February 2005 Archives

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February 28, 2005
Infernal Machines

I know I'm not the only person who hates answering machines. Everyone I know hates talking into them, unless they have had a chance to prepare the little 30-second speech they're going to give — and sometimes even then.

But I really hate having to listen to the messages people leave on my phone. Invariably, people break one or more of the following rules:

   1) Don't mumble — enunciate.

   2) Speak up, don't whisper.

   3) Don't rush through important tidbits of information like, say, phone numbers. I don't want to have to listen to the message two or three times to get the number correct. And be sure to repeat the important things slowly and clearly.

   4) If you have to spell unusual words — or website addresses — then for pity's sake, learn a standard phonetic alphabet. Don't make it up as you go, leaving the listener to wonder what the heck you said.

   Wrong: "Go to [mumble].com — L as in lachrimose, O as in outfit,  S as in syzygy, E as in elephant, R as in radish dot com."

   Right: "That's mysite.comMike, Yankee, Sierra, India, Tango, Echo dot com."

This has been a public service announcement.

Disregard at your peril.

Posted by Russ at 09:16 PM | Comments (4)
Moment of Unbearable Cuteness - II

Back in September, my sister sent me a photo of one of her kittens, "Bubba":

(Click for original [brief] post with full-size picture.)

(Not that it's that much bigger or anything....)

He looked to me like a dandelion in a grassy field. Sometimes when I need a moment of calm and cuteness, I'll go look at that picture. I find it to be very relaxing.

Well, as cats do, Bubba has grown up:

I'll be darned if that mane of his doesn't make him look almost like a real lion now.

Posted by Russ at 04:56 PM | Comments (7)
February 25, 2005
Capital Idea
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

— the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

For many people, the "and" in "cruel and unusual punishment" is read as if it were an "or" — if the punishment is either cruel OR unusual, it fails to pass Constitutional muster. Even the Supreme Court has gone down this path in the past... leaving us with the annual spectacle of Charles Manson's parole hearings.

But the more I consider the 8th Amendment, the more I think the Founding Fathers intended the expression "cruel and unusual punishment" to be used exactly as written, in Boolean fashion; that is, a punishment must be both cruel AND unusual to be Constitutionally prohibited.

In Boolean logic, the AND means that both the expressions to be tested ("cruel", "unusual") must be true for the whole expression to evaluate as true; if one expression is true and the other false, the entire expression evaluates as false. This would give us four ways to evaluate whether a punishment for a crime meets my 8th Amendment test:


Would it be unusual to sentence a petty shoplifter to have to wear a sign on his back proclaiming his status? Perhaps. But cruel? No.

Now, I said all that to say this: despite the qualms of a sizeable number of people in this country, I never have had a problem with the death penalty.

Is it cruel? Perhaps — it is certainly extreme. It would depend on the method used to carry out the execution, I suppose... but we don't have a history of putting people into shredders for their crimes. The needle is alleged to be humane, but I don't see how it is any more humane than, say, a properly administered hanging or firing squad. I will grant that it's not as messy....

But is it unusual? The principle of "letting the punishment fit the crime" emphatically says no. That "no" makes it an acceptable punishment, in my opinion.

Indeed, I would go so far as to suggest that capital punishment ought to be extended to crimes other than intentional homicide. Crimes which ruin lives ought to be liable to the same punishment as crimes which end lives. Violent rape and child molestation come immediately to mind. I suspect a large percentage of people might agree with me on those, and perhaps on others as well.

I'm partial to the idea of treating massive cyber-vandalism the same way we treat terrorism, for instance. Virus writers can all die now, as far as I am concerned.

If you steal a little old lady's life savings, forcing her into poverty for the remainder of her life, I might sponsor the necktie party myself. Horse thieves used to be hanged in this country, after all.

I wouldn't object to a few prosecutions for treason, either.

Or am I totally off-base here?

[Welcome, Wizbang readers!]

Posted by Russ at 07:04 PM | Comments (1)
February 24, 2005
Hiatus... not.

I'm not on hiatus, or sabbatical, or vacation, or anything of the sort. I've simply been uninspired.

Actually, that's not quite right. I am inspired — there are plenty of things I'd like to say — but I seem to have some version of writer's block. Shouting poorly-crafted slogans is about all I'm capable of this week, it seems, and that's hardly what I'd call good writing. It's certainly not worth memorializing with a post here.

[OTOH, if I were a lefty bomb-thrower, poorly-crafted slogans would be my stock-in-trade.]

As one who has done rather a lot of rather good academic and technical writing (my professors and customers thought so, at least) I've rarely been unable to gather my thoughts in written form. Indeed, I'm usually far better at communicating serious thoughts in writing than via the spoken word... probably because in over two dozen years of adult life I have mostly lived the life of a hermit, crowded barracks and apartments notwithstanding.

So when I can't string together intelligent commentary despite my sincere desire to do so [Ward Churchill, I'm looking at you] it's like a mental version of my periodically recurring back injury — when bedridden, I can only watch the world go by my window, but not participate.

That stinks.

Posted by Russ at 05:23 PM
February 21, 2005
Absurdity Illustrated

While reporting on the "serious" problem of "Mommy Madness" — the inability of some modern urban women to cope with the pressures associated with trying to be über-careerist while simultaneously dealing with the motherhood stresses borne by, well, all of their progenitors — Iowahawk brushes against one of my pet peeves: bad and/or hyper-trendy baby names.

Along with her children - Cheyenne, 11, Dakota, 7, F-150 Crewcab, 6, and Brandon, 4 -- Pearsall regularly visits Winn-Dixies and dirt tracks throughout North Florida to raise awareness.


Dang. Another keyboard dead before its time.

The whole thing is a hoot, and highly recommended.

(Via Ian S.)

Posted by Russ at 04:26 PM | Comments (2)
February 18, 2005
Blog Radio

During my designated lunch period today, I took the opportunity to head over to my favorite woodworking shop to peruse their selection of hardwoods [it's always nice to know what materials are available locally] and to drool over bigger and better power tools than I already have in my garage.

While there, I noticed that the local talk radio station, 680 WPTF, had set up a remote outside a computer store located in the same strip mall, so I wandered over there to see if I could perhaps cadge a nifty logo-ized pen or something along those lines.

Free stuff == good.

Lo and behold, the radio personality on the scene was none other than the local after-Limbaugh personality, Bill LuMaye. Not having spoken face-to-face with a radio personality of any sort since 1979 ["The Baron" Ron Herron, then of 1340 KIST in Santa Barbara and still a big wheel in town there], I decided to step up and have a word.

With a certain answer in mind, I asked him what he did for his "show prep." He told me he reads the local papers (it is, after all, a local show) and mentioned several national publications. I kept waiting for it, but one particular word never passed his lips.


Naturally, I took it upon myself to enlighten him. He was skeptical of the reliability of blogs — as perhaps anyone would be wise to be, not knowing how the feedback loop works — but was interested enough to listen to my recommendations: Instapundit as an example of a linker, Power Line for analysis, Emperor Misha for sheer invective, and Bill Whittle as an essayist. I also recommended NRO and OpinionJournal.

No, I didn't give him my address. Call me humble. But I did give him the URL for GOPbloggers — that's as close as I come to shameless self-promotion these days.

I wrote down the short list of URLs and handed it to him; he said he'd look them over when he had a chance. I'll take him at his word.

But I do have to wonder... how is it that a talk show host of any kind could not read blogs as a source of (or pointers to) material?

Posted by Russ at 06:02 PM | Comments (4)
February 16, 2005
Mail Down

My Gmail account, to which all my blog-related mail goes, appears to be partially hosed this evening. I can send mail, but not receive. So if you sent anything to me today, I haven't received it.

Any other Gmail users out there having similar problems?

UPDATE, 2/17/05: Mail came rolling in sometime after I went to bed late last night, but I've no idea if the mail I got was all the mail that might have been sent to me.

Sometimes, I think I truly understand what motivates the Luddites.

Posted by Russ at 11:42 PM | Comments (5)
Dating Preferences

Steve of Hog on Ice, while pointing out the obvious disadvantages of dating divorced women with kids, correctly notes:

There are worse things than being alone.

He's right.

But there aren't many things worse.

Trust me on this one. I am, after all, an expert on being alone.

Posted by Russ at 07:05 PM | Comments (2)
Pouring Gasoline on the Embers

Just when you thought CBS's woes might vanish into the memory hole, screened by the smoldering remains of Eason Jordan's CNN career....

When the CBS/Memogate/Thornburgh report was released, one producer was fired outright and three executives were asked for their resignations. I wondered at the time [I wish I'd written it down...] if in fact those three individuals would go quietly.

Apparently at least one is not.

RatherBiased.com reports that 60 Minutes Wednesday executive producer Josh Howard (who has yet to actually tender his resignation, Thornburgh's report notwithstanding) is threatening to sue for wrongful termination — a move which, given the power of the subpoena, would open the CBS editorial process to public scrutiny far more than the Memogate report managed to do. Their biases would be laid out for the world to see.

Were I in Mr. Howard's position — to wit, that of scapegoat — I think I might be inclined to do the same thing.

Secret internal documents and e-mails often tend to be damning, of course — that's why they're kept secret. If the suspicions and beliefs of half the blogosphere [and perhaps the fears of the other half] are correct, it would be hard to imagine a more damaging blow to CBS's credibility than the publication of such documents and e-mails.

Though I am not exactly tap-dancing with joy at the prospect of CBS taking such a body-blow, neither am I upset... especially given the MSM's undisguised glee when publishing other organizations' "secret" memos.

[Via Powerline.]

Posted by Russ at 12:09 AM
February 14, 2005
Saint's Day

Of all the saints on the roster, who decided that Saint Valentine of Rome was the saint we had to memorialize every year?

St. Valentine is the patron saint of:

  • affianced couples
  • betrothed couples
  • engaged couples
  • happy marriages
  • love

Perhaps it is no coincidence that he is also the patron saint of greeting card makers.


But there are plenty of other saints on call if a holiday is needed. For those who go a bit overboard for St. Valentine's Day, mark your calendars: August 30 is St. Fiacre's Day. He's the patron saint of... well, look it up.

Posted by Russ at 10:50 PM
Desperation Tactics

Sometimes when debating, even when you're right about something, you have trouble mustering the necessary argument required in order to sway your opponent. It happens to all of us, including those of us who are geeks technologists.

What, then, to do when your rhetorical back is against the wall?

Make stuff up, of course. Lie like Bill Clinton in a... well, pretty much anywhere.

The secret to lying is that it has to sound plausible, of course. With that in mind, the folks at Pigdog Journal have offered this handy list for geeks technologists on the losing end of an argument:

Things to Say When You're Losing a Technical Argument

11. Yes, well, that's just not the way things work in the real world.

. . .

17. Yes, I believe that's the approach Windows NT is taking.
[Particularly effective when debating with a Linux aficionado.]

. . .

22. Yeah, or we could all just plink away on Amigas or something.
[Saith the old Amiga owner, "Ouch!"]

. . .

48. Let's table this for now, and we'll talk about it one-on-one off-line.

The number of these I've heard used (and used myself) is alternately frightening and amusing.

When you go read, beware: tech jargon abounds.

Posted by Russ at 10:07 PM
February 11, 2005
You Know (Part 4)

You know you're having still another bad day when you drop your keys, and as you squat down to pick them up, a tearing sound is heard coming from the region of the seat of your pants.

I'm not saying that's what happened to me today... but, did it just get drafty in here?

Posted by Russ at 02:29 PM | Comments (2)
February 10, 2005
Quote of the Day

President Bush, after reeling off facts and figures about the proposed reform of Social Security, while speaking in Raleigh today:

Not bad, for a History major.

It did this old History major's heart some good to hear that.

[Political Science majors, take note: having a grasp of actual history is often a far superior tool for dealing with the real world than having an education in the theoretical aspects of governance. Maybe that's why Bush has been as successful as he has been in office.]

Posted by Russ at 12:54 PM | Comments (1)
February 09, 2005
You Know (Part 3)

You know you're having yet another bad day when the shopping cart you're quickly pushing through the parking lot catches a wheel on a defect in the asphault and tips over, spilling your freshly-acquired groceries to the pavement.

I'm not saying that's what happened to me today... mainly, because it didn't. Not yet, at any rate. But it might be unwise for me to tempt fate.

Posted by Russ at 04:23 PM | Comments (1)
February 08, 2005

I am now, apparently, the Blog Doctor.

I wonder if I can be arrested for practicing without a license?

More to the point, I wonder when and how much I should start charging for my services?

Posted by Russ at 08:56 PM | Comments (2)
You Know (Part 2)

You know you're having another bad day when you lock your vehicle only to then notice the keys still in the ignition and your wallet sitting on the dashboard, and subsequently spend your designated lunch period trying to get back into your vehicle without even the benefit of being able to buy a wire clothes hanger.

I'm not saying that's what happened to me today... but MacGyver would have been proud of the uses to which a removable non-retracting car radio antenna can be put. I didn't even have to bend it to pop open the rear hatch.

Posted by Russ at 07:45 PM
February 07, 2005
You Know

You know you're having a bad day when you're nearly run off the road and killed by a school bus.

I'm not saying that's what happened to me today... but if I ever catch the driver of bus #1165, I'll probably end up being arrested for assault and/or battery.

Posted by Russ at 04:53 PM | Comments (1)
February 04, 2005
If Thy Eye Offends Thee...

CNN's Jeanne Moos did a report that aired tonight — "Giving the Finger."

[Video is, for the time being, accessible here (scroll down). I don't know how long it'll be there.]

They showed pictures of a number of web pages featuring Americans who showed their support for the Iraqi elections by inking their fingers and posting photos.

Including this page at GOPbloggers.org.

For a moment, it seemed the eyes of America would be safe. But it was not meant to be. CNN scrolled down the page, and captured this:


All across the land, CNN viewers were driven to the edge of despair and madness — and beyond — by the horrible visage.

Nonetheless, I may be insufferable for a couple of hours.

Posted by Russ at 11:06 PM | Comments (8)
February 03, 2005
Memento Patris

Not only have I had a writing drought, but I have been pretty lax in my browsing as well.

How else could I have missed the news of a new baby in the family of Brian B. of Memento Moron?

Still, that's no excuse.

So, go congratulate Brian, before the diaper duty overwhelms him!

Posted by Russ at 03:38 PM
February 02, 2005
Dry Spell

I've been in a bit of a drought here.

Maybe if I watch the TV tonight I might see something worth writing about.

Or I could just go to bed early.

Posted by Russ at 05:37 PM | Comments (4)