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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Lyrics in my head

Vapor Trail
Lyrics by Neil Peart
Music by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson
Performed by Rush
From the album Vapor Trails

Stratospheric traces of our transitory flight
Trails of condensation held
In narrow paths of white
The sun is turning black
The world is turning gray
All the stars fade from the night
The oceans drain away

Horizon to horizon
Memory written on the wind
Fading away like an hourglass, grain by grain
Swept away like voices in a hurricane

In a vapor trail

Atmospheric phases make the transitory last
Vaporize the memories that freeze the fading past
Silence all the song birds
Stilled by the killing frost
Forests burn to ashes
Everything is lost

Washed away like footprints in the rain

In a vapor trail

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Crustaceans: A Love Story

It was a summer while I was in college, far too many years ago to comfortably admit. I was spending the evening with my friends Dave and Craig. Our usual mode of entertainment was intoxication, far more often than not choosing cannabis. One aspect of entertaining ourselves in this way was finding an interesting location to consume our intoxicant of choice for the evening.

It was probably I who suggested the particular beach we ended up driving to. Dave was unfamiliar with the area, and Craig, while local, lived further from this beach than I -- it was mostly known only to those in the immediate neighborhood.

We drove to the beach, but the parking lot was closed at this late hour, while the beach itself was open. We parked on the street just outside the gate and walked in. Whoever was providing the material for this evening's entertainment broke out the joints, and we wandered about, passing them between us in the standard ritualistic manner.

We walked idly on the sand, laughing, joking, just being silly and juveline, as a group of stoned college students will, when one of us pointed off to a spot in the sand a distance away. One of us identified it as a horseshoe crab. Interesting. I had never seen a horseshoe crab in nature before. Possibly I'd never seen one at all.

A moment later, we noticed that there was... another horseshoe crab on the sand. And another. And a small group of them. And, my god, a larger pile, a heap of them on the sand, right at the water line. They moved slowly, but when moving, they appeared to be digging themselves further into their heap. There were dozens of these prehistoric, alien looking creatures, engaging in we knew not what. Looking into the water, we saw that there were many more there, possibly hundreds. And floating in the water was... a scum? a film? Something which was not usually there.

We realized that what we must have been witnessing was a horseshoe crab orgy. None of us had, of course, ever heard of such a thing, but what else could this be? Was this a once a year mating ritual that we had happened upon?

Needless to say, to three stoned individuals, this was a fascinating sight. We watched it, transfixed, for what felt like hours. The heaps of crustaceans heaved and undulated, individual crabs entering or leaving the water, joining or abandoning piles for unknown reasons. Were they both sexes or just one? Was there a single female at the center of each heap, enjoying the attentions of many partners?

Unfortunately, there was no marine biologist nearby whom we could question, so we left with our assumptions as to what we had just witnessed, and sooner or later we each forgot about it.

I don't know what caused me to think about this particular episode, but thank goodness for Google.

Friday, May 27, 2005

British Medical Experts Campaign for Long, Pointy Knife Control

Yes, that is the actual title of the NY Times article. The would-be nannies edge closer and closer to self-parody all the time.
The authors of an editorial in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal have called for knife reform. The editorial, 'Reducing knife crime: We need to ban the sale of long, pointed kitchen knives,' notes that the knives are being used to stab people as well as roasts and the odd tin of Spam.

Cinder blocks next on the list for banning? How about large, iron, anvils? Those always seemed to knock Wile E. Coyote for a loop.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

There may be hope for me

From Reason's Hit and Run:
[I]n the U.S., "A study announced Tuesday estimates that a record 195,000 new works came out in 2004, a 14 percent jump over the previous year and 72 percent higher than in 1995." There was a big increase in the number of adult-fiction titles published...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I, Unbeliever

As attested to by the "Agnosto" portion of my blog title, I am a non-believer in things deity-related. I was checking out some of the (depressingly light) traffic which has come to my site, and one of the search terms which led here had something to do with secular humanism, and pointed to this post of mine. One of the other pages which came up under the same search results was, not surprisingly, at secularhumanism.org -- a great article concerning ten myths about secular humanism.

In my travels around Google with this search, I found myself coming upon the source of one of my favorite non-believer quotes:
I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

       -- Stephen F Roberts

I love that one.

Monday, May 23, 2005

I was coerced into doing this blog-quiz-thingie

Ruth, are you really going to force me to do this thing? Note that out of protest, I refuse to call this a meme.

Ten things I've never done
  1. Driven a spike through my brain via any mechanism
  2. Independently derived the Schrodinger wave equation or built a working temporal displacement device (aka a time machine)
  3. Won the electoral vote (or the popular vote) for President of the United States
  4. Run an international drug-smuggling ring or foiled an international drug-smuggling ring.
  5. Tattooed "Honk if you love liverwurst" across my forehead (in mirror-writing, naturally)
  6. Driven on the wrong side of the road (New Zealand-style) through the Holland Tunnel during rush hour
  7. Enslaved an entire nation's population
  8. Mocked Kim Jong Il to his face, while enjoying a tasty fondue
  9. Published a travelogue detailing the pros and cons of the noteworthy garbage dumps in the western hemisphere (the ones in the eastern hemisphere are obviously superior)
  10. Had MTV visit my "crib"
Sigh... life is too short.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

What's a shrimp cot?

Permanent enshrinement in the Hall of Fame for Useless Trivia for he or she who can correctly identify the source of the question listed in this post title. Bonus points for the correct answer.

Hints to the solution of this puzzle may be found hidden in this blog like undigested corn in a turd.

How should Ann Coulter be treated?

Does everyone know who Ann Coulter is? Is she just a U.S. phenomenon? Well, anyway, she's a very conservative (in the neo-con sense) columnist who essentially takes the view that anyone not in line with the Republican talking points is a traitor. She's also mildly Ok looking, with long, aggressively blonde hair. It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that she is a polarizing writer.

Well, OMFG, if you want to soil your linens laughing, check this out. I think it's not too much of a stretch to call it fan fiction.

Warning: not for the faint of heart or easily offended.

Things I don't care about

Having read postings in various places recently, I've been inspired to create my own new list:

Things I don't care about:
  • Your sexual exploits
  • How cool your car is
  • Who won the game last night, or which team's prospects are best
  • Which celebrities are dating / getting married / getting divorced / having children
  • How much money you spent on anything (unless it's something I'm considering purchasing as well and need the info). You may be bragging about what a bargain you got, or how expensive your purchase was. I don't care either way.
  • What happened on the latest episode of Survivor, The Apprentice, The Bachelor, American Idol, etc.
  • How many grams of fat are in the ice cream I'm eating. If I'm eating ice cream, isn't it obvious that I don't care about the fat?
Your nominations are welcome.

The Ideal Randian State

...by Anthony Gregory. ALTG commentary to come.

...or maybe not. The essay can easily stand on its own merits without any of my blathering.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Brushes with fame

Anthony Gregory is a columnist who writes for Lew Rockwell, Strike The Root, and other libertarian / anarchist organizations. I've e-mailed him in the past to praise him for specific columns that he's written, and he's always been very gracious in his responses. I had occasion to e-mail him last night, to inform him of some traffic related to him that had come to my site, and since I was logged into Yahoo Messenger at the time, he IM'd me to discuss what I had e-mailed him.

He's a very cool dude. We talked for a few hours (until I had to beg off to go to bed), mostly, naturally, about things political: the various strains of libertarianism and anarchism, some interesting writers, the types of research he's doing now, and so on.

I rarely write to people whose columns I've read. If I do, usually the best response I get is a cordial Thank You, if any response at all. I just wanted to give props to a dude who, in addition to writing some excellent material, is just a nice guy, despite his well-deserved fame.

Monday, May 16, 2005

They're not memes, dammit!

So bloggers have these cutesy little things they pass around to one another which they've taken to calling memes. They're usually quizzes of some sort, things like "50 things I found in my utility drawer" or "What kind of cheese sauce are you? You're Roquefort!"

"Meme" is a term which was invented by Richard Dawkins in his wonderful book The Selfish Gene.Mr. Dawkins has written numerous books on evolution, and has been attacked by defenders of creationism and/or intelligent design for his unabashed atheism and disdain for "alternate" theories (i.e. religious ones). That's a blog posting for another time. He invented the term meme as analagous to genes, in that memes were units of cultural heredity. The analogy is (in my mind) a bit strained, but in any event, memes refer, in the general sense, to ideas that can pass from one mind to another. The theme from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, a catch phrase from Seinfeld, or the idea of "god", are all examples of memes.

I'm sorry, and perhaps I'm being too easily annoyed right now, but these little blog things don't constitute memes in my opinion. They're not self-contained ideas that propagate themselves almost as if they had their own will. They're quizzes, damnit.

Ok, fine, so I'm being ridiculous. Do you really think I care?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Intelligent science humor

It should come as no surprise to my loyal throngs of readers (no, not my readers' thongs, get your mind out of the gutter), that I am something of a geek. Check the moniker -- it's up there.

Anyway, I came across a brilliant series of blog postings entitled "A Brief Brief History of Time" (borrowing from Stephen Hawking's similarly-titled book). LiveJournal poster QueenNell has put together a thoroughly enjoyable yet thoroughly accurate history of science. Numerous smiles have been plastered on my face upon reading these postings. The fact that it is peppered with Anglo slang makes it even more amusing to me.

Here's a brief sample that doesn't come close to doing it justice -- you really need to read complete entries. From Chatper 2, "How I Stopped Worrying About Absolute Time and Learned to Love Relativity"
Aristotle: *waves* Hi kids. Me again.

The Universe: And what are you going to get wrong this time?

Aristotle: Well, I was thinking about bodies.

Mrs Aristotle: *twats Aristotle one with ancient Greek handbag* And I bet they weren’t mine, eh?

Aristotle: STFU, darling. Anyway, I meant bodies as in objects. I was thinking that stuff should only move when you move it, and stay still the rest of the time.

Mrs Aristotle: *makes crazy signs at Aristotle* Yes? Isn’t that kinda obvious?

The Universe: *jumps up and down* OMG! You are so far out it’s not even funny!

Aristotle: And that when you drop a heavy thing, it should fall faster than a light thing.

Mrs Aristotle: Is that it? That’s a whole drachma’s worth of philosophy?

Aristotle: Quality ideas them, don’t get many of them to the pound.

The Universe: *sighs and gives up on Aristotle*

Brilliant stuff. My link up above will bring you to the table of contents for her ten chapters, of which I've only gone through six so far. Or you can go straight to chapter one.

Anyone who's interested in a history of science which is more accessible than A Brief History of Time should consider Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Timothy Ferris.It is concerned more exclusively with astronomy and astrophysics than science in general, but Ferris is a wonderful writer and really brings to life the process by which humanity learned its place in the universe.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

They love me in New Zealand

...and I love them right back. Even though I'm in the US, seventy eight percent of my visitors come from NZ. I owe this, I'm sure, to Chaos Theory. Ruth, you have a great blog, and thanks for the readers you send over my way.

Shrines to oneself

Why do people surround themselves with pictures of themselves?

There is a woman with whom I work indirectly, whose cubicle I pass fairly frequently. It may or may not matter that this woman is a rather buxom lass who dresses to accentuate her ample assets. Not in a slutty fashion but definitely in a noticeable fashion. Her cubicle is adorned with photos of herself in various settings. Photos with groups of friends, photos with groups of guys, a photo of her in her halloween costume (Catwoman!). In all, there are perhaps ten photos plastered around her cube. Large, 8x10 printouts.

Now, I have a few photos on my desk. My wedding photo, and a few of my kids. Personally, I don't want to look at photos of myself. I can understand wanting to have photos of people who mean something to me, but to surround oneself with (many) pictures of oneself just seems odd to me. Is she doing it for herself, or is she doing it to show off to the rest of us? I wonder if she has many pictures of herself at home.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Red State Bestialists

I owe the hat tip for this one to Reason's Hit and Run. There's little I need to say, other than to quote the article on News Hounds extensively:
Last night, anti-abortion extremist Neal Horsley was a guest on The Alan Colmes Show, a FOX News radio program. The topic was an interesting one - whether or not an internet service provider should allow Horsley to post the names of abortion doctors on his website. Horsley does that as a way of targeting them and one doctor has been killed. In the course of the interview, however, Colmes asked Horsley about his background, including a statement that he had admitted to engaging in homosexual and bestiality sex.

At first, Horsley laughed and said, "Just because it's printed in the media, people jump to believe it."

"Is it true?" Colmes asked.

"Hey, Alan, if you want to accuse me of having sex when I was a fool, I did everything that crossed my mind that looked like I..."

AC: "You had sex with animals?"

NH: "Absolutely. I was a fool. When you grow up on a farm in Georgia, your first girlfriend is a mule."

AC: "I'm not so sure that that is so."

NH: "You didn't grow up on a farm in Georgia, did you?"

AC: "Are you suggesting that everybody who grows up on a farm in Georgia has a mule as a girlfriend?"

NH: It has historically been the case. You people are so far removed from the reality... Welcome to domestic life on the farm..."

I have an acronym!

Since starting this blog, on occasion there has been difficulty when someone has tried to link to me, due to the length of my blog name. Once or twice it has been shortened to AgnostoLibertarian, with which I am only partially happy. However, Suze at Bright Copper Kettles has cut through this difficulty like a knife through a bad metaphor. AgnostoLibertarianTechnoGeek may henceforth be referred to (if you really need to refer to me or this blog (and if you do, perhaps you need to get out more often)) as ALTG.

How cool is that? Thanks Suze!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A Day in the Life

There's nothing that makes a programmer's blood run cold so much as spending days researching a bug and determining how to correct it, only to discover that the original design for the program was fundamentally flawed and the whole thing will have to be scrapped and rewritten anyway.

Thank Zeus that I wasn't the one who wrote this piece of dreck originally, otherwise I'd have to shoot myself. Twice.

Monday, May 09, 2005

More Reefer Madness

In response to this post over at Reason's Hit and Run, which discusses how "the Office of National Drug Control Policy has revived the quaint claim that smoking pot drives you crazy", I found the following comment, which caused my coworkers to glance over at me as I began giggling:
Pot doesn't make you crazy.
The clog dancing elves that live in my attic.
They make you crazy.

Which is better?

Given the choice, would you prefer to be liked or respected? I know that people respect me, or at least my brain, since where I am known, I am often the voice of authority when it comes to information and / or logic. However, I am not a "popular" person. As I've written about previously, I am not the one to whom people come when they want to hang out or have a laugh.

On the flip side, I know that some of the people who are "popular" are also not well respected. I am thinking of one coworker in particular who is rather popular (has people stopping by his cubicle all the time and so on), but people make fun of him behind his back for being dumber than a brick wall and semi-useless at his job.

I'm not sure which I'd prefer. It's good to know that I'm respected, and it would be best to be both respected and well-liked, but if I had to choose one over the other, I don't know which one I would pick.

Which would you pick?

*UPDATE* Some people have wondered (1) whether I am talking about "friends" when I talk about "being liked", and (2) whether it is possible to like someone without respecting him or her.

As to point 1, personally I'm referring to social popularity, not true friendship. That is, I mean only how many people seek you out for your company, not for real comradeship. Real friends, for me at least, are (and should be) extremely rare. Social popularity is a much more superficial thing.

As to point 2, yes, I think it is possible to like someone without respect. There are a number of people I know whom I like but don't particularly respect. That is, I don't think that they are particularly worthy of being looked up to intellectually or due to their good works or what have you. They are simply people whose company I enjoy for whatever (once again) superficial reason.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Word count

For those who care, I am roughly 38,000 words into my novel, which translates into (even more roughly) 120 book pages. I have now begun Part 2 of the story, which is in a completely different setting (time period and locale), so it's essentially a completely different story. The speed with which I'm writing has slowed significantly, but the sheer amount of what I've done so far is inspiration for me to continue to completion. Based on where I am in the story, I figure it'll be somewhere between 80,000 and 90,000 words when complete. I am definitely eyeing publication. I've gotten positive reviews from my wife, who is completely not into this genre, so since a lot of what gets published is absolute crap, I figure I have a reasonable chance of getting published, which would be the coolest frigging thing the world.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Mea culpa

A fun site to peruse is The Daily Apology, operated by Stephan Kinsella. It's a multi-contributor site where people apologize mostly for the non-PC things they do or think. A few recent entries:
I apologize for, to the shock of all but two of my classmates, saying I do not support government aid to widows with children, even in the situation existing in 1935. I'm sorry for believing that theft is wrong no matter to whom one gives the stolen money.
I apologize for having a deep, abiding, and irrational hatred of anyone who uses the words "polity" or "ontological," or variants thereof. Or "gnosticism." I just want to kick their teeth in.
I apologize for supporting gay marriage just so that gay people will say husband or wife and not partner.

Lame attempt at widening my social net

Ok, for no other reason than it would make me feel good and entertain me during my work day, instant message me via Yahoo Messenger -- Yahoo ID david_uctaa. Yahoo Online Status Indicator

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

On helplessly feeling like a loser

<Post deleted due to its being way too revealing about my personal insecurities>

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

I was listening to the Curtis and Kuby Show on the radio this morning (770AM, WABC). Curtis Sliwa is the founder of the Guardian Angels, and Ron Kuby is a defense attorney who has appeared on many talking head news shows. Curtis is a fairly strident Republican, seldom straying from the party talking points. Kuby is very leftist, probably a communist. Unlike most radio talk shows, they actually present things from "both" sides of the political spectrum (man, I hate the nearly-universal division of the political spectrum into only two sides, but that's the topic for another rant).

A caller this morning, who identified himself as a Republican, was presenting what he saw as the most likely scenarios for how things will shake out in Iraq once the U.S. leaves. His guess was either civil war eventually resulting in an Iraq divided three ways (Kurdish, Sunni, Shiite), or another Iran.

Kuby (who has opposed the war since its start and consistently stated that we need to bring the troops home now) opined that if we leave now, there will most likely be civil war and many Iraqis will die, but no further US soldiers will die. However, if we stay another x years, and *then* leave, there will most likely be civil war and many Iraqis will die, and quite a few more US soldiers will perish than already have.

Does anyone see Iraq truly developing into a peaceful place without US forces to keep the mayhem somewhat in check?

*Note*: This post should not be construed to mean that I am in favor of keeping US forces there indefinitely. Anyone who has read posts here will know that I believe we should never have invaded in the first place.