October 31, 2005

The Average Meme

Apparently, a majority of Americans does or has the following things. I have struck the ones that do not apply.

  • Eats peanut butter at least once a week

  • Prefers smooth peanut butter over chunky

  • Can name all Three Stooges

  • Lives within a 20-minute drive of a Wal-Mart

  • Eats at McDonald’s at least once a year

  • Takes a shower for approximately 10.4 minutes a day (mine are shorter -- 3 to 5 minutes, except for an occasional 10 minute shower on a Saturday)

  • Never sings in the shower

  • Lives in a house, not an apartment or condominium

  • Has a home valued between $100,000 and $300,000

  • Has fired a gun

  • Is between 5 feet and 6 feet tall (I'm 6'2")

  • Weighs 135 to 205 pounds

  • Is between the ages of 18 and 53

  • Believes gambling is an acceptable entertainment option

  • Grew up within 50 miles of current home
  • Via Caltech Girl. Go wish her a happy first blog-day.

    Posted by JohnL at 08:55 PM | Comments (9) | | TrackBack

    Carnival of Music #19

    Buckethead and his perfidious minions have hosted a "prime" nineteenth Carnival of Music.

    Go check it out, and be sure to review the many fine articles linked therein.

    Some favorites:

    Be sure to check the archive page to read earlier entries in the Carnival, to submit a post, or volunteer to host. Many thanks in advance to Elisa Camahort for hosting our 20th Carnival next week.

    Posted by JohnL at 08:31 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

    October 27, 2005

    Photos From the Past

    Instapundit highlights a nice collection of old photos, developed from film found in antique cameras. Be sure to click the pictures on the main page to access the complete collection for each.

    Posted by JohnL at 11:47 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

    Cool Language Stuff

    Did you know that dictionary editors will include fake words to help them spot competitors that copy their entries wholesale? I didn't.

    This story just makes the language geek in me feel all cuddly and warm. How cool to spend your time reading a dictionary and trying to find the fake word.

    What? Why are you looking at me like that?

    (Via BoingBoing).

    Posted by JohnL at 12:15 AM | Comments (2) | | TrackBack

    October 26, 2005

    More Musical Fun

    Funny how you'll buy things you normally wouldn't as long as it's not really your own money being spent. (This is such a basic human impulse that I'm surprised anyone would be surprised by bloated government spending).

    I recently got a $10 iTunes gift certificate as well as an iTunes Music Store card good for 10 songs. As the result, I purchased the William Shatner spoken word collection entitled Has Been.

    I never thought I would say this about a Shat album, but, well, GET THIS ALBUM. It is produced by one of my favorite contemporary musicians, pianist Ben Folds, and features such noted guests as Joe Jackson and Aimee Mann.

    In particular, check out the song "Common People." It starts off with a great retro new-wave riff straight out of the late 70s/early 80s (high bass guitar, Vox/Farfisa organ bleeping), and Shatner sets the stage with an atypically restrained reading of these lyrics:

    She came from Greece,
    She had a thirst for knowledge.
    She studied sculpture at St. Martin's college.
    That's where I
    caught her eye.

    She told me that her dad was loaded.
    I said,
    "In that case I'll have a rum and Coca Cola."
    She said, "Fine."
    And in 30 seconds' time she said:

    "I want to live like common people.
    I want to do whatever Common People do.
    I want to sleep with Common People --
    I want to sleep with Common People like you."

    Well, what else could I do?
    I said,
    "I'll see what I can do."

    And it just gets better from there, with a strong punk/new wave vibe, a children's choir, Joe Jackson singing, and Shatner emoting as only he can.

    Check it out. You won't regret it.

    Update: I should note that "Common People" was originally written and recorded in 1995 by the UK band, Pulp, on their Different Class album.

    Posted by JohnL at 10:34 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

    Fun With iTunes

    If you have iTunes installed on your computer, go to the Music Store and look in the lower left for the category Celebrity Playlists. Be sure to click "see all" to access all 180 of the lists.

    The songs themselves are fun enough to check out. But even better are the comments that the list authors add to explain why they picked the songs on their lists. (It's very bloggy).

    Turns out that Penn Jillette (a libertarian comedian whom I shamefully confused with Al Franken for many years) has a playlist. Number one on his list, Sie Glauben Nicht from Alban Berg's opera Lulu, made me laugh out loud for this commentary: "Sometimes you just got to listen to really depressing, 20th Century 12 tone music. If you start thinking that rock 'n roll got far out, listen to this and shut up."

    I love it.

    The playlists served their purpose, as I found and bought (using a 10-free-tunes code) a few new songs from the Blue Man Group's playlist.

    Posted by JohnL at 08:40 PM | Comments (2) | | TrackBack

    October 25, 2005

    Hilarious Medical Tale

    Patrick Hughes relates a fantASStically funny account of his colorectal health.

    Via the Velociman.

    Posted by JohnL at 10:38 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

    Essential SF Movie Canon Meme

    This meme started out at Jaquandor's, and is based on SF author John Scalzi's list of the 50 science fiction movies he considers to be the most significant in film history.

    I've bolded the ones I've seen, italicized the ones I would like to see (or see again, where applicable), and placed a "Q" by the ones that are in my Netflix queue.

    The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension! (Q) (I need to see this again, as I was in a Shiner Bock-influenced state of mind the first time I saw it in college)
    Akira (I plan to see this someday, just to try and figure out what so many people I respect see in anime. My exposure to anime is limited to Speed Racer, Star Blazers, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh, so maybe I need to see the really good stuff to grok this bizarre sub-genre of SF).
    Alien (A classic. I own it on DVD and enjoy watching it every now and then).
    Aliens (The rare example of the sequel that is as good as its predecessor - the extended DVD cut is interesting, though not as tightly wound as the original theatrical cut).

    Back to the Future
    Blade Runner
    Bride of Frankenstein (Q)
    Brother From Another Planet

    A Clockwork Orange
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind
    The Damned
    Destination Moon (Q)

    The Day The Earth Stood Still
    Escape From New York
    ET: The Extraterrestrial
    Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (serial)

    The Fly (1985 version)
    Forbidden Planet (Q)
    Ghost in the Shell (Q)
    The Incredibles

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 version)
    Jurassic Park
    Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior
    The Matrix

    On the Beach
    Planet of the Apes (1968 version)
    Solaris (1972 version)

    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Q)
    Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
    Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
    The Stepford Wives (I've seen both. The original outshines the remake).

    Terminator 2: Judgement Day
    The Thing From Another World
    Things to Come
    12 Monkeys

    28 Days Later
    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
    2001: A Space Odyssey
    La Voyage Dans la Lune
    War of the Worlds (1953 version)

    Man, 64%. That's not even a passing grade. I need to add some more of these to my queue.

    Posted by JohnL at 08:59 PM | Comments (8) | | TrackBack

    October 24, 2005

    What Am I Worth?

    Here's a fun little blog-toy based on Technorati info:

    My blog is worth $82,422.84.
    How much is your blog worth?

    Anybody want to buy my blog?

    (Blogshares currently undervalues me, by almost $40,000! Bah!)

    Posted by JohnL at 11:29 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

    Contra Miers

    For the sake of N.Z. Bear's tracking system, I oppose the Miers nomination.

    I've kept mum until now on the Miers nomination. I was initially underwhelmed, and my estimation of Miers' adequacy for the job continues to decline.

    It was bad enough that she took a swipe at the Federalist society as being too political (while claiming the NAACP wasn't). Her few writing samples are simply banal. I would love to get a hold of a few of Judge Posner's thank you notes. I bet they're considerably better-written than the "Way Cool!" cards authored by Harriet.

    Part of me hopes this is a setup to make Janice Rogers Brown look stellar by comparison. If so, then Miers is truly a team player for the most brilliant man she has ever known. But I really doubt it. This President is simply not an intellectual, and this decision bears the hallmarks of a "gut call" as opposed to a well-reasoned selection process.

    For further thoughts, consult Jeff Goldstein (just click and scroll), whose opinions on this matter largely reflect my own.

    Also, check out the intellectual firepower on the board of advisors to the new Americans for Better Justice, which was formed by conservatives who support the President, but oppose the Miers nomination.

    Posted by JohnL at 11:02 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

    October 23, 2005


    The Carnival of Music remains in hiatus until we can find someone to host it.

    Meanwhile, you may recall that I highlighted the very cool ukulele-ist Jake Shimabukuro in the second Carnival of Music.

    Well, INDCent Bill has linked to a very nice video of Jake covering the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Check it out.

    Posted by JohnL at 10:56 PM | Comments (2) | | TrackBack

    Food Network Game

    Which Food Network chef are you?

    brought to you by Quizilla

    I don't know if that fits, as I've never seen Brown. The food "celebrities" I like best are Emeril, Jacques Pepin, Michael Chiarello, and of course Rachel Ray.

    Posted by JohnL at 10:47 PM | Comments (3) | | TrackBack

    New Pipe Organ in France

    Check out this article on the new Silbermann/Bach-style pipe organ recently completed in Paris.

    I have played both electromechanical and tracker (i.e., analog) organs and found the action of trackers to be more immediate and satisfying than the fly-by-wire organ consoles.

    Via Lynn (at her nicely redesigned and renamed blog, A Sweet, Familiar Dissonance).

    Posted by JohnL at 09:35 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

    October 20, 2005

    Old Town Blog Meet Report

    I got back into Dallas late last night after a busy, productive, highly-educational, and fun legal education conference in Washington D.C.

    While on the road, my Internet access was limited-to-non-existent, so today is the first chance I've had to post a recap of Saturday's blog meet in Old Town Alexandria.

    I can't really add anything to what's already been said by Steve (Buckethead), Mike, Princess Cat, Rob, Ted, or Dawn, so go read their excellent accounts of the evening. Also, big thank you's go to Lysander for making time out of his extremely busy solo law practice (I understand your posting rate, now) to visit with us and to Princess Cat's friend Matt the non-blogger for being such a good sport in meeting up with a bunch of unfamiliar bloggers.

    This was the first time I had ever met people in real life who were only "virtual" friends beforehand. It's nice to see the living people match up to their online personas. And it was especially nice to make the acquaintance of two bloggers who -- until now -- hadn't been on my blogroll (Steve and Dawn).

    The one thing I can add to the previous accounts is pictures, which you can see in the extended entry. Unfortunately my group shot is very blurry (the waiter had trouble operating my camera), but the others came out really well. One of the other attendees also took one, so please let me know when you post it.

    (Click for larger).

    Matt the non-blogger, Princess Cat, and Rob the Llamabutcher

    Rob and Lysander.jpg
    Rob and Dave (Lysander)

    Dawn (Caterwauling) and Ted (Rocket Jones)

    Steve (Buckethead) and Mike the Maximum Leader

    The Whole Group (one might say the blurred vision adds the right touch of "authenticity" here)

    Posted by JohnL at 08:54 AM | Comments (4) | | TrackBack

    October 13, 2005

    D.C. Area Blog-meet

    On the very small chance that any of my DC-based readers do not also read the Llama Butchers or A Swift Kick and a Band Aid, the aforementioned will be meeting with Rocket Jones, The Maximum Leader, yours truly (and a couple of extras) on Saturday night, October 15, in Old Town Alexandria at the Union Street Public House at 6:00 PM.

    I am traveling to Washington for an in-house lawyer education conference taking place Monday through Wednesday. Whenever one of these boondoggles education opportunities arises, I try to travel a couple of days early for some sightseeing. Having gone to law school in DC, I am familiar with all the sights and know my way around. Union Street Pub was one of my wife's and my favorite places to go with our married friends back in law school, so I'm looking forward to returning and getting to know some of my virtual friends face-to-face.

    If you want to meet up with us, head on down: we are calling ourselves the "Llama party" (no kidding).

    Posted by JohnL at 09:44 PM | Comments (7) | | TrackBack

    October 12, 2005

    Halo Movie Green-Lighted

    I love the video game Halo. I still spend a couple of hours a week playing different levels at the Legendary difficulty for fun. (Truth and Reconciliation is my favorite level right now).

    Halo 2 wasn't bad either. It was great for multiplayer head-to-head, though the campaign game didn't do much for me (I think they overdid the "story" at the expense of the gameplay. And don't get me started about being forced to play as a Covenant Elite).

    And, in a sure indication of terminal geek-hood, I actually bought and read the three novelizations of the game. The two books by Eric Nylund were actually quite entertaining (especially since I had negative expectations for them). The Dietz book - a play-by-play retelling of the game's plot - wasn't so good.

    Well, now it looks like they are going to make a movie based on Halo (to coincide with the launch of Halo 3). More interestingly, Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame, or infamy) will direct the venture use his Weta production facilities in Wellington, New Zealand where the film will also be shot. Alex Garland (not Eric Nylund) did the script, though I hope that they referred to some of the novels for backstory and plots.

    I am looking forward to this. It's long past time for a movie based on a videogame to be successfully done.

    (Hat tip: SFSignal).

    Posted by JohnL at 11:12 PM | Comments (5) | | TrackBack

    October 10, 2005

    Carnival of Music #18

    Devin Hurd is this week's host for the Carnival of Music, now in its 18th installment.

    I continue to be amazed and entertained by the breadth of musical subjects, from discussions of microtonal music to Jessica Simpson videos. Keep up the good work, people!

    We don't yet have hosts for the next several weeks. I would like to point out that our last Music Carnival in October will fall on Hallowe'en. I'm certain someone would like to solicit and publish some posts about spooky music through the ages... Anyone? Anyone?

    Volunteer to host or send your submissions for the next Carnival here. Use The Conservative Cat's handy online submission form here. And check out the archives here.

    Posted by JohnL at 10:20 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

    October 09, 2005

    Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (B-47 Stratojet)

    America's first swept-wing multi-engine jet bomber, the Boeing B-47 Stratojet:


    Rocket-assisted takeoff:

    Posted by JohnL at 11:30 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

    October 05, 2005

    Ten Big Things

    OK, Joe tagged me with this meme several days ago. This one took some thought.

    The source of the meme, Dan at Searchlight Crusade, explains his concept thus:

    We've been allowing ourselves as a society to lose sight of the big stuff in amongst all the little day-to-day stuff that goes on every day, rather than keeping focused on the end result of the big projects.

    Not everybody has the same list of Big Things, and most of them tend to be personal, not public or political in nature. It can be hard to keep them in sight, especially when you're thinking tactically from day to day and you need to be thinking strategically. People whose list of big things are different from one another, whether different in priority on the same items or having completely different items in the list of Big Things, are predictably going to have intractable arguments between themselves, which do not often admit of a mutually satisfactory conclusion. Nonetheless, if both sides to an argument are aware of their differences on Big Things, they are far more likely to come to an agreement to disagree more or less amicably, even if one wins the voting and the other loses.

    Big Things tend to be broad based, not specific issues themselves. It is rare that one vote on one item directly resolves a Big Thing. Big Things take dedication and years of work to resolve; on a day to day basis there are victories and defeats, some more important than others but few, if any, critical to the point of being a sure overall victory or defeat.

    So what are ten eight of my political "big things"? Check them out beyond the fold...

    1. The War Against Militant Islam.

      The main reason I voted a straight Republican ticket this last election was the utter failure of the Democratic Party to take the war declared against Western Civilization at all seriously. Mark Steyn reminds us of the nature of the struggle.

      I think Afghanistan has been a qualified success (especially given the dire predictions during the first week or two of the conflict). Capturing Osama would be nice, but at this point he has been largely neutralized without being martyred.

      As to Iraq, I think Wolfowitz had the right idea when he stated in an amazingly candid interview on September 13, 2001 that we must "end" states that sponsor terrorism to prevent another 9-11. That seems obvious. Too bad that was not the case made by our President when we went in. Unfortunately, I don't think our president likes to be bothered with big ideas, and distrusts ideologues, at a time when ideas and philosophy are critical weapons to preserve our way of life.

      And whatever one's feelings on going we shouldn't bring the troops home until the job is done. (Why the insistence on bringing them home so soon? We still have troops stationed throughout Europe and Asia as a result of WWII and the Korean War).

      Bottom line: as long as the political left continues to align itself with objectively illiberal and fascist regimes against American "hegemony", I will continue to be a very reluctant "clothespin" Republican for this reason.

    2. Respecting the Constitution.

      Despite its original failings (3/5ths and "such persons"), our constitution set up a system that keeps power from concentrating too much in any single place. When there are numerous competing sovereigns, the rights of the people are most secure against wholesale deprival.

      The Civil War and the "progressive" movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s led to some systemic changes (the 13th through 17th Amendments) that changed this balance.

      Joe describes government as the only "means to an answer" and distrusts corporations. I share some of his concern, but would ask from where corporations derive their power? They are fictional persons, created by the state, and playing by the rules of the state. I don't understand why government would be any more trustworthy of a monopoly. Our founders understood this and tried to create a system that would prevent a monopolization of power by anyone. I would like to see us move our system back toward that fragmentation of factions. Gridlock is good!

    3. Opposing Religious Fundamentalism.

      A corollary to the War on Militant Islam. I don't want to live in a "Christian" republic any more than an Islamic, Jewish, or Communist one. I like living in a secular nation. One in which all faiths are free to practice as they see fit, but none may force their beliefs on others through the clumsy machinery of the state. Next time a fundamentalist Christian tells you our country was founded as a Christian Nation, be sure to direct them to a history of Rhode Island, where Baptists originated the idea of freedom of religion from the state.

    4. Lowering Taxes.

      Another reason I voted for Bush last time around. I like keeping the money I make. Of course, we need to make sure the government cuts spending (or at least slows the rate of increase of spending) to match the tax cuts.

    5. Ending Prohibition of "Victimless" Crimes.

      My definition of a crime is an action by an individual that deprives a victim of some right of the victim through force or fraud and without justification or excuse. Purchasing and consuming drugs, procuring the services of a prostitute, sleeping with a member of the same sex -- none of these activities are crimes to me. Where is the victim? (Naturally, I see these activities as occurring between competent adults - activities where one party isn't competent to consent are a completely different matter).

      What about the deaths involved in the drug trade? What about prostitutes getting raped or murdered by their pimps or johns? Aren't those people victims? Of course. But they are victims of the crimes of murder, rape, assault, etc. And they are victims of the legal regime that criminalizes consenting behavior.

      The war on drugs has been disastrous: driving the drug market underground has led to the (predictable) consequences of any black market. We obviously didn't learn the lessons of Prohibition (one "progressive" experiment that -- thankfully -- was repealed). Mandatory prison sentences, erosion of fourth amendment protections, civil forfeiture laws that give the police the incentive to take private property to finance their operations, wiretapping laws, and many other tools that were originally designed to win the war on drugs are no longer used just to prosecute drug crimes. What about when the government decides to criminalize consumption of fatty foods? What about when the government decides to criminalize sharing an opinion negative of the war on terror?

    6. Biotechnology and Medical Ethics.

      I believe we should research embryonic and adult stem cells. I think therapeutic cloning could lead to the development of healthy, rejection-free organs to replace diseased ones without a donor. I don't think human life starts at conception, and I think the argument that it does is based on religious mysticism rather than science or an honest assessment of what makes us human. (More here).

      Having said all that, I actually cannot condemn the President for withholding federal funding of embryonic stem cell research any more than I could condemn him for not financing abortions or not paying for granny's prescriptions. Oh, wait. He mortgaged the future to give the boomers a huge and unearned prescription drug benefit, so I guess I need to condemn him about that.

      There is no constitutional basis for federal financing of medical research or medical procedures, so see item 2 above.

    7. Shrinking the Nanny State.

      This goes with respecting the Constitution. Another outdated "progressive" notion to me: the idea that agency administrators can best decide how legislation should be implemented and enforced. The technical enabling laws are subject to drafting by special interest groups and the agencies thus created are highly likely to be captured by the very businesses they are supposed to regulate. And even when they work, the agencies impose costs that ripple through the whole system. When you have thousands of regulations on the books, there is no way possible to comply with them all, so you basically create a nation of petty criminals that don't obey the law. This, I believe, eventually erodes the confidence that makes the rule of law work in our culture.

    8. Reforming the Legal System.

      I'm a lawyer. I think our system needs some radical changes. In every state of the union, our profession is a monopoly empowered by the legislature or highest state court (or both). I think breaking the state monopoly on lawyering would improve legal services across the board. There would be some wrinkles (mainly some effect on the attorney-client privilege), but de-regulation and competition always leads to improvements. I also think we should have the "English rule" -- i.e., losing party pays, as a deterrent to frivolous litigation.

    That's all I could think about for now, though I may update at some point in the future. I appreciate Joe's prompting me to reflect on these and I appreciate his reasonableness and courtesy in handling topics that can be so divisive.

    Posted by JohnL at 11:05 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

    October 04, 2005

    Happy Blogday to Me...

    Doh! I forgot to highlight the day -- on October 1, this blog turned two.

    Here's my first post, tentatively typed into the old Blogger interface back on October 1, 2003:


    Who am I and why am I here?

    I'm a Texan, a husband, a father, a lawyer, a musician, an SF fan, a soccer coach, a cyclist, and an amateur theologian. This is my first try at blogging, and I hope to weave the many interests I have into a cohesive narrative on life, the universe, and everything.

    So, what kind of tapestry have I woven over the past two years? Would you like to see some new threads make their way into the pattern? Let me know in email or comments.

    Thank you especially to my regular readers. I hope to keep y'all coming back.

    Posted by JohnL at 09:53 AM | Comments (8) | | TrackBack

    October 03, 2005

    Carnival of Music #17

    Bart Collins at The Well-Tempered Blog turns in a brilliant performance this week for the Seventeenth Carnival of Music.

    HurdAudio is up to host next week, and after that we have an open schedule. Check out the main archive for links to past carnivals, to learn about hosting, and other useful information about the carnival.

    Please volunteer to host here. Send submissions to the same address, or use the convenient online submission form at Conservative Cat's site.

    Enjoy some good music!

    Posted by JohnL at 11:16 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

    Heinlein Quote of the Month (October 2005)

    In sober truth no person can ever be truly responsible for another human being. Each of us faces up to the universe alone, and the universe is what it is and doesn't soften the rules for any of us -- and eventually, in the long run, the universe always wins and takes all. But that doesn't make it any easier when we
    try to be responsible for another -- as you have, as I have -- and then look back and see how we could have done it better.

    - Uncle Tom in Podkayne of Mars.

    Posted by JohnL at 09:35 AM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

    October 02, 2005

    Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (XFV-1)

    We return, briefly perhaps, after an extended hiatus...

    The unconventional, tail-sitting Lockheed XFV-1 was the prototype for a proposed U.S. Navy vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) point-defense interceptor. Designed to take off vertically, transition into conventional wings-level flight and then transition back to the vertical for landing, the airplane was powered by a 5,850 horsepower turboprop engine driving a pair of huge, three-bladed contra-rotating propellers. Fitted with a temporary undercarriage, the XFV-1 was first flown in a conventional mode at Edwards on June 16, 1954. Although, while in flight, it did demonstrate successful transitions from conventional into the vertical mode and back, its engine lacked sufficient power to guarantee safe VTOL operations and the whole concept of tail-sitting aircraft was soon abandoned in favor of designs employing vectored jet thrust.

    - Photo and text via Edwards AFB

    Posted by JohnL at 11:08 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack