Monthly Archives: July 2007

Pain, But Maybe Gain

In the Op-Ed section of yesterday’s New York Times was an optimistic essay on the situation in Iraq by Michael O’Hanlon (of the Brookings Institution) and the well-known Mideast expert Kenneth Pollack (no relation to any of the waka waka waka staff). The article is getting a lot of play today from the government for […]

Walking On Sunshine

From my former PubSub colleague Mike Zaharee comes a delightful link: history’s greatest spacewalks.

Fit To Print

We have learned today that Chief Justice John Roberts, while vacationing in Maine, was stricken by an “idiopathic” seizure, and taken to the hospital. This case is not without precedent, as apparently he suffered a similar episode some years ago, but at a robust 52, he seems the very picture of health. Or, to put […]

Do Rights Trump Wrongs?

Should there be a bedrock principle, in international affairs, of unchallengeable sovereignty? Should the international community allow the rulers of nations to do whatsoever they wish within their own borders, without interference, and without exception? I think the answer is no. H. Jeffery Hodges takes up the question here.

OK, Human

A recent post on the cold-blooded murder of a Korean hostage by the Taliban drew a great deal of commentary. We’re on the road today, but having a free moment and online access, I thought I’d re-examine the original post in the light of some of the criticism it has received.

Service Notice

We will be away from the waka waka waka command center from Friday afternoon until Sunday or Monday, with no guarantees of having either Internet access or anything worthwhile to say. We’ll be back in harness as soon as possible, but meanwhile please do browse our richly diverting archives, and be sure to visit the […]

Power From The People

Here’s a good idea: to harvest the restless energy of crowds of people. Two MIT graduate students have a plan to do just that.

Murder Most Foul

The Taliban have now begun slaughtering their South Korean hostages, according to recent news reports. Much has been made, not without good reason, of the monumental stupidity and arrogance of the hostages themselves. For these lunatics to imagine that their mission to convert fundamentalist Muslims to Christianity would accomplish anything other than to get themselves […]

Diverse Dan

I make no secret of my admiration for the philosopher Daniel Dennett. His intellectual interests coincide nearly exactly with my own: the puzzle of consciousness, the theory of evolution, the phenomenology of religion, and the question of human freedom in a world apparently ruled by a combination of deterministic and probabilistic laws. He has tilled […]

No Jokes, Please

By way of my friend Eugene Jen comes a remarkable story: a civil servant with practically no brain. Have a look here. I’ve heard of cases like this before. What I’m curious about — and I hope someone is going to look into this — is how the various functional parts are represented, how such […]

The Kung Fu Bug

I haven’t written about martial arts much lately, but I thought I’d like to give readers a glimpse of a kung-fu style they may not have heard about: Southern Praying Mantis. Although I have devoted myself pretty much exclusively to Hung Gar for the past twenty-five years or so, the sifu I studied with when […]

From Post to Post

As it happens, your humble correspondent was approached on the street by a Washington Post reporter yesterday, an affable young fellow who asked for an opinion about Wednesday’s events. I did offer a few observations, which found their way, with some looseness as to accuracy and context, into today’s edition.

Burned At The Steak

Recently blogger Dennis Mangan, the proprietor of Mangan’s Miscellany, offered his readers information suggesting that animal products in the diet are the cause of numerous health woes. It grieves me to offer more grist for his mill on this one, as I am a carnivore’s carnivore†, but he might be interested in this, which accuses […]

Moving Right Along

Well, after all the excitement in midtown yesterday, things are mostly back to normal, save for a few “frozen” blocks right around the site of the explosion (including, sadly, all of the places I usually go for lunch). We all know that one of these days we’re in for the real thing again, but this […]

Never a Dull Moment

I can see why living in New York City isn’t for everyone, and today was a good example. If nothing else, the weather, as is so often the case around here this time of year, was awful. Gotham is currently straddling a stalled frontal boundary, and with customary perversity we are just on the warm […]

The Same Old Story

Here’s a stunning headline, from the Toronto Star: Toronto’s Population Ages What were they expecting?

The Great Debate

In Peter Berkowitz’s response to Christopher Hitchens’s god Is Not Great, he make some worthwhile points, but also trots out some familiar and flimsy ones as well. Let’s have a go at those first; we’ll take up his better arguments — and he does indeed make some — in a subsequent post.

The Empire Strikes Back

In today’s Wall Street Journal is an essay aimed at the advancing ranks of atheist authors. The names mentioned are Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Victor Stenger, but the brunt of the artillery is directed at Mr. Hitchens (who is evidently a friend of the author, Peter Berkowitz, a fellow of […]

Not What I Meant At All

Given recent comments and emails, I should probably clarify my thoughts about religion’s place in the world. Though I have written rather disapprovingly on the topic lately, and although I do indeed think that religion is, and has been, an enormous retrograde influence on civilization’s progress (some lovely music and architecture notwithstanding), and an inexhaustible […]

Ain’t Superstitious

It is a poorly kept secret that I am deeply skeptical of religious beliefs and institutions. The empirical question of whether their net effect is a boon or a blight upon our wretched species is, one could conceivably argue, still an open one, and I do acknowledge that religion provides a harmless existential anodyne for […]

Comma Chameleon

With a hat tip to Kevin Kim, here is a wonderful example of the power of punctuation to alter the meaning of written English.

Equal Time

On Sunday, the New York Times published a long editorial, The Road Home, declaring the US effort in Iraq an utter failure, and insisting that we withdraw forthwith. Many agree. Of course, many of those who agree do so more from a visceral loathing of this administration and distrust of government in general, an inchoate […]

Big Job

Those of you with an interest in astronomy, and a fondness for order, might like to take a look here.

The Sound and the Fury

In a post a while back I explained why I don’t own an iPod or similar such gadget, the main reason being that I don’t enjoy the acoustic isolation they impose. Well, it turns out that there’s another reason you might want to doff those ear goggles from time to time; learn more here.

That’s A Little Better

We seem to have been delivered, however briefly, from the suffocating heat and humidity that have tormented us for the past few days. During the afternoon a robust frontal boundary made its way Gothamward across the Keystone and Garden States, and at about 5:30 or so the sky turned as black as an old bruise, […]

Closed For Repairs

I’m not quite myself tonight. Not only has the ghastly heat and fetor here in Gotham reduced me to a gibbering wretch, but at the end of the day I visited my periodontist, Dr. Louis Franzetti, who implanted two small screws in my upper jaw, as part of an ongoing cakehole-reconstruction project roughly on the […]

The Gathering Storm

The other day, my mind restless with the somber news of the world, and its echoes of familiar themes, I took from the shelf The Gathering Storm, the first book of Winston Churchill’s incomparable six-volume History of the Second World War. I say “incomparable” because there is really nothing else like it in all of […]

True, and Brawlie

I’m a peaceable fellow, but it was not without a wee quickening of my Scottish heart that I read (with a tip of the tam o’shanter to Dennis Mangan and his commenters) of the reception given a couple of jihadists recently up in Glasgow.


More stern stuff from Hitchens on the British terror plot, here.

Back to the Drawing Board

Alright, so much for “Back in Black”. Thanks to those who contacted me to tell me how much they disliked that new theme; I’ll find something else.

Back In Black

I was tired of the old look. What do you think? [Note: I had experimented with another visual theme, but nobody liked it, and I soon reverted. So this post might make little sense now.]

The God Confusion

I don’t comment over at Bill Vallicella’s website any more, but I still follow the conversations there, as they are often interesting, and attract a number of intelligent participants. Bill has put up an odd post today, however, which he calls The Humanity Delusion, in an obvious swipe at Richard Dawkins’s atheist manifesto The God […]

Search Party

Well, after such a plangent cri de coeur, it’s time to lighten up a little; one thing I always find amusing is to have a look at the search keyphrases that have brought folks here. Here’s a sampling of the current year’s crop:


I am going to have to stop reading the news one of these days, I think. What it brings me, day in and day out, is a bitter harvest of suffering and misery, gathered from all the world over, and it is getting to be more than I can bear.

Stop, You’re Killing Me

I recently promised readers a glimpse into my latest literary purchase — a 1936 publication called The World’s Best Jokes — and here it is. (We are on holiday at the moment, and I am simply too worn out from lying on the beach in the warm July sun, and from consuming draft beer and […]

Bush’s World

The Washington Post offers us an interesting and disturbing glimpse into the private life of President Bush; it is an odd life of isolation, and, one has to imagine, a kind of desperation as well. From the article: After reading Andrew Roberts’s “A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900,” Bush brought in the author […]

Comic Relief

We’re spending a few days at our seaside retreat in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, on the outer extremity of Cape Cod, and today found the memsahib and me poking around at a local flea market. I’m always on the lookout for odd books, and after I had already, with reluctance, been talked by my better half out […]