A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Friday, December 31, 2004

Post-modernism - not just another river.

I found this via one of my favorite new reads, Dinocrat.com.

David Warren writes a powerful piece on the nihilism of the left:

There you have our post-modernity in a nutshell: an unthinking elision of the moral into the psychological, creating a "nuance" where no nuance exists. And by so doing, the previous translators externalized the evil that Dostoevsky's character had discovered in himself. The old Christian thing was to do good, in the knowledge that we are capable of terrible evil. But the "new man" believes that he is good in theory, and thus does not recognize the evil in his deeds. We make a desolation and call it peace.


Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Revolution is in the air, I tell you. Okay, maybe not revolution ... perhaps "simmering discontent" is more where I'm at as far as blogging goes right now. Certainly a lot of you have noticed the scarcity of posts.

Here's the deal:

With President Bush reelected, Iraq well on its way to its own elections next month, and Michael Moore / George Soros / MoveOn.org all busily choking down their share of humble pie, I just don't feel moved to write about politics anymore. Of course it still interests me - a lot - but I no longer have the need to contest every tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory and rabid Ted Rall cartoon that the looney left offers up. For the time being, I'm content.

I had seriously considered quitting the blog altogether; most readers would be surprised to learn how much time it takes to do this sort of thing. But, alas, I am a writer, and writers need to write. The Zoo is my primary creative and philosophical outlet right now, so giving it up would be folly. It'd also probably mean losing touch with some fine people I've come to know over the past eight months, and that would be even worse.

So instead of dropping the blog, I'm going to change it:

1) My main focus, for the next year or so at least, will be American art and culture, as well as interesting tidbits of geekdom. I will review books and movies. I will attend, drink too much at, and write about any art show, concert, or film festival within reach. And I'll play many new PC and roleplaying games, and I'll post about them all.

2) I'm finally going to join Blogcritics to put this site a bit more on the map. There will be at least three posts here each week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) but never more than four (the only additional post might be on Saturday, if I'm feeling particularly squirrelly about something).

3) The blogrolls will be both altered and expanded to reflect the change in The Zoo's content.

Some things, however, will remain the same:

1) The Blogosphere Political Compass Project will be maintained.

2) I suspect that krakatoa, when he posts, will often post about politics. I'll probably do the same from time to time; no one should get the idea that The Zoo is now a politics-free zone. I'm just taking a long, much-needed break from eight straight months of political blogging. You'll still see politics here, but The Zoo won't be about politics.

3) My alias shall remain sandor at the zoo.

I hope all this is okay with you fine readers, because it's what needs to happen. The other options are to quit outright, or keep posting some half-hearted crap once a week that I don't want to write and you don't want to read. Those both sound pretty lousey to me, and to be honest I'm really looking forward to this new era of non-political blogging. I wholeheartedly invite you to join me, and to comment or send an e-mail with any suggestions you might have.

A very Happy New Year to you all. Be safe during your festivities, and on Monday stop by and take a gander at The Zoo's new blogrolls and my first DVD review!



Monday, December 27, 2004


I’ve always been a magnet for eccentric personalities and odd coincidences. I once responded to a newspaper ad concerning kittens that were up for adoption; instead of discussing kittens, however, I found myself on the wrong end of a tirade about unfaithful men and why they shouldn’t bother their ex-girlfriends. Kitten Lady, you see, was utterly convinced that I was her recently-dumped beau – pitifully disguising my voice in an attempt to see if she was “sitting home by the phone” – and proceeded to harangue me for about five minutes on the virtues of loyalty, honesty, and not spying on your ex. I was simply too stunned to effectively protest my innocence – or, more correctly, my complete non-involvement – or even hang up. I just sat there in gape-jawed amazement of the proceedings. I also found that I agreed with her about quite a lot of it.

She ended all this by slamming down the phone, and I never got my kitten. This sort of thing happens to me a lot; it'd be a little scary if it weren't so amusing.

So it came as little surprise when I got an e-mail from reader Phil the other day, asking if I understood the history of the name “sandor at the zoo”. I responded by telling him that Sandor was a character from a Vernor Vinge novel; he was the online representative of a militaristic but fair-minded interstellar consortium called “Arbitration Arms Intelligence”. The character served as the voice of reason throughout the first two-thirds of what I consider to be one of the best sci-fi pieces of the late 20th Century. When I needed an online handle for a couple BBSs I was posting to – boards of venomous, accusatory debate on religion and politics which I tried my meager best to mediate – “sandor at the zoo” seemed like a natural choice. It later became my nom de blog, and The Zoo took its name from the handle as well.

It turns out, however (however, however, there is always a however) that Vinge’s character was based on a real person – a Canadian software developer and sometimes-space-expert who was active for many years on Usenet groups like sci.space and comp.lang.c. I have no idea how he chose the moniker, but I’d sure like to hear the story.

In any case, I find myself an unintentional imposter. I don’t like it. I’m considering changing my online alias back to “aliestar”, which is what I used in the years before argumentative BBSs and blogging became part of my life. Other changes are happening here at The Zoo soon anyway – my focus in 2005 will be much different from 2004 – so now’s probably a good time.

More on all this tomorrow.


Oh, and many thanks to reader (and fellow blogger) Gus for alerting me that the URL for the political compass quiz had changed. The BPCP page has been updated with the new link, so anyone who was trying to take the test but couldn't find it should be able to do so now.


Friday, December 17, 2004

BPCP Update

The Blogosphere Political Compass Project has been updated. Go to the BPCP permalink page for a complete list of participants and links to their sites.

BPCP Graph December 2004 Posted by Hello

Keep the results rolling in, folks. Looks like the liberals managed to get the word out a bit; the left side of the graph is starting to fill up.

Have a great weekend, all.



Do You Have a 250 mg Version?

Winter is a generally a rough time for me. I get lazy and irritable, and I'm even more impatient than usual with life's little unavoidable annoyances. I also want to eat too much, and I sleep poorly. All cold and low sun make Sandor a dull boy.

But not to worry! Reader Troy send us the cure for whatever ails ya:

And Coming Soon for Insomniacs: Fukitol PM! Posted by Hello

I wouldn't go so far as to say I need the 1000 mg prescription version, but a bottle of over-the-counter Fukitol tablets - 250 mgs, maybe - might be nice to have around. Just for those days when the sky is grey, the thermometer can't break 55 degrees, traffic is backed up onto the on ramps, and an old lady from Sheboygan has called your new cell phone for the sixth time insisting it's her daughter's number.

Grunt. Sigh. BPCP update to follow shortly.



Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The "Who Fights?" Redux

Earlier in the Fall I posted a short essay called Who Fights?. My friend Chris O'Connor, owner of a book discussion community called BookTalk, posted it to his forums a couple weeks ago to stir up some discussion amongst his sites left-leaning members.

He had some success.

This is the thread in which Who Fights? is being discussed. The leftists came out in force to attack it, some of them making the kind of wacky assumptions and accusations you'd expect from people who believe the "Dear President Bush" internet rumor is a brilliant and original stroke of political insight (for the record I largely agree with the sentiment, it's just way overused and plagiarized all to hell). On the second page of the thread I mounted a brief defense of my essay and responded to a couple of the more lucid points, but I didn't want to get dragged into a slanging match with a bunch of Chomskyite liberals who will, in the end, just call me Uncle Tom and ignore anything that doesn't fit into the Berkeley worldview. Anyway, it's there if you're interested.

BPCP update tomorrow.



Monday, December 13, 2004

Blogger Challenge, and Monday Links

Rockynogin has entered The Alliance in Spirit of America’s Blogger Challenge. So far our turn out, in both donations and team members, has fallen somewhat short of amazing. As of now we have three blogs supporting our team (Cornpone, Bad Example, and yours truly) and about $50 in our donation jar. Many, many thanks to those who are donating and blogging; those who haven’t yet need to go here and donate (and if you’re an Alliance blogger you need to post about this and link it). Do so now. Now!

I know people who read this blog that certainly have $10, $25, or $50 to spare. I pepper my posts with inside jokes and Simpsons quotes for you guys, an honor for which you each owe me your very souls. I’d better see some money hitting that donation jar or I’ll be looking for other … beings … who might like to option said souls.

And because I know you’re thinking it: No, you are not smarter than the Devil.

To be honest, I don’t really care if you fine readers donate through our team or not – just as long as the money gets to Spirit of America. Puddle Pirate is also collecting and links a great story from two decades back; Baldilocks – the story’s author – is taking donations as well.

And it’s been a while since I linked to Al Barger. He’s got a very interesting post from a couple days ago, one that I guarantee all of my agnostic and atheist readers will find both odd and intriguing. I certainly did.

Lastly, Canadian reporter David Warren questions attitudes in his own country and Europe about democracy and The East. Money quote:

As one of my own Arab correspondents put it, "If one has been occupied for some time by the Saud family, or the Assad family, or the Mubarak family, let alone the Hussein family, one begins rather to envy the sort of people who get to be occupied by the Bush family."

For the record, I’m skeptical of the idea that Canadians and Europeans are unwilling to do anything about Islamic Fascism and Radicalism because they’re racists. I think it’s more likely because they live fat, indolent, child-like lives under social democracy and are thusly unwilling to see the threat that will one day force them to give it up. But the article makes some good points in any case. Hat tip to The Tiger in Winter.

That’s it for today. Remember to give, give, give to Spirit of America, and have a nice Monday. BPCP update within the next couple days.



Friday, December 10, 2004

The Unbearable Lightness of (Quantum) Being

or, "Schrodinger's Cat still can't get good life insurance"...

Work has been balls to the wall the past two weeks, leaving precious little time for writing. I've still got to finish up the big essay, but I found yet another interesting article when chasing a tangent off an email.

When I get some time, I'll check out more articles on The Skeptical Adversaria, since this one seems pretty well written.


Tuesday, December 07, 2004


During lunch this morning (I usually eat lunch at 11 am) I browsed through the archives of A Small Victory. Everyone knows the blog, and everyone knows who Michelle is. But no one ever told me she was that good.

The woman is a goddamn riot, her writing is superb, and it looks like she’s been doing this longer than anyone except that long-toothed old goat at UT. She even bought her husband action figures – action figures! – for a wedding present, and she knows how to drop a zombie in two seconds flat. How in the world did the wonderfulness of this person escape my attention? I’m sure I’ve read ASV before.

Must have been on an off day. Must have.

Go read everything in the Best of ASV section right away, especially Do Not Pee in the Millennium Falcon (Fine! I don’t know why we even have a Millennium Falcon!) and Obsessive-Compulsive Zombie Disorder. And for those who’d like to know why I’m automatically suspicious of strangers who tell me they were once Army Rangers, read Michelle’s Micah Wright is a Liar collection … remember it’s in blog format so start at the bottom and work your way up.

Why are the good ones always married and living in one of those blue states near the north pole?



America’s First Day of Infamy

Today, every warblogger and conservative pundit is talking about the 63rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I’m not going to belabor the subject with another long post about it, but instead just link a couple articles that I think bring up interesting points.

The first is an editorial from the Huston Chronicle. Arnold Garcia Jr. remarks on how we learned the value of good intelligence after the Japanese Empire so successfully attacked us in the fall of 1941 … and how that lesson is still applicable today. From a military standpoint we’re still fighting a limited war, as we should be. But from an intelligence standpoint the gloves are off; our challenge now is to make sure the left fist knows what the right fist is doing.

And USA Today repots from Honolulu about the USS Oklahoma Survivor’s Association and the opening of a new memorial to that good ship’s fine sailors in Oklahoma City, OK. The USS Arizona is often remembered as the symbol of US losses in the Pearl Harbor attack – as it probably should be, considering the number of servicemen who perished aboard her – but over half of the American combat deaths that day were on dry land or other vessels. Some of them are finally getting the recognition they deserve, and as an inheritor of the freedom they fought for I’d like to add my “Thank You” to the chorus of appreciation they’re getting today.

May this country continue to observe and understand history, so as to never be cast into its grave.



Friday, December 03, 2004

This Modern Zoo

Alright, alright! I admit it! It's time I broke down and got a cell phone. Actually, it's time I broke down and activated the cell phone I already have ... the thing's been sitting in its comfy little case on my desk for the past two weeks.

What brought all this on, you ask? Why, a morning-show contest on one of our local radio stations did.

Every weekday, the morning deejay on 101.5 asks The Nearly Impossible Question. Today it was "What word did we look up the most in 2004?". As you can imagine, I was yelling "Blog! It's blog, you frickin' clueless morons!" every time someone called in and guessed "bloviate" or even, ironically, "ineptitude". There I was, a blogger who had just yesterday blogged about the answer to this question being the word "blog", and I had no way to call in and show everyone how smart I am. For want of a working cell phone the prize money was lost.

Even more than the $100 - which would have turned a couple good Christmas gifts into great Christmas gifts - would have been the opportunity to give out The Zoo's address on the air ... I'm sure I could have worked it in there somehow. There's no advertising like free advertising. Anyway, the cell phone is getting activated over the weekend; the next time life imitates art and offers a valuable cash prize, I plan to be ready.

Happy Friday, all.



Thursday, December 02, 2004

We're Number One!

"Blog" is the number one looked-up word of 2004, says this Reuters article. Mirriam-Webster has already added the word to its online dictionary, and will be putting it in next year's printed edition, too.

"Rather", on the other hand, was looked up by hardly anyone at all. I suppose most folks already know it means "Curmudgeonly liberal of the old media elite, a formerly-respected newsman who was so anxious to publicly condemn George W. Bush that he forgot to properly check his sources."

Sigh. I bet the Mirriam-Webster entry won't even have a nice picture of a guy in pajamas.



The Red Cross Dictionary

I hate it when they (the generic "they", although who am I to say it's not really this They) change the definition of a word. Words like "Torture" should not be watered down, anymore than "Ghetto" or "Holocaust" should have been.

Ever since the first caveman developed symbols to differentiate between "water hole" and "lions den" at the fork in the game trail (pardon my literary license) words have possessed great power, and the consequent risk in changing the meanings of those words is equally great.

This WSJ editorial summarizes the danger of doing such.

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