February 2005 Archives
In light of the recent most deadly suicide bombing in Iraq, I have to wonder why there aren't more pro-Iraq vigilantes. Maybe there are private vigilante groups that hunt down terrorists, but if so I haven't heard of them. Remember when that rebel shi'ite cleric al-Sadr was running amok? There were several groups of Iraqis who self-organized to help bring him down. If suicide bombings were a daily threat in America, I'd like to think that civilians would be eager to band together to take out the murderers, if the government proved unable to. I'm sure I don't have a full understanding of the situation on the ground in Iraq, but it takes significant infrastructure to pull off these bombings, so there must be plenty of people who know the whos and wheres.
Eh, who cares. The only nominated movie I saw was The Aviator, and it didn't win. Chris Rock was as amusing as could be reasonably expected, though his harangue against Bush was pretty petty and ignorant. The highlights were Al Pachino and Dustin Hoffman, who were both clearly drunk when they presented their awards... in my opinion.
Also, what was up with the hoards of empty seats? Aren't there supposed to be "seat filler" people to jump in? There were vacancies all along the floor and up in the balcony too.
Imagine how cool the Academy Awards would be if they were hosted by Conan O'Brien! They could have Triumph, and Arnold and Bill, and the Masturbating Bear, and In The Year 2000, and it would be hilarious. Holy crap, I can hardly contain my laughter, just thinking about it.
Oh man, this is so awesome. I remember this Saturday Night Live commercial from when I was a kid; I hadn't seen it in years, but it's still just as funny as I remember. Old Glory Robot Insurance, for when the metal ones come for you. And they will.
I've been reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin and getting curious about war horses. A thousand pound animal that can run around all day carrying a 200 pound knight and 300 pounds of steel or more is pretty impressive. Here's a group of people called New Riders of the Golden Age who claim to be the only realistic full-contact jousters in the world.
The New Riders of the Golden Age from War Horse Farm in Sarasota, Florida, have been jousting professionally since 1982 and have appeared at Renaissance Festivals, state and county fairs and other events all over the USA and Canada. Knight on Percheron steed
The use of Belgian, Percheron, Shire, and Clydesdale horses and full suits of period-designed 16th century tilting armor differentiates the New Riders of the Golden Age from groups and organizations presenting staged theatrical medieval jousts. The use of period equipment allows the New Riders to engage in an authentic full contact joust, and the great horses add an unmatchable sense of power and presence to the joust. Over twenty years of developing equipment, refining technique, and performing live at large outdoor venues have polished a unique presentation and confirmed repeatedly that audiences do appreciate the real thing.
The whole concept is fascinating to me. Horses were an integral part of human civilization for thousands years, but we've pretty much moved past them now, both in war and peace.
The "Bind, Torture, Kill" killer has been caught, and the Spork has been following the story and has the scoop before the mainstream media. Apparently the guy, Dennis Rader, was actually posting messages on the Catch BTK forum, and now the FBI has taken the site down. He was also the President of Christ Lutheran Church in Wichita. It looks like he got married in the early 70s, had a couple of kids, killed a bunch of people in the late 70s, and may have stopped killing when his kids got older. He may not have stopped entirely, but he stopped taking public responsibility for the killings at least, until recently when he started taunting the police again. Maybe he got bored when his kids moved out? Apparently Rader didn't realize that police in the 21st century are a bit more sophisticated than the cops from the 70s.
I've been working like mad on my PhD while I've been looking for a job, and now I'm writing a chapter about the properties a communication simulation needs to have in order to be analogous to the real world. I don't want to give too many examples -- because I don't want to taint your suggestions -- but I'm thinking that simulations must deal with things like:
- Time. No cause and effect without time, so it's pretty fundamental. Plus, I doubt the human brain can even conceive of a world without time.
- Space. Most useful simulations will have something analogous to physical space, for objects to exist in and move through.
- Tasks. Simulations must have tasks to be completed, or they're useless.
- Objects. Something has to do the acting and moving and learning.
And then there are concepts with more specificity:
- Resources. Types of objects that are required to complete a task. Are they scarce? Are there an infinite number?
- Feedback loops. In real life, success leads to more success.
- Aging, death, birth.
- Types of knowledge. Where things are. The states of other agents. How tasks are completed.
- Indirection. John says that Jane said that Tim said that John is dead.
- Truthfulness. Some people lie, and some are just mistaken, but either way not all signals are correct.
And so forth. I've got a huge list of things to be considered, but I'd like to hear your suggestions. What properties of real life are important for a simulation of Distributed Autonomous Communicators?
I'm not a lawyer, but it strikes me that the recent sperm theft trial has possible implications for the abortion issue.
Phillips alleges that he and Irons, who practices internal medicine, never had intercourse during their four-month affair, although they did have oral sex three times.
His suit contends that Irons, without his knowledge, kept some of his semen and used it to impregnate herself. ...
But the judges agreed with the lower court's decision to dismiss fraud and theft claims against Irons.
They agreed with Irons' lawyers that she didn't steal the sperm.
"She asserts that when plaintiff 'delivered' his sperm, it was a gift -- an absolute and irrevocable transfer of title to property from a donor to a donee," the decision said. "There was no agreement that the original deposit would be returned upon request."
Most pro-choicers say that the mother has a right to an abortion because the baby is inside her and entirely dependent on her, but perhaps the "irrevocable transfer" argument is valid here as well. I suppose the objection would be that egg and sperm don't change from being "property" to being a "person" until the spatial location of the result of their combination changes, so there's no "person" to be the recipient of the "irrevocable transfer"... but what about the father? Maybe a father could argue that when the mother had sex with him she irrevocably transferred her egg into their joint possession.
Or even her entire womb! After all, there's no "I" in uterus.
There's more to compensation than just a salary. Here's a set of things I like to find out from companies that offer me jobs.
- Does the company do results/profit sharing? Is there another kind of bonus structure? How are bonuses calculated and when are they handed out? As a new hire, have I missed the bonus cycle for this year?
- Do you offer a signing bonus? (Particularly important if I've missed the regular bonus cycle for the year.)
- Will you automatically re-evaluate my salary once I complete my degree? How much will it be bumped up?
- What types of benefits do you offer, and what is the employee contribution?
- How much vacation do I get? Sick leave? What about holidays? What about taking unpaid leave?
- Does the company pay tuition for employees that are still in school?
- How flexible is the company with hours? Can I work overtime some days to take another day off?
- Will I need to get a security clearance? Will a polygraph be required? How often?
- Does the company pay overtime? How many hours will I be expected to work each week for my base salary?
- Does the company offer training or classes to further my education? Will the company pay for me to earn certifications?
- Will I be expected to travel for business? How often? Where?
- Who will I be reporting to? Who will manage me, and who will handle my HR issues?
- What is my commitment to the position? Will I be able to apply for transfers within the company? After how long? What are my opportunities for advancement?
On Sunday my pastor noted that, "Some people will believe anything, as long as it's not written in the Bible."
Why is that? There are three main reasons that I can think of, though you may come up with more.
First, Christians are often not very good representatives of what the Bible teaches. All sorts of evils have been done because "God told me to", so many unbelievers are wary of putting their faith in a document that's been clearly misused and misconstrued over the ages.
Second, most people don't know a lot about what the Bible says. Even many Christians know very little of what God has written, or only know Bible soundbites ("Love your neighbor as yourself", "Thou shalt not X"). This plays into the first reason: Christians often don't follow God's commands because they don't know God's commands; unbelievers only know a very little of what the Bible says, but they know a great deal about the silly, hypocritical things Christians do. I can't even count the number of times I've had unbelievers tell me that they don't want to be a Christian because of something they think they know about the Bible, but that in fact is completely false.
Third, most people don't like the message of the Bible. This dislike is natural -- all people are evil in their hearts and love themselves more than God -- and it often leads to both disobedience and ignorance of the Bible. Why study something that clashes so uncomfortably with the enjoyable lifestyle you crave? Why obey in hard circumstances when it is (apparently) so easy to get away with doing wrong? Much better to just forget about it and secretly hope that ignorance will be a suitable excuse when -- and if -- God ever gets around to judging people.
And the consequence of these three factors is that the Bible has been largely discredited in our culture. When telling someone about God, saying "because it's written in the Bible" carries very little weight. People reject the idea of faith and belief and instead clamor for proof, which is impossible to produce, because God is not a tangible thing that can be boxed in by theorems and logic. Further, the actions of Christians often don't demonstrate a God that is worthy of faith.
Nevertheless, Christians shouldn't forget that when Jesus confronted Satan directly, his most powerful weapon were three simple words: "it is written".
Every human being has a selfish personal agenda that they're attempting to advance through their professional life. In scientific fields, the system is supposed to work in such a way that the scientist reaps the most personal benefit if he follows a certain set of rules and always acts honestly and without philisophical bias. Unfortunately -- as in all human systems -- that lofty ideal is rarely met, and in some cases reality falls far short indeed. As an example, take the case of professor Reiner Protsch von Zieten, who apparently lied about the age of skulls he discovered in Northern Europe.
Reiner Protsch von Zieten, a Frankfurt university panel ruled, lied about the age of human skulls, dating them tens of thousands of years old, even though they were much younger, reports Deutsche Welle.
"The commission finds that Prof. Protsch has forged and manipulated scientific facts over the past 30 years," the university said of the widely recognized expert in carbon data in a prepared statement. ...
Among their findings was an age of only 3,300 years for the female "Bischof-Speyer" skeleton, found with unusually good teeth in Northern Germany, that Protsch dated to 21,300 years.
Another dating error was identified for a skull found near Paderborn, Germany, that Protsch dated at 27,400 years old. It was believed to be the oldest human remain found in the region until the Oxford investigations indicated it belonged to an elderly man who died in 1750.
These weren't just mistakes, they were purposeful lies, and these lies led to a whole host of subsidiary mistakes when other researchers relied on his results. Professor Protsch thought he could beat the system and advance his career without playing by the rules, and he succeeded for decades, only getting caught by chance. Anyone who thinks this example is singular within the academic community is sadly delusional.
Why? Because there isn't much acclaim to be gained by going back over the work of others and seriously checking it for errors. No one wants to be seen as a backstabber, especially in tight-knit, incestuous scientific circles. Plus, it's hard to find lies, even when they're there, because even the liars have a lot of specialized knowledge that makes it difficult for others to replicate their work. See also, the downfall of Michael Bellesiles.
Xrlq pointed me to a thread at Hugo Schwyzer's blog about Bible versions and submission as commanded in Ephesians 5. The comment thread is very interesting, but they get stuck because the only options they consider are that the passage is misconstrued and that it doesn't really mean that wives should submit to their husbands, or that the passage is nonsense and demonstrates that the Bible is stupid and sexist. However, as I wrote regarding marriage and submission previously, the reason secularists and politically correct Christians don't understand the passage is because they don't see how it can be both "sexist" and good at the same time.
First, Xrlq argues that it's absurd for the Bible to say that a wife should worship her husband just as the church worships Christ. That would be absurd, so it's good the Bible doesn't say that. It only says that a wife is supposed to submit her husband as the church submits to Christ. That submission is based on the wife's reverence for Christ, not based on the magnificence of the husband. Further, the husband is commanded to live his wife just as Christ loved the church, not because the wife is super-fantastic, but because of the husband's reverence for Christ. Our worship of God dictates our relationships to our fellow human beings.
Second, the real controversy seems to be based on the belief that the one who submits is somehow "less" than the one in authority. As I quoted in my previous post, that's just not the case. Jesus himself taught on the matter of authority and said:
24 Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves."
Jesus came to earth to submit to evil men and be killed, not to rule as a king. Anyone who worries about being in charge and having earthly authority reveals that they care more for worldly things than spiritual. Humility should guide both husbands and wives in everything. Each should love the other, and each should submit to the other, but special instruction is given here to each partner to teach them what manner of behavior is pleasing to God. Anyone who knows both men and women can attest that we are different, so it should be no surprise that God treats us differently in marriage.
Finally, perhaps more husbands should strive to be worthy of submission, and perhaps more wives should strive to be worth dying for.
Hey kids, I see via Glenn at Unite Later that my humble blog is being used in a high school psychology class to illustrate the psyche of religious fanatics (among other things, though the erratic format of the blog makes it a bit hard to follow). The fellow there -- who may or may not be the same people as "chopperpilot" and/or "adam" and/or "ScienceNotFiction" who have been posting on my about page and elsewhere -- brands me as a "lady" and a hypocrite for not joining the Army, though he doesn't appear to believe his own service has been worthwhile. It sounds as if he might be an interesting subject for study himself. As for me, I agree that my role in the War on Terror does not require as much bravery as those fighting on the front lines, but someone has to create the weaponry and technology that makes victory possible. I believe that my work over the past few years has contributed to saving both soldier and civilian lives.
They also seem to spend a lot of time debating blog ethics, but they apparently have no problem taking comments from my site and reposting them without attribution. Here's a tip: that's unethical. Fortunately I'm a generous person and not filled with anger and self-loathing, so it's easy for me to gently correct such mistakes rather than hurl invectives. However, it did give me a great deal of pleasure to go through my blog and delete all their featherweight comments.
Anyway, I hope that while he and his classmates are visiting this site they take the opportunity to learn about rationality, truth, morality, and the correct use of ellipses and other popular forms of punctuation. I also recommend they check out Dictionary.com and my earlier post on strategies for winning arguments.
We played Trivial Pursuit again tonight and I won both times. In the first game we played the 90s edition, and as soon as it became my turn I swept the board and got all six pie pieces without allowing anyone else to go. After that we decided to play a different version, because that one really was pretty easy. We played the 20th Anniversary edition next, and I again managed to win, but only by a single slice of pie. I'm good at all the subjects except sports, but I managed to get an easy one tonight for the single question I had to answer in that category. Go me!
You've gotta give Matt Drudge some credit for frequently linking to stories that criticise himself, such as this defense of Chris Rock as Oscar host. The mainstream media would do well to emulate this practice and give even a tiny nod to their critics.
DeoDuce doesn't think Chris Rock is worth defending, but I think perhaps she misses the point of some of his crude humor. I've been known to make an off-color remark or two occasionally for the sake of satire. Anyway, I couldn't care less about who hosts the Oscars or what kind of humor he has, I just think it's neat that Drudge links to his critics.
A reader pointed me to this article about robot toddler that learns to walk like a human child. This achievement is an excellent example of how artificial intelligence techniques can be used to reap efficiency gains that cannot be easily engineered by human hands.
The machines use what the researchers called a "passive-dynamic design" that closely mimics the way humans walk. Earlier robots required powerful machines to stroll, with each leg, knee and ankle requiring motorized assistance. The effort requires a lot of energy.
The passive dynamic design uses gravity, along with muscle-like springs and motors. The energy required is just a fraction of that needed by other walking robots, said Andy Ruina, a Cornell University researcher.
Ruina said the walking robots move like humans, falling and catching themselves as they move forward. This essentially is the same movement people use, a motion toddlers must master to walk.
"We let the machines take care of a lot of the motion," he said. In contrast, most walking robots, such as Asimo, developed by the Honda Motor Co. (HMC), require a motor to power every motion.
Could a control system for this kind of movement be designed by hand? Probably, but it would be incredibly hard, particularly if it were to be as adaptable as this learning model.
"It can learn to walk in 20 minutes," Tedrake said. "Once it learns to walk, then it adapts its gait to new terrain."
He said the sensors take measurements at the rate of 200 times a second and constantly send new instructions to the motors that control the tilt and motion. The sensors also direct actuators that control the tension on springs in the robot ankles. This helps the machine push forward with each stride.
"Every time it takes a step, it changes the parameters a little bit, based on its experience," Tedrake said. "It will walk on any surface and adjust the way it walks."
In effect, the robot changes its stride just as humans do when moving from sand to grass to pavement.
He said the machine even has learned to walk on a treadmill, making adjustments as the surface tilts or speeds up. The robot can start on its own and even walk backward.
I have a little experience with robotics, and these results are pretty impressive. Artificial intelligence is very well suited for developing control systems like these walkers, and there's more promise in this direction than towards the kind of AI you see in science fiction books and movies.
So Bill Cosby won't be charged for drugging and fondling a woman in his mansion last year. I wasn't aware of the alleged drugging until I read this article, and in my opinion that makes the accusation much more serious. Setting the specifics of this case aside, I'm curious about what women think about unwanted fondling in general. It's obviously inappropriate and wrong in the extreme for a man to grab or touch a woman without her consent, but do you women think a criminal prosecution or a civil lawsuit are the appropriate responses? Is it sufficient to just slap the creep across the face or kick him in the nuts? Obviously the context and details are important, but would a single instance of unwanted fondling drive most women to get the police involved? My expectation is that that sort of thing happens pretty frequently at clubs and bars and what-not.
With all the stories coming out detailing UN incompetence and malevolence, it's impossible to believe that all the allegations are merely the product of "disgruntled former employees". "U.N. 'peacekeepers' rape women, children." " UN inspectors 'spent their days drinking'." The UN couldn't even contribute meaningfully to tsunami relief! And these are the people the Left wants to entrust world security to? These are the people we need permission from to protect ourselves? We should never pay that corrupt bureaucracy another penny.
There isn't a lot of data about why women have abortions, but much of the vehement opposition to abortion restrictions focuses on the argument that some abortions are necessary to protect the life and health of the mother. That is true. But what percentage of abortions are performed for health reasons? The Georgia Right to Life website quotes a report by the Alan Guttmacher Institute with the following statistics.
In recognition of this public opposition, abortion providers rarely provide data on the reasons women have abortions. But little has changed since the breakdown shown below provided in 1987 by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, an affliate of Planned Parenthood. Abortions of healthy babies by healthy mothers account for over 90% of the estimated 1.3 million abortions done yearly.
Too expensive (21%)
Not ready (21%)
Big change (16%)
Enough children (11%)
Not mature (8%)
Other reasons (4%)
Mother's health (3%)
Baby's health (3%)
According to the women who received abortions and answered this survey, only 7% of abortions are performed for the reasons with the most popular support.
Polls, however, continue to find little support for the majority of these abortions. Two National polls, Zogby in November 2002 and Wirthlin in December 2002, found almost identical results: 61 and 62 percent, respectively, believed that abortion should never be allowed or allowed only in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother. Only 37 and 35 percent, respectively, thought abortion should always be legal or allowed for other reasons. And the Wirthlin poll offered this important clarification: of the 35 percent who thought abortion should always be legal, 22 percent would limit abortion to the first three months of pregnancy.
So why not ban the other 93% of abortions and save all those lives?
The comments here are very good. I don't think women should be executed for having illegal abortions, but I do think they should serve prison time -- and I do think the punishment for having an "abortion of convenience" should include sterilization.
Stephen Minarik, the head of New York's Republican Party, has identified what should be Howard Dean's biggest concern.
On Monday, Minarik said that Dean's election shows that "the Democrats simply have refused to learn the lessons of the past two election cycles, and now they can be accurately called the party of Barbara Boxer, Lynne Stewart and Howard Dean."
Stewart is a New York City lawyer convicted last week of helping terrorists by smuggling messages from one of her imprisoned clients, a radical Egyptian sheik, to his terrorist disciples on the outside. Boxer is a Democratic senator from California. ...
Minarik issued a statement Wednesday saying "it is not the Republican Party's problem that these far-left activists have made their home in the Democratic party."
Exactly right, it's the Democrats' problem. If they want to start winning elections again, they'll need to make their party inhospitable to these lunatics and convince the American people that terrorists and their sympathizers have no friends on the left.
Matthew Reed is suing Rasheed Wallace and Nike for featuring a tattoo he created in an ad without his permission.
Matthew Reed from TigerLilly Tattoo and DesignWorks claims he owns the copyright for the design of the tattoo. Reed's lawsuit wants the Nike ad featuring Wallace and the tattoo off the air and the Internet, as well as damages. ...
But Reed claims he became aware last year of a Nike ad that centers on the tattoo and its creation. He claims the ad violates the copyright he holds to "the Egyptian Family Pencil Drawing."
Apparently, the tattoo doesn't just appear in the ad, it's the center of the ad. As such, I think the artist deserves some compensation or credit.
I've got a big interview today with a company I'd love to work for. They want me to give a presentation on my dissertation, so I've been busy preparing that. I'm also supposed to meet with several managers, and the whole process is going to take all afternoon. I'm a little nervous, but mostly excited. I know I'll be able to answer their questions and give a good presentation, and I really have a good feeling about this job.
Does anyone out there own a Doberman? If one were considering buying a first dog, would you recommend a Doberman? I've found a Doberman FAQ that gives a lot of information, but naturally it's written by someone who really loves the breed.
I flipped on the radio this morning on the way to lunch and heard Rush Limbaugh slinging Zicam, the homeopathic cold remedy, and I thought to myself, Why, I've proclaimed the benefits of Zicam on my site, and I've never been paid thousands of dollars to do it! Yeah sure, a few people claim to have lost all sense of smell and taste after using the product, but for most people it works great and drastically lessens the suffering caused by the common cold. I even own stock in Matrixx Initiatives, because I believe in the product. So where's my payola?
Happy Valentine's Day!
Yesterday my pastor mentioned an experiment by a psychologist named Walter Mitchell, as described by Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence, in which a group of four-year-olds are set in a room around a table and each one is given a marshmallow. The experimenter tells the children that they can each eat their marshmallow once he leaves the room, but if they wait till he gets back then he'll give a second marshmallow to those who waited. As described on this page about emotional intelligence:
After fourteen years, the psychologists tracked the children and tested them. The differences were dramatic. Those who resisted temptation were more confident and motivated and better able to cope with the frustrations of life. In addition, their academic results suggested that the ability to delay gratification contributes powerfully to intellectual potential.
Self-control is the key to much success and happiness in life, and one of the keys to self-control is learning to take pleasure in making good choices. A person may not think that vegetables taste good, but there's more to eating than just the pleasure of tasting food; the way we eat will have long term consequences on our health and happiness that we can't forsee in the present. However, if we condition ourselves to take pride in making good choices, we can trick ourselves into enjoying vegetables because we're doing what's right.
The same strategy works for coercing ourselves to do all sorts of things we don't want to do. We use our minds to create purely mental rewards for behaviors that don't have immediately tangible benefits. Abstaining from sex may not feel like a fun thing to do at certain times, but if we invest ourselves in a moral code that values chastity then we can take righteous pleasure in denying our carnal lusts. We tell ourselves that there will be negative consequences in the future if we indulge ourselves now -- and that is often true -- and we encourage ourselves to enjoy the prospect of avoiding those future hurts. But the immediate reward is entirely within our heads.
I was thinking about the practice of primogeniture this afternoon while taking a walk, and I can really see a lot of practical arguments in favor of it. Passing family wealth (especially real estate) to a single person allows it to concentrate over time; a family that practices primogeniture will grow more powerful over the course of generations, whereas a family that divides its property equally amongst its children will not. In essence, primogeniture creates some of the same benefits that make capitalism sucessful -- except that capitalism facilitates the efficient allocation of resources as well as the concentration of resources. A family that really wants to grow in power should pass its wealth to the most capable child, rather than automatically to the eldest.
Some may argue that such a practice is unfair to younger siblings (or to women, if agnatic primogeniture is practiced), but the heir should always be responsible for the care of his family and should use the family power for the benefit of all its members. Women, of course, will marry into other families, and it wouldn't be fair for them to take a portion of the family wealth with them when they leave.
Historically, especially in England, primogeniture was mandated by law for the inheritance of land. Why? Because it took a large quantity of land to support a knight, and if the land was all split up into tiny parcels there wouldn't be anyone who could afford the training and equipment required.
I'd like to get some suggestions for my PhD project. In short, I've got a bunch of creatures, organized into tribes, that can use signals to command each other. The creatures can only understand commands from other members of their tribes. Part of my experiment is to determine what kinds of social structures are most efficient, and in this case I'm trying out various obedience criterias.
For example, in structure type A, every creature obeys every command it hears, no matter which other creature in its tribe is giving the command. In type B, creatures only obey commands given by those who are older. In type C, creatures obey commands from those who are healthier. In type D, creatures test the commands against their own preferences before deciding whether or not to obey. I've got some more ideas, but I'd love to get some suggestions from you guys. Just assume that the creatures can use whatever criteria or knowledge you think is important, because if I don't have the capability for already I can add it.
In my never-ending quest to become the internet's number one betta destination, I bring you this simple question: is it weird for a person to fill their bathtub with room temperature water so they can swim with their bettas?
CNN chief and former Saddam appeaser Eason Jordan has quit after slandering American troops by accusing them of purposefully killing journalists in Iraq. Lots of other bloggers have been following this story much more closely than I have, and the only thing I have to contribute is the observation that every month brings yet another story about bloggers defeating an elite big-wig who was untouchable a few years ago. It's a revolution, my friends, and bloodless to boot, which is the best kind. Our children will scarcely believe our stories of centrally controlled media.
Traffic sucks -- as always in Los Angeles -- and it's raining.
I guess I'll spend the evening reading A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2) and dreaming about faraway places.
An article about a particularly fast-acting strain of HIV gives some informative numbers for the rate of typical HIV progression.
The normal time of progression from infection to full-blown AIDS in an untreated patient is about nine years, with death following within 18 months, said Carly Stanton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. For someone treated with anti-viral drugs, the average progression to disease from infection is 11 years, with death occurring within an average six years, Stanton said.
For much more detailed information about every stage of the disease, see this HIV/AIDS primer.
If you want a pet, I'd suggest getting a betta. Betta Talk has everything you'd ever want to know about these
tasty beautiful fishies.
Let's say you send your resume to a company and they contact you and want to interview you for a position. It sounds great, but when you get the requisition number for the job and look it up on the web you see that it has a requirement for "20 years of experience" in the industry, which is twice as much as you have. Do you call the company back to make sure they know how much experience you have, or do you just go to the interviews and possibly end up embarrassing yourself and irritating the interviewers?
It looks like the Democrats are frantically trying to mitigate the policy effects of their devestating electoral losses by obstructing Republicans at every step, even contesting bills that are popular with Congressional Democrats.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) was asked at a CATO conference in Washington yesterday whether he had persuaded any Democrats to back his plan to rescue Social Security from its financial troubles. ...
"We were in planning stages [with friendly Democrats]," said Ryan. But each essentially told him: "I like what you're doing. I like this bill. I think it's the right way to go. But my party leadership will break my back. The retribution that they are promising us is as great as I have ever seen. We can't do it."
The difficulty Democrats are facing is that they have two battles to fight. The first battle is to increase their share of Congressional seats by winning elections (or at least losing fewer); the second battle is to prevent Republicans from wielding their majority. Unfortunately for the Democrats, these two battles are orthogonal in many ways, and success in one may mean defeat in the other.
Why? It's clear that Republican positions are more popular than Democratic positions, so the Democrats can't continually obstruct them and still expect to get votes from people who like the positions. On the other hand, they can't agree with Republican positions either, because if they do, then why should anyone vote for a Democrat? May as well vote for the GOP.
This conundrum is a perfect illustration of how President Bush and his people have continually out-smarted and out-manuvered the Democrats. The Republicans have aligned their party with popular positions and forced the Democrats into a political corner. Despite the noises from the DNC, the Dems don't just need new tactics to "get their message out", they need a whole new message -- a new message that's more popular than what the Republicans are already offering.
One of my friends just forwarded to me an article about math classes being used for social indoctrination -- in (contain your surprise) Massachusetts!
The "anti-racist education" program in place at Newton Public Schools in Newton, Mass., a wealthy, liberal niche of the Bay State, has angered some parents who believe the school district is more concerned about political correctness than teaching math skills.
According to benchmarks for middle school education, the top objective for the district's math teachers is to teach "respect for human differences." The objective is for students to "live out the system-wide core value of 'respect for human differences' by demonstrating anti-racist/anti-bias behaviors."
Priority No. 2 is where the basics come in, which is "problem solving and representation — students will build new mathematical knowledge as they use a variety of techniques to investigate and represent solutions to problems."
Call me old fashioned, but shouldn't math classes be teaching math? Are math teachers even qualified to opine professionally on racism, much less to be put in charge of teaching kids about it? Further, should any public institution be spending our time and money indoctinating kids with leftist clap-trap?
Some parents say their students not only are in desperate need of math help but that some students also don't know the basics of U.S. history and that antiracist policies are getting in the way of teaching the basics.
"The 'antiracist' and, actually, 'anti-American' curriculum permeates the school environment," Lillian Benson, whose children, ages 8 and 11, attend the district's schools, told FOXnews.com in an e-mail.
"My children do not know Christopher Columbus, except that he was a racist who caused the death of many innocents or the founders of the nation. They have hardly heard of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln even though we live in the area that began it all. What they do know about is the wonders of Ghana, Mexico and China," she said.
That's no surpise to me -- I went to public schools. Some are better than others, and I actually learned quite a bit... on those days that weren't a part of some special month or another in which we were forced to focus on some useless politically correct niche.
Part of the problem is that many teachers apparently don't want to teach in their subject area, they want to "mold" their students and nonsense like that. They think their job is to "prepare the next generation for the future" or whatever, when really all parents want them to do is teach kids how to add and subtract. Society puts teachers on pedestals, and after a while the teachers begin to think they're as special and important as everyone says. In reality, teaching is easy if you know your subject matter, and teachers need to be brought back down to earth rather than continually glorified. Maybe then they'd stick to what they know, rather than taking it upon themselves to impose their own social framework on our kids.
"How many more years of declining scores will it take for the school committee and state officials to put a stop to this educational malpractice on schoolchildren?" asked Peter Murphy, a New York education consultant. "Values education should be done without gutting the state’s math standards."
Exactly right. Anti-racism won't help a kid get a job, but algebra will. Focusing on the former while neglecting the latter is a grievous mistake that will permanently disadvantage the students on whom it is inflicted. Leave social and political preferences to the parents.
Too bad I didn't see this article yesterday, in time for the Carnival of Education.
I just heard Governor Arnold on the John & Ken show on KFI 640AM and he was awesome. He went on and on and the hosts could barely get a word in, but everything he said was great. I'm confident that he's an able adversary for our leftist legislature. He said all the right things about education, even to the point of recognizing that the teachers' unions and the teachers themselves often have very different agendas.
I'd meant to make a contribution to the first Carnival of Education, hosted by EdWonk, but unfortunately I haven't been writing much about education recently and didn't have anything worthy. Hopefully I'll be ready for the next one.
Here's a great survey site that gives lots of information on hourly rates for consultants in a wide variety of industries. The data is collected from the visitors to the site, and you can search by location, industry, years of experience, and so forth. Very handy.
As quickly as Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas declare peace, Hamas terrorists denounce it.
"The talk about what the leader of the Palestinian Authority called a cessation of acts of violence is not binding on the resistance because this is a unilateral stand and was not the outcome of an intra-Palestinian dialogue, as has been agreed previously," Osama Hamdan, the Hamas representative in Lebanon, told The Associated Press.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, also dismissed the summit, saying, "It did not achieve anything. From our people's interests, the Israeli position did not change."
Both Hamas men said it was too early to say whether Hamas would resume its activities against Israelis.
Translation: they'll take advantage of the quiet moments to regroup and re-arm, and then strike with as much deadly violence as they can muster.
Israel has a lot of history with false peacemakers, but they never seem to learn.
8 'How can you say, "We are wise,
for we have the law of the LORD ,"
when actually the lying pen of the scribes
has handled it falsely?
9 The wise will be put to shame;
they will be dismayed and trapped.
Since they have rejected the word of the LORD ,
what kind of wisdom do they have?
10 Therefore I will give their wives to other men
and their fields to new owners.
From the least to the greatest,
all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike,
all practice deceit.
11 They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
"Peace, peace," they say,
when there is no peace.
12 Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct?
No, they have no shame at all;
they do not even know how to blush.
So they will fall among the fallen;
they will be brought down when they are punished,
says the LORD.'
The funniest thing about India is that the country is becoming overwhelmed with monkeys.
Delhi suffers from a serious monkey menace, with scores of animals seen across the city, particularly near top government offices.
The monkeys who have moved into residential areas and official enclaves due to Delhi's shrinking forests, are said to have become a 'security threat'.
Last year, the ministry of defence found some of its top secret documents scattered all over the place one morning.
It was blamed on the many rhesus monkeys which flock around the colonial-era building.
The obvious solution? More monkeys.
The presidential palace too has been targeted and staff [there] have been forced to employ a dark-faced langur monkey to scare away the rhesus monkeys.
I've got a better idea: train the monkeys to staff technical support call centers! Everyone wins!*
*(Customers not included)
Many on both the left and right bark much more loudly than they bite. For an example from the left, consider Susan at Suburban Guerrilla who feels complicit in President Bush's "horror" and yet does nothing about it.
Does the knowledge of impending evil require action on a moral person's part?
Well, does it?
You already know the answer, I suspect. That's why so many of us have been so edgy since the Bush takeover, why so many of our fellow citizens cling so fiercely to their state of denial. No one wants to acknowledge the full extent of what's going on, because if you actually let it sink in, you might feel morally compelled to run into the streets with an AK-47. And that would certainly disrupt our comfortable lives, wouldn't it?
I was reading the other day that one of the Nazi torture warehouses was right in the middle of a residential neighborhood - right next to a movie theater, in fact. People must have heard the screams.
On some level, weren't they complicit? Did pretending they didn't know repel the moral stain?
Stephen King novels are easier for us to absorb than real life, because we assume we'd fight back against unthinkable horrors like vampires or evil clowns. Frankly, it would be an easier decision than fighting back against a right-wing coup - it's more visible, easier to label.
I mean, you don't see me out in the streets, calling for revolution. I'm not saying I'm any different than you, or morally superior. I'm saying as long as we're not out in the streets, storming the barricades to stop the horrors performed in our name, we're part of those horrors.
She's not much different from the pro-lifers (such as myself) who consider most abortions to be murder and yet sit by, mostly passive, while nearly a million babies are killed each year. So are we cowards? I don't think so.
What I think is that when people speak to advocate change, they're willing to go farther in words than they will in deeds because they hope to sway the deeds of others only slightly towards their favor; deeds are not necessary to inspire such a small shift. Along the same lines, people may realize that there's little to be gained by pushing an issue beyond a certain point. Susan (and pro-lifers) can advocate for a belief with words at very little cost; going further, into deeds, will begin to endanger their comfort and security. It would be irrational to court such danger without the reasonable expectation of additionally benefiting the belief being advocated -- great cost, for no additional gain other than the smugness that comes from moral consistency.
Unfortunately, I find myself agreeing when Grouchy Old Cripple writes that some people are too stupid to manage their own money; however, when it comes to reforming Social Security, I don't think his conception is correct.
Private accounts would be a boon to many young workers today. They would be a much better deal than the current system and they would allow the money to be passed on to descendants.
Unfortunately, they would not work with stupid people. Many of the poor in this country are that way for a reason. They made bad choices. They dropped out of school. They had children at an early age. Some of them continued to have children even though they couldn't afford the ones they had. Private accounts would not work for them because they would make the same type of bad choices with the accounts as they made with their lives. If they did manage to even have anything in their accounts at retirement they would probably take all the money and blow it and then cry because they didn't have any money.
My understanding of the privatization proposal is that people would be allowed to select from among several goverment managed investment portfolios, and then only allowed to withdraw the money when they retire. I don't think people would be free to immediately waste the money, we'd just be more free than they are now. Eric the Viking explains that the similar system currently available to government employees is doing quite well -- 12.1% per year for the past 17 years.
Even aside from that, though, GOC identifies the real problem in the next paragraph.
Now we would have a whole shitload of stupid poor people and guess what we would have to do? We would have to support them. And where would the money come from? The same place it always does. It will come from the people who made good decisions. That will mean higher taxes. It always does.
The problem is that GOC doesn't see any solution other than government intervention... and that's the difference between statists and libertarians: statists think problems should be solved by the government and higher taxes, whereas libertarians think problems should be solved by the free will of the people. If people make bad decisions and end up poor, should the government help them? That's just one way to phrase the question; another would be, "If people make bad decisions and end up poor, should we stick guns to the heads of smart people and force them to hand over their money to help the stupid people?" The answer is obviously no.
So what's the solution? Stupid people rotting in the streets? I hope not. In fact, I bet a lot of smart people -- even those without compassion -- wouldn't want dead bodies everywhere. We wouldn't need the government to force us to help poor, stupid people, we'd just need to exercise private charity. The best way to help poor people isn't via the government, it's via churches and other privately funded charity groups.
The Truth Laid Bear's Blog Ecosystem is pretty cool, but it's also packed with people trying to game the system. Take a look at the blogs ranked 251 - 270 by traffic and you'll notice that all 20 of those sites are just clones using the same Site Meter counter. (It looks like 249 and 250 may be part of the same group, and by the time you look the rankings may have all changed, anyway.) Oh well. Good thing I don't base my self-worth on the popularity of my blog.
It's not particularly surprising to me that a high-ranking official in Mexican President Vicente Fox's government was working for Mexico's drug cartels. I'd only be amazed to discover that his arrest was prompted by his discovery, rather than being motivated by a desire to cover even darker criminal activities.
A senior aide to Mexican President Vicente Fox has been arrested on suspicion of leaking information to drug traffickers.
Attorney General Rafael Macedo said it was thought the aide, Nahum Acosta, may have divulged Mr Fox's travel plans.
Mr Acosta was a senior member of the team that organises Mr Fox's official trips, Mr Macedo said.
Mexico is a poor, third world nation, and its government institutions are horribly corrupt. As long as we keep our common border porous, we're facilitating the corruption and oppression of the Mexican people. If we want to really help Mexico, we must stop allowing them to export the consequences of their institutional failings to America; only then will there be incentive for them to oust the crime lords who rule their country.
Everyone's favorite Olympic event, Women's Mud Wrestling, serves as yet another illustration of why it may be unwise to allow women to serve with men in the armed forces. Of course, this was a reserve unit of military police, not a regular infantry unit, but the break-down in discipine was clearly sexual.
In front of a cheering male audience, two young women wearing only bras and panties throw themselves into a mud-filled plastic kiddie pool and roll around in a wild wrestling match. ...
The photos were taken in Camp Bucca, the military prison at Umm Qasr in the hot sands of southern Iraq near the Kuwaiti border.
The women are not coeds but military policewomen who had left their uniforms in a pile not far off.
The men are soldiers, too. Most of them wore T-shirts emblazoned with Army logos, but at least one was still wearing his uniform.
It's not really a big deal, except that it happened in our military while stationed abroad. The only reason it didn't happen in a regular infantry unit is because such units don't have women.
Two sergeants, she said, told her "they had been lending out their room for soldiers to have sex" - a serious infraction of military regulations.
One female soldier, a prison guard with the 160th Military Police Battalion, was photographed baring her breast and showing off her thong panties.
The picture apparently was taken in the room of one of those sergeants, an investigator reported.
The witness told investigators that two high-ranking noncommissioned officers, a first sergeant and a master sergeant, were present. She "noted that these NCOs had been drinking and were noticeably drunk," the report said.
Unfortunately, alcohol abuse is all too common in the military, but there's no doubt that the presence of women exacerbated the problem and contributed it to its excess. Men don't start mud wrestling matches when there's only men around, trust me.
"She took off her uniform and joined the other female soldiers that were wrestling," the report says. But "once soldiers started asking for the females to expose themselves [she and two of the other wrestlers] put their uniforms back on and left the area."
But at least one woman was not deterred.
Deanna Allen, a 19-year-old prison guard with the 105th MP Battalion, smiled and lifted her T-shirt. Photos show a man standing close to her and leering at her breasts while another G.I. snaps pictures.
"From what I understand they dared her to do it," said Allen's grandmother, Luci Tomlin, in Black Mountain, N.C. "It was a loose moment. She is a strong-headed young lady. Sometimes she can be a little irrational."
We can all be a little irrational sometimes, but these incidents not only make everyone look bad, they're bad for morale and end up hurting our military's performance -- endangering their lives and, ultimately, our own.
It seems that most fugitives get caught by doing something really stupid. Many argue that only stupid people think they can live a life of crime and get away with it, and that's definitely true in the long run, but once you're free from the cops it doesn't seem like it would be that hard to stay free. Here are the guidelines that come to mind:
1. Leave the area. Don't go home, and possibly leave the country. If your crimes are minor enough, this may be pretty much all you have to do.
2. Stop using your credit cards and cell phone. Terrorists and child abusers alike seem slow to discover that the good guys can track these technologies rather easily.
3. Stop committing crimes. You want the heat to die down, and crime just raises the ire of the locals wherever you fled. If you must commit crimes, at least change your modus operandi so the police can't connect the dots.
4. Don't break traffic laws. Remember Scott Peterson, Timothy McVeigh, and countless others who were caught because they got stopped by the fuzz.
5. Break contact with people and things from your past. Ditch the car and house, make new friends, get new hobbies, change your name, don't go to family reunions.
6. Don't tell anyone anything about your past. Resist the need to unload your guilty stories on someone you come to trust, because they're likely to betray you. Just hide it all away and take your secrets to your grave.
Can anyone else think of any others?
Gregg Easterbrook has an odd proposal to solve the various Ten Commandment lawsuits. He claims that there would be no Constitutional issue if Christians were willing to compromise and focus on the six commandments that Mr. Easterbrook believes Jesus valued most. However, Mr. Easterbrook apparently misunderstands the essence of the passage that he uses to illustrate his point.
Yet there is an alternative to the Ten Commandments--namely, the Six Commandments, enunciated by Jesus himself. And the Six Commandments could hang in any public facility without jeopardizing the separation of church and state.
In the Gospel of Matthew, a man asks Jesus what a person must do to enter heaven. He answers: "Keep the commandments." The man inquires: "Which ones?" Here is how the biblical account continues: "And Jesus said, 'You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother. Also, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Debating what laws are more important than others was a long-standing exercise of the rabbinical tradition in which Jesus was educated. But in these verses, which have a parallel retelling in the Gospel of Mark, Christ is not merely offering an opinion about law. Something wholly remarkable happens--Jesus edits the commandments.
Quickly now, which commandments did he leave out? "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourselves an idol. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God. Remember the Sabbath Day, and keep it holy." These are the commandments having to do with formal religious observance--from today's perspective, the ones that clash with the Establishment Clause. Jesus' Six Commandments make no mention of God or faith. They could be posted on public property without constitutional entanglements.
Mr. Easterbrook very conveniently decides not to include the entirity of the account to which he is referring, which can be found here:
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
“Which ones?” the man inquired.
Jesus replied, “ ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
It should be obvious that Jesus wasn't dismissing the first four commandments; rather, he mentioned the latter six to the man first in order to set him up to face what was really hindering the man's spiritual journey. The questioning man apparently did very well obeying the commandments that instructed him in his relationships with his fellow men, but when Jesus told him to sell his goods and follow the questioner could not. Why? Because he was very rich and he had made his wealth into an idol. The rich young ruler was right with men, but he was not right with God, and when Jesus pointed this out to him he left, sad. The man knew what he had to do to fix his relationship with God, and yet he refused because of his idolatry -- which is, of course, a violation of the First and Second Commandments.
Mr. Easterbrook appears to have constructed a false God for himself, as well. Jesus did, in fact, de-emphasize the formalities of worship (particularly the forms with which the ancient Jews were familiar), but he certainly never condoned idolatry and blasphemy (remember when he cleansed the temple?). To suggest otherwise is, itself, blasphemous.
One of my favorite moments -- that I don't see on this list -- is from 2003 when Lockheed dropped the NOAA-N Prime spacecraft because one of the techs unbolted it from its base without telling anyone. Here's a picture of the $100+ million satellite laying on the floor; there must be video somewhere also, because spacecraft moves are always recorded in case something like this happens.
(HT: Roger Cadenhead for the link to the images.)
Passed along by one of the men from my church:
Below are two birds. Study them closely......... See if you can spot which of the two is the female. It can be done. Even by one with limited bird watching skills.
Here's a perfect illustration of President Bush's assertion that spreading freedom increases our safety.
An investigation by the Ukrainian secret police has found that Iran and China bought long-range missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads from Ukraine, one of the country's politicians said on Wednesday.
Grigory Omelchenko, an ally of the country's new leadership and a former head of the anti-mafia committee in the Ukrainian parliament, claimed on Wednesday that Ukraine's SBU secret police had found that 12 Kh-55s were illegally exported in 1999-2001. He said six of the air-to-ground cruise missiles were sold to Iran, and six to China. ...
He accused high-ranking officials linked to Leonid Kuchma, the former president, of covering up the SBU's findings about the sale to protect a "highly placed person from the circle of President Kuchma, who was involved in the illegal arms sales".
We didn't have to go to war to support Ukrainian liberty -- in fact we didn't have to do much at all, overtly. But take note: tyrannical police states sell weapons to our enemies, but real democracies are less likely to do so.
If you're like me and you enjoy buying metal items (such as knives), you've probably wondered what the differences are between the various types and grades of steel. Check out the research page at Metal Suppliers Online and you'll no longer have to remember why kitchen blades are often made from stainless steel 420, while stainless steel 440 C is used for superior pocket knives.
One of my good friends from church has purchased an ad on the right sidebar for his financial planning and wealth management investment services company. Eric Thorn is a smart, honest guy, and anyone who is looking to get their finances and future in order can benefit from his experience. He deals with everything from insurance to annuities to investment portfolios, and I'm sure he'll be able to help you craft a plan that's right for you.
I only had a chance to listen to the last half of President Bush's State of the Union address, and it was all about foreign policy. I liked that he called out Saudi Arabia and Egypt and pushed them towards democracy. I dislike the idea of giving $350 million to the Palestinians. I think he utterly annihilated the arguments of those who still oppose the liberation of Iraq. I liked the President's support for the Iranian people. I like that he called out Syria. It's too bad I missed seeing the video though, because DeoDuce says she cried when the Iraqi lady went to embrace the parents of one of our slain soldiers, and I would have liked to have seen the blue-dyed thumbs.
Justin Katz posts a long article on his site that appeared in the December 31, 2004, issue of National Review titled "One Man's Marriage Trap" in which he discusses and dissects Andrew Sullivan's position on same-sex marriage. It's an interesting read, since Mr. Sullivan tends to be one of the more rational and consistent voices in favor of changing the institution (as insufferable as he is).
Digger posts a reminder that the final rally and petition signing for immigration reform will be taking place in Redondo Beach on February 19th, 2005.
A second rally for Immigration Reform will be held in Redondo Beach on Saturday, February 19, 2005. This will be the second rally at the Civic Center, the first rally -- which was held on January 15, 2005 -- was a major success (see pics and summary of the first rally) and really got the attention of officials and open borders proponents. This second rally -- which is being held from 10 AM - 1 PM -- intends to eclipse the first and will be the last major rally in the state before the February 22nd deadline to turn in a ballot measure petition denying illegal aliens drivers licenses. For more on the ballot measure visit Save Our License and see my latest entry on how the signature drive is going.
Make plans to attend.
In a just world, Albert Garcia Jr. would have to eat a Big Mac stuffed full of glass as punishment for this heinous crime.
When a police officer visited the McDonald's in the Bronx he asked for the usual -- a Big Mac.
What he didn't realize is that the worker who prepared his dinner Saturday night allegedly added shattered bits of glass to his meal.
After biting into the sandwich, the officer quickly realized something was cutting his mouth and throat. He examined the burger and found bits of glass embedded in it, police said. ...
The worker, Albert Garcia Jr., 18, was charged with assault in the first degree, criminal possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment, police said.
In my book, that's attempted murder.
It seems to me that men and women compete very differently.
A woman competes with other women by tearing the other women down. Women are nit-picky, looking for ways to disparage and discredit the successes of others. Women construct elaborate, ambiguous, social structures that can be used as weapons to reward their friends and punish their foes in a near-arbitrary fashion.
A man competes with other men by building himself up. Men gain stature by "going where no man has gone before": exploring new territory, building a bigger skyscraper, buying a fancier car, and so forth. Yes, it's all very phallic.
Nit-picking annoys men because to us the accomplishment speaks for itself, regardless of its imperfections. Even Christopher Columbus's enemies acknowledged the greatness of his feats. To women, no accomplishment has any value other than that granted to it by the social construct; if a woman doesn't like Columbus, she'll find a perfectly reasonable excuse to dismiss his achievment because it wasn't done "properly".
Similarly, women appreciate compliments on the details. If she changes her hair, a simple "You look great" pales in comparison to "You changed your hair, and it looks great". Men, on the other hand, want to be admired for their large accomplishments, and generally couldn't care less about the details.
Men try to impress women as if they're men, and this leads to confusion. To a man, a one-time gift of a $10,000 new car is equal to 100 weekly gifts of $100 each, and he won't understand why the woman is still expecting more gifts, frequently, (much) less than two years later. He wonders, Why doesn't she appreciate what I've done for her already? Women try to impress men with details. She buys him a shirt or makes him a birthday card, and he hardly notices because they're small things -- but she feels slighted.
Advice to men: give her lots of small gifts, frequently; express appreciation for small things; try to notice details. (I've found that noticing details is easier for me if I focus on a specific thing I know she likes. For instance, if you know she likes her fish, look at her fish every time you go over and remark about any differences. This gets you off the hook for having to notice other things that are more subtle.) If you want to compete with a woman, it's easy to tear her down by pointing out tiny flaws in her work, even though to you they are inconsequential. Yes, this is fighting like a girl.
Advice to women: recognize his large accomplishments and compliment him on them as long as they're active, not just once. For instance, he may spend every day building up a career that he's very proud of, but you may not think to express frequent admiration because there is no specific detail for you to anchor your compliment to. If you want to compete with a man, it's easy to discredit his accomplishments by comparing them in total to greater accomplishments by others; don't waste time criticising small details, because he'll dismiss your nit-picking. Yes, this allows him to retain credit for the accomplishment, but it makes him think that the credit is insignificant.
Apparently the soldier being held hostage by terrorists in Iraq is just a doll -- though Dan Rather, CBS, and the New York Times are claiming that the initial reports were "fake, but accurate".
I only go grocery shopping a few times a year, and I'm not generally loyal to any particular store -- I just go wherever is closest. Today, though, I went to the local Vons and was really surprised by how nice it was.
First off, they were having an amazing sale on lots of products that I buy, such as soup, crackers, and frozen vegetables. Instead of the regular $2.99+ per item they were $1 each, and labeled as "10 for $10!" Now, you didn't have to buy 10 to get the special price, but I took it as a challenge and bought 10 of all sorts of things. Nifty.
Secondly, the employees were very courteous and helpful. They all called me "sir", which is as it should be, considering that I'm a Vons Club member! Word. Plus, there was a girl stationed at the front of the checkout aisles who directed me towards the shortest line; I only waited about 30 seconds before the manager opened a new lane just for me and let me get out in a hurry. Sweet.
In the end, I got $175 worth of groceries for $100, so I feel pretty satisfied.
What are some of the first steps the new Iraqi government should be taking?
I think one of the first items on their agenda should be securing their borders from Syria and Iranian infiltration. The new government can also crack down on insurgents more harshly than the Coalition was able to, and they'll have more information at their disposal than we did. Hopefully they'll move quickly to take care of the military side of things.
More importantly even than the shooting and killing, however, will be the process of building up their image on the world stage. Iraq has several public relations tasks it needs to perform if it wants to be respected and taken seriously around the world. There are two directions they can take, either towards America or towards Europe, and I hope that they're willing to hew to our side of the fence now that they've already reaped the benefits.
First, Iraq should offer to compensate the families of the foreign soldiers who died for their liberation. They've got vast oil wealth to draw from, and there are only a few thousand Coalition deaths -- the families of the dead should each be paid at least US$1 million for their sacrifice. Iraq could afford more, but we should be mindful that they need money to rebuild their own country now, and much of that rebuilding effort should be done using American corporations. I don't think Iraq should be forced to repay the costs of the war, but they should certainly be eager to work within the market system to reward America and Americans for the sacrifice we've made.
Secondly, Iraq needs to issue strong denunciations of Europe and the useless UN, all of whom were struggling mightily to keep Iraq in her chains. The people of Iraq need to come together to make an undismissable show of thanks to America and a give public appreciation for what we've done. Not to make us feel good about ourselves, but to spit in the face of tyrants everywhere, and their appeasers. The world will ignore the thanks of the Iraqi government and deride it as a US "puppet", but the world cannot long ignore the Iraqi people themselves. I'm not exactly sure what form this statement of thanks should take, but I know the Iraqis can figure it out.
Thirdly, Iraq needs to pull itself out of the ridiculous Arab League. Every nation in the Arab League is ruled by a despot who dreads that the freedom that's most recently come to Iraq will spread throughout the rest of the Arab world, and Iraq should ensure that it does. Pulling out of the Arab League will demonstrate to the world that things are not the same as they were before, and that Iraq now stands head and shoulders above its neighbors. Iraq should be the founding member of the Democratic Arab Nations, and should vigorously invite its brothers into the fold.