Friday, February 29, 2008

Sorry About Not Posting

Dad had a bit of a relapse and my mind has been elsewhere for the last couple of days. He is doing about as well as could be expected and I am cautiously hopeful for his survival. I left work early to get up to Saginaw, and I don't do that very often.

Ironically I was planning and thinking of a post for that night when I got the message and I have pretty much forgotten what I was planning to write.

I also apologize for not visiting other blogs like I normally do. I am currently working on a borrowed laptop trying to get caught up.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Somehow I Don't Feel Sorry

I'm of two minds about pornography.

I don't like censorship and I don't like exploiting human weakness for money in the manner that pornography does, in fact I don't care much for pornography. (Have I ever visited such sites? I have in the past but I can honestly say it's not a habit or something I do now.)

Remember how file-sharing hurt the music industry?

Guess which industry is getting hurt now.

You guessed it if you said "Pornography."

I love this line

"It doesn’t make any sense!” Hirsch tells me a month later. It’s a hazy afternoon in June, and he is sitting behind his oak-slab desk, his eyes flickering between a pair of flat-screen monitors, one tuned to Bloomberg News and the other showing a YouPorn clip featuring a gaggle of naked women and an oxygen mask. “They’re giving porn away. You can’t make money on this.”

Nope. You can't make money at it. Too bad.

Couldn't happen to a more deserving group of people.

H/T Drudge Report

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What Global Warming?

First off we have a couple of excellent articles suggesting that, seeing as how we are having the coldest winter in years with record cold, snow and ice all over the globe, that perhaps our panic over global warming is a bit . . . premature.

Article 1

Article 2

I never did really believe in global warming because I learned long ago that the environment and a bit of chicken-little fearmongering is politically quite useful. I tend to be quite skeptical of people in environmentally induced panic mode, though when I was 14 I was amongst the first to panic.

Let's see record ice in Antarctica, plus a lot of snow for us, plus . . . hmmm.

Now let's not go the other extreme and start screaming "ICE AGE!!!!" This could be a one year blip, or a correction on a warming trend. One way or the other we have only kept careful records for a few decades and we have no way of even knowing what normal really is.

I wish it was global warming.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

What's Going On Now?

America destroyed one of its own satellites and touched off a firestorm amongst those who want space to be conflict free zone. I too would like to see that but I am what is called a realist. A treaty is only as good as the nations who sign it and one nation doing what it wants while insisting other nations stick to the letter of the treaty is what will happen with this weapon free space treaty. Other nations have already militarized space while America played by the rules and we don't need to be the only ones doing so. America has been keeping its treaties while watching other nations ignore their parts in the same treaties for far too long. It's time to quit pretending and quit signing. Besides, firing a missile from a ship and hitting in satellite in space is an awesome accomplishment. Next time it could well be a missile coming for us that is hit.
The best way to keep peace in space is to keep peace on earth and we know that isn't going to happen; human nature guarantees that there will be war as long humans rule over themselves. That's not pessimistic but realistic.

Is Ralph Nader a contemporary Lyndon LaRouche running a quixotic presidential campaign every election? I don't know why he's running. He is correct in saying that American's are sick of both parties and neither party is doing well. He sees corporate control of America as a critical problem but he doesn't see bloated government going places it shouldn't as part of the problem as well. Besides Hillary and Obama are both so far to the left that I don't know what he's complaining about. Ralph, you and your fellow leftists are 90% of the problem, not the solution.

A 134 Lb hamburger. Someone actually cooked one and I think I know at least one person who will volunteer to eat it in one sitting. But you can actually get one with 24 hrs notice and a mere $350 and the place is here in Michigan. Who says were not innovative in this Great Lakes State?

My Father's condition. My brother Skip, who had his own blog for while, has opened a temporary blog to report on his conditions. This is quite a good idea. As of right now the outlook isn't rosy but it's better than it was a few nights ago.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

This Is Ridiculous

I cannot get to my main page "The Educated Shoprat" but I can do this. I can post.

There are several other blogs I cannot get to as well.

And some I can.

Weird is all I can say that is printable.

Update 7:09
I have not been able to get into Born Again Redneck, Dragonlady's Den, Goat's Barnyard, Lone Pony and a few others. I don't know if it's just my computer or if our friends at Blogspot are up to no good.

I found a backdoor into my own blog and have been able to open it but it won't work for others.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Further Update

Well the prognosis is somewhat better than it was. He is very likely to survive but will probably be paralyzed on his right side and somewhat blind. He will spend weeks if not months in therapy to regain control of his body.

His survival is not certain but likely and we are no longer discussing funeral arrangements but instead discussing how to best help him.

Right now he is in an induced coma which they are keeping him in to allow his brain to heal a little bit. All we can do is stand and look at him and pray as they don't want family members speaking to him or touching him as it may cause a response when they want his brain on minimal activity.

The stroke itself was not a normal stroke but an aneurysm which didn't kill him but instead acted similarly to a stroke.

Thank you for the prayers and keep them coming.

Dad Update

The prognosis is still pretty bleak though it is not entirely hopeless. Even if he does survive he will be partially paralyzed in his right side probably blind in his right eye.

If he is incapable of any independent living we will allow nature to take its course as he would be miserable as he said several times before he had the stroke "Drooling in a wheelchair with a nurse wiping my . . .". While I have opposed, and still oppose assisted suicide, I have no moral diffiulty with ending extreme medical treatment andletting nature take its course.

We'll just have to see what's happening, Your prayers so far are appreciated.

Most of his family is with him pretty steadily is here except for one of my brothers who has legal problems. My brother who lives in Florida arrived yesterday and his wife and kids are ready to come up. Most of his brothers and sisters are visiting regularly too.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Family Issue

My father had a major stroke last night and the prognosis is not very cheerful.

He is 70 years old and a crotchety old guy when he wants to be.

I'd like to say he's going to live but that is not likely.

Prayers are appreciated.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Is It a Meme?

Meme is a recent addition to the English language, first termed apparently by Richard Dawkins in the mid-70s and popularized in the last couple of decades. It is the intellectual equivalent of a virus spreading from mind to mind until it infects a culture.

That's an accurate description of the word but it falls short in that many memes are harmless or even useful, while many are definitely not beneficial at all.

If you think of the concept of a fad you are thinking of a meme that spreads from mind to mind until it is part of our culture or it vanishes. How many times have you got caught up in something that was "all the rage" only to wonder "what the heck was I thinking?" a few weeks later? Your mind was affected by a meme.

Strongly held beliefs, such as religion, can and do serve as anti-memes weakening or even preventing a meme from influencing your mind.

Memes also influence politics. Think of the 84 presidential campaign when, for a few brief weeks, Gary Hart was the media darling and the rage of the land, and then all of a sudden he was a political has-been. His popularity was a short-lived meme that spread through our society and then faded.

That's one of the strengths of our political system. Between the tiered turnover in the Senate and the difficulty in amending the constitution, short lived political fads, memes, have difficulty becoming entrenched in law. Our cumbersome methods make it hard on fads or memes seeking to become law. An idea needs to prove itself over time to become fully enacted.

David Brooks is concerned about another meme, though he doesn't use the term, that is spreading through a large section of our society. The popularity of Barak Obama. What will happen when the meme runs its course? If the magic fades before the election will the Democrats be saddled with a fad for a candidate? An interesting set of questions.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday the 17th

About 5 more weeks till the Spring Equinox and this tired soul can't wait. The winter doldrums have really gotten to me this year. First cold, then snow, then lots and lots of rain. Winter.

Campaign news: This is low. I have no intention of supporting Obama, but this guy who claims to have done drugs with him and had a homosexual relationship with him is now suing him for quite a bit of money. Like I said, this is low. I think that this is contemptible and seems almost a new low point in politics (but then politicians have digging holes in the ground trying to get even lower for years). Hmmm.

Even if it's true why is it coming out in this way?

Politics of Personal Destruction? Could it be? Would a certain ambitious lady or one of her minions be behind this? No proof whatsoever but having seen her past activities and knowing her reputation for ruthlessness I can't help but wonder.

Wizard of Id. I'm sure this will make tax-day more tolerable. I'm sure someone in Washington will think of it.

Don't Highway Patrols say the same thing after they give you a ticket?

Chinese Products Try electronic gadgets that have preloaded viruses. They just keep giving us excuses to not buy their products.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Memory - - - And Not a Good One.

When I was in my early teens, just 13 or maybe 14, we discovered a way to get high . . . sort of.

We would hold our breath while a good strong friend embraced us and squeezed our chest so hard that we couldn't breath. You would collapse and have a few strange moments.

The fad only lasted a few weeks and no one died of it as far as I know, but when our (collective) parents found out what we were doing . . . well it ended quickly. Our parents, schools, and other authorities explained, in no uncertain terms, that it was dangerous and we were playing with our own lives.

Kids have rediscovered the exotic experience of an oxygen deprived brain again. Sadly this time, someone has died.

History repeats itself.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cute Animals?

Let's face it. We love animals. We find them funny and enjoyable (and yes, sometimes delicious too!)

But they are not the cute, almost human, people of a Disney cartoon.

The gentleman above is a park ranger running for his life from the mammal that kills the most humans every year (excluding other humans.)

This article has a list of six animals that are considered the essence of cute and loveable, but in fact are very dangerous animals. Disneyphiles take note.

A Prosperous Mexico?

One of the things that really annoy me is the nations that think America is too rich and too powerful and got that way by stealing their wealth and power. It's part of the mentality that there is only so much wealth on the planet and it is all a matter of redistribution. For their country to rise America must fall.

Horse Hokey Col. Sherman Potter 4077th MASH

I suppose that somewhere there is a limit to the amount of wealth that can be generated on earth but we have not begun to reach that limit.

Impoverishing America will bring even greater poverty to the rest of the world. Bringing down America would not put a single orange in a single stall in a 3rd World Market but will result in even more poverty for these nations.. Countries need to generate their own wealth and they can. A prosperous nation is possible but it can't be achieved by complaining about or undermining the wealth of others. Leaders who hate America do not care about their own people but simply want to dominate either the world or the region and would rather reign supreme over the destitute and enslaved than simply govern the prosperous and free.

There are hopeful signs in Mexico. As the people of Mexico have more money it means that more people there will buy goods resulting in even greater wealth. Adam Smith all over again. This article is perhaps a little overly optimistic but it is good news. A rich, prosperous Mexico would be a much better neighbor and friend than a poor and jealous Mexico. The best thing is that if they generate their own wealth, they won't be so anxious for ours.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mumbling About ZERO and Below.

-2 ° Degrees outside not counting windchill. I was outside about an hour ago and it wasn't a pleasant experience at all. Windchill is -15°. Where is that global warming Al Gore promised us? I'd like him to de-ice my car in the morning.

Oh and Yahoo weather has this to say about my area


Yeah I'll wear a hat and gloves, along with thermals, a ski mask, and a scarf if I have to walk anywhere in that stuff.

Global Warming PFFFFT!!!!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Where I See the Heart of the Matter

This posting reflects my opinions and feelings, so no links will be given at this point.

When the United States was first founded it had two major parties, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. The key difference, as I understand it, was that the Federalists believed that the Federal Government was the primary level of government while the Democratic-Republicans believed that the state was the primary level of government. Federalists tended to be businessmen, merchants and bankers, while the DRs tended to be farmers and craftsmen. John Adams was generally regarded as the leader of the Federalists while Thomas Jefferson was viewed as the leader of the DRs. The interesting thing was that the parties then agreed on things that now divide us; both parties were in near agreement about basic human nature.

It's no longer true today. While both parties have their respective economic and social models, they are very different because they both view the human animal very differently. The traditional view is that humans on an individual level have Free Will and can make choices about who and what they become, while the "enlightened" view is that humans are primarily a product of their genes and environment and cannot help but be what and who they are.

It's not our power and abilities that decide who we are, but our choices. Albus Dumbledore at the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

This may shock many of you, but I own a DVD of the movie A Clockwork Orange; and I sort of like the movie, but I really love the book which is far superior and ends differently. (The movie ends one chapter before the book ends, the movie having a morally ambiguous ending while the book has a fairly solid moral ending.) In the book Alex is a horrible young criminal who is brainwashed into being a perfect citizen, but in having all his violent tendencies completely suppressed, he also loses his ability to function.

Equally important is that he lost his ability to make a moral choice. This really disturbed the Prison Chaplain, who was the only truly good person in the movie and the only person who genuinely cared about Alex. The following exchange takes place after Alex is brainwashed and then, to prove he was no longer capable of violence, a man beat him to a pulp in front of an audience of dignitaries and was incapable of defending himself.

Prison Chaplain: Choice! The boy has not a real choice, has he? Self-interest, the fear of physical pain drove him to that grotesque act of self-abasement. The insincerity was clear to be seen. He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice.

Minister: Padre, there are subtleties! We are not concerned with motives, with the higher ethics. We are concerned only with cutting down crime and with relieving the ghastly congestion in our prisons. He will be your true Christian, ready to turn the other cheek, ready to be crucified rather than crucify, sick to the heart at the thought of killing a fly. Reclamation! Joy before the angels of God! The point is that it works.

In the book after Alex was un-brainwashed, he went back to crime for a while, but tired of it and wanted a real life, thus decided, by his own free-will, to change his life and become a proper citizen. The point was that this time he chose to change.

When I was a teenager I briefly studied Astrology. I don't remember much of it, but I do remember this line: The stars impell, they don't compell. That was how astrologers allowed for free will in spite of our being destined by the stars. I no longer believe in astrology, but I think that line is how conservatives view our background and genes influencing our decisions; they may make a choice easier or harder, but the choice is still ours.

Now most conservatives acknowledge that our genes and background do influence our decisions but we believe that Free Will is the deciding and most important factor. Most modern liberals do believe in Free Will but believe that genes and background are the more important factor. A few follow the beliefs of BF Skinner who wrote in Beyond Freedom and Dignity that free will was more of an illusion and all behavior is predetermined. While the more extreme of his ideas are rejected by the modern liberals, they are still strongly influential in policies. It's why so many educators are down on home-schooling and private schools; kids are being educated (thus programmed) in an environment that the elitists don't control, thus they're not being conditioned to be part of the proper program.

Most economic and moral differences between the left and the right come down to a question of just how much does free-will influence our life: completely? mostly? somewhat? it doesn't exist?

In the end, those who don't believe in free-will believe that by molding each generation they can bring about utopia. Huxley described that dystopia in his masterpiece Brave New Word. A world where every life was pre-planned, perfect and meaningless. It was a world without love or heroes. So much for perfection.

Even the Humanistic Star Trek (the original series) recognized this in the brilliant episode The Apple where they find humans living a perfect but pointless life and Captain Kirk makes this observation: We can't function in perfection. We don't achieve anything.

We often say that most people are sheep who are easily led astray. People are sheep not because the can't make choices, but because they don't have to. If they had to make a choice they could.

The bottom line is this. I believe free will is more important than other factors. It is my choices, good and bad, that have led me where I am and not my DNA and background, though they certainly played a part.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Memories - - 67 & 78

Yesterday mid-Michigan had a snowstorm of consequence dumping 10 to 16 inches of snow over most of the middle of the state. I think this is the largest single snowfall in this area in the last several years. While coming home from work yesterday, at times I had maybe 50 yds of visibility and could see carlights and streetlights maybe another 100 yards beyond that. A normally 7 or 8 minute drive took me more than 20 minutes. I walked into to work this morning because the snow on the streets (which were largely but not entirely plowed when I left) was higher than the clearance of my car.

Far from the worst snows I remember.

In 67 I was almost but not quite 10, and I remember that it was only a couple of days after we got our first color TV (which was a big deal then), we got what was probably the worst snowstorm of my lifetime. They were predicting maybe 4 to 6 inches which was a significant snowfall but nothing compared to what we got. We got more than two feet of snow in a single snowfall and the winds had it drifting like you wouldn't believe. The Governor (I believe it was George Romney) ordered all Michigan schools closed that night and locally we had over a week of consecutive snowdays as the Road Commission couldn't get to their equipment to plow the roads. We were snowed in and snowmobiles were uncommon at that time. We lived in the country at that time and my bedroom was on the second floor; we had a snowdrift so high that I couldn't see my neighbor's house through the 2nd floor windows; I could only see the snowdrift. I came downstairs in the morning after the storm and there were 3 total strangers sleeping in my living room. Fortunately my parents have always believed in stocking up food and we were fortunate not to have lost power, which many in the state did lose. It was also the only time in my entire life that I remember my Father missing work because of weather. It was also several days before Mom would let me go outside.
I couldn't find a Michigan link, but here is the storm as described in Chicago.

Eleven years later in 78 when I was just shy of 21 and in college we had another beauty of a storm. We lived on campus and all classes and non-vital functions were canceled. My roommates and I went out to clean off our cars and we had trouble finding them. I found mine when I noticed a tiny bit of antennae sticking out of the snow about where I was parked. The girls dorm across the lane from my dorm had a snowdrift that reached almost to the 3rd floor.
We also had a guest preacher for a special chapel series who was supposed to go home that morning but all flights had been understandably canceled. He decided to give us one more sermon and he had an opening that few preachers ever get to use. I've always wanted to start a sermon this way and today I can. I am very unhappy to be here today. I guess you had to be there.
Here is a link to a news article that discusses that storm.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Only One Left

America only has one known surviving World War I Veteran.

The remaining U.S. veteran is Frank Buckles, 107, of Charles Town, W.Va., according the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, John Babcock of Spokane, Wash., 107, served in the Canadian army and is the last known Canadian veteran of the war.

I don't know what's more amazing. That we can keep track of them or that they live that long.

From roughly the same era, yet seemingly in a different world, the last American survivor of the Titanic,
Lillian Gertrud Asplund, died almost two years ago.

I remember seeing on TV the story of a woman who claimed to be the last surviving emancipated slave in America (though her claim to that title has been seriously challenged). Regardless there are such memories and they need to be saved.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Feb 5th 08

Seeing that they have tried to block the entrance to the USMC Recruiting Offices in Berkley and seeing photographs of most of them, I figured out what Code Pink is an acronym for.



Any suggestions on other ones

On the Radio
I won't embarrass the radio station by naming it or the show, but a morning talk show host in the Tri-Cities area embarrassed our entire nation this morning. He and his side-kick called a random Brazilian Hotel this morning, let the hotel manager know that he was an American tourist and then proceeded to ask him some humiliating questions including questions about "Brazilian Wax Jobs" and then asked him if he waxed off his own "hair down there." The gentleman understandably got angry, told the American DJ off for asking personal questions and hung up. I don't mind an occasional prank call by a DJ but that call went too far, was uncalled for and made our whole country look bad. I sent an E-mail to the station manager letting him know that I did not appreciate his DJs humiliating our country in the eyes of the citizens of a friendly nation.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Is It Coming?

As I read the news and blogs I am becoming more and more discouraged.

Socialism is on the march and it is nothing but a deadly disease that has the same effect on societies and nations that bubonic plague had on individual people. It is the killer of nations and societies. Yet Americans are lemming like in their determination to follow Europe down this road to ruin and self destruction. Europe is dying and is in denial about it and America will follow suit because we care more about what the European elitists think of us than what is really good for America's long term.

But I've always known that nothing lasts forever.

But perhaps there is hope and maybe, just maybe, these really are the last days and the King is coming. Christianity has always been largely about preparing one's self and helping to prepare others for Heaven and/or the return of our Lord.

One could go point through point through Revelation and parallel it to what is happening, yet so many have done that and been wrong, yet I am seeing patterns. Communism seemed to receive a deadly wound yet has lived on in alliance with a false prophet from Mecca (Revelation 13?). Much of the world seems to be uniting against the Christians and Israel (the two witnesses in sack cloth from Revelation 11?). I don't know and don't wish to say this is certainly what it means . . . and yet . . .

So many have interpreted Revelation and the other books of prophecy and been wrong, yet Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies made by the Hebrew prophets, many in ways that were totally unanticipated. God has something up His sleeve and I hope He acts soon.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Just Rambling

There is a physics/philosophical concept whose point escapes me.

Schrödinger's cat (I know I shouldn't be using Wikipedia, but it has the virtue of simplicity)

The idea is that there is cat in a box that, due to a little device, has an exactly 50/50 chance of being dead or alive but we don't know until we open the box and look. It is supposed to reflect the uncertainty of sub-atomic physics. Others interpret it as a massive paradox creating other universes or a cat that is simultaneously dead and alive.

Yes I know the idea of the "experiment" and what it's supposed to prove, and it does make its point, but in reality there is no paradox. The cat is either dead or alive but our knowledge by its nature is always incomplete, so we don't simply know, end of story.

Much like the question "If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, did it make a noise?" it is a question of how much does our knowledge and awareness affect reality.

Ultimately we can take this to solipsism or the idea that only what is in the mind can be known for sure.

Begs a question.

Before there were any minds in the universe to be aware of it, did the universe exist?

Maybe I'm just tired of politics.