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

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The EQ II Seven

I'm really just trying out some photoblogging hijinks here; those uninterested in EQ II or my friends can safely ignore this post.


The EverQuest II Seven Posted by Picasa

For those interested, this is my group of real-world friends that I play online games with. All of us are into EQ II now; we hang out online nowadays far more than we actually meet in person. We are in a guild with a few dozen other players, all of whom are great people.

Couldn't ask for a better gaming experience than I'm having with all these folks.


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Some scribblings I enjoyed today

Eve Gerrard posits on Root Causes, and essentially tells us what our parents told us innumerable times: Life isn't fair. (H/T RogerSimon)

Ace moves me to tears in his Farewell to Scotty: Elegy For A Chief Engineer

Ace was on a serious roll today with the funny. Scroll through the whole day for great observations like

Good Heavens, the guy is a sexual Superman. I can only hope that ten of the fifteen minutes is just foreplay-- you know, stuff like making character sheets for each other and rolling your saving throws against sexual dysfunction. Normal sort of sex-play like that.

and
Rumors are flying in DC that when the kid sees a cookie, "he goes absolutely ape-shit." Seriously, he's worse than pre-diet Cookie Monster. I'm telling you, I wouldn't want to be between that kid and a Fig Newton; you'd be taking your life into your hands. He's like a pre-pubescent Teddy Kennedy-- someone's going to wind up dead because of this kid's killer-crazy Newton habit.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

You think you got bad luck?

Just how badly do you have to piss off your deity to have this happen:

On the GROIN no less!

I'm sure he was crying "Why Me?!" after this, but let's face it, when something like this happens to you, you probably know why, you naughty little monkey!

Thanks to Rug for the link.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Miscellaneous

These two sequential business headlines from this morning courtesy of Reuters caught my attention:

Stocks flat, oil data offsets trade - 29 minutes ago
Oil falls near $60 as stocks rise - 30 minutes ago


Hard to be wrong when you cover all the angles.

A tip of the ol' Geek Hat to Freed for Spells not worth memorizing.

On that site I also found 100 Reasons Kirk is better than Picard

I particularly liked number 67 for some reason:

If Kirk ever met a Ferengi, he would rip off its head and shit down its neck.


Finally, a word to the wise: In the land with no balls, the one-testicled man will be king.

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Monday, July 11, 2005

On root causes, and solutions thereof

I was struck by a story from my home state in which a man whose mother lay dead a few feet away and was being chewed on by their dogs, ate a pan of fried eggs unfazed by the situation. There is truly a thin veil between what we consider civilization and our baser human behaviors.



When death is not particularly foreign, life becomes a cheap commodity and the door is open to all sorts of horrifying actions. Add in a moral underpinning that dictates persecution of those whose very existence is an insult to your religion, and it becomes easy to rationalize the taking of lives.

People outside this framework are horrified by the actions of these zealots, and ask about root causes, and some even wonder if the Soviet Union didn't have it right its attempt to kill God.

"Maybe we should just outlaw all religion" goes the plaintive, or often hostile, secularist.

As heartfelt the desire is to find a magic bullet that would end all strife though, the bottom line is that there is no simple answer. Or rather, the only simple answer is far too horrifying to consider: Isolate, imprison or kill all those who participate in "dangerous" activities.

"Religion is a crutch for the ignorant" goes another saying. And to a certain extent that is true in my opinion. However, I know a great many highly intelligent people of faith, who are comfortable in that faith as well as with things like liberal democracies and modern science.

"More wars have been caused by religion..." goes the battle cry of the secular pacifist.

Yes, religion is a very effective lever by which to manipulate the ignorant into action against perceived threats. A religion like Islam, which is essentially unchanged from its primeval roots both in understanding of the physical world and in its practices, provides a ruthless tool with which to prompt terrible action.

It is natural and indeed, it is commendable to look for reasons why one is hated and to try to fix the problem peacably. However, it is childish to look for a solution while denying the base reality. Reducing the cause of war to Religious imperative is not logically sound. If one is an Athiest, one cannot at the same time deny the existence of God, then blame God for war. More steps are required in the analysis of violence.

If you want to get to root causes we eventually are faced with a nut we cannot crack, because if we are to be completely honest with ourselves we must acknowledge that the root cause of violence is as old and inescapable as that which provided impetus for the first caveman who bashed his neighbor's brains out for a share of food or a mate: greed.

And the foundation of greed is nothing more than the instinctual understanding that survival favors those with the most stuff.

The antidote to this is not isolationism, or outlawing religion, or endless appeals to the better nature of despots and their adherents. The fully distilled cause of their violence is not treatable, because it is part of what makes us human.

And the more sophisticated causes fomented by manipulative religious zealots have been ingrained in the pliable youth of their culture for the past 40 years. They have been trained from their earliest days to see violence as a justifiable and sacred right. There is no easy and peaceful answer to the threat of Islamic fascism.

Because as long as a group of people has an easy and familiar relationship with Death, both its inevitability and its use as a tool, they will use that tool against those who cling more desperately to life than they.

Because, the products of extreme Mosques and Madrassas proclaim "You love life and we love death"

Because Muslim who were born in U.K. have been molded into extremists with promises of glory and earthly and heavenly reward:
"When Allah said in the Koran 'kill and be killed', that's what I want. I want a martyr operation, where I kill my enemy." and "The mosques say one thing to the public, and something else to us. Let's just say that the face you see and the face we see are two different faces," says Abdul Haq. "Believe me," adds Musa, "behind closed doors, there are no moderate Muslims."

At some point, we have to accept these extremists of the Islamic faith at their word. The Koran divides the world in two: Dar al Islam and Dar al Harb. Literally the "house of Islam" in which lives the true believers; and the "house of War" in which lives the "kuffar" or infidels. The word of Allah demands Islam's spread to bring the rest of the world within Dar al Islam. And the permissable evangelical methods explicitly include violence and murder.

There is no treating with such a fascist ideology. Christopher Hitchins outlines some of their published grievances brilliantly:

The grievance of seeing unveiled women. The grievance of the existence, not of the State of Israel, but of the Jewish people. The grievance of the heresy of democracy, which impedes the imposition of sharia law. The grievance of a work of fiction written by an Indian living in London. The grievance of the existence of black African Muslim farmers, who won't abandon lands in Darfur. The grievance of the existence of homosexuals. The grievance of music, and of most representational art. The grievance of the existence of Hinduism. The grievance of East Timor's liberation from Indonesian rule. All of these have been proclaimed as a licence to kill infidels or apostates, or anyone who just gets in the way.


For those adherents to an extreme brand of Islam, we who struggle outside their faith have only one viable solution: We must deliver them to their God while aquiescing to none of their demands. We cannot allow for any corporeal profit to be realized by those using terrorism as a means to an end against societies that hold sacred the ideals of tolerance, (classic) liberalism and democracy.

Meanwhile, as Israpundit suggests in the "You love life..." link above, we must treat with the moderates of that religion, and hope for a reformation that will marginalize those fundamentalists who would have us all submit to the yoke. As challenging an ideal this may seem, there is hope that Islam can learn tolerance and moderation.

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

PedoBusters

I forget how I stumbled on this site.

How often do you see a website that has a chance in hell of making a real difference and saving lives though?

Basically it's a group of people lurking in chat rooms trying to get information on potential sexual predators. They play the role of under-age kids, and using the same sort of techniques as the cops, get these creeps to initiate sexual conversations, send personal information including web-cam pictures, and set up meetings.

They then post the chatlogs, names and pictures of the potential pedophiles and forward the information to the local authorties.

There's some sick stuff in the weblogs, but it's a real education into just how widespread the problem is.

Check it out here.

Check out their "Help Us" link... they are looking for volunteers.

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Friday, July 08, 2005

Cheering economic news

Jayson @ PoliPundit breaks down the worst economy since Herbert Hoover vis-a-vis Clinton's boom years. (hat tip Ace)

This strikes me as particularly interesting given the continuing negative spin in economic headlines. Today from Reuters: U.S. job growth tepid, jobless rate drops

The amazing thing about these numbers is that while Clinton had a technology bubble driving his numbers, the Bush administration has achieved parity under extreme conditions.

Of course, in the end the policies of a particular administration don't fully explain the workings of the economy. Credit evil corporate America with the willingness to rein in the extravagant costs of the late 90's. One can't help but wonder where the economy might be today if more of the largesse from the 90's had been spent on R&D and other CAPEX instead of so much fluff.

For that matter, imagine a world where the government could exercise such spending restraint.

Even so, John F Kennedy's economic wisdom continues to prove greater than that of his nominal (in every sense of the word) party. CBO: Budget deficit shrinks

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Two Dogs

These links go straight to vids that are safe for work (and frick'n hilarious), but the sites do contain some adult content, so fair warning.

One disturbed,

And one relatively relaxed.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Status of the Zoo

This is just an update about what's going on with The Zoo; I thought it'd be good to go ahead and mention the elephant in the room.

Since the elections back in November my heart really hasn't been into keeping up with a blog. They are a lot of work - more than most people think - and if you're not getting paid for it you need some other sort of motivation. When I started The Zoo that motivation was to do my meager best to counter some of the shrill leftist nonsense we were hearing about The War on Terror, and about Iraq in particular. It was also to help show that there are Classical Liberals ("libertarians") who were voting for President Bush, and to try and sway other moderate and independent types to support his candidacy.

Well, President Bush won. After the elections I found that I just didn't have a lot to say; it was nice to not have to care what Michael Moore was braying about anymore. I tried to shift focus, to make The Zoo more about games, movies, science, and other tidbits of geek culture, but I've since discovered that I'm only moved so far towards writing on such topics. More often than not, I simply don't care enough about the new FPS game from EA to spend a couple hours writing a review. Posting has now fallen off to an average of about once a week, not counting BPCP updates and whatever krakatoa submits. I don't see this changing for the forseeable future.

My purpose in posting this is simply to acknowledge that The Zoo is no longer a daily (or even a three-times-a-week) blog. It is now weekly or even semi-weekly. That is simply the amount of time and effort I'm willing to commit to it right now.

I can tell you for certain that:

1) BPCP updates will continue. Even if I don't feel like writing at all and nothing else gets posted all month, there will be a BPCP update on or around the 15th. I think the project is interesting and valuable, so I fully intend to keep up with it.

2) The Zoo will never be abandoned altogether. I enjoy writing it as an online journal if nothing else, so you will always find a few new posts here each month. Sometimes it might be two or three in the same week ... other times several weeks might pass between posts. It will be random overall, but will probably average out to one post a week, plus BPCP updates, plus anything krakatoa happens to write for us.

3) When the 2006 election season starts winding up, you can bet I'll start posting more.

So, there it is. It's not really anything you guys didn't know, but I thought explicitly stating where I'm at would be the right thing to do. As always, I encourage those who need a blog fix to visit those listed on my sidebar ... even if posting is thin here during the political off-season, there's plenty going on over at the neighbor's place.


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