Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hitchens versus Maher

I've always loved to read Christopher Hitchens' stuff although I do tune him out when he talks about religion. And Henry Kissinger. Here's a link to a YouTube video taken from the execrable Bill Maher's show: Bill Unthrilled. (Hat tip to NRO). Hitchens is exactly right in this case and he's been right on Iraq and al Qaeda from the beginning.

And on a not-unrelated note, I just finished reading a terrific book called They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons, by Jacob Heilbrunn. (It's largely critical of the them, by the way.) I was gratified to see that, contrary to the sometimes anti-semitic sallies by their enemies, you don't have to be Jewish to be a neocon!
"... not all neocons are Jewish ... Catholics, as the late Michael Joyce -- a moving force behind the Olin and Bradley foundations and a friend of Irving Kristol's -- pointed out, are attracted to neoconservatism. Part of it may be the emphasis on traditional values and even, in the case of the political philosopher Leo Strauss, premodern ones. Leading Catholic neoconservatives like Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Michael Novak, and William J. Bennett shared a critical view of liberalism, or at least liberal complacency when it came to social issues and a number of foreign policy ones."

So there! And here and here, too: Now I feel justified in self-identifying as one! :-)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Palin's Personal Baggage

Oh for crying out loud. The mother of the really cool 18-year-old twerp who knocked up Sarah Palin's really smart 17-year-old daughter has been arrested on drug charges. John McCain, whose campaign got a severe case of anemia after locking up the nomination, apparently also did a really shitty job vetting his "vice" presidential pick. It also missed the fun fact that Palin's really cool husband was a member of party filled, at least to some extent, by supporters of independence of Alaska from the United States! (But at least he won snow mobile races, right?) Pay no attention to my enthusiastic blog posts about Palin in the August-September time frame. One might be excused for proceeding on the not-unreasonable assumption that McCain was smart enough and wanted to actually be elected badly enough to do his frigging job! Do I sound pissed? We've been saddled with a leftist surrounded by crowds of awestruck socialists and other scary social policy creeps because John McCain pooped out and took a nap instead of running for president.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Genuinely Cool Software Department (cont.)

Check this out! I can search Google by speaking into my cell phone! I actually don't mind typing on the iPhone virtual keyboard but this seems to work just as well. It will be interesting to see whether I end up using this in practice over the long term. I'm thinking of the following scenario: Suppose I'm reading a dead tree version of a book and I run across a word I don't know. Since I'm not reading my beloved Kindle, I'll pull my cell phone from my pocket, raise it to my ear, and say the words "define ichthyology" and lower it from my ear so I can read the result. Okay, okay, so realistically I'll actually be saying "define neocon bastard" but you get the idea.

It's not terribly accurate yet but I suspect I'll get the hang of speaking clearly and surely the software will improve. I saw another article in which the author says, essentially, just wait to see how capable the software is in six months! Methinks I'll be as accurate in speaking the word now as I currently am typing on the tiny virtual keyboard with my big mitts. We shall see.

But no way will these dead tree books ever replace the Kindle. :-)

The One We've Been Waiting For

For those who've been wondering "just how the HELL did this guy get elected?", YouTube (anecdotally) confirms what your ears have been telling you for the past two years. Swell!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Congratulations to President-Elect Obama!

Barack Obama won last night and he will be our next president. Conservatives ought to give him a chance and we ought to support him when and where we can. There are important issues on which he must be opposed, such as those involving the sanctity of life. My fears about the war on terror are somewhat quieted by the current state of the Iraq war and the fact that the president-elect has explicitly stated that he recognizes that Afghanistan and Pakistan must be dealt with. But even if those fears were to flare up again, I respect the office to which he has been elected; I respect the outcome of the vote that put him there; and I hope he is a good president. We need one right now. I have always been proud to be an American and I will always be proud of that.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Obsessive Compulsive Communications Disease

What is it with me and communications? I just got finished upgrading my Verizon FIOS service (fiber to the home, baby!) and am now getting 20 Mbps/5 Mbps Internet service and "Extreme HD" television service (345 channels, including all available HD channels). I subscribe to XM Radio in my car. I have an Amazon Kindle e-book reader and love it. I no longer lust for a laptop computer because I carry my iPhone around with me at all times and surf the web whenever the need arises. I also subscribe to too many magazines and I have a full plate of Google Reader RSS blog subscriptions. Ever since the first Gulf War back in 1990-1991, I have vowed to have all available cable news channels at all times.

And I would rather scrimp on food and medicine than go without cool audio, video, and computer stuff. Is this sick? Maybe, but I'm feeling too good with the new rush in endorphins to care right now! :-)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

What a Helluva Great Speech!

I just finished watching Gov. Sarah Palin's speech from last night. What a great speech! What a hell of a great speech! What a helluva a great candidate! I can't convey how enthusiastic I am, all over again, having heard her speak, now, for the second time. Time will tell us if she measures up to her rhetoric but, if she does, she really is the new Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. After years in the wilderness, gritting our teeth over the likes of Mark Foley and that damp towel, Denny Hastert, conservatives FINALLY have something to cheer for again!

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain Hits One Out of the Park!

And he did it on so many levels. She's a pro-life, pro-gun, hockey-mom conservative for neanderthals like me. I heard Palin had her fifth child in April --- after finding out that he has Downs Down's Syndrome! This is gonna blow the NARAL and Planned Parenthood commissars outta the water! Tolerance for imperfection in people, with no devaluation of their humanity at all ... how radical!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Luckiest Man in the World

Heh! Hat tip to Powerline. Twenty years ago I laughed when I heard the joke about Dan Quayle being the luckiest man on earth. Dan's now at number two.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Website of the Hour: LibraryThing

I've been a (paid) member of since 2006 and it has been a lot of fun. The idea is that you list the books in your personal library or the books you've read and, when comparing your collection to similar collections of others, you get good ideas about what to read next. Perhaps you've noticed the array of book covers and titles running down the right-hand margin of this blog page. That's produced using a LibraryThing widget, which randomly selects books from my collection and shows off what I've read, am reading, or intend to read. Here's a link to my personal page in to see more. This is a different kind of social internet and, IMHO, much more interesting than a facebook or myspace page. (But maybe that's because I'm approaching middle age. :-)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Kindle Watch

Time magazine is reporting that sales of Kindle editions of books now total 12% of total sales at Amazon for those titles. That is, in the universe made up exclusively of the 140,000 titles with Kindle editions available, 12% of sales of those titles by Amazon are in the e-book format. This is double the percentage quoted by Jeff Bezos a couple of months ago. I bought my Kindle in February and love it. I carried a library of books on a single device on my recent vacation trip to California. I did not read them all, of course, but I often keep several books going at once. And when I feel like I still have nothing to read, I can browse the Kindle store wirelessly. I don't own Amazon stock. Wish I did! :-)

Monday, June 09, 2008


I recently finished reading a book called The Last Secret of Fatima. The book itself, while uneven in quality, shone in several places. Our Lady appeared to three children at Fatima, Portugal several times in 1917 and events associated with those apparitions and the popular piety they have produced ever since in very many people, believers and others, are astounding. One of the three children, Lucie Dos Santos, ten years old at the time, was the only one of the three to live to adulthood. She became a Carmelite nun and lived to the age of 97 years. Originally illiterate, she wrote prolifically later in life in the form of responses to letters from individuals, to members of the Roman Curia, and several of the Popes.

While it has rightly been pointed out that we have "had a good run of Popes" in the past two centuries, we are especially fortunate for the latest two, Pope John Paul the Great and Pope Benedict XVI. John Paul was especially devoted to Our Lady of Fatima and created a fourth set of mysteries of the Rosary, the "Luminous Mysteries", in response to a request by Sister Lucia for the Rosary to be made liturgical, instead of "merely" an expression of popular piety. Whether he actually did so, or whether he offered a compromise of sorts to Sr. Lucia, I admit I am not certain and it seems to me that the principal author of The Last Secret of Fatima is not either.

Again, the quality of this particular book is very uneven, but there are highly inspirational parts, mostly in the recounting of interviews of Sr. Lucia and in the material written by (then) Cardinal Josef Ratzinger. Ratzinger, now known as Pope Benedict XVI, is a scholar whose prose I find to require very careful reading. If he were not a theologian (and a university professor), I would swear he could easily have turned out to be an engineer: His language is extremely precise and I find that I must be very alert and allow no distraction while trying to read him. And, as I personally am an engineer, I find his language, produced by a lifetime of theology, history, and philosophy to be verging on the lyrical. Lyricality is hard to reconcile with his obvious care with precise language to describe exactly what he is trying to say about topics that are necessarily purely subjective. ("Subjective" only if you do not admit revelation to the discussion, that is.) Reading his prose reminds me of trying to read a math paper with its arcane language and reasoning. Fortunately the "arcane" language required by Benedict's expertise is not often as incomprehensible as a mathematician's and, as he does in Jesus of Nazareth, he is successful in writing at a level that I can, with effort, understand. Or at least I think I can. :-) My next project is to try to read his Jesus of Nazareth and we'll see if that statement holds!

Somewhat parenthetically, there is a passage quoted from Sr. Lucia in The Last Secret of Fatima that has stuck in my mind for the past few days. Apropos of nothing in particular, I would like to keep it in mind for when I am feeling discouraged:
"Our Lady did not predict that we would have pleasures, earthly joys, honor, power, or material goods. Nor did she predict that we would become big, important people in this world, which is nothing but illusion, blindness, and vanity, and where every goal is sought with so much anguish, deceit, and injustice. [Our Lady said,] 'Do you wish to offer yourselves to God? Will you bear all the sufferings he will send you in order to make reparation for the sins by which he is offended? Will you pray for the conversion of sinners?' [The three children at Fatima answered,] 'Yes, we will.'"
There are many goals in life that are ultimately less worthy. It is not clear that there are many more valuable.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Web Site of the Hour

Here is another in my series of "web pages of the hour". Called "flickrvision", it is a "mash-up" in which photos being posted to flickr are shown, as they appear and with a pointer to map that represents the location of the person who is uploading them! It is a lot of fun to watch and I may open an account for myself there, seeing as how it is possible to email photos from my beloved iPhone to flickr.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I Write Letters

Here is a copy of an email I sent to the White House from the web site. They must receive thousands of emails. I wonder if anybody will ever see mine. If I were the sysadmin for this administration, all incoming email would be immediately piped to /dev/null.

"Dear Sir or Madam,

I have noted with approval the recent willingness of the White House to "fire back" at NBC News and the New York Times. As a conservative who has supported the President and his war policy for the past seven years, however, I must ask you why it took until the President's eighth year in office to begin to do so? If only the President had simply been willing to consistently fight back against his domestic critics over the years, I cannot help but wonder if the present public approval ratings of the administration would have been higher? Might it not also be the case that six years of silence in response to the constant rhetorical pounding by the press led to the Democrat takeover of the Congress in 2006? Nevertheless I continue to support the President and the war on terror. I hope that the next President will also continue that war to a successful conclusion."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Third Man and the Insignificance of Others

In the latest issue (June/July 2008) of First Things magazine Fr. Richard Neuhaus delivers a sledgehammer blow to the face of the proud and the strong in his monthly "Public Square" article. It is so perfect, so precise, and so devastating, it made me sit upright when I read it. He aptly juxtaposes scenes of people who just know they are right, or least want to make others believe they are right ... I want quote it in full:
The taxpayers of California are paying for a multi-billion dollar Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which specializes in embryonic stem cell research and other cutting-edge technology of the brave new world. Alan Trounson heads up the project and says in an interview that he was at first 'very uncomfortable' about dissecting human embryos. But then, on a trip to Naples, he talked with 'members of a Vatican university who persuaded me that if I felt that what I was doing was designed to address some problem of human misery, then it was acceptable.' He means well, so that's all right then. Too bad about the very little human beings, but you have to look at the big picture. Says Trounson: 'In a big-picture sense, I want to be up on the mountain looking down on the Serengeti, watching all the animals move through.' You may remember Orson Welles in The Third Man, standing at the top of the ferris wheel, watching all the people moving through the square below, and explaining why this is the perspective in which to judge his dealing in diluted penicillin. When you're doing bad things to little people, keeping the big picture in mind is a moral comfort.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Vatican letter directs bishops to keep parish records from Mormons

This is creating a churn in the genealogy world:

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In an effort to block posthumous rebaptisms by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Catholic dioceses throughout the world have been directed by the Vatican not to give information in parish registers to the Mormons' Genealogical Society of Utah.

This is unfortunate but it had to happen some time. This same topic came up a few months ago and I recall hearing a priest at Catholic University interviewed. He said something to the effect that the practice of posthumously baptizing faithful Catholic ancestors of faithful Catholics "is inappropriate but ultimately harmless". I tend to agree with him although I also understand the emotions motivating cutting off access. I hope there will be an agreement some time soon, with both sides giving some ground. The Mormons could start things off by agreeing to weed out "baptisms" of "Mr. and Mrs. Eugenio Pacelli" for crying out loud.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Homo Sapiens Nearly Went Extinct 70K years ago

CNN says:
"Human beings may have had a brush with extinction 70,000 years ago, an extensive genetic study suggests ... The human population at that time was reduced to small isolated groups in Africa, apparently because of drought, according to an analysis released Thursday."

I've been interested in genealogy since around Thanksgiving 2006 and, in this post-modern age, that implies genetic genealogy too. Haven't sprung for a DNA test yet but it is amazing what genetic analysis is leading to. Somewhere I read that all humans can be traced to a single human female via mitochondrial DNA analysis. Will try to find that back.