Thursday, December 29, 2005

The turning of the year...

Well, another long weekend awaits me, which means that my next post is likely to be a few days into January. Thus this post of end-of-year goodness for those inclined to reflection (or just looking for a few diversions):
  • Time Magazine offers the year in photos, with vivid reminders from hurricanes to papal passings.
    (indirectly via BagNewsNotes)

  • For the slightly more scientifically inclined, National Geographic offers their own top ten photos of the year.
    (via Follow Me Here)

  • Even further afield, you might be amused by the top cryptozoology stories of 2005, from real animals we thought were extinct to unknown animals only partly glimpsed.
    (via Follow Me Here)

  • Merriam-Webster reveals a list of the words most frequently looked up in the last year, which carry a lot of topical charge. I'd be curious if the question was one of meaning or of spelling...
    (via knotted knickers)

  • Planned Parenthood looks at the best and worst of 2005 in terms of reproductive health access, from pharmacies to politicians.
    (via knotted knickers)

  • The San Francisco Chronicle looks at those who passed away during 2005, and gives brief notes on who they were.
    (via Follow Me Here)

  • Then there's always the Onion's top headlines of 2005, which are about as close to reality as most of us want to get...
    (via dragonballYee)

  • And finally, for everything else you might be curious about, one crazy site is attempting to compile all the "best X of 2005" lists in one place, whether it's some publication's favorite movies, a statistical list of top Yahoo searches, or a compendium of annoying people. This place could keep you busy for a while . . .
    (via Follow Me Here)
Best winding-down of the year to all of you, and a peaceful start to 2006!

Three bits on Alito

some justice!Forgot that I queued these up and then never posted. Three different people at dailyKos profiled three different aspects of Supreme Court nominee Alito, each of which argues against confirming him...
  1. Armando points out that his "respect for precedent" extends just as far as it supports the conclusions he wants to reach. Two specific cases and sets of opinions are dissected a bit here.

  2. A quote from Jack Balkin supports the impression that a major reason for this nomination had less to do with pet causes like abortion and more to do with his support for strengthening the powers of the executive. Too bad for him (but good for the country!) that his hearing coincide with increased concern about exactly such issues...

  3. Mcjoan looks at what an anti-choice Supreme Court could mean for the country, using the examples of already beleagured (on the reproductive rights front) South Dakota and Mississippi. Those places look like throw-backs to an earlier time...


Check out the ad that the ACLU is running in the NYTimes today:

When Presidents lie

"Because it's not about promoting a political agenda. It's about preserving American democracy." Indeed...

Thursday kittens: Claws are for climbing

A little kitten action today, with shots of Pasha at 4 months old, showing off her dextrous use of claws for climbing, hanging, and generally assaulting the trilevel cat tree that clogs up our family room. She would really go at all angles, and was even a pretty good sport about being hung from the ledge so I could get a couple of better photos toward the end . . .

just hanging around
showin' a little belly as she gives the tree what-for

spots galore
just...give me...another....second...

using all 4
four-footed technique: a sure bet!

Previous Pasha-blogging:
6, 5, 4, 3, 2, arrival, teaser3, teaser2, teaser1, homepage

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Quote for the day

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
-- Anne Frank
(via A Mindful Life)

No limits to right-wing meddling

Big Brother's eyeApparently some folks in VA want to tell you how to define your family, and/or who you can have living under your roof. Civil liberties only for those who look and act like we do, apparently...

(via a Medley furling)

Family expectations

Amanda at Pandagon has an interesting post about how the expected traditional life-course -- marriage young, kids soon after, the house in the 'burbs -- has been left in the dust by individual choices over the past two generations, and the changes that that has made in everything from family gatherings to the sense of cultural disruption experienced by some (most notably those who feel that "traditional values" are under attack).
So, in a sense, it's a depressing thought because the culture war is really just one long temper tantrum thrown by people who are frustrated that the world is changing without obtaining their permission. On the other hand, it's a good thing that it might be nothing more than a temper tantrum, something that will pass quickly enough as it becomes clear that there's no putting the genie back in the bottle, no turning back the hands of time.
Very insightful, and many parts of it, from the personal to the political, will likely strike a chord with my own friends and relatives. Go read the whole thing. [For reference, Atrios provides this chart of average age at marriage over the last century or so.]

(via Eschaton)

Surreal visuals

BagNewsNotes highlights a shot of onetime Administration-critic Joe Wilson and outed CIA-agent Valerie Plame that appears to be pure fim noir staging. Really wack, as is much of the media packaging of this story.

While Nero fiddled...

new Iraqi flagThe Bush administration likes to reassure us that they are training Iraqi troops to take over security operations when/if we begin to pull out. However, they are deluding themselves, not only in their level of success but in what those those troops have in mind for themselves: many are positioning themselves for the civil war to come.
The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga -- the Kurdish militia -- and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted.
old Iraqi flagCertainly the Kurds aren't the only ones using the instability and access to resources to advance their tribal, religious, or ethnic interests. We could leave a bloodbath in our wake . . .

Who gets a second chance?

Ampersand has a pretty interesting post on how race and class affect our reaction to wrongdoing by teens and how society responds to their lapses. Sympathy for unfortunate experimentation, or punishment for going astray?
How much better would Black kids be if they were allowed to fail and be rescued as often as White kids are? I'd like to find out.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Outrageous lines from 2005

(Had to battle over whether the right header might be "Complete Asshats of 2005" instead, but decided it's a bit of a moot point.)

Media Matters has the winners, with links.

Some of these are completely astounding, although few of the sources are true surprises. Still, what passes for humor (or punditry) in this country makes my skin crawl...

(via Salon's Broadsheet)

Making fun of the defenseless (whom we love)

Thus far, the only indignities that I have inflicted on my cats have been (1) occasionally picking them up when I know they don't want it (and holding them until they stop complaining about it) and (2) digitally turning them into holiday greetings (a fate also inflicted upon good friends; see here). However, I do aspire to greater heights of amusement, be it with pets, children, or friends, so I took a certain delight in this photo of the monumental patience that is dooce's dog Chuck at the holidays...

Quote of the day

A great gift of getting older, of becoming old, is to realize that I, too, am a precious vessel -- quite apart from any idea of self-worth I might have, quite apart from anything I may have accomplished. I'm a precious vessel because of all that I've seen, all the stories I know, all the images and memories that will die with me. In this way, we're all precious vessels. And it isn't that we must get frantic about preserving all we've seen and all we know.autumn woods Preserving all the stories isn't a human possibility, for all will be forgotten one day. But to know that I'm such a vessel, as you are, makes me more attentive, makes me more available to anyone who asks for what I know, makes me speak more carefully, with less of the judgmental and more attention to nuance -- makes me try to speak more slowly and reflectively, and to be like... an older man, the kind of older man I once admired: tolerant, receptive, at ease in his age, not trying to be anything he isn't, not trying to be younger.
-- Michael Ventura, "Across the Great Divide";
Psychotherapy Networker, Jan/Feb 2005
(via A Mindful Life)

Being a good reader sometimes means saying NO

Ever get bogged down in a book that you don't really like but feel you should finish? Why stick it out? There are more books out there than you can ever get to, and serious readers learn to cut their losses so that they can get to the enjoyable and informative more quickly. You probably intend to clear off your nightstand around the holidays, so give yourself a break and ditch the books you dread going back to. Learn to let go!

(via a Medley furling)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

You must be kidding (installment the next)

As part of their ongoing War On the Citizenry (TM), the Bushistas haven't limited themselves to eavesdropping, but have been geiger-counting the homes, businesses, and mosques of Muslim Americans in service of catching any nuclear threats on the move. Yeah, McVeigh the Muslim, and all those other precedents. Better yet, anybody who questioned the operation was threatened with firing... What assholes!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Christmas to my readers

wreathI'm off for a four-day weekend, so am very unlikely to be posting here. You should all get outside anyway, but for those who insist on sticking around their computers (and/or avoiding their families), a few amusements to while away the hours. Hope you all get some cozy down-time in the coming days!
  • Here's a little physics-type game involving strings and resonance. Make things bounce, cut strings to see how the pattern changes, fritter away some time.
    (via Medley)

  • For the gift-giver with a dark sense of humor, here are some gore-based toys, including, for example, a shark with a part of his victim and a set of siamese twin bears. Many inexplicable things here...
    (via Bitch, PhD)

  • Also for the bitter and/or twisted, cartoons of Foamy the Squirrel, full of rants and fist-shaking. How have I missed out on Foamy all this time?? Related stuff here.
    (via Adventures of Teapot the Cat)

  • Toy-related, but not really gifty, a strangely evocative set of household items or desserts decorated with little plastic figures at work and play (several sets here). Hard to describe the appeal -- go have a look. (Flash required)
    (via kottke)

  • For folks considering getting their kids a phone (but not wanting the charges and other crap that comes with them), there are now phones designed specifically for children, which can be programmed with a limited set of numbers, may include an emergency button, and have other parent-friendly features. Two that I've heard about this year are the firefly (I think this was the first) and the Migo (getting a lot of press recently). Great options!

  • Here's a fantastic collection of 3D architectural models of famous buildings around the world. You can navigate around in them. You may need to download the viewer if you don't already have something that works it, but you could spend hours visiting these places...
    (via boing boing)

  • A "lifetime daily planner" that has enough pages for the average life expectancy. (A bit too large for your pocket!)
    (via kottke)

  • From the classic files, the great yoga fighting positions of Rumsfeld...
    (via dailyKos)

  • A truly strange collection of USB flash drives, from body parts to food items. Wack!
    (via pal CHug)

  • And last, for those looking for more long-term diversion, here's a list of the best video games of all time, a series of reviews (with screenshots and karma) at Gamespot magazine. Don't blame me if your favorite isn't there, but some great oldies and newies.
    (via kottke)
Finally, some cheery holiday wishes from pal Sid. Have some nog on me!

Sid the elf

Still tough to be a woman

For anybody who thinks that we're living in a "post-feminist era" (in the sense of being past the need for feminism, not just having lost connection with the concept), gendergeek collects a heap of statistics and stories both inspiring and dismaying. There's still a whole lot to do...

Good news!

Apparently audible use of the word impeachment won't be the only good thing to come out of the Bush wiretapping scandal: the judiciary committee now plans to question Alito about his views on the power of the executive branch.
"Recent revelations that the president authorized domestic eavesdropping without following the statute that requires approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is but one of several areas where the court's role as a check on overreaching by the executive may soon prove crucial," Leahy said in his letter.
Glad to see you've awakened to the real motivation behind these arcane Supreme Court picks...


Thursday kittens: how time flies (II)

Timely, in these thin and trying days, to get some extra kitteny cuteness. So here is some cute Pasha, with a little retrospective view as we did last week for Pixel.

alert kitten!
Three months old and fearless about everything!

what you lookin' at?
At five months, a bit darker, less kitteny,
but the same look of curiosity...

Past appearances of Pasha (reverse order):
5, 4, 3, 2, arrival, teaser3, teaser2, teaser1, homepage

More stoking the flame

Apparently this week's theme is Keep Up The Fight, but anyway, another installment via Medley.
So we fight erosion of civil liberties at every turn, no matter what the justification from the State might be. That is the 'eternal vigiliance' of which Jefferson spoke. The Constitution doesn't guarantee any rights. The Senate doesn't safeguard our liberties. The President doesn't protect us. Only we the People do. Once we abdicate our responsibility to be skeptical of our government, to engage in oversight, to scrutinize its every deed, we lose that liberty we're supposed to defend.
Yes, those things. Thanks.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

On other fronts

capitol domeAlmost overlooked a Congressional drama this morning: the "reverse Robin Hood" bill passed in the Senate, but only with Cheney's breaking the tie (he flew back from overseas for the occasion, and a Democratic Senator hobbled in on a walker to be counted), and the ANWAR-drilling amendment was yanked. The House still has to vote on this monstrosity, presumably after the holiday break, and then both will turn from budget-trimming to tax-slashing...

Update: kos has the break-down on votes, strategic scheduling, and other behind-the-scenes considerations on the budget cuts and related measures...

Another call to stay involved

Obsidian Wings has the definitive post on the way(s) that this Administration has claimed and/or exercised unlimited power. Not for the faint-hearted; I note it here mainly for reference, should anyone later claim that When the End Came, it somehow Caught Us Sleeping. We aren't asleep, and I also hope that we aren't paralyzed. It's a call to arms, to self-education, to spreading the alarm. That's how change gets started.

(via a Medley furling)


A respected judge from the FISA court resigns in protest over the wiretapping, and the other judges express concern that illegal info was brought to them as the basis for warrants (in sort of "information laundering" process), undermining the legitimacy of the entire system...

And speaking of despair

...I was hoping that nobody would spell out the obvious fact that the New York Times could have released this spying-on-Americans story before the 2004 election, probably to a devastating reception. But they chose to wait a year. I guess because it wasn't news. Remind me about that cursed liberal media again?

Thoughts on despair and keeping up the fight

candle flameMedley has a post this morning that is timely as we face the onslaught of bad news about what our leaders are doing behind closed doors, what the rest of the world thinks of us, and the legacy that this administration will leave for the decades ahead. She argues that we must continue to fight because of the value we place on the things we are fighting for, whether or not we have hope of immediate progress. I particularly like this quote (taken from someplace else):
Our freedom, our precious civil liberties, our Constitution must be so sacred to us that we will fight to rescue them no matter how hopeless it might appear at any given moment. In such a struggle as we have here, we are BOUND to have moments of darkness, discouragement, a teetering on the edge of despair, but we must NOT give in to these emotions.
Skip the news for a few days if you must, but don't stop speaking your mind, chipping away at the silence that allows such things to continue. It comes down to each of us where we are.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This multifaceted life

Rebecca Blood has a running series of interviews with prominent bloggers about how they got into it, what their goals are, and any number of other interesting avenues. However, my reason for pointing to the most recent entry is quite different -- take a look at this guy's CV!!
Adam Greenfield started his blog,, in October 2000. He is the author of the upcoming Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing and has worked as an information architect in Tokyo, a rock critic for SPIN Magazine, an activist, a coffeehouse owner in West Philadelphia, a San Francisco bike messenger, a medic at the Berkeley Free Clinic, the editor of a free magazine in Seattle, a PSYOP sergeant in the US Army Special Operations Command, and director of new media development for a now-defunct dotcom.
Now that's going where life takes you! Love it. Am also reminded once again of the wonderful Heinlein quote arguing that specialization is for insects . . .

A win for the reality-based community!

The teaching of Intelligent Design in Dover biology classes was forbidden by the judge in a ruling released today. I wrote it up here, but I'll add this quote:
Anticipating that his decision would be attacked, Judge Jones, in an unusual move, categorically stated that the ruling was not the "product of an activist judge."

"This case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy," the judge said.

Moreover, Jones declared: "The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has not been fully revealed through this trial," which lasted six weeks.

Aw, just for fun: it's always a good time to recall this lovely sticker, based on a similar one proposed for use on textbooks in Georgia a year or so ago...

round earth still controversial

Partisan shopping guide

For anybody interested in "buying blue" this year, DragonballYee has put together some PDFs listing the businesses that tend to donate all-Dem or all-Repub, so that you can pick your vendors accordingly. Here are the starting pages (with page 1 of 3 shown and a link to the whole file):

Blue companies
Red companies

I see little pattern in the types of stores in each group, so you need the actual facts...

Quote of the day

Lao Tsu's Poem in a time of warIn all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful.
- Leo Tolstoy,
author (1828-1910)
(via A.W.A.D.)

If you can't get in the *front* door...

Turns out that federal courts weren't too impressed with Ashcroft and the administration's handling of wiretaps and requests for same, back in 2002.
The secretive federal court that approves spying on terror suspects in the United States has refused to give the Justice Department broad new powers, saying the government had misused the law and misled the court dozens of times, according to an extraordinary legal ruling released yesterday.
. . .
"In virtually every instance, the government's misstatements and omissions in FISA applications and violations of the Court's orders involved information sharing and unauthorized disseminations to criminal investigators and prosecutors."
Guess they just decided to stop asking for permission, so that they could give up the charade that they were in some way upholding the law...

How many signs of fascism...

new elephant...does it take before people get nervous?

Apparently the hubris doesn't stop at the White House: the House of Representatives has more or less suspended all of its rules in order to shove the budget bill through before anybody could read, let alone debate, its contents.
... Republicans have steadily degenerated from the party of law and order, to the party that is actually contemptuous of the law when it doesn't serve their purposes, and indifferent to constitutional and legislative order when it thwarts their will. What the Schiavo incident said about the true Republican attitude towards federalism and separation of powers, the "martial law" rule says about the GOP's true interest in rational policymaking and honest debate.
When did our leaders become so craven? It's hard to watch...

(via mcjoan at dailyKos)

Well, well, well

Lying about the basis for war, check. Undermining CIA operations in order to slime a critic, check. Suppressing research reports of all kinds, no prob. But apparently, spying on the American people raises questions about impeachment. However the pigeons come home, I welcome them. Frolics with interns look like pretty mild stuff these days...

(via Medley)

Update: in related news, Tom Tomorrow pithily explains the difference between types of leaks...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Quote of the day

[T]o me there is nothing more awe-inspiring than when a man discovers to you the nakedness of his soul. Then you see that no one is so trivial or debased but that in him is a spark of something to excite compassion.
-- W. Somerset Maugham,
"The Pool"
(via the coffee sutras)

Also from the surveillance files

Be careful what you read.
Our own Cultural Revolution, and we just don't want to face it.

Well then: this story may be a hoax...
Update 2: no, not so much. back to you, Orwell...

Also worthy of note

Bush bubble

Bag News Notes asks: can he actually see out of his real bubble?

Update: am reminded of this classic, and what the heck, this one too...

Necessary counter-measures

When the political news is just crummy, depressing, blah, sometimes we all need a little sunshine and cuteness to make us smile again. Filling this need admirably is the newish blog Cute Overload, providing cuteness in all its forms, from gamboling puppies to Japanese stuffed... thingies.

Cute Overload

(I particularly recommend the sunshiny bunnies here for a greyish Monday morning...)

(via boing boing)

Whatsoever you do for the least of these...

Apparently the cuts in domestic anti-poverty programs are being protested by liberal mainstream churches but entirely ignored by the fundamentalist sects.
Why in recent years have conservative Christians asserted their influence on efforts to relieve Third World debt, AIDS in Africa, strife in Sudan and international sex trafficking -- but remained on the sidelines while liberal Christians protest domestic spending cuts?

Conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family say it is a matter of priorities, and their priorities are abortion, same-sex marriage and seating judges who will back their position against those practices.
Anybody notice a theme these days? These guys are obsessed with regulating sex -- who may have it, what the consequences are, who gets a say in your choices along the way -- but have completely lost track of the fundamental things that Jesus himself focused on, like feeding the poor and forgiving the human. Meanwhile these guys bargain with the legislators who want to cut both services to the poor and taxes on the wealthy. Priorities? yeah.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

In case you slept through the weekend've probably heard the news that Bush personally authorized the NSA's spying on individual Americans, bypassing both the warrant process and the NSA's primary mission (which involves monitoring foreign communications). Almost as appalling, the New York Times sat on this story for a year at White House request. (Who will watch The Watchmen?) Americans seem split between support for their golden calf beloved King and apathetic protest based on the presumption that Big Brother has been on the loose for some time...

I wasn't really using my civil liberties..

Update: surprising nobody (even more), Gonzales claims the President acted within his power in directing these illegal acts of surveillance.

Update 2: related links include a look at the Supreme Court case from 1972 that specifically forbade the President from authorizing warrantless surveillance, and a convincing argument that such spying is not about terrorism but about dissent. I'd like to say "Department of Duh" on that last one, but who knows anymore...

Friday, December 16, 2005

Quote for the weekend

If only I could so live and so serve the world that after me there should never again be birds in cages.
- Isak Dinesen (pen name of Karen Blixen),
author (1885-1962)
(via A.W.A.D.)

No really, this actually made my head explode

femsignI hardly know what to say: anybody who thinks that having "hymen recontruction surgery" as a gift to her husband is a feminist act has gone beyond drinking the Kool-aid to self-flagellation. And totally squicked me in the process. I mean, anal bleaching, labia-plasty, where will the self-hatred end??

(via knotted knickers, and I may hold it against her)

Some real patriots stand up

It looks like Russ Feingold may have pulled together enough votes in the Senate to filibuster the Patriot Act in its current form. Will be interesting to see if the GOP forces a show-down, rewrites some of the more egregious sections, or just tables the whole thing for a while. It may play out today...

(via Medley)

Christmas fun

Today is my office Christmas party, so I'll be cutting the day short with little time for posting. However, in honor of the holidays, here are a flurry of snow- and Christmas-related diversions:Best holiday festivities to all of you for the next few weeks. (yes, I'll still be here, but this seemed timely for those of you who might be headed elsewhere soon...)

Update: for those wishing for a little holiday music, here's a link to a set of animations that sing Christmas carols in a chipmunky voice -- what could be more apt?
[Via the advent calendar...]

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Shifting the bounds of ludicrosity

forhead smack!Apparently these many years in Afghanistan and Iraq have filled the brains of our national leaders with sand, because they apparently think that the Next Big Source of Terror will be the Sahara desert. No, really. Talk about manufacturing new enemies where nobody lives there was no reason for any...

And we wonder why our Coalition of the Clueless is ever-shrinking! The star of "The Emperor's New Clothes" is looking like an enlightened fellow these days.

More negative Joe-mentum

It can't happen fast enough for me. Primary or general, just find somebody principled to run against him. The only Republican I've ever voted for was Joe Lieberman's opponent when he first ran for Senate in 1988...

Thursday kittens: how time flies (I)

Compared to our older cats, Pixel is just a slim wisp, but my photo folders remind me that a few months ago she was actually a tiny thing and is now huge by comparison...

groggy at 14 weeks
Here she is groggy with nap, at about 3.5 months...

still a napper
And here, almost cat-like, at 7 months.
Only the proportion differences give it away...

Previous Pixel appearances (in reverse order):
10, 9, 8, 7, doh!, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, arrival, teaser, homepage

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Things that induce head-banging

  • The endless waiting-in-line that is life on Welfare.
    I've decided that there must be a giddy sense of power that comes from being able to command poor people to stand in line, at the drop of a hat. Social service agencies and poverty pimps know that as long they either terrorize people with the loss of benefits, or lure them with the promise of something free (but of implied scarcity, such as Toys for Tots or Energy Assistance), they will be able to command already-exhausted and over-extended moms and kids to wait, wait, wait.
    Anybody who thinks poverty assistance is a scam should read this post...

  • An alarming percentage of pharmacists think that their moral dilemmas should trump their customers' health needs, be it for birth control or other med. Not the patient's medical safety, mind you, but the pharmacist's queasiness with the parameters of his/her job...
(via Alas)

Gratuitous cuteness

Ok, the minihelicopters may be spiff, but the scale-to-hamster photo is cuteness embodied.

Merry *#%$@! Christmas, y'all!

FEMA, not content to rest on its "heck of a job" laurels, is planning to cut off rent support for Katrina evacuees living in other communities. I guess, in the spirit of "out of sight, out of mind" (e.g., see this prev.), they're just letting the generous host cities shoulder the costs now . . .

Have I mentioned this idea lately? Put a little something in somebody else's stocking this year.

Quote of the day

spring budsWe do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
- e.e. cummings
(via whiskey river)

Clearing matters up

The inimitable Fafblog interviews Condoleeza Rice about extraordinary rendition (or the outsourcing of torture). Pretty much the only thing you need to read to understand the whole situation -- with bonus comprehensibility!

(via Atrios)

Real-life heroes

A diarist at dailyKos is posting stories of real-life heroes each Wednesday. The two most recent stories are from the era around WWII and involve two Polish men who separately tried to alert the world to what was happening to the Jews in Europe, and one of them even arranged to be arrested and imprisoned in Auschwitz so that he could organize a resistance effort there and get reports of conditions to the outside. Both harrowing and inspiring, and both about men I had never heard of before.

Jan Karski
Witold Pilecki

The work is never finished.

Christmas card to a soldier in Iraq

Dear [M]--

I know that you don't know me, but I really wanted to send you a note at Christmas to let you and your comrades know that you are not forgotten here at home. We know how hard it is to be away from your homes and families at the holidays. We appreciate how hard it is too to be in an inhospitable climate in a country that is suspicious of your presence, carrying out a mission that isn't always clear. We are appalled that many of you are being sent on third and even fourth tours of duty, and that middle-aged single parents are being called up for service.

Know these things: that we appreciate your willingness to serve, that we aren't ignoring the challenges you face just because you're out of our line of vision, and that we will do everything in our power to make sure that our civilian and military leaders keep your interests at heart and do their best to bring you home safely and with a sense of having made a difference.
Christmas wreath
Meantime, I wish you some joy for the holidays, and pray for the safety of all of you on the ground.
-- ACM

(soon to be on its way to a coworker's niece...)

Civilized barbarity

Jeanne of Body & Soul has a wonderful piece on the practice of government executions and how we do or don't come to terms with the desire for vengeance, revulsion with same, and sitting in judgement of another's life.
I can't even tell you that I hated the pro-killing piece and appreciated the pro-life one. I hated both. I hated the whole idea of the front page of the editorial section debating whether a man should live or die. Debate a school bond. Debate the justice of a war. Debate the death penalty, even. But for Christ's sake, don't ask people to sit in their comfortable rooms on a Sunday morning and turn thumbs up or thumbs down. Should he live or should he die? Jesus or Barabbas?
Wonderfully written, touches on a number of cases and issues... read the whole thing. Even Tucker Carlson is discomfited.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Quote of the day

Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.
-- Robert Louis Stevenson
(via A Mindful Life)

Gratuitous kittenage

My rare weekend posts have screwed up my system and caused my last kitten post to scroll off the bottom prematurely -- can't have a kitten-free blog, so here's a snip from one of those photos to tide us all through to Thursday...

cute faces!
[What are you lookin' at??]

Drooling the drool of a techno-geek

Somebody just did key drives one better with credit-card-sized flash drives that will be available up to 2GB. In your pocket. They also seem to cost a lot less than current small flash drives. I think that the completely portable (and anonymous) office (see also here) is close to being in everybody's reach...

(via boing boing)

Monday, December 12, 2005


Check out this map of the world, scaled by population. China is *huge*, Canada a mere fringe along our northern border. There's a tiny inset with the more familiar map for comparison.

(via boing boing)

Clearing up some confusion

femsignEmma at Gendergeek provides a FAQ for those perplexed or threatened by feminism and discussion of same.
I don't see why x, y, or z is a gendered issue.

Just as fish don't know they're swimming in water, it's very difficult for members of any patriarchal society to see the gender-blindness that surrounds them. Feminism would argue that all issues require to be the subject of a gendered analysis, or goods, services, policy, and legislation will be developed without understanding the needs of women. The issues addressed on Gendergeek are not only gender issues, but we are offering a gendered analysis of them.
For those times when "get over your special little self" just doesn't seem productive...

Gerrymandering goes to court

scales of justice?The Supreme Court has agreed to review the (ridiculous) redistricting plan pushed through in Texas by Tom DeLay. Remember when all the Democrats fled the state in order to prevent a vote insituting this new map? it's that one. Even the Justice Department is on record saying it fails most relevant tests. The case will be heard and decided during the spring term (so Alito's confirmation could get even more heat)...

Two countries: the racial divide

Ampersand has an excellent and disturbing post up at Alas a blog cataloging the remarkable ongoing discrimination practiced against black people going about their ordinary business: they may find themselves stopped or arrested just for being black people doing what white people do everyday (the stories described and linked are pretty comprehensive). Amp concludes that white and black folks in this country are living under entirely different conditions:
As a white person, I live in the USA, land of the free and home of the slogan. But a lot of blacks in effect live in a totalitarian state "behind the iron curtain" in a cold war movie - you know, the sort of movie where police constantly stop ordinary citizens and demand to see their papers.
Too true. I am reminded of a profiling case brought against the state police in the St. Louis area when I lived there -- it has a cross-bridge commuter class not unlike Philly, and from a town not unlike Camden. One lawyer testified that he was a black guy driving a nice car (something German, I think) and would get pulled over every day by the police to check his registration. A reminder that the privilege of the majority is often the privilege not to be aware of your protective bubble.

Every day. Imagine how you'd start to feel about your government and your stake in the nation.

Quote of the day

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
- Johann Wolfgang van Goethe,
poet, dramatist, novelist, and philosopher (1749-1832)
(via A.W.A.D.)

New Orleans being left to sink into the mud?

A grim editorial in yesterday's New York Times decries the "death of an American city" as the Bush administration sends a mere pittance to salvage New Orleans while spending unimaginable amounts in Iraq.
Total allocations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terror have topped $300 billion. All that money has been appropriated as the cost of protecting the nation from terrorist attacks. But what was the worst possible case we fought to prevent?

Losing a major American city.
Their point is that a slow response, in itself, dooms the city, as displaced residents make new lives elsewhere and the infrastructure decays to unsalvagable. To really hurricane-proof the place would cost some billions (but a fraction of the number noted above) and require that local officials really prepare to re-plan their city from scratch. But not doing those things means accepting the erasure of both a city and a unique culture (or, just as bad, reducing both to Disney-esque tourist versions of their former selves)...
If the rest of the nation has decided it is too expensive to give the people of New Orleans a chance at renewal, we have to tell them so. We must tell them we spent our rainy-day fund on a costly stalemate in Iraq, that we gave it away in tax cuts for wealthy families and shareholders. We must tell them America is too broke and too weak to rebuild one of its great cities.
Not a pretty option, but we can't pretend that both action and inaction aren't choices . . .

(via This Modern World)

Update: in related musings, see this new term/concept.

Update 2:
jeez! a Bush advisor says that "Katrina has fallen so far off the radar screen that you can't find it." I'm sure that the nation finds that very reassuring.
(via Body & Soul)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

IKEA: the anti-Wal-Mart

IKEA logoWell, in refreshing news, a successful and popular business that actually practices good world citizenship as well! "Low Prices, But Not at Any Price." yay!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Getting ever more hard up

Military recruiting is not going well (when recruits know where they're headed), but still it looks pretty grim when the Army is calling up 40-something single mothers for active duty . . .
As Christmas nears, Arndt, 43, is trying to sell the Medford home she says she will not be able to keep on an Army salary of approximately $60,000 a year, and is searching for someone to care for her 13-year-old son, Shane. She expects to train for an 18-month tour of duty that could take her to Iraq or Afghanistan.

(via Atrios)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Science you can taste!

The cover story of Science News is about the chemistry of beer flavors, and especially to unwanted flavors that arise during production or storage.
Studying the chemical constituents of beer is "like looking at the night sky," [Morten C. Meilgaard] says. "The closer you look, the more stars you can see."
mmmmm, beer at night....

(via boing boing)


Harry Reid lets Lieberman know he's out in the cold.
Joe is a fine man, he has strong feelings, but he's just alone. Even Republicans don't agree with Joe.
Yowza! run for cover!

(via kos)

Quote of the day

blue branchesThe eyes are given to see;
the soul to see further.
--Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid `Inayat Khan

From: A Meditation Theme for Each Day
Selected and arranged by Hazrat Pir Vilayat `Inayat Khan
(via A Mindful Life)

A little happy news

A post at dailyKos enumerates recent advances in solar technology that range from sheets of paper imprinted with solar-circuitry ink (no, really) to new panels for use atop hybrid vehicles. Pretty exciting potential! Personally, I've been shooting hungry looks toward these . . .

Spinning ourselves more than dizzy

An article at Slate looks at the difference between spin and propaganda, and how the Bush administration has become a huge peddler of the latter.
To spin is to offer a contention, usually specious, in response to a critical argument or a negative news story. It does not necessarily involve lying or misleading anyone about factual matters. Habitual spin is irksome, especially to the journalists upon whom it is practiced, but it does not threaten democracy. Propaganda is far more malignant. A calculated and systematic effort to manage public opinion, it transcends mere lying and routine political dishonesty. When the Bush administration manufactures fake "news," suppresses real news, disguises the former as the latter, and challenges the legitimacy of the independent press, it corrodes trust in leaders, institutions, and, to the rest of the world, the United States as a whole.
Buying pundits here has extended to planting stories abroad, and when you combine that with the conscious decision that all major speeches will be given before miliatary backdrops audiences, it's starting to look a lot like fascism...


Not just for geeks

fly your geek flag!Gamespot magazine has a long series on the Greatest Games of All Time, video classics from Lode Runner and Pac Man to the Sims and Everquest. Good summaries of each and what made them great. Take a nostalgia trip or find a new addiction (or grumble about the obvious absences, like Doom and Myst).

(via kottke)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A few interesting late-day bits

  • Reid has had enough of Lieberman v. Murtha and requests an end to unilateral pronouncements by Democrats. Interesting to see who does or doesn't listen.

  • A UMass professor explains Incompetent Design, which points out the numerous engineering flaws in human design, all of which make simple sense for evolution but sort of make a recent creator look a bit underqualified.
    All of our pelvises slope forward for convenient knuckle-dragging, like all the other great apes. And the only reason you stand erect is because of this incredible sharp bend at the base of your spine, which is either evolution's way of modifying something or else it's just a design that would flunk a first-year engineering student.
    heh. Both serious and tongue-in-cheek.

  • Mike Wallace pulls no punches on the state of the nation --- leadership, press, et al...
    Q. President George W. Bush has declined to be interviewed by you. What would you ask him if you had the chance?

    A. What in the world prepared you to be the commander in chief of the largest superpower in the world? ...
    Read the whole thing. Feisty bugger.

Today's apt cartoon

...comes from Tony Auth. Indeed we live in an Orwellian era of language distortion!


In case you like these

An on-line advent calendar, now in its fifth year, gives you a dollop of thought, reminiscence, and/or visual stimulation for each of the days from December 1 until Christmas.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Thursday kitten-blogging: bengal love!

A couple of great shots, one from the last week or two and the other more like 4-6 weeks old. Both show the contrast between brown and snow bengal coloration (even their eyes!), both show off our beloved babies...

a little hug
A little co-napping interrupted...
[Pasha is 5 months here and Pixel 7]

patty pat
An earlier nap & patty pat...
[subtract about 6 weeks from the ages above;
Pasha really looks like a toddler!]

Past kitteny goodness (reverse order): 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0

Daily Snark

For some reason, Bill O'Reilly's Christmas-related persecution complex has decided to take on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart had some fun with that last night, pointing out that in order to make even this (lame) attack work, O'Reilly had to dig up footage from a year ago (a painfully pregnant Samantha Bee was clearly separable from the slim wit in the clip). This morning, Greg Saunders at This Modern World also takes aim at O'Reilly's obvious lameness:
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Bill, but Jon Stewart is a Jew and Jews don’t celebrate Christmas. When you’ve sunk to the point that you’re attacking non-Christians for not celebrating Christian holidays, your witchhunt has completely jumped the shark. I say you hang this one up and prepare for your next crusade.
holiday wreathheh, about right. Some amusing other associations are included there too...

Irony update: check out these screen-grabs from O'Reilly's site... heh heh

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A rare glimpse

The employees of Penguin publishing explain their jobs. I work for a publisher, and I think that "editorial" and "production" subsume a wide range of jobs here, but at least you get a wide-angle view of all the steps by which a book gets from an author's head onto a bookstore shelf...

(via boing boing)


A group of victims from hurricane Katrina testify in Congress about what went down, and they are unstinting in their anger and blame. In essence, they charge the government with ethnic cleansing.
One chagrinned Repuke said "Could you please refrain from calling it a Concentration Camp", to which eveacuee Leah Hodges exclaimed "No I will not! They separated children from families, did not feed us or give us water, they let people die, a woman lost her baby. And all the while trucks are going past--with no supplies--just full of soldiers with M-16s. It was like Hitler."
The link also includes some verification of some of the (new to me) claims, as that the southern parishes may have been knowingly sacrificed (their levees blown up) in an attempt to save the rest of the city. Um, wow.

Good news from the department of duh

That is, the children of homosexual couples are as well adjusted as any other children.
some of these, some of those...Patterson's and others' findings that good parenting, not a parent's sexual orientation, leads to mentally healthy children may not surprise many psychologists. What may be more surprising is the finding that children of same-sex couples seem to be thriving, though they live in a world that is often unaccepting of their parents.
(Anybody else hearing echoes of decades-old debates over biracial couples?)
I'm sure this will put the debate right to rest!

Good news, bad news (recent bits round-up)

Strange but compelling

Jonathon Rauch argues that politicians have an expiration date on their career arcs: they either get to the White House within 14 years of holding major political office or they never will. Probably if you're around *too* long, you either have too much history to be held against you, or so little that people wonder what you've been up to; those who are both ambitious and effective either get somewhere or somehow fail to get people excited. Or it could all be a stretch. But it feels somehow insightful instead...

(via kos)

The things that people get worked up about...

The whole "liberals are trying to kill Christmas" thing, accompanied as it was by pre-Thanksgiving carols, just blows my mind, but apparently these people are really het up, as some of those receiving "holiday cards" from the White House were angered enough to throw them away (Wash. Post; reg. required).
"This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture," said William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
Yes, those multiculturalists are really the dregs. Respect for others! pfeh!!

(via Atrios)

The ugly just keeps piling up

Alito was a bit of an unknown when Bush nominated him -- not unknown as in No-Paper-Trail Roberts, and clearly a "real" conservative for the frothing base (read: opposed to Roe v. Wade), but a little undefined personally and politically relative to such bogeymen as Priscilla Owen or Alberto Gonzales. scales of Justice? But over the last few weeks there's been more and more on a wider and wider range of cases, showing him to be an extremist loner on many decisions and willing to go to great lengths to uphold government rights to all kinds of powers over individuals, from the merely instrusive to the violent/lethal.

So, I've made up my mind that we don't want this guy anywhere near the Supreme Court. Here are five posts that capture most of the reasons:
  1. On the war on terror (are there any limits to the government's powers?)

  2. On the meaning of reasonable force (should police be allowed to shoot a suspect merely because he's running?)

  3. On a woman's rights over her own body

  4. On keeping minorities out of Princeton (long after the battle was lost)

  5. On keeping his promises and/or showing good judgement (unwilling to recuse himself from a case involving his own mutual fund)

Update: oh, and then there's the whole creepy made-up biography business. I'm getting squicked...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Quote of the day (belated)

Sorry for the lack of dial tone today --- been home shepharding furniture deliveries around my house, and now I'm whipped (and still hoping to log some hours of work). May or may not post anything more today, but will attempt feats of brilliance for the rest of the week to make up . . .

Do not speak unless you can improve upon the silence.
-- A Quaker saying
(via Lucid Moment)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Quote of the day

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.
- Edmund Burke,
statesman and writer (1729-1797)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Surely you jest

!!!!A judge in Oregon not only doesn't convict a set of teen gang-rapists, but also he turns around and convicts the accusor for not appearing traumatized enough to fit his image of a worthy victim be credible. This leaves me totally agape. Most obviously, it will send a chill through the already hesitant ranks of rape victims considering whether to risk coming forward...

For anyone who thinks that the judge's view is reasonable, take a look at Digby's explication of the absurdity of suggesting that teenagers commonly invite group sex-fests (outside of porn and male fantasy) and Shakespeare's Sister on the wide variety of reactions to rape.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Absolutely no analogy intended

It's just about logic. Now see how easy that was?


Theater of the absurd

curtain time!BAGnewsNotes gives us a look at Bush's Iraq victory puppet show.

Update: heh, see also this...

Friday frolic

I am too groggy to function. Which means it's going to be a long day. So, to blow off a bit more time before I bite the bullet, here are a few silly links to get you through the weekend.
  • Somebody's keeping an archive of absurd patents. This reminds me of a board game I grew up with, called Inventors (I think) which involved real patents like an automatic hat-tipper and a light-up cat mouse-frightener. heh.
    (via Follow Me Here)

  • Science unravels that age-old mystery: why do floating Cheerios clump together? You know you wanted to know.
    (via kottke)

  • Here's a bunch of corporate logos on insects. No, I don't know why, leave me alone.
    (via boing boing)

  • No link, just a quote:

    Bush: "The buck doesn't even slow down here."

    (from a dailyKos sig file, Cygjelly)

  • This you really have wanted to know: if you dug straight through the earth, where exactly would you end up? The magic of Googlemapping.
    (via IMAO)

  • And finally, a real weekend resource, the Beer Belly -- one that can actually smuggle your beer anywhere you want to drink!
    (via pal Bill H.)

Quote of the day

"If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things."
- Descartes
(via whiskey river)

Well, maybe times do change

Apparently Japan is considering letting girls inherit the emperorship. This is good for the current imperial family, who had a difficult time having one (girl) child, let alone committing to more,Japanese flag but it's even better as a symbolic gesture in a deeply sexist traditional culture -- and amazingly, 78% of the country favors the change.

(via Official blog)

Heh, I don't have any idea what you mean

For those of you, whoever you are, who might watch procedurals such as CSI, Law & Order, or any of the 5 trillion others, I offer this explication of the subliminal reassurances of procedural dramas. It even extends to Numb3rs and Cold Case. A couple of the parodies made me bark with laughter, to the consternation of my colleagues...

(via knotted knickers)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Volcano soon to be fed?

MoveOn is contemplating supporting a primary opponent to Joe Lieberman. With the way that this guy takes public stances against everything his own party supports, it certainly seems long overdue to me (see this prev.)... I don't know who can be dredged up on short notice, but it's worth finding out!

The Emperor has no clothes!

Finally people are noticing that, um, Iraq isn't going that well, and that some of our policies are making things worse. I mean, not our leadership, of course, but apparently the paper of record
Mr. Bush hates comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. But after watching the president, we couldn't resist reading Richard Nixon's 1969 Vietnamization speech. Substitute the Iraqi constitutional process for the Paris peace talks, and Mr. Bush's ideas about the Iraqi Army are not much different from Nixon's plans - except Nixon admitted the war was going very badly (which was easier for him to do because he didn't start it), and he was very clear about the risks and huge sacrifices ahead.

A president who seems less in touch with reality than Richard Nixon needs to get out more.
. . .and some average citizens
There is no "debate" over torture. It is an evil at all times and all places. It is also a crime under international and national law. That makes two groups: those against torture and criminals.
Is it me, or is it getting a little warm in here?

Thursday kitten-blogging: Humor edition

Since I subjected Pixel to the indignity of publicizing her indelicate moments (here), it seems only fair to admit that sometimes Pasha looks a bit goofy too. Seems like a good day for a giggle. These shots are about a month old; she's 15 weeks old here.

Surprisingly elegant shot, despite being caught mid-butt-lick...

Much less elegant, much more tongue...

(This one included just so you can see some spots.)

Past Pasha appearances: 4, 3, 2, arrival, teaser3, teaser2, teaser1, homepage

Quote of the day (political discourse edition)

Those who put out the people's eyes, reproach them for their blindness.
- John Milton,
poet (1608-1674)
(via A.W.A.D.)