Better Not Letter - Is it religious bigotry to refuse to write a biology student a letter of recommendation on the grounds that the student in question is a Creatonist? Professor's Refusal to Recommend Creationist Students Draws Complaint, Investigation (by way of Santa Fe New Mexican and Patti)
The Chancellor writes:"A letter of recommendation is a personal matter between a professor and student and is not subject to the university control or regulation," and I agree.
Sweel Schadenfreude - Microsoft has recently styled itself as very concerned about computer security. But security starts with secure software. When you release patches which are difficult to install, it's human nature that they will not get installed, leaving systems vulnerable to attack. And, it turns out, Microsoft is helping to prove that right at home. NYT:Worm Hits Microsoft, Which Ignored Own Advice
Family Guy on DVD! - If you've never seen the Family Guy, then you don't know what you missed. Fox cancelled what was possibly the best comedy on TV. It was a cartoon, set in fictional "Quahog Rhode Island" and it was much funnier than South Park. It constantly spewed offbeat jokes and pop culture references for those of us in the 20-30 something age group. Of course Fox cancelled it - it was good!
Luckily, there is hope for those of you who may have missed it the first time around...Amazon.com: DVD: Family Guy - Seasons 1 & 2 (1999).
The Year's Searches In Review - Google has checked their records and compiled a page of "what happened in 2002" based on people's searches. The graphical timeline is a nice quick look at some telling search traffic. Check out: Google Press Center: 2002 Year-End Zeitgeist
Crossing Off - I tend to procrastinate, and so I eventually accumulate a long list of things that need to be done. Usualy these are annoying little things above and beyond the usual responsibilities of life. They bug me, take up my attention and keep me from being happy. So I have to make a conscious effort to resolve them. I took care of two things today - straightening out an insurance matter and ending a membership in the local gym (so that I wouldn't get charged!)
When the list gets sufficiently long it is depressiong, becasue it seems like no amount of work is going to take care of all of it, and therefore it's almost hopless. Not true, of course. Even crossing one or two things off your mental list makes you feel like you're making progress.
What do you have hanging around that you need to take care of? Is there anything you can cross off your list to make yourself feel better? It's excellent therapy.
When Bad Is Good - I was thinking about Peter Jackson, and so I decided to watch one of his older films - Dead-Alive (aka. Braindead). Wow! This film pushes the boundaries of silly low-budget gore films, and explores new levels of tastelessness. Obviously tongue-in-cheek, it's stil a wonder anyone trusted him with the money and responsibility of bringing Tolkien's books to the big screen.
My two all-time favorite movies vying for the worst "so-bad-they-are-funny" award are Circle of Iron (A David Carradine film written by James Coburn and Bruce Lee, is obviously meant to be "deep" but comes off "cheep.") and the inexplicable They Call Me Macho Woman (aka. Savage Instinct - a production with the worst acting of all time .) If you can see these movies for free sometime, it might be worth it. If you're drunk, perhaps. Or laid up.
Jackson probably earned the credibility to warrant a shot at Tolkien with his critically acclaimed Heavenly Creatures - a bizarre film about an even more bizarre true crime. Two young girls (one portrayed by Kate Winslet) invent their own fantasy world and become obsessed with it to the point of comitting murder. Heavenly Creatures is worth seeing, especially if you'd like to see what Peter Jackson was doing before he was filming hobbits.
Oddly Enough - I love Reuters' Oddly Enough news. It's a good place to go to remind yourself of the weirdness in the world. Another source of weird news is Australia's The Other Side, from News.com.au. Aussies have their own oleasant brand of insanity, and it's a nice break to get away from the American brand of insanity once in a while.
More Ari - It must be tough being the President's front guy. I have to give Ari a lot of credit for his effort. Check out this snippet of a press briefing where Ari makes very little sense. Some of what his boss, and his boss' buddies are doing have simply thrown him for a loop.
Here's a comic dedicated to you, Ari:
Substandard #4 The Evening Muse.
Expect a sequel to this sometime later today...
Substandard #2 - Apparently, I'm calling my new comic strip "Substandard." If I don't burn myself out, perhaps I'll get a strip in regularly. Who knows? Check out my favorites list at the bottom of the comic strip's page. PDragon616 is Chuck.
They're not attacking you. - This is a priceless exchenge between Ari Fleischer and reporter Helen Thomas:
Q At the earlier briefing, Ari, you said that the President deplored the taking of innocent lives. Does that apply to all innocent lives in the world? And I have a follow-up.
MR. FLEISCHER: I refer specifically to a horrible terrorist attack on Tel Aviv that killed scores and wounded hundreds. And the President, as he said in his statement yesterday, deplores in the strongest terms the taking of those lives and the wounding of those people, innocents in Israel.
Q My follow-up is, why does he want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis?
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, the question is how to protect Americans, and our allies and friends --
Q They're not attacking you.
MR. FLEISCHER: -- from a country --
Q Have they laid the glove on you or on the United States, the Iraqis, in 11 years?
MR. FLEISCHER: I guess you have forgotten about the Americans who were killed in the first Gulf War as a result of Saddam Hussein's aggression then.
Q Is this revenge, 11 years of revenge?
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, I think you know very well that the President's position is that he wants to avert war, and that the President has asked the United Nations to go into Iraq to help with the purpose of averting war.
Q Would the President attack innocent Iraqi lives?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President wants to make certain that he can defend our country, defend our interests, defend the region, and make certain that American lives are not lost.
Q And he thinks they are a threat to us?
MR. FLEISCHER: There is no question that the President thinks that Iraq is a threat to the United States.
Q The Iraqi people?
MR. FLEISCHER: The Iraqi people are represented by their government. If there was regime change, the Iraqi --
Q So they will be vulnerable?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, the President has made it very clear that he has not dispute with the people of Iraq. That's why the American policy remains a policy of regime change. There is no question the people of Iraq --
Q That's a decision for them to make, isn't it? It's their country.
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, if you think that the people of Iraq are in a position to dictate who their dictator is, I don't think that has been what history has shown.
Q I think many countries don't have -- people don't have the decision -- including us.
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
Gas for Guns - This weekend I caught an episode of Greater Boston (just the tail end, actually) in which one of the subjects discussed was that SUV commercial story I mentioned last week. What struck me was that one panelist called the ads "offensive."
This took me by surprise. I expected people to disagree, but to call the ads "offensive" seemed, to me, to be quite a stretch. Apparently, some people are offended by the singling out of SUV owners, since we all in some way or another use petroleum products. But it's clear that the singling out of SUVs is simply a quick way of highlighting the decisions we make that either maximize or minimize our use of oil.
But, after some reflection I realized that these offended people are feeling something. I think they're feeling uncomfortable at being reminded of how their decisions fit into the greater scheme of things. We're happy in this country as long as we can maintain the fiction that our lives must go on without interruption and inconvenience, a fiction that our leaders see fit in the last year or so to reinforce.
We're at the point that any suggestion that we change the course of our lives is met with derision, offense, distaste, and eventually ignored.
It turns out my FIL had an article published in the local paper on this very subject. His opinions are often picked up by the New Bedford Standard Times.
He publishes his letter to the editor also on his own website: SUVs, if you please - Jan 10, 2003
Metaphor - Some folks think it's reasonable to prostelytize. Others find it offensive. Even milder evangelization can be quite annoying to someone who is not closed-minded, introspective, and does not need to be reminded to think about his beliefs.
Athiests are often inundated by believers who wish to just introduce them to the joy in their life. Here's a fairly un-subtle metaphor for that activity. But it is funny when you approach it this way.
Witness: Kissing Hank's Butt
What's Your SUV Doing To Our National Security? - I didn't used to be a big fan of Arianna Huffington, but she's talking more and more sense to me. For example, take her recent creation of The Detroit Project. In her words:
The idea for this project came to me while watching -- for the umpteenth time -- one of those outrageous drug war ads the Bush administration has flooded the airwaves with. You know, the ones that try and link using drugs to financing terrorism. Instead of shaking my head in disgust and reaching for the Mute button like I usually do when I see these ads, I decided to channel my indignation. Why not turn the tables and adopt the same tactics the administration was using in the drug war to point out the much more credible link between driving SUVs and our national security?
For extra outrage, check out Ms. Huffington's article about how the big three have, wi tht ehelp of Washington, created an artificial demand to boost SUV sales, and thus waste gas and increase use of foreign oil.
WHAT!!?? -House weakens ethics rules - Jan. 7, 2003. Get this:
The changes by the majority Republican leadership caught Democrats by surprise and ignored the House ethics committee's warnings against skirting the spirit of ethical conduct.
The change in the perishable food provision -- dubbed the "pizza rule" by protesting Democrats -- legalized the very type of scheme in the ethics panel's warning last November.
Jar-Jaromir - Is it true? Is MLord of the Rings: The Return of the King going to have a new character who wasn't in the books? Read it and weep: BBspot - Fans Outraged at New Character in The Return of the King
Bath, Bus, Bed - I'm told that the mathematician/philosopher Henri Poincaré otld of three places where insights happen. Bath, bus, bed. Well, folks in Amherst are getting a taste of physics on the middle one.
It seem s that busses in Amherst are now sporting physics problems in advertising space. This makes me feel all warm and fuzzy!
Disposable Email Addresses - I think this is cool. Spamgourmet will provide you with multiple disposable email addresses that only last for a specified number of messages, and then expire. Perfect for handing out for temporary applications you don't trust. And once you sign up, you don't even have to return to the site to create new addresses - you just hand out an address and it starts working automatically.
There are more advanced features, but those explanations are better left to the site itself. Check it out. No more having to put *nospam* in your email address when you post somewhere.
The message said: "We have been taken hostage by two children. Hurry. Help us after the beep. Now!" Obviously, this was a joke about their children. Friends who heard the message, thought it said: "We have been taken hostage WITH two children." And called the police. Oops.
We've done stuff like this. Not quite the same result. Thank goodness - our friends can take a joke.
Back to Boston - We're taking my younger daughter back to Boston for treatment of her disease. As some of you may know, she suffers from Juvenile Dermatomyositis. We've decided to use the same doctor that this little girl has been seeing. We've lost doctors twice now, and our current doctor was not a good fit with us. Plus, i will fee better at Children's Hospital Boston.
I have to add, however, that our treatment at Providence's Hasbro Children's Hospital was excellent. Paula, the nurse who we had the most close contact with, was extremely delightful to deal with - a real pleasure. And the phlebotomy folks at Providence was always extremely sensitive and competent. Hasbro is the hospital our pediatrician is associated with, so that's where we go wheneve the children need hospitalization, which has happened on occasion. I'm glad we have Hasbro so close by, and also glad we have the option of going to Boston.
Slipping into the Part - "Cold reading" is a method that psychics use to extract infomation out of their subjects, which they then feed back to the person in an attempt to represent themselves as having psychic powers. Kari Coleman, writing on James Randi's website in part of his newsletter, tells of her experiences practicing to portray a psychic on Penn and Teller's TV show. It's shocking how easy she found it to slip into the role. Read: My Psychic Adventure, by Kari Coleman
(I should add that it was anything but easy for her, emotionally, to deal with her feelings about it)