Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Profiles in Leadership!

Recently, the President of Eastern Michigan University was forced to step down after it was revealed that EMU's administration covered up the rape and murder of a student in one of the dorms, declaring initially that there were "no signs of foul play", despite the fact that, several months later, a man was arrested and charged with the aforementioned crime.

Of course, now that he's out of office, former president John Fallon now proclaims, to anyone who actually cares, that it was not his fault, and that his former VP for Student Affairs did all the covering up.

What ever happened to "The Buck Stops Here"? Is this no longer a desired quality in leadership roles? And how does someone with that ethos make it to the top of the academic ladder? And are all these questions actually rhetorical?

Update: Let's take this a little further: Mr. Fallon defends his hand-washing by saying that he merely wants to "clear his name". This is, presumably, so people would then in the future consider him for further leadership roles at their own institutions. But the mere act of trying to wash his hands of an egregious mismanagement of his immediate underlings only adds further besmirchment (which the blogspot editor tells me isn't a word, but I'll use it anyways) to his "good name". Is this, then, truly a "Catch-22", wherein hand-washing digs his hole deeper, yet tacit acceptance of his punishment (dismissal from the university presidency) results in his own professional obscurity? Of course not; that's a false dichotomy. Imagine for a moment his future prospects had he, upon discovering a cover-up orchestrated by one of his own subordinates without his knowing, announced his own resignation, explaining at that time that, because it happened on his own watch, he bore full responsibility for the transgression, and that those directly involved had likewise been sacked by him prior to his resignation. Now that would be a true profile in courageous leadership. Too bad Mr. Fallon didn't think of that. Maybe somebody should make me a University President: I can screw up with the best of them, but at least I'd own up to it.


And We're Letting These People Vote?

This video made me feel to sad about the state of college education in the United States to watch in its entirety. Given today's discussion over at Mazurland about requiring a minimum level of competence in order to vote, this is particularly poignant. For those without video capability: the gist of the clip is that Mr. "Dudeman" went around the UVM campus and asked various, mostly female, students about their opinion of "the suffrage of women", which had "increased dramatically in this country since 1920". Very, very sadly, the vast majority seemed to respond along the lines of "Wow, um, like, obviously, I think it should be ended, um, you know..."

A few of the dumb ones at least have the decency to just say "I don't know". I can accept that level of ignorance (although not at a college campus -- that would be shocking in a just world). It's the "weasel words" that a lot of them use that really bother me -- "obviously it's a bad thing", "something should be done about it", etc. It's the ignoramus that is unaware of his or her ignorance that is the scariest prospect.

Hat Tip: Phi Beta Cons @ NRO

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Kryptonite to Liberals

Over at The Corner, Jonah Goldberg posted an email from one of his readers, describing the uproar over the reader's email/newsgroup "signature" file, culled from Mr. Goldberg's own writing. This individual, who apparently has used many politically-themed signatures in his emails and newsgroup postings, has never before provoked such animosity as he has with this new quote. He (the reader) goes so far as to wonder if the statement produces such great cognitive dissonance among liberals that it results in them becoming angry and incoherent at the slightest exposure, thus yielding the comparison to kryptonite. If it does, indeed, have such great power, then I must do my best to expose liberals to it as well, in the (very) off chance that some liberal happens to wander upon this blog. The quote in question, for those of you who have not clicked through the above links already?
"Liberals used to be the ones who argued that sending U.S. troops abroad was a small price to pay to stop genocide; now they argue that genocide is a small price to pay to bring U.S. troops home."

Touche, Mr. Goldberg.

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So this past weekend, my brother-in-law visited us so that we could make him dinner for his birthday (the wife made some frijoles barrachos, while I grilled up some carne asada and a few links of kielbasa), and with him be brought his latest pride-and-joy, the Nintendo Wii.

Now, as an erstwhile dedicated console gamer (I now game, and keep up with gaming news, vicariously through single and/or childless friends), I had largely given up on the silliness of Nintendo products in favor of the tech-nerd-smorgasbords that were the various incarnations of the XBox and PlayStation: better graphics, better games, sensible controls; these were all things Nintendo seemed to lack (Nintendo, for you non-gamers out there, has been notorious throughout its history for "innovative" (read: clunky and non-intuitive) peripherals that only have use for one or two games, from the very odd (R.O.B., for example), to the neat-but-rarely-exploited (how many "light gun" games were there beside Duck Hunt?), to the really-useful-but-completely-overlooked-by-developers (the SNES had a mouse that was used for, by my count, exactly two games, including the one with which it was sold as a bundle)).

Enter the Wii. When I first heard the name, it sounded more like the nail in Nintendo's coffin -- who would want to 'fess up to owning something that sounds like a child describing what he did in the potty? And then I got a look at the controller (see above), which can only be described as resembling, in turns, an old-school TV remote (back when they were just called "TV clickers"), a garage door opener, or a control for some kind of automatic window blinds. This will never sell, I again remarked -- players want sophisticated, ergonomic controller design, not a two-button old-school NES throwback that just happens to be wireless. And then I got wind that its graphics capabilities were nowhere near its competitors, the XBox 360 and PS3 -- were the Nintendo executives committing some sort of corporate Seppuku to atone for their past crimes? (It should be noted here that Nintendo has always been the most litigious of all gaming developers, to the extent that they sued, unsuccessfully, to ban third-party developers from independently designing games back in the 8-bit days).

But all that has changed in my own mind, and in the minds of thousands of others. The much vaunted PS3 loses money on every console and is having extreme difficulty moving units in the US. The XBox 360, while dazzling and popular, is likewise not terribly profitable, extremely expensive, and focused on the "adult gamer" market. Plus, you can get one without any effort. Meanwhile, go out and try to get a Wii. Seriously, right now, head to your local store-that-sells-consoles, and try to casually pick up a unit. I'll wait.

Having trouble? I thought so. Those things are flying off the shelf like hotcakes! Even months and months after its release, there is still great hype and excitement over the clunky, boxy looking thing with the ugly controller and less-than-state-of-the-art computing power! Two anecdotes: back in April, the wife in a couple with whom I and Mrs. Red Shirt are friends decided that, as a birthday present for herself, she would acquire a Wii with their tax refund. To make a long story short, it took a couple weeks of calling every possible store in town every single day, and a final mad dash to Wal-Mart in the middle of a weekday when she just happened to call right when two units came into stock (beating out, by a matter of minutes, another guy who was trying to get one for his own birthday). She and her husband love their Wii, and it was their Wii that I first got to experience back on the 4th of July. Second story: the wife of a very good friend of mine was recently diagnosed with a condition that requires many weeks of bed rest. Therefore, this friend of mine, a very busy, overworked lawyer guy (but dedicated husband) spends a great deal of precious time and energy locating a Wii for her to play while on bed rest.

My point with these illustrations: these are not your typical gamers, and yet they have all become enchanted with the Wii. I, too, after having had a chance to really get into some Wii games, have become a... ok, I'll say it -- a Be-Wii-ver. And the primary reason for it is that clunky, ugly stick you see above. Not just a wireless remote, this thing is a tool. The Wii comes with a sensor that must be placed on top of or below the television set, and detects very subtle movements of device, which control the game. Case in point: my brother-in-law has a golf game for the Wii, which I played, alot (not the simple one that comes with the console, but a much funner one with much more advanced interactivity). You actually have to grasp the controller like a golf club, and swing it like a golf club, in order to play the game! And it's not just a simple up-and-down movement that can be lazily imitated, oh no! It can detect hook and slice, and the perfect follow-through must be performed to really get the most out of your drives. So you must be up on your feet while playing, not just sitting back in a recliner. Even the simple, included-with-the-Wii bowling game is advanced enough to detect any spin you might put on the "ball" as you "throw" it using the... Wii-mote.

And they do some clever things with it, too. In a Mario game I played, which is normally played with the remote held horizontally like a traditional controller, you can turn the thing lengthwise at the screen and shine it like a flashlight, revealing secrets on the screen that are not otherwise visible.

The sensitivity of the remote is also very impressive. Believe it or not, nearing a score of years ago, Nintendo tried something similar with the Power Glove, which I owned -- literally a motion-sensitive glove that could be used to control the games. With its poor data rate, bad motion sensitivity, awkward setup, and lack of games designed for it, though, the Power Glove was the coolest piece of useless junk I ever had. The Wii controller, on the other hand, is elegant, simple, useful, and, of course, fully supported by every Wii game, since it is the "native" controller for that system.

I am fully convinced, now ,that even my own technophobic father would greatly enjoy the Wii, given its great interactivity, and diversity of games for the non-traditional gamer set -- including, I'm told, a pretty good fishing game that I suspect he would like.

The bottom line is this: Nintendo's latest entry in the console wars really deserves some Wii-spect.

(Oh yes, I went there, didn't I? Whattaya gonna do about it?)

p.s. At a fraction of the cost of the other this-generation consoles, it's also a great money-saver for all the fun you get out of it.


Friday, July 20, 2007

I Hate To Link a Liberal Blog, But...

Over at The Raw Story, they've posted video of a clip from the most recent The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, regarding his commentary of the "all-niter" the Senate Democrats pulled recently. I can't find it on Youtube or I'd embed it here and save you dear readers the trouble of clicking over to another blog. But go there and watch the whole thing -- it's worth it (plus you'll chew up a lib's bandwidth -- also a good cause). It's about 6.5 minutes long, but worth it -- high-larious. And remarkably scathing to Democrats, coming from Jon Stewart, who I normally can't stand to watch. Keep your eyes peeled for the Iwo Jima statue photoshop job. Money quote from "reporter" Aasif Mandvi: "Last night, the brave men and women -- well, mostly men -- of the Talkin' 110th stood up and said 'We are mad as hell, and we are not going to sleep as much as we would normally sleep tonight.'"

Like I said, Jon Stewart irritates me to no end, but he IS a funny guy. Our side needs one of those. Sorry, Dennis Miller, please take a step back.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Silly Anchor

Ah, Keith Olbermann. Never having been a big fan of the reportage of televised sports, I never gained the ability to watch SportsCenter six times a day like some of my friends. Thus, I was ignorant as to who the bombast on MSNBC was that played like a nutty Troofer version of Bill O'Reilly until relatively recently. Now, as I understand it from reading various forums that erupt when he has made when he spews out one of his "special comments", he is viewed as The Great Pundit for the unwashed, terminally-BDSed leftward-leaning masses. I can barely stomach more than five to ten seconds of any of his commentary, so pompous, vitriolic, and pretentious that it is.

At any rate, Mr. Olbermann has focused his amazing analytical skills on the most pressing issue of our age. What might that be? The Iraq War? Immigration reform? Terrorism in general? Far from it. Here we have his hard-hitting analysis on the potential ending of the last Harry Potter book.

So there you have it. Not only does he read the Harry Potter books, he obviously takes them so seriously that he is even capable of having the above-linked discussion, full of in-group jargon which he fails to define in the article, and, more amazingly, pet names for various characters.

Now as a fan of science fiction and fantasy, far be it from me to ridicule someone for reading fantasy... er... literature such as the Harry Potter series. Admittedly, I've seen the first four films at least twice, and plan to do so for the last three when I get a chance. Nevertheless, Mr. Olbermann puts himself into a position that mimics great authority on the political issues of our day, and yet he publicly acknowledges that he spends his time reading and analyzing children's books -- a fine pastime for just about anyone other than a purportedly well-informed political pundit.

Sorry, Keith. You are not the next Walter Kronkite. You are not the next Edward R. Murrow. Quite frankly, you are not even the liberal Bill O'Reilly. What a sad little man.

Disclaimer: In all fairness, having seen the first four movies and having only read the wikipedia synopses on the fifth and six books, his conclusions and predictions are fairly insightful.

Update: And wrong, too, now that the book has been released. Take THAT, you silly man.


Monday, July 02, 2007

My Kinda Music

Since in my last post I expressed a frustration with my attempts to get into Opera, I thought I'd provide some music that I find very easy to "get into": some good ol' fingerpickin' guitar. Apparently this is considered "neo-acoustic", whatever that means. Behold, Don Ross, fingerpicker (well, some time fingerslapper, as it were) extraordinaire, with an interesting composition called "Jesse Helms' Night in Havana":

If you like that, just search on YouTube for "Don Ross" to find LOTS more -- this is why I love the internet.

I have "discovered" a number of astounding guitarists of this style, including Mr. Ross here, via Charles Johnson @ LGF, who, while not moonlighting as an evil Zionist Islamophobic neocon Bushitlerburton lapdog reptilian alien (see his blog for details -- search for "lizardoid"), apparently knows a thing or two about music. So to him I graciously and gratefully tip my hat.

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