Monday, November 30, 2009

A Happy Coming Out Story

...from a college hockey player, Brendan Burke, who is the son of the president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brian Burke.  The wonderful thing about is how proud Brian is of his son and how supportive, and how wupportive Brendan's teammates are.  I'm firmly convinced that this story is becoming more common because of the courage of so many gays and lesbians who have come out.  Kudos to all involved.


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Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy 50th Birthday to Rocky and Bullwinkle

The birth of a classic series!

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Astronaut Reality Show

Now that's one of the few reality show ideas Iike!  Thanks, Dannis, for the tip.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Book Review: Strange Brew

Title Strange Brew
Author P. N. Elrod
Rating ***1/2
Tags short stories, anthology, fiction, witches, vampires 

Elrod edits good anthologies. This one is a collection of stories about vampires and witches, or vampires who are witches, in several cases. Authors include Elrod, Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, and more. Butcher's is a Harry Dresden story, and Harris' is in the Sookie Stackhouse universe but doesn't have Sookie as a character.

I enjoyed all the stories, though one or two were a little too melodramatic for me.

Publication St. Martin's Griffin (2009), Edition: 1, Paperback, 384 pages
Publication date 2009
ISBN 0312383363 / 9780312383367

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Book Review: First Rule

Title The First Rule (Joe Pike)
Author Robert Crais
Rating ***1/2
Tags joe pike, elvis cole, private eyes, mercenaries, series, mystery, thriller 

Robert Crais's main mystery series is about Elvis Cole, a private eye in Los Angeles. Cole's partner in his investigative agency is former mercenary and former cop Joe Pike. Crais has now written some novels in which Pike is the main character and Elvis the sidekick, and this is one of them.

Frank Murphy, his wife, and two sons, aged 10 and 6, were all murdered in a home invasion that seems to be part of a series of home invasions in which eleven people total have been killed. Frank had been a mercenary under Joe Pike's command, but left when his wife insisted he give up that life. He became an importer of clothing and by all accounts, happy and content in his new life.

Joe feels bound to investigate, and to would prefer to find the killers before the police do, as his punishment would be more final. The Murphy's nanny was also killed, and she seems to be the key as to why the Murphys were attacked.

Joe Pike is an interesting character. The phrase "I don't like violence but I'm very good at it" might have been invented for him. Actually, he doesn't seem to like or dislike violence. It is a tool he uses when's just needed a lot. Pike is an honorable character.who deals with a lot of people who are not.

I'm ambivalent about characters like Pike. I don't like the level of violence.... but if I were in trouble, I would certainly like to have somebody like Pike looking out for me.

Overall, I liked this book a little less than others by Crais. It seemed a bit formulaic. However, Crais is the kind of writer I'd rather read at his worst than most other authors' best.

Disclaimer: I participate in the Amazon Vine program and received this book free in return for reviewing it.

Publication Putnam Adult (2010), Hardcover, 320 pages
Publication date 2010
ISBN 0399156135 / 9780399156137

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

SNL Video Sarapocolypse

Very funny video.

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Man Arrested for not Tweeting

As reported by Mashable.

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Darwin and his Opposition

My library does a monthly bathroom newsletter called the T-Paper.  It is one 11x17 sheet of paper with arresting graphics and short library-related articles.  Most months have a theme, and for November the theme is Darwin, since 2009 is the two hundredth anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin of Species.  The graphic is of a fossil skeleton, the artibcles are about Darwin's life, the voyage of the Beagle, the Darwin Awards, etc.  The person who hangs them told me yesterday that they've been disappearing from the men's bathrooms.  Apparently there is a male sensitive soul out there that cannot bear to be reminded of Darwin's existance, and so takes it upon himself to censor Darwin for all the guys.

Censorship is evil.  Besides the obvoous problem that it deprives people of ideas, it means the censor has so little faith in the power of his argument that he can't stand the mention of any counterargument.

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Hilarious Video: Kirk Cameron Action Kit

From Funny or Die:

<div style="text-align:center;width:480px;">The Kirk Cameron Action Kit - watch more funny videos</div>


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Some Republicans Defend Civilian Trail for KSM

The Republicans in question are James Comey and Jack Goldsmith, who were officials in the Bush administration, though admittedly both left because they couldn't stomach what the Bush administration was doing.  Goldsmith's book The Terrror Presidency, about his time in the Office of Legal Counsel, is a great read, by the way.

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Great Pun from Lolcats

Another great marriage of image and caption.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Paul Krugman Disputes the Conventional Wisdom on Deficits

He thinks joblessness a greater danger than deficits, given the numbers for each.  Who's right?  Well, I keep going back to the fact that Krugman and a very few others were warning about the dangers of a housing bubble some years back, while those currently worrying about deficits were saying that housing prices could continue upwards forever.


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Al Gore on Saturday Night Live

Pretty amusing.



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Actor Edward Woodward Dies

He was an actor I really liked.  I remember watching The Equalizer, and thought he was great in Wicker Man though I have VERY mixed feelings about that movie.  He was lovely in a role in the short-lived series Crusade, playing alongside his son Peter.


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Friday, November 20, 2009

Republicans Think ACORN Stole Last Year's Vote Ed Brayton points out in this article.  He also points out that even if every voter registered by ACORN was a fraudulent vote, Obama still would have won by several million votes.


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About Rush on Terrorism

This article points out that Rush Limbough's attack on the trials for terrorists ignores minor things like oh, say, the US Constitution.  And that's a huge part of the problem... too many on the right wing ignored the abuses of the George W. Bush against the Constitution, and now go ballistic at any attempt - and the Obama administration has made too few such attempts, and continued some of the Bush administration's worst abuses of the state secrets claim - to bring us back to the rule of law.


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Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Benefits of Knowing Someone Who is Out and Proud

Ed Brayton has an important post on why the younger generation so heavily supports LGBT rights.  The most important thing is that they know people who are gay and out and know how those people are affected by society's prejudices.  Brayton is straight, I'm a Kinsey 2 bi, but he points out that once you know that there are people you care about who are gay you can't view their lack of equal rights as anything but wrong.


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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Favorite Yahoo Answers

See this list of funniest answers on Yahoo Answers from the Huffington Post.  My favorite so far is the question about the Russian-Georgia war.


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Images from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

...are available in this Mashable article.   The images look fantastic.  I like the things Tim Burton does usually so am looking forward to this movie.


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Tom Friedman on Being a Green Hawk

There's a lot of things I disagree with Friedman about, but his arguments in this column for a green economy are not part of them.

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Godwin's Law

... is something I was not aware of before this post by Paul Krugman.  According to him, it "says that in any sufficiently long online discussion, someone will compare his opponent to Hitler".  I think that's so true it is apparently an unbreakable law of the universe.


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Fun with Leaves

Funny New York Times piece with captioned leaves.  Hard to describe, take a look.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fun Google Logos

Mashable article on some recent interesting Google logos.


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NASA Page Debunking 2012 Myths

Since so many people seems to be worried, here's a NASA page about 2012 myths.

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Stereotyping by Religion

Ed Brayton does a smart post here illustrating the problems with religious stereotyping of Muslims by comparing it to religious stereotyping of Christians.


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Funny Headline

A friend sent along this bwa-ha-ha of a headline:

"Centrist caught in middle in health debate"


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Real Life Vampires Seek Tolerance

They're even in the news.  Sigh.  Reminds me of a vampire play I saw many years ago that tried so hard to be shocking.  A friend of minie also attending leaned over and whispered, "the children are so conventional".


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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wonderfully inspiring Story

...from Nick Kristof, about a woman who will soon have her doctorate despite coming from dire poverty and violence.

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Non-Religous Arguments Against Gay Rights

Thi article is very valuable.  It looks at the arguments by someome else against gay rights on grounds other than religion, such as economics or health, and demolishes them pretty thoroughly.  One of the important things to note, though, is that the person trying to make the economic and health argument is a Christian.  I don't see anyone else much making ANY arguments against gay rights.  And if, in the end, the argument being made is a religious one, then it is unconsitutional, a violation of freedom of religion and of equal rights.

And I wish that those making these arguments, who are in all proability heterosexual, would look deep inside and ask how they would feel if they were told that because of someone else's religion, they could not marry the person of the opposite sex that they love and want to share the rest of their life with.  I'd also like it if they could explain to me what exactly is going to happen that is so bad if same sex marriage is allowed.  It won't affect heterosexual marriage in any way.  Look at Massachusetts, for example.  They've had gay marriage for a few years now, and they have the LOWEST divorce rate in the nation.

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Good Introduction to Paganism

If you're curious  about what it means to be Pagan, here is a good introduction.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Minority Rights Should Not Be Subject to Majority Vote

Good article by Wayne Besen on the best ways to fight for LGBT rights.   He also brings up a point that often gets lost in the referendum madness.  Our Constitution was set up to protect the rights of individuals who are part of minority groups, and guarantees equal rights to everyone.  Thus referendums should not be allowed to overturn those rights.


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Positive News for LGBT Rights

This article talks about the gains for LGBT nominees and rights that happened in the November elections, despite the heartbreak in Maine.


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End of the World Myths Debunked

...and about time, too.  Too many people are fearful about 2012.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

LolCats Love Poster just irrresistable.  Save it to look at when you have a bad day...

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Muslim Soldier Reports on Knowing Hasan

... and was uncomfortable with his views.

Even more important about this post, though, is the point Ed Brayton makes toward the end:

"Here's what I think is very important to remember on this issue: There is not one Islam but many Islams, just as there is not one Christianity but many Christianities. The Christianity of Fred Phelps is different from the Christianity of Jerry Falwell, which is different from the Christianity of Jim Wallis, which is different from the Christianity of Barry Lynn or Bishop Spong.

The disagreements between these groups are so deep and so fundamental that it is absurd to group them under the same label. At one extreme are gay-affirming clergy and at the other extreme are those who want to put gays to death. At one extreme are those who want a complete separation between church and state and at the other are those who advocate a brutal theocracy.

The same is true of Islam. The Islam of Osama Bin Laden is not the same as the Islam of Muqtedar Khan or Louis Sufay. And just like the Bible contains enough contradictory statements that one can find inspiration and support for everything from sublime kindness to the most depraved barbarism, the same is true of the Quran. Decent, caring people will find plenty of support for being decent and caring in either the Bible or the Quran; cruel, brutal people will find plenty of support for cruelty and brutality.

We need to stop thinking of major religions as a single monolithic group. They simply don't fit that narrative."



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Pentagon Ignored FBI Warnings on Torture

We knew this, but now there is new documentation for it.  The FBI warned that there were serious concerns about the effectiveness and legality of torture.

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Animals with Light Sabers

Ah, the wonders of photo editing... now see animals wielding light sabers.  Thanks to Mark for the link.



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China and India Cold War?

Interesting article from the Times of London on the competitive relationship between China and India.  They do a lot of trading with each other, but also have some border disputes, and a rivalry for resources.  Given their size and increasing economic heft, this may be the defining international relationship of the 21st century.


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Christian Janitor Dies to Save Muslim Women Students

A Janitor at a school for Muslim women intercepted a suicide bomber, stopping him from entering a cafeteria full of students and detonating his bomb there.  He was a Christian, a minority in Pakistan, and poor.  The government promises to help his family, and I hope they do.


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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Great Tree Houses

My brother sent me a photo gallery of gret tree houses as an email, so i looked for a web site and found this one that has some great designs for tree houses.  Amazing stuff!


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Honoring Veterans

Today we honor our veterans, espcially those who gave their lives for freedom.

I talk a lot about what I perceive to be wrong with this country, and it is easy to misunderstand that as not caring about it.  I do.  I love this country wholeheartedly.  I'm seduced every time by the ideals of the Founding Fathers.  Their ideals couldn't be carried out perfectly in their lifetimes...politics being then as now the art of the possible.  What I do want to believe is that we can keep making progress towards achieving those ideals, and that's why I speak out about those things that seem to me to get in the way of achieving them.

What has that to do with Veteran's Day?  That I honor those who have been willing to put their lives on the line, especially those who lost their lives or were wonded, to give this contry a chance to reach its ideals.  And I honor those who served in support capacities as well as on the front lines.  My father was captain of a truck company in the South Pacific during World War II and he was in the Army Reserves in logistics units for many years.  Oddly the most memorable stories he told were the things that went wrong:  they drove the trucks through volcanic sand so often the brakes wore out, and they couldn't get replacements, so they had to learn to be very good at shifting gears... the endless number of ways the cooks learned to serve Spam... waking up to feel the ground shaking in his first earthquake... hearing the sound of the bombs falling.

This Veteran's Day is even more poignant than most because of the Ft. Hood tragedy.  Soldiers should never have to fear dying so senselessly in their own country.

What do I most want for our soldiers?  That they be paid a living wage.  They they have the best equipment possible, especially protective gear.  That they get the best possible care when injured.  And, most of all, that their leaders only send them to war as the last resort when there is no other option.

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Scientist Acton Figures

Collect the whole set!  Includes Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Curie, and Tesla.  I love it that there are scientist action figures almost as much as that there is a librarian action figure.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Openly Pagan Man wins Election

Dan Halloran, who is openly Pagan, has been elected to New York's City Council.  That's surprising enough, but he's been elected as a Republican, which makes it truly unusual, given the normal GOP ties to the Christian Right.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Fall of the Berlin Wall

...hapened 20 years ago today.  This was one of the most incredible, inspiring events of the Twentieth Century.  I can remember what an amazing feeling it was to watch freedom exploding across Eastern Europe.

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Great Quote on the Role of the Journalist

This post has a great quote on the role of the journalist by Dan Froomkin:

"Journalists should strive for accuracy, and fairness. Objectivity is impossible, and is too often confused with balance. And the problem with balance is that we are not living in a balanced time. For instance, is it patently obvious that at this point in our history, the leading luminaries on one side of the American political spectrum are considerably less tethered to reality than those on the other side. Madly trying to split the difference, as so many of my mainstream-media colleagues feel impelled to do, does a disservice to the concept of the truth."

Brayton points out that while this is true, the journalist "should call out either side on an issue when they become untethered to reality.".

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Letter from the Wife of a Muslim Soldier

Posted here by Ed Brayton.  It talks about the difficultires of being Muslim in the military or as a Muslim military wife after last week's Ft. Hood massacre.

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Mashable: Some of the Most Inspiring Videos

Mashable has porduced this list of ten of the most inspiring videos on the web.  Looks like some good ones.  So if you need your day uplifted, try these.


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Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

...the book is out now.  This blog post has more on what is becoming a whole new treand.  The Amazon page for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has recommendations in what is becoming a burgeoning literary trend, such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim.

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Book Review: Skeleton Key

Title Skeleton Key: A Gregor Demarkian Novel (Gregor Demarkian Novels)
Author Jane Haddam
Rating ****
Tags mystery, series, gregor demarkian, heiresses, connecticutt 

Another in the Gregor Demarkian series by Jane Haddam. Bennis Hannaford is staying with Margaret Hanson, mother of heiress Kayla Anson. Bennis finds Kayla's body in Kayla's BMW in the garage. Immediately Bennis sends for Gregor to investigate.

The book has Haddam's usual eclectic mix of characters. The character that comes through least is that of Kayla, but that serves the purpose of the narrative.

Bennis and Gregor have taken their relationship to another level, but Bennis's health may be in danger.

Good work in a good series.

Publication Minotaur Books (2001), Edition: 1st, Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages
Publication date 2001
ISBN 0312978650 / 9780312978655

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Book Review: Fountain of Death

Title Fountain of Death (Gregor Demarkian Series)
Author Jane Haddam
Rating ***1/2
Tags mystery, series, gregor demarkian, fitness clubs 

Another in the Gregor Demarkian series.. This one is set in a fitness club whose owners are about to take their business national.

Good story. This is the second of the series where the policeman in charge of the case is not one of the good guys. He calls Gregor in to investigate, then doesn't let him investigate, and uses the case to get his own name in front of the media as much as possible. At any rate, having, for the most part, reasonable and competent police is one of the most attractive aspects of the series. I never liked all the novels where the police are obstreperous and aggressively usless.

Publication Crimeline (1995), Edition: 1st Printing, Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages
Publication date 1995
ISBN 0553564498 / 9780553564495

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Interview with Energy Secretary Stephen Chu on the Smart Grid

Article from Mother Jones.with an interview with Energy Secretary Stephen Chu on the smart grid and on how to price energy to encourage conservation and renewable energy use.


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To those Opposed to Tax-funded Abortions

If you have the right to say that you don't want your tax money spent on abortions, I have the right to say that I don't want my tax money going to kill innocent people in unnecessary wars.


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NASA and European Space Agency to Join Forces on Mars Programs

See this article from the BBC.  By the way, I see more news stories on NASA from the Beeb than I do in American news sources.


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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Book Review: Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al-Quaeda

Title Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda
Author John E. Mueller
Rating ****1/2
Tags nuclear weapons, weapons of mass distruction, terrorism, nuclear war 

Calm down, everyone. The world is not going to be destroyed by nuclear weapons, or chemical or biological ones, either. That's the gist of this well-researched and well-reasoned book Whether it will get heard or not is another matter, it flies too much in the face of conventional wisdom.

The gist of the book is expressed at the end of chapter 2, and it is worth a lengthy quote:

Consequences of overstatement

To repeat: it is certainly true that nuclear weapons can be massively destructive. Moreover, if thousands (maybe hundreds) of the largest are launched, the results on society could be as calamitous as the alarmists insist - or nearly so. But because an all-out nuclear attack with thermonuclear weapons could be catastrophic, it does not follow that that similar descriptors should unthinkingly and casually be applied to explosions that would do vastly less damage, however horrible the consequences of those explosions would be in their own right. Moreover, it obviously does not follow that because these weapons exist, they will necessarily and inevitably go off.
Nevertheless, because of the vivid, dramatic, and unforgettable impression left by the Hiroshima bombing, and in part perhaps because of the exertions in the postwar period by legions of alarmists from all corners of the political spectrum, nuclear fears have escalated to the point where simply lacing the weapons into the conversation often causes coherent thought to cease.
Concern about nuclear weapons and about their awesome destructive capacity is certainly justified. But routine exaggerations of that capacity, and the obsession with the weapons such exaggerations have inspired and enforced, have often led to international policies that have been unwise, wasteful, and destructive - sometimes even more destructive than the bombs themselves.
Thus, wars have been fought and devastating economic sanctions have been inflicted to prevent fully deterrable and containable countries from obtaining nuclear weapons. And the consummate horror that terrorists might be able to obtain a nuclear bomb has inspired costly policies and exertions, often without any consideration about how likely dread consequences are to happen."

Mueller goes into some depth about the actual level of lethality of WMD and the difficulties in manufacturing and using them. They require a pretty high level of technical expertise and equipment Security controls have improved. The chances, therefore, of terrorists getting hold of WMD are quite small, and he goes in-depth into the number of steps required and the probabilities of each - and also the probabilities that ALL the required steps could be successfully accomplished, which are vanishingly small.

He also goes into the reasons that more countries have not chosen to create and stockpile WMD. There are the above difficulties, plus the fact that WMD cost so much for weapons that in the end have little tactical usefulness.

Mueller also discusses that well-meaning efforts to diffuse the threat have often been counterproductive. Nuclear scientists exaggerated the dangers of nuclear weapons in attempting to see that the weapons would never be used and to prevent any other war like World War II. Anti-proliferation regimes may have encouraged some proliferation in order to have "bargaining chips" for negotiations. The author is particularly incensed that so many people have died due to the economic sanctions imposed to prevent proliferation, much less in wars fought for the purpose, all of which have been far more deadly than the weapons themselves would have been.

Mueller provides a vast amount of knowledge of the topic allied with cogent reasoning. His extensive notes and bibliography attest to the degree of study he has put into the subject.

Read this book, and sleep better at night. More importantly, send copies to government officials making weapons and diplomatic decisions.

Publication Oxford University Press, USA (2009), Hardcover, 336 pages
Publication date 2009
ISBN 019538136X / 9780195381368

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Book Review: Bright-Sided

Title Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America
Author Barbara Ehrenreich
Rating ****1/2
Tags happiness, optimism, positive thinking, reality 

If ever a book needed to be published, this one did. I may not agree with all of it, but I do with a lot of it, and think it could be an important first step on having a mature conversation about the dangers of positive thinking. That Ehrenreich can even publish such a thing will strike many as akin to heresy... what could possibly be wrong with positive thinking? Several things, it turns out. The largest is that it tends to blind the practitioner to reallity. The author points out that critical thinking is essential to survival, and critical thinking is inherently skeptical.

Ehrenreich starts out with the area where the dangers of positive thiinking first intruded into her life, her struggle with breast cancer. In the community of women dealing with breast cander, positive thinking is a required secondary disease. It makes it difficult for the women to expess their honest feelings of fear and anger, as that might lead to not beating the disease. And it leads to those who have the disease being blamed for it if they do not beat it... accusations that they didn't try hard enough, didn't get rid of negative thinking, etc.

From there Ehrenreich moves on to the use of positive thinking in business, where its rise happened at the same time as jobs were disappearing overseas and workers lost any sense their job was secure. Remaining workers embraced the positive thinking out of fear that not being sufficiently positive, no matter the circumstances, would lose them their jobs, and often they were correct. And a new breed of managers appeared, who payed less attention to the nuts and bolts of realistic management, and started relying on their intuition and "gut instincts". Being less realistic, they were willing to take more and more risks. For those at the top, the risks paid off until the recent economic collapse, and their experience became more and more isolated from the experiences of the worker, who was experiencing loss of high-paying jobs,loss of benefits, and rising levels of debt.

Ehrenreich also goes into the prosperity gospel preachers and the purveyors of positive psychology Each, she thinks, had a role to play leaidng up to the financial crisis that began in 2008.

In her last chapter, she discusses the topic from an international perspective, and points out that dictatorships of all idealogies have punished people for saying that all is not perfect with life under the dictatorship. So the flight from reality that is a danger of too much positive thinking is not limited to the US or to capitalism.

There are two other related downsides that the author sees with positive thinking. One is that it insists you see your life as good no matter what the circumstances, blinding one to reality. That makes it less likely that people will work to create real change, to address the real problems of poverty, injustice, war, etc. that exist. And by insisting that the person is to blame for a life that isn't happy, it breeds a lack of empathy and compassion.

Is it better to be happy than unhappy? Yes. But happiness comes from making real improvements, not by ignoring problems.

Publication Metropolitan Books (2009), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 256 pages
Publication date 2009
ISBN 0805087494 / 9780805087499

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Liberal Feminist Case for the War in Afghanistan

Excellent post by Ed Brayton on the issue of whether the U.S. should continue fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan based on the terrors the Taliban impose on women.  It discusses views of Afghani women both pro and con on the topic, and shows that there isn't a simple answer.


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Astronauts and Their Internet

Interesting article on the kind of internet connectivity the astronauts on the International Space Station have.


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Jon Stewart's Spoof of Glenn Beck one of the funniest parodies I've ever seen.  It runs rather long, over 9 minutes, but is well worth it.  I saw it first last night as it aired on the Daily Show and I noticed the audience wasn't laughing a lot... I think they were so enthralled they didn't want to miss a word.


<table style='font:11px arial; color:#333; background-color:#f5f5f5' cellpadding='0' cellspacing='0' width='360' height='353'><tbody><tr style='background-color:#e5e5e5' valign='middle'><td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;'>The Daily Show With Jon Stewart</td><td style='padding:2px 5px 0px 5px; text-align:right; font-weight:bold;'>Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c</td></tr><tr style='height:14px;' valign='middle'><td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'The 11/3</td></tr><tr valign='middle'><td style='padding:0px;' colspan='2'></td></tr><tr style='height:18px;' valign='middle'><td style='padding:0px;' colspan='2'><table style='margin:0px; text-align:center' cellpadding='0' cellspacing='0' width='100%' height='100%'><tr valign='middle'><td style='padding:3px; width:33%;'>Daily Show
Full Episodes
</td><td style='padding:3px; width:33%;'>Political Humor</td><td style='padding:3px; width:33%;'>Health Care Crisis</td></tr></table></td></tr></tbody></table>

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Sympathies to the Ft. Hood Wounded and the Families

Why, oh why, when some people go crazy, do they have to take it out on other people?

What a horror, what sadness.  Sympathies to the families of the dead, healing energies to the wounded, and to the national psyche that is damaged over and over by this kind of horrific event.... Virginia Tech, Columbine, so many others.

And please, I do NOT want to hear anything similar to Muslims are violent.  It is no more true than saying all Christians are violent because of Scott Roeder or Eric Rudolph.


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Word of the Day: Metrotextual

From the Schott's Vocab column in the New York Times.  A metrotextual is "A description of men who use “kisses” when texting."

Clever word... it is a fun column.

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Random Kitten Generator

When the world gets to be too much, take a look at a random adorable kitten picture.

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100 Historical Moments Captured on YouTube

Article lists 100 historical moments you can see on YouTube, though that's not strictly accurate, a few are reconstructions.  Funny to see this today after finding the Welch vs. McCarthy piece which isn't in the list) yesterday.  A friend and I used to call that silly s**t synchronicity.  Below is a very short clip from an interview of Rosa Parks done shortly after the bus ride.



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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Welch vs. McCarthy

Fascinating piece of history.  I had heard of Joseph Welch's "have you no decency?" comment to Joseph McCarthy, but it is interesting to actually see it.



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Reality Pill on American Health Care

Nick Kristof here discusses the myth that American health care is the best in the world.  It isn't, and believing that it is has seriously bad consequences.



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Roundup of opinion on LGBT Issues and Tuesday's Election

Is in the Opinionator.  It displays the breadth of opinion on the issue.  One thing I'd like to see mentioned is that it was the intention of the fournders, specifically James Madison, that the rights of minorities should never be determined by majority vote... that, instead, everyone would have equal rights.  Our definition of those rights and who should be covered by them has expanded since the Constitution became our supreme law, and giving LGBT people equal rights is seen by many of us as one of the last steps in fulfilling the promise of the Constitution.


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Congressional Budget Office on Republican and Democratic Health Care Plans

See Ezra Klein's article here.  Summary - the Democratic plan will cut the deficit more while covering many more people than the GOP plan.

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Research on Improved Solar Cells

Since renewable energy is so important to the planet's future, I'm fascinated by any more efficient solutions.  This research being done at Georgia Tech looks promising.

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Want a Fun Place to Live? Don't try Argleton, England

...because it doesn't exist.  It does appear on Google Maps, though.  I fully expect someone to now write the fantasy history of Argleton.


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Great picture

Another lolcats... this one a perfect marriage of image and comment.

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William Shatner Poetically Reads Levi Johnston's Tweets

See the video.  Page has links to Shatner reading Sarah Palin's tweets and her farewell speech.

Life can be fun.

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Anti-Tax Initiatives Failed

in those states that had them.   The article points out that similar Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) laws in the past have had disastrous outcomes in the past.  Also points out that contrary to expectations, the important thing in a state's economy is the services it offers which attract businesses, and that states with higher taxes often are also higher income areas..


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Gay Candidates in the South

...did surprisingly well in several races, and in some achieved the ideal - the vote was on the issues, not on the fact they are gay.


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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Yglesias on Defense Spending

Matthew Yglesias here makes some excellent points on defense spending.  Accompanied by a startling graph.

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Ministers Apologize at Gay Pride Event

From a post by Ed Brayton.  Ministers from gay-affirming churches in Atlanta apologized to those attending a gay pride event for the way churches have treated LGBT people over the years.  Hooray!  Some people Get It.


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What Paganism is Like

This post from Starhawk, a Pagan leader, shows what Samhain can be like Pagan religion. For those who might be curious.



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Attention-Grabbing Title

Not perhaps work safe..

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Science and the Imagination

Olivia Judson, an evolutionary biologist, has a column in the New York Times that I greatly enjoy.  In this column, she discusses science and how it evolves, and how important imagination can be to its progress.


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For Dinosaur Fans

The earliest ancestor to Tyrannosaurus Rex has been identified.  It is actually a fossil skull that was found 100 years ago, but they didn't know what it was until now.


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Sad News from Maine

The law allowing marriage equality has been repealed.  As far as public opinion has traveled, it isn't far enough yet.  I have many gay friends and co-workers, and to my mind, it is devastatingly horrid to tell them they do not have the same rights as straights.  I believe it is forcing LGBT people to live their lives according to someone else's religion, and I believe this is unconstitutional.  It is being said that some people voted for repeal because they were afraid that their kids would be taught in school that homosexuality is ok.  There are two things wrong with this... one, the law ensuring marriage equality had nothing in it about the school curriculum, and (2) kids need to be taught that homosexuality is ok.  A large percentage of teen suicides are related to LGBT issues.  If you tell a gay teen that that which they are born to be is bad, YOU ARE KILLING KIDS.  I suggest reading the book Prayers for Bobby for one woman's struggle with this issue after her gay son committed suicide.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Book Review: Deadly Beloved

Title Deadly Beloved: A Gregor Demarkian Mystery
Author Jane Haddam
Rating ****
Tags mystery, series, gregor demarkian, politics, suberbia 

This volume has one of the best plots in the series. A woman in a suburban gated Philadelphia development murders her husband and disappears. Her car is blown up in a parking lot later the same day. Haddam goes into the lives of her neighbors and her old friends from Vassar.  Meanwhile, in Gregor's neighborhood, Donna Morodanyan's wedding is getting closer and Donna's decorating turns the neighborhood into something out of a fairy tale - but the father of Donna's litle boy tries to stop the wedding.

Good read.

Publication Crimeline (1998), Edition: 3rd printing, Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages
Publication date 1998
ISBN 0553572008 / 9780553572001

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Book Review: And One to Die On

Title And One to Die On
Author Jane Haddam
Rating ****
Tags mystery, series, gregor demarkian, maine, islands, movie stars 

Movie star Tasheba Kent disappeared from Hollywood with her lover Cavender Marsh in 1938 when Marsh's wife and Tasheba's sister Lilith died in what was ruled an accident. Kent and Marsh went to live on an island off the coast of Maine. Now Tasheba's 100th birthday is coming up, and she and Cavender are having an auction, and have invited people involved to the island. Bennis Hannaford is a relative of Cavender's and she is invited and takes Gregor Demarkian along. While on the island a storm makes leaving and communications impossible, and, of course, a murder happens.

It infuriates me, as a would be writer, that Haddam can take a cliched plot like murder on an island in a storm and make it work. She does.

Publication Crimeline (1997), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 304 pages
Publication date 1997
ISBN 055356448X / 9780553564488

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Book Review: Baptism in Blood

Title Baptism in Blood
Author Jane Haddam
Rating ****
Tags mystery, series, gregor demarkian, south, north carolina, lesbians, goddess worship 

An interesting volume in the Gregor Demarkian series. A friend of Gregor's, a professor at Columbia, is writing a book on atheism while staying in the small Southern coastal town of Bellerton, North Carolina. The baby of his typist has been murdered, and some women in a neighborhood women's community of mostly lesbian, mostly abused, women, are accused by the mother of the murder while performing a pagan ritual. Some in the neighborhood believe it, some are convinced the mother did it.

Another well-told story in the series, with characters representing the full spectrum of the community... though many fit small-town, Southern stereotypes who resent the Northern journalists that see them as ignorant hicks.

Publication Bantam Books (1996), Edition: First Edition, Paperback
Publication date 1996

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Book Review: Bleeding Hearts

Title BLEEDING HEARTS (The Gregor Demarkian Holiday Series)
Author Jane Haddam
Rating ***1/2
Tags mystery, series, gregor demarkian, self-help 

This is the first I've read of the Gregor Demarkian series where the murder hits in his Armenian neighborhood. His middle-aged, plain widow neighbor, Hannah Krekorian, holds a party for a man she started seeing recently. He is Paul Hazzard, a recovery guru who was acquitted four years before of killing his second wife. At Hannah's party, with Gregor in attendance, he in turn is murdered.

This was a good book, but not one of my favorite so far, in part because one or two of the characters are really obnoxious. Doesn't turn me off the series at all... Haddam has a talent for getting inside of people, and they are not always people one would like to know.

Publication Crimeline (1995), Edition: 1st THUS, Mass Market Paperback
Publication date 1995
ISBN 0553569368 / 9780553569360

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