Monday, July 31, 2006

I don't really *want* my video games to be serious

...but the idea is a neat one: video games that mimic the complexity of real-life situations, allowing players to begin to see how difficult it can be to sort out the "right" answer in a tangled political situation like the current Middle East.
“The beauty of the game is that players can teach themselves by trying things out,” Mr. Marovic said. The game includes a disclaimer pointing out that not all tactics will work as well in the real world. But “people will learn certain principles,” he said, “like why to start with gentler tactics first and move to more aggressive ones only after you have popular support.”
Educational? Strategic brainstorming? (Ender's Game, anyone?) Limited by their creators' understandings of the rules? Still, neat conjunction of energies.

(via Follow Me Here)

We hope to resume regular programming...

....shortly. Internet service dicey at the office today, so reading and posting both muffled. (Productivity forecasts good, however.) Go enjoy the latest carnival of cats until we have more to say here.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Your Friday dose of cuteness

This time it's ferrets.
Almost too cute for prime time!

Quote of the day

Violence springs from seven root causes or "blunders":
    candle in the darkness
  • wealth without work,
  • pleasure without conscience,
  • knowledge without character,
  • commerce without morality,
  • science without humanity,
  • worship without sacrifice,
  • politics without principles.
- Mahatma Gandhi
(via Ann Landers, via my mother)

What passes for crazy

Remember when Howard Dean was a loon? Not because of the scream, but because he had the nerve to be against the Iraq war? When you read his arguments, it all looks terribly... prescient. Or maybe just rational. Sigh.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Superstitious about elections still far off

It's probably a symptom of the grim breath-holding feeling of the last five years that I wept openly while reading this. I'm far too nervous to become overtly optimisitic, but not too far gone to respond to a small ray of hope...

(via Atrios)

No way to go to war

Tom Tomorrow offers a view of soldiers going to war in Iraq and hoping against hope that it will be for a good cause. It included this grim glimpse:
I thought of that tattoo as I glanced at him. It was buried beneath his BDU top now, but it stuck in my head. A lot of guys in the Army have tattoos around the same area-but a few inches higher, and in a much different design. Soldiers call them meat tags. A meat tag is a copy of the Army dog tag you wear around you neck, tattooed on your torso, just below your armpit. A meat tag isn’t just a hard-core status symbol. It’s a way to identify a body if the torso is all that remains after it’s blown apart. Name, social security number and religious preference (if any). Call it thinking ahead. Prep for combat. Another safety measure, like an extra pair of socks.
Yeow! And we send them back for tour after tour . . .

Update: and then, of course, there's this. We prefer not to think about who's doing the dying. (via boing boing)

Bengal-blogging: sleepyface edition

'cause it's just that kind of a week . . . (workdays need more naps!!)

sleeping Pixel head

Pixel sleeping the sleep of the recently rambunctious...

sleeping Pixel diagonal

Previous appearances of Pixel:
15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, doh!, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, arrival, teaser, homepage

I'll take heartlessness for $400, Alex

Wow, nothing like a federal economist laughing at the plight of the middle class to really make you want to bite somebody!
Firefighters who want to live in high-priced cities can work two jobs, said W. Michael Cox, chief economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “I think it’s great,” he said. “It gives you portfolio diversification in your income.”
Portfolio diversification?!? How about, never seeing your family, and still not being sure you can afford for anyone in your family to get sick? What a schmuck.

(via Medley)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

In case you missed it

I've often wondered why people submit themselves to the guaranteed humiliation of the Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but I haven't missed the point the way the media bloviators appear to have. Last night Steven Colbert gave them some perspective. Once again, it's the comedy shows that are able to tell the humor from the real news... Sigh.

Wednesday bits

Have a bunch of stuff queued up, but no time to make a substantive post on each piece. So here are some bits worth mention:
  • Things I find cheering:flower

    • Scotty's remains are to be launched into space soon. So apt.
      (via boing boing)

    • Solar-powered trash-compactors debut on the streets of Boston. Less overflow mess, less frequent emptying, large capacity. Everybody wins.
      (via boing boing)

    • "An Inconvenient Truth" winning over real people, and seeing the benefits paid forward in real time. yay!

    • This Mideast buddy list at Salon is strangely funny, even as it's sadly informative. I'm impressed anybody can keep track of the alliances and feuds.
      (via Philly Future)

  • Things that perplex or dismay me

    • Monopoly games replacing phony money with ATM cards. You must be kidding. Don't miss Tom's snarky commentary.

    • Digby points out that Americans are worried about debt, especially the middle class. Important for the future of the nation, and especially for those who hope to change national politics.
      (via Medley)

    • Speaking of change, Democrats need to find unity and win elections, but if that's what they sell as their motivation, nobody will believe anything that they say. Talk about ideals, already!
      (via Atrios)

    • ack!Air marshalls have a quota for adding people to a watch list? Shouldn't it be about the threat? Unsurprisingly, the result is that innocent bystanders get added, and pay the price.
      (via boing boing)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


According to a story in the Independent, local officials are talking about how to divide up Iraq, under the assumption that current sectarian violence spells the end of the current national entity.
"Iraq as a political project is finished," a senior government official was quoted as saying, adding: "The parties have moved to plan B." He said that the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parties were now looking at ways to divide Iraq between them and to decide the future of Baghdad, where there is a mixed population. "There is serious talk of Baghdad being divided into [Shia] east and [Sunni] west," he said.
Although all the groups are part of the current government in Iraq, some are rooting for the insurgents, others eyeing Iran, and generally there's no telling how it will end up -- the situation has gotten a lot worse while the rest of the world has had their attention on Israel and Lebanon...

(via This Modern World)

How to recycle practically anything

This piece describes the surprising fact that the market for recyclable materials has ballooned in the last decade, so that many companies bemoan the paper and plastic ending up in our trash. Also, it lists ways and places to to recycle everything from the blister-wrapping of pills to automobiles or cell phones. Worth a skim!

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Who'd have thought...

We may not have much balance between the theoretical branches of government these days, but those lawyers can be mighty pesky. Right now the American Bar Association is looking into Bush's controversial signing statements, and they may call upon Congress to subject such statements to judicial review.
The other resolution suggests Congress craft legislation to make signing statements more transparent and more accessible. Currently, signing statements are not sent directly to Congress, and they are often ambiguous in their intent. But a law could require the president to write a report explaining exactly how and why he plans not to enforce a law, if he plans not to enforce it, for every signing statement he issues.
scales of justice? Among other possibilities, the lawyers are suggesting that Congress give itself the right/standing to sue the President for not doing his job in enforcing the laws that they pass. That would sure make for some interesting testimony -- real Constitutional nitty gritty. I hope that there are still enough Supreme Court Justices who care about that mouldering document...

(via Follow Me Here)

Friday, July 21, 2006


This is quite funny -- shades of Woody Allen conjured as a German bloke pilots "the Bush" . . .

(via Twisty)

Quote of the day (ordinary joe edition)

Let me take a moment to say that disliking feminists for their impatience is like hating the homeless for being hungry. You dick.
from this otherwise arcane rant...

Sir, have you no decency?

Insider nicknames are one thing, but apparently our President has no sense of decorum or how to treat anyone around him with respect. First, he interrupts a diplomatic discussion to give Chancellor Merkel an unwelcome backrub (it's his right, of course, since she's a woman), and then he takes it upon himself, during his long overdue visit to the NAACP, to slap Congressman Green "playfully" on the cheek. What on earth?? Maybe that's what happens when you're elevated through life in a way that's unrelated to your capabilities -- you start to think you have an intrinsic superiority to everyone around you. That, and that actions have no consequences.

(second story via Echidne)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Poem of the day (era)

No Yellow Ribbons

flying from my doorpost or mailbox or car aerial.
No thin strips of citron fluttering with every breath of the
to proclaim a slick cliche of patriotism to the neighbors,
the mailman, the passers-by.
No to cheap oil, no to the hunger of generals, undecorated,
unwarred for so long.
No to madmen crying in the desert with their wild dreams
of power, the quick nuclear fix.
No to the knee jerk of love it or leave it, my country
right or wrong, those old slogans ready for unfurling.
No red white and blue blooded two fisted breast beating.
No children’s blood in the sand.
Barbara Crooker
(via wood s lot)

Thursday cat-blogging: the peaceful kingdom

Busy day, so just a quick shot showing a little detente among the household cats...

three in a row

Aurora, Pixel, and Yogi divide up the couch

Get some more cat-blogging samples here: snuggles5, doubles, power-napping, (return of themeless), (themeless), snuggles4, shower games, sun snuggles, sunbathing2, catnip!, twofers, sunbathers, posh lighting, treehouse, friends, snuggles2, more lounging, snuggles, Thanksgiving, cones, forms of love, lounging, more games, P&P wrestling, Pixel and Yogi, catspage

Who do those people think they are?

August at XOverboard has a nice rumination on Bush's choice to make the stem-cell legislation his first and only veto: this wasn't his idea, and what do the American people and their representatives think they're doing, coming up with their own ideas and working them through?
Basically, the passing of the stem cell bill is as close to any grade-school textbook presentation of how a bill become law. It is, in six years, quite possibly the closest example of an actual Congress actually doing something that actual Americans actually want their elected officials to do.veto stamp

This, George W. Bush chooses to oppose.
Gotta nip that in the bud right away!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Is there any such thing as a no-brainer?

I mean, it's pretty appalling that Joe Lieberman would consider running as an independent if he loses the primary, but would he play for the other team? What on earth are they mulling over over there?!?

(via Atrios)

What merits a veto

Tony Auth puts it in pictures. I find the President's lack of perspective (and disregard for both his office and national dignity) increasingly wearing/embarassing...

Update: He really did it. What a putz.

Reality disconnect, latest installment

these elephants!Our Secretary of State thinks it ludicrous that our involvement in Iraq could have contributed to the destabilization of the situation there. Really.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Extremists now appear to have been emboldened. The moderates appear to be in retreat. There is no peace process. There is war. How do you answer administration critics who say that the administration’s actions have ... helped unleash the very hostilities you hoped to contain?
Apparantly they answer it by saying that, you know, it's not that we made things worse, but just that we underestimated how bad they were to start with. Ah, that's *much* better...

(via Follow Me Here)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What is and isn't a "World War"

Upyernoz provides helpful visuals.
It's ugly over there, but it's still just one (recurrent) hot spot. Keep your fingers crossed...

Haiku of the day

In the falling snow
A laughing boy holds out his palms
Until they are white.
- Richard Wright

You tell 'em!

Atrios gets the opportunity to lay out in print the reasons for supporting Lamont's primary campaign against Lieberman in Connecticut -- not just the war, but a politics that sidesteps the responsibilities of a Loyal Opposition to hold the ruling party accountable for its acts.
Lieberman's problem isn't bloggers, it's the voters of Connecticut, who seem to be increasingly tired of his support for some very uncivil policies, including federal intervention into the Terri Schiavo case, the administration's operations at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay and, yes, that disastrous invasion of Iraq.
Well written, although unlikely to convince the hystericists of the right that real politics are at work here.

(via Eschaton)

One man's flag-draped coffin...

empty bootsApparently such images are ok for some to use, but not for others. You know, the defenders of liberty versus the, um, sympathizers with American loss? Idiots.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Um, what?!?

New Republic headline: To prevent a regional conflagration, Israel should attack Syria.
Down the rabbit hole we go!

(via Atrios)

You can never have too much cat-blogging

If you agree, then check out the 121st Carnival of the Cats over at Musings...

I understand the meaning of Investment Managers

money matters...but how reassuring can it be that Dick Cheney appears to be betting against the health of the economy? (with his own money, that is...)

(via Medley)

One patient conversation at a time

A diarist at dailyKos demonstrates the sort of patient in-depth dialogue that's required to deprogram people who have been brainwashed by the incessant onslaught of the right-wing noise machine. It can be done, it needs to be done, and we have to have the commitment to respond to the one-on-one opportunities that arise, rather than just changing the subject to less trying topics (or waiting for some undiscovered politician to light the way from on high). Rational arguments can indeed make headway with ordinary folks.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Short day, little to day go check out digby, who has a bunch of informative, interesting, and well-argued stuff, as always. I'll be back on Monday.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Quote of the day

If you ask me what sin is I know instantly with reference to myself. I haven't the slightest idea with reference to anyone else.
-- Martin Buber
(via gingko)

Thursday bengal blogging: Pasha-fest

Well, Pasha is officially one year old (as of last week, actually). Guess that means we have no more kittens in the house. sniff.

big Pasha head
Hard to believe that this face...

tiny Pasha head
...was this tiny critter not that long ago!

Pasha curl
This is a few weeks old, but gives a good sense of how much she's darkened
(that grey around her hip is real and extends along her spine).

Previous Pasha solos (in reverse order):
11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, arrival, teaser3, teaser2, teaser1, homepage

Way to go!

A lot of obituaries read like laundry lists, family members and life accomplishments squeezed into a few forgettable lines. This one tells you nothing about what the guy did for a living, but everything about what he was like to be around. What a hoot.

(via Follow Me Here)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The clear eyes of youth

A sixth-grader reflects on the flag and the value we place on it.
School children have to pledge loyalty to this piece of cloth every morning. No one has to pledge loyalty to justice and equality and human decency.old glory
It's short -- go read the whole thing. Wow.

(via kos)

Kittens at play

Not mine, but still, dangerous cuteness ahead!
Stills (remarkable gymnastics)
Movie (under the moving hat)
This should inspire me to strive for more action shots at home!

Made for parody

Please tell me that we don't really have a Whitehouse Director for Lessons Learned. Any salary listed here (along with those paid to ethics advisors) is clearly being poured down the drain. The sarcastic response pretty much writes itself. I hate to deprive my readers of laughs, just because they're obvious!

(first link via This Modern World)

Spiffy idea

I don't think I've mentioned it here before (oh yeah, here), but there's been some interesting discussion over the last year or so about rearranging the calendar of Presidential primaries and caucuses to promote a better process, e.g., to keep a pair of white Northeastern states from carrying disproportionate sway in determining who wins the major party nominations. How to rearrange it is difficult -- a smattering of different regions? of different ethnic compositions? change it once or reevaluate on some regular basis? -- and many states would fight for the honor of falling earlier (and thus giving their residents the honor of mattering more). I don't know the right answer, but the notion of letting last time's swing states go first is very intriguing. This is either the epitome of focusing on "electability," or it's a sensible way to put the energies of candidates to use in those early days where they'll be most important to the eventual race. Anyway, more fodder for the mill...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Deep idiocy (see prev. here) really deserves spectacular parody.

floating tubeSenator Ted Stevens: The Remix

I had to listen twice...

(via kos)

Poem of the day (booklovers' edition)

An Afternoon In The Stacks

Closing the book, I find I have left my head
inside. It is dark in here, but the chapters openstack of books
their beautiful spaces and give a rustling sound,
words adjusting themselves to their meaning.
Long passages open at successive pages. An echo,
continuous from the title onward, hums
behind me. From in here, the world looms,
a jungle redeemed by these linked sentences
carved out when an author traveled and a reader
kept the way open. When this book ends
I will pull it inside-out like a sock
and throw it back in the library. But the rumor
of it will haunt all that follows in my life.
A candleflame in Tibet leans when I move.
- Mary Oliver
(via whiskey river)

Monday, July 10, 2006

What only a fictional character can say

Via the fabulous YouTube, a speech from Boston Legal that summarizes the tragic state of discourse and civil rights in America today, and reaffirms the notions of decency and open debate that have made this country great. Apparently too much for most politicians, so we leave it to the actors. I couldn't pick just one piece from the transcript, so spare the whole 5ish minutes to watch the whole thing...

Being For also means being Against

The subject line reads like a truism, but it's often one that gets overlooked, as when the majority reaffirms its own values or way of life, forgetting that some of those values may inherently close out a minority of the same populace. Ampersand has a fascinating discussion of this topic, using the terminology of Centering versus Othering to discuss the way that presuming a default can be the preface to discriminating against those that don't conform. He talks about the creepy case that I linked last week, in which a Jewish family was hounded out of their town for their objections to Christian content in their Delaware town's school system.
The anti-semitic bigotry which so many Christians in the Indian River School District began not with “Othering” - that is, with singling out Jews for treatment as deviants - but with “Centering” - organizing their town’s institutions to center on the assumption that being Christian is the default.

So, for instance, school vacations are called “Easter Vacation” and “Christmas Vacation,” rather than being called spring and winter breaks. School facilities were used for Bible Club, and Bible Club members were given special privileges (such as skipping to the head of the line in the school cafeteria). School board meetings and graduation ceremonies begin with invited ministers leading a prayer to Jesus.

None of the above acts are implicitly anti-Jewish, and all of them are things that many Christians might well decide to do even if there were no Jews (or any other non-Christians) around to discriminate against. These policies and acts reflect a belief that being Christian is a default state.
folks with viewsThus, in concept and intent, the "centering" activities may be in no way intended as aggressive toward non-believers, or as discriminatory in any way, but they set up an environment in which one set of beliefs is "normal" and others are automatically "abnormal" or even "wrong." It should then come as no surprise when challenges to the unspoken norm (even if based on law, rather than dogma) are seen as reactionary, misguided, and not worthy of respect or consideration. From there, the trip to alienation and violence is a very short one.

It's important to be aware of Centering precisely because it leads so inevitably to Othering, even when considered with no regard to motive.
The Christians of the Indian River School District don’t view themselves as anti-Semites aggressively chasing deviant Jews out of their nice Christian town (although that is what many of them in fact are). Many view themselves as victims of aggression; the ACLU, along with one local Jewish family, is attacking their right to live Christian lives. It is because these folks think their entitlement to worship is under attack that many of them have escalated their acts of Othering to such an extreme level.

But where does that sense of entitlement come from? It is only because of Centering that many Christians have confused their right to practice their religion with being entitled to have a Christian Paster open public meetings and ceremonies; only because of Centering that many Christians consider themselves entitled to take time off from class for Bible study, or to proselytize Christianity in the classroom. If society hadn’t taught them that they are the norm and others are deviants from the norm, then they wouldn’t feel so entitled to have every aspect of public life kow-tow to their religious beliefs.
This same clash of viewpoints comes up in the culture wars not only around religion, but around gender and race and around many other issues on which the "right" view is broadly assumed as given within some community. It's important that we be aware of what we can rightfully presume as shared ground, and that we avoid choices in public life that devalue a subset of our citizens to the point where they can no longer comfortably live among us.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Quote of the day

The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic.
Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black
(David Remnick's editorial in The New Yorker, July 10/17, 2006)

Friday, July 07, 2006

A little Friday escape

Art meets environment meets, um, game-like feel... (mostly atmospherics)
99 Rooms

(via Madalin at KoL)

What separation of powers?

Add to the list of Congressional powers that President Bush feels he can disregard the right to confirm candidates to high executive positions. They'll just hire the guy as a "consultant" until the Senate realizes that his past misdeeds don't disqualify him from overseeing the safety of our citizens. sheesh!!

Friday kittens

No big spread, just a little dose of kitteny snuggling. They can never get too much sleep, and I can never get too much of looking at them (or petting the pile)...

snuggle ball
(Pixel is 12 months and Pasha 10 in this shot)

Previous cat combos: doubles, power-napping, (return of themeless), (themeless), snuggles4, shower games, sun snuggles, sunbathing2, catnip!, twofers, sunbathers, posh lighting, treehouse, friends, snuggles2, more lounging, snuggles, Thanksgiving, cones, forms of love, lounging, more games, P&P wrestling, Pixel and Yogi, catspage

Lieberman shows his stripes

For those of you interested in the Connecticut Democratic primary, there was a big debate last night between Bush-hugger Lieberman and grassroots challenger Lamont. Joe, meet volcano...According to first reports, the difference in their experience showed, but so did Lieberman's petulance over this upstart, and his own rather iffy relationship to the truth. Check the link for debunking and analysis...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Now that's some camping gear!

Hit the wilds, but bring along your cup-o-cuteness!

Quote of the day

Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God's service when it is violating all his laws.
- John Adams,
2nd US president (1735-1826)
(via A.W.A.D.)

I thought that nuclear thing was creepy, but THIS

Warning: this could spoil your lunch. The completion of the Christofascist cult of the American right-wing. I... it... Hollywood couldn't have invented a more telling visual (for, I guess, this). ack.

(via Medley)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

This creeps me out

Nuclear test blasts of the 1950s visible in Los Angeles. Sounds like it might have been a spectator sport to watch the glow on the horizon. Shivver...

Just for the giggles

giggles!I don't know which of these Onion headlines amuses me the most:

New Starbucks Opens in Rest Room of Existing Starbucks

Blues Singer's Woman Permitted to Tell Her Side

although the expression on the face of the latter might just tip the scales.
"Only one man can taste my sweet potato pie, and I believe I have made it perfectly clear who that man is." Dobbs noted that the same policy applies to her biscuits, which may be buttered only by Jackson.
Them's some good giggles. Why choose?

A nation run by idiots

That's certainly how it seems if you hear Senator Stevens (of Alaska) explain the internet to his colleagues (more mockery here based on babbling here). All the more reason that we need legislators to listen to *us* (not just to huge telecom companies) in deciding about future regulation of the internet -- they don't understand it, and they're on the verge of breaking a marvelous system that's been working for some 10-15 years...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Priorities, redux

Yes, we're mighty concerned about America's safety, you betcha. Gotta keep an eye on everybody's phone calls, but no longer wasting the CIA's time worrying about that Bin Laden guy . . . Amazing.

Poem of the day

A dog barks
amid the sound of water;grass blades
Peach blossoms tinged by dew
take on a deeper tone.
In the dense woods
at times I see deer;
By the brook I hear no bells at noon.
Wild bamboos
divide the blue haze;
Tumbling waterfalls
hang from the green cliff.
No one can tell me where you are,
I lean against the pines.
- Li Po
(via whiskey river)


Lieberman, man of shifting loyalties (utilitarian, one might say).
This is an excellent parody.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Surprising few...

phonesOf course! the government only wants wiretapping ability to keep an eye on terrorists. Is your faith in that statement shaken at all by word that they were trying to get wiretap powers long before 9/11? sadly, the True Believers will probably respond that such powers would have prevented 9/11. sure.