Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Arizona Governor Vetoes Anti-Slavery Law


Yes, opponents of the proposed law that just got vetoed in Arizona claim it's all about civil rights. It would have protected the rights of business owners to refuse to engage in transactions that they found morally offensive on the grounds of objecting to homosexuality. A photographer could have refused to photograph a gay wedding, or a baker could have refused to bake a cake with icing pictures of two grooms, or a printer could have refused to print flyers advertising a pride rally.

Now they can't. There have already been test cases where homosexual couples wanted to force businesses to provide services at their "weddings". Now, in the state of Arizona, there is no question. If a homosexual wants a business to provide a service, they must.

Never mind that any successful service business occasionally turns away prospective clients for any number of reasons. Never mind the concept of freedom of association. If you own a business in Arizona and a homosexual says "jump", you ask, "how high?" or spend your foreseeable future in court, where you are now guaranteed to lose.

If a business owner cannot refuse to serve a client, that business owner is not free. You could even say they are no longer the owner. They are a mere servant of the state and their new homosexual masters.

This is slavery.


There is one depressingly amusing upside to this debate. All the commentary on this law assumes that religion is the only reason one might object to "alternative" sexual lifestyles. I often see the same view expressed in abortion discussions: if you're opposed to abortion, it must be on religious grounds. The idea that one might have moral convictions that are not grounded in religion is anathema to pro-gay and pro-abortion sides.

Yet, atheists (who share a large Venn diagram space with the pro-gay and pro-abortionist groups) act deeply offended when theists explain that without an objective external source for morality - i.e., God - what you call your morality is essentially a cluster of personal preferences that can't really be logically justified.

So, they claim that they can have morality without religion. But when someone raises a moral objection to something they like, it's assumed that religion is the only possible reason for doing so.

In other words, religion isn't necessary for morality when they don't want it to be, but it is when they do.

It's refreshing to see this hypocrisy on such blatant display. I just wish more people could see it.

"Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe." - 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NLT)

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a tower my son built from Lego (R) brand building bricks, as the lawyers insist on calling them. Note Spider-Man bursting forth from the microwave.





Thursday, January 30, 2014

Old Man Canada & Infant Israel


Conservatives often make the communications mistake of overestimating the intelligence of their audience. Not necessarily the audience that's actually in the room with them, but the wider audience that's only going to hear the sound bites that the media feeds them.

As I explained a long time ago in a blog post not so very far away, a basic truth in public communication is that when writing, whether for publication or verbal presentation, you need to assume that your audience is stupid and mean. Stupid, in that if anything you say can reasonably be accidentally misconstrued, they will do so. Mean, in that if anything you say can be manipulated and taken out of context to sound damaging, they will deliberately do so.

When conservatives are speaking, the media members in the audience usually provide the mean and trust the wider public to provide the stupid. The public rarely lets them down.

Consider the recent flap over Mike Huckabee supposedly saying that women can't control their libidos. He said nothing of the sort, of course, but if your information diet consisted of mainstream media sound bites, you'd be convinced otherwise. Here's what Huckabee actually said:

And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be, and women across America need to stand up and say, ‘Enough of that nonsense.’
Contrary to the gleeful soundbites and tweets, Huckabee is clearly not insulting women. He's just pointing out how Democrats do. To claim otherwise is disingenuous at best.

While researching the preceding paragraphs, I saw that the narrative has shifted somewhat. Now that the left-wing media is having trouble selling the lie about what Huckabee said, they're shifting to saying that they never tried to lie about it in the first place and conservatives are big meanies for claiming that they did. Yeesh.

Another great example of this was when Sarah Palin knew when the Boston Tea Party happened, and knew that her live audience knew it too, but "Gotcha"-playing left-wing activists journalists mistakenly assumed she must have been trying to cite the year of America's independence, because everybody (who went to journalism school) knows nothing else important happened in the 18th century. They jumped down her throat about it, insinuating she was stupid. If only we could harness ignorant hypocrisy as an energy source.

The attentive reader may notice that I'm not linking to liberal attack sites. That's not an accident. It isn't because they're hard to find or because I can't document sources, but because I'm not interesting in taking the chance of giving them more hits. I prefer to link to credible sources rebutting them. However, for this last item, which inspired this post, I haven't seen anyone else challenging it yet. I'm hoping it catches on, because I'd love to see Michael Coren or Mark Steyn eviscerate the writer.

Heather Mallick is a left-wing shill who writes for the Toronto Star (at the risk of repeating myself). If it's not atheist, pro-abortion, liberal, Liberal propaganda, she's against it. Stephen Harper could rescue a hundred puppies from a burning high-rise building and she'd complain that he didn't brush them and clip their nails on the way down the stairs. As a good leftist, she's also not real fond of Jews, although she spends a chunk of the column I'm describing protesteth-ing that point too much. (Protip: if you claim you're not anti-Semitic but protest every security initiative Israel takes on to defend its citizens, you're actually  arguing that Jews don't have the right to self-defence, effectively endorsing their slaughter. No sale on the whole "not anti-Semitic" thing.)

I had wanted to go point-by-point through her column correcting the logical errors, but that would take longer than I'm willing to invest right now. I don't want this piece to join my collection of half-finished posts that are no longer even remotely timely. I really need to point out one particular jaw-dropper, though. Mallick takes it as a point of faith that Stephen Harper is a bumbling, uninformed hick. She uses this example in an attempt to hammer that point home:
Here’s the most uneducated thing: Harper claimed Canada is the "polar opposite of Israel” as it has "much geography but very little history." The state of Israel is 65 years old, Canada is 147 and humans first arrived on this continent perhaps 16,000 years ago.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Wow. Just wow.

And this woman is a professional journalist. By thinking that the nation of Israel sprang into existence ex nihilo in 1948, Mallick demonstrates her place in the ranks of the painfully ignorant.

For those who don't know (which is arguably fine, as long as you don't think you're being really clever by trying to smugly rebut someone who does), the nation of Israel was established in, umm, Biblical times. Even if you reject the idea that the Bible was divinely inspired or that there was anything supernatural involved in Israel's rise and fall, there is no question of Israel's existence prior to the adoption of the calendar by which we now measure years. Israel was sacked by the Romans in 70. That's the year 70, as in one thousand, nine hundred, and forty-four years ago. Almost two millennia since it fell, and considerably more than that since it was founded.

But by all means, Ms. Mallick, please continue to impress us with how much less history Israel has than a country that's been around for about a buck-and-a-half, and how  "uneducated" Stephen Harper is.

I'm guessing Ms. Mallick didn't do so well in math class. If you insist that 1944 < 147, your teacher will probably mark it wrong.

Oh, well, for those who are terrible at math (and history), I suppose there's always journalism school.


Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a bottle of something of which my wife has a bottle. And of which she took a picture.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Just For The Record


The more I hear from him, the better I like him.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the picture I already posted, because it bears repeating.


Friday, December 20, 2013

High Purr Bully, Not Hyper Bowl

Today I am a broken man.

My whole world has been shattered.

I thought nothing could shake my faith.


I just found out that Hall & Oates are being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.



I don't know if I can ever believe in anything again.



(I thought my whole world had been shattered once before. Turned out it was just the lens of my glasses.)



Enough rambling. Here's a picture of what I can't unsee when I look at the patio stones in my back yard.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Turns Out The Batusi Is Not The Sign For Anything


It's probably wrong that I think this is hilarious:

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - A man who provided sign language interpretation on stage for Nelson Mandela's memorial service, attended by scores of heads of state, was a "fake," the national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa said on Tuesday...sign language experts said the man was not signing in South African or American sign languages and could not have been signing in any other known sign language because there was no structure to his arm and hand movements.
I used to think finding stuff like this funny made me a jerk. Now I realize it's just a symptom of the underlying condition.

I need to update my will. I hereby request that at my funeral, somebody who doesn't know sign language should stand up at the front making random gestures as people speak. Rudeness is encouraged. If at all possible, work the Macarena in there somewhere.

We can only hope this episode inspires a new fad on Youtube: superimposing fake sign language interpreters at famous speeches. Imagine having someone standing to the side looking like they're playing charades and/or having a petit mal seizure (a fine line, that) as Reagan talks about tearing down this wall, or King talks about having a dream this afternoon (it's always a good idea to catch a nap before giving a big speech), or Obama lies through his teeth and says you can keep your plan if you like it, or Walter White proclaims himself The One Who Knocks. Internet, make this happen!

The Gettysburg address would be a good one, but for some reason I can't seem to find it on Youtube. With all those people gathered to hear the president's big speech, you'd think somebody would have brought a camcorder.

At first I assumed that this was a prank that got way out of hand. Maybe the guy was one of Johnny Knoxville's buddies, or one of Ashton Kutcher's Punk'd accomplices. Maybe the ghosts of Dick Clark and Ed McMahon are orchestrating bloopers and practical jokes from beyond the grave. The fake signer probably thought that surely somebody would call him out before the event actually got rolling. It wasn't until showtime that he finally decided between fake sign language and an homage to Garrett Morris's assistance for the hard of hearing.

Or maybe it was a wacky misunderstanding, like that time a cab driver got shanghaied into appearing on the BBC as a computer expert.

But no, turns out this isn't the fake signer's first time to the rodeo:

The man also did sign interpretation at an event last year that was attended by South African President Jacob Zuma, Druchen said. At that appearance, a deaf person in the audience videotaped the event and gave it to the federation for the deaf, which analyzed the video, prepared a report about it and a submitted a formal complaint.

Seriously, guys, checking references isn't a bad thing. Next time at least Google the name of your prospective hire.

At least this kind of thing is too ridiculous to be a widespread problem, or even a regional one.

Wait, what?
 Bogus sign language interpreters are a problem in South Africa, because people who know a few signs try to pass themselves off as interpreters, said Parkin, the principal of the school for the deaf. And those hiring them usually don't sign, so they have no idea that the people they are hiring cannot do the job, she said. "They advertise themselves as interpreters because they know 10 signs and they can make some quick money," said Parkin.
This reminds me of Marge Simpson's plan to give piano lessons despite not knowing how to play the piano: "I just have to stay one lesson ahead of the kid."

I have a nephew who lives in South Africa. I wonder if he can account for his whereabouts on Tuesday. Assuming he wasn't involved in this fiasco (which is probably the case, given that he's seven), I have a moneymaking suggestion for his future reference.

This situation has only gotten funnier / more disturbing as more information has come out:
The man accused of faking sign interpretation while standing alongside world leaders like U.S. President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela's memorial service said Thursday he hallucinated that angels were entering the stadium, suffers from schizophrenia and has been violent in the past.

Thamsanqa Jantjie said in a 45-minute interview with The Associated Press that his hallucinations began while he was interpreting and that he tried not to panic because there were "armed policemen around me." He added that he was once hospitalized in a mental health facility for more than one year....

Asked how often he had become violent, he said "a lot" while declining to provide details. Jantjie said he was due on the day of the ceremony to get a regular six-month mental health checkup to determine whether the medication he takes was working, whether it needed to be changed or whether he needed to be kept at a mental health facility for treatment.... He said he has previously interpreted at many events without anyone complaining.
...

......

......... Anyway, that's a thing that happened.



As for Mandela himself, I have no opinion. I used to think he must have been a great hero, because Rolling Stone magazine said so. There were even songs about him, and surely bad people never have songs about them released on major labels. However, in accordance with 1 Corinthians 13:11, I've long since stopped blindly believing what the media tells me. The death of my former liberalism was the inevitable result.

My travels around the Net leave me unsure what to think of Mandela. Sorry, no links because I didn't keep track. However, you can probably type "Nelson Mandela" into a search engine as easily as I can, or even easier since you can just copy and paste it from where I just typed it. Looks to me like he was a communist sympathizer (at least), explicitly refused to renounce violence while in prison, and didn't even qualify for any sympathy from Amnesty International.

Standing up against Apartheid is certainly a huge point in his favour. He also seemed to keep things pretty peaceful once he was in power. If there was a lot of revenge-fueled racial violence in post-Apartheid South Africa, it's been kept pretty quiet (which is a distinct possibility).

However, Mandela was also a mover and shaker within the ANC, which has used some pretty questionable tactics over the years. I have a hard time endorsing the organization that invented necklacing. The enemy of my enemy can still be pretty reprehensible.

I was discussing this uncertainty with a friend who said, "You have to respect his spending 27 years in prison."

I replied, "Manson's been in longer than that. You may want to chose a different yardstick."




Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the patio stones in my back yard.


Friday, October 11, 2013

The One I Forgot To Title


This is a purely self-indulgent diary entry - but then, aren't they all? I have (hopefully) more interesting stuff in the pipeline, but I am, after all, so very lazy.

This is just an update on share ratios, as discussed a couple of entries back. Now I've really got to stop seeding some of the obsolete items, because I'm in desperate need of hard drive space. A few of these haven't shifted a single byte of data in weeks, so I'm going to nuke the files. Before I do, though, here's a list of my current seeding ratios for several torrents:

Ubuntu Studio 13.04                56.02
World English Audio Bible       46.04
AVLinux 6.01b                         37.73
AVLinux 6.0                             17.23
Ubuntu Studio 12.10                10.79
Gentoo Live 20121221              2.71
LibreOffice 3.6.4 installer           1.83
Deep Purple 2012 concert         0.54
LibreOffice 3.6.4 Help files         0.41
Paul McCartney 2013 concert   0.52

 These torrents represent a total of over 375 GB of data I've uploaded. I may not be able to code anything more complex than a Forge card, but this is one small way I can contribute to open source software.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of one of my co-workers dressed as a cowgirl. I don't know why either. She promised me severe bodily harm if this photo got distributed, so let's not tell her.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

This Is Not True At All


I turned on my TV the other day, and was shocked to see such a brazen display of bigotry, intolerance, and outright homophobia. I watched for almost twenty minutes and didn't see a single program about a married gay couple adopting a baby! Not one!

I refuse to sit quietly and subject myself to that sort of hatred.

And that's why I'm boycotting The Weather Channel.


Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my dog in the kitchen.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Saturday Night's All Right For Blogging


This is an experiment. Every day I have a pile of ideas to write about. My backlog of notes stretch back for years. Almost every day I intend to write, but don't. So today I'm going to start up this text file, add arbitrary bits to it throughout the day as the urge strikes, and post it late tonight. It may be a lot, or very little indeed. We'll see how it goes.



I've been filesharing since long before filesharing was a thing. It started with copying programs on cassette for my Commodore Vic 20. Then the Commodore 64, with its 1541 disc drive and a program called Fast Hack 'Em (itself copied, of course). Weird side note: I once got a new bank card with the randomly assigned PIN of 1541. I didn't change it, because it was so easy to remember. Every time I used that card, I just had to visualize putting it into a Commodore disc drive.

A little later, when my friends and I started getting seriously into music, we habitually took turns buying albums (cassettes at this point). Only one of us would buy any given album, then the others would run off copies.

Around 1986, we had just started getting into Genesis. We only knew the singles from Invisible Touch that got radio play and an hour's worth of videos that were on a two-part MuchMusic Spotlight, which I still have it on a VHS tape somewhere. I remember (future-)Pastor Derek and I deliberating over who would buy which of their albums. I picked Abacab first because it included Keep It Dark. I don't remember which one he got - I think it was Duke or A Trick Of The Tail. Either way, he got the better of that arrangement.

I also remember that no one wanted to buy Trespass. We had never heard of any of the songs on it, and there were only six tracks, so it had to be really short and therefore a ripoff, right?

We would learn.

Given this well-established propensity to piracy, I was all over Napster when it came along. I still have the issue of Maximum PC that included the client software on a bundled CD-ROM. Over the years, I went through many other alternatives. Usenet, BearShare, Kazaa, DC++, Shareaza, WinMX, and many others whose names I have forgotten have come and gone.

Nowadays, of course, torrents are the way to go. I used uTorrent when on Windows, and have settled on KTorrent here in Linuxland.

I've always practiced hit-and-run strategies for any files that a copyright holder might object to having passed around. That is to say, any commercially available material. My default settings in KTorrent are to stop seeding as soon as my download completes. Impolite, perhaps, but it's kept me out of court thus far.

When I have something that I can safely leave seeding, though, I happily do so. Free open source software, concert recordings (usually safe to share, although not always), and anything with explicit permission to distribute stays seeded. I leave my torrent software running most of the time, and I've managed to rack up some good share ratios. Here's what I'm currently seeding, with ratios as of this writing:

Ubuntu Studio 13.04                41.32
World English Audio Bible       36.01
AVLinux 6.01b                           17.35
AVLinux 6.0                                17.23
Ubuntu Studio 12.10                10.42
LibreOffice 3.6.4 installer        1.83
Deep Purple 2012 concert        0.54
LibreOffice 3.6.4 Help files      0.41
Paul McCartney 2013 concert   0.28

(Sorry the numbers don't line up all pretty. I could insert a table or play with the spacing, but that sounds like more work than not doing either of those.)

I'm especially impressed that the newer version of AVLinux moved ahead of the old version so quickly. I've been seeding version 6.0 for over 59 days (actual seeding time only), but 6.0b for only 13 days. I'll probably stop seeding the old versions of AVLinux and Ubuntu Studio pretty soon, if only to free up some hard drive space, since all the demand is obviously for the newer versions. I'm also pleased with the demand for the audio Bible, although of course I'd like it to be way out in first place.



Volumes have been written about Kermit Gosnell, with much wringing of hands from the pro-abortion side, alternatively claiming that he did nothing wrong or that he is an aberration, a stain on the fine profession of abortionist.

The simple truth about Gosnell is that he's nothing unusual. The babies he killed wound up no more dead than those killed by any smiling ghoul in a clean gown, working in a well-lit facility to terminate the pregnancies of women who don't even look pregnant yet.

The stage of gestation is not the issue, the killing is. The actions of every abortionist are as vile as those of Gosnell, and deserve the same condemnation.



My bit about my new saw includes one joke that pleases me far more than it should. I know it's poor form to laugh at your own jokes, but if I don't, who will?

Anyway, there's one joke in there that seems like an easy, stupid pun but which actually works on a whole other level. Which is still a stupid pun, but one that generally gets missed. I've gotten eye rolls from people around me when I pointed it out, which makes it no less entertaining to me.



I'm glad Dexter is wrapping up. I've had a complicated relationship with this show. I like the premise, and I like Michael C. Hall's acting, so I figured it was worth a shot. About a year ago I borrowed the first two seasons from a friend, and... obtained... the rest of the seasons (remember my first big topic today?).

Season 1 was awful. Around the time that Dexter found the doll parts in his freezer, I turned to my wife and said, "The killer's going to turn out to be somebody from his past that he doesn't know about. If it's his long-lost brother, I'm out."

A few episodes later, the killer was revealed as Dexter's long-lost brother, and I was out.

Oh, yeah: spoiler warning.

If only there were some way to go back up and insert that warning earlier. Ah, well, perhaps someday such technology will be within reach of the common man.

Anyway, I gave up. My wife persevered. She assured me that it got better after season 1, and I really enjoy Jimmy Smits's acting (he's why I started watching my all-time favourite show, NYPD Blue), so I decided to give it another chance, at least until Smits did his bit.

The writing still varied widely, but was good enough to keep me in. Barely. I loved the John Lithgow and Colin Hanks / Edward James Olmos seasons (the Hanks / Olmos twist is the only one in the entire series that I didn't see coming). However, I despise the "long lost relative" trope, and they've gone to that well twice.

I've long gotten the impression that Dexter has a senior writer or two with a lot of clout but no fresh ideas. They churn out the hackwork, and generally drag the show down to the lowest common denominator. However, the writing staff also includes at least one or two people with good ideas but little influence. They manage to slip some quality material past the guards here and there, but mostly get quashed. If those fresher voices had been louder,  the show could have been great.

They're three episodes into the final season, and I'm glad it's ending. I want to ride the show out to the end at this point, but I wish they were only doing six episodes. Everyone involved seems to be phoning it in this year.

This season seems like a Greatest Hits compilation, only in Dexter's case they're revisiting the worst aspects of the series. Deb being whiny, ineffectual, and so annoying that I spend every episode hoping someone - anyone - will kill her? Check. A serial killer expert shows up and makes Dexter nervous? Check. New character has extensive but never-before-hinted-at ties to Dexter's past? Check. Painfully bad dialogue, especially in Hall's narration? Check. Misuse of technical terminology by characters who are supposed to be experts and therefore know better (there's a difference between "psychopath" and "sociopath", and every time Vogel opens her mouth she proves she doesn't know it)? Check, Check, a thousand times Check.

Even the technical aspects of the show are getting lazy. Watch any scene with dialogue between two characters. Every time the camera angle switches, say from a front-angle two-shot to a shot over a character's shoulder, the actors' head positions jerk around wildly. They go from looking straight at one another to one looking down to either or both staring off into the distance with each new shot. Nobody involved could be bothered with little details like continuity between shots.

I can't imagine Bryan Cranston tolerating Breaking Bad sliding off a cliff this badly.

All dramatic writing is about getting from Point A to Point B. With Dexter, I often hate Point B (long lost relatives ahoy!), but how they get there can be interesting. On The Walking Dead, Point A and Point B are consistently good, but how they get there can be lazy. Case in point - everyone disagreeing with Dale about whether to kill a prisoner, even though several of the characters would clearly have sided with him. However, they needed to alienate Dale from everyone to make his death later in the episode all the more tear-jerking ("I never got to tell him... sniff..."). The characters get moved around like pieces on a chess board, characterization to this point be hanged.

Oh, yeah: spoiler warning.

The Walking Dead has gotten better on this score. I think the writers may have even realized their mistake. Glenn gave an out-of-nowhere speech in a later episode about how Dale had been right and he shouldn't have abandoned him like that. Well, yeah, Glenn, and you wouldn't have if your writers had been more conscientious.

For the ultimate in good writing, though, nothing beats Breaking Bad. Point A and Point B are both terrific, and how they get there is always compelling and unpredictable. I'm not glad that Breaking Bad is ending, but I am looking forward very much to seeing how they do it.



Helen Thomas, the terrorist-sympathizing former journalist, has passed away. The CNN Breaking News e-mail bulletin says, "Thomas retired in 2010 after she made controversial comments regarding Jewish people."

I guess you could say that. She accidentally let her anti-Semitism show in front of the camera, and "retired" a week later. If a public figure to the right of Mao had made those kinds of statements, they'd still be reviled and propped up as an example of the "racism of the right". But since Thomas was a credentialed (literally) leftist, it's a dog-bites-man story and the media lets one of their own "retire with dignity".



I've been listening to the new, complete audiobook version of World War Z by Max Brooks. It's pretty good, and the voice cast is top-notch. It probably works better as an audiobook than as a novel. One of my main criticisms is that the dialogue doesn't really offer different "voices" to each character, with little to distinguish them in terms of vocabulary or speaking style. Having different actors play each character ameliorates that problem, but doesn't solve it completely.

I will one day watch the movie, which by all accounts I've been able to take seriously appears to be a soulless Hollywoodized disaster, just out of geeky completionism. I certainly won't pay ten bucks to watch it in a big dark room with noisy texting strangers. I'll wait until the DVD rip hits the torrent sites is released and available at my local Blockbuster store.

What?

I think they missed a bet with the World War Z adaptation. It should never have been a movie. It should have been a TV series. The self-contained episodic nature of the book would have made for a great series. Each episode could have had the interviewer going to speak to another survivor, switching to their story told in flashback as they spoke. Of course, you could have the interviewer's support staff, UN personnel, etc., as recurring characters. It would essentially be an anthology series with a stable framework. Although anthology series are a tough sell to an audience these days, I think the zombie / survival horror fanbase would be large enough to get the show off the ground.

Alas, what could have been.

I haven't finished the audiobook yet. If Brooks ever reveals what happened in North Korea, don't tell me. Everybody hates spoilers, right?

What?



A woman in the U.S. found out that her unborn baby has down syndrome. Unwilling to raise the child (for the record, I have no problem whatsoever with her making this decision - giving a child up for adoption is always an option), she put the word out: if anyone would adopt the baby, they could have him or her. (I try to avoid referring to unborn children as "it", which concedes important linguistic ground to those who would deny the child's humanity.) If no prospective adoptive parents stepped up, she would have an abortion.

The plea went online, and over a thousand people volunteered.

I've frequently railed on the cognitive dissonance and refusal to accept facts that are inherent in the pro-abortion position. Can even this case make them finally pack in the ludicrous "who's going to raise all the unwanted babies" argument? Probably not, but I can hope and pray.

Parents are available for unwanted children. I have friends who waited years for adoption. We're a long, long way from running out of loving homes for any child who makes it through the gauntlet that the world offers those with doubts about having a baby.

There are no unwanted children. There are just a lot of people who project their own unwillingness to be a loving parent onto others.

I was almost in an adoption situation myself several years ago. My wife heard a woman say that she just found out she was pregnant, and wasn't happy about it. She wasn't seriously considering abortion, but was hesitant to raise the child herself and was musing about trying to find adoptive parents. My wife told me that she very nearly volunteered on the spot. She wasn't 100% sure I would agree, but knew that it was a pretty safe bet. She was right. I assured her that if she's ever in a situation like that again, she has carte blanche.

The pregnant woman wound up keeping the baby and raising her herself. They live in our neighbourhood, and that no-longer-baby goes to school with my son. Everything turned out OK, as it usually does.

There is no shortage of homes for "unwanted" children, at least in North American society.  I can't speak for the rest of the world, but last I heard international adoption was a thing that people do. Anyone who clings to the "all the unwanted children" argument is demonstrating that they're too ignorant (willingly or unwillingly) to take seriously in a discussion of life-and-death issues.



"You can't argue with results" is just a prettier way of saying "the ends justify the means."

"To each his own", depending on context, is usually just a prettier way of saying "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."



I recently saw this listing on a classified ad site. I've touched up the grammar and punctuation, which were atrocious, partly because I couldn't stand them and partly to make tracing the post to its source (not the point) less likely:
$290.00 Crib Voucher for sale! You pick out the crib, and I'll buy it at the store for you (the voucher has my name on it). Reason for selling: I have no space for the crib at the moment. Selling it for $225 (brand new).
I can't come up with any theory for this that doesn't involve words to the effect of "The kid can sleep in a cardboard box. Mommy needs crack money!"

Can anybody else?



This has gone better than I had expected. I think I'll stop now.



Enough rambling. Here's a picture of some of my PC Gamer magazine collection, rotated to maximize the nerdiness.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Reading Log: A Farewell To Ebert


I had already intended to write this entry well before Roger Ebert passed away. When he died, I figured that was the perfect time to finally get it written up and posted as something of a tribute. Several weeks stretching into months later, here it is. Such is my sense of time.

This entry is a Reading Log because the shelf full of books I've purchased and read but not yet written about includes a copy of Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2004. I don't know where or when I got it. Probably a library book sale several years ago. I've been putting adhesive labels with my name and date of purchase inside every book I've bought for quite some time now, and it doesn't have one. I also don't remember when I read it. I know that shelf includes books that I read at least as far back as early 2009.

So, yeah, I'm pretty far behind on Reading Logs.

I bought this book for two reasons. I like movies, and more importantly, I like books that are divided into lots of independent sections, so that they can be picked up and flipped open to a random page, read for a minute or two, then put down again. I read at a lot of times when most people don't. While eating, while brushing my teeth, while drying off after a shower, etc. Novels don't lend themselves to such segmented attention. Magazines, encyclopedia-style reference books, and anything with the words "bathroom reader" in the title work much better.

I have a few of Roger Ebert's books. Besides the Movie Yearbook 2004, I have the 1985 and 1991 editions of his Movie Home Companion, and a copy of The Great Movies. I read the 2004 book the same as all the others. I started by looking up my favourite movies, then some of my least favourite, then just by random reading. Each one also got at least one complete read-through.

I took particular interest in The Great Movies, reading through it and considering whether I wanted to see each of them (assuming I hadn't already). I did the same a while back with IMDB's top 100 rated movies. Those lists led me to a few films I was very glad to have watched (e.g., Network, Seven Samurai, Taxi Driver) and a few that made me want the three hours of my life back (e.g., Apocalypse Now - if you place any value on your limited time in this life, don't waste a moment of it on the extended "redux" edition).

On that note, it's a cultural wonder that we live in a time when pretty much any movie ever released (and a few that weren't) is available to me virtually immediately. It's a far cry from the days when I'd read about some obscure horror film in Fangoria and have to either scour independent video rental stores for it (chains were always a waste of time), mail-order it at exorbitant cost, or resign myself to doing without.

If it sets you at ease, feel free to assume that by availability I'm referring to such modernities as Netflix, video-on-demand, and hundreds of cable channels that cater to every taste. The facts that my fibre-op connection can pull down 700 megs of data in no time flat (9.5 MB/second sustained!) and that I've modded my Wii to include a video player that can stream files across my wireless network may have nothing to do with it.

I always enjoyed watching or reading Roger Ebert's movie reviews. I started watching him and Gene Siskel on PBS many years ago. They were on late Sunday nights, sometime either before or after Monty Python. I started watching just for the chance to see movie clips and previews, a rare treat in those days when the Internet was barely a gleam in Al Gore's eye. Before long I hoped every episode that Gene and Roger would argue, and finally started paying attention to the reviews themselves.

I'm usually not interested in whether a reviewer actually likes whatever it is they're reviewing. The key is why they did or didn't like it. The body of the review is far more important  than their final verdict, be it expressed in stars, points on a scale, or thumbs. It's always possible that a reviewer may have a general dislike of a genre or style that the reader will enjoy.

A former co-worker and I used to discuss movies, using one another's opinions as a guideline whether to see a given film. If he liked it, that was reason for me to avoid it, and vice versa. We reached this conclusion when I told him although I had liked 28 Weeks Later overall, I hated the incredibly stupid scene when a low-flying helicopter's blade was used as a zombie-decapitating weapon. His response: "That part sounds awesome!" At that moment, we both knew we had no common ground.

As for Ebert himself, I enjoyed his writing. The man definitely knew and loved film, and spoke with a great deal of authority in that realm. As a philosopher and theologian he made a great movie reviewer, but we'll come back to that. His website, which has lived on in his absence, was and is an excellent resource. I just went there to get affirmation of my suspicion that the movie adaptation of World War Z is an artless, souless chunk of commercially safe garbage, and was not disappointed. My favourite part of the site was always Movie Answer Man, which Ebert stopped doing over a year before his death and which seems to have died with him.

I don't think I would have liked Roger Ebert much on a personal level, and I'm quite sure he wouldn't have liked me, which does not reflect poorly on him. I found him arrogant, both when speaking of film, where he was an authority, and everything else, where he was not. He regularly condemned philosophical or religious certainty with absolute certainty, never seeming to notice the irony of that all-too-common position.

He was a good writer, though, and no matter how much I disagreed with his positions, the expression was consistently thought-provoking and worth reading. He would even engage his critics in the comments sections, not with shouting but with discussion of ideas. That's rare, and his loss brings the Internet's average level of discourse down a notch or three.

He had other very admirable qualities. He clearly loved his wife, and faced the adversities toward the end of his life with amazing dignity, grace, and humour.

I've read a lot of Ebert's writing, and the one non-movie article that best encapsulates what I've said about him is one written toward the end of his life: "How I am a Roman Catholic", in which he explains at length that, contrary to his claim, he wasn't. The quotations that follow come from that article.

Ebert liked the ritual and traditions of the Catholic church, and did a good job of internalizing some of the social and moral lessons that the nuns taught him in childhood. Some of those social lessons are dubious. I don't see where the Bible (as opposed to the Catholic church - feel free to mentally add "Roman" in front of "Catholic" for the remainder of this article) endorses labour unions. In fact, Matthew 20:1-15 undermines the rhetoric I've endured from labour unions to which I've been forced to belong (union shops where if you want to work, you have to sign the card). I'm rooting for right-to-work legislation in Canada. In Orwellian fashion, Canadian unions argue that such a law would infringe on the right of workers to organize, when in fact it would only give them the right not to.

But I digress. Back to Ebert's article.

So Ebert liked some aspects of the Roman Catholic church. He had the courage to profess an essentially pro-life position on abortion ("My choice is to not support abortion, except in cases of a clear-cut choice between the lives of the mother and child. A child conceived through incest or rape is innocent and deserves the right to be born."), but through some cognitive dissonance refused to admit it and follow through ("I support freedom of choice."). At other times he resorted to the standard squishy if-you-don't-like-abortion-don't-have-one position. One could reply, using precisely the same logic, that if you don't like abortionists being shot, then don't shoot them.

A textbook cafeteria Catholic, though, he rejected the position of the Church when it became personally convenient or trendy, notably on matters of sexual ethics ("Is homosexuality a sin? ... My feeling is that love between consenting adults is admirable. The commandment about not coveting thy neighbor's wife had more to do with concepts of property in Old Testament times...").

However, his original premise of explaining his Catholic status goes out the window near the end: "I consider myself Catholic, lock, stock and barrel, with this technical loophole: I cannot believe in God."

Um.

You simply don't get to call yourself a Catholic, or any other sort of Christian (of which Catholics are a subset), or any other sort of theist (of which Christians are a subset), if you cannot affirm a positive belief in God. Atheism or agnosticism place you outside these particular camps.

At this point, if this blog had more than five readers on a good day, I'd anticipate a reply in the comments accusing me of being "judgmental" (or maybe "judgemental"), probably quoting Matthew 7:1 out of context, thereby completely missing the point Jesus was making.

Observing that a person is not Catholic if they don't believe in God is no more judgmental than observing that a person is not a vegetarian if they have steak for supper twice a week. Enjoying the rituals and traditions doesn't make someone Catholic, any more than enjoying wearing white coats would make them a doctor. The word "Catholic" actually means something, and like any title, it comes with costs, responsibilities, and certain minimum requirements.

There are many reasons why I am not Catholic, most of which have to do with the elevation of human traditions to the level of doctrine. That said, even if I grew up in and still attended a Catholic church, I would understand that I do not get to apply the label to myself. I am not Catholic, and cannot be so unless I accept Catholic doctrine and teaching. The only reason to cling to an undeserved label or title is to cheapen and weaken said title, to damage its brand value.

Nancy Pelosi is a superb case in point, hiding behind the skirts of falsely claimed Catholicism while proclaiming abortion "sacred ground". And not just any abortion, although she likes 'em all, but late-term abortion, which makes even many pro-abortionists uncomfortable. The woman is either completely deluded, or deliberately slandering Catholicism.

But I digress. Back to Ebert.

He was a good writer and a fine film critic. I still read "his" website, but not nearly as often. Eventually I expect it'll become a website that I used to read.


Bonus fun fact: Blogger's spell checker sometimes flags the words "movie" and "movies" (but bafflingly, not always), which means there's a lot of red on my screen as I type this.


Enough rambling. Here's a picture of something else my wife cooked and ate during her Year of Shrinking, during which she shed just shy of 100 pounds. I don't know why she photographed this, but there it was on the memory card.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

See Saw, Qtractor's a DAW


I bought a new saw. I hadn't intended to, but I was roaming the aisles at Canadian Tire and found a nice Mastercraft brand hand saw, regular price something around $15.00, on sale for $3.00. At that price, you may as well have one for every room of the house! I already had several hand saws, but they all represent the finest southeast Asian craftmanship that the dollar store carries.

It has teeth that are sharp-edged in both directions, so it cuts whether moving forward or back. The label says that it's an "aggressive" saw, but I find it evenly tempered.

You know that saying that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail? Turns out that when all you have is a saw, everything looks like it needs amputation.

The dog is avoiding me today.


Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my son's science fair project. Note that the flowers are slightly different colours. That's transpiration, and transpiration is science.