Thursday, June 26, 2003

(Blogging from Memphis.)

The US Supreme Court has ruled that the Texas law against same-sex sodomy is unconstitutional by the hoped for six-to-three majority. Here's CNN's coverage, which has links to the decisions.

If my lover is reading this, that means we're not legal at home baby.

Correction: Now legal, not not.

Saturday, June 21, 2003
This Is Not A Post

Friday, June 20, 2003
More Travel, More Light Posting

I'll be in Tennessee for the next week. Going to the ASEE Conference in Nashville, then visiting Memphis for a day or two, then back to Middle Tennessee to see family.

Blogging will likely not be as heavy as it has been recently.

It's a joke, son.

Cue the Prince

J. Michael Bailey is a professor and head of the psychology department at Northwestern in Chicago. His new book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, is pissing off the social-construction camp in the gay world (and beyond).


Bailey follows what's primarily an evolutionary biology point of view, and he sees ample evidence that straight men and gay men have more in common than some would think. The book is primarily concerned with femininity among gay men.


Bailey also see evidence that some if not many male-to-female transexuals have more in common with gay men than with straight women. Transexuals who were gay men transform to women because they love men; transexuals who were straight men become lesbians because they love women.


The book is available online here in an ugly HTML setup. I read part of it online last night, and I didn't find anything that struck me as completely out of line, but then I tend to find evolutionary biology more compelling than social constructionism.


This has been percolating around listserves and Usenet for a few days, seems to be reaching blog consciousness (scroll down, last paragraph of "Another Update"). Yahoo! is already carrying stories based on research reported in the book. Drudge will probably be along soon, in typically tittilating fashion, and then, within a few weeks, mass-market media will be doing badly-put-together pornography masquerading as feature stories about it.


Because it's controversial, and controversy sells papers.


Books, too.


I'm gonna try to get ahold of a dead-tree copy and give it a real read. More as things develop.

Thursday, June 19, 2003
If Only He Had Gone to Medical School

Sunday, June 15, 2003
Lawrence v. Texas

The US Supreme Court is supposed to rule soon on Lawrence v. Texas, the case testing the constitutionality of anti-sodomy laws in Texas and beyond. Although sodomy laws are rarely used as the basis of criminal prosecutions, this article from The New Republic demonstrates how the noxious laws have been used repeatedly both against gay people in civil suits (say, child custody) and as a basis for preventing non-straight people from practicing their free-speech rights at public-education locales.

Link (here) from Mike Silverman.

Martha Stewart Living: Special Prison Edition

Just one (my favorite) of the many entires in Worth 1000 Words's "How Would Martha Redecorate Her Cell?" Photoshop contest. The entire collection is here. Thanks to Dragonleg for his link.

Big Rock Show in Middle Tennessee

When I was about fourteen or so, the then-called County Judge (now-called County Executive Officer) back in Hickman County, Tennessee, was going to lease some land he owned to some folks who wanted to put on a big rock festival complete with big-name rock acts, hippies, VW buses, drugs, and free love. Of course, other local leaders put the kibosh on that, so I was deprived of my natural right as an American youth to go to a big rock show, get muddy, disappear with a band of drugged-out hippies to California, etc.

Thirty-or-so years later, they're having the second Bonnaroo festival in Manchester, Tennessee. One story here from the (Nashville) Tennessean.

A Father's Piano

Leanne Kleinmann remembers her father and his Steinway in this bittersweet article at the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

It's Father's Day. If you've still got a dad, let him know if you care about him.

Mini Melons

Today's Times also has this story on the smaller seedless watermelons developed by Syngenta. The graphic below (used without permission) has the, er, skinny: Not only is it smaller and seedless, it also has a thinner rind, is sweeter, and grows a little faster.

Memphis and Its Pandas

Today's New York Times has more (here ) on Memphis and the Memphis Zoo's new panda exhibit. It seems the entire panda project is just more of Memphis's efforts to become a "world-class" city, where "world class" means "have an NFL franchise."

Thursday, June 12, 2003

I was sorry to hear that David Brinkley passed away. He was always, I though, a sensible guy, not one to get caught up in the moment about much of anything.

I grew up with Huntley and Brinkley and NBC news being just about the only source of teevee news in our household. Walter Cronkite was no big deal to us. We watched just about every night, and "Goodnight, David; Goodnight, Chet" followed by the 2nd movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony was standard fare at the Wilson's.

Later, I watched This Week from its inception until Brinkley left the show to sourpuss George Will, smarmy Cokie Roberts, and blithering idiot Sam Donelson. Blech. I'd prefer Brinkley's deadpan cynicism to what any of those three ever had or will have to offer. Or, George Stephanopolis. Are they nuts at ABC News? George Stephanopolis?

Brinkley's Washington Goes to War is a breezy description of how WWII turned Washington, D.C., from a sleepy southern town that was home to a part-time legislature to a full-time big-government home. It's a very enjoyable and informative read. Imagining it being read by the author is wonderful fun.

David Brinkley, R.I.P.

Addendum: Here's the New York Times obituary. (Registration required.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Missed Opportunities

These people could make a fortune selling logo apparel.

"Hey, Lee. C'mere. I got a new cap for ya."

Oh, Ontario!

Yesterday, the Ontario Supreme Court ruled that same-sex partners had the same right to get married that different-sex ones do.

As Andrew (Pledge Drive) Sullivan points out (here), this is a truly an important event. This isn't registered partnerships, this is marriage. And as he also points out, recognizing lesbian and gay folks' partnerships as marriages does not "oppress" folks whose religious beliefs don't recognize same-sex marriages. Nor will it lead to the collapse of Western Civilization. In fact, it's a way to strengthen Western Civilization against fundamentalist yahoos of all stripes.

Civil marriage. Religious marriage. They're not the same; haven't been for some time.

The US media seems particularly unimpressed with this story. There's one item in this news roundup at the New York Times. I didn't find much else. I didn't do a very exhaustive search, but this is the kind of story I'd like to see leap off the front pages.

Here's the court's ruling.

Dems 2004?

Mike Silverman is not impressed with the use of the war with Iraq as a campaign tactic against Bush 43.

I think he's right. I saw a bumper sticker on a late-model Benz yesterday saying "Regime Change // Be There // November 2, 2004". That may be a way to keep the Democratic core in line, but I really doubt that's going to bring many swing voters back to vote Democratic in the next presidential election.

Addendum, 11 June 2003, 6:23 p.m.: Howard Fineman at MSNBC has this piece about the downsides of the Democrats trying to frame the 2004 election on the current lack of evidence for weapons of mass destruction. He argues, though, that if Bush can't answer the question "Are you safer today than you were four years ago" in the affirmative, then he's in trouble.

At the other end of the MSNBC-Newsweek-Washington Post axis, the WaPo has this piece by Terry Neal which is more ambiguous about whether the missing-WMDs story might work positively for the Democrats.


That June 2003 IEEE Spectrum mentioned below also includes a rather lame article on warblogging. Excepting several paragraphs on Baghdad blogger Salam Pax, the story is more concerned with supposedly established journalists using blogs rather than the usual warblog suspects (Instapundit, Sullivan, et al.).

(Sullivan is having another "pledge drive". Can you believe it? I don't think that's a viable business model, but I've been wrong plenty of times before.)

The Numbers Game

This month's print editions of IEEE Spectrum features an article by Jonathan G. Koomey of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, author of Turning Numbers into Knowledge: Mastering the Art of Problem Solving. His nit to pick: The way bogus numbers get published, then refuted, but the bogus numbers continue to get published.

His issue: It's not the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in the war with the Taliban; it's four assertions about the volume of knowledge on the net and the use of electric power by computers and electronic devices.
True or false:
  • The amount of data flowing over the Internet is doubling every 100 days.
  • The Internet accounts for 8 percent of all electricity used in the United States.
  • Computers and information technology equipment, including Internet usage fromthe previous question, use 13 percent of all U. S. electricity -- and this total will grow to half of all electricity use in 10 years.
  • A wireless Palm VII uses as much electricity as a refrigerator when you include all the "behind-the-wall" networking, sever, and switching equipment.
All four of these assertions are wildly wrong. But if you answered "true" even once, you've got plenty of company. Most major U.S. newspapers, several well-known CEOs, respected institutions, and politicians of both political parties have cited these assertions in the past few years. The 8 percent Internet energy figure even came up in a Doonesbury comic strip a couple of years ago.
The column goes on to point to published refutations of each of the above items, out also to show the trail of each already-refuted claim through continuing articles and columns. It demonstrates how the bogus numbers lead to bad decisions: For example, the information volume numbers were used to influence the building of excess capacity for the networking infrastructure of the USA.

The author points out six simple things that can be done to check whether numbers make sense. There are more details about these at the web site for the Numbers Into Knowledge book.
  • Don't believe everything you read....
  • Do your homework.... Published documentation, cited sources, and back-of-the-envelope calculations should be sufficient to reproduce any number. If they aren't, be wary. [Emphasis mine.]
  • When in doubt, talk to experts in the field.... Your interest will make them happy, and you just might learn something significant.
  • Rely on peer-reviewed research.... Be skeptical of results that are not peer-reviewed....
  • Dig into the footnotes....
  • Follow the money.... [Or, as the history of the number of dead Afghan civilians in the Taliban war suggests: Follow the motivation, whether money, politics, religion, etc.]
Good stuff. Unfortunately, it's only available online to IEEE members, but the dead-tree version is carried by many university libraries and is available for purchase at the larger chain bookstores.

p.s. Koomey's study on energy usage by computers and the net is available here.

Off the Road Again

Oh yeah. The road trip is done. Got back the other day.

Went to northeastern Alabama to Sand Mountain for my mom's family reunion, then to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to visit the sole cousin on my dad's side of the family.

Clash of the Not Titans

According to this story in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, yesterday marked the first "debate" between the candidates for mayor of Daytona Beach in this fall's election. Candidates are city commisioners Mike Shallow and Yvonne Scarlett-Golden and former city administrator Tom McClelland. Highlights follow:
Scarlett-Golden and Shallow said they want to search for a new city manager when Richard Quigley reaches his projected retirement date next April.

"We've got a world-class city with some world-class problems and we need a world-class manager who can get results," Shallow said.
"World-class." Riiiiiiight. With a world-class educational system in Volusia County, too, heh?
All three candidates supported efforts to combat prostitution, but debate on this subject hit a low point.

"I don't know how they make any money," Shallow said. "We don't have the best-looking prostitutes."

McClelland added, "There's not enough vodka in the world to make them look good."
That's what makes us a world class city, Commissioner Shallow. It's our bee-yoo-tii-ful hookers!

At least we can be thankful that current mayor and all-around bozo Baron H. "Bud" Asher isn't running or can't run for re-election.

More Politicians, More Lesbian Daughters

Dick Gebhardt's daughter Cindy has come out of the closet. Story here from ABC News.

Just think. If she hooked up with Dick Chenney's daughter, it would be like a lesbian Carville-Matalin.

What a world, what a world.

Prom Night

More and more same-sex couples are going to the high-school prom. That's pretty cool. This story at MSNBC has some details.

Thursday, June 05, 2003
Moron Counting

Parts Unknown -- (Look, it's a dateline. And I didn't drop into Parts Unknown just to get the story developed by some "stringer." No sir ree bobtail. I came here to Parts Unknown and did the research myself.)

Decency prevents me from describing what I wear when I do my daily read of Alphecca, Flablog, Shattered Buddha, and Mike Silverman, but I think they know that I'm among the six or seven morons reading their blogs.

Achewood link from Ken Layne, who might know that I'm among the six or seven morons reading his blog.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Radiohead Dissected

Shasha Frere-Jones and Gerald Marzorati are engaged in one of those Slate e-discussions. Their topic is Radiohead's "Hail to the Thief" due to be released next week -- although it sounds like it's almost completely available on the net already. The discussion can be found here. It started yesterday, and they usually run two or three days and sometimes a week.

I like Radiohead. I took to them at least a year after OK Computer had already been released to much acclaim and success. And it is a wonderful album. My nephew turned me onto Kid A and Amnesiac on a road trip two years ago (see, this does relate to my being on the road starting tomorrow), and they're wonderful. I don't have much of a clue what they're about, but they're wonderful listening in their form, their use of themes, their use of fragments, their use of gestures and hints instead of entire full-blown instantiations of ideas. The full-blownness is in the totality, the way the whole fits together with almost symphonic totality.

So today's winning paragraphs, by Marzorati, follows, and I think he's right:
Which is to say that here in the States, and not only in the States, Radiohead's reputation resides less with critics than with musicians, musicians of all kinds -- classical pianists and composers; jazz players; countless other bands. It's the music, of course, but I don't want to get your blood pressure up again about that. So let me offer a second reason -- one that will address, I hope, your seeming irritation that when it comes to the marketplace, Radiohead doesn't return the checks from sales of their CDs. They want it both ways, the swinish hypocrites: The money and the modernist freedom. Well ... Yes! That is the point. That has been the point for the past 150 years in every aspect of adventurous Western (read capitalist) culture. And that Radiohead has pulled it off is a subject of much discussion and admiration (and not a little envy) among pop musicians all over the world. The members of Radiohead have been extremely clever at marketing; they have surrounded themselves with good people on the management side; and they have not fallen into the pathetically useless dead-end alt-music trap of thinking that the meaning of their music -- its ''authenticity'' -- resides in its marginality. This kind of thinking was killing Nirvana before Kurt Cobain put a gun to his head. I think that's what Thom Yorke learned from him, Yorke's anti-capitalist mutterings notwithstanding.

To me, Radiohead's ''protest,'' never actually voiced by the band, has really been this: That the ''system'' can be bent to your purposes. It's not easy. It's not fun. It takes will and work and ingenuity. But without a single or a video or the cover of Rolling Stone, Kid A -- that, you know, mid-brow thing that failed to take into account anything that has really happened in the past 30 years -- debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
Does that mean that Radiohead is a sign of hope and a better life? I'm not sure. But it is a reminder that getting something done depends on deciding first to get something done. There are going to be hassles, and the end product or event surely won't happen without direction towards that end, even if that end itself is never reached.

Continued Reduced Blogging

I'm out of town for the next week or so. Will have the ever-handy laptop, and may post some, but I likely will be otherwise engaged.

What's that? Yes, you, snickering in the back. "How could it get any more reduced?" Why you whippersnapper. I oughta....
The management regrets the above scene. Please replace the violence you have just observed with simulated, Three Stooges-esque, violence. Nyuk nyuk.