Jun 21, 2005

the long, hot summer

It begins today, fittingly, as I've cleaned out my classroom, posted grades, and turned in my keys. Tomorrow the wife and I are flying to Phoenix for the younger brother's nuptials (incidentally, he never once updated his "marital blog").

Consequently, blogging will be light to nonexistent for the next week and a half. But don't fret; I've got plenty of interesting neighbors. Just click over there on the right under "blogs of note." (Start with this little tidbit on the joy of teaching.)

If you're nostalgic for decorabiliation, there's a wide world of archives over there, too.

Oh, and I haven't forgotten about my ongoing projects.

Hasta luego, y que les vaya bien.

Jun 20, 2005

more technology = more liberty = more virtue

Virginia Postrel, summarizing Barry Schwartz:
In his opening chapter, Schwartz recounts his troubles buying jeans at The Gap. What used to be a five-minute task requiring no more information than a waist size and length now demands multiple decisions and an unnerving amount of self-awareness. What leg shape and denim wash say “Barry Schwartz”? What shape is his body really? “Finally, I chose the easy fit, because a ‘relaxed fit’ implied that I was getting soft in the middle and needed to cover it up,” he writes.

Schwartz acknowledges that offering more styles and fits is good “for customers with varied tastes and body types,” but he discounts their interests. Ill-fitting jeans are a small price to pay for simplicity, he suggests. The Gap’s many choices, he says, have made buying jeans “a complex decision in which I was forced to invest time, energy, and no small amount of self-doubt, anxiety, and dread.” In the words of a Glamour editorial that cites Schwartz, “It’s enough to give even the most pro-choice girl one big headache.”
In a nifty bit of synchronicity, I heard a story this morning on NPR about a new use for an old system: matching people to jeans with computers and modified airport scanners.

: one key to solving Schwartz's paradox.

thoughts of all stripes II

Because you can never be too comprehensive, I've added Ratiocination and Thinking Nurse to the roll. (Thanks to wrathius for reminding me of his existence, and Bora Z. for suggesting the second.)

Jun 19, 2005

Dover over?

If you've been following the Dover ID case, you'll definitely want to read Ed Brayton's take on a new wrinkle.

Oh, and past differences aside, I completely agree with Dembski on this point:
While Dembski said he disagrees with many aspects of Darwinism, “there is still a long way at hammering out ID as a full-fledged research program. That said, there is nobody I know that says intelligent design should be mandated. I think this is the problem with Dover. It’s not a way you build consensus and help education along.”

Update: Welcome, readers of The Panda's Thumb. Other posts you might be interested in, all related to Intelligent Design: a moment of truth, information please, and pro-neo-darwinism. (There's actual content in those posts.)

Update Update: The conflict between the Thomas More Law Center and the Discovery Institute that will likely sink the case, according to Brayton, apparently runs pretty deep.

love is the whole and more than all

"my father moved through dooms of love," by e.e. cummings

for father's day

my father moved through dooms of love
through sames of am through haves of give,
singing each morning out of each night
my father moved through depths of height

this motionless forgetful where
turned at his glance to shining here;
that if (so timid air is firm)
under his eyes would stir and squirm

newly as from unburied which
floats the first who, his april touch
drove sleeping selves to swarm their fates
woke dreamers to their ghostly roots

and should some why completely weep
my father's fingers brought her sleep:
vainly no smallest voice might cry
for he could feel the mountains grow.

Lifting the valleys of the sea
my father moved through griefs of joy;
praising a forehead he called the moon
singing desire into begin

joy was his song and joy so pure
a heart of star by him could steer
and pure so now and now so yes
the wrists of twilight would rejoice

keen as midsummer's keen beyond
conceiving mind of sun will stand,
so strictly (over utmost him
so hugely) stood my father's dream

his flesh was flesh his blood was blood:
no hungry man but wished him food;
no cripple wouldn't creep one mile
uphill to only see him smile.

Scorning the pomp of must and shall
my father moved through dooms of feel;
his anger was as right as rain
his pity was as green as grain

septembering arms of year extend
less humbly wealth to foe and friend
than he to foolish and to wise
offered immeasurable is

proudly and( by octobering flame
beckoned) as earth will downward climb,
so naked for immortal work
his shoulders marched against the dark

his sorrow was as true as bread:
no liar looked him in the head;
if every friend became his foe
he'd laugh and build a world with snow.

My father moved through theys of we,
singing each new leaf out of each tree
(and every child was sure that spring
danced when she heard my father sing)

then let men kill which cannot share,
let blood and flesh be mud and mire,
scheming imagine, passion willed,
freedom a drug that's bought and sold

giving to steal and cruel kind,
a heart to fear, to doubt a mind,
to differ a disease of same,
conform the pinnacle of am

though dull were all we taste as bright,
bitter all utterly things sweet,
maggoty minus and dumb death
all we inherit, all bequeath

and nothing quite so least as truth
—i say though hate were why man breathe—
because my father lived his soul
love is the whole and more than all

Jun 18, 2005

Jesus's cryptic parables

Standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus preached to thousands of onlookers, who were waiting for his next miracle. Seeing what they had come for, Jesus decided to dispense wisdom instead, in the form of memorable stories called parables.

"To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is a ball of snow rolling down a mountainside, starting small, but growing to gigantic proportions as it gathers more and more snow to its bosom."

Several hands went up. "Teacher, what is snow?"

"It cold, white, and flaky," Jesus said.

"And every snowflake is unique, which must also be significant," Peter added.

Jesus glowered at him and returned to parabolizing. "The kingdom of God is like a man who went to the ATM machine and couldn't remember his PIN number--"

"Lord," said the disciple, "'ATM machine' and 'PIN number' are both redundant, because 'ATM' stands for--"

"The kingdom of God is like a cheese grater," Jesus continued, ignoring the interruption. "Though it grates cheese, yea, it is good for shredding potatoes as well."

Jesus moved through the crowd, grabbing a sandwich from an unsuspecting bystander. "A certain accountant was visiting his mother-in-law in Capernaum. When he arrived at the gate, three small, yapping dogs attacked him, biting his ankles and sending him scurrying away. The accountant called the woman from the safety of a neighbor's house, but she did not answer the phone because the television was turned up too loud. So it is in the kingdom of God."

"Lord, that doesn't make any sense," said Peter.

"It isn't supposed to," Jesus replied.

[twenty-fourth in a series]

so you wanna teach blogging?

A reader of Jenny D sees my comment on her blog, and writes:
I've had my own blog for a few months, and have some ideas about how to incorporate them in my classroom, but I'd love to hear some specifics from you about how you use them in yours. In the comment I read, you stated that your class blogs aren't public, to avoid liability issues. I'd like to know how to set up a private blog - is that done through the school server or intranet? I'm not a technical person, so if those are the same thing, forgive me.

I'd also like to know what you see as some of the benefits and drawbacks to using them in school.
I've used blogs in my English classes for two years now, which places me at pedagogy's leading edge. (For once I am ahead of the times.) Each of my classes has its own group blog, used for discussions, debates, research, and instant publishing. Here are some of my suggestions on how to make blogging an effective addition to your instruction....

1. Set up a class blog with yourself as the administrator. If you're well-connected to your school's IT department, they may have software and server space at the ready so you have a relatively easy time putting it together.

2. If you're techno-savvy and your school's server space isn't accessible, a site like blogger.com is the other way to go. As long as you choose to not ping weblogs.com and not add your blog to blogger's listings, your blog will effectively be private. (You can also set it up so that only members of the blog can comment, closing the fence.)

3. Privacy is important for two reasons. One, it mitigates potential nastiness by the more sinister elements of the online community. Two, it gives shy students the knowledge that although their work is accessible from anywhere they can find an internet connection, it isn't being broadcast for the whole world to see.

4. Set up clear rules for acceptable blog behavior, and remove blogging privileges for students who flout them. A sample:
1. Post only if you are opening a new topic. Reserve your responses to established topics for the comment section.

2. Don't post the same thing more than once. Delete the duplicate if you do.

3. Quote your opponent directly (cut-and-paste, and use italics or "blockquote").

4. Include links to relevant websites--news articles, statistics, etc. Don't just type in the address (the URL).

5. Think before you post. Remember, words "seem" different when typed, since there's no body language, no tone of voice, nothing but the words themselves.

6. Spell-check. People often assume that poor spellers are ignorant, and judge their arguments and writing accordingly.

7. No personal attacks--"You Suck," etc. You'll be banned, at my discretion. The same goes for any non-school-appropriate behavior. Be mature.
5. For assessment and grading purposes, make sure each student's display name includes part of their real name. "Snooky567" won't work if you don't know who "Snooky567" is.

6. Give lots of examples for students to follow. Show them how to link (not just type in a URL), how to quote, how to effectively use italics and bold and colored text, how to write a pithy summary of a news article and comment for discussion, how to format paragraphs in an online environment.

7. Promote an operational vocabulary. Never refer to an individual posting as a "blog."

8. In a secure location, record each username and password. If you aren't blogging frequently, students are prone to forget (mostly because they have thousands of other online identities).

9. Speaking of, blog frequently--at least once every other week. This means you'll have to plan lab time and backups for when technology or fire drills put your pedagogy on hold.

10. Have variety in your blogging assignments. Introduce the technology as a form of instant publishing--have your students write a brief story or essay, or comment on a news article. Don't presume that blogging conversations will supplant normal face-to-face discussion, since students have varying degrees of comfort and success with both.

11. The benefits of in-class blogging are obvious. Many students are unaware of the possibilities, even in our information-saturated age. They'll learn valuable skills, and have the chance to hone their writing for a sympathetic audience in a way that typing essays for the teacher doesn't always provide. They may branch off and start their own blog. Some shy, quiet students will become tigers online. Nine out of ten students will be inherently motivated to participate.

12. The drawbacks are minimal. There may be students who try to abuse the medium. If you don't have clear assignments, they may become frustrated or waste time surfing the web. Again, blogging isn't a substitute for small group or whole class discussions and debates, or for more complex and detailed work.

13. Remember that you are part of the blog as well. Comment on students' work. Share your own writing. Lead by example.

Hopefully these are helpful. Your questions and comments are welcomed.

Jun 16, 2005

astrology chart prediction on Michael Jackson, 2005

Mustela (the Weasel), April 15-May 14

Betelgeuse is rising in the seventh house. Avoid Mus and Rattus like the plague.

You will have your bizarre, unsettling habits exposed to a global audience, which will be astonished and bemused in equal portions.

You will find that allegations are no detriment to your fame and fortune.

You may learn a valuable lesson if you only listen to your heart and your attorneys.

You will produce another string of chart-topping singles and a compilation album that will make the Beatles' One look like The Best of Hanson.

No one will understand you.

[twenty-third in a series]

Jun 15, 2005

remembering Grandpa

I slouched in my chair at the very last staff meeting of the year, fighting off torpor, when my phone beeped. My wife, I thought. Probably wondering why I'm not home yet. I can ignore it until we're out of here. Thirty seconds passed, and it beeped again. "The second beep is trouble," I said to a neighboring teacher, collecting my gear and stepping out into the hall.

It was Mom. She was crying.

Victor Anderson, my grandfather, succumbed to a broken-down heart on Tuesday afternoon, sitting in his truck after an appointment with his cardiologist. His keys were in his lap. He must have gone quickly and with little struggle or pain.

He had been suffering from various health problems over the past few years, always reticent to visit the doctor, dragged there at my parents' insistence. Yet for only a little over a week had we known of his latest diagnosis. Three simple words: "congestive heart failure." He was given days to months, and lasted days.

My brother writes, "My grandfather was a caring, yet often stubborn old man. He was the only member of my father's side of the family that I ever knew, and I will miss him." Like my brother, I knew Grandpa best of all my grandparents, and his loss is especially painful.

Grandpa--for he was always Grandpa, not Victor or Vic or Grandad or Pa-Pa--was genial with a charming touch of the curmudgeon--in short, a model patriarch. He must have marveled at his progeny; we are deep, intellectual types, teachers, preachers, writers, musicians. Grandpa was a tradesman, a craftsman, a tinkerer.

More important, he was a survivor. He outlasted polio long before polio's cure, though it cost him the use of his left arm. He lived alone for decades after his wife's passing. He steadfastly resisted a life of dependence on others, and in the end, it was both his strength and his undoing.

His name, appropriately, was Victor. He is my namesake, for I am James Victor Anderson.

All of my memories of Grandpa are fond. As a child, I was delighted by his generosity with apple fritters, the hallmark of his visits. His skill with a hammer and saw, especially impressive for a man with one working hand. His stories of life on the farm, the Depression, the hard years in Colorado and Kansas. And his wide, wide smile.

I have seen him lying in the funeral home, dressed in his favorite denim shirt and khaki pants, a confident, peaceful look on his face. He was a handsome man with a strong chin and warm eyes. They are closed now, yet they flicker and flame in my memory, and their warmth is in my tears.

Rest in peace, Grandpa.

Victor Anderson

Jun 14, 2005

stuck in the middle with me

I've begun another project.

I haven't yet finished my research into blogging and defamation law, but that hasn't stopped me from starting something else.

The recent discussion about evolutionary theory and medicine got me thinking--what would real biologists have to say, especially biologists who specialize in evolutionary theory and who have worked on projects related to medicine?

I have contacted several, and so far, two have been gracious enough to send book excerpts and journal articles my way, in hopes that I'll distill them into something both educative and entertaining, perfect for the non-scientist who wonders what evolution has to do with hands-on, practical work.

So, a big shout-out to Dr. Steve Stearns of Yale and Dr. Holly Wichman of U. Idaho. In my experience, scientists are darned friendly and all-too-happy to educate.

More to come.

Jun 13, 2005

claytronics and catoms

Written up this week in NewScientist, but for subscribers only, "claytronics" is the closest thing we have to that second Terminator guy. Check out Carnegie Mellon's research page to get the scoop.

(Don't worry; barring a major breakthrough, self-assembling killer droids are at least a few decades away.)

Media Circus Guilty On All Counts

This is the most pathetic announcement in the history of network television:
Today's episode of "General Hospital" that was pre-empted by the announcement of the Michael Jackson verdict will air late tonight (Tuesday morning) from 3:06 am to 4:06 am.
Thank God, I'll get to watch both!

a real list of Jesus's twelve disciples, and their putative demises

A tongue-in-cheek posting has elicited an unfavorable response:
this site is very very RUBISH!
when i wanted the names of Jesus's 12 disciples you gave me names like cuck there was not one of them with the real disciples names like Paul or Jon.i mey never come on your web page again!
To make amends, I offer a genuine list of the favored twelve, and the ways they reportedly met their maker.

Simon Peter, a.k.a. Peter
Lanced a boil too deeply and bled to death.

Quietly passed in his sleep at the ripe age of 56.

James Zebedee
Shot to death in a bar fight over his support of Galilee's much-reviled football team.

John Zebedee
Struck by a car, date unknown.

Overdosed on Percoset.

Last seen on the tarmac at Haifa International Airport clutching a suitcase stuffed with shekels.

Lung cancer from a lifetime of cigarette smoking.

James Alphaeus
Did not expect the Spanish Inquisition; burned at the stake for heresy.

Thaddeus, a.k.a. "Gomer"
Broke his neck falling down stairs at 48.

Simon the Cananean a.k.a. Simon the Zealot a.k.a. Jude James
Gunned down in a turf battle with a rival gang.

Judas Iscariot

thoughts of all stripes

With murky thoughts now on the blogroll, and ragged thots and thoughts from Kansas already there (never mind various observations in written form), I think we've got all our thought-bases covered.

smarter than I #6 is up

... over at Locusts and Honey. Thanks to John the Methodist for hosting, and to everyone who sent a link. If you'd like to host Number Seven, email smarterthani AT hotmail DOT com.

Jun 12, 2005

screw Dobzhansky: nothing in biology makes sense, period

Mr. Dembski just doesn't get it. Or perhaps refuses to get it. Or gets it, but will never admit it. Or gets it in a parallel universe. One can hope.

Josh Rosenau claimed that evolutionary theory has been useful even to the point of helping save lives. Overblown rhetoric, right?


NewScientist this week, discussing controversial new medications targeted to specific ethnicities, points to several maladies that are thought to have genetic links. Now, unlike Mr. Dembski, I respect NewScientist's subscriber-only policy, so I won't reproduce the article in its entirety. But I'll summarize a key chart below.

Sickle cell anemia is common everywhere except in northern Europe and North America because those continents are largely malaria-free. "The sickle-cell gene has been positively selected because people who inherit just one copy do not have sickle-cell anemia, but they are more resistant to malaria, a disease in which a parasite infects red blood cells."

Caucasians suffer more from cystic fibrosis, for yet-unknown reasons. Puerto Rican children are twice as likely to develop asthma; incidence is as high as 30%, compared to 5-16% in other populations.

Type 2 diabetes is common in the Indian subcontinent, likely because of mixed genetic and dietary factors. A similar mix of environment and genetic effects causes African Americans to suffer from a more aggressive form of prostate cancer.

Alcohol intolerance affects up to half the people of China, Japan, and Korea, due to a mutation in the gene for aldehyde dehydrogenase.

Breast, ovarian and prostate tumors arising from BRCA mutations are more common in Ashkenazi Jews; 1 in 40 carry these mutations, compared with 1 in 500 in the general population. A "founder effect" is the likely cause.

Multiple sclerosis is twice as common among European Americans than among African Americans, and quite rare in Africa. Genes and environmental factors are both implicated.

(Schizophrenia's ethnic connection is a matter of great dispute.)

These are just a few conditions from a gigantic list that are or may be genetic in origin, proximate cause, or effect. I'm sure a more savvy researcher could find far more.

Note that sickle-cell anemia, for example, demonstrates the interplay of mutation and selection. Carry the mutant gene? Fantastic. Now you're at less risk from one ailment, but at greater risk of passing another on to your children. (Or is that the forward-thinking of a beneficient designer?)

I could say more, but why re-evolve the flagellum? Evolutionary theory is useful.

last call for Smarter than I #6

Been reading any great blog posts lately? Sure you have, because you're a sharp, beautiful, magnificent human being and an outstanding blogger.

Send us a link to the best-written (or just best) piece you've seen in the past week or so, and we'll include it in this week's Smarter than I, which will show up sometime Monday over at Locusts and Honey. We already have a decent number of quality articles, but we have room for many, many more.

Send your entries to smarterthani AT hotmail DOT com, or use this form.

Help us point out unrecognized genius in all its forms, and make the world a smarter place. Because smart people contribute to Smarter than I.

Jun 11, 2005


The wife is at her laptop, formatting envelopes, growing increasingly frustrated with the vagaries of Microsoft Word. Eventually I figure out how to work around a stupid feature that automatically gives custom page sizes a 3-inch left margin, and a glaring deficiency in Samsung's printer driver that lets you rotate a page only in a 180-degree implement. And then Word stops working, inexplicably, and I have to figure out another workaround. I hate you, Microsoft.

Followed by brunch with Spooner Farms strawberries, Snoqualmie Falls Lodge pancakes, and Batdorf and Bronson coffee. The last is a huge clue that yes, I do live in Olympia.

(In fact, Joe, I'm no longer the only Greener in my family, since my wife was recently accepted to their undergraduate program. It's actually not a bad place to get an inexpensive degree, if you have a healthy bullshit detector.)

Oh, and I have a new goal in life: to write a book that meets my brother's critical approval, which is pretty darn stringent, as you know if you've been following his series of book reviews.

"the chair now recognizes himself"

James Sensenbrenner: stickler for procedure, or foe of democracy?

[link courtesy of Factesque]

someone for everyone

Isn't it beautiful when you find your soulmate, a kindrid spirit as shallow and gullible as yourself?

Jun 10, 2005

McDonald Urges Customers to Avoid Temptation

"Stop eating fast food," fast food icon pleads


BOSTON -- Wiping grease and ketchup from his lips, Ronald McDonald took a break from plowing through the entire Dollar Menu to warn America's youth that his signature fast food is endangering their health.

"Stay away from the fatty, cheesy crap," McDonald said, nicking three French fries from his neighbor's tray. "Have you seen what it'll do to your arteries, never mind your mojo?"

Asked to clarify, McDonald added, "Hey, I don't need to explain. I saw that Morgan Spurlock film. Disgusting." He tore open two salt packets and poured them over his double cheeseburger.

McDonald's eatery, an up-and-comer in the American restaurant scene, has recently taken heat for its high-calorie menu, and has responded by offering salads and bottled water as alternatives.

"It's all about better choices," McDonald said, licking extra ketchup off his hamburger wrapper. "Hot damn, this stuff is tasty. But bad for you."

McDonald washed down his meal with a thirty-two ounce Coke and eyed his neighbor's tray again.

"You gonna finish that?" he asked, not waiting for an answer.

human weirdness

How about a catalogue of human weirdness?

Or an explanation for weird beliefs?

Or a celebration of Weird Al?

Or two of the weirdest bands on the FM dial?

Or news by, of, and for the weird?

"Weird," at least as far as I can tell, is losing its supernatural connotation, now meaning "odd" or "uncanny." Read up on its etymology here and here.

I love language. Is that so weird?

[twenty-second in a series]

Jun 9, 2005

than me or than I?

The answer: depends on the context.

"Than me" is okay when the pronoun acts as an object. If you love Sudoku more than me, that means you love Sudoku more than you love me (which, for most of you, is probably true).

But if you love Sudoku more than I, your love for Sudoku is greater than my love for Sudoku (which is unlikely).

Practice: She is smarter than ____.

Answer: "I," because the sentence is short for "She is smarter than I am."

Practice: You hate her much more than _____, which explains why I wasn't targeted by your email virus.

Answer: "me," because you hate her more than you hate me. You petty, slinking weasel.

Got it?


[twenty-first in a series]

on teenagers

a Google essay

Teenagers are probably the most...

interesting lifeforms inhabiting our planet
media-savvy consumers out there
fashionable people around
expensive things in the world
status oriented group of all the groups that we deal with
subverbal, inarticulate, untogether people
stressful kind of children there are
passionate readers there are
vulnerable group to the temptations that maya brings
challenging humans that God created
difficult people on the planet to lead

Teenagers are the most likely to...

be uninsured
develop bone cancer
not get enough calcium
be dissatisfied with their appearance
use inhalants
believe in astrology
purchase content online with micropayments
act out and to show anger and resentment toward you
deliberately litter the streets of Belfast
use knives and commit sexual assaults
enjoy the use of a Ouija board
participate in violence targeting gays

Teenagers are certainly...

capable of experiencing true love
different from adults in many ways
only a small percentage of bloggers
sexually active
not too young to absorb and apply spiritual truths
capable of reason
motivated by food

Teenagers are almost always...

strapped for cash
played by twentysomethings
relegated to years of playing in the minors
open to new ideas
"in love"

Teenagers are definitely...

the smartest people on the planet
a breed apart
what's up
a great concern when speaking of premarital sex
not the only drug-infested age group
lacking manners
quick to complain
less likely to wear seat belts

nerds make better husbands

Well, duh.

(Disclosure: I am a nerd. You are, too.)

[via Obscure Store]

Update: We scooped Instapundit.

Jun 8, 2005

weed whacking

Via Matt Welch of Reason's Hit and Run comes a link to Pushing Back, the "weblog" of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Saith The Beast:
Too many of our citizens suffer from pain and chronic illnesses. Smoking illegal drugs may make some people "feel better." However, civilized societies and modern day medical practices differentiate between inebriation and the safe, supervised delivery of proven medicine by legitimate doctors. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published a review of the available scientific evidence in an effort to assess the potential health benefits of marijuana and its constituent cannabinoids. The review concluded that smoking marijuana is not recommended for any long-term medical use, and a subsequent IOM report declared, "marijuana is not a modern medicine."
The IOM is hardly an unbiased, apolitical source of medical recommendations. As the AHRP notes,
Most IOM members-physicians and bioethicists-are employees of major medical schools that have extensive financial ties to pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Additionally, IOM members include executives at major pharmaceutical companies. IOM members receive millions of dollars in grants from both industry and NIH. Their financial interests present personal and institutional conflicts of interest--raising doubts about IOM members' ability to render an objective evaluation about controversial drugs, vaccines, and other issues affecting health care.
The issue isn't marijuana's efficacy, or careful analyses of its harms and benefits. It isn't whether marijuana can help sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis, or may help shrink brain tumors, or reduce the suffering of Alzheimer's.

No, the first line says it all: it's fear of people making their own choices, fear of people actually enjoying themselves. It's the government knowing what's best for you, no matter what the evidence says. It's willful ignorance, blinding prejudice, and puritanism that would shame the Puritans.

Update: Fafblog says it best.

more crankitude

Reading PZ Myers on Pinkoski, a crank of cranks, I am reminded of the work of Peter S. Ruckman, a fundamentalist who believes that the King James Version is the only TRUE WORD of GOD. (I won't include a link to his website at his request, but if you Google Peter S. Ruckman, he's the first person to pop up.)

I first discovered his work while an undergraduate, browsing through the religion stacks of my college library. I couldn't put it down--there's something inherently captivating about a mind skirting the edge of insanity. The vitriol, the vituperation, the absolute certainty in absurdity.

I am convinced that there is a general crank personality that borders on paranoid schizophrenia, or is perhaps its own brand of mental illness. One sure way to identify a crank is his consistent use of ALL CAPITAL LETTERS in order to prove a VERY IMPORTANT POINT. Another is her ability to see patterns and connections in coincidence and randomness.

Update: Welcome, readers of Pharyngula. Other posts you might be interested in, all related to Intelligent Design: a moment of truth, information please, and pro-neo-darwinism.


My nasal passages are a playground for rhinoviruses this morning, so don't expect too much brilliance out of me today. At the very least, contribute to the coming Smarter than I carnival--find something worth reading and send it our way--either through email (smarterthani AT hotmail DOT com) or with this handy form.

Jun 7, 2005

by a process of elimination

All my addictions are intellectual.

Seth Stevenson is right.


Simple: 1-9 in every row, column, and 3x3 box.

Maddening: on the trickiest puzzles, you have to guess; there is no other way.

Satisfying: by intuition and deduction, a critical mass of numbers is reached, and they start to fall into place by sheer logic, and the non-pattern emerges.

Today I introduced my younger sister to Sudoku, and she nerdily watched as I solved a "very hard" puzzle from this wonderful site.

I am a Sudoku evangelist, and the world will be worse for it.

Nanny State Builds On Successes


WALLA WALLA, WA -- Noting the recent accomplishments of Washington's Click it or Ticket and Drive Hammered, Get Nailed campaigns, recently-confirmed Governor Christine Gregoire announced five new cleverly-named programs Tuesday.

Standing in front of five gigantic posters, Gregoire introduced Floss 'Em or Toss 'Em, a dental hygiene initiative; Like a Virgin, a series of pamphlets promoting chaste teenage friendships; Drag and Drop, aimed at reducing smoking among I.T. staff; Slow Your Ass Down, intended to curb road rage; and Vote Naked!, an absentee ballot program.

"Market research must drive public policy," Gregoire said, lecturing a small gathering of onlookers, passers-by, and other interested folk. "The public responds well to snappy brow-beatings."

Gregoire chose Walla Walla as a launch site because of its motto. Walla Walla is known as "The City That Was So Nice They Named It Twice."

animals are smarter than you think

Another surprising find that really shouldn't be that surprising: dolphins can use tools, and teach their offspring to use them. Female dolphins, in particular.

Update: You already saw the story about the monkeys who learned to use money, right?

Jun 6, 2005

a spotty Rossi / Gregoire timeline

November 8, 2004
As the count starts to wind down, I first note the thinning margin of Gregoire's initial lead, having no idea that a volcano of vituperation is about to erupt.

November 9
Ruth Bennett: the only clear winner in the contest.

November 15
I call on Christine Gregoire to concede. Not that she was listening.

November 18
Rossi wins the first count, and I shake the snow globe and predict he'll win the machine recount, too.

November 19
I naively assume the recount will be finished by Christmas.

November 24
After she loses the machine recount, I again call on Gregoire to concede, but again she ignores me.

November 25
Christine Gregoire reveres the right to vote.

December 13
The snow globe says Rossi again.

December 22
"After this, an election without a recount just won't seem like a real election."

Which one of these bore out?

Top Ten Ways To Describe the Gregoire / Rossi Debacle
A Triumph for Democracy
The End of Democracy
The Battle of Seattle, Redux
Count Every Vote
Don't Change the Rules
Tie Goes to the Republican
The Great Suffrage Telethon
The Rise of the Libertarian Swing Vote
Damn You, Ron Sims
Dino Who?

December 29
Gregoire wins the recount.

December 30
Morton Brilliant says something that, in retrospect, is very, very silly.

March 10, 2005
In the light of new circumstances, I call the court battle for Gregoire. It is only my second correct prediction.

March 17, 2005
The Republican get-the-felon-vote-out strategy has a hangup.

May 26, 2005
All hail David Postman!

June 6, 2004
Rossi retires; Gregoire is our governor. It had to end sometime, I guess.

only in America

So I'm having a blogging off-day; all the more reason to quote "zeroentitlement" on the state of airport security at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport:
The Seattle TSA are the most belligerent, rudest, and least professional of the TSA flunkies I've encountered since flying post-9/11. They're also slower and less efficient than those agents at airports in which you might expect to experience more of a bottleneck, such as JFK-NY, Miami, and San Juan, PR.

They come by it honestly, I suppose, given that Seattleites in general are fatally passive-aggressive and endowed with vastly inflated and elitist senses of self-worth. (Yes, I'm a Seattle native.)

Read the infuriating original story, too. Yeah, I'll be triple-checking my luggage when the 22nd rolls around.

Update: Hitchens has more.

cease firing?

The juiciest comments from Sound Politics vis a vis Judge Bridge's ruling:

Gosh, a robed master sides with the political status quo, and against the populace. Just knock me over with a feather.
Posted by Rick at June 6, 2005 10:02 AM

Wow!! A judge that judges and doesn't create law.

He puts the burden back on us voters. What a novel solution. I like it.

Posted by swatter at June 6, 2005 10:04 AM


A watershed event for me. Working harder in this system is simply playing their game.
The 2nd amendment was created for these times.

Posted by notloyalopposition at June 6, 2005 10:09 AM

JANET: WRONG! This is not a Democrat State.....This is a Communist State. ENJOY!
Posted by Why am I not surprised at June 6, 2005 10:18 AM

Gregoire is not governor. The sooner she steps down, the sooner we as a state can move forward. This state is an embarrasment; democracy & the rule law is dead; Gregoire & the uniocrat cronies are an even larger embarrasment. I promise to protest that unlected witch at every public appearance she makes in my area.

I hope the next few months are so hard on her, resignation would sound like sweet salvation.

Posted by kingdome360 at June 6, 2005 10:22 AM

If we can't beat the sleezy democrats, we must join them.

Next election, Vote Twice!!!

Posted by Brent from Clark County at June 6, 2005 10:23 AM

Kinda telling isn't it how the trolls are all happy about the situation. The Liberals aka Socialists aka Communists are stupified with pleasure to see the bind our Republic is in.

Others of their ilk control our State's government and have changed the laws to prevent their removal.

Are we left with only the Second Amendment to set things right? Is this what the Legislature wants?

Posted by lee egg at June 6, 2005 10:24 AM

So, a judge from your hand-picked county ruled against you.

Good work.


Posted by A Winner at June 6, 2005 10:27 AM

I knew it. I knew this guy was a liberal when i saw the earring and I told you guys as much (no offense to you conservative earring wearers)and I was certain he was a liberal when even Stefan and Carlson couldn't identify if he were lib or conservative. These two guys are pretty damned intelligent and if they can't read him...something is wrong.
Posted by pete at June 6, 2005 10:33 AM

Remember, we are a nation ruled not by men and not even by laws, but by God. Petition him and see if he will restore the election and justify all the wrongs committed. That's how General George Washington defeated King George and his immense empire. That's how Reagan beat the Communist Empire. That's how we are going to beat King Sims.
Posted by Jonathan Gardner at June 6, 2005 10:36 AM

So many Moonbats on here today with their gloating. All this brought to you by the supposed party of diversity and tolerance Monnbats, moonbats, moonbats.....go back to your smelly Seattle communist hidey hole.
Posted by cowboy at June 6, 2005 10:51 AM

Bridges rules against Rossi

Sides with 48.8730 of voters.

Jun 5, 2005

more spelling bee stories

But not by me.

another spelling bee story

I lost the National Spelling Bee, which puts me in rather distinguished company among America's nerd elite. The year I lost, the girl who won appeared the next day on Good Morning America as I watched in my hotel room. She seemed self-satisfied, smarmy, with an of-course-I-deserved-to-win-it smile. For five minutes, I hated her more than I ever hated anyone in my short life.

But time hides scars, and I soon forgot about her.

Until years later.

Yes, years later, I'm randomly watching Jeopardy, and there she is in the final round, and she's in the lead, and she wins it, and she still has that exact same demeanor, smiling into the camera like it's her lover and confidante, unable to even fake modesty or surprise, and the hate rises in me like acid reflux and I turn to my family and say That's her, that's the one again, again!

The bitterness has long passed. I have seen her name in print on occasion, and she is by all accounts a decent human being. Perhaps her confidence became smugness only in my jealous imagination, her sweetness turned saccharine by resentment. Such is the power of adolescent envy.

Jun 4, 2005

spelling bee fainting

The omnipresent cameras. The grimacing parents. The locked knees. The hot television lights. The sycophantic reporters. The thick spectacles. The violent strains of early puberty.

And the words.

The question isn't why some spellers faint, but why most of them don't.

Thirteen-odd years ago, a full-blown geek in brown glasses and a purple and red striped t-shirt, I stormed into D.C. for a chance to win the big one. By taking the Seattle regional, I'd already garnered a set of encyclopedias and a week at the Hilton, with Mom in tow. Among all the touristy events, the National Spelling Bee took up only about half the time--less for me, because I went out in round three.

In the year I went, the Bee took place in the conference room of the downtown Hilton. Contestants sat and sweated on a stage in front of the judge's table, rows of seats for a parent-heavy audience, and a bank of cameras. (I'm not sure, but I don't think ESPN was providing vowel-to-vowel coverage back then.)

Off to the right was an adjoining "Crying Room." When the bell rang at the enunciation of a misplaced letter, the teary contestant would shuffle off the stage and enjoy the consolation of cookies, juice, and parents. Yes, I cried. You would have, too.

Reporters milled around outside the Crying Room, ready to get the human interest angle. A couple from my home state cornered me and sat me down for a televised interview. Mind you, at this point I was beaten down, upset, disappointed, tired; but I grudgingly assented. The questions started off normal, then veered into the inane. My waning patience vanished with the last, delivered cheerily as only a reporter can:

"How did the bell sound?"

A million stupid answers flashed through my mind. Ask not; it tolled for me. It echoed through caverns of loss. It was a funeral peal, a fatal tintinnabulum, a carillon of despair. It sounded the death of my dreams.

Instead, in my moment of glory, I said:

"It went ding."

I haven't been on television since.

[twentieth in a series]

Jun 3, 2005

from joy to anger in five easy minutes

The bulk of the cast of Whose Line was in Olymp-i-a tonight, yukking it up at the Washington Center for an enthusiastic audience, yours truly included. Respect: Ryan Stiles knows how to pronounce "geoduck." A good time was had by all.

On the way home, though, I got to hear the most angrifying crap the radio has ever spit my way, an ad for Washington's "Click it or Ticket" campaign (ably dissected here). The spot opens and closes with the strident voice of a Nightmare Mother warning a child (you, the listener) about all of life's dangers. Her last words: "That's a good boy. There's your cookie."

Nanny state, indeed.

(Listen to other radio spots here.)

Jun 2, 2005

jody folkedahl

Everybody wants to read up on Jody Folkedahl, the artist who painted a nude female in a pornographic pose and named it after her art professor. It's my top search term, and it doesn't hurt that, inexplicably, I'm third-ranked on Google.

I thought art-as-provocation was so passé, so Andres Serrano. Wrong. I also thought the painting might be of her art professor. Wrong again. Finally, I thought I'd never blog about Jody Folkedahl a second time. Wrong on all counts.

Jody, if you're out there reading this, drop a line. I'm curious how you're handling the furor. Did you ever expect national attention? In all seriousness, how would you go about topping this one?

Update: Read my exchange with a friend of Jody's here.

Second update: Jody has graciously answered the questions in the comments to this post.

[nineteenth in a series]

internet defamation and the blogger

"We ain't one-at-a-timin' here. We're mass communicatin'!"
--Pappy O'Daniel, O Brother Where Art Thou?

One morning, a nastygram with impressive digital letterhead appears in your email. "You have been publishing defamatory statements regarding our client, Joseph T. Schmoe, on your website. Cease and desist or face legal action pursuant to blah blah blah...." You rub your eyes, down another espresso shot, readjust your pajamas. You've never blogged about Joe Schmoe. At least, not that you can remember. You search through your blog's archives, and presto: there it is. "Joe Schmoe defrauded millions from Save the Cephalopods while president of the vaunted environmental organization, then blew it all on hookers and drugs in a Vegas orgy." It's in the comments. You didn't write it. You're not responsible... are you?


Hugh Hewitt thinks you are, and sees this as a compelling reason to avoid allowing comments,(1) but is his caution justified? Should bloggers stifle interactivity out of the fear of litigation? My survey of relevant literature leads me to say "no," with caveats.(2) First, some background.

The American Precedent

Before passage of The Communications Decency Act of 1996 (hereinafter known as S.230), and long before the rise of the blogs, two cases set a paradoxical precedent for Internet defamation. Internet service providers (ISPs) that had no stated content restrictions were immune from litigation under Cubby, Inc. v. Compuserve, Inc., (3) while "family-friendly" ISPs that attempted to limit objectionable content were liable for defamation under Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Serv. Co. (4) Only do-gooders faced the possibility of a lawsuit.

Realizing that this state of affairs would discourage ISPs from attempting to monitor their users' output,(5) Congress passed S.230, which, among other things, protected third parties from defamation lawsuits. The text:
(1) Treatment of publisher or speaker

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.
(2) Civil liability

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—
(A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or
(B) any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1) [footnote: So in original. Probably should be “subparagraph (A).”] (6)
Rulings after the passage of S.230, notably Zeran v. American Online, Inc. and Blumenthal v. Drudge, consistently upheld a broad reading of S.230. In the latter case, the court determined that AOL was exempt because Drudge was not its employee, and alone was the agent of action in distributing--and later retracting--the objectionable story. (7)

It would seem, then, that bloggers are safe from liability for comments made by third parties--at least, in the United States. But the Internet is a global phenomenon, and international courts may take a different view. To Australia we go.

You Call That Jurisdiction?

Dow Jones v. Gutnick rattled the online publishing industry. In a watershed 4-3 decision, the Victorian Supreme Court ruled that an American company could face litigation in any court "... from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe" for material published on the web, because the act of defamation occurred where the material was downloaded.

In April of 2003, William Alpert, the author of the offending article, "... complained to the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, alleging that Australia had violated his right to free speech under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Australia ratified in 1980."

Gutnick eventually settled for $443,500.

The UN's silence on the matter likely comes from the settlement.

Should American bloggers fear the fallout of the Gutnick decision? Not really. First, Dow Jones is a large company with plenty of cash, not a small-time third-tier blog with a loyal readership of twenty-seven. Second, American courts have persistently refused to uphold international defamation judgments. Third, Gutnick sued the "party of the first part," and the case did not set a precedent for third-party defamation.

Reasonable Steps to Take

Given the facts, then, bloggers should consider several courses of action.

1. Do not shut down commenting in a panic. "... [L]ibel remains a notoriously difficult cause of action to prosecute successfully... because of a panoply of privileges and affirmative defenses that do not lend themselves to refutation." (14)

2. Establish a clear comments policy, and post it on every page.

3. Set up comment notification, so you are emailed every time someone comments (this may or may not be practical, depending on the size of your readership).

4. Refuse anonymous comments.

5. If you feel justified in deleting a comment that seems defamatory, publically explain your action. "Retracting a defamatory comment will not absolve one of liability, but it will likely reduce damages." (15)

(1) He also cites concerns of plagiarism, which I leave aside for another time.

(2)The first and most important caveat: I am no lawyer, nor was meant to be. This isn't free legal advice. If you're seriously concerned about defamation issues, contact a real attorney with a J.D. and a fancy briefcase.

(3) Zion, 502

(4) Ibid, 503

(5) Ibid, 504

(6) Title 47 S.230 USC

(7) Zion, 506-7. "Certainly, the court in Blumenthal did not presume that the entity known as AOL could actually develop or create defamation without the assistance of an agent, namely one of its employees."

(14) Ciarlone, 54
(15) Ciarlone, 57

* Zion, 507
** Ciarlone, 53

**** Ciarlone, 56

Alpert appeal and the UN

Jun 1, 2005

smarter than I #5: Deep Throat edition

[a special welcome to readers of Shakespeare's Sister]

His scuffed brown oxfords tapped the concrete as he stood in the shadows of the dingy parking garage where we had agreed to meet. I was nervous, too, and hoped he didn't notice.

His voice surprised me--it was reedy and raspy, like a flute stuffed with jellybeans. "I got the goods," he said, the words echoing off graffiti and flaking paint. He struck a match and lit a cigarette, taking in two short puffs. I couldn't make out much in the darkness, just a glimpse of a paunch and a cheap suit. "Here," he said, tossing a manila envelope my way. "Take a look."

I opened it and pulled out the documents--memos, scrawled notes, newspaper clippings. Nothing scandalous, I thought, no smoking gun... and then I saw the printed emails.

I read aloud. "'Citizens of a democracy, we are taught, address their concerns and protest bad administrations and their dire policies on election days. We are polite and respectful as we register our dissent in quiet booths with drawn curtains. But maybe, just maybe, the pride we take in our civility will become our greatest shame.' Shameful civility? Who's calling for a shakeup?" I asked.

"Shakespeare's Sister," my anonymous source replied. "Got it on a hot tip from Jesse of differentia."

I rifled through another stack of rumpled printouts. "Who's this Mark Olson fellow?"

"Another tipster. He's a fan of ChicagoBoyz, recommended that I read Life on the Horizontal and Microeconomics and the OODA Loop. The first, by Ginny, praises individuality as a route to universality. The second, by Mitch Townsend, defines OODA and its putative relationship to microeconomics."

I read from the latter. "If you struggle to suppress your gag reflex, as I do, when you hear another military analogy applied to corporate life, you can relax." I felt bile rising, and returned my gaze to the emails.

"Wait, here's another from the City of the Big Shoulders, by Shannon Love: Lisa, the Post-Modernist Simpson. Seriously?"

"Read it," he said, flicking his cigarette butt aside and lighting another.

"It is hard to look at a character like Lisa Simpson and see the first multiplying cells of malignant political and social cancer... but that's what she is."

"You thought the cartoon was simple entertainment," he said, cigarette glowing in the shadows. "You thought wrong."

I skimmed over the horror movie Survival Kit sent by Brian from Denver, but was distracted by Caroline Compton's email about Oedipus Wrecks, Lance Mannion's psychoanalysis of Bush II. "'...everything George W. has done as President has been a slap in his father's face.' Harsh."

"Read it all before you pass judgment," my source retorted. "Go on."

"Liberal doom and gloom from John J. McKay of archy, I see. 'The last remaining check or balance will be those moderate Republicans willing to break party discipline and risk being cut off from re-election funds. The judiciary will take a hard swing to the radical right as openly ideological judges fill all the vacancies.' I never did understand the phrase 'radical right,' but never mind."

"Bora sent in another one," he said. "Something about rumination. Should be right under it."

"'...it would be nice if we all could see gossip when it happens, especially because sometimes the gossip is equated with political commentary, and this totally omits blogs which apply political science principles to wider events or which see politics in our daily lives. You know, like quite a few feminist blogs.' From Self-Obsessed Ruminations on Blogging. I'd like to see Echidne debate Ginny."

"Or maybe Pamela of Atlas Shrugs, who sent me this rant by Harvey of Bad Example."

I read it and smiled. "'You're SO wrong, Arianna. Good blogging IS good writing. You don't just toss off a steaming pile of unfinished thought-crap, call it good, and wait for Lady Fortune to kick in your door toting buckets full of gold coins.' This is good stuff, but I don't know if it's enough for a conviction."

I noticed my own emails in the stack. "You've printed out my correspondence," I said. "Does it all fit into your connect-the-dots scheme?"

"Short answer? Yes. The Myers piece, The Burden of Bearing a Massive Penis, that was eye-opening to say the least. I had to sneak it through the company firewall. And that Theomorph character took Ratzinger to task. He plays with fire. I'm not that much of a risk-taker, if you haven't noticed." He stamped out his cigarette.

"This is all interesting, and just might help me finish this scoop of all scoops," I said, "But how do you put it all together? Activism, the Simpsons, cat hating, Arianna Huffington, oversized members, Cardinal Ratzinger... is it some grand conspiracy, deeper and more conspiratorial than we could possibly imagine?"

"Follow the links," he replied, disappearing into the shadows, his voice trailing into the darkness. "Just follow the links."

Thanks to everyone who contributed links and publicity for this edition. Up next, John of Locusts and Honey will host Smarter than I #6 on Monday, June 13. Send your entries to smarterthanI AT hotmail DOT com or use this handy form.

Previous editions:

statement of purpose
#1 at decorabilia
#2 at l'esprit d'escalier
#3 at Pseudo-Polymath
#4 at Science and Politics

artificial blue roses

For when you're sorry that you got caught, or sorry that you were misunderstood, or sorry that you didn't get your way, or sorry that you have to apologize: a dozen blue roses. Because "I'm not sorry" just isn't sorry enough.

[eighteenth in a series]