Oh Madonna, You Love to Shock UsI worry that Madonna is only, like, one more bad album away from taking a shit onstage. I hope they don't put that on MTV.
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Bodies of Water, In Which I Have Splashed Around and Perhaps SwumFor no particular reason, in no particular order:
There exist also bodies of water including but not limited to lakes, rivers, streams, channels, swamps and bogs which owing to poor memory and/or lack of inclination and motivation have not been listed. For this we apologize. Please note it was not due to any quality of body of water itself. Furthermore, one of the bodies of water listed above is a fabrication. Rather. The body of water itself is not a fabrication. However when we claimed to have splashed around or perhaps swum in it, we lied. Thank you.
- Atlantic Ocean
- Gulf of Mexico
- Sea of Cortez
- Pacific Ocean
- Indian Ocean
- Andaman Sea
- Red Sea
- Dead Sea LI>Caspian Sea
- South China Sea
- Mississippi river
- Halong Bay
- South Pacific
- Danube river
- Chattahoochee river
- Jordan river
- Mekong river
- Persian Gulf
- San Francisco Bay
- Monterey Bay
- Tampa Bay
- Nam Tha
- Nam Ou
- Lake Tahoe
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Yeah, I'll try that.American culture actively discourages you from taking risks. It's hard-wired into our post-war culture. Embedded into the language, even. We are constantly discouraged from engaging in "risky behavior." Virtually everything we purchase now carries warnings as to its potential risks. Risk of heart disease. Risk of lung cancer. Risk of electrical shock and/or death.
Risks are unacceptable, and must therefore be managed. Entire professions, corporations, and university fields of study have erupted like teenage acne across the face of America dedicated solely to the study and management of risks. Risk management: it's not just a career, it's a lifestyle.
Yet the progression of society is completely dependent on risk-taking. Risks took Magellan around the world, Columbus to the Caribbean, Einstein from E to MC2, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren to the Moon, Christian missionaries to establish a church in ancient Rome and Galileo to defy the Pope there centuries later, Charlie Parker to Birdland, Gorbachev to Glasnost, and seditious subjects of a far-away king to the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution.
Now I'm no flag-waver--I think that the US is neither the greatest nor worstest country on the face of the planet. But those are two of the most-important and best applied political tracts since Hammurabi's Code. Could they be written today, in our climate of fear?
Asia, and the third-world in general, is swarming with risks. They seep across the floor and up the sides of the walls. They exist in every motion, every step, every thought. In order to deal with risks in Asia, in order to manage risks, you must be able to accept and then ignore them.
There are cobras in-between you and the village. This is a fact as indisputable as gravity. Cobras. You've seen them slithering across the road. Yet you must go to the village.
The boat is a fire-trap, bereft of even a single life-jacket. Yet you must take the ride across the sea into the city on the shore.
That dog might have rabies. The chicken doesn't appear to have been cooked long-enough. Wasn't that fish sitting out in the sun? Are you sure this is safe? I think that there are too many damn people on here. That nail is rusty. Who knows where her hands have been? I don't see a notice from the health inspector. There's no soap in this bathroom. That one either. Are you sure this is safe? It looks poisonous to me. Maybe there's meat in there, I can't tell. Are you sure this is safe? Is that boatman coming towards us with a machete? You're sure? Why is he coming towards us with a machete? This is safe? He's definitely coming this way, should we run into the jungle? Are you absolutely, positively, one-hundred percent positive this is safe? He's coming right at us, what should we do? What should we do!
Oh. Heh-heh. He's just cutting bamboo.*
Are you sure this is safe?
Our reaction as a nation to 9-11 is a perfect example of this. Terrorism is a risk we cannot manage, try as we might. The very attempt to manage it seems bound to take us to totalitarianism. Totalitarianism being, of course, the logical end result (goal, even) of a 100% effective risk-management program. Everything must be controlled. Nothing can be left up to the individual. The individual must not be free to decide.
For he might decide not to wear his hard hat, or his helmet. She might decide not to wait 30 minutes after eating, or 24 hours after consuming any alcohol. They might, God forbid, decide to consume things or engage in unprotected behavior which is expressly prohibited and in doing so will, necessarily, render their policy null and void.
This is all well and good. We live to be painfully old in the developed, risk-free West. We live long past knowing we are alive. Past knowing who or what we are. Past caring.
We must take our medicine every day. Every day! To reduce the risk of heart disease.
But in the long run, this attitude is very bad for us. One need only head to the closest nursing home to see where decades of healthy living gets you.
Risk is both acceptable and good. We should neither be forced to or prohibited from taking risks, we should decide ourselves. Taking away people's ability to decide which risks are worth taking, worth managing themselves, is profoundly undemocratic. Worse, it makes us a weak people, afraid to take chances, horrified by the unknown.
It's far better to let nature, rather than policy, act as the ultimate arbitrator of risk management. If something is too risky, then it will kill you. We will all grieve and mourn and ultimately move on, pausing to remember you on your birthday, and maybe the anniversary of your death, and--oh, I don't know--let's say the second Wednesday of every month (because we loved you, dammit!). Furthermore, we will be far less-likely to engage in said risky behavior ourselves for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with policy.
When policy dictates all risks, it hinders our ability to discern between the acceptable and the unacceptable. We simply accept that it is prohibited because it is dangerous, without evaluating the risks ourselves. Thus when we butt up against something for which there is no policy, we are caught unaware, unable to decide. Too often this leads to fear, and the decision not to take any risks at all. To stay at home. To let National Geographic sort it all out for us. To watch it on TV.
But where will tomorrow's National Geographic cameraman come from, or tomorrow's Magellan or Albert Einstein? Where? The USA, or Thailand? Phoenix, or Beijing? Atlanta, or Delhi? This was a nation driven by risks, driven by adventurers, settled by people for whom the unknown was a fact of life. It was this spirit that propelled us past any other nation on Earth in terms of technology, learning, and political theory. We were the third-world, not so long ago.
While traveling, we went lots of places simply because they were unknown to us. It was a risk. But risks taken on creaky longtails with smoking engines to powerless places that the guidebooks don't really have too much to say about rewarded us with some of the most isolated, beautiful spots I have ever had the privilege to look upon. But when we took the safe, well-traveled, risk-free (or at least low-risk) routes, we always seemed to find a KFC waiting there for us at our destination.
Asia taught me to take risks again. To live unafraid of dirty bathrooms and unknown ingredients. I learned, again, that the greatest rewards come from letting go of my fears. Deciding which risks are worth taking and then putting my fate in the hands of God. I doubt that I will discover a new country, theory, or philosophy this way. But I might write a better book, or tell a better story. I will certainly have a better time.
All across Asia, we saw people riding motorcycles sans helmet. They'd put their kids in their laps, too, riding up front wedged between the set and the handlebars. One night in Bangkok, as we waited to cross Phra Arthit road, we saw a motorcycle pass by with a kid riding up front. Standing up on the moving bike. Hands in the air. With a plastic bag over his head. Grinning tremendously. I got $20 says that kid's going to be one of the first people to walk on Mars.
*based on actual events
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Why... It's DukeI've been reading Doonesbury since I was a little kid, although I didn't get most of it until I was in junior high. The characters in the strip are, by now, old familiar friends I look forward to seeing every day. Michael, Zonker, B.D., JJ, Mark, Boopsie, Sid, and of course Duke. Duke has always been my favorite.
If you don't read the strip, Duke began life as a Hunter S. Thompson caricature. And although he never abandoned his guns and drugs persona, he quickly moved on to be so much more. An ambassador to China, a sports medicine doctor for the Redskins, A CIA operative, and an overly-(self)medicated hostage in Iran. He hasn't been around much over the last few years, and quite frankly the character of his son just annoys me. But now he's back and in old form again, reborn as an Iraqi warlord.
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Metafilter: Fair and BalancedLooks like even Metafilter is Fair and Balanced today
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Deregulation: Bad! a fair and balanced report on the northeastern power outagesYesterday's catastrophic power outage was one of the most amazing spectacles I've ever seen on television. I couldn't help but feel a little solidarity with my East Coast brethren. After all, California is the Land of Blackouts.
I know all about summer "snow days" and aimlessly wandering the streets until the juice switches on again. I was also reminded of a power failure we had here in 1998 (or perhaps '99), when power was knocked out to the whole city when a PG&E worker messed up a ground wire at a single power facility.
But for the most part, I know about blackouts thanks to the great
The New York Times reports:
The problem of preventing such power failures has been that, for the most part, no one has an incentive to invest billions of dollars in new wires, new towers and new transformers, which are often opposed by residential neighbors. The old utilities have sold off their power plants but still hold a highly regulated monopoly on the network of lines, and they would only invest in new transmission if state regulators would guarantee them rate increases to pay for it.
That is the last thing the regulators, who deregulated much of the industry in hopes of lowering rates, would be willing to do. The entrepreneurial power companies that have bought up power plants have decided against building new transmission lines that would compete with existing ones, possibly driving down transmission charges, and would, at most times, be nothing more than ``excess capacity.''
In promoting deregulation in the 1990's, advocates had visions of vast waves of electrons being wheeled around the country on short notice, from producers to distributors to consumers, in rapid, highly efficient response to shifting supply and demand. In reality, the transmission system limits the ability to do that, especially when it comes to pushing power into and out of some major urban areas.
The Washington Post also notes that some of the blame for yesterday's blackout can be laid at deregulation's doorstep:
The 1965 Northeast power blackout led to the creation of the reliability council, an advisory and watchdog group over the transmission system, said Peter Fox-Penner, a principal with the Brattle Group, a consulting firm advising utilities.
But the move toward deregulation has also exposed NERC's limitations, particularly its lack of enforcement powers to detect and stop generators from abusing the grid with unscheduled power deliveries. Yesterday's blackout will force attention back to the grid, Fox-Penner predicted.
"This will undoubtedly focus attention on the infrastructure, the need for investment in power grid and the best ways to attract investment in the grid," said Merribel Ayres, president of the Lighthouse Energy Group, a power industry consulting firm.
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Living It Up While He's Going DownNeal Pollack gets some fair and balanced love in an elevator.
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Soldiers' families protestThe Atlanta Journal has an interesting story on military families protesting in Washington. Salent quote:
"George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld care about the troops in the same way that Tyson Foods cares about chickens," said Stan Goff, a retired Army master sergeant who served in the Rangers and Special Forces counter-terrorist units. His son, Jessie, is also in the Army and recently deployed to Iraq.
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Maureen Dowd Asks:"Is the Internet over?"
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FoxNews: GOPNNIn solidarity with, or at least a nod to, Destiny-land, Boing Boing, Brad DeLong, and Atrios (not to mention Al Franken), I've changed my tagline. FoxNews is suing Franken in order to force him to change the title of his book, "Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right," claiming it owns the phrase "fair and balanced."
The suit is interesting in itself, but it also got me wondering about FoxNews, its audience, and the urge to hide its bias. FoxNews has always tried to cloak itself with a veneer of journalistic integrity via snappy catchphrases. "We report, you decide." "Fair and balanced." "If it isn't on Fox, it must be feminazi propaganda" (Okay, maybe I made that last one up.) Meanwhile they broadcast some of the most blatant propaganda this side of the Xinhua News Agency. There's no better evidence of the network's utter disregard for journalism than the very face of FoxNews, the veteran reporter hired straight from "the Michael Jackson plastic surgery beat," Bill O'Reilly. Or our man on the front lines in Afghanistan, Geraldo "hallowed ground" Rivera. Fact-checked? Who cares! Let's drop some bombs!
Now, I know a few people who watch FoxNews and, contrary to what you might think, they aren't idiots. Some are actually educated and intelligent people. I don't understand why a smart person would watch Fox, aside from the spectacle of it, but people do. Perhaps it's because Fox is so good at telling people what they want to hear. Maybe it's because people don't read newspapers anymore. Or it could be because FoxNews seems to have a firm policy against issuing retractions or admitting that it runs, well, bullshit stories. Who knows. I blame the catchphrases. Given that "fair and balanced" is about as accurate a depiction of FoxNews as "thin and gracious" is of Rush Limbaugh, maybe it's time for something new. A few ideas:
FoxNews: Fuck the Truth, We're at War!
FoxNews: When You're Too Lazy To Care
FoxNews: The Truth Is Just Too Troubling
FoxNews: Because CNN Uses Big Scary Words
FoxNews: In Your Heart, You Know We're Right*
FoxNews: Bite Me Osama!
But these all suck. Got any better ones? Best entry gets 5,000 Kip via U.S. Mail
*apologies to barry goldwater
U P D A T E : Friday August 15 is Fair and Balanced day on the Internet.
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Larry Flynt, Georgy Russell, Gary Coleman, Trek Kelly, Michael Wozniak, Arianna Huffington, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Jason Gastrich, Travis Kalanick, Peter Ueberroth, and Gallagher
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“I was totally distant from what I was doing. It was like I was watching myself. There was no passion in it at all. The last show at the University of Georgia was when I knew that I couldn't really keep doing this until I found something that I was passionate about again. I'll just put out the albums until I can feel like, ‘Hey, I want to perform!’ Because I don't really want to go out there and bullshit the people.”One of these songs, "Hey Ya," is the best single I've heard in ages. Check it out.
[Andre] Benjamin took to focusing on playing guitar and inhaling deep quantities of jazz. He hoped not to have to perform again until he was accomplished enough to play an instrument in public. And the origins of the new album began to reflect his change in direction. “A lot of the songs are songs I've had for years,” he says. “I just felt that they weren't Outkast songs and that people weren't ready to hear that sort of thing [from us]. Really, I'm only rhyming on this album for two verses. These are songs that I've been writing at home on the guitar. ‘Ms. Jackson’ was an acoustic song that started on guitar and then became what it is now. A lot of the songs were done years ago, and I just brought them back up, upgraded them and made them now.
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Thank God I'm VaccinatedDirty Hippies
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Linux: Not Just For Geeks Anymore. Maybe.I was at Linux World Expo today, covering a Bruce Perens press conference for NJTD
It was the first time I'd been to LWE in a couple of years, and I was struck by how much more mainstream this conference was than the last. Last time around, while leading technology companies did have a presence, the big fish on the floor were folks like Red Hat and SuSe, essentially players confined to the Linux market. Today it's a different scene, with the floor dominated by booths from IBM, Dell, Intel, Sun, and even Microsoft. Red Hat still had a massive booth, but you wouldn't know it for the all the Blue up front.
The best thing I saw all day, however, was a clot of holier-than-thou technology journalists fumbling around in the press room trying to get their WiFi connections working. (Myself included.) I heard Doc Searls finally saved the day; bringing in his own base station.
It was just great. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go wash all the geek off before it sets in.
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Virtuous? Try LudicrousThe critic who leveled the Outright/linking charges against Gene Robinson is "conservative Anglican activist and writer" David Virtue. Virtue issued a warning on his Website stating "the site which [Robinson] says is geared for 12 to 22-year olds, provides Internet links that will take these vulnerable young people directly to hard core pornography."
Ridiculous. You can make this argument about virtually any Website with external links.
David Virtue's own Website provides Internet links that will take vulnerable young people directly to hard core pornography. Virtue links directly to a purveyor of pornographic titles such as Gay Men and Anal heartaches: Tops, Bottoms and Versatiles, Witchhunt Foiled: The FBI VS. Nambla (which appears to be a nambla publication), and, of course, The Joy of Gay Sex. Not only does Virtue provide links to these materials, he (or somebody affiliated with his site) profits every time an innocent child buys pornographic titles through his site and gets the gay.
As to the other charges of innappropriate touching, it apparantly occured "when Robinson touched a married man in his 40’s on his bicep, shoulder and upper back in the process of a public conversation at a province meeting around two years ago." (link via Tapped by way of MeFi)
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I Hate Ads: How To Turn Off Messenger SpamI take it for granted that most people know how to get ads off of their systems. But I forget about guys like my dad who have happily been on AOL for years and have little knowledge or interest in how their system works, just as long as it works. For these people, messenger spam is a real problem.
Messenger spam is different from traditional pop-up ads in that it is not Web-based. Instead, advertisers use Microsoft's net send utility, Windows Messenger service, to send advertisements directly to your desktop. You don't have to be on the Web at all as long as you are connected to the Internet. Spammers send the same ad to a range or block of IP addresses; if yours happens to be one of them, an ad that looks something like this appears. This is primarily a problem for Windows XP and 2000 users.
The really irksome thing about messenger spam is that it is more or less an extortion racket, as companies like endads.com, fightpopups.com, defeatmessenger.com, and stopmessenger.com barrage users with messenger ads advertising software to turn off messenger ads. Don't pay these weasels a penny; you can do it yourself. I've gotten a few requests for help on this lately, and seen others online, so I thought I would post a fix here here.
Auburn University has a great set of instructions on disabling messenger spam. To turn off messenger spam with XP Home edition, try this
- Click Start->Control Panel
- Click Administrative Tools
- Click Component Services
- Double-click Services Local
- Double-click "Messenger" to bring up the options panel
- Right-click the highlighted line and choose Properties
- Click the STOP button
- Select Disabled or Manual on the Startup Type drop-down menu
- Click OK
- Go get yourself a Mac and quit dealing with this kind of bullshit.1
Alternately, you can download and install Windows XP service pack 1 and then turn on the Internet Connection Firewall (ICF). ICF will automatically block all inbound unicast, multicast, and broadcast traffic. You can also try downloading a commercial firewall application such as Zone Alarm to block your inbound ports. (This isn't a good option for some folks, but they know who they are.)
If you don't already have one, a pop-up blocker does wonders for getting rid of pop-up and pop-under ads. There are lots of free ones out there, I use Pop-Up Stopper by Panic-Ware and it works brilliantly
If you're still having problems with ads, you've probably installed some spyware on your system at some point. Ad-Aware is great program that scans your system and removes spyware. Be sure to read the help file.
1.note: step 10 is probably not endorsed by Auburn. but it should be.
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On ReligionI don't typically talk about religion. Religion, particularly Western religion, is decidedly unpopular with intellectuals and bohemians. I have very few friends outside of the South who profess any religious convictions--aside from atheism--whatsoever. Paradoxically, the few friends I have who do practice their religions (Western, that is) tend to be some of the smartest and most talented people I know. They also tend to be Jewish, a religion that has a rich tradition of scholarship and tolerance associated with it. Yet Christianity and an intellectual life are often perceived to be at odds with one another. Despite the fact that every one of us takes things on faith every day of our life, to do so when it comes to a deity qualifies one as a fool in the court of the Bohemian King.
Moreover, Christians are often perceived--in the circles I run in at least--as some sort of sinister cabal out to persecute all those who don't share their beliefs, and to roll back the clock on social equality and justice. It would be easy to blame the Ann Coulters, John Ashcrofts, Gary Bauers, and Jessie Helms of the world for creating this perception. But in reality the blame lies with progressive Christians like myself, who have stood by as mute witnesses and allowed pseudo-fascist right wing zealots to become the voice of our faith without ever loudly voicing our own beliefs. Without telling those on the outside that, no, there is no more unanimity of political opinion among Christians than there is among Americans at large.
There is, however, a reason for this. I don't think that religion and government make good bedfellows. I don't think that religion should be politicized at all. You cannot legislate faith. Likewise, I don't want politics in my religion any more than I want religion in my politics. The two should not be as one. Give unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar. To the best of my knowledge, God does not have a party affiliation. I think most progressive Christians tend to share this belief, hence their political abscence. Nonetheless, sometimes politics and religion do commingle. Willingly or not, the church must periodically struggle with political issues. And this has been very much the case with the Episcopal church lately.
I felt lost in the church I grew up in. I spent several years as a self-identified atheist, largely due to my perception of Christians. I never trusted organized religion (and still remain suspicious of it), and never thought that I would again join a church. But in the Episcopal church--particularly the California Episcopal church--I found a home. I found like-minded people who also felt that the most important teachings of Christ were those of compassion, love, and forgiveness. In our little church in the Haight, we have a gay priest, a multi-racial congregation, a substantial number of homeless and impoverished parishioners, and a bountiful spiritual life.
This weekend, I heard the most powerful sermon I've ever heard in my life, one that literally reduced me to tears. It was a beautiful and impassioned speech, yet managed to avoid directly advocating a viewpoint. Instead, it speaks to the importance of approaching God with humility, and delves into the history of the church and how its beliefs have changed over time (citing slavery, anti-semitism, and the crusades as examples of events in our past for which we found biblical support). The sermon marked one of those rare moments in my life when I seemed to actually feel the presence of God, and felt my relationship undergo a redefinition. No matter what your convictions, or lack thereof, I urge you to listen to it, as I think it presents a vision of Christianity not often represented.
I don't know pretend to know where God stands on homosexuality. It's a matter that doesn't concern me personally, and I'm not about to tell others what God's will is. I do know that in the New Testament, far more attention is paid to other matters. Jesus never addresses homosexuality in the gospels. (He does, however, command Christians quite directly not to judge others, not to commit adultery, to be peacemakers, not to build up wealth on earth, to act charitably, and to always forgive others, even our enemies.) Although many Christians interpret some of Paul's letters as condemning homosexuality, you really have to look to the Old Testament in Leviticus 18: 22-23 for that sort of thing. In Leviticus 19 we are commanded not to put any marks upon our skin, yet there is no debate over tattooed priests (as was the priest who married us). In Leviticus 20:9-10, we are told that adulterers should be put to death, as should children who curse their parents. If you believe in Biblical literalism, it seems to me that this demands an all or none approach.
The Old Testament commands death for quite a few things. Keeping all of its laws is practically impossible. However, the essence of Christianity is forgiveness. In the end, this is what it all comes down to; Christians take as a matter of faith that Christ died for their sins. We take it as a matter of faith that--to quote the President, we are all sinners. A lot of people, myself included, took umbrage with that remark. But I don't know that I did for the same reasons as others, as I agree with the statement. We are all sinners. What I didn't like was the implication behind the statement. Is homosexuality a sin? Like I said, I'm not going to pretend to know the will of God. What I do know is that my faith tells me that we are all forgiven for our sins, no matter what they are. Therefore even if you believe another Christian is a sinner, you must also believe that s/he is forgiven for those sins (and thus, not a sinner).
I'm a progressive Christian, and I see no contradiction in that. In fact, I often feel my politics are driven by religion. Yet I recognize that I may well be wrong. What would Jesus do, indeed? Although you usually hear that phrase used as an answer, it remains very much a question open to individual interpretation.
I'm not going to argue religion with anyone. You won't change my mind, and odds are I'm not going to change yours. But if you do feel like grinding an axe, telling me how wrong I am--either for believing in Christ or believing that he didn't command me to condemn homosexuals--feel free to knock yourself out below.
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