Leave The Cloud Out Of It (At Least For A Day)

The obligatory link: Rumsfeld to be honored Friday at Pentagon departure ceremony

Here we have a man who has gone out of his way to be of service to his country over a period of many years. While the news writers may have this need to sneak in parting shots, this is a time where we should be thankful for what he's done for this nation. Well, at least they left him a nice headline... (Isn't it sad that that's the best that can be said of them?)

If you're so inclined, you can leave a message here.

They Say "Still No Cure For Cancer"

The obligatory link: Diabetes Breakthrough

But isn't that close? Scientists are saying they've got a way, at least in mice to virtually stop diabetes. Not a whole lot of commentary needed here. That's just hot stuff.


One Man's Countdown To World War III

Many thanks to Brainster for bringing the following to the attention of the CPR crowd. I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking read if you follow the link:

A post by Teflon, entitled "The Countdown to World War III Continues"

One War On Christmas Carols

The obligatory link: Howell rule limits choirs' sacred tunes

3.33 to 1? Aside from being an arbitrary limit, let's see how this works out in practice. I'll sing Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, the Twelve Days of Christmas, and the first third of O Christmas Tree before I get in the first religiously-themed song? That's just the way I'd be tempted to do it, too. Y'know, just cut straight from the end of the first verse of O Christmas Tree to something along the lines of Joy to the World with no warning.

It's a silly rule at best, but if it can't be ignored entirely, work with it in such a way that eventually people will agitate for its removal.

Would You Admit It If You Did?

The obligatory link: Russia no longer murders spies: KGB veteran

Let me get this straight: A veteran of the KGB, whose stock in trade is secrets, and being secretive, is trying to convince people that Russia is no longer killing turncoat spies? Granted, it's not exactly the most believable thing in the world from anyone even remotely attached to the Russian government at this point, but c'mon, couldn't they have found someone more believable than a former spy to deliver this message?

After all, what better plausible deniability is there than to use a method that a former spy essentially calls unprofessional? Sure, that's incredibly conspiracy-theory-ish, but as Russia continues to revert to its totalitarian past before our eyes, is it really so far out there to believe that they'd go back to killing spies, too?

Why, Exactly, Should We Do This?

Naturally, the obligatory link: City Giving Free Condoms To Male Prisoners

Really, doesn't the title say absolutely everything that needs to be said here? When they called it Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love... this ain't what they intended, pure and simple. Prison isn't supposed to be a nice place, and it's certainly not supposed to be a place where we go out of our way to make the lives of the people who've been deservedly put there easier.

Sure, people can go on about how "the cost is minimal", and "it may save expenses and lives", but we've long gone past the general purpose of prisons. If we're not trying to kill these people, all we owe them as human beings is the minimum sustenance necessary to survive. It doesn't have to be spotless, it doesn't have to be gourmet, and it certainly shouldn't involve cable television and safe sex condom distributions.

Let's face a simple fact here: We're nice to these people. Sure, we incarcerate them, but the moment we do, life improves for many of 'em. Something to consider, next time someone brings up this country's expansive prison population. We're going too far out of our way, and society at large seems to have no interest in finally drawing the line on it.

Japanese of the Week

I've been considering making this a daily, but I won't for the time being. Anyway, let's get on with it. For those using Firefox, I think I've figured out how to display text in it. If it doesn't display properly, go to View, Character Encoding, More Encodings, East Asian, and select one of the Japanese options (probably Shift_JIS).

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しんじられない (shinjirarenai) - "can't believe it", from the verb 信じる (shinjiru) - "to believe", "to believe in", "to place trust in".


Losing the Language?

The obligatory link: Texting blamed for bad English

It shouldn't come as any surprise that this one falls near and dear to my heart, being somewhat of a stickler for the written language (and even I can be colored guilty of any number of emoticons, which will probably find their way into use here, eventually). The question is, though, are we seeing the death of written English, or its next form? To wit:

(All examples pulled from Wikipedia articles, unless otherwise noted - search English Language for a starting point.)
Starting with the Old English, which began around the fifth century, and ended around the eleventh century:
Hwæt! wē Gār-Dena in geār-dagum

How many people now can really read that? Well, maybe if you've done extensive study of the story of Beowulf, but that's certainly not going to form a majority. So, let's move on.

In the middle of the eleventh century though the beginning of the fifteenth, we have Middle English:
And smale fowles maken melodye, That slepen al the niȝt with open ye—

Now, we've lost most of the characters which we modern folk would consider "strange", with the exception of the 3-lookin' deal which appears to be the approximation of a "gh". Still, much more readable than the Old English example, and most people could probably puzzle it out.

That brings us to Early Modern English, from the middle of the fifteenth to the middle of the seventeenth century:

Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosèd here.
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.

From Shakespeare's tombstone, attributed to the bard himself. Again, the trend toward what we consider English today is evident, and the meaning should now be plain without any need for guesswork.

After that, the language that we consider English today developed. Now, did you notice, the times between the changes have grown considerably shorter since the beginning. Old English lasted about 650 years, Middle English a respectable 400 years, while Early Modern English lasted about 200 years, and Modern English has lasted about that long as well. Though, there are obvious changes even in the past 200 years, they deal more in word choice than spelling, at least until recently. (Consider, for example, the Declaration of Independence versus any of my posts here.)

Now, I'm not trying to say that text messaging and instant messaging is necessarily bringing about the next revolution in written English, but based on the timeline of the language, aren't we slightly overdue for just such an event? Until it's proved beyond the slightest doubt, though, and even beyond... "If u c m3 doin ths"... kick me. Hard.

Ripples of 231 Years

"Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of. Our enemies are numerous and powerful; but we have many friends, determining to be free, and heaven and earth will aid the resolution. On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important question, on which rest the happiness and liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves." -- Joseph Warren, on March 6th, 1775

Honoring Heroes

Over at The Radio Patriots, Andrea Shea King and Mark Vance have a great post about the story of an American soldier in Iraq. It's amazing, and I'd suggest that each and every person who reads this should go over and check it out.



As usual, the obligatory link: "Convert or Die" game divides Christians

Honestly, didn't that read like satire? To the best of my knowledge, though, it isn't... I mean, the by line is for a Chronicle staff writer with a link to said writer's SFChronicle e-mail address, so unless someone's playing an April Fools joke in December, we'll have to assume this is genuine. That being said, a bit on the content, if I may...

What, exactly, does gunning down unbelievers have to do with the Left Behind series? Yes, I understand that the game is supposed to be somehow inspired by the series, but I fail to see where the inspiration comes in here. From the description, it seems much more like it happened to borrow the setting from the novels, and then wandered off on its merry way.

Of course, having read the novels, I can't say I ever thought, "Hey, this would make a great video game!", so from that angle, I suppose I can't fault the publisher for having to come up with something with play value, if for no other reason than to capitalize on the series name recognition. It's not really unlike the fact that certain game series still sell very well even though their hayday storytelling-wise is long past.

As to the "they should pull it from their shelves" aspect, the only way it differs from any other game where it's possible to gun folks down is that the protesters and the writer can work in the religious angle. And the gratuitous Grand Theft Auto reference, simply a requirement these days when writing about violent video games.

Overall, if the writer is being serious, not satirical, it's a weak article about a weak game, and it'll probably drive sales up instead of the hoped-for downturn.

On a side note, having gone to the official website for the game, which I won't bother linking to, I do have one question: What's with the gratuitous hourglass in the slideshow?


Strangest Baby Jesus Theft of the Year?

The obligatory link: Baby Jesus Stolen From Nativity Scene And Replaced With Beer Can

Take the baby Jesus figure out of a nativity and leave a beer can in its place? I suppose it's a step above just taking it and leaving nothing, if not by much. Now, here's the one question that the article didn't answer, but it must be on everyone's mind: Was it a full can, or an empty one?

The Grave Threat to the World Is ... Nature!

The obligatory link: Cow 'emissions' more damaging to planet than CO2 from cars

Y'know, it's an amazing thing. Livestock, living naturally, are a graver threat to our world than are planes, trains, and automobiles? Honestly, it strikes me as vastly amusing that, on the one hand, we have people telling us we're killing the planet, and we need to drive less, or not at all, and we need all of our factories to reduce emissions of various particles by such-and-such percentages, or we're going to burn or freeze the world to death. Meanwhile, on the other hand (or not really, since the two concepts seem to run in the same circles), nature is practically sacred, and can do no wrong. It's just doing what it must to survive, after all. We're the ones getting in the way.

... And now, nature is doing more damage to the world than man is? What are we supposed to do, implement a variant of China's new one dog policy on cattle? I mean, they're not warm and fuzzy, so maybe the outcry wouldn't be as great... Meanwhile, we could have a grand last cow feast, at least until the mad cow scare kicked back in. Or, would we be eliminating that, too? Certainly, by reducing the ammonia output of livestock, we'd be saving the rainforest! See? A truly worthy end. Every cow could go to the slaughter with peace in its soul, since it'd be helping save the world.

The Spread of Information

"No one more sincerely wishes the spread of information among
mankind than I do, and none has greater confidence in its effect
towards supporting free and good government." - Thomas Jefferson

It's certainly enough to get one to thinkin'... Here we are, using the greatest invention for the spread of information since the printing press, most likely, but how much of an effect has it had in supporting "free and good government"? Certainly, it would be easy to come up with a list of things that the increased spread of information has wrought in relation to better government, but at the same time, even a very limited search can turn up vast amounts of misinformation.

That said, "trust, but verify" is still the order of the day. If something sounds unbelievable, or too good to be true, there are extensive resources available to use in backing it up, or not, as the case may be... and that's the true value of the current spread of information - even if small, the truth is going to get a voice. And the truth, as usual, will out.