Friday, December 31, 2004


I have decided to periodically examine the various types of blogs and bloggers - an endeavor I have termed as "Blogoriography"©, along the same line as historiography, which is the study of how historians have approached history.

More soon.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Cosmology of J.R.R. Tolkien's Silmarillion

I was tossing about this afternoon for a topic here and I was, for some reason, reminded about the music that was played at our Parish on Christmas Eve. Most Sundays, I sit in the "crying room" with the kids, where the music comes through a tinny speaker. For Christmas Eve, however, we were in the main Church. Moreover, the normal choir and organ combo was augmented by several musical instruments, including a flute, an electric guitar and an electric bass. The effect was quite dramatic. I was struck once again by how powerful music can be. The songs themselves were renditions of various Christmas carols and liturgical songs of the season. However, it was amazing how the acoustics, the instruments and choralists, and the season all combined for a powerful emotional experience.

As far as I know, there is nothing in the Bible ascribing any particular role to music in Creation. However, one is tempted to believe the account penned by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Silmarillion where the creation process itself took the form of tremendous symphonies of the angelic hosts and ultimately from God Himself and that that music lives on, in faint echoes, in things as diverse as the crashing of the waves (!!) to composed musical pieces.

The psychological effect of music is truly amazing. It can call to mind memories of people and places in a way that the visual cannot (this is also true, I have found, with the sense of smell).

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


My formative years were the 1970s. One of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons in those days (and apparently still a real favorite) was the Jetsons. George Jetson and his family (think: "His boy, Elroy", "Daughter Judy" and "Jane, his wife") lived in appropriately futuristic cloud cities and drove about in some sort of repulsorcraft. Homelife was managed by "Rosie the Robot", who would bring George his slippers and, ahem, a cigar, upon his arrival home from a hard day's work at Spacely Sprockets.

We all, of course, thought that the Jetson's way of life would be our way of life in the way too distant future -- the Year 2000 [insert spooky future-sounding music here]. Sad to say (I guess), the Year 2000 (or as we came to know it ad nauseum, Y2K) came and went with nary a flying car to be seen. So much for our hopes of Rosie-like robotic labor saving devices. But not so fast! Alt-Ctrl-Del contributor Trajan (aka, my brother Bill), generously gave us an iRobot Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner for Christmas. I tried it out for the first time yesterday and it really does work. This little guy -- who instantly became my 5 year old son's best friend of the moment -- is about the diameter of a large frisbee and about as thick as a dog's water bowl. It moves about on 2 driving and 1 steering wheel and has a front bumper that tells it when it hits something, causing it to change directions. Sure, it bumps around all over the place and takes a long time to do the vacuuming, but hey, that's the key -- ROOMBA's doing the vacuuming, not me! My hope is to get Roomba going just before bedtime and arrive downstairs in the morning to a clean floor; however, I am not naive enough to believe that its always going to be that way. But if I can get it to work most of the time, then I think its a real plus.

This brings me to my final point here. We all grew up thinking that the world of George Jetson would someday just appear out of whole cloth: robots would do the hard work, flying cars would be everywhere and pictures phones would be the norm. At first blush, it appears that none of this has happened. Yet, look around you: Roomba's are cleaning floors. Roomba's first cousins are assembling automobiles; picture phones are as easy as buying a $29.95 Logitech eyeball camera from CompUSA and hooking it up to your PC and using it with AOL Instant Messenger. In fact, you are able to read what I have written here, despite the fact that I have never printed this document on paper. In short, we are a lot closer to the world of George Jetson than we would, at first blush, think, and most of those developments have been in only the last 10-12 years. Just think what the next 20 years are going to bring. My kids will be able to tell their kids about how the cars they drove in while growing up actually had wheels!

Tsunami's Toll

The sheer numbers of people killed by this tsunami is staggering:
"Stricken countries on the Indian Ocean worked swiftly on Wednesday to bury thousands of bodies as experts warned disease could kill as many people as the 63,000 already dead from the violent crush of Sunday's tsunami."
I still recall, however, the Chinese earthquake of July 1976, which, as I recall, killed approximately 800,000!

Back on the Beat

After a 5 day hiatus, I am back scanning for blogworthy topics. Check in later for some thoughts on the nature of music and Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners. Can't get much more diverse than that!

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Darker Side of Tirechanging

Contrary to the prevailing opinion in the Blogosphere, tirechanging is not all sweetness and light!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Winter Solstice

I knew that the last couple of days felt longer...

Exciting Developments in the Browser World

Now that I've opened the tech floodgates, here's a very interesting bit of news about the browser wars. In the last 6-12 months, various browser developers have decided to take it right to Microsoft (which, notwithstanding my preceding post, has not been particularly innovative of late with Internet Explorer). Although I still regularly use IE, I am also an enthusiastic user of the Firefox browser, mainly because of its tabbed browsing ability and the ability to auto-update pages every x minutes. The linked story details a new version of Opera that will feature voice commands (using IBM ViaVoice technology). I was an early user of ViaVoice, with only limited success and a lot of frustration. We'll see how this goes. Nevertheless, the renewed energy in the browser development arena bodes well for all of us.

Oil Prices

You know, if I see one more article about "Oil Supplies Down / Prices Up" or "Oil Supplies Up / Prices Down", I'm gonna scream. You can count on a new story every week with one of these themes. My guess is that its Reuters trying to scare everyone.


I haven't shown too much of my techie leanings in these posts, but I am going to make an exception here. I recently purchased Microsoft Office Student Teacher Edition for our new home PC. Following installation, I constantly got a '1606' error (something to do with the installation files) whenever I tried to use anything beyond the most basic of functions. Very annoying. Well I filed an online service request and - what do you know - I got an intelligent response. Li "Leo" Chen, a Microsoft "helper", worked with me via email over 4 days and we solved the problem (not without a lot of fun [and scary] registry editing).

My point is this: Microsoft is frequently vilified as the Evil Empire, especially by snooty techie types. However, there's a reason for the company's success, and its not just monopoly power via the Windows OS franchise, it's also good, timely and effective customer service. Good products don't hurt either.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Three Cheers for Fox News

Fox News Channel is going out of its way this week to include promo spots saying "Merry Christmas".

Good for them!

Presidential Pardons

There must be some technical reason why President Bush issued these pardons to people whose sentences should have long been over. Perhaps it's to expunge their records and allow them not to have to disclose prior felony convictions.

I welcome any thoughts on the subject.

UPDATES: Here and here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Amber Alerts

Whenever I see one of these Amber Alert headlines online, I will always read the full story. I can only imagine how the families and friends of these missing people feel and I know that, if the shoe were on the other foot, I would be hoping and praying that as many people as possible would be reading the story and lending their eyes and ears to the search.

Monday, December 20, 2004

I'd Rather not...

Why is it not surprising that CBS is apparently considering Katie Couric as the anchor replacement for Dan Rather?

Sixth Potter Book in the Can

OK, I admit it -- I am a Harry Potter fan. So I was quite pleased to read that the 6th installment of Harry & Friends is complete. Publication date to be announced, but hopefully not too far into 2005.

Update: Looks like we'll have to wait until July.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Another lip-syncing scandal on SNL

During tonight's opening monolog, this well-known Hollywood figure was definitely lip-syncing a Christmas tune...

France Launches Spy Satellite

OK, so the French have reputedly launched a spy satellite, capable of, among other things, providing terrain-mapping data for cruise missile guidance systems. The big question is: what in the world are they going to use that data for?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Interstate Commerce

I find it troubling that the New York Attorney General has sued in New York state courts a New Jersey auto dealership over alleged false advertising. It is precisely this type of state interference with interstate commerce that led to the framing of the U.S. Constitution in the first place. Elliott Spitzer is not "America's Attorney General", notwithstanding his tremendous ego.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Flu Shots

Predictably, all the furor about the "shortage" of flu shots has been overstated. Fox News reports that there is now such an oversupply that restrictions on who can receive the shots may be lifted. Tune back in in April when there will likely be a story about all the flu shot doses that will have gone to waste.

Getting Through the First Semester of Law School

Ann Althouse's son has finished his first semester of law school. Those of us who've been there (or anyone who remembers "The Paper Chase") applaud his effort. It's been 18 years since the end of my first semester and I still occasionally get the chills thinking about all that outlining, studying and agonizing. Brrrr....

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Washington Nationals...Or not?

Without knowing a lot of the details, I have to applaud the the District of Columbia City Council for drawing the line at a $1 BILLION commitment to Major League Baseball in return for the right to host a major league ballclub. In a city as impoverished as our National Capital, spending this kind of money on a baseball team borders on immoral. For those of you who say, "Who cares! It's not my money", think again: Who do you think supplies the operating budget for D.C.? You do!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Mahmoud Abbas and a call to renounce Palestinian violence

I certainly hope that Mahmoud Abbas' call for negotiations with Israel, rather than violence, is sincere. We've heard things like this before from Arafat (at least in English; in Arabic, he rarely made such statements). However, I think the death of Arafat may be a truly watershed event in this troubled region. If Abbas can overcome the factionalism that has typified intra-Palestinian relations for the past 15 years or so, peace may truly have a chance...

Monday, December 13, 2004

Bernard Kerik

If all of the allegations being made about Bernard Kerik the last few days are true ...and I'm not saying they are, because I have no way of knowing that ... you've got to wonder who did the original background check on him for the Bush Administration. Of course, I also think there's a good chance that a lot of this stuff is the usual "pile-on" that occurs whenever the fourth estate smells blood in the water.

Fox News: "High-Pressure Deadlines Up Sudden Heart Attack Risk"

You know, this is really not a big surprise...

The New York Times continues its crusade...

In an article appearing on Monday, the New York Times continues to trot out the tired argument that the war in Iraq has somehow distracted the United States from the War on Terrorism. I think it goes without saying that that is no more true than that the D-Day invasions in June 1944 somehow "distracted" the United States from the campaign against Japan in the Pacific. As was the case in WWII, the United States is able to focus the appropriate military assets in more than one locale simultaneously. If anything, considering the manner in which the world has shrunk due to advances in electronic communication, the ability of the U.S. to fight a 2 theater war in the Second World War seems all the more amazing.

UPDATE: The capture of a top Taliban security officer by Afghan forces recently sure does not lend credence to the Times thesis that the War on Terror is suffering as a result of the Iraq War.

Still no cell phone use while flying

Apparently, the FCC and the FAA are keeping the lid on airborne cell phone use for now. I have always suspected that this ban was unwarranted. What the motivation was, I don't know. It seems like the possibility of interference with aircraft navigation / communications is something that could have been exhaustively checked on the ground and ruled in or out. But then again, what do I know?

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Minimal Blogging Today

Not much blogging is in order today. Still a lot of Christmas decorations to put up. Also some shopping, too. Finally, I will be watching the Lions-Packers game on Tivo tonight.

No spoilers, ok?

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Bunny Blogging!

These are the newest additions to our household
Twilight (left) and Starry (right)

Trajan's new ride. Sweet!

Cadillac's New STS!

Oldies but Goodies

Isn't it amazing that after all these years, the video games we remember as kids have regained popularity?

Friday, December 10, 2004

The New Energy Secretary nominee

...and this is a bad thing? After 4 years of being accused of being too cozy with energy executives, President Bush nominates a relative outsider as Energy Secretary. Of course, the media (esp. Reuters) disparages the event. Since when is it an essential that a Cabinet Secretary be a professional in the field his or her prospective agency regulates (as if being a chemical engineer and President of Fidelity Investments is not sufficient grounding)? Imagine the howling if President Bush had nominated the Chairman of Exxon-Mobil to this post!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Another wild weather night...

Auto Recalls

I had a hunch that 2004 was setting some sort of record for automobile recalls, and it turns out that I was right and the year isn't over yet!

Children and Privacy

The Washington State Supreme Court has taken another step towards creating a pedocracy. My opinion on this is the following: a child under the age of 18 has no presumptive expectation of privacy in his or her parent's home. I make sure of that in my house by explicitly telling my children now (at ages 8, 7 and 5) that I consider it not only my right, but my obligation as a parent, to know what they are doing and saying in my house. Does that mean that they have no privacy? No, because I don't abuse the privilege.

Marine Deserter

I always thought this was a weird story. Looks like maybe he shouldn't have left his stuff in Fallujah.

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!

I am encouraged by the reaction I am seeing to the marginalization of Christmas by many in our society. Christmas has been under increasing attack for years; first by creeping commercialism and now by those who would do away with it entirely, replacing it with the generic notion of the "Holidays".

Take, for example, my kids' experience at school. They have been learning about Hanukkah, bringing home multiple dreidels and coins (both symbols of the eight day celebration). Hannukkah is a legitimate feast on the Judaic calendar celebrating a miracle associated with the return of Jews from exile and the restoration of the Temple. However, absent Hanukkah's proximity to Christmas, it would almost certainly be a minor feast on the order of Yom HaBikkurim, the feast of the First Fruits -- a feast celebrated on the first day following the Sabbath after Passover.

The kids have also been learning about Kwanzaa, a completely contrived holiday, created in 1966 by individuals who desired an Afro-centric holiday in counterpoise to Christmas. In its roots and ideals, Kwanzaa more closely resembles a pagan feast than a Judeo-Christian holiday.

After all this learning about these marginal holidays, you would expect something to be said about Christmas. Well, so far Christmas has rated a big, fat goose-egg, save for a few "Christmas" songs, like "Frosty the Snowman". This is pretty ironic, considering that it is Christmas which, after all, is the real reason for this season of celebration in the first place.

Don't get me wrong: I respect anyone's right to celebrate whatever holiday they wish -- just don't do so at the expense of diminishing Christmas or even equating the other "holidays" with the second most important feast in Christianity. I think more people are starting to feel the same way, judging by anecdotal evidence I have seen and heard. Let's hope it continues!


[Posted with hblogger 2.0]

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Oil for Food

This article is laughable when you see the cast of characters rushing to Kofi Annan's defense. Imagine, if you will, the Energy Department mismanaging funds on this scale. They'd be calling for a criminal indictment of George W. Bush. Not so with Annan, to whom they accord far too much deference.

Glenn is wrong here

Glenn Reynolds is wrong on this one. The ACLU has done nothing but erode citizen's rights since its inception: the right to practice one's religion; the right to feel safe in one's home; the right of an unborn child to life, etc... Those rights have been abrogated in favor of the "rights" the ACLU espouses: the "right" to squelch all reference to religion in society, the "rights" of criminals to be released due to errors on the part of the police, the "right" of mothers-to-be to snuff out a life for no other reason than that it is "inconvenient". I am all for the Constitution, but let's temper that with some notion of what the Framers intended, not what some modern-day judge feels like legislating.

I for one would like to see Congress pass a statute stating that life begins at conception. Harry Blackmun's "opinion" in Roe v. Wade, that there is a compelling state interest in the life of the unborn child beginning at the end of the first trimester is nothing but bald legislation: he asserts that
"the 'compelling" point, in the light of present medical knowledge, is at approximately the end of the first trimester. This is so because of the now-established medical fact, referred to above at 149, that until the end of the first trimester mortality in abortion may be less than mortality in normal childbirth."
Upon what Constitutional principle is this assertion based? None! It is merely Harry Blackmun's personal opinion based upon his own reading of medical texts at the Mayo Clinic. This type of obiter dicta is what the ACLU is all about: promoting its own nihilist vision of the Constitution instead of a vision of the Constitution grounded in our own Anglo-American, Judeo-Christian heritage.

It is long past time when Congress should challenge the Supreme Court's overreaching in Roe. Let's urge Congress to make a specific finding that life begins at conception. Undoubtedly, the Court would have to take up this finding and I, for the life of me (and others), do not see how the Court could, within the limits of its Constitutional authority, find basis to dispute that. But that's the rub, isn't it? The liberal wing of the Court would undoubtedly attempt to seize on some pretext to do exactly that. We won't know, however, unless Congress asserts its moral and Constitutional authority, as the voice of the People, to stand up to the third branch of government that has arrogated much of the power of the first branch -- the power to legislate -- to itself.

Don Rumsfeld

You don't think Reuters is happy about this, do you?

Detroit Basketbrawl

This whole thing is too bad.  Detroit's getting another black-eye for something that (1) was largely the fault of an INDIANAPOLIS team and (2) could have happened anywhere.  Nevertheless, I think the charges being levelled against the players are far too lenient.  These guys are so big and powerful that they are, themselves, deadly weapons.  There is no excuse for what happened, even with the cup throwing (the chair is another matter, of course).  Stay tuned for a bunch of easy plea bargains.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Fun with Software

Why no posts the past 2 nights? Because I have spent approximately 9 hours over 2 days trying to install Symantec's Norton Systemworks 2005 Premiere. This is a program that's supposed to help you, not cause you to marry your PC. Turns out I had an imperfectly uninstalled earlier version of this software. To clean out the whole thing, I had to follow about 4 pages of (fortunately, good) directions.

I am lucky I am reasonably comfortable following these types of directions. I suspect your average user would be scared to death to do this. Its oft said that if the automobile industry made products with the same reliability as software manufacturers, we'd all still be riding in buggies. There's a lot of truth to that.

Sunday, December 05, 2004


One of my passions is the weather. We're supposed to get 1-2 inches of rain by Tuesday. This is an exclamation point on a VERY wet autumn here in North Georgia. Don't know if we will have any snow this year. We've had it for 3 of the 4 previous winters that we've lived here, but none last year. Here's hoping for a White Christmas!


Pretty funny movie, though just about anything with Wil Ferrell in it is funny. Thoughts about some of the other cast members:

Ed Asner: Although I detest what Asner has become politically, he did a good job as Santa Claus. Ed: Stick with acting and you'll be ok.

Mary Steenburgen: She's all over the place on TV and the movies right now. Big question: Where's Ted Danson? (Answer: Probably filling in for Ed Asner on some left-wing wacko activity).

Bob Newhart: It's ALWAYS good to see Bob Newhart! One of the great geniuses of American comedy and he does it with self-deprecation and understatement. Today's "comedians" could learn a lot from him (and Bill Cosby).

Saturday, December 04, 2004

More Christmas Spirit

Well, the tree's gonna have to wait til tomorrow. We rented "Elf" tonight. Never saw it in the theaters last year, and so have been waiting for this Christmas season (the wise men at the film studio decided against releasing the DVD in, say, June). I'll post my thoughts on it later.

Getting Ready for Christmas

Today begins the big push to get ready for Christmas. The tree is up and just waiting for lights. This will probably be a 2 day process, but maybe we'll get it done tonight.

Since we are going to be staying in Alpharetta this year for Christmas, we'll probably go somewhat more "all-out" with the decorations. Again, we'll see!

Why the weird name for this blog? It just kind of hit me as a set of keystrokes that used to signify futility (as striking those keys led immediately to a re-boot of the PC, with a loss of all unsaved data). Now those keys can be salvation: if a program hangs, simply press those keys and (theoretically) you've got a shot at saving your work.

As profound as that all sounds, I really picked it because it seemed cool AND it was available!

[Posted with hblogger 2.0]