A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Fine Irish Lad

No, not Donovan McNabb. At least, not this time. This time it's the Wisconsin Badgers' freshman linebacker: O'Brien Schofield.

Yes, that' right. O'Brien is his first name.

Who does that to their kid?

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FFL Update: Half Way Point

Seven weeks down. Six to go. Actually, seven to go in one league of mine, six in the keeper league. So, we're at the midpoint. Time to take stock. And all that crap.

If the playoffs were today in the WBKL:

#1 I'm Rick James' Bitch!!, 6-1, 576
#2 Metal Mayhem, 5-2, 560
#3 nate, 5-2, 579
#4 Fearsome Canines, 5-2, 513
#5 Ill-tempered Sea Bass, 5-2, 508
#6 The TONY REALI Experience, 5-2, 505
#7 I Hate Favre, 531 points

On the outside looking in:
#8 Stench, 4-3, 492
#9 Ackphblt! 3-4, 511
#10 Motor City Cheese, 3-4, 467
#11 Mojo's Reapers, 3-4, 440
#12 Happy Scrappy Hero Pups, 3-4, 435
#13 Cheddar Heads, 2-5, 463
#14 Muff Divers, 2-5, 462
#15 Cloud's Thunder, 1-6, 464
#16 The Fighting Uruk-Hai, 1-6, 414

No undefeateds, no winless. So we got that going for us. Which is nice.

Mid-point Awards:
MVP: That fine Irish lad, Donovan McNabb. The main, though not only, reason Troy's biotches are atop the league, McNabb is averaging an astonishing 22.4 points a game, nearly 5 points a game more than the next highest scoring player, Peyton Manning (17.7).
Runners-up: McNabb's backfield mate, Brian Westbrook, and the Bears' defense.

Biggest Bust: Quite a lot of qualified candidates for this award. Lamont Jordan, Chad Johnson, Kurt Warner, and Duante Culpepper are all very viable big-time busts. But I think you have to go with Shaun Alexander to this point in the season, simply because of how high he was drafted. Alexander could still redeem himself in the second half of the season, but he'll never be able to justify his selection as #1 overall this year.
Runners-up: Edgerrin James and Chris Chambers, plus all the hacks listed above.

Best Pick-up: Bernard Berrian. Another reason Troy's team is in first was his astute (yes, i am calling you a stute, you stute you) waiver wire addition of Berrian.
Runner-up: Leon Washington by the Uruk-Hai.

Looking ahead

Most of the bye weeks are over, though Rick James' Bitch!! will be handicapped in week 9 without that fine Irish lad, Donovan McNabb, and without the Edge. Cloud's Thunder loses Steve Smith and Laveranues Coles that week as well, and Metal Mayhem will play week 9 without Jake Delhomme, Leon Washington, Reggie Brown, the Panthers' D, and Neil Rackers. The Uruk-Hai lose Kevin Jones, Randy McMichael, Mike Furrey, and Lee Evans in week 8 (the presence of so many Dolphins, Lions and Bills perhaps explaining their 1-6 record).

Dolphins, Lions and Bills, OH MY!

Right. If Westbrook stays healthy, I'd give the edge to nate as the team to beat, despite I Am Rick James' Bitch!! having a better record at this point (there, that outta jinx the guy!). I think the bottom four teams, Cheddar Heads, Muff Divers, Cloud's Thunder and Fighting Uruk-Hai are likely out of playoff contention, but any of the other 12 teams are still viable.

The hunt for the #2 spot, champion of the Jelly Division, seems to be a 3-way race between the Metal Mayhem, the Fearsome Canines and the Ill-tempered Sea Bass, but both I Hate Favre and Ackphblt! have enough points to be a factor if they get on a roll. Of the three at 5-2, I think I'll give a slight edge to the Mayhem, as they have the best backfield, and RBs are more consistent than are WRs.

Player I hate the most: Lamont Jordan. He hurt himself warming up and I lost by 6 despite having the 3rd highest point total for the week! I'm a little fuzzy on the whole, good/bad thing, but isn't the point of warming up to AVOID injury? Ye gods. Runner up? Drew Bledsoe. So immobile the Cowboys kept Witten in to block, thus killing Witten's stats. Despite being so immobile, Bledsoe RAN IN a TD when a pass to Owens or Witten would have come very close to winning me last week's game.

Player I love: Tony Romo! He makes Jason Witten a viable TE again. Woot! Plus, he makes good ribs.

Trivia question answer: Where There's a Whip, There's a Way! is the title of a delightful little tune sung by Sauron's orcs in the 1980 animated version of The Return of the King. As the reviewer of the movie notes, it's pretty dreadful-- but that one song RAWKS!


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Right Wing Radio

I've stopped listening. They are getting seriously unhinged. It's actually rather disturbing to listen to of late-- so I've stopped. I think I'll check back after the elections, because they seem to be getting worn out carrying water for a Republican Party with no soul and no compunction. Torture is acceptable policy because national security trumps all. No matter how slimy a particular Republican is, you must vote for him, because otherwise the Dems might win control of Congress, and Nancy Pelosi is the Anti-Christ (I exagerate, but not by much. It is amazing the amount of venom Sean Hannity alone managed to sling at Nancy Pelosi in the 10 minutes I could stand listening to his... rant. Yeah, rant. Only word that really sums up his disjointed verbal tar and feathering of Pelosi).

Rush, always a preening windbag with somewhat tenuous familiarity with the truth, has gone completely off the deep end. Here are the two bits that have convinced me never to listen to, much less believe, Rush ever again. #1, a bumper plug for his show: "So smart, he'll do your thinking for you." That's probably not word for word, but it was the gist of the plug-- listen to Rush, so you know what to think. Ye gods. #2: Last time I listened, about 2 weeks ago, Rush was ranting about a recent study that found a new medical use for marijuana. I'm not certain (I turned on the radio mid-rant), but I suspect it was this study. Anyway, this is Rush's response (again, paraphrased, but the gist is DOBA):
Well, I'm not saying this is the case or anything, but it wouldn't surprise me if some, maybe most, of the scientists doing the study were toking. These peeeepuhl have an agenda, and they want to get marijuana legalised because most of them smoke it anyway. Now, again, I'm not saying these scientists DO smoke pot, but it wouldn't shock me if they did.
Mind you, he had not a single iota of evidence to support the idea that the scientists were on drugs, nor that they had an "agenda" to legalize marijuana, but since he wasn't "saying this is the case" I guess all this hypothesizing is okay, huh? What a maroon.

Hannity seems to have an unnatural fixation on Nancy Pelosi, as noted above, and nobody pounds the "Patriots Vote for National Security" drum harder than he. Tiresome. And inaccurate. Patriots vote for what they believe is best for their country-- and I am more and more thinking that single-party domination of all branches of our government is a very bad thing for our country. Because instead of focusing on the central points of that party-- smaller gov't, lower taxes, federalism, "speak softly but carry a bit stick"-- all the nutjobs are soundly baying at the moon because "their" party is in power and must fulfill all the nutjob desires. With relatively unfettered control, the party in power tries to push through all the piddly/odd crap that they know will never fly in a split Congress or a split Legislative/Executive power structure.

Which brings me to a more local level. In Milwaukee, we have a number of conservative on-air pundits, but the only one I listen to with any regularity is Mark Belling. Arrogant, sometimes mean-spirited, nearly always condescending, and belligerent to callers that dare disagree with him, he usually does offer some interesting commentary and, unlike Rush and Hannity, usually does not reflexively support the Republican Party. Rather, he usually supports conservative principles, and decries hypocrisy and stupidity on both sides of the political spectrum.

Not so much, lately. Lately, any national commentary-- the local stuff is still generally insightful and rational-- seems to be taken straight from the Karl Rove playbook. National security trumps all, if you are "soft" on terror (meaning you oppose torture or have reservations about any aspect of the NSA phone taps or have any reservations about the Patriot Act, or that you think the recent shift of power to the Executive branch might be a bad thing) you are unpatriotic and must not be allowed anywhere near elected office. If you are disgruntled with the horrible performance of the Republicans, you must vote for them anyway, because the Democrats would unquestionably be worse.

Key word being unquestionably, of course. We just know the democrats would be worse. Granted, there is no real evidence to support that, since the new reality of 9/11 is very recent and the Democrats haven't been in power since it happened. But Clinton did little or nothing about bin Laden back before we really understood the threat, so naturally, any and all Democrats would be as bad or worse.

The things that I find so distasteful about it all, because there are some good points mixed in with the dreck, are the ad hominem nature of the attacks-- Nancy Pelosi is this, Russ Feingold is that-- and the incredible shrillness with which the points are made. They are not thoughtful, rational explanations. They are strident and unreasoning bullet points with no room for debate or compromise. You must believe 100% or be cast out as unclean.



Do it.

So, here's my new tweak of my write-in an actually qualified candidate paradigm. Find someone of the opposite ideological bent as you. Tell them you're sick of it all and don't want to vote for any of the hacks running but you also don't want to "waste" your vote. Try to convince him or her to also write-in someone-- that way your two non-votes cancel each other out, just like they would if you both voted a straight party ticket on opposite sides. You both get to have a clear conscience of having voted for someone qualified and-- gasp!-- honest, while not having to worry that your non-vote was actually a vote for the other party.

Ideally, your "vote partner" would be in the same state as you, so that your elections match up as closely as possible. Same city would be even better.

So, watchya say, tc? Want to write-in my brother for Governor? I will if you will.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Aye Carumba!

Busy, busy, busy. October and early November nearly always are-- this year doubly so as I work on an actual book that I am actually getting paid to write. Nice. But it takes up much of my non-work time, and I am not blogging much at work since I'm busy there and I don't want to abuse the privilege.

Plus, I'm feeling a bit burned out on writing, since I'm doing rather a lot of non-blogging writing. Wah, wah, wah. Anyway, that's why blogging has been light, and probably will be for a few more weeks. John, feel free to jump in, if you wish (actually, that's an open invitation-- feel free to blog whenever, if you have a topic you wish to discuss).

Meanwhile, read this. It falls quite nicely into the OTIT (Oh That Ivory Tower) category, which is a pet peeve of mine anyway.

Congrats to the Tigers! Oh. And the Cardinals (St. Louis, not Arizona-- ye gods how did they manage to blow that game against the Bears last Monday?). Baseball is almost over. Eh.

Can't wait for November 8. Sooooooo bloody tired of political ads. Near as I can tell, all candidates hate me. All candidates want to screw me out my money. All candidates want my country/state/region/community to go down the crapper. They are all crooks and liars and they hang out with bigger crooks and liars.

Of course, there is some truth to much of that, but boy is it tedious and numbing. My daughter, who is eight, saw an anti-Jim Doyle ad (I don't recall if it was a Mark Green ad, or a 3rd party one) and after it was over said, "Boy, Jim Doyle is a pretty bad person, huh?" Now, I'm not a big fan of Jim Doyle, and I hope he loses in a few weeks, but he is not a bad person. Bad governor, yes, bad person, no. At least not in the Manson/Hitler/Dahmer sense.

So, I took five minutes to explain that the ad was trying to make Jim Doyle look bad as a politician, and that it might or might not be particularly valid, and that it didn't mean that Jim Doyle was a bad person. Which she got, but you get the idea-- ads are so negative now, that kids hear them and think "Wow, that's a bad dude."

Icky, icky, icky. And pathetic that we've gotten to this place where painting your opponent as bad-- even evil-- is the way to go.

I renew my call-- write-in a candidate this November. Someone you trust, someone you think can actually do the job right. Vote your conscience for a change. If enough of us do this, it will get noticed.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sports and Stuff

What to make of the Cory Lidle story? I don't know-- it's so surreal that if someone submitted it as a screenplay they'd get laughed out of the studio's office. From all accounts, Lidle was not a daredevil or a clown when it came to flying-- he enjoyed it, he took it seriously, and he did not assume that he was bullet proof while in his plane. He was, if this story is to be believed (and I have no reason to doubt it) a pretty normal guy who happened to be a very good athlete and an excellent pitcher. A good guy who was three years younger than me and who, for reasons we may never know since small planes like Lidle's don't have black boxes, wound up crashing his plane into a 50-story Manhattan condo. Sad and bizarre.

Not sad at all, though also bizarre, is the ever evolving saga of Indiana Pacers' guard, Steven Jackson. Jackson was involved in "The Brawl" in Detroit (I'm pretty sure he's the Pacer following Artest into the crowd, fists flying) and was suspended for 30 games. Now it seems he got into another brawl-- this time outside a strip club at 3 am. Seems he was kicking and punching a handicapped dude during the brawl. Of course, that's not what he originally told the police. Surprise, surprise, he was lying. What a turd.

Meanwhile, I fear for Alfonso Soriano's family. Poor things-- they must be in dire straits if $13 million+ a year isn't enough to get by on. No worries Alfonso! I'm sure Big George will pony up. I mean once you cross the big $200M threshold, what's another $15-$20 Mill?

And the NBA preseason has begun. Woot. Thank heavens-- I was going through withdrawal, since it had been over three months since the Heat captured their first NBA Title. Seriously, barely more than 3 months. The NBA is playing for almost three-quarters of the year. Why? Baseball, which plays a perposterous 162 regular season games, has a longer off-season than the NBA. Silly. Just silly.

Plus side, the leaves are changing color, fall is here, and football is in full swing! Double Woot!


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hastert Should Go

Really hard to see much justification for him staying. Flip side, 80% of Congress should go, maybe more. The fact that both sides of the aisle are turning the page scandal into a political hot potato is both disgusting and disturbing.

If you don't follow my suggestion to write-in a candidate you actually think would do the job well in November, do consider just voting for the non-incumbent. Forget party affiliations, forget the week's hot button. We need new faces, new ideas and new attitudes in our government these days. Thomas Jefferson once espoused a need for a nice bloody revolution every generation or so to keep government aware of what its purpose is and whom it is supposed to serve. I'm not a fan of the bloody part, but the revolution part has some merit-- in the sense of shaking things up every few decades.

Vote the turds out. Please note-- turds are not limited to one or the other party. Turds are a universal human condition. As stupid as Robin Williams' new movie looks (what happened to that guy? My goodness his career has spiraled into the depths of god awful bad really quickly), the line, "Politicians are like babies-- they need to be changed often and for the same reason" is apt.

All the porkers, all the lifers, all the influence peddlers and soft money takers. All the turds. Out the door and, to paraphrase Barry Bonds of all people, we don't talk about them any more.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

FFL Update: Week 5

Woohoo! For the first time all year I won in both of my leagues on the same weekend. This moved me to 3-2 in my 8-player league, and 2-3 in the WBKL (World's Best Keeper League). But heading in the right direction. It's all about the mo, baybee! Most of my bye weeks are done, my underperformers are starting to get untracked--well, except for T.O., but that's probably to be expected-- and it's not too late to be a factor.

It's deja vue all over again! Last year in the WBKL there were two really good teams who happened to be in the same division, and a couple of crap head divisions. This year, there are two really good teams in one division, only this year it's Troy's Konichiwa, Bitches! as the romping, tyranasaurus of fantasy football death (last year it was me! Sigh), and the craphead division that Troy's team isn't in stinks. Big question for the keeper league, can anybody slow down the punctuationally challenged Konichiwa, Bitches! (for purposes entirely pedantic and petty, I shall not be indulging Troy's excessive use of exclamation marks, but I shall retain the comma)? The best week for a Troy loss is Week Nine, when that fine Irish lad Donovan McNabb has a bye. We shall see.

Rigth. If the playoffs were today:

#1 Seed (and first round bye): Konichiwa, Bitches! 5-0, 450 points
#2 Fearsome Canines, 4-1, 380
#3 stupid team with no name, 4-1, 419
#4 Stench, 4-1, 374
#5 The TONY REALI Experience, 4-1, 359
#6 Ill-Tempered Sea Bass, 3-2, 351
#7 Cheddar Heads, 352

On the outside looking in:
Metal Mayhem, 3-2, 344
Happy Scrappy Hero Pups, 3-2, 336
Ackphblt! 2-3, 348
Mojo's Reapers, 2-3, 327
I Hate Favre, 1-4, 344
Motor City Cheese, 1-4, 315
Muff Divers, 1-4, 292
Fighting Uruk-Hai, 1-4, 292
Cloud's Thunder, 0-5, 321

Game Capsules

McNabb Paces Konichiwa, Bitches!... Again
That fine Irish lad Donovan McNabb sure has been on a tear. For an over-rated player he's pretty good. For the fourth time in five tries, McNabb posted 20+ and Greg Jennings, Bernard Berrian, Robbie Gould (no, really), and the Edge (running back, not guitarist) all kicked in double digit performances as the Wu Tang Chapelles rolled over Mojo's Reapers, 103 to 54. Konichiwa, Bitches! could've doubled up on the scythe wielding ones, but Troy foolishly left the juggernaut that is Hank Basket on the bench while starting that fine Irish lad, Willis McGahee instead. Mojo's crew wasted a good 16 point game by that fine Irish lad, Deuce McAllister (honestly, did anyone realize there were so many black people in Ireland?), as the rest of the team failed to do much of anything at all.

Avert Thine Eyes!
Well, if you must look, then you can see that the Fearsome Canines won a very, very, very ugly match up with the Muff Divers, 50 to 47. Ick. Coach Scotty's puppies would've been pounded by all but three teams this week, but a W is a W, with Eli Manning, Cadillac Williams, and Plaxico Burress doing just enough to cover for the incompetence of DeAngelo Williams, Muhsin Muhammad and the Raiders Defense. The Divers were crippled by the first quarter injury to star wideout Roy Williams, and even Marc Bulger against the Packers wasn't enough to secure victory. With the win, the Fearsome Canines stayed atop the Jelly Division and gave thanks that they are playing with all the other craphead teams in that division, and not in the Peanut Butter Division where teams are actually good.

That Team Wins Again
They have no name, they have no logo, they don't even have any capital letters, but the no-name team keeps winning regardless, this week taking down the Cheddar Heads, 89 to 67. The victory kept nate within sniffing distance of Konichiwa, Bitches! and for the first time ever I think the spending of a high draft pick on a defense may have been justified. nate picked da Bears with the first pick of the 8th round, the first defense off the board, and Chicago is currently the 5th highest scoring "player" in the entire league, averaging nearly 15 points a game. Da Bears, Larry Johnson and the sudden emergence of Cedric Benson were enough to overcome strong games from Fred Taylor and Dominic Rhodes of the Cheddar heads. Caught in the meat grinder that is the Peanut Butter Division, coach Frank finds his team three games out of first after only five weeks. Could be worse-- you could be Cloud's Thunder and be five games out of first after five weeks. Yikes.

Stench Grounds Thunder
Actually, grounds is probably incorrect. To ground something, there must be some electricity to channel harmlessly into the ground. To date, Cloud's Thunder has generated precious little electricity. At any rate, Stench sent Rich's group spiraling to their fifth consecutive loss, 80 to 46, behind balanced scoring and the Philadelphia Eagle's defense (23 points). Cloud's Thunder was lead by Jay Feely's 13 points, and most times when your leading scorer is your field goal kicker you're in trouble. On the plus side for Rich's group, they did score their maximum possible with 46-- the bench scored 1 point... total!-- and their 321 cumulative points for the season is actually better than three other teams.

The TONY REALI Experience and The Happy Scrappy Hero Pups are just too friggin long and I'm just too friggin' lazy to keep typing that much. Hence forth, they shall be known as TTRE and THSHP. Rookie Matt Leinart was the star for TTRE, racking up 16 points in his first professional start, and old geezer Joey Galloway kicked in 15 as TTRE held off THSHP, 70 to 65. THSHP got balanced scoring, but a disappointing 12 points from Peyton Manning and only 5 points from the Ravens' Defense proved THSHP's undoing.

Metal Mayhem Channels Liberace In Victory
First it was ABBA, now the Metal Mayhem are using the awesome creative power of Liberace to focus and channel their aggression. The result? Another victory, this time an easy 80 to 53 thumping of the Ill-tempered Sea Bass. Bedecked in sequined uniforms, the Mayhem got balanced scoring throughout their lineup, while the pale and musically challenged Bass were hampered by goose eggs from Chris Brown and Marcedes Lewis (who?). Having Darrell Jackson and Rudi Johnson on bye probably didn't help Jason's group much, either.

Ackphblt! Cruise to Victory
Behind a solid 17 points from new QB Damon "the Omen" Huard and the split I formation backfield of Tiki Barber, Frank Gore and Lamont Jordan, Ackphblt! got back on the winning side after a three game skid, trouncing the Fighting Uruk-Hail, 80 to 30. The White Hand of Saruman (note to Gwenn/Craig-- the Uruks are not Sauron's troops. And yes, I'm a total geek) was unable to overcome the absence of a Quarterback, despite the use of the classic fight song, Where There's a Whip, There's a Way. (If you get that reference, you are also a total geek).

I Hate Favre Finally Wins
The number of teams yet to record a victory in the WBKL was reduced from 2 to 1, a 200% decrease (it's an inside joke), as I Hate Favre knocked off Motor City Cheese 75 to 57 for their first victory. The Haters were paced by Alex Smith's 16 and Chester Taylor's 15, while the Cheese was greatly hampered by the struggles of star RB Ladainian Tomlinson and the fact that the rest of the team sucks, is on bye, is hurt, or all three. With the victory, and mediocre season point total, I Hate Favre jumped all the way to fifth in the really sucky Jelly Division, leapfrogging the Cheese, Muff Divers and Uruk-Hai.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Moderate Muslims

That's the feeling I get reading through postings at MuslimVillage, a Web Forum based in Australia. A bunch of fairly normal people who happen to be Muslims and who are concerned over world perception of their religion. Well and good.

But, then I find this thread, and I find it disturbing that virtually every author (of the ones I recognize) listed by the thread creator and the thread contributors are either anti-American or apologists for the atrocities that some Muslims perpetrate in the name of their religion. Many are both.

Noam Chomsky. Hard to find an author more anti-capitalistic or anti-American than Chomsky.
John Pilger. Dislikes America, hates Israel, hates Bush, hates Blair, likes Hugo Chavez.
John Esposito. Apologist for Palestinian terrorists and fanatical Islamists.
Edward Said. Huge supporter of Palestinian statehood and apologist for Palestinian terror.
Juan Cole. Anti-Israeli bias and apologist for Iranian President Ahmadinejad.
Robert Fisk. So biased and well-known for his factual inaccuracies that "being Fisked" has become an idiom for pointing out biased or inaccurate reporting. Apologist for Islamic terrorists.
Charlie Reese. Apologist for Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.
Karen Armstrong. Good will ambassador for Islam. Being published on CAIR's website is a pretty big strike against you in my book.
Justin Rai(y)mondo. A bit more balanced than the previous batch (which is why I put him last), Raimondo actually defended Pope Benedict, but he remains unabashedly anti-Israel.

I'll admit I don't know the rest of the authors listed. Maybe some of them are somewhere close to the middle. But if you were to make a list of anti-Israel, apologists for Muslim terrorists, at least 8 of the 9 listed above would be in the top 20. Probably the top 10.

Not surprising, perhaps, since it's a Muslim forum. Sure-- except that these aren't wahhabist fanatics. These are "average" people. The ones I keep hoping will speak out against the wahhabists and jihadists and terrorists that have, in large measure, hijacked their religion. Seems rather unlikely given their preferred reading. Sigh. Especially after I discovered this thread as well. Double sigh.

One final note. In the opening to the thread, the request goes out for, "...your favorite local/international Non-Muslim writers, journalists, religious scholars, academics, artists, policy makers and community edu-activists...."


I friggin HATE edu-activists. They aren't as bad as Illinois Nazis, but they're pretty bad. Be an educator or be an activist. I don't want the people teaching my kids, or anybody's kids, to be activists. Activists lose perspective, they lose the ability to think critically and analytically, they become lost in their cause-- whatever it may be. Passion in teaching is one thing-- that transmits itself to the students as "Gee, she really likes this topic, maybe I should pay more attention." Activism is a whole other brand of enthusiasm altogether. It transmits itself to the student as "Gee, this is really important. Good thing she told me which side is the right side of the issue."

And, bam, shut go the doors of open inquiry.


This is Cool

At least... I think it is. I didn't understand all of what they were talking about with the quantum information stuff, but it certainly seems like a step in the direction of "Beam me up, Scotty." A very, very small step, but a step nonetheless. And you have to take those baby steps.

Still seems to be limited by the speed of light, though, which in computing terms is probably not a biggie, but in actual teleportation terms could be a problem. I think.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Stupid Big Brains

One of Kurt Vonnegut's less good books is Galapagos, a strange and disjointed tale that lacks the internal coherence and clarity of his best work. But the central point of the book rang very true for me when I read it a dozen or so years ago, and it seems sad and terribly true today as well. Human beings have brains that are just too damn big.

We get weird ideas in them. One bad connection amongst millions and suddenly otherwise normal people are fixated on shrubbery, or poodles, or making doilies out of tree bark. Bad ideas form in our ridiculously big brains all the time, and some times the mechanisms in place to keep us from acting on those bad ideas fails. Because our ridiculously big brains know exactly how to circumvent the mechanisms-- having built, or internalized, all of them in the first place.

Worst case scenario, you get the school massacre in Pennsylvania on Monday. You get a brain so messed up that it's owner would be better off dead, before he does the terrible thing his brain whispers to him to do. Bad wiring. Bad experience. Both. Whatever the cause, it should be impossible for a brain to come to the conclusion that kidnapping and killing young girls was a good idea. Or, realizing that it's owner is about to actually follow through with it's really abhorrent idea, there should be a safety over-ride in the brain that jumps right to suicide and skips all the in between bits. Because it seems in nearly every horrific shooting of this nature the gunman winds up killing himself afterwards-- how much better if he just killed himself first, before inflicting his horrors on others?

But brains don't work that way. Capable of amazing beauty, profound insight, remarkable analysis, and millions of other wonders, they are also capable of conceiving of the worst horrors, the worst travesties. And of how to justify them.

Therein lies the trouble. Humans are so very, very good at rationalizing. We can convince ourselves of nearly anything given enough time and the right environment. Big brains can not only conceive of ramming jets full of people into buildings full of people, but they can also make it seem moral, good and right. Big brains allow people to say things like, "Behead anybody who says Islam is not a religion of peace" with complete and utter sincerity.

I don't want to get off on a political tangent here, but those are two really vivid examples of what I'm talking about. Which is why it is important to step back and take stock from time to time. Question your assumptions-- I assume that I am a good father and husband because my great big brain tells me I'm doing a fine job at each. Is that true? I hope so, but to try and make sure that reality is jiving with my great big brain's view, I step back from time to time and try, as best I can, to look at things both objectively AND from my family's point of view.

Same thing with politics. Though I am definitely far more conservative than I was ten years ago, I don't blithely accept all of the various tenets that go with it. I try to read a variety of perspectives, and to get different analysis on the same topics. I enjoy talking with my family because they're far more liberal perspective keeps my conservative views from becoming synchophantic regurgitation of party lines.


Question your great big brains. Don't blindly accept everything it tells you. Beware of the rationalization, and try to hear other opinions and viewpoints. Above all think it through. All the way through.


This is what I'm on about

Interesting post over at AlterNet. It's an "insider" look at the recent "Values Voter Summit", a gathering of the Christian Right to talk politics and to take stock of the current crop of GOP presidential hopefuls. Now Sarah Posner, the author, is clearly biased against the typical "values voter" present at the meeting, so you have to take what she says with a small grain of salt, but the points she illustrates are quite instructive. Namely that gay marriage seems to be the singular issue for the Christian Right these days, with terrorism, the Iraq War, the spiraling debt, and this administration's desire to torture detainees barely even registering.

All well and good, but then... well, if you plowed through the article, perhaps you plowed through the comments as well. I found them fascinating. Many, indeed most, are fairly well-written, and quite a few are thoughtful and insightful. But there are more than a few like this:
If ever anyone believes there is an Anti-Christ, then the Repugs and their religeous fascists would definitely fit that bill. They can no longer hide their horns. These fire breathing demons have been backed in a corner, so now their fake skin is melting off their bodies. Their fangs are showing and they'er foaming at the mouth. But even as ugly as they may appear, we have to stand up to those monsters. They are nothing but a bunch spineless snakes.
Very Christian, don't you think? No turning of the other cheek, that's certain, and no effort to distinguish between various "Repugs". It's not quite in the same category as Imams calling for beheadings because the Pope or Danish cartoonists claim Islam isn't a religion of peace, but the hypocrisy is a little startling-- perhaps doubly so because the whole point of the original piece is that the Christian Right isn't acting very Christian these days.

Irony. Seems to be a tough concept for fundamentalists, be they religious, political, or any other type, to grasp. I suppose it comes from the deep and abiding conviction that whatever you do is right, so therefore any inherent contradictions are irrelevant to that overriding certainty.

Question your assumptions. Listen to others-- even those that you disagree with, or whom initially get your back up or make you feel defensive. Think it through-- don't feel it through. Don't accept things blindly, be it "God is good, so blowing things up for him is good," or "Republicans have made a hash of things lately, so they must be the anti-Christ," or "Democrats are all unpatriotic, terrorist coddling communists."

The claim has often been made that ours is a Christian nation because its Founding Fathers and Mothers were Christian. There is some truth to that-- most of the prominent figures of the Revolutionary era did attend Christian churches of some denomination or another.


There is far, far more truth to the claim that our nation was founded on rationality, reason, self-sacrifice and compromise. They came awfully damn close to the Ideal when they founded our country, and in the 21st century we are all risking throwing that Ideal away because most people can't even admit that the other side isn't a bunch of stupid ignaramouses, much less that the other side might actually have some valid criticisms and constructive ideas to add.

George Washington was an eerily prescient man in many, many ways. He saw the West as the key to the country's future while most of his contemporaries were mired in the here and now of managing the original 13 colonies. He saw the importance of his stepping up to be the first President, but not king, and the even greater importance of his stepping down as President despite the fact that he could have kept the office for the rest of his life had he chosen to. He saw the value of a federalistic approach to governing the brand new United States of America-- a key feature of our country's vitality and growth.

And he despised partisan politics and all the crap that comes with it. Hated it. Saw it as destructive and incompatible with wise governing of a diverse and fractious nation.

Like I said, old George was prescient.

So, everybody take a deep breath. And take a little time to think about who you would really like to be your elected officials. Good people, smart people, people willing to work with others to solve problems and improve this great country of ours. Could be family, could be friends, could be you. Doesn't matter except that they have to be willing to stop doing business as usual and start doing business as unusual. Which includes listening to people who see things differently than they do.

Then vote for them. Write them in. For local office, state offices, for governor, for the U.S. Congress.

Send a message and take that message to heart. No more business as usual. Enough. No more blame game-- it's broke and it no longer matters who broke what. Plenty of blame to go around, so lets work together to FIX IT.

And that's what I'm on about. Probably will be for a good long while, too. 'Cause it's important.


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