Thursday, January 31, 2008

What's Shaping My Thoughts

I read this article almost two months ago, and it has had a profound impact on my thinking, particularly about my faith and how it relates to my politics. Entitled "I'm Not A Conservative Christian", and written by Michael Spencer, who by all accounts is both a devout Christian and a committed conservative, it really draws a line between between this world and the Next, and what we seek as important in our short lives here. I think reading it largely sparked my blogging fatigue, since so much of my own blogging relates to politics (even the title of this blog relates to my own political orientation!). Now I don't agree with everything the writer argues in the piece, but it has certainly reframed and reoriented me to some extent. How far that extent goes, I don't know for sure, but in particular I've been ruminating over this bit today after re-reading it:
What does all this have to do with conservatism? Let me make an observation here. It will be blunt, and some of you may find it pious and preachy. If you wish, you may blame this one on my recent weekend with John Piper.

How many conservative Christians are listening to multiple hours of Rush Limbaugh every week? I wonder how many include a couple of hours of Fox News Channel's conservatives, Hannity and O'Reilly, on that menu. I wonder how many regularly listen to Marlin Maddux's "Point of View" program, or Pat Robertson's "700 Club." How many surf, Conservative News Network or WorldNet, the tabloids of conservative web journalism? If we were to take the total hours devoted to these--and many, many other--conservative information and opinion outlets, how would it compare to the amount of time spent under the teaching of scripture? How would it compare to time spent in acquiring a Biblical vision of God? Does the total amount of time spent by that same random evangelical in "the renewing of the mind" with the Word of God come even close to the amount of time spent seeing the world through the eyes of conservative pundits and journalists?

I note this not out of paranoid fantasy, but out of watching my friends immerse themselves in this new world of conservative media. Whether it is the Christian variety or the secular flavor, it doesn't matter. Millions who seldom open a Bible are spending hours under the "preaching" of the conservative political movement in America.

Now, to my credit, I recognized O'Reilly for what he was (an egocentric, bombastic populist, thanks for asking) after only a short two or three years of devoted viewing and stopped watching him, I've never been able to stand Hannity, and I haven't caught more than a few minutes of Rush since the eighth grade. As for websites, I prefer more highbrow fare like NRO, The Weekly Standard, RCP, and a whole host of blogs over the sensationalism of the ones he mentions. But still, I spend countless hours every week reading those, while I profess that my faith is more important to me than any political election, and only spend a short amount of time each morning in God's Word.

At any rate, all I'm trying to do is share what's been informing my thought processes as of late. Perhaps God will do great work in me, and it will show here on this blog. Or perhaps I'll only post grumbling complaints about Romney and McCain on a semi-weekly basis. I'm rooting for the former.

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I'm Depressed

Here's a decent take on Fred Thompson, post-departure, over at the Weekly Standard. It made me more depressed than I already was, considering what we've lost with Fred's decision to pull out of the race. It's a bit digressive at points (several paragraphs on the non-campaigning campaigns of 1800's-era candidates? Really?), but worth a read. Take-home snippet, for me anyways:
Thompson didn't give off the usual political vibe: the gnawing need to please, the craving for the public's love. A few voters and journalists found this refreshing, many more found it insulting. Some just found it fascinating, in a clinical sort of way: What kind of politician isn't consumed by politics--and what kind of campaign would such a politician run? Well, now we know. If Thompson could plausibly avoid an overnight campaign trip, he did, preferring to return home to his wife and children in suburban Virginia. He spent an inordinate amount of time with his briefing books. And his response to the chore of raising money--the chief occupation of every office-seeker in this era of campaign finance reform, which was intended to reduce the role of money in politics--seemed nearly pathological. Fundraising events scheduled to last two or three hours often guttered out when the candidate departed after twenty minutes. High-end donors complained of being uncourted, unpampered, unloved--even unphoned. At one party in a private home last year, Thompson made the rounds of money-shakers, delivered brief remarks, and then slipped into a bedroom to watch a basketball game on TV by himself.

Now I'm all sad again. If my gentle readers will indulge me in a moment of almost ronpaulian political delusion, perhaps I can express the faint hope that a brokered convention will re-draft Fred Dalton Thompson as the Republican nominee for President?

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

McCain Ascendant

What a depressing month. Fred! drops out, Huck fades, Romney climbs, and then falls to John McCain. If you had asked me a month ago what the race might look like today, it certainly wouldn't have resembled that picture. Going back a month, I think my candidates, in order of preference, were: Thompson, Huckabee, McCain, Romney, Giuliani, an insane, lobotomized deafmute, a swift kick in the crotch, Hillary and Obama's illegitimate lovechild, and Ron Paul. And I should mention that everything that falls beyond number two on that list would require a great deal of clenched teeth and grumbling on my part at the polls.

My top choice: departed. Number two: well, I like him less now, and he has no chance at this point. That leaves number three, John McCain. So, I suppose I should be "happy", assuming we live in a world were that word means "not currently in a spittle-foaming, screaming rage of unbridled fury and wrath". I don't trust John McCain, as I've said before. But considering the field, he's what we've got.

Why not Mitt Romney? Well, let me get this out there: Mormons are crazy, and I simply don't want one as my president. There, I've said it. I really ought to elaborate more on this using big words to confuse people so they think I'm smart instead of bigoted, but that will have to wait. Need more? Well, how about this:
As for Mr. Romney—who may still win, but who has underperformed in the early going—he certainly was a dutiful spokesman for every possible item on the conservative wish list, but perhaps he was a bit too dutiful. His penchant for pandering grew to ludicrous proportions as he not only reversed himself on a long list of policy positions but cooked up a distinctly unconservative proposal for rescuing Michigan’s auto industry just in time for its primary. When he finally reverted to the “real” Mitt Romney—an optimistic businessman with no compunctions about directing an activist government—it was clear that even his newly minted conservative persona was in a Bain-like turnaround.

That, from a larger article about what folks like National Review, Rush Limbaugh, and the sadly unreadable (if you're not already a dyed-in-the-wool Romney supporter) Hugh Hewitt will do now that their bête noire is poised to win.

I have more thoughts, but they're still forming. All I really know is that I really, really, really don't want Hillary or Obama as my president. Maybe I should give the insane, lobotomized deafmute a second look.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tragic Loss

Ok, the title's actually about Fred quitting the race (and maybe soon I'll suck it up, dry my eyes, put on my man-pants, and write about that whole sad story), but the post is about Heath Ledger. How's that for a bait-and-switch! Now, I'm as excited as the next red-blooded American Geek about the next Batman movie (in which Mr. Ledger will be portraying a rather different take on The Joker than the esteemed Jack Nicholson -- and this just might just be a good thing!), and fortunately for that, all the principal photography was already completed prior to his death this week. Notwithstanding his Brokeback antics, of which to date I have steadfastly refused my patronage, he was a fair and enjoyable actor. But after reading a little bit of the news coverage, I just have this to say: if your only interaction with an individual involves a television or movie screen between the two of you, and you ever even think about going out, spending your hard-earned money on flowers, traveling to the place of that individual's untimely demise, and laying them at a shrine dedicated to that person, YOU FAIL THE HUMAN RACE. Please exit now.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Doing My Duty

This past Tuesday, I experienced my first-ever round as a member of a jury. And I must confess: I actually enjoyed it! It truly gave me quite an appreciation for the justice system, and just a little more faith in my fellow man, and it reaffirmed my belief that just about anyone can receive a fair trial in this country. The jury consisted of people from just about all walks of life, from blue-collar types who talked at length about bass-fishin', to young professionals, to established business-types, to, well, me.

I made the mistake of being the first person to say anything after about a minute of silence and blank stares when deliberation began, and was thus elected unanimously as the foreman. That's what I get for wearing "work clothes" instead of jeans and a sweat-shirt, I guess. Truth be told, however, I sorta, kinda, maybe-just-a-little-bit wanted to be foreman, so I shouldn't complain. Although beyond the official duties of a foreman (which consist entirely of signing my name to and announcing the verdict, and composing all written communication with the judge during deliberation), the rest of the jurors seemed to implicitly imbue me with some sort of managerial responsibility as well. I like to think that I performed those duties well, giving proper weight to each juror's own beliefs, clearly discussing all the facts that had been presented during the trial, and gradually brining everyone around to a unanimous verdict (there were dissenters for a while).

And to make this post more than a dear-diary story, which I generally try to avoid on this blog, I did have an interesting insight during the deliberations. We live in a paradoxically non-judgmental society. We constantly make judgments about people and their characters when it matters the least (e.g., a white person getting nervous when a minority walks by), whereas we are reluctant to do so when it actually matters. Case in point, it is interesting to me that the judge must very explicitly instruct the jury that, yes, we are supposed to make character judgments about witnesses, the defendant, the plaintiff, etc. More than that, we must do so if we are to render a fair trial to the defendant. Even with this very clear instruction, certain members of the jury were clearly averse to doing so, when the defendant's character (or more to the point, the lack thereof) was clearly pivotal in our ultimate decision. Toward the end of deliberations, when we were essentially deadlocked 11-1, I had to carefully (and as un-offensively as I could manage) spell out this very principle, and the evidence that illustrated the defendant's character, before we were able to sway the holdout.

As a final note, I now understand why juries, after selection, are instructed to avoid any and all information about the case prior to the trial (in my case, there was a delay of about 1 month between jury selection and trial): after the trial, I googled the defendant and found this article . Turns out that the defendant, Mr. Williams in the article, was actually arrested for a separate crime, of a similar nature, after he committed the crimes for which we were trying him. Now I understand why the detective was being so coy on the witness stand. And had we known this (obviously, this would have been inadmissible in court since he had not gone to trial for that offense yet), we probably would have rendered a stiffer verdict than we did.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Inappropriate Sigmas

One of my pet peeves, long before I started studying Greek, has been the use of the capital letter sigma, &Sigma, to represent an "E" when trying to "cleverly" spell things in various logos, t-shirts, or bumper stickers (think "GRΣΣK WΣΣK" or "I'm a member of SΣΧ", both of which I have observed, and both of which compound the issue by combining non-Greek Latin characters with inappropriately-used Greek ones).

Well, I just saw what, to date, is the most atrocious use of this technique, in an ad (shamefully, over at Phi Beta Cons, who ought to know better) for cheapbooks dot com (whose URL I steadfastly refuse to reproduce here for fear of accidentally steering some traffic their way). The offense? "CΗΣΛΡβΘΘΚ".

Now, "C" and "S" are both Latin characters, but each of the rest may be represented as Greek letters, which I assume they were trying to do. Thus, one may, presumably, direct their web-browsers to for all your... ceslr-bththking needs? However it is supposed to be pronounced, even the Wee One, a month shy of her second birthday, has considerably better diction.

Oh, and not to belabor the point, but they actually hit the "Linguistic Infraction" trifecta, in that, amidst all those other capital letters they used the lower-case &beta rather than the upper-case &Beta, again presumably to accomplish that "Greek Look" -- or should I say, "GRΣΣΚ ΓΘΘΚ"?

As a final note, I am now placing "Innapropriate Sigmas" up there alongside "Süperflüoüs Ümlaüts" on my list of potential band names, should I ever decide to become a rock star.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Although I've never been a "hobbyshop engineer" or much of a "hardware guy" at all, I still found the above video absolutely fascinating. At least one of my some-time commenters* would probably consider it downright pornographic**. But the classy kind of porn, mind you, with good lighting and jazz music.

*If you and I have never spent considerable time discussing, with outrageous French accents, how zee transisteur is like zee woman, I'm not talking about you.

**Go ahead and click. It's as safe-for-work as safe-for-work gets. Apart from the French interstitials.

Update: Er, my bad -- tip o' the hat to Instapundit.

Update 2: I showed it to my wife, and then had to run off and take care of the wee one. She sat there and watched all 17 minutes of it, totally engrossed. I love that woman!

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My Latest Publication

I'm in print for the first time in a while! For those who don't know, IEEE Spectrum is the monthly magazine that is sent, by default, to all members of the IEEE, which is the de rigueur association of membership for individuals of my own profession, Electrical Engineering. Naturally (because I am, by nature, both thrifty and lazy), I have let my own membership lapse, but an un-lapsed friend of mine was astute enough to notice my common-enough name and correctly correlate that with my current location, and he brought it to my attention that the editors had selected my letter for publication! I wonder if this counts toward promotion...

I also believe that the content of my letter is sufficient to inaugurate my newest "label", as suggested here.

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Happy Elvis Day, Again!

January 8th, as we all know, is the birthday of one Elvis Aaron Presley. In completely unrelated news, "30".

Plus, check out all my "phat lewt". I'll never fall asleep at work again in the first place!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Happy New Year!

Be it resolved that I hereby pledge to post at least once a week, and hopefully a lot more. Now if politics, global conflicts, my own theological intake, family life, and personal interests would only cooperate to provide me with both interesting things to blog about and the time to do it, I'll be set!

Interesting observation of the day, so that this post isn't total fluff: this post, as are many other posts, is labeled "meta". In common parlance, the prefix "meta" has come to imply "having to do with the thing itself rather than the content of that thing" -- so in this case, having to do with me, the blogger, rather than any topic on which I might blog. More generally, it seems that the "meta" prefix implies a "one level higher" quality to the thing to which it is attached -- so that the meta-information about, say, a digital photograph, does not tell us what is depicted in the photograph, but rather when it was taken, and on what equipment. It implies a "deeper look" into things. My contention is that these connotations come from the use of the prefix in the word metaphysics, in which case the subject matter of that particular field loaned some of its significance to a mere part of the word that described it!

What makes this interesting to me is the following: We call "metaphysics" that because of Aristotle's work entitled, colloquially, "Metaphysics", which in its own way "founded" that field of study. However, the actual "title" of that work, &tau&alpha &mu&epsilon&tau&alpha &tau&alpha &phi&upsilon&sigma&iota&kappa&alpha, is nothing more than a descriptor of where the work itself was located -- in a particular collection of Aristotle's work, it was located after (&mu&epsilon&tau&alpha -- "meta") his discussion of Physics! (&phi&upsilon&sigma&iota&kappa&alpha -- "physica"). So not to get all "meta" on the origins and use of "meta", but the historical significance of the usage of the word lies in the completely uninteresting way in which it was used!

I suppose it's fortunate that Aristotle's discussion wasn't located after, say, a collection of his grocery shopping lists, or we'd have to study Metagorics!*

(* lame second-year Greek student (autodidactic) attempt at humor; &alpha&gamma&omicron&rho&alpha == "market")