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June 30, 2005

The cucumber people reach a settlement

Perhaps because of the high-priced legal talent they brought in, the Montgomery County Board of Ed has finally reached a deal to end the litigation over the sex-ed curriculum. (For background see this and the links contained in that post.)

OK, so I'm a couple of days late and a dollar short on this story, which appeared on Tuesday, but I couldn't resist bringing this issue up again because of an amazing letter to the editor of the Post's Montgomery County section today. The letter writer, an adult with teenaged children, insists that her children's college-aged friends had no idea how to put a condom on (the subject of a controversial video that was supposed to be part of the sex-ed curriculum). More amazing, this woman apparently had no idea herself how it was done before watching the video when it was screened for parents. Here's an excerpt from the letter:

While Montgomery County teenagers talk a lot about sex, their conversation is all about heat and almost without light. During a discussion of the sex education controversy with my daughter and two of her friends, I was shocked to find out that these three young adults, who have now completed their first year of college, were not sure how to correctly put on a condom.

I learned this because I was telling them about the video that the school system had planned to use to demonstrate correct condom use (school officials have since said they will not use the video). I had gone to view the video because I wanted to see if it was objectionable. I told them that I did not find it offensive and that I had become a member of, the organization that parents may join to support a fact-based and scientific approach to sex education in Montgomery County public schools.

All three young adults asked me immediately to explain to them what I had learned in the video about correct condom use. Having read the advice about teachable moments, I told them all I had learned from the video. If I had not seen this video, I would not have been able to give them any information.
This is not rocket science. It's not differential equations. It's not ancient Greek. It's not even programming a VCR. There's basically only one way to put it on, and even if you've never used one, if you can't figure it out, then maybe, just maybe, you're dumber than a post and shouldn't be allowed to drive, vote, or procreate. In the case of the letter writer, perhaps you shouldn't have had children.

UPDATE (7/1): Bummed. I sent this letter in to BOTWT; Taranto used it; and I didn't get credit. Memo to self: If you send in something under your blog name, and you've written about it, don't be bashful; send in the permalink, not just your blog URL.

Click here to read more . . .

Take ten!

A few weeks ago, when the Supreme Court decided the medical marijuana case, I noticed how upset a lot of bloggers I often agree with were. The decision didn't really upset me, but I thought I could have some fun by writing a 60s-era protest song. It was a huge success. I think I alienated the bloggers I sent it to, and I got loads of site hits for it -- probably in double figures, like maybe a dozen.

So I've decided to try again, with the Ten Commandments decision, which I haven't even had time to read yet. (Why bother, after all, with the facts?) It sounds like a typical Establishment Clause case, meaning that there are more separate views than justices, and a lot more heat than light. This isn't a protest song, and I don't have a clue what the music would sound like, but here goes . . .

Take Ten!

The Court has handed down the Word
On tablets carved in stone.
Its message now is heard,
It is,
No matter how absurd
It is,
With rationales unknown,
With rationales unknown.

Take ten!
And take 'em down!
The logic is incisive,
So take 'em down!
"Thou shalt not be 'divisive'!"
So take 'em down!
"They're words of God and not of men."
Take ten!

So "in" is bad and "out" is fine --
The variations spawn.
When justices align
This way,
And five of them opine
This way,
Distinctions must be drawn,
Distinctions must be drawn.

Take ten!
And take 'em down!
The logic is incisive,
So take 'em down!
"Thou shalt not be 'divisive'!"
Take 'em down!
"They're words of God and not of men."
Take ten!

"I'm NOT the Lord," it shall decree.
"Your sabbaths you shall scorn.
To kill and steal you're free,
You are,
And try adultery,
You are.
False witness shall be borne,
False witness shall be borne."

Take ten!
And take 'em down!
The logic is incisive,
So take 'em down!
"Thou shalt not be 'divisive'!"
So take 'em down!
"They're words of God and not of men."
Take ten!

(Copyright 2005*)

* You're free to quote lengthy sections or even the whole thing. Just give me credit and a link, please.

Click here to read more . . .

June 29, 2005

"Tear down this wall!"

Who said that, Ronald Reagan?

Would you believe, Baseball Crank? And it's "Mr. Steinbrenner, tear down this wall." You just have to see the accompanying photo, which is apparently real.

Click here to read more . . .

June 28, 2005

"This is not a prank"

Well, it didn't take long for someone to figure out a way to protest the Supreme Court's recent decision holding that governments can use eminent domain to take property and give it to another private citizen or business as part of a redevelopment plan, interpreting the constitutional requirement that takings be for "public use" to mean "public purpose."

Freestar Media has issued a press release indicating that it has begun the process of asking the Town of Weare, New Hampshire, to allow a group of investors to build a hotel on the property where Justice Souter's house is located. (Souter joined the majority opinion.)

The press release notes:

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter's home.

Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."

Clements indicated that the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans.
And it goes on to say:
"This is not a prank" said Clements, "The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development."
This is known as guerrilla theater.

(Hat tip: fee simple)

UPDATE (6/29): This reminds me of a decision by the D.C. Circuit en banc in the early 1980s called Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Clark, 703 F.2d 586 (D.C. Cir. 1983) (later reversed by the Supreme Court). CCNV wanted a permit to sleep in tents on the Mall to bring attention to the plight of the homeless. The majority held that this was expressive speech and that the Park Service could not deny a permit under the First Amendment. Judge Wilkey's dissent went through some hypothetical protests, wondering why they wouldn't be covered by the majority's ruling. The last was this one (no link, but you can find it at page 621):
This court rules that the Park Service must permit a First Amendment exception to its ban on camping in the Memorial core area parks. A group of citizens here on holiday, with homes of their own and no particular gripe with hotel prices (other than a disinclination to pay them), applies for a First Amendment camping permit "to demonstrate the absurdity of the holding of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that allows us to camp on the Mall."

Here, the message is substantial, the parties might well be sincere, and the means-end fit is perfect. The Park Service, it appears, would have no choice but to issue the permit.
This is almost as good as a pizza delivery hypothetical.

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Piglet, Tigger Found Slain; Pooh Arrested

Obituaries for Paul Winchell, former voice of Tigger, and John Fiedler, former voice of Piglet, can be found here and here.

Fiedler, by the way, played "Mr. Hercules" in one episode of Get Smart. You'll recognize his photo here.

Click here to read more . . .

Imagine if they had considered all 613

"Court Split Over Commandments"

Headline, Washington Post, June 28, 2005

"Court splits on Commandments"

Headline, Washington Times, June 28, 2005

And "split" was apparently the word of the day.

UPDATE (6/30): I feel a song coming on.

Click here to read more . . .

June 26, 2005


I was in St. Paul on business on Thursday and Friday, arriving home just before shabbat, just in case anyone cares why the most recent post here is a few days long in the tooth. I discovered two things on my visit. First, there are pronounced temperature extremes out there. The last time I was there, it was four below zero. On Thursday, it was in the mid-90s. Second, contrary to what you may assume, there are no billboards with photos of Scott Johnson and John Hinderaker welcoming you at the airport.

This morning, I got up early to ride my bike. I'm somewhere in that gap between the really serious bikers and the casual bikers. I ride a hybrid, not a road bike, but I can outride almost everyone but the "pros" on their road bikes. The pros are smooth and effortless and can whup me without breaking a sweat. But I'm still a maniac. I drove into Georgetown, where I parked under the Whitehurst Freeway, which, contrary to the sound of its name, is a mile-long elevated highway along the Georgetown riverfront. From there I rode up through Rock Creek Park (a large park winding north through Washington and quite a few miles into Maryland), across the Georgetown Branch (a pretty but gravelly and unpleasant ride that connects Rock Creek Park with downtown Bethesda), and back into Georgetown on the Capital Crescent Trail, which is by far the best bike trail we have around here -- wide enough, well paved, and scenic. (It's actually slightly downhill most of the way into Georgetown, which makes a big difference when you're riding down instead of up.) The total ride is roughly 21 miles.

Now, it's time to gripe. I started out at 7:45 a.m. and by 8:45, when I reached the Capital Crescent Trail, it was carnival time on the trail, absolutely packed. It's still possible to ride through the crowd, assuming people behave. Most bikers are relatively well behaved. They ring or shout warnings and rarely run people down. I do all of that. Most runners are good, too. They understand that you need to run on the right edge of the trail to let bikers past. Here's my list of baddies:

  • Geezer walkers walking two-abreast. When you ring to warn them you're coming up on them, they can't hear you or don't care to move.
  • Chinese walking ladies. Same, and they also don't understand English when you shout a warning. You know what I mean. And in this case ethnicity is highly relevant. I've never seen people of any other ethnic background who are as much trouble on the trails.
  • People who walk dogs on the trail on long leashes that enable the dogs to wander across the trail and in the way of traffic.
  • Runners who insist on running three-abreast.
  • Walkers walking two-abreast who, when you ring, move approximately two inches out of your way.
  • Bikers who ride next to each other, because it's hard to pass.

I know that this makes me look like the baddie, but you have to give me some credit for not even complaining about the stroller queens. Next time, I'm going to have to get out there even earlier.

Click here to read more . . .

June 22, 2005

"Hold the tofu, I'm ovulating!"

I hope that title got your attention.

Via BOTWT, I've come across this priceless article purporting to be science, and if you follow here to the end, you'll see that the Israelis should be effusively thanked.

Here's the headline, and we'll work from there:

Women who eat soya may spoil sperm's chances
Tests indicate such foods may make it harder to get pregnant
The article states:
Women who eat soya-based foods may be damaging their chances of becoming pregnant and should give up eating them during the most fertile part of their monthly cycle, a scientist said yesterday.

Professor Lynn Fraser has found that men's sperm quickly passes its sell-by date if it comes into contact with genistein, a compound found in soya.

Laboratory tests suggest the naturally occurring chemical destroys the mechanism that allows sperm to dock with women's eggs, she said at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Copenhagen.
The lead researcher has a practical suggestion:
"It might be practical, if you are in the habit of eating lots of soya-based products, to restrict your diet for a short time over your window of ovulation," Prof Fraser said.

The researcher, of King's College, London, added that sperm could "hang around" for four days in women's organs.
Sure, stop eating tofu if you want to get pregnant, but look at the other side. You can just imagine the following dialogue:

Alicia: Jeannie, like, how come you're carrying around that box of . . . extra-firm tofu?
Jeannie: Uh, because I have this date tonight, y'know.
Jeannie: Tofu.

James Taranto's angle on it is that it "might explain why the tofu-eating Japanese have a dangerously low fertility rate. And we're not sure, but we'd guess women in blue states eat a lot more tofu than those in red states, so this may be compounding the Roe effect."

But the article reports a skeptic:
Professor Richard Sharpe of the Human Reproductive Science Unit in Edinburgh,was sceptical of the theory: "Oriental societies that traditionally eat a soy-rich diet show no signs of reduced fertility of which I am aware; [and] effects on sperm in the laboratory are not necessarily directly related to what might happen in real life."
He doesn't mention red and blue states, oddly enough; he's a Brit.

And the Israeli angle? You can thank them for putting the kibosh on a rotten idea:
And those who think men should abstain from sex so they can store up more or better sperm to coincide with their partner's ovulation might like to think again.

Dr Elyaho Levitas of the University of the Negev, Israel, analysed sperm samples collected for fertility treatments and found that abstinence in donors for more than three days "is doing some harm to the semen".

"People sometimes abstain from sex for weeks, thinking they are doing good, but I think probably they would be better to have sex every two days, rather than every two weeks," he said.
OK, so the Brits can't spel. It's Dr. Eliahu Levitas. You can contact him at . . .

Click here to read more . . .

June 21, 2005

At least no one stole his pants

"D.C. Chief's Vehicle Snatched
'Cars Are Getting Stolen Every Day,' Ramsey Says

Headline, Washington Post, June 21, 2005

I love the photo accompanying the story.

And this, just to rub salt in the wounds:

Union officials said the chief should be investigated for leaving the gear unattended because officers would be disciplined in a similar situation, a claim that the chief denied.

"It's embarrassing," said Sgt. Gregory I. Greene, chairman of the D.C. police labor committee for Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1. "The chief is responsible for his own equipment."
Plus the Maryland angle:
Ramsey is not the area's only top law enforcement official to have a car stolen in recent years. The van of Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey was stolen from in front of his house in 2002.
How would you like to be Ramsey reporting his car stolen?

UPDATE (6/22): Today's headline: "Ramsey Car Theft Generates Laughs, if Not Leads"

Also, today's Toles cartoon.

Click here to read more . . .

Why judges matter -- Part CXIV

From today's New York Times, concerning a capital punishment case just decided by the Supreme Court:

There were indications that Justice O'Connor had changed sides in the five months the case was under consideration, enabling Justice Souter to convert a dissenting opinion into an opinion for the court.
Reagan made history in many ways. Appointing O'Connor as the first female Supreme Court justice should not have been one of those ways.

Click here to read more . . .

June 20, 2005

Monty Python

I just discovered a site posting the script to Monty Python's episode with the Attila the Hun Show. It even has a pillage -- uh, village -- idiot.

Click here to read more . . .

A guide for the perplexed

On Friday, the Washington Post carried a description of a "hearing" held by some hard-left Democratic congressmen (e.g., John Conyers, James Moran, Maxine Waters) on the Iraq war effort. It came as no surprise to some of us that a "witness" at the "hearing" was spewing anti-semitic conspiracy theories ("the United States went to war in Iraq for oil, Israel and military bases craved by administration 'neocons' so 'the United States and Israel could dominate that part of the world'") or that supporters at the Democratic National Committee were distributing similar materials in support of the "hearing" ("At Democratic headquarters, where an overflow crowd watched the hearing on television, activists handed out documents repeating two accusations -- that an Israeli company had warning of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and that there was an 'insider trading scam' on 9/11 -- that previously has been used to suggest Israel was behind the attacks.").

The venom at this "hearing" was so great that Howard Dean was forced to denounce the anti-semitism. Pardon me if I seem ungenerous to him. I have my reasons. (There's an excellent discussion of the political side of this at The American Thinker. To be fair, there's an anti-semitic hue to the anti-war right, as well, though the Republican party wants nothing to do with these folks and the feeling is mutual.)

When some bloggers praised Dean for taking his stand, others questioned why they assumed that anti-Israel literature was anti-semitic without even looking at it first. If you criticize Israel, they said, that doesn't make you anti-semitic. I hear this line all the time, so I thought I'd produce a little guide to help people understand the difference.

My premise is found in an old Jewish joke, a somewhat bitter one borne of centuries of persecution of Jews: An anti-semite is someone who hates Jews more than he has reason to. I think this will help you understand when criticism of Israel becomes anti-semitism.

You will have to understand that this is a very generous standard. It lets you hate Jews and Israel a little bit without being anti-semitic, so long as your hatred is proportionate to your hatred of others who deserve it more.

Let's try an example:

Suppose you say: "Israel is wrong for extending the security wall through areas of the West Bank that should be part of the negotiations under the road map." That's a reasonable position, even if I think it's wrong, and (without more) it's not anti-semitic. You can criticize Israel without being anti-semitic.

Suppose, instead, you say: "Israel is wrong to build the wall at all. Palestinians have every right to travel into Israel, and the wall treats them as second class." This statement is grossly naive at best, and possibly willful, because it ignores the reason for building the wall in the first place -- Palestinian terrorism within Israel. It assumes the wall is the provocation and not the response to the provocation. This statement may or may not be anti-semitic, but it will put people on guard and make them listen carefully to what else you're about to say so they can decide.

But suppose you say: "We should cut off all foreign aid to Israel because it's built the wall, and it treats the Palestians the way the Nazis treated the Jews." This criticism is so over-the-top that it's anti-semitic. You hate Israel more than you have reason to.

Let's try some other examples. You're also an anti-semite if:

  • You believe that all people in the world have the right to political self-determination, except the Jews, and that Israel is an illegitimate nation.
  • You think Israeli academics should be boycotted and show no interest in boycotting academics from any other country, no matter how atrocious its human-rights record.
  • You support divestment from companies doing business in Israel but in no other country in the world.
  • You say that the Jews are controlling American foreign policy to support the goals of Israel, or you throw around the term "neocon" -- unless you're a political scientist discussing different approaches to foreign policy among American conservatives. This is especially true if you also use the term "likudnik" (or "Straussian," in which case you're just a better educated anti-semite). Sure, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld might be considered "neocons," but let's be honest -- that's not why you use the term. And if you specifically mention Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, or any of the small number of Jews who have been in the foreign-policy apparatus at some point, we understand your point.
  • You invoke the Nazis when speaking about Israel.
  • You claim that Israel wants to dominate the Middle East.
  • You cite the theory that Israel or Israelis knew about the September 11 attacks in advance. (If I were more charitable, I'd say you were just a crackpot, but I don't need to give you the benefit of the doubt.)
  • Your international humanitarian organization uses as its symbol a "plus" sign that is red in color and bars the Israeli equivalent from membership because it uses a red "Star of David" as its symbol, although it allowed the Muslim equivalent to join despite its use of a red crescent as a symbol.
I hope this helps you. If your principles are firm only when the Jews are involved (or except when the Jews are involved), we know what you are. And you should, too.

UPDATE (6/22): Thanks to commenter "someguy," whose blog Mystery Achievement is a "must read," here is a post by Photios quoting Steven Plaut at length (also a "must read").

Click here to read more . . .

June 19, 2005

No quandary: Miguel Estrada

Possible Court Nominees Pose a Quandary for Bush
A Conservative Anchor vs. an Ethnic First

Headline, Washington Post, June 19, 2005

Click here to read more . . .

Air humor

I've flown Independence Air several times this spring, and the absolutely worst part of it is listening to stupid pre-recorded flight instructions from people trying to be funny. And the least funny of all have to be Carville and Matalin. They make me want to get out any way I possibly can, even by being arrested for making a bomb threat. (And then I tell myself that 60 seconds of C and M is less than 60 years in a maximum security federal prison.)

But this attempt at humor by Independence Air isn't all that bad.

Click here to read more . . .

June 16, 2005

Time at Gitmo

James Lileks on Time's account of torture at Gitmo.

Click here to read more . . .

Can you spell "pilpul"?

It must be that the national spelling bee is otherwise too easy, because Hebrew and Yiddish words are infiltrating the contest, according to the Jewish Week. (via Kesher Talk)

If the contestants at the Scripps National Spelling Bee have spelling superpowers, Hebrew words appear to be their kryptonite.

As in the past, a few Hebrew and Yiddish words were tossed into this year’s competition held last week in Washington. So spellers fluent in Greek and Latin etymology were faced with words that bore no resemblance to anything in the English language — "pilpul" and "milchig," for instance.
That is so wrong. Pilpul? How many Jews know what that is, let alone are able to spell it?

What about tossing a kid for misspelling "ulpan" as "uhlpan"? Ask John Minnick, a 14-year-old from Roanoke, Virginia. And what about "Lubavitcher" or "levirate" or "minyan"? This year, a Chinese-American girl misspelled "minyan." Showing grace, she said it was good to be exposed to other cultures. But her father's Jewish boss thought it was wrong. According to her mother, "He called us the next day and said, 'Of course I know the word. I didn’t think it was fair!'" And last year, a kid from Iowa misspelled "Lubavitcher." The article asks, "Was it wrong to expect a kid from the heartland to know the names of chasidic sects?" I don't know, but maybe they should have asked him who the Messiah is.

Am I complaining too much? Shouldn't I be pleased that Jewish concepts are being added to the mainstream? Not necessarily. I suspect these words are added because they're considered exotic and can be used to trip up the kids who prepare with massive word lists. What bothers my sense of fairness is that when a word comes from a language that doesn't use Roman characters, there necessarily will be differences in transliteration. (Just ask Soccer Dad about "Haveil Havalim" -- or is it "Havel Havalim"?) Why is it fair to insist on one correct transliteration?

Maybe, though, it's a net gain in the end. Kids from Kentucky are learning Yiddish.
"Yiddish words are cool words," said the Louisville, Ky., seventh-grader.

His favorites?

"Megillah, schmaltz and stuff," he said.
We'll wait till he's older to teach him the really cool Yiddish words, like . . . oh, never mind.

Click here to read more . . .

That isn't the Thames that stinks

If you've ever taken the London Underground during the summer, you know how hot and uncomfortable it can be. Now, the managing director of the Tube is asking Brits to use better personal hygiene during the summer months.

Tim O'Toole, managing director of London Underground, is asking passengers to be considerate of others stuck in the same sweltering carriages during summer months, without the benefit of air conditioning.

"I want to assure people that I only travel by the Tube and I always take a shower," O'Toole told a London radio station.

"But other than that I would certainly hope that during these summer months when it is very, very, warm and we are pressed very close together that to the extent people can practice personal hygiene it would help us."
What he means is, Listen up, you smelly Brits! Give yourselves a wash! You aren't Frenchies!

Click here to read more . . .


It's June 16, time to start reading Ulysses again (not that you or I will). If you started reading aloud right now, you would begin with:

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him on the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:

-- Introibo ad altare Dei.
And around 2 or 3 tomorrow afternoon, having taken no breaks (or perhaps having shared the task with others), you would finish thus:
the sun shines for you he said the day we were lying among the rhododendrons on Howth head in the grey tweed suit and his straw hat the day I got him to propose to me yes first I gave him the bit of seedcake out of my mouth and it was leapyear like now yes 16 years ago my God after that long kiss I near lost my breath yes he said I was a flower of the mountain yes so we are flowers all a womans body yes that was one true thing he said in his life and the sun shines for you today yes that was why I liked him because I saw he understood or felt what a woman is and I knew I could always get round him and I gave him all the pleasure I could leading him on till he asked me to say yes and I wouldnt answer first only looked out over the sea and the sky I was thinking of so many things he didnt know of Mulvey and Mr Stanhope and Hester and father and old captain Groves and the sailors playing all birds fly and I say stoop and washing up dishes they called it on the pier and the sentry in front of the governors house with the thing round his white helmet poor devil half roasted and the Spanish girls laughing in their shawls and their tall combs and the auctions in the morning the Greeks and the jews and the Arabs and the devil knows who else from all the ends of Europe and Duke street and the fowl market all clucking outside Larby Sharons and the poor donkeys slipping half asleep and the vague fellows in the cloaks asleep in the shade on the steps and the big wheels of the carts of the bulls and the old castle thousands of years old yes and those handsome Moors all in white and turbans like kings asking you to sit down in their little bit of a shop and Ronda with the old windows of the posadas 2 glancing eyes a lattice hid for her lover to kiss the iron and the wineshops half open at night and the castanets and the night we missed the boat at Algeciras the watchman going about serene with his lamp and O that awful deepdown torrent O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and the pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will

Have a happy Bloomsday.

Click here to read more . . .

June 15, 2005

Smooth operators

Two stories from current or former parts of the British empire reinforce the point that men do stupid things. In particular, men think they're smooth operators but do stupid things to try to get women to undress for them. And not just stupid but sometimes downright criminal.

The first article (via Drudge) describes an incident in Scotland. Saeed Akbar, a manager at an interpreting and translation company, used this technique on a woman he was interviewing for a job at his company:

Akbar, 35, left the interview room and came back in to speak to his female victim naked and clutching a clipboard.

When the job candidate refused to strip as well, he put his clothes on and attempted to continue the interview as normal, the court was told.
"Uh, moving right along . . .," he must have said. And he had an excellent, and most plausible, explanation: "I wanted a bit of excitement that afternoon, that's purely all it was." But he also came up with an even better explanation:
The woman answered the advert and was invited to attend an interview at the firm's Glasgow office the following day.

When she arrived, Akbar - who was held in "high esteem" by his company - asked if she would mind if they took their clothes off.

The £25,000 per-year executive tried to restart the interview after putting his clothes back on, but his victim fled and reported the matter to police.

He initially told police his strip was a consensual "role play" as part of his "tough interviewing technique".
Wow, that's like a scene from a cheap novel. ("I'll be the police inspector and you'll be the mob moll, and I try to . . . .")

Our next smooth operator operates in India. In this story, via, the professor in a medical college used this strategy to try to get the female students to disrobe:
Female students at the King George's Medical University in Lucknow are finding it difficult to stay abreast of their lessons after an Assistant Professor created a scandal by asking them to drop their aprons.

While Chief Medical Superintendent Dr Ram Kant insists all the professor wanted to do was teach, the girls are furious that they were asked to become models for demonstrating 'percussion'.
"Percussion," by the way, is the medical equivalent of drum playing.
According to [the professor investigating the incident], percussion is a medical practice in which the infected part of the patient's body is hit with fingers while pressing it with the other hand to diagnose puss formation. Rama Kant believes the confusion happened because the girls were not from a medical background and therefore misinterpreted their teacher's actions. He also blames jealous members of the staff for needlessly blowing the incident out of proportion.
So it sounds like the investigator is also a smooth operator. Amazingly, or perhaps not, given the circumstances, some complied with the request.
Students of M.Sc. nutrition class of a famous girls' college doing their internship in the medical university were allegedly asked by the Assistant Professor to remove their aprons during a lecture demonstration. Although some of the girls complied, others refused as they found the request highly objectionable. They walked out of the room in anger and later reported the matter to university authorities. In their complaint the girls accused the professor of trying to make sexual advances using the demonstration as an excuse.
I'm not the only one to whom the girls' explanation sounds obvious. Other faculty thought the investigator's story was no more plausible than the perp's:
However few are willing to buy this argument. Not only has it failed to satisfy the girls, even some staff members of the University are questioning the teaching methodology. They say there was no need to teach percussion technique to students of M.Sc Nutrition course since all they have to know is how to prescribe a suitable diet for patients suffering from various ailments.

They also point out a technical snag in the explanation offered by Professor Rama Kant. According to them empyma puss is deposited in the pleural cavity falling between chest and lung valves. Percussion in this case would involve hitting the chest and the patient's back, not their breasts.
So the apron is beginning to fall from the cover-up.

Click here to read more . . .

"More horses"

There was an ad on TV a few years back in which a couple of women were watching men get into their cars when they were returned by valet parkers, and one woman commented to the other that a particular man's sports car implied something about his lack of virility. I'm pretty sure I'm thinking of the ad described here:

In a 1994 Hyundai television commercial, two women coyly estimate men's physical endowment, based on the car they drive. While assuming that men in fancy cars are lacking elsewhere, the women are dearly impressed by the Hyundai driver: "Wonder what he's got under the hood."
There's a really crude expression I've heard that tracks the point behind this ad. To paraphrase it slightly, the car is a substitute for the male member. The implication, of course, is that the substitution has been made by the men, but apparently, women may be substituting cars for the male member, too, if you can believe this piece called "What Women Want: More Horses" in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times a few days ago.

The two 50-something blondes in the photo, who live in a wealthy area of Connecticut, have recently purchased "sexy" Mercedes sedans to replace the men in their lives.
DIANE NOEL DIRIENZO and her friend Sharon Fitzpatrick have a lot in common. They live on the same street in Milford, Conn. They are both mothers as well as busy professionals, and both found themselves unexpectedly single after many years of marriage. (Ms. Dirienzo was widowed; Ms. Fitzpatrick divorced.) A few weeks ago they both even decided to deal with a sudden bout of midlife ennui in the same way.

"I said, 'Let's go shopping,'" recounted Ms. Dirienzo, a real estate agent. "Let's really go shopping." So they did: specifically for two Mercedes, one apiece. Both wanted a black one - sexy, elegant.
The article discusses the trend toward the purchase of cars, especially expensive "reward" cars, by women. But it all comes back to one thing, guys: You're expendable.

Click here to read more . . .

Chimpanzee rights

If chimpanzees should have rights because they're smarter than disabled humans, as animal-rights advocate Steven M. Wise has argued, then these chimps should probably have been given Miranda warnings when they mauled a man, instead of being shot to death (deprived of life without due process of law). I bring this up not just to make fun of Mr. Wise again but because I noted the attack, and the conflicting headlines, back in March. The victim has just been brought out of his medically induced coma, having suffered serious physical injury.

Click here to read more . . .

June 14, 2005

'snot funny

If you can believe Google, in my 8 months writing some of the most juvenile, sophomoric stuff imaginable, I've never used the word "snot" or even "mucus." At least, not until just now.

Via BOTWT, we learn of a news item with the amazing headline "Giant Balls of 'Snot' Explain Ocean Mystery." The article begins thus:

Scientists have discovered giant sinking mucus "houses" that double the amount of food on the sea floor.

The mucus houses, or "sinkers," are produced by tadpole-like animals not much bigger than your index finger. As sinkers drop to the sea floor, small sea critters and other food particles get stuck to the mucus and end up on the bottom of the ocean.

For years scientists have observed loads of life at the bottom of the ocean. But they weren't able to find enough food - carbon - to support all that life. Sinkers, previously overlooked, may help fill that gap.
And if you think I'm immature, imagine this: Some people calling themselves scientists actually collect this stuff.
"A sinker is basically snot," [Rob] Sherlock said. "It's very fragile. We have very skilled ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) pilots and special containers to collect these things. We were only able to adequately collect one out of four."
Sherlock, who's with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, apparently sees nothing odd in describing "snot" as "fragile." That certainly isn't how I would describe it. And this is not the kind of stuff you try to get off your finger. In fact, you really can't touch it at all.
They're so fragile that sometimes just touching one causes it to rapidly break apart. Sinkers are particularly good at staying out of sediment traps - the most common way of testing the amount of carbon food on the sea floor.
How do the animals who create sinkers work?
The animals responsible for making sinkers are called giant larvaceans. They spin a mucus web, about a yard in diameter. They sit in the middle of the house and use it to filter food that is small enough for them to eat.
Mmmmmm, a mucus web a yard in diameter made by "giant larvaceans." (Where do they fit into the TTLB Ecosystem?)

And last, need I say it? Mucus Web and the Giant Larvaceans would be an excellent name for a rock band.

Click here to read more . . .

June 10, 2005


Yahoo News sometimes carries strange photos of people we know and love, so it's worth checking every once in a while. But something has happened recently at Yahoo News. The photos seem to be organized into slide shows, and now the captions often don't match the lead photo.

For example:

"Colin Powell" is either South Africa President Thabo Mbeki or George Bush. "Defense Secretary Rumsfeld" is either NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer or Norwegian Defense Minister Kristin Krohn Devold. "Bill Clinton" is Governor Mike Huckabee. And "Arnold Schwarzenegger" is Maj. Gen. Thomas Eres, commanding officer of the California National Guard.

Click here to read more . . .

June 09, 2005

7 X 12 = BUSH LIED!!

If you thought your kids' math instruction at school was going down the toilet because the schools were adopting all the latest edu-fads in math teaching, you were right. But you were probably reassured in thinking that it couldn't get much worse.


Barry Kearns at VekTor writes about a forthcoming math text, Rethinking Mathematics, that uses math as a tool for political indoctrination. I will leave the discussion to him, but you really have to see the table of contents of the book to believe it. I'm still wondering whether it's an Alan Sokal parody. (via Ann Althouse)

The good news is that math instruction is so poor that not only will the kids not learn the math but they also won't learn the brainwashing.

Click here to read more . . .

June 08, 2005

Looking for bias in all the wrong places

In 1992, Wesley Baker robbed Jane Tyson in a Catonsville, Maryland parking lot. Then, having netted three dollars in the robbery, he murdered her in front of her grandchildren.

In the Washington Post's antiseptic report of the incident this morning, Baker "approached Tyson and her two grandchildren, pressed a gun to the left side of her head and squeezed the trigger." The Post's website helpfully presents a family photo of Baker, wearing a sweater, posing tastefully in front of a drawing of a winter scene.

Baker was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.

A jury in Harford County, where the trial was moved at Baker's request, convicted him in 1992 of killing Jane Tyson, 49, in front of her grandchildren in the parking lot of the Catonsville mall. Shortly before Baker was to be executed, Maryland Governor Parris N. Glendening declared a halt to executions until the release of a University of Maryland study examining possible racial bias in Maryland's death penalty.
Anyone who is not terminally naive knows that when someone who does not support capital punishment (whatever he says as a politician) seeks a study of whether there is racial bias in the system, the answer will come first and the evidence later. Here is a link to the executive summary of the report, released in 2003, and here is a link to the complete report. In the Post's one-sentence summary: "University of Maryland researchers announced in 2003 that prosecutors were far more likely to seek the death penalty for black suspects charged with killing white victims, a racial disparity that mirrored national trends."

Back to today's news. The defense lawyers for Baker are telling Maryland's Court of Appeals, the highest state court, that the University of Maryland study shows that Baker deserves a hearing on his claim that racial bias infected his prosecution. (The article is unclear whether he's seeking a new trial or simply a new sentencing hearing.)

Yesterday, citing those findings, attorney Gary Christopher said that seven of every 10 black men sentenced to death for killing a white victim would have been spared had their victims been black. Christopher said Maryland's criminal justice system has devalued the lives of the state's black residents, sending the message that "the Maryland death penalty statute is there to protect white suburbanite communities from the predations of black men."
Leaving aside the inflammatory rhetoric, the lawyer raises an interesting point, which I'll get to later.

I haven't read the University of Maryland report -- it's very long, and life is short -- but I can say what some of the problems generally are in reaching a conclusion that the system is biased.

First, there's a very small sample size of convicted murderer on death row in Maryland. (According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of December 31, 2003, there were only 11 murderers on death row in Maryland, 4 white and 7 black. There have been only 3 executions in Maryland since 1977.) You can expand the sample by looking at all cases charged as murder, or even at all cases classified as murder, but the fact remains that the sample size will be pretty small. Remember that all the anti-capital-punishment litigation over the past 40 years has created a minefield for the prosecution, and only a small number of murder cases would even be considered for a capital charge, just to avoid those judicially created landmines.

Second, there isn't any way to avoid this politically incorrect statement, but black perpetrators commit a disproportionate number of murders. I wish it weren't the case, but it is. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, looking at nationwide data, for murders from 1976 to 2002, 52% of offenders were black and 46% were white. BJS summarizes this by saying that blacks were seven times more likely to commit murder than whites in 2002 (based on their percentage in the population).

I don't want to leave this hanging, so let me also point out here what the statistics are for murder victims: 47% were black and 51% were white. The nationwide data also show that the overwhelming number of victims of black murderers are also black -- 94% of black victims were killed by blacks and 86% of white victims were killed by whites. This is of a piece with the National Crime Victimization Survey, which repeatedly finds that 80% to 85% of all violent crimes against blacks are committed by other blacks. Who is concerned about these black crime victims?

With all the talk about race discrimination against black murderers, I wish people would care a little more about the black victims. Maybe it's time to take black-on-black murder more seriously. Gary Christopher says that "Maryland's criminal justice system has devalued the lives of the state's black residents," but he doesn't argue that black-on-black murder should be charged as capital; he argues instead that black-on-white murder should not be.

Third, in Maryland, decisions to charge a capital murder are made by the local State's Attorney, the chief prosecutor for a county (or for the city of Baltimore). There will naturally be some variation from county to county on how these cases are charged, especially because the State's Attorney is an elected official who may run on his or her position on capital punishment. Even the principal author of the University of Maryland study, quoted in today's Post article, recognizes that it's the local prosecutor whose decision results in any disparity, and he doesn't claim it's intentional (which should mean it's not "discrimination" in the first place):
Paternoster, in announcing his findings, said the explanation for the disparities rested with state's attorneys, not juries, although he was careful not to impugn the prosecutors' motives. He said that his analysis "doesn't mean there is racial animus" by prosecutors but rather that "the product of their action does result in racial disparity."
In fact, the study, from my quick glance at it, focuses on "geography" and on what it calls a jurisdiction effect. Baltimore County has the highest percentage of murders charged as capital cases, and the percentage in other jurisdictions goes down from there. As a Baltimore Sun columnist pointed out around the time of the moratorium in 2002:
It is, in observable fact, a function of other variables. In Baltimore County [which excludes the city of Baltimore], State's Attorney Sandra A. O'Connor has spent the last quarter-century seeking the death penalty whenever possible. In the city [of Baltimore], State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy does not.
So one county prosecutor is seeking capital punishment and others are not (or not as much). The Post article notes:
Baker is one of seven prisoners on Maryland's death row, and one of three who were convicted of crimes committed in Baltimore County.
The "problem" is that Baker went to Baltimore County instead of Baltimore City. Had he murdered someone, white or black, in the city, he probably wouldn't be on death row. Is that race discrimination? If anything, when the prosecutor in a city whose population is about 64% black refuses to seek capital punishment for people who murder that largely black population, I would say that the largely black population is being less protected than the largely white population of Baltimore County.

Finally, murder in which the murderer and victim are of different races is often stranger murder. BJS reports that 3 in 10 stranger murders are interracial (either white-on-black or black-on-white) and only 1 in 10 friend or acquaintance murders are interracial. Stranger murders, like Wesley Baker's, more often have the aggravating factors that lead to a death sentence.

UPDATE (6/9): Soccer Dad finds a Washington Post article from May 2002 quoting an assistant to the Baltimore County State's Attorney as well as the Baltimore (city) State's Attorney on their capital charging policies. I like this statement from the Baltimore city prosecutor, who hadn't sought a death sentence since 1998 despite the roughly 250 murders a year in the city:
"My position on the death penalty is that I believe it should be reserved for those individuals who commit the most heinous crimes," Jessamy said. "And we don't ask courts or juries to make that decision for us. We try to be as reasonable as possible."
The "most heinous crimes"? I always thought murder was a pretty heinous crime.

Click here to read more . . .

June 07, 2005

Aren't you a little cold?

Thanks to my older son, my wife and I have discovered Craig's List, a website that has mostly free classifieds. (The Washington, D.C., listings are here.) We used it to offer up a large kids' playhouse and sandbox for free and got 30 or more responses within an hour. We're using it now to help find a summer job for my daughter.

And there are always interesting listings. Just today, my wife e-mailed me an anonymous listing seeking a nude house cleaner. (You read that right.) The key part of the ad was this:

Nude House Cleaner

Reply to: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Date: 2005-06-06, 10:23PM

I am looking for a nice lady to clean my apartment in the nude. If you are interested please reply to this. I will play for good money for your time.
I forwarded the ad to a colleague, who responded, "Thanks for contacting me about this. I don't hire minors." What a comic!

I remember reading a book called Municipal Bondage by Henry Alford, a collection of essays about his experiences doing unusual jobs or trying out unusual things. In one essay, he writes about his experiment in hiring a nude housecleaning service.
HYPOTHESIS: Possessed as I am of an endless fascination with the classified sections of small newspapers, I often come across ads placed by nude housecleaning services. Such a profession, it has always seemed, must be slightly . . . imperiling.
So he conducts his experiment by hiring a man and a woman on separate occasions and asking them to do not only traditional cleaning tasks but also a few chores that "might prove especially challenging to those in nature's garb," such as cleaning his blinds-less windows that looked out on a busy residential street (the man said, "I don't mind. I mean, hey -- you live here," but the woman declined), carrying newspapers ("POTENTIAL OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD: Bodily besmirchment") and firewood ("POTENTIAL OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD: Splinters") , and -- my personal favorite -- unclogging a bathtub drain with an industrial-strength drain opener containing sulfuric acid.

Along the way, Alford assures us that the housecleaners had no desire to render him "pants-less." "'The visual is okay,' one of them explained to me, 'but it's a hands-off policy.'" And at the end, Alford is persuaded that his doubts about the service are unwarranted.

That said, this is no summer job for my daughter.

Click here to read more . . .

WTC update

A very troubling article by Debra Burlingame in the Wall St. Journal (via Power Line) about the World Trade Center Memorial in planning:

The World Trade Center Memorial Cultural Complex will be an imposing edifice wedged in the place where the Twin Towers once stood. It will serve as the primary "gateway" to the underground area where the names of the lost are chiseled into concrete. The organizers of its principal tenant, the International Freedom Center (IFC), have stated that they intend to take us on "a journey through the history of freedom" -- but do not be fooled into thinking that their idea of freedom is the same as that of those Marines. To the IFC's organizers, it is not only history's triumphs that illuminate, but also its failures. The public will have come to see 9/11 but will be given a high-tech, multimedia tutorial about man's inhumanity to man, from Native American genocide to the lynchings and cross-burnings of the Jim Crow South, from the Third Reich's Final Solution to the Soviet gulags and beyond. This is a history all should know and learn, but dispensing it over the ashes of Ground Zero is like creating a Museum of Tolerance over the sunken graves of the USS Arizona.
Burlingame, whose brother was the pilot of American flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, says that this is driven by the political outlook of the people in charge.
The driving force behind the IFC is Tom Bernstein, the dynamic co-founder of the Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex who made a fortune financing Hollywood movies.
* * * * *
The public has a right to know that it was Mr. Bernstein's organization, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union, that filed a lawsuit three months ago against Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was Human Rights First that filed an amicus brief on behalf of alleged "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla, an American citizen who the Justice Department believes is an al Qaeda recruit. It was Human Rights First that has called for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the alleged torture of detainees, complete with budget authority, subpoena power and the ability to demand that witnesses testify under oath.
According to Burlingame, others involved in the project include a "a Who's Who of the human rights, Guantanamo-obsessed world." She concludes by asking, "Ground Zero has been stolen, right from under our noses. How do we get it back?"

UPDATE (6/9): Richard Tofel, president of the IFC, responds in a piece in the Wall St. Journal. Summary: "Blah, blah, blah."

UPDATE (6/15): Just noticed Michelle Malkin's summary of Tofel's piece: "Blah times 3." Great minds think alike. (See previous update.)

UPDATE (6/16):

Click here to read more . . .

At that point, everyone else will go nuts

"Most Will Be Mentally Ill at Some Point, Study Says"

Headline, N.Y. Times, June 7, 2005

Click here to read more . . .

June 06, 2005

My federalist dope

I consider myself a federalist, but I can't say I'm upset about the Supreme Court's decision today upholding the federal government's power to prohibit the use of medical marijuana despite state law authorizing it. My motto is Nino sequitur.

But, inspired by the complaining coming from a significant part of the libertarian-conservative arena, I have written a protest song about the decision. No music, but you should imagine a generic 60s-era crappy protest song.

My Federalist Dope

I'm sick of it, sick of it,
Churnin' and heavin',
So why shouldn't I now
Abandon all hope?
My nausea's back when
I read John Paul Stevens,
Who keeps me from smokin'
My federalist dope.
Yes, he keeps me from smokin'
My federalist dope.

The framers, the framers,
They gave Congress power
To regulate commerce as
All had agreed.
But they limited Congress
That very same hour
To keep it from banning
My medical weed.
Yes, to keep it from banning
My medical weed.

No matter my sickness,
Prescription, or promise,
I'm s--- out of luck
And there isn't a point.
And now, despite Rehnquist,
O'Connor, and Thomas,
I can't even puff on an
Intrastate joint.
No, I can't even puff on an
Intrastate joint.

(Copyright 2005)

Click here to read more . . .

Do dogs have standing?

According to Justice William O. Douglas, trees should have standing (to sue), so why not dogs?

Yesterday's Chicago Tribune reports on a trend in the law favoring expansion of litigation and recovery for injuries to pets, including, of course, malpractice actions against veterinarians.

The veterinarian botches routine surgery, and now the family cat resembles something out of Stephen King's "Pet Sematary." Or that "miniature poodle" puppy you got from a breeder has grown to 90 pounds and looks more like a dingo-bulldog mix.

Pet owners traditionally had little legal recourse in situations such as these. In every court system, animals have been considered property. But animal advocates and attorneys along with their clients are making headway in getting the legal system to recognize what society increasingly believes:

Animals are more than just property. They're like family.
Now, this trend doesn't really require dogs to have standing. It's the owners (excuse me, the dogs' humans, who sue), and the injury is to the owner, not to the animal, but the idea behind it is that pets are more valuable to people than we've previously accepted in the law. There's something a little self-indulgent about this, but if that were it, it would all be pretty harmless.

The trouble is that the goal of the reformers, ultimately, is to transform pets from their current status in the law as property into beings with a higher status, akin to that of humans. But the consequence of that inevitably is to lower the status of humans. This is not just my opinion. Another Tribune article refers to Steven M. Wise, an animal rights lawyer, who runs the Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights, and is the author of Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals (which I have not read and have no intention of reading). I did check out Wise's website, which says this, in describing his book:
A human lost in a permanent vegetative state enjoys a large array of legal rights. But a chimpanzee - a creature who can communicate with language, count, understand the minds of others, feel a variety of emotions, live in a complex culture, and make and use tools - has no rights at all.
The argument here is not that animals should have equal rights with humans, which is itself an extreme position, but that some animals have more entitlement to rights than some humans, based on someone's notion of their relative cognitive abilities. A smart chimp, on this theory, might be entitled to greater rights than a profoundly retarded human.

The whole notion that rights are dependent on cognitive ability leads us down a very dangerous road. The book of Genesis tells us that man was created in the image of God, and a not very religious man famously wrote that we are "endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights." You don't have to be religious at all to be troubled by the idea that if rights become dependent on cognitive ability, they will be divorced from the unique innate nature of humanity. I would venture that disabled humans who rely upon highly trained animals to help them with their daily activities would understand better than almost anyone else where this line of argument leads.

Click here to read more . . .

A milestone

One of the great things about being a bottom-dwelling, no-budget, small-potatoes blogger is that nothing really matters. You do it for fun, whether there's anyone out there or not. In my case, if a handful of people come by and read my smartalecky comments about ridiculous news stories, that's probably more people than I'd offer those comments to in person. I can justify my existence to myself by writing a small number of serious posts, which the same handful of people will read, but on the whole it just doesn't matter.

It's easy, even for me, to get caught up in site traffic, but I'm not going to follow John Hawkins's 25 steps to increasing my visibility. I don't promise high-quality "content" or really any "content" at all. I'm not trying to make a buck by running ads or asking for tips. And if I did try to increase my visibility, I doubt I'd be successful, because if you looked up my Myers-Briggs results, you'd find someone for whom it's not easy to interact with other people. I try, but I'm not very good at it, and I can't pretend to be someone I'm not. In any event, getting lots of traffic is not why I'm here.

So all of this lets me revel in a pathetic milestone. On Friday, June 3, I finally broke 10,000 site visits, just under 8 months after starting this blog.

This averages out to about 1,250 hits a month. For many bloggers, 10,000 is a month or a couple of weeks of traffic. For the big boys, it might be a couple of hours. But for me, it's a milestone.

Of course, if you take into account that roughly a quarter of all my hits came from only two posts, and that an embarrassing number came from all the perverts who find me by searching for unnatural acts with certain animals, which plays off a joke in the title to an old post of mine, that puts my milestone in even greater perspective. (I do want to point out that only a few hits are from me, because I figured out early how not to record my own visits.)

So if you're reading this, consider yourselves part of an elite, which by my definition means "a small number." But it's a small number of people I'm very glad are here. Thank you.

Click here to read more . . .

June 04, 2005

Microsoft update

This may be old news to computer mavens, but the new operating system Microsoft is working on, codenamed Longhorn, has at least one improvement over Windows XP. It seems to have gone beyond the feared Blue Screen of Death (example here), which occurs during system crashes, and added to it . . .

You guessed it!

. . . a Red Screen of Death. What an improvement!

According to Microsoft techie and blogger Michael Kaplan, who has been experimenting with a Longhorn beta, as well as being confronted with the Blue Screen of Death, now users will also see red.

The Red Screen of Death appears to be the bigger, badder cousin to the traditional blue screen and is designed to let users know that a more serious error has occurred, Kaplan said.

Best line from Kaplan: "I am not sure I would class the change as an improvement."

UPDATE (6/5): If you can believe this, Microsoft says the RSOD is only temporary and will not be a part of Longhorn, when it's released. They always know just how to ruin things.

Click here to read more . . .

June 03, 2005

Genetics update

For those of you who spend all day flying around looking for poop, scientists have some evidence that your sexual orientation may be genetic.

For those of you in the other three categories -- (a) you fly around all day not looking for poop; (b) you look for poop all day but can't fly; and (c) you can't fly and merely try to avoid the stuff when it's on the sidewalk -- well, the scientists have reached their conclusion but don't have the evidence yet:

"The results are so clean and compelling, the whole field of the genetic roots of behavior is moved forward tremendously by this work," said Dr. Michael Weiss, chairman of the department of biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University. "Hopefully this will take the discussion about sexual preferences out of the realm of morality and put it in the realm of science."
Weiss notes that humans are "complicated," but that obviously doesn't stop him from drawing conclusions based on fruit flies. On the other hand, some of the fruit flies described in the article sound a lot like guys I went to college with.

UPDATE (6/4): Scrappleface says "Fruit Flies Prove Homosexuality Caused by Scientists."

Click here to read more . . .

You're stupid. No, you're stupid.

Some day psychologists will explain why certain adult men who are very successful in their professional lives can still act like seven-year-olds. And, no, I'm not talking about Michael Jackson.

Here's the latest insight from Howard Dean, chairman of your Democratic National Committee:

Speaking to the Campaign for America's Future, Mr. Dean called for easier rules for voting, saying it is difficult for working parents to make it to the polls on time and wait to vote.

"Well, Republicans, I guess, can do that, because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives," Mr. Dean said. "But for ordinary working people, who have to work eight hours a day, they have kids, they got to get home to those kids, the idea of making them stand for eight hours to cast their ballot for democracy is wrong."
Maybe Harry Reid is writing Dean's speeches.

Click here to read more . . .

Bill promotes Hill

Big Bill is out there promoting Hillary for a presidential run in 2008. She's definitely decided to run. How do I know? Bill says she hasn't decided.

Click here to read more . . .

More fun ahead

Bush is apparently set to nominate 20 or 30 more judges, according to the Washington Post, after votes are held on Janice Rogers Brown, Bill Pryor, and possibly William Myers, who's not exempted from filibuster under the agreement reached by the 14 senators.

Here's what the President said at his news conference earlier this week:

"Whether that agreement means that a [nominee] is going to get an up-or-down vote, I guess it was vague enough for people to interpret the agreement the way they want to interpret it," he said. "I'll put a best face on it, and that is that since they're moving forward with Judge Owen, for example, and others, that 'extraordinary circumstances' means just that -- really extraordinary."

He paused. "I don't know what that means," he said to laughter. "I guess we're about to find out when it comes to other appellate judges."
Just a warm-up act for the expected Supreme Court nomination this summer.

Click here to read more . . .

June 02, 2005

Library of Transsexual Congress

You really have to feel sorry for this guy, who has honorably served our country but, sadly, has some issues about his correct sex. He received a job offer from the Library of Congress, but it was withdrawn when, well, here's when:

Schroer began a job search that led last fall to the Library of Congress, which had an opening for a terrorism research analyst. Schroer said officials were thrilled when an applicant offered an operational background, rather than merely an academic one.

Interviewing as David, Schroer beat out 18 contenders and got all the way to discussions of salary and start date. Then Schroer asked the future supervisor out for lunch.

The supervisor, Schroer said, talked about the office and introduced David Schroer as the new researcher. At lunch, Schroer told her that the person coming to work would be Diane.

Schroer tried to make the supervisor more comfortable, explaining the surgeries and showing her pictures of Diane in a dress. "No one wants to go through life being the punch line of a joke. I'm not going to do this if I'm going to look like a truck driver in a dress. I wanted her to see I looked good, professional," Schroer said.

But the next day, Schroer said, the supervisor called and withdrew the offer.
Needless to say, Schroer and the ACLU are suing for sex discrimination.
Schroer is to file a lawsuit today accusing the Library of Congress of sex discrimination and asking that the job offer be reinstated, said Arthur B. Spitzer, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area.

* * * * *
Spitzer said the case could face some obstacles. "Legal protection for transgender people is not at all clear. . . . Courts have not been as receptive as they need to be for providing discrimination protection for these people," he said.
And to think this entire quest may have been started when his therapist told him he was a 26-year-old.

Click here to read more . . .

June 01, 2005

The Post solves a "mystery"

Having suffered yesterday through wall-to-wall coverage of "Deep Throat" on CNN (to be renamed WNN, for "Watergate Nostalgia Network"), I had to laugh at this morning's Washington Post headline. Check out how the subheadline is phrased:

FBI's No. 2 Was 'Deep Throat'
Mark Felt Ends 30-Year Mystery of The Post's Watergate Source

The newspaper obviously has known who this guy was from the start, and it's a "mystery"? Talk about an out-of-body headline.

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If you're a cranky, anti-social guy like me, and another blogger sends around a request that you and several other bloggers write about movies, you might be inclined to grumble about chain mail and feel embarrassed that you can't even remember the last time you went to the movies.

But if the blogger is a military man, and it's Memorial Day weekend, you do your patriotic duty.

1. Number of films owned on video/DVD: Probably about 20. If you expand the inquiry, I do have all 138 episodes of Get Smart, most of which were time-shifted during Nick at Nite's 1991 marathon called Maximum Smart. When the DVD comes out, I will buy it in a New York minute.

2. Last film I bought: Probably North by Northwest. And my family bought me a collection of Marx Brothers films on DVD.

3. Last film I watched: Something forgettable with my 13-year-old son. (My son just told me it was "Coach Carter," which wasn't bad, but it was obviously forgettable, at least to me.) I did once see an amusing "Get Smart"-like British film with him called "Johnny English."

4. Five films I watch a lot or are meaningful to me: I resign. Can't believe how pathetic I am. My two favorites are A Night at the Opera and North by Northwest.

At this point, the game goes, you're supposed to "tag" other bloggers. But after such a poor performance, I'm taking myself out of the gene pool.

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