25 February 2007


Gay Senior, Patriot, Brutally Beaten, Dies

In case you were operating under the presumption that gay bashings didn't happen anymore, there's this from Andy Towle:
Andrew Anthos, 72, the gay senior citizen who waged a nearly-two-decade campaign to have the Michigan capitol dome lit in red, white, and blue, died yesterday from injuries sustained in a brutal hate attack.

Anthos, whom his niece says had a lifelong disability, was riding a bus home and a stranger, apparently offended that Anthos was singing, asked Anthos if he was gay, followed him off a bus, and beat him with a pipe. Anthos spent the last few days in a coma, paralyzed from the neck down, before dying yesterday.

Cold-blooded murder.

Police have not found the attackers. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has offered to pay for his funeral.
Here's a story he referenced from the Detroit News, and here's one from the Lansing State Journal.

Ugh. I think almost every non-straight person has a story to tell about someone else's misuse of physical, family, or social power. Having that result in death is the extreme, but any such event causes a little bit of death to the soul. Knowledge that some of your fellow humans will willingly harm you for being who you are is tiresome at best when the who you are is 10 or 5 or 2 percent of the population. If 20 or 10 or 5 percent of the rest of the population share some kind of disposition toward hating you, towards expressing that hate, then you know the numbers are against you from the start. Since you don't know the score, even with a cheerful heart that's disposed towards liking people, one can be wary with good reason.

Each of us has her or his own way for dealing with this, but to deny the reality seems unproductive. It may be impossible to stop individuals from feeling squicked by sexuality other than their own, but there needs to be a clear understanding that expression of those feelings through physical violence will be dealt with harshly. It doesn't have to be more harshly than any other comparable attack, i.e., there doesn't have to be special "hate crimes," but it shouldn't be able to be argued away by "gay panic" or any other bogus defense that treats LGB people as less than human, as less than the rest of our brothers and sisters in humanity.

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23 February 2007


Who Says There's Nothing Good on Television?

Tonight at 9:00 on Fox: "Land of the Giants." In the pilot episode of this Irwin Allen rehash from the producers of Lost, Steve (Steve Buscimi) and Valerie (Robin Wright Penn) discover a shrunken Chevy Malibu and attempt to escape scientists who are pickling their friends in cellulosic ethanol. Special guest appearance by Chevy Chase as President George W. Bush.

Image from TNR Online. I'm not a subscriber, so I can't play their game in their space, but that doesn't mean I can't play. Or you.

#2: "And here's to you, my long lost friend." (Spit take!)

#3: "You say this will be to America what Ouzo is to Greece?"

#4: "At last, the formula is complete! One drop of this, and Spider Man will be reduced to a quivering pile of bones and protoplasm!! Cheney, my car!!!"

#5. Being a scientist is great, but I wonder what kind of life I'd've had if I'd've just partied more in school.


18 February 2007


Waiting for the Restart

Waiting for the Restart



From a Post I Never Finished

I sure hope that our ability to influence the universe through words ends with sentient beings and semi-sentient things (from pets to robots) and doesn't extend to the core of existence, as some religion-as-magic types believe.

Yeah, you can extend these kinds of thoughts to all religious activity, but that's not my point.



Awesome Tesla Coil Pics (for Mike McC.)

One of the gadget blogs links here to this site featuring "over 200 high voltage and other projects." Wow. Here are some great time-lapse pictures of a tesla coil with a rotating arm. Mike: If only we'd've had the imagination!

One pic below, but for the rest, go to the guy's site.

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An Alternate Perspective on American Interests

Last night, I finished listening to the audio of this BloggingHeadsTV discussion between Michael Lind and James Pinkerton, both of the New American Foundation. I don't know squat about Pinkerton, but I've enjoyed several of Lind's books, including Up From Conservatism and The Next American Nation. He seems to me an honest American-centric intellectual whose sense of the nation extends well beyond his ivory tower. He has some interesting perspectives, some quite out of the mainstream, but they always seem grounded in well-researched history.

The discussion has to do with Lind's newest book, The American Way of Strategy. In it, he paints the current Iraq war in a strategic framework concerned more with keeping other great powers, Russia and China in this instance, out of the Middle East and securing American hegemony there. He doesn't dispute how things have gone wrong in the conduct of the war, but he frames it in something other than any of the removing a threatening state, removing a collaborator with terrorists, democratizing the Middle East, and War on Terror frameworks that have each been used at one or more times as the motivation for the war.

I haven't read the book, but intend to add it to the to-read list. In the meantime, the discussion at least has made me rethink some of my own ideas on the contemporary situation, particularly regarding the Islamacist threat. While Lind acknowledges that one nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day, he argues that the Islamacists, and Iran even, just don't pose a strategic threat to American interests, interests he sees, rightly in my perspective, as being more concerned with securing the survival of the Republic and it's democratic freedoms, and less with the interests of some imagined capitalist corporate or sectarian masters. He also argues, pretty persuasively, that maybe our interests are better served by a framework of great-power collusion and negotiation than either by going it alone or by trying to align almost 200 nations in one direction at the U.N.

An interesting listen/watch. If you've got an hour, you might want to consider it.

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16 February 2007


KMW 100

Kenneth M. WilsonHad he lived, my dad would've been 100 years old today. I was 17 when he died in 1974 and had spent most of that and the previous five years away at boarding schools, so we weren't particularly close. He wasn't the kind of father you were buds with, anyway.

But he loved my mom and my brothers and me very much. He was a high achiever. He took the knowledge he had of government contracting in the garment industry from his years of being an inspector and leveraged that into a successful career as a manufacturer of same garments: raincoats and ponchos for the military. He was, perhaps, the smartest man with numbers I have ever met, and I have met a few serious big brain types in my day. The calculations he could do in his head and on a yellow legal pad were impressive.

I wrote at the old blog—the archives seem gone now—about how he got involved in a golf resort development here in central Florida. I'm not particularly fond of the degree to which we tear down scrub and put up housing developments, but I will give him and his friend George Phelps the credit for being ahead of their time. I appreciate now that the will to build something that wasn't there before is more widespread and historically common than I had appreciated before, but still, I recall sleeping in a crappy little trailer office in the palmetto scrub where now there are homes and condos and golf courses.

He also had a love of flight and of being involved with people who loved flight. He never got his own pilot's license, but he was a partner in several airplane deals. It gave me an early opportunity to go up with pilots. I'm at a holding point myself, but when the schedule opens up a bit, I'm getting my pilots license, something I wanted to do way back then. Maybe the best dreams are the old dreams.

I don't know what his best old dreams were. Maybe all parents live somewhat vicariously through their kids. He died just a few days after I found out I'd gotten accepted to M.I.T., and I know that made him happy. But I only saw him in the hospital after the day we got that news, and then he was gone.

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13 February 2007


While You Were Working

Yesterday was...


11 February 2007


For the 9/11 Victims, For Rushdie, For Havel, For Truth and For Freedom

Whatever you feel about the Iraq war—doomed from the start or a horrible betrayal by executive incompetence—Islamism, Islamic fascism, Islamic militancy, Muslim terrorism—whatever you want to call it—remains a real threat. To pretend that there is no threat, no forces that want me destroyed, that would remove your head with a dull blade, that want to put into place a religious totalitarianism that would make the Inquisition look tame, is head-in-the-sand ostrichism.

That is not, of course or by any means, to say something nuts like "Kill All Muslims." It is not to characterize all believers of Islam as being less than individuals. It is, however, to say that each and every one of us should stand up to Islamic militants and say, "No, I would rather kill those who want me dead before I live under those conditions." Not very pretty in turn-the-other-cheek or don't-get-attached ethical frameworks, but those have to be tempered by the reality of living in a world where cohorts of extreme religious individuals want to kill those who subscribe to "live and let live."

Yes, America and our governments have made mistakes that have acerbated the situation. Not being able to secure Iraq after overthrowing the Saddam government is a good example. But what Islamofacists believe is not determined by the behavior of the US government: It's a collection of choices by individuals around the world that are almost exclusively about their own religious beliefs and their participation in a religious community that is pathological in its lack of tolerance for other religious beliefs, for other social contexts.

In the ideal, our willingness at least to identify accurately those who would kill us for not believing what they insist we believe, lest we be labeled infidels, will be sufficient to save ourselves from those who would prefer we be poofed out of existence, if not by God behaving according to their rules, then by a nuclear device of their own making. But since some of those who believe that we are anathema to life itself insist on seeking those nuclear devices, we have to recognize that stronger measures might be required beyond "please, don't hurt me." Pretending that Islamist-controlled governments are the functional equivalent of the National Organization of Women or believing that the U.S. Government is just as bad as the Sadr militia will not do the trick. Bush may be a mess, a clown, a total loss as President of the USA, but I'm not convinced he wants to kill the unbelievers, the others, the way either the Shia extremists or the Baathist facists do. Wishful thinking along those lines is fun and games until someone—or your your country or your culture—departs the face of this Earth for good.

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Superstar, the Compleat Video History

Here, at Matt Welch's place. With Bette Midler, Burt Bacharach, Rita Coolidge, Leon Russell (I still <heart> Leon Russell (just last night listened to him sing "Crystal Closet Queen" about Little Richard), Sonic Youth, and starring Bonnie Bramlett. Featuring Karen and Richard Carpenter.

I don't know Bramlett's work well. Beyond the Delaney & Bonnie stuff, the single performance of hers I'm most familiar with is an exquisite backup vocal on Lowell George's performance of "Heartache" on his underrated solo album Thanks, I'll Eat It Here. Beautiful voice.

Welch's piece is based on the link to this Wikipedia entry that he saw in this post at Scott MacMillan's blog.

I guess I'm surprised that anyone who's listened to that song for most of our lives wouldn't know that it was about groupie sex, even if Richard Carpenter did change "sleep with me" to "be with me." I guess I just took it for granted that people understood that "Superstar" and "What's Your Name" were two sides of the same story.

Extra credit: Find the secret Lowell George tribute in the opening paragraph!

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10 February 2007


Lighter Footstep

Blog-buddy Kit of More Minimal (on hiatus) is one of the drivers of the Lighter Footstep site. I'm happy to give them an unsolicited plug.

Sustainable living ideas. Check it out.

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An Insufferable Character

Yesterday, Mustang Bobby had an open question on "Who's your favorite sit-com character?" He and a good fraction of his commenters replied with Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H. Since it seems just wrong to use someone else's blog-comments to criticize what's either an aesthetic choice or just a matter of preference, I'll bring it home here:


He's smarmy, self-righteous, smug; unreasonably and unjustifiably self-satisfied. An anachronism bringing late 50s-hipness through mid-70s sensitivity to a character in the early 1950s. Yes, some of that came with the characters in Richard Hooker's novel—not a bad read at all, if my memory from 8th-grade or so serves me correctly—and some of that came from the characterization created by Donald Sutherland in Robert Altman's now-classic film.

But the smug/smarmy insufferable part comes from Alda's performances and increasing influence in the show's direction and tone through its (still utterly ridiculous to me) long run. Alda's Hawkeye has so many of the bad attributes, mentioned above, of some political liberals, it's not surprising the character is popular with a certain cohort, a cohort that speaks and listens in an echo chamber as disconnected from reality as that of the fundamentalist right. That some of said cohort have the unjustified gumption to describe themselves as "reality-based" is delightfully ironic. Yeah, I'm being harsh, but reality-based is, like attractiveness, a judgment to be made by the viewer/listener/reader, not by the producer/speaker/writer.

Disclaimer: Wayne Rogers, who played Trapper John in the TV show with subtlety and grace, graduated from my prep school and spoke at my high-school commencement, so I've been biased against Alda since time immemorial.

Aside: "We're the pros from Dover."

Uh: Favorite sit-com character? Tim Conway as Rango or Bill Daly as Howard Borden—ironing, ironing, ironing—on The Bob Newhart Show.

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09 February 2007


John Amaechi Comes Out

Former Orlando Magic center John Amaechi (Here (.pdf) is what the page looked like as of 6:10 a.m. EST. Hopefully the homophobic baggage has been removed by when you're reading this) is coming out of the closet about being gay in his autobiography. The reactions range from common sense to out-to-lunch:

Charles Barkley: "It shouldn't be a big deal to anybody. I know I've played with gay players and against gay players and it just shouldn't surprise anybody or be any issue."

Grant Hill: "The fact that John has done this, maybe it will give others the comfort or confidence to come out as well, whether they are playing or retired"

LeBron James: "With teammates you have to be trustworthy, and if you're gay and you're not admitting that you are, then you are not trustworthy."

While it looks like this kind of thinking ought to be able to be dealt with logically, I'm not sure it really can. People who are squicked by homos make up all kinds of excuses for their squickedness that have no necessary connection to reality. That being in the closet is a lie, albeit for some what feels a necessary lie, and that lies are closer to untrustworthiness than to trustworthiness may be the nature of reality, but there's little reason to believe that the Jameses of the world can acknowledge that reality. Better to tolerate their verbal stupidity but in a context that says physical violence along the same lines will be crushed harshly.


And "tolerate" doesn't mean ignoring. It means respecting every individual's right to say stupid things, not giving their stupid ideas tacit approval. There are other people who might be listening. The ideas have to be refuted, just don't expect the refutation to take with the one who said the stupid thing in the first place.

Pat Garrity: "I think that's true if you're playing basketball or in an office job. That's just how the world is right now." This might be more disturbing than the explicit homophobia of LeBron James. It's also more accurate. It all comes back to those small number of situations where coming out has actual, real, physical repercussions for the one coming out: Finding out your parents' love or support is conditional, finding out your co-worker or teammate has homocidal tendencies.

In the overwhelming number of cases—overwhelming—coming out is met with support or, at worst, indifference. But since there is that small number of alternative negative casees, we—all of us—let the closet continue to exist. In spite of all the out people, from the woman in the cubicle next to you to congresspersons in the Capitol, too many people keep telling themselves that the lie of the closet is more secure than coming out.

I did it myself for a long time. I was wrong. Lies suck. The closet is an ugly place to be. A life lived in fear is, in fact, a fate worth than death.

(Quotes from the Washington Post; image from OutSports.)

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07 February 2007


For Your Voluminous Excess Time

It's the Super Mario Bros. theme played on interesting (some say "exotic") instruments. Here.

Link via Boing Boing.

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04 February 2007


Herr X

I don't think it's in my power, but if I could, I would make everything work out better for you relative to others. You're a great guy, and we remain in the mindset, hope to always, appreciate that you are our friend. Take care and enjoy life, regardless.

"Life is a gift from the creator of the universe." Enjoy. Savor. The rest is BS, bud. There remains much to enjoy, to appreciate. Breathe deep!




My Parallels Universe

Installed Parallels Desktop on the MacBook Pro yesterday. Only good things to report. The performance of Windows applications is sufficiently fast that I'll lose the Windows partition I was using with BootCamp.

Why? Why mess with Windows on a Mac OS? Because (1) there are still Mac apps that don't have Intel-based executables, like Photoshop Elements (of which I'm running an ancient version), and (2) there are still apps for which the Mac version sucks or for which converting to the Mac app involves waaaaaaay too much overhead, like Quicken. Booting to Windows to run Photoshop Elements was a pain in the ass, and running my old TP-22 to do Quicken was a pain in the ass. Now it's all local to the one box.

I can't quite lose my Windows desktop machine at work: there are too many Windows network applications we use at school, and they're only accessible using Novell. I'd just about rather die than install intrusive invasive Novell on my laptop, even under Windows, so I'll live with dual hardware in that department for a while.

With Parallels Desktop installed, I can also play with various Linuxes on this same chunk of silicon. Very convenient. Again, the performance hit seems completely acceptable, given the abundance of processing power the Intel Macs have.

Update: Spoke too soon. Looks like I need to keep the BootCamp partition after all. Parallels yielded BSOD when trying to format USB drives. Hey, no problem. (An upside to using Parallels is that there's enough OS X intervention such that the hardware setting re: mouse operations work in Windows, unlike when the MacBook Pro boots Windows using BootCamp.)

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Best Leave Well-Enough Alone

Updated to the "new" Blogger. Not making major changes in the short run. Hope all works. I'll try the labels feature.


02 February 2007


We're Fine, Thank You

Yes, there were horrendous tornadoes and storms here last night. And we are, thankfully, okay. Thanks for your concerns.

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