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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Incontrovertible proof that IQ tests are horse poop

It is true beyond any shadow of a doubt (reasonable or otherwise) that IQ tests are bogus.  At least online IQ tests.  At least the one I took... (the following is from the e-mail I was sent):
Thank you for taking the IQ Test at www.IQTest.com.

We are confirming that your IQ Test score was: 160

Intelligence  Cognitive 

Interval Designation

40 - 55 Mentally disabled (< 1%)
55 - 70 Learning difficulty (2.3%)
70 - 85 Below average
85 - 115 Average (68%)
115 - 130 Gifted
130 - 145 Genius (2.3%)
145 - 160 Extraordinary genius (< 1%)
160+ "Unmeasurable" genius

My first observation is that I am way too much of a dumbfuck to be an "Extraordinary genius". Extraordinary dumbfuck perhaps...

My second, and perhaps more pressing, observation: how did test takers who are "Mentally disabled" manage to take the online IQ test in the first place? No disrespect to disabled people intended, but how many people with a 55 IQ know what to do with a mouse?...

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Our reign has gone on long enough

From the often inexplicable, usually hilarity-inducing Perry Bible Fellowship comes a sentiment I feel is often applicable to things here on earth...

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Why I feel good about being agnostic

In the past, when having discussions about faith, and I have said that I had no belief in anything supernatural, or "spiritual" as it is often called, someone told me that they felt sad for me that this world was all I believed in, that I was missing out on something greater. I've never felt that I was missing out on anything.

As far as I can tell, most people "believe" whatever it was their parents believed, because that's what they were taught to believe. Can a belief truly be called a belief if it was dictated to you? Others shift from belief to belief, looking for something that fits their world-view better. How mercurial belief can be: just because you don't like what a belief system implies means that you no longer believe it?

How much better and saner it seems to me to not have a belief system at all. To just believe the evidence of our senses and what reason and logic can tell us about the world. But what then of the "greater meaning"? How are we to make sense of the senselessness? To give meaning to the meaningless?
You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I'm not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here...

I don't have to know an answer.
I don't feel frightened by not knowing things,
by being lost in a mysterious universe
without any purpose,
which is the way it really is
as far as I can tell.
It doesn't frighten me.

Richard Feynman, 1981

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Writing update, continued

Tuesday night, just past midnight. 21,300+ words now. Entering an action / suspense / creepy (creepier) section of the story now. Ratcheting up the tension considerably, but still no questions answered for the reader. This part should be fun...

UPDATE: Saturday night, just before 1:00 AM Sunday morning... 23,600 words. Work's been a little slow because of the holiday and whatnot. I'm kind of enjoying the ride I'm being taken on. Not quite sure where it's going, but it feels pretty much right.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Conservative? Liberal? Republocrat? Demolican? No diff...

From the always insightful, clear, and convincing Anthony Gregory at LewRockwell.com, excerpts from his latest, Down With Left and Right:
The Republican and Democratic Parties have none of the virtues of the radical Left or hard-core Right, and most of the pitfalls. They don’t seek to abolish private property like the nuts on the Left, or, at least at this moment, wage total war on the entire Middle East, like some of the nuts on the Right want to. But they incrementally deliver the worst of the fringe brands of statism, even as they give us none of the antiauthoritarian inclinations you’d find on either side.

The two major parties are nearly identical. They govern from the center, pursuing the same policies with different rhetorical and aesthetic cloaks to disguise them. The Republicans build up the warfare-police-welfare state, dressed up in a way that dishonestly appears to honor tradition, national security, the family, and capitalism. The Democrats give us a welfare-warfare-police state that dishonestly appears to appeal to the values of equality, international humanitarianism, the working class, and liberal democracy.


The reality is this: the confused secular blue state socialist types are just as capable of right-wing warfare, when they’re in power, as the confused religious red state conservative folks, who are in turn just as capable of welfarism when they’re the ones in power. The problem is the power. I would argue that, right now, the Right is in fact more dangerous because they’re in power. Even the good Rightists become less of a check on government when the bad Rightists run the state.

But does it really mean anything to be on the Left or Right? Culturally, it might mean something, even a great deal. It might say something about one’s attitude toward homosexuality, immigration, abortion, gun ownership, prayer in schools, hunting, rock concerts, or diet. Politically, this often translates into bitter division over manufactured controversies, trivialities, and issues that shouldn’t be issues at all. Once the state gets involved, the two sides yell and scream at each other about whether the government should license homosexual marriages or teach Creationism in schools. From a purely principled point of view, most of these stakes, as artificially high as they have been raised by the political process, shouldn’t be cause for such resentment between people. If there were no government schools or government marriage licenses, the political issues surrounding them would disappear in an instant.


[T]hat’s the real difference, politically, between Left and Right these days. It’s become a stupid fight between tofu and rib eye, between rock music and country-western.

For those of us who like rib eye and rock music – or who prefer to have all these choices available – we have nowhere to go, at least in the established political spectrum. Let us work toward abolishing this preposterous Left/Right nonsense, and show the good people on both sides that they’re allying with their own enemies in a false battle, when instead they should be working with us to get the government to leave us alone so we can all pick our own meals, choose our own music, and pursue our own happiness in what precious little time we have in this world.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Writing update

Up to 16,500 words now. I had to take a little bit of a break between Friday and today, because I was at a point where I needed to regroup and figure out more exactly where I was going with things (plus the weekend is not great for writing). Back at word one, I had started with a vague couple of ideas of where I wanted things to go, then I just dove in and let things unfold as they would, without a clear map of how to get from here to there. It was going well, but now it needed to be consciously steered in a particular direction, so I was forced to create some landmarks to steer toward.

I'm being vague in specifics, I know, but I imagine that writers will understand what I'm doing in general. As a first-time novelist, I'm making it up as I go along, but I think I'm doing reasonably well, especially considering that I'd already implented most, if not all, of the creative writing tips I've culled from various places on the Internet before I read them.

Wish me luck, strength, and perseverence.

UPDATE (late Wednesday / early Thursday). Word count = 18215. Wish I wasn't so sleepy. I know where I'm going with things, but I simply need to crash now.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Quotes worth repeating — post-election edition part deux

Writing for the Baltimore Evening Sun on 26 July 1920, in an article entitled "Bayard vs. Lionheart" (and reprinted in the book On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe), H. L. Mencken opined cynically on the difficulties of good men reaching national office when such campaigns must necessarily be conducted remotely:
The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

Hat tip to Snopes for the quote.

The Circle of Entitlement

I can do no better than to directly quote LRC's Anthony Gregory, quoting Frederic Bastiat (Essays on Political Economy [1872]. "Government," pt. 3 [1846]):
Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Things women don't understand

So I'm trying to figure out a few small holiday gifts to buy for coworkers. Just token gifts really, nothing more than a few dollars. There's my boss (a man), my staff (two men, two women), and a couple of others (one man, one woman). And I ask my wife if she can think of any small thing to give to, let's say, my boss.

And the first thing she says is, "...you could always get a little candle..."

To which I reply, "Men don't buy other men candles."

I then mention that he likes tea, so maybe a mug and some gourmet tea. So she thinks a bit more and says "Yes, and you could fill the mug with candy..."

At which point, I interrupt her with, "MEN DON'T BUY OTHER MEN CANDY!"

The things women don't understand...

Friday, November 12, 2004

The FCC: Arbitrary and Capricious (oh wait, the same applies to the whole government)

Responding to the decision by certain ABC affiliates to not air Saving Private Ryan, since they have no way of knowing if the FCC will slap fines on them (and the FCC won't tell them, because they say to make a prior decision would be censorship. What??), here is the final paragraph from a column by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at the Liberty and Power blog:
But you can't force anybody to be moral. Genuinely moral choices are moral because they are choices, not decisions forced on people at the point of a gun. The precondition of any moral revolution is a simple maxim, one that must serve as a basic minimum for any rational discussion of values: "Leave your guns outside." As Ayn Rand said in For the New Intellectual, even people who disagree over the nature, function, and purpose of moral values must stop equating "the power of physical compulsion with the power of persuasion." That's not likely to happen, however, as long as groups, of whatever value orientation—be they right-wing religious fundamentalists or left-wing "secular" do-gooders—choose to ram their agendas down our throats.

Comic strip writers are the new philosophers

From the latest Dilbert newsletter:
Highly intelligent and well-informed people disagree on every political issue. Therefore, intelligence and knowledge are useless for making decisions, because if any of that stuff helped, then all the smart people would have the same opinions.

So use your "gut instinct" to make voting choices. That is exactly like being clueless, but with the added advantage that you’ll feel as if your random vote preserved democracy.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The two most important amendments in the Bill of Rights

People often discuss the importance of the amendments in the Bill of Rights (for those who are unaware, I am referring to the first ten Amendments to the U. S. Constitution).

To many, the First Amendment is the most important, as it (supposedly) prevents the government from infringing upon the rights of the people to freedom of speech, religion, and assembly, and prevents the government from making any laws "respecting an establishment of religion".

Other people believe the Second Amendment is most important, because a government which can disarm us leaves us no ability to protect ourselves, or the Fourth Amendment (no unreasonable searches or seizures), or the Fifth Amendment (due process guarantee, no requirement to testify against oneself).

However, I personally believe that the Ninth and Tenth Amendments are truly the most important and most far reaching of all of them:
Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

I will post more at length when I have more time, but these two very short statements say, quite clearly:

Amendment IX: The people have far more rights than those listed in the Constitution. Just because a right is not listed in the Constitution or in an Amendment doesn't mean that it's not a right. So all those who would say that some particular thing (e.g., privacy) is not a Constitutionally protected right, are dead wrong. The people have many more rights (perhaps infinitely more) than are written down. It's up to the legislative and judicial branches of the government to decide what may or may not be a right at any given time.

Amendment X: The US Government may only do what the Constitution gives it the power to do. Congress may not make laws which fall outside the bounds of the powers given to it in Article I of the Constitution; the President is constrained to only those powers listed in Article II (very limited powers, actually); and the Judiciary is likewise limited by Article III. The states may make laws outside these restrictions, but the Federal government may not.

It's a shame that so few people really understand how little power the government was given by the founders, and how much power it has simply grabbed for itself, some would say illegally.

People also seldom realize that our rights are not granted individually by the Constitution and Bill of Rights, but rather the Ninth Amendment explicitly says that we have far more rights than could ever been written into any Amendments.

The people do have the power. When will they realize it?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

NaNoWriMo? No.

I have nothing against the concept or participants in the National Novel Writing Month effort, but it just wasn't for me. It was interesting and coincidental that I had started writing my own novel shortly before NaNoWriMo started, before I had ever heard of it. I am now about two weeks and thirteen thousand words into my effort, which I guesstimate will run somewhere around 100,000 words. For all those first time novelists out there: keep up the good work, and stay motivated. I'm striving to do the same.

UPDATE: 11/10/2004, slightly after midnight... another evening's worth of work, another thousand words. Seems like the thousand-word-per-day target is a good number. Just passed the 14,000 word mark, and I'm calling it a night.

UPDATE: 11/11/2004, once again slightly after midnight... I had to push myself, but I pounded out another thousand words. Just past 15,000 words now. The plot is introducing more and more complications, but is it going anywhere interesting? The wife, who has been reading it as I've been writing, says she's definitely intrigued and wants to know what happens, and this definitely isn't a genre she's interested in, so I guess I'm doing ok...

UPDATE: 11/12/2004... unfortunately couldn't write any more of the story tonight. I had to take a step back and actually outline what I've done so far. I've introduced many plot points already, and I have to be able to keep track of them and make sure they form a coherent whole. I don't believe that every thread needs to necessarily run somewhere (red herrings can be good things), however, everything that happens should at least be consistent.

Quotes worth repeating — Assault on Fallujah edition

H. L. Mencken:
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
Firmness in decision is often merely a form of stupidity. It indicates an inability to think the same thing out twice.

Why you never want to live in a true democracy

From a very good article by one of my favorite writers over at LRC: "Liberals Should Face The Truth About Democracy" by Anthony Gregory
Democracy is, in its purest and least corrupted form, the majority suppressing the will of the minority.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Bush voters = stupid little Hitlers???

Sheldon Richman, at the Liberty and Power blog:
I didn’t vote on Tuesday, and I wouldn’t have voted for George W. Bush if I had. But this doesn’t keep me from being revolted by how the left-socialist pundits and cultural elite are interpreting the election results.


I would disagree with the typical Bush voter on many things. Nevertheless I am confident that he is not an intolerant, racist, gay-bashing, theocratic fascist. This voter most likely supports the war in Iraq not because he’s a neocon neo-imperialist, but because the Bush administration effectively and subtly, albeit cynically, tied it to the attacks of 9/11. This voter opposes abortion not because he wishes to see women subjugated, but because he believes that fetuses are rights-bearing persons. This voter opposes government funding of stem-cell research (something any libertarian opposes) not because he fears scientific advancement, but for reasons similar to his reasons for opposing abortion. This voter wants the U.S. Constitution changed to outlaw expanding the word “marriage” to include gay people, but he doesn’t want them marched to death camps or even stripped of civil liberties in lesser ways. Etc., etc., etc.

As I said, I disagree with these positions (except the one on tax-funded stem-cell research; I oppose tax-funded anything). Nevertheless, in my view America is not in the grip of Christian totalitarians or even authoritarians.


The red-staters are not libertarians (although they share some of our positions), but we have less to fear from them than we have from the secular left, which would impose legal and chemical straitjackets on us in the name of mental and physical hygiene, this is, science.

We should be able to disagree and make our case without demonizing our opponents in extreme and repugnant terms. Much of the left-socialist analysis of the election discredits the analysts, not the red-state voters.

This is not a great time for libertarians, but the dark ages are by no means descending on America, regardless of what Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, E. J. Dionne, Michael Moore, Barbra Streisand, and their worn-out statist ilk may think.

*** UPDATE *** Lest anyone think I am calling Bush supporters "stupid little Hitlers", please re-read the article more closely. I am, in fact, questioning those who would use such a label.

Everyone falls into one of two categories

Either you're the type of person who groups people into one of two categories, or...

Anyway, here's an incomplete list of categories of blogs I've come across over at BlogExplosion:

  • Mommy blogs
  • Knitting blogs (knitting blogs? yes, knitting blogs)
  • Political blogs
    • Replublicans and/or Conservatives, gloating
    • Democrats and/or Liberals whining and/or not understanding how 59MM people could be so stupid
    • Marginal, non party affiliated types, saying "a pox on both your houses"
  • Humorous (or attempted humorous) blogs
  • Random, "this is what I did today", LiveJournal-type blogs
  • Photo blogs (probably my favorite unexpected discovery (the more artistic ones, not the ones which have half a dozen pictures of their kids or cats))
  • A smattering of business blogs
About 1/3 of these have listed the results of a "What kind of <category> are you?" poll, with related graphic. Are you a "Pundit Blogger", or a "Life Blogger"? Which character on South Park are you? Which type of cheese are you? Ok, I didn't really see that one, but you would have believed me, admit it.

Interestingly, before November 1, I had seen a bunch of bloggers writing about the imminent National Novel Writing Month, wherein participants were supposed to write a 50,000 word novel within the span of a month. Here is part of their credo, from nanowrimo.org:
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over talent and craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

Yup, you read right. Just go out and spew drivel. Feel good about it. Garbage is good. Hey, you'll be in good company; *all* the participants will be writing crap!

Sorry, but if and when I end up writing something, I'm not going to give myself an aritificial deadline just to force myself to put out something. But good luck with that.

The amusing thing is that since the official time period started (Nov. 1), I haven't seen much actual writing. I mean, aren't people supposed to be publishing their, um, stuff, up here in the blogosphere, so all the others can feel good about themselves also?

Just a passing observation, thassall...

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Quotes worth repeating — post-election edition

H.L. Mencken:
Democracy is the theory that the people know what they want and deserve to get it – good and hard.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Jesusland vs. United States of Canada

This is making the rounds. Seen it in a few places already.

What it means when "morals" was the #1 issue for voters

From Adam Young at LRC:
Already the House Democractic Minority Leader Nanci Pelosi gave an interview in which she let us know how her political career has been inspired by the Gospel of Matthew.

Is this America's future?

How far has this country moved from what someone whose pseudonym includes the terms "Agnosto" and "Libertarian" would enjoy, when both parties espouse total state power, and now one of the most screamingly-kooky-liberal Democrats is singing praises to Jeezus?

Is there a country anywhere on earth where the government recognizes that it is neither the economic nor the moral savior of the people? Anyone? Bueller?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Does death matter any more?

From Thomas DiLorenzo over at LRC:
I was listening to a Washington, D.C. radio station this morning that has a neocon talk show host who was just gushing over Bush's victory with all of his callers. One caller struck me as especially absurd and surreal. She was the wife of an army officer stationed in the D.C. area. She said she was in such a good mood she was going to pack up the kids in the car and drive over to Arlington National Cemetery because , 'we have some friends buried there who died in Iraq.' She then said, 'I'm going to put flowers on their graves and tell them Congratulations! Our man won!'

Can it possibly get more stomach turning?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Meet the new boss...

From Chriss Matthew Sciabarra at History News Network
The President, with a Republican House, and a firmer Republican majority in the Senate, is on his way. He's won a 51% majority of the votes cast and is in the process of squeaking out an Electoral College victory. He is also a social conservative who has disowned fiscal responsibility, a free-wheeling big spender, who has yet to veto a single bill, and who will extend the welfare state domestically and abroad, as he continues to forge a nation-building crusade to bring 'democracy' to the Middle East. At the expense of American taxpayers and American lives. All in the name of a 'War on Terror' that has been damaged seriously by his Iraq adventure.

In other words: Everything today is pretty much as it was yesterday.

God help us.

Monday, November 01, 2004

How? Why?

How can anyone read this article and still believe in any kind of god?

A loving and kind god would allow this to happen? Bullshit.

Everything happens for a reason? Bullshit.
The Riddle of Epicurus
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

The devil is the only cause of evil? Isn't god omnipotent? Couldn't he prevent horrors like this from happening if he wanted to? Then he must not want to. He must have a "reason" for allowing this to happen. I can not accept the "goodness" or "higher purpose" of any god who would allow something like this (or any other horrible thing) to happen to a child.

I have higher standards than that.