23 June 2014

No, there really isn't "a better way" to break ties in the group stage of the World Cup, Mr. Monkovic.  Certainly not "assembling the teams the next day for a penalty kick shootout" -- guaranteed to increase goalkeeper suicides and impose unnecessary costs on host nations as they stage these exhibitions.

What is so wrong with simply drawing an ostrakon , as a last resort, to determine who must be left behind in the round of 16?  This kind of "dumb luck" was integral to Athenian city-state politics and (careful students of Thucydides are welcome to dispute with me on this) it doesn't seem to have been the fatal flaw in the city's constitution.

19 June 2014

The FTL Castaway, based on GetDaved's "Let's Play FTL Advanced Edition," with apologies to William Cowper


Sidereal sights of sector eight loom'd o'er
Th'appointed planet of our greatest clash...

No allied fleet the storm allay'd,
no light of Mantis beacon shone, 
when with the piercing of our hull's last plate,
We perish'd, each alone.

(But I amidst a darker void of rebel space,
embark'd on tougher quests than he.)

14 June 2014

I'm very enthused to see that Donald Berwick passed the first hurdle in his bid for the governorship of Massachusetts.

Interestingly, well-heeled pharmaceutical executive Joe Avellone will not be going any further.  This is yet another data point in American politics that may be of interest to people who are convinced (some of them just after the Citizens United decision) Big Money runs everything and there is zero chance of a grassroots-funded candidate achieving anything, absent a constitutional amendment or Al Gore getting back together with Tipper or something of the sort.

06 June 2014

According to Mark Twain, first-class lecturers on the lyceum circuit in the Reconstruction era (for example Henry Ward Beecher and Anna Dickinson) "knew their own value and extracted it.  In towns their fee was $200 and $250; in cities $400." [Autobiography of Mark Twain, ed. Charles Neider]

$400 in 1870 is the equivalent of $7,473 today.  Hillary Clinton must think she is about twenty times as good a speaker as schlubs like Anna Dickinson.

30 May 2014

Kudos to the Washington Post for publishing this piece by a sociologist on reparations.  Also, shame on the Washington Post for not putting that piece in a highlighted position on the website, while giving that favor to some pro-charter school bullshit written by someone who has apparently never spent a day as a professional educator of any kind.


Something smells a little fishy about this study from The Lancet, which finds that in Egypt, a nation with a per-capita GDP of $6,600, over 70% of adults are overweight or obese.

I confess my ample ignorance of biochemistry and nutritional science.  I just don't understand how you get from a third of small children being stunted to more than 70% of adults consuming significantly more food-energy than they expend.  Are that many Egyptians sedentary office workers or sitting at home all day unemployed while someone brings subsidized bread to them? 

19 May 2014

Preach it sister / brother:


As a college instructor, I’m thrilled to see politically engaged students speaking out against awarding honorary degrees and, in some cases, massive speaking fees (Rice was set to be paid $35K) to individuals who they believe do not represent their values. We can’t wag our fingers at millennials for being self-absorbed and then simultaneously criticize them for protesting powerful political figures, which is an inherently social and political act.

And--"we have been able to curate our own little worlds using technology"?  When in the history of humankind has this not been true?  Were steppe-dwelling twenty-somethings of four thousand years ago denounced for embracing WHEELED TRANSPORTATION, selfishly retreating into their own little technological boxes and forsaking the grown-up way of dragging trade goods on sledges?  I shudder to think what happened when these spoiled youngs learned of the ALPHABET, and they became able to read THINGS THAT THEY PERSONALLY SELECTED. 

13 May 2014

A Protestant Response to "The Third Way"

Because I know there are thousands of gay Catholic men in this country who still toil in the Egyptian bondage of their church's "at least we're not Fred Phelps" attitude toward homosexuality, I am moved to offer a response to this notion of the "Third Way."

Like Tony Blair's socialism, Catholic kindness toward those marginalized for being gay is fundamentally a dishonest operation.  The Church does not relieve you of the stigma of your sexual orientation, but lulls you into believing that the stigma is a special charism and that you are called to bind yourself, to march up to the top of Mount Moriah and prepare a firepit for your own soul, all in the name of "chastity."

The catch, if you will, to the gentle promises of acceptance and loving solidarity that the Church extends in this video, comes 34 1/2 minutes in, when Jason Evert states, "We are calling people who experience same-sex attraction to love through purity and sacrifice…"  Jason Evert is not going to join you in this purity and sacrifice, needless to say.  As a straight man and layperson he is under no obligation to renounce sexual intimacy.  He is on your side (and, yes, it is commendable that he confessed 'on behalf of his community' to the sin of homophobic taunting in high school:  I'd love to know how that was done), but you have to teach the rest of us how to be purer and more Godlike.

Another layman, the presumably heterosexual Chris Stefanick, tells us at one point (25:40) that "real fulfillment in life is achieved through love, and love is doing what's right."  Alas, just 'doing what's right' doesn't seem to cut it for those who are having a lot of difficulty with SSA (same-sex attraction, helpfully abbreviated to suggest some form of disability income!)  Practicing Christian virtues to your fellow man may not be sufficient for salvation when you're also lusting after him.

So we are left with the very same gradations of holiness that Martin Luther railed against in another form 500 years ago.  And yes, these gay guys in the video seem to have found peace with second-class status in their religious community, and made steps toward forgiving their oppressors -- a 'politick art' if ever there was one.  And maybe the Catholic Church is, as they say, misapprehended by the wider society and the "secular media".  (Is Stephen Colbert part of that?)  Nonetheless I know in my bones that trusting in one's own merits, in sexual restraint or otherwise, is neither a healthy spiritual practice nor a ticket to redemption.   The balm they're offering is not of Gilead, and when two roads diverge in a wood -- as the video's intro so clearly portrays -- plowing through the poison oak and briars and cutting a "third way" for yourself isn't always the best option.