Monthly Archives: May 2009

The Problem

In a brief item posted today, Bill Vallicella wonders: Does it matter whether life has an ultimate meaning or not? Someone might be satisfied if he has a good chance of attaining middle-sized happiness: peaceful days, restful nights, an adequate supply of health and wealth, satisfying employment, a loving spouse, friends, progeny, long life, and […]

Reasons To be Fearful, Part 3

The link in the previous post was taken from a comment thread in a blog-post called to our attention by reader JK. The post, from the Federation of American Scientists’ Strategic Security Blog, is an attempt to assess the import of North Korea’s recent nuclear test (if that is indeed what it was). Related content […]

Have A Blast

Here’s a handy item for you hobbyists out there: courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists, it’s the Nuclear Weapon Effects Calculator. Enjoy!

You’ll Plotz

I’ve just got back from class, it’s almost eleven, and I haven’t the time or energy tonight to write the longish post I really want to be working on. So for this evening I’ll just leave you with a bit of froth from our friend and commenter “the one eyed man”: Old Jews Telling Jokes. […]

Curiouser And Curiouser

The latest phase in the persecution of the brave Burmese dissident Daw Aung San Suu Kyi by Burma’s odious and repressive ruling junta is underway, and today testimony was given in this bizarre case by the American John Yettaw, who swam across a lake to reach Ms. Suu Kyi’s house on May 3rd, and spent […]

War Of The Worlds

The Pakistani army’s new offensive against the Taliban has been underway for several weeks now, and it does appear that they have applied considerable heat. In today’s Wall Street Journal we find an article by Fouad Ajami in which the noted Mideast scholar weighs in on the struggle for the survival of the secular Pakistani […]

And The Winner Is…

It appears that the California Supreme Court has decided to uphold the ban on same-sex marriages that the state’s voters passed in November. There would have been vociferous manifestations of outrage no matter how the decision might have gone — either from those who felt that an activist Court had overridden the expressed will of […]

And The Winner Is…

Some years ago, anthropologist Donald Brown compiled a list of “Human Universals”: cultural traits that seem to be instantiated by all human societies. The list is broad, and contains almost all the things you’d expect to see: the collection includes belief in supernatural/religion, for example, as well as sucking wounds and language employed to misinform […]

Nothing To See Here

We are still on vacation, but I did find some time for the blogosphere this evening. I spent it, though, reading and commenting on a fascinating thread about free will over at Bill Vallicella’s place. Here. Related content from Sphere

The Way The Music Died

From our friend Sarah Zimmerman comes a link to an article by Steven Van Zandt about just what it is that ails the music business. Readers will know Steve as Bruce Springsteen’s long-time associate in the E Street Band, and as consigliere Silvio Dante from The Sopranos. I got to know Steven myself during the […]

Service Notice

We’re on vacation through Monday, and will likely not be writing much (though you never know). Please feel free to browse our extensive archives, or try the “View a Random Post” link at right. Related content from Sphere


From number 720, in the Krailsheimer edition: Ethics and language are particular, but also universal, branches of knowledge. In this illuminating insight the great Pascal anticipates moral philosophers and evolutionary biologists such as John Rawls and Marc Hauser by over 300 years. As homo sapiens we all share an innate moral faculty and finite ethical […]

The New, Eco-Friendly Honda POS

By way of Dennis Mangan, here is a review of the new hybrid car from Honda. It is less than favorable.

Exit The Tiger

The government of Sri Lanka has announced that the leader of the “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam”, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was killed in the sanguinary denouement of that nation’s long civil war. This news will certainly come as a great relief to a great many people in that tormented island. Mr. Prabhakaran was a ruthless terrorist […]

Gonna Find Out Who’s Naughty And Nice

It’s been a busy weekend — it often seems there is less free time on the weekends than during the week — so there has been little opportunity for brooding and writing. For tonight, then, here’s a cheery little item about Google and you. Related content from Sphere

Murder Most Foul

From commenter JK comes a link to a story about a young girl with juvenile diabetes who died because her parents, besotted by delusional religious fantasies, saw fit only to pray for her, rather than seek simple and effective medical treatment. We read: Last Easter Sunday, 11-year-old Kara Neumann of Weston, Wisconsin, lay motionless on […]

Boot Sequence

In what may be an enormously important piece of scientific work, chemist John D. Sutherland of the University of Manchester has discovered a reaction path by which RNA nucleotides can have been assembled from molecules likely to have been present in the Earth’s early environment. Related content from Sphere

The Good Guys

The Taliban, responding to Pakistan’s latest attempt to flush them out of Swat, has demanded that all government officials in the area must leave at once, or their families will be “arrested”. In today’s news we read that: On Wednesday, [Taliban spokesman Muslim] Khan denied reports from many refugees emerging from the Swat Valley that […]

Spam Spam Spam Spam

My old friend Dave Pauley, whose inbox is apparently as clogged as my own, has transmuted base metal into gold. Here is the result: Spam Sonnet Ascent your darling couch experience; Go for the strong virility you need. An MBA award to you convinced Of greater power deep inside your seed. Your stick will be […]

God Help Us

New words appear in our language almost every day. Sometimes, like a lovely wildflower or sturdy oak, they are welcome additions to the lexical landscape, delighting the rambler who encounters them for the first time. Some of these neologisms, however, produce an effect more like rounding a bend in the trail only to find a […]

Love Thy Neighbor

An item in the news today informs us that the celebrated and photogenic Catholic priest known as “Father Oprah” (whose actual name is — you just can’t make this stuff up — the Rev. Alberto Cutie) has admitted having had an affair of the flesh. This is always awkward for Catholic clergymen, and has put […]

It Rubs The Lotion On Its Skin Or Else It Gets The Hose Again

Over at CNN today we learn that a Saudi judge has ruled that it makes perfectly good sense, when wives spend more than they ought to on the accoutrements of their oppression, for their husbands to slap them around a bit. We read: Arab News, a Saudi English-language daily newspaper based in Riyadh, reported that […]

Straight Talk

We note that President Obama is planning an address to the Muslim world, to be given from Cairo on the fourth of June. I wonder what he will say. Probably it will be the usual bromides about respect, with reassurances that we still regard the the virulent form the religion has taken in a great […]

The Right Stuff

At CNN this morning we find Oprah Winfrey interviewing a Dr. Daniel Pink, who, in his book A Whole New Mind, suggests that linear, rational, “left-brain” thinking is hopelessly passé, and that those who wish to prosper in the brave new world of the 21st century had better get their right brains off the couch. […]


This can’t be good.

Vale Of Tears

The dazed and tottering government of Pakistan, humiliated by its attempt to appease the Taliban in Swat, is now making a conspicuous display of indignation. It has nullified the pigeonhearted agreement it signed with the vile jihadists, and has instructed the army to head back up there and have another go. They will no doubt […]

Just Asking

Perhaps the most important question of all is: what is the most important question of all?

Rock Me, Amadeus

Our friend G. Orcalimbo Jones, during the course of his radio show last Friday, tipped off his listeners to a marvelous Internet resource: a compendious archive of live recordings from the glory days of the old Fillmore and the King Biscuit Flower Hour. It’s called Wolfgang’s Vault, and you can find it here. Related content […]

Worlds In Collision

There was a brief item in the Times today about a court ruling against one James Corbett, a California schoolteacher who, it was ruled, violated the Establishment Clause by dismissing creationism in class as “religious, superstitious nonsense”. This offended the sensibilities of a student of his, Chad Farnan, who sought legal remedy, and got it […]


In an update to yesterday’s story, CNN is now reporting that the hapless Samantha Orobator will not face the death penalty after all, because she is pregnant. She became pregnant while in custody, which for a 20-year-old British woman facing capital charges in a Laotian prison probably does not mean that she fell in love […]

The Wrong Place

CNN is reporting a troubling story from Laos, where a 20-year-old British woman is facing possible execution by firing squad. She is charged with drug trafficking, and is alleged to have been caught in possession of heroin at Wattay airport: Samantha Orobator “is facing death by firing squad for drug trafficking,” said Clare Algar, executive […]

A Leaky Vessel

Today’s news carries a story about the motion picture industry’s seemingly intractable difficulties with illegal file-sharing. This is the same affliction that brought down the record business (and forced your humble correspondent to abdicate his career as a big-shot recording engineer and get a real job), although for the movie industry it is perhaps even […]

Work That Beak

The news has been chock-full of exciting and interesting items lately. Today we learn that Harvard researchers, after careful study of video clips of Snowball the Cockatoo, have concluded that we humans are not the only species capable of rhythmic movement. (Indeed, this precious gift does not even extend to all members of our own […]