Wednesday, January 28, 2009

North Tower Exploding

Another reason I don't buy into the "pancake" theory.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Legal Research

So tonight I'm watching some Boston Legal episodes from season 5.  Early in the episode entitled "Mad Cows", the point is made that 8 out of the previous 11 presidential elections had gone Republican.  That seemed a bit high to me, so I made a quick list:


2004  W

2000  W

1996  Bill Clinton

1992  Bill Clinton

1988  Bush Sr

1984  Reagan

1980  Reagan

1976  Carter

1972  Nixon

1968  Nixon

1964  LBJ


I went from memory, except for 1964, which I don't remember, having not yet been born.  But Wikipedia helped there.  By my count, we have Clinton (2), Carter, and LBJ winning a total of 4 of the previous 11 presidential elections, meaning Republicans have won the remaining 7.

I'm not sure why this is important to me, but did Boston Legal miss this?  Or did I miscalculate?  Please let me know if I missed something.

Song for Guy

About ten years ago, in 1999-2000, Elton John went on tour without his band.  I attended three of these shows.  When he performs with his band, his shows are excellent.  When he performs solo, however, he really shines.

Just in case you missed it, here is a clip from that tour, from Pontevedra, Spain.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Interview with a Blogger

I saw on Anna's blog something that looks suspiciously like a chain letter, but it seemed like a lot of fun anyway, so here it is.  Bloggers interviewing bloggers!  (The mind bloggles!)

The rules are:

1) Leave me a comment saying "interview me".
2) I will respond by emailing you 5 questions (I get to pick the questions)
3) You will update your blog with answers to the questions.
4) You will include the explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5) When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them 5 questions.

So here I am, facing 5 scintillating questions from Anna.  Here we go!

1) You have 1 bottle of Jack, 2 albums and 2 guests. What are the albums/guests and what happens when the Jack runs out?

 I realize that there is much innuendo in that question, but I'm going to skip that aspect of it, and try for people who I'd be interested in talking to for an evening. 

But who to choose?  So many possibilities.  I first thought I would list them, but now I think that would be cheating, so only two.  I'm certain I'll change my mind later, when I suddenly remember someone else, but I'll go with what I'm thinking now. 

Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings director)

Dennis Phillips (Finished 3rd in the main event at last year's World Series of Poker) 

I'm not sure the albums would necessarily complement the evening, but here's two faves: 

Puccini's Tosca

Vladimir Horowitz: The Last Romantic 

And everyone who knows me will chuckle at the very idea of the Jack running out.

2) What are your views on the death penalty? 

In a word, "contradictory".  I understand that there is evidence that it does not lower the homicide rate, but I cling to the idea that it must.  I will also admit that a bit of blood thirst is in play.  I wish we could speed the process up, as I feel it would be more of a deterrent if it didn't take so long.  At the same time, the foremost principle to be applied to these cases should be, "Be absolutely certain of guilt".

3) You are offered the chance to rule the world, but only for an hour and you can only pass 3 laws - what are they? 

1.  Get rid of all stores that end in "mart".  (Okay, I got the idea from Alan Shore on Boston Legal.  But still.) 

2.  "24" will no longer be shown on television in its current one-hour-per-week format; instead, they must broadcast all 24 episodes in a full-day marathon that I can TiVo. 

3.  Sarah Palin is cast out.

4) If you were a chess piece, which piece would you be and why? 

The knight.  Elegance, with a touch of trickiness.

5) If you ran a cult, what would it be called and what would its main principles be? 

Goodness gracious, I have no idea.  I've always wanted to run a cult.  I am so annoyed by the simpleminded idiots that plague this planet that the idea of having a bunch of them serve me after donating all their money to me is quite appealing. 

So the only answer I can come up with is we'll call it the Ponzi Cult, and it's main principle would be to spawn more cults, with a unidirectional cash flow and a clever accountant.

Rush Limbaugh Hates America

I saw this news story the night before the Inauguration.  It includes the following quote by Rush Limbaugh: 

"They didn't give Bush a chance in 2000. Before he was inaugurated, the search-and-destroy mission had begun. I'm not talking about search-and-destroy, but I've been listening to Barack Obama for a year and a half. I know what his politics are. I know what his plans are, as he has stated them. I don't want them to succeed." 

Pause, while this sinks in. 

Okay, let's start with the first part.  In my opinion, no one, ever, gets to claim that Bush was a "victim" of a "search-and-destroy mission".  He got away with ignoring, avoiding, and dismantling the Constitution to an unprecedented degree, starting a war on false pretenses, and being a global embarrassment to us all. 

His predecessor got impeached for lying about having sex. 

However, it is the second part of this quote, in particular the last sentence, that truly reveals who and what Rush Limbaugh is.  If you have ideological differences with someone, what you would say is, "I don't believe your policies will succeed."  If you say, "I don't want them to succeed", then what you are saying is that you don't care if the country suffers; the important thing is that your opponent is wrong.

One problem I have with the entire right-wing apparatus in this country is that so many of them think this same way.  To be honest, if they added an ounce of common sense, not to mention common decency, they would have my support.  But I will not abide any person, or group, who would rather see their enemies fail than their nation succeed.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.  It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.  You rarely win, but sometimes you do." 

- Atticus Finch, "To Kill a Mockingbird" 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

WTC Core

One reason I don't buy into the "pancake" theory.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Proposition 8

I am in favor of same-sex marriage.  To my mind, there is simply no rational reason to deny people this right.  There are several legal rights that go along with marriage, such as tax breaks.  It is unconscionable to deny these rights to an entire group of people. 

So when the Mormon church actively campaigned in support of California's Proposition 8, I felt it was tantamount to a hate crime.  It caused me to recategorize it as a political organization.  I realize that they have been active in politics for some time in my home state of Utah, but in my mind this crossed another, firmer line. 

On one hand, I just don't see why they, or anyone, give a rat's ass.  I fail to see how it would diminish the so-called "sanctity of marriage".  That's a religious term, and no one is suggesting that churches be forced to "sanctify" these marriages by hosting them or officiating in any way.  Your temple marriages are safe. 

On the other hand, I'm afraid I do understand.  It's fun to hate.  It's fun to discriminate.  It's fun to pick on minorities.  I don't know this firsthand; but I see it all over the world, and throughout history.  Indeed, when the Mormon church first started out, they were similarly disparaged.  The hypocrisy is stunning. 

I am also finding that it has colored my view of my Mormon friends.  I generally don't care what my friends believe, yet I am finding it increasingly difficult to ignore these hateful, bullying acts.  It's sad, because some of them seem to be likeable, quality people.  But I am experiencing difficulty reconciling what they appear to be with the actions they take.

Update: posted a relevant video.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Bible Studies: Beautiful People Wanted

"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, speak unto Aaron, saying, whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God.  For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous, or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, or crookbacked, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken; no man that hath  a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the Lord made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God.  He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy.  Only he shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I the Lord do sanctify them."

Leviticus 21: 16-23

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

They Still Get To Vote

"Almost 47% of this country didn't vote for Obama, perhaps because they disagreed with him on the issues, which is fine, but some, no doubt, because they thought he was Muslim, with terrorists on his speed dial; and others because they were convinced he was not only socialist, but even worse, a bad bowler; and others still because they simply loved those cream colored jackets Sarah may have to give back.

But there's one thing all those idiots have in common.  They still get to vote." 

- Alan Shore (Boston Legal)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Gentle Genius

I was just on the phone with Norm, and he asked me what kind of blog I was creating.  I answered, "Varied".

This segued into a reminiscence about Igor Ivanov.  (Varied.  I told you.)  And now I'd like to share with you.

Igor Ivanov (1947-2005) was a great chess player, who I had the great fortune to know.  I even played against him on several occasions.  None of these contests were at all close, so great was the disparity of skill.

One year, we were both playing in the Utah Open Chess Championship.  Prior to the event, Igor and I were talking.  We may even have been playing Hearts; this was a common pastime.  I mentioned to him that I hated playing chess against him.  Not because I always lost, but because I never learned anything in the process.  Seventeen moves or so into a game with him, I would simply have a hopeless position, and resign.

When I told him this, he chuckled.

In round two, we were paired against each other.  We met at the table and set up the pieces, and waited for play to begin.  Just before the round began, he leaned across the board, and in an almost conspiratorial whisper (and his thick Russian accent) said, "Today I teach you good lesson."

He proceeded to crush me.  Again.  I'm certain he had a winning attack after about 15 moves.  Instead of pursuing it, however, he retreated, consolidated his position, and remained a pawn ahead.  One pawn.  He was actually willing to spend the next few hours slowly torturing me, and finally defeating me, with that small advantage.

So I resigned.  That'll teach him!

I have many other recollections of the man.  It occurs to me that I took for granted my association with him.  Somehow, it just always seemed so natural that this amazing, gentle genius was playing hearts with me, or joking with me, or playing the piano spectacularly, or cooking the worst liver I have ever had.

I didn't recognize my great fortune at the time.

(Norm has an even better tribute here.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

The George Bush You Forgot

tip to Max

Chess vs Poker

I see that Norm has put the word out, and it has generated traffic.  Many thanks, and keep up the good work at onegoodmove!

Norm and I have known each other for longer than we would care to admit.  We used to see each other 2-3 times a year at chess tournaments.  I have, over the past few years, grown fond of poker tournaments, mainly online.  Norm and I were discussing this recently, and I lamented the fact that we didn't latch onto poker earlier.  Poker tournaments and chess tournaments have a lot in common.  Both are populated by what might kindly be referred to as a diverse group of people.  ("Full of maladjusted jerks" would be unkind, see.)  In both events, the prize pool is put up by the participants.  There is a great opportunity to socialize with friends who share at least one common interest with you.  The main difference I see is that, in chess tournaments, every once in awhile one of your buddies wins $100 or so, and buys breakfast.  At poker tournaments, every once in awhile one of your buddies wins $250,000 or so, and buys a weeklong orgy in a Bellagio suite.

Oh well.  I'm sure even Phil Hellmuth would be amazed at my mastery of the Najdorf Sicilian, and possibly even Norm's stupid Gruenfeld Defense.

Anyway, I've given up chess.  (Don't kid yourself, friend, I still know how.)  My current goal is to experience the terrifying exhilaration of sitting down to play in the championship event at the World Series of Poker.

Followed by a week at the Bellagio.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

You Know Who You Are

A friend of mine posted this on his blog.

It's a picture of a billboard. The text starts with, "Attention Lunatic Atheists". As many of you might imagine, this caught my attention.

Now, I have many friends who are Christians. In fact, I was discussing this very picture with one of them this evening. But here's my take on this. Believe whatever you like. Believe in the virgin birth. Believe in the resurrection. Believe that aliens deposited trillions of alien souls into our volcanoes, if you wish.

But do not then try to fashion yourself as a bastion of rationality by calling the rest of us "lunatics". If you are trying to embarrass us, it won't work. If you are trying to convert us, it won't work. All you are trying to do is feel better about yourself at the expense of others.

As an aside, and possibly a prologue to a future post, I find it quite telling that some religious groups, having themselves faced a history of persecution, find it entirely acceptable to then persecute other groups.

You know who you are.