Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Our Row to Hoe: Why Doing it Right is Hard, but Necessary

(Article: Killing the GOP Brand by Mac Johnson, courtesy The American Thinker, archived here, sorry for the broken link!)

This article is so on the mark, so pithily written, so correct that I want to staple a copy, text-in, to the forehead of every member of the House that voted against Mike Pence and John Shadegg. Read it. Please.

Back? Great. I've been doing a lot of thinking in recent weeks about where politics has gone over the past decade or so, and I've come to the conclusion, along with Rabbi Aryeh Spero, that one of the major problems Republicans have (and they are legion, and largely self-inflicted) is that we've chosen to play the Democrats', the liberals' game of pandering, big-government influence-peddling. Problem is, we stink on ice at it, and have rightly been ushered out of office by an electorate that remembers the Reagan years as the lifting of a musty, moldy veil of malaise from our faces.

The name of Reynaldus Magnus has been invoked a lot of late, but not without good reason. Reagan was far from perfect (as regards illegal-immigrant amnesty, for example), but what was best about his presidency was his unrelenting optimism. The stories he told (and sold, wonderfully) to the American people were beautiful ones, from the idea of its being morning in America to that compelling symbol of a shining city on a hill.

Ronald Reagan managed to present, in that broad-shouldered, cowboy-hatted, avuncular way, an image of that ancient oxymoron the trustworthy politician. I have no illusions that he was any more a saint than I am, but he was a damned sight better than the Republican or Democrat Congressional leadership of the day, and he honestly reduced taxes, strove for reduction in the nonmilitary size of government, prosecuted the defense of the Union from enemies both foreign and domestic, and most importantly put forth the idea that America is good, that unalloyed American ideals are good, that jingoistic faith in God and country are good.

And it worked: the U.S. bootstrapped itself out of the shamefaced "put on a sweater and let's tune in the hostage crisis" Carter years. The Reagan years, and policies arising from them (RIP Milton Friedman, by the way), unleashed the United States in myriad ways, leading to the longest, best period of economic expansion we've ever experienced. Think the productivity and dot-com booms of the 90s would have happened with any remnant of the tax structure and stagflation of the '70s? Think stock prices would have rebounded from 9/11 in five short years? Americans benefited, America benefited and the world benefited, both from the unbelievable wealth that resulted (and couldn't help spilling over our borders), and from the fall of Soviet Communism, having been outevolved and outspent into collapse.

Put simply, Reagan wrecked the curve for all would-be lazy Republicans after him. What the United States wants and demands from the Republican party is what it's wanted ever since: laissez-faire capitalism; muscular defense; government constrained by the unfashionable principle that rights are God-given and otherwise "Congress shall make no law"; and finally, that infectious, melt-the-heart, fire-the-soul Reaganite optimism.

Measured against that yardstick, very few GOP politicos make the grade. Even with an understanding and patient Republican base (after all, how many real Reagans can a nation expect in a lifetime?), Republicans in office from W down managed to cover themselves and their principles with sufficient mud to render themselves electorally indistinguishable from Democrats. And here we are.

The world is burgeoning with threats again, from unsophisticated threats like the encroachment of liberalism to Gordian knots like the Global War on Terrorism and the impending demographic collapse of Europe. A little infectious avuncular optimism might go a long way, right about now.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Out With the Old, In With the New

It's high time Republicans take action to get truly conservative leadership going in our new minorities in the House and Senate.

To get started, any conservatives with congresscritters in a position to go one way or another, call them to register your support for Mike Pence and John Shadegg.

Mike Pence
The first part of this article (originally linked in a comment on Redstate, but found in full on South Carolina Republican) tells a very encouraging story about Mr. Pence:

John Shadegg
This article Shadegg wrote in January of this year tells me a lot about who he is, and why I'm all for getting him into more of a leadership position:

Both of them cite Ronald Reagan as an example. Considering the rather castrati notes emanating from the White House since Tuesday, I think a Reaganite focus is something Republicans can use.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

As Republicans Begin Our Years in the Wilderness

Well, that would be that.

As I write this, Republicans have lost 26 seats in the House of Representatives, and thus the majority. Four seats in the Senate were lost as well, and the remaining two Senate seats are too close to call, but leaning Democrat at the moment, and both will likely go to recounts. I expect both seats to fall to the Democrats, because they're simply better at making recounts mean what they want to mean than we are, the 2000 election notwithstanding.

Some want to call this election a referendum on the Global War on Terror as it's being prosecuted in Iraq. The White House, evidently believing such reports, has sacked Donald Rumsfeld. I disagree violently with the Iraq explanation, as well as any explanation that paints this election as any repudiation of conservatism, or any blessing of liberalism. Libs had to hide their agendas at every turn to avoid defeating themselves, but in the end that worked fairly well.

Republicans lost this election because we lost our way, turning our backs on the conservatism that won us our positions back in 1994. We allowed ourselves to be led, if the term applies, by milquetoasts like Denny Hastert and Bill Frist, by allowing spending and governmental expansion at a level that elevates drunken sailors, and by getting issues like illegal immigration and prescription drug benefits so wrong that we were beaten like red-headed stepchildren last night.

Lincoln Chaffee I won't miss. Rick Santorum I will. I hear, today, that Hastert won't be trying to stay on as minority leader, while Pence, Shadegg and other strong conservatives are running for minority leader and whip. All good moves, in my opinion. If we can accelerate these sorts of trends for 2008, then perhaps we can retake the House and Senate, and field a Reaganesque candidate or two for president against the likes of Hillary, Pelosi, Kerry and Obama.

No, I don't want McCain. See above re: conservatism. Lord, I wish that Tony Snow could be convinced to run...

In the meantime I'll try not to think about the damage that can be done by a Democrat Congress: trumped-up impeachment proceedings in a time of war, rolling back of tax cuts, defunding of Iraq, public rape of judicial appointees, the list goes on and on...


PS. To amplify, after a note from the lovely and acute Amy, President Bush is doing himself and the GWoT no favors by throwing Rumsfeld under the bus. Appeasement has never been a workable strategy when dealing with one's enemies, and I do consider the Democrat caucus enemies when it comes to the war and Iraq. This seems to me to be the first step of Bush's presidency into lasting ignominy. Thanks for doing it right to start with, Mr. President, but continuing in this vein will consign records of your second term to the category of embarrassing footnote beside those of whomever finally finishes this conflict.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Soon to Vanish Within My Garret

NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month) kicks off tomorrow, and I'll be participating. For those who missed my attempt last year, NaNoWriMo is a completely insane quasi-competition in which people from all over the planet use the month of November to write a 50,000-word novel. It doesn't have to be a good novel. It doesn't have to be publishable, or literary, or even particularly coherent. It just has to be 50,000 words or longer by midnight in your time zone November 30th, with no prose having existing for the novel before the start of the month, for you the writer to "win."

There are any number of reasons why this can justly be called crazy: November is, at least for Americans and most westerners, the second-busiest month of the year, with a holiday, traveling, shopping, family obligations and the like all impinging. It's also a shorter month (30 days), and (well, for some this is an issue, not me) happens November right after the switch from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time, so circadian rhythms can be off.

Why do it? I participated last year, and while I didn't win, having topped out at 28,500 words, it was a seminal event for me as a writer: I'd never generated so much prose at one prolonged whack before. Some of it was even pretty good, and the corpus from last year's effort should be editable into something interesting down the road. I'm not sure whether all the rest of the prose I'd ever generated in my life before NaNoWriMo '05 added up to 28,500 words. It had a miraculous effect on my confidence as a budding writer and eventual published novelist.

So this year, I'm going to win. I've picked a slightly less esoteric subject for my novel this time, so existential and other issues won't be the ones slowing me down. I've put together a mind map of the rough plot, characters, themes I want to explore, and other minutiae so as to clear some of the logistical that roadblocks that slowed me down last time.

On top of all that, the stalwart and steadfast Amy is on board and being wonderfully supportive. Changes the entire landscape when you've got such a lovely cheerleader on your side.


PS. And, via Tripp,
You scored as Reformed Evangelical. You are a Reformed Evangelical. You take the Bible very seriously because it is God's Word. You most likely hold to TULIP and are sceptical about the possibilities of universal atonement or resistible grace. The most important thing the Church can do is make sure people hear how they can go to heaven when they die.

Neo orthodox


Reformed Evangelical


Roman Catholic




Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan




Modern Liberal


Classical Liberal




What's your theological worldview?
created with

Monday, October 16, 2006

One of Those Weekends

You know, when you have one of those crazy good weekends, when you throw a big engagement party, invite friends and family, and everything goes incredibly swimmingly with everyone getting along, wishing you and your intended the best, and celebrating your coming life together (together with cheese chosen by her and wine by him, pairing fabulously with one another and the hors d'oeuvres from her mother)?

You know, that sort of weekend? The kind where your parents visit your soon-to-be parents-in-law, visit for hours on end, tour their house and land, and laugh and tell stories into the night?

Yeah, that kind. You know the sort. Amy and I had one of those.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

On Reestablishing Contact with the Handwritten Word

I have been having an inordinate amount of fun lately with writing. With journaling, plot, theme, character and all that, too, but specifically with the simple, human act of writing by holding an ink-bearing stylus of some kind in my hand, and wiggling that hand in a more or less (usually less) disciplined way as I move it across a sheet of paper.

Most of the rest of the world figured this out back last year or so, what with the Moleskine craze and Getting Things Done movement taking off; but this is the romance of hand-writing, come home to roost in my personal nest.

Typing vs. Writing
Typing has a lot to recommend it, and I type for several hours each day in my day job. But typing, being a digital activity, both in the sense of using the digits on the ends of one's hands, and in the output (these days) being stored in a digital computer, exercises certain linguistic and manual-dexterity parts of your brain, yes. But typing is primarily a process of selection: your brain selects sequences of individual letters and punctuation (representing in their effect the words you want to convey to your target medium) and engages your hand and arm muscles to push the buttons on the keyboard in front of you, in more or less the proper sequence.

Writing, by contrast, is an expressive effort. You and your body are responsible for every contour of the words you write: we draw our handwritten words, and so every person's penmanship is unique, just like his or her fingerprints. Our handwriting's looseness, flow and tidiness vary with our state of mind. It's actually a wondrous thing, considering how each of us is so different from one another, that we can read one another's handwriting at all. Of course, each of us has tried and failed to read a particularly badly scribbled prescription on occasion, so we know it's hardly foolproof.

Everything Old is New Again
I've written a diary entry and/or bit of prose and/or series of story-idea notes every day after procuring my first Moleskine notebooks. It started as a sensual thing: pretty notebooks, nifty pens, but it's since become a comforting end-of-day routine. Feed the dogs, eat dinner, do an errand or two, shutter the lights in the rest of the house, perhaps read for a bit, and then scribble in my notebooks for an hour or so in bed on my lap desk before turning in.

I find, that since typing is faster and more efficient (due to its digitality), I've really had to slow my thinking down when it comes to writing. It's thrown off my e-mail communication rhythm with Amy (poor Princess!) something fierce, but she's been very understanding so far. Typing up this blog entry has helped me reacquaint myself with thinking and typing, actually.

The brain is a funny place. I'm having a blast, and prepping for NaNoWriMo at the same time.


Monday, September 25, 2006

An Aside about Writing, and Posh Writing Implements

NaNoWriMo 2006 is coming soon (it starts November 1), and as such I'm trying to be a little better prepared this year than I was last year. I've already got a good classic-sci-fi theme I'm working on involving cloning and time travel, and I collect notes daily for the eventual firing of the starting gun. Very exciting, and I can't wait for the month to start!

One wrinkle that's afflicted me of late is an obsession with hand writing (yep, grabbing a pen and wiggling its pointy end against fibrous sheets of wood pulp), and with a particularly functional and pretty wood-pulp binding: the Moleskine notebook.

Moleskines (some people pronounce them "mole-a-skeen-a," to rhyme with "ballerina," but I prefer "mole-skeen" to rhyme with "nifty keen") are a triumph not only of marketing (it is laid on particularly thick), but also of functional, uncompromising design. The pages are creamy and sturdy without being too thick; the black "oilcloth"-wrapped hardcover binding is buttery to the touch, yet tough; it's got both an inbuilt ribbon bookmark (like in old-school hardcover books and Bibles), an attached elastic strap to flip around and hold the notebook closed a la the Grail Diary in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and a slim pocket in the back cover to hold loose pages or other slips of paper. Moleskines have been called the functional-yet-attractive "little black dress" of notebooks, and after filling a number of pages in the few I have, I can heartily agree.

(For those that will eventually say so, yes, Moleskines are also very faddishly "in" at the moment, but that doesn't mean they're not all they're cracked up to be, and besides, they're available from my local Books-A-Million, and they've got me jazzed up on writing, for which I'd pay twice the price.)

Of course, having stumbled upon what may be the perfect notebook, one's choice of writing implement becomes important. Longtime readers will recognize this as a dawning of a New Hobby, and I plead guilty.

Back in the halcyon days of my youth I was into (and decently good at) calligraphy, and as such I've gone through many a Sheaffer No-Nonsense calligraphy pen and chisel-tipped marker in my day. Tripp in particular will remember that my writing derangement actually had me doing dip-nib-in-inkwell work during our sophomore year at the University of Richmond, and looking up obscure hands like Luxeuil Minuscule in which to copy out strange poems in blood-colored ink.

I told you that to tell you this: I'm currently using Pilot G-2 "gel" rollerball pens to write my thoughts and prose in my Moleskines (and I'm particularly enamored of the burgundy-inked one that Amy bequeathed to me from her assortment), but I'm looking to fountain pens as the ultimate match. I snagged a Sheaffer ViewPoint Fine Nib (direct descendant of the NoNonsense Calligraphy Pen) and a Manuscript "Italic Pen" over lunch today, and both are good, but a little ink-heavy, leading to either slight bleed-through of the page, or illegibility on the narrow lines a Moleskine offers.

I also ordered a restored-vintage 1950s Sheaffer Snorkel Admiral fountain pen from eBay (thankfully they're available cheap--no $100 pens for me, thanks), with which I plan to go berserk later, and Amy went with me to pick up some exquisite dip-nib pens at our local "Ambiance" store in the mall over the weekend.

Pray for me. :-)


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Bonfire of the Inanities; A Sheepish Return

1. Pope expresses dismay at the tendencies of modern and historical Islam toward violence.
2. Offended Muslims riot and burn churches.

Seriously, I'm looking for Jay Leno with a microphone, doing "Man on the Arab Street" interviews. You can't even really parody this stuff any more.

Many apologies for my lack of blogging activity of late: it's been a crazy few weeks (and for half of the last one I was laid out in bed with a gone-out lower back), but during this same crazy period Amy has managed to blog over a dozen times, so I have no excuse. :-)

So, pending blog entries:
  • My 2,993 September 11 entry. Inexcusable that I didn't get this done (despite being in bed with the aforementioned bad back), so I'll get this done ASAP.
  • A piece on how the news media is cheerfully being used as the foreign-propaganda arm of radical Islam.
  • A lengthy (been in draft form for months) rant on Digital Rights Management or DRM, and why it's such a wrongheaded idea, which we'll regret as a culture before too many decades have passed.
Stay tuned!


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Won Hand and its Bauble:

Photo the First

The BaubleHere's a heavily color-corrected photo of Amy's digits and their new adornment. Our first attempt at macro photography (the better to show off the ring's three-dimensionality) was unsatisfying to say the least, so we'll attempt a better photo soon.

There has been much showing-around of the item, not to mention well-wishing and congratulations from all and sundry, though Amy and I wound up using this past weekend more for respite from proposal excitement than for an exhibition tour.

This weekend will be different! Amy has a great deal of family and not a few friends in the Birmingham metropolitan area, and few of them outside of her parents and coworkers have yet seen the Bling, so remedying that has taken on new importance.

For our part, Amy and I are very much enjoying visiting old haunts with the new Bauble, and the happy delirium has yet to subside. Plans for the Event (still looking to arrive in late April or early May '07) proceed apace, but as yet there's still an awful lot in flux. Exciting!

I'm over the moon, everyone. This has been a bit of a trying week at work, but knowing that my fiancée is out there and eager to see me imbues each day with that right sort of purpose, relegating the rough spots in life to simple background noise.


Friday, August 11, 2006

A Wonderful Day

The deed is done, the Bauble presented, the question popped and answered in the affirmative. Amy and I are engaged!

I wish I could have chronicled the particular ins and outs of the shopping for the Bauble, the customization of the Bauble, the merry paper chase that was paying for the Bauble after my identity-theft troubles last year (jewelry isn't exactly a purchase for slipping past the pattern-recognition algorithms they use to catch ID thieves), but none of those particularly matter now: I have a fiancée!

I had a plan of my own all lined up (with props, patter and everything!), but circumstances, schedules and other factors kept me from being able to implement it. In any event, Amy and I wound up heading to a favorite Persian restaurant of ours last night to watch a bellydancing friend of hers perform. I managed to get the friend to give me a cue, and proposed to Amy in front of the entire restaurant, to great applause and appreciation.

We're both deliriously happy, and by all accounts Amy is having a grand time exhibiting the Bauble to all with eyes to see. We also have a birthday party to attend tonight, and I have to imagine that her shoulder muscles will receive further exercise there.

A photo of the Won Hand and its Bauble is forthcoming, once taken.


Friday, July 21, 2006

A Shout Out

The lovely Amy took me to meet some good friends of hers last night, Tom and Mindé Briscoe, and their young son. (Tom's got his last name on his website, so I don't think I'm giving away too much by mentioning his last name. The son in question shall remain unnamed for the time being, though.) We all had a great time.

Tom, it turns out, is the cartoonist over at Small World, and I'd be quite remiss if I didn't, having establish personal contact, establish blogly contact as well. Tom and Mindé are fellow geeks, and I foresee many fun evenings of gaming, computing, movie-watching and other geekery with them in years to come.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

NASA, Damned with Its Own Faint Praise

For NASA, a Long Road Ahead After Discovery’s Success

I've had spacefarer's stars in my eyes for my entire life, or at least as much of it as I've been out of diapers. My bona fides are many and varied: I built plastic models of the Saturn V rocket, the lunar module and the Space Shuttle through most of my childhood, I watched as much (classic) Battlestar Galactica as my parents would let me stay up for, I collected obscure space toys, I had the freakin' Mission to Mars suit for my Six Million Dollar Man action figure. I had a subscription to Odyssey magazine for years, and read and watched as much science fiction as I could get my hands on.

I was born in 1970, so I wasn't really old enough to pay proper attention until the Space Shuttle was the current spaceflight deal going. I remember collecting photos of the test-shuttle Enterprise, watching Columbia's first liftoff. The shuttle was supposed to be the glitzy new spacecraft. It was over budget, overdue and costlier to run than forecast, but then what NASA project wasn't? Liftoff after beautiful liftoff reinforced my opinion of the Shuttle as a good, modern design--the dependable, reusable "space truck" we'd all hoped it would be.

This is all to say that I'm a very, very, very easy taxpayer to please when it comes to United States spaceflight. I'm a middling-strength space junkie.

Loss of Innocence
Then, of course, came Challenger. Of course, I was only 16, and had led a sheltered enough life that I met assurances from Real Live Adults that the shuttle was fixed with trust and wide-eyed optimism. Turns out a reminder that rubber gets brittle in the cold wasn't enough, though: it bought us nine more years and a half-completed International Space Station.

Then, Columbia. Columbia's breakup, for me, was more painful than Challenger's, because it made me look, really look, at the criticisms that had been leveled at the Shuttle design from its infancy: too complex, too delicate, too much institutional sickness at NASA.

If It Was Easy, Everybody Would Be Doing It
I'm well aware that spaceflight, especially manned spaceflight, is a constant dance of needle-threading the likes of which few of us can truly grasp. The speeds and temperatures of orbital insertion and reentry are hellish conditions, and every time it's done successfully is a testament to the steely-eyed missile men and women who've coaxed every last part of the million-element technological symphony to its assigned climax precisely on cue. The tolerances of the devices and vehicles we build for the tasks must be exacting.

Even so, there are ways to mitigate risk, especially when building such an ethereally defined component as a heat shield. The shields used by the Apollo capsules were designed to ablate, or boil away, and damage to the component was similarly irreparable to that happening to Shuttle tiles, but the Apollo engineers evidently realized this, and so protected the heat shield within the spacecraft (sandwiched between the command and service modules) until right before it was time to reenter the atmosphere.

We Have What for a Backup Plan?
By contrast, not only is the Shuttle's heat shield exposed to damage throughout its mission, it's designed to be reusable, and so it's composed of thousands of tiles, in theory to make any individually damaged tile easy to replace, once on the ground. Sadly there's an issue with how they approached this bunches-of-tiles issue. Take, for example, this jewel of a quote, from the "The Space Shuttle Operator's Manual" published in 1982 (ISBN 0-345-30321-0):
Altogether, nearly 32,000 [heat-shielding] tiles cover Columbia. No two tiles are alike and each must be installed by hand. ... These glass-covered silica tiles are rather brittle and cannot flex or bend without breaking.
The above means that, short of carrying along a replacement for each and every one of the 32,000 tiles used, it's functionally impossible for astronauts to repair a shuttle that gets damaged during ascent, which is the period in which falling tank foam, unlucky birds and the like are most likely to inflict said damage.

What kind of brain-dead fool constructs a heat-shield system with 32,000 fragile, non-interchangeable, non-user-serviceable parts, and then hangs it next to a pressurized, supercooled tank known to shed parts of its insulation while traveling at multiples of the speed of sound, then puts people aboard and fires it into space? A government-employed fool, that's what kind.

I've worked on sane teams, and I've worked on insane teams. There's a certain level of institutional dysfunction required to greenlight a system as delicate and fault-intolerant as the thermal-tile system on the Shuttle. Even moreso to greenlight it now, considering that the foam-loss problem hasn't been solved, only alleviated.

The Definition of Insanity
Right about now defenders of NASA will start asking, "okay, wiseguy, if the tile system is so bad, how do we fix it?" I don't know how to fix it: I'm a computer programmer. I do know, however, that you don't continue to deploy a proven life-threateningly-bad design. Either you fix it, or you pull it out of production until it's been either fixed or replaced. You don't keep using it because you've added sufficient spit-and-baling-wire that it appears safer. And yes, dozens of cameras and less dangerous foam constitute spit and baling wire, no matter how much has been spent on them. Risk can never be eliminated, but bad design should simply be labeled as such and then never used again.

There are even schools of thought positing that the very idea of a heavy-lifting, reusable manned cargo transport is a bad one and we should always lift humans and equipment separately and with lots of small launches, but that's theory that I'm unable really to critique.

All of the above was to say that the fact we're rejoicing in the successful launch, observation and return of a spacecraft whose design was conceived when Gerald Ford was president is not a great victory. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Shame on us all for not demanding more from our space program.

The Next Generation
Personally, I was much more enthused by the successful launch and deployment of Bigelow Aerospace's Genesis I inflatable spacecraft this week, and of course all the activity going on around Virgin Galactic, SCALED Composites and the successor spacecraft to SpaceShipOne.

My faith (and investment money, once I score some) are with the growing and energetic private spaceflight sector, even in its infancy.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Matrimonial Status Report

Because I haven't posted one in a while, here's an update!

We haven't gotten to actual question-popping yet, but the lovely Amy and I did our first round of "bling shopping" last Friday, and the picture at right was one of the favorites of the evening: emerald-cut center stone, with princess-cut flankers and some channel-set baguettes, if memory serves. Luckily Amy is a size 7, which seems to be the size most display rings share.

It was Amy's first time being taken ring shopping by a beau, so the experience was evidently quite special for her: she spent the first part of the evening in "happy stunned" mode (probably in part because I made the shopping expedition a surprise), but when we got back to the car she was very eager to get calls made to her mom, sister, friends, and the like. Much giggling and even a little squealing: all in all, a very satisfying reaction from my standpoint. ;-)

Tomorrow begins another round of ring shopping at a few stores that were specifically recommended by friends and family. Actual purchase of the bauble will not be with Amy present, though: purchase and presentation will be accomplished within the next month or so. Stealth is my watchword, and surprise my destination.

Amy has acquired an account for us on, and has been sending me frequent status reports on how things are going there. The tentative "date" is for mid-April of next year, so the schedule winds up being fairly aggressive if we keep to it. Nothing like having a website generate a task list for you, a third of whose items are already overdue.

Exciting times!


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The True Utility of the United Nations

The Unreality of U.N. Reform: What if "Later" Never Comes?
Head of nuclear inspection in Iran removed
China-Russia introduce new UN N.Korea resolution

The United Nations has not showered itself with glory over the past decade-and-a-half, and I'd argue that there's very little noteworthy the U.N. has accomplished in its history in terms of statecraft or reining in the actions of rogue states. "You'd better stop that, or we're going to really sit down and discuss the problem...again" seems to be the modus operandi; even agreeing to something as straightforward as economic sanctions in response to flagrant violation of treaties and international agreements seems to be impossible, especially in recent years.

The United States pays (or is supposed to pay; we've played fast and loose with that obligation over the years as a form of leverage) $440 million in dues to the U.N. annually: a little over a fifth of the U.N. budget. Given that the U.N. appears to be overwhelmingly corrupt, largely ineffectual and increasingly irrelevant, one has to wonder what in the world we're paying for!

For those of us who think the United States Constitution is more than a set of guidelines and suggestions, the concept of almost any overarching world government is abhorrent. The United Nations is a world government, after a fashion, but most importantly it's a largely impotent world government. By comparison with an effective world government, perhaps, say, one imposing a mishmosh of Sharia and laws from the old Soviet Union, the United Nations looks vastly preferable.

$440 million amounts to about 0.0163% (163 ten-thousandths of a percent, 'tain't much) of the $2.7 trillion federal budget for 2006. Sounds like a very wise investment, given the return of a do-nothing world government. Clean up the corruption so its "passive harm" is curtailed, but otherwise I'm very happy with the U.N.'s current blowhard status and do-nothing role.

Just don't be tempted to use it as a means of getting anything done, or as any sort of yardstick for legitimacy.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Major HTML Revamp--I Hope No One Notices!

The visual changes are slight, but I'm doing so much surfing from my phone these days that I decided to rework Brain Squeezings' Blogger template (i.e., its HTML page layout) to be more mobile-browser friendly.

Of course, it still looks like garbage in Pocket Internet Explorer's "Default" mode, but if you use "One Column" mode the site is very clean indeed.

Everyone please hit Brain Squeezings with every OS (Windows, Mac, Linux, Windows Mobile, PalmOS), and every browser (IE, Mozilla, Safari, Firefox, Opera, Pocket IE, Blazer) and let me know if anything broke!


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Text-Only Test

This is a text-only Squeezings entry, testing how Blogger will handle it for formatting and the like.

I'm thinking about using Blogger Mobile for my all-text entries, and Flickr for my photoblogging. When you upload photos to Blogspot they seem to vanish into some sort of Google storage limbo. That, plus I <i>like</i> Flickr. :-)


[Edit: Blogger Mobile escape-encoded my attempts to italicize "like" above, and the paragraphs automagically skip a line under themselves rather than retaining my line breaks. Verrry interesting.]

Sepia Sample

This is a sepia-toned snapshot of a cluttered bookcase in my bedroom here at Squeezings Central. This is a test post, verifying that my Blogger Mobile capability is working.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

State of the Windows Mobile Art

I have enjoyed my first month with my Cingular 8125 greatly. Sadly, though, the device, like so much in life, isn't perfect.

Actually, the device per se isn't the problem, though there are some aspects of the hardware that I'm not crazy about. The issue is Windows Mobile 5 (the spawn of Windows "Powered," and even further back, Windows CE).

Windows Mobile 5 (WM5) is actually a surprisingly capable operating system, coming as I do from both the Windows development world in my career and the Palm OS device world in my past PDA preferences. As I've raved before, it does very well as a phone (good call retention in low-signal areas), very well as a PDA (thousands of applications out there, PIM apps are good), very well as a mobile communicator (e-mail, SMS and MMS messaging), and very well as a mobile web-browsing platform.

History Lesson
That said, it's been a real adjustment moving back to a Windows-y PDA. I bought my first PDA, a PalmPilot Professional, back in 1998 (I still have it, and it still runs, given a pair of AAAs), and was hooked. I have an unbroken string of digital breadcrumbs back to data I entered into that first unit. I even bought a RAM upgrade and firmware update kit to keep it moving.

Back in 1999 or so, Microsoft finally entered the PDA game with a special version of Windows CE for the "Palm-sized PC," and I bought a Casio model that was actually a pretty sexy little beast (despite being slow and getting abysmal single-day battery life compared to months on a single pair of AAAs for the PalmPilots of the day). Sadly I cracked the Casio's screen when I leaned on a pool table with the unit in my pocket, and getting the unit fixed would have been as expensive as a new unit, so I dumped its data back into the old PalmPilot and soldiered on.

I've gone through a succession of Palm units since then (from the upgraded PalmPilot to a Palm IIIc, to a Palm m505, to a Tungsten T3, and most recently my Treo 650), primarily because I enjoyed the move back from the more cluttered Windows interface to the Zen of Palm, and no longer feeling like my device was underpowered for what it was being asked to do.

But that was then, and this is now. Palm, either through mismanagement or simply being outspent by competitors like Microsoft and RIM, has dwindled in market share to a shadow of its former self. The last version of the Palm OS was in testing for years, and rather than actually being released in a product, was sold to a Japanese company, and was last seen being broken down for parts for use in a Linux-based PDA OS.

On top of that, the convergence trend, after years of promises, has finally come to fruition, and a device that is only a PDA is no longer sufficient to compete: a device must be a cell phone first and a PDA second, and most likely also a communicator (meaning fluent with e-mail and other messaging) and a camera and multimedia machine.

The Treo 650 was, I predict, the last big Palm OS-based success, though the Treo 700p may well continue the love. The problem with the 700p is that there's also a Treo 700w, which runs (you guessed it) Windows Mobile 5. The use of WM5 in a Palm device, for me, was the deathknell of Palm as I've known it, and at best its capitulation to life as yet another Windows-Mobile-reliant hardware company. Time to switch back!

So Why was the Transition so Tricky?
Palm OS and Windows Mobile reflect radically different approaches to software design.

Palm OS, at its roots, is a single-tasking operating system. That means, absent some hackery, that its programs never have to worry about something running in the background and consuming resources that it might need. It has very little need to worry about programs "stepping on" one another while running, or doing any complex interleaving of execution context between programs doing different things simultaneously. Thus, Palm OS programs tended to be simpler and to store their contexts constantly (little need for the user to click a "Save" button) because they could never know when the user will exit your program to start another. In short, Palm apps tended to operate simply, like web pages. The best of them stored their contexts very completely, so that when you reentered that program, it looked like you never left, and felt like something more sophisticated than single-tasking was taking place.

Palm OS also allowed programs to execute "in place," meaning you didn't have to load programs from storage into RAM to execute them, you just ran them right where they were in the device's memory.

Windows Mobile is a multitasking operating system, and began its life as a cut-down version of the 800-lb. gorilla Microsoft Windows NT. There are many good things about being able to juggle several programs at once, but simplicity isn't among them. Another weakness of the multitasking approach is that having several programs running at once means they must all be consuming resources at the same time, which necessitates more powerful CPUs and more capacious storage. So Windows Mobile apps tend to be more elaborate in their OS demands and needs, and more like desktop applications than the web-page simplicity of Palm OS.

Speaking of storage, one nasty bit of legacy to Windows Mobile's genesis as a desktop OS is that storage is split into "storage memory" and "program memory." Yep, that means the old load-the-program-from-disk, run-it-in-RAM paradigm is alive and well in WM5. More complexity, and less flexibility for how memory is used on the device.

This would all be well and good if RAM and flash were free, and powerful CPUs consumed no battery power and emitted no heat. Sadly, we live in a world of limits, and Windows Mobile devices tend either to be underpowered, affordable and balky; or powerful, expensive and battery-starved.

The Cingular 8125, sad to say, falls into the former category. So why am I so happy with it?

Finding the Sweet Spot; Acceptance of High-Maintenance Tendencies
The good news is that the solution to Windows Mobile's woes on the Cingular 8125 is to flout its multitasking nature as much as possible: being almost powerful enough to multitask means that it's one hell of a single-tasker.

This flouting is tricky, because WM5's default behavior is to "minimize" programs that you choose to close, or render them invisible while keeping them running in the background. Minimizing like this means that the second startup of an application is blindingly fast (because it never left memory), but of course that means that it's very easy to wind up with lots of programs running in the background after a while, chewing resources and making the device sluggish. WM5 tries to handle this by truly terminating programs that haven't been used for a while when RAM gets scarce, but despite this being version 5 of Windows Mobile, it doesn't seem to be very good at keeping resources available. Throwing more CPU power and more memory at the problem can help, but for a guy like me who's always running different programs, it's like digging a hole in water.

Thankfully there are all sorts of third-party hacks out there that change the default behavior to terminating programs rather than minimizing them, and thus keeping as much of your device's mojo available for your use as possible.

There're also the little usage-patterns that you internalize when acclimating yourself to a new OS: the accretion of myriad "if it hurts when you do that, then don't do that" lessons that any software has to teach its users. It might be because I was a Palm user for so long, but Windows Mobile seems to have more bumps, quirks and rough spots than Palm OS does, even in its fifth iteration. Also, some of the programs (like ActiveSync--bad Microsoft!) tend to lock up. I typically have to soft-boot the device every other day or so.

A Man Who Knows Where His Towel Is
So, my Cingular 8125 (dubbed "DontPanicBeep" and given a Hitchhiker's Guide wallpaper because it was the hoopy thing to do) is a high-maintenance, twitchy device that's prone to constipation if I don't use it properly, and occasionally goes foom.

But I don't mind, because for the most part I know where the landmines are, and the ability to do so many things so well with so few compromises in the hardware realm is worth it to me. Also, there's a lot of active development going on in the Windows realm, and it's my belief that a lot of the crashy/locky software issues will be fixed with time.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Will the Union Survive?

Tropical storm Alberto is currently menacing the Gulf coast of Florida. Fox News and other news outlets are keeping us all abreast of the developing crisis.

Winds of up to 35 miles per hour are forecast, as well as possibly as much as six inches of rain.

In related news, umbrella availability is dwindling across the state, and Sade and Barry White CDs are reportedly in dangerously short supply. The popularity of "Alberto" as a baby name is said to be skyrocketing, despite record sales of Trojan and Lifestyle prophylactics.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

You Know, It's Really Very Simple.

Either immigration laws have meaning or they don't.

Either national borders have meaning or they don't.

Either American society has the self-confidence to preserve itself or it doesn't.

This has been a difficult few weeks to be a conservative Republican, because I'm a firm believer that we as Americans get the government we deserve. To be fair, Bush isn't the source of the problem, though he's far from helping with its solution. I knew W was iffy on illegal immigration when I voted for him, so his continuing to be so in the face of open revolt by his conservative base is hardly surprising, or even too disappointing, though his use of Vicente Fox to vet plans to move our own troops is worrying in the extreme.

What's boggling to me is the naked insouciance that (primarily Senate) Republicans have shown when presented with the clear opinion of their electorate: secure the border. Don't play patty-cake with how many illegals we're going to offer a decidedly amnestic "path to citizenship." Don't hide behind canards about whether it's feasible to deport 11 million illegals when depriving them of sympathetic employers would cause them to self-deport. Don't, for God's sake, extend Social Security benefits to illegals who attempt to qualify with fraudulent papers, or with time spent successfully avoiding the INS!

I'm very patient on the subject of immigration: at least one of my grandparents came over on a boat--I'm a relative newcomer in terms of genetic time in-country, but my ancestors obeyed the rules. One of America's strengths is that we assimilate and integrate new blood from all over. It's great: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses..." I'm down with that.

But (shame this even needs saying), there's a war on. We have a crater in downtown Manhattan, and newly-released footage of the attack on the Pentagon. United 93 is in theaters. We've seen a little bit more of the far end, now, of what happens when immigration laws aren't enforced. There're also the little matters of wage depression, an increasing tax burden on communities where great numbers of illegals live without paying income tax, chaos in border communities, and sightings of men in Mexican Army uniforms violating the border.

I'm going to put this as clearly as I can, elected officials: keep this up and you will pay with your jobs.

There's a real chance of a bloodletting this November. I just hope it's in the name of replacing incumbents with young bucks rather than Republicans simply staying home in droves...

"Speaker Pelosi." Brrr.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Of Distribution Methods and Kings

Pity the synchronous entertainment industry: movies, television, newspapers, radio. No, really.

Take movies (please): it's getting harder and harder to make a consistent profit by hitting the targets that used to draw audiences into theaters. Mission: Impossible III is doing fairly lackluster business (though the sheer manic insanity of Tom Cruise might have affected its receipts a smidgen), there are braindead sequels of sequels getting made right and left, there's an increasingly barefaced preachiness and liberal bent to movies and to actors these days, guaranteeing alienation of a certain portion of films' potential audiences, and on top of that home theater equipment has moved into the mainstream (62.3 million hits on Google as of this writing).

I realized this afternoon that I haven't darkened the door of a movie theater since sometime in December, 2005 (Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). There simply hasn't been a cinematic offering since then that's been suitably compelling. I have, however, bought about a dozen DVDs (though none for a non-Pixar movie made in the past five years), subscribed to Netflix and watched hundreds of hours of TiVo- and/or Windows Media Center Edition-recorded TV in that time.

Then there's advertising-driven TV. Between (again) DVRs (TiVo, Windows Media Center Edition, etc.), Netflix (again) and the ability to download pretty much any TV show, movie, interesting video clip or photo from the internet, ads just aren't getting watched the way they used to be. There are more product placement deals being made, more technological hurdles being placed in front of TiVo and its cohorts by the more litigious TV content producers, but the technological trend is clear here.

Newspapers? Oy. I know I haven't subscribed to one of the dirty, bulky, fire hazards since the early 1990s. Internet, internet, internet, mobile internet, mobile internet, internet funnies! It's embarrassing how poorly physical newspapers serve my needs.

Radio: there are some bright points here (conservative talk radio, subscription satellite radio), but I know I find commercials amid my songs pretty well unbearable after nearly a year with XM. I download close to a half-dozen podcasts on a quasiweekly basis (only one of which is a recording of a radio show), and pretty much every talk radio show that values its audience publishes a podcast now. Again, asynchronous media is winning, and winning big.

Needing to show up or tune in at a specific time for media is so 1998.

Part of this is probably just me, and the fact that I have a beautiful woman to occupy my attention and my time, and that she and I are internet, DVD and timeshifting fools. But demographically I have to imagine that I'm not such an outlier. The coveted 18-to-35 male audience segment (which I exited only yesterday) is watching less synchronously-aired, mass-produced entertainment and occupying its time with more technologically tricksy stuff like TiVo-d media, iPods (containing everything from simple music to podcasts to video), videogames, and plain old websurfing.

Case in point: this past week I acquired a truly remarkable device: a Cingular 8125 Pocket PC, which is actually more of a smartphone than a full Pocket PC. I used to use a Palm Treo 650, and it did a decent job as a phone, camera, organizer and e-mail device, but a poor one as a web-surfing platform. Well, how bad can that be, you ask? It's a stinkin' phone! True, but now that I have a unit that excels at being a phone, a camera, an organizer and a web-surfing platform (I know, I scarcely believe it myself) I will never, ever, ever go back. Shoot, for the fun of it I streamed a Harry Potter trailer over the thing's cellular modem, and while it was hardly HDTV, it was impressive nonetheless. And it'll look positively Jurassic in a year.

Give me a flatscreen monitor and broadband connection for comfort, but the ability to get the latest news via RSS and WAP from a Panera Bread over coffee and croissants without even needing to lug a laptop around is where it's at, baby.


Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Big Reveal--Meet Amy!

After a brief spate of frequent blogging, followed by a return to sporadicity, I'm moved to introduce everyone to "A," the woman who's keeping me entirely too happy to get blogworthily excited about all the myriad ways the world is circling the bowl of late.

Her name is Amy, her nom de plume is the Geek Girl Blonde, and I am well and truly over the moon about her, and, wonder of wonders, she about me.

As Amy writes in her latest post, she and I visited my parents over the Easter holiday, and everyone was splendidly impressed with one another (whew!). She's already met Matt (of occasional commentarial note on this humble site) and his wife Amy*, and gotten along famously with them. She has yet to meet my sister Meagan, or much of my extended family, but we're working on that. :-D

I have met Amy's parents (as they live, conveniently, here in Birmingham) and a fair amount of her close and extended family over the past month or two myself, and been well and truly impressed.

It'd be fair to say we're both excited, in that knot-tying kind of way.

It'll be the end of the summer at the earliest before any pointed questions get asked, if I make myself clear, but it's also safe to reveal (since Amy has) that we've begun discussing "bling" designs (we're both fond of emeralds). Yes, it's an exciting time around Squeezings Central, with Spring in the air and all, but sadly that isn't likely to translate into too many impassioned-yet-cogent rants on the socio-political-economic state of the world. It is likely to translate into moony-eyed accounts of the ups and downs of our two lives and their convergent journeys down this exhilarating and sometimes-daunting road.

Hopefully that'll be entertaining anyway.


* Yes, Matt's wife is named Amy, and that means we're well on the matrimonial way to Amy-squared. That's actually nothing: my mother and both her sisters married Richards, and two of the three had sons named Richard, of which I'm one. Call it Kismet, call it tradition, call it God having a big hearty laugh, but as Dad put it we seem to seek an economy of names in this family.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I Meme, You Meme...

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

Pretty spiffy, though it highlights how much more of the world I need to get busy and visit. :-D

Courtesy Tripp.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Abdul Rahman is Safe, but the Problem Persists

Italy Takes In Afghan Convert

I'm very glad that Rahman wasn't torn to pieces by an Afghan mob after being released. I'm also glad that the man (currently--we'll see how long the situation lasts, given the Religion of Peace's propensity for ignoring national borders when inconvenient) doesn't have to live like some homeless fugitive, because Italy took him in.

However, I'm very unhappy that Rahman had to be gotten off the Afghan legal hook on a technicality. If "insufficient evidence" rings false to me (the man converted to Christianity sixteen years ago with the full knowledge of his family--if the guy hasn't left any discernable breadcrumbs since the Soviet Union fell, then I'm a ballerina named Fifi), then it's got to ring false to the Muslisms calling for Rahman's head, and the decision will carry neither public-square nor legal weight.

It's simply unacceptable that people don't have freedom of religion without fear for their lives in a infant democracy that we're still spending blood and treasure to protect. The President and his administration have been disturbingly mealy-mouthed on the subject: the words held to account may be some of the most ill-chosen in the President's verbal history. And why on God's green Earth did the Italians need to offer sanctuary? Good on them for doing so, but Rahman should have been given a first-class seat on the first Boeing leaving for Hawaii.

It's been said before elsewhere, but I'll amplify: we're seeing nothing more than the fruits of allowing Islam's Sharia law to be installed as fundamental to the Afghan and Iraqi constitutions. This business of death being the penalty for renouncing Islam isn't some Afghani or even Islamofascist concoction: it comes straight from the Hadiths, or accounts and quotations of Mohammed:
Narrated 'Ikrima: 'Ali burnt some people and this news reached ibn 'Abbas, who said, "Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, 'Don't punish (anybody) with Allah's Punishment.' No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, 'If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.'" — Volume 4, Book 52, Chapter 149, Number 260. p. 160-161.
(quoted from the Wikipedia Article on Apostasy in Islam)

This is something we'll see more and more of as time goes on: there are thousands of people in Afghanistan alone who are in similar danger to that which Rahman has just escaped.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Enemy of My Enemy

This post is not about foreign policy, for a change. It's about domestic policy, and how it seems to create strange bedfellows lately.

To start:The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (known affectionately as "Sarbanes-Oxley," "Sarbox," or merely "SOX") is quickly becoming the prototypical example of well-intentioned legislation whose effects as a cure are worse than the disease for which it was fashioned.

From the OpinionJournal article:
Recent estimates from the American Electronic Association, for example, show that U.S. companies are spending $35 billion annually simply to comply with the law as opposed to original federal estimates of $1.2 billion. A University of Nebraska study found that audit fees for Fortune 1,000 companies, on average, increased a staggering 103% from 2003 to 2004. The costs of being a U.S. public company are now more than triple what they were before the law passed, according to a study conducted by the Milwaukee-based law firm of Foley & Lardner. Some smaller firms report that they are spending 300% more on Sarbox compliance than on health care for their employees.
Beyond the direct cost of compliance to individual companies, a recent University of Rochester study concluded that the total effect of the law has reduced the stock value of American companies by $1.4 trillion. That is $1.4 trillion that could be invested in infrastructure improvements, jobs, innovative technologies or research and development. As Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy says, Sarbanes-Oxley throws "buckets of sand into the gears of the market economy."
"Sand in the gears" is a phrase I first heard my father apply to anti-business (or merely confiscatory-via-tax) policy a few years ago; the thrust of our discussion at the time was both awestruck and cynical: "Isn't it amazing that the U.S. economy is so immense, so powerful, that we can pour incredible quantities of regulatory sand into its mechanism and it not only continues to work, but to work well enough to shame the other economies of the world?" The metaphor does raise a few questions, though: just how much sand can the mechanism take before it fails, and good grief, imagine what it could do without all that sand!

The company where I work has recently completed its Sarbanes-Oxley compliance audit, and passed. It took an incredible amount of work, and diverted truly flabbergasting resources away from our core business: i.e., selling things. Yet we still turned a decent profit this quarter; earnings were down slightly from forecasts, but still, as I said, decent. More vindication of the strength of the mechanism, I suppose, but was this trip necessary?

Here's my whole problem with the very idea of legislation like Sarbanes-Oxley: it presumes guilt until convinced of innocence. It points a legal shotgun at the forehead of every publicly-traded company in the U.S. (and their compliance-auditing firms) and says, "Prove to us that you're not a bloodsucking, fraudulent bastard!" Of course, this is designed to protect investors from falling prey to the real bloodsucking, fraudulent bastards out there in the world.

The problem is that there are already laws on the books to prosecute the living Hell out of people who defraud both small and large investors, not to mention the securities market and the government. Those laws even seem to have worked: where are Enron * and WorldCom ** today (or for that matter Arthur Andersen *** consulting)? Two effectively had the death penalty exacted on them, and WorldCom re-renamed itself to MCI, and is a shadow of its former self.

All in a world before the blunt instrument of "justice" that is Sarbanes-Oxley.

There are those who believe that such safety measures are necessary for the protection of the investor, and since everybody has a 401(k) or similar stake in the market of late, even the "little guys" are investors now, so the Enron and WorldCom scandals robbed lots of little people of considerable sums of their money. Even so, I'd argue that risk is simply part of investment. There's very little reward in this life that doesn't have risk involved, and the stock market, offering some of the most impressive monetary rewards, also comes with some of the highest levels of monetary risk.

When I buy stock in a company, I'm professing my faith in that company. This means that I take on a whole slew of risks: its business model might be flawed; it might get outcompeted by other companies in the same business; and, at its helm, there might be a slack-off, an idiot, or even a crook. Risk is part of the package, and trying to mitigate that risk limits the possible reward: in forcing all public companies to comply with its purposely vague requirements, Sarbanes-Oxley consumes those companies' resources and diverts those resources from serving the companies' goal of actually making money. That figure in the second quote is haunting: $1.4 trillion dollars that might have been plowed back into the economy (and generated tax revenue, for the socialists in the crowd), instead poured down the comparative drain of Sarbanes-Oxley compliance auditing.

I've looked around as much as I can this afternoon, and the estimates I can find of the total damages caused by the Enron and WorldCom scandals amount to around $10 billion. (If anybody knows better numbers, please let me know.) Based on these napkinback numbers, we get an amount of 140 times the original cost of the problem to "prevent it happening again," which is sadly Quixotic: all Sarbanes-Oxley does is penalize the rule-followers. Diehard rule-breakers will find ways around the auditing process, and in the meantime we've thrown a massive quantity of sand into the machine, hurting the law-abiders, to little positive effect.

My hope is that articles like the above (and why are Democrats leading the charge to neuter Sarbanes-Oxley?!?) are harbingers of a change in opinion now that the real costs of the legislation are becoming apparent. I'd love to see Sarbanes-Oxley struck down or made ineffective (or less onerous) soon; the fewer fetters we have on the American prosperity engine, the better.


PS. Speaking of risk and reward, I am in love. The inimitable 'A' will need to watch herself if she doesn't want to become the future Mrs. Rich. :-D

* From the Enron website: "Enron is in the midst of restructuring various businesses for distribution as ongoing companies to its creditors and liquidating its remaining operations."

** From the MCI site: "MCI, formerly known as WorldCom, has paid a penalty consisting of $500 million of cash and 10 million shares of new common stock of MCI, Inc. in connection with the settlement of charges brought against WorldCom by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission."

*** From the Wikipedia entry on Andersen: "On June 15, 2002, Andersen was convicted of obstruction of justice for shredding documents related to its audit of Enron. Since the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission does not allow convicted felons to audit public companies, the firm agreed to surrender its licenses and its right to practice before the SEC on August 31."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

In Case Any of Us Had Forgotten the Meaning of the Word "Courage"...

Muslim’s Blunt Criticism of Islam Draws Threats

Dr. Wafa Sultan has set herself against all that is modern fundamentalist Islam. I can hardly imagine the shadowy tendrils of Hell that are scratching at her door in the wake of her Al Jazeera interview.


Monday, March 13, 2006

A Many-Splendored Thing

Sorry for the posting hiatus--it's been a nutty few weeks at work, and between that and a few other factors I haven't made posting here a priority.

The primary thrust of this entry is 'A,' my lovely, exotic, red-blonde-haired girlfriend. She and I are doing extremely well, and this weekend was a particularly agreeable one. I finally gave her a chance (read: got the place something approaching clean enough) on Saturday to drop by Squeezings Central in Alabaster, Alabama, and get introduced to the dogs and experience all the multifarious geekery around my place. We also spent a lot of time at her apartment yesterday, reading, drinking dark coffee, and enjoying a gorgeous afternoon.

One intriguing tidbit about A is that she's a henna artist. Henna "tattoos" have become trendy of late, but "mehndi," or the art of applying henna paste (made from the leaves of the henna plant plus an acidic liquid like lemon juice) to skin in order to stain the skin temporarily in artistic patterns, has been around for thousands of years. She mixed up a batch of paste while I was visiting yesterday and reading a book of hers on the subject, and I'm quite intrigued. A's going to do some designs on herself for the Indian Festival of Colors tomorrow evening--we have reservations at Taj India here in town.

My Princess is a rare flower indeed. :-D I'm sort of smitten.


PS. More on henna at Wikipedia and

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Reaganomics, A Quarter Century Later

The 25 Fat Years

Sadly my 11-through-19-year-old skull was too full of mush to appreciate Ronald Reagan while he was in office, though I do recall my parents and lots of other adults I knew and respected liking him.

Here are the points made in the above article:
  • The changes made to the way the American economy was managed (most obviously in taxation) during the Reagan years have both stabilized and allowed the American economy to grow at a rate unequaled in modern times.
  • Making the Bush tax cuts permanent would allow the economic growth and unemployment shrinkage we've seen during the past five years to continue.
  • A Forbesian flat tax would continue and solidify Reaganomics' legacy.
  • Stop the growth of the federal government as seen under Bush (and pushed for by big-government types on both sides of the aisle).
  • Finally (and I like this greatly), we should move to a form of dynamic calculation when forecasting the impact of tax cuts on government revenues. When taxes are cut (leaving more money in the pockets of Americans), the economy receives a stimulus. The resulting growth in wages and increase in people's spending bring more cash into tax coffers, not less, as static, zero-sum calculations forecast.
These all seem like dandy conclusions and measures to me... A flat tax will be a tough sell because it's so easy to demagogue "regressiveness," but anyone looking honestly at the way the American economy has exploded over the past 25 years has to admit that something good happened then, and is worth perpetuating.

So, argue with me! Tell me why lower taxes are bad, why Reaganomics was the disaster liberals claim it was, tell me how the growth of the past two and a half decades is not traceable to changes made during the Reagan years.



Sorry for the lack of updates... I have an update to my thoughts on the Port Kerfuffle coming, and one or two other things.

In the meantime, a hearty welcome-back to A, who has been sorely under the weather until recently.

It's going to be gorgeous out pretty much all week here in Birmingham (finally) with sunshine and temperatures in the 70s well into the weekend. These are the times when I really enjoy having moved to the Magic City.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

If you can't win the debate, jam their transmission

Michelle Malkin's website seems to be the target of a Denial of Service attack by a group of "cyberjihadis" located in Turkey today.

Seeing as how Michelle's going to be back up within a day or less, what message is this going to send other than the same old "Islamofascists are a bunch of immature geekboys who vandalize and make noise rather than arguing their case" point that we get every night by watching the news?

You need to vary the message, guys. The rest of the world gets bored when we hear the same thing over and over again.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

One Thousand Words, With Interest

Click for Article
Toonophobia from Cox & Forkum.


PS. They do explain why cartoon pigs are holding the signs.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Let We Forget

Google Maps display of the Cartoon Jihad
(Hat tip Malkin, who really deserves a fruit basket or something)

Good Grief

It's pretty boggling how big a deal this has become. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims the world over, either rioting of their own accords, or being convinced/coerced to riot in protest over twelve cartoons.

Press on the matter has been flagging a bit, but the violence, deaths, cowardice and mayhem continue. When you look at the sheer scope of the unrest, can anyone truly deny that this is another exchange in a culture war?

Freedom of speech is simply a must for any seriously free society. Immunity to the depredations of the whims of other countries is a primary tenet of national sovereignty, and also the foundation of any safety a nation might guarantee its citizens from foreign incursions, physical or otherwise. What we are witnessing is the adherents of an ideology (we'll call it Islamofascism) trying not only to abrogate free people's freedom of speech, but to do so across national boundaries, and even according to a double standard, since Iranian and Palestinian newpapers are known to publish inflammatory cartoons regarding Judaism, Christianity, America and other Western institutions and symbols.

It's been a scary week or two, watching the relatively weak showing that American and European papers have made as regards publishing the cartoons, but it's worth remembering that A) there have been exceptions [good], and B) the enemy in this conflict has shown himself to be very patient, and very sly [bad]. The shelf life of this crisis in American media won't last another week unless more deaths occur (and places like Pakistan and Nigeria do keep fanning the flames, to be fair), but the fundamental conflict of values won't have altered one iota.


Monday, February 20, 2006

So Glad to See It...

More and More Moderate Muslims Speak Out in Denmark
(Hat tip Little Green Footballs)

One has to imagine that regardless of the danger to the original publishers and cartoonists, a person standing up to his/her own imam (and thus unable to be anonymous or otherwise avoid the fallout) would be endangering him/herself in an entirely different way. Bully for all Muslim moderates speaking out.

Cheney Watch
This is simply masterful:
Bonfire of the Inanities

In Other News
The lovely and gracious 'A' is under the weather with what appears to be a seasonal über-sniffle, and IMs are zipping furtively between Squeezings Central and the doctor's office where she is being examined. Fervent wishes for her speedy recovery.


Friday, February 17, 2006

I Wash and I Wash, but the Stain Won't Come Out...

I'm forced to agree with Chuck Schumer on something.
More are questioning port transfer
(Hat tip Malkin, again, via the Geek Girl Blonde)

I'm simply at a loss. What possible reason could we have for turning operation of the ports over to ANYBODY other than an American corporation? If we're trying to save money, try cutting taxes, growing the balls to cut entitlement programs, or attacking other crazy pork like bridges to nowhere, instead of nickling-and-diming critical national infrastructure!

I need more soap. God, why Schumer?


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Yawn... :-)

Seems like a slow news day today. Oh, there's plenty happening, but the top stories pretty much everywhere are the same as yesterday: the Cheney shooting flap, the Cartoon Jihad, the Abu Graib issue recycle, the largely ignored prospect of a nuclear Iran, the U.N. bloviating about Guantanamo Bay being, against all actual evidence, a hellhole of torture and degradation. In short, business as usual. :-p

So, a departure from politics. How'm I doing?

I, in short, am great. Work is tooling along well, if at an overall sedate pace. I'm seeing a beautiful, intelligent, funny and fascinating woman who seems to be functioning wonderfully as my blogging muse. Work on the Bowflex has granted me better energy and (I'm told by a highly cute and reliable source) a cuddlably muscular bod. Stocks are up, weather is mild, and spring feels just around the Alabama corner.

In sum, I'm good. Got laundry to do tonight, and a living room to clean. Gonna chat with my Princess for a little while, sip a decent Sauvignon Blanc, and enjoy the evening.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I'd Ask...

But I think the sad, sad answer's pretty clear.

Why is the media so hot to publish the latest Abu Graib photos (and in the process offend Arabs and U.S. military servicemen and -women alike, while neither making new points nor righting new wrongs), yet for the most part too protective of the sensitivities of those poor, defenseless, rioting-by-the-tens-of-thousands Muslims to publish the Mohammed Cartoons?

Well, if in your mind the source of all real evil in the world is Westernism and/or Americanism in all its forms (with a liberal spicing of Bush Derangement Syndrome for good measure), it's easy to take sides. Rest assured, though, palaver like "speaking truth to power" and fair-weather freedom of speech will be touted as defenses, when anyone bothers to make them.

Disgusting, sad... I'm running out of sufficiently loaded emotional terms. Luckily A and I are heading out to the Lakeview Oyster House here in town after work.


Talk About Fish in a Barrel...

The Shooting Party
Hat tip Michelle Malkin

You know, it's tempting to let the Left's propensity for own goals go unremarked, but hell, this is a blog, so remark I shall. Does anyone seriously think that harping on Vice President Cheney for not having the mainstream media on speed dial (just in case he accidentally shot a friend in the face while on a hunting trip) will gain any traction with anyone other than the "Daily Kos" crowd?

How does piling on to what is undoubtedly a moment of personal anguish for the VP (and momentarily mortal danger for his good friend) reflect positively on the pilers-on? Didn't the PR disaster that was bringing the newly-confirmed Supreme Court Justice Alito's wife to tears teach the Left anything? Evidently not.

And besides, it's not like there's anything else going on worth reporting on in the world. From the linked RCP article:
In the absence of any pressing news these days -- other than Iran's nuclear weapons development crisis, the election of Hamas terrorists in Palestine, ongoing worldwide Muslim riots and killing in reaction to a cartoon, Al Gore's near sedition while speaking in Saudi Arabia, the turning over of our East Coast ports to be managed by a United Arab Emirates firm, the criminal leaking of vital NSA secrets to the New York Times, Mexican military incursions across our southern border, the Iraqi crisis, Congress's refusal to deal with the developing financial collapse of Social Security and Medicare, inter alia -- the White House press corp has exploded in righteous fury over the question of the vice president's little shooting party last weekend.
There's really not much I can add to that.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day!

Herewith a departure from our regularly scheduled polemic to wish everyone a happy Day of Evil Emotionally Manipulative Corporate Incitement to Patriarchially Sexist Consumerism.

Naw, everybody enjoy loving on their squeezes today. A and I have a nice dinner planned for tomorrow evening, but as she's under the weather this evening I'm having a pizza delivered to her place, and planning to go over and engage in some nurturin'.

Oh, and in case anyone was curious:
I'd rather hunt with Dick Cheney than ride with Ted Kennedy.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Water-Kerryer: What Part of "Aid and Comfort to the Enemy" Does This Man not Understand?

Well, Al Gore decided to try for an Al-Jazeera headline today:
Gore Laments U.S. 'Abuses' Against Arabs
(Hat tip Michelle Malkin)

Basically, Gore accuses the U.S. of inconveniencing and delaying Arabs in America during the process of confirming visa applications, investigating green card irregularities and the like.

Well, no, actually he accuses us of something entirely different:
Gore told the largely Saudi audience, many of them educated at U.S. universities, that Arabs in the United States had been "indiscriminately rounded up, often on minor charges of overstaying a visa or not having a green card in proper order, and held in conditions that were just unforgivable."
Invoke painful World War II imagery much? I thought ham-fisted dredging up of old racial shames in the name of political pandering was Hillary's job.

Anyway, Michelle does a better job of exploding Gore's claims and exposing their counterfactual basis in her post than I'm likely to.

I continue to be amazed that anything Gore does commands the attention of a Kindergarten class, let alone the international media. But if there's any way you can squint at it, point a finger and blame Bush, it's newsworthy, right?


Friday, February 10, 2006

Danish Intestinal Fortitude

Danish Kids Don’t Get Pork
(Hat tip Michelle Malkin and NeanderNews)

Apparently Danish kids have only Halal-butchered meat (the Islamic version of kosher meat) available to them in their school cafeterias. Until now. In the wake of the cartoon fracas of the past week or two, politicians are demanding that Danish kids now have pork chops and pork-containing meatballs available on their lunch menus. No word on whether this will in fact happen, but I love the fact that amid a punishing boycott on Danish goods from the Muslim world it seems a bipartisan call for flipping off Muslim sensibilities is now in effect.

I'm going to have to learn more about the Danes and their culture of stick-it-to-em-ness. This shows a level of courage and pluck I wasn't aware still existed in Europe. :-D

I feel like having some bacon for lunch, myself!


Thursday, February 09, 2006

All those with ears to hear...

What would Muhammad do?

Again, let's continue to lift up the Muslim voices calling for sanity.


You know, I keep trying to avoid making this into some Randian morality play...

EU mulls media code after cartoon protests
(Hat tip Little Green Footballs)

Yes, that would be a proposed EU media code "encouraging" that the media show "prudence" when covering anything religious. It apparently won't have the force of law... Anyone want to take bets how long that will last, having come from the EU itself?

Thank goodness part of our Constitution reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Is anyone still not convinced that this is about the exercise of free speech?

And yes, this is another story perpetuating the falsehood that depicting Mohammed is forbidden by Islam. I'm seriously considering coming up with a little logo for stories that do this.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Much Ado About...Nothing?

Bonfire of the Pieties: Islam prohibits neither images of Muhammad nor jokes about religion
(May require free registration)

In this article, OpinionJournal commentator Amir Taheri makes some great points, both that there is no scriptural prohibition in Islam of depictions of Mohammed, and that the prevailing Sulafist (also called Wahhabist, or Islamofascist) attitude of humorlessness and intolerance of parody is also unsupported, either by the Koran or by other anecdotes of Mohammed's own life.

At his article's end, Taheri takes a final parting shot at both sides of the debate:
Just as Muslims should not blame all Westerners for the poor taste of a cartoonist who wanted to be offensive, those horrified by the spectacle of rent-a-mob sackings of embassies in the name of Islam should not blame all Muslims for what is an outburst of fascist energy.
Sadly, this misses the larger point of the debate, and glosses the deafening near-silence from the non-rioting Muslims of the world on this latest smear of their faith by what one would hope is a highly embarrassing, if vocal, minority.

This crisis/debate/farce is not about some Danish cartoonists' decisions to offend Islam, and never has been. It's about whether we in the West will stand up for our own nations' interpretation of the right to a free press, and freedom of speech, and we allow this fact to be obscured in the debate at our peril. Reactions of our governments have been mixed, but largely disappointing aside from a few bright points, which leaves it up to braver newspapers and people in the blogosphere to make the stand. It's not so courageous a stand as some might think (I'm fairly certain I have little to fear from cartoon-mad crazies on U.S. soil), but I'm big on standing up to be counted when issues like this one arise. In situations like this one, failure to take a side is to stand aside.

And as regards the near-silence of the nonviolent, tolerant majority of Muslims we're assured are out there, we need to see more of the sort of story I blogged about below. Like dozens or hundreds more. I hopped over to to see what it's saying about the matter, and its lead story as of this afternoon is of President Bush effectively strengthening the case of the Islamofascists and rioters with quotes like "With freedom comes the responsibility to be thoughtful about others," and perpetuating the canard about Islam prohibiting representations of Mohammed. I want to see the top five stories on Al Jazeera to be denunciations of the riots, and exposés of Iranian and Syrian state support of the rioting.

I would hope that such material would, in modern parlance, be newsworthy.