Print Story The best laid plans of mice and men
By lm (Wed Dec 02, 2009 at 09:45:37 PM EST) (all tags)
Not much here. Please move along.

On Sunday afternoon, I got into a groove writing about Plato's Laws. I was just hitting my maximum stride when I had to pause to go pick my youngest daughter up from doing some volunteer work. Just after she got in the van and we rode a half mile down the road and turned left, the engine cut out, the van stopped, and I couldn't get it started again. It would crank but it would not catch. The problem ended up being what ammo dave called it, the timing belt.

And, worse yet, the Audi/VW 5 cylinder engine in the Eurovan is an interference engine. Judging from the voice mail that the service shop left me, I don't think there was any significant engine damage but it's hard to say. They left the message while I was in class in a building with no cell reception and by the time class was over, they'd all gone home for the day.

:: :: :: :: ::

After heroically losing half a pound over Thanksgiving day, I gained five pounds over the subsequent weekend. I have only a lack of self control to blame. Consequently, I clocked in at 170 on Monday morning. Tuesday wasn't much better, just a hair under Monday's weight. By Wednesday, it was down to a more reasonable 167. I also noticed that I could comfortably cinch my belt one notch tighter today.

Monday's morning mile was 7:45, not exactly stellar. The rest of the week was worse. Tuesday, I did 4 miles in 34 minutes, which is a pretty horrible cruising speed. Wednesday saw the return of taking well over 8 minutes to run a mile. It was also cold out. (Cold enough for water to freeze.) It is time for me to break out the sweatpants. It took me a couple hours to get warm again once I came inside on Tuesday. Wednesday I was greeted back from the weight room by the oh-so-refreshing surprise of an ice cold shower.

Lifting is going very blandly.

:: :: :: ::

Asia Times has a nice interview with Vikas Swarup. (Swarup wrote the novel Q&A which was the foundation for Slumdog Millionaire.)

Holiday traditions at their finest. The most pathetic: ``David Stricker, 49, of Smith Road in Norwood, was arrested after allegedly trying to steal a $4.49 pint of vodka.'' The most pathetic bit of Mr. Stricker's alleged theft is that the store he stole the vodka from isn't a state licensed liquor agency meaning that it's diluted so that it contains no more than 22% alcohol by volume. Probably the stupidest is Rasheay Bowden, ``on Nov. 21, she allegedly put $60 on a gift card without paying for it. The following day police say she put $1,000 on a gift card, also allegedly without paying for it. Then on Friday she is accused of putting $1,350 on a gift card and again allegedly not paying for it.'' Did she really think no one was going to notice?

Man sized jellyfish take over Japan Only Gamera can save us!

The neighborhood I move from back in Ohio does me proud, Dad passed out; Kid outside. In other Norwood, Ohio news, Bicyclist on Interstate Highway arrested. Gotta love my peeps, man. Well, my adopted peeps. I only lived in Norwood for 10 years or so.

Election ends governmental crisis in Honduras. I thought that the ost interesting factoid from the article was this ``election numbers are typically low because most of the one million Hondurans living in the United States do not vote.'' There's also a great sound bite at the end, ```They all promise change, but the one who really wanted to make change was Mel Zelaya,' Ms. Matute, 28, said. `And look what they did to him.'''

The NY Times has an interesting article on abortion. I think the key sentence for pro-lifers is this: ``Not only is this the post-Roe generation, I’d also call it the post-sonogram generation.'' A picture, as it were, is worth a thousand lives. I think one of the most underdeveloped aspects of the abortion rights debate is the changing attitudes of the general public. I suspect that the consistent decline seen in the number of abortions performed per capita in the US is a function of (a) the decline in the stigma attached to having a child outside of wedlock and (b) pictures taken by ultrasound that instill a sense of `wow, this is a real live person!'

Serbia sues Kosovo over independence. It's an interesting gesture, a sovereign nation suing a breakaway region in a court that arguably has no jurisdiction and, even if it did, has no enforcement powers.

The NY Times has a nice piece on the real problems with the great climate change email hacking.

Self schooled bone digger from Kenya gets international acclaim. It's nice to see stories like this.

And while we're on the topic of amateurs making good, Susan Boyle's is second only to Snoop Doggy Dog for first week record sales. What were we Americans thinking back in the nineties?

Whatever it was, it certainly wasn't what the man who married a video game character was thinking. What was he thinking?

I think I understand what's going on in this article but I'm not certain. For a number of years now, many political and community leaders, have decried the proliferation of illegal brews that have been turning young men into zombies. It's reefer liquor madness. Although, they may be correct about the impotent louts bit.

:: :: ::

I've been thinking about the minaret situation in Switzerland. I think in the greater context it's much ado about nothing. To begin with, the Islamic call to prayer is already illegal which makes new minarets a bit pointless except, perhaps, as silent protests to fact that the adhan is prohibted. Moreover, this prohibition isn't all that different from the way many Protestant cantons in the country prohibit bell ringing. The latter difference is only a difference in scale.

I think the real issue at hand is being a bit obscured by histrionics on both sides of the debate. Some of the opponents to the ban are shouting that this is (a) a dire threat to freedom of religion and/or (b) sheer racism against Muslims. On the other side of the fence, some of the proponents to the ban are racist and/or intolerant of Islam. But I have hard time believing that the these are the real issues. I think the real question at hand is the place of religious expression in shared public spaces. The call to prayer, for which reason the minaret was invented, is the public proclamation of Islamic doctrine. Some people argue that this is akin to Christians ringing bells. But it's more like evangelical street preaching. The ringing of bells (or even the more traditional knocking on a semantron) is not a proclamation of doctrine. Bells do not inform everyone who hears who is the proper object of worship, who this object of worship's true prophet is, and exhort the general public to come and the blessings that follow from worshiping the proper object of worship.

So the prohibition  isn't just a question of outlawing a architectural style that identifies mosques as mosques. Nor is it even a question of the free expression of religion. But rather the question is the public proclamation of religious doctrine prayer within shared common space. While I'm certainly open to the argument that the Swiss are infringing on basic human rights over the ban on minarets, I don't think it is a clear cut argument. In public space, I'm not certain that there is a inherent right to proclaiming this or that religious doctrine at a decibel level that can heard throughout the immediate neighborhood.

On the other hand, one could also argue that given the number of people that understand spoken Arabic, the adhan might as well be a bell ringing . . .

:: ::

The local cable company started moving some channels to digital only. SyFy, FX and some others were in the first wave. I don't know if this is due to somebody upstream or due to the provider. Nor do I really care. But I am a bit surprised that it's happening so soon. It's a bit rough luck on a good number of people.

I was mildly looking forward to seeing Nick Willing's take on Alice in Wonderland. I thought his take on the Wizard of Oz (entitled Tin Man) was pretty clever. Not brilliant, but certainly clever and fun to watch. Nevertheless, doing so is no longer an option. C'est la vie. I've had larger disappointments.


Some things are just gross. I had a cockroach crawl into my glass of red wine. I didn't notice until I took a drink and felt something in mouth that didn't quite below. I spat it back out and looked at it. It was a roach.

< I'm drinking a quart of egg nog. | There was a three way tie in the poll. >
The best laid plans of mice and men | 18 comments (18 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Minarets by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #1 Thu Dec 03, 2009 at 01:17:38 AM EST
Stumbling and Mumbling saw it as straightforward example of the conflict between liberty and democracy.

Thought it was interesting that the Vatican condemned the minaret ban.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

I would expect the Vatican to condemn it by lm (2.00 / 0) #2 Thu Dec 03, 2009 at 05:12:29 AM EST
Rome is facing similar treatment in Moscow. If they don't condemn the ban they have a harder time trying to take the moral high ground.

I agree somewhat with Stumbling and Mumbling save that I don't think it entirely straightforward. It can as easily be painted as a conflict between liberties as a conflict between liberty and democracy.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by xth (2.00 / 0) #3 Thu Dec 03, 2009 at 08:57:03 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by xth

[ Parent ]
You're probably wrong on that by lm (2.00 / 0) #9 Thu Dec 03, 2009 at 08:22:08 PM EST
The Adhan most likely dates back to the time of Muhammad at which point bells and semantra and the like were fairly commonplace. There are reports of large Church bells in Carthage in the 6th century and Alexandria in the 7th century. And Semantra almost certainly predated the use of bells in the Christian east. Further, the Hadiths preserve a discussion with Muhammad where he  presented his reasons for a vocal call to prayer rather than using bells like the Christians or horns like the Jews. Even if the hadiths in question don't go back to the time of Muhammad, they most likely don't stem from much later.

And as for ease, a semantron or a horn isn't that difficult to construct. And both certainly make noises that carry further than the human voice.

I would concede that a bell ringing is symbolic of prayer. But I don't know that holding that there is a distinction between things that are symbolic of something and things that are something is best described as being a literalist.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by xth (2.00 / 0) #12 Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 09:34:19 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by xth

[ Parent ]
You know by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #4 Thu Dec 03, 2009 at 10:36:10 AM EST
All you gotta do to get those digital channels is get a digital tuner box from the provider.  In many markets, they even offer them for free.

Cable providers are moving to digital as fast as they can.  The majority of cable bandwidth is being taken up by analog channels and it is causing them long term pain.  Analog takes up most of the frequency spectrum on the cable.  For them to continue to add channels, HD, and other services they need the bandwidth back.


"...I almost puked like a pregnant StackyMcRacky." --MillMan
Owe deer lowered by riceowlguy (2.00 / 0) #5 Thu Dec 03, 2009 at 12:28:04 PM EST
I'm going to have nightmares about that bloody wine/roach thing, I just know it.

I think the bigger question is by debacle (2.00 / 0) #6 Thu Dec 03, 2009 at 12:49:54 PM EST
What the hell was a cockroach doing by your wine glass?


[ Parent ]
so by garlic (4.00 / 1) #7 Thu Dec 03, 2009 at 12:56:59 PM EST
at first you state that the call to prayer is already banned, but then you go on to justify banning the minarets based on using them as a call to prayer.

And? by lm (2.00 / 0) #8 Thu Dec 03, 2009 at 08:03:48 PM EST
The whole purpose of a minaret is for the adhan. It's akin to banning bell towers after bells have already been banned. I'm not seeing it as much of a change.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
What does that change? by duxup (2.00 / 0) #11 Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 08:27:03 AM EST
That seems like a rather condescending approach. People really shouldn't mind aspects of their religious expression banned because other parts are already prevented?
[ Parent ]
I don't know if its condescending by lm (2.00 / 0) #13 Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 02:57:43 PM EST
A poor analogy would be banning bongs where marijuana is already banned. I don't see the addition of bongs contributing substantially to the issue.

That said, nowhere did I argue that no one should mind. Nor did I argue that no one should take offense. My point is that I think there is a real issue, the use of communal space for religious proclamations, that is getting mostly obscured.

I'm not arguing that the Swiss are correct. Rather I'm arguing that the issue isn't an open and shut case.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Removal of rights by duxup (2.00 / 0) #14 Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 04:19:31 PM EST
Removing someone's rights, even if pointless to you, just because they don't have an associated right that you deem important seems to me condescending. 

"communal space for religious proclamations"

Targeting a single religion would IMO render that argument invalid.  That is clearly not what those supporting the vote were worried about.
[ Parent ]
I didn't deem anything unimportant by lm (2.00 / 0) #15 Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 05:36:48 PM EST
I don't think that pointing out that there are conflicting rights entails that saying one or the other is unimportant.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Try dismissive then by duxup (2.00 / 0) #16 Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 06:04:42 PM EST
What conflict?

Any response to singling out a particular religion?
[ Parent ]
the Swiss and singling out a single faith by lm (4.00 / 1) #17 Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 07:31:15 PM EST
The Swiss also have a nationwide ban on kosher slaughter practices. And it is my understanding that some cantons and towns have outright prohibitions (or at least strict limitations ) on the ringing of church bells. It was also only relatively recently that Jesuits could operate legally in Switzerland, but that's another story. Consequently, I don't know that it is fair to say that only the Muslim faith is being singled out. Perhaps it is true that they are being singled out on this particular issue, but in the wider context, I'm not so certain.

As for conflicts, I think it fairly evident that the proclamation of any religious doctrine in communal space potentially presents a conflict with everyone within that space. And, as the volume increases, so does the potential for conflict. Here in the US, we tend to have a pretty high tolerance for such things. But I've heard street preachers say things that I'm fairly certain would get them arrested (or at least fined) in a number of countries with fairly liberal laws concerning freedom of religion. And I don't think it self-evident that the US approach is always superior.

At one end of the spectrum there is Fred Phelps (the God Hates Fags guy). At the other end of the spectrum there are guys like the one down on the corner by where I live that politely asks everyone that walks by if they know who Jesus is. Somewhere in between (but closer to the guy on the corner) is the Islamic call to prayer. The difference is mostly a matter of degrees and I don't think it clear where the line ought to be drawn.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by duxup (2.00 / 0) #18 Sat Dec 05, 2009 at 03:20:37 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by duxup

[ Parent ]
Uh Oh by duxup (4.00 / 1) #10 Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 08:24:25 AM EST
Mysterious creatures from the ocean near Japan?  Not a good sign.

The fact that the minarets are associated with a single religion makes the intent quite clear. If this were about folks being loud about religion in public spaces they might have thought to apply it to other religions.

The best laid plans of mice and men | 18 comments (18 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback