Sunday, May 20, 2007

Just a minor vent I need to get out of my system:

When did men's clothiers start making shirts in this "athletic fit" style that only works if you have no upper body? I've been shopping for some new shirts recently, and it's been harder to find something comfortable than I ever remember. I'm a big guy. I wear an 18/35 Oxford shirt. I'm not obese, I'm just big. My neck is thick, my shoulders are broad, and I have something of a barrel chest. I've always worn XL shirts, and they've always been fairly comfortable, giving me free range of motion in my arms. These new shirts? No way. Some of them I couldn't even button!

I haven't gained weight. In fact, the XL shirts are still fine when it comes to the stomach/gut area. It's just the blasted chest/shoulder area! I'm not built like a soccer player / Euroninny / etc. I'm just a regular, stocky American man. And I want a shirt that fits!

Alas, until the day comes when clothing companies start making things for men with my build again, or until I start wearing traditional Oxfords every day, I'll just have to make do. I've purchased a few XXL shirts to see how they work for me. They're good for my upper torso, but I feel like I've got a muumuu on around my stomach. That's better than being unable to move my arms, though ...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Right, Because Laws Prevent Crimes ...

Stories like this one just infuriate me. Seriously, I feel sorry for the kid and what he's been through, but doesn't the fact that his assailants received sentences of life and 90 years sort of render his crusade a bit pointless?

Laws don't prevent crimes in and of themselves. No hate crime legislation would make an attacker think twice about perpetrating a crime. Aside from being completely useless, they serve only to criminalize thought, which is a very treacherous path. It would be nice if everyone loved everyone else, the whole world got along, and there was no tangible hate in the world. Yes, it would be very nice, indeed. But we don't live in Candyland, and if someone wants to hold hate in his heart against someone because of something utterly ridiculous like skin color or surname, I don't want to make that a state offense. Once he acts on that hate by assaulting someone, then we can take all the legal action we want ... and we pretty well do. The same sort of refrain went around when the tragic murder of James Byrd happened back in the late 90s. The killers received sentences of death or life in prison. Should we give them a double lethal dose?

It's pointless. It sets a very dangerous precedent. It's just bad policy.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Bible Study

So Texas Rep. Warren Chisum has introduced a bill to mandate that Texas schools to offer elective courses on the history and literature of the Bible. The initial reactions are pretty standard fare, with cries about the separation of church and state, etc. Since Georgia brought Bible study back into the public schoolhouse last year, I'd expect to see a lot more of this over the next decade.

I find the First Amendment arguments against this a bit specious (though SCOTUS might not), but my main concerns are echoed by Mark Chancey:

But Mark Chancey, an associate professor in religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Judaism fares poorly in such courses. Students, he said, are taught how to read the Bible from a Christian perspective.

"'Christian' here means Protestant, by the way. Roman Catholic interpretations are almost invisible in most courses," he said.

What I would much prefer to see is for 9th grade English courses to focus on the foundations of Western literature, including some portions of the Bible. So very much of Western literature alludes and is based off of Biblical texts that those students who don't have a solid background of knowledge are losing out. The same can be said for Greco-Roman myth & history, some Arthurian legend, and the primary works of Shakespeare. Certainly that's a lot of material, but I'd much rather students focus on those things than much of the modernistic schlock and pointless grammar instruction that makes up the majority freshman lit in high school.

As for what portions of the Bible to include ... I'd pick Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, and maybe Isaiah from the Old Testament. From the New, I'd choose the Gospel of Matthew, Acts of the Apostles, and then maybe 1 Corinthians. The Revelation of St. John would be useful, too, but it's almost unteachable without utterly pissing off everyone in sight. You could certainly let students choose their own translations, I think, as you'd be focusing primarily on the stories and "message," not the words, verses, and theological implications.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Bad Ideas Back Home

A couple news stories from back home in Texas caught my eye:

Governor "Slick" Rick Perry signed an executive order requiring female students to be immunized against HPV starting in 2008. Forget the morality implications some fringe critics are arguing; everything about this stinks. The requirement is for Merck's Gardasil, and there are some high-level connections between former Perry staffers and Merck lobbyists. Merck stands to make a very tidy sum from this at $360/dose. There's also the possibility that a state requirement for the vaccine would place Gardasil on the list of vaccines which are protected by federal law from major liability suits. It looks like a nice return on investment for only a few $6000 contributions to Perry's campaigns

Particularly galling about Perry's action is the lack of legislative input. Texas traditionally has a very weak governor, and though gubernatorial powers have increased somewhat in the past two decades, this flies in the face of the state's grand tradition. Furthermore, the "need" for this vaccination in a school is dubious, at best. The primary reason vaccinations are required for things like measles, whooping cough, etc. is that they are highly communicable in a school setting. One infected kid could take down a whole school if there were no immunizations. HPV is sexually transmitted. While getting immunized may well be a good idea for all females, Perry's executive order acts as social engineering, not public health. It's just a bad idea on all fronts.

The other story is this proposal by Rep. Wayne Smith to fine parents who skip parent-teacher meetings. Aside from the whole libertarian arguments that I'd normally make, giving any sort of criminal justice powers to school boards frightens the crap out of me. I rarely trust school boards or administrators to be competent; giving them powers that are potentially rife for abuse would worry me immensely. What's really sad about this case is that Smith purports to be a Republican ... even more evidence of the "mom-ification" of daddy party.

While the lack of parental involvement in a number of schools is well-documented, there's really little that can be done about it from an authoritarian approach. Government at all levels should steer clear of the social engineering business.


Hilarious Regulatory Side Effects, Part 73

Most local school districts have closed their doors for the past few days due to the cold weather. But there's not much snow on the ground, nor are the roads icy. In the past, schools would have at most a 2-3 hour delay before resuming a regular schedule. While I'm not at all phased by the closures (being a good Texan who thinks that anything below 50°F is ungodly), my wife was mystified by the apparent change in policy.

Well, it turns out that the closures aren't so much a change in school district policies as they are a change in fuel regulations. It appears that the new low-sulfur formula likes to become really viscous under 15°F, as paraffin starts dropping out of the mix and messing with the engine. It's not so much that they want to keep the kids home, they simply can't get them there!

First the tortilla riots, now the waxy school bus engines ... I'll be keeping an eye out for more unintended consequences of environmental regulation.


Back, again?

Well, I'm more than a little inconsistent, aren't I? I'm going to see if I can give this one last go ... if it works, I'll keep this bad boy up. If not, I'll just trash it.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


The Curse of John Madden

I think we can safely say that the Madden Football Curse is now officially verified. Though Ray Lewis largely escaped the injury part of the curse, even his production fell off, and if such a thing can be said, he didn't have quite the impact in 2004 as he'd had in years past.

I'm particularly annoyed this time around, as McNabb was my #1 choice for my fantasy league. Blah.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005



Yeah, it's back. Civilization IV is out, and I'm once again addicted.

I've been largely using the Romans and Germans, as I did with Civs I-III, but the learning curve is definitely tougher this time around. I would regularly dominate on Monarch (pretty hard) with Civ2 and Civ3, but even Warlord is giving me a rough time.

Anyway, here's to hoping that they make an Alpha Centuari II down the road. THAT sucker was more addictive than Civ1 or Civ3.

Friday, November 04, 2005


Further Thoughts

(Whoops, saved as draft and didn't publish ...)

To build on my thoughts from the other day, what I've particularly noticed in the internal conservative dialogue (largely from blogs, forums, and talk radio) is an increasing tension between a large segment of the "Activist / GOTV" base and the, for lack of a better term, "intelligentsia" of the movement. Most of it is (Republican) party driven. From my interpretations and anecdotal discussions, a good number of evangelical Christians are disaffected by the Republican Party and the conservative establishment in general. Most of their grievances boil down to that their issues are not really addressed post-election, nor are they addressed in a very serious manner. In some sense, I think they have a point. The GOP plays to the religious vote, relies heavily on the organized evangelicals for their grassroots organizations, but once the election is over, we really don't hear too much about the morality issues except on a local level.

What to make of all this? On a surface level, it shows that the Republican Party is just as factionalized as the Democrats have been in the past and, indeed, as all big political parties are. Big, successful parties have to act as a coalition of different interest groups which may or may not have much common philosophical background. All Republicans are not created equal. All Republicans are not conservatives. And I think we're seeing a break between the conservative establishment that has been at the forefront of the party since Goldwater, and the evangelical Christian voters who have fueled much of the party's electoral success.

What particularly intrigues me is how poorly represented the latter group is in the serious, conservative intellectual circles of writing, punditry, and academia. Far from being well represented, they are overshadowed by overtly Catholic and Jewish writers, as well as more mainline Protestants. Why? I have no clue. But unless I'm missing someone obvious, I cannot think of a single major conservative pundit, writer, or academic who professes to be an evangelical Christian; I can name many who profess the Catholic and Jewish faiths.

The break really came to the fore during the Miers nomination. When the White House's best argument for Ms. Miers was that she belonged to a particular church outside Dallas, this was a not-so-subtle wink and nod to the evangelicals that she was one of them and would likely vote in a manner they found pleasing. As the movement conservative pundits came down hard on Miers (especially on the paucity of the pro-Miers arguments), the refrain of "trust the President" and "she's one of us" rang louder and louder. In many instances, the"trust the President" case came with a serious subtext: Those who have done the legwork to put Bush in office deserve one of their own on the Court, and if you don't agree, well, you just don't trust the President who trusts God. After Miers withdrawl, the backlash against the establishment who helped doom the nomination was in full swing, as I saw and heard many comments effectively saying that evangelicals get no respect in the party, and their continued participation as the party's main activists is doubtful. That the next nominee was another Roman Catholic has only served to rub salt into that wound.

How deep does the rift go, and how will it translate in the next few election cycles? As with most things in politics, it will depend on what the issues of the day in 2006 and 2008 are. I'm not terribly bullish on Republican GOTV in 2006 or 2008, and I think the evangelical disaffection will play a significant role in that. The 2008 nominees will be very telling -- should the Republican candidate be Gov. Romney or Sen. Allen, I'd be wary. Though if the Democrats nominate Sen. Clinton, all bets are off.

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