Reasonable Nuts

Sometimes nuts. Always reasonable. We are REASONABLE NUTS.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Wow - some things live forever on the Internet.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What would you give Obama for Christmas?



 
Found this poll in the internet today, and found the results interesting:

Click here to see the results (PDF File)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Is Nutrition Scientific Science Not Really Science?



A NYT article (of all places!) about how an elite group of people claiming to have a monopoly on truth, and claiming to have a moral imperative to make us live according to that truth, end up being victims and perpetrators of an especially pernicious strand groupthink strand of memetic virus.

The older I get, the more "science" just appears to be tales spun by wizen old men who live in enclosed communities immune from economic and ethical pressures of modern life (i.e. universities and government research labs). After years of hard-work, mindbreaking study and self-enforced hyper-maturity they are now where they've wanted to be since childhood: In the nursery playpen, where judgments of good and evil, cause and effect, and scarcity and plenty are completely under their control.

These "so-called" scientist perform ceremonies known as "experiments", a cascade of physical reactions they set in motion in an aim to determine their preconceived notions. They are rarely disappointed.

The exegesis of their doctrine are varied but all with a similar theme, like different colored threads on the same pattern of weave: "nature comes from natural and not supernatural processes", "pollution cause by CO2 cause by automobiles cause by people driving around doing stuff", "following you instincts about what to eat and drink will kill you . . . sooner than wanted."

All the outcomes of all their experiments are all aimed to prove one hypothesis, whether latently or overtly, "people who think and do differently from us think and do worse than us". Thus is exhibited the (natural) philosophers will to power--scientists interpret the universe as being one where scientists are the ideal of the universe.

Occasionally a rogue, contrarian, heretic scientist tries to upset their doctrine. Sometimes he's heroic, a nihilist who is wiling to throw himself and all his peers under the bus if, at one point in his life he can find something to believe, or at least something not to disbelieve. Other times he too operates under his own prodigious will to power; when he can't get himself crowned Pope, Antipope will do.

Either way, the beneficial effect is the same, and has been the same throughout all the generations: doctrine is exposed as being just that, and the old monks rearrange their doctrine as something that better imitates actual empirical truth before settling into the old, comfortable routine of chants and incantations to prove their holiness.

The older I get, the smarter Nietzsche gets.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Battlescars: Fark Thread # 3171600

The reason why I typically don't blog much these days is that I'm too busy polluting the comment threads of other people's blogs. But I think I'll start linking to these on here.

Here's a little flamewar I had with some Farkers in a small red-lighted thread on ID being taught in higher education, which ultimately lead to questions about the existence of a creator and the nature of human consciousness. It would've been more fun if these guys had put a little more effort into it and thought their answers through. Good practice, though.

To reach enlightenment, the toughest arguments have to be the ones you have with yourself.

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The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week--11/1/2007

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week is

Rule of 72

For instance, if you were to invest $100 with compounding interest at a rate of 9% per annum, the "rule of 72" gives 72/9 = 8 years required for the investment to be worth $200; an exact calculation gives 8.0432 years.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Fun Facts about Ray Kurzweil



FUN FACTS ABOUT RAY KURZWEIL:

* Ray Kurzweil is a unitarian. He chose to be one because, if he were to single out a religion, the resulting quantum probability wave-function collapse would make all other religions untrue and render a majority of mankind godless and damned.

* Indigo Children are actually a result of a series of donations Ray Kurzweil made to sperm donor banks in late 80s to early 90s.

* On August 4, 1997, while Ray Kurzweil was staying at a hotel, the cable TV shorted out. Rather than wait for room service, Kurzweil attempted to fix it himself. As a result, Skynet became self-aware and started the subsequent robot holocaust.

* The Kaaba at Masjid al-Haram in Mecca is actually Ray Kurzweil's backup web server.

* When he was young, Ray Kurzweil used to volunteer in the neighborhood by tutoring learning disabled kids on basic language and communication skills. One of those kids was later elected 43rd President of the United States.

* MacGyver calls Ray Kurzweil when he runs out of paperclips, rubber bands and drinking straws.

* Rosh Hashanna is the day each year that Ray Kurzweil defrags God's hard drive. Yom Kippur is when he runs the virus sweep.

* Ray Kurzweil once beat Garry Kasparov at a game of chess. He then proceeded to beat Deep Blue at a game of tic-tac-toe.

* Ray Kurzweil's research on longevity are actually part of deal with Cthulhu to increase his feeding stock once he awakens. In return, Kurzweil gets the patents on the Furby and the Swiffer.

* The 4400 is actually just an elaborate marketing scheme for a new health supplement Ray Kurzweil is test marketing in the Seattle area.

* Ray Kurzweil knows what Willis was talking about.

* The Unabomber was just Ray Kurzweil when he was drunk and pissed off. He later pinned the whole debacle on his AA sponsor Terry Kaczynski.

* In elementary school, the teacher ask Ray Kurzweil what kind of numbers are divisible by 2, to which Kurzweil responded "All of them except zero, you stupid bitch!"

* NASA didn't film the moon landing in the Arizona desert. They subbed the job out to Ray Kurzweil's production studios on Altair 6.

* Al Gore didn't invent the internet. He just asked Ray Kurzweil if he could think of a good way to distract Tipper with pictures of cute kittens and puppies so Al could jerk off to hardcore porn.

* Ray Kurzweil poisoned both cups. He's been building up an immunity to Iocaine for years.

* Ray Kurzweil authored and copyrighted the algorithm calculating, based on future trends of lingual width and moisture among homo sapiens, and rainfall projection and irrigation practices in Caribbean and South American sugar and cocoa plantations, how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop.

* Who is John Galt? Ray Kurzweil's poolboy.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Product Review: DragonTM NaturallySpeaking®9



I didn't write this blog post. My computer wrote it for me. I dictated it.

I wrote this blog posts with the assistance of DragonTM NaturallySpeaking®9, a very versatile speech-to-text application that I paid $100 for at Circuit City a few weeks back. Around that time, I was reading over The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil the second or third time around. The book was written in 1999, and he predicted that by the year 2009 that rather than use keyboards, we would start to dictate words to our computers. A lot of Ray's 2009 predictions are definitely coming to pass, such as wires disappearing from hardware, and that most financial transactions would happen between a human and computer. Other than some cheesy attempts at voice commands on some automated phone systems I use when calling customer service lines—staffed with robots that tries embarrassingly hard to act human—I haven't seen much use speech recognition. But Kurzweil has a good track record as far as predicting the future, so I did some web searching to see what was out there to see if there wasn't some huge tech revolution that I was missing. I found jott.com, a website that's being beta-tested, where you use your cell phone to e-mail to yourself or others audio reminders, and also get a text translation of your audio message. A trial of it proved underwhelming. You could only leave yourself short messages and the text of your message would end up being very garbled. And then I found NaturallySpeaking 9, a software application that needs to be installed on your computer, and needs a really large amount of memory to work, but has much better quality.

I've heard anecdotally that researchers have been working on speech-to-text for years. A professor I had at law school told me that he went to a seminar back in the early 80s where they thought that these programs would become available any year now. But computer speech recognition proved to be a tough nut to crack. How do you teach a computer to translate "How bare is a bare bear?" (Actually, that one was hard to dictate using this software.) It seems like high-quality speech recognition was capable only by sentient beings, and even we have trouble with it sometimes. The big question is whether identifications, not just of words but of Being itself, is something that only God-breathed creatures can perform.

That question still remains, but it does appear that speech-to-text software is getting better. Much better. As in "actually functional" better. I can use this program at the office and not have it be a complete drain on my time to get it to work right. And since buying it, I've done just that.

NaturallySpeaking is software that learns. The application has training modes where you read text, and the program learns the sound of your voice. Also, when you correct bad dictation, the program supposedly learns from its mistakes. Like any employee, you need to train it. And like any boss, you need to train yourself to manage it. So it can take a while to get good at, just like it takes a while to get good at typing. The company that markets the software says that while the average person can type 30 to 40 words per minute, you may be able to speak over 120 words per minute. So it stands to reason that once you teach the program to dictate efficiently for you, NaturallySpeaking can be a boon to productivity, or so they claim.

It's not quite that easy. The 99% accuracy rating that Dragon brags about may be closer to 70 to 80% in real usage. Dictation can still be very clunky, and you may still have to use your keyboard or correct certain errors that, if the computer doesn't make, you make by not being a naturally born Paul Harvey or Don Pardo. Going over this blog entry, I've had to make just as many revisions as if I drafted something by typing it. The technology hasn't gotten to the point yet where it's as good as dictating to a secretary, and you just can't go stream of consciousness and expect the letter or essay you wrote to turn out perfect. In other words, this program will not think for you.

But it can change the way you write. I hadn't noticed it before, but writing while slumped over the keyboard with your eyes vacillating between the monitor and your fingers can really wear away at your concentration and patience for writing. Instead, when you're dictating using the software, you can actually look at the computer screen, or even get up and stretch your legs while dictating. The visual focus leads to a lot less errors in your writing, not to mention that the computer doesn't mistype or misspell. If the computer recognizes that you said "concupiscence" or "amalgamated", it's not going to misspell those words like you might if you were typing sloppy or got less than a 500 verbal score on your SATs. So the trade-off is less typos and a better capability of detecting them since, unlike most typers, you can now actually look at the word processor while processing words. Not to mention it's liberating to be able to lean back, move your hands, look at things, and fiddle with something in your hand while writing. It makes for more creativity.

This software is not perfect, but it's good enough that it could really change people's lifestyle and computer usage and be the tipping point for greater things. I think this will really catch on the next few years, especially once NaturallySpeaking 10 or 11 come along and we get some better versions of the stuff and computers with enough memory to handle it.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The politics of marriage... and divorce

ONE facet of the current spate of politicians seeking the Presidency - a facet which doesn't much get the light of day is marriage, namely the candidates' personal choices concerning marriage. I thought I'd do a little investigation, see not what the candidates say about marriage, but what they do. Here are the candidates, followed by their marriages.

First, the Republicans:

  • Rudy Giuliani: 3 - Particularly interesting, as his first marriage of 15 years was annulled by the Catholic church. Given reason: they were second cousins. Weak. No kids, at least. Second marriage (of 18 years) ended after an affair. 2 kids this time. His son doesn't think too highly of him as a father.

  • Newt Gingrich: 3 - First marriage, 18 years. Much reported that he served divorce papers on her while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. 2 daughters. Second marriage, 18 years. No kids. Third wife is 23 years his junior.

  • John McCain: 2 - First marriage, 15 years. Second, 26 years. Current wife is almost 20 years his junior. Just the facts. Draw your own conclusions. I am slower to comment on McCain due to his having lived through stresses I cannot imagine (6 years in a North Vietnamese prison). 7 kids (2 step, 1 adopted).

  • Mitt Romney: 1 - married 39 years. Wow. 5 kids.

  • Sam Brownback: 1 - married 20+ years. 5 kids (2 adopted).

  • Tom Tancredo: 1 - married 30 years. 2 kids.

The Democrats:

  • Hillary Clinton: 1 - married 32 years. Happily? Not the point of this exercise. Say what you will about the Clintons, they have remained married. 1 kid.

  • Barack Obama: 1 - married 15 years. 2 kids.

  • John Edwards: 1 - married 30 years. From everything I've seen, they appear to love one another profusely. 4 kids (1 dec.).

  • Al Gore: 1 - married 37 years. As for his affections for his wife, we all remember that kiss from the 2000 campaign. 4 kids.

  • Bill Richardson: 1 - married 33 years. No kids.

Do you see anything interesting in the above? I notice several things. First, the 3 "top tier" Republicans (Giuliani, McCain, Gingrich) have 8 marriages between them (average 2.67 ea.). The 3 top Democrats have 1 a piece and 77 years of marriage between them.

Secondly, all of the Democrats are longtime married to their first spouse.

Thirdly, and most distressingly for social conservatives, the second tier Republicans (Romney, Brownback, Tancredo), all long married to their first wives, are getting little play.

I'm not suggesting that a President can't be successful having been divorced. Reagan was somewhat in the McCain mold (longtime married to his second wife). But commitment to people is a quantifiably important metric in considering a leader and no other commitment seems so telling as that to a spouse.

It is interesting that the Democrats, as measured by their marriages, appear far more traditional than do the Republicans.

A serious blow to conservatism, it would seem.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Latter-Day Saint, Present-Day Candidate

Here's Romney--very civilly--dealing with a heckler who questions his Mormon faith. He won't be the last one. Even more interesting are the comments that follow the video. Some think that the Mormon angle is silly, but other Christians seriously question Mormans' and Romney's views on the trinity, the process of salvation, the eschatology of man, the nature of God, etc.

His Mormonism shouldn't be a factor: If a Morman can get elected in Massachussetts, he can get elected nationally. And the much-speculated on Mormon prejudice against blacks seems overrated.

Commenters criticized Romney because, being a Mormon, he believes he'll one day be "a God". I don't see how he's different from anyone else running for President.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Freedom of thought

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use. -- Søren Kierkegaard

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Overheard in Conversation - 1/13/2007

Twelve years and hundreds of thousands of dollars against me and the city is still full of potholes


--Comment from Ryan Welty, owner of the Flesh Club in San Bernadino, CA after day in court for vice charges. Link here

Friday, January 05, 2007

Who has 75,000 firends and family?

If you haven't recently had a nightmare, visualize what the United States would have been like under the aegis of John Kerry. For example, consider this:
Nothing is ever simple when it comes to John Kerry.

The senator from Massachusetts and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, sent out 75,000 Christmas cards with pictures of trees at each season. The Kerrys gushed over their "gratitude for the beauty of these trees and the life they represent."

But it didn't end there.

The card came in an odd-looking envelope, one of those with a return-mail flap and instructions to send it to . . . well, to a recycling company, so "it can be made into new carpet tile."

Carpet tile?

We want a "world without waste . . . where every product either returns safely to the soil or becomes a new product."

So the card instructs: "1. Remove this panel and insert it along with the card into the envelope. 2. Expose adhesive strip and fold the flap over to seal the envelope. 3. Drop this mailer into any U.S. mailbox."

Who else would send a Christmas card with a to-do list?
Did it elude the Kerrys that if they really desired to lessen the impact to the environment of 75,000 Christmas cards that they might consider sending somewhat less than 75,000 Christmas cards, particularly with less elaborate packaging? It is so very typical of the liberal of the limousine persuasion to indulge his guilt of excess through pious admonishments to others. And to do so on a Christmas card? Sort of seems to miss the spirit of the holiday, does it not?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week - 1/4/2007

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week is

HeadOn

Chemical analysis has shown that the product consists almost entirely of wax. The two listed active ingredients, white bryony (a type of vine) and potassium dichromate, are diluted to .000001 PPM and 1 PPM respectively.[2] This amount of dilution is so great that the product is arguably a placebo.[3]

Anti-Capitalism Material For Sale



Communist Party: Shopping Page

Is there some weird exception to the laws of logic and reality I don't know about? Seriously, I'm wondering how someone with the intelligence to program the HTML for this webpage could make this as anything other than some bizarre kafkaseque joke.

Now to go find the website that's giving away copies of The Wealth of Nations and Atlas Shrugged for free.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Unbearable Lightness of Big Government

Most encouraging thing I've seen all day:

Private blimps being constructed that could revolutionize travel and commuting

Most discouraging thing I've seen all day:

No one can buy one, fly one, or even invest in one

Can you buy in our blimps?

No, the FAA won't let us sell you one.

Can you let us fly in your blimp to try it out?

No, the FAA won't let us fly you around in one?

Can we put up capital to fund the project?

Maybe, but only if you meet some byzantine standard of being an "accrediated investor" set by the SCC


Thank you for not letting us hurt ourselves, sirs.

___________

UPDATE: Another baby step towards personal flight

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Day - 12/23/2006

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week is

Moneyball

[R]eal statistical analysis has shown that on base percentage and slugging percentage are better indicators of offensive success and that avoiding an out is more important than getting a hit. Every on-field play can be evaluated in terms of expected runs contributed. For example, a strike on the first pitch of an at-bat may be worth - 0.05 runs. This flies in the face of conventional baseball wisdom and the beliefs of many of the men who are paid large sums to evaluate talent.

By re-evaluating the strategies that produce wins on the field, the Athletics, with approximately $71 million in salary, are competitive with the New York Yankees who spend over $207 million (in 2005/2006) annually on their players. Oakland is forced to find players undervalued by the market, and their system for finding value in undervalued players has proven itself thus far.


Most intriguing is the reference to Kevin Youklis as "The Greek God of Walks". The strategy of recruiting workhorses and not showhorses has spread to other sectors of the economy, such as law schools.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Virginiana - 12/18/2006: The Jiffy-Pop Building











Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week--12/17/2006

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week is

McMansion

The term "parachute home" refers to the perceived disregard for regional and immediate site considerations (as if the home had just been dropped from the sky).


Do you know how to tell when housing is outrageously priced?

When a DC Area "faux chateau" is priced about as high as a real chateau in the heart of old Europe.

Monday, December 11, 2006

"Leaders are like eagles. We don't have either of them here."

Leaders are like eagles. We don't have either of them here.

OMG - this is just more very unfortunate fodder

for my belief that our representatives in the Federal Government are woefully unqualified to represent us:

... like a number of his colleagues and top counterterrorism officials that I’ve interviewed over the past several months, Reyes can’t answer some fundamental questions about the powerful forces arrayed against us in the Middle East.

It begs the question, of course: How can the Intelligence Committee do effective oversight of U.S. spy agencies when its leaders don’t know basics about the battlefield?
The author goes on to expose some disturbingly wide holes in geopolitical understanding from representatives of both parties. Yeah, I know - these positions are generally political appointments and that such positions typically convey a staff which is charged with knowing such "trivial" matters. The staff then supposedly informs the appointee on a need to know basis - supposedly also in advance of the need to know. The problem with this is obvious (I hope): leaders lead by example. A leader who doesn't know the basics is not a leader at all.

Which reminds me of my favorite of the Demotivator poster series: (image of soaring eagle) "Leaders are like eagles. We don't have either of them here."

[cross-posted at TIFI]

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week - 12/10/2006

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week is

Double-Slit Experiment

If either slit is covered, the individual photons hitting the screen, over time, create a pattern with a single peak. But if both slits are left open, the pattern of photons hitting the screen, over time, again becomes a series of light and dark fringes. This result seems to both confirm and contradict the wave theory. On the one hand, the interference pattern confirms that light still behaves much like a wave, even though we send it one particle at a time. On the other hand, each time a photon with a certain energy is emitted, the screen detects a photon with the same energy. Under the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum theory, an individual photon is seen as passing through both slits at once, and interfering with itself, producing the interference pattern.

A remarkable result follows from a variation of the double-slit experiment, in which detectors are placed in each of the two slits, in an attempt to determine which slit the photon passes through on its way to the screen. Placing a detector even in just one of the slits will result in the disappearance of the interference pattern.


A cynic would say that the detector itself is doing something to the photons, rather than the conscious observation of the photons' paths, i.e. there's a testing flaw. But that begs the question of what the detector is doing to breakdown the probability wave of the proton. Something is making these protons choose to behave as a particle going through one slit instead of as a wave going through both. Creepy.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Best and Worst Christmas Songs Ever

Happy Christmas (War is Over)

Wonderful Christmas Time

Despite their creative differences, John and Paul had one thing in common: They could both write Christmas music that can bring a grown man to tears.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Overheard in Conversation - 12.6.06

He became moody; often passed his friendly without apparently recognizing them, and when he spoke at all, it would often be in monosyllables. When spoken to on even trivial subject, he would often say “hush, they will hear you; the mountains are full of telephones,” and make other like incoherent remakes. He would say there were “haunts,” and often said he could see stars when none were visible. He believed that engines had been put under his house by negroes, with which to blow him up; that robbers armed with pistols were concealed in the year, and that his life was in danger from them. On one occasion, he fastened a red ribbon to the sign at the store of Ferguson and Gambill, in Big Lick, which he declared was his flag, and that he intended to defend it.


Fishburne and Wife v. Ferguson's Heirs, 84 Va. 87, 4 S.E. 575 (1887)(Suit to rescind deed on the grounds of incapacity and undue influence)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The "ACLU Solstice Barn"


They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Read about this PC setup here.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week--12/2/06

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week is

The Golden Ratio

Thursday, November 30, 2006

WTWNNILSL Update for 2006.11.30

[note: cross-posted at TIFI]

As I posted a rather long current-events based conspiratorial screed yesterday (What The World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love - or abbreviated, WTWNNILSL), it occurred to me I could keep track of the development of the conclusions drawn by tracking events as they unfold. In this vein, here are (some of) today's events:

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The $ecret

Scott Adams recently said of Tom Cruise and Scientology "Tom had the supreme bad luck of picking the only religion in the world that isn’t true." I think I found another candidate:



Not to belittle the advice of the author, the philospher, the metaphysician, the visionary (and the other so-called gods of our legends, though gods they were . . .), but I already have an ask for anything and you'll get it system working for me.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love: Christopher

[note: cross-posted on TIFI]

It seems that the problems of the world are getting so great that only another Burt Bacharach song can save us. What the heck is going on? OK - that was way too big of a question. Let me break it down into more manageable bites, some, none, or all of which may or may not be connected (how's that for non-committal to a conspiracy?):

  1. Prominent Russians, many of them critics of the policies of Vladimir Putin, have been dropping like the prices on Kevin Federline CDs. Perhaps at a slower clip, these would together pass under the radar. However, the multitude is significantly challenging Occam's razor. Some have suggested Putin is being set up. This sounds conspicuously like the premise of the screenplay adaptation of a Tom Clancy novel. Here's the (growing) list:
    • Yegor Gaidar, Russia’s former prime minister and the architect of the country’s market reforms.
    • Polonium 210, has been found in the body of dead ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.
    • The business chief of Russian news agency Itar-Tass, Anatoly Voronin, killed in central Moscow.
    • President Vladimir Putin vowed on Tuesday to hunt down the killers of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
    • Russian lawmaker and billionaire industrialist, Suleiman Kerimov crashes car in France.
  2. Russia's long-time tacit and now overt support of Iran's nuclear (and thus other) ambitions. Russian nuclear chief to visit Iran.
  3. The dollar has hit a 15 year low against the Pound Sterling - and is near an all-time low against the Euro. Gold markets have responded predictably. Thank God I have that one ounce of Gold in my portfolio! ;-) This is in some part due to weaknesses in the U.S. housing (and thus home equity) market, but mostly due to our gross trade imbalances and leviathan National Debt.
  4. The vying for commodities among established and emerging economies. Crude oil notably, but also Uranium, Copper, Wheat, and other staples (check out Orange Juice!). Commodities prices across the board are high and getting higher. This means things are more expensive to manufacture and transport, adding to inflation - which seems to me wholly underreported. Inflation for most is higher than the figures the gov't reports. In fact, the figures reported conveniently omit fuel and food costs (why, other than to present a softer, smoother inflation curve?), both of which are very large portions of most people's budgets. The rising price of Gold alone bears this out.
  5. Iraq. The sheer magnitude of the violence therein. The seeming inability of Iraqis or Americans to quell it. Iraqi leaders, who I do not fault in the least for doing so, are looking to Iran and Syria for "assistance" with the nascent state's woes. How does a leader look another in the eye and tactfully say to him, "I know you are doing many things to undermine my country. Please stop it." More likely to be on the agenda are questions such as "How best do we form a strong allegiance between Arabs and Persians?" The only thing working against unification of the region are the strong differences between Arabs and Persians, largely secular Sunnis and mostly radical Shiites.
  6. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is making all sorts of incredible statements about Israel, the United States, Iran's "rights" to unfettered nuclear development in any form, an apocalypse, etc. He says these things largely unchecked by major media outlets - and he reamins almost unknown to Americans. Back in January, I referenced a piece by Gerard Baker that considers the reasons for a possible open war with Iran. More pieces on Iran at Reasonable Nuts.
  7. North Korea's recent nuclear tests and missile launches. This angle I discount to some degree, as other than generally destabilizing, I don't see a possible connection at present. Still reasonable to keep it on the white board, however, since North Korea's continued functioning in its current capacity is inherently connected to support from China.
  8. China. Where to begin?

Have I summarized all the players? Who am I missing? It is important to note (again) I am not implying all of the above is connected. It simply helps sometimes to get it all out (or as much as one recalls, at least) and in one place, then step back for a more holistic view of the forest.

Looking at that forest, this is what I see in part (however dimly):
  1. As purely self-interested players, Russia, Iran, and China (RIC) are effectively engaging in an array of triangulations with one another and the United States. Western Europe is largely out of the picture, though the UK and France remain in focus on the periphery due to their nuclear arsenals.
  2. Though self-interested at root (due to no shared religion or ideology apart from the demise of the United States), there are strong motives for RIC to work collectively in varying regards. Just as the U.S. worked with Western Europe and Japan to promote containment of communist expansion during the Cold War, today RIC is working ever more overtly to contain (nay, to shrink) the influence and values of the once Western and now principally American ethos. Witness the 3 year "insurgence" following the 3 week Iraq war. On some level, the U.S. has been at war with elements of RIC for the past 3 years in this theatre. Simply examine whose weaponry is involved.
  3. The strategies being employed to destabilize American influence include, but are not limited to:
    • financial manipulations (leveraging U.S. debt, furthering trade imbalances, flooding monetary exchanges)
    • espionage
    • exchange of advanced weaponry, skills, and knowledge among one another and client states
    • building the infrastructure of said client states
    • funding terrorist groups wherever the adversary (U.S. influence) resides
    • controlling the internal news mechanisms and curtailing freedom in the exchange of information
    • silencing dissenters, challengers through increasingly brutal and overt means
    • enlisting the services of "useful idiots" in positions of influence in the U.N., U.S., U.K., and Europe
    • disseminating unceasing levels of propaganda, challenging well-established history (i.e. the Holocaust)
    • doing whatever to break alliances between U.S. and anyone
  4. Authoritarians in RIC are keeping and gaining control of their governments.
  5. Europe is dying as a Western entity, due at its simplest to the socially-normed personal choice of individual over family, leading to gradual depopulation. This, at the same time that principally Muslim immigrants are expanding their populations through large families.
  6. The fate of Israel is very much uncertain. If there is the slighest doubt (on the part of RIC) that Israel's nuclear deterrent is in good shape and ready to be used on a moment's notice, then offensive action is not only a possibility, but a probability.

I hope my wife doesn't read this. She doesn't like to be presented with such ruminations. It is the woman's duty to worry over her children, the man's to worry over everything else.

Chicago needs to get its religious understanding straight...

Um, last I checked, Christmas is the celebration of Christ's birth. If a person of another religion is offended by showing clips/ads from a movie about the birth of Jesus, then they don't need to attend the CHRISTMAS festival...

FAITH UNDER FIRE
Christians blast Chicago for 'Nativity' movie ban
'This is one of the most blatant forms of religious discrimination imaginable'
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Posted: November 28, 2006
5:37 p.m. Eastern
By Joe Kovacs
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© 2006 WorldNetDaily.com

The so-called war on Christmas has been reignited with an ironic decision by the city of Chicago to ban advertisements for "The Nativity Story" movie from a local Christmas festival, fearing they might offend non-Christians.

"This is one of the most blatant forms of religious discrimination imaginable," said Jay Sekulow, a Christian who is chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice. "To suggest that a movie about the birth of Jesus Christ should not be included in a Christmas festival is absurd. This transcends political correctness and centers squarely on religious bigotry."

New Line Cinema had planned to play a loop of its film on TV monitors at the event, but the decision by government leaders has many shaking their heads.

Dr. Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission and known for his MovieGuide recommendations, told WND the city's ban on the ads is "abhorrent" and he labeled Chicago officials as "corrupt."

"I'm absolutely shocked that at a Christmas festival, they would not allow commercials they could see tonight on TV," he said. "It is just more political correctness where everything is OK – except Christianity."

Chicago officials maintain the city doesn't wish to appear to endorse one religion over another.

Cindy Gatziolis, a spokeswoman for the Mayor's Office of Special Events, acknowledged to the Associated Press there is an actual nativity scene set up in Daley Plaza, but noted there will be representations of other faiths, including a Jewish menorah, all put up by private groups.

"Our guidance was that this very prominently placed advertisement would not only be insensitive to the many people of different faiths who come to enjoy the market for its food and unique gifts, but also it would be contrary to acceptable advertising standards suggested to the many festivals holding events on Daley Plaza," Jim Law, executive director of the office, said in a statement.

The ACLJ said it will send a letter to city officials and festival organizers urging them to end their discriminatory practices and to permit the movie to serve as a sponsor for the festival.

"The city of Chicago and festival organizers are exhibiting an intolerance that is offensive to Christians who celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ," Sekulow said. "The city and festival organizers must respect the First Amendment and put an end to the discriminatory practices. We call on the city of Chicago and festival organizers to reverse the decision and permit 'The Nativity Story' to serve as a sponsor of the Christmas festival."

~~For more information about "The Nativity Story," click here.~~

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Know your audience: Christopher

Michael Kinsley has a beef with the tenor of personal websites:

There is something about the Web that brings out the ego monster in everybody. It's not just the well-established tendency to be nasty. When you write for the Web, you open yourself up to breathtakingly vicious vitriol. People wish things on your mother, simply for bearing you, that you wouldn't wish on Hitler.

But even in their quieter modes, denizens of the Web seem to lug around huge egos and deeply questionable assumptions about how interesting they and their lives might be to others.

This is strange. Anonymity, for better or for worse, is supposed to be one of the signature qualities of the Web. As that dog in the New Yorker cartoon says, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." The Internet is a place where you can interact with other people and have complete control over how much they know about you. Or supposedly that is the case, and virtually everybody on the Internet is committed to achieving that goal.

He then goes on to note that while we speak of the supposed anonymity the web enables, many (most?) personal websites are anything but anonymous. In fact, the authors in many cases are almost begging to be exposed down to levels of detail often undesired by all but readers with the most prurient interests.

This is definitely a phenomenon, but I think it's ultimately explicable. The Internet enables a profound cognitive disconnect in many people - an abandonment of their public standards of conduct. While I might stop to ask myself whether you would be interested in hearing about my views on X before unloading those views to you in person, I do not necessarily do so when writing about X on my website. Why not? It is the concept of audience. When I speak with you in person, you are my audience and I am considerate of your sensitivities, interests, etc. When I write for my websites, I am still considerate of the concept of audience, but targeted differently. In my case, I have a personal site wherein the audience is primarily myself and anyone who would care to get inside my mind to some degree. I also have a couple more targeted websites, the WealthMotor and Reasonable Nuts, with different audiences. In fact, I've recently begun (restarted, more appropriately) the effort to segregate these to some degree based on the notions of audience and purpose.

I would argue that most people tend to set up a single site and don't give much consideration to audience, which by default tends toward self-interest.

Then there's a psychological element at play - that many of us have lingering issues from childhood or early adulthood - wherein our voice has not been exercised in a free manner that has been rewarded. So, coupled to the ease, low cost, and power of the Internet, some go seemingly overboard, exposing elements of persona that are questionable by some. Enter MySpace, YouTube, and the like.

These are new technologies and many are simply experimenting. Many have been slapped silly by such experimenting - take Dooce for example. She posted subject matter to her nascent blog that got her canned in her place of employ. I for one have attempted to learn from her example.

But common sense is a quality sorely lacking in our relativistic society, motivated by the exaltation of the Individual over more traditional concepts of Family, Legacy, and Social Continuity. Were I to sum my views on the subject, I'd counter the oft seen bumper sticker "Celebrate Diversity" with one I'd like to see: "Celebrate Universality".

I foresee a settling of sorts down the road a bit. As these new technologies mature and as many more get slapped silly through their experimenting, concepts such as audience and purpose may return to the fore. Maybe too common sense will enjoy a resurgence. It won't be a minute too soon.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week--11/25/06

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week is

Shelby Foote

Despite his Southern upbringing, Foote deliberately avoided Lost Cause mythologizing in his work. He considered Abraham Lincoln and Nathan Bedford Forrest to be the only two authentic geniuses of the war, a belief that raised the ire of Forrests' granddaughter. He also believed that the cause of the South was lost from the minute they declared war.