anger! Whatever.

So, the Boston Globe reports, the hot tone of choice is Royal, Hip Purple. Pleasing to the eye; easy on the self-esteem.
"If you see a whole paper of red, it looks pretty frightening," said Sharon Carlson, a health and physical education teacher at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Northampton. "Purple stands out, but it doesn't look as scary as red."

That's the cue pen makers and office supply superstores say they have gotten from teachers as the $15 billion back-to-school retail season kicks off. They say focus groups and conversations with teachers have led them to conclude that a growing number of the nation's educators are switching to purple, a color they perceive as "friendlier" than red.

There's just one small problem: the march of history. Within a generation or two, purple will be The New Red. What will teachers do then?

Aug 23, 2004

movin' on up

Ed Brayton's Dispatches from the Culture Wars has a snazzy new home. Update accordingly.

astro

So the hitching went off without a hitch. (Snare tap, cymbal crash.) It was the most momentous weekend of my life, and what could be more appropriate than mountains of momentous desserts? From raspberry-soaked cake, tulip cups, and black-out torte at "The Old House" to strawberry tunnel cake, Texas sheet cake, and Nanaimo bars at the Old Folks' House, it was a dessert-packed sugarfest at all times.

<mush> Perfect, really, for celebrating the sweetest woman I know--who I'm now proud to call my wife. I love you, Melissa. </mush>

Aug 20, 2004

goin' to the chapel

I'll be gone for the rest of the weekend. In the words of Emerson (though I don't think he meant them quite this way), I'm going to "hitch my wagon to a star."

Keyes: man of the hour

First, read this article by Jon Rowe on the strange intellectual upbringing (and, perhaps, cognitive dissonance) of Alan Keyes. In his conclusion, Rowe notes:
I termed Keyes a “gentleman” because, according to Straussians like Bloom, “philosophers” must make alliances with “gentlemen.” Philosophers are inherently nihilistic; they know there is no God; they are capable of gazing into the abyss without flinching; but they ought to keep philosophy secret. They should publicly support the “gentlemen,” those who believe in “noble lies” like orthodox Christianity. The public needs religion and it needs eloquent spokesman on behalf of religion, hence Alan Keyes. Bloom may have helped to create this “gentleman” Keyes. But in reading Keyes’s above mentioned screed against homosexuals, one wonders if Bloom helped to create, not a gentleman, but just a crank.

Next, read Ed Brayton's deconstruction of recent Keyes inanity. Keyes has flip-flopped on federalism (as we all knew), and now, more notably, has a new reparations policy sprouting in his fertile brain--this from the man who claimed, in no uncertain terms, that Union blood already paid the debt.

Odds are, Keyes will claim a moral victory after the Illinois election. Sadly, he won't even have that.

ask away

I want to go to an "Ask President Bush" event. I have a lot of questions to ask him. Oh, wait, never mind--he just spends most of his time speechifying, and has time to answer only a few questions (mere minutes after an hour's worth of bloviation).

Sample passages:

When it came to funding our troops, we have a difference of opinion in this campaign. I put a supplemental up to the Congress in September of last year. It was money for body armor and spare parts, ammunition and fuel, that which is necessary when you've got people in combat both in Afghanistan and Iraq. And I want to thank the members of both political parties for their strong bipartisan support. We had great bipartisan support, so much so that only 12 United States senators voted against it, two of whom are my opponent and his running mate. (Applause.) It's an issue in this campaign. He -- when pressed, my opponent said, you know, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." It's kind of an interesting explanation. People around here are plain talkers. And then he went on, when pressed, to say, well, gosh, it was -- you know, I did the right thing, or he's proud of his vote, I think he said, and then, said "it's a complicated matter." Now, there's nothing complicated about providing for our troops in combat. I will continue to be a Commander-in-Chief who supports our troops. (Applause.)

He's right in one sense--it's not a "complicated" idea, that troops in combat need body armor. But Bush lives in a dream world. First off, when he sent troops to Iraq, they didn't have enough body armor. (This is the president, mind you, who can't think of even one mistake or error worthy of regret in his entire term of office.) Second, though, Kerry voted for a bill that would spend the $87 billion while simultaneously repealing part of Bush's tax cuts, and then voted against the bill with the tax cuts intact. You can't raise expenditures and cut taxes (hoping that the economy will magically--and quickly--take care of things), except in Bush-world. This is the same Bush who said (in this very press conference!), "My philosophy is that government meets priorities; once it meets its priorities, then the people can spend their money better than government can." Cutting the deficit, to Bush, just isn't a priority.

What is, then? How about North Korea--where Bush has practically handed Kim Jong-Il a blank check to produce nuclear weapons?

Just real quick, I believe freedom changes societies, and I believe a free society is a peaceful society. And therefore, it is in our national interests to promote a liberty in a part of the world that is full of hatred and resentment and intolerance. I talk about a dinner I had with Prime Minister Koizumi, and I think I talked about that today with some people on Air Force One, if I'm not mistaken. And anyway, so I'm having dinner with Koizumi, and we're talking about North Korea. See, I made the decision that no longer can we convince Kim Jung-Il to disarm if it's only the United States talking to the North Koreans. I felt it was important to bring other countries into the mix, like China and Japan and South Korea and Russia, so there's now five countries saying to the tyrant in North Korea, disarm, disarm.
And he's not listening--a fact Bush carefully ignores.

On second thought, I'd like to visit one of these question sessions just to meet the kind of people who flock to them, starting every question with "We're praying for you."

Q I'm a local youth minister, recently hired. And one of the things -- two of the things we've talked about today are enemies and freedom. And I believe that the enemy that we need the greatest freedom from right now happens to be Satan, and it's the enemy that we also don't necessarily always see. There's so many people who are being attacked on every level. A lot of those people are youth that are in our middle schools and our high schools. And I was just wondering how we can do more for faith-based initiatives for children, before they're drug addicts?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I appreciate you saying that. Look, well, first of all, it's for me to call upon people such as yourself to interface with children early, before it's too late. You answered the question by your actions. But in terms of reducing demand for drug -- you ask a specific issue on drug use, for example. We've got a collaborative effort with faith-based groups, community groups, neighborhood groups all aimed at sending the same message you're sending. And it's a kind of universal effort necessary to say to a child, drugs will destroy you. And it's working, frankly. We've reduced drug use by 11 percent in three-and-a-half years -- it's not "we," it's community groups have done so in three-and-a-half years. (Applause.)
I hope Bush will commit some kind of angelic shock troops to the war on Satan--er, drugs. And that 11 percent statistic? Utter bilge. Meth abuse is up. Nearly all drug trends are steady or increasing, especially the number of new users of marijuana. Which planet is Bush on--or from?

neologism

From a recent press conference:

THE PRESIDENT: Let me tell you something. Part of the tax relief for small businesses was not just cutting the rates. We also incentivized people to buy equipment. In other words, if he bought equipment, he got a little extra help in the tax code.

There is no end to the Bushism phenomenon. At least, until November.

(And hey: I scooped Weisberg!)

Update: each speech Bush gives is a goldmine of rhetorical bungling. Another example:
We don't need as many troops stationed overseas anymore because the Soviet era is no longer a threat.
More to follow, I'm sure.

Second update: Bush isn't the first to use "incentivized." It's originally attributed the great orator Dick Gephardt. The Prez is in distinguished company.

swift boat sinking

Kate Zernike and Jim Rutenberg expose the Swift Boat ad as a pack of lies. (Registration required.) A sampling:
Records show that the group received the bulk of its initial financing from two men with ties to the president and his family - one a longtime political associate of Mr. Rove's, the other a trustee of the foundation for Mr. Bush's father's presidential library. A Texas publicist who once helped prepare Mr. Bush's father for his debate when he was running for vice president provided them with strategic advice. And the group's television commercial was produced by the same team that made the devastating ad mocking Michael S. Dukakis in an oversized tank helmet when he and Mr. Bush's father faced off in the 1988 presidential election.

The strategy the veterans devised would ultimately paint John Kerry the war hero as John Kerry the "baby killer" and the fabricator of the events that resulted in his war medals. But on close examination, the accounts of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth' prove to be riddled with inconsistencies. In many cases, material offered as proof by these veterans is undercut by official Navy records and the men's own statements.

Several of those now declaring Mr. Kerry "unfit" had lavished praise on him, some as recently as last year.

In an unpublished interview in March 2003 with Mr. Kerry's authorized biographer, Douglas Brinkley, provided by Mr. Brinkley to The New York Times, Roy F. Hoffmann, a retired rear admiral and a leader of the group, allowed that he had disagreed with Mr. Kerry's antiwar positions but said, "I am not going to say anything negative about him." He added, "He's a good man."

In a profile of the candidate that ran in The Boston Globe in June 2003, Mr. Hoffmann approvingly recalled the actions that led to Mr. Kerry's Silver Star: "It took guts, and I admire that."

George Elliott, one of the Vietnam veterans in the group, flew from his home in Delaware to Boston in 1996 to stand up for Mr. Kerry during a tough re-election fight, declaring at a news conference that the action that won Mr. Kerry a Silver Star was "an act of courage." At that same event, Adrian L. Lonsdale, another Vietnam veteran now speaking out against Mr. Kerry, supported him with a statement about the "bravado and courage of the young officers that ran the Swift boats."

"Senator Kerry was no exception," Mr. Lonsdale told the reporters and cameras assembled at the Charlestown Navy Yard. "He was among the finest of those Swift boat drivers."

Now, to be fair, connections to Bush cronies don't constitute conspiracy. But Bush has done little to distance himself from the ad, and has not (as John McCain has urged) condemned it, a now-indefensible sin of omission.

[Thanks to PZ Myers over at Pharyngula]

Aug 19, 2004

the things they dropped

This summer I read In the Lake of the Woods and The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien. From the latter work, I quote:
In many cases a true war story cannot be believed. If you believe it, be skeptical. It's a question of credibility. Often the crazy stuff is true and the normal stuff isn't, because the normal stuff is necessary to make you believe the truly incredible craziness.

I was going to blog about comparing the Swift Boat Veterans' slime-fest with the former novel, but why bother? A right-wing crank has already baked up a screed that I completely disagree with. Read it, and, whenever he attempts to make an inference, draw a conclusion, or support an opinion, simply say, along with the only Marx worth quoting: Whatever it is, I'm against it.

Aug 18, 2004

crystal ball

Predicting the future is impossible, unless you're Nostradamus, Jeane Dixon, or some other suitably vague hack. (There will be a cataclysm... somewhere... in April... mark my words!) But that doesn't stop people from trying. For a moment's amusement, check out a retro-futuristic flight of imagination at Harper's. How was the year 3000 shaping up in 1856?
Awakened in the year 3000; Paris destroyed, America magnaminous in its victory over China; Transit by cannon; The state of economic competition; The specialization of the human body; The adjustment of the nose; Urban planning; A monkey that can calculate the eclipse; The fortunate elimination of liberty; Dining out on water; Tobacco eliminated; Babies raised in containers; Training in Thibetan; Beef day; Remarkable cutlery; The introduction of a dandy; Painting the clouds; Dowries and courtship; The infinite newspaper; Literary observations; Observing a lady; Bedtime enforced
What of that "infinite newspaper?"

And he touched a spring, on which a queer looking mechanism slid along the wall until it reached our level. It appeared to be composed of an infinite number of rollers, round which a band of printed paper revolved incessantly, like the strips used in the old Morse telegraph.

“This is the great newspaper,” said my friend. “It's name, as you perceive, is the Everlasting World.”

“A daily, I presume?”

“Pardon me, it never ceases to appear. It is printed by a peculiar press on endless bands of paper, which are wound on rollers, and penetrate into the house of every subscriber. It is adapted to every taste, and in politics devotes a page or two to each separate party. In this way, you have only to look at the head of the column to perceive the articles which are intended for you. The rest you neglect; you can do so with the less regret, as the World prints exactly three miles of reading matter every twenty-four hours.”
No matter how hard we try to imagine the future, we extend the present either too much or too little. Although it's past 2000, we have no freeways in the sky--but our infinite newspaper doesn't require a shred of paper.

Prognostication aside, how will we get to the future? With education, of course.

not about politics, promise

Hiding the Elephant
When I was a young tyke, I watched an automobile race on the boob tube with my uncle John. No NASCAR or Formula One or Indy for us. It was some contest of rabbits--VW Rabbits. (Remember them? The modern update of the Beetle, with none of the charm.) Unwittingly, uncle John precipitated my demise into skepticism... [read more]

Aug 17, 2004

more about free will

I read this article with interest, given a previous discussion on the topic, and in the process, discovered a blog devoted to nothing but "Agency Theory, including related issues in Philosophy of Action, Moral Psychology, Metaphysics and Ethics," called The Garden of Forking Paths. Well worth your time, and now on the blogroll.

grand slam

Recently, thanks to a random neural firing, I dredged up a memory of an evangelistic film I once saw at Bible camp. (Those were the days!) It involved, if I remember correctly, an artistic boy whose salvation was in doubt, but who eventually found Jesus before tragically dying by crashing through a sliding glass deck door. (His family knew he was "saved" because the last picture he drew was Jesus sliding into home plate.) It was called "Home Safe" or "Safe at Home" or "Home Run" or something like that, and I thought I might find it online.

There's a whole genre of preachy videos and films whose whole purpose is to convert the unbeliever. Take a look at this list (where my search began, thanks to Google) to get the flavor of the movies in question.

You get the feeling that all is not well in EvangeLand, thanks to these little psychological tidbits:
Title: Your Baby Can Read! Volume I
Description: Introduce your baby to reading words. I didn't like volume II because it had "Row, row, row your boat". Life is NOT a dream

Title: Joni
Description: Young girl becomes a quadrapalegic. A couple of kissing scenes I did not care for. Based on true story starring the real Joni.

Title: A Woman Rides the Beast: The Roman Catholic Church and the Last Days
Description: See the pope on stage with just about every other type of Satan worshipper there is.

Just because a company says "Christian" and they sell some good resources does not mean everything they sell is good. In particular, I've noticed that Gateway Films sometimes have cussing. They have a video on William Tyndale that is masterfully done but after watching it about half a dozen times, I noticed that near the end when there was some uproar there was a quick cuss word. I don't think I've watched it since. The only reason I haven't thrown it away is because I plan on recording it on another tape and excluding that one second expletive. I did not include this tape in my recommendations because I can't recommend anything with cuss words. I also believe Gateway Films sells Cross and the Switchblade which has cussing--I bought it on a recommendation and never did finish watching it. In addition, some of these companies sell straight up Catholic stuff or down-low Catholic stuff (not expressly Catholic but with Catholic sensitivities). CBD sells a book on a Tibetan (?) monk. I mean that is outrageous. You have to be wise as a serpent.
Outrageous indeed. Babies growing up to be Buddhists, chanting "Life is but a dream"... Kissing... popery... and one-second expletives that tar entire movies. (What kind of paranoid freak even notices the lone "cuss word" in a hullabaloo?)

But enough of that--what about the movies I found online? None seemed to match.

Not this one
Released in 1991 by Creative Youth Resources A clever film about 3 Little League Baseball players who are best friends. Two of them are boys and one is a girl. The two boys believe in Jesus and in heaven. The girl does not. In a baseball game, one of the boys gets hit with a line drive and ends up going to the big ball park in the sky. He sees a way to come back and tell the girl about heaven, but there is a problem; he is still 9 years old and she is now in high school.

or this one
Description: "From the Publisher:" This exciting sequel to "Safe at Home" will provide you with compelling stories of faith in the lives of America's ballplayers as they reveal their hopes and dreams, their triumphs and struggles.

or this one
Description: Based on a true story, this powerful drama demonstrates how love, repect, faith still applies in today's family. Home Safe will encourage and challenge you with Biblical truths of discipline and obedience to scriptural principles. 74 minutes.

or this one (but we're getting closer)
Rusty is 12 years old and small for his age. His size creates a real chip on his shoulder. Conflicts with friends always end in fighting for Rusty. This entertaining film teaches children to read their Bibles, pray and trust in God.
I'll keep searching. If you know the title of a Christian film where a kid dies by crashing through fifteen square feet of plate glass, let me know.

Aug 16, 2004

is our children learning?

The Flickering Mind
No doubt the computer is the cureall for our time. I can't imagine a malady, complaint, or problem that can't be solved by a quick trip to the internet. Need a product review by a corporate shill? ... [read more]

Aug 14, 2004

added to the annals of weirdness


The Marmot Pass hike has an unending, uphill, rock-slide-crossing stretch with the giggle-inducing name "Poop-Out Drag," a moniker presumably, well, monikered by Boy Scouts in the the 1940s. I decided to Google the phrase--why not?--and lo, behold, and hoopty-hoo: it's mentioned in a biography of L. Ron Hubbard, he of Scientology (and unscrupulous pseudopsychoreligious) fame.
Like countless fellow scouts, Ron's favouritc trek from Camp
Parsons was the 'Three Rivers tlike', which started with the
'poop-out drag'- a long climb up a sun-baked southern slope
- and ended in the late afternoon at Camp Nlvsterv at the top
of the pass, where there were meadows full of wild fluwets and
thrilling views over the Olympic mountain wilderness. [sic]

(By the way, it's "Camp Mystery," not "Camp Nlysterv," and those "fluwets" are mere "flowers." Ah, the perils of scanning copyrighted documents.)

the last bastion

College English departments are perhaps the only place on earth where Marxism survives as a viable political philosophy. As Jeremy Noel-Tod notes, ironically, it's because academic Marxists are out-of-touch with the mass of humanity. But card-carrying pinko Terry Eagleton's crime is worse: he's lost touch with the very novels he's supposed to be illuminating.
Nobody familiar with the opening chapters of Great Expectations--featuring Pip's guiltily stolen "wittles" and Miss Havisham's grotesquely stale wedding cak--could write: "Food in Dickens... is always a sign of well-being." Eagleton excels at sweeping critical statements that knock actual novels out of sight.
Like Fidel Castro, academic blowhards never die. They just fade into insignificance.

Aug 13, 2004

make me one with everything

Yes, it's the punchline to a bad philosophy joke.* But it also describes Online Papers in Philosophy, a meta-blog that links to scores of philosopher's personal blogs, webpages, etc., and keeps a running tab of newly-published papers. A phenomenal site, it's joining the permalink list.



*(What did the zen master say to the hotdog vendor?)

unbridled lunacy

Thanks to Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars for bringing this absurdity to our attention. It's so painfully paranoid, so righteously wrong--and, in the end, will bring any well-thinking human to laughter and tears. A small sampling:
Lo! You judges, full of all recklessness and malignancy, you children of satan, you enemies of all righteousness, will you not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? THIS LAND HAS BECOME CURSED, AND IT IS ON YOUR HEADS. MAY YOU BE BLINDED AS PAUL CURSED ELYMAS BY THE HOLY SPIRIT AND IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!

But there's more. So much more. Happy Friday.

coffee 'n' dumplings

Yesterday's trip up to Marmot Pass (along the Upper Big Quilcene Trail [pdf]) was a hoot. The views--spectacular. My little sister's laughing fit--memorable. Watching Mom put flour in her coffee--hilarious. Snorting corn up my nose--priceless.

It's the best hike in the eastern Olympics, better than Mount Townsend, Mount Ellinor, or anything in the Duckabush or Dosewallips regions.

Oh, and yes, we actually did see a marmot up at Marmot Pass, lazily sunning himself atop a Kia-sized boulder.

a class act

Mike Price of Arizona State University has a new blog, The Darwinian Project, which exists to "cut through the rhetoric and traditionalist propaganda and discover, as best we can, the truth of the matter." His blog is in its nascent stages, but has great potential.

Not only that, but Price isn't above correcting himself when he's misinformed. That, in the blogosphere or anywhere else, is classy. So he's earned respect--and a permanent link.

Aug 12, 2004

outta here II: revenge of the mountain goat

This time, Marmot Pass is calling my name. Why can't I just plug my ears with wax, like Odysseus?

Aug 11, 2004

more Keyes

Over on Mere Orthodoxy, g.k.c. writes,
Keyes has been criticized as a hypocrite for joining the Illinois Senate race when he is on record as criticizing Hilary for joining New York's. The explanation from the Keyes' camp and from Republicans in general has pointed out the salient difference between Hilary and Keyes--Hilary strategically pursued a state with the intention of joining and winning. Keyes had no such intention at all. On this grounds, what Keyes did was in consonance with his published statements.
The issue is framed around Keyes's intentions--since he didn't "pursue" the opportunity, but, rather, presumably was forced into it by his conscience, this somehow makes his actions consonant with what he's said in the past.

It's also implied that he's not in it to "win," which directly contradicts his own statement to Candy Crowley on CNN:
CROWLEY: I want to talk to you about my take listening to you yesterday announce. And that is, I get the sense that this is -- you're in it more for the battle than the win. I never got that sense of, on to victory, we are going to take this seat for Republicans.

KEYES: Well, that's not true. I think, though, that it's quite clear that in my case, as always, the victory depends on making sure people understand how I look at the issues that confront us and how that is distinguished from somebody like Barack Obama, who, on a range of issues -- but especially on the issues of deep moral principle -- has abandoned the American declaration, has abandoned the statesmanship of Abraham Lincoln, who came from Illinois. [emphasis added]
I see two possible options--he's either really in it to win, as he says, or he's not, and he's lying. (I exclude the very real possibility that he could be mad.)

Furthermore, in the past, Keyes never talked about intentions--he talked about political principles, about federalism (he is, after all, a "Declarationist").

In 2000, he said: "I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there... So I certainly wouldn't imitate it." So which is it? His resentment really isn't that deep? Or running as an outsider isn't really a "destruction of federalism"? At any rate, there's no consonance here.

Keyes's professed reason for abandoning his original principle is that Barack Obama is such a heinous liberal. As he said in his initial speech,
And so, I was resistant to the idea. As is always case, though, when people approach me with something that might make sense, I try my best to be fair to them, and at one point, they made the point that maybe if I looked at the record of Barack Obama, I would think differently, because it just seemed wrong... that somebody with his record should kind of waltz into the United States Senate unopposed.
What changed in four years? Hillary Clinton's record is no less liberal than Obama's, yet Keyes refused to run against her. Why the change of heart? More importantly, why the abandonment of federalist principles?

[Update: over at The American Prospect, Terence Samuel tries to figure out what the Illinois GOP was thinking.]

[Second update: Betty BayƩ takes Keyes to task for carping about Hillary Clinton's "personal ambition"]

endogenous retroviruses


Apes and humans share a common ancestor.

How do we know? There are several lines of evidence--genetics, physiology, fossils, behavioral observation... read about them here.

Some of the strongest independent evidence, though, consists of endogenous retroviruses. The standard conception of viral activity goes something like this: a virus overtakes cellular machinery, producing copy after copy of itself until the cell bursts and the newly-freed viruses romp about looking for more mischief. Endogenous retroviruses go a few steps further, producing DNA and inserting it into the cell's genome. (More detail here.)

If this process occurs in a germ cell (sperm or ovum), the retrovirus's DNA will become a part of the organism's genetic inheritance, passed on to its progeny.

Humans and apes share many gene sequences inserted by endogenous retroviruses. One might object, saying that certainly, this is expected, since viruses like HIV are known to infect both humans and simians alike. However, the sequences in question are found in the exact same regions of human and ape genes, rather than scattered in a more random fashion among species, as probability and chemistry would dictate. Furthermore, non-apes do not share these insertions, allowing evolutionary biologists to construct plausible divergence scenarios, going back to the time when the common ancestor of both apes and humans was genetically modified by microscopic replicants. (Sample study here.)

More amazingly, over time, some retroviral sequences have become an integral part of hominoid development. (This particular functional sequence is "preserved in the orthologous loci isolated from chimpanzee, gorilla, orangutan, and gibbon.")

Read more about endogenous retroviruses, and see a nifty graphic rendition, here.

Update (8 26 04): More articles worth reading. DNA is more plastic than we think. How to construct primate phylogenies from retroviral sequences.

book larnin'

I believe in public schools. (I ought to; I teach in one.) I also believe that the well-off have every right to buy a potentially better education--this is America, darn it. They'd better be sure, though, that they're getting their money's worth.
California officials are seeking to shutter a chain of private schools that peddles bogus high school diplomas to unwitting students--many of them Latino immigrants--who are taught that there are 53 U.S. states and an "administrative" branch of government. The California Alternative High School, which operated 30 schools statewide, charged students $1450 for a 10-week course based on a bizarre 54-page workbook that apparently was authored by Ali G. State investigators last week seized the school's assets and asked a Superior Court judge to close down the sleazy outfit.
They're not the only ones who are confused about the structure of American government, though.
"[W]e've had leaks out of the administrative branch, had leaks out of the legislative branch, and out of the executive branch and the legislative branch, and I've spoken out consistently against them, and I want to know who the leakers are."—Chicago, Sept. 30, 2003
Guess who?

Aug 10, 2004

another way to waste time

Where did homochirality come from? How might gamma rays affect life on a nascent Earth? What are the odds that life exists somewhere outside of our solar system? Answers to these questions, and many more, here.

Gort!

Paul Davies has a fanciful article in this week's New Scientist about looking for an alien message in highly conserved sequences of non-coding DNA. "...it could tell us how to download the entire contents of Encyclopaedia Galactica by conventional radio or optical techniques" (p. 31). He suggests looking for prime numbers, long strings of the same nucleotides, or two-dimensional objects (like the circle at the end of Contact). Klaatu, barata nikto!

nerd alert

The Science Lab is open.
We are trying to make The-Science-Lab.com a comprehensive directory of science related websites. If you have a site and want to add it to our directory, please submit it to the apropiate category and we will list it, after we manually aprove it. First, identify the single best category for your site. You will find an "Add Url" link. Follow the instructions on the submission form carefully and submit it.

These web site links are listed as a convenience to our visitors. If you use these links, we take no responsibility and give no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of these sites.
But who are the mysterious "we?" I can't find anything on the site that gives a clue to the identity of its creator(s). If you can, let Royal Us know.

[thanks to Philosophy of Biology]

[update: They're in Chicago . The webmaster is a certain Jonathan West. Is it this one? Or the one listed here?]

Aug 9, 2004

"man of principle" - "principle" =

Barack Obama is poised to win a Senate seat in Illinois. He's sharp, articulate, and, by the way, black. So what do Illinois Republicans do? Ask another sharp, articulate, oh, by the way, also black man to run against him--never mind that he's not actually from Illinois. Calling Alan Keyes...

As Tony Norman observes,
Four years ago, Alan Keyes told his fellow conservatives to "shove it" when they asked him to run against Hillary Rodham Clinton for U.S. Senate in New York.

At the time, Keyes was mired in a neck-and-neck race for last place in the Republican presidential primary and couldn't be bothered with such an impractical ideal. Besides, the offer stunk of tokenism and a transparent stab at affirmative action, two things he's always been against whenever it was convenient.

"I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there," Keyes told the frat boys at Fox News on March 17, 2000. "So I certainly wouldn't imitate it."

...Because Alan Keyes is such a principled man, he'll have no choice but to refuse the Republicans' condescending overture. After all, to run for an office in a state he's never slept in would make him as much a carpetbagger as Hillary Clinton, right?
Or not. Maybe he'll send Hillary an apology.

Update: Keyes has said much more about this issue. It remains to be seen how he'll respond to the charge of political hypocrisy in the name of expediency.
"This must be a terrible feeling," Keyes tells his would-be supporters. "You make a decision based on expediency, and it doesn’t work. And then you are left without expediency and without principle. With nothing. This is sad, I never want to wake up the day after an election or any time else with that emptiness in me, knowing I have given away the things that matter most for the sake of what I thought would win and finding that I have lost and have nothing."
And elsewhere:
Keyes concludes that if a person acts from principle, "it doesn't matter how many times I lose because I'm not losing anything. I will carry it home right with me to the grave, until that moment when I look to see whether God approves. And that is all that really matters."
I don't imagine God approving hypocrisy.

nothing to see here

I love museums. If I'm forced to go along with a tour guide, I try to ask tough questions, to see if she really knows the material, or is just parrotting the placards.

I also love learning about hoaxes and scams. So, a museum dedicated to the world's most egregious pseudoscience sounds like a fun place to visit. But what about visiting with twenty-five skeptical experts in tow? The Institute for Creation Research's "Museum of Creation and Earth History" never really has a chance when Karen Bartelt shows up with some tough customers. The tour guide doesn't even make it out of the introductory video without being caught in a lie.

(But then, when your basic premise is that the world is less than 10,000 years old, you can handle more than a little cognitive dissonance.)

feel my pain

Fiancee and I spent all day Sunday pounding our feet to pulps on the Upper Lena Lake trail, a fourteen-mile round trip. The Forest Service pdf brochure notes,

Lena Lake Trail #810 to the Upper Lena Lake Trail is well maintained and has moderate grades with long switchbacks.
As you're going up, you think, "Gee, this is easy. The trail isn't terribly rocky, and it's cool in the shade. I can handle this." What you don't foresee is that on the way down, after you've gone twelve miles, each agonizing step will cause you to curse your inadequate Adidas cross-trainers (not to mention your inadequate physical fitness).

The Upper Lena Lake Trail is steep and receives less maintenance than the Lena Lake Trail #810.
Since the days of Paul Bunyan, in fact, the trail's only maintenance has come from the diligent pawings of mountain goats and the steady tramp-tramp of ignorant day hikers. The Upper Lena Lake trail is, at times, no more than a dried creek bed winding its way between boulders and Devils Club; at others, it's a series of too-short switchbacks where you can tell the original Civilian Conservation Corps lackeys got tired of making the trail easy, and said "Screw it, they'll just have to go straight up the mountain."

As we neared the lake, cheery descenders (with poles!) said, cheerily, "You're just about there... one big push and you've made it." Which brought to mind the apt metaphor: giving birth.

But the view is worth the pain. I think.

Aug 7, 2004

outta here

I'm off for the Hamma Hamma. Back Sunday evenin' or so. (Yes, I do have a life outside of this blog.)

local Democrats rejoice...

..as Washington state Republicans pick a doofus candidate for Auditor.
"Wow," Tacoma City Councilman Kevin Phelps said when he heard Baker was a party nominee for statewide office. Phelps' first council meeting in 1998 lasted just minutes before Baker was arrested for disturbing the peace.

Phelps said Baker is a former exotic dancer, an ardent conspiracy theorist and an intelligent person "who has the ability to put a train of thoughts together — they're just not real factual."
Of course, for a politician, that sort of intelligence is an asset.

nipped

I was sitting at the table with my fiancee, looking at a steel bowl full of biscuits. I saw my reflection in the bowl, and pointed to it. "Look, there I am," I said, and she immediately replied, "Nope, there I am," pointing to the exact same place.

I was going to bring up a salient philosophical point--that, given each of our perspectives, we had every justification to believe that we were right and the other wrong, while, really, we were both right, and that our perspectives made the difference, and that this might have an effect on the way we view epistemology and the validity of sense-data and--and then she covered up the reflection with a biscuit.

Aug 6, 2004

full tilt

Don Quixote

Attempting to add something new to the Quixote corpus would be like adding schmaltz to a Kincaid painting.... [read more]

Tom = Richard


sign of the times

This just in.

readification

As an addendum to a previous conversation, I point you, dear reader, to an article by Mark Edmunds on the re-socializing value of reading, which he calls "life's grand second chance," explaining:
All of us grow up once: we pass through a process of socialization. We learn about right and wrong and good and bad from our parents, then from our teachers or religious guides. Gradually, we are instilled with the common sense that conservative writers like Edmund Burke and Samuel Johnson thought of as a great collective work. To them, common sense is infused with all that has been learned over time through trial and error, human frustration, sorrow and joy. In fact, a well-socialized being is something like a work of art.

Yet for many people, the process of socialization doesn't quite work. The values they acquire from all the well-meaning authorities don't fit them. And it is these people who often become obsessed readers. They don't read for information, and they don't read for beautiful escape. No, they read to remake themselves. They read to be socialized again, not into the ways of their city or village this time but into another world with different values. Such people want to revise, or even to displace, the influence their parents have had on them. They want to adopt values they perceive to be higher or perhaps just better suited to their natures.

As an "obsessed reader," I count myself among the revisers.

Every now and then I pause to reflect that as little as ten years ago I used to vacuum up utter bilge like Frank Peretti novels, Dave Hunt screeds, Texe Marrs conspiracy theories, completely unaware of their lack of reality, never mind literary merit. (Later, in college, I even got into heated dorm debates about Peter Duesberg's crap; I apologize to all involved.) These were not a necessary component of my Christian upbringing, in which reading, especially reading scripture, was modeled and encouraged by loving, God-fearing parents. But since indoctrination was emphasized over education, and obeisant acceptance of "the Truth" over critical analysis, I had no experience, no critical faculty for seeing garbage for what it was.

"Train up a child in the way he should go," the Good Book says, "and when he is old he will not depart from it." Every proverb has its exception. Thanks to a college education, free libraries, and the all-magical internet, I can marvel at my former days of innocent ignorance, and know that they're gone for good, in both senses of the phrase. And, in adopting a healthy skepticism, I haven't abandoned the values my parents tried to instill--honesty, integrity, hard work, loyalty, love--but I no longer search for divine wisdom in a centuries-old mishmash of history and myth.

Aug 5, 2004

another book about Darwin?

Evolution from Creation to New Creation
Claiming the reasonable middle is risky in any debate. It upsets hardliners on either side, who deride it as sitting on a pointy picket fence--foolish, if not impossible. It's particularly risky to straddle the gap between dogmatic "creationists" and "evolutionists," whose idea of constructive dialogue is all woe-crying and warmongering, a church picnic with Sackloth Races and a Grenade Toss.... [read more]

the apocalypse nears

Seattle sits atop a pile of garbage that itself sits atop a fault line. Given the Pacific Northwest's history of violent temblors, geoscientists predict that a large earthquake is due to strike--and possibly destroy the city. Seattle also sits within range of an active volcano, fondly referred to as Mount Rainier, and a nuclear sub station at Bangor. So, O Catastrophic God of Jerry Falwell, now that a King County judge has ruled Washington's "Defense of Marriage Act" unconstitutional, what's it gonna be?

Aug 4, 2004

the royal we

Here at decorabilia (and, by extension, its sister blog, bibliocracy) we love all things nerdy, which means we take great pleasure in announcing the addition of another blog to the roll.

Philosophy of Biology has, in the words of a contributor, "...quite an impressive list of scholars contributing to this blog in one way or another." Check out Michael Ruse's Is biology different? to start.

Aug 3, 2004

hawking update

As reported earlier, Stephen Hawking had claimed that black holes actually emit radiation and information. In this week's New Scientist (not on the web--yet), though, Hawking's views are treated to a little more skepticism:
...[Hawking] tantalised his audience with concepts rather than mathematical calculations, and physicists in the audience were far from convinced.

"I didn't get that 'a-ha' experience," says John Baez, a mathematical physicist fom the University of California at Riverside. Theoretician Joseph Polchinski from the University of California at Santa Barbara was even more blunt: "We don't understand it," he said.
Which means you should still remember what your mother told you: don't stray too close to the event horizon.

just say no

Philosophy of Mind
Cartesian dualists, keep out. Jaegwon Kim's accessible, though difficult, survey of the issues and problems with physicalist conceptions of the mind wastes little time dispensing with substance dualism... [read more]

"An evil petting zoo?"

The Evidential Argument From Evil
If we grant that there is no logical contradiction in the statements "evil exists" and "God exists," we are left with a powerful objection: the empirical evidence for the former assertion compels us to doubt the latter.... [read more]

Aug 2, 2004

goodwill hunting

As you already know, the lummox responsible for this blog is a big fan of Goodwill, and, to no one's surprise, also shops at Ross and Marshall's. So you can understand his--my--disappointment upon reading these thrift store shopping tips, printed unthinkingly by The Daily Rag. (I offer my own advice, Onion-style, after Fisking the original.)
NEW YORK -- Vintage and thrift stores can be treasure troves of bargains, but shoppers might need a good map to find them.
No disagreement so far. If you're fond of polyester in all its forms, can tolerate the musty smell of secondhand furniture, love to sculpt in the golf club medium, or collect chipped commemorative mugs, thrift stores are garage sales writ large--provided you remember that half the merchandise there didn't pass muster at a garage sale.

Gina Cohen, a public relations and communications specialist with Savers, an international thrift store chain, offers this guide:
- Work department by department, systematically moving from one side to the other. If you look at the store as a whole, it might seem overwhelming.
This is known as "reductive shopping," which turns some consumers into nihilists who are unable to see the meaning and beauty of the whole in the moldy brokenness of the parts.
- Look for designer labels; you'll have a better sense of what kind of bargain you're getting because you'll likely have some idea of the garment's original price, says Cohen.
That is, unless you're some brand-hating hippie who smokes clove cigarettes wrapped in Adbusters.
All clothing at Savers, for example, is "gently worn," so shoppers shouldn't have to worry about stains or smells.
Stay away from thrift stores if you have a head cold; your nose is an essential instrument. That paisley pullover, no matter how great it looks, won't turn you into Tom Jones if it reeks. (Or maybe it will?)
Children's items often are brand new because youngsters go through everything so quickly and they don't have a chance to wear everything before they become too small.
As infant obesity continues to, well, broaden, expect this trend to continue.
- Pay close attention to the jewelry department. "Sometimes pricers make mistakes and they won't recognize a Tiffany ring," Cohen says.
My guess: if you're shopping at a thrift store, neither will you.
- Shop early in the day before the selection is picked over. "My biggest tip is to be persistent. ... You have to dig! I found a pair of 7 (for All Mankind) jeans, nearly new, for $6," Cohen reports.
Bring along a pick and a shovel. Depending on the state of the plastic thingumbobs aisle, you may have to crash through layers of petrochemical byproducts before striking metaphorical gold.

Sadly, this is where the paper's advice ends. So, dear reader, I offer you even more advice, gratis, as all advice should be.*

1. Bring several small, drooling children along. Let them wander the store, distracting other bargain-questers who might otherwise walk off with only working audiobook copy of Dianetics. No matter what the signs warn, unattended children will not be sold as slaves. This is America.

2. Only buy what you really, really need.

3. Mommy says to look but don't touch!

4. It is considered a crime in most cultures to leave a store empty-handed, even if it means spending twenty cents on a used teether.

5. Goodwill stores often post calendars of savings--all books 20% off on the last Thursday of the month, Red Tag Tuesdays, etc. Snatch all the copies you can off the wall and keep others from finding out. Ignore protests.

6. A penny saved is a penny spent at Goodwill.




*You get what you pay for.

another book down the hatch

God, Freedom, and Evil
Is it possible, in slightly over one hundred pages, to destroy the logical problem of evil and rehabilitate the ontological argument for God's existence? If Plantinga's arguments are credible, then yes... [read more]

what ever happened to...

...memorizing great poetry? Michael Knox Beran calls on educators to revive the tradition of committing whole poems, speeches, and essays to memory. The benefits, he claims, go beyond mere "cultural literacy":
...From The Cat in the Hat on up, verse teaches children something about the patterns and relationships that bind together the words of which it is composed. Poetry sets up an abstract system of order and harmony; the rhythm and the rhyme scheme are logical structures that a child can comprehend even before he understands the words themselves, just as he can grasp the rhythmic and harmonic relations of a piece of music.

What the child discovers, in other words, is not only aesthetically pleasing, but important to cognitive development. Classic verse teaches children an enormous amount about order, measure, proportion, correspondence, balance, symmetry, agreement, temporal relation (tense), and contingent possibility (mood). Mastering these concepts involves the most fundamental kind of learning, for these are the basic categories of thought and the framework in which we organize sensory experience. Kids need to become familiar with them not only through exercises in recitation and memorization, but also, as they proceed to the later grades, by construing, analyzing, and diagramming particular verses.... And of course memorization is a kind of exercise that strengthens the powers of the mind, just as physical exercise strengthens those of the body.

No less important, memorizing poetry turns on kids’ language capability. It not only teaches them to articulate English words; it heightens their feel for the intricacies and complexities of the English language—an indispensable attainment if they are to go on to speak, write, and read English with ease....

Kids who haven’t been exposed to the King’s English in primary school or at home will have a hard time, if they get to college, with works like Pride and Prejudice and Moby Dick. In too many cases, they will give up entirely, unable to enter the community of literate citizens--and as a result will live in a world of constricted opportunity.

Beran goes on to berate "constructivists" for their rejection of classic learning techniques, and here's where I say a hearty "amen, and pass the margarine." Certainly, teachers need to foster "active" learning--not just passive acceptance of time-honored screeds--but memorization is a form of sinking-to-swim, being tossed into literacy. Constructivists tip the balance too far in favor of anarchic learning, where the desires of the child form the philosophical center, conflating wants with needs, and forgetting that any form of progress requires an attainable goal--an objective, not subjective, position. While ostensibly in the pursuit of self-empowerment, pure constructivism is self-constricting folly.

So, "let's to't pell mell, if not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell."

much ado about

At long last, PZ Myers gets the chance to see, firsthand, a bold new Intelligent Design research paradigm. And here it is:















PZ's comments are worth quoting:
I do have to commend Nelson for having the guts to expose the hollow vacuum at the heart of anti-evolutionary thinking to the critical eyes of a swarm of practicing scientists, but there is another troubling problem here. This presentation is going to go on a list at the Discovery Institute of Intelligent Design forays into mainstream scientific venues. You know it's going to be presented to some school board or court someday, with the disingenuous claim that "See? We really are doing real science, really!" It isn't. It's non-science. It's bad science....

Nothing will follow from Nelson's presentation. There won't be any research done as a consequence of his poster--there's none that can be done. He may be a nice guy, but niceness doesn't count in science. And the absence of substance is what has to be emphasized to school boards and courtrooms where this kind of work will get cited.

Oh, and while we're at it: evolutionary processes can create prime number sequences; so much for Dembski's Contact analogy--that discovering a prime number sequence is proof of intelligent design.

Aug 1, 2004

Maddux vincit omnia

Greg Maddux has always been a nerd's pitcher, with his fabled studiousness, his geekish looks, and his unassuming disposition. Now he's up for win number 300, which would assure him a (well-deserved) place in the Hall.

Remember, kids. Nerds rule, even in sports.

Update: He failed the first try, thanks to a jittery first inning and heat exhaustion, but the Cubs won anyway.

Update update: He's got another chance. Also, Jayson Stark shows, statistically, that Greg Maddux is one of the all-time greats.

Final update: he did it. Hall of Fame, here we come.