Wednesday, July 30, 2008

God Can Do Anything...

...including making a Cheeto look like Jesus on a cross:

This, of course, comes on the heels of a previously reported Jesus-praying Cheeto :

Oddly enough, they both call their cheetos "cheesus." I see lawsuits in both of their futures.

Even more impressive than God's ability to make Cheetos that look somewhat, kind-of-but-not-really like Jesus, is God's power to turn these Cheetos into national news stories.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I'm between family reunions this week, so postings will be light. I did manage to get out a short, throwaway column for Smile Politely though: Fryers, Broilers, and Roasters, which touches on the country, chickens, and family reunions.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I'm a Citizen!

Good news for my status as super-patriot. I barely passed the US citizenship test (85% correct), available here.

I had to guess which amendments to the Constitution did not address or guarantee voting rights. I guessed the 24th, but it was actually the 7th (curse that right to a fair trial for not being about voting rights!)

Also, I didn't know which INS form was used for naturalization (a trick question, in my opinion, since no true American really needs to know anything about naturalization).

Finally, I mistook the quiz as being about actual practice, rather than theory, and said that it is the president who declares war. After all, Congress has not declared war since WWII, and we've been in dozens of military escapades during that time. I guess civics demands that we continue to believe it is Congress' responsibility.

A test about US government practice would be quite different from one about theory. However, it would probably not be appropriate for schoolchildren or immigrants.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Sniping Continues

I've been cranky lately, hence, the preponderance of politics and cheap shots in my recent posts. The trend continues in my Smile Politely column this week: A Touch of Crazy, where I make snide remarks about Michael Gerson, Cal Thomas, and the News Gazette Commentary page.

Maybe I'm just gearing up for my upcoming family reunions...

Monday, July 21, 2008

This Will Be Hard to Spin

From Der Spiegel:

"Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki supports US presidential candidate Barack Obama's plan to withdraw US troops from Iraq within 16 months. When asked in an interview with SPIEGEL when he thinks US troops should leave Iraq, Maliki responded "as soon as possible, as far as we are concerned." He then continued: "US presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."

Given the rhetoric we've heard about Obama, does this make Maliki an appeaser?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Al Gore Rocks

While the Republicans continue to push for drilling oil in environmentally damaging ways that will not help the oil crisis much, Al Gore is calling on us to face up to the challenge of our energy crisis:

"We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that's got to change."

"There are times in the history of our nation when our very way of life depends upon dispelling illusions and awakening to the challenge of a present danger. In such moments, we are called upon to move quickly and boldly to shake off complacency, throw aside old habits and rise, clear-eyed and alert, to the necessity of big changes. Those who, for whatever reason, refuse to do their part must either be persuaded to join the effort or asked to step aside. This is such a moment. "

“Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years. This goal is achievable, affordable and transformative. It represents a challenge to all Americans – in every walk of life: to our political leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and to every citizen.”

Barack Obama said the right things in response:

“For decades, Al Gore has challenged the skeptics in Washington on climate change and awakened the conscience of a nation to the urgency of this threat. I strongly agree with Vice President Gore that we cannot drill our way to energy independence, but must fast-track investments in renewable sources of energy like solar power, wind power and advanced biofuels, and those are the investments I will make as President. It’s a strategy that will create millions of new jobs that pay well and cannot be outsourced, and one that will leave our children a world that is cleaner and safer.”

However, I wish he would be more out front in this issue. He might be in trouble if he continues to call for generic change, given the slime that is coming his way.
I think he needs to gather around a big, specific idea, and brand himself with with it. Let everyone know that if he is president, the US will be a leader in alternative energy and find a way to become energy indepedent. We could put space program-like energy into it, and rally enough people to make it happen.
Meanwhile, let the Republicans throw their mud and demand that we drill oil offshore. They do that anyway, regardless of the candidate or issue.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Names, Names, Names

Thanks to The Urban Mennonite, I've been wasting time all day playing with The Name Voyager. It turns out that Dan (or Daniel, my proper name) is more popular than ever, at number 5 in 2007!

It's funny how competition kicks in like this, especially considering that I claim to value uniqueness.

But I'm not alone in my desire for uniqueness (heh). The graph results tell the story: There were twice as many babies named Dan in the 1980s as now, and yet Dan was number 7 then, and is number 5 now. This is because so many people are picking less common names for babies. It takes fewer people of the same name to be ranked high. (In case you are curious, Emily and Jacob were the number one names in 2007.)

I wondered how our family names rank in 2007, so I looked them up:

Chloe: Ranked 16, but not used much until the 1990s. She was born in 1994, so she had a fashionably unique name for awhile, but then everyone copied.

Jasmine: Ranked 32, but "Jasmin" is separate, and clocks in at 203. Again, not used until the late 80s and then took off in the 1990s. See Aladdin (1992).

Anthony: Like Dan, Anthony has been popular since the time of Pharaohs (or lions' dens), and is currently number 7 (sorry buddy, maybe next year).

Jill: Sadly, Jill is not listed in 2007, which means she didn't make the top 1000. Her name peaked in the 1960s (when she was born) at 61. Her buddy Jack has made a comeback though, and it currently number 38, only slightly lower than his johnnie-come-lately fashion mate, Jackson.

OK, I'm done wasting time. Time to go transport the bodies associated with these names to their various afternoon lessons and appointments.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Married People Rock

My Smile Politely column for this week is now available: Married People Rock, where I make fun of being married.

After yesterday's New Yorker cover, I'm feeling a bit nervous about doing satire. But, as my brother mentioned, it does fullfill a lifelong dream (well, months-long, anyway) of including The Flight of the Conchords into a column.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The New Yorker Cover

The liberal blogosphere exploded today over the new cover of The New Yorker. The cover was intended to be a satire of all the outrageous things that kooks believe about Barack Obama - that he is a flag burning Muslim mole and his wife is some sort of militant black nationalist:

However, without any context, it does more to reinforce this kind of misinformation than challenge it. Americans, satire, and political campaigns mix about as well as oil, water and rocks, so I don't think many people are going to be laughing about this. The irony is that there is a 16 page article on Obama in this issue that is said to be largely positive. And yet I would guess the average person seeing this on a news stand will think that the New Yorker believes Obama is going to institute Sharia law once elected president. Such is the power of images over words. Sigh

As a side note, how dumb do you have to be to believe Obama will institute Sharia law as president? It first requires enough racism and prejudice to believe that a black person is unable to attend a public grade school in Indonesia for a year (that had Muslims in attendence) without being forever brainwashed into a radical sect of Islam. Then it requires a lack of even rudimentary knowledge of how our government works and what the constitution is and the powers that a president has. Finally, it requires you to believe that the American people would just stand idly by and let something like that happen.

Yes, I know, these are probably the same people who fervently hope for the return of a Christian theocracy. In fact, that's probably why they take these ridiculous smears so seriously. They might be hoping something like this happens, except in favor of their own version of religion.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pictures at a Revolution

I just finished Mark Harris’ “Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood.” It’s a solid read about the 5 movies that were nominated for the 1968 Best Picture Academy Award. It covers the transition from the production code era, where words and scenes and ideas were simply not allowed to be filmed, to the ratings system we have today, where anything goes, but with a label warning people about content. It was also the time period where bloated, road-show musicals gave way to movies that reflected contemporary social conditions.

In the last few weeks, I’ve watched (for the first time) In the Heat of the Night and Bonnie and Clyde, and also saw The Graduate for I think the 3rd time. I had seen Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in the late 80’s, and after reading the book, skipped Dr. Dolittle, which was included only because of bloc-voting from the studio.

The Graduate was better than I remembered it, but I have to admit that I was unable to recreate in my loft (where I usually watch movies) the social, political and cultural context of 1967 that would have enabled me to truly appreciate why these movies are so good. I understand why Sidney Poiter slapping a white guy was so cathartic in 1967, but I just kept thinking that In the Heat of the Night looked a lot like a TV show from the 70s. Bonnie and Clyde may have been the first counter-cultural cool bad guy movie, but its spawn mastered the genre a lot better.

That’s the thing about new, groundbreaking films, books, music, art, ideas. They are usually not nearly as good technically as the best of what comes after them. It’s their originality that makes them important, and as they are copied, they will seem less original to later generations, when they become clich├ęs. I can watch them, noting the scenes that are groundbreaking, and appreciate them intellectually, but it isn't the same as living through it.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Washington Street Parade

My entry at Smile Politely this week is a nifty piece of ethnocentric, Champaign historic district exceptionalism that explains why our local Washington Street Parade is the best one in the entire world.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Dance of Matt

Nothing says freedom like doing a silly dance with people in every corner of the earth, plus a demilitarized zone:

Thanks to my old colleague Ian Olsen at SourceGear for forwarding this to me. The guy in the pictures is Matt Harding, who apparently travels a lot.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Plastic Bag Problem

If you've been forgetting to feel guilty lately about using plastic bags, here's a website that will help get you back on track:

There are a lot of words in the article, but it all boils down to this:

Drug Legalization

My weekly Smile Politely column is up: Some Thoughts on Drugs and Social Policy. It contains tepid approval of drug legalization as a way to reduce violence in the world.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tuesday at the Pool

I took the kids to Shalom pool today in Champaign. It was a lot like caddie day.

It alternated between this:

and this:

Nonetheless, it was Tuesday afternoon and I was at the pool. You know the old saying: A day at the pool with thousands of people thrashing around and evacuating every so often because kids keep pooping in it is better than a day at work.

I think it should be amended: A day where you have the opportunity to go to the pool with thousands of people thrashing around and evacuating every so often because kids keep pooping in it is better than a day where you are required to go to work.

All in all, I think the idea of going to the pool is better than actually going to the pool. I would have preferred to write silly blog entries.