24 August 2009

Cruise Itinerary

August 26th: Arrive in Rome in the morning. Staying at the five-star Majestic.
August 27th: Board the ship at noon.

August 28th: Livorno, Italy. Nearby Pisa and Florence, the latter of which I'll visit.
August 29th: Monte Carlo, Monaco.
August 30th: At sea.
August 31st: Barcelona, Spain.
September 1st: Palma, Spain.
September 2nd: At sea.
September 3rd: Tunis, Tunisia.
September 4th: Palermo (Sicily), Italy.
September 5th: Naples, Italy. Ship-sponsored shore excursion to Pompeii.

September 6th: Return to Rome. Staying at the Majestic for two nights.
September 8th: Return to Cincinnati.


I used Google Image Search (no filter) to search some common and not-so-common terms. Then I figure out the percentage of the search results on the first page that are blatantly pornographic (nudity or worse).

"slut" - 50%
"huge" - 78%
"mexican" - 11%
"hipster" - 6%
"doublestuff" - 28%
"tooth" - 0%
"xray" - 11%
"lick" - 100%

There's a subtlety to what gets a high result and what doesn't.

21 August 2009

Health Care

A very helpful resource is the summary An Idiot's Guide to Health Care, from The Atlantic.

20 August 2009


I am here in Petoskey, Michigan. My mother has a condo here for the summer. It's a beautiful area here on the shore of Lake Michigan, with all of the little towns very carefully crafted to appeal to wealthy tourists. The waters of the lake are clear and cold and gorgeous in the evening light. But I have to admit to some sadness.

Decades ago, my grandfather Foley bought a cottage up here in Michigan, a small 100-ft place on Crooked Lake. And every summer for years, the family would converge in small groups on the place to go out on the boat, eat Oreos and argue about calories, and visit a few special places like Tom's Mom's Cookies and White Caps. My mother lived in Florida rather than Ohio with the rest of the family, but even so she and my brother and I managed to come up to the family cottage several times. The first such trip when I was twelve, I jumped into the lake and cut my leg down to the bone on the first day, souring the experience. But as I grew older, I began to be extremely fond of the place, and of lying in the hammock in a cooling summer afternoon.

When my grandmother Foley died, one of my aunts and my uncle went in with my mother and used part of their inheritance to acquire the cottage ("trading in" the money they would have gotten otherwise). But due to family friction over the succeeding few years, my mother has decided to pull out. I was lucky, and still got to go last year, one last time. But it looks as if my aunt and uncle are going to try to just sell the lot.

Last time I was there, I took pictures of the doorframe where the heights of dozens of Foley family children were marked. I got a shot of the rough pencil notes of my grandfather, scrawled along the staircase ("lightning struck, stumps removed - May 1954"). And I swam far out onto the lake at dusk.

But now it's gone. And so while my mother's expensive condo is right nearby, and we still go to all the places and I still have to listen to all the stories ("Al, when I was a girl, we would go down to the library there in Conway and smoke cigarettes outside."), it really does feel like something has passed.

The town is quite nice. Hemingway's family used to summer nearby, and many of the places are famous local hang-outs that he once frequented. Tonight my mother and I are dining at the City Park Grill, where Hemingway was allegedly inspired to write his short story "The Killers."

Yesterday I stopped by a local booksellers, to ask about the new Terry Goodkind book, Law of Nines. Goodkind wrote the Sword of Truth series, a fantasy series that began in a fairly mediocre manner but became truly bizarre as it moved on, turning from run-of-the-mill books about a young swordsman/wizard who is fated to save the blahblahblah, and becoming a series of Objectivist speeches. Think John Galt with a sword.

As it turns out, they didn't have the new book (probably for the best, since I would only have hated it and I might as well hate it in the library) so I broke down and bought Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which I am halfway through. It is dancing merrily along the border between clever and obnoxiously self-aware so far, but was certainly worth a read.

I also went to American Spoon, picking up a jar of apple butter and some creamed raw honey. I decided to let Lizzie choose which one she would want of the two.

My mother is preparing single-mindedly for the Mediterranean cruise upon which we will be embarking in a few days. She bought tour guides and special clothing and hats.

Oh, and I rented a tux. I'm going to look fucking dapper.

13 August 2009

G.I. Joe

Wow. Astonishingly, overwhelmingly terrible. I knew it would be bad, so I went in prepared for two hours of suffering. But my expectations were nowhere near low enough. Beware: spoilers below if you haven't seen it.

The plot line is tortuous and inexplicable. The villain gets funding from NATO to develop four warheads of destructive nanotech, and then tries to engineer their theft in order to launch them at the major capitals of the world. As it turns out, this is because they have replaced the President with a look-alike and want the whole world to look to him for leadership after a disaster. That makes so little sense it's amazing anyone could say their lines without giggling. COBRA has technology that allows them to destroy any city in the world at will regardless of defenses, but that's their end goal?

This is in addition to the fact that they can control anyone's mind with their nanobots, but it never seems to occur to them how useful that might be.

Another major flaw is that the good guys sucked. There were like ten major good-guy field operatives, and they had cybernetic armor that made them super-soldiers capable of outrunning cars and making them almost immune to damage. This is compared to COBRA's three field operatives who are armed with a sword, a knife, and a ray-gun pistol. Compared to COBRA, the Joes were pathetic.

And then there's the characters:
  • Duke - I was surprised to find out that Tatum Channing - Channing Tatum? whatever, who the hell cares - was never a wrestler. And in fact, I thought he might be John Cena for a while there, since they are almost indistinguishable. And of course, their level of talent is about the same.
  • Hawk - Okay, Dennis Quaid was spot-on. Not a word of complaint.
  • Ripcord - Jesus fucking Christ, Marlon Wayans.
  • Baroness - Not hot. This is the only requirement for the Baroness, but Sienna Miller is not hot in this movie.
  • Scarlett - They tried really, really hard to make her the hot one. She spends about half of her screen time just jiggling ("Wait a second Ripcord, I have to break open some concrete with this jackhammer real quick. Then I'll help you on the trampoline, don't worry.") And while I appreciate that, it really started to smack of desperation after a while. Combined with her straw-man Spock attitude - she doesn't understand emotions because you can't test them scientifically durrr all smart scientists aren't as good as you folks in the audience - it made for irritation.
  • Stormshadow - "Oh, there's a Japanese character in the script? Eh, cast a Korean. They all look the same."
  • Snake Eyes - Foam-rubber lips now enter the annals of Costume Mistakes, right up there with Batman and Robin's foam-rubber nipples.

Give this one a pass. It's not worth it, even for curiosity. It wasn't even so bad as to be fun. It was just bad.

12 August 2009

Glenn Beck and Common Sense

Today I skimmed most of Glenn Beck's An Inconvenient Book. And let me say that a more error-filled, venemous, disgusting book has seldom seen the black of ink. It purports to be "common sense" solutions to the serious problems of today.

Let me say that I don't like Glenn Beck. He hails from my area, where he has skyrocketed from a local radio hack to the host of his own show on Fox News. He is not an expert or really informed about any topic - since high school he has done nothing but be a radio host (initially Christian rock) and often even admits that he doesn't know much. But that doesn't stop him from telling people how wrong they are and how right he is, with the unmitigated gall of even calling his own opinions "common sense." He even raped Thomas Paine to produce a book by that name, to which I will not link.

I think Beck appeals to people because few people like to think about how difficult our problems really are. Yes, crime is a problem. And the simple solution is to simply make penalties incredibly harsh. But that simple solution has been proven wrong again and again (look at California, where harsher penalties have only driven up the crime rate and packed the prisons with three times the number of legally allowed inmates!). This is why we have experts in topics: because things are often complex and difficult.

To be sure, common sense is valuable. And sometimes a whole lot of nonsense gets in the way, and it's what's needed. But simply naming the most obvious and easiest solution, like Beck does, is not actually common sense. And it doesn't work.

Here's the motherfucker saying that Obama is following the same path as Hitler and the Democrats may be becoming the Nazis. If Carollus Linnaeus came across this guy, he'd call him Beckius assholae.

I just want you to think about it really hard, and I'm not making any claims, but Obama wants to rape your daughter. Can't we have a conversation about Obama's rape-fetish? Why do the liberals want to stop harmless questions?

10 August 2009

I love Orly Taitz

And not just because of her name. As the leader of the "birthers," she says many hilarious things but is also just amusing in general demeanor.

From the Internet

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy.

I then took a shower in the clean water provided by a municipal water utility.

After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC-regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like, using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

I watched this while eating my breakfast of U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time, as regulated by the U.S. Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Naval Observatory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank.

On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the U.S. Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to my house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and Fire Marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.

And then I log on to the internet -- which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration -- and post on Freerepublic.com and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right.

09 August 2009

Dembski's Courses

Famed proponent of Intelligent Design, Dr. William Dembski, teaches at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He teaches four courses there:
PHILO 2483, Intelligent Design or Unintelligent Evolution, undergraduate course
PHILO 4373, Christian Apologetics, masters course
PHILO 4483, Christian Faith and Science, masters course
PHILO 7514, Christian Faith and Apologetic Issues, doctoral seminar

Hm. And what do you have to do in these courses?
AP510 This is the masters course. You have four things to do: (1) take the final exam (worth 30% of your grade); (2) write a 1,500- to 2,000-word critical review of Francis Collins’s The Language of God -- for instructions, see below (20% of your grade); (3) write a 3,000-word essay on the theological significance of intelligent design (worth 30% of your grade); (4) provide at least 10 posts defending ID that you’ve made on “hostile” websites, the posts totalling 3,000 words, along with the URLs (i.e., web links) to each post (worth 20% of your grade).

Ah, I see. Yes, it is very common for professors to require their students to provide proof of their time spent debating people on the internet about the subject material. Absolutely standard practice.

I wonder what some of the questions might be on the final exams posted. Let's look at the final exam for a 2006 course he taught, called "A Primer on Intelligent Design." Here is one of the four questions, requiring a 500-word answer:
1. You are a panelist at the premier showing of Richard Dawkins’s BBC production debunking religion titled “The Root of All Evil?” Richard Dawkins is there on the podium with you. After the showing of this program, you are asked to present a brief response. Throughout the program, Dawkins emphasizes that evolutionary theory is confirmed by overwhelming evidence whereas religious belief is as a matter of blind, unthinking faith. Challenge him in your response on both points: spend half of your response showing that evolution is not nearly as overwhelmingly confirmed as Dawkins makes out; also, indicate how, at least when it comes to the Christian faith, religious belief can be well-supported evidentially (e.g., indicate lines of evidence supporting the resurrection and the reliability of the Scriptures).

Again, it's absolutely standard practice to tell students what their opinions is and require them to defend it. Seriously, at least this gives the students practice in an important skill in this line of work: building up elaborate straw-men and knocking them down with a lot of noise.

(h/t richarddawkins.net)

06 August 2009


George Sodini was the perpetrator of the recent gym massacre. He had a website that is still up, and includes a blog that is pretty strange at times. In order to first get the URL to the blog page, you have to enter his date of death; he preprogrammed the website with the date of the attack in planning it.

In the blog, in short entries, Sodini describes that he did the killing because no women liked him. This is a recurring theme.
December 29, 2008:
Just got back from tanning, been doing this for a while. No gym today, my elbow is sore again. I actually look good. I dress good, am clean-shaven, bathe, touch of cologne - yet 30 million women rejected me - over an 18 or 25-year period. That is how I see it. Thirty million is my rough guesstimate of how many desirable single women there are. A man needs a woman for confidence. He gets a boost on the job, career, with other men, and everywhere else when he knows inside he has someone to spend the night with and who is also a friend. This type of life I see is a closed world with me specifically and totally excluded. Every other guy does this successfully to a degree.

He seems to have been especially disgusted with young women, and never mentions one without calling her a "hoe" or the like. His words are painfully embittered.
June 5, 2009:
I was reading several posts on different forums and it seems many teenage girls have sex frequently. One 16 year old does it usually three times a day with her boyfriend. So, err, after a month of that, this little hoe has had more sex than ME in my LIFE, and I am 48. One more reason. Thanks for nada, bitches! Bye.

Sodini also calls his brother a bully, and rants about his brother and parents turned him into this sort of person.

While the journal is short, you may not want to actually read it. So here's one of the last entries, which sums it up fairly well.
July 23, 2009:

I just looked out my front window and saw a beautiful college-age girl leave Bob Fox's house, across the street. I guess he got a good lay today. College girls are hoez. I masturbate. Frequently. He is about 45 years old. She was a long haired, hot little hottie with a beautiful bod. I masturbate. Frequently. Some were simply meant to walk a lonely path in life. I don't usually look out, but just happened to notice. Holy fuck. I have masturbated since age 13. Thanks, mum and brother (by blood alone). And dad, old man, for TOTALLY ignoring me through the years. All of you DEEPLY helped me be this way.

I wish I can go back to 1975 and fix things. Awe, that wont work, big BULLY BROTHER would assert his bull shit. He was twice my size. He never messed with guys bigger than 5'10, or so. He is a PUSSY at heart. Remember, Michael is my brother (we have common parents, that's all) is still a BOSS. Repetition only for emphasis: HE IS ONLY A BULLY, even at 50ish! Never forget that! Because he exudes confidence. People believe bull shit if delivered WITH CONFIDENCE. Get it??

On the same thought, things occured to me today. Michael NEVER had an attractive girlfriend. Debbie, Barb, Kim, ... then I lost track. Not to say I had any (execpt Pam, who was about a 7.25). He married a Chinese-descent, petite woman with no body, no ass, no chest and no personality. She never laughs or smiles, neither does he. But she is highly intelligent and an excellent cook. I can testify to that! She home bakes her own DELICIOUS wheat bread! But who cares about that type of small bull crap? Mike even mentioned when we were visiting dad that "she's not very attractive".

I don't know where I am going with this. I am getting tired, feels good to write and get it all out.

On still another thought, I had 20+ years of sobriety and achieved nothing about friendships, girlfriends, guys, etc. Zilch. What a waste.

Bye, for today.