Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Now this is funny!

H/T Michelle Malkin. The Washington Times reports that Mexican ambassadors are pleading for changes in planned border fencing not only to allow animals to wander freely, but also to allow birds, pollen, insects, and even water to flow freely. Now I understand the animals bit, but unless you make the fence about a mile high, exactly how are you going to prevent pollen, insects, and birds from going over it, and water from flowing through the cracks? Exactly why would any decent civil engineer place fence posts in a place where running water would undermine the concrete footings? They're also claiming that radars will interfere with nocturnal species; exactly how is this possible?

Methinks Mexico City is thinking more of the "safety valve" for their failed economic policies than the environment here.

How not to learn about genre

Many thanks for a couple of good hints from posters on my post from last week. Here are some ways you can torpedo any serious attempt at learning real genre in music.

1. Make sure that whatever classics you listen to are heavily edited and abridged--think of either the prelude to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony or Also sprach Zarathustra as used in commercials.

2. Make sure that singers and instrumentalists are in over their heads. There is nothing like a screechy soprano or a dropped harmony line from Lohengrin's march to the bridal chamber (bridal march) to drive you back to a well-played 12 bar blues-based praise chorus in a comfortable alto/baritone range.

3. Confuse "number of singers and instrumentalists" and "number if distinct parts to be played" with "musicality."

4. If you must go to a concert where talented musicians are playing music well, rent a tux. Polyester and Corfam shoes will have you fidgeting so much, you won't be able to listen to the music.

Any other suggestions?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Random vacation thoughts

Black is not a good color for a roof, especially in a cabin without an attic fan. It's the difference between having the interior ten degrees hotter than outside at dinnertime, and ten degrees cooler than outside at dinnertime. (when compared with light gray roof)

It's very interesting that exhibits about Judy Garland in Grand Rapids, MN (where she grew up) mention with outrage the theft of a pair of her ruby slippers a few years back, but not the theft of her life--MGM gave her (and other stars) amphetamines to keep her going during filming, and barbiturates at night to be able to sleep. She struggled with, and eventually died from, those very drugs.

I saw some posters that cited noted automotive engineer Ralph Nader's claims that you could make vehicle like the Ford Explorer get 34mpg, and that you could make 45mpg family cars that get good crash test scores. Oddly, they didn't tell us which evil corporation (not "company," thanks for the correction, Shawn) was making these cars. I bet a lot of people would spend an extra $1000 for such a vehicle, and the evil corporation that did it would make a mint.

Friday, July 20, 2007

On Genre

I'll start with a humiliating confession; Sandi Patti drove me to listen to heavy metal when I was a young believer. Skeeter Joe can confirm this, and Mark probably can as well. Now nothing against her personally, but she and other CCM artists, as well as many in the "evangelical" and "fundamental" music scenes, did not exactly present a compelling case for me to abandon Van Halen and such. Quite a few of my friends, including one of the guys who led me to Christ, stuck with Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin instead of CCM.

Why? Sad to say, I've become persuaded that the vast majority of CCM artists--not to mention most of us in church--haven't developed a very good sense of genre. Most CCM "metal" comes across as nasal and wimply--and the one band I can think of that doesn't fell into apostasy. CCM "pop" comes across as simply saccharine. Worship music comes off, in general, as anything but worshipful. CCM "rap"?

Well, thank goodness they don't get THAT genre "right." ;^) In general, , though, CCM is like that sweet potato and marshmallow dish they serve at Thanksgiving; appealing to kids to a degree, but utterly sickening to anyone with taste.

Not that my youthful music choices were anything to brag about, obviously, but believers have some work to do here. How to start?

Might be good to start at the CD player with some Bach or Handel, or Beethoven & Mozart.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pornography and crime

According to the New York Times, 85% of those imprisoned for possession of child pornography also admitted molesting children. (H/T Brothers Bayly) Now, granted, there are some methodological caveats to this study, but one thing perplexes me.

How does anyone fail to realize that visual media are powerful in modifying behavior? When Madison Avenue makes billions by cleverly connecting a pretty girl with a product, how is it that people think that the portrayal of another pretty girl (or whatever) somehow does not affect behavior? I don't agree with Michael Medved on everything, but he nails this.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Memo to Harry Reid

When you belong to a religion that forbids you to have a cup of coffee to keep awake(Mormonism), don't try to pull an all-nighter with those who can. Just a hint.

(you can file this one with "don't fight a land war in Asia" and "don't have a drinking contest with a motorcycle gang")

Keith Ellison's comments about the President

Evidently certain portions of the political world are outraged that Keith Ellison, the first Muslim Congressman, has compared Bush's policies to Hitler's burning of the Reichstag building and imposition of dictatorial law on Germany. While outrage at the comparison of republican government to the start of the Holocaust is certainly justified, one factor seems to have been largely ignored.

Specifically, it's a known fact that Mein Kampf is a best-seller in many Muslim lands, and that in Iran, they even had a Holocaust denial conference at which Neo-Nazis were quite welcome.

Knowing this, were Ellison's comments an insult, or a clumsy attempt at a compliment? :^)

(seriously, I have no reason to suggest that Ellison is a Nazi, but he has kept company with some who are)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Want an example?

....of Ph.D.s who do not appear to have darkened the door of a logic class? Here you go: notice that the main point made by global warming advocates is "consensus." In informal logic, that's the fallacy of "appeal to authority", as well as what we learned as the "bandwagon effect" in detecting propaganda.

On another note, here are some toys that I don't want my kids to have. Sorry, but this comes perilously close to blasphemy, IMO.

Oy Vay!

My wife informed me last night that the teachers' guide to a popular home school grammar text read like a tax form. I opened it, and YIKES was she right. It brought back memories of grammar in school, where that subject represented a few weeks of unmitigated torture, and its end was a blessed respite from the same.

Why exactly the teaching of grammar is such torture for most kids is beyond me. Although English does suffer from being a "mongrel" language, our grammar is actually simpler than that of a lot of languages.

Maybe it has something to do with our failure to grasp "genre." Drawn away from real literature by schools that are training kids for factory jobs that no longer exist, are we failing to realize that a simple concept like grammar does not need to look like the IRS's desperate attempt to codify the ramblings of 535 drunks?

Apparently. Mrs. Bubba and I are hoping that someone else agrees, and we're hoping to find something better. Thank God for the choice!

Monday, July 16, 2007

A very depressing comment

Someone whose name shall be withheld to protect the guilty made a comment to me on another site. He claimed that science does not depend on logic, but rather on evidence, evidently oblivious to the fact that determining whether data constitute evidence requires logic.

This is what you get, I guess, when you can get a Ph.D. without ever darkening the door of a class on formal or informal logic. Sigh. Many have degrees, fewer are educated.

Update & clarification: It may or may not be the case with the "guilty party." However, if you can get a Ph.D. without logic, where does that leave the rest of us? It's not a pretty thought.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A neat point about science, and education

First, an Aussie earth science and geology professor notes some of the difficulties with global warming theory. Yes, he's not a "climatologist" per se, but he illustrates some big method issues with the current science.

The biggest problem is at the roots; science, properly speaking, does not know of "consensus" or "authority," but is (when done correctly) rather anarchistic and proceeds on its logic and evidence. His article also gets down to certain issues with the evidence backing the theory, but a chief complaint is that when someone talks about "consensus" here, the history of science indicates that they're no longer doing science, but rather politics.

Next, I last night finished this book by Oliver Van DeMille. More or less, it's an endorsement of the classical method, but with a twist; he argues that some version of the Prussian three tier schooling system (workers, tradesmen, leaders) is necessary for a healthy society. Although certainly we need plumbers and electricians, just as certainly these plumbers and electricians are allowed to vote, and I'd really prefer that they know the basics of grammar, logic, and rhetoric when they're making their decisions. The classical education model is not just for leaders, but rather for everyone.

He also curiously downplays the role of religion, much in the same way Gary Ezzo does in "Babywise." I suspect the reason is that he doesn't want his readers to immediately figure out he's a Mormon. (Ezzo is not, however)

Finally, I was a bit "put off" by the insistence on leadership instead of liberty; the liberal arts are the intellectual capabilities and habits of a free man, not necessarily one in authority over others. Sadly, there are too many examples of those trained in the liberal arts/classical education who have used their knowledge to enslave fellow men. We really don't need to implicitly or explicitly encourage them in this.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Good news!

Looks like the Chinese government has cracked down and forbidden diethelene glycol in toothpaste. Now, as someone who doesn't speak or read Chinese, I can't comment on the law's specificity or scope, but my immediate thoughts are:

1. Does this mean that other poisons are still allowed in toothpaste, and that DEG can still be used in other foods and such?

2. Isn't it stunning that someone had to pass a law to stop toothpaste makers from putting a known poison into their product?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Two interesting links

...about the data fueling global warming theory. H/T Douglas Wilson's weblog and his contributors.

First, here's a link that demonstrates that the "heat island" effect is not exactly eliminated from the calculations of scientists on the IPCC. Apparently, it's not entirely unknown for sensors to be located near such heat sources as burn barrels, pavement, vehicle radiators, sewage treatment plants, and air conditioner exhausts.

Second, here's a link that demonstrates that it's not only Mars, but also Neptune, that is experiencing global warming that correlates well with the warming seen on our planet. I'll expect this to make the first page of the next IPCC report, of course.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Live Earth Concert, and life on Antarctica

Probably all of you are bummed that you weren't able to attend the "Live Earth" concert, and somehow ended up watching "Gilligan's Island" instead of the live broadcast of it as well. Well, fear not, since National Review has come up with a play by play review of the concert. Apparently, we all did well to reduce our carbon footprints by neither attending nor watching.

One interesting bit was about a band that performed from the "Ice Continent." For the full interview--and a link to the book--you can visit the article at "Modern Drunkard" magazine. If there is a shred of truth to this article (Mark?), one must ponder what the median BAC for the researchers is when they record their work, as well as whether the recent melting of portions of the ice shelf derives not from global warming, but rather from spills of liquor during parties.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Bible on perjury

Normally I clearly advocate the punishment of perjury, but the prosecutions of Scooter Libby and Martha Stewart indicate clearly to me that something is way out of hand. Put gently, there is something amiss when a persecutor (oops, prosecutor) spends years of his life trying to prove that someone lied to the court, but there is no other crime to be investigated.

To find out exactly what is wrong, let's go to the Scriptures and see how Moses defines the punishment of perjury in Deut. 19:16-19. The "meat" of the passage:

If the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you.

In other words, if a witness' words are not relevant to the prosecution of a crime or resolution of a civil action, the Torah offers no punishment for perjury apart from conscience and the wrath of God. I dare suggest we should listen to both the Bible and Blackstone and remember that without motive, there is no crime.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A good picture of baseball

Although I, having grown up rooting for the Cubbies, am loath to admit this, I must salute Cardinals (sigh) shortstop David Eckstein, who draws a beautiful picture of what baseball and sports is supposed to be all about. Apparently not the most physically gifted of players (I can associate), he makes up for it by more or less out-hustling the competition.

Not a bad analogy for faith and life, really. Visit a ballpark sometime, and watch. More often than not, you'll see tremendously gifted people being outhustled and outplayed by people who really want to be there.


Evidently, Al Gore III was caught speeding--with illegal drugs--at 100mph in his Prius. While I don't condone the apparent drug use, I do salute the fact that, unlike his father, he's actually sacrificing something for the environment by driving a hybrid. I also am impressed that a Prius can do 100mph. Early versions were said to top out at about 75mph.

On the other hand, somehow I don't think that a Prius gets good mileage at 100mph. I'd guess about 20mpg or so--air resistance goes as the square of speed, so if you get ~40mpg at 75mph, it's not going to be pretty at 100mph. So maybe he wasn't doing so much for the environment after all.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happiness is...

...two skinny tires at 90psi, going 15-20mph, and pushing out the day that I might need blood pressure and cholesterol medication. I'd also guess that my bicycle fares slightly better in crash tests than the latest car from China. No, the passenger compartment is not supposed to collapse in a 40mph crash. Ouch.

Seeing that, along with melamine in food products, seafood grown in untreated sewage, antifreeze in toothpaste, and so on, makes me wonder exactly why we're continuing to grant them normal trading status. Might be a good idea to tax Chinese imports so we could make sure they're safe before letting them into the country.

Monday, July 02, 2007

What is being proved

....when specialists in a given area make the claim that "the science is settled" or "just trust us on this one"? Contemplate this in light of the basic scientific (and logical) principle of reproducibility; a good researcher provides, in his communication, the tools that a skeptic or other interested party can use to duplicate his results.

So the specialist here is more or less denying the principle of reproducibility by doing this, showing himself to be not a scientist or even an educated man, but rather a technician--even if sporting a Ph.D. and status as a full professor.

This is something to watch out for in any academic setting, I dare say. It's all too easy to achieve the highest academic and professional credentials and yet be utterly uneducated.