Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Twenty monkeys with hats (and one squid)

Also brilliant: Becoming My Own Worst Enemy

* Updated too many times for such a short bit of simple linking.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

And Two Dollars Short, Too.

Today isn't Thursday, so this isn't so timely anymore, but I'm not going to let that stop me. I'm unstoppable.

We're at least still closer to Thanksgiving than to any other major holiday, so I want to take the (diminishing) opportunity to note a couple of related points.

First, a commendably inquisitive friend of mine recently demanded to know why we in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday, of all days of the week. Not some day during or adjacent to the actual weekend but Thursday, which, let's face it, is the only day of the week less obscure and mundane than Tuesday. She was already familiar with much of the holiday's history (recounted here) but wanted to know who picked Thursday, specifically, and why.

The best explanation I could come up with is on this page, which includes the following:
The Puritans introduced the regularity, calling for a religious-based feast of thanksgiving, using Thursday, because it coincided with a time in which worshipers would be at church {This would be similar to Wednesday night services, today in the US; moreover, in some Anglican countries, such as South Africa, Thursday is still “Church Night”}. Church in the morning and a feast in the late afternoon became a New England tradition. A National day of thanksgiving was proclaimed by General George Washington after the victory at Saratoga (NY); but, not until after the War between the States was a National Thanksgiving practice set in place.
My friend pointed out that Thursday worship didn't likely last into the days of Abraham Lincoln, who made Thanksgiving an annual national holiday. I agree and doubt that it even lasted into the nineteenth century to any significant degree. It was probably just the basis for Thursday as the day Thanksgiving was celebrated in the Puritan era, and an informal tradition of the holiday being celebrated on that day persisted after the actual church custom ended, making it the day already unofficially used when individual states started making it official in the 19th century and then likewise when Lincoln ultimately made it official nationally in 1863.

As to why my Thanksgiving post goes up on Saturday, there's a much simpler explanation: procrastination. That being acknowledged, there are a few things I'd like to give some thanks for here.

Certainly I've got a number of things to be thankful for in my personal life, but in the specific context of this blog, I do feel gratitude to a number of people for various reasons. I'm happy, of course, for the people who made Blogger and Blogspot free and easy, allowing me to publish on the web as I am. But as none of those people know who I am, it rather mutes my gratitude. Let's not dwell on them.

I'm thankful for each personal friend and to each blogger who raised questions or issues in my mind that drove me to learn something and to write something. Such people include but are by no means limited to Christian Scales, Eric Norris, Bill McCabe, John Owen, as well as the above-mentioned kindred spirit to Arthur Dent.

I'm thankful for each person who leaves a comment on any post I put up. (OK, except for La Bona, I guess.) I love getting feedback, and I love seeing that something I wrote meant enough to someone for them to add a comment. Lately, that's mostly been Laura, and I hope she'll keep it up, but she wasn't the first, and I trust that as I increase the content I provide here, she'll be outnumbered by others. To everyone who comments, thank you.

I'm thankful for everyone who's linked to me, directing others to this site. Those include, among others, Bill McCabe, Fr. Rob Johannsen, Andrea Harris, Bill Ardolino, John Owen, Lemuel Kolkava, and, recently, this woman. I'm always grateful for recognition and appreciation.

And finally, I'm thankful for anyone taking the time to read this stuff at all and especially for those who like it well enough to return and check back on what new I might have written. You few know who you are, even if I don't always.

Happy unThursday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

More Beautiful Stories, More Ugly Children

I didn't anticipate posting again until returning from Pennsylvania but I've found both opportunity and compelling motive. I've been getting in the past few weeks a decent number of hits from searches for "beautiful stories for ugly children," so it seems that a. there's definitely a fan base out there for the Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children series and b. to at least some of those people, I'm a conduit for information about it.

So I'm making this both a new post and an update to the earlier one. I had previously celebrated the availability online of the scanned versions of the issues. Not long after that those scans became unavailable (though the covers are still available online). Series author Dave Louapre explained it this way:
We posted the book scans in an attempt to placate all you little BSFUCers who couldn't find some of the books, but have been informed that it may be hurting our chances of getting them republished in a collected works form, which is one of the main goals of this site....
And added this on the "Talk to Dan and Dave" bulletin board:
Publishers, we've learned, just seem to have a problemo with putting money into work that is readily available online. Sorry. When we can, we'll put them back up, but probably not anytime soon.
Naturally, I am once again aggrieved by the lack of either online scans or conveniently bought published form of the series. I expressed this to Dave on the message board:
After I noticed the site back in June, I was thrilled to have the scans available but then promptly and stupidly took them for granted. Read a couple of issues and then figured I'd get to the others eventually. Inexcusably, "eventually" never arrived for me, as I failed to return to the site until Dave left a comment on my blog. Now that I see the scans have been removed in order to further the effort to have the works published in a collected form, I'm left with the all-too-familiar sting of regret. Now, after I've still only read three or four issues altogether when I could have read them all for free, I'm eagerly awaiting the opportunity to shell out the cash for the published collection.

Dave, how long am I going to have to wait? What's the progress look like here? Can you give us a timeframe? Should I even hold out hope?
To which he replied,
I'll let you now the second Dan and I know anything. There are several things brewing, and hopefully all of them will see the light of day. The "collected works" idea is among them. Please be patient. And thanks again for your support and loyalty.
He later added, in response to another fan,
BSFUC may well be reappearing in a collected works form very soon. Don't want to jinx anything, but we are in negotiations. Thanks for the interest and support.
So I have two points here. 1. There's the updated situation. No scans available online, sorry, but there is the prospect of the series being republished soon in collected form. So we're all clear on that. 2. There is now, unlike, I believe, in June, when I first posted on BSFUC, a message board, whereupon all of you who are interested can express to Dave your eagerness to buy the republished collection. I think he likes to know, and it could only encourage the publisher. 3. Damn, I'll use commas every chance I get, won't I? [See first sentence of point 2.] 4. No one expects the Spanish inquisition.

Happy Update (5 Jan 06): The anthology is scheduled for publication this spring. See Dave's comment below and details here and here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

We Apologize for the Interruption in Service

I have pieces I want to write about Che Guevara, Paul Newman, Jon Stewart and Thomas Jefferson, Campaign Finance "Reform," some of the wackier Supreme Court Justices, what seafood not to eat, the problems with the U.N., some lynchings in twentieth-century American history, a few bioethics issues, and an update to the Bill Finger post.

However, right now I need to hit the road to go see some people about some new employment and also visit my relatives for Thanksgiving, so it'll probably be the 26th or so before I get anything new up. Sorry. If you're looking for more that I've written and haven't read all the old stuff, I encourage you to scroll the archives. And if you're looking for a postcard from the trip, drop a note to the Gmail address letting me know.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Of Paper Clips and Barrels

Via Samizdata, I discovered One Red Paperclip today and, from that, Message in a Barrel. Kyle MacDonald is my new hero.

A Divine Endorsement for that feature?

Speaking of stumbling onto the occasional prize through that "Next Blog" feature, a few clicks after the aforementioned photoblog, I discovered a blog with a beautiful picture of and high praise for the Cathedral of......well, just go take a look. What are the odds?

Cool New Photoblog

Often what you find clicking on the "Next Blog" button at the top of a blog on Blogspot tends to be of very limited appeal. Sometimes outright junk. Once in a while you find some good stuff, though. I struck gold a few minutes ago.

This is the J. Buck Photoblog, and it's loaded with good stuff. It appears to be brand new; we can only hope that the proprietor continues to pass on such terrific photos. Check out the November archives to see everything that's up there so far, or go to the main page to bookmark the site.

I think the comment moderation policy is strangely restrictive on a blog so unlikely to draw trolls (for stopping spam comments, I've found word verification effective), but it's a small quibble relative to the high quality of content.

Friday, November 11, 2005

This better not last.

Thursday evening: flu shot.
Friday morning: newfound muscle aches, fever, chills, and headaches.

For anyone else who shares my concern, this site offers reassurances:

The flu vaccine is very safe. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. The flu vaccine contains dead flu viruses that cannot cause infection.....Mild flu-like symptoms may occur in some people, especially those being vaccinated against flu for the first time. These symptoms are due to the body’s immune response that is building to protect against actual infection. These symptoms can include mild fever, headache and aching muscles starting within 6 to 12 hours but ending within 24 to 48 hours.

I sure hope they're right. I've got important stuff I need to do next week.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

No on HR 4194

I'll be writing more on this general topic later (hopefully), but, for now, let me just note that I agree with both Krempasky and Kos on this one. (via Instapundit)

Call your congressman.

1002 Details

You may be familiar with the controversy about plans to drill for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). It was brought to mind today by this post on Boing Bong, which links to the Sierra Club's ANWR maps utilizing Google Earth.

Required reading for a useful consideration of the ANWR question is Jonah Goldberg's 2001 cover article for National Review. It includes a lot of useful perspective that especially contrasts with the message presented in the Boing Boing post, which starts with this hyperbolic—and misleading—declaration:
It's final innings for the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska as Congress gets ready to fill it with oil wells.
Fill ANWR with wells? Really? Goldberg points out that
ANWR is 19.6 million acres, about the size of South Carolina....On the very northern cusp of ANWR is what is commonly called the coastal plain, a tract of flat tundra largely indistinguishable from other spots along the coast and throughout the region. This comprises about 8 percent of the refuge-but an even smaller fraction of its pretty scenery. Some of this area is already off-limits to oil exploration, permanently. Nonetheless, the U.S. Geological Survey — seconded by industry experts-believes there could be untold billions of barrels of oil in the swath still legally available.
This 8 percent is known as the "1002 Area." Are even the 1.6 million aces of that going to be filled with oil wells? Goldberg again:
The oil industry says it would need to use only 2,000 acres-an area no bigger than Dulles Airport, outside D.C.-to get that oil. This footprint would be 50 times smaller than the Montana ranch owned by Ted Turner, who helps bankroll efforts to keep ANWR off-limits.
So rather than filling ANWR with oil wells, the oil-drilling activity would actually take place in one percent of it. Well, what impact would it have there? Goldberg goes on to note elsewhere that
The oil industry has made huge strides in oil exploration in the last few decades. The oil under the coastal plain could literally be extracted during the dead of winter — when it's night for 58 straight days and no caribou would be dumb enough to come within 500 miles of the Arctic Ocean — and all that would be left come spring would be a couple of Portosan-sized boxes.
[Portosan link mine. Jonah Goldberg is not, to my knowledge, endorsing the Portosan company. Nor, for that matter, am I, really. I'm just trying to clear it up for anyone who, like I, didn't recognize the word. But we're getting off-topic here.]

He also explains in those articles that drilling in the specified area won't be despoiling ANWR's natural beauty because while ANWR is replete with beauty, the coastal plain slated for drilling is really not. He went there to confirm, and he describes it in some detail. He also clarifies that while many allege the plans threaten the caribou in that area, the threat is mitigated not only by the surprisingly low-impact procedures alluded to above but also by the experience at Alaska's Prudhoe Bay,
specifically, the areas around the oil installations and pipelines, where the Central Arctic caribou herd has thrived in the shadow of extensive oil extraction. Since drilling started here, the herd has increased fivefold.
Seriously, read the whole article. And other writings of his on this topic can be found here, here, and here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Naming Names

A friend of mine is expecting her third child and so, along with her husband and older children, is working through the name selection process. While I most strongly suggest giving any son the first and middle names Vaclav Havel, I offer here for her further consideration some names recklessly drawn from The Sagas of Icelanders:

First some options for the name of a new baby girl:
  • Sigrid
  • Hrafnhild
  • Thordis Stick
  • Asgerd
  • Thorunn
  • Ingunn
  • Moeid
  • Asny
  • Thorlaug
  • Vigdis
  • Melkorka
Then an unfairly disproportionate slate of appellations suitable for a new son:
  • Thorolf
  • Harek
  • Kveldulf
  • Thorir Long-chin
  • Ketil Haeng
  • Olvir Hump
  • Onund Sjoni (Keen-sighted)
  • Olaf
  • Athelstan
  • Thorgils Boomer
  • Erik Blood-axe
  • Skallagrim
  • Hallvard
  • Thorgeir
  • Skuli
  • Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue
  • Hrafn the Poet
  • Hoskuld
  • Hrolf
  • Hromund the Lame
  • Thorbjorn Hunchback
  • Thord Hobbler
  • Finn the Squinter
  • Eyvind the Plagarist
Any of these would be choices sure to fill the older children with enthusiasm. If anyone else reading this has any other unexpected suggestions for her—be they as straightforward as Petunia, Mortimer, or Alphonse or peculiar, meaningful, and drawn from an interesting source—I'm sure she'd appreciate the ideas, so feel free to leave them in the comments.