Friday, May 16, 2003

Buried on pg. A14 of the Post:

Unless order is restored [in Iraq, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) warned], "there is a real chance that the victory we claim is not a victory at all."

While dismissing universal observations of "anarchy," the administration is still trying to deal with Iraq by shipping soldiers in:

Rumsfeld said steps were underway to beef up the American military presence in Iraq by "plus or minus 15,000 additional US forces" in the next seven to 20 days.

-- All under the innocuous banner of Iraq Disorder Worries Senators (Washington Post 051503)

But how many people are going to read into that with front page headlines like Hussein Loyalists Blamed for Chaos and a frontpage teaser to read that Iran Said to Have Anthrax Ready? And even those stories bury little tidbits like that those alleging an Iranian bioweapons program, "the Mujaheddin-e Kalq, also known as the People's Muhajedin, is listed by the State Department as a terrorist group." And these "looters" and "criminals" turned "Hussein Loyalists?" Maj. Gen. Buford Blount III admits in the article's A23 extension, "They're not neccessarily centrally organized, but they pose a danger.."

It wouldn't surprise me if the newspapers were in cahoots with orthopedic surgeons in the hope that all this knee jerking would pay off for them in the long run.....

On a lighter note-- Here's a nice passage from a review of Lost in a Good Book, the most recent absurdist novel (a la Douglas Adams) by Jasper Fforde:

[Protagonist Thursday Next] is aided, in an unreliable sort of way, by her uncle Mycroft, a dotty inventor. It was Mycroft's prose portal that enabled all the text-tripping in The Eyre Affair-- something to do with altering the DNA of bookworms. Mycroft himself once took a trip into the Sherlock Holmes stories and somehow ended up as a character, mistaken for an older brother that, previously, Sherlock hadn't had.

As for Thursday's father.... well, perhaps he's best illustrated by the exchange with his daughter in which he explains that scientific thought is like a boy band"

"Every now and then a boy band comes along. We like it, buy the records, posters, parade them on TV, idolize them until--"

"-- the next boy band?" I suggested.

"Precisely. Aristotle was a boy band. A very good one, but only number six or seven. He was the best boy band until Isaac Newton, but even Newton was transplanted by an even newer boy band. Same haircuts-- but different moves."

"Einstein, right?"

"Right. Do you see what I'm saying?"

"That the way we think is no more than a passing fad?"

"Exactly. Hard to visualize a new way of thinking? Try this. Go thirty or forty boy bands past Einstein. Where we would regard Einstein as someone who glimpsed the truth, played one good chord in seven forgettable albums."

A very good point. If you have an hour or two, either Fforde's books are good, light reading (although a bit saccharine for my taste).
(The review was by Lloyd Rose in WP Book World 040603)

More soon.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Leave it to W to use Abraham Lincoln as a stage.

And I was starting to doubt the Republicans' crowing that theirs was "the party of Lincoln."

This is a test. This is only a test of my typing on this strangely off-center keyboard.

Though I think the attached processor will pass it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Forgot to mention that I got my second brain (computer) yesterday. WooHoo!

I'm letting its battery get good and charged today and I'll see what I've been missing.

Now that I've come to this particular bridge, does anybody have the stuff to transfer data between the two computers? Help would be warmly appreciated :-)

On a completely unrelated note, a quote from a US official on the military in Iraq:

"They are going to start shooting a few looters so that the word gets around."

-- A U.S. official on a new security policy for Iraq discussed among top U.S. officials in the country yesterday.

Today's "Quote of the Day" from the UN Wire
Random musings:

How can you evaluate prevention?

One hundred percent of people want to be above average.

I've tried an experiment a couple of times: In the process of working at my desk (or some other flat surface), I end up with a bunch of stuff (usually papers and clippings) scattered around me at different angles. When another person comes in and sees it, they comment on my having a "mess," or some such thing, around me. When they leave, I go through the things around me, arranging them so they all are at right angles to each other (text and paper edges)-- but not altering the overall placement of things-- the people invariably come back and comment on how I've "cleaned up" even though the overall arrangement hasn't changed. Interesting to see how visual ppl are, their rational assumptions of "clean" and "dirty" (hence value judgements) and how their cognition works.
I've also tried the following: Given an area with things (in my case, papers, books, boxes, laundry, etc) distributed across the floor of a room/office. Second person comes in and comments that I should "get rid of some of this stuff." After person 2 has left, I pick up the papers (et al), put them in stacks and otherwise arrange them to minimize their horizontal distribution without changing the amount of "stuff" there. The person then returns and remarks: "good, you took my advice," and "got rid" of the needed "stuff."
The moral of this story: If you want to impress someone, be vertically, as opposed to horizontally, messy and try to square off all the corners therein. :-)

Wow, I feel like a nerd now! But wait, there's more!

Is there a study of the meaning behind the word "nature" or "natural"? (especially when used in the phrases "human nature" and "natural extension")

And of the following:




What role do memorials (like the Washington Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, etc) play in your thinking about America? Their role in the US as a whole?

How important are lyrics in the music you listen to? as opposed to the melody/instrumentation?

What needs to happen for the "War on Terrorism" is successfully completed?

How do you know if someone is part of Al Qaeda? Connections through Osama bin Laden? Do they carry membership cards? How do you differentiate Al Qaeda members from members of other terrorist organizations? Seems to be a lot more amorphous than most ppl assume.

Do people know of studies on the significance of resignation (of posts) in American politics?

Also of suicide on the American psyche? Domestically, Internationally-- Why is it seen that "suicide bombings" are somehow more terrible than "regular" bombings? Relationship to American individualism? Mental illness?

Why does the government seem to think only "Seniors" need relief from exorbitant drug prices? Especially when individual pills of some can cost upward of $50? Is it just because of AARP? I understand the whole "fixed income" thing and drug companies' R&D costs-- but seniors are not the only ones with fixed income and at least as much of the medication cost comes from marketing as it comes from R&D. Ok-- I'm biased. Without massive financial help from my parents and almost daily battles with my medical insurance provider, I wouldn't have been able to get the meds and attention I needed for various health problems I've had in the last 5 yrs. (including three herniated discs in my lower spine and associated nerve problems). It is nice to walk normally again.

Meh-- wondering how many people who are outraged at what Bush is doing (especially in those "Anti-War" rallies) will actually vote.

And how did it turn into the "Anti-War" movement (with heavy emphasis on pacifism even beyond Iraq)? From the (admittedly biased and non-representative) sense of American opinion I've gotten, there are a lot of people who are against the current and recent US actions in Iraq, but aren't against war in general. It's a pity that the opposition to Bush seems to be rallying around a pretty simplistic point (not that it's right or wrong by any stretch of the imagination).

Anyhow, I should probably get back to work.....

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

I've been debating whether to post something on the troubles at Case. Let me just say that I'm keeping you in my thoughts-- both my friends and others.

And on a lighter note,
Here are two books that I'd love to read, though not at the same time. (or perhaps consciously at the same time):

I'll read this one when I get around to it:
The Importance of Being Lazy: In Praise of Play, Leisure, and Vacation.
It even has a (pompous) Dartmouth reviewer-- though I like the Chicago Tribune review better.

Look Mom! I have Caffeine!! :-)
The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug
How much of our ways thinking about good and bad derives from gravity? Good and virtue are generally seen as "high," "light" (both bright and facile), "greater," "raise," "airy," and other seeming metaphors for the movement away from gravity. Bad and evil seem to be the opposite-- "low" "dark" "heavy" "base" "dirty" etcetera. Does this make sense? Perhaps a confusion of the chicken with the egg?

Monday, May 12, 2003

I was thinking about calling my computer the Hindenburg, but I thought this might be more fitting.

Still, the world continues on with its insanity and inanity, so I guess I'll just have to make do.

First, there are a couple of very important pieces that got buried in the newspaper that I feel need to be highlighted:

1. The Senate Armed Services Committee has voted to end its ban on nuclear weapons research, opening a huge can of worms even if it doesn't get any further than this.
I was particularly struck by this quote:
Low-yield nuclear weapons have warheads of less than five kilotons, or about a third of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World War II. Combined with precision missiles, low-yield weapons could be used to hit a target without causing as much damage to surrounding areas as other nuclear weapons would.
Can you say dirty bomb? And green light to international nuclear research and proliferation? Are we even listening to the rhetoric that is supposed to be winning over the Middle East? Not to mention Russia, France, and the rest of the sane world.
(The agreement would also force the Pentagon to "create ethics standards" after Richard Perle, as Chairman of the Defense Policy Board, reportedly counseled investors on how to profit from US military action on Iraq and North Korea. Oh, and it would also exempt the DOD from key provisions of the Endangered Species Act.)

2. The state legislatures of Texas and Colorado are rocking the Constitution at its foundations and trying to redraw (after two years) their Congressional Districts to (surprise!) favor Republicans in the next election. According to the Constitution, The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. (Article I, Section 2, Clause 3) While it doesn't speak specifically to the rearranging of a constant number of Representatives, Judicial precedent is pretty clear that reapportionment and redistricting go hand-in-hand. This brings the whole interpretation of the Constitution into question-- at the very least, this is a thorny case for the Supreme Court.

Oh no, they said-- A Bush/Republican administration wouldn't be so bad....