Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving all

Enjoy the day, the food, the football (where applicable), and most of all, family and friends.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The real standings

Weird weekend. The Chiefs, Lions, and Raiders all won yesterday. I feel like I woke up in 1993.

The NHL's "real standings" this week -

Toronto, true record of 3-15-3... but with the Islanders coming to town.

Not quite as illegible as last time. Trying to make the picture bigger just blurs everything. My HTML-fu is weak, and I can't get a table to look like anything but an affront to statistics everywhere. The dumb thing is, the table looks amazing in Excel, but I can't just dump the spreadsheet page to the web... or, to be more precise, *I* can't just dump the thing on here. A skilled person could. Hope I can find one before next week, but there's that Thanksgiving thing... you know, the one everyone seemed to skip this year to get right from Halloween to the high holy shopping season.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What it's still all about

The Judge strikes again.

I missed that post on November 11th and wish I hadn't, but it's very good to know that it will be included in his upcoming book.  I'll be buying it when it's done.  (And if I ever get the first one away from my dear wife, I may be able to read them both!)

An excerpt of the speech he quotes, from the Honorable Christopher Heffernan, given 66 years ago today:
Today the world is gripped by war. ... It is in very truth a world revolution that challenges all those principles of personal freedom, equality of right, impartial justice, and popular sovereignty that are so dear to the hearts of all free men everywhere. In all the sorry pages of human history never has despotism stood forward more defiantly, never has it more brazenly announced its foul purposes, never have the rights of men and nations been more brutally assailed.

The present war is not merely for markets and territories; it is a struggle for the possession of the human soul. The civilized world is threatened by a sinister power which strikes directly at its moral foundations. Two philosophies of life are involved in deadly combat— the one based upon law, justice and human dignity; the other upon arbitrary will, violence and human slavery.

... We in America shall not work swiftly enough, ruthlessly enough, nor shall we have the means of striking back against Fascism hard enough, if we think we can baby ourselves through this crisis. We are working against a barbarian power that has demanded, and exacted, years of bitter sacrifice from every man, woman and child ...
I speak now to those Americans who love life but are willing to face death so that life may go on. I appeal to those who have experienced love but who know that no smaller love than that of humanity will enable the love of mates and friends to be secure. I appeal to those who still carry on the tradition of immigrants and pioneers; those who dared much to create a new world. The task our ancestors started is not finished. The struggle is not over. We have a job to do, the hardest that ever faced a generation. Our job is to restore our own faith for living and to lay the foundation of a world in which life, love, freedom, justice, truth, will once more be sacred.
Judge Heffernan is completely right.  The Greatest Generation took heed and saved the whole world, winning the fight and the long wary standoff that gripped Eastern Europe in the following four decades.  Sadly, it has been the following generations that have been quibbling over incidentals while essentials go neglected.

Please read Judge Heffernan's speech in full, and maybe buy a book or two from Judge Going, who is truly one of the good guys.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Relics of the Church

The Obama Bible cover may be no longer for sale, but this should be a suitable substitute.

Be sure to scroll down and read the reviews.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Just in Time for Weinachtstag

Yes, folks, that's a little swastika cookie-cutter.
While some of us can grumble about the secularization of Christmas (whoops, I mean the holidays), there was a time when it was much worse.
Nazi Germany celebrated Christmas without Christ with the help of swastika tree baubles, 'Germanic' cookies and a host of manufactured traditions, a new exhibition has shown.
The way the celebration was gradually taken over and exploited for propaganda purposes by Hitler's Nazis is detailed in a new exhibition.
Rita Breuer has spent years scouring flea markets for old German Christmas ornaments.
She and her daughter Judith developed a fascination with the way Christmas was used by the atheist Nazis, who tried to turn it into a pagan winter solstice celebration.
Actually, the Nazis were returning it to the pagan party which it was before Christians tried to compete with it by celebrating the Lord's birth on December 25.
No one knows the date of Jesus' birth. Celebrating it on 12/25 works for me. The only downer is that the season sneaks up on you here in Florida because Jack Frost hasn't nipped at my nose since I visited New Hampshire in Feb of 2002.

Fight for it

While catching up on stuff I've missed and regular stops I've skipped, I found this at Ricki's.
If you care about something, you have to fight for it. You have to be willing to put in a little effort. I get the feeling a lot of these folks either don't care, or have swallowed the victimology pill, where they believe if they don't get PRECISELY what they wanted without effort, it's because someone did them wrong along the way.
YES YES and YES again.  Read it all, as the cool kids say.

In a few days I have something due to post - I've held it to coincide with a particular date - and it's linked to what Ricki talks about, only on a much larger scale.  It may seem crazy to link a kid slacking off in school to a society slacking off on the world stage, but truth be told, it's a difference of degree, not of kind.  I'm not saying there haven't always been slackers... but they used to be called delinquents, bums, layabouts, shiftless, mooches, and all sorts of negative terms.  "Slacker" lacks those connotations; quite to the contrary, those in that cohort can self-identify and use the term without a hint of shame or irony.  When Terry Malloy said, "I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am," nobody, least of all Terry, thinks of the description as a badge of honor.

That seems to be the difference nowadays - there's no shame anymore in living off of others, in floating and expecting all things to be signed over as one's due, instead of as something to earn and treasure.  For many years children have not been taught to achieve to win self-respect; they are not taught to strive in order to fulfill and demonstrate their dignity as persons.  They are taught rather that their self-esteem is sacrosanct and anything that detracts from it is to be shunned and denounced.  The problem is, any serious effort to improve in anything will quickly teach one that one is bad at a lot of things.  Except for the most incredible natural talents, most things come hard to us, and require going through the embarrassment and bother of repeated, humbling failures while we pursue mastery - a goal that forever eludes a good majority of us in many areas.

This sounds mean.  That's a problem for a lot of people.  "The poor children!" they wail.  How can I be so pitiless to suggest that they get off their duffs and get on with living?  Well, it's simple - if they don't, life will be far more pitiless to them than the mean ol' teacher who expects good work; or the worst parents ever, who insist on good manners and a clean room; or the big bad Church, who would prefer them to be honest, chaste, and kind.  Telling kids "You're OK right now!" is simply not the whole truth, and is a grave disservice.  The whole truth is that they will stop being OK in the very near future if they settle for being OK now.

An illustration would probably help.  Let's take Shasta from CS Lewis' "The Horse and His Boy."  When the horse Bree decides that they should escape together to the North, he asks Shasta if he can ride.  He can't, so Bree asks if he can learn, and not mind falling.  "I suppose anyone can fall," Shasta says, and Bree checks him:  "Can you fall, and get hurt, and get up again, and fall again, and not cry, and fall yet again, and still get up and not be afraid of falling?"

This isn't an exact quote, since I haven't got the book with me, but the point Bree makes is that Shasta is never going to be a rider if he can't accept first being a faller, if he can't bear to risk failure.  And when Shasta, somewhat scared, says "I think so," his journey begins in earnest.  To that point Shasta had been indulging in fantasy and conjecture to entertain himself, dreaming of a different life: "I could be the son of anyone - of a noble, or of the Tisroc (may he live for ever), or of a god!"  Actually pursuing that life means a concrete, difficult journey, full of labor and sweat and pain.

From the outside a person may conclude that Shasta seems worse off for running away with Bree than in Arsheesh's hut as a de facto slave.  The only difference is that he's avoiding being sold to a cruel noble, to be worked to death in his service; but seeing as how he's stolen that noble's horse and will be put to death if caught, it makes no odds.  In some ways he's worse off, having left behind certain shelter and food, however meager.

Hence, some people prefer to stay put, and not only avoid any effort to improve but resent even the suggestion that improvement may be made, or that their own effort may be required to make it.  It might help to flip our example over on its ear.  Shasta's still suffering if he leaves - but likewise, he's no better off if he stays.  He will suffer whether or not he takes any action; the difference is that only by acting does he have the hope of escaping into a better life.  The slacker's hope of avoiding trouble by avoiding work and failure shows itself as a false turn, a dead end: they cause themselves far more trouble, and end as failures nevertheless.

A society that doesn't ask anything of its children except that they Believe in Themselves is, not surprisingly, a society that begins to doubt itself as a whole.  There's a definite link between telling kids not to bother about anything, and a society that can't bother to defend the things it finds valuable.  Far from it - such a society often can't think of anything valuable, or else falls to quibbling about the very concept of value, for "who's to say what's good or bad for everyone?"  That is "We're OK right now!" writ quite large, in smoke on the air.  It looks quite impressive until a stiff breeze wipes it clear, and then what do we look to?

And again, isn't that mean?  Who am I, anyway, to suggest that certain choices are preferable, and certain choices are outright wrong?  Many of the people who know me would probably be surprised to learn that I agree: not only about the "who am I anyway" part, but about everybody winding up the same, boiled into a miserable bland pudding of conformity.  But I observe that the people who most often tell off squares like me are, in fact, depressingly and reliably predictable.  It's always "the Church this" or "Western Civilization" that, and emo-posing and forced disillusionment and "get with the times."  In fact, much like the slackers who miss achievement by mistaking the starting blocks for the finish line, the scoffers and the skeptics who shun objectivity and order miss true individuality in favor of conformity.  They base their identity on the swirling mores and fashions of time, and are always scurrying to catch up, in order to be sophisticated and trendy.  In the end they exist only as part of an ever-shifting cohort, as obsessed with its own internal purity, and who falls short of it, as any other cult.  And they denounce believers as being all the same?  The grand irony is that all the people who think I'm a conformist are always marveling that I'm the oddest person they've ever met.  If only they knew how many wonderfully unique, odd people I know!

(I know that sounds a little self-congratulating, but it can't be helped.  For one thing, I'm the example I know best, being stuck with my own constant company; for another, I can take no credit for who I know.  My friendships are all gifts far beyond my deserts.)

For a person to grow and prosper, they have to build a concrete life, and they need solid values and work ethic to build with.  A healthy society will be built on such solid personalities.  No other material will serve if we want civilization to endure.  The best service we can give children is to inspire them, not only with what they are but with what they can hope to be with hard work and a touch of luck.  Here, and only here, does the message of self-esteem work as intended - only in this context, that the child is good enough today to keep trying to be better tomorrow.  Here, and only here, does "true to yourself" mean true individual freedom and identity - in the context of building on timeless standards that will not shift and wipe out one's progress, forever forcing one to start over.  Staying put, settling for OK now, for what's in, is like preferring a parking space in a deserted lot to the road home because there's less traffic that way.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jump, Jive, and Fail

Haven't done any television in a while, have we?  Cool the water and here we go - Dancing With the Stars, seminfinal edition:

Background - Ladybug and I have rooted for Kelly Osborne for several weeks now: she's endearing.  Think about being the daughter of rock n' roll's Prince of Darkness, raised on the road, winding up on reality TV and an easy target for vicious tabloids, and getting into and out of drugs and such...  She could be sharing a suite in oblivion with Lindsey Lohan.  Instead she's kind of girl-next-door with an edge.  However, we are done done done with Donny Osmond.  He's not objectionable but he's not the dancer the other three are.  And there's something vaguely annoying about him - it's like he's aggressively nice; it reminds me of every mean snippy thing I've ever done.  "Donny Osmond wouldn't yell at the dog."

He isn't helping himself by cracking that it's tough being around so much estrogen.  I know he's joking - he's the only male left in the final four, and frankly having Aaron Carter around last week doesn't tip the scales all that much.  (Donny Osmond wouldn't have made that crack.)  I just think he came across poorly.  A guy finishing last in the judges' scores every week can't afford to cheese off the audience.

OK, uhm... wow.  Dancing With the Stars has been brought to you today by the letters T, A, and the number 9.

Alicia Keys performing: she's great, as long as you only listen.  The dancing really annoys me.  But that's nothing compared to the "Under Pressure" montage, which was forty times worse.  Even if they didn't care about poor Freddie (RIP), they'd realize that David Bowie is still alive to get mad at them.

I realize it's a dancing competition.  (Simon Cowell - "This is a dancing competition.  Sowry.")  Still, most of the bits that go with the songs on results night are useless.  Last week's gorgeous performance during Susan Boyle's song stands out as a superb exception.

Mýa is through to the finals.  No shock.  Donny (durn it) is also in.  At least he's not wearing the shiny suit from last night - he looked like a neon watermelon.  It's down to Kelly and Joanna, and it's a shame that one has to go early.  First, the Brothers Gibb.  I daresay they will do better by poor Maurice Gibb (RIP) than the show did by Freddie Mercury.

They're mostly up to it after all these years.  Barry's having a little trouble holding the falsetto notes but he is reaching them.  This is priceless just for the shot of Ozzie and Sharon Osborne in the audience, dancing to "You Should Be Dancing."

Well, here we go...  and.... WOW, Kelly is through.  Joanna is out.  Ladybug feels badly for Derek Hough, Joanna's partner, who is consistently great (well, except for that stupid boy-band song he 'sang' a few weeks ago).

Bow before Zod!

When I consider the habit of our current president to bow before foreign heads of state as if he were a peasant supplicant instead of the Leader of the Free World, I can't help but think that he's ashamed of the freedoms that our very first patriots and statesmen won for us - to say nothing of the manner in which they won them. He's determined to take them away here and act as if they're marks of shame while he's abroad.

The White House is calling it "the diplomacy of deference."  (And btw, can we retire the phrase "the politcs of _____" and all such variants?  "The diplomacy of deference" is a fancy-nice way of saying "acting deferential," so just SAY "The President acted deferential."  Ah, but it doesn't sound grand and statesmanlike that way, does it?)  I'm not sure that he ought to be acting that way, however, especially during war when our adversaries will score propaganda points by circulating those images to boost their morale and inflame their people's sentiment against us.

His supporters can claim it's respecting Japanese culture all they like, but the cultural message I see being sent here is called "kowtowing."  It's not unreasonable to think that Japan may soon face a nuclear-armed, Chinese-backed North Korea.  Can they look to us and our bowing, scraping President with confidence in that scenario?  Can they look to his dithering about Iraq and Afghanistan; to his treating prisoners of war as so many pickpockets and public drunkards instead of as enemy soldiers; to ignoring both his own hand-picked general's assessment and his own cabinet's plans about the War on Terror, even when he solicited those opinions; can they look upon how badly his personally-backed candidates fared in the recent governors' elections and his complete disavowal of the outcome; can they possibly see all that and see a strong leader who can be relied upon?

What they can see is a man who speaks in glowing terms of himself and elevates his scant accomplishments, but who bows when representing his people to a foreign power.  Sadly, so do our enemies.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The real standings

I'm on record as not liking the concept behind giving free points to losing teams in hockey games.

In our own low little league it's not so bad, we get sorted into divisions and everyone, no matter how downtrodden, gets to play a playoff game against a similar team. In the NHL, where making or missing the playoffs could lead to extra millions for a team, none of whom are currently in the best financial shape? Yeah, could be a problem.

Psychologically, I also don't like the concept of a game being decided by a glorified skills competition, especially one where only one skill is on display.

Finally, the whole rationale behind it was to eliminate the allegedly-pernicious tie, to prevent stuff like this. That's a LOT of ties, right? Looks a lot better than, say, today's standings... right?

Yeah... not so much. So I put myself to a little research project over the weekend: if there were no "pity point" and games ended after overtime, what would the standings be like? That table is below.

It's simple, if a little time-consuming. Shootout wins are taken out of the win column and moved to the tie column, and overtime losses are taken out of the tie column and moved to the loss column. No other adjustments are needed. The table has the current standings on the left, the adjustments in the middle, and the Old School Adjusted Standings on the right.

Carolina, 1-14-4...  Woof.  That's Epic Suq.
It really should be a table, not a picture - you have to click to embiggen - but the major hunk of the work is done. I hope to be able to run this every Monday, hopefully in a more legible format.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

News You Can Use

So this doesn't happen to you.

TAMPA - A University of South Florida student told investigators that he disabled a smoke alarm in his dorm room so he could smoke marijuana undetected. Early Friday morning, he was charged on both counts, one of which is a felony.

We encounter a similar problem during a residential job while installing the indoor coil. The torch used to braze the coil to the copper refrigerant lines produces enough smoke to set off the alarm.

The solution my stoner friends, is to cover the alarm with a latex surgical glove. Then turn on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and you are good to go.

Get a load of this guy's photo. I think he's had the munchies a few times.

What good is being the smartest president ever...

...when you don't have die Kugeln to make a decision?

At a White House war council meeting Wednesday, Obama rejected the four Afghan war options put before him and asked for revisions that combine the best elements of the proposals, Gates said. The changes could alter the dynamic of both how many additional troops are sent to Afghanistan and their time in the war zone.

Obama is not expected to decide the Afghan matter until after he returns from Asia late next week.

"combine the best elements of the proposals?" Is he trying to vote "present" again?

GWB may have been dumber than a box of hammers (he wasn't), but at least he could make a decision.

What I'm about to write is going to make me look like a serious Keeper Of Odd Knowledge (KOOK), but I think the holdup on Afghanistan is health care legislation. He can't make a decision that will upset the lefties in his party until that gets passed.

I'll put on the tin-foil hat now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veteran's Day

A remembrance from Ralph Kiner, one of many professional ballplayers who served in WWII.

Every one of us has a parent or grandparent who served sometime, and I know many of you readers have served yourselves. I am fortunate enough to still have my great uncle on my father's side to thank in person for what he did to save the world back then. But to all who served, and especially those who gave all, please accept the humble and heartfelt thanks of this dumb, fat, and happy civilian blogger.

(updated - thanks to Joe Posnanski for this related image. Gorgeous on many levels. Now I have it in my screen saver rotation as well.)

Monday, November 09, 2009

News flash -

- Major of Indeterminate Belief System which had nothing to do with anything may have been suffering from "secondary trauma."

Also, water turns solid if it gets, like, really cold and stuff.

Credit to AoSHQ for the links, and the Spider for the call - though of course it was rather like calling the Sun rising in the East.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Hm, why could they be going out of business?

Hint: it's not the economy.

Oh, by the way, there are those soldiers he killed...
It's much more about the choices they make about what's important to talk about. To the MSN folks from whom I've screen-capped this bit, it's not that 13 were killed. It's that he was mortified about deployment, had been harassed for his Muslim faith - the implication clearly being that he was a decent guy pushed too far by those bastard American soldiers.

The actual dead? Oh, yeah, I suppose we can mention them.

Now look, I know that this is not conscious. My own journalism classes covered this sort of thing - look for the angle, find the motivations, tell people why. I don't object to that. What I find really frustrating is that this information is the hook to the story.

It would have been just as easy to put "Thirteen killed in Fort Hood Shooting - suspect in custody" as the bold, top print, and then underneath, that he didn't want to go overseas and had alleged harassment. For that matter it would have been just as easy to say that he had alleged the harassment, instead of reporting it as established fact. This morning's Asbury Park Press described Major Hasan as the alleged shooter - but to them harassment was fait accompli.

That's my objection - it's not just reporting the facts, it's the reflexive "they must have done something to him to make him do this" attitude. The harassment may be true. But less than 24 hours after this horror, why are the Times and MSN laying the groundwork for this monstrous act to be excused and explained away? Are they really so blind as to miss how indecent that is to the dead and their families? It's nauseating.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Even my short-term memory isn't this bad.

Endorse the stimulus bill? Moi?

During a CNN appearance on Wednesday, Charlie Crist said of Obama's stimulus package:
"I didn't endorse it. I didn't even have a vote on the darn thing. ... But I understood that it was gonna pass and I wanted to be able to utilize it for the benefit of my fellow Floridians."

Charlie Crist during a February 23 TV interview on the White House lawn:
Q: You've broken with some in your own party to back this stimulus; tell me why.
CHARLIE CRIST: "Because Florida needs it frankly."

What am I going to believe, Charlie Crist or my own lying eyes? Was that a Crist impersonator sucking face with Obama down in Ft Myers last February?

It isn't his moderation that honks me off. It's the fact that he has absolutely no core beliefs whatsoever. There isn't a single issue that Crist hasn't flipped on. And if he didn't have to pretend to be a conservative until the primary, his head would be back up Obama's orifice as soon as the president's approval ratings hit 60%.

You folks in Virginia and NJ have done your part. We in Florida will try to do ours.

One bi product of NY-23. The National Republican Senatorial Committee will not be sending any cash to Crist. They also seem to be backing away from their endorsement of Crist.


I can't believe what I saw on ABC Tuesday night.

Imagine this. At a time of political turmoil, a charismatic, telegenic new leader arrives virtually out of nowhere. He offers a message of hope and reconciliation based on compromise and promises to marshal technology for a better future that will include universal health care.

The news media swoons in admiration -- one simpering anchorman even shouts at a reporter who asks a tough question: "Why don't you show some respect?!" The public is likewise smitten, except for a few nut cases who circulate batty rumors on the Internet about the leader's origins and intentions. The leader, undismayed, offers assurances that are soothing, if also just a tiny bit condescending: "Embracing change is never easy."

So, does that sound like anyone you know? Oh, wait -- did I mention the leader is secretly a totalitarian space lizard who's come here to eat us?

The simpering anchorman is given an exclusive live interview with the leader of the Visitors. Minutes before the interview the leader tells him not to ask any questions that would put the Visitors in a negative light. Right then he had to decide whether he was a journalist or a whore. And he went the way that many of his ilk have done when faced with His Obamaness.

The Visitors even have their own version of community organizing, called the "Ambassador Plan".

Another quirk: One of the heroes is a Catholic priest. When was the last time a priest was seen on TV as a normal guy, much less a hero?

I'll watch next week, but I don't know how long this will last before someone at ABC gets a phone call.

"This wasn't about the President"

So says Robert Gibbs (twice!), George Stephanopolous, Nancy Pelosi, et als.

O rly? The Spider has a question for you:

No, not that one... the grouchy-looking guy.  To the right.  NO it's not George Lucas...

"Who is that guy behind Obama?"

And Creigh Deeds (D-Funemployed) has a question as well:

Honest, you're in the shot, Creigh - you must be blotted out by my luminosity.
"Waitaminute, wasn't I the guy running for Governor of Virginia?"

I mean, even his NAME is cut off in the big poster in the background.

(thanks to Ace, the Swillers, and IMAO for the links)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Insert you own joke here.

Because there is some stuff that is beyond parody.

Do the Right Thing in NJ Today.

I just want to ask you guys not to vote for Obama as your next governor. He will wreck your state so badly that all of you will move to Florida. After I got here these folks became a little worried about a major influx of Jerseyans.
BTW, who is that guy behind Obama?