Thursday, August 25, 2005


Driving back from Pennsylvania a couple weeks ago, I saw a bumper sticker (on a car bearing another sticker, which identified its owner as a "tree-hugging dirt-worshipper") that exclaimed "God bless the whole world--No exceptions."

No exceptions? That sounds awfully benevolent, and I understand not wanting to limit the God-given good fortune to just one country, as in "God bless America," but no exceptions at all? That's just senseless.

Consider the meaning of "bless" in such an expression as "God bless America." From the various definitions Merriam-Webster offers, the most literally applicable might seem to be "to invoke divine care for." But, of course, that works in an example such as they give--"Bless your heart"--but not so much if it's actually God himself who is doing the blessing. Then the better definition for this context is "to confer prosperity or happiness upon."

There are persons whose prosperity and happiness is mutually exclusive with the prosperity and happiness of many other persons, if those terms are understood to entail success in reaching existing goals.

It seems pretty much an Either/Or proposition to me in many cases. Consider just a few:

  • Either Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Al Qaeda in Iraq or anyone and everyone in Iraq who's an American, Christian, Kurd, fan of democracy, Shi'ite, or even Sunni with insufficient zeal for jihad against anyone or anything Al Qaeda says threatens the purity of Islam. (Detailed explanation and extensive sourcing feasible upon request if this dichotomy seems unlikely; in the meantime consider this, this, this, this, this, this, and this.)
  • Howard Dean or the GOP
No exceptions. Right. People and their bumper stickers.

Neil Gaiman Book Signings

Neil Gaiman is going to be in Charlotte, NC on September 21 to read a bit of, answer questions about, and sign copies of his new novel Anansi Boys, which will have been released for sale on the previous day.

This is terrific. Atlanta would be closer, but Charlotte is still pretty close, and I've been encouraged to see the city anyway. The 21st is a Wednesday, which, with my work schedule, is actually a pretty good day to take off work.

The tour schedule is here.

The event details are here.

And--not that I don't appreciate the trust that doesn't demand evidence; I do, even if I don't understand it--because I like sources, I like to give sources. Here's the pronunciation of his name.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Unfortunate Rhetoric

I don't know where I stand on all the drug war questions, but I do agree with Bill from INDC that Jeff Harrell's handling of them does him little credit. I'm disappointed.

I just mention this because I've endorsed Jeff's work in the past, and I want to note that I do not endorse suggesting, for instance, that anyone "deserve[s]...a harsh beating at the hands of cold-blooded mob." It ought to be possible to passionately disagree with John Tierney's column without wishing violent harm to him.

I wish I had discovered this earlier.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

You're all pretty much the same person, too.

Random lame confession: I've long tended to blur W.C. Fields and H.L. Mencken together in my mind. (See here and here for quotations from each.)

Misanthropic, initial-using, and dead before my time--why shouldn't that describe just one guy as far as my memory is concerned?

Planet Deletion and Infinite Disappointment

Michael Jennings at Samizdata makes a strangely persuasive case for the idea that there are no planets. I found it extremely informative about several matters astronomical.

Also from Samizdata, I discovered This Blog will be Deleted by Tomorrow, where I learned from Lemuel of the Agoraphilia economic analysis of the Islamic martyr's famous prospect of 72 virgins in the afterlife. It goes on long enough to get too specialized for me to fully grasp in detail all of the points he makes, but it starts out very entertainingly with this:
If you were a Muslim, and you died and went to the Muslim heaven, how would you space out your enjoyment of the 72 virgins? Suppose that you actually find virginity desirable, and suppose that the virgins’ maidenheads are not magically restored periodically. If the afterlife has infinite duration, then no matter how long you wait to deflower your 72nd virgin, you’ll still be looking at an infinitely long virgin-less future thereafter.


If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.

Salt vs. Sodium

Christian Scales noted to me many months back that he heard a doctor or nutritionist saying, "the problem is not salt but sodium."

"What's he talking about?" He asked me. "Isn't it the same thing?"

I have as little scientific knowledge as any ignoramus you're likely to find, so it's a difficult question to answer. I suggested that salt, being sodium chloride, isn't just sodium, so it would seem that that's somehow the point. Though why that makes a difference nutritionally I wasn't able to guess.

Some explanation comes from this 2004 MSNBC article from Phil Lempert, Today show food editor, in which he says,
The right amount of salt intake — and the correct balance between its two main ingredients, sodium and chloride — is essential to our health. According the Institutes of Medicine, healthy 19- to 50-year-old adults should consume 1,500 milligrams of sodium and 2,300 milligrams of chloride each day — or a total of 3,800 milligrams of salt — to replace the amount lost daily on average through sweat and other excretive processes.
This would seem to imply that different varieties of salt have differing proportions of sodium to chloride. Disappointingly, Lempert doesn't offer examples of such variations, nor have I so far been able to find instances searching in Google.

Lempert does helpfully explain the difference between refined and unrefined salts:
Unrefined sea salt is 98 percent sodium chloride, with the other two percent consisting of up to 80 essential and accessory minerals.

Refined salt
is higher in sodium chloride (99.9%). It is also likely to contain aluminum silicate to stabilize and prevent caking. Bleaching agents may be use to both table or sea salts.

That's helpful in understanding that if most of the salt we consume is refined, we're missing out on the 80 accessory minerals that Lempert describes as essential. However, this description of different percentages of sodium chloride does nothing to clarify his earlier reference to correct or incorrect balances between sodium and chloride. I've emailed him about that reference, asking him to elaborate.

This risk assessment of sodium chloride from a British "Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals" discusses the functions and behaviors of sodium and chloride separately but also notes, "no relevant data are available relating to the toxicity of the chloride ion, and therefore the EVM decided to consider sodium chloride as a salt, rather than the separate elements."

This suggests to me that the statement from the expert Christian heard wasn't implying that the problems of sodium aren't consequently problems of salt but probably was emphasizing that the dangers are from sodium specifically, rather than chloride or any accessory minerals: The health effects of sodium chloride are strictly the health effects of sodium.

Moreover, it may also be pointing toward what Lempert notes in his article--"Processed foods can be loaded with...other forms of sodium [besides salt] such as sodium benzoate, sodium citrate, sodium nitrite or monosodium glutamate." So the most important point here is that we need to watch out for sodium in whatever form it reaches us.

On the matter of the troublesome processed foods, Lempert cites as examples canned soups, frozen dinners, sauces and condiments, packaged convenience foods, and fast foods. That describes most of my diet. He says to "look on the label for the 'percent daily value for sodium' and try to choose foods that are under 5 percent." I just looked at the labels of what's on the shelves in my kitchen and found most of it is at least 35%. And that's per serving. A can of soup has two servings in it, they say, and I always eat the whole can's worth.

As Lempert notes, "Medical studies have linked high consumption of salt"--let's presume that implies sodium generally--"with increased blood pressure or hypertension, which can lead to heart attack or stroke." So I have that to look forward to.

Damn Scales and the newfound clarity of his expert's remark, bringing into focus my eventual doom.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Amnesia with Style!

This guy has to be the coolest amnesia case this century. That sounds heartless in a way, and I guess really is kind of cold. People with amnesia are probably suffering. While I don't really know anything about it, I imagine that we should wish for the full recovery of anyone struck by it. Likewise, anyone who has been driven to abandon speaking has probably suffered some kind of awful trauma.

But still: not only does the "mysterious mute pianist," who's had officials at a Kent (UK) hospital searching fruitlessly for the past four months for any clues to his origin or identity, communicate only by masterfully playing classical piano, this 30ish blond man first showed up April 7 on a beach on the south coast of England "soaking wet but fully dressed in a black suit and tie."

Serious style points. Serious cool factor.

(via the guestblogging Ann Althouse at Instapundit)

Update: Wikipedia has a lot of details of the story so far, pulling together a variety of sources.