Tuesday, November 28, 2006


There is a voice inside us all That says rebuild And when it's called All that is wrong can be put right

One of the odd things in life is the way I try to hang onto emotions. When I feel good I try to hang onto that feeling. When that voice is saying "rebuild" I strain to hear it better. There are songs like the one above, activities, etc. that are tailor-made to help people feel belonging, hope, love.

But perhaps even stranger is that, sometimes I try to hang onto the bad stuff too. I'm angry and I find myself trying to stay that way: why is that? When I look around and see amusement parks, or hear about people sky-diving, etc. It seems plain that people want both the good and the bad emotions in their lives.

That really says something about humanity in general: we not only feel emotions, we actively try to evoke them. All of them.

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Images, etc.:

  • squeeze-play is from the cover of the album, "Play" by Squeeze, 1991.
  • The lyrics are from a song called "There is a Voice" from the same album.
  • I didn't see a copyright date, but I assume that it is (c) 1991 by Squeeze.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

BYB Sunday: Cooperation

Given the dark tone of my post on cooperation (Our Strength, Our Weakness), I felt like talking about it again in a manner that emphasizes the positive aspects that it bestows. Trust & cooperation are aspects of my world that I encounter directly and indirectly every day. When I come to a stop-light, the other motorists and I cooperate to avoid a crash. When I buy food at the supermarket, the clerks cooperate to make the groceries available, track what is used so they can ensure they have enough, etc. When I ride an elevator up to the floor of the building I work (OK, I actually us the stairs, since I need the exercise, but the idea is the same), it requires cooperation on the part of the maintenance personnel who keep the thing running, the building inspectors who make sure it's safe, etc. Cooperation is evident not only in the present, but in the past as well. All the things I take for granted, like telephones, fresh water, buildings, medicine, etc. are only possible because of the cooperative efforts of people across the ages. As Sir Isaac Newton said: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." The achievements of today build on the efforts of those who have come before us. Cooperation seems to come naturally to human beings. It is rare enough for people to live alone to be dubbed "hermits." Even then it is unlikely that such people are no interaction with the wider society. Indeed, the idea of cutting off all contact with other people is considered a punishment in and of itself. Therefore cooperation remains, in my opinion, a blessing, not a curse. Tags: , , , .

Thursday, November 23, 2006

And Another Thing!

At the risk of making another "I'm glad for " post, I am very, very glad I'm not alone this Thanksgiving.

For the Scholarly

Feed your inner geek!

www.pubmed.gov is the best thing since sliced bread. OK, maybe sliced bread is nicer, but pubmed is still very handy if you are interested in checking out some claim or other that you saw on the tube.

Despite sounding like some kind of vacation resort, pubmed is a kind of search engine for health-related studies. Thousands of articles are available through this service, which is run by the US gov but is available to anyone with a web browser and a net connection.

As I have previously blogged (see 9.8m/s/s), I tend to be skeptical of results from "new studies." One of the problems with research is that, even in the best of situations, it can be hard to interpret results. When you have a study dealing with human beings, it can become very difficult due to bias, etc. This being the case, it is important for the results of a study to be replicated across different countries over several years to determine what is really significant and what isn't.

That's where pubmed comes in. Using it, you can quickly find studies that have been performed on a particular topic. Want to know what the mortality rate for the "morning after pill" is? You can find it in pubmed. How clear are the benefits of fish oil? You can find the relevant studies with the click of a button.

While many of the articles are only available as "abstracts," this is often times as much of the article that I can understand. Older articles will often be available in full, and pubmed will have the link right there.

OK, not everyone's cup of tea, but for those among you who actually want to see the evidence behind some claim, this is the place to go.

Tags: , , , . Images: the pubmed graphic is from www.pubmed.gov

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Our Strength, Our Weakness

Setup for the Milgram Shock Experiment
Cooperation is both a blessing and a curse to humanity. The blessing side is easy to see if you look for it: solving diseases, overcoming different environments, compensating for lack of natural strength, etc.

Consider that, up until recently (from a species perspective), human beings lived in relatively small groups: an extended family or a tribe. Yet we are able to live together in communities that are vastly larger than this with relatively few problems.

The curse part is that, cooperation also allows us to mark lemming-like to our own destruction. Things like Iraq, Darfur, the Balkans, Hitler's Germany, etc. are all examples of how this ability can be exploited all too easily. I still remember a teacher of mine remarking that "the majority of the people in this room would make good Nazis." At the time, he was talking about the Milgram shock experiment.

Basically, the experiment tried to coerce a person into shocking another person, apparently to death. The compliance rate in the original experiment was over 60%, and this was all on the word of some geek in a lab-coat. Now imagine the same scenario, only the consequence for disobedience is much higher: perhaps imprisonment, perhaps death. In that context, the atrocities that scar humanity's history become easier to believe.

Solomon Ash's conformity experiment is another example of how cooperation can backfire. The setup there was to see if a subject would give an answer they knew to be incorrect if everyone gave that answer. About 1/3 of the subjects did so.

Normally, obedience and conformity are very powerful advantages: if someone tells you that a building is on fire and to leave, it's usually for a good reason…like the building being on fire. If a bunch of people interpret events differently from you, most of the time it is because you were wrong.

There is no moral to this article - the balance between blind obedience and just being an jerk is not always clear. The goal of this post is to highlight a strength...and a weakness.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

BYB Sunday: The Internet

The Internet has changed things tremendously in the USA. You can now bank, buy things, get information and generally communicate with other people nearly instantaneously all over the world at any time of the day or night. Similarly, you can find information about many topics almost immediately by "googling" them or the like. Many of these capabilities were previously available before, but the internet linked them all together and created a common interface for them: the web browser. While powerful enough alone, all of them combined creates a new and even more powerful tool. For example, I can research different types of TVs through a Consumer Reports web site, then having selected one, I can find out what stores are in my area, and finally whether they stock the TV and what price they want to charge. All this can be done in one place in far less time than it would take to do all this manually. The applications of the Internet are still developing and will likely touch all aspects of our lives. Teenagers, for example, use MySpace to keep in touch with each other. People like me create blogs as a creative outlet. For me the Internet has been a blessing that I use every day. Tags: , , ,

Friday, November 17, 2006

Return of the King!

Ish de King (not Queen mind you!)
It's things like this that make me question my sanity…more than I usually do.

At any rate, I was staggering down the street when I saw, of all things, one of those sandwich boards that said:

"Take me to your leader!"

Being sharp-eyed, I noticed something strange immediately. It didn't seem to have anyone in it…but it was moving about.

So I walked up and took at closer look only to find, a crab, of all things, inside it. Just when I thought things couldn't get any stranger, it started talking:

(Crab): Hiya howareya, nicetaseeya! (Me): I gotta stop drinking… (C): Ya got any booze?! (M): No…normally I have to drink a whole bottle of Thunderbird to see stuff like this. (C): Damn! (M): What, umm, are you? (C): Am veeeesiting Roy-all-Tee! Take me to your leader! (M): Err…where from? (C): Atlantis! (M): As in the lost continent of? (C): (scratches shell) Well ish knot lost so much as miss-placed… (M): Righ…I'll be going now… (C): Take me to your leader!

When I got home, I found The Critic sitting on my couch drinking a beer.

(Me): You see the strangest things these days… (The Critic): You're telling me – I just saw your blog! (M): You're reading it? And you had to come over and tell me how great it is? (TC): No, I just ran out of beer (takes a swig). Also, you still have my TV. (M): Well, at least you read it. (TC): (shudders, says nothing and takes another long swig). (M): At any rate I saw the strangest thing today…

Right at that moment, I noticed that the crab from the sidewalk was sitting on my couch next to her. He was drinking a beer.

(Me): … (Crab): Hey bay-beeee! (starts guzzling his beer) (The Critic): (looks over, sees the crab and does a double take) (M): You see it too? (TC): (carefully puts down beer and rubs her eyes) That is just 3.2 beer, right? (M): As far as I know… (C): (Tosses away his empty bottle, picks up The Critic's, and starts guzzling it). (TC): Hey! It's drinking my beer! (M): Well my beer if you want to get technical. (TC): No it isn't – get your own! (C): (tosses away empty bottle and burps loudly) Get me one too, huu-mon! (TC): Make that three. (M): You want me to join you? (TC): Nah, I'm just gonna need two. (C): (turning to The Critic) So, who are you, bay-beeeee? (TC): Is this…thing coming on to me? (C): Oh yaaa! Honored you should be, thatz honored! (M): I think I'll go and get those beers now. (TC): And why's that? (M): I hate the sight of blood. (TC): No idiot, why should I be honored? (C): Forgeeeev me for not introducing myself (scuttles up onto the top of a lamp shade): I am Fred, King of Atlantis! I have return-aid! Some!

Just then the lamp collapsed under the crab's surprising weight. What was more impressive is that the table it was sitting on collapsed along with it.

To be continued…

Tags: Crab, , , , Sources:

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Some total weirdness with my blog - the triple danged stylesheet is on the fritz or something >.< I could figure it out (honest), but this post seems to have fixed it, and I'm way too lazy.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Work Work Work!

A "brain-storming" session.
In order to help MicroSoft to reach their goal of world domination and so that Dell can tighten its grip on the desktop market, it is necessary for us peons to keep working at our places of employment. While the place where I currently work is actually very nice, this was not always so. Indeed, some places I've work have been somewhat…less than pleasant.

(Cheap, wavy, fade-away scene to Whatever working at a keyboard. Overhead, a company logo reads "Sansbrains")

(Not-so-big-boss): So! What do you think of our product? (Whatever, looking uneasy): Well, there are a few things that I think you could benefit by doing… (explains a few basic never-do-this sorts of things, all of which they are doing). (NSBS): Hmmm…let me call in the Alpha Geek. (W): Oh god. (Alpha Geek): Hi. (NSBS): So what do you think of Whatever's idea? (one of the nice things about using this name is that it fits so well into dialogs) (AG): (Takes Super Breath) Well…(launches into a 10min spiel that involves lots of buzz words. Half way through it, the NSBS leaves for a meeting, but AG continues none the less)…and that's why. (W): Why what? (AG): Why your idea sucks. (W): But we aren't actually using the stuff you talked about and, where we do, it's made things worse! (AG): Ah, let me explain (starts taking a "super breath" that will allow him to talk for another 10min without breathing). (W): Oh no…oh Gawd no!!!! (AG): It's not that bad. (W): Don't you see?!!

A mid-sized person wearing a crazy grin, wide-open, blood-shot eyes and frazzled hair walks into the room. Everywhere, people are cowering and hugging each other in terror. Even the Alpha Geek looks a bit nervous.

(Everyone): The Muckity-Muck! (MM): I just came back from a conference! (All): Noooooo! (MM): And I've brought in a consultant to help us refocus on core values so we can synergize with the rest of the company and become more agile!

In slouches a scruffy-looking individual with beady eyes and a nice suit. All-in-all he looks like…

(W): The Fiend! I didn't know you did consulting! (The Fiend): Yeah, well neither did I. (AG): You don't scare me (starts taking a Super Breath). (TF): Say Ted, why don't we go back to your office and talk some more about golf so I can justify the outrageous amounts of money I'm charging you? (MM): Great idea! (AG): (Lets out his Super Breath, knocking over a few cubes. Nearby plants and flowers also blacken and fall over.) Bastard. (W): Welcome to my world. (AG): (Glares at Whatever.)

Just then another individual, looking very much like the Muckity-Muck, except with a few advisors hovering around her, strides in.

(All): The Vice-President Muckity-Muck! (VPMM): Why isn't this project done?!! (AG): (starts taking a Super Breath). (W): Mostly because the system's a mess from his crap (points at the AG, who hasn't quite finished taking his Super Breath) and the nonsense that MM over there has inflicted on us.

There is a quiet pause, like the moment before lightning strikes. Everyone looks at Whatever in horrified, traffic-wreck fashion as the tension builds.

(AG): BABBLE-BABBLE-BABBLE!! (MM): Non-team player! BAD! BAD! (VPMM): Blasphemer! Killlllll Hiiiiiim! (TF): Jerk. (NSBS): Cya. (All others): At least it's not us. (W): (Whatever is lifted off his feet and thrown through several walls until he rests on the pavement outside the building.) Ouch.

Another day at the office.

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  • OFFICE_SPACE from the movie, "Office Space" copyright 1999 by Twentieth Century Fox.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Hatemail! Run fer yer lives!

Well, here it is: the promised "Hate Mail" section of the site. Judging by the amount of mail that I've gotten this week, this section may not get as much use as it might. Also, being lazy, I think there may be an option to temporarily block a comment and then restore it later. If I can manage to do that, I probably will.

The primary reason for a comment ending up here is that, quite simply, I don't like it. Sad, but true, I may censor comments for basically no reason. This is because it's my site and I can blog what I want to, blog what I want to, blog what I want to – oops, sorry almost started a song. I doubt this is going to happen a whole lot since, quite simply, I don't have that many people contributing comments, but ye be warned.

The more likely reasons for censoring include:

  1. Trying to start a flame war or whatever.
  2. Making some claim that you don't back up with at least a link to an article, etc.
  3. Bringing a conversation that essentially belongs elsewhere here.

Furthermore, if the message is an email rather than a comment, I probably will not bother posting it at all…unless I can make fun of it.

I'm not a big fan of censoring, even if it is in a forum where I have not guaranteed to post everyone's thoughts. Hence the idea is to give things a "cooling down" period of a week. Hopefully, those who thrive on flames and whatnot will not bother posting here, since they will have to wait a week between messages.

Finally, there is no guarantee that the comment will ever be unleashed at all. See the whole "It's my site and I'll blog what I want to" bit for details.

At any rate, to celebrate the opening of this part of the site, I am going to post two pieces of hate mail, though they are both from the same source: the author of Non Compos Mentis (http://noncompos.blogspot.com/). These comments were made in reference to the post I made here on blather (http://blather-n-rants.blogspot.com/2006/11/sleep-of-reason.html) about a week ago. That article, if you want to actually read it, has a link back to the NCM post in question.

Ye first comment from NCM:

I wasn't trying to pick a fight. I was relieved to hear even more evidence in support of going to war, so maybe, finally, people will shut up about it.

If you want me to respond to MM, fine. Here it is:

Yeah, they only had an advanced nuclear program, not a physical nuke. Your point is so very valid, in that advanced nuclear programs aren't there for a purpose - say, to produce nuclear weapons. I wonder what Saddam would have done in You know what? Nevermind. Me having to spell out this line of logic is ridiculous! Everyone knows what nukes are for, and why mad dictators want them.

Moreover, if you're going to get all pissy about sources, you could have looked it up yourself. CNN and the BBC both ran stories on the missiles and the gases/nerve agents. WMDs existed. Deal.

Ye response from moi:

1) Please reference your sources as you did with the NYT article --- rather than "CNN and the BBC both ran stories..." list the URL(s) to the stories you are citing.

2) If you want to respond to MM, do it in your forum, not mine.

3) Please leave out inflammatory comments like "...if you're going to get all pissy..."

Ye final message in this whole, fun-filled affair:

You call me a fanatic (or my actions fanatical), then chastise me for making inflammatory comments? "Hello, pot. I'm the kettle!" Talking about people getting pissy is a reaction to the arousal of anger or hostility in others, not an attempt to inflame said anger. You're just as irrational as Canuckistani. "Logic is useful if and only if it serves my purpose; free speech is fine, so long as everyone says what I want to hear." Pfft! Did anyone else cite sources in your comments section? Would it matter if I had? I doubt it. I disagree with you, so you make any excuse to keep my argument from the eyes of your readers. Well, you know what? If you are concerned about my point of view showing up again, don't worry - I don't post on censored sites. Fascists like you and Canuckistani can go be smug together in your authoritarion dream states, secure in the knowledge that Big Brother is watching. How happy you'll feel claiming the moral high ground while covering up every argument contradictory to your beliefs.

Alex "Few there are that rightly understand of what great advantage it is to blush at nothing and attempt everything." -Desiderius Erasmus

Oh yeah…well…(yawn) nevermind.

On the plus side, these comments were the basis for the whole "Eeee-vile Rant" article.

And there you have it, folks, the first installment of the new hatemail section of the site! This page may or may not be updated, depending on the number of inflammatory comments made. Have fun and avoid gnomes.

For the entrance to this page is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel...with big nasty, pointy teeth!
Tags: , , Sources
  • tim_the_enchanter from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", copyright 1974 National Film Trustee Company, Ltd., Python (Monty) Pictures, Ltd.
  • troopers_big_bug01 from "Starship Troopoers," copyright 1997 TriStar Pictures, Inc. and Touchstone Pictures.

Blog Your Blessings Sunday

My choice for this BYB Sunday is my freedom. Freedom is something I take for granted and that I use every day. Never hurts for me to stop every once in a while and be thankful for it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

City of Dreams

Every now and then, I realize that most things in my world were once "dreams." That is, looking at the computer monitor that I'm using to type this article up, I realize that, before it could have been built, some one had to design it. They probably thought a lot about it: power requirements, what sort of plastic to use, the coloring, how the controls would work.

Perhaps it's because I'm a geeky sorta guy, but doing that sort of thing: cogitating about something, is kind of like day-dreaming. You think about something that doesn't exist.

So then the magic day comes when the big, faceless company provides the army of technicians, raw materials, etc., etc. to build your dream. You are standing there in a room with a bunch of people, some of whom are "very important" because they're "very important."

You flip the switch.

There's magic in the air.

Your prototype sits there and doesn't work.

OK, so maybe not the best moment. You spend the next 6 weeks or whatever with limited sleep trying to get the damn thing to work.

A brief aside: the original term "computer bug" was coined when technicians found a moth trapped in an early computer. Don't know if it's a just a techie urban legend, but if it's not true, it should be.

At any rate, so after 6 hair-tearing weeks of debugging, you're back in the room and things are no longer magical. Probably the vice "muckity-muck" is there to make sure the thing actually works before they bring in the senior vice muckity-muck. But this time you flip the switch and all goes well.

You feel very relieved. The vice muckity muck is relieved. The technicians don't care as much, but this means you aren't going to be riding their butts so they are also relieved.

Once most people have left the room, the prototype craps out again, and you realize you made a serious mistake.

Now mind you, the way things normally work is that the muckity-mucks promise something before they know if it's possible, so this is a relatively sane description, but the basic idea is the same.

During this process, people have managed to forget that they turned a dream into reality. Something that previously only existed as a thought was turned into something you can touch. At some point between the time when it was thunk up, and the time when the finished product is shipped out, it transitioned from a thought into reality.

The thing is this applies to many things that I encounter every day: the car I drive to work with. The building that I work in. The miserable cube where I sleep…er…work. The carpet I walk on. The plastic bag that I carry groceries in. The fork I use to eat my dinner with. At some point all of these things were in some way thoughts that were turned into reality.

I like to think of this as "the City of Dreams," because, in a very real sense, the city around me once existed as a dream. Some people might call it a nightmare, but hey, it's home.

Tags: , , Image source: http://forum.zentral.us/index.php?showtopic=84 (the site is no longer there, but Yahoo! had it cached).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Eeee-vile Rant!

While despondent about some events recently, I realized (much to my surprise) that there were some interesting benefits to being an eeee-vile dictator:

  1. I get to wear a cool, black outfit with nifty, pointy shoulder-pads.
  2. I can say things like "BY ORE-DAR OF THE SUPREEEEEME EMPERIOR!!!"
  3. Being already eeeee-vile, I can claim things like the Strong-Badian national anthem as my own.
  4. I can steal candy from leeeeetle children…though as Mr. Burns found out, that may not be quite as easy as it sounds.
  5. I can let loose with an eeeeee-vile laugh "MUHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
  6. I have jillions of faceless minions catering (however ineptly) to my every whim!
  7. I have lots of statements that end with exclamation points!!

So, as eeeee-vile dictate-oh of Whatever-aah, I make ye following proclamations:

  • Ye shall follow these decrees on pain of…of…well, not much I guess.
  • All citizens shall wear their underwear on the outside (to make sure it's clean).
  • Any that disagree with my edicts shall face the vengeance of my legions of readers (both of them).

I also make ye the following LAWARS OF DE SITIEE!

1. Ye sitie is knot fair – ye are at ye total wheeem of ye evil-ovaaarlard.

2. Ye shall knot makeee ye flamerous comments.

3. Ye shall backie up ye har-brained claims with ye poast.

4. See ye pointe 1.

5. If ye violated any oof ye lawrs ye ish sentenced ye to ye priseon for knawt less than ONE WEAK!!!

I have recently received my first piece of hate-mail, so, in celebration, I'm going to post it in my new, eeeee-vile hatemail™ section of the site. I really have had enough of flame wars though, so I am tempted to just leave it in the rotting compost heap that is my email account; never-the-less, the claims of censorship do tug at my feelings of justice. Being an eeeeee-vile over-lard give me a keen sense of wite and wong….blight and blog…whatever.

This being the case, lawar 5 comes into play – you can make whatever hair-brained, ineptly argued, vitriolic comments you want and I will post them (unless I don't). The catch is that I'm going to wait at least a week before they show up in the hate-mail section of the site. So if you want to send hate-mail START SENDING NOW!!

At any rate, this will hopefully give those out there in the peanut gallery with a penchant for vitriolic posts a bit of pause, since I will only post 1 (one) piece of hate-mail per person per week. Now mind you, this assumes that anyone actually cares enough to send me hate-mail, and/or comments, so it may be rendered a moot point. Furthermore, I will only do this on Monday nights…or Tuesday mornings…or whatever. It also assumes that I'm feeling energetic enough to actually review posts, which assumes a lot.

At any rate, those who choose to say in more polite terms that I'm a stupid poopie-head, and/or bother to actually provide a lousy URL for their interesting claims can get posted relatively quickly (I don't check this stuff at work, so it will probably be once a day, but then, I usually don't bother to turn on comment filtering either).

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(Also note ye ull-tea-mate weapon in background)

Additional Tags:

What's the Blog About, Alfie?

After the wonderful events of this past weekend, I was despondently thinking about the drop in readership that I could look forward to in the coming days when, as has been the case many times, the Critic came to my rescue:

(The Critic): Where's that $5 you owe me? (Me): Can't you see I need a moment? (TC): What's the matter now? (M): I lost 1/3 of my readers! (TC): So? (M): That's a huge portion! (TC): That's only 1 person. (M): Hmmm…you have a good point. Yeah I feel much better! (TC): Now where's that $5?

And so I realized that, of the goals or hopes that I had for my miserable blog, I had only met one of them:

  • Reasoned Discussion
  • Notoriety
  • To Write
Reasoned Discussion

As I may have blathered about already, one thing I would really like to get out of this blog is a thoughtful discussion or exchange of ideas. For example, here's an idea for truth vs. honesty. What does everyone else think? How about income taxes? Does anyone see that has a form of community service?

The utter lack of response or even evidence of thought of any kind has been most depressing. Am I the only person who thinks about this stuff? There must be at least one other person out there who does. All I can say is that there sure isn't any evidence of them as far as my blog goes.

There also doesn't seem to be any evidence of them as far as other people's blogs go either. Looking around, it seems like most of the blogs don't talk about anything like this. Issues of the day and sex seem to dominate the blogosphere.

The antithesis of this whole notion is the flame war: two or more people running what amounts to a crummy game of "the dozens" going back and forth, wasting time. I've seen my share of these things in various venues over the years. An interesting flame war can be entertaining, like the famous, multi-year Derek Smart ones that come complete with guides on how to start it up again (mention attacks from a soda vending machine). But in the end, these things really are a waste.


This went out the window so quickly it made my head spin. I tried a few things, like Blogexplosion, and discovered that there were very, very few people that were interested in anything I had to say. Looking at the popular sites I noticed that they a) had sexy pictures and b) went to a lot of trouble promoting themselves.

Being a basically lazy person who is only messing with this stuff for the hell of it, the second option was not really possible for me. I don't really know why I don't post pornographic pictures on my site to attract traffic. Maybe I'm too proud (irrationally I might add). Maybe it's because I don't think people who are interested in porn are going to bother with the other aspects of the blog.


Throughout my life I have always enjoyed writing. Not technical, book report kind of stuff, but fiction for the most part and then perhaps philosophical kind of stuff.

From a practical standpoint, it also has a number of benefits such as getting me out of my mad, chicken-like mind for a little bit every day. The blog venue is particularly good for this because there is a sort of implied schedule, a pressure to publish every other day or so.

The blog approach's time-oriented nature also tends to curb my tendency towards procrastination and perfectionism. The thing is that you need to produce something; you can't wait for it to be perfect.


So there you have it. Of the things that I set out to do with this blog, I've only achieved one of them. The odd thing to me is that, depressing and humiliating though it may be, failing on the other two points is not quite as bad as I thought it would be, but that's the topic for another post.

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  • "Gollum" Image from "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" property of New Line Cinema/Wingnuts, JRR Tolkein, etc.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

BYB Sunday: A Voice of Reason

I already used up the one about the twix, so I'm mention this situation instead. I had someone plink me out of myself long enough to avoid a lengthy flame war. An early 90s flame war consisted of people saying nasty things back and forth at each other in the venue of an internet "news group." I guess today's equivalent is a "blog war" where people on different blogs post nasty things about each other on their blogs.

In this situation, the other fellow and I were getting ready to have a wonderful back-and-forth about WMD in Iraq: where they really present before the invasion? If not is the US's current campaign morally grounded? Who is being a fanatic for taking one side over the other, etc. etc. This was shaping up to be a typical flame war.

My blessing came in the form of someone pointing out that whose fault the war was is really rather irrelevant – all that matters right now are the lives that can be saved. Our soldiers that have been tossed into what is quickly becoming a civil war, the civilians who don't really give a damn who wins so long as people stop with the bombs and the assassinations, etc.

The person had some other comments that I didn't agree with and you can see her complete posting over on the Non Compos Mentis forum for the "No Nukes is Good Nukes" story. The basic notion of "fix the problem not the blame," however, is one that I wish were far more prevalent in my day-to-day life.

At any rate, this revelation saved me quite of bit of time and anger regarding an issue that really does not matter. Thank you.

On a related note, I have turned comment moderation on for the time being. While it is my fondest wish to get feedback regarding my posts, I am not interested in making this site another site for a flame war. Just exercise courtesy and common sense and your post should go through without any trouble. For others I will try to work with them through email. Image from "The Blue Panther Experience and Other things..." Technorati: , , ,

The Sleep of Reason

On 11/4/2006, I found an article titled "No Nukes is Good Nukes" on Non Compos Mentis claiming to have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The basis for this claim is a Nov 3 article in the New York Times entitled "U.S. Web Archive Is Said to Reveal a Nuclear Primer."

Rather than detailing how Iraq had WMD, the article seems to be about a major snafu on the part of a government agency when it made certain information public on a web site. In particular, the site had details regarding the creation of nuclear weapons. The article goes on to discuss why this information was there in the first place – apparently certain conservative elements of the Republican Party felt this would vindicate their claims of Iraqi WMD.

Never the less, Alex, the person running Non Compos Mentis, seems to think this somehow provides justification for the invasion. He goes on to say:

Now that we've found out Iraq was less than a year from having nuclear weapons, finally, hopefully, the leftist whiners in America will shut the fuck up.

He also makes the claim that Iraq had what amounts to medium range missiles, capable of carrying chemical warheads. Alex does not provide any source for this information, so I'll skip that part.

In reply, Mighty Mouse pointed out

Having research on WMDs is NOT the same thing as actually HAVING them at all. Besides, the point of the article is that the administration once again fucked up by leaking sensitive information to the public on how to build a goddamn nuclear weapon.

The substance of Alex's reply was that the Democrats had said the same thing. In essence he ignores MM's point entirely.

The whole article is full of vitriol and inflammatory rhetoric. It is clear that one of Alex's objectives is to provoke people reading his article. For example, here is the picture from the top of his post:

In a certain context, I find this picture rather funny, but Alex is not trying to be funny here – he seems to truly believe what he is saying. Furthermore, he is not trying to get a laugh out of people; he's trying to start a fight.

I find this sort of behavior very odd. On the one hand, Alex's other posts indicate a mind capable of logical thought. On the other hand, this sort of behavior bespeaks a mind that can be politely described as "fanatic."

When asked about North Korea, Alex had this to say:

And we'll get to Korea eventually. It may take eight years, if there's a brief leftist interregnum, but we'll get another warmonger into office, and he'll push the little red button.


Alex's solution to a situation like North Korea is to start World War 3. This would also kill thousands if not millions of people whose only crime is being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This whole thing was strange enough that I asked, point blank, if this was some sort of joke. I was ignored.

Alex is not even the most extreme case that I have seen. Ann Coulter is one who seems to have waved "bye-bye" to sanity a long time ago, yet there are people buying her books, listening to her speak, etc. Osama bin Laden is another whose whole world outlook is completely broken and yet he has managed to get massive support.

I can understand why otherwise reasonable people would go along with crazy schemes when there is some sort of social pressure. The Milgram shock experiment, Solomon Ash's conformity experiment and Philip Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment all highlight this. But why do people buy into this kind of insanity when there is no social pressure?

Do they do this sort of thing to impress people? Do they just want attention? Do they think they'll become rich or powerful?

Anyone have a perspective on this? I'm fresh out of ideas.

Image sources: Tags: non compos mentis, insanity, fanaticism

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Image copyright/trademark/whatever Warner Bros Entertainment.

Ever since I saw "My Favorite Martian" I've dreamed of being the person to make contact with aliens. Either that or maybe I could be a "Leek Sky-hopper" kinda blow-up-the-Deathstar kind of guy.

Well, I've seen the face of the aliens, folks, and it wasn't pretty…

I was walking down the street, minding my own business, when this flying saucer pulls up. Yes, just like that. Yes, actually I am getting therapy, thank you very much, now let me continue… At any rate, this escalator descends out of the thing and is quickly followed by a pair of egg-shaped critters with antennas, weird outfits and…cigars of all things.

(Martian #1): Take me to your leader! (Martian #2): (nudges M#1) (M#1): Take us to your leader! (Me): What? (M#1): No games, huuu-nam! (M#2): Yeah! (puff, puff, puff) (M): Who the hell are you? (M#1): Martians! Why do you think we have these outrageous accents?! (M#2): Sheesh (puff, puff, puff) (M): You're from Mars? (M#1): What? Never! I said we were Martians, not that we were from Mars! Stooopid huuuu-man… (M#2): (putting hands on hips) Da noiv! That low-rent district! (puff, puff, puff) (M): I've been drinking too much…or maybe not enough. (M#1): Enough talk! (takes out a silly looking ray gun and vaporizes a nearby car) Now take us to your leader or we fries you! (Me): Right! Leader! Which one? (M#1): (glances at M#2) I never thought of that…could more than one be responsible? (M#2): Well…we could just fry em all… (M#1): Good point! (Glaring at me again): All the leadaaars! And hurry up! (M#2): Yeah! (puff, puff, puff) (Me): (I glance around helplessly when my eyes alight upon a nearby newspaper thingie) Of course! They're over at…

Later on that day I was watching CNN when the news broke about how the President, Congress and the Senate had been vaporized…except for John Kerry…

(Newscaster): And so, aside from Massachusetts, government efficiency has been at least doubled thanks to this chain of events…

CNN cuts to John Kerry, in the midst of a speech.

(John Kerry): …and you'd better study or you could end up on Mars!

Just then a brilliant flash of light obliterates John Kerry, leaving a pile of ashes. Nearby reporters gawk until the screen cuts back to the newscaster.

(Newscaster): This just in! Government efficiency in Massachusetts has doubled!

Screen dissolves into static and is then replaced by a black and white picture of the two Martians.

(M#1): Let this be a warning, huuu-mons! We see any more postings from this so-called blog… (Me): (sprays out beer) (M#2): Yeah! (M#1): …and we squish you flat…like bug! (M#2): umm…Yeah!

The two Martians look smug for a few seconds, then realize the camera is still on.

(M#1): ummm…Yeah! (M#2): (puff, puff, puff) (M#1): (nudges M#2) (M#2): Yeah!

The Martians fidget for a second.

(M#1): Hey, could you turn that off? (M#2): (puff, puff, puff)

The screen dissolves back into static, to be replaced by CNN

(Newscaster): And so the question remains: who is this mystery blogger? The FBI is questioning likely subjects in pursuit of a Mr. "What" "Ever." Proprietor of blather-n-rants.blogspot.com. If you know his whereabouts, please call the following number!

I'll just be taking a short break from blogging for a bit…you know, to sort of recharge my batteries…yeah…that's it.

Tags: , , , Legalese: MARVIN THE MARTIAN, LOONEY TUNES, characters, names and all related indicia are trademarks/copyright of Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What the Hell Are They Teaching Kids These Days?!!

Okay, so this kid floored me today. With a Twix no less. Yesterday at work, the company was hosting a Halloween style thingie where people's kids came in and did a sort of "Trick-or-Treat" at various people's cubes. Being the thoughtful, kindly person that I am, I completely forgot about it and did not bring in anything to give them. So there I was, feeling like a jerk, without anything to give them, when the son of a friend (yes, I do have one) walked up and gave me a piece of candy. From the dark memories of my childhood, I think it is safe to say that, in the same situation, you could have gotten candy from me once you had pried apart my cold, dead hands. Then there is the chance that I would have started fighting. OK…this is the day and age where parents don't want their kids to go off trick-or-treating by themselves for fear of having god-knows-what happen to them; this is the whole reason that they are coming around to people's cubes for crying out loud. In my day, we would stride up to people's houses, the houses that, just the night before, we had egged and draped with toilet paper, and brazenly demand candy or we would get really mean. OK, we didn't threaten them, but we did mark their house for next year. So why would a kid give up candy to anyone, let alone some nerd who did not have anything to give me?!! And then his brother gave me one too. And I saw no evidence of threats from the parents. So here's hoping that when the dark times come into this child's life, as they do to us all, that they remember that they brightened the existence of one grouchy, self-absorbed troll. I know I'm rooting for him. Tags: Children, kindness, Halloween, trick-or-treat, light, darkness.