Feb 28, 2005

a new meme for your time-wasting enjoyment

The Rule of [insert number here]

Go to blog # ___ on your blogroll. Then go to blog # ___ on its blogroll. Do this ___ times.

Count only links to blogs--ignore news sites, etc.

If, for some reason, you can't continue (i.e., a blog has too few links), stop there.

Sample: The Rule of 5.

Go to the fifth blog on your blogroll. Then go to the fifth blog on its blogroll, and the fifth blog on that blogroll... five times.

In the grand tradition of middle school paper tricks, whatever blog comes up is your evil twin. (Mine's Eric Alterman.)

Rule of 6: Baltic Blog
Rule of 7: Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind
Rule of 8: Joe Hill Dispatch

Feb 27, 2005


If you haven't noticed, I've rearranged the blogroll. Now it's in alphabetical order (paradoxically, a pretty random form of categorization, nearly guaranteed to be bias-free), and, more important, is no longer entirely slanted toward one half of the gender spectrum. Thanks to Antigone of XX for some of the new links.

And by the way, Mr. Drum, it's pretty easy to expand your horizons.


This is just too cool. (No, really, the pun wasn't intentional.)

Feb 26, 2005


Mark Olson has new digs. Check 'em out--but be sure to take off your shoes. Don't mess up the (screaming green!) carpet.

Feb 25, 2005

okay, one more

My brother and I have this long-running gag involving quills, fountain pens, "real" writing, not the scribbly-scrabbly junk that flows out of Bics. My brother's handwriting is atrocious; mine is passable but cartoonishly printed. We're about equally smart, and have similar personalities, so take that, graphology.

So, he couldn't resist linking to this little note by Mark Olson of Pseudo-Polymath. Sez my bro:
I was told by an Oxford professor from Bavaria that all Bavarian students are required to write with quills through the eighth grade (equivalent). She praised them for helping her develop the fine motor skills that allow the good handwriting Olson and I lack.
Always the contrarian, I offer this.
All those years on the couch playing Nintendo and PlayStation appear to be paying off for surgeons. Researchers found that doctors who spent at least three hours a week playing video games made about 37 percent fewer mistakes in laparoscopic surgery and performed the task 27 percent faster than their counterparts who did not play video games.
Don't be distressed when you can't read your doc's prescriptions. She's saving her fine motor skills for Madden 2005 and triple bypasses, the things that really matter.

tonight, tonight

Moments ago, in a brief fit of lucidity, I bought tickets to tonight's Sonics v. Timberwolves contest. I'm a closet fan, sneaking in games anywhere I can get free television--my folks' (or the in-laws') place, Circuit City, sports bars, neighbors' windows.

Why recent games don't matter, and why it oughtta be a goodie:
With the Timberwolves coming to town at .500 for the season on Jan. 21, the Sonics were hoping to let sleeping dogs lie. They didn't. Minnesota used a 14-0 run around the first and second quarters to wrest control of the game, going with a small shooting-heavy lineup to counter the Sonics perimeter punch. The lineup worked for 37 points in the second quarter, Minnesota taking an 11-point lead to the break. The Sonics threatened several times, but could never retake the lead. They trailed 111-107 with 1:47 to play, but would not score again as Minnesota got two key offensive rebounds on their last possession to run down the clock on a 112-107 win. The Timberwolves bench scored a team-record 72 points, Szczerbiak leading the way with 34, the most ever scored by a Minnesota reserve. Allen led the Sonics with 25, Ridnour scoring a career-high 19 points.
Here's hoping the Supes can stick it to 'em this time. (Two cliches, gratis.)

Soon to Seattle I go. Adios.

Update: We won, in classic rope-a-dope style. Except it wasn't intentional. Thanks to a $46 investment, the wife and I scored free blankets, glow sticks, pins, and entertainment by some crazy-good break dancers, the Husky Marching Band, Colton High's pep band, Taylor Dayne, and other assorted b-siders. Oh, and a heck of a basketball game, too.

Feb 24, 2005

Wesley Elsberry: nerd hero

Biologist Geek: Evolution--"macroevolution," if you want to call it that--is pretty much established fact.

Skeptical Creationist: Funny, since there's no evidence for transitional fossils.

BG: Au contraire, there's plenty. What do you have to say to these?


BG: Excuse me?


SC: (cough)


[thanks to Ed Brayton]

Feb 23, 2005

you need inspiration?

Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution

Part memoir, part teaching manual, part writing guide, part Luddite screed, Walking on Water is all ass-kicking for any interested teacher.... [read more]

get with the times

Why is this news? We conducted scavenger hunts in the aisles of the Longview Wal-Mart Supercenter when I attended LeTourneau University over five years ago.

I want a job at the Wall Street Journal. I promise I can dig up better human interest stories than this one. After all, I'm smack-dibbity-dab in the middle of the fourth-tier blogosphere.

[thanks again to The Obscure Store]

Joseph Farah loses it

I can't decide: should I laugh my posterior off, or hyperventilate into a paper bag?

How about both?

Feb 22, 2005

thanks and thoughts

Thanks to Mark Olson of Pseudo-Polymath for the link. Mark lists me underneath "Interesting MicroBlogs." I've got "microblog" down pretty solid. Still working on "interesting."

While you're over there, check out his first essay on an oldy-but-goodie, Evil. And here's my preliminary response.

Our world is better than heaven: a formative reductio.

Olson, in a long line of theodicians, claims that moral choice necessitates danger, and hence the possibility of evil. (He also implies that wonder and mystery require the same.) From this, I argue,

1. This world is good (any theists care to disagree?).
2. A good world with the possibility for danger and evil is better than a "nerf world" without it (after Mr. Olson).
3. The next world is free of suffering, filled with God's presence, and populated with the saints, and hence heaven is a nerf world. Therefore,
4. This world is better than the next.

Proceed to tear it apart, y'all.

read in tooth and claw

When I was young, my folks used to read bedtime stories from Character Sketches, a book that gleans pithy lessons from animal tales juxtaposed with Bible stories. It might encourage its young reader to be as tenacious as the wolverine, or, as in the classic proverb, as industrious as the ant.

I wasn't yet clever enough to wonder why the book didn't mention the spouse-chomping virtues of the praying mantis, or the relative laziness of tapeworms and leeches and remoras. But since arguments about morality often refer to what is "natural" or "unnatural," such selective gathering is to be understood, though not forgiven. (Character Sketches is hardly unique in the world of inspirational animal hoo-ha.)

Animals are cunning, stupid, powerful, helpless, beautiful, gross. Dear children, remember the loggerhead shrike, which never plays with its food. Or the common house cat, which does. Emulate the swan's mythical monogamy. Or the bonobo's bacchanalian polygynandry.

And whatever you do, check out the Animal Diversity Web, a fantabulous resource. Read from the book of Nature--but don't go looking for a moral.

what a wonderful world

This past Sunday I got a rare opportunity to watch The Simpsons "live." The episode, which is swirling around the blogosphere, was a ho-hum sendup of gay marriage (which, as this month's Harpers Index points out, would bulk up the wedding industry by about $17 billion if legitimized nationally).

But the disclaimer: more farcical than the episode itself.
Parental Advisory: This show contains discussion of same-sex marriage.
I have a hunch that it was included as a dig, that it wasn't a "real" disclaimer. (At least, I hope so.) Only Rupert Murdoch knows.

Meanwhile, Ed Brayton has the best post I've seen yet on the Gannon/Guckert affair. Pravda means truth!

Feb 20, 2005

I told me so

After skimming Brian Weatherson's too-massive list of recently posted philosophy papers from around the web, I came to the following conclusions:

1. My knowledge of philosophy and her daughters is next to nil.

2. In all probability, so is yours.

Hence, back to the self-educating grind.

In an unrelated development, remember when I complained that NewScientist wanted too much for a renewal? Joy has been restored to the Anderson household, at the low low rate of a dollar an issue. My wife bought me a gift subscription as an early birthday present. No more tears.

Feb 19, 2005

a link-filled post

In which I provide links to people who are smarter and have far more free time than I.

Carl Zimmer only has eyes for... eyes. (Part II, too.)

Matt Anderson writes his most daring post. (Or is it? "Perhaps" and "most daring" don't sit well together.)

Ed Brayton dukes it out.

Jason Kuznicki parabolically praises the lowly amoeba.

PZ Myers demonstrates why his blog is called Pharyngula.

Feb 17, 2005

ersatz bloviator

I empathize with Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass. Fake news writes itself.

A Pie for an Eye


WEEHAWKEN, NJ -- Inspired by Oklahoman Steve Dyer's unorthodox use of a New Testament parable, the Church of the Water of Living Life Fellowship has started a novel program to exchange sin-laden body parts for baked goods.

"The Lord admonished us to pluck out our eyes if they lead us to sin," explained long-time parishioner Jerry Ruckles. "So, just like a cash-for-guns situation, we're encouraging our members to give up their hands, feet, corneas, livers, whatever makes them stray from the path."

For a transplantable organ, donors receive a $100 gift certificate to McFillip's, a local bakery. Unrecyclable limbs earn a blueberry, blackberry, or banana cream pie. Donors are urged not to perform the operation themselves, but to enlist the help of a board-certified physician in a hospital setting.

So far the church has collected more than five hundred appendages and organs, which are being stored temporarily in an industrial freezer.

A representative from the Department of Health and Human Services could not be reached for comment.

[hat tip: Matt Anderson of Mere Orthodoxy]

Feb 16, 2005

Bloggers Move On


CHICAGO -- Having annihilated mainstream journalism, bloggers are moving on to different targets. Sources at several high-rated blogs reveal that school newspapers, zines, Christmas cards, office memos, and take-home essays are being exposed as hollow agitprop produced by incompetent hacks.

"Midwestern Central High's Odyssey-Picayune had better watch out," claims Christopher Pinksmith of RockingTheBloat, corresponding by email. "Their recent series on fashion trends and tips included an egregious factual error about tube socks, which everyone knows were never as big as Hammer Pants."

Pinksmith also cites Teresa Mooney's ranDumb ThotZ (circulation 26), a semi-bi-annual 'zine published on her decade-old laser printer. "She mixes fonts like they're Halloween candy," Pinksmith complains. "You can't use Palatino and Zapf Chancery in the same lede. It's disgusting."

"The war on the MSM is over," notes Kirsten Panetta, a former media analyst who busses tables at a local Sizzler. "First Rather, then Eason Jordan... After the simultaneous resignation of every major reporter in the country, there was simply nothing left to criticize. Rather than become the new face of journalism, bloggers went micro."

Jonathan Yardley of Kringlehack, a Christmas card watchdog site, points to his desktop background, a .jpg reproduction of the McIlvaney Epistle. "The McIlvaneys are nice people, don't get me wrong," Yardley says. "But when they claimed their October Hawaii trip was 'the best ever,' they failed to provide any relevant documentation. And that photo [of the beach at sunset] is obviously staged--maybe even Photoshopped."

Yardley chafes at the suggestion that his work isn't constructive: "Hey, someone has to hold the minor media accountable. And that person happens to be me."

Feb 15, 2005

"Suburbia" Project Inaugurated


OLYMPIA -- Residents of Ken Lake awoke this morning to trees, houses, cars, and fences draped in shimmery white, after a late-night toilet-papering by area teenager Timothy "Timbo" Connley. Citing the influence of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the artist bedecked the neighborhood with hundreds of rolls of Charmin, Quilted Northern, and Scott tissues.

Locals were treated to an ethereal, sanitized vision of the future. "It's a real treat," said Lucius Bollinger, curator of a performance art museum and vacant lot. "His work is other-worldly, in a down-homey kind of way."

A small cardboard sign posted near the entrance to the community read, "NATURE CALLS; WILL YOU ANSWER HER?"

Some, interpreting the artwork as mere juvenile pranksterism, were nonplussed. "How am I supposed to get this stuff off my roof?" asked Mathilde Coopersmith, a sixty-five-year Ken Lake resident. Two houses down, George Gunders tried to rake tissues out of his holly hedge, with little success. "Sure, I get it," he said, "but that doesn't mean I like it."

"I am an artist, first and foremost," Connley stated, defending his work. "My art is meant to engage the viewer, to dematerialize truth and fact, fact and fiction, fantasy and reality, hippocampus and hippopotamus."

Asked to clarify, Connley replied, "Something like that."

Connley noted that his ancillary lawn-forking project ran up against budget and time constraints.

Feb 14, 2005

roses are red; violets, blue

Sugar is sweet, and so is Splenda. And that makes the Sugar Association, well, bitter.
Splenda, an artificial sweetener enjoying surging sales growth, is marketed by the McNeil Nutritionals unit with the line: "Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar."

The Sugar Association and several consumer organizations say that the marketing pitch does not accurately represent the end product, as the sugar used to make Splenda is converted to sweetener, using chlorine.
Furthermore, The Center for Science in the Public Interest can't count.
To understand how consumers perceived Splenda's slogan, last April CSPI commissioned a national Internet survey that included 426 people who had used Splenda. Only 57 percent of Splenda users correctly believed that Splenda was an artificial sweetener. 47 percent of Splenda users incorrectly believed it was a natural product. Only 8 percent of the respondents correctly believed that it was made from sugar and chlorine. The sucralose in Splenda is, in fact, a synthetic chemical that contains chlorine, something that no natural sugar contains.
57 + 47 = 104. Go figure. Or don't.

I'd like to think that the Internet users polled were simply deconstructing the distinction between "natural" and "artificial." Sing along, cavepersons: Natural good! Artificial bad!

la vita dolce

My wife and I are a Yahoo! Personals success story in the making. We met online a year ago, and were married within six months. Why? Because we just knew, just had to give in to the overwhelming impulse of the cosmos. And we've never looked back. (All the cliches, all the poems, all the love songs are true.)

Are we crazy? Foolish? Both?

Absolutely. And crazy-in-love.

Happy Valentine's, Melissa. I love you.

Feb 13, 2005

long live Arthur Miller

Now that everyone who's anyone has written a eulogy for Mr. Arthur Miller, least among Marilyn Monroe's husbands, let me say:

I escaped high school without having read The Crucible.

Thank you.

Feb 12, 2005

a belated thank-you

I've been linked to over at a Floridian blog called The Brain Spur, and I didn't even know it. (I'm ashamed to admit I found the link using MSN, and not Google, which has a horrible link search feature.)

We share a love of both Red Green and Tom Lehrer! There's nothing like the internet for bringing nerds together.

any excuse to bash Kinkade

Joe Carter has opened up The Gallery, an online exhibition of evangelical art. (His first artist: Frederick Hart.) He asks,
When did art stop being important to evangelical Christians?

How did we go from Rembrandt to Kincaid [sic]?

When did our appreciation of a work of art become based on how it matched the colors in our living room carpet?
The short answer is, whenever prudery became the principal Christian aesthetic. Ask yourself: would Thomas Kinkade ever paint a nude?

(As an aside, I briefly discuss the political ramifications of schmaltzy art here.)

[Update: Carter's on a kick.]

Feb 9, 2005

enervating the discourse

Juan Cole has hit bottom. What else to make of this:
A UN official offered to bet me in February of 2003 on whether the Bush administration would go to war. I knew that it would. I am still ashamed that I took the bet (though I never sought settlement of the wager). In retrospect it was wrong. But that was an easy one. A bet on what Bush would do. Not a bet on the Iraqi people. I hope they will be all right. I don't have anything riding on their suffering more than they already have, and am shocked at the implication that I do.

A wager on the backs of human beings. Perhaps Mr. Goldberg would like to bring back slavery, as well.

I think we may let the matter rest there, at this nadir.
(But not before I, Juan Cole, get in the last shot.)

an exercise in futility

In an effort to avoid a flap, PBS has decided to cease producing penguin documentaries.

[The responsibility for the horrible pun is all mine. The hat tip goes to Jon Rowe.]

Feb 3, 2005

The Challenge of Jesus: Part III

Seeing Through Glasses, Darkly

We now come to the primary critique of N.T. Wright's The Challenge of Jesus. The proper way to read the Gospels, Wright claims, is to adopt the mindset of an average first-century Galilean. Do this, and Jesus's cryptic parables, ruminations on the kingdom of God, his death and resurrection will make sense--and, furthermore, will end up, in a new way, confirming all the things Christians have believed through the centuries.

I will not disagree with Wright's basic strategy: our best hope of understanding Jesus is to realize that most (if not all) of his words were not intended for us; we should not "read into" the text. I also agree that Jesus's words and actions fit into a particular cultural, historical, and literary context, and to ignore this is to distort their meaning and significance. But is literary precedent equal to meaning? Wright often slides the two together.

Consider his treatment of Mark 13, sometimes called the "Little Apocalypse."
The whole chapter is to be read, I suggest, as a prediction not of the end of the world but of the fall of Jerusalem.... [T]he language of the sun and moon being darkened, and so forth, is regularly used in Scripture to denote major political or social upheavals... and to connote by the use of this language the cosmic or theological significance that they ascribe to these events.

The language in Mark 13, then, about the Son of Man coming on the clouds should not be taken with wooden literalism--as, of course, generations both of critical scholars and uncritical believers have taken it.... The phrase about "the son of man coming on the clouds" would not be read, by a first-century Jew poring over Daniel, as referring to a human being "coming" downward toward the earth riding on an actual cloud.
Look at Wright's claim: Daniel uses "son of man coming in the clouds" to mean this, therefore Jesus must use the phrase in the same way, because... well, because. Contrast this with the transition from Luke to Acts, its sequel.
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Is this a "literal" taking-up, or a metaphor for disappearance? Onward to part two:
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Now, is it "wooden-headed literalism" to assume that a cloud is a cloud, and that the disciples actually stood there looking into the sky? Why wouldn't the angel say, "This same Jesus will come back, but not exactly the same way he left?"

Wright may be correct--perhaps Mark 13 isn't about the return--but he is certainly wrong to dismiss an apocalyptic reading of the passage by stating that "first century Jews wouldn't think of Jesus going up into heaven"--because, if Luke is to be trusted, first-century Jews stood there watching as he did just that.

Feb 2, 2005

The Challenge of Jesus: Part II

Getting the Gist

How can we understand Jesus--his identity, his mission, his meaning? Wright's answer is simple on the surface, but staggeringly complex in application. Wright asks his readers to imagine themselves as "average Galileans," situating our minds in a proper 1st-century context. In this way they should truly understand what Jesus meant to his listeners, recognizing that he came at a unique moment in history, and for a unique purpose: to inaugurate the kingdom of God.

By extension, then, the Church's role is not to blindly work out "What Would Jesus Do" by parsing parables, but to be a divine agent provocateur and beacon of Godliness, as Christ was for the Jewish community.

Through this "average Galilean" set of spectacles, Wright manages to verify all the central claims of orthodox Christianity. (Skeptics will note that Wright's purpose, as noted before, is not apologetic; look elsewhere to find his arguments defended at length.) However, Wright intends to puncture half-truths of contemporary theology, not least of them a Gnostic heritage of the Enlightenment.
Western orthodoxy, not least within what calls itself "evangelicalism," has had for too long an overly lofty and detached view of God. It has always tended to approach the christological question by assuming this view of God and then fitting Jesus into it. Hardly surprising, the result has been a docetic Jesus.

At the close of the historical analysis, Wright challenges his readers to put education into action. His ethical claims, however, are so broad as to be almost vacuous. Sure, he calls for Christians to be a vanguard, leading the culture through the post-postmodern era, and to model "humaneness"--but he has no words on specific divisive issues like abortion, divorce, or homosexual practice--perhaps because of their inflammatory nature, or because he has commented on them elsewhere (look here or here or here to read up on his consistently conservative position). Wright calls for the Church to be a light--but seems to downplay the importance of lighting from within.

more phrases that, after all this time, do not exist on Google

As part of an ongoing project, I offer the following to the literary lexicon:

dogma junction

flit quickly across the screen of consciousness

yes, I too am a sycophant

tunnel vision in a wheel barrow

crossing the gap between reason and sanity

frankly, he despised himself

you heard it there first

The Teacher/Ref/Poet has the scoop: Patriots 34, Eagles 16. And check out his disturbing command of Super Bowl trivia.

Feb 1, 2005

Anak the Builder

Who built the pyramids? Why, the Nephilim, of course.
Published by Xulon Press, "The Nephilim and the Pyramid of the Apocalypse" presents an explanation for an unusual verse in the first book of the Bible, Genesis 6:4, which reads: "There were giants (Nephilim) in the Earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men and they bare children to them."

The book's author, Patrick Heron, says on his website that his is the only first in-depth book to throw light on the mysterious Nephilim and "to provide evidence of who built the pyramids of Egypt and Mexico and other great monuments of ancient history."
More wackiness here.

Update: Ed Brayton weighs in.