Saturday, December 30, 2006

Rot? Not!

After five years of blogging here, I hope and expect this blog to be idle in '07, to allow me more time and energy for my work, my reading, my resting, and my family. (Chances are I'll cheat and add something here under Comments.)

But to fight blogrot, I'm posting some random things that might be worth revisiting: cool Wikipedia reference charts, best first lines from novels, Steven Wright quips, Amazon Light, and monkeys typing Shakespeare.

And, of course, my post to end all posts.

Also idling: my home page, and my blogs on heaven, language, golf, and ideas.

Remaining active: worship and N&A.
Gerald R. Ford

On Wednesday I drove up US-131 and saw the herd of media trucks surrounding the Ford Museum, and couldn't decide if it was honorable tribute or just inane swarming. The media has a tendency to go way over the top at times like this; the local Grand Rapids Press gushed with messianic melodrama the day after Ford died, "He Saved The Nation." (True of Lincoln, but not Ford, and as Ford himself said, "I'm a Ford, not a Lincoln.") Gerald Ford was a decent president and a rare case of a leader who is a perfect match for his time and circumstances. But what got him to where he went, and made him a success, was not saintliness, but ordinariness. Still, it's a rare honor for my hometown to be home to a president, his museum, and his burial.

more: WP - NYT - GRP - TV8 - FM/L - W

Update: photos here and here
New Yorker coverRecent New Yorker cartoons:

Terrorist to terrorist on on laptop:
"I just think it undermines our organization's fiery rhetoric when you close your Internet postings with a smiley face." (10/16/06)

Wife to husband:
"I wish you'd open up to me--I need some ammunition." (11/27/06)

Therapist to patient, gesturing to woman with laptop:
"That's Eleanor. She's a fact-checker." (12/18/06)

Santa to cab driver:
"I'm going to have to make multiple stops." (12/25/06)

Sign behind author at book table:
"Author will text you, 1-3 p.m." (12/25/06)

Vultures eyeing dying desert wanderer:
"Oh, love handles! We haven't had those in a while." (12/25/06)

Patient paging nurse:
"Come quickly--I think I had an out-of-pocket experience." (12/25/06)

Previous New Yorker cartoons

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Coming Distractions from ABC's The Note
How To Grade Exams

Thankfully, I don't have to grade papers this semester, but if I did, I'd be tempted to adopt this method (seen at Gideon Strauss):

Monday, December 11, 2006

Friday, November 17, 2006

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

ZuneBetter Stay Away From Microsoft's Response To the IPod

It doesn't have the three buttons no Microsoft product should be without: Ctrl, Alt & Delete.

Monday, November 13, 2006

When religious discrimination is the more appealing, though indefensibile, alternative

Soldiers' widows sue for pagan symbols on headstones

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The widows of two combat veterans sued the government Monday for not allowing Wiccan symbols on their husbands' military headstones.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs allows military families to choose any of 38 authorized headstone images. The list includes commonly recognized symbols for Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism, as well as those for smaller religions such as Sufism Reoriented, Eckiankar and the Japanese faith Seicho-No-Ie.

The Wiccan pentacle, a five-pointed star surrounded by a circle, is not on the list, an omission that the widows say is unconstitutional.

Good Thing He Restored Honor and Dignity to the White House


You asked me the question one week before the campaign, and basically it was, are you going to do something about Rumsfeld and the Vice President? And my answer was, they're going to stay on. ... The only way to answer that question and to get you on to another question was to give you that [blatantly false] answer.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"I grew up in Europe, where the history comes from."

- Eddie Izzard
Transit of Mercury today:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day Priorities

Friday, October 27, 2006

Isn't public office a noble enterprise? From the Wash.Post:

In New York, the National Republican Campaign Committee ran an ad accusing Democratic House candidate Michael A. Arcuri, a district attorney, of using taxpayer dollars for phone sex. "Hi, sexy," a dancing woman purrs. "You've reached the live, one-on-one fantasy line." It turns out that one of Arcuri's aides had tried to call the state Division of Criminal Justice, which had a number that was almost identical to that of a porn line. The misdial cost taxpayers $1.25.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pride and Prejudice Around the World

"In the West Bank a group calling itself the Lions of Monotheism fire bombed four churches, telling the Associated Press the attacks were carried out to protest the Pope's remarks linking Islam and violence. The irony of the statement, and this is often the case we find, was lost on them." --Jon Stewart

"Earlier today, the president of Iran refused to attend a United Nations banquet because wine was being served. The Iranian president said he was afraid he'd get really drunk and say something pro-semitic." --Conan O'Brien
Marmaduke Literary Criticism
[via Christian]

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Neo and Morpheus Get Stuck Inside Microsoft Windows
From Google Video:

birthday balloons

Friday, September 22, 2006

Recent New Yorker cartoons:

Bumper sticker on minivan:
"Proud Parents of Underachievers" (9/4/06)

Rabbit to man, both being chased by a wild animal:
"What about your precious opposable thumbs now?" (9/4/06)

Man in lawn chair to hit-man holding weed-whacker:
"The weeds -- I want 'em whacked." (9/4/06)

Animals leaving ark, about solitary animal in foreground:
"Poor thing. The first night out, her husband fell overboard" (9/4/06)

Dog to another dog:
"He rubbed your belly and if felt good -- that doesn't make you gay." (9/4/06)

Waiter to dinner party:
"Would you like a professional critique of your orders?" (9/11/06)

Child to playmate in sandbox:
"By the time I develop a true understanding of sand, I'll probably be forced into some sort of organized sports." (9/11/06)

Customer to waiter:
"Which entree raises the fewest ethical issues?" (9/18/06)

Elephant reclining on couch, to therapist:
"I'm right there in the room, and no one even acknowledges me." (9/18/06)

Previous New Yorker cartoons
Family Guy: Osama outtakes
This clip from Google Video cracked me up.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

From Letterman's "Top 10 Signs Your Boss Is Spying On You":

- You turn up the thermostat and hear your supervisor scream from the air vent

- Every morning, some guy puts a new roll of film in your fichus

- Powerpoint presentations include photos of you flossing

- The "O" on your keyboard looks a lot like his eyeball

Where do all those cool Google special-occasion logos go? Here.

Google Thanksgiving 2002
Interesting articles on Wikipedia vs. traditional encyclopedias here and here.
My take on the CTS situation. (It's only partially informed and personally biased, but isn't everybody's?)
Some cool digital audio freeware

This blog showed me how to convert RA streams to MP3, do an MP3-only search at Google, and made me bold enough to try this IPTV suite and this "Super" converter. I have only a vague notion of what I'm doing, so if I accidentally blow my computer up, this blog will probably be idle for a while ...

(I should also read this PHP tutorial -- maybe over the weekend, sipping lemonade -- since our CICW site uses PHP.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"Former Vice President Al Gore said he may run again for president. Insiders say Gore wants to avenge his 2000 victory."

- David Letterman

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Some Cool Commercials on YouTube

Andy Roddick vs. Pong:

Nike - fancy dribbling:

Classic Wendy's commercial: "Where's the Beef?"

Classic Atari commercial:

Also: Real-life recreation of Simpsons introduction -- amazing!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering September 11 [at N&A]

Time cover

More from Time, and archived video coverage from NBC.

Happy Sept. 11th

From the Washington Post:

FIVE YEARS LATER: An Elusive Target
Bin Laden Trail 'Stone Cold'
U.S. Steps Up Efforts, But Good Intelligence On Ground is Lacking

By Dana Priest and Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, September 10, 2006; Page A01

The clandestine U.S. commandos whose job is to capture or kill Osama bin Laden have not received a credible lead in more than two years. Nothing from the vast U.S. intelligence world -- no tips from informants, no snippets from electronic intercepts, no points on any satellite image -- has led them anywhere near the al-Qaeda leader, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.

"The handful of assets we have have given us nothing close to real-time intelligence" that could have led to his capture, said one counterterrorism official, who said the trail, despite the most extensive manhunt in U.S. history, has gone "stone cold."


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Recent New Yorker cartoons

Two placard wielders glaring at each other on a city street; titled "Turf War on 49th Street":

Placard 1: "The End is Near for Religious Reasons"
Placard 2: "The End is Near for Ecological Reasons" (8/28/06)

TV reporter to cleric outside a temple:
"To hold in your hand the spiritual destinies of several billion people, Your Holiness, has got to be a rush." (8/7/06)

Executive on phone:
"And you can rest assured that your problem is being ignored at the very highest levels." (8/7/06)

Event planner in banquet hall, to assistant:
"We'll alternate the windbags with the hard of hearing." (8/7/06)

Previous cartoons
Chipotle rules [at N&A]

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sites Seen

PC Mag's Top 99 uundiscovered websites include,, and Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics

And a cool blog I found today: TNR's Open University.
Amazon Light (or maybe Medium)

Amazon Light is an independent, uncluttered version of Amazon, using API (which I first heard about in this talk ). But isn't it starting to look a little cluttered?
Labor Day Picnic

Food and fun at our Labor Day picnic [at N&A]

Friday, September 01, 2006

Publisher's Weekly mention of my book

My book was mentioned in PW's Religion BookLine.
"If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist, it's another nonconformist who doesn't conform to the prevailing standard of nonconformity."

-Bill Vaughan
Fall Movie Preview

from NY Mag. The Departed, Andy Warhol, All the King's Men, Iraq in Fragments, and a few others others sound good.
Middle School Classes That Aren't

To add to Ron's list:

- Popular and the Unpopular: Middle School Social Inequality and Oppression

- How to Actually Climb the Rope in Phys. Ed.

- Coping With Crushes

- Algebra and Other Useless Skills

- Careful Planning and Other Misguided Strategies for Dealing With Life
Site Seen
Mating Bison and Hiking in the Dark

... among Meg's summer adventures in Yellowstone. Welcome back, Meg!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Food For Thought

"The whale is endangered, while the ant continues to do just fine."

-Bill Vaughan
Long-Awaited Candor

Seen on The Daily Show (clip from a press briefing by President Bush on 8/21/06; skip to about 3 minutes in):

Bush: The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens
before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East. They were...

Reporter: What did Iraq have to do with that?

Bush: What did Iraq have to do with what?

Reporter: The attack on the World Trade Center.

Bush: Nothing!

Monday, August 28, 2006

My First Day of School

Now I know what a voiced obstruent is. I think. [at N&A]
Stone Phillips vs. Stephen Colbert: A 'Gravitas-off' on YouTube

Mary told me about this. Hilarious!

Also: One dedicated citizen put the pilot of Colbert's show on YT.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Toothless Tigers

Pictures and somber reflections on a blowout Tigers loss, at N&A.
Andrea and I Have a Blog

Bookmark/blogroll it, and check out our niece and nephew's abstract art.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Pluto Plucked from Planetary Parade

diagram of planets

Friday, August 18, 2006

Biblical Commentaries: Food for the Soul, on the Screen

Theology nerds like me (and most of my blogroll! Bless you all) can now use my roundup of Google Books links for Eerdmans' biblical commentaries series. The OT is up; NT will follow.

3 x -3

Woods, Ogilvy, and Mickelson

Paired ("trio-ed"?) together in the first round of the PGA Championship, the 3 2006 major champions all finished 3 under, and 3 behind the leaders.

Countdown to Crisis

Follow our planet's slow roast at sites such as, the Global Change Google Group, or, of course, the 2000 election victor's My friend Jared is also keeping a close eye on the crisis.

Earlier: How air conditioning cooks the planet

Friday, August 11, 2006

Stuff I Done Writed Lately

The Celebrity Factor (The Banner)

Worshipful Service (Perspectives)

Homecoming at LaSalle Street Church (Reformed Worship)

Ode to a Typewriter (Minds in the Making)
Read All About It

Calvin College has just issued a press release about my book (the tuition I paid them yields dividends).
Creativity Within A Rut

Studio 60

We NetFlixed the pilot of Studio 60 on The Sunset Strip, which premieres on NBC in September. Like anything written by Aaron Sorkin, it's superb--smart, snappy, substantive. It lacks the charm and dignity of West Wing, but sizzles with the same wit of Sports Night, in more or less the same setting. Which leads me to ask: can't a guy as bright as Sorkin write about anything else? In the last 10 years he's worked on a movie and show that go behind the scenes at the White House (American President and West Wing) and 2 shows that go behind the scenes of TV shows (Sports Night and Studio 60). Is that all there is to write about? Goodness knows we don't need a bazillionth hospital drama, but imagine what this guy could do with life in an airport, a home, a church, a foreign country--heck, even an insurance company. But we can only guess that Sorkin is dreaming up a future project with more White House and more TV -- let me guess, the life and times of a White House correspondent?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Happy Birthday Lisa! May next year find you in your adopted homeland. And so, in lieu of singing "Happy Birthday":

Ô Canada! Terre de nos aïeux
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux
My stance? Pro-brain

Moping this morning over the millimeter-margin defeat of former Paul Henry aide Chris Meyer (whom many describe as Henry-esque) in his state legislature primary, I'm newly distraught at the misuse of power by the local Right to Life, which cynically shafted Chris for being insufficiently extreme in his pro-life stance, presumably costing him the election (see "Pro-life endorsement inequity" 7/31 here), and by the lemming-like voters here in West Michigan who do whatever RTL says.

(A friend of mine noted that the first bullet item on a campaign pamphlet for a local drain commissioner candidate said that he was pro-life. It's important to have a pro-life drain commissioner!) (More here)

I'm reminded of a line Adlai Stevenson supposedly said during one of his campaigns in the 50s, when a supporter told him, "Mr. Stevenson, you have the support of every thinking American."

"That will not do," Stevenson said. "I need a majority."

Monday, August 07, 2006

'We're cooking our planet to refrigerate the diminishing part that's still habitable'

A/C D.C.
The deluded world of air conditioning

By William Saletan
Site to See:

Whether they're half-baked, insightful, vulgar, ridiculous, or all four, these explanations of what the heck a song is talking about are worth checking out, especially when you find yourself singing heartily along to a song without a clue about what you're singing. For example, I learned that Dave Matthews' "Don't Drink the Water" is about white settlement of North America and the (ahem) displacement of Native Americans. (and even if it's not, you could totally get away with that on a history test...) (One caveat: don't buy anything they say about U2 without checking it with Dr. Bob K. first...)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

From the Onion:

"Area Beehive Not Ready For Democracy"
A.O. Scott in the NY Times:

The case requires elaborate cover, buckets of money and the finest, fastest air and sea vessels the taxpayers of Miami can afford. Not really, of course. The actual operating budget for the Miami police department in fiscal year 2005 was around $100 million, a good $50 million less than the reported production costs of “Miami Vice.”

Monday, July 31, 2006

My Debut at the Worship Wonk Invitational

The highlight of my summer so far.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

WWJD About This Slogan

"There's a phrase we live by in America: In God We Trust. It's right there where Jesus would want it: on our money."
-Stephen Colbert

Friday, July 28, 2006

I Honestly Hadn't Thought Of That

"Removing the back wheel can seriously diminish the performance of your bicycle."

-from a bike manual in the Dutch language magazine Onze Taal, quoted at LL

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Cartoon from ChurchLaughs
Most Unlikely Line in a Blockbuster Movie

CTLibrary's favorite line from the Da Vinci Code:

"I've got to get to a library, fast!"

Friday, July 21, 2006

Garage Sale Giveaway

Not enough stuff in your life? Take the Rienstras' eclectic detritus.
Bloggers Below the Radar

Slate's Jack Shafer on the difference between the "top 100 bloggers" and the rest, according to a new Pew study. Elsewhere at Slate, David Plotz (in his Blogging the Bible series) on Leviticus 25 and Jubilee: "Good intentions, bad public policy. ... Such long-term leaseholds would have discouraged land improvements, prevented economies of scale, kept property in the hands of lazy owners, and suppressed entrepreneurship."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Self-Fulfilled Prophecy

Colin Powell, in a 1992 press briefing as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the first President Bush:

Saddam Hussein is a terrible person, he is a threat to his own people. I think his people would be better off with a different leader, but there is this sort of romantic notion that if Saddam Hussein got hit by a bus tomorrow, some Jeffersonian democrat is waiting in the wings to hold popular elections. (Laughter.) You're going to get -- guess what -- probably another Saddam Hussein. It will take a little while for them to paint the pictures all over the walls again -- (laughter) -- but there should be no illusions about the nature of that country or its society. And the American people and all of the people who second-guess us now would have been outraged if we had gone on to Baghdad and we found ourselves in Baghdad with American soldiers patrolling the streets two years later still looking for Jefferson.

(Quoted on LeShow)

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Big Questions
from Comment:

- What do I love?
- What do I believe?
- Where do I belong?
- Who am I?
- What hurt needs healing in the world?
- What potential waits to be realized?
- What is to be done?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Declare Your Indpendence from 'Elements of Style'

From LL:

According to the principles enunciated by Strunk and White [in Elements of Style], the Declaration of Independence is an awful piece of writing. It is riddled with adjectives and adverbs, according to Strunk and White, and other purveyors of stupid advice, the nemesis of good writing. Here is the first paragraph with the adjectives and adverbs marked. Is it better without them?

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

It frequently uses the passive voice: "all men are created equal...", "they are endowed by their Creator...", "Governments are instituted among Men...".

Many sentences are very long: the first main sentence, the one beginning "When in the course of human events...", contains 71 words. Some sentences begin with conjunctions ("Nor have we been...", "But when a long train..."). There are redundancies ("We mutually pledge to each other..."). All in all, according to Strunk and White, a shoddy piece of work. Curious that they never commented on it.

Monday, July 03, 2006

"Al Gore is on the show tonight. This just shows you how quickly things can change. I mean, Arnold Schwarzenegger spends his days talking about his political agenda. Al Gore is out promoting his new movie. Who would have seen that coming?" --Jay Leno

Monday, June 19, 2006

Resonant Golf Wisdom for Phil Fans This Morning

“Golf is good for the soul. You get so mad at yourself you forget to hate your enemies.”

-Will Rogers

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Frisian flag

Frisian: language of my ancestors, sibling to English
On Language‘ 6/7/06

With a vague sense of ethnic pride, a vaguer sense that I owed it to my great-grandfather and a complete ignorance of the Frisian language, I attended the 50th and final Frisian worship service in Grand Rapids, Mich., last month.

For me, the service hammered home a key distinction about my own ethnicity. I usually say that my ancestors were Dutch. But my great-grandfather, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1890, might have objected to that claim. Technically, he was Frisian, and for Frisians, that is more than just a technicality.

Friesland is a province of the Netherlands along that country's northern coast, but dating back to the ancient days when it was a vast kingdom and maritime power, it has always been its own country, in a way.

The Frisians are one of the oldest ethnic groups in Europe and one of the most doggedly independent. A famous Frisian slogan is "Frysk en Frij," meaning "Frisian and Free."

The Frisian language also represents a piece of linguistic trivia: Old Frisian was the closest relative of Old English, its sibling in the West Germanic language family. Linguists tend to say that in its earliest days, English used to sound a lot like German. But it's closer to the truth to say that English used to sound a lot like Frisian.

So as a Frisian descendant and an aspiring linguist, I had two good reasons to attend the final Frisian-language worship service in Grand Rapids, where an annual Frisian service has been held since 1957 in an area church.

Slate Blogs the Bible
xpost with Worship Weblog

Christianity Today's Weblog recommends Slate's series 'Blogging the Bible'. CT says:

It's really quite interesting to read the non-observant Jew's reactions as he goes through the first few chapters of Genesis. He's a wonderful writer, if not the world's most trained exegete. ...

It's fun and refreshing stuff, especially for us Protestants who have a long history of believing that all the answers to Scripture's mysteries are self-evident if we'd only read it for ourselves. For now, Plotz is only up to Genesis 25—we'll be even more impressed if he gets beyond Leviticus, the bane of many a "read through the Bible" project.

(That's non-observant Jew, not non-observant writer...)

Update: Erica (a Rev) likes it too

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Beware of Pretend WMD's
From Meet the Press last Sunday:

RUSSERT: Not having found weapons of mass destruction, why do you think Saddam engaged in this cat-and-mouse game and didn’t come clean?

BLIX: That’s a good question, and one possibility is that he was like someone hanging a sign on the door, “Beware of the dog,” without having a dog--when he wanted to tell Iran, and he wanted to tell others that “I’m still dangerous.”

Friday, June 02, 2006

Vocab lists: a waste of mind
xpost with Inflections

From a provocative paper in JETS called "Greek vocabulary acquisition using semantic domains" (which discusses NT Greek but has broader applications):

Some L2 teachers have championed semantics-based approaches for vocabulary acquisition. John T. Crow claims that semantic fields are the best way to expand an individual's vocabulary and discourages the use of decontextualized word lists based on frequency of occurrence computations.21 He claims that the use of these lists has been the primary teaching aid of vocabulary, although "rote learning is one of the most inefficient applications of human cognitive facilities."

Friday, May 26, 2006

Cute Budweiser Spoof

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Visit to Shawnee Park Book Group
xpost with my Heaven Blog

On Sunday I met with a book group from Shawnee Christian Reformed Church that had studied my book, at the home of two of the members (coincidentally, just about a quarter mile from the home where I met the Neland book group). The group was made up of older readers, and I was struck by one comment one reader made about my generation. She asked if my generation thought more about heaven and the kind of questions I raise in the book. I said that honestly, I thought my generation was very technology-oriented, and thus less prone to think about the transcendent. She commented that her generation didn't ask these kinds of questions at all; they were more inclined to just accept the doctrine that was handed down to them and not worry about any remaining questions they had. My generation, by comparison, she said, felt free to ask big questions. Readers around the room generally agreed, and some said that this was the first they had thought this long and hard about the afterlife. I had assumed that thinking about the afterlife came a little more naturally as you get older, with some of your biggest life decisions behind you, more more funerals of your friends to attend. I was struck by the potental for discussing heaven in an older generation.
At least they don't cheesily say 'We don't have much time' about once every 7 minutes...
I have been feeling pretty smug in my scoffing at those who fawn over 'Grey's Anatomy,' at least one of whom resides in my own house. But then I realized how hypocritical it is given how much time I spent Monday reading the fan forums at TWP about the breathtaking-but-plausibility-defying season finale of '24' ...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Xenophobia in the U.S. Senate


Declaring English to be the national language of the U.S. is about as necessary and meaningful as declaring Going To The Beach to be the National Summertime Activity.

The myth that immigrants to the U.S. lack the incentive and the will to learn English is pervasive but silly. The problem that there aren't enough English classes for immigrants is very real, and widely ignored.

Update: On a lighter note, this has set up easy punch lines for late night comedians:

"The president says making English our national language is not 'discriminatious.'" --Conan O'Brien

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Amazon Light 4.0

An alternative interface for Amazon, without all the screen clutter.
Wikipedia cited as source in NY Times op-ed

Geoff Nunberg notes at LL:

Paul Krugman wrote in his column today:

'A conspiracy theory, says Wikipedia, ''attempts to explain the cause of an event as a secret, and often deceptive, plot by a covert alliance.'''

Not a bad definition, but that "says Wikipedia" had me doing a double-take. ...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Steven Wright quote-of-the-day RSS-ed to my Gmail reminded me that he's authored some of the best one-liners of any comedian (although I also remember a few of his disastrously unfunny cameos on 'Mad About You'; his brief Simpsons appearance ['the zebra did it'] was much more memorable.)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Quoting Roosevelt Quoting Dickens

Letters to His Children by Theodore Roosevelt now available from Project Gutenberg. An excerpt:

March 4, 1908.


You have recently been writing me about Dickens. Senator Lodge gave me the following first-class quotation from a piece by Dickens about "Proposals for Amusing Posterity":

"And I would suggest that if a body of gentlemen possessing their full phrenological share of the combative and antagonistic organs, could only be induced to form themselves into a society for Declaiming about Peace, with a very considerable war-whoop against all non-declaimers; and if they could only be prevailed upon to sum up eloquently the many unspeakable miseries and horrors of War, and to present them to their own country as a conclusive reason for its being undefended against War, and becoming a prey of the first despot who might choose to inflict those miseries and horrors—why then I really believe we should have got to the very best joke we could hope to have in our whole Complete Jest-Book for Posterity and might fold our arms and rest convinced that we had done enough for that discerning Patriarch's amusement."

This ought to be read before all the tomfool peace societies and anti-imperialist societies of the present-day.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Fix my slice from the comfort of your chair

Let me know if you see anything screwy. I'll be forever in your debt (just figuratively, I hope).



Monday, April 10, 2006

"Two-time Masters champion" has twice as good a ring to it as "Masters champion"

Phil makes all us lefty golfers proud. He's inspired me to deck the next moron on the driving range who says to me, "Hey buddy, aren't you standing on the wrong side of the ball?"

(By the way, thanks to Mike Weir, Tiger is the only non-lefty to win the Masters in the last six years.)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

From the AP:

APVIENNA, Austria - For centuries, historians have portrayed Mozart as poor, but new documents suggest the composer was not nearly as hard-up for cash as many have believed. Scholars who combed through Austrian archives for an exhibition opening Tuesday on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's later years in Vienna found evidence that he was solidly upper-crust and lived the good life.
From Slate:

Because this is prime time, however, it was also inevitable that the courtship would take ages. Television hates nothing more than a happy couple. Elaborate mating rituals and thwarted love seem to make better viewing than the comfortable routines of life à deux. Still, seven years? Is it possible that Josh and Donna have set some kind of record?

Also see second item here from my former B&C blog

I'm no Bush supporter, but I've always sympathized a little with this viewpoint. The U.S. Civil War and the two World Wars would have been called "quagmires" long before we won them, had we had cable news in those days...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Masters 2006

The week when we inevitably venerate the pretty flowers of Southern golf aristocrats. This year there's live video feeds from Amen Corner, the par-3 contest, and even the driving range, at

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

From Ask Yahoo:
(Oops!; pretend it's someone else...)

Q: How many NCAA brackets would I have to fill out to cover every possible combination?

A: ... We hope you have plenty of patience, because there are 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 different ways to fill out a tournament bracket from a 65-team field. To find the answer, we took the number of games played in the tournament ...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Island Adventure

No.17 at TPC of Sawgrass

It's Players Championship week, which means another island adventure at 17. For the second year, will have a live feed from 17 throughout the tournament.

"Everybody's excited about March Madness, the big NCAA tournament? Here's how it works: It starts at 65, then 64, then 32, then 16. It's just like Bush's approval rating." -David Letterman

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The State Library of Victoria, Australia
Recent New Yorker Cartoons

Insurance salesman on phone:
"Act of God? Not a problem--we can sue God." (3/13/06)

Robber, pointing gun, to bank teller:
"Throw in one of those brochures about refinancing my home." (3/6/06)

Guru, in lotus position, to sojourner:
"I keep the good truth in the back." (1/23/06)

Woman to woman in coffee shop:
"Sometimes I wonder if it would've been better having one big marriage instead of a lot of little ones."

Noah to companion on ark:
"When the waters subside, the problem's going to be mold." (11/7/05)

Shrink to king:
"To be fair, I think you should be very clear about the ground rules with your next jester." (9/12/05)

Woman to man:
"I think we should stop fooling ourselves and begin fooling other people." (9/12/05)

Previous New Yorker cartoons
Smithsonian magazine

At the nearly century-old Gellert Hotel, site of a venerable spa on the west bank of the Danube, a dip into a steaming mineral bath makes a fitting start for soaking up the spirit of Budapest, Hungary's beguiling capital. Smithsonian

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Time for Madness

CBS TV Schedule:

12:20 p.m. NCAA TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND (Regional; HDTV) -- Greensboro, N.C. -- Wichita State vs. Seton Hall (Kevin Harlan, Dan Bonner)
12:25 p.m. NCAA TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND (Regional) -- Jacksonville, Fla. -- Oklahoma vs. UW-Milwaukee (Tim Brando, Mike Gminski, Stephen Bardo)
12:40 p.m. NCAA TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND (Regional) -- Salt Lake City, Utah -- Boston College vs. Pacific (Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel)
2:40 p.m. NCAA TOURNAMENT FIRST ROUND (Regional; HDTV) -- San Diego, Calif. -- Marquette vs Alabama (Dick Enberg, Jay Bilas)

Friday, March 10, 2006

NY Times

With newly discovered signs of liquid water, a moon of Saturn joins the small, highly select group of places in the solar system that could plausibly support life. The moon, Enceladus, is only 300 miles wide, and usually something that small is nothing more than a frozen chunk of ice and rock. Instead, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has spotted eruptions of icy crystals, which hint at pockets of liquid water near the surface. NY Times

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"My favorite kind of film is the kind where you argue when you walk outside after the film, and break up with your date."

- Director Paul Haggis, on his Oscar-winning movie 'Crash,' in the Wash.Post
Jon Stewart on the split opinion about his Oscars performance: "I 'sucked' and 'was great.'" [+]

Monday, March 06, 2006

Human Excellence: Sponsored by Big Macs and Gas Guzzlers

"[NBC] still made a nice profit on the [Olympic] Games, helped along by ads for health foods like Coke and McDonald’s fried-chicken sandwiches, and by dozens of ads for gas-guzzling S.U.V.s, the automotive shame of America, whose emissions do their part to melt the snow and ice that make the Winter Olympics possible."

-Nancy Franklin, in the New Yorker

Friday, February 24, 2006

Feelin' Groovy

The former and current presidents of my college impersonating Simon and Garfunkel at Airband 2006. The former became the first nonagenarian to appear at the event (he's 96!).

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

100 best first lines from novels

From the American Book Review:

Following is a list of the 100 best first lines from novels, as decided by the American Book Review, a nonprofit journal published at the Unit for Contemporary Literature at Illinois State University:

1. Call me Ishmael. -- Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. — Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

3. A screaming comes across the sky. — Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (1973)

4. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. — Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)

5. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. — Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

6. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. — Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett)

7. riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. — James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)

8. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. — George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

9. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

10. I am an invisible man. — Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Torino, Italy, Feb. 10, 2006

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Change of Subject Needed

Is there a word for a misspelling in an e-mail subject line that, embarassingly, gets repeated some 50 times in subsequent replies?

Or a subject line that is completely irrelevant after several replies and tangents?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Put It On My Tombstone

Nothing makes me blush as much as to be called "the heart of the ‘01-‘02 Campus Choir bass section" by my friend and fellow Campus Choir alum Matt. I wasn't, really, but I have little stamina in a quarrel about it; no delusions are as sweet as self-delusions. (Matt's post, by the way, is talking about this. Spread the word!)

Monday, February 06, 2006

For the First Time in Years, Professional Football Returns To Detroit

Seattle Times Super Bowl coverage

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Death Row Prisons: Protecting the Sanctity of Life

From the Associated Press:

Anticipating a possible replay of his September heart attack, [76-year-old death row inmate Clarence] Allen had asked prison authorities to let him die if he went into cardiac arrest before his execution, a request prison officials said they would not honor.

"At no point are we not going to value the sanctity of life," said prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon. "We would resuscitate him."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

From Harry Shearer: Pat Robertson elaborates (Listen to it for maximum laughs.)

"I also think that God may have targeted Dick Clark because a couple years ago he moved the American Music Awards from January to November. Now, that's just not in God's plan."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Monkeys Typing Shakespeare
...on Family Guy:

"Let's see: 'A something by any other name.'"

"Carnation ..."

"What about daisy?"

"Chrysanthemum, iris..."

"Rose? what about rose?"

"Rose is good."

"Uh, 'A rose by any other name.' Yeah, that works. Moving on..."

"Hey, what about tulip?"

"Rose is fine. Moving on."
Slate's Dahlia Lithwick reads between the lines of this paragraph from Samuel Alito's opening statement in his confirmation hearings:

After I graduated from high school, I went a full 12 miles down the road, but really to a different world when I entered Princeton University. (Damn snobs.) A generation earlier, I think that somebody from my background probably would not have felt fully comfortable at a college like Princeton. (And as I shall now illustrate, I was not.) But, by the time I graduated from high school, things had changed. And this was a time of great intellectual excitement for me. Both college and law school opened up new worlds of ideas. (Ideas, love 'em. It's the people I hate…) But this was back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was a time of turmoil at colleges and universities. (Damn hippies.) And I saw some very smart people and very privileged people behaving irresponsibly. (Smart and privileged people who went on to become yourselves, ladies and gentlemen of the Senate.)...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Don't Go There

A creative illustration re-aired on Meet the Press last week: a Senator warning the press to back off with their questions about military strategy:

(Videotape, December 24, 1950):

SEN. PAUL DOUGLAS: Now, I'd like to ask this question: Should you pursue these questions to their ultimate limit to try to worm out of a public official state delicate matters which perhaps should not be given to the public eye? If I may use an illustration: Suppose a young man and a young woman are interested in each other, are paying court to each other. If a reporter comes around constantly and asks them the state of their feelings and what their intentions are, it will generally break up a beautiful romance and prevent the event from being consummated. Similarly, this constant prying into issues in the attempt to find out what is going to happen or what is being contemplated, does not that defeat the freedom of action of the government?

(End videotape)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A week and a half after Christmas, I still find this mesmerizing (click picture for video clip).

Monday, January 02, 2006

New Yorker coverRecent New Yorker cartoons:

Woman to cat clawing furniture:
"You were a stray before and you can be a stray again." (12/12/05)

Sign held by prostitute on corner:
"Bad Credit O.K." (12/12/05)

Shrink to king reclining on couch:
"Must 'More dungeons' always be the answer?" (12/12/05)

Mouse at desk in office cubicle to other mouse:
"Finally, the cat's away, and I get stuck with the Davidson account." (11/21/05)

Boss to meeting in boardroom:
"It's time to call in other people who don't know more but are just different." (11/21/05)

Man to woman leaving with suitcase:
"You had me at goodbye." (10/31/05)

Woman at restaurant, with man at table in background:
"AT&T sent this drink over in the hope that you'll consider switching your long-distance provider." (10/31/05)

Women staring at picture in art gallery:
"How do you know when you're done appreciating?" (10/31/05)