Friday, August 31, 2007


Let's get back to what I hate. I hate all this mushy nonsense that marks the ten year anniversary of Princess Diana's demise.

Honestly, I've never come to grips with the significance of her celebrity. When I mentioned this to my wife, she ignorantly proclaimed, "It's also the 30 year mark of Elvis's death, so why don't you complain about that?"

My goodness, I married a silly woman.

Elvis Presley changed things, the kinds of things that we take for granted. Again, my wife says, "Diana led causes too." But that's half of my point. First of all, Elvis wasn't about "causes." He was about himself and his talent for music, a passion that truly changed the world. What was Diana about? According to my wife, Diana worked extensively to eradicate the world of landmines.


By "worked extensively," what exactly is meant? Did she actually go to minefields and start digging them up and dismantaling them, or did she merely speak out against them and pose for a few photo-ops with leaders from countries who would like to have old landmines from old wars removed at the expense of the taxpayers or philanthropists of some other country?

I'm not saying that the awful consequences of post-war landmines are not tragic or even a concern for caring people with the means to donate personal funds voluntarily toward landmine removal. What I'm saying is that Diana did not change the world with her "work," and all this ado regarding the anniversary of her death is ridiculous.

When was the last time that you commemorated Thomas Edison's, Henry Ford's, Plato's, or Andrew Carnegie's deaths? These are just a few names who did far, far more to improve the quality of human life.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ramble On

Today's thought is based upon some scratchings I recently uncovered on a loose leaf sheet of paper. It looks like it might come from some my my old college work.

We often base religious arguments on deductions from scripture. We arge that
1. God inspired the Bible.
2. God does not lie.
3. Therefore, the Bible is without error.

The conclusion, however, is not necessarily sound, for it falsely equivocates errors with lies. Consider also that the first premise of the argument is that God inspired the Bible. That means that God Himself did not write it, but that the Holy Spirit directed his prophets to do so. This means that the Bible was written by men, and men are not immune to error--even when they are being truthful to the best of their abilities.

Take the situation at the Battle of Jericho. The Biblical author writes that the Sun stood still in the sky while Joshua's army "avenged themselves upon their enemies" (Joshua 10:13). A strict interpretation of the Bible (and it was this interpretation that led Copernicus to fear releasing his heliocentric theory, and the one that was used to threaten Galileo's life) suggests that the Sun must revolve around the Earth, for if it says in Joshua that "the sun stood still" then it must normally move.

However, a more rational approach to the issue reveals that the Biblical writer simply recorded what he observed. To us humans, it appears that the Sun revolves around the Earth from east to west. When the miracle occurred, it therefore seemed that the Sun stood still. If anything stood still, it was the Earth on its axis because the Sun doesn't move.

In Joshua 10:13, the Bible is therefore innaccurate--to a degree. But it's not a degree worth getting excited about. Too many Christians (and believers of other religions) assume some kind of slippery-slope worst-case scenario when something in their holy scriptures is criticized. Just because the author of Joshua erred minorly does not mean that everything in the Bible is false. All it means is that Joshua's author did not know that it's the Earth that moves. He wrote what he saw, and what he wrote was as truthful as we can expect.

Ironically, many Christian fundamentalists who interpret everything in the Bible literally still cut and paste to their whims. Many denominations preach against the consumption of alchohol, even though Jesus's first recorded miracle was at a wedding, during which he turned water into wine. In Ecclesiastes 8:15, Solomon writes that "there is nothing good under the sun except to eat, to drink and to be merry." And let us not forget that when the booze ran out, Jesus's first miracle, at the wedding in Cana, was to turn water into wine (John 2:1-11). Furthermore, most fundamentalists do not believe in transubstantiation--that, during Communion, wine and bread become the blood and body of Christ--even though Jesus minced no words when he said, "This is my body. . . This is my blood. . . Do this in remembrance of me." Some churches, on the rare occasions when they celebrate the eucharist, even substitute the wine with mere grape juice. What kind of arrogance is this, to assume that drinking wine would be wrong, even though that's what Jesus did and said to do?

On a completely different note, the current diagnosis of my computer problem is that it's the motherboard. I can think of a word to put right in the middle of that...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Coffee Blues

The latest study suggests that coffee consumption may contribute to hypertension (i.e. high blood pressure). Another recent study suggests that coffee consumption may prevent Parkinson's Disease.

So I can quit drinking coffee and avoid an increased risk of hypertension, but have to deal with 1.) nevermore enjoying the taste of the heavenly brew, 2.) having a harder time in the morning, and 3.) apparently having a higher risk of Parkinson's.

Or, I can keep drinking coffee and merely risk hypertension.

I'm not scoffing at hypertension, but compared to Parkinson's, I'll take a relatively quick heart attack.

Also, in case you don't remember, this site used to be called "What I Hate." It is now called "What I Think," but I still hate a lot of things. Here's a random list of things that I hate.

1.) When someone uses all of the toilet paper, and I'm left sitting there, looking at either the bath towel or the shower curtain as my only options.

2.) Al Gore

3.) Socialism (a.k.a. Communism, Leftism, the Democratic Party)

4.) Government (i.e. the legal mafia) in general; the coercive powers of government in particular).

5.) Movies starring Keanu Reeves (exception: The Matrix)

6.) Paying taxes to a government that does not represent me because I did not vote for a single one of the janks who presume to rule over me.

7.) When Kevin, who always has an inferior fantasy football team, beats me in the first round of the playoffs.

8.) When Kevin smugly reminds me that he beat me in the first round of the playoffs.

9.) When obviously overpaid and under qualified workers complain that foreigners are taking their jobs because they'll work for less money.

10.) That Tony Danza played the Ukulele on the Late Late Show (the one hosted by the guy who played Drew Carey's boss on The Drew Carey Show): Jake Shimabukuro and I have dedicated our lives to demonstrating that the Uke is a serious instrument (sure, Jake has done a better job of it, but that's not the issue), just so Danza can strum it like some brain-dead idiot and reinforce the popular belief that the Uke is just a toy guitar.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Some Arguments that Annoy Me

I love to debate. It's good fun, especially with a knowledgeable and clever opponent. Rarely, however, do I encounter a knowledgeable and clever adversary. Much of the time, my knowledgeable foes are not clever, or my clever antagonists are not knowledgeable. Too often, my challenger is neither (as is usually the case with democrats--and if you take that to be a shot in favor of republicans, then you haven't been reading much of this blog).

The following list is of the usual responses when my less than able sparring partners realize that they have been backed into a corner.

1.) "Who's to say?" What I find objectionable about this less than witty retort is that it's really a red herring. The issue is not who's saying what; it's what's being said that matters. Whenever someone comes back from one of your major points with this one, you should know that you've got him or her on the ropes.

2.) "You think what you want, and I'll think what I want." At this point, your opponent has basically surrendered and is asking for generous terms. Now is the time to be General Grant. Offer no terms except for unconditional surrender, and remind him or her that you propose to move upon his or her works immediately (read some narrative history on the engagement at Fort Donelson in 1862 if you don't get this one). Once pressed further, your opponent is likely to suggest that it isn't worth arguing anymore because you are too stubborn to see his or her point. Again, this is a point to you, for you've now forced your adversary into relying upon ad hominem rebuttals. What they really mean to say (but won't, for pride stands in the way) is, "I cannot logically reject your argument, so I am backing off in an orderly fashion before this argument turns into a rout.

3. "You see things in black and white, but the world is painted in shades of gray." This argument starts off first with an absurd metaphor. Of course the world isn't painted in black and white, but it isn't painted in gray either. In fact, the world isn't painted at all. What your opponent is really saying here is something akin to "There are no absolutes" or "There is no such thing as right or wrong," or "Everything is relative." There are some major logical problems with this position.
First of all, you can't say that there are no absolutes. It's an autophagic argument (i.e. it destroys itself), for to assert that there are no absolutes is to make an absolute statement.
Second, you can't say that there is no such thing as right or wrong and be right about it, for if you're right, then the statement is false (since nothing is right).
Third, you can't say that everything is relative. If everything is relative, then the assertion that everything is relative is merely relative. This means, in fact, that there are absolutes. Therefore, everything is not relative. Questions of good and evil, elements of logic and moral principles cannot be relative. Of course, some things are relative: I like pizzas with lots of cheese, pepperoni, sausage, onions, green peppers, black olives, and mushrooms. My wife, on the other hand, prefers cheese and pepperoni. That's a relative issue because it's really about little more than taste preferences. It's a relative issue to argue if green peppers taste good. Whether or not green peppers have vitamins is not a relative issue. Even if you think that green peppers taste like elephant feces (by the way, how do you know what pachyderm poop tastes like?), you cannot say that green peppers don't have vitamins. Something like whether or not abortion should be legal is not relative. You might wish that abortion was OK, but that doesn't make it so.

Also, your opponent, if he or she relies upon tricks instead of reason, may resort to other techniques. For one, they may appeal to popularity (ad populum): well Michigan voters have spoken, and gay couples should not be allowed to marry or enjoy the legal benefits of marriage. Does this mean that an anti-Semitic majority that wishes to harm Jews is right? As far as I can observe, a majority proves only the ignorance or maliciousness of the masses. Seriously, if marriage is a religious act, then the law (as brought down by the state) ought to have none of it.

Then again, your enemy may wish to make you tremble in your boots. These are the kind who constantly tell you how crucial the issue of global warming is. If you for one second think, "Hey, hasn't the globe been warming naturally for tens of thousands of years since the last Ice Age?" then these people will thwart you by warnings that you and your children and your grand children and your great-grandchildren etc. will die. Since your really not dumb enough to fall into this trap, they'll make you feel sorry for penguins and polar bears (seriously, there's a conspiracy to make you feel bad for arctic and antarctic wildlife because deep inside you know that their predictions of what will happen to people is a load of BS). The fact that they resort to making you (and especially your children) simply sympathize with arctic/antarctic wildlife should be enough to make you see through their weak arguments.

There are more, but it's late, and I'm tired.

Random Post

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fantasy Football Season Is Coming!

Here's the roster for one of my new Fantasy Football leagues. In this league, we kept one player from last season (he is indicated by an *). I thought I drafted well, considering that there are twelve teams in the league, and that means that a lot of the talent gets snatched up pretty quickly.

QB: John Kitna (starter), Alex Smith, Brett Favre
RB: Frank Gore* (starter), Rudi Johnson (starter), Jamal Lewis,
WR: Larry Fitzgerald (starter), Javon Walker (starter), Braylon Edwards, Muhsin Muhammad
TE: Chris Cooley (starter), Daniel Owens
K: David Akers (starter), John Kasey
D/ST: Cowboys (starter), Raiders

In my other league (ten teams in this league), I was able to keep six players. I kept

QB: Peyton Manning
RB: Larry Johnson, Rudi Johnson
WR: Steve Smith
TE: Tony Gonzales
D/ST: Bears

I traded Plaxico Buress (WR) for a first round pick, so I have the fourth and the eighth picks of the first round.

Stupid Computer

My computer is acting up again, and worse than ever before. In so many ways, this computer (not the one that I'm actually using, but the one that's on the fritz) has been the best that I've ever had. In other ways, however, it's been a huge mess.

It's pretty much conclusive. I'm done with PCs. If it's not a Windows problem, then its a hardware problem. The only thing left is an act of God (who knows what might happen--I've said, "God damn this computer" so many times that He might just do it).

Once I've scraped together enough money, I'm going Mac, and I'm not turning back. Sure, Macs aren't impervious to problems, but a.) they don't use Windows, and b.) their hardware is much more reliable. c.) They appeal better to the eye, and d.) becoming a Mac owner will help me enjoy those "Hello, I'm a PC; Hi, I'm a Mac" commercials a lot more.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Holy Fart, Batman!

Pardon me. You may not wish to know this, but after yesterday's Hamburger Helper and today's very cheesy pizza, if farting were a crime, then I'd be sentenced to death.

However, the worst fart on record is still held by my good friend Jeff P.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pointless Comment

For no good reason at all--heck, I haven't even heard it in months--the song "Scotch and Soda" by The Kingston Trio has been stuck in my head all day.

I just picked it out on my ukulele. In a word, it's delightful.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Keep Scrolling for Some Pics!

Forgive the indulgence on my part, but here are a few pics of my little ones.

The pictures are posted with permission from Pamela Heckel Photography. Not only is she a close, personal friend and a Hillsdale College graduate, she is a genius behind the camera. She operates out of Allen, Michigan, and is an outstanding professional. If you are ever in southern Michigan, especially the Allen, Quincy, Hillsdale, Jonesville, Litchfield areas, schedule an appointment with her!

Bobo, Age 2 Months

Bobo, Age 2 Months

Natalie, Age 7, and Bobo, Age 2 Months

Mark, Age 4

Ironic Songs

In 1958, Bobby Darin recorded what Frank Sinatra called "the definitive version" of "Mack the Knife." It's an upbeat tune that really swings. The irony is that it's a song about a cold-blooded killer.

In a similar irony, The Beatles's "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" sounds like a delightful children's tune.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Orson Scott Card and Islam

Earlier, I posted my fondness for Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. Well, since then I have devoured the sequels and companion novels, enjoying all of them and wishing for more.

In Shadow of the Giant, Card makes a fine point about radical Islam. He says that Islam cannot be a legitimate religion until it recognizes peoples' rights to disbelieve and until it allows lapsed Muslims (i.e. people who leave Islam) to go freely and without harm. Until then, it is a tyranny. In a nutshell, he suggests that Islam ought to embrace the idea of separation of Church and State--that a religious offense is not punishable by violence (i.e. intimidation, fines, incarceration, torture, execution).

I can already hear the critics say that Islam already does this, that it is a religion of peace; but come on, who's kidding whom?

Show me the Islamic state with a good record on human rights in general, and the rights of religious minorities specifically.

Read some history. Islam spread via the sword, and it stays because of the sword.

Of course there are many Muslims who disagree and say that their brethren who so speak and behave are in a minority, but what they really mean is that such people are in a minority in the West. Where they are not in the minority, they rule with an iron fist. Look at the fatwah against Salman Rushdie.

By the way, just in case any half-wit reads this and figures that I'm saying something ridiculous like, "All Muslims are terrorists," re-read what I said, for I said no such thing. What I said is that presently, Islam--as it pours from the Middle East as it has for over a millenium--is aggressive, expansionistic, and imperialistic. Many nations have been this way in the past and changed. As Card points out, Islam is perfectly capable of changing too. Doing so will not dilute its theology, but will instead make it a rational religion that seeks members because they believe, not because they are frightened.

Now a truly astute critic will say that Christianity has just as much blood on its hands as Islam, and such a critic is probably (though I really mean absolutely) right.

However, Christianity long ago rejected the notion that men and women could (and should) be forced into the religion. Historically, Christianity must answer for much (e.g. the inquisition and the witch hunts in Europe and the American colonies).

Such an astute critic ought to see that the problem for both religions centers on the issue of Church and State. In the inquisition and the witch hunts, the coercive powers of the State were put to use for "religious" purposes. Only once predominantly Christian nations began to draw the line between crimes against God and crimes against society (i.e. harming the life, liberty, or property of others), did Christianity once again became a peaceful religion.

Yes, Christianity has blood on its hands, but it has long since coagulated. The blood on Islam's hands is still fresh.

Miniver Cheevy

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons.
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.

Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
Would send him dancing.

Miniver sighed for what was not,
And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
And Priam's neighbors.

Miniver mourned the ripe renown
That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned Romance, now on the town,
And Art, a vagrant.

Miniver loved the Medici,
Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
Could he have been one.

Miniver cursed the commonplace
And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;
He missed the medieval grace
Of iron clothing.

Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
And thought about it.

Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I Coulda Been a Contender

There's a lot of sentimental crap that comes out in movies. Watch Titanic if you don't believe me. Most of these stories involve rather flat characters and what I will call "forced" dialogue (again, see Titanic).

However, there are some times when a dialogue flows naturally from a well developed character, and it is in these times that we can discover insight into the human condition.

Take for instance the scene in On the Waterfront, when Martin Brando's character, Terry, says to his brother, (who had forced him to take a dive in his big fight--his one chance at the title):

"You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it."

This line has been replicated in many forms and parodied in its exact form. Even without the backdrop to the story, it means something to all of us. The idea that we "coulda" done something great, but we (for whatever reason) decided against it and took the easy (i.e. fast money--as Charlie reminds Terry) way out.

Perhaps I am out of line, or only speaking for myself, to suggest that we in the middle lament that if we had stood tall, ignored those pressuring us, dug in, and fought for ourselves alone, then we could have been more than we are.

There are times when I sit and sigh, for I do believe that "I coulda been a contender." There's still time, I suppose, but time is relative in more ways than Einstein imagined. While it creeps so unbearably slowly in your first twenty years, the remaining years seem to slip through your fingers like a heap of sand.

Then again, it's a load of crap. Terry chose to take the dive.

In the end, we all pocket our silver and reap the whirlwind. We sit in our cubicles and input data. We say, "Yes sir!" When we really should say, "What the hell are you thinking, sir?"

We sell ourselves short because it's so easy to be a "coulda been." It's harder actually to be, so we decide instead to hate such people and figure (dishonestly) that they simply had more opportunities.

The bottom line is that the contenders are there because they took the jabs and the hooks and kept their feet. Those who either couldn't keep their feet or took the dive for the short-term game belong in the middle or the bottom.

Either I need to sit my fat ass down and write the damn novel that's in my head, or I need to accept that I'll forever be just someone who "coulda been a contender" but decided not to be one.

At least I never paid a two-bit airline for a coke. Even if I did, I wouldn't decline my wife's bedside in lieu of a rant. You disappoint me, Murdock. Unlike you, I have never denied your wife...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds is the most hollow man to break a hallowed record. Some defend him--for now--saying that until actual proof exists that he used steroids and other enhancements to help catapult him past Hank Aaron, we cannot render judgment against him.

But this is not the case.

The issue of "Who is the best slugger in baseball history" is not one bound by the law of innocent until proven guilty. It is thoroughly a matter of public, nay individual, opinion.

Hank Aaron acquired and held his record for so long because he was purely talented, not because he was juiced. That makes him better than Bonds.

What we can't do is throw Barry Bonds in jail. What we can't do (yet) is strip him of his current title.

However, as thinking beings we can deny him our adoration and label him as the scumbag that he is.

Just because Michael Jackson hasn't been convicted of the crimes for which he is suspected doesn't mean that I wouldn't be a madman to let my children stay with him and share his bed.

Just because O.J. Simpson walks freely does not mean that I should trust and consort with the likes of him.

Just because Al Capone was only found guilty of tax-evasion does not make him any less of a cold-blooded killer.

There comes a point when circumstantial evidence is so overwhelming that only a fool looks the other way. Barry Bonds deserves jeers, not cheers. He should go down in hisses, not history.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me

Hey, I just turned 31.

There are some who say that they stop counting after 29.

Those people are pathetic. Even if you refuse to count (which you don't really do anyway), the number doesn't change.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Readings (and re-readings this summer), an assigned letter grade, and a very brief comment.

I recommend all of these except for A People's History of the Civil War. If you like to read in the bathroom, then pick that one up because it can at least be useful for spare paper (but beware of paper cuts).

Speaker of the Dead, by Orson Scott Card (A-)--Rarely has a sequel been so different than the original, but still great reading.
Xenocide, by Orson Scott Card (B)--Good, but a bit slow in many parts.
Children of the Mind, by Orson Scott Card (B)--The ending could have been a bit more satisfying.
Ender's Shadow, by Orson Scott Card (A)--If you liked Ender's Game, then you MUST read this.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling (A)--My favorite of them all.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling (B+)--As good as the first, second, and fourth installments.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling (A-)--Tied with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkeban as my second favorite of the series.

The Civil War: A Narrative volume 3, by Shelby Foote (A)--Almost perfect.

A People's History of The Civil War, by David Williams (D)--Great reading, if you're a socialist who doesn't really care about the truth. When are Marxists going to realize that dialectical materialism is a load of crap, and that poverty is not the result of economic injustice in a capitalist system?

Superstrings: A Theory of Everything?, by P. C. W. Davies and Julian Brown (B)--This is very handy to people who don't like when scientists publish only for other scientists. It's geared toward the curious amateur.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Going to Africa

Mark wants to go to Africa. Specifically, he wants to go on a hunting safari. More specifically, he wants to shoot a lion.

"I'll tell you what, buddy," I said. "You get a full ride scholarship to college, and I'll take you hunting in Africa."

"Okay," He replied.

Unfortunately, he has no idea what college is, let alone a scholarship--remember, he just turned four--, so he had no idea that he had just made a deal with me that will take a full 14 years before it takes effect.

The poor kid thinks that we're going to Africa soon--really soon.

To wit, I was headed to the grocery store, and I figured that I'd bring Mark along.

"Mark," I called. "Get your shoes on and get in the car."

He came running with his shoes and a big smile on his face. "Are we going to Africa now?" He asked.

"Sorry, dude. We're just going to the store," I confessed. "We won't be able to go to Africa for a long time."

"Oh," he replied in a sinking tone to match his fading smile.

I decided on a compromise--I took him to the WalMart on 12 Mile road, but it wasn't enough to mend his broken heart.

Friday, August 03, 2007

No recent Posts

Just in case you're wondering why I haven't posted recently, there are two reasons.

One is that, since I'm married with three children, I haven't as much time to myself as I used to have.

The other is that the news sucks.

Lindsay Lohan is in and out of rehab and trouble?

She's about as much news as the fact that Budweiser makes me fart.

A government funded project (in this case a bridge in Minnesota that collapsed) failed?

There are times when I'm not sure if I shouldn't just go to the bathroom after a Budweiser (just to be on the safe side).

Hugo Chavez loves Sean Penn?

Idi Amin thought that Hitler was a great man.

That's our news, folks. And you wonder why I haven't posted much!

By the way, I just burped, and I tasted some of the White Castles that I ate over two hours ago.

Now that's news.

Bill of Rights