Thursday, May 31, 2007

Short Term Self-Assessment

Lots of people say, "If only I knew then what I know now!" in reference to some mistake or mistakes they made in their lives years ago. A career choice, a decision to drop out of school, the picking up of a bad habit or the like. I have a different suggestion along the same vein.

Go back in time 6 months and ask yourself what you wish you had done differently. Chances are that external circumstances will not have changed dramatically, but you should be able to plot out the way things would have gone with different choices. I would bet that it gives you actionable analysis that decade-old regrets do not.

Feline Poetry

Here's part of my favorite cat poem, "On a Cat Aging" by Alexander Gray. I wonder if our Poet Laureate likes it, too.

She blinks upon the hearth-rug,
and yawns in deep content,
accepting all the comforts
that Providence has sent.

Louder she purrs, and louder,
in one glad hymn of praise
for all the night's adventures,
for quiet, restful days.

Life will go on for ever,
with all that cat can wish:
warmth and the glad procession
of fish and milk and fish.


Please take a moment to visit this week's Friday Ark.

Uncle Jack and the Gulls

Last week, while I was on travel back east, I had a chance to go visit my Uncle Jack who lives along the New Jersey shoreline. He's an accomplished fellow and my father's best friend. In his retirement, he's taken up birdwatching. I hadn't seen him in years, so when my schedule opened up, I gave him a call and drove up to watch birds with him. It had to be one of the best things I've ever done.

For one thing, Uncle Jack was a treat to be with. I know it's a cliche, but like most people his age, he's full of fascinating stories and salty wisdom. The time went fast while we were together as he talked about the things he was doing now and stories from when he and my father were together in school and in the service. His interest in bird watching rubbed off on me, too.

We stopped and saw an osprey on her nest and I took a few pictures, but they didn't come out very well. We walked across a marsh and watched a variety of wetlands birds hunt for fish and crustaceans. Then we hiked up a small dune out in the middle of the marsh and sat with the seagulls.

This time of year, the gulls were sitting on their nests, waiting for their eggs to hatch. When we walked close to them, they flew off a short distance and chided us for bothering them. The eggs looked like this.


After we had sat for a while, the gulls calmed down and returned to their nests. I calculated that the dune had somewhere around 200 seagull nests on it. Here's one of the gulls.


For the gulls on their nests, time proceeds at a stately pace. Once all of us settled in, we just sat together, the two of us and about 80 or so gulls within sight and another 300 or so gulls over the ridges of the dune. The gulls became quiet and still. There was no sense of urgency, only a sense of connection with the past, a sense that time was flowing slowly by. The gulls were doing what gulls had done for millennia, sitting placidly, waiting for the next generation of gulls to emerge.

Living in San Diego, I see seagulls all the time. When I see them at the beach or around the harbor, they're noisy and active. Sitting peacefully with them for an hour was a completely different experience. You can't help but think about the contrasting episodes of your own life as you sit with quiet gulls.

This week's Friday Ark has more bird-related posts. I and the Bird has a really big list of avian posts.

Third World Mining

Amidst all of the hysteria over global warming, the standard issues of environmental protection get swept aside. Today's Wall Street Journal has an article about mining companies heading into the more troubled parts of Africa in search of minerals such as copper. Here's the video that goes along with their story.


Two things struck me about this. One is that Congo is such a train wreck that there's no way proper environmental safeguards will be in place. I haven't looked for it, but I'm sure there are press reports of American mining companies causing environmental damage. Chinese mining companies are getting in on the act, too. With the way they've wrecked their own country, it boggles the mind to think what the Chinese are doing in someone else's.

The second thing has nothing to do with the environment. As commodity prices increase and mines in developed nations become depleted, the temptation to go into basket cases like Congo grows. Unfortunately, the Congolese aren't ready for it. They've spent all of their energy shooting each other and wrecking things instead of building their country.

The Congo has one of the world's most dysfunctional economies, with a fragile government, little in the way of basic infrastructure and widespread poverty and desperation. Conflict continues in some areas, especially places with natural resources, and corruption is endemic, exposing foreign companies to routine requests for bribes. Basic amenities like banks and reliable medical facilities are scarce.
Despite their self-destruction, the locals still find time to blame the mining companies for their problems.

Many in the area appear to support the (foreign mining) project. But residents in Lubumbashi and elsewhere complain that foreign mining companies in general aren't doing enough to dole out jobs and benefits...In Lubumbashi, some residents say they know new investment is needed, but they still feel the Congo is being exploited by foreigners.
I don't know, guys. Maybe if you had spent a little more time building roads and a little less time arming your twelve-year-olds with AK-47s and having them shoot up the place, you wouldn't be being exploited now.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fern Canyon

Our Missionary to the Frozen, Northern Wastelands is married to Kathleen, a lovely lady who is also an accomplished photographer. Here's a sample from her black and white photography.


I've been thinking lately that ferns and such are actually superior life forms to all of us. They have been able to compete in the environment successfully for tens of millions of years without having to change their DNA. While we've thrashed around with evolution, changing from one primate form to another, struggling to get it right, the ferns and the algaes and the alligators have been able to get by, unchanged forever.

Now if only ferns could blog.

You can see more of Kathleen's great photos here.

It's not Global Warming

...we should worry about. Poisoning the environment is the wolf closest to the door.

...a report from Xinhua (Chinese) news agency (said) that about 60 percent of edible oil on sale in the southwestern city of Chongqing might cause food poisoning and harm the human liver and kidney.
A 3" rise in mean sea level won't mean a thing if we're all eating poisoned food.

Although he has legitimate disagreements with part of my stance, our Missionary to the Frozen, Northern Wastelands has more.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Flowers

I've been cruising the blogosphere as usual. There's all kind of nasty things being posted. There's a bunch of people who have posted the YouTube video of Rosie O'Donnell and Elizabeth Hasselbeck (spelling?) going at each other. Others have posted about deaths in Iraq, year-to-year. There's yelling and accusations and name-calling and people pointing out each other's imperfections. Yes, I know I do it, too. Sometimes, I get tired of it all. I went into my kitchen and saw Momma Daisy and her daughters being just as happy as little Gerber Daisies can be.




Thanks, Momma Daisy. I needed that.

Calling in Sick

I'm totally exhausted. I think it best that I call in sick to work today. Just look at the state I'm in!

Tasty Rabbits!

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo turned me on to this video. You gotta love it. I keep wondering if our Maximum Leader could be trusted with Jacob the Syrian Hamster, but I'm not willing to risk it. One serious chomp from kitty and it would be all over for the rodent.

By the way, the biting you see in this video is a natural part of the grooming process. It's not the cat fighting the urge to eat the rabbits.

Monday, May 28, 2007

HELP! We Need a T-Shirt!

The Feline Theocracy is calling all members, devotees, supporters and cat bloggers to help us win a t-shirt from Skippy the Bush Kangaroo.

Here's what you have to do. Go to his blog and on the right hand side, a bit down from the top, you'll see a poll asking you to vote for your suggestion for Hillary Clinton's theme song.

Vote for Auntie Grizelda by The Monkees. That's my entry. If it gets the most votes, I get a t-shirt. If I win, I promise to share it with each of you*.

In order to make sure we get lots of votes, vote from every machine you own, both at work and at home. Do not worry about doing this. I'm sure this is perfectly legal**.

Here's why I think Auntie Grizelda is perfect for Hillary. Both the romp and the lyrics are appropriate.


The romp is symbolic of a Hillary presidency. The kids chasing the Monkees represent government tax collectors and regulators. The Monkees represent all of us, citizens, entrepreneurs, workers, all of us. With Hillary in charge we will be relentlessly pursued across the country, the fruits of our hard work taken from us and our businesses hounded into the ground.

The lyrics are all Hillary.

She knows her mind all right, your auntie grizelda,
She says she knows my kind, she might, maybe so.
Oh, yeah, shes raised you right, your auntie grizelda,
You only know the things she wants you to know.

I know shes having a fit,
She doesnt like me a bit,
No bird of grace ever lit on auntie grizelda.

You cant begrudge her style, your auntie grizelda,
She couldnt budge a smile and do it for free.
So righteous making fudge, your auntie grizelda,
So proper judging others over her tea.

You look just like her you do,
I know by looking at you,
That youve been listening to your auntie grizelda.

[ad lib]

Oh, no, dont look at me like auntie grizelda
It takes much more to be someone of your own.
Youve got to make it free from auntie grizelda
Or just like her youll have to make it alone.

I know shes having a fit,
She doesnt like me a bit,
No bird of grace ever lit on auntie grizelda.

Auntie grizelda, auntie grizelda
Vote early, vote often! By the way, I think your local library is open right now. They have computers you can use to vote from. Go! Vote!

* - I will use the shirt for the first ten years. Each of you will get the shirt, in rotation, for ten years each after that. Fair enough?

** - I'm not actually sure that this is legal. Do it anyway. I want that t-shirt!

Tongue Twisters

I love tongue twisters. I don't know why. I'm looking for a Carnival to submit them to. I just tried the Carnival of Homeschooling. Will they publish it? We'll see in two days.

Update: Wow! Not only did we get included, but we got prime real estate on the Carnival. We were listed second. Talk about being fortunate!

Happy Memorial Day

We defeated those that would keep blacks as slaves. We defeated those that would conquer Europe. We defeated those that slaughtered the Jews and those that massacred the Chinese. We defeated the Empire that sent tens of millions of its own people to die in gulags. We liberated a country ruled by a mad tyrant.

We're the good guys.


Happy Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Hillary Clinton's Theme Song

Hillary has asked voters to suggest a theme song for her presidential run. Here's mine.


It has all the aspects of Hillary we've come to know and loathe love. It's repetitive, pointless, annoying and grating on the ears. You can see that it's done as part of a focus group, too.

Tongue Twister

Try this one three times, fast.

"A crowd of crows croaking creepily."

Croak!

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling has a ton of posts, including this (silly) one. Check it out!

I Think I Need to Write More World of Good Posts

Here's a snippet from Arthur C. Brooks article in the Wall Street Journal about a year and a half ago.

But beyond earning, taxing and spending, there is an even clearer link between money and happiness: charity. The evidence is unambiguous that donating money (and time) is one of the best ways to buy happiness. People who donate to charity are 40% more likely to say they are "very happy" than non-donors. Psychologists have even tested whether charity makes people happy using randomized, controlled experiments -- the same procedure used for testing pharmaceuticals, except that, instead of administering a drug to one group and a placebo to the other, researchers randomly assign one group to act charitably toward another. The results are clear: Givers of charity earn substantial mental and physical health rewards, even more than do the recipients of charity -- empirical evidence that it is indeed more blessed to give than to receive.
I think I'd be happier if I spent more time working on posts about charity and kindness.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Delaware Boathouse

Just flew in...arms are tired...blah blah blah.

I took a side trip while on the East Coast and got a couple of great shows of placid waters and reflections. Here's my favorite. Click on the image. I think you'll like it.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Thinking Deep Thoughts

Our Missionary to the Frozen, Northern Wastelands named me as a Thinking Blogger or perhaps just as a blogger who makes him think.

There's a difference, you know.

A Thinking Blogger is a thoughtful chap (or lady) who has deep, meaningful things to say.

A blogger who makes you think could be someone that causes you to say, "I think I need a drink."

In either case, thanks, old buddy. He and I go way back, as far back as I go with any friend anywhere. I need to tag five others now. My blogging buddy, Jake Silver tagged me a while back, too and I've yet to follow through on the outgoing tags. I've got a long drive ahead of me today. I promise I'll put an effort into it and come up with a list soon.

Entrepreneurial Catholicism

Being a marketer and a Catholic, I've always had a bit of guilt over what I thought was my deviation from the Church's messages of financial social justice. The Entrepreneurial Mind blog has set me straight.

When John Paul II was Pope, many misunderstood his position on capitalism. It was not that he was against free enterprise -- quite the contrary. He saw the liberating aspects of property ownership. What he did do was to challenge us to use this freedom in ways that promoted a better society and a better world. He reminded us that we are stewards of the gifts we have at our disposal in our businesses.

Read the whole thing and follow the links.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

In the end, all They Really Wanted was Pork

From today's Wall Street Journal:
A nearly $120 billion Iraq war-funding bill cleared Congress, capping months of emotional debate that has been a lesson in both power sharing and patience for the new Democratic majority.

Included in the measure is a $2.10-an-hour increase in the federal minimum wage as well as billions in new domestic spending for Democratic priorities. But President Bush will retain a free hand over managing the war after vetoing earlier efforts by lawmakers to force him to begin to withdraw U.S. troops Oct.1.
So much for the Democrats being any different. They're just Republicans without any financial brakes at all. Spend, spend, spend.

I'll say it again. The government is like a family where every penny of income gets spent, every penny of retirement gets spent and the credit card balances keep going up.

Oh yeah, that will go on forever.

Jason Giambi Should Be Ashamed!

Well, maybe not.

On the front page of today's sports section there's an article about how Jason Giambi was brought into the Commissioner's office to be reprimanded for saying things like, "Baseball needs to apologize for it's use of performance-enhancing drugs." Naughty, naughty, Jason.

On one of the inside pages is the projection about how long it will take Barry Bonds, his head the size of a watermelon from ingesting drugs meant for cattle in both quantity and content, to hit more home runs than Hank Aaron.

Barry Bonds after retirement.

Is it possible for Major League Baseball to be any more stupid?

Turning Down Wife Swap

Our Nun of the Above wisely turned down an opportunity to be on "Wife Swap."

I agree, Scribbit. I'd hate to see someone put hot pants on your new counter tops. Or was that hot pans?

Go read it and find out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Because I Can

And now, Herman's Hermits!

(Insert incoherent teeny bopper screaming here.)


I finally have a few discretionary dead presidents scraped together and I'm looking to buy a bunch of oldies CDs. Where's a good place to find them on line? I belong to the BMG Music Club, but their selection isn't great. If you've got a suggestion, drop it in the comments.

That'd be groovy.

;-)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

St. Augustine Comments on the Year 2007

Right now I'm wading through St. Augustine's Confessions. The thing is nearly unreadable as it's stuffed with stylistic praising of God. Every chapter has paragraphs of it. It was written as an autobiography and a morality play to show St. Augustine's life's path from sin to redemption. His story is written in small chunks and is liberally interspersed with prayers, self-flagellation and long passages about the greatness of God.

The story itself is compelling. As a kid, he was a total jerk. He lied, stole, cheated and did nasty things simply for the sake of nasty things. As a young man he lived a life that would be the envy of the Hollywood set today. He would have loved the rap songs in the top 40. He was also extremely intelligent and his parents took great effort to educate him. He dabbled in all kinds of wacky philosophies and heresies. The emptiness he felt in life led him to continue searching for meaning and his intellect and education allowed him to spot the flaws in movements he joined. In the end, he found peace and meaning in Christianity.

I haven't gotten that far yet. I'm still in the lust and debauchery part of the book. For a book on lust and debauchery, it's incredibly tedious and dry.

In any case, there was a passage early in the book that jumped out at me.

Nothing deserves to be despised more than vice; yet I gave in more and more to vice simply in order not to be despised.
In other words, he slept around so others would think he was cool. That was written more than 1500 years ago. Nowadays, we have institutionalized this. For evidence, I present the movie, The 40 Year Old Virgin.

Hollywood hits St. Augustine over the head with a 2x4.

Hollywood, which is a large part of our cultural infrastructure, has produced its own moral orthodoxy. This film was a simple, blunt statement of their theology. It screams at the St. Augustines of today, acting as the enforcer of the libertine lifestyle the real St. Augustine finally escaped. What is missing are the films produced by the older members of Hollywood, the ones who have been through lots of divorces, whose bank accounts are dry and whose kids are train wrecks. Having gone through the fire, you'd think some of them would want to tell a story of redemption.

No such luck. As I get older, I find myself becoming more and more of a puritan for a variety of reasons. St. Augustine appeals to me and the American entertainment industry does not.

Assuming I'm not excommunicated for dumping on poor old St. Augustine, you can find this and other links at this week's Catholic Carnival.

Update: As I went back and re-read the book to find that quote, I began to understand St. Augustine's meter and prose. I'm sure my lack of appreciation of his style lies far more in my eyes than his pen.

Doesn't Immigration Reform Require More Immigration?

Some more thoughts on the immigration reform bill being debated in the Senate.

Once we legalize all of the illegals in the country and they become citizens, don't they defeat their own purpose in the economy? If it was cost-effective to have American citizens doing those jobs, with all of the rights and restrictions placed on hiring people in the US, wouldn't we have hired Americans in the first place? Once Joe the Cabbage farmer in Napa has to pay all of the disability, Social Security, health care and so forth on these workers, he will have to raise the price of his cabbage. At some point, cabbage grown in Mexico or elswhere becomes cheaper and Joe and all of his Mexican-American friends lose their jobs.

How much did it cost to combine the two Germanies once the were re-unified? How applicable are those lessons here? If we suddenly take on 20,000,000 new citizens, most of which are at a great disadvantage, how much will it cost to bring them up to our standards? Once they becomce citizens, can't they form civil rights groups and demand all kinds of reparations and goodies?

How come we can't manage to build a fence?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Saving the Earth one Pork Chop at a Time

Lauren Etter, writing in today's Wall Street Journal, tells us that the use of corn for ethanol production has led farmers to some interesting substitutes for feed.

Growing demand for corn-based ethanol, a biofuel that has surged in popularity over the past year, has pushed up the price of corn, Mr. Smith's main feed, to near-record levels. Because feed represents farms' biggest single cost in raising animals, farmers are serving them a lot of people food, since it can be cheaper...(One farmer) says he's paying about $63 to feed a single pig for five or six months before it goes to market -- up 13% from last year. His costs would be even higher if he didn't augment his feed with trail mix, which he says helps him save on average about $8 a ton on feed. This year, Mr. Smith has bought enough trail mix to feed about 5,000 hogs, and that will save him about $40,000.
All of this so we can gum up our fuel injectors with ethanol.

Some of the farmers are using scraps from candy manufacturers. I wonder if it will make the pork taste like chocolate.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Keeping our Home Neat

At our house we have a rule. You have to put away your toys when you're done playing with them.

Some of our toys put themselves away.


Friday Ark. Need I say more?

A Smug Huntress

Our Maximum Leader is very pleased with herself.


The dead lizard is a mute testimonial to her mighty hunting prowess.


Raise your hand if you have any questions.

Other huntresses can be found with a visit to this week's Carnival of the Cats.

Random Musings

Look, I told you this blog was directionless these days. Don't blame me if you keep coming here. :-)

Tea sucks. I've run out of coffee and I'm too cheap trying to be frugal and am using up whatever I've got in the pantry. English breakfast tea makes me slightly nauseous. I need to go get some coffee.

About a year ago, our Patriarch of the Airwaves invited me to move The 'Post over to townhall.com. Currently, my registration there is hosed up and all of my trackback pings are being rejected. Man, am I glad I didn't move.

I just remembered that I've got a swarm of Virginia photos I never blogged. There are flowers and a family of ducks among them. I was pretty happy with them, but forgot I had them.

At work, I asked our A/V guy if I could bring in my XBox and play Star Wars: Battlefront in our auditorium. He thought it was a swell idea. Imagine blasting Imperial storm troopers on a movie theater-sized screen with a similarly massive sound system. Glorious! I have to admit I don't have the courage to try it.

Forcing an Elephant Through a Straw

In the last few days I've gone back and forth on the immigration reform bill being thrown about in the Senate. Our Patriarch of the Airwaves, Hugh Hewitt has been staunchly against it and then the Wall Street Journal came out with an editorial in favor of it. Was it halfway decent or a total sell-out? Mark Steyn just answered the question for me.

As for the notion that dumping a population the size of four mid-size European Union nations into the lap of America's arthritic "legal immigration" (please, no tittering; apparently, there is still such a thing) bureaucracy will lead to tougher enforcement and rigorous scrutiny and lots of other butch-sounding stuff, well, if that were the case, there wouldn't be a problem in the first place. You can declare that "illegal" now mean "legal" very easily; to mandate that "incompetent" now means "competent" is a tougher proposition.

The immigration bill suffers from the same malady as my organization's line management. It has divorced theory from reality. In theory, you can absorb 30 million people with some hope of maintaining a structured process to deal with the paperwork.

In theory, you can force an elephant through a straw with the proper assumptions of molecular elasticity of the straw.

An elephant.


Some straws. They look pretty sturdy. Let's try it!

Our immigration bureaucracy has shown that it is not capable of handling immigration flows 1/50th this size. Clearly, it can't handle anything this large. The whole concept is flawed until you prove you can do it on a smaller scale. The whole bill is a total disaster for the reasons Mark enumerates in his article. Read the whole thing.

Then call your senators and oppose it.

Update: Powerline has a great take on the bill as well.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Prerequisite for a Learner's Permit

My son will be old enough to get his Learner's Permit in two months. Driving will come shortly thereafter. Today he takes his first steps towards satisfying my requirements for driving a car.

We're performing a major sevice on our old pickup truck and he's going to do all the work. I've got the manual and the tools and I'll stand by to interpret the hard parts, but he's going to do the work. I don't expect him to remember how to do this, but I hope he learns not to be afraid of working on cars. At least ones without all that electronics jazz. Those scare me.

My truck is from the early 80's and has very little in the way of smog equipment and nothing in the way of computerized stuff. It's also a rusted out piece of junk that we use for emergencies when our normal sedan won't run or when we need to take things to the dump or get big things from Home Depot. It's the perfect vehicle for a beginning auto mechanic.

Photos and stories later.

Update: We got a late start because my main man was a bit under the weather. Once we got going, we installed a new battery and then tackled the tools. It had been a while since I had worked on my cars and my hydraulic floor jack didn't work any more. There was some kind of leak in the piston. We tore the jack apart only to find out that a plastic part deep inside the piston had broken and the piston had been assembled permanently. The parts went in the trash and we go to Cosco today to get a new one.

The day was a succuess, by and large. My son enjoyed the experience and we learned about batteries and disassembling things. I caught myself intervening a few times and was able to stop. I had a great time, too. I had forgotten how much I loved working on cars.

Friday, May 18, 2007

You're All Still Out There!

Years and years ago I got to see Hello Dolly with Carol Channing playing the lead role for which she won a Tony award in 1964. Carol defined the role on stage and played it more than 5000 times.

I saw her near the end of her stage career. After she turned in her typically spectacular performance and the play was over, she came out on stage alone, walked to the end of the stage just past the glare of the stage lights where she could finally see the audience and exclaimed, "Why, you're all still out there!" in mock amazement that we had managed to sit through the whole thing.

That's kind of the way I feel about this blog. I've been thrashing around for a while with a bit of directionlessness (is that a word?) and I've still had visitors. I've missed three straight World of Good posts and I've wandered off into some snarkiness that I could swear I'd promised to avoid.

In spite of that, you're all still out there.

Thanks.

Fred

...gets it.

Whether or not the Internet can elect any particular candidate in any particular race, it’s clear that all of you and our many friends across the blogosphere and the Web are part of a true information revolution. That’s why so much of my effort has been focused on talking to Americans through this medium. By empowering individuals and building communities, the Internet provides a way of going around the inside-the-beltway crowd to reach people in numbers unheard of not that long ago.
Read the whole thing.

Our Holy Ambassador to the Court of the Mainstream Media has more.

The Government Surrenders Our Borders

The immigration bill that's about to be ratified and sent to a willing President is simply a capitulation of our borders. There's no logic to it, it's justr a bunch of senators, McCain being the worst of the lot, who have decided that the whole border security issue is just too difficult and they want the problem to go away. They're also probably thinking of their own political futures if they don't appease the illegals. Some day those illegals will be voting. Perhaps in the next election. Perhaps they already did in the last election. None of them want to be in the group that put even a speed bump in the way of mass immigration.

I had a longer post about this, but Mark Steyn, appearing on Hugh Hewitt's show did such a terrific job analyzing it that I'll just link to the audio clip here.

If you want to take action, Hugh has all the details. Maybe we can beat the idiot senators into a stiffer spine.

What the hurry is to get this lunacy passed is beyond me. I thought we had agreed to build a border fence first. That hasn't been done yet and now we're rushing off to completely change the face of America.

Update: Fred Thompson has a great piece in the National Review blasting this bill.

I called the numbers on Hugh's blog and yelled at the morons in the Senate. Did you?

Contact the National Republican Senatorial Committee at (202) 675-6000.

A Major Announcement

My stipa tenuissimas have bloomed. OK, so maybe this doesn't qualify as a major announcement, but it's still a big deal to me. I raised the little brutes from seed and now they are fructifying.

In fact, I'm not sure they ever bloomed, since I didn't see the flowers, but I have seen seeds on them. This is a huge step for my landscaping. My Western Garden Book sternly warned me to plant them 12" apart. As they have never moved an inch horizontally, that recommendation seems a bit silly now. However, as they reseed themselves, they will fill in the barren patches in between each other.

Blogger seems to be struggling with uploading photos again, but as soon as I can, I will post an image of lovely stipa tenuissimas swaying gently in the wind. Mine don't sway at all. They just stand there, upright. Some day I hope to see them sway. And on that day we shall all rejoice. Or maybe we'll just blog about it and then go play some Star Wars: Battlefront.


My Stipas



Professional Stipas

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Gray May

Here along the coast in San Diego, our weather in May and June is mostly overcast. We call it Gray May and June Gloom. That's the reason I can't post sunset pictures every day. This is what it normall looks like in May and June around sunset.


When we get the winds going the right way, the marine layer gets pushed away to reveal sunsets like this.

Back to the Drawing Board, Mitt

Our Patriarch of the Airwaves, Hugh Hewitt, has a serious thing for Mitt Romney. I did for a while, too. Not so much any more. Here's a recent ad of his that will explain why.


Does anyone actually talk like this? Can you imagine someone at work talking with this rhythm? "Hi, Joe...how was your...weekend did you...go water...skiing with your...family?"

You'd wonder if he needed psychotropic medications. And what's with that locking our arms together jazz? "If we lock are arms together, we can forge a new blah blah blah..."

Dude, if we lock our arms together, we won't get home for dinner tonight because we won't be able to fit into the elevator. Now let go of my arms before I have to get rough.

All I can say is, "Fred."

H/T: Johnnie Moore.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

NCR Notices The Scratching Post!

No, not National Cash Register, but the National Catholic Register. Their Blog Watch column linked to my snarky post about Chinese software piracy. Don't ask me why, but they did.

The Feline Theocracy is very honored. As honored as a little tuxedo cat - Maximum Leader can be.

China is now Only 82% Thieves

Andrew Batson, writing in the Wall Street Journal, informs us that "Software Piracy Rate Falls In China for a Third Year."

Well thank goodness for that. So just how much has it fallen?

The study, conducted by research firm International Data Corp. for the Business Software Alliance, estimated 82% of software used in China in 2006 was pirated, down from 86% in 2005.
Land sakes! That's quite an improvement. Let's see if we can demonstrate this with an every day example. Here's a picture of a living room.


If this were China's living room, in 2005 the following items would have been stolen from someone else.

- the lamp, both chairs, the rocking chair, both area rugs, the coffee table, both ficus trees and their pots, the sofa, 6 of the 7 throw pillows, the vase, the flowers in the vase, the magazines on the table, the picture on the wall and the blanket draped over the back of the sofa.

In 2006, our Chinese friends became much more responsible. They only stole the following:

- the lamp, both chairs, the rocking chair, both area rugs, the coffee table, both ficus trees and their pots, the sofa, 5 of the 7 throw pillows, the vase, the flowers in the vase, the magazines on the table, the picture on the wall and the blanket draped over the back of the sofa.

Ahhh, the Chinese Economic Miracle. It's something wondrous to behold, isn't it?

Fred!

Fred Thompson rips Michael Moore's infatuation with that tyrannical maniac Castro.


Yes, I know you've seen it everywhere else, but I just couldn't resist.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Silliness in a Time of War

A few posts ago, I tried to engage the author of the left-wing blog, Zaius Nation, in a conversation. He regularly posts anti-Bush cartoons but doesn't seem to object to the Islamofascist terrorists. In essence, I was asking him for his working definition of evil. Could he differentiate between Americans protecting Iraqi civilians and Islamofascist terrorists trying to blow them up? After one long comment on the first post, he stuck his fingers in his ears and scampered off. Here's his most recent post.

While you contemplate Dick Cheney as a global domination madman, read this nice quote from the Acting Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Sheik Ahmad Bahr.

Oh Allah, vanquish the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, vanquish the Americans and their supporters. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them all, down to the very last one. Oh Allah, show them a day of darkness. Oh Allah, who sent down His Book, the mover of the clouds, who defeated the enemies of the Prophet – defeat the Jews and the Americans, and bring us victory over them.
I could substitute in a quote from any number of Iranian government officials or European Imams and get the same thing. I could change the date of the quote to pre-Iraqi invasion and get the same thing.

The Islamofascists set off car bombs in crowded markets, blowing innocents into tiny bits. American soldiers sacrifice themselves to bring democracy to the Middle East for the first time. Meanwhile, in the middle of global war, the Left draws funny cartoons of Dick Cheney.

Some people are serious. Some people are not.

Hollywood's Calling

Brooks Barnes is speaking my language in today's Wall Street Journal. He's got an article talking about how Hollywood is turning to blogs for some positive spin on their new shows. They're offering Payola in exchange for good reviews. Dig this.

Trying to tap into the burgeoning power of blogs as promotional tools and fed up with the jaded attitudes of professional critics and TV feature writers, studios and networks are flooding bloggers with free stuff in hopes the flattered recipients will reward them with positive coverage. Flowing into the trough is everything from fancy gym bags and toasters to video iPods and free trips. Some networks -- in the spotlight this week as they unveil their fall schedules to advertisers -- have even borrowed a term from the technology industry to describe the strategy: blogola.
Can I be bought? You bet, baby. I've got two words for all you Hollywood Producers out there: sunflower seeds.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Teaching my Kids Financial Responsibility

We all get those credit card offers in the mail. Every day, there's at least one in myt mailbox offering to sell me debt. I also get mortgage refinance offers in the mail, suggesting that I could take cash out of my house and have fun with it.

Wahoo! Years and years of payments in exchange for a few moments of fun.

I'm a big Dave Ramsey fan and I'm enough of a mathematician to understand compound interest. Credit cards and larger mortgages are just products that some financial company is trying to sell me. They want my money and they'll give me a little bit of theirs for a short time to get much more of mine.

One of the things I want my children to know when they leave the house is how to handle money. As a part of this I want them to know when and how much debt to incur. Last week I tried something new when I got a mortgage refinance letter in the mail. I shared it with the kids.

We sat down and discussed what we could do with the buckets of cash they were offering us. We discussed just how much we'd have to pay back. If I recall, on a 30 year mortgage, you pay back three times as much as you borrowed. As soon as the kids heard that, they wanted no part of the money the bank was offering. Next time I get a credit card offer in the mail, I'll share it with them as well.

The kids had no idea at all that lenders were constantly targeting us. It was an eye-opener for them that I thought I could share. For more tips on teaching your kids, visit this week's Carnival of Homeschooling.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

And who better to wish it to you than Momma Daisy?


Do you suppose she decided to bloom on this day on purpose? :-)

Happy Mother's Day to all of you and in particular to the woman who taught me the art and love of gardening, my mom. Thanks, Mom.

Red State Calls for Moral Hygiene

Failing to learn from the last election cycle, the Republican leadership in the House has put a total sleazebag in a position of power. To wit, one Ken Calvert. Read more about this at the Red State blog.

In 2005, Calvert and a partner paid $550,000 for 4.3 acres of land. Calvert then used his earmarking powers to secure $8 million in funds for an interstate exchange on the property. He then sold the property for about $1 million.
Let's get rid of this jerk immediately. By the way, Congressman, in the government we are routinely instructed to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Get a clue. After that, get a bus ticket home.

The Army Finds out the Long Term Effects of Video Games

The Puppy Blender linked to the article The Army We Have in the Atlantic Monthly and it partially answers some of the questions I raised with a series of posts wondering about the long-term effects of video games on society.

Playing all of those video games does nothing for physical fitness.

Young people are fatter and weaker. They eat more junk food, watch more television, play more video games, and exercise less...Every platoon sergeant and squad leader I spoke with told me a version of this story: Many of the new privates are smart and eager; they’re quick learners and they know what they’ve gotten themselves into, joining the infantry in wartime. But too many are physically weak, are undisciplined, or have mental and emotional problems that should have gotten them screened out at basic training, if not earlier by the recruiter.
Playing those games does nothing for experiencing life outdoors. Additionally, I would argue that since it's such a great babysitter, there's less trouble to get into, requiring less parental control.

At the same time, Shwedo sees today’s recruits as the product of a society that can’t quite figure out how to raise its children. “Most kids coming into the Army today have never worn leather shoes in their life unless it said Nike, Adidas, or Timberland. They’ve never run two miles consecutively in their life, and for the most part they hadn’t had an adult tell them ‘no’ and mean it. That’s bizarre,” he says. “Our society says you can’t count in a soccer match, because you might hurt somebody’s feelings. Every kid is going to get a trophy, whether or not you ever went to practice or ever won a game.”
The article doesn't paint a totally dark picture of today's Army. As with all things, some parts are better, some are worse. I just took out the parts that applied to my question.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Perfect is the Enemy of Good #2

Yesterday I wrote a post directed at Dr. Zaius of the Zaius Nation blog. I love his blog theme, taken from the erudite orangutan, Dr. Zaius, from the movie Planet of the Apes. He's also had lots of clever posts, including this one about cats.

Dr. Zaius also writes polemics against President Bush. Searching his blog, I couldn't find any posts attacking our Islamofascist enemies. He was kind enough to reply to my post which can be summarized from this quote about his attacks on President Bush. "Pointing out the imperfections of a good man leading a good country while ignoring an enemy that massacres civilians on purpose seems counter-productive. Wouldn't you expect to see vitriol distributed in proportion to the magnitude of the evil?"

Here are excerpts from his response with my commentary.

What the heck are you tallking about, anyway?
You have policy differences with President Bush. The Islamofascists, on the other hand, wish to destroy most of the things you hold dear. Despite this, you attack President Bush and give them a pass. That confuses me.

(On my use of the term Islamofascists) I don't know how to break it to you, but Mussolini is dead. Please describe in detail your theory that people in Iraq are fascists. In detail. That phrase is absolutely absurd.
The term Islamofascist is a convenient way to reference a whole host of enemies of civilization. Since it encompasses both state and non-state actors, it's crude and inaccurate at times. However, there are plenty of similarities. From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Fascism - a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
That pretty much defines Iran and Sudan now, and Afghanistan under the Taliban. In their cases, it is Islam which is exalted and not a particular race, hence the term "Islamofascism." As astute reader ligneus observed, the Iraqi Baath party of Saddam Hussein was deliberately modeled after Hitler's Nazi party.

(On the difference between social conservatives not wanting gays in the military and the Islamofascists killing gays) Many people in the Middle East do indeed have little tolerance for homosexuals. We have made a large chunk of the Middle East our enemy, and it has nothing to do with which side of the street our men and women in uniform walk on.
My poor writing apparently masked the question I was asking. At issue here is whether or not you make a distinction between my view on gays and the Islamofascists'?

(On working with the inherent inaccuracies of military intelligence) Oh, so it's OK then. ***roll eyes*** Deception at worst, rhetoric at best.
It has to be OK because there is no other option. The Allied decision to launch an airborne attack on Arnhem in 1944 was based on faulty intelligence. Was it deception or rhetoric or were they just doing the best they could with what they had?

(On my differentiation between President Bush and the Islamofascists) And then you do exactly that, you differentiate it. WTF?
Here I must have totally botched the post because this is the entire point. President Bush is someone that you might have policy differences with, but I don't see him as anything remotely as bad as the Islamofascists.

(On the enemy deliberately using children to sweep minefields as Iran did) Wow, it sure is a good thing that we never put our children in harms way for a fool's errand. Oh, wait, I forgot - we do! How many lives is it OK with you to be lost today, all for the cause of Haliburton and the oil companies? This week? This month? Tell me what number is too high for you.
I think you need to define your term "children" because you and I don't use it the same way. I work with the Navy and the Marines and I know of no children in uniform. On the other hand, the 8-12 year-olds Iran used to clear minefields seems to fit the term "children" under any definition.

As for financial gains from the war, that seems like a bit of stretch. I would suggest that Exxon's profits would have been far higher had we simply dropped sanctions against Iraq and bought their oil as they pumped it. It certainly would have been far less expensive. Halliburton's (HAL) profits are rather modest. In the previous 5 years, they've had a 5.63% profit margin. That's a pedestrian result. Their most recent quarters have been stellar, but comparing them to their industry competitors like drilling equipment manufacturer Global Industries Ltd (GLBL) you'll see returns on a par with Halliburton. HAL has done outstandingly well, but so have a lot of other oil exploration companies. Thanks to surging global demand for oil, it's a good time to be in the business.

None of this addresses the key question. Can you differentiate between President Bush and Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, the London Tube bombers and the rest of the Islamofascists? If so, what is your degree of differentiation? As far as I can tell, your real enemy is George Bush, not the loonies who drive car bombs into crowded markets.

Your post about me is not a discussion, it is a diatribe.
Hopefully this is more of a discussion.

I do like your cat, though. Cats are always welcome.
Why thank you!

To help make a distinction between the US and the Islamofascists, I'll leave you with this.


What's the difference between the Americans horsing around with these kids and the Islamofascists who blow them up?

Friday, May 11, 2007

The USS Kitty Hawk Wins the Contest Going Away

I love Iowahawk. He recently had an Earthweek Virtual Ride contest to see who had the biggest carbon footprint. Here's an entry even bigger than Al Gore and the rest of the Hollywood jet-setters.

Seven Random Things About Me

Our Poet Laureate has tagged the Maximum Leader of the Feline Theocracy to reveal 7 things about herself. I also have to identify other cats to tag and tell them the rules.

Here are the rules. Each player starts with seven random facts about themselves. Cats who are tagged need to write on their own blog about the seven things and the rules. You need to choose seven cats to tag and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment that they have been tagged and ask them to read your blog!

So on with the show! Take it away, KT.

1. I like crunchies and I don't like people food. Really. I don't beg for snacks or treats or things from the human's plates.

2. I love tuna. I LOVE tuna. I have a special dish for this that was bought just for me in Japan and it has a picture of a fish on it. It makes a distinctive sound when it hits the counter top in the kitchen, so when I hear it, I know TUNA is on the way!

3. I sleep upstairs all day. Well, maybe not all day, but certainly a huge portion of the day. Mostly I sleep on the kids' beds. Sometimes I sleep in my office furniture, but usually it's on the kids' beds.

4. I love sunbeams and I've learned how to use the shadows in our house to regulate the amount of sun I get on my jet black fur.

5. When Dad comes home, I run downstairs to greet him with head bumps, leg wrapping and purring. I'm a very quiet cat, so I don't meow or talk when he gets home, I just bump my head into him and rub up against him. He pets me and tells me what a good girl I am. I love him sooooooo much!

6. I love to go outside and watch him while he gardens. I always make sure I'm around him, wherever he is because I think he needs my help. It's mostly supervision, but he needs it a lot.

7. I'm a very polite cat. When Dad has forgotten to feed me and it's late at night or early in the morning, I knock on his bedroom door. He has a double door going into his bedroom and he keeps one of them open all the time. The other one makes a gentle knocking sound when I push on it with my padded paw. That's how I tell him it's time to feed me.

Wow. There's lots more about me that I didn't tell! This was lots of fun, so thank you very much, Aloysius! Now I have to think of other cats to tag.

Well, one of them is very easy. Feline Empress and Mother Superior of the Holy Order of Ocean Whitefish, Kukka-Maria.

Perfect is the Enemy of Good

Zaius Nation is a very cleverly written left-leaning blog that I found through our Missionary to the Frozen, Northern Wastelands. He has all kinds of posts like this.


In fact, if you look through his front page of posts, you’ll find plenty of examples of it. Being left-leaning, I’m pretty certain that he is a supporter of, say, gay rights. I’m not sure of it, but given his blogroll, that’s a good bet.

Social conservatives like myself would prefer not to see gays in the military and feel like we’ve heard quite enough of who is coming out of the closet now and how proud so-and-so is about being gay. In the Islamofascists, we have an enemy that kills gays. Notice I didn’t say “prefers that gays were somewhere else,” but “kills gays.” As in, “stones them to death.” Rather than go through more examples, I will let this one suffice.

If you read Dr. Zaius’ blog, you’ll see endless cartoons and posts depicting President Bush as a clown, a moron, a warmonger or something similar. Indeed, plenty of mistakes have been made. Yes, some of the intelligence leading to the war was wrong. Being intimately familiar with such things, I can assure you that this is the norm and has been throughout history. You live with it and do the best you can.

Accepting the notion that you do the best you can seems to have been thrown out the window by Dr. Zaius. There seems to be no differentiation between the occasional clumsiness of the Bush administration and the outright evil of our enemies. Allow me one more example.

The terrorists, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and elsewhere routinely use civilians and historical landmarks as shelter, knowing that we will do everything we can to avoid blowing them up. We developed a guided cement block bomb to deal with just this problem. Replacing a real 2000# bomb with inert cement, we found a way to deliver a lethal strike on a target close to, say, a hospital or a mosque. Collateral damage is minimized. There was a conscious effort to develop this weapon when it would have been much easier to simply use what we had, blow everything to bits and blame the Islamofascists for the civilian deaths.

On the flip side, the enemy uses mentally retarded recruits to drive car bombs into markets and incinerate innocent people. They also deliberately used their own children to sweep minefields.

Here’s another cartoon from Dr. Zaius.


Everyone is imperfect. When imperfect good is attacked and evil allowed to stand, you end up with evil every time. So what’s the goal here? Pointing out the imperfections of a good man leading a good country while ignoring an enemy that massacres civilians on purpose seems counter-productive. Wouldn't you expect to see vitriol distributed in proportion to the magnitude of the evil? After all, you would think that dead gays are worse than gays kicked out of the military. I could be wrong.

I’ll leave you with this video.


I suppose I can look forward to a nasty editorial cartoon about the folks in that video. Or haven’t we gotten to that point yet?

The Number of the Cat

...is 28-248.


My other title for this one was, "Education through osmosis! Earn your EE degree while you sleep!"

blah blah blah Friday Ark blah blah Carnival of the Cats.

A Furrier Transform?

Our College of Cardinals just turned me on to xkcd. Great stuff! Here's one of my favorites.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Red Sunset

I wish you could see it tonight. This picture doesn't do it justice. The sun is a perfect red.

Out of the Quicksand...

We just received notice here at work that our utterly unusable and hideous Lotus Notes Domino portal will be closed down and the content moved to our unreachable, disorganized and useless Oracle server.

Hurrah! We're moving out of the quicksand and into the tarpits! I can't wait!

Here's what we can look forward to with our new web server.

Cheerios in Church

When I was a little boy, around 3 or 4, when we would go to church on Sundays my mom would bring a little bag of Cheerios for me to munch on to keep me quiet. I always looked forward to that little bag of crunchies. I can still remember asking my mom if she had brought them along as we went to get into the car.

I went rockhounding a few months ago all by myself. It was a long drive from coastal San Diego out to the desert and I had brought myself a bag of Nature's Most Perfect Food to snack on while I drove. By the time I was halfway through the bag, it occurred to me that I was distracting myself with these crunchies just like I had done with the Cheerios years and years ago. It was a really cool moment to recall those memories.

Yesterday, I sat in the back of the room during the last part of our off-site meeting. It was the end of the one I described previously where I had played the role of the grumpy crank. As I sat back there I played solitaire on my PDA. It dawned on me that my PDA had taken the place of the Cheerios and I was distracting myself to prevent another verbal outburst of irritation. I've used the PDA like this for years, but I never realized that what I was doing was social self-preservation. The solitaire game served to suppress my darker, nastier side and prevent comments in meetings I would later regret.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Soon the NYT will be the Daily Kos

...or is it vice versa?

Jules Crittendon has a post quoting the NYT about President Bush's etiquette lessons before meeting the Queen. Here's a small taste.

...George W. Bush, a towel-snapping Texan who puts his feet on the coffee table, drinks water straight from the bottle...
Good Lord! Did we elect this cretin? He snaps towels, puts his foot on the table and drinks water straight from the bottle. The horror! What a brute! It's amazing he doesn't sleep in a cage.

Water straight from a bottle. Wow. This is what we call a Slow News Day.

Refusing to Gnaw

I have a confession to make.


I'm not like other rodents. I don't like to gnaw. Our human caretaker regularly gives me bits of wood to chew on and I don't touch them. He recently bought me an edible house and I haven't even nibbled on it once. As a rodent, my teeth keep growing throughout my life and I need to constantly wear them down to avoid severe health problems. Even though I've reached middle age and haven't gnawed on a thing, my teeth are their proper size.

How do I do it? Let's just say it's a family secret. I'm not telling a soul. The reason I do it is simple. Since I don't gnaw, I get lots more freedom. I get let out for exercise at night to scurry all over the place and no one has to worry about those embarassing gnaw marks.


This is more fun than gnawing any day of the week.

Will this be in this week's Friday Ark? Go see for yourself!

Monday, May 07, 2007

China and the Pet Food Poisoning

I'm not a big fan of the "Chinese Economic Miracle." I do not believe it's that big of a deal. I think they've made some changes in their system that gives them a new equilibrium point which is higher than their old one, but still much lower than ours. 10% growth in a country where the per capita income is $4000 (China) amounts to $400 per person. 4% growth in a country where the per capita income is $42,500 (the US) amounts to about $1700 per person. Those percentages flashed about on the evening news are irrelevant.

The pet food scandal is a case in point. Our Holy Scholar Mog has a great post summarizing the situation.

Several Chinese suppliers conceded over the weekend that adding melamine to pet food ingredients — now blamed for the deaths of many animals in the United States and possible contamination of the human food supply — is but the latest technique for fooling U.S. companies into thinking they are purchasing a high-quality product.
How totally screwed up do you have to be to allow this to happen? What part of Marketing 101 did you miss? It must have been the whole thing because trust is one of the essential elements of sales. Without it, you get nothing.

Between the Chinese laying waste to their own environment, their software pirating and their utter inability to regulate their businesses, what kind of future would you predict for their economy? Add to that their death spiral demographics as their one-son-per-family, err, one-child-per-family policy manifests itself and you've got a place that is totally screwed.

Read Mog's whole post. She's got lots of great links to more information.

Viva La France!

France voted yesterday to replace the ineffectual Jacques Chirac with the somewhat more pragmatic Nicolas Sarkozy. France, with it's short work weeks, state-sponsored businesses, regulations against imports and restrictive labor laws has high unemployment among it's 18-25 year olds. With no job to get up and go to in the morning, these folks had all night to party.

And party they did. When their candidate, the hopelessly out-of-date socialist Segolene Royal went down to defeat, they celebrated in traditional young punk fashion.


For the full story, visit our College of Cardinals.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Real Time Sunset

These photos are straight out of nature, they aren't more than 7 minutes old. Get 'em while they're hot!



Click on them to see bigger versions.

Strengthen the Good

Alan is a blogger with a great idea. Strengthen the Good. "Don't just fight evil: Strengthen the good." Check it out. It doesn't seem to be alive any more, but its archives have some great stories to read.

Theology and Science Coexisting

This is another in a series of posts written pretty much to myself. I tend to think verbally, that is, I form my ideas as I communicate. In muddling about with St. Thomas Aquinas and then researching Cosmology, I'm forming my own philosophy reconciling science and theology. Feel free to use the "back" button on your browser. :-)

In reading my St. Thomas Aquinas and then following it up with some modest research into modern Cosmological theory, I've come across some quotes that intrigue me. Here are a few from Skyserver.com about the debate over whether the Universe is finite, infinite, expanding, contracting or whatever.

The expanding universe is finite in both time and space. The reason that the universe did not collapse, as Newton's and Einstein's equations said it might, is that it had been expanding from the moment of its creation.
There is some fascinating research going on about the history of the Universe and many unanswered questions. Following creation, the Universe coalesced out of mass and energy.

Measuring the evolution of the density variations in the universe still does not answer the most important question: why does the universe contain these differences in density in the first place?
Several things have struck me as I've read more.

First, we are all too critical of theologists and philosophers from the past. While Aquinas and Augustine and Plato and Aristotle and the authors of the Old Testament lacked bunsen burners, test tubes and particle accelerators, their minds were just as sharp as ours. Although they couldn't explore particle physics, they could explore the questions of existence and the source of all things. This they did with substantial intellectual rigor. Aquinas is particularly interesting because he did not scorn previous thinkers, even if they were not Catholic theologians like himself. He saw them as necessary steps in the evolution of thought and held them in high regard. His Summa Theologica is as much a tribute to them as it is a series of proofs in theology.

I've heard the early Jews mocked as simply being goatherders living in tents coming up with tall tales to explain what they saw all around them. This is a great injustice. The minds that wrestled with existential questions in 4000 BC were as wise as we are. In the intervening 6000 years, science has led us to the edges of understanding the history of Creation and that leads me to my next point.

The science of Cosmology should be one infused with joy. It should be filled with the joy of a child coming downstairs on Christmas morning to unwrap presents. Unexpected delights lie in every direction, provided by Someone Who Loves Us, just waiting for us to unwrap and play with. In fact, from this point of view, every science should be infused with joy for the same reason. Nothing that I've read in Cosmology runs counter to Aquinas and in fact provides him the basis he needed for his theological proofs.

I don't understand why anyone sees a conflict between science and religion. While science may correct errors in previously held belief, it doesn't change the foundations or general direction of religion. As a mathematician, I would model Man's understanding of Creation to be an asymptotic equation where each discovery gradually pushes us closer to enlightenment. Total enlightenment is something we would never achieve, but the delight of knowing that with this revelation or that we moved a hairsbreadth closer should be celebrated with good cheer.

If you went to the link I provided above and read it again you could change a few phrases like this.

When God formed the first atoms, the universe had slight variations in density, which grew into the density variations we see today - galaxies and clusters. These density variations should have led to slight variations in the temperature of the background radiation, and these variations should still be detectable today, fingerprints of the Creator.
That's a poor place to insert my changes, but to do it justice would have required a much larger quote and I didn't want to run this post too long. In any case, would the meaning be subtsantially different? Wouldn't it allow for both the theologian and the scientist to search for the same thing cooperatively?

Isn't the conflict between the two unnecessary?

For more existential thought, check out this week's Catholic Carnival.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Kids of Mosul

One of my all-time favorite videos. Please link and share.

Happy to be Home

I just got back from a week-long trip to the East Coast and I was greeted promptly by our Maximum Leader as I walked in through the front door. There were head bumps and leg rubbings and purring and laying down for joy. Not a hint of reproachment could be seen. This afternoon her Serene Furriness was back to normal, having assured herself that I wasn't leaving again right away.


For more relaxed felines, visit this week's Carnival of the Cats.

May Sunset

This time of year it's rare to see the sunset on the coast in San Diego. The weather is typically overcast in the evenings; locals call it "gray May". Last night we had a threat of showers (which never materialized) and ended up with a nice sunset.


Castor and Pollux had dramatic silhouettes against a bipolar sky. Click on the photo for a larger version.

On the Existence of God

I recently started reading An Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas. It starts with his Summa Theologica where he lays out the logical case for the existence of God. As far as I can tell, he defines God as That Which Created All Things. His prose is as dense as a theoretical math textbook and I was reading it on an airplane. It needs a great deal of meditation to get through, so I might have that last definition slightly wrong.

In any case, all he needs to prove the existence of God is the finiteness of time. That is, every effect has a cause and cause and effect chains cannot go on infinitely. Therefore, there must have been an Original Motive Force which by definition is God.

Thermodynamics and astronomy grant him the finiteness of time.

The existence of life on any planet requires a star nearby to supply energy for biological processes. Our sun will one day burn out. Every sun will. The lifespan of the sun is related to the amount of fuel it has to burn. Without infinite mass, it cannot last infinitely. No star has infinite mass and therefore, the lifespan of the ability to support life in the Cosmos is no longer than the lifespan of the longest-living star whose mass and therefore lifespan is finite. Therefore, the lifespan of life is finite.

Even if there is some cyclic nature to the Universe where the stars and planets eventually contract back into some center and explode again to start the process anew, there will be less of them than there were before because the mass of the Universe is continually declining. For one thing, stars convert mass into energy which escapes into space and for another, black holes convert mass into black body radiation which is useless for being converted back into mass.

That means that with each cycle of Big Bang, the amount of matter spread out into space becomes less. This cannot continue infinitely, therefore time is finite. Lastly, as I understand it, current astronomical calculations show that the Universe is expanding and lacks sufficient gravity to contract and repeat the cycle. Time, the lifespan of life in the Universe, is therefore finite.

God exists.

Update: I know that I've made a hash of both Aquinas and Cosmology, but at least I've managed to find two nice links about the nature of the Universe. Try these.
Skyserver
Space.com

Friday, May 04, 2007

On Video Games and Sloth

A long time ago (in blogging time, not real time) I posted some queries about the long-term effects of video games on society. After scouring the Internet, all I found were research papers on violent video games and whether or not they correlate with crime and then a few on video games and their effects on grades. Meh.

Recently, with the help of my kids, I got addicted to Star Wars: Battlefront on the XBox. Here's a nice intro to the game. It's quite long, but it has some good gameplay moments in the middle.


I like the game, but it eats hours and returns nothing. It's all empty life calories. You don't even get any great memories out of it. I loved the time playing, but I couldn't come back and tell you any stories about the games I played. It's a totally empty experience. After a short period of learning the game controls, it's all pleasure and no effort.

There's no way that prolonged use of this doesn't have an effect on you, particularly if you're a kid. There's no introduction to working for your fun like there is in sports or in outdoor hobbies. Can you imagine being able to go fishing and catching a huge bucket of fish after a few minutes of fiddling with the pole? Can you imagine building a go-kart in 10 minutes and then being able to use it for days afterwards?

Of course not. Other interests can't compete because the energy required for participation is so high. It's not that the pleasure is less, it's that the effort needed to get that pleasure is just colossal in comparison to video games. Kids don't regulate this themselves. Heck, adults don't regulate it well, either. Just look at the time I've spent playing Battlefront. It has to be imposed through discipline, either internal or external.

As a last note, I discovered that reading was incredibly boring after having spent a few days with Battlefront. Even reading my old favorites was difficult. There must be a psychological training that goes on as you play where you become accustomed to effortless pleasure and begin to rebel against having to exert yourself in any way to have fun.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

April Showers Bring May...Snow?


Wait a minute...that's not snow! Those are flowers! April showers really do bring May flowers.

Whew! For a second I was afraid the world had gone upside down.

On Happiness and Satisfaction

In today's Wall Street Journal, Jonathan Clements writes about Why What You Have Is Never Enough.

First, he claims we're unhappy.
As a country, we are richer than ever. Yet surveys show that Americans are no happier than they were 30 years ago. The key problem: We aren't very good at figuring out what will make us happy.

We constantly hanker after fancier cars and fatter paychecks -- and, initially, such things boost our happiness. But the glow of satisfaction quickly fades and soon we're yearning for something else.

Similarly, we tell our friends that our kids are our greatest joy. Research, however, suggests the arrival of children lowers parents' reported happiness, as they struggle with the daily stresses involved.
Two possible explanations are given.
1. We aren't built to be happy. Rather, we are built to survive and reproduce. We wouldn't be here today if our ancestors didn't struggle mightily to protect and feed their families. The promise of happiness, meanwhile, is just a trick to jolly us along...

2. We're bad at forecasting...we fail to anticipate how quickly we will adapt to improvements in our lives. We think everything will be wonderful when we move into the bigger house. We don't realize that, after a few months, we will take the extra space for granted.
I would suggest that it's all a matter of perspective. From what I've read, happiness is all in they way you look at life. There are happy people in the fields of the Central Valley, picking tomatoes and living in migrant workers' camps. There are unhappy people living in mansions in Beverly Hills. Above a certain level, subsistence plus a little bit of discretionary income, happiness is independent of money and possessions.

In Viktor Frank's book, Man's Search For Meaning, he claims that you cannot be happy by pursuing happiness, only by doing what is right. Dr. Frankl was a Jewish psychologist in Vienna who got swept into the Nazi death camps and survived Auschwitz and others. In the book, he tells a story that illustrates this.

Near the end of the war, the camps were struck by a typhus epidemic. Being a doctor, he was forced to care for the sick and the dying. At the bedside of one sick man, he swore not to leave him until he had died. A friend offered him a chance to escape the camp as the Russian army was approaching. Escape meant life and staying most likely meant death. Dr. Frankl agonized over the decision and finally chose to stay at the sick man's side. He said that a peaceful calm came over him after that decision despite the risks entailed.

I think it's not what you have that counts, it's what you are and what you do. It's accomplishment, measured against your own limitations and failings that makes you happy. It is rejoicing in what you have done with what God gave you that gives satisfaction.

I think a lot of times, we're too hard on ourselves and compare ourselves with a composite created from the best aspects of the people around us. We want to be athletic like an athlete, smart like a scientist, rich like a tycoon and so on. You can't be all of those things. They aren't all of those things. We each were given unique gifts and were asked to do good things with them.

Maybe it's enough to rejoice in the joy we bring into the world with what we've got and not constantly strive for more.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Bad Press is Better Than no Press

...and any link is a good link. Friend Ligneus misunderstood my hash of a post and took me out to the woodshed. That in itself could be entertaining. I assure you, Ligneus, spanking a cat is no small task.

:-)

He tries nonetheless.
There isn't a phrase in this (post) that I don't disagree with, it is so stupefyingly out of touch with reality that it's frightening to think so many go along with this line of thinking.
When I wrote the original post, I kept editing the prose for aesthetics, not realizing that I was butchering the meaning and confusing several of my readers. Thanks to him and the others for yelling at me for being a dunderhead.

By the way, our Maximum Leader is a she. I, the writer for her Serene Furriness, am a he.

I'll be off the net for a while today. Here's a cartoon that might mollify the masses. And there's nothing better than mollified masses.


H/T: CDR Salamander (and reader Roger for pointing it out to me)

Update: in the comments of the original post, Ligneus seems pessimistic about convincing the Left. I would suggest that this is unworthy of his intellect. Retreating from the debate, which he does not advocate directly, is the same as retreating from the war to me. If you are going to engage in a debate, then it is crucial to understand what motivates your opponent and forms his moral frame of reference.