One more for the Dark Side

December 29th, 2005

Unlike Kathleen Parker, Dave Barry is a newspaper columnist who is not afraid of blogs.

(Dave Barry news via Kathy Shaidle; Kathleen Parker column via John Weidner.)

Naked Pretzel

December 29th, 2005

Remember the days (or rather, reading about the days) when European leaders would commemorate their new reigns by commissioning artists to do flattering portraits and sculptures? Napoleon may have been a tyrant, but at least he didn’t ask Jacques-Louis David to do a mural of himself and Josephine getting it on in the Hall of Mirrors.

(Via Kathy Shaidle.)

Work, shirk

December 28th, 2005

On the subject of European women converting to Islam Mark Shea discusses an email he got, where the writer said,

My childhood Catholicism was not providing answers, and I became interested in Islam by virtue of my working with a Pakistani muslim whose religion infused his entire life. Part of me wanted the same thing.

He also links to this article in the (run by wacky Christian Scientists! — gotta hold up the side) Christian Science Monitor which discusses the phenomenon. Shea accepts without question the premises of his emailer and the article. I don’t. Here’s why:

People aren’t turning to Islam because they aren’t “getting answers” from Christianity. People are turning to Islam because often the answers they get from Christianity make them uncomfortable and unhappy. The one thing I hear from everyone I meet who has left the church has been “I stopped being a Christian because I was tired of feeling guilty all the time.” A secondary, but related reason was boredom, because people expect to be entertained at all moments, nowadays more than ever.

Islam has no such problems despite the showy sex restrictions and showily “modest” attire. Islam is, above all, an almost monstrously confident and optimistic faith. Sure, God’s in his heaven and don’t you even think of calling him “Father” you idolator you, and Jesus wasn’t really crucified, it was all some sort of clever trick and he got away scot-free, and they’ve got Mohammed, a groovy dude who was a hit with the ladies, had plenty of money, and got to conquer and rule all sorts of neat places before he kicked off at an old, fulfilled age surrounded by family and friends. Compared with that Jesus was a sad failure who made trouble and got his ass kicked, and blamed it all on everyone else. And Lord knows being a Muslim can be exciting, especially if you can get some infidel to glare at your hijab, so you can go about telling everyone how difficult it is being “different.”

This is not, by the way, what I believe: it’s what I have been reading and hearing, from ex-Christians, current Muslims, and so on. If we are a soft, weak people easily led about by our pleasure principal when it comes to things like marriage and work, why should this be any less true when it comes to religious belief? My observations of human nature have led me to conclude that most people are of the religion they are because they are comfortable with it, for whatever reason, not because they’ve really thought about it in a serious intellectual or spiritual way. People rarely can sustain prolonged deep, serious thought. And people who claim they do are not to be trusted: I’ve found self-styled “serious” or “spiritual” people to be among the most shallow and silly members of humanity.

Please don’t be fooled by the propaganda coming from the mouths of brand-new believers. They all have the same line: “I wanted to get even closer to God, and (insert name of new faith) is the way!” Right. Mostly this “wanting to get closer to God” is a yearning for specialness, combined with a basic need for feeling good. The only reason one should believe in a religion is because — never mind how it makes you feel — is because one believes that it is true. The truth may set you free — but we weren’t promised that it would do so right away, or that freedom wouldn’t hurt.

Blue blue electric blue that’s the color of my room

December 27th, 2005

That should be “colour” since it’s a David Bowie song. Anyway — I have a question: does anyone know anything about dvd decoders, if there are any free or decent shareware versions, or which of the pay-for-them versions is worth it? This would be for Windows XP Professional, although I assume versions for other versions of XP would work as well. Please leave recommendations in the comments, or if you really must, email me at twistedspinster-at-gmail.com. (This is because I just figured out that the reason I can’t play dvds with my dvd player on the laptop is that I don’t have a dvd decoder installed. I can play cds just fine.)

Zduvvy doze

December 27th, 2005

That non-pseudoephedrine hydrochloride decongestant they have out in the stores now that is “safe” because it can’t be made into crank by meth-heads? Doesn’t work worth a damn.

404 Life Not Found

December 27th, 2005

Gah. I hate being so tired in the evening. Even though I don’t do that much at work (compared to, I don’t know, farmers or bricklayers), I have been coming home exhausted lately. I think I am overdue for a real vacation, by which I mean more than a couple of days off, with lots of lying around. Or maybe my problem is I’ve been lying around too much, and what I really need to do is get off my butt and exercise some more. I need to use that bicycle before it rusts, start going on my long walks — and I ran out of vitamins a few weeks ago, maybe that has something to do with it.

I am not too happy with the new monitor I bought. I like the look of the thing, and the color is great, but the type is just not as sharp and clear as it was on the CRT. I wonder, though, if my video card has something to do with it, because I could swear the demo monitor at the store looked fine. That wouldn’t surprise me — the desktop is outmoded and was cheap to begin with. It will be going bye-bye someday soon anyway, perhaps eventually to be replaced with something cooler. We’ll see. I can’t think of spending any extra money on anything for now.

I still haven’t thought of a kewl, clever name to call the new blog. I still seem to be in a writing slump. It occurred to me that this blog has become boring and stale. One of those blogs that anti-blogging people use as an example of how stupid a pastime blogging is. But such is life. Maybe when I change to the new blog I’ll get a surge of energy. I usually do, for a while.

Non-Fiction Readers Are From Mars, and Fiction Readers Are From Venus

December 27th, 2005

Or are they? In the comments to this post on Ace of Spades, one Bob offers the observation that liberals seem to read more fiction than non-fiction, while for conservatives the reverse is true. At first glance it seems to me that this is true, because when I was young and dumb and full of half-baked unexamined liberal ideas I preferred to read scifi and fantasy exclusively, and rarely perused the pages of a non-fictional book unless it was a collection of humorous essays a la Florence King… who is, as she once said famously, “to the right of Baby Doc.” And many conservatives label among their favorite reads works of fabulation such as The Lord of the Rings.

So it looks like the dividing line is a bit fuzzier than a simple fiction/non-fiction split. I think what really divides liberals from conservatives is what kind of fiction and non-fiction both read. For instance, I could say that liberals seem to prefer science fiction that focuses on environmental, social, and gender concerns that echo liberal real-world concerns (sample plot: gentle alien race of forest dwellers being exploited and otherwise abused by rapacious, capitalistic, planet-despoiling Earthmen), and if they read “hard” scifi it’s usually the kind that deals with humanity being somehow changed by some biological or psychic experiment or evolution, usually into androgynous, telepathic beings who have sex for 45 percent of the book. Okay, I kid, but only a little. Conservative tastes in scifi seem to run more towards the adventure type of story, or what some critics have condemned as disguising detective stories or historical romances with scifi trappings, and so on, and the hard scifi conservatives seem to like is the more traditional machine-diagram sort of thing. But I say “conservatives” when I think I really mean small-l libertarians; I don’t think a lot of true conservatives care too much for science fiction, since skepticism about the wonderful future is a standard characteristic of conservatism.

Anyway, there is more detail I could go into, but I’m at work. I may expand upon this later, if I am not too tired when I get home or if I don’t get bored with the subject. A summary of my ideas is that I think the differences between liberal and conservative reading habits is that liberals recognize fewer boundaries between fiction and reality, possibly because so many of the ideas that have come to be known as “liberal” are so impractical, while conservatives are less likely to think that just because a story is enjoyable they can actually apply its “important life lessons” to the concrete problems.

Update: hi folks. As I guessed I’m much too tired to go any further into this tonight. I think I need to take a real vacation one of these days — I would have this week but several other people in my department beat me to it. I’ll take a week off, maybe, and spend the days sleeping and catching up on my internet writing. More in a new post. One of these days I’ll return to the subject of this one, though I make no promises.

Fun with computer peripherals and other moments in my day

December 26th, 2005

Aren’t computers fun? I went to Compusa today (yes, today, the notorious Day After Christmas, when tens of thousands of people hit the stores to take advantage of bargains, return those unwanted items, etc.) and bought a new 15.4″ monitor by Norwood Micro. It was the cheapest one in the store that I could get without having to wait six million weeks for part of my money to be sent via mail-in rebate. I simply couldn’t afford to pay the before-rebate price for any of the others they had on stock, and the savings wouldn’t have been that great. Also, the only other monitors on sale were 17 inch monitors, but most of the savings came in after rebate, and they were just a little too heavy for my purposes. I needed something small and light that I cold carry home, as I had to take a bus all the way to the store, which is in a nearly inaccessible — by any vehicle, as I can attest from having driven there many times when I had a car — location across from Altamonte Mall. I guess the frenzied crowds came out early in the morning because things weren’t all that crowded, except traffic sucked, but this location is at a large and busy entrance to I-4, and traffic is always horrid there. And they are building more stores. People in Central Florida are insane.

Anyway, I am still getting used to the display. At first everything was distorted and I couldn’t figure out why, then I realized that if I changed the settings to 1280 x 768 images looked normal again. Things don’t look any smaller than they did on my 17 inch CRT, but I’ve been mostly using the laptop anyway. The text is a little blurry, though already my eyes are adjusting. (Yes, I have Clear Type enabled.) I think these monitors are better for Macs (they are manufactured to work on either one), as 15.4″ is an odd size. Oh well — I was thinking of trading in the desktop, when it finally collapses in a pile of charred plastic, with a Mac Mini. Not any time soon, though — I have truly tapped myself out and it’s going to be a lean beginning to the new year.

It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, temps in the low sixties/high fifties. There was a stiff breeze blowing. Unfortunately the bright sun gave me a headache, and they sun was going down as I was waiting for the homeward bus, and the cold began to bite. Now I just feel like I am coming down with something (again), which I hope is just hunger and a residual headache from the sun and wind. I like cold (well, cool) and windy weather, normally, but I’ve just been running around so much these past weeks that I just can’t be pleased.

Also I know I have gotten fatter. Danged delicious holiday food and all those snacks people made me eat (with a gun to the head of a cute little puppy — they were going to shoot if I didn’t eat! Pinky swear!), so now I really have to lose some weight. I am starting to feel it in my lower back when I walk too much, which I didn’t used to have a problem with when I weigh so much. I plan to resume my extremely long walks now that the weather is more congenial to such activities, and I am going to eliminate sugary, fatty snacks from my diet, and so on. I guess that’s one of my New Year’s Resolutions.

I’m so glad I won’t have to lug around the giant CRT monitor anymore. Maybe if I ever have any extra money ever again I’ll trade in the tv for one of the smaller flat-panel tvs. Walmart has a 20″ for under $400. As my current tv is a 20 inch I could go for that, but by the time I have enough money gathered up (probably 2 years from now) I’ll bet even bigger ones will have fallen in price.

I still haven’t figured out a kewl name for the ‘06 blog. But never fear, it will be something, even if it’s just “My 2006 blog.” Hm….

Update: I think I have figured out the “blurry text” problem. This monitor is smaller, and I am looking at it from a different angle, and I have noticed that you have to look directly at LCD monitor displays, even more so than CRT (even flat-front CRTs) or the details start to get distorted. I am going to have to put this baby on a stand or something. (I do happen to have an old monitor stand, but currently I have my cable modem and network router sitting on it, so they won’t have to sit on the nasty old carpet.)

I’ll be there roundabout

December 25th, 2005

Just got back from Christmas dinner with friends. All was succulent and charming, and I have enough leftovers for days. Now I am trying to decide whether I want 1) a cup of eggnog with a dash (or course) of spiced rum, 2) an apple rum toddy, 3) mulled wine, or 4) a nice cup of tea, rumless. Some Bach Christmas-themed stuff is on the stereo, and I am in my housedress. The wireless is working, and the Glade scented candle is making the house smell nice. I can’t think of anything much to write about for now, so while I go looking through the dictionary for something to call my new blog (which will open, as usual, on January 1 of the new year, and this one will close), and make my drink of choice — maybe I will have one of each! — read Ian’s reply to my musings here, and my reply in his comments, and then visit the blogs on my sidebar. Or read a good book, or watch some tv.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

December 24th, 2005

Well, I’ve started thing off in an appropriately decadent manner: chicken and pasta instant thing from the frozen shelves at the grocery store (surprisingly fresh-tasting — tv dinners have come a long way from Swanson’s in the little tin tray), sautéed fresh mushrooms with a touch of wine and half & half (forgot to buy heavy cream, the sauce came out good anyway), and said wine was a fine Rosemount Shiraz from Australia in honor of the amazing Tim Blair, who’s already been celebrating Christmas for hours now. My cat also got to partake in her favorite new sybaritic treat, namely bits of toasted bread, which I had to tear off my oven-heated rolls and feed to her. Yes, I haven’t been able to eat my breakfast in peace in weeks. She still gobbles down her cat food, so I have no idea why she has suddenly become so interested in my food. I think the neighbor cats and dogs have been passing her begging tips through the window while I’ve been at work.

Apropos of not much: I’ve been watching the various look-what-rich-people-do shows on the Fine Living channel and it occurs to me that a lot of what we now call gourmet cooking surely must once have been considered the food of poor people. Think about it: who would eat pine nuts (found in pesto), snails (escargot), boiled weeds (artichokes are just a species of giant thistle), and truffles (fungi that grows on tree roots and is dug up by pigs), but desperate, starving people?

Oh well — everything we consider normal now had its beginning in some Early Woman trying to figure out how to make the winter’s supply of dried mastodon meat taste good for another month or so. So enjoy the weekend!

Nativity Scene

Update: Arrgh! My wireless connection decided to go down, and I couldn’t get it to work. I’m still getting the hang of this whole wireless thing. Anyway, I’m back connected by umbilical ethernet cord. I pulled out the wireless adapter to give it a rest — it was kind of hot. (Maybe that was the problem. These laptops do get hot.) Anyway, Merry Christmas and all that again.

Christmas Day update: Merry Christmas all — especially to all of you (please say I’m not alone) whose inability to log on to their own wireless network was due to not using the right security password they themselves set up. D’oh!