Thursday, June 30, 2005

Transience & agnosticism

Just added my favourite non-famous blogger to my blog roll of 2 - Transience of To Norway on a Bicycle. First came across her by next blogging from my site & her animated .gif of Bjork caught my eye - her site looks cooler than mine overall. Believe she lives in the Philippines - part of the attraction of blogs must be the same attraction of Ham radios, meeting folks on the other side of the planet with similar interests that you'd never meet otherwise. Recently she mentioned that she was an agnostic: having gone from being an agnostic in my 20's to being a deist now I counseled her that she'd do the same. Not sure when I made the conversion, but some time shortly after my religious experience on the 17 mile drive back in my early 20's.

Believe that no human can go through life with an undecided belief concerning God. What makes humans agnostic are the existing religions: I never believed in the Christian god or the Jewish god, and that left me doubting God's existence. In actuality I was not doubting God's existence, but instead doubting the existence of God as presented by the extant religions.

When I've stated to the Ginger Haired Yank that I believe in God, her immediate response is "you believe in a white bearded father figure giving birth to man!" No, no, no. Unfortunately when you say you believe in God, what comes to mind are the images propagated by the planet's dominant religions.

Read that one of our founders viewed atheism & deism to be the same. Can tell from personal experience how false that belief is: One night fellow deist & ex-roommate Big Boy & I were having a semi-heated argument with our spouses & Gator Boy (all devout atheists). Anyone listening in would never consider deism & atheism to be the same. Of course beliefs of God are so core to our being that you'll never convince an adult to change their beliefs, so Gator Boy wasn't convince to convert by my bit of sophistry that "infinity is just another name for God" even though I believe it's true.

Too bad the term Deism isn't better known - Big Boy was arguing with his father-in-law, but didn't have the correct term to express his argument and either used agnosticism or atheism to inaccurately describe his religious belief.

Final Thought: Hands down my favourite film image of God has to be from Acid House. The first story's protagonist meets God & tells him that he's "just like i imagined you." "Of course i'm like you imagined me ya daft cunt, that's because I look just like you imagined me - yuv got no imagination" (paraphrase). Will leave final line to Welsh:

that c**t Nietzche was wide by the mark when he said I was deed. I'm naw deed, I just dinnae give a f**k'

Update: Big Boy informs me "I told him that I was an agnostic...but then you introduced me to the concept of Deist...that is what I am. He now knows that I am a deist."

Finally back up to snuff

The combination of knee & crown & filing & acid reflux really did a number on me, so no recent blogging. I guess professional bloggers just force themselves since it's a job (I still go to work, just have no spare energy for blogging when I come home).

Physical therapy is fairly impressive - truly a science. In addition to the exercises I've been doing, some balance muscle work that my chiropractor had not given me. I am impressed with healthcare in america. Both of my knee surgeries were first rate - stayed awake for the last one while watching it on a TV above me. Surgery took roughly 1 hour & the recovery off crutches less than a week. Neck surgery also first rate, but I waited too long to have the surgery not understanding the risk of putting it off. Sinus surgery top notch as well.

I read on one of the left wing blogs that folks in France prefer their health system to ours if they're not rich. I'm not rich & anyone working for a decent size company would have comparable medical insurance to mine, so believe the French have a false impression of the health care for the middle class in America, though I can't compare our systems directly. Now if Barbarian Invasions is any indication (and recent events sure back up that impression), than I'd rank our system far far superior to Canada's.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Friday Night Wine Blogging

2000 Woodbridge - Robert Mondavi Zinfandel

This wine was Awesome: amazing that a wine goes with lime. In a restaurant, this would be a $100 bottle of wine. - Ginger Haired Yank

Thursday, June 23, 2005

What do professional bloggers do on down days?

Temporary crown & physical therapy today so no blogging. Will return to what is taught in history classes via Foreign Affairs article on the influenza epidemic of 1918 (a subject never discussed in any history class I took) over the weekend.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Rethinking finishing unfinished novels

Having slugged through part I & part II, I finished part III a few weeks ago, but have only forced myself to nibble at part IV. Part III once again takes forever for the grand finale of the authour's uncle composing (as an anti-Scheherazade) a story of a character Kazik who lives an entire life in 24 hours. It's supposed to be some great climax to the 3rd section, but having seen the play, I was just relieved that the 3rd section was finally over.

Part IV is an encyclopedia of the life of Kazik - the title derives from a reference "See under:___". Have only slugged through 8 pages of the final section & certainly won't slug through any tonight.

To date, the novel has been a completely unsatisfying read making me rethink the "flog myself through a book" strategy. The only 2 novels that I've read after hitting a wall that were worthwhile were Die Blechtrommel and Ulysses. With See Under: Love, I keep thinking of the statement from Joe Orton how plays had to respect the tolerance of audiences, while novels such (To the lighthouse in this case) did not. The play made from See Under did just that - respected the audience's tolerances, while the novel does not.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

5 down - 43 to go

Continuing in my 48 month series - Bush's lost momentum is still the dominant meme. What stands out now is how Bush is fighting defensive battles, e.g. Bolton nomination or funding stem cells, and clearly has not been setting the agenda since his Social Security privatization plan failed to gain traction.

Updating my metrics to judge Bush:


One of the books that has had the most impact on me last year is The emperor of scent. An account of Luca Turin and how he , from his great love for perfumes and his absolute smelling sense, developed a new theory about how the nose identifies a scent. A very elegant theory that has been sabled down by almost everyone. Several things make the book great reading. 1. Here we have the story of an underdog fighting the system, which always is good reading. 2. The sense of smelling is underrated (the only book I know handling this subject is Patrick Susskinds The perfume) and underdeveloped in society. This book learns you to not only look, hear or feel but too also smell the world. 3. His proza used to describe different scents is fantastic. He is able to translate smells into sounds, feelings and views. Very mind stimulating. 4. Having a scientific background I am more inclined towards the logical than the emotional. This book handles a "soft" subject like smell in a great blend of the emotional and the logical. (Maybe the sense of smell is the missing link between the feeling oriented and the visual oriented)

And now I found
the Blog of Luca Turin, making me a happy man. An inspiring thought and smell every day. What more do you want in life.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Friday Night Wine Blogging

Bodega Norton Malbec (2003) - Argentina

Plum & Blackberry aroma with Oak so you can smell the alcohol. And then has a peppery black fruit taste, but is very dry and full bodied. That's how it differs from Zinfandel, Zinfandel's sweeter - reviewed by Ginger Haired Yank

A hearty wine - t.c.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Guns, Germs, Steel...& food & animals & geography & language

Disappointing book: Guns, Germs, and Steel which is a misnomer of a title. Tapes 3-5 (out of 11) largely dealt with food - the fertile crescent was richer in important crops and domestic animals. Also a discussion of the superior geography of Eurasia - being an East-West continent allowed for better transfer of ideas and grains and animals than North & South America where the thin isthmus of Panama blocked easy exchange of ideas of substance. Tape 6 started into the development of languages, but I ran out of time then - B.O.T. due back at the library tomorrow - so skipped to tape 11 which was also discussing languages at the beginning. I realize that it's common to sort of mis-name a book to hook the audience, e.g. Galileo's Daughter, but in this book Diamond spends far more time discussing germs, than the other two factors. Actually would say that he largely ignores them after the first tape's riveting discussion of Pizarro's conquest of the Incas. Steel was certainly known in the fertile crescent, and gunpowder came to Europe from China, so why did the Europeans master the power of guns before the rest of the world? No answer here.

Best review is from Christopher Smith of Amazon who states

According to Diamond, four factors are responsible for all historical developments: 1) availability of potential crops and domestic animals, 2) the orientation of continental axis to facilitate the spread of agriculture, 3) transfer of knowledge between continents, and 4)population size.

That would explain the Europeans' conquest of the Americas, but not Europe's colonization of Arabia and India and China, or its non-conquest of Japan.

According to the Hobe, Collapse is a better book, so will give it a try when LAPL acquires a copy of the CD.

& a disappointing Movie

Just finished watching L'Âge d'or and it was boring. Unlike Un chien andalou there's really no shocking images of eyeballs being cut, nothing to leave you asking "what does it mean? If I see it again, can I glean insights into Buñuel & Dali." Also lasting just over an hour, the film just dragged.

Buñuel had an odd career: part amusing social commentaries - El Ángel exterminador & Le Fantôme de la liberté (which I'd like to see again as an adult) but also an incredibly boring social commentary Los Olvidados that I could not force myself to watch until the end, before ending with the thoroughly entertaining Cet obscur objet du désir, which used the distracting trick of having a French & Spanish actress play the Object of desire. Overall a masterful director with an amazing scope, but certainly his fair share of misses - it may be heresy but I'd include Belle de Jour i that category. Never really cared what happened to the character in contrast to Tristana, which cut far deeper.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Knees on the mend

ugly lookin' nobs

It is amazing how minimally invasive surgery has advanced. Only 2 tiny cuts needed to access my meniscus & cut it out. If I had better tools & a server, I'd link the video from the doctor to this site so you could watch my meniscii being cut.

The other amazing aspect is the recovery time:

I can hobble around without the cane for short periods now as long as I wear my knee brace & I haven't even started official physical therapy yet (I have the exercises memorized so have started the quad exercises on my own, but no E-stim or ultra-sound).

Don't know if other eras were so negative - focus on the mess of healthcare, but rarely discussing the incredible medical advances that have occurred in a relatively short time.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Champagne & artichoke spell...Working Memory Capacity!!!

Friday Night Wine Blogging (dissertation defence edition!)



1 week later

Thursday, June 09, 2005

More Revelations 'art' forms

Listened to abridged version of The Mark - 8th out of 20 left behind books. Impressions:

Dutch government in disarray

As 60% voted of the Dutch population voted against the constitution and 80% of the government was pro we now officially have a rift between our chosen leaders and the choosers. Total panic is the result. A lot of navel staring is going on right now, in order to think over what went wrong and how define the right course in the next 2 years, because than elections will take place. It is nice to see our "best boys in the class" getting humble. I doubt however that it will have a long term effect. If not, our government will have another change by showing improvements in income, employment and a lot of other things. They promised us that that would happen in the next 2 years and again I doubt that that will happen
We will have to wait and see another 2 years before the Dutch choosers can take their revenge. I am getting excited already (goosebumps everywhere).

Monday, June 06, 2005

Constitution still in exile

Very disappointed in today's Supreme Court decision in Ashcroft v. Raich. Not a lawyer, so have gleaned the reasons for the decision from two fine blogs Volokh Conspiracy & SCOTUSblog.

First the simple math of the present Supreme Court make-up from Orin Kerr (my personal favorite member of the Volokh Conspiracy).

In federalism cases, moreover, there is no clear majority on the current Court. Four Justices -- Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer -more or less share the same basic view that the Court has little to no role enforcing federalism constraints. The other five Justices would impose some limits on the scope of federal power, but don't really share common ground on exactly what those limits should be.

(skipped paragraph)

The mathematics of federalism on today's Supreme Court, then, is that the four Justices who do not favor judicial enforcement of federalism constraints only need one additional vote to form a majority. Conversely, for the Court to rule in favor of a federalism limitation, common ground must exist that ties together the differing viewpoints of all five of the right-of-center Justices. The odds are that the former will happen more often than the latter, which is why victories for federalism principles have tended to be rare and on relatively narrow (that is, symbolic) issues.

Other comments I enjoyed were from my least favorite member of the conspiracy David Bernstein (too strident & quick to take umbrage for my tastes).

A decade later, the Republican Congress is vying with the Democratic Congresses of the 1930's and 1960's as the biggest supporter of increased federal power in American history.

It seems we do to some extent live under a system where the personal preferences of the Justices, having nothing to do with the history, text, or logic of the Constitution, dictate when the Supreme Court will or will not intervene to overturn particular regulations.

(4) There are essentially two strategies for those who are concerned with civil liberties for limiting the government's ability to abuse the rights of the public. One is the standard ACLU strategy of being a liberal supporter of broad government power, and then insisting that the government respect individual rights, especially constitutional rights, when using that power. The other strategy, followed by libertarians, is to try to limit the government's general power to begin with because the government cannot abuse power it does not have.
The drug war provides a least one example of the superiority of the libertarian strategy. The drug war has run roughshod over the civil libertarian accomplishments of the Warren Court, leading to a weakening to various degrees of the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth amendments, not to mention a huge increase in the prison population, and the denial of the basic right to use relatively innocuous recreational drugs, even for medicinal or health purposes. Far better to have denied the federal government the power to regulate intrastate use of and sale of drugs to begin with, as, I recall,
Justice Van Devanter advocated on Commerce Clause grounds way back in the "dark ages" of the 1920's.

I'm not familiar with Sam Bagenstos posting on SCOTUSblog, but this comment hit home with me:
I don't think there was *ever* a majority -- not in 1995, and not now; not in the Court, and not in Congress -- for a massive shift in the federal-state balance that existed in the period immediately prior to Lopez. There are too many issues for which social and business conservatives like federal power, and libertarians like Randy and David are, and always have been, a relatively small faction within the conservative movement (though a faction whose ideas -- which are often really interesting, provocative, and persuasive -- have been cherry picked by other conservatives).

From the opinions themselves:

"Wickard thus establishes that Congress can regulate purely intrastate activity that is not itself commercial....if it concludes that failure to regulate that class of activity would undercut the regulation of the interstate market in that commodity." - Stevens (majority opinion)

"[T]he authority to enact laws necessary and proper for the regulation of interstate commerce is not limited to laws governing intrastate activities that substantially affect interstate commerce." - Scalia (concurring with the majority)

[I]n order to be "necessary,"the intrastate ban must be more than a "reasonable means [of] effectuat[ing] the regulation of interstate commerce....It must be plainly adapted to regulating interstate marijuana trafficking - in other words, there must be an obvious,
simple, and direct relation between the intrastate ban and the regulation of interstate commerce. - Thomas (opposition)

At this point, I believe even Sisyphus would be willing to give up. Too sad to continue blogging, so will hobble around the block as emotional & physical therapy.

UPDATE: the hobble helped. Guess it's good that we have folks like MPP who do their best to "rally the troops" when the news is disappointing - I've never had that ability and since the results of the court cases & (too many) state ballot propositions are so disappointing, it does not seem promising that marijuana will be legalized in my lifetime.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Happy to have bandages gone

Day 2 of recovery

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Friday Night Wine Blogging (on a Saturday)

Trinity Oaks - 2000 Zinfandel

Ginger Haired Yank: the only red wine that I've tasted that goes well with lime. I think it has a little bit of juniper.

Why Bush lost momentum

Bush's lost momentum is the dominant meme now, but have not read that a full discussion of why, so this member of the ace-bandage brigade will fill that hole.

  1. Low hanging legislative fruit gone
  2. Misreading of mandate
  3. Unintended consequences of the 51% campaign approach
  4. Misreading the Democrats response to Daschle's defeat
  5. Unintended consequences of the redistricting in Texas
  6. Unintended consequences of GOP cutting Dems out of legislative writing & committee discussions.
  7. Iraq not going well
  8. Push for more power to executive vs. Legislative branch

Happy to see that running roughshod over folks has had its costs.

Happy to see the Dems not being cowed & finally showing some backbone.

Addendum: 1 other issue contributing to lost momentum is the GOP dissipating capital on issues that do not match the popular will. The two most prominent issues are Terri Schiavo intervention & the proposed "nuclear option". Have read several postings from the right on their opposition to the "nuclear option" - my favorite being from - happy there's common ground between us.

After surgery

recovery day 1

Friday, June 03, 2005

Before surgery

All prepped

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Stayed up too late watching pilot episode of LOST

Will come back tomorrow to blog on why Bush has lost momentum, the completion of Part III of See Under: Love so same time, same blogspot!

Oh, kinda neat watching the first episode after seeing all but first 3 episodes. Looking forward to next season already!

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